Students At Home

For Everyone Who Learns at Home

Tackling a Big Project? Try the Pomodoro Technique

For over six years, I’ve worked from home. It can be challenging to stay on-task, especially with our newest addition, Idgy (see photo below). But I have deadlines to meet, and can’t afford to sit around and waste time.

That’s why I use the Pomodoro Technique.

I learned about it a year or so into my work-from-home venture, and it has become an incredibly helpful technique that has improved my productivity and work/life balance.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Work for 25 minutes.
  2. Take a five-minute break.
  3. Work for 25 minutes.
  4. Take a five-minute break.
  5. Work for 25 minutes.
  6. Take a 15-minute break.
  7. Repeat until your workday is over or your work is finished!

While this technique works for me, you may question the need to be tied to a timer. Feel free to modify the method to meet your needs! Some days – like when my kids are home or I don’t feel well – I work only 15 minutes before breaking or build longer breaks into my day.

The beauty of this time management technique is that it helps me stay on task, and it’s useful for any job from working to cleaning. During my breaks, I stretch, make coffee, fold laundry or do whatever task is calling my name. I love that I can get work done in small doses – no more feeling tied to my desk for an hour at a time or wasting my workday on social media. It’s a win-win!

What’s your favorite way to tackle big projects? I’d love other suggestions! 🙂

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13 Health Benefits of My New Obsession – Cinnamon

I discovered a new obsession:

Cinnamon!

cinnamon

Two weeks ago, a friend and I shared coffee at Folklore, a coffee shop in Elizabethtown, PA. I decided to try the regular brew but added a little cinnamon and milk. Amazing!

I’m not sure what it is about cinnamon, but I can’t get enough. Every morning, I wake up craving my cinnamon coffee, and I want a cup before bed, too.

While researching online today, I discovered that my obsession isn’t all bad. Cinnamon actually has several health benefits!

  1. Delay cell decay or damage with antioxidant properties.
  2. Reduces inflammation.
  3. Fights infections.
  4. Boosts immunity.
  5. Repairs tissue damage.
  6. Lowers cholesterol and heart disease risk.
  7. Regulates insulin, which affects metabolism and energy.
  8. Lowers blood sugar with a dose as small as 1/2 to 2 teaspoons.
  9. Improves Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease potentially.
  10. May protect against cancer.
  11. Treats respiratory tract infections.
  12. Inhibits certain bacterial growth, including Listeria and Salmonella.
  13. Prevents tooth decay and reduces bad breath thanks to its microbial properties.

With so many health benefits, it’s easy to see why I can’t get enough cinnamon. But you don’t have to like cinnamon coffee to get the benefits of this wonder spice.

  • Sprinkle cinnamon on your fruit, ice cream or yogurt.
  • Add cinnamon to soups.
  • Cover meat with cinnamon before you roast or grill it.
  • Toast almonds in cinnamon for a quick snack.

How will you enjoy cinnamon today? If you want, come on over and join me for a cup of cinnamon coffee! : )

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Birthday Month Celebration Week 2

I’m continuing my month-long birthday celebration, and it feels great! Self-care is so often neglected, but I’m determined to continue creating time each day to celebrate me and the things that bring me joy.

Here’s how I celebrated this week.

Day 3: We have bananas, ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate sauce in the house, so I made a sundae! And I savored every bite! To cut the sweetness (I’ve made an active choice to limit sweets this summer), I fixed a cup of black coffee and savored it, too. Delicious!

Day 4: I tossed a pair or ratty pajama shorts into the trash can today. The elastic is stretched and exposed, and there are holes where there should not be holes! 😉 I hate spending money on new clothes, but today I gave myself permission to toss this item of clothing and add “new pair of shorts” to my shopping list. It feels good to give myself permission to wear clothing that looks good and brings me joy. Oh – I also drove to the library and pharmacy alone! How sweet it was to enjoy silence in the car on my drive into town and to choose the radio station I wanted on the drive home!

Day 5: Fresh peaches for lunch! My favorite fruit! 🙂  And hubby and I shared a pleasant afternoon chatting as we watched TV. I’m grateful for these moments!

peaches

Day 6: I gave myself permission to take the entire day off work! It felt so refreshing and empowering not to power up my laptop!

Day 7: My daughter gave me the first four presents of my birthday month! They’re each folded neatly and wrapped in aluminum foil and newspaper (one layer for day 1, two layers for day 2, etc.). How fun!

irene's birthday gifts to me august

I also returned a library book today before it was due. Library fines are tax-deductible, but I always appreciate when I remember to be responsible and don’t have to pay a fine. 🙂

Day 8: While waiting for my daughter today, I read a book instead of playing on my phone. That permission to relax and do something I like made me feel content.

Day 9: While sipping my morning coffee, I heard a bird chirping. I paused a minute to listen to the song and realized how much joy I felt from this simple act. Sometimes, treats surprise me with their simple yet profound impact!

I also enjoyed lunch at Red Robin with a friend. And because of a gift card and my free birthday burger, our meal cost only $5.12!

Day 10: This morning, I tried to work on an assignment, but my brain just wasn’t working. I finally decided to wash dishes – I always feel better when my sink is clean! I then prepared a cup of cinnamon coffee, savored a small scoop of chocolate ice cream and listened to the Parachute Band on YouTube. That 20-minute treat brightened my mood, helped me relax and made me smile!

 

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Happy Birthday Month To Me!

My birthday is not until the end of the month, but I celebrate every day in August because why not!?!? 🙂
A few years ago, I decided that life is too short not to celebrate me, so as part of my self-care, I throw myself a mini party every day in August! So far, I’ve:
Day 1: Treated myself to two small scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I prefer Moose Tracks or Turkey Hill’s Double Dunker, but this is the only flavor in our freezer right now. And I let it sit out a bit so it was melted around the edges just the way I like it. Yum!
Day 2: Met a friend at the Target Starbucks and enjoyed a coffee with cinnamon and vanilla sprinkles and a much-needed talk!
Stay tuned for more birthday adventures! 🙂
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What are your favorite ways to celebrate your birthday?
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Best Crayons for Hot Summer Weather

On a family vacation to Valley Forge and Philadelphia, my parents, sister and I toured Betsy Ross’s house, saw the Liberty Bell and picnicked on the site of the Revolutionary War soldiers’ camp.

It was an exciting vacation, but the drive was well over three hours. To keep us entertained, we took crayons and a coloring book.

Unfortunately, it was so hot in the car that our crayons melted all over the rear window dash!

Don’t let that happen to you this summer! Take crayons that won’t melt inside a hot car.

crayon meltThe winning crayons (i.e. the brand that melts the slowest in hot temperatures) is Cra-Z-Art from Walmart. The loser is Scholastic.

It’s okay, though, if you don’t want to buy new crayons. Simply pack your crayons in a plastic bag and place them in thermal bag with an ice pack or frozen water bottle. They’ll stay nice and cool and will be ready to color when your kids need a playtime activity in the car on hot summer days.

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Currently Playing: 8 Songs About Freedom

It’s July 4th, the day we celebrate our country’s independence. Happy birthday America!

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Later today, I’ll finish my current book, “Shadow Patriots” about the Revolutionary War, but for now I’m spending the morning with my coffee and my hubby. Since he’s enjoying a rare day off, I let him pick what we do this morning, and he chose to watch country music videos.

Normally, I do not enjoy this music genre. I’m more of an old-school country music fan (Johnny Cash, George Jones, Patsy Cline), and I adore praise and worship music. But some of the songs we’ve listened to today reminded me about the freedom I enjoy.

It is a privilege to live in the United States. It’s also a privilege to follow Jesus. Here are the songs about freedom that are on my playlist today.

Chain Breaker by Zach Williams

My Chains are Gone by Chris Tomlin

God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood

Firework by Katy Perry

Where the Stars & Stripes & Eagles Flies by Aaron Tippin

Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture

I Am Free by Newsboys

Freedom Song by Mandisa

be free CV Freedom Churches

What songs are you listening to as we celebrate our freedom?

 

Photo courtesy CV Freedom Churches
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Hot Tips for a Cool Summer

Anyone else melting?

melting lol

 

I love summer, but it’s hot! That’s why I’ve adapted several hot tips for staying cool this summer!

  1. Keep your pulse points cool. Place a damp paper towel in the freezer and apply it to your wrists, the back of your neck, the back of your knees or the inside of your elbows. Bonus tip: Try a bag of frozen veggies instead of the paper towel!
  2. Mist your face. You can buy a facial mister or fill a squirt bottle with water.
  3. Invest in an insulated bottle that keeps your water cold and refreshes you as you stay hydrated all day.
  4. Freeze fresh fruit. It’s tasty, cool and refreshing when you eat it right from the freezer or tossed into your water.
  5. Buy a fan for your phone.
  6. Make a paper fan and use it!
  7. Freeze homemade popsicles. We love making smoothies and freezing leftovers into popsicles or freezing fruit juice.
  8. Change your menu. Cold foods help you feel cooler, and no one wants to cook over a hot stove when it’s 90 degrees outside! Try tuna, egg or Cobb salad. Or spread a blanket on the living room floor, turn on the fan and eat a dippy dinner – prepare trays of veggies, crackers, bread, pretzels or bologna to dip into hummus, honey mustard dressing or another favorite dip.
  9. Run in the sprinkler .
  10. Toss water balloons with your kids.
  11. Visit the local pool. Our community pool offers a discount when you visit after 4 PM, and we’re blessed with several friends who own backyard pools and invite us over frequently to swim!
  12. Buy a kiddie pool. Place it on your deck or in your living room, fill it with water and ice, and soak your feet as you read a book and relax
  13. Hang out at the mall, library or movies. Stay cool as you window shop, read or enjoy a show.

These are a few of my hot tips for a cool summer. What do you do to cool down when temperatures rise?

 

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Feeling Tired? Try 9 Quick Energy Boosts!

I don’t know about you, but I get tired every afternoon! My energy level drops, I have trouble concentrating and I just want a nap. But my kids come home from school around 3 every day, and I have to be alert and focused! Usually, I grab a cup of coffee and a cookie, but I know this solution isn’t the healthiest option for me. After doing some research, I found these quick energy boosts.

Eat the right lunch. Ideally, it should be packed with fiber and protein. This combo keeps blood sugar levels – and energy – steady so you can stay focused all afternoon.

Take lots of short breaks. I have tight deadlines on my job, and I’m always tempted to work for long stretches without taking a break. However, several short breaks actually give your body and brain a chance to reboot. I’m going to set a timer and take a five-minute break every hour to stretch, fold laundry, text a friend, clear clutter off a counter or get dinner started.

Go for a walk. Fresh air boosts your concentration and mood. Sounds like a perfect excuse to walk to the mailbox, around the block or through the woods (below is a pic from my morning walk yesterday at Mt. Gretna)! Can’t get outside? Dance, jump rope or vacuum.

june 19 mt gretna

Change the way you snack. My coffee and chocolate snack tastes good and spikes my blood sugar so I feel more energetic right away. But it actually makes me feel more tired in the long run. A smarter snack is high in fiber and  protein like an apple or banana with peanut butter, a handful of nuts with fruit or whole-grain crackers with cheese.

Meditate. Spend five minutes meditating, and you’ll feel more awake and less stressed.

Drink water. When you’re dehydrated, the oxygen levels in your body drop. It’s time to get drinking! Make your water tasty and refreshing with fruit juice, crushed berries or lemon (my favorite water additive!), lime or cucumber slices. (photo courtesy VisitPlano)

water pitcher visitplano

Breathe deeply. A few deep breaths – in through your nose, out through your mouth – slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, increase oxygen in your blood and relax tense muscles. Your brain needs this boost, so relax and breathe.

Brush your hair. Repetitive movements relieve tension and help you relax. Even better, stimulating your scalp boosts your energy and alertness!

Laugh. Your muscles relax and you feel more energized when you laugh. I like listening to comediennes on YouTube, or you can read through a joke book or recall a funny memory. (photo credit unknown)

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These tips boost energy and fight fatigue. What other tricks work for you to keep you alert when you’re tired?

 

 

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6 Tips for Finding a Cheap Bike

Summer vacation has officially started. So far, my kids have had plenty of activities to keep them busy, including riding bikes. They like to race each other around our neighborhood, and my teenager is finally allowed to ride down the street to her friend’s house.

Luckily, we have a collection of bikes in all sizes, thanks to my son’s bike repair business from a few years ago.

bikesHowever, what if your child – or you – need a new bike? Find a cheap one with these six tips.

1.Thrift Stores or Consignment Shops

Check your local thrift or consignment stores for gently used bikes. Inventory changes often, so you’ll have to keep checking. Or ask the clerk to notify you when someone brings in the type of bike you’re looking for (our local consignment store did this for me when I wanted a double stroller for my toddlers!).

2. Police Auctions

Does your town have a police auction where they auction off items they’ve confiscated throughout the year? If so, you might be able to buy a nice bike for way less than retail.

3. Online Yard Sale Sites

I’m a member of several online yard sale sites. Almost every day, I see posts from people selling bikes their children have outgrown. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, post an “In Search Of”!

4. Craigslist

Remember to check Craigslist for used bikes. You can even set up an alert and receive an email every time someone lists a bike for sale.

5. Bike Shops

Two years ago, I visited a local bike shop with a friend. They had dozens of new bikes for sale, but I also noticed a row of used bikes. Yes, they cost more than yard sale prices, but each used bike for sale was recently tuned with new parts, reliable and ready to ride!

6. Word of Mouth

Ask your friends, family, neighbors and everyone you know if they have a bike for sale. You never know who’s cleaning out their garage, ready to upgrade or otherwise looking to get rid of gently used bikes!

When your kids are ready for new bikes, use these tips to find quality bikes at an affordable price. What other tips would you suggest?

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Five Easy Security Tips for Your New Home

Whether you’re moving out on your own for the very first time, finally found your dream home or are downsizing for retirement, security in your new home is important. I’ve moved a few times over the years, and security is always one of the first things on my mind. That’s why I compiled these top security tips. Don’t worry – they’re easy!

1. Close your blinds. Burglars like looking through windows to see what valuables you own, and they easily gain access through first floor windows. Keep your blinds closed to deter anyone from looking into your home!

2. Replace the door hinge screws. Did you know that most door hinge screws are super tiny? They’re easy to bust off during a break-in, so replace them with long screws.

door hinge screws

3. Watch your trash. Believe it or not, your trash reveals a lot about your home’s contents! Packing materials advertise that you’ve just moved in, and television or electronics boxes tell thieves that you own expensive stuff that’s easy to sell. Take any revealing items or boxes like these directly to the recycling center or landfill as you protect your home.

4. Change the locks. In a few minutes, you can change the door knobs and locks. Bonus tips: if you live in a dorm and can’t change the locks, ask for a new lock right away, and don’t give anyone a copy of your key!

5. Install fake cameras. Even if you don’t connect it – or it’s broken! – hang a surveillance camera near your home’s entrances and deter burglars.

These are my five easy security tips for a new home. What other security tips do you recommend?

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