Friday, December 21, 2018

Self-Care for 2019

Self-care has been a buzzword(s) for a while now. I think that's a great thing. It means many of us realize how important it is to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others.

But in reality, even the best intentions of self-care are easy to let slip. My own emotional vices and challenges-- perfectionism, insomnia, hyper-ambition-- can shadow my best intentions of self-care. Physically and mentally daunting, I work 3 part-time jobs, raise two kids without childcare or family help, and have a home to keep decent without a housekeeper. Woe is not me-- many of you have busy lives too. We're fortunate to have kids and homes and jobs and goals and volunteer work and what-have-yous. I'm just pointing out it's so easy to take a backseat in your own life.

So, as many of us do, I'm setting some positive goals for 2019, and I've already started working on them (teacher's pet and all). In the recent past, my New Year's resolutions were about focusing on finding the fun in life. I still plan to do that. It's an awesome goal and I'm [usually] an eternal optimist. But recently I'm thinking that in order to fully enjoy life and live out all that fun, there are certain things I need to add and subtract from my life.

Here are some of my newest self-care measures. I'd love to hear what you prioritize for the sake of your own physical and mental health, and/or what it is that blocks you from taking care of yourself fully.

My 6 Self-Care Measures:

1. Less Texting. When I had babies and toddlers climbing all over me, all the time, texting was a gift. It helped me connect with family and friends when I was at home almost 24/7, surviving a cycle of nap schedules, bedtime routines, long winters, constant sickness, etc. However, I've noticed that if I have the sound turned on my phone, it dings with a new text at least a couple of times an hour. That constant steady, stream adds up. It interrupts my time with my kids, my writing time, my alone time. All of it!

So I'm texting less and less. When I do text, I'm trying to keep it focused on practical things-- what time/where are we meeting, can we carpool to sports, have the kids had dinner yet, etc.-- rather than never-ending conversations.

I also just disabled group messaging on my phone. I feel like those can easily get out of hand-- all the sudden there are like 8 people on there and none of the messages really apply to me. It feels stressful, especially if the tone takes a turn for the worse. If people need to reach me, they can certainly still send me an individual text, make a phone call, leave a voicemail, send an email, etc. The options to connect are still rather endlessly daunting.

2. On that same note, I've been turning my phone completely off earlier and earlier each night. I figure, nothing truly needs to get my attention past, say 8 o'clock, does it? The social media posts can wait. Late night texts never lead to anything good. Voicemails can be listened to in the morning. If there's an emergency, well, what can I do about it at 11 at night anyway? Knock on my door if you really need me.

For my own relaxation purposes and my need for family time, alone time, and sleep, I decided yes, turning off the phone-- and it's powerful blue light-- is a simple self-care move I can make on a nightly basis. And no, I can't really care if it makes someone mad who likes texting me late at night.  In fact, maybe I should text them at 5:30 when I usually wake up... nooooo, that's just getting evil ;).

3. I would venture to guess that 90% of people make it an annual goal to exercise more. And why not? It's clearly a healthy move for all of us. It's just not easy to stick with on top of kids, a house, job(s)... life. But since September, I've tried to get to a group exercise class two times a week.

Much less often than some, but it's what I can fit in realistically for now. It helps take the edge off, and I feel stronger and more energized. In the depths of winter, making myself get up and move really helps my overall mood. Which, of course, is a win for my whole family.

Happy, healthy woman = happy, healthy mother.

4. Sleep keeps popping up on this list. It's just so important! So I've also switched to drinking a cup of calming, sleepy-time tea most nights over a cocktail. Wine definitely wakes me up at night, and I rarely drink it. I'll always love a great wheat beer, but again, most nights, not as much as I love a great night's sleep. I'm experimenting with Golden Milk too (Google it). All the potions...

5. Would you believe I've lived in Minnesota for over a dozen years and had never bought a 'happy light' (i.e. sun lamp) until this year?! Now we have one on our kitchen counter, and I turn it on at 7 a.m. sharp every morning (the sun doesn't rise until at least 7:30 these days), and from 4-5 p.m. every evening (it gets dark here by 4:30!). I can't prove 100% if it magically improves mood and energy levels, but it certainly can't hurt. I think it feels way more normal to have light at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. than total darkness!

6. Here's my final self-care measure, and it's intense ya'll!: I'm actively trying to stop letting people bulldoze over me and then being the pushover who just lets them waltz back into my life whenever it's convenient for them. We regularly remind our kids of the Golden Rule-- treat others how you want to be treated-- so why do I forgive and forget so easily without so much as an explanation from the hurtful party? My whole life I've put other peoples' feelings above my own. It's exhausting and probably not a healthy pattern.

I'm far from perfect, but I do try to treat people with kindness and respect, and if they don't return that simple favor, then it's not my job to make room for them in my life right now. My plate is just too full. An apology can turn things around quickly, but it has to be said. I don't have room for self-focused, careless types right now.


Readers: I'd love to hear your self-care plans for 2019. What positive changes do you want to make and what practical measures can you take to get there? Message me. Leave a comment. Remember to put yourself first when you can so that you are in the best emotional shape you can be to care for others.

It's so easy to forget, but so important to keep working on. I'm right there with you!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Adventures in Instant Pot Land

I don't remember when I first started hearing about Instant Pots, but the buzz has been building and I was's my story!


I must start with a shoutout to my brave friend Jen for lending me her cherished Instant Pot. I mentioned I was toying with the idea of buying one and giving it a whirl, and she said I could give hers a test run. How generous!

For reference, this is an Instant Pot:

It's a fast-acting pressure cooker that resembles a slow cooker crossed with a futuristic rice cooker and comes with every other bell and whistle you can think of (porridge anyone?). The issue: it's intimidating! So many buttons! And what is pressure cooking anyway? Will it explode? What are those noises?

After staring at Jen's pot on my kitchen counter for almost a week, I decided I had to least try it before I returned it to her. There is one important step I took prior to my launch: Jen walked me through how to put the lid on and off (yes, instruction is necessary for this), how to use the quick release steam valve (it's a thing), how to clean it, and she pointed out a couple of other functions.

If you want to give one a go, I highly recommend having one of your Instant Pot friends do a hands-on demo for you. Second best option: watch some You Tube videos!

Ok, so here's what I did one morning, feeling brave (and this is no joke):

1. I sprayed some Pam in the pot because I didn't want to ruin her pristine stainless steel bowl, and I added a pound of chicken breast tenderloins.

Yes, you just plop them at the bottom of the stainless steel bowl.

2. I drained a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and dumped the contents on top of the chicken.

I always have a couple cans of this on hand: it's great to add to taco meat or chili.

3. I closed the lid, set it Poultry, and let it pressure cook for 20 minutes.

4. I did a Quick Release once the 20 minutes was up (watch out-- lots of steam comes out the top!), I took the lid off, and here's what it looked like. Not so promising, BUT...

5. After stirring and draining the excess liquid, look what I had! A bowl of juicy, moist (sorry to people who have aversions to those words; they're the only accurate ones I can think of!) shredded chicken (it shreds super easily) with a mild salsa sauce!

Voila! My very first Instant Pot dish: I call it Salsa Chicken but you could definitely be more honest and call it Chicken & Ro-tel :).

Here's the kicker: my son LOVED the chicken and couldn't get enough. That says it all, folks.

Follow up:

After scrubbing the washable parts, I tried to give the machine back to Jen, but she insisted I give it another try... I was worried. What on earth would I make next? Wasn't I pushing my luck?

I like to end on a good note, but she was right. Before I buy one, I should try one 'step up' recipe. Did you know you can brown ground meat in this thing? Yeah, that's what I wanted to do.

Enter my vision of making a big pot of chili all in one pot. No separate frying pan to brown the meat first. But where to begin?!

So many sites have complicated recipes they say are simple, but come on. Most involved all kinds of button pushing. I wanted to be as hands-off as possible. Luckily, I eventually found a great turkey chili recipe on Oh Sweet Basil.

Did I have everything on hand their recipe required? Of course not! So I subbed in a few things I had in my pantry and it still turned out fantastic.

A big pot of hot, flavorful chili in under 30 minutes. Awesomeness. Scroll to the end of the post below for my subs if you want to try your own.*

I feel like my food images don't do it justice, but it smells delish and tastes even better! YUM!
So will I buy one? I haven't officially decided yet, but I think I will eventually. I'm not in a rush. I think I only need the 6 Qt. version for my family of four. I used the 8 qt. and I don't have a bunch of extra cupboard space-- it is not a small thing. Perhaps the after-Christmas sales will speak to me...

In the meantime, I'd love to hear if you have an Instant Pot, if you've tried it, and if you love it or hate it!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

*My chili subs: 
I had only one can of beans (I used Great Northerns).
I subbed one of the two cups of chicken broth for one cup of tomato sauce. 
I didn't add the bacon (didn't have any).
Still yum!