One of the toughest things I battle in my life is procrastination. My natural response is I’ll do it later. There’s a part of me that despises that procrastinator and wages a daily war to defeat it. That’s how I’ve come to rely on the power of habits and routines. If I can avoid having to make a decision, I lose the choice to put it off until later.

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Habits are those things we do so often, they become automatic. Take my MacBook Pro. You’d be shocked to know just how many hours a day I am on this thing. The keyboard is part of me. My muscles have totally memorized every stroke, the location of every key. Until something changes. 

Due to a series of technical complications, I was forced to move the dock from the bottom of my screen to the left side. We’re talking about a 90-degree relocation from horizontal to vertical. And I’m ready to be committed. 

Everything in me wants that dock at the bottom. Every muscle recalls exactly where each tool should be. For nearly three weeks I have battled this annoying change and it is driving me to the brink of insanity. My routines are disrupted, my old habit is screaming in torment. My brain, muscles, and fingers are trained to reach effortlessly to get what I need. It was so automatic I didn’t have to think about it.  Read more

I may be more than a little bit obsessed with gardening and it’s a good thing. This summertime hobby improves both my mental and physical wellbeing.

EFFECTIVE EXERCISE. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (doesn’t everyone check with the CDC before doing anything strenuous?), just one hour of light gardening and yard work burns 330 calories—more than lifting weights for the same amount of time. I’ll take it!

BLOOD PRESSURE. Gardening scored on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s recommendation list for battling high blood pressure. I’m sure they’re thinking the physical movement aspects of gardening. But for me? Beautiful flowers and well-manicured beds calm my soul and refuel my joy like little else.

Don’t miss: Get Pesky Rabbits Out of the Garden

IMMUNE SYSTEM. It’s the sun, I’m sure of it. When I’m in my garden, I’m soaking up vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium and in turns keeps bones strong and the immune system healthy.

GRATIFICATION. I can see the transformative results of my hard work. So many things that we spend time on have temporary results. A garden is satisfying because it builds on itself—plants and trees get bigger and healthier, and the garden gets more beautiful over time.

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I’ve got kitchen cleaning and reorganization on my mind. It’s quite easy. That’s because at this moment I do not have a kitchen.

Photo credit for my dream baking center: tidbits-cami.com

As I write, my husband is in full-on remodel mode. Two months ago, everything in the pantry, drawers, and cupboards was hastily thrown into boxes by me, then moved out of the way of his wrecking ball.

With precious little time to clear the place out, I did a dumb thing: As fast as I could, I threw everything from half-empty boxes of cereal, chips, and pasta to stacks of placemats and forgotten salad tongs into myriad boxes, giving no thought to organization.  Read more

We and I use the term loosely as in the “royal we,” are remodeling our kitchen. Think demo day, a la Chip Gaines of the popular HGTV show, Fixer Upper.

Rather than using the sledgehammer method, my husband Harold carefully deconstructed the entire kitchen in order to donate it—cabinets, appliances and even the kitchen sink—intact to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Demo Day! Let the deconstruction begin

But before he removed a single screw, my personal home improvement designer/planner/hobbyist and talented woodworker remodeled the laundry room by stacking the full-size washer and dryer to make room for a new sink, more cabinetry, and counters.

Voila! A new temporary kitchen.

It’s small. Think: Barbie’s Dream House. Or cooking in a tent trailer. However, and quite amazingly, it works with just enough space for my Breville Smart Oven, Bunn Coffee Maker, Induction Countertop Burner, and Instant Pot.

I haven’t missed a beat; still making three meals a day, which would be nearly impossible were it not for my Instant Pot. The more I use it the more I learn. I could write for hours about all of the ways it has brought ease to my life—and delicious meals to our table—but I’ll save that for another day.

Today, I want to share recipes for some of our favorite Instant Pot meals.

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It wasn’t our fault that a drunk driver plowed into our parked car in the middle of the night while we were on vacation more than 500 miles from home. The car was a total loss but no one was hurt; it could have been worse.

Our loss was insured and we got just enough money from the insurance company to pay off the loan. We wanted to replace that car anyway.

To buy a new car would have required borrowing the down payment and taking on bigger monthly payments. We could have financed a used car with lower payments, but that was beneath what we thought we deserved. A better option—or so we thought— was to lease a new car with nothing down and lower payments than we’d been used to making.

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It was a lovely meal. The conversation was engaging, the entrée delightful—a good time was had by all. The guests are long gone and now you’re stuck with an ugly red wine stain on your prized tablecloth. Is this linen destined for the rag bag? Not if you know this super simple solution:

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RED WINE STAINS. If you get red wine on a washable tablecloth or napkin, spread the stained portion over a bowl or your kitchen sink. Now liberally sprinkle ordinary table salt on top of the stain. Next, pour boiling water over the salt and through the cloth to take out the stain. Provided you can do this while that stain is still fresh, this works really well. Josie

SIMPLIFY STORAGE. Here’s my “simplify tactic” for those darn plastic storage containers we use for leftovers. I have three sizes, all the same—the cheap brand I find at the grocery store. Each size is stackable. I don’t save plastic butter, cottage cheese, and cream cheese containers for leftovers. I only use the three sizes. I add to the collection if needed, only the three sizes, only the same brand. That way I am not hopelessly looking for lids to fit whatever stray bottom I want to use, and they are easy to store in the fridge. Amazing. Val

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I got up very early on Groundhog Day so I could be among the first to know Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for how many weeks of winter are still ahead. As I was waiting for the live coverage to begin, I got an email message that made my heart race. The message was from LifeLock, the identity protection service I’ve used for many years. The subject line was chilling: Dark Web Alert: Identity Information Detected.

I’d never heard of the Dark Web, but it didn’t sound good. Immediately, I logged into my LifeLock account and sure enough—that was not a spam email. The alert was loud and clear, printed in fire-engine red.

Not only had LifeLock detected my email address on the Dark Web—it was paired with my password—my correct and current password.

What on earth?!

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The year 2007 was a good one for me for lots of reasons. Here’s one: It’s the year I got good at baking homemade bread thanks to a simple discovery that would go on to revolutionize the world of home baking.

Presented in their book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë Franḉois stated that anyone with an oven, flour, yeast, salt, and water could make authentic, artisan bread in just five minutes a day.

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Within hours of getting my hands on that book, I was onboard. My first attempt was ridiculously easy. And so successful I shocked myself and my family! A more delicious loaf of bread I cannot buy anywhere. And why would I, when I could now make it myself for about $.40 a loaf in just five minutes a day?

I must admit that the exact terminology, “five minutes,” might be a stretch, but here’s how that term has come to be: Jeff and Zoë have honed this method to taking about 15 minutes to mix up a big batch of bread dough, which after it its first rise, sits in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

When you’re ready to bake a loaf, it takes all of about five minutes to reach into the container, tear off a pound or so of dough, shape it and get it oven-ready. That’s where the “five minutes a day” comes into play. It’s the amount of daily labor required.

I have used the method, but not baked every single day, since 2007. My husband could only dream of such a thing, that’s how much he loves this rustic, homemade French bread. It reminds us of our trips to Paris and the neighborhood bakeries where Parisiennes stop in every day to pick up fresh bread.

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