Challenge Yourself…Intentionally

Challenge Yourself...Intentionally - How to use challenges to better your life this year and every year.

“New year, new me!”

Did you see this in your Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago? How about the posts of varying levels of making fun of such posts? I had both in my feed. It’s kind of amazing to me how pessimistic so many people have become about things like resolutions and goals.

I’ll say it again, I’m a fan of goals and resolutions, or whatever you want to call them. I believe them to fall in the same vein as Proverbs 29:18a – “Where there is no vision, the people perish“. Goals give us a vision of what the future can look like.

Does that mean our future WILL look like our vision? Not always. Sometimes we start out with certain goals for specific reasons and along the way we realize that God had different reasons. And sometimes that reason is for us to fail.

Yes, I believe that God wants us to fail sometimes. Is that scandalous? It totally flies in the face of any prosperity or candy-coated gospel, for sure. Life as a Christian isn’t all sunshine and roses. If it was, why would we need faith in God? Why would we still need a savior?

Yep, I believe God wants us to fail sometimes because it reminds us of three things:

  1. We can’t do this alone.
  2. His grace is sufficient for our shortcomings.
  3. He is always working in us for a greater good.

Actually there are more reasons, but suffice it to say that we learn a great deal from our failings and God is more concerned with growing us in our faith than He is with our earthly circumstances.

This is why I don’t mind setting new goals, even if I didn’t meet a previous goal. I want to always be learning and growing.

Enough backstory, now I want to challenge you.

One of the best ways to jumpstart change in your life is by taking up a challenge. What kind of challenge? Well, that depends on what problem you want solved and your end-goal. Let’s break it down a bit by common areas people look to make change in their life.

Faith

Does your faith feel stagnant? Don’t be satisfied with that! Listen for that still small voice in your heart and see where God wants to grow you. Consider challenging yourself in these areas:

Prayer

Reading the Bible

  • Pick a topical study of the Bible and do it daily.
  • Read through the Bible or a portion of the Bible in a set timeframe.
  • Commit to reading the Bible daily for a week or month (baby-step it, whatever you need to do to create a better habit with this).
  • Choose a book of the Bible and read it every day for a week.

Service

Daily Life

If you want to see improvement in some area of your life, challenge yourself to start today. Are you miserable in your job? Map out a plan to change jobs or even career fields. Set a time frame and get going! A few other ideas:

  • Reduce your spending. Challenge yourself to not spend any money for a whole month (outside of necessities that you decide upon BEFORE starting).
  • Save more money. Do you have a daily purchase like coffee or lunch out? Or maybe a bigger weekly/monthly purchase like dinners out? Commit to skipping that for a month (or 2-3 if it is a bigger/more sporadic expense) and saving the money in a special account.
  • De-Clutter. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF in your life? Try out a de-cluttering challenge, there are a LOT of options out there. A few to consider – 10 Minutes a Day, 31 days to clutter free, or do a mini challenge.
  • Better food choices. Give up sugar for a month. Drop your daily coffee or soda. Try meatless Monday for a month. Add a green smoothie to your day for a week. Pick your weakest area and challenge yourself to make better choices (spell it out better than that though).
  • Move more. Sit at a desk job? Commit to standing while talking on the phone for two weeks. Or use your break time to take a quick walk outside all week. Work at home or are a stay at home parent in a rut? Set a timer each hour for 10 minutes and climb steps, stretch, bounce on a rebounder, or go outside and pull some weeds in the garden.
  • Keeping a clean home. Try leaving your sink empty each night for a week. Or challenge yourself to clean something everyday that you won’t have to touch again for at least 2 weeks.

Health

  • Weight loss. If you are struggling with weight loss, commit to no sugar for a time of at least 21 days. This will help reset your cravings and likely jumpstart your loss.
  • Drink more water. Try setting a goal of 6-8 glasses of water each day for a week or more and then see how you feel at the end.
  • Exercise. If exercise is a 4-letter word to you, but you want to lose weight, tone up, or boost your energy…you’re going to need to add exercise to your list. Challenge yourself to try a new form of exercise every day (or 3-5x’s per week) for a couple weeks. By trying new things, you may find a form of exercise that you just love to do!
  • Kick bad habits. Pick one and hyper-focus your efforts to kick it to the curb. Replace bad habits with good ones. It takes 21 days to create a new habit, so be patient with yourself.

Intentional Living

The whole point of these challenges is to try something new. Make different choices to see different results. It really isn’t about the goal, it is about the day-to-day decisions that lead you there. Be intentional to challenge yourself this year and see where God takes you!

Super Simple Meal Planning Method

Super simple meal planning method. Get more vegetables in your day.

Meal planning is one of those classic tips for those looking to be more intentional with either their food choices and/or budget. Taking the time to plan out your meals ahead of time wards off things like last minute drive-thru stops and takeout orders. Both are hard on the wallet and can be hard on the waistline, too.

I have used a variety of meal planning methods over the years. I’ve planned out every meal and snack, created lists of options to pick from each day, planned out two week’s worth of meals, and worked week by week. I haven’t tried the monthly meal planning method as of yet, but I know some swear by it. I can see how it works, but I’m not ready to commit to that right now.

I recently switched to a super simple meal planning method designed to put more of a focus on vegetables. I’ve mulled this format over in my head for a while now, but couldn’t quite make it work until recently. We decided to take some time off from eating meat so that we can be more intentional about getting more veggies in our diet.

This can very easily work with eating meat, too. In fact, I will probably continue with this method for a while. It really is simple.

I do this with a pencil and a piece of paper, but I typed it up so I could give you a clearer look at my plan. (After seeing it all typed up, I will likely do this moving forward.)

Super simple meal planning method to get more veggies in your day.

Simple Meal Planning Method

This is basically fill in the blank. I fill it in with what we have on hand and what I’m picking up from grocery shopping.

Here’s more detail:

  • Breakfast – We are moving away from cereals because they are loaded with sugar and are not very filling. We rotate between oatmeal with different fixings and eggs. For the eggs, I will either sautee the veggies and pour scrambled eggs over it or serve them alongside fried eggs.
  • Lunch – I’ve organized the veggies by how I cook them. Then for lunch, I simply pick two plus a grain/carb or do three different vegetables. My kids also love to do a veggie tray with ranch dip or hummus, we often have more than three vegetable options on that.
  • Dinner – This is where I’ve struggled to find what works best. I will be focusing on more protein, less/no carb meals. I’ve kept this simple specifically to motivate me to use more veggies than anything. I use the list from the lunch section to pick my veggies.
  • Snacks – Again, trying to focus on higher protein items. I also use my breakfast shake when I’m needing something sweet because I struggle with that.

Why This Simple Method Works For Me

I have found that I can always find a way to get carbs in my diet. What I struggle to get in are lots of vegetables and protein. I am finding that being intentional about these by writing them out helps me make better choices. I’m hoping this has a positive impact on my weight, too.

I find this method to be the perfect blend of needing to plan ahead and needing the freedom of choosing what to eat. I have never stuck with a “eat this at this time” regimen for more than a day or two. I find it to be suffocating and I tend to rebel when we have those. In other words, it has the opposite of a positive effect on me.

There are no recipes. I love to cook with recipes, collect them on Pinterest, and use my cookbook collection. But I have found that when my focus is on using recipes, I don’t actually cook as much because it ALWAYS takes me 2x’s the time listed on the recipe, but I never plan for that.

Going forward, I will probably have some recipe based items added because I don’t want to get bored with the options and my husband enjoys variety. For now, no recipes is working for me.

This simple meal planning method works for me. If you are struggling with getting enough vegetables in your diet or need to shake up your meal planning efforts, give this a try and see what you think!

If you need some other meal planning ideas, check out my Pinterest board just for that!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Food :: Menu Planning on Pinterest.
If you would prefer recipes to follow, you can check out these cookbooks for some plant-based meal ideas to get more veggies in your day:

Happy Eating!

3 Ways You Can Support Shop Small

3 Ways You Can Support Shop Small (and Why)

Shop Small Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but you don’t have to wait for an official day to support small business owners. You can shop small all year long.

Why Shop Small?

Small businesses employ local people, they tend to be very involved in their communities, and they give towns a unique flavor. They are good for the local economy, too. Just think about it, have you ever traveled to see a town because of its Wal-Mart or Bed, Bath, and Beyond? Not likely, small businesses create a draw because they are different.

Your shopping small ensures that they can stay in business.

I am not saying big business is bad. Big business has its place. I simply would hate to see big business completely demolish small business.

Go Local

Take a look around next time you are in your town or city and see if you can find a “mom and pop” store. In our town, you can shop at an independent book store, art store, and a fabric store. Look for small cafes and non-chain restaurants for your lunches or date nights.

Smaller businesses can be priced a little higher than bigger business because they don’t have the buying power that brings volume discounts. You can offset this some by signing up for the newsletters, emails, or mailings so you will be aware of special promotions and possible coupons from the store.

Go International

This is the opposite of shopping local, but not the opposite of shopping small. When I say international, I don’t mean buying lots of “made in china” stuff. There are a growing number of organizations and ministries that are committed to making a difference in the world.

These organizations work with impoverished, marginalized people to provide them with training for various life skills and crafts. Then they sell those items, with the majority of the profits going directly to the artisan. Your purchases have a direct impact on the lives of some of the neediest people in the world.

Go Independent

You can shop online and support small business. The most popular site for this is Etsy, but don’t stop there. A lot of small businesses sell on their own websites now.

Another option is independent consultants for direct sales businesses. Yes, I know. A lot of people are skeptical of the multi-level marketing set up. I get that, but I also see tremendous potential for supporting entrepreneurs. There are a lot of direct sales businesses, ask on Facebook and I’m sure you will have no shortage of options. If you are looking for hair pretties, I am a Lilla Rose consultant. ;)

Shopping small doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be relegated to one day in November. You can support small businesses year round by being a little more intentional with your spending this year.

Living the Intentional Life

Living the Intentional Life

Life goes by so fast. These kids keep just growing up. Birthdays just keep coming. And it is GOOD. It’s just so easy to get wrapped up in the details and miss the big picture. Or is it just me?

Every year I choose one word to set the tone for my year. I have varying levels of success with this, but I continue on because I find it helpful.

Previous Years:

The year 2015 is another big year for me in some ways. The most bittersweet happening is that my oldest child will enter her teen years. I have been hit in the face with the realization that she will be entering the adult phase of her life in 5 years! Five years seemed so far away when she was born, but now that I’ve been a parent for awhile, I realize just how short those years will feel.

The big milestones are just going to keep coming. I don’t want to miss them! So this year’s word is Intentional because I need practice with this. I’m not a very intentional person. I tend to float through daily life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love goal setting and working towards meeting those goals. I’m just really bad about thinking ahead or outside of the box of right now. It’s probably why I’m so drawn to the idea of goal setting. Or something.

Living the Intentional Life

Since choosing a word alone doesn’t change anything, I have chosen some areas I want to focus on being intentional with and will spend time this year working on these.

  • Building my foundation. Over the last year, I came to realize that I do have a routine…and it’s not exactly efficient. The very first thing I want to be intentional about is building my foundation, putting first things first. I’ve not been very good at this traditionally because the things I want to do are not necessarily what is actually best for me. As cliche as it is, this means focusing on my health – spiritually and physically.
  • Stepping up my game. I have some big goals for 2015. I want to travel more. I want to have a successful garden again. I want to grow my blogging towards my goal of a full-time income. This will require consistent efforts in some areas that I have been kind of spotty with up to this point.
  • Focus on relationships. I am an introvert that lives a lot in my head. This doesn’t exactly build relationships. Add in that I get overwhelmed with lots of people interactions and I end up resembling more of a hermit than a person. I want to stretch my box and be intentional about building the relationships that matter in my life, with particular emphasis on my husband and children.
  • Identifying and utilizing my strengths. I have them, I know I do. At least, I think I do. I’ve not really given much thought to my strengths. Now, my weaknesses, those I am intimately familiar with…

Documenting the Intentional Life

If you have been around long enough to remember that I once entertained the idea of being a photographer, this will make you laugh. I am terrible at taking pictures! I am even more terrible at printing those pictures I DO take. This year I decided, NO MORE EXCUSES!

I now have an iPhone, iPad, a point and shoot camera, AND a DSLR that all take good to great pictures. Seriously.

Since I want to be intentional about taking photos of daily life, I decided that Instagram is the perfect tool for this. When my friend Dollie announced that she was looking for bloggers to partner with her for an Instagram challenge in 2015, it seemed like God was lighting up a big neon sign for me.

Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love is a subscriber Instagram challenge that provides a daily prompt (via a monthly graphic) to inspire your Instagram photo taking. I would love to have you join us! You can read more about it on the Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love page.

Or you can sign up below.

DIY Snowflake Ornament for Snowflakes Fall

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

You know how I’m always telling you that I’m not an activity mom? Well, lately God has been challenging some of my thinking and this area is one that is being challenged. Lately I have been more intentional to do more things with my kids because ultimately I want to build memories with my kids.

And guess what?

My kids are activities kids. Yeah. They love it.

So we have been doing more activities. This week we have made two ornaments with a third one on the schedule for next week. Today I have a book inspired ornament that is part of a fun project organized by the fabulous Melissa at Mama Miss.

She has organized 10 days of kid-made, book-inspired ornaments with quite a few bloggers, bringing the total to over 70 ornaments! Be sure to check them all out in her post.

DIY Snowflake Ornament for Snowflakes Fall

The book we chose is called Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan and was illustrated by Steven Kellogg. I didn’t realize it when I picked it up at the library, but it was written to provide a message of hope after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The book does just that, reminding us of both the joy and the uniqueness of snowflakes. We paired this book with a book of photos of individual snowflakes for additional inspiration for our ornaments and the book The Story of Snow for some science learning.

We decided to make our own snowflakes for our ornaments. We had a blast decorating and, yes, I made one, too. I didn’t just take pictures.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

For our DIY snowflake ornaments, we used these supplies:

  • Crayola Air Dry Clay
  • various glitters
  • acrylic gems
  • toothpicks
  • crafting cord (ribbon also works)
  • paper plates for mess control

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Here is the simple process we used:

  • Take a chunk of the clay and smooth it into a disc. You don’t want them too thin or your etching will go through and it won’t be too sturdy.
  • Pick a spot to be the top and poke a hole with your toothpick. Swirl your toothpick around to make a whole big enough to string your craft cord or ribbon through.
  • Use your toothpick to etch your snowflake design in the clay. Don’t go all the way through the clay!
  • Decorate your snowflakes with glitter, gems, sequins, or other crafting supplies.
  • Let air dry until completely dry before stringing and hanging.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

See? Crafting with kids doesn’t have to be complicated? It is sometimes messy, but hey, that’s life.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

I love how unique the kids’ snowflakes turned out. The one on the bottom left was made by the two year old who was more interested in making things with the clay that weren’t snowflakes. Like “nustaches”. ;)

 

Be sure to check out the other ornaments that are going up today:

10 Days of Kid-Made Ornaments hosted by Mama Miss!

Awesome Affiliate Sales Alert – Black Friday Edition

Awesome Affiliate Sales Alert - Black Friday Edition

It has been a long while since I have shared an awesome affiliate sales post. It’s not that there haven’t been great deals, there have. I’ve just been in a very busy season in my life (is anyone ever not in a busy season?), so I haven’t had the time to hunt down the deals for you.

Today is an exception. I just knew there had to be a plethora of steals and deals to be had for Black Friday. And the nice thing about this is that you can do this shopping in the comfort of your pajamas and not have to face the crowds. Win-win, right?

So let’s dive on in to the awesome affiliate sales I found!

Lilla Rose – Everything is 20%-50% off! This is a HUGE sale. AND the year’s Flexi of the Months will be back in limited supply. Also, free shipping on orders over $49! Sale starts at 12:00 AM Pacific.

Lilla Rose Flexi of the Month 2014 - Back in limited supply for Black Friday!

Teach Them Diligently – Save $5 on your registration with code: SIMPLYVICKI (yes, that is just for you lovelies!)

Crazy 8 – Save 40% on EVERYTHING plus free shipping!

Gymboree – Save 50% on EVERYTHING plus free shipping!

Gymboree Children's Clothing

Janie & Jack – 30% off your entire order!

Zulily Deals

Lego – Free exclusive set with orders over $99, free shipping on all orders.

Visit the LEGO Holiday Gift Shop and Build a Happy Season!

Tiny Prints – Save 30% on any order, plus an extra 10% with the code: 1128DEAL

Tiny Prints - Holiday Offer

HEDUA – Save 60% with special bundles!

$5 Dinners

Costco Meal Planning Holiday Bundle - Get ALL 5 Meal Plans in the 20 Meals for $150 Series Freezer Cooking Bundle with Meal Plans & Ultimate Freezer Cooking Guide

Last but not least, don’t forget to check out the deals on Amazon! Now is a GREAT time to start your free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime. There are SO many perks now for this, it is a steal of a deal.

5 Holiday Activities for the Whole Family

Holiday Activities for the Whole Family

When it comes to the holidays, spending time with family starts to take center stage. Sure, we love spending time with our kids year-round, but it seems this time of the year is when people really focus on making memories. And that is a great thing!

I am a part of several blogging networks that are full of wonderful bloggers, one of the most active and generous networks is Kid Blogger Network. It truly is a community of bloggers, where “big” and “small” bloggers share what they know and work together to build each other up.

Today I am happy to be working with a group of these bloggers to bring you a super giveaway, but first, I want to talk to you about holiday activities. Specifically, holiday activities for the whole family. Let’s do this!

Holiday Activities for the Whole Family

You can choose one or do them all. Invite grandparents to get involved or stick to those in your household. Memories will be made. Memories can be messy, so you might want to brace yourself for that if you are like me.

Bake Cookies & Other Goodies

Baking cookies is a great way to spend a cozy afternoon at home. It can be a quiet affair or you can crank up the Christmas music and dance it out. It’s all up to you. Here are some helpful resources for baking with the whole family to check out:

Read Themed Books Together

Reading together is a great activity for the whole family all year long. It promotes literacy and can have a life-long impact on your kids. If you have trouble fitting it in, just remember 15 minutes is enough to make a difference and you can fit that in to your day in a variety of ways.

Serve Others Together

Any time you can take the focus off of self and focus on others, do it. We are naturally self-centered and it is really easy to get wrapped up in that. This time of year is hard for a lot of people. Consider looking into some ways you can serve others as a family this holiday season to make it a little brighter for someone else.

Make Ornaments Or Other Decorations

Decorate your tree with homemade ornaments. Or if that makes your OCD a little crazy, create a special display on the mantel or somewhere similar.

Take In The Sites Together

Does your town have a special Christmas display? Take the time to go see that or simply drive around your neighborhood and hunt for Christmas light displays. You can also take part in this by making sure to decorate your house outside this holiday season. These lights spread joy to kids, a great thing to do!

KBN Mega Cash Giveaway

Money is often tight for people and the holidays can make that feel especially painful. Today, some of the Kid Blogger Network bloggers would like to help spread some holiday cheer by bringing you another AWESOME giveaway.

Win one of FOUR $500 cash prizes directly in your Paypal account! This giveaway is open internationally. You must be 18+ years old to enter. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please see detailed terms and conditions below the giveaway for more info.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More Holiday Activities for the Whole Family

KBN bloggers have some of the best activities out there. You can check out what other great resources were put together for this by checking out the links below!

50 Great Pie Recipes

50 Great Pie Recipes - Looking for a new pie recipe for your baking arsenal? You are sure to find something here!

Fall and winter are the unofficial baking seasons. The cooler weather make heating up the kitchen with the oven a welcomed event. Plus, baking with spices like cinnamon makes the house smell wonderful.

I’ve scoured the internet and found a list of great pie recipes to consider adding to your holiday baking lists. Be sure to tell me in the comments which one looks the most intriguing to you!

Fruity Pies

Pumpkin & Squash Pies

Chocolatey Pies

Nutty Pies

Gluten Free Pies

Other Great Pies Recipes

What do you think? Are you a fruity pie person? Or do you prefer a creamier pie? Be sure to check out these great pie recipes and then add one or two to your baking plans this winter!

Looking for no-bake pies? I found this great round-up as I was researching my post, be sure to check out over 70 No Bake Pies!

If you want to see more pie recipes, be sure to check out my Food :: Pies, Cakes, & Cupcakes board on Pinterest!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Food :: Pies, Cakes, & Cupcakes on Pinterest.