#202 Meal Prep

People who are more organized are less stressed. People who are less stressed – are happier. People who have more free time – are happier.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#202

Meal prep

Hundreds, if not thousands of blogs in recent years have been dedicated to different ways of meal prepping. This is not one of them. I’m writing about it because when we have taken the time to do a little meal prep our lives become a little easier, happier, and ultimately… more productive. Yes, it takes a little time and commitment but if that’s how you spend a rainy day then on a nice evening when all you want to do is sit on the deck and enjoy a summer evening – your meal will be almost effortless.

Menu

Perhaps the most important element and the first step in doing a little meal prep is deciding what you’d like to eat this week and get the grocery shopping done. Thinking ahead means that those decisions won’t have to be made day by day – sometimes the most challenging thinking after a long day of work. Grab your family members and make it a joint venture or… kick everyone out of the kitchen to other tasks, turn on some jam music, pour some wine and go to town!

Sides

If you know that you’ll be grilling in the evenings then plan your ‘side’ dishes in advance. Boil a big batch of potatoes so that you can throw together a potato salad, smashed potatoes, or potato casserole (make that ahead of time and freeze).  If you’ll be having corn on the cob, cook a few extra on the evening that you want to eat them fresh and then shave the kernels off the cob for a corn side dish later in the week.

Stock the freezer

Don’t forget the endless opportunities to set aside pasta dishes, casseroles, and soups or stews! Most of them freeze really well and if you pull it out in the morning, it’s ready to bake when you get home – no thought or real effort involved! You’ll be able to come home, change, and spend 5 minutes making dinner rather than the 30 or 45 minutes it might  have taken to get dinner on the table.

Time efficiency

What’s clear in the study of happiness is that when we use our time efficiently, we feel more organized. People who are more organized are less stressed. People who are less stressed – are happier. People who have more free time – are happier. So, it stands to reason that you’ll be happier overall if you step away from binge watching HGTV or ESPN on the next rainy day and make an effort to …

Meal Prep

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#210 Sit by a Waterfall

Adding the element of water is akin to icing the best cake. It improves stress reduction techniques that are proven to increase happiness.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#210

Sit by a waterfall

Much of the USA is draped in sweltering heat this time of year and other than air conditioning, only a few options for relief exist. One of them is any location in close proximity to a waterfall. Often, there are shade trees to soften the intensity of the sun and as the water moves over rock and falls, it stirs the air and simultaneously cools.

Moving Air

Even if you live in a major metropolitan region, there are water features available in the form of fountains that serve much the same function as a natural waterfall; water – colder than air temperature – moving the air and cooling it. There may be less natural shade in that environment but it’s a close second. In the event that you live a more suburban life, there is a good chance that a waterfall exists within a drivable distance. A basic Google search for waterfalls near Philadelphia returned an article listing 11 that were an easy drive away. Pack a picnic, put the kids in the car, and escape the heat with a little hike leading up to a cool lunch location.

Liquid Music

The sound of falling water is a known soother. Rain, creeks, and waterfalls are options on a variety of white noise machines advertised to calm our nerves and induce relaxation. It acts as a buffer to city noise or the chatter in our brain. It connects us to nature in the most elementary way.

De-Stress

Eliminating the stress and misery that comes with bracing the summer heat will certainly improve one’s disposition and overall sense of well-being. Getting outdoors and into air that moves – a little at least – compounds the benefit. Adding the element of water is akin to icing the best cake. It improves stress reduction techniques that are proven to increase happiness.

Escape the heat – reduce the stress – and make your way to the nearest location that allows you to…

Sit by a Waterfall

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#212 Pick Fruit & Make Jam

The best benefit of course, is savoring the sweetness of a warm summer day that was captured in the jar when you made the decision to …

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#212

Pick fruit & make jam

Tis the season for all kinds of fresh fruit to ripen in the summer sun. August is peach season in the mid-Atlantic as well as black raspberries, cherries, and some blueberries. Pick your own fruit orchards have become popular in most states for years now and almost any taste you may have can be satisfied straight from the vine.

Pick your own

Whether you pick apples, apricots or peaches from the tree or perhaps berries from a vine, it’s plausible that you bring home more than you can eat. I stopped by a peach orchard once and bought a bushel of peaches only to find out that they were buy one get one free and two were carried to my car! Even if we all had eaten peaches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner could we have made it through two bushels. The only option was to learn how to make jam. It’s happened with strawberries, blackberries, and cherries more than one year in a row.

Making Jam

Making jam is way easier than one may think! It doesn’t have to be the toil and trouble that our mothers encountered; pouring wax over the top of bubbling fruit. I’m offering a basic recipe straight from the manufacturer of Ball jars, the traditional containers for jam. It uses a ‘water bath’ to seal the jars, a simple process of boiling. Traditional Peach Jam

There’s also a procedure that some would believe more simple; freezer jam. It differs from traditional processes because there is no boiling. Instead of keeping jam in the cupboard, you fill containers and keep it in the freezer. The absence of so much ‘cooking’ allows the fruit to retain more of its sweet, fresh flavor. It’s like having sliced fruit on your toast. Peach Freezer Jam

Have fun

This can be a great family activity or a great way to fill a Sunday afternoon. It’s a fantastic way to savor a little but of summer throughout the year and perhaps save a few dollars along the way. From picking the fruit, eating a bit, finding a recipe, and creating the jam – you’ll have fun experimenting. The best benefit of course, is savoring the sweetness of a warm summer day that was captured in the jar when you made the decision to …

Pick fruit and make jam.

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#220 Make Ice Cream

What wouldn’t taste good if it is mostly heavy cream, sugar, and half & half?? We don’t want to calculate the calories in this recipe of course – just grab a spoonful and enjoy.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#220

Make Ice cream

I know it’s super easy to reach into your freezer or stop by your local ice cream store but there’s something about making your own ice cream on a hot summer evening that evokes pleasure in a way that the other options cannot.

DIY Satisfaction

Sometimes, it’s the experience of ‘doing it yourself’ that adds to the fun and satisfaction we enjoy during and after an activity. The sense of accomplishment increases our confidence and overall esteem but perhaps more importantly, we become empowered.

Tools

Of course, an ice cream ‘maker’ is one of the easiest ways to complete this task – most of them come with recipe books for unending motivation but for a simple vanilla flavor, making ice cream at home is super easy with a few basic supplies. You need large zip lock plastic bags, coarse salt, and some arm muscle.

Recipe

I am recommending this recipe from The Stay at Home Chef blog because it worked well and tasted great! It took a little longer than the suggested 5 minutes to get the consistency that I preferred but it only meant a better arm workout (shaking is super important). What wouldn’t taste good if it is mostly heavy cream, sugar, and half & half?? We don’t want to calculate the calories in this recipe of course – just grab a spoonful and enjoy.

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup half and half

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 gallon sized resealable plastic bags

2 cups ice cubes

½ cup salt

Instructions

Pour cream, half and half, sugar, and vanilla extract into a gallon sized resealable plastic bag. Seal well. Squish it around to combine until sugar is dissolved.

Place ice cubes and salt into another gallon sized resealable plastic bag.

Place the bag with the ice cream mixture into the bag with the ice. Seal the larger bag.

Shake until mixture freezes, about 5 to 7 minutes.

 

The next time you need a little inspiration to liven up a hot summer day, remember to pull out this recipe and …

Make homemade ice cream.

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#223 Ban Electronics from one Room

In order to experience one of the primary benefits of being a family – we have to actually talk to one another, engage in eye contact, and offer our exclusive attention to one another.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#223

Ban electronics from one room in your home.

This suggestion will improve your family and interpersonal life… guaranteed! Easily for the last ten years, electronics of all types have infiltrated the most elementary moments in our lives and disrupted our ability to feel connected even in our own living rooms.

Disconnected

As a psychotherapist, I am frequently hearing how disconnected people feel from others in their home because someone they love – and desire attention from – is consumed with activity on their phone. It doesn’t matter if it is gaming, social media, or news… the fact that it is accessible from the palm of our hand seems to create a temptation for constant access no matter where we are or what is happening. How many of us try to watch television AND play on or watch something else simultaneously on our phone?  

Belonging

In order to experience one of the primary benefits of being a family – we have to actually talk to one another, engage in eye contact, and offer our exclusive attention to one another. It’s the oldest method of establishing belonging that is known. Any distraction can negatively impact this process; leaving people floundering for a sense of communion.

The Solution

There’s a quick and easy fix for this problem! Ban electronics (phones, ipads, laptops, etc…) from just ONE room in your home – ideally, the room you most often ‘gather’ in. It’s a simple rule that isn’t really any different than taking your shoes off at the front door… something implemented and enforced will eventually become habit and second nature. Before you know it, everyone in the room will be engaged in a shared conversation, focused on the movie, or concentrating on the game and experiencing a strong sense of belonging once you…

Ban electronics from one room in your home.

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#224 Go to an Art Museum

It’s a place to step outside of yourself, to imagine another human being with a brush, pallet knife, or chisel in their hand …

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#224

Go to an art museum

Very few of us are actually patrons of art. It seems as though if we aren’t creators or investors, our interest in art is fleeting or sporadic at best. If we live in a major metropolitan environment, it is likely that we were introduced to great art via a school trip where we were perhaps more interested in the time away from history and calculus than in the masterpieces displayed in the gallery.

Intrigue

I went to a gallery once on Rodeo Drive just for kicks but fell in love with the work they were featuring that week. I pretended to be able to afford the $10,000 price tag so that I could learn more about the artist’s technique. I think there’s a part of my psyche that wants to cover my walls in abstract creations full of color and light but my pocketbook doesn’t match my intrigue.

Refuge

And that’s the value of Art Museums… they are buildings full of walls that display a variety of talent; from old masters to new savants. On those days when you need a little inspiration or a pick-me-up, a museum offers refuge in the form of a bench in front of some form of art. It’s a place to step outside of yourself, to imagine another human being with a brush, pallet knife, or chisel in their hand – creating their own vision that became the piece you view. Somehow, it puts one’s own life in perspective via an unusual channel.

Give a little, Get a lot

Many museums are free to enter or only charge a small fee. Frequently they offer reduced entry fees for special professional affiliations (i.e., military, teachers, etc.) and most often for just a little more, will offer annual membership. It’s satisfying to know that your entrance payment keeps these national treasures safe, clean, and in good repair – our history depicted in paint, pen, and stone. Whether it’s curiosity, solace, or inspiration you seek – it’s possible you’ll find it if you…

Go to an Art Museum.

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#225 Finger paint

Not only are we stimulated by color, creativity, and imagination, we are spurred also by the sensation of the paint and our hands on the paper – sliding across the page with color trailing behind.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#225

Finger paint

I write a lot about creativity, imagination, and the simple art of fun as contributing significantly to one’s sense of happiness.  One of the ways to incorporate all three elements is to don an apron, grab some paper, and dig into a pile of finger paints.

Feel It

Finger painting works at increasing well-being because it incorporates the additional sense of touch. Incorporating tactile senses allows more parts of our brain to be engaged in the activity at hand. Not only are we stimulated by color, creativity, and imagination, we are spurred also by the sensation of the paint and our hands on the paper – sliding across the page with color trailing behind.

Artistic Recipe

You’re never too old to get your hands full of color but if you feel better, or more justified… grab a kid, niece, nephew, or grandchild and make some magic. You don’t have to get any special supplies… just follow the following recipe and make your own!

Martha Stewart Homemade Finger Paint

Stir 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch together. Add 2 cups of cold water and heat over medium heat until the mixture is thick (the mixture will further thicken as it cools).

Divide into four or more containers, and add food coloring as desired.

Plain paper works, but photo paper is best. As a last resort, just for the fun of it, you can use plastic wrap or wax paper. These last two won’t offer a solution to keep your creations permanently but they make clean up a breeze.

Be Present

Take some time to enjoy the experience. Make sure to be present – stay focused on the chance to imagine and create. Use colors – or combinations thereof – to express feelings, whatever they may be as you…

Finger paint.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.