Black Friday – The DAY

SO, I decided to venture out this year for Black Friday… WHAT WAS I THINKING?? AM I CRAZY??

6:00 pm Thanksgiving Day:
Fed everyone, packed the car and left the house with tunes a’ roarin’! (level 34 – must have the car to myself for once. bring it on, Kanye). Almost messed our whole schedule up big – was suddenly realizing that because I can’t find my wallet right now, I had no photo ID to show w/ my Visa while shopping up a STORM. Then it hit me – SHIIIooooooT! I’d dang near forgotten my Passport. Grabbed it and went.

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6:20 pm Thanksgiving Day:
Enjoying my tunes and tidying the car a bit at a stoplight, and found my wallet. And with it the aquarium pass Hubby needed for tomorrow. Turn around, go back home. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

6:30 pm Thanksgiving Day:
Really? Traffic was only half as bad going back home. Dropped off card to Hubby, turned around and headed back out to Grampa’s. Turned stereo to 45 for Pink (she can ROCK!).

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7:00 pm Thanksgiving Day:
At Grampa’s… Ready for my 4-hr preparatory nap.

10:00 pm Thanksgiving Day:
… And sleep continues to elude me… Grama and Grampa have cable. I’ve been drawn into it’s big, dark black hole of brainlessness… can’t… turn… it… off…

11:45 pm Thanksgiving Day:
Nope. No sleep. Grampa is up from his nap, so we grab our detailed printed itineraries of stores to hit and off we go! WOOT WOOT!

12:45 am Shopping Day:
Easy breezy border lineup – 15 minutes max. We’re both wide eyed and bushy tailed, chatting the whole way along.

1:40 am Shopping Day:
Just dropped Grampa off at a Best Buy lineup with a chair and blankie (yippee for GPS) – it was already lined up around the corner. I’m sure he’ll have made 6 friends by the time I return. Passed at least 6 cops pulling over speeders  – ALL BC plates.

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1:50 am Shopping Day:
The parking at the Outlets is TOTAL CHAOS!! OHMYGOSH! Apparently the stores actually opened at 10pm. Some stores have 2hr lineups (Coach) and others none at all. I’ve just lined up for Banana Republic – I’d thought there was 40% off everything – the signs say 50%, so I’m happy to line up. Cold, but not rainy.

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2:25am Shopping Day:
AND I”M IN!! Woot Woot! I was just happy to leave the ppl in lineup behind… If I had to listen to one more story about the ‘F’n Hawaiian mafia’, I was gonna wack myself.

2:45am Shopping Day:
And even the lineup to pay is ok in this store – so far this is great! I’m happy to have some things off my list – Jeans for me + Hubby, a new skirt and a new top. Dang, the mafioso is behind me again…  Starbucks is right next door, so that’ll be my only other stop here before heading to Grampa’s lineup.

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2:52am Shopping Day:
Dang. Could have saved another 15% for a total of 65% if I’d picked up my VIP booklet first. Off I go to pick it up, then return everything and start again since I have lots of time. At least I’d printed my Outlet vouchers!

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3:30am Shopping Day:
Now in a big lineup to pee. Starbucks had a 45min lineup (then I assume 15 mins to get your coffee!), so n’mind. There’s one beside Best Buy where I left Grampa.

3:45am Shopping Day:
Found Grampa in BB lineup – yep, he’s made all kinds of friends. 1+ hours to go. Some people are leaving – the laptops on for $400 were out about 30 ppl in front of us. They keep coming down the line w/ TV’s and BB credit cards. At some point Jamba Juice guys dressed like bananas bring smoothies, but everyone’s already freezin’!

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4:50am Shopping Day:
FRIG it’s cold out here!!!!!
10 more minutes.

5:20am Shopping Day:
Froze our butts off for next to nothin’. Other than the major doorbusters, which we weren’t there for, nothing much was on sale. Grampa found a few video games and a really short lineup (the ppl with vouchers for doorbusters had a HUGE long lineup – haha).

5:40am Shopping Day:
After a Starbucks drive thru for sustenance, went to a Wal-Mart. Went straight into the “pay” lineup while Grampa shopped, then switched, then STILL had an hour to go in the lineup. Nothing much even at that. Lots of $2 movies, but we already had them, otherwise, just the really crappy quality stuff was on sale. I passed on a digital frame I’d been looking for – too cheap. Many ppl had two buggys full of crap.

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7:30am Shopping Day:
Arrived at Bellevue Mall to check out the Lego store. I’d thought the Mall was open at 6am, but apparently not until 8am. There’s already a lineup at Lego store – it’s the only lineup in the Mall. And there is only a guarantee of 10% off as they’re using some lame-o system of scratch cards at the till where you can get 10% or MAAAAYBE 20% or 50% off your purchase. Ai-ya.

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8:30am Shopping Day:
Done w/ Bellevue Mall – got my two Lego purchases and the Lego Indiana video game for Wii. OF COURSE at only 10% off. All in all, it’s still cheaper than at home, even if I have to pay duty. The rest of the mall is fairly quiet, a nice change from the other stores we’ve been to. Apparently the anchor stores opened at 5am.

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9:12am Shopping Day:
Grampa got a wee nap while I shopped Lego store, so now he’s refreshed and driving, and I’m kinda just hanging on at this point. Now I’ve lost him s’where in Fry’s… I found a cool video game the girls will LOVE for $20 – has Wii beach vball on it. I’ve been texting them updates all night and they’re super excited to play it when I get home.

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10:30am Shopping Day:
We’re somewhere near… an airport. Looking for a Costco with gas. I think I’ll take a wee nap while Grampa shops – I’m all shopped out. Trying to keep under $400 for both of us so we don’t have to pay duty. $200 per person in the car seems to be their limit for saying “Ok, go through”. We’ll really test it – we’re at $392 by my calc’s.

12:30pm Shopping Day:
Ahhhh, feel a bit better! 2hr nap. We’re on the way home – with a flashing “tire” light… Ai-ya. It’s been POURING rain on the way through to Bellingham – we’re SO LUCKY it didn’t rain in our lineups last night.

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So, for my troubles, I found 5 items at Banana, a Battleship game for $10US, about $160C (+ 2 taxes) worth of Lego for $120C (+ 1 tax), 2 really cool Wii games for $50US total… Not basement bargains by any stretch. But, the experience and time with Grampa? Priceless.

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2:00pm Shopping Day:
10 minute border lineup, and no duty to pay! Whew! It’s been a good day.

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Homeschool #006 – Imagine…

Imagine a world where your Kid learns as much as “normal” kids in just 4 days a week for 2-3 hours a day, and gets to spend more time with his/her family. And have THREE day weekends (plus all the afternoons) left to PLAY, be outdoors, explore their city, meet new friends, join a team, read books! And in that world there is 1 ‘teacher’ to every Kid or two. And that ‘teacher’ has known your Kid since he/she was born – they know already if your child is a more visual learner, or a more verbal learner – if they like to see graphs or hear words or read to do their best learning – and gears all their learning to a style in which each Kid learns best. Your Kids ‘teacher’ even meets with other ‘teachers’ once or twice a week to talk about new learning ideas and methods, while all the kids play and interact together. Sounds good to me!

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Imagine this unbelievably wonderful and dedicated (and super hip) (and real pretty) (and… oh, I digress…) mom, I mean ‘teacher’, also gets just a little bit of time to herself… *Sigh*. Imagine. How do they all do it??! I suspect that not all homeschooling mom’s work, but what about those that do? Someone said recently that, as I’m starting homeschooling, I must “really love being around my kids”. I do. They’re super awesome, and fun, (somtimes stinky) (seriously, do boys just automatically get an extra “fart” gene???) and I love seeing lots of their little faces every day. I love seeing their faces light up every time they learn something new + exciting. But I also love me. And I love being by myself once in awhile. But when your kids are home soooo much (and they’re so small), finding one or two chunks of time throughout the week just doesn’t automatically happen. And I’m working less now w/ the 4th Kid, so I just couldn’t justify keeping a nanny any longer.

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Well, now I’m imagining a future where one night a week, as soon as Hubby gets home, I just LEAVE and don’t come back until the boys are in bed. Ahhhh. And I’m imagining in that future that every Saturday am I just lock myself in a room for 4 hours and catch up on my work. And, imagine, that another Mom in my shoes were to “kidswap” with us twice a week (once for her, once for us) so we can each have a break.

Imagine balance and harmony for all.
One day!

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Black Friday – the ANTI-ANTICIPATION

I’m no longer fully anticipatory! My guns are back on safety, no more a’blazin.

Out of my list of about 5 (albeit very specific) things, I can find not a whisper of any of them on the Black Friday Ads and lists. That is not to say they won’t be there, or that I won’t find them on sale in some manner, but they definately won’t be on for $1! Dang!

At least we don’t have to leave at 7pm the night before anymore (unless we really wanna!) – now around 2 or 3am will do (cough, sigh, snore) as the first stop (Seattle Premium Outlets) opens at midnight with “the big sales” running until 6am. The rest of the stores don’t open until 5am or 6am, and the most we’ll line up for any of ’em is 2 hrs, so we’re looking at getting a few hours of sleep prior to our run – what a treat! We may just hit Bellingham after all.

Apparently the LEGO store is only having a “scratch” system of 10%, 20% or 50% off – you can guess they’ll mostly have just 10% coupons, so there isn’t much point in that, especially if I can find Legos at Target or Wal-Mart for 25% off. BUT, if we’re feeling up to it, we may go further south than Bellingham, and if we do, I’ll try for Bellevue Mall (our closest Lego store)…

Well, although I’m not as soooooo excited, I’m a little relieved. I do like sleep, almost as much as a really good sale. We’ll see how we do on “the DAY”.

Black Friday – the ANTICIPATION

SO, I’ve decided to venture out this year for Black Friday… WHAT AM I THINKING?? AM I CRAZY!? (see, I can say it too).

Curiosity got the better of this cat, and I suckered Grampa into heading down with me, while Hubby is going to take a day off work to hang w/ the boys.

We are pre-shopping the “specials” on websites such as http://www.theblackfriday.com/ and www.blackfriday.info. A serious amount of research goes into this once-a-year shot at “THE” sale day, and apparently you really only get one kick at the DOORBUSTER can, so we have to be really be prepared. Have a plan of attack. Come out with guns a’blazing. Ok, this probably isn’t good talk for going through border control – “And, do you have any weapons with you?” “OH YES! Our guns are a’blazing! We have a plan of attack!”. I can see how they might view that as a bit of a national concern…

Being Canad’ian, every time I mention going down I’m met with odd looks of wonder, so for anyone reading who doesn’t know, in the US they SUPPOSEDLY have a special day (mere HOURS after their turkeys have been digested) where 99% of Americans feel they should suddenly be out shopping for Christmas gifts. Big, fat, juicy (ya, we’ll see…) sales are posted in every store. Everything for a Dolla’! Well, not quite. Anyhow, many shops even open at Midnight to get some real traffic happening, others open at 6am. Apparently this is the day that most stores go from being in the “red” (in debt) to “black” (making a profit).

With all the chat about a “down” market and slow economy, I figured there should be one or two decent sales out there this year. I had a few pricey things to grab this year for Christmas, so I figured why not check it out? It all might elude us, and we may come home empty handed, but I’m always up for an adventure.

I’ve made my list, and am checking it twice – thrice – frice? – against the Black Friday Ads. With the dollar not being so hot as last year, and the potential to have to pay duty, I have to look for prices at least 40 – 45% less than the CDN sticker price.

Wish us all kinds of good “US Thanksgiving” luck! (Dear Lord, we are thankful, in advance, for good border lineups…). Ya, we’ll let ya know how it goes…

2 more days to go and counting!

Homeschool #005 – Curriculum??

Tt turns 5 in January, so eager beaver me thinks “we’re homeschooling – why wait until September to “DO” Kindergarten?”. Why, indeed. Except what does that mean?

Today I was talking to an ex-K/gr.1 teacher and she revealed how amazingly low the bar is set for kids in Kindergarten. The goals have to be easy in order to be achieveable by everyone. SO, I figure I can’t do worse than almost nothing! It took a lot of pressure off.

Not that I was feeling like I have to be SUPERTEACHER for my boys, but I don’t want to miss something critical and as a result mess them up for life before Grade 1 (every beginning homeschooler’s nightmare I’m sure).

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Now the question is WHAT to do for Kindergarten.
Most of the kids in one HS group we go to are “unschooled”, meaning they blow where the wind takes them. No, not quite. They feed off their kids own interests, which creates REAL (?) learning through a personal desire to learn something. Or something like that. I totally buy it. Makes a ton of sense, and as I’ve seen from Tt’s “learning” so far, sounds like he’s already on the right path (see previous Blog and Blog), and I really just need to stay the heck out of the way as much as possible.

“The task of the teacher is to create an environment
in which the student can learn”  – John Holt

Another HS group we have met with largely use “curriculum” from what I’ve gathered so far. They gather materials from places? (so far I’ve found this one – Sonlight) and actually teach their children, or as they get older, let their children even teach themselves. Not to say the kids’ interests aren’t taken into account at any given moment.

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Let me just say that so far homeschooling mom’s (haven’t yet met a homeschooling Dad) are intimidatingly intelligent. I don’t think one has to be uber-intelligent in order to begin homeschooling, but definately after revisiting everything (of importance) you ever learned in school again and again for each kid, I’m sure you must end up real real smart. I’m excited to one day be a real real smart mom. With better grammar.

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For Tt, I’m sure pure unschooling would be ideal – he is already learning better WITHOUT my input than WITH. If I had kept trying to make him color in coloring books, what I thought he SHOULD be learning, his natural ability to draw wouldn’t have surfaced until much later, long after his creative abilities had been squished by yours truly. BUT, for Momma… well, I need structure in order to feel comfortably able to be spontaneous.

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So, off to research curriculum for Kindergarten. Yes, I’m aware of how odd that sounds. 5-yr olds should be doing nothing but playing, right?

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My plan (I have oh, so many plans) is to do an hour of curriculum each day, and spend the rest of our time “unschooling” and playing the heck out of life. For Kindergarten, I’ve realized all that “Curriculum” really means is read, read, read. Help Tt recognize the sounds of letters, and read. We’ve ordered some books from Sonlight focused on reading about Cultures Around the World. And we’ll keep practicing writing our letters and numbers with our “Activity” (not “Work”) sheets.

I’ll let ya know how it goes.

Travelling with Kids – Paris

In 2004 Hubby and I took B, A and a 4-month old Tt to Paris for one whole week. It was fantastic! And, naturally, we learned a bit more about travelling with KIDS.

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1. Show them where you’re going. When it’s far away, it can be difficult for Kids to realize quite where you’re actually going. We took the time prior to going to show them where we were going and to talk about a bit of the history.

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(Fly RED-EYES! Both our recent flights to Europe we left YVR at 9pm, and the kids ALL slept the whole way over – ahhhhhh.) (Ask for a bulkhead seat if you have a basinette-sized baby – you have somewhere to put them while they sleep. British Airways even had a basinette to put Tt in)

2. Give them a bit of history. Because Paris has just so much history, I knew we would end up at the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and a few other places for sure. I put together a little “handout” with just 2 or 3 interesting facts about each thing. Keep it short – better they learn a bit then think the entire vacation is a bore. (The boys will be different – by virtue of homeschooling they’ll be using travel as school, whereas for the girls it was meant to be a break from school/work).

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(Turn a chore into fun galore! We made a “going up the hill” drama for a regular hill we had to climb to get to a Metro. It was funny and silly)

3. Don’t bother trying to see EVERYTHING. If it’s that great a place, you’ll go back one day. And if you don’t, oh well. There is so much we could have seen while in PARIS, but we chose to try to see one or two things each day, which I had pre-researched. This allowed us have “empty” time to relax and walk aimlessly a little bit each day, when we’d find a few unplanned treasure spots.

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(We decided to learn calligraphy during our trip – it kind of fit in w/ the “old” aspect of Paris. We bought little leather-bound books and a pen while we were there.)

4. Keep each persons interests in mind. I purposely tried to find 1 or 2 things for each of our personal interests. For B it was the Catacombs (I stayed “up” on land w/ Tt enjoying a cafe au lait – see? Something for everyone 😉 ). For A it was a mall (yes, we went all the way to Paris to walk a mall…). For Husband it was a Park to relax (and nap?) in. For me… well, just being there was for me.

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(We took a few sketch books with us – everyone HAD to draw, even Daddy, which of course made it all very, very funny…)

5. Mind the stairs. Tt was only 4 months, so there really wasn’t a whole lot to consider on his behalf. He was content to sit in his stroller, I managed to breastfeed whenever he needed (did I get nasty french glares? who knows, who paid attention, who cares) and other than the first night there was little time-change lag. The one thing we DID plan for was carrying the stroller… THERE ARE NO LIFTS when you need them in Europe. We took only a small easily collapsible umbrella stroller and got the hang quickly of grabbing a side each and just hauling up and down stairs to the Metro etc.

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6. Learn a bit of the Language. Well, I did happen to remember just enough French to get us by, but when my French failed me and we got some grotesque raw steak for dinner, we just laughed and went with the flow. What can you do? I tried teaching the girls/Husband a few words, but to no avail.

7. Do at least one thing “special”. For us, this was a Lunch cruise on the Seine. It was pretty pricey, but we got to dress up (with some of our new things we’d bought!), have some great food and see the City from a new angle.

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(While doing that one thing special, I learned not to get upset if everything doesn’t go to plan… We arrived with our tickets only to find they wanted to charge full child admission for Tt, who, obviously, wasn’t even going to get a chair much less eat… We just paid it and let it go, as getting overly upset and arguing would have just ruined the experience for all of us)

8. Allow for mis-haps. Take it all in stride. If you get stressed, the kids get stressed. When we left, we’d left an important document at home. Fortunately we’d arrived at the airport 3 hrs early and had enough time to RUSH a cab home. B and I had to break a window to get in (longer story), but I refused to be stressed and we just laughed. As we were waiting to take off, Tt pooped. Huge. All over. And I couldn’t get up because the “seatbelt” sign was still on. Disgust, sure, but then laughter.

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(As part of our “something for everyone” approach, we treated the girls to a day at EuroDisney! Although it wasn’t sooo nice as our California park, it was a fun, fun day.)

9. Allow for Rest. We purposely didn’t plan much for the first day, assuming we would be tired, would want to sleep in and recover a bit. We also tried to have some “downtime” in the hotel each day. It seems such a waste to spend precious time abroad sitting in your (tiny) hotel room, but it was worth it to reduce Husband crankiness!

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(We all appreciated a little mid-day down time. SURE, we could have seen more if we’d just GO, GO, GO, but I think we enjoyed what we did see that much better with lots of rest)

10. Pack extra clothes – for just about everyone. On our flight over, we SHOULD have packed: extra jammies for Tt (he pooped all over his); extra top + pants for Momma (he pooped all over mine); relaxing “airplane” clothes to change out of once we landed so we could feel at least a little bit fresh; and those small rollup slippers for each of us because even though it’s carpeted, 2 hrs into an 11 hr flight the floor is just plain gross.

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The Diet (or, just plain eating healthier)

Four or five years ago I put together this “healthier eating diet” and it worked wonders to get those last few nasty pounds off. After 3 months I felt great, healthy, awake (at least for a day or two) and THIN! Ya, I know THIN is a vain goal, but after gaining 40-45 lbs during pregnancy, it was sure a nice thing to feel. I really miss it. I won’t miss this jelly belly.

The base of it was taken from all kinds of places: a bit from Oprah, a bit from food combining charts, a bit from “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, a bit from plain old common sense.

Here it is in point (or List!) form…

THE ORIGINAL RULES:

dsc_75071. No eating after 7pm, except a very small snack and cup ‘o tea. I love vanilla rooibos, so that was always a favorite pick and it’s a natural decaf. Sometimes I have blueberry green tea. YUM! A few slices of apple or other fruit and I’m done.

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2. Bigger lunch, smaller dinner. Yep. Straightforward. And small HEALTHY snacks in between, like nuts and dried fruit or a cup of juice or water.

img_02483. Portion control. Your protein (meat, beans) should be about the size of your fist as a general rule. I was eating 2 or 3 times that, especially when I was pregnant!

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4. Meat/starch control. I kept my meats to 1/day, and tried to mix in a lot of fish which was easy b/c I love it. Starch was mostly avoided, with one or two small helpings a day of whole grain breads.

dsc_75115. Don’t mix protein/starch. A food combining “don’t”. A meal here is usually a meat OR a pasta, with at least 3 vegetables. This was a real stretch, because I HATE vegetables.

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dscn29826. Eat lotsa Vegetables. I’m learning to love the vegetable. It’s been almost 5 years and I now like maaaaybe 5 or 6 of ’em. Progress!

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7. Don’t mix milk. With anything. Before I was eating cereal with milk. What I’ve heard is that milk coats your stomach, and other foods have a difficult time digesting once the stomach acids can’t reach them through the milk. The other foods rot and cause gas, etc. Gross. Anyhow, I switched to a very European breaky of 1 cup of granola, 1 cup of PLAIN yogurt and lotsa fruit. PLAIN yogurt should have only 2 ingredients, btw! CHECK! Also, I try to have my latte mid-morning, giving other foods a chance to digest.

dsc_75138. A (skim milk) latte a day keeps the migraines away. Well, don’t know if that’s true or not, but the Dr. told me that 1 or 2 oz of espresso doesn’t hurt any, and the milk in the latte is actually good for me since I don’t otherwise drink milk. I haven’t had a single migraine since I started having one every day. Although I have had a few caffiene withdrawl headaches when I’ve missed a day, anyone who’s had migraines will tell you the odd headache is worth it.

dsc_75059. Watch fat/trans fat intake. Your body needs fat, but only so much. Know your count and how to read the labels. Be cautious with stickers touting “Low fat” – sometimes the foods are over chemically processed and no longer represent natural food.

10. Enjoy yourself! Although I was watching what I was eating back then fairly closely, that never once stopped me from a splurge once in awhile. A little brie and pate just can’t be missed!

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Since 4 years ago, I’ve found a couple of new tips to add to “The Diet”
THE NEW ADDED RULES FOR HEALTHY EATING:

11. Watch calories. Although I was watching fat intake before, I wasn’t paying any attention to calories. The second time around will be tougher to lose, and I’ll have to step it up! That said, don’t forget new rule #12…

12. Eat real food. Butter over Margarine. Real food over substitutes, just eat less of it if it’s higher in fat or calories. It goes without saying, the closer to nature the food, the better time your body will have processing it.

13. Lots of white wine. Don’t know exactly what this does, but I’ve heard it helps digestion and I sure enjoy a good Gewurztraminer, so, hey! Win-win! Anyhow, it’s definately better for me than them beers…

dsc_738614. Add a Multivitamin. I’ve never liked swallowing pills, so I finally found some adult chewables. I don’t trust these little things with my overall health, but I figure they can’t hurt any.

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15. Go organic. I don’t buy a lot of organic, but I’m starting to incorporate it bit by bit. Again, I’m just figuring it can’t hurt any.

img_055516. Grow your own! I’ve gardened off and on the past 20 years, but not so much since I got married. I plan to do more tomatoes, and add some raspberries and other things we eat a lot of. Can’t get much more organic than that.

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17. Make your own! I’ve always made my own sauces (mostly tomato), cakes, etc. (and once in awhile breads or pasta) from scratch for “quality control” – no illegible ingredients. I plan to also start making my own bread twice a week. Soon. When I get to it.