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Ten Essentials for a Perfect Pool Day

10 Essentials for a Perfect Pool Day

Hello Fun Seekers! I am so excited to be heading down to Las Vegas on Thursday for a long weekend of rest and relaxation.  The weather forecast calls for clear, sunny skies with a high of 80 degrees. EIGHTY DEGREES! Can you say pool day?  I cannot wait to get down there.

While the others are in the casino gambling, I plan to spend the day at the pool. I am not talking about getting to the pool early, sticking a towel on lounge chair kind of pool day though. Instead, I plan to rent a daybed which is a little splurge that I love to treat myself to on occasion. #treatyoself

There are a few essentials that I always bring for a pool day retreat. Here is what will be in my pool bag to ensure a day of fun.

10 essentials for a perfect pool day-1
Pool Bag Essentials

A total must-have is my Kindle Paperwhite (fully charged!) loaded with two new books:

(Small tangent) Do you need ideas for what to read next? I just heard about this new service from the NY Times called Match Book. It is a literary advice column where readers can email a description of books they love and books they did not like.

“The weekly column will connect readers with book suggestions based on their questions, their tastes, their literary needs and desires.”

Smartphone with external battery with:

  • Podcasts – If you haven’t gotten on the podcast bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? If you have an iPhone there is literally an app that is already on your phone called Podcast. Open it and search for one of these podcasts below and your commutes and walks will never be the same.
    • Modern Love 
    • The Happier Podcast
    • S-Town – Seriously! I listened to this series already but it is so good. If you have not started listening yet, do yourself a favor and download the first episode today.
  • Music – I have to have some tunes because I don’t trust hotel pools to play decent music and I fear getting stuck with techo music all day. Not relaxing!
  • Audiobook
    • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See’s new novel. Set in the remote mountains of China and the Akha people. See’s books always transport me to another world and introduce me to a culture I know nothing about.
Other Essentials

Snacks – Almonds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, with coconut is my favorite.

Sunglasses, cover up, and sun hat – You don’t want to get sun-burned. Plus, your older self will thank your younger self for these skin preservation measures.

Finally, I stash a water bottle, sunscreen, and headphones in my bag and then I am ready to go!

What am I forgetting? What are the essential items in your bag for a perfect pool day?

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Shopping List – A Foolproof Way to Track Gift Buying

Holiday Shopping List Tracker

Why You Need a Holiday Shopping List Tracker

Thanksgiving is two weeks away! Then we will be full throttle into the holiday gift buying season. I enjoy coming up with ideas for thoughtful gifts for my family and friends. But, I needed a way to stay organized, enter the Holiday Shopping List Tracker.

You may not know this about me but I am a spreadsheet devotee. I have spreadsheets for everything. Here are a few examples: household expenses, menu-planning, packing lists, and yes, holiday gift buying. Now, I have over ten years of these spreadsheets now. I use them to track holiday gift ideas, purchases, and spending on gifts for my family and friends. Another bonus is that I can refer back to them from occasionally to make sure that I don’t duplicate gifts.

holiday-shopping-list-file-structure

I find that being organized helps keep the holiday stress to a minimum which is important to me. So, if you promise not to make too much fun of me, I will share a blank copy of the spreadsheet that I use with you.  Once you click on the link below the holiday shopping list tracker will open up.

Holiday Shopping List Tracker

 

Note: If you would like to get more helpful tips from me twice per month add your email in the side bar! 

The holiday shopping list tracker is super easy and effective to use. But, if you aren’t really comfortable with spreadsheets, I have prepared a short instructional video for you on how I use the holiday shopping list tracker.

How to Use the Holiday Shopping List Tracker

If videos aren’t your thing I will summarize the steps that I use here:

  • I store the spreadsheet in Dropbox which is a free cloud-based file storage system which I cannot live without. With Dropbox I can access my files whether I am home, at work, or via mobile when I am on the go.
  • Enter each name on your holiday gift list onto a row of the spreadsheet. If you typically buy that person more than one gift I would leave a few blank rows underneath their name so you have room for multiple gift ideas.
  • As you think of gift ideas for people or they give you hints, add those ideas to the spreadsheet in the ‘Gift Ideas’ column. I basically access this spreadsheet all year long and add gift ideas whenever inspiration strikes!
  • If you know where you can purchase the item, add the store name or URL of the website to that column.
  • Once I purchase a gift I mark the yes/no drop down arrow to the right of the cell
  • The purchase price column keeps a total of how much you have spent at the bottom of the spreadsheet
  • I usually start wrapping presents once I put up my Christmas tree so I like to keep track of what has been wrapped and what hasn’t
  • If I have to mail gifts to recipients than I can sort the list and make sure that those gifts get purchased, wrapped, and sent in plenty of time.
  • After the holidays I open the file, do a ‘save as’ and rename the spreadsheet for the following year. Then I remove all the information that I added for the current year so I have a blank slate to start with for next year!

So, there you have it. Let me know if you have any questions about the gift tracker. Or, email me if you have suggestions for improvements. I am all ears. Cheers to a holiday season that is organized and stress-free!

Holiday Shopping List | A Foolproof Way to Track Gift-Buying

 

How to Have an Amazing Autumn

amazing-autumn-fall-leaves

Every Labor Day weekend I start to feel an impending sense of dread that summer is over.  It’s nothing against fall. I like fall, I really do. The cool crisp air, Mother Nature shows off her glorious colors, football, apple picking are all things that I love.

But, you know what the end of summer means. Winter is coming with its cold, gray, and dreary days. Commuting becomes driving to and from work in the dark. Don’t even get me started about photography. NO NATURAL LIGHT. Not Monday through Friday anyway because of the J.O.B.

So, each year I spend time reflecting on the change of seasons and relishing all that is good about autumn.

autumn-activities-to-do-list-fall-arch

Soup Night

Soup is my boyfriend. I love soup. It warms you up from the inside, makes the house smell amazing and is a way to get loads of vegetables into your diet. This year I am going to invite a few girlfriends over for a soup night.  I plan to make a pot of soup or two, get some artisan bread and cheeses. Here are a few soups that I have bookmarked because they sound delicious:  sunshine split pea, mulligatawny, and cauliflower cheddar soup.

Boots 

I am a recovering shoe addict. Shoes are easy. Your shoe size never changes so it is no wonder that many women love buying shoes. I don’t buy nearly as many shoes as I used to do but I still love buying boots. I love boots with leggings, boots with skirts, and boots with skinny jeans.  I am thinking about getting this pair.

Leaves 

There is something dramatic and a little romantic about walking around in the fall while the fallen leaves crunch under your feet. I love the sound and smell of autumn especially when I walk on campus at the beginning of a new school year, in a pretty neighborhood or on a mountain trail.

high-west-hot-toddy-lavender-honey-autumn-activities

Drinks 

Cool nights mean that you need a hot toddy to warm you up from the inside. I am super excited because I have a jar of  local lavender honey and a jar of honey from a friend’s hive which will make an amazing hot toddy. Don’t you think? One of my friend’s uses ginger tea in place of hot water for her hot toddies. Genius! Also, I thought this autumn sangria looks delicious too. I think it would be fun to serve at book club or for an afternoon of leaf-raking.

Gourdfest

What? You don’t know what Gourdfest is? Gourdfest is an annual gathering of my friends which initially started as a pumpkin beer tasting. We’ve mostly agreed that pumpkin beer is over-rated but we still get together in the fall and eat all the gourds. Here are few recipes that I am considering for this year: curried butternut and white bean tacos, sweet and spicy roasted butternut squash pizza with cider caramelized onions,

Scarves

Are you guys into blanket scarves? I am seeing them everywhere this fall. They look so cozy. I like this one. I love watching YouTube videos on how to tie a scarf. I thought this one was great.

Roasted vegetables 

Roasted vegetables are the best vegetables. All vegetables taste better after they are roasted. My favorite veggies to roast are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. All that you need to do is chop them into uniformly-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast.

Tea 

I love tea. I drink iced tea by the gallon in the summer.  This summer I was obsessed with brewing hibiscus and mint tea. But, when it is chilly outside I love to drink hot tea. For the most part I drink herbal teas. I always have roobios, mint, and chamomile in my pantry.

I hope all these ideas will help you enjoy an amazing autumn and keep your mind of winter!

autumn-amazing-how-to

Revive a Dormant Friendship Challenge

Revive a Dormant Friendship Challenge

Are you happy?

I have always had a cheerful demeanor so I haven’t paid too much attention to the idea of being happier that Gretchen Rubin has written about in her books, website, and podcast. I mean, I am already happy so why bother exploring that further?

But a good friend of mine recommended the Happier podcast hosted by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft so I decided to download it and give it a listen. It got me thinking about how ridiculous my thinking was about happiness. Would I really say, ‘I am already healthy, why bother trying to be healthier?’ Of course I wouldn’t and you probably wouldn’t either.

So, I downloaded episode 79 of the ‘Happier’ podcast and listened during my commute yesterday.  The sisters offered up a challenge to their listeners.

Revive a dormant friendship

We know that a strong social network is vital to our well-being and happiness but realistically speaking most people would agree that free time is at a premium. It takes time and effort to maintain solid connections with friends.

On the other hand, a few people immediately come to my mind when I think about dormant friendships. Those relationships didn’t end badly, they just slipped away. Whether it was marriage, kids, jobs, or moving far away, our lives took different turns and we drifted apart.

Their challenge resonated with me.  So I am going to reach out to say hi and check in with some friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. I haven’t decided whether I will email them or give them a call. I seem to be worse at talking on the phone the older I get.  But one way or another I am going to reach out and try to revive the friendship.

Do you have a dormant friend that you would like to reach out to?

Will Walk for Wildflowers

wildflowers_cecret

I do my best thinking while I am walking. I always have. For this reason I try to get outside for a little while every single day of the year. But, it is summertime now and I love to take advantage of the cool mountain air when the temperatures are sweltering in the Salt Lake valley as they have been much of the last eight weeks.

Indian Paintbrush

 

Summer in the Wasatch Mountains is famous for the glorious display of wildflowers in the Albion Basin. A short drive from Salt Lake City up Little Cottonwood Canyon just past Alta Ski Resort you will see a gravel road which leads to the Cecret Lake trail head. Little Cottonwood Canyon is a watershed area so leave your furry friends at home.

Cecret LakeDuring weekends in July and August you will want to arrive early as this hike is very popular and traffic and parking can be frustrating. But, I recommend that you take advantage those long summer days during the week and get to the trailhead by 7:00a. You can get to Cecret Lake and back before work.  I did this recently and it was glorious. Only a few cars were in the parking lot and not many hikers on the trail. The soft morning light was a bonus for snapping photos of the picturesque wildflowers.

Wildflower TrailThe trail to Cecret Lake is less than two miles out and back. I once enticed my children on this hike by bribing them with an Egg McMuffin picnic breakfast once we reached the lake. You will want to bring a day pack with water, a light jacket (it can be chilly at that elevation even when it is scorching hot in the valley), sturdy shoes, some nuts and dried fruit (just in case), and your camera. I promise that you will be so glad that you did.

There is something humbling about spending time in the mountains where our true scale in relation to nature can quickly put the woes and aggravations of daily life into sharp perspective. It’s amazing out there. Go get you some.

More information about the Cecret Lake trail.

A hike is good for the soul

Five Things You Can Do This Weekend To Improve Your Health

Five Things Improve Health

 Cook Brown Rice

Cook a pot of brown rice this weekend and set yourself up with a great base for many healthy lunches and dinners. Add some beans, black or pinto would be great, veggies, avocado, and salsa and you have a delicious burrito bowl. Stir-fry your favorite vegetables (I like broccoli, red pepper, onion, and mushrooms), and then whip up a quick stir-fry sauce like this one.  Dinner will be on the table in no time at all. Use any leftover rice in a wrap with hummus, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion and you can meet your brown bag lunch goals for the week too.

Stop at a Farmer’s Market or Roadside Farm Stand

Summer time is here and fresh, locally grown produce abounds. Get yourself some! I picked up peaches, plums, and melons this week which are all in season. I also bought sweet corn, eggplant, and red peppers. Once you buy the produce, spend a little time preparing the food for the week. I filled a container with melon balls which I will take as part of workday lunches and snack on when I get home from work.

Meditate

I started daily meditations in January of this year and immediately starting feeling the benefits. Both my sleep and focus have dramatically improved. There are several apps, podcasts, and websites available to get you started for little or no cost. My favorites right now are the app Stop, Breathe, & Think and the Meditation Minis podcast with Chel Hamiliton.  Have you heard of Jiyo? I just downloaded this wellness app by Deepak Chopra. I will let you know what I think once I check it out.

Get Outside

As John Muir said, ‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.’  The world is amazing so get out there and explore a new trail, nature path, or neighborhood.  Spending time outside every day can quickly, easily, and inexpensively do your body and mind good. So, what are you waiting for? Lace up your shoes and go!

Add one extra serving of vegetables each day

You know you should be eating 2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day, right? Think back to the last few weeks and recall how many servings you actually eat each day? I like to sneak some veggies in at breakfast. Try adding some spinach, chard, or kale to your smoothie in the morning. Or, on Sunday morning make a big batch of vegetable hash with onions, red peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. Eat this for breakfast with roasted potatoes or as a filling for an omelet.

Weekend Recharge: Kayaking 

fun, kayak, summer

Kayaking at Currant Creek Reservoir

Last Sunday was the type of summer day that I dream about all winter long. The sky was blue and a gentle breeze of warm, scented air awakened me. We got up early and packed a picnic lunch. We had loaded the kayaks on the car the night before so we would be ready to roll first thing in the morning.

fun, kayak, summer

Where It Is

Currant Creek Recreation Area boasts a beautiful reservoir, campground, and thanks to the 7,683 ft. elevation, a welcome break from the triple digit temperatures. We had the reservoir to ourselves except for a few people fishing. The water was as smooth as glass and only our oars disturbed the surface. The air smelled deliciously of pine.

summer fun kayak

Why You Should Go

We paddled over to the boat launch and into a cove that is adjacent to the campground. Someone had tied a rope swing to a tree. I considered climbing on shore and hurling myself into the water. But, once I dipped my toes into the icy cold water I decided that staying in the kayak was a better course of action. We paddled nearly all the perimeter of the reservoir we headed back. When we got back to shore we guzzled our cold drinks and refueled with garden tomato sandwiches.

After relaxing at the water’s edge for a while, we loaded up our gear and headed back to the cabin with tired arms, a full belly, and sun-kissed cheeks.

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