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too busy for a garden- wildflowers

Too Busy For a Garden? Think Again!

The Superbowl is over and Valentine’s has passed. We are finally in the last stretch of Winter! What better way to make it go by faster than to plan out your Spring garden!

Before you give any excuses as to why not, hear me out. It is possible to work full-time and still be able to grow your food! How? By understanding that you do not have to do all the things to have a garden. You can be creative in a small space which will allow you to be successful with a little bit of time and planning.

What to grow?

Here is where you need to do some soul searching. You see, I have been there. I look at all of the seed catalogs and I want it all. I want to grow every last bit of what I see. But I know it’s not possible. I cannot work full-time out of the home and grow 5 different green beans and twenty varieties of tomatoes. It’s not realistic.

Here a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Which ones will do well in the space I have? Remember, the larger the space, the more work to upkeep. Only you can decide what is your level of reasonable.
  • Which ones will I and my family like to eat? If you do not like wax beans, do not grow them. Reserve your energy for the vegetables all of your family will love.
  • Think about their timeline of growing and try to stagger the harvests. When you are limited with time, you will have a better experience if things ripen at various times. You may get overwhelmed by picking, processing and storing large amounts of tomatoes and cucumbers when they all ripen at the same time.
  • What do you like to eat on a daily or weekly basis? I get a lot of satisfaction at being able to make a salad fresh from the garden. It is an amazing time saver to just pick it out of your backyard. It truly streamlines the farm to table process. Not to mention, it also saves money.
  • What do your local farms grow? If you have a local farm who grows your favorite variety of Roma tomatoes, then let them continue to be your supplier. Grow a different variety like cherry tomatoes or a type of slicing tomato.
  • Do you have to grow veggies? Not at all! You can look at herbs and flowers too! Herbs are suited very well for small spaces and low maintenance. Flowers can be too! You just need to pick the right ones. One tip for beautiful flowers has been to grow a meadow!
    • That’s right – a meadow! We simply chose a very sunny spot, spread out some meadow seed and let it go. We replanted after 2 weeks and we had a prolific amount of flowers. See title picture for a shot of some of the beautiful flowers. Because they were wild flowers, they tolerated dry spells and lots of sun.
Too busy for a garden- wildflowers

Where to grow a garden?

Gardens are not just for planting in the ground. Quite frankly, this can be one of the more labor and time intensive ways to grow a garden. Tilling the soil and amending the soil are laborious. This is not necessarily the best route when limited on time.

I realize that this may be off-putting to some but when you work full time you need to be able to dial it down to a manageable space. That’s where containers and raised beds come in handy.

Raised beds are great for growing many types of vegetables. As long as you make them at least 12″ deep and with good drainage, you will have success. You can either build the beds from scratch or purchase kits.

Once you build the beds, you can have the soil delivered. Purchase soil with a lot of organic material to feed the roots. Many garden centers have great garden soil available for bulk purchase. With raised beds, you can have a full garden up in a day!

Another way to grow your own is to utilize containers. There are a variety of containers for purchase which will accommodate many sized plants. You can finds these at the stores but also listed on various yard sale websites. You can even utilize hanging baskets for some smaller veggies and herbs. There are many varieties of plants specifically bred for container gardening.

Also, when it comes to container gardening, think outside the box (or container). Last year, we made a green bean tee pee in a large pickle container cut in half. We got this free from someone online. We re-purposed some beer kegs to grow our herbs. For our jalapenos, we used the collection canister of a broken shop vac. Yes, you read that right. A broken shop vac. Seriously, it was brilliant. I have to give my husband credit for this one. It was super deep and it had wheels so we could move it when we needed to get it more sunlight.

The Importance of Mulching

Regardless of your garden selection, one thing you need to remember is to mulch. Regardless if you plant in the ground, in a raised bed or a container mulching has many benefits to help decrease your workload.

First, applying 6-8 inches of mulch will help slow water loss due to evaporation. So when you run out the door and forget to water the garden before work, rest assured the mulch will buy you some time until you get home.

Second, mulching will help decrease the amount of weeds that will grow. Additionally, the weeds that will grow, are much easier to remove as they do not have strong root holds on the soil. The last thing I want to do is to pick weeds when I get home. Mulching helps me not have to do it as often!

Third, mulching slowly breaks down over time thereby releasing its nutrients into the soil. Organic mulch like leaves, straw and compost are some great examples of mulch that will help fertilize the plants.

Get to Growing!

I hope you take away some great inspiration from this and realize that it is possible to have time for a garden while working full time. You just need to be reasonable about what you can grow and be smart about how you will do it!

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the case for valentine's day

The Case for Valentine’s Day

One thing I have learned over the years: there are two extremes. You can be on Team “Valentine” or on Team “It’s a Hallmark Holiday” and anywhere in between. I happen float in between these two extremes depending on my season of life. There have been times where I can do all the things like plan a romantic dinner or buy special gifts. Then there are other times where the only celebration was me buying small Valentine cards for my kids’ classroom. If I was lucky to remember!

Historical Significance

Valentine’s Day is rooted in both Christian and Roman historical significance. The Catholic Church alone has three separate and distinct Saint Valentines and each has their own religious significance. There is also some discussion about Valentine’s Day having its roots in the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. This is a day dedicated to a fertility festival dedicated to a Roman god, Faunus.

While the exchange of hand made valentines may have started as far back as the Middle Ages, Americans did not jump on this band wagon until the early 1700s. Ester Howland, aka Mother of the Valentine, started selling the first mass-produced valentine’s greeting. Today, it is estimated that Americans send over 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards! You can read more about the historical and religious origins of Valentine’s Day here.

Valentine Decor

As February begins, I come to the realization that its about time I put up a few Valentine’s decorations. When I say a few, I mean a few. With the exception of Christmas and Halloween, I like to keep any seasonal or holiday decor to a minimum. First, it’s great for my wallet. Second, who has time for intense decorating? Third, I don’t think anyone in my family would notice the decor one way or another. It adds a pop of color and it’s a temporary change from the usual decor.

I have a bundle of fake roses that sit inside a cute metal pot. I have a free printable I found online a few years ago and I have some hand towels that were an impulse buy on a shopping trip to one of those home stores. The decor I love the most is a hand made wall decor piece that spells out the word ‘Love’ of course!

Beyond the Decor and the Cards

To me, the quintessential importance of Valentine’s Day is not about the decor or the cards. It is not about the heart shaped boxes of chocolates or the fuzzy stuffed animals. Nope. Not at all. It’s about taking the time to tell those around us how much they mean to us.

How can you do this? Simple. Spend nothing but time and attention. I remember one year, I went all out. I ordered fancy chocolate covered strawberries for each of my siblings, my parents, and my own family. Admittedly, it cost a pretty penny. When they came in, they were a big disappointment. I should have guessed that ordering these during such a busy season would not be a good idea. The strawberries were well passed their prime and it showed.

The next year, my daughter asked to make the same chocolate covered strawberries at home. That’s when it hit me. Its not about the items, cards and heart shaped stuff. It’s about taking time out of your day to tell your loved ones that they are just that. Loved.

The Case for Valentine's Day Strawberries

This year, I encourage you to give it a try. Tell your family how much you love and appreciate them. Tell them why. Spend time with them doing things that are fun and making memories. These are the things that will last forever. This is my case for Valentine’s Day….

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How to heal cystic acne

How I Healed my Cystic Acne

I want to preface this blog by stating that I am not a Doctor. I am, however, a nurse and in this post, I am speaking solely on my personal experience.

My Skin’s Younger Years

As a teenager, I really never had an issue with acne. Every now and again, I would get a blemish or two during that time of the month. It would heal within a few days and I would go on with my life. I always felt bad for my friends who battled heavy acne and were left scarred. Both literally and figuratively.

During my teenage years, I really never got into makeup. There was no Instagram, Facebook or even Internet! For me, makeup was for special occasions and not for every day use. When I became a young mom, I did not have a lot of extra time – or money – to put into makeup. Additionally, my career path at that time was not existent. I had jobs. There was no need to look made up on the regular.

My Skin’s Mature Years

Fast forward thirty years as I progressed through my degrees and subsequent career, the need to maintain my professional demeanor and appearance grew. But then it happened. My face became a war zone. I was engaged in the battle for clear skin. There I was an adult woman with a professional career but with a face filled with painful bumps and dark red spots. It was debilitating. It was embarrassing. I felt helpless that my skin turned on me and there was nothing I could do.

My Symptoms

My symptoms came on suddenly. It was as if a switch was flipped within my body and my face paid the price. I would go to work in the AM with a clear face and within a few hours, I would feel pain. Sometimes it would throb. Sometimes the pain was upon touch. This pain was unlike any other pain I had ever experienced. It was deep. Like up against the bone deep. Many times it would also itch. Painful itches.

A working Mom's guide to cystic acne

I tried so hard not to touch the bumps but often it was incidental. For example, answering the phone or even eating or talking would activate the pain sensors. The cysts would come on so fast- within hours. The worst thing about them is that they would stay for weeks and months at a time. To the left is an awful, candid profile picture where you can see the acne. It was hard to even find this picture because I realized that I stopped taking pictures of myself.

I found it quite difficult to concentrate at work. If I was meeting a vendor or presenting to an audience, all I could think of was how bad my face my looked. I felt the pain with each syllable. I grew very self-conscious. Then I started to keep makeup with me at all times in an attempt to cover it up.

What is Cystic Acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (the AAD), a growing number of women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are suffering from this form of adult acne. Much of the research points to increased stress, family history, products used in makeup and skin care, medication side effects and fluctuation of hormones due to menopause or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

All forms of acne are some type of inflammation. Pores become blocked by oil, dirt, or even dead skin cells. This causes the typical, raised bump of a acne. There maybe some small infection involved when the head of the blemish develops into a whitehead or a visible pocket of pus. These may be uncomfortable and can be handled with topical treatments in most cases.

What sets cystic acne apart from regular acne is the depth at which the inflammation occurs in addition to the breadth of the infection. This is why it hurts so much. Think of it like a volcano – it may be small at the surface of the earth yet may have deep penetrating pockets of lava far below the earth’s crust. This is similar to cystic acne.

Additionally, cystic acne may never come to a head. This is because the infection pocket is so very deep. Instead, assuming you do not touch it, what you get is a very slow healing lesion. The top layer of the skin remains intact but you can visibly see the blood tinged pus as it starts drying out. This can take weeks to months to heal.

My Journey

Honestly my journey was a lot longer than what it should’ve been. I’m a nurse so I should know better than to put off healthcare.

One thing I have noticed about nurses (and perhaps moms) is that we put ourselves last. In the medical world, it’s a proverbial joke about nurses having many UTIs (urinary tract infections) because they must “hold their pee” since they’re too busy taking care of patients who may have UTIs. Always taking care of the needs of others.

When this first started occurring, I thought these were just really large blemishes and that they would go away on their own. Instead, they lingered and lingered. It would take months for these to heal and new ones kept forming. It didn’t matter the time of the month- every phase of my cycle was fair game.

I never had any experience with this type of acne so initially I was dumbfounded. I researched and researched and finally came upon the answer. During this time, I tried a lot of products. I even became a Sephora VIB Rouge member!

This list of things I tried included three types sulfur based over the counter medications, coconut oil, tea tree extract, salicylic acid based medication, benzoyl peroxide based medications, and a various amount of face washes and masks. Not to mention the makeup to cover it all up.

The list of things I tried was exhaustive and expensive! Finally, I gave in. There was absolutely nothing over the counter that would touch my face. Coming to the realization that I needed something to attack the acne at its deepest level, I called and got an appointment with a dermatologist.

The Dermatologist and Treatment Protocol

Dermatologist to heal cystic acne

Getting an appointment with the dermatologist took a while. All in all about 2 months from calling to the actual appointment. It was worth the wait- albeit I should have done it sooner. After my initial examination, we decided to move forward with an oral antibiotic and a topical cream consisting of a combination of a retinoid and benzoyl peroxide.

The decision to start a potentially lengthy treatment of oral antibiotics was not an easy one. According to the CDC, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Of these affected people, over 23,000 died as a direct result. Largely these resistant strains are the fallout from years of the over-utilization of antibiotics.

When it comes to antibiotics, it is usually best practice to start with a broad spectrum and hope that it is able to take care of the infection. the term broad spectrum just merely means that it is effective against a large variety of organisms. Only if these do not work or are not warranted for a specific organism, do you then move on to more advanced antibiotics.

The doctor started me on tetracycline. Not only does this medication have an antibiotic property but also it also has some anti inflammatory properties as well. This is a bonus when treating cystic acne. We began with a 3 month plan of this medication. But this didn’t last.

One of the side effects of tetracycline is dizziness. Boy did it hit me hard. I am not usually one to have a lot of side effects from medications so I really thought this would be an easy thing for me to take. The first day I took the medication, I felt like I was drunk. You know the type of drunk when you close your eyes, the world is spinning so fast you may puke? Yep. That kind of feeling. It was awful.

The dermatologist quickly changed my medication to minocycline which is a very close cousin to tetracycline. However, because of the slight chemical variation in its makeup, I was able to tolerate this antibiotic after a few days.

We coupled this antibiotic with a topical cream called Epiduo. It contains Adapalene which is very much like Vitamin A in that it helps skin renew itself quickly. Therefore, those red marks would disappear quicker. The other ingredient is benzoyl peroxide which has an antibacterial property to help keep the skin free of bacteria.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

During this time, I stopped all other over the counter treatments. I continued to wash my face with a gentle cleanser and follow up with a mild moisturizer (both cetaphil). Treatment continued for 9 months. My doctor really wanted me to stop after 6 months but I was having such good results, I begged for an extension.

Within the first month, the cysts were becoming fewer and fewer. The topical cream was helping to eradicate the red blotches and promote healing. Things were finally looking up!

This all took place about 5 years ago and I have been cystic acne free since. I get an occasional blemish every now and again due to my cycle and hormone fluctuations but these are usually small and heal easily.

The one residual effect on my face is that I have some areas of hypopigmentation where I was scarred from the cysts. Most times, my makeup hides the discoloration but in the summer it gets a little tricky if I am in the sun. These areas of my face do not tan at all.

These spots are the last reminders of what I went through. I am so glad it was just a season of my life. The most important take-away that I would like to impart is to make that appointment with the doctor sooner rather than later. Don’t tough it out and ignore your body. Don’t waste time and money trying all of the latest and greatest. Give yourself permission to put you first and take care of you. It is OK and necessary to do this!

If you like what you are reading, please feel free to share my blog with others! Here is a link to my Shopstyle Store and a link to A Working Mom’s Trendy Picks Instagram

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DIY 2019 Planner

My 2019 DIY “Planner”

Over the last few years, I have used a variety of planners and I am sure that I am not alone in this endeavor! We all hear the phrase ‘planner peace’ and debate about whether or not it really exists- right? I would like to not think so. I know that last statement sounds crazy but I love to try different systems and planners to help keep me organized. Also, I want there to be many options to match the different seasons of my life. So, this year, I am using a DIY planner.

In 2018, I used a combination of 2 different Erin Condren planners. First, I used the LifePlanner and then I tried out the hardbound LifePlanner. The issue I ran into with both of these is that they do not fit into my everyday bag. The coiled planner is short and squat while the hardbound is large and rigid. Additionally, I write a lot of lists and there just isn’t enough room in either planner to do this. Subsequently, I would also carry a small notebook.

Erin Condren Planners

What ‘DIY’ Planner am I using?

What I decided to try this year, is to use my favorite notebook and turn that into a DIY planner. My favorite notebook is the Markings Leatherette by C.R. Gibson. It is not too big, not too small. Its creamy pages are a joy to write on and it has a good ‘hand feel’ (if that makes any sense).

My ‘DIY’ Planner Set Up

I started by adding an index at the front of the leatherette followed by a 2019 year overview. I then added a tracker page and a key page to note the various meanings behind the colors I plan to use throughout the planner. Once that was in place, I added a monthly view on 2 pages for each of the 12 months. I wanted to group all of the months together because sometimes I need a lot of note pages and sometimes I don’t need any. It all depends on the season of my life I am in at the moment. Having the notes follow the calendars, allow me this flexibility.

My notes will be very free form. This is how I want it. I may include meal plans or shopping lists. I may have a list of ‘must haves’ or house projects I am working on. Each month may have 1 page of notes, 20 pages of notes or none at all. The point of this is that I want to be able to have it with me at all times without needing to upsize my bag or struggle to carry a second bag.

DIY Planner Monthly View

At the end of the notebook, I also started a few long term lists. These I will start at the last page and work backwards. I consider these more of year long lists. Here, I want to include quotes to remember, books I have read or want to read, and also places I want to go.

Why not Bullet Journaling?

You may be thinking this sounds an awful lot like bullet journaling. Yes, in a way. However, even that seems too structured. I tried it before and the series of symbols confuses me. I cannot draw or letter to save my life. As a matter of fact, my handwriting looks like that of a 3 year old! I end up feeling highly inadequate because I cannot draw cutsie tacos on Taco Tuesday! Also, the way a BUJO repeats the same format month after month, defeats the purpose of my flexible set up. I am trying to go for extreme flexibility and I do not want to deal with all the pomp and circumstance of a BUJO. Please don’t hate on me but I seriously do not need to track my mood every waking minute or track my location every time I pick up a penny!

DIY Planner 2019

So far, this set up is working for me. Albeit, it has only been eight days but it is functioning in just the capacity I need it to. What planner are you using for 2019? I would love to hear below!

If you like what you are reading, please feel free to share my blog with others!

Link to my Shopstyle Store and link to A Working Mom’s Trendy Picks Instagram

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Word of the year

My Word for the Year: Rebuild

I think everyone has heard of the Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project whereby you choose a word and embark on a crafty, self-discovery of oneself. Ali offers a class and some absolutely stunning products that can help you along your journey. Every month there are different prompts and activities to help guide you along the way. I have always been intrigued by this process but yet intimidated at the same time. So, this year, I decided to choose a word but not necessarily do “all the things”. This word is one by which I will approach life. It isn’t specific to one aspect of my life but yet it is the lens I will choose to look through for all aspects. That word is ‘Rebuild’.

Rebuild can mean so much to so many people. A quick Pinterest search will lead you to think that it is just about relationships or trust. Rebuild, however, is so much more to me.

In 2019, I plan to rebuild my career as 2018 really threw me off course. I had left a phenomenal job in 2016 for the hopes and promises that all came crashing down in 2018. That does something to a person. You start to doubt your intuition and doubt the path you chose. Rebuild is what I plan to do with my career and with the trust I have in my intuition. I know that I have a lot to offer and I just need to rebuild the parts of me that will help me get there.

I also plan to rebuild my circle of friends. Not going to a job five days a week, you spend a lot of time alone and start to be too comfortable alone. I need to get out there and open myself up to new opportunities. the more I stay inside my bubble, the more I will stay inside my bubble. I need to stretch myself and push outside of my comfort zone and reconnect with those around me and with those I have lost touch with.

Rebuild is also what I plan to do with how I approach fitness. I need to rebuild my strength and love of feeling my body move. Way back when, I danced from the age of 9 until 21. To this day, I still absolutely love to dance. I am thankful I don’t have close neighbors because my large windows make a great mirror when the right song comes on! At the age of 15, I joined a local Y and pumped iron. I spent many days actually having fun while working out. Back then, it was such an integral part of my life that it was something I just did. Every day. For the past few years – well maybe 20 – it has been thought of as somewhat of a chore. I don’t know how that mindset was changed or why. But I must rebuild my thought process around this.

I also want to rebuild my relationship with food. Food is a source of fuel for my body and should not in any way be a source of comfort. I am tired of the Yo-Yo-ing of my weight because I either cannot control my urge to eat everything in sight or I go the opposite and restrict so much that I say no to everything in sight. Neither of these extremes are healthy. I must be able to find a healthy balance using real food so that it is sustainable and realistic.

Word of the Year; Rebuild; A Working Mom's Guide
Is anything more calming than the ocean to help bring clarity?

Working on all of the above, will help me rebuild my confidence in myself and what I stand for as a person. It will help me repair the trust I have with my intuition and strengthen my resolve to be better, look better, and feel better.

What word will you choose for the New Year?

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