“Healthy” is the Word

A few goals for healthy living in 2016

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A few days ago, I had a brief discussion with another blogging friend about how some people select a word as inspiration for their lives in the new year.  I have never done this per se, but after giving some thought to what I would like to see for myself in the coming year, “Healthy” would actually be a good word for me personally right now.  Of course, “Healthy” doesn’t mean only physical health, as I want to apply it to just about every area of my life… spiritual health, emotional health, etc.  But for this post, I want to focus on physical health, since this is something on many of our minds in the month of January, especially concerning healthy eating and exercise.  For me, physical health also helps me to be healthy in all other aspects of my life, too.

I’ve had much success over the past two years in staying on a healthier, low-carb eating plan.  During the holidays this year, I did not gain as many pounds as I did last year as I endured a stressful few months while dealing with Mom’s illness and death and did not focus as much on my diet.  This year, I didn’t give myself a pass from the eating plan, with the exception of Thanksgiving week and the two weeks at Christmas and New Year’s.  While we haven’t resumed our low-carb diet 100% yet, I’m looking forward to resuming it consistently because I know how much better I will feel once I do that and how much better my clothes will fit long-term.  February 1 is our target date to be 100% back on our diet, and we are both good with that target date as we are already easing into it anyway once again and are largely there already.

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A good Chef’s Salad is a great, filling option for a low-carb lunch or dinner!

For more information on a low-carb lifestyle, see my page
My Low-carb Lifestyle

I also plan to explore more new low-carb recipes for us this year.  Sometimes keeping it simple with some tried and true meals is a good, safe option, but hopefully I will have more time this year to explore new recipes and expand our favorites list.  I hope to find more good, easy low(er) carb recipes that can be prepared in under an hour from start to table, and if we can eat two or three meals from one preparation, so much the better.  I hope to find one new, awesome low-carb recipe per week, and I plan to share some of the best ones here for others to enjoy, too.

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I finally made a low-carb pizza crust that we actually like. It is made with cauliflower and cheese and tastes quite good.  We no longer have to just eat the toppings off of a pizza!

Daily walking is thankfully one healthy practice that I have done consistently since June when I purchased my Fitbit Charge HR.  Honestly, this has been such a great thing for me, and it is a daily habit now.  I cannot recommend Fitbit tracking enough, as it has been a great accountability tool for me, not only in tracking steps, but tracking my heart rate and calories burned each day.  I believe that Fitbit walking and tracking is one reason that I did not gain as much weight during the holidays this year, too.  My exercise goal for the coming year is to just continue my daily walking, while getting back to the gym a little more regularly for additional workouts.

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My weekly report from Fitbit during the blizzard. I walked over 29,000 steps on the day we shoveled all that snow, which definitely helped to achieve my step goal for the week while we were snowbound.

If you don’t own a Fitbit or desire to purchase one, let me just make a simple recommendation that works for me on days when I’m not very motivated to walk.  Let’s call it my “3/30 Rule.”  My “3/30 Rule” for daily walking is simply walking briskly for three minutes in every thirty-minute time period during the day from the time I get up to one hour after dinner.  I typically walk about 330 steps in a three-minute period when walking briskly, and it also allows me to elevate my heart rate throughout the day, not just once or twice a day.  I actually set a thirty-minute timer as a reminder at home to walk on the days that I’m mostly at home for the day.  Like I said, this is not how I typically walk on most days, as I prefer to have at least one longer walk outside, at the gym or other locations around town, but it is a simple way to add lots of steps in a single day.

Wonder how many steps this “3/30 Rule” will get you in a typical day?  Here is how it works for me.  In twelve hours, walking for three minutes every thirty minutes, I usually walk just under 8000 steps!  When trying to meet a goal of 10,000 steps each day, this gets me 80% of the way to my goal.  When I add in all of my other steps, I’m at or well past the 10,000 step goal.  In fact, I hope to even up my weekly step goal this year, too.  As a side note, as you can see in the photo above, I walked over 29,000 steps on the first day we shoveled snow here and burned over 3000 calories!  I knew this information, thanks to my handy Fitbit, and it was a little “reward” of sorts for all that hard work and all the aching muscles I had afterward.

One more way to add steps each day is simply parking far away from the front door of the store you are visiting.  We made this change last year, even before I purchased my Fitbit, and it is something we just do by habit now.  Not only is it easier to not “fight” for a closer parking space, we both get those extra steps in, and it’s also easier to leave the parking lot most of the time, too.  We both wonder why we always tried to park closer now, and perhaps this is just a little wisdom with age?

Finally, we hope to resume a more regular RV travel schedule this year, getting back to a monthly outing to help with our exercise goals.  We may even make more Saturday day trips by car with the dogs, just to do some hiking.  These trips may not happen until March 1 or later this year, but we will do our best to get back out in nature more and back to our hiking and bicycle riding which does us so much good from a health standpoint.  We are definitely missing our RV weekends and RV vacation weeks right now, especially after missing our traditional full week away after Christmas due to the blizzard.  Hubby’s nephew and his family also purchased a really nice, big pop-up camper late last year, and we are looking forward to camping with them on occasion going forward.  We love showing family and friends the beautiful state parks that we love to visit regularly.

I have other ideas and goals for this year, including ideas for working on the house, progressing in my photography and visiting some new destinations, but once again, taking care of my physical health is right up there toward the top of my list.

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Summer Catch-up

Catching up on life and a new photography project after a little blogging break

I appreciate those of you that have messaged me about my little “time-out” here, and everything is fine, actually quite good these days.  Since I’ve taken such a long break, this will be a fairly lengthy update, while I’m in the mood to catch up here again. 😉

RV Travel Resuming Soon

We have taken a long break from travel this summer, or at least I have.  Hubby is no longer managing two departments at work, so it was time for him to catch up on his business travels, which he has done all summer long.  He recently made another trip to India, as well as various states in the US, as usual.  As summer draws to a close and kids now return to school, we will resume our RV travels on Labor Day weekend, and I’m quite ready to hit the road again!  We have not been out in the RV since April, making this the longest single stretch that we have been away from it since we started four years ago.  We are going boondocking in New Mexico before the national forest campgrounds shut down for the year, something we have not done in some time.

Hubby recently got a CPAP machine to use at night, so we purchased a good inverter and tested it for seven hours on the house batteries of the RV, turning off the heating element, and it barely even brought the battery level down.  That is great news, for sure, as he really needs to use it overnight now to help him breathe.  On most RV trips, we usually have shore power, but we will need to run it off of the battery for our upcoming trip next week.

Home Improvements

2015-06-10 20.35.33We usually attempt some home projects in the summer months, and this year, our home projects have mostly been related to our kitchen.  First, we bought a new refrigerator with a bottom freezer, which we love.  Next, we completely emptied and painted our laundry room, got rid of the extra refrigerator that we no longer need, and bought new shelving to have more storage, mainly for smaller appliances.  I also moved our Keurig “coffee bar” to that room, which freed up more room in our breakfast room.

After we finished in the laundry room, I embarked on a fairly lengthy search in person and online for a new dining table for the breakfast room.  However, I actually found a matching set of tables for both the kitchen and breakfast room, which made me very happy, especially when the cost for both was less than we planned to spend on just the breakfast room furniture.

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Hubby also built a custom “double doggie diner” for the dogs, and it can be seen in this photo.  It is such a cute piece, and it saves a lot of room in the breakfast room, as compared to having two separate feeding stations for the dogs.

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After we got the furniture in place, I spent quite a bit of time just cleaning out cabinets, lemon-oiling and scrubbing the floor by hand.  We gave some thought to replacing the floor in our kitchen areas, but honestly, we are already tired of home improvement projects for this summer and just don’t want to deal with it this year.  So, we will wait on that update for a later time when we are finally ready to do it.

Walk, Walk, Walk!

2015-06-24 23.27.53Back in June, I also bought a Fitbit Charge HR, and since that day, I have walked at least 10,000 steps each day, usually in the morning and early afternoon.  A few days ago, I got a notification from Fitbit that I had walked 500 miles since June 9, too.  The Fitbit folks provide some nice support and incentives to keep walking, even as I know these are simply automated messages.  Honestly, this is not a lot of walking for me, and on most days, it is no problem whatsoever.  One day early on, I really focused on walking for much of that day, and I hit 35,000 steps that day.  Most days, I manage between 11,000 and 15,000 steps when I add a 30-45 minute walking session to my regular daily steps.

 This has now become a daily routine for me, even though I’ve had to do most of my walking indoors at various places this summer due to the heat.  I like the heart rate monitor in the Fitbit, and my heart rate during the day and at rest is consistently very good.  My initial goal was to focus on walking with the Fitbit through the summer months, which I have now done.  I’m planning to continue with this plan for the fall months, too.  I’ve already walked 1.2 million steps, so I’ll see how long it takes to hit 2 million!

A Quick Trip to Escape the Heat

The only time we’ve ventured out-of-town this summer was a quick, one-night trip to Ruidoso.  The heat here at home was going to be pretty brutal that weekend, so that Saturday morning, Hubby went online and found a nice hotel that was also pet-friendly.  An hour later, we loaded up the dogs and left for the cool mountains of New Mexico.

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A pretty walking trail in the Lincoln National Forest at Ruidoso

We have spent so much time in this area over the past forty years, and it is always good to return to this little area that feels like “home away from home.”  Unfortunately, there are really no great places to take the RV in this particular area, since all of the forest area is national forest land with few, if any, forest campgrounds that are RV friendly.  The best RV options are privately owned RV parks that are pretty tight and located mostly in town.  Several are nice enough but are really just not what we want when going out in the RV.  If anyone ever needs a recommendation for one, though, I can help.  We have checked them all out now.

New Pickup

We have not owned a pickup for several years now, and we finally found a cute little red Chevy S10 LS that was in great shape.  We bought it on Monday, and we will be glad to have a pickup for a third vehicle to use when we need it.  I’m learning to drive a stick-shift all over again, too.  We will no longer need to call a friend or relative when we need to haul something, which will be so nice.

Windows 10

A few days ago, I installed my free upgrade to Windows 10 on my laptop, and I am so, so glad to be rid of Windows 8.  That annoying window that would always slide in from the right is finally gone!  Oh happy day!  So far, I like Windows 10 just fine, and I’m glad that the start menu is back again, too.

Student and Teacher

Lately, my personal projects have not been related to home improvement, but rather to studying and teaching photography.  Yes, teaching!  I think I mentioned here earlier that I felt a strong desire to get back into photography again, and this has taken on several fun new aspects, including one that I never could have anticipated a few months ago.  I also had the opportunity to take a good photography class over two days in July for the very first time.  While most of it was just review, I took away a few points that were new, as well as seeing a great way to present photography to someone for the first time, too.  The instructor was a professional photographer with over thirty years of experience, and he definitely knows his craft.  It was fascinating to be a part of his class, and fortunately, I can contact him anytime when I have questions going forward, too.

While I have been studying my new camera and much more related to photography in depth, an opportunity to help some other ladies learn photography for the first time came my way, via a personal friend that lives in another city.  In mid-July, she asked if I would help her learn photography and her new DSLR camera and even offered to pay me to travel to her city to do classes.  I shared that I did not have a curriculum to work from right now, and I honestly tried to find someone in her area that taught photography to non-college students.  There were no options available, as is often the case, unfortunately.  So, after talking with her a bit, I suggested that we try a “secret” group on Facebook to learn some of the basics, and we agreed to each invite some of our own friends to be a part of the group to make it more engaging.  Within the first five days, we had over 30 ladies sign up to be in the group, so I shut off membership at that point, as I wanted to keep the group manageable.

I have thought and prayed about this particular endeavor every day since then.  I have been humbled by a need that so many have to take better pictures of their loved ones and their lives in general, and I am actually writing a beginning photography curriculum that is geared to hobby photographers who are new to using a DSLR camera.  For so many people, there is no good way to learn to use a DSLR camera and photography in general, unless the person is motivated to read books, regularly search for good articles online, and be disciplined to try the exercises mentioned in those articles.  Even this approach can be problematic, though, as often a person new to photography doesn’t even know where to begin, much less what to specifically search for.  Interactive classes for people like us basically just do not exist.

Honestly, I think it is hard to find a book that presents beginning photography in plain language.  Too many people believe that operating a DSLR camera is just too complicated, and I would love to help a few of them see the error in that thinking.  Just because something is new doesn’t automatically make it hard to understand.  It has taken me *way too long* to learn photography and how to use my camera to the fullest extent, and I hope to save a few others from some of that grief as I can.  It is just one way I can give to others these days.

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I am enjoying the new Canon T5i and image stabilized lenses.

The format of the Facebook group is not ideal, unfortunately, and only a handful of ladies that initially joined the group are still checking in, but it is also hard to know that for sure, too.  This is a common thing with groups on Facebook, but for now, we will stick with this format for the ones that are still checking in and being active there.  I am considering following up with some in-person classes for some in the group, once we’ve gone through the basics there.  I think that will make our in-person time together much more productive, too.  Different ladies have different goals for their photography, and several just want to be able to take better photos of their kids and grandkids, which is fine.  Hopefully they will learn to do that and more as they participate in the group.

Once the curriculum is written, I will give more thought and prayer as to exactly what to do with it going forward, if anything.  That is not even on my radar at this point to be honest.

For me personally, I feel that my own photography has truly improved over the past few weeks and months as I have studied and applied what I’ve learned more and more.  Honestly, the new camera and image stabilized lenses have helped.  The T5i is just easier to operate than my previous camera.  I’m really honing in on my own problem areas, and I’m quite determined to make some good progress quickly.  I’m also spending some time really dialing into studying the photography of Ansel Adams and would love to explore this style myself a bit more at some point.  I recently saw a great exhibit of 100 of his original photos, and it really stirred something in me to explore this style further and learn even more about this man and his photography.

I’m also focusing on learning more about Photoshop, while maintaining my goal of shooting the best quality photos I can right in the camera.  I think I’ve made some great strides toward that goal, too.  I upgraded to Photoshop Elements 13, and as usual, I like each new upgrade better than the one I previously used.  I’ve also used Camera Raw for a while, but I want to learn even more about the features available in it, too.

So, in summary, I’ve just been focusing quite intently on my photography over the past few weeks, once we got done with our home improvement projects.  That pretty much sums up the past couple of months.  I still want to share more about our fabulous Hawaii trip at some point, too.  But for now, it’s time to study and teach for a while and finally return to RV travel after a long, hot summer!

Also, for those RV friends that are planning to head back to Texas and other areas in the south this winter, have you seen the predictions for “Godzilla El Nino?” This seems to be pretty consistent among the various weather forecasters, even if they differ on just how strong it will be.  Late fall and winter will likely be colder with more rain than usual.  We need it, and I’m ready for it.  For the rest of you, just come prepared, and please be happy for us if it comes. 😉

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