Monday, January 2, 2017

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

Our family was so lucky to get to spend the holidays with all my family this year! It's pretty rare these days so I'm glad we got to make a lot of memories!

One of the things we did was doing a Chinese food potluck for New Years Eve. Best. Idea. EVER! I feel like it might have to be tradition now no matter who is around! Everyone made such delicious food, and lucky me I was able to find a crockpot teriyaki chicken recipe from the Flavorite. It made things so easy with how crazy my New Years Eve day was. I knew I wouldn't have the time to cook something later in the day or spend much time on it.

This was perfect, although my chicken got really tender and it kind of turned into shredded teriyaki chicken. Woops! This picture was taken a couple days later with leftovers so it's not as juicy looking. But you get the idea! I actually doubled the sauce recipe and I think it turned out great that way!

What you will need:

  • 2 lbs. boneless chicken
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Sesame seeds
  • Mix the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic in a bowl
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken in a slow cooker
  • Cook on low for 4-6 hours
  • Remove chicken from slow cooker
  • Pour sauce into a pan and bring to a boil
  • Mix cornstarch and water together in a small bowl
  • Slowly pour cornstarch mix into the sauce and mix together
  • Turn heat to medium and stir until sauce thickens (about 2-3 minutes)
  • Add sesame seeds if desired
  • Cut up chicken and place back into slow cooker with sauce until ready to serve

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas for HER on a Budget

The first week of December has come and gone already. Have you done your Christmas shopping? I try to do the majority of mine in November so that I can spend most of December thinking about the reason for the season and overall just enjoying the holiday instead of scrambling!

Men are extremely hard to shop for. I know men say that women are hard to shop for, but really it's the men. Sorry ladies, I got nothin' for ya. This post is for the men to get gift ideas. Particularly for the wives, or the mother of your children. If she hasn't asked for anything specific (or even if she has, these would be great add-ons), I am here for you. What I am about to do is not only give you gift ideas, I'm about to create the perfect evening for her, for you. Stick with me until the end. You'll see.

Okay. Hear me out. It's a strange "gift" but like I said stick with me to the end. Pretty much all chicken noodle soups are mostly the same. No matter where it's from or who is making it. I have finally perfected this recipe and told my 9 year old daughter the absolute musts the other night. She repeated them back to me carefully before she scooped for seconds. This soup is on another level. It is not just noodles and chicken with chicken stock. It has the most perfect "golden" flavor. Yes, that's a flavor in my mind. I've only ever used it to describe a chocolate chip cookie before. Somehow I'm also using it to describe soup. Figure that one out! Its golden, chickeny, perfectly seasoned flavor is by far my favorite soup right now! It took me a few months to get it right and make it my own, but I have just now revised the recipe to match how I make it now, secrets and all. Just for you! Enjoy!

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This is still a favorite of mine. The winter always has my skin so dry it peels. Makeup looks disgusting and patchy. I look unhealthy and dull. It's a sad time. I put this on for about 20 minutes every other morning (so far it hasn't made a difference if I've put it on before or after a shower as long as I moisturize). You can feel it working in a pleasant way and your skin feels very refreshed afterward. The dryness and peeling for me is gone and replaced with a healthy glow! You can technically sleep with this on and get the ultra effects from it. However, this mask doesn't dry like your typical mask. Your face absorbs it over time so that's nice, but sleeping with it on was tricky for me so I haven't done that in a while.
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This is where I tell you that this bubble bath stuff is $50 but totally worth it. Because you can't find the cheap kind that can do what the expensive kind does. Fortunately that's all a lie. I got this at Walmart for a few bucks. I've seriously been using it every other night and there are no words to describe how amazing it is! It has a subtle scent of lavender, which is great for relaxing. The best thing about the scent, though is that I can add some essential oils and the aromas won't clash together. After I'm out of the bath, I'll be in my pajamas relaxing for the night and I can actually feel myself glowing. Do you know what that feels like? To FEEL yourself glowing? It's what I imagine heaven to feel like haha. I always felt like bubble bath stuff was all created pretty equal. I was wrong. They are not all created equal. The cheapo stuff at Walmart is far better than anything I have ever tried (and I have tried a LOT). 

Yeah I went to one of those Mary Kay parties and I couldn't even handle how ridiculous this lotion was. If you've ever gone to bath& body works and used their salt scrub at the little sinks and felt your soft hands after, that's basically what this lotion does. However, this lotion is a little more intense and it lasts through 3 washes! It seriously feels like you're massaging a creamy satin into your hands. It's so luxurious! I got a couple for my girls stockings because they immediately switched to high maintenance status after trying it and can't function without it. It doesn't look like Mary Kay allows you to buy it without the pampering set with it? However, if you find a Mary Kay consultant (a quick Facebook post asking for help will do fine), she may have sample sizes on hand that you can buy for cheap. I was able to get the ones for my girls for $1 and it's a good size.

Slipper socks $10
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I don't remember where I found these. They may have been a gift. Let me tell you, slipper socks are the best invention for cold feet! They feel soft and cozy like a slipper (better than a slipper in my opinion), but are practical to walk in. Their grippy bottoms are slip resistant (unlike your average sock), and they're not bulky or awkward like a slipper. You can curl up on the couch without a giant foot in the way or worrying about the slipper falling off. I wear my slipper socks all day inside the house (and outside the house on a few occasions if I'm being honest. Don't judge me!) 
There are so many different kinds of slipper socks these days. These particular ones are found here and here.

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Now, I am about 70% positive that the blanket in the picture and link is the same one. I can't quite tell because of how it's folded, but I'm pretty sure that's the one. I bought this blanket on a whim because it was on clearance at Target. I got it for super cheap not expecting a whole lot out of it but I needed a good throw blanket for my bed. It's been almost a year and this blanket has gotten A LOT of use! It is perfectly soft, perfectly sized to be wrapped up (it kind of just molds around your body) and perfectly warm. My husband doesn't really care for.... well, anything warm really. But he especially has never been one to say, "I need a blanket," aside from bed time. But he has been grabbing this blanket to snuggle me with almost every night during our shows. That is saying a lot! It's literally the perfect blanket. 

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These are freakin hard to find. I'm just saying that straight up. So far, I've only found them at Target. I'm not sure if they are only for the holidays or if they will keep selling them after Christmas. They are not your average mint or peppermint chocolate flavor. Oh no. These may as well be wrapped in gold and handled with gloves. They are far too precious and delicious to be thrown into the "average" category. You might actually drop to the floor after biting into one of these. After the shock has worn off, you'll be able to finish it, slowly, savoring every tiny second. The best way I can describe them is like girl scout thin mint cookies on crack. They are just so much more than what I could have ever imagined or describe. Their texture is on another level somehow, too. I allow myself exactly ONE every night after the kids are tucked in and I'm done for the day. I ration these suckers like a crazy person. 

Once Upon a Time (free with a Netflix account)
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I'm definitely late discovering this show. My best friend suggested it to me so I turned it on one day during my son's nap while my older kids were at school. It was not at ALL what I was expecting. So I kept watching. My husband got into it, too and before I knew it we were watching it every night. We have shows we really love, but we need a good show we both like that we can have on while the kids are trying to fall asleep. Our TV is in another room of course, but I swear, no matter how quiet the volume is, there are words that somehow stand out like it's at full volume! We just want to relax without, "oh crap, do you think they heard that? Are they asleep yet?" Once Upon a Time is pretty perfect for that. Our kids will walk out for their tenth drink or needing to use the bathroom or whatever, and they just see some fairy tale character being totally appropriate as they walk by. I will say that halfway through season 2 to halfway through season 3 it was only "pretty good" instead of really good or great. But it has been so much fun to watch! I highly recommend it.

So here you go. I have created the perfect evening. Warm your lady up with the worlds best chicken noodle soup. Then, she gets to smooth on that Glam glow mask, hop into a nice bubble bath, massage some Satin Hands on, slip into her jammies with warm slipper socks and crash on the couch with the worlds best blanket as she savors a delicious truffle and zone out to Once Upon a Time. If I could recommend the best day to do this? It would be Christmas Day, after a long day of keeping up with crazy kids, disaster zones in every corner and being up late the night before with an early morning of jumpy, hyper kids. Good luck to you and Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pretzel Bites

Okay these pretzels from The Slow Roasted Italian are the BOMB! They were unbelievably easy to make but have the quality of "mall pretzel bites.......but BETTER!" (as said by my kids) They don't feel or taste like you just cut up some dough and put them in the oven. They are amazing! My only regret is that I only made one batch. It was enough for our family of 4 ( and a half if you count the little guy who hate maybe 3 and then focused on his chips), but we all were kind of sad that they were gone so I would have loved to have some leftovers! Oh, the best part? You don't need to wait for the dough to rise.

I read a few recipes for pretzel bites and read through comments. I saw a lot of people complaining of their second or third batches coming out with a really bitter taste to them. Everyone seemed to conclude that it must have been because they put their pretzel bites into the baking soda bath, baked them in the oven, and then put the next round of pretzel bites into the baking soda bath (rather than having all of the bites in the baking soda bath without long waiting times between more being added into the bath).

So, in my directions I have you getting all of your pretzel bites in and out of the baking soda bath before you bake any of the them. They all turned out great, so who knows if waiting to put in other batches later on causes a bitter taste.

What you will need:

  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 C warm milk (110*-120*)
  • 2 T honey or sugar
  • 3 1/4 C flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C baking soda
  • 8 quart pot of water
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp. cold water
  • Preheat oven to 450*
  • Warm your milk up and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer
  • Sprinkle the yeast into the milk
  • Add the sugar to feed the yeast
  • Let the yeast get nice and foamy, about ten minutes
  • Once the yeast is ready, add in the salt and mix together with the paddle attachment
  • Add in the flour, one cup at a time. You want the dough to be tacky but not sticky. (I ended up with 3 cups and 3 tablespoons)
  • Once your dough is ready, replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and knead for about 3 minutes
  • While that's kneading, spray your counter top lightly with some non stick spray. Using flour will make the dough too difficult to work with
  • Turn your dough out onto the counter and divide (I just used a pizza cutter) into quarters. 
  • Start boiling your 8 quart pot of water
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non stick spray, set aside.
  • Beat one egg with 2 tsp cold water, set aside
  • Grab one of the dough quarters and divide that piece into 4 more pieces
  • Roll out each of those 4 pieces gently until you can cut at least 4 pretzel bite size pieces from it
  • Continue on with the rest of the dough, you should end up with at least 64 pretzel bites
  • Carefully add the baking soda into the boiling water
  • Dump a bunch of the pretzel bites into the boiling water and let it sit for about 20 seconds
  • Remove with a spatula or slotted spoon of some kind and place onto the baking sheet
  • Do this with all of the pretzel bites until they have all been in the baking soda bath 
  • Brush pretzel bites with egg wash and add kosher salt
  • Bake for about 15 minutes (mine were done after 10)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Celebrating 100!

The wonderful brownie recipe my daughter made reached 100 likes on my Instagram the other day. She just feels so totally psyched. 100 is a huge number for her, and she really doesn't know much about Instagram or how likes work, but it was worth celebrating! We got some ice cream and she celebrated by...what else...making the brownies! I also did a cute little interview with my mini baker.

Why did you get interested in baking?
I watched Kids Baking Championship and thought that I could probably be a baker.

What other interests do you have besides baking?
Art! And I like Math. I also like Halloween, like October. FALL! And I like to read Harry Potter.

Do you like to cook, too?
I cook.....ramen. It kind of gets me over my fear of (stove/oven) heat.

How do you feel about the fact that Hot Cookin' Mama has never reached 100 "likes" on an Instagram post before now?
*giggle*. I'm pretty impressed that I could make it that far!

Let's talk brownies. What is your biggest tip for someone who wants to try this brownie recipe?
It's simple enough that you don't have to need any tips ya know? Try it with your favorite ice cream!

What dessert do you want to master next?
Cookies! Pumpkin chocolate chip.

Is this something you hope to do professionally? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Actually it kind of is. I really like baking and I'm thinking I want to try things to become a baker. Or a teacher.

What would you say to other kids who are thinking about giving baking a try?
You should try it and if you don't like it you should try it again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Explaining Santa's Gifts

We're approaching the big holiday season. Already. I'm still trying to get a nap in from last years Christmas. But, ready or not, it's coming. Are you prepared?! Your kids are older this year, and just might give you a run for your money with the Santa questions.

Every Christmas, we see parents all over trying to teach their kids the importance of giving, service and kindness. We see them doing their best to add a child in need to their Christmas list to be a good example. We bake cookies for neighbors, we drop off a turkey anonymously to a family's doorstep that we know is struggling financially.

But, when a child asks, "why doesn't Santa go to the homeless shelter?" Or, "why can't I ask for this $500 gift from Santa?" what do we say? That Santa picks and chooses which kids to visit, and that he also has a budget? Santa has RULES? Where's the fun in that?!

While there are plenty of great churchy and inspiring ways to deal with things like this where you can sit down with your children and give a lengthy and perfectly worded explanation, sometimes you need just a few words to get your point across. The best words I've ever heard someone say to their kids when these questions started popping up was,..

"Yeah, Santa brings the gifts, but Mom and Dad still have to pay for it."

I know there are many families out there who don't do the Santa thing, and that's okay. Every family is different, so if you're a family who cherishes those few years where your kids still believe in Santa and you don't want to break down saying, "Santa isn't real" when they ask the tough questions, this might be what you're looking for! These few words allow the magic of Santa to continue on while allowing some reality to the situation to be factored in. 

Children can grasp the ideas of some families having a larger budget than others. That's life, and they're typically already aware of it before anyone ever actually brings it up to them. Simply stating that Mom's and Dad's are still in charge of paying for their Christmas even when Santa and his helpers do all the work connects so many dots for them!

A family in need is still a family in need, even when Santa is involved. A $500 toy is still a $500 toy, even when Santa is involved. This answer might not be what you were looking for or work for your kids. If not, that's okay. There are plenty of other ways you can talk to your kids about these things. But for our family, it has worked great! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

3 Steps to Stop Judging

We have been advised time and time again. In nearly every lecture, we are reminded to avoid judging others and gossip. Elder Uchtdorf famously said,"this topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!"

What a wake up call that was for a lot of people! It cut deep in our cores and made us realize that maybe we weren't doing as great as we thought we were. And maybe, just maybe, we could try to make a change.

Years and years ago, I had decided gossip and unrighteous judgment wasn't going to be a part of my life anymore. Obviously, I am not perfect. When others around me are gossiping or saying negative things about other people, sometimes I hear myself asking questions to know more rather than keeping my mouth shut or trying to change the subject. But it is possible to change, and I have noticed an extremely positive change in my life over the years of actively trying to be better at this.

How can you go from point A to point B? We know we are suppose to. But are we really suppose to just wake up one morning and be perfect at it? No, but there is a way to be better.

There are 3 simple (or extremely difficult, depending where you're at on the gossip/judgy pole) steps you can try to better yourself with the ever so slippery slope of being a jerk. I kid, I kid.

Step 1: Commitment

You need to make the commitment to yourself that you are going to make a serious effort. You can let those around you know and ask them to hold you accountable.

This is not a conditional effort. You can't back out when your co-worker calls with the new dirty details on your horrid supervisor's dramatic affair or when the incredibly tempting new "people of walmart" video is made. You have to make the commitment and stick to it.

Step 2: Refuse Verbal Judgment

When you see someone doing something or looking a certain way that makes you want to say something negative, refuse. When you hear that so-and-so from work did such-and-such and you want to tell someone, refuse. Refuse to verbalize your negativity.

One of the biggest rewards we feel we get from gossip or unrighteous judgment is validation. We want to feel that our thoughts and opinions are correct. It is human nature to want to be understood, and when people tell you that you're right for thinking certain things about someone, it makes us feel good and builds our confidence.

Unfortunately, that singular feel good moment turns into a thousand feel good moments that suddenly and without warning turn into a pile of misery and isolation topped with a bitter piece of sad broccoli. It's completely worth it to at least attempt to make the change.

So, you can think these negative or gossip type thoughts as much as you want, but refusing to say it out loud will kill off one of the biggest incentives for doing it in the first place; validation.

Step 3: Train your thoughts

Now that you're not verbalizing your gossip or negative thoughts, start training yourself to think of something positive immediately upon hearing/thinking those things. It doesn't necessary need to be super positive or elaborate. I use the simple phrase, "I wonder if..." to help train myself.

That shirt is way too small for her.
I wonder if that's the only shirt she owns.

Big surprise, my neighbor hasn't watered her yard all summer.
I wonder if they're going through a hard time right now.

Looks like Sara finally got fired. She's always been so lazy, that's probably why.
I wonder if she had more on her plate than I knew. 

Why is she at McDonalds when she clearly needs to lose weight?
I wonder if she's been working hard at getting healthier and today is her cheat day.

They don't need to be perfect replacement thoughts, or even extremely positive ones. Just training yourself to slap your initial negative thought in the face is what we're after here. Getting yourself in the habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt is an empowering feeling of freedom you won't expect, but will undoubtedly love. It will inevitably build and build until positive thoughts are the first ones you think of. 

 It takes time, and you'll mess up (heaven knows I get riled up and say things I shouldn't way too often), but when you are striving to be your very best, you get credit for trying!

These steps are merely suggestions. They are steps that I made up for myself and worked for me to kick myself into gear. They will of course not work for everyone and I am not a psychologist or any kind of mental professional in any way. It's worth a shot, though, considering how none of us want to end up a miserable, isolated being topped with a bitter piece of sad broccoli.

Monday, September 26, 2016

5 Ways to Help Your Kids Feel the Spirit on the Sabbath

Sunday mornings with kids. Kids on Sunday mornings. Mornings with kids.....on Sundays. How many different ways can I say that before you develop a twitch? Sunday mornings with kids is probably rated a zero on a scale of 1 to 10. Why? Because Satan don't want no church goers!

I'm kidding (I'm not, but you know what I mean). Sunday mornings just have a way of getting a little out of hand most weeks. Are you grouchy by the time you all finally get loaded into the car? Maybe a little stressed out or frazzled? Chances are, if that's how you're feeling, your kids are feeling it, too. At the very least, they aren't feeling excited or wanting to go.

So, how can we fix that? Kids typically see church as a to-do. If we're being honest, we all feel that way a lot of the time, too. We show up, sit through it or teach it and get out of there. Our kids, much like school, show up and sit through it so they can get out of there.

Teaching them to find how to enjoy church or feel the spirit can be tricky. However, kids deserve more credit. They are often very sensitive to the spirit and very capable of seeing the importance of a lesson. We just need to provide and encourage those moments for them as often as we can. If we are willing to find just a few things to tweak for our Sundays, we are acknowledging that our children deserve and have the capacity to feel and grow just as we do.

Here are 5 ways that you can help your kids feel the spirit on the sabbath.

1. The Friend
You know the song! Saturday is a special day.....Keeping the space around you tidy does help you feel the spirit, and with kids it's no different! Making sure their room is clean with their church clothes out each Saturday is so helpful! 

In addition, I send my kids to bed with the Friend magazine on Saturday nights. I pick out a couple of stories for them to read or activity to do and I try to base it on what their primary class or sharing time lesson will be about the next day. They are able to start shifting their focus to Christ in their cozy clean rooms with their church clothes in view.

This small change has had a huge effect on how my kids feel the next morning. It helps set their mood before they even wake up Sunday morning. They are able to fall asleep the night before feeling peaceful and "in the zone" ;).

 2. Gospel Centered Music
With how many electronic devices we have these days, there are so many ways to access this kind of music. I set my Ipad out in the living room with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir channel on Pandora. It's the first thing my kids hear when they get out of bed each Sunday morning. Singing along, humming along and simply having the music fill our home gives an immediate and lasting feeling throughout the day.

As we know, music has such power to lift us up and feel the spirit. Doctrine and Covenants shares with us:
"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me and it shall be answered by a blessings upon their heads." (D&C 25:12)

 Wholesome and uplifting music can have a great impact on how we feel on and about our Sundays. Joseph F. Smith gave a wonderful thought as he addressed the choir; 

"When we listen to this choir . . . we listen to music, and music is truth. Good music is gracious praise of God. It is delightsome to the ear, and it is one of our most acceptable methods of worshipping God.. ...My soul is always lifted up and my spirit cheered and comforted when I hear good music. I rejoice in it very much indeed." (Joseph F. Smith CR1899Oct:69)

3. Church Activities Jar
You've probably seen this idea floating around on Pinterest at one time or another. But actually taking the time to put one together takes some effort. Each Saturday night I pull out the activities jar and set it on the kitchen table. It's one of the first things they see on Sunday morning! It's just a good reminder that they won't be doing their regular day activities, but that they have other options that are fun to choose from so they don't get discouraged.

I looked at a few lists of ideas and picked the ones I thought were realistic for our family and threw in a few ideas of my own. Then it's just a matter of printing them off, cutting them out and sticking them in a jar! It doesn't have to be fancy and you can even just scribble them down on slips of paper instead of printing them all out.

Our rules are that whatever they choose, they have to do it for at least 15 minutes (and they can't put it back to re-pick). This keeps them from going for the jar simply because they know "bake a treat" is in there. They have to be willing to pick even knowing that some kind of service or their dreaded "go for a drive" is in there, too :). 

This change has really been a fun one for our family. I've seen my kids end up doing things they should but usually don't do on Sundays (like call Grandma and Grandpa!). 

4. Media
This is somewhat of a debate for church goers. Do we watch TV on Sundays? Do we not? What if it's a Disney show? That's not what I'm here to talk about. Every family is different and what is right for you is right for you!

But, if you're looking for a change, or simply something to add in to your Sundays media-wise that can help your kids feel the spirit, youtube is the best!

For us, we decided we didn't really want the TV on Sundays. Not for the regular day to day shows, anyway. So, I created my own playlist on youtube with video's I felt were appropriate and I chromecast it to the TV in our bedroom. It has a mixture of Mormon Messages that I think the kids will like, some gospel songs that have interesting videos with them, or even talks from General Conference that have video's with them I've found to be really awesome! You can check out my own playlist right here or you can make your own!

I've really loved having that on and playing in the bedroom. With the church music out in the living room and kitchen area, the sound from the videos in my room will flow out into the hallway and suck the kids in :). I'll find my kids in there watching for a while and they'll come and go. Even my almost 2 year old sits on my bed and watches intently.  As many great gospel centered videos that there are, I did sneak in Let it Go by Alex Boye  ;).

5. FHE
Family Home Evening can be hard to be consistent with! Coming up with a lesson, rounding up the kids and getting them to sit quietly, all of that can be a bit much to look forward to in the day when you've already reached your limits at 10am :). 

What I've done to keep things simple and also help them feel the spirit each Sunday, is plan my FHE lessons along with the Sharing time lessons. Whatever sharing time lesson is coming up the next Sunday, that's the lesson we will have for FHE. This is a bit easy for me since I teach sharing time once a month and I have access to the lesson outlines. The sharing time outline book is available online to download if you're interested.

This gets them thinking about the particular topic at the beginning of the week in order for them to apply it in their daily lives. It also helps them on Sundays when sharing time begins because they can contribute with thoughts and experiences from their week. Seeing how learning that lesson and spending time thinking about it fits into their lives opens the door for them to feel the spirit as they share those things on Sunday. 

Plus, we all know how kids loooove to know the answers to questions ;). 

So there you have it! There are clearly many many more ways and ideas and I would love for you to share any ideas you have as well! I am definitely not perfect at doing all of these things all the time, but I cannot deny the changes that they have made with the over all impact. 

I encourage you to give one or two of these a try that you haven't done before and let me know how it goes!