Americans are busier than ever… and it’s taking a toll on health, marriages, and kids. Counter today’s norm by taking control of your life with these tips for reclaiming priceless time:

  • Power down. The average American is tied to some kind of media device several hours each day… and we still spend 150 hours/month staring at the boob tube. Go without TV for 1 night, sign off Facebook for a week, check your email twice/day, shut off the cell phone completely (vibrate mode doesn’t count) during dinner and while driving, and set your homepage to a non–news site so you’re less tempted to click on links.
  • Say no. Weigh the costs every time you add a new responsibility to the calendar. If those overtime hours mean you’ll be feeding on fast food, burning the midnight oil, and dropping your kids off with someone else, turn them down.
  • Close up shop. There’s always something that needs to be done, but you’ll be more productive tomorrow if you get some rest. Select a time when you stop everything, no matter what, then develop a 3–step bedtime routine to transition you into calm — stretching, meditating, and reading a chapter, or having herbal tea, taking a warm bath, and listening to relaxing music.
  • Simplify. Weed out the stuff. Too many possessions not only clutter physical space, they drag down inner peace. You’d be surprised how removing things from your home can open up time in your life.

Elective Actions

Use today as an excuse to exercise your body, mind, and spirit:

  • Leave your car in the driveway and walk or pedal to work. Or round a track or sprint up stadium steps at a nearby school.
  • Dust off mental cobwebs by challenging your mind. Play a trivia game that tests your knowledge or try to recall the names of US presidents. If you get stuck, look them up. Or just pick one to learn more about — studies show that simply reading regularly may slow cognitive decline.
  • Just as activating your brain and body helps maintain health, spiritual stimulation helps you maintain balance. Write down 3 habits you know need pruning, and 3 virtues you’d like to promote… then work on both — offer to help a neighbor, perform a good deed for a stranger, or extend an olive branch to someone with whom you’ve butted heads. If you subscribe to a particular belief, increase your prayer or meditation time with readings or quiet reflections.

Sweet Urge to Splurge

Does ice cream summon you at night or vending machine candy bars call you during the day? Succumbing to your sweet tooth can become your nutrition or weight control downfall. Wean yourself from the urge to splurge by minding these ground rules for knowing when to give in… and when to slap your own hand.

  • While going cold turkey is sometimes effective, it could put you on a fast track to failure. Consider gradual cutbacks. Drop from 3 sodas/day to 1 or stash half the candy bar before biting in.
  • If the desire to indulge strikes, evaluate emotional triggers — boredom, anxiety, or depression often activate longings. If you recognize why that chocolate cake is soliciting your affections, you might be more apt to shun it.
  • Note vulnerable times of day. Caving in to the rich coffee drink before 9 AM is dangerous if you know you’ll want another by mid–afternoon. Take a different way to work to avoid that favorite coffee stop. And if late–night munchies antagonize you, say yes to your sweet tooth with a piece of fruit.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup


Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Serves 6

1 pound bacon, roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3/4 cup diced celery
4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 medium red potatoes, diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 cups heavy whipping cream
Optional garnishes: chopped chives, bacon bits, sour cream, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese

  1. In a 6- to 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp.
  2. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving half for garnish. In bacon fat, cook onions, carrots, and celery until the onions are translucent. Add potatoes and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Whisk in flour and stir constantly over low heat until the flour is cooked and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken stock and half of the bacon. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Over medium-high heat, bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Mash some of the potatoes for thicker, creamier texture. Add whipping cream and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Adjust thickness by adding water or stock. Soup should have a creamy consistency.
  6. Season to taste, and garnish with toppings.

Cooks’ notes: Soak diced potatoes in cold water until ready to use to keep them from turning brown. To make bacon easier to chop, lightly freeze.

Halloween Havoc

The season of jack–o’–lanterns, bonfires, haunted houses, and horror films are upon us. While spooky pranks and sacks of candy come with the territory, avoid a truly scary story with these safety tips:

  • Make sure costumes are labeled as flame resistant
  • Improve visibility with reflective tape, brightly colored costumes, and flashlights
  • Keep children’s masks loose fitting around the eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Be sure toy swords and knives are made of soft, flexible material
  • Accompany children and make sure they remain on sidewalks
  • Approach only houses with outdoor lights on
  • Do not allow children to enter homes
  • Remove potential hazards from your yard/walkway that could cause falls
  • Inspect all children’s candy before they eat it
  • Keep pumpkins with candles away from areas and materials that could ignite
  • Make sure each group of children is small enough that 1 adult can safely supervise
  • Use extra precautions when driving — go slowly through neighborhoods and look out for children running across lawns and streets
  • Don’t forget about your pets — keep them away from candy, pumpkins, decorations, electrical wires, and trick or treaters — too many ghosts and goblins can be stressful for even the friendliest Fidos.

Fight That Flu

Get ready to roll up your sleeves and grit your teeth — it’s time for an annual flu shot. A vaccination is considered the best bet for a flu–free winter. Health experts recommend several precautions:

  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick
  • Stay home when you’re sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay physically active
  • Manage your stress
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Eat nutritious foods.

Symptoms that the bug has bitten you include fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. Always consult a doctor if your symptoms become severe.