Monday, June 29, 2015

When Google Fails You

I know, this goes against the entire premise of my blog title!  But the truth is, Google cannot always provide the answers we need.  Continue reading on what to do when this happens.

1.  Medicine.  This is probably the number one thing that Google fails at.  Because it should.  How many times have we looked up some random symptom (i.e., headache), only to go down a road where we convince ourselves we are surely dying?  Too many.  Yes, we can occasionally narrow down our ailment with a visit to Dr. Google, but please do not rely on these searches for concrete medical advice.  Get a (real) doctor's opinion.

2.  The meaning of life.  Google can recommend career options, retirement plans, books on how to be your own boss.  Ultimately, you will have to be the decision maker here.  Nobody can decide what you what are going to do with your life but your own self.  That power can feel like a huge weight for some.  Google may have some excellent suggestions.  You will have to choose in the end.

3.  Organization.  One of my favorite topics.  But just like I can make suggestions of how to meal plan, organize your space and time, it won't just magically happen by reading this blog, or by Googling tips for organizing.  You will have to find a method that works, or tweak a method you like, and you will have to implement those steps yourself.  As much as I enjoy organizing, decorating, planning, etc., you wouldn't believe the number of times I wished I could just Google it all into place.

4.  Common sense.  If you aren't aware that you should look both ways before crossing the street, then you might not know to Google such a thing.  Google can only help you as far as your intelligence takes you.  Lack of common sense can occur when you believe everything you read online.  Use your best judgement.  Read multiple articles on both sides.  Allow yourself to retract your internet research based on real life outcomes.  An example of this is that I wanted to make my own laundry detergent.  Google it up, make my recipe, start washing, and I was all set!  However, within the last year, my eczema has returned, and our clothes don't smell as fresh.  Back to Google for research and find that, yeah...these ingredients can really bother my skin!  So I had to reevaluate, and decided to go back and use Google to find a gentle, organic laundry detergent.  It's on the way to my house right now!  However, this is also why I absolutely love Google.  I love learning, and the world is in my computer/phone.  I can enter any topic and have an endless possibilities shown to me in less than one second.  We just have to use our common sense if something seems off.

These four items are enough for me.  Someone else went to the trouble of putting together a list of 365 Questions Google Can't Answer.  I refuse to read it.  There cannot be that many things my favorite search engine won't be able to help me with!  I am going to continue my love affair with Google.

Google Tips

My top tips for google searches are:

1.  Keep it simple.  Don't use "How do I sew a toddler skirt" or "What day is 4th of July this year".  Just enter your basic words.  "Toddler skirt tutorial", "July 4, 2015".  You can always add more words to your search later if you need to refine it.

2.  Don't "talk" to Google conversationally.  "I want to sew a skirt" is not going to help.  "diy skirt" will produce more accurate results.

3.  Once your Google search is performed, you can switch to "images", "videos", "maps", etc., for the appropriate things for which you are searching.

4.  Spelling and grammar, while very important, are not imperative for Google searches.  Often, I will hit the wrong letter on my phone keyboard, and Google will provide the option to search for the correctly spelled word instead.

5.  On your computer (not available on mobile devices that I am aware), you can enter an image for Google to image search.  I actually did not know this one until recently, shout out to my girl Rachel for that helpful tidbit!

There are many more ways to search (using asterisks, quotation marks, subtraction symbol, etc.), but I do not use them.  These five tips are all that I need to get the answers I want from my favorite search engine.  If you have a tip, I would love to hear it!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How Does She Do It

My girlfriends and I were discussing the contents of our purses this week.  They shared the contents of theirs, noting the clutter and disorganization.  One even had a pair of grown up shoes in her bag!  I confessed that one time I found a lose receipt in mine, and how upsetting it was.  Then I begged her to not throw her shoe at me.  They expressed their envy of my clean bag, and asked how I did it.  They felt their purse was a direct reflection of themselves; disheveled.  My organized purse does not make me feel like it is a reflection of myself.  With all of my attempts at control/planning/organizing, one might think I feel as though I have my life together.  I do not feel this way at all.

Organizing is a default setting for me.  Nature or nurture, the desire to plan and have control comes from within.  It is at my very core.  There is a sense of relief and satisfaction that I receive from cleaning and organizing a space.  I explained that my own mother makes my life look like the inside of the messy purse with the pair of shoes in it.  I often feel like a failure because I am comparing my own skills to hers, and mine pale in comparison, like an albino polar bear in a raging snow storm.  This is why I always tell you that you have to figure out what works for you and your life.  Just because what I do doesn't work for you, doesn't mean you're failing.  It just means we need to find something that does work for you.  We don't all have the same instincts, nor do we have the same lifestyle.  I don't have the same lifestyle my mom had.  I have taken her examples and adjusted the concepts until they work for my lifestyle.  And I have to continuously modify my processes based on my husband's work schedule, the kids' extra circular activities, etc.  If I don't reevaluate on a regular basis then the tasks don't get done, and I fall out of the habit of doing them at all.

I am always brought back to wanting to figure out how to fit these undertakings into my life because having order brings me peace.  I am an anxious person, so disorder does not do well for my soul.  Being surrounded by mess does not bring me joy.  It brings me a feeling of unease and discontent.  The only person who can change that is me.  I either have to accept the discontent, or do something about the disorganization.  I choose to do something about it.  If the disorder surrounding you does not bother you, then there is no rule that says you have to change it.  There is no moral code that deems clutter as less than.

If you do want to do something about it, then think about it this way:

There are 168 hours in each week.
56 hours are spent sleeping, less if you don't sleep for 8 hours each night.
40 hours are spent at work.
Give yourself another 12 hours spent commuting/picking up/droping off/general driving.

That leaves 60 hours left over.  It would take less than 5 minutes to clean out your purse each night.  That is less than 35 minutes for the entire week!  Could you dedicate 30 minutes per day, or even 3 hours on a weekend, to setting some kind of order to your life?  If the answer is no, then look at what your priorities are and how you spend your time.  That will tell you what is important to you.  Maybe it's reading.  Maybe it's working out.  Maybe it's playing with your kids.  Maybe it's Netflix!  Once you figure out what it is, you need to decide if you would rather continue doing those activities over creating new structural habits.  After the habits become routine, you will be surprised at how little effort is required to keep them up.  Which will free up so much time for additional activities.  Like Netflix.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Set Up

My daughter's birthday is in June.  We always have leftover paper products after her party.  This is perfect for summer.  I grab the disposable plates, napkins, utensils, and throw them in a basket.  I keep the basket on the counter, and then I can easily take it outside for dinners on the patio.  This makes cleaning up dinner very simple.  Everything might not match, but that's okay!  If I'm having a get together with friends or family, I can always pick up some cute matching disposables beforehand.

If you don't have a basket, get creative with what you do have.  Do you have a diaper caddy?  If you're handy with a sewing machine, you could make something like this.  Finding containers I already have to reuse is one of my favorite things.

After enjoying dinner outside, why not play a game of badmitten?  Blow bubbles, hopscotch, jump rope?  The girls love doing yoga with me on the lawn in the evenings.  Have the kids look for weeds to pull in the garden (younger children should check with you before they start pulling things out of the ground!), pick up the backyard, sweep, etc.  All of these things are time spent as family, and everyone is pitching in.  It can feel fun, instead of like a chore!  If the kids are happily playing, you can have a moment to clean up a bit, or sit down and take a moment for yourself to breath and enjoy your surroundings.  If one (or more) of your children is clinging or not wanting to help, sit with them and watch their siblings having fun.  It's okay.  The messy backyard will wait.

I know this is easier said than done.  Heck, just yesterday I didn't follow this advice.  It's not always going to be perfect.  You're not always going to respond perfectly to the tantrums.  Allow yourself the grace to mess up.  Then take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and start over.

If you're looking at the Master Calendar, you know that I planted celery this month.  It is REALLY hot here, so my celery isn't very happy.  We will see what happens to it!  I am obssessed with cherries and peaches right now, which is perfect since they are in season.  My kids are loving watermelon, and I also am enjoying zucchini "spaghetti".

The Master Calendar is filled with outdoor things, like cleaning screens, and decluttering pool toys and grilling supplies.  I do try to make June "light" on the To Dos, as our social calendar has usually exploded with parties and extra summer activities.  If you need to pass on a few days and wait for a free Saturday or Sunday to check off some items, go for it!

Since the birthday party planning is now complete, I am trying to decide what to do for Father's Day.  I love doing photos, but since Father's Day is this weekend, we will see if I have time for that.  I'm definitely thinking a big breakfast in bed for him, and a massage.  I cannot wait to spoil him.  What are your plans for Father's Day?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Gluten Free

I am often asked how I do gluten free at our house.  Over two years ago, my son had horrible eczema covering the bottom portion of his legs.  So much that he refused to wear shorts to school.  In our 100* summers, shorts are not an option.  I knew I had to get to the bottom of his itchy misery.  I myself had mild eczema, and figured whatever I found could benefit both of us.

Gluten was a cause, and an easy fix, so I decided to eliminate it from our diets and see what happened.  Along the way I learned A LOT.  It comes up quite a bit, as food is a huge part of our lives as humans.  I decided to make a document that I could add to when I learned something new.  Then I could send this document to people if they were interested.  I have received a lot of wonderful feedback from sharing this info, and have decided to share it here.

Feel free to message me or leave a comment with any questions you have about going gluten free.  I love sharing my experience and helping people learn about gluten.  BONUS:  I lost fifteen pounds without even trying by going gluten free.  My son lost ten pounds, which was over 10% of his body weight at the time!  We were both so fluffy!

Please always discuss any dietary changes with your physician first.  Please note that I am not a medical expert, and am only sharing my personal experience.

Keep in mind with gluten free, if you are wanting to test your sensitivity, you need to go 100% gluten free.  This is not something you can experiment with a little bit.  One exposure to gluten can take up to six weeks to leave your system.  Therefore, you will not have true results if you have even one bite of that donut.

Naturally gluten free foods.  These are the foods that you should mainly buy.  They are natural and unprocessed (with the exception of the dairy products).
·         Fruits
·         Vegetables
·         Nuts.  Any nuts that have been treated with a powder flavoring, you should check the ingredients list.
·         Meats, fish, and seafood, with the exception of processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs, etc. you will have to check the labels)
·         Dairy (eggs, milk, butter, etc.), with the exception of certain cheese, like blue cheese.  You will also have to check the ingredients in ice cream.
·         The following grains/flour are gluten free, although, I would ALWAYS check the ingredient list to make sure it only contains the one item, and/or was not processed in a facility with wheat.
o   Almond Flour
o   Arrowroot
o   Brown Rice
o   Brown rice flour
o   Buckwheat
o   Coconut flour
o   Corn Flour
o   Corn Grits
o   Corn Meal – commonly not gluten free, double check ingredient list
o   Flaxseed
o   Millet
o   Potato flour
o   Quinoa
o   Rice flour
o   Tapioca Flour
o   White Rice
·         Condiments to be careful of:
·         Soy sauce and teriyaki sauce are not gluten free unless specifically noted on the packaging
·         BBQ sauce
·         Salad dressing
·         Gravy
·         Powdered seasonings (taco, chili, dips, etc.)
Most baking items in their raw state are gluten free (i.e., oils, baking soda, baking powder, sugars, spices, herbs, etc.)
Most beverages are gluten free (i.e., water, soda, tea, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, etc.).  Wine is gluten free.  Beer is NOT gluten free, although they do make gluten free beer.
You always want to check the ingredients on pre-prepared foods (i.e., canned goods, frozen foods, boxed foods), but these are generally safe:
·         Baked Beans
·         Corn Chips
·         Corn tortillas
·         Canned Beans
·         Canned fruit
·         Canned vegetables
·         Baked Beans
·         Corn
·         Green beans
·         Kidney Beans
·         Pinto Beans
·         Potato Chips
·         Rice Cakes
·         Rice Crackers
·         Spaghetti Sauce
·         Tortilla Chips
·         You will need to check the labels of frozen items, such as veggies, fruits, potato products (french fries/hashbrowns), and anything that includes a sauce.
I buy gluten free bread (Target and Walmart sell Udi’s and Rudi’s loaves in the frozen section).  They also make frozen hamburger and hot dog buns, but we don’t use them very often.  Sometimes I buy gluten free frozen waffles (the brand is Vans).  We get gluten free noodles in the dried pasta section, there are quite a few major brands that sell GF pasta, then add your own sauce.  Annie’s makes two gluten free boxed mac n cheeses that are really good.  Target carries a frozen chicken nugget bag by Purdue.  Walmart has one by Tyson, but I don’t think they taste as good!  I also buy gluten free pretzels on Amazon.  Here are links to some of these products:
I still make cookies, cake, pancakes, etc.  We buy in bulk Pamela’s Baking Mix from Amazon, and I can basically substitute that for flour in ANY recipe.  Sometimes I tweak recipes, but nothing has ever come out the first time so awful that we couldn’t eat it!  Tip:  Gluten free products burn faster in the oven!
Things that would surprise you that commonly have gluten in them:
·         Salad dressings
·         Rice Krispie Treats
·         Rice/Corn based cereals
·         Fruit snacks
·         Many candies/chocolates
·         Beauty products (shampoo, make up, lotions, etc.)
·         Vitamins
·         Playdough
Ingredient List.  Look on the list of ingredients.  An easy way to tell is at the very end, it is required to have listed if one of the top eight allergens are in the product.  It will look like this:  “THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS SOY AND WHEAT”.  Or milk, nuts, etc.  If you see WHEAT, it’s NO GOOD.  Put it down and walk away!  Also, if it says, "Made in a facility that processes wheat."  That is a no no.
Hidden gluten ingredients to look for – this is where you have to be careful.  Many cereals contain Malt or Maltodextrin, but it doesn’t say “contains wheat” at the end of the ingredient list!  Rice Krispies, which one would think would just be puffed rice, contains malt!  I think it’s unnecessary, especially since they make a gluten free kind, but that’s the kind of thing you need to watch for.
·         Malt (extract, syrup, flavoring, vinegar)
·         Dextrin
·         Maltodextrin, unless it specifically states “derived from corn”
·         Malt extract
·         Soy sauce
·         Barley
·         Spelt
·         Matzoh
·         Brewer’s Yeast (regular yeast is okay)
·         Modified food starch – THIS IS A BIG ONE
·         Anything with “wheat” in it (wheat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat starch)
·         Couscous
·         Hydrolyzed vegetable/plant protein
·         Rye
·         Graham flour
·         Gluten, gluten flour
·         Bulgur
·         Artificial coloring
·         Caramel coloring
·         Vegetable starch
Common items that are NOT safe:
·         Baked beans – check the ingredients list
·         Flavorings
·         Marinades
·         Sauces
·         Seasonings
·         Meatloaf/Meatballs
·         Breading
·         Soups – I have not found many soups that do not contain gluten, which makes me so very sad.  I love soup in the fall!!!
·         Soup bases
·         Bullion, although you can find gluten free bullion and stock at health food stores.
·         Gravy
·         Stuffing
·         Puddings
·         Candy
·         Ice Cream
·         Frostings
·         Boxed rice/potato mixes
·         Chocolate
·         Imitation seafood
·         Veggie burgers
·         Imitation bacon
·         Salad dressing
·         Sausage
·         Communion wafers
·         Licorice!
·         Breads
·         Crackers (no more Ritz, goldfish crackers, graham crackers)
·         Pastries (no rolls, muffins, donuts, flour tortillas, flatbreads, bagels)
·         Baked goods
·         Cereal, granola.  Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles in my area are gluten free.  Chex also has gluten free cereals, but not ALL of their cereals are gluten free.
·         Breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, biscuits
·         Croutons
·         Look at all ingredients on chips.  Potato chips, Nacho Cheese Doritos, and Cheetos in my area are gluten free.
 So what do we eat?  Here are our main meals:
·         Breakfast:  Gluten free cereal (Chex or Fruity Pebbles), scrambled eggs, gf pancakes, gf waffles, fruit (apples, pears, peaches, bananas, oranges, etc.), homemade hashbrowns, bacon, yogurt, cottage cheese, gf toast.
·         Lunch:  Sandwiches with gluten free bread, quesadillas on corn tortillas, fruit, veggies (cucumber, spinach, avocado, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, etc.), chips.
·         Snacks:  Gluten free pretzels, string cheese, peanuts, baby carrots with hummus (check ingredients on hummus), cottage cheese, celery and peanut butter, raisins, nacho cheese doritos, potato chips and salsa, popcorn, apples.
·         Dinner:  Pork chops, chicken breast, hamburgers, spaghetti, rice, chili, gluten free mac n cheese, corn, baked potato, tacos, gluten free pizza, breakfast, pulled pork.
How to eat out.  Order salads without dressing, or just lemon wedges, or with oil and vinegar.  Nothing breaded, like crispy chicken or nuggets.  Be aware that most places do not have a dedicated fryer for gluten free products, so even though french fries don’t contain gluten, then could be contaminated by other items placed in the fryer that do contain gluten.
·         Do a little homework before you leave the house.  See if the restaurant has a website with a menu, or google “Restaurant name gluten free options”.
·         Order burgers or sandwiches without bread.  Many places will do lettuce wrapped instead.
·         Ask how items are prepared:
    • Is the meat marinated in soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or Worcestershire sauce?
    • Is the chicken dusted with flour before pan-frying?
    • Is the oil used for French fries also used for frying onion rings (or other breaded foods)?
    • Are there croutons or bacon bits on the salad?
    • Do you use wheat flour to make the gravy (or thicken the soup)?
 Places that cross contamination occur:
  • toasters
  • flour sifters
  • deep fried foods cooked in oil shared with breaded products
  • shared containers including improperly washed containers
  • condiments such as butter, peanut butter, jam, mustard, and mayonnaise may become contaminated when utensils used on gluten-containing food are double-dipped
  • wheat flour can stay airborne for many hours in a bakery (or at home) and contaminate exposed preparation surfaces and utensils or uncovered gluten-free products
  • oats – cross-contact can occur in the field when oats are grown side-by-side with wheat, select only oats specifically labeled gluten-free)
  • pizza – pizzerias that offer gluten-free crusts sometimes do not control for cross-contamination with their wheat-based doughs
  • french fries
  • non-certified baked goods e.g. “gluten-free” goods from otherwise gluten-containing bakeries
  • bulk bins at grocery stores or co-ops
 How I would suggest starting:
·         Go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and get rid of everything that contains gluten.  You don’t have to throw it in the garbage!  Donate it to a local shelter or church.
·         See what you have left.  Make some meal plans based on those items.
·         Make a list of your common favorite meals.  We are creatures of routine and aside from the occasional Pinterest meals, you probably rotate the same recipes.
·         Based on these meals, make a grocery list, noting what from your recipes will need to be GF specific (i.e., spaghetti noodles).
·         Go to the grocery store.  ALONE.  The first few times you go, plan to spend some quality time there.  You are basically relearning how to grocery shop.  Don’t take the kids or the husband.  Go alone and really look at ingredients.  Many stores have a gluten free section.  Ask a store employee where it is.  Get some fun things to try!  Cookies, brownies, etc.  Find the items on your list, maybe get a few different brands if you can (make elbow noodles in one brand, spaghetti noodles in another brand).  Take note of prices.  Read ingredients and familiarize yourself with what is not gluten free.
·         Come home and make new food!  Take note of which products you like and don’t like.  For example, in the gluten free section, there are mixes for cakes and brownies.  I much prefer the taste of the kind I make with the baking mix than those mixes.  But maybe you will like them, and maybe they are simple and that’s what you need right now!
·         After you know what you like and don’t like, really look at the packaging.  Maybe take a pic of it with your phone and keep it in a “gluten free” photo album.  This will help you familiarize yourself with the packaging the next time you go to the store.  We could all be half blind and head into any Target and grab a Kraft Mac n Cheese box from the shelf.  This is how it will be for your products after awhile.  You will be able to shop “normally” again.  Each shopping trip won’t require so much time or effort.
·         Try to bake something fun!  Celebrate that you can still have treats.
Other source of information:  Blogs.  Google “top gluten free blogs”.  Follow them.  Sometimes they have recipes.  They answer questions, have extensive lists of what not to eat, what to eat, etc.  Great resources.
I know this is A LOT to take in.  After you read this, let me know if you have any questions.  If you ever have a question about how I do something or is something gf, I would be happy to discuss.