Posted in For Food

Creamy Caramel & Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

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I LOVE Cinnabon’s! Over the years I have been determined to recreate this delicious confectionary. As a result, my recipe has evolved into a chocolatey cinnamon roll with a creamy caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. This has actually become one of my family favourites. It is an easy, satisfying sweet treat that many cannot resist.

The less time anything can take to make, the better, which is why I usually buy pre-made dough. I can make my own dough but most days I just want a quick solution. Being a mom of three, this recipe needs to be pretty easy to whip up.

Ingredients You’ll Need:

For the cinnamon rolls:

  • 4 pounds / 2 kg of pre-made dough (or make double of this dough recipe HERE)
  • 4 Tablespoons of softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of cocoa
  • 1 cup of sugar (brown/treacle)
  • 1 large greased oven tray

For the creamy caramel sauce:

  • 250 ml cream, split
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown/treacle)
  • 30 g / 1 oz of flour (corn/wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon of caramel essence (Optional)

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 200 g / 7 oz slab of chocolate, like Cadbury’s
  • 30 ml of full cream milk

Method:

The Rolls:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roll dough into a long rectangle and spread the softened butter all over it.
  3. Mix the cinnamon, sugar and cocoa together and sprinkle all of it on top of the buttered rectangle dough.
  4. Roll up the dough length-wise so that it looks like a long, curled up sausage (almost like a really long swiss-roll)
  5. Slice the rolled up dough into inch-wide slices and lay them next to each other on your greased tray as you slice.
  6. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Don’t overbake to avoid drying out your rolls.

The Creamy Caramel Sauce:

  1. While your rolls are still baking in the oven, place 200 ml of cream, the sugar and caramel essence in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Stir frequently to dissolve the sugar and to avoid the cream from getting burnt at the bottom.
  2. In a jar, shake up together the flour and 50 ml of cream plus a little milk if needed.
  3. When the cream and sugar in the saucepan has come to the boil, add the flour and cream mixture while stirring quickly. It is best to use a whisk to prevent lumps from forming.

The Chocolate Sauce:

  1. Break the slab of chocolate into pieces and melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or in a mug in the microwave. If using the microwave, put it in for 1 minute, stir and then another minute in the microwave and stir again. Your chocolate should be melted, if not, let it sit in the warm mug a bit and stir a little more.
  2. Add the milk little by little to the melted chocolate. If you add all the milk at once and the milk is cold, it will harden the chocolate. Microwave it again for 30 seconds or until melted and smooth. Be careful not to leave it in the microwave too long as the chocolate could get burnt.

Put It All Together!

  1. Now the fun part and final step: Drizzle your creamy caramel sauce and then your chocolate sauce on top of your hot rolls that just came out the oven. You could drizzle the sauces crossways to each other to make a nice effect.

 

This recipe makes about 30 rolls and they keep for about 2-3 days only. These rolls are delicious served with ice cream, hot chocolate or just as they are. They always wow my guests and family. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment below about how your rolls came out or any other delicious variations!

Posted in For Family

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

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While I was waiting for my son during his swimming class, I overheard a little boy sitting behind me speak unkindly to his friend. His mother wasn’t around, but she was tending to her other children at the time. The little boy’s friend was much younger than he was and so his young friend couldn’t stand up for himself. I matter-of-factly told the little boy that what he said was not kind. The little boy didn’t reply, but he did speak nicely to his young friend afterwards.

“It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that I have grown up hearing now and then, but only when I became a mother did it take on real meaning for me.

The essence of the meaning is that it takes a community (or “village”) to help raise moral, healthy and happy children. It doesn’t mean it is up to the community completely to raise children, but rather the community assists parents in their parental roles.

Children need a lot of nurturing and positive guidance and this cannot come only from their parents.

As a parent, I am all for others whom I trust in my “village” to help guide my children. Because whether I like it or not, I am not always able to be around my kids the older they get. The same goes for other parents.

As a mother in our “village”, I strongly believe in helping guide my extended family’s children, my friends’ children and even the young music students I teach. Children need a lot of nurturing and positive guidance and this cannot come only from their parents. Unless they live on a remote island somewhere, like the Swiss Family Robinson. Good luck to them.

We should welcome trustworthy partnerships and supports for helping raise children. They are becoming even more necessary in this crazy, big, wide world. More especially for the single-parent scenarios, which are becoming increasingly common.

So Then, Who is Your Village?

  • Our family, extended and immediate
  • Friends (such as school parents)
  • Teachers
  • Medical professionals (occupational therapists, nurses, etc.)
  • Religious instructors

These are the people who will most likely have regular opportunities to teach and guide your children. Please also note, because you are the parent, you need to follow your gut instinct about those in your village that you should trust your child with. Exercise caution and don’t ignore your feelings. 

On the other hand, you don’t really have to trust the parent too much who is preventing your child from throwing ice cream in another kid’s face.

Please do not be offended if these trusted people try to assist and correct your child, because they are almost always only trying to help. We should not be parents who think our children are perfect little angels and absolutely infallible. Be straight up with yourself and see your child for who they really are. Only then will you be able to parent them in the best way. In a loving way, of course.

If those in your village ever correct your child inappropriately, ask your child about how they felt and then speak in private to the adult if necessary. You are your child’s foremost protector.

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Why should we help others raise their children?

A Parent Cannot Be with Their Child Everywhere, All the Time

As a parent, I know I cannot be with my kids 24/7, it’s a fact the older they (and I) get. I also know they are still learning and developing in many areas and so I would hope that the responsible supervising adults will remind them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, or to be reminded to be kind and say sorry. Every situation is a teaching opportunity for a child.

I also tell my family members and trusted friends who babysit for me that if one of my kids behave badly, they need to be corrected. And the best way to correct a child is in a loving, matter-of-fact way.

When I see children who do not have their parents close by who are doing something wrong, I take the initiative to help them and kindly correct them. I am no longer afraid of saying something because I know how important it is. And as a parent, I would be grateful to whoever it was who appropriately corrected my child for misbehavior if I wasn’t around. However, we also need to be careful about overstepping boundaries. We should never undermine the parents’ primary role in raising their child.

Like when I taught in the children’s Sunday School. Boy, there’s a lot of proxy-parenting that happens during that time! From asking the little boy in the back row to stop poking the girl in front of him, or taking another child who was jumping up and down on the chairs and letting them sit on your lap instead – there were many opportunities to show kind guidance to the children at church.

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It Helps Children Feel Valued

Being helped or corrected by another adult in the “village”also helps children to know that what they do is noticed, and that people around them care enough about them. Children will always feel that most of the time someone is watching over them. They may be less inclined to do naughty things.

Like when you see a child fall and hurt themselves, you run over to help them, don’t you? A feeling of community will be instilled in the child as you come to their aid and carry them back to their parents.

We Are Agents of Socialization

When my husband took a course in basic Sociology, he shared with me some interesting concepts of socialization. Members of the community are known as agents of socialization.

What is socialization anyway? Well, it’s basically the process whereby children learn the norms of society. It teaches children the community’s values, beliefs and behaviors in order for them to become healthy members of the community. We can be agents of socialization! *Insert cheesy smile*

If we have been placed in a situation to help or correct a child, may we take the opportunity to do so in a loving way.

Children Take Non-Parent Adults a Bit More Seriously

I know this may seem strange, but honestly, kids get a bigger shock when someone other than their parent blows the whistle on them. Like when I tell my nieces or nephews to not behave in a certain way – they are more embarrassed and remorseful than when their parent has caught them out. Children get used to their parents nagging them frequently, so when they hear it from someone else – they get the picture much clearer!

When I see a child picking their nose and eating it, I kindly correct and tell them that they just ate tons of “Jerry-Germs”. Or I ask them if they are digging for gold. They get the point, feel embarrassed and (hopefully) one day they will ditch their green-finger habit. That’s how they learn that nose-picking is both unacceptable and unhygienic in society.

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As positive members of our communities, we should be caring about what other people’s children are doing. If we don’t care, we risk the rising generation becoming degenerate and entitled human beings! We can make a difference in the lives of others in our community as we take the initiative to teach children in our “village” how to act respectfully and with integrity.

If we have been placed in a situation to help or correct a child, may we take the opportunity to do so in a loving way. Children take those experiences and lessons they learned into adulthood. They will never forget it!

Do you have any experiences about how your “village” raises children? Comment below!

Posted in For You

11 Simple Ways to Passively Lose Weight

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This is not another diet article that tells you to cut out all foods that taste better than rice cakes, ice chips or the air in your mouth. Neither I am an amazing health fanatic who claims to eat kale at every meal and have a perfect calorie-intake.

As a young teenager, I cared squat about how I ate and so eventually I did put on the pounds. I remember often eating half a box of cinnamon wafers with a large glass of milk, or eating a rich mini swiss-roll way too late at night, or eating microwave meals every day after school (you know those ones with the mac ‘n’ cheese and brownies?).

So I looked at myself in the mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw. I saw a pale, pudgy teenager and it was pretty frustrating for me – because I loved food so much!

If you have been trying to lose weight, let me share with you a couple of the things I learned in my teen years to shed 20 pounds in small, easy lifestyle changes so that I could still enjoy all foods. I call it passive ways to lose weight, but it doesn’t mean that it requires zero effort at all. These are simple lifestyle changes you can make as an alternative to a depressing hard-core diet.

*Disclaimer: Please always first speak to your doctor or dietician before implementing any changes to your lifestyle and diet. 

  1. Eat What You Like Until 8pm

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Yes! Eat that donut! Well, you obviously shouldn’t eat donuts or the like every day, but whatever you choose to eat, make sure you stop eating latest by 8pm. Earlier is even better, say 7 or 6pm. Then eat your breakfast 12 hours later, so if you ate supper at 6pm, have breakfast at 6am.  This will give your weight-loss a boost for sure. You’ll sleep better, too. It was so exciting for me to see what the bathroom scale said the morning after I had had an early dinner. It really works!

  1. Drink Only Water

Yes, I get that some people cannot stand plain old boring water, but people, it’s what your engine needs. Develop the skill of gulping down a solid glass of water like those crazy water-drinking competitions and your body will thank you. If you forget about water, try downloading an app like WaterMinder that reminds you to drink every 1 or 2 hours to reach your water goal for the day.

Regarding diet soda, the fake sugars in them upsets your gastrointestinal bacteria and these little guys play a huge role in your weight loss and overall health. Plus, research has found that carbonated drinks actually make you feel hungrier. If you do want a nice drink, dilute some fruit juice or flavour your water with infusions of strawberries or mint.

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  1. Drink A Glass of Water Before Meals

This will help you to understand how hungry you actually are. Too often do we feel hungry but it is more our thirst that is the culprit. Our body sometimes cannot distinguish between the two demands, thirst or hunger.

  1. Please Do Not Skip Meals

People, eat your breakfast! Not at 10am, but ideally 12 hours after you had dinner the night before. If you aren’t hungry or feel nauseas to eat early, just eat something small and nutritious. Breakfast literally kick-starts your metabolism for the day.  If you are not hungry for lunch, have something small to keep your metabolism going. If there is any meal that you could skip, it’s dinner. Remember the old saying, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and supper like a pauper.”

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If you don’t have time to eat or you forget to eat, get into the habit of always having nutritious snacks that keep for a while in your office or bag. If you eat nothing, your body’s poor metabolism will decrease in order to try conserve its limited energy resource.

  1. No Second Helpings

Yes, no second helpings of the divine stuff you just ate. This is going to take a bit of discipline, but after a while it will become a habit. Plus, you will save money on groceries because you won’t be eating so much. So if you really are desperate for a second helping, just wait a little, drink a glass of water and you may find yourself realizing you’re not actually hungry anymore. Calories and money saved!

  1. Take Your Multivitamins

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I believe that supplements give us a little boost in our metabolisms because so many of the B-vitamins are responsible for digestion that our diets may lack. In addition, stress hormones need certain supplements to be broken down. If we have all of these nutrients, we may not feel so stressed anymore and won’t resort to food cravings. This brings me to my next point.

  1. Replace Your Emotional/Boredom Eating

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If you are feeling depressed or bored, rather ask yourself what else you could do that would help you feel better instead of stuffing your face. If you struggle with depression, get help. If you don’t deal with the core of your problems  correctly, those emotions will fester inside of you and you may resort to unhealthy ways to cope, one of which may be over-eating.

  1. Add Variety to Your Diet

Eating the same foods day after day, month after month, year after year could leave your body deficient in some nutrients (not to mention bored). Come on, live a little! Try recipes that use different vegetables or fruits that you don’t usually eat and you may discover some new favourite dishes. Your body needs a varied diet to acquire all of its nutrient demands.

  1. A Little Cardio Goes A Long Way

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What I loved as a teen and even now as an adult is riding my bike. When I was pudgy, I didn’t go on long rides, maybe they were only a couple of minutes going around the block. But the point is that it got my heart rate way up.  You may not like to cycle, but maybe you like to run, or skip rope or jump on the trampoline. There’s really nifty 5-minute workout apps that you can use too. What it does is it increases your basal metabolic rate as you get fit as well as decreases your cravings for unhealthy food. Just a few minutes of good, hard cardio a few times a week is enough to help start weight loss.

  1. Get Your Zz’s

Getting good sleep every night is crucial to weight loss. If you get a bad night’s rest, you will feel lethargic and you will want to eat junk to make you feel better. You will also lack the willpower to make healthy choices. Getting good sleep at night involves going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Try not to have day naps, but if very necessary only a 15-minute power-nap.

  1. Remember Not All Calories Are Equal

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Lastly, there is a big different between the 100 calories you get in a brownie versus the 100 calories in a chicken salad. The very refined ingredients in the brownie get digested very quickly in comparison to the nutritious chicken salad. Opt for foods that are high in fibre and more nutrient-dense because these get digested slowly – keeping you fuller for longer.

 

It’s funny how so many people only start trying to live healthier lives when disaster strikes, like when they have serious health issues. Do you want to put yourself and your family through that? I know I don’t.

I truly believe that every one of us can glow with health and happiness if  we took better care of our health more. And it doesn’t have to be hard! We just have to start trying. Take the challenge to implement these small changes one day at a time. It may be a bit difficult at first, but try starting just one of them, and then add more when you feel ready.

So take care of yourself and invest in your future! You can do it! I will also try harder to do so.

Have any experiences about what worked for your weight-loss? Comment below!

 

Posted in For The Love of Music, Learning Music

Should You Do Music Exams?

“Oh, no – I don’t want to do music exams”, a student of mine would tell me. “I just want to learn to play the piano for fun.”

“Cool! Okay, which song would you like to start learning?” I (the music teacher) reply. I am slightly disappointed. Afterall, exams can actually be really fun to prepare for and the progress my exam students make is amazing. However, this is the student’s choice to make.

If you or your child have heard about music exams and are not sure about why it’s something you should consider,  read on and I will give you the low-down on all the pro’s and con’s of doing exams and vice-versa. Hopefully, you will be able to better decide if music exams are for you.

I admit, music exams sound scary, right? Why all the fuss about exams? Why not just learn for fun, as learning an instrument should be?

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No Music Exam – Playing for Pleasure

I can see it now: the student chooses some of their favourite songs – maybe one pop song they love to listen to on their phone. We tackle together the notes, technical stuff and rhythms (pop songs’ rhythms are generally a nightmare, like Adele’s Hello). It comes together slowly. A little too slowly, even? There’s no rush to perfect it or anything anyway, these songs are just all for fun. Although there may be a deadline for a talent show, someone’s birthday, or a piano concert, but at least there’s no examiner critiquing the way you play!

Pro’s:

  • No pressure/stress to learn songs to meet an exam deadline (but there may be a concert deadline, etc.).
  • Learn whichever songs you choose, at your own pace, for your own pleasure.
  • No potentially traumatic lessons or exam experience.
  • No exam registration fee (which is a bit pricey).
  • Lessons are all just fun and relaxed.
  • If the student is not old enough or mature enough for exams, playing for pleasure is a better option.

Con’s:

  • No exam deadline to spur on progress.
  • Songs chosen may not be the correct level (although the teacher will do their best to find a song that will suit the student’s level).
  • Many musical principles and technical skills are missed without a complete music grade syllabus.
  • Lessons are not always full of purpose, which may waste time.
  • No exam experience – which could have been a good growth opportunity.
  • Weak level of commitment – “I can do XYZ instead of going to my piano lesson today because there is no pressure to learn my songs anyway”.

You may have read the above points still knowing that exams are not for you. All the con’s may not sound that bad anyway. Everyone is different, so do whatever is best for you. Perhaps you would not enjoy learning the instrument if there was a bit of exam pressure, so you don’t want to ruin it for yourself. Or maybe now is not the right time for you. I myself only did my music exams after I had left highschool!

Music Exam – Playing for a Purpose

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Now I am not saying that playing for pleasure is not a purpose, because pleasure is a purpose. But when you know you have an exam to prepare for, you really are driven to learn the songs and exercises for a deadline-driven purpose.

Pro’s:

  • There is an exam deadline to spur on your progress.
  • You can choose your favourite songs (usually three) from a prescribed list of exams songs that are appropriate for your level.
  • Many musical principles and technical skills are learned, as there is a complete music grade syllabus that helps you learn a wide range of concepts and techniques appropriate for your level.
  • Lessons are always full of purpose, making efficient use of lesson time.
  • You may have a positive exam experience that serves as a growth opportunity as a developing musician.
  • You get examined by a highly qualified and expert music examiner who will score you in your exam, which serves as a yardstick in your progress.
  • You receive written commentary on your playing which serves as feedback as to what you need to improve on in your playing/knowledge.
  • You get a beautiful certificate (if you pass) to add to your achievements, depending on the College adds to your points for university.
  • In the UK, Trinity’s Grade 6-8 exams can contribute towards higher education through the allocation of UCAS points (The United Kingdom Universities’ and Colleges’ Admissions Service).
  • You need a strong level of commitment in order to prepare for the important exam.
  • You may be accepted to study music at university level if you complete Grade 8 music exams (theory and practical).
  • You can earn a good income teaching music lessons to beginners, even if all you have are a couple of exams under your belt. The income could definitely come in handy later on in your life!

Con’s:

  • Exam stress! Especially if you have not been diligent enough in practicing – yikes!
  • You may not be physically strong enough to play the pieces well, probably because you haven’t consistently practiced your Hanon exercises…
  • If you really are not prepared and you forfeit the exam, you lose your exam registration fee – no refunds!
  • You may not be emotionally capable of dealing with the stress of performing the exam and you make lots of mistakes in the actual exam.
  • You need to make time to practice about 30 minutes everyday (the amount of preparation will differ depending upon the individual and grade level).
  • You have to work hard in you music lessons trying to learn everything.
  • The exam experience could potentially be a bit traumatic.
  • You need to attend all your music lessons to prepare well – no excuses!
  • You could be the cause of stressing your music teacher out if you don’t practice – oops.

The con’s of doing music exams are only possibilities. In my personal experience, I never had many con’s of doing music grades.

My Personal Experience

When I was young, I never ended up going to music lessons. They were traumatic for all three of my older siblings. With me, the youngest child, I was taught only in little bits and pieces by mother. I learned from her mostly by listening to her play and watching her play. I am forever grateful to her!

I then played only for pleasure, but mostly for church and functions all through my childhood and teen years. Playing at church required a good amount of practice, especially when a congregation or choir is singing! As I mentioned, I actually only did exams after I had finished school and while I was in university. So when I actually did music exams I thoroughly enjoyed them and saw them as exciting opportunities to determine how well I played. In my situation, it was awesome, because I made the decision myself, I wanted to do exams, I was motivated to do exams and I was more mature and experienced in playing. The groundwork was already all done in my earlier years, so I was able to complete 2 grades a year.

When I started exams, the teacher guided me to refine my technique and my playing. After I had gotten married, I didn’t end up doing so well in that particular exam because of the life-adjustments. But all-in-all, I loved doing exams.

Alternative: Music Festival

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I am a strong believer in goals and deadlines to aid progression. If you opt-out of doing exams because you are not ready but are still in school, why not enter the local music and arts festival (also known as the eisteddfod)? For those of you who don’t know what an eisteddfod or music and arts festival is, it is a music and drama competition open to any instrumentalists, singers, choirs as well as those wishing to recite poetry or do drama items. Your teacher will be able to help you with the entry and preparation. Eisteddfods are open to even very, very beginners from young. Entry is relatively easy and inexpensive and eisteddfods provide a fantastic opportunity to perform in front of an audience and adjudicators. You get a nice little certificate based upon your score, and overall it is a very good opportunity to perform as an alternative to exams. You have an eisteddfod deadline to learn the songs and so you will progress nicely in your instrument.

In a Nutshell

If you really want to get down to becoming thorough and experienced in your playing, with any accreditation, you should pursue music exams. Just because you do not want to become a professional musician one day, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do exams. If you want to earn a good part-time or even full-time income starting or joining a music school as a teacher, you totally need to do your exams! You don’t even need to start at the bottom at Initial Grade or Grade 1 if you are good enough, I myself started at Grade 3.

Take a  look at the pro’s and con’s above of doing/not doing exams and decide for yourself. You should absolutely also discuss it with your teacher if they think you/your child are ready for exams. You totally can take it at your own pace and do a grade every other year – you’ll get there when you are ready for exams physically, mentally as well as emotionally.

I wish you all the very best in your music learning and playing! If you are preparing for any performance or have decided to do music exams, may you have an enjoyable experience and good luck!

Posted in For Family

How to Plan the Best Christmas Ever

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I. Love. Christmas.

Family, good food, vacation time, Christmas traditions, good food, Christmas music, good food – it’s the makings of the most wonderful time of year!

Although sometimes it feels like Christmas is a blur, probably because I don’t plan out Christmas as well as I should. There’s always that activity or service idea that I say I want to do, but they actually don’t always happen. Christmas in the past has been stressful and even unpleasant with all the busy-ness at times.

Nevertheless, I am super excited for Christmas this year! Our family has grown and we have all come to really appreciate Christmas more. It’s also the one time of year our family is all together. I am absolutely determined to improve upon my planning skills and make this Christmas the best one yet!

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Christmas should be focused on our families and the One whose birth we celebrate. This should include spending quality time with family, serving others and making it magical for our children with special traditions. We also look back at the year and determine how we can better ourselves for next year and follow the perfect example of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Here are some things you (and I) should do to make it the most stress-free, meaningful and wonderful Christmas yet!

Plan Ahead

Why plan for Christmas? Well, if you plan your gifts, parties, functions and activities better, you save time and money. Yes, it’s much better buying gifts on sale than paying full price. Or grabbing a last-minute gift that isn’t really useful or thoughtful. Sure, things don’t always go according to plans, but at the end of the day, things will have turned out better than with no plan at all.

The things that need to be planned are:

  1. Your Christmas Budget (if you have hardly any budget, that budget can stretch too, if you plan well)
  2. Gifts (for your kids, extended family, neighbors and teachers)
  3. Service Projects (these can be simple, small acts of kindness or bigger undertakings)
  4. Family Activities and Traditions
  5. Christmas Dinner
  6. Your December calendar

Now, please do not feel overwhelmed. A fantastic Christmas does not mean going huge and expensive and stressful. Planning a fantastic Christmas should include a good balance of the things that you and your family would enjoy. Don’t cram a hundred different things into your Christmas season that it actually becomes frantic, unpleasant and expensive. Also, remember to be flexible with your plans and not to become a pedantic Christmas elf.

To make things even easier, I have an absolutely free 2017 Christmas 2017 Planner printable. This is something that can help absolutely everyone to have the best Christmas ever. It includes a gift planning template, a service project planning template, a Christmas dinner meal planner, a shopping list, a December 2017 calendar and Christmas party planning template. You will need this – I know I will!

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Christmas Starts in Your Home

Make a wonderful Christmas atmosphere by doing any of the following:

  • Decorating inside and outside your home on the 1st of December (or whenever suits you)
  • Playing Christmas music in the background while you work around your home
  • Singing carols and playing Christmas songs on instruments as a family
  • Doing Christmas crafts with your children or grandchildren (we love making our own Christmas crackers)
  • Baking Christmas treats for all to enjoy or as a service activity to take to your neighbours or someone lonely
  • Go see the Christmas lights up in your city
  • Sending Christmas cards (via email or mail) to relatives and friends
  • Having a Family Christmas photo-shoot
  • Reading the Christmas story – you can read the Kings James version King James version here while acting out the nativity using basic props or puppets
  • Changing your phone and tablet background to a Christmas theme (you can download a couple off the internet for free)

With regards to decorating: Make sure that you only decorate as much as is enjoyable – you don’t want to dread having to put up and then take down everything and it becomes a horrible job in the end. What’s the use of that? I think the key to making the decorating process enjoyable is to involve everyone in the family, play Christmas music in the background and to have Christmas treats to enjoy. All of Christmas-ness will permeate the walls of your home and the hearts of your family members!

Also, use the free Christmas 2017 Planner activity planning sheet to make a list of a few Christmas activities you want to do and plan when and how you will do it. Don’t be overly ambitious and have a hundred things on your list, because life happens.

Pinterest your Christmas!

There are so many fun Christmas ideas on Pinterest like cute crafts, delicious recipes and effective and inexpensive DIY decorations. So many ideas yet so little time. Go onto Pinterest for a few of minutes to help you find a couple of ideas that will help you make Christmas easier and better. Below are just a few I like!

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Carry Christmas in Your Heart

There’s a lovely Christmas advent calendar called Light the World that you can download for free. How you use it is by taking the short scripture phrase allocated for each day in December and deciding what you will do to help you bring the spirit of Christmas into your life and those around you. What you decide to do could include your family, friends, neighbours, strangers or just yourself. I love it because it is so simple and you can choose what you are able to do, making it a personal and tailor-made Christmas advent calendar. If you are a busy person, just small activities will work for you. If you have a little more time on your hands you can do a full-scale service project. It’s really up to you. Use the service planning sheet in the Christmas 2017 Planner to plan your big or small service project for this Christmas.

May you and your family be blessed with the most happy and memorable Christmas ever! I hope we will focus on what matters: our family and the One whose birth we celebrate. May we also look back at this year and determine how we can better ourselves for next year as we follow the perfect example of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Feel free to subscribe to my blog and comment below with your cool ideas that has helped you to enjoy the Christmas season even more! 

Posted in For Family, For You

Using Hydrogen Peroxide in your Ears : Good or Bad Idea?

To all you Pinterest life-hackers out there, I am sure you have come across this hack for beating colds and ear infections: administering a few drops of a 3% solution of Hydrogen Peroxide in your ears. The result is most satisfying and dramatic – a bubbling chemical reaction that creates a froth in your ear as a result of the bacteria actually being killed by this powerful solution.

It’s fantastic actually, and it can help stop a cold in its tracks when you try it. You feel so much better afterwards and it has also helped our kids when their ears have bothered them too.

However, it does not cure middle ear infections, obviously, because it cannot get into the middle ear. But it certainly helps to relieve the infection. This handy solution has been our favorite go-to medication and I swear by it, as well as many others on Pinterest.

Like I mentioned, using hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal will not cure a middle ear infection. Which was why I eventually did take my toddler to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. I decided to cautiously ask the ENT about using hydrogen peroxide in ears for ear infections and colds.

With a lot of adamance, he replied, “Never again!”.

Oops! I thought, thinking back on all those times I so casually used the stuff. So I asked, “Why not?”

He explained that we do not know at all if there is a perforation or a hole leading into the middle ear that would allow fluids to enter the middle ear. Sometimes a person may be completely oblivious to the fact. Because hydrogen peroxide is corrosive, it could potentially destroy the nerve-endings present in the middle ear and lead to some degree of deafness. He concluded that hydrogen peroxide should pretty much be left to sterilizing wounds.

Okay, you gotta listen to the doc, don’t you?

I had previously thought I would be cured of colds for the rest of my life, using this awesome hydrogen peroxide hack. Although, I do value my hearing too much to risk it all for a little cold-cure, but I still feel disappointed that I have not cracked the code of curing colds!

If Not Hydrogen Peroxide, What Else?

If not hydrogen peroxide, what else helps to fight infection happening in our sinuses and ears? Here’s a list of what you can do to relieve the aches and pains:

*Disclaimer: The following ideas are only motherly advice – I am not a doctor!*

  1. Try making and using a Magic Salt Sock – this is something invented by a chiropractor and somehow it works. She also suggests making an appointment with a chiropractor in order to help re-align the upper neck bones. Misalignments in the upper neck area have been related to ear infections in children.
  2. I found a pretty cool hands-on technique that The Motivational Doc shows in a video that you can do to help drain your Eustachian tube, thus helping to relieve the middle-ear a little. The Eustachian tube is pretty much responsible for draining all the gunk from our ears into the nasopharynx (where we can swallow it, great!). The technique looks pretty ridiculous and I was laughing while I tried it, but it helped me to clear the gunk when I tried it! Have a look at the video here.
  3. Home-made herbal ear oil with mullein & garlic ear-drops. Herbal ear drops may be mild enough to administer in the ear. But first get a green-light from your doctor or homeopath.
  4. An obvious alternative is plain-old pain medication and the prescribed medicated ear drops from your doctor. Some pain medication may lower fever which may or may not be a good idea. A fever is the body’s way of fighting the infection, however, if the fever is too high, it may need to be brought down. Again, ask your doctor!
  5. Antibiotics may be necessary if the situation has gotten really bad. Antibiotics are not ideal, and should be a last resort, but they have their time and place in our health.
  6. If pain and infection persists, you need to go see an ENT. If left too long untreated, it may result in long-term middle-ear damage, plus hampering speech development in young children.

Lessons Learned

Why are there so many people then, who, like I used to, swear by using hydrogen peroxide in your ears when it is potentially quite harmful?

It boils down to the principle that advice-givers and advice-takers should verify facts from expert sources before giving or taking advice. Hey, you should even verify what I am telling you in this article! What we can learn is that we all have a responsibility to exercise caution with the self-treatment ideas we get on the Internet. Scrutinize the logic, learn the facts and science behind things, and ask the experts.

What if I had a perforation in my middle ear unbeknown to me? Which, by the way, is a possibility and it is not always painful. I could have suffered with damage to my hearing for the rest of my life! No way!

Perhaps you should also ask your doctor or ENT for their thoughts on using hydrogen peroxide. Or, if you have any wonderful ways to banish ear-aches and infections, feel free to comment below!

You may also want to check out my other post, What To Do When You Are Sick (But Still Trying to Function), it has some great tips for trying to recover while keeping your life going, plus a free cute Whatsapp profile picture you can use to let people know when you are unwell.

For all of you who are struggling with ear infections – you or your little ones – Good Luck!

Posted in For You

What To Do When You’re Sick (But Still Trying To Function)

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I have been sick for the past month with 3 entirely different ailments and illnesses. It’s been awful, because when you have an adult life full of responsibilities, it’s not like everything can just stop and wait for you to get better. Or you could just hibernate for a couple of days and everything will just take care of itself. Plus, when you have 3 little bodies who call you mommy (in varying whining tones) a gazillion times a day… well, life becomes very exhausting. It takes every ounce of self-control to then have to clean up potty-training accidents with a throbbing headache as a result of some serious sinus congestion. (But hey! At least I couldn’t smell anything, which was great!)

It has been humbling for me of course, because I have had to slow down, ask for help, live a little simpler (and messier too) just to cope.

Because I know if I do not – I will not get better!

We are limited by our physical bodies. Although we want to get a ton of things done, we just can’t. That physical limit needs to be respected, because when we start losing sleep, eating badly and not taking time to manage our stress, soon our body will take the reins and demand the recuperation it yearns for.

In other words: if you do not give what your body needs, it will take revenge on you.

But we all have lives that go on and on, and slowing down a little feels like we are falling behind a marathon running race. Then we feel even more stressed about our illness. And we don’t get any better. Where’s the logic in that?

Here’s some advice on dealing with illness when you have a lot else to deal with…*

*Disclaimer: I am not a qualified healthcare practitioner, so please do seek the advice of your doctor or nurse regarding your illness. These tips are only based upon my experience as a mother to help you in your recovery process.

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Forget The “Sweeties”

If you are suffering with congestion, do you really think it’s a good idea to drink a glass of milk? Or eat a candy bar? Bacteria loves dairy products, processed foods and refined foods. Whatever the illness is, opt for healing foods, which are fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates, and non-processed proteins. Your body’s nutrient requirements increase when it is trying to fight off illnesses and repair cells. If you really cannot ignore the craving, have just a taste or half the amount you normally eat. If you don’t care about what you eat, well, you unfortunately won’t be getting better as soon as you could have. With the growing to-do list looming in my mind, boy, I know that I will do everything I can to get better as soon as possible!

 

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Take a Day’s Leave: Make it Count

I know that this sounds like the most boring, generic advice for illness. I’m sorry to say this, but yes, you need to take your day’s leave from work. For at least a day to fully rest. If the doctor has booked you off for a week, but there’s too much work weighing upon your mind, make the leave you are able to take, count! And that means that you should not be thinking about work when you do take your day’s leave. (Easier said than done, I know). If you don’t feel better after a good solid day’s rest, well you may need to take 2 days off. Or even more. Everyone is different in their recovery time, whatever illness it may be. But tell yourself that the earth is not going to explode if you are away from work or your house is a war-zone for a day or two. You are not a robot that can work continuously and perfectly. You are a human being with physical limitations and YOU HAVE TO REST!

My experience of this was when I had a cold but I was still determined to clean my house. I vacuumed and washed floors and was very proud of myself. My house sparkled! Although – my body was not impressed. The day after, I became extremely ill with a bad case of flu. For the following week I had to fight my illness even harder with medication and plenty of rest. Moral of the story? Just get the rest you need when your body first asks for it. You cannot ignore your body’s requests. I know that when my husband gets little sleep, sure as eggs, he wakes up feeling congested in the morning. It’s so weird, I know, but it gives an indication of how sleep affects immunity.

Exercise is also not a good idea at this time. Perhaps doing simple stretches, easy yoga poses and gentle walks are good for now. Your sick body is trying to repair itself so also trying to cope with an intense workout is asking too much. Getting out into the sunshine is a must when you are sick, as it will help you to feel not so groggy. Don’t stay in bed the whole day either, dependant upon the severity of your illness.

 

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Delegate & Get Help

With your job, whether it be business-based or being a parent, you really need to get extra help when you are ill. Start thinking realistically and realise that you will actually be able to recover sooner if you get help. Ask a trusted colleague or relative to help out a little (of course not to do your entire job) to get one or two urgent tasks done. Just for things to hang in there so everything doesn’t fall apart while you are on sick-leave.

And regarding your parental duties, hire a cleaner or call a baby-sitter. If you cannot afford a cleaner, just do the bare minimum of household chores by washing the dishes, making beds and taking out the garbage. Don’t do what I did and suddenly decide it’s a good time to scrub the floors. Because it is not. Get your kids involved (dependant upon their age) to tidy the house or you should arrange playdates for them so you can rest. Ask a relative for help in whatever way they are able to, such as baby-sitting or meal preparation. Or give Mr Delivery a call. Seriously, your main motto is going to be getting the bare minimum done in the easiest and simplest way.

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Get The Right Medication

This is pretty obvious, but it is worth mentioning that although Dr Google is helpful, be careful with self-diagnosis. Don’t try to think you that know exactly what your illness is and have the equivalent of a 5-year medicine degree just because you read up on Google for 30 minutes. Dr Google is helpful for sure, don’t get me wrong, because we have access to knowledge of what symptoms and signs to look out for and the ones you should worry about. But doctors generally have years’ experience over and above completing their studies of the human body and medicine. If your illness is quite bad and uncomfortable, be it an infection or a virus, you need to get to a doctor. I am a believer of alternatives like homeopathy and kinesiology too, but sometimes antibiotics are really very necessary should the illness be advanced and aggressive, in my experience. Once you have your medication, make sure you store them properly and take them as prescribed.

 

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SIMPLIFY

Like the two stones in the picture above, your priorities become very simplified when you are ill. The stone at the bottom may represent you and the stone on top your family. Because your family depends on you. If you are ill, your family will also suffer from your limitations. Although in the same way, your family needs to make compromises in order to help you balance your family life.

Your main motto is going to be getting the bare minimum done in the easiest and simplest way. Live minimally and simplify your life. Say no to the  fluff in your life and you will recover faster. Not sure about what you should or shouldn’t keep in your life? Ask yourself this question: Is the item that I need to do absolutely necessary and will it help me to get better? Simplicity will really help you to get back on track with life and on your feet after your illness.

Below is a free image to download for your convenience to post as a pretty Whatsapp profile picture while you are sick. Just so your contacts will know why you aren’t super fast at replying to messages and also so people know your current situation. I know that many of you may not want to broadcast your “sick status”, but it just may come in handy!

Look after yourself, have patience with the healing process that your body is working so hard at doing. You need some extra slack at this time. The body is an amazing thing; given the right foods and rest it can sort itself out fine. I wish you all who are ill at this time a speedy recovery!

Have any strange or wonderful sickness stories about how you coped (or didn’t) when you were sick? Or have any great tips about what worked for you? Feel free to comment below!