Embracing Fall

leaves-449622_1920School has started, the pools have closed, there’s a chill in the air, and Starbucks has started serving Pumpkin-spiced lattes.  Christmas decorations have made their appearance in craft stores.  Fall is officially here!

Summer is my favorite season, so saying good-bye is always difficult for me.  This year, instead of dreading the season of cold and darkness, I’m trying to engage a more positive perspective about autumn and the unique things that only come this time of year.

Beauty

There’s nothing quite like the beauty of the orange and red colors that show up on the trees at this time of year.   I’m taking a trip to the mountains this weekend, and I’m actually hoping for the trees to change a lot this week so I can take in the view on the ride.

Down Time

Everything feels just a little slower during this time of year.  School has started, so kids have stopped running around outside and begun hitting the books again.  There seems to be fewer parties.   The sun is setting earlier, which means people are home with their families instead of staying out late.  The chill in the air encourages me to cuddle at home and read or watch a movie instead of going out.  It’s nice to have a slowed pace and get a little bit of rest and relaxation.

Comfy Clothes

Skimpy summer apparel and beachwear require a lot of work:  regular shaving, uncomfortable strapless bras, keeping your toe nails painted for wearing sandals.  Fall allows for jeans that are well worn, shoes that cover your whole foot, and a comfy cardigan sweater. It’s just less work.

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Getting Ready for the Holidays

I’m (a little) embarrassed to say that I’m among the percentage of Americans that has already begun Christmas shopping.  I can’t help it, when I see something I know someone I love will like (and its decently priced), I buy it just in case I don’t see it again later.  Honestly, it helps my budget and time management to do it this way.  Fall means that winter parties and holiday time with loved ones are approaching!

Unique Flavors

I already mentioned the appearance of pumpkin spice lattes (it seems pumpkin flavors are popping up in everything!), but there’s also apple cider, seasonal beers, and warm soups that reappear in the fall!

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(Dear coffee creamer companies, can you make a pumpkin spice sugar-free, dairy free coffee creamer for those of us on no-carb diets?  Please and thank you! J)

Extra sleep

In addition to the slower pace, one of my favorite things about the fall is daylight savings time.  Yes, I hate losing the evening sunshine, but there’s a weekend with an extra hour of sleep!  Big sleepers, rejoice!

 

What is your favorite part of the fall?

4 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean

When I bought my first car in 2001, a little Dodge Neon, I was anal about keeping it clean.  Every time I got out of the car I took everything with me that didn’t belong.  At that time, I was in college and lived and worked on campus.  Other than going to and from recreational activities, my car didn’t get a lot of use.

Fourteen years later, even without children, my car-cleaning habits couldn’t be further from that.  I have a 35-minute commute each way to work.  It is not uncommon for me to eat and drink in the car, take long road trips, cart my pup to and from his favorite places, and go back and forth between home, work, the gym, stores, and various other places.  I have changed my clothes and shoes, applied makeup, brushed my hair, and slept in the car.  Of course, I do the normal things too, like charge my phone and listen to music.  Oh, and drive!

My boyfriend and I live in different states (140 miles apart), and I live over 500 miles away from each of my brothers, and almost 600 miles away from my parents.  And since family, friends, and travel are important to me, that adds up to a whole lot of driving!  Suffice it to say that I spend a lot of time in the car.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about how not to keep my car clean.  At any given time the floor of the passenger seat is typically littered with empty sports drink bottles, various articles of clothing, miscellaneous items I intend to give to people or take places, empty grocery bags and receipts, and multiple pairs of shoes.  And dog hair–there’s always dog hair!  My friends pick on me about never being able to drive if we are carpooling because there’s no space for anyone other than me to sit.  To my credit though, I usually keep the trash to a minimum, but since I save empty bottles to recycle them they usually stay around longer than anything else.

The back seat is a different story; that is the dog’s domain.  When he was a puppy Elliot had the habit of jumping over the seat to curl up in my lap.  He was small enough that I could pick him up with one hand, how could I resist?!?  But of course that became less and less safe as he grew and roamed about the car, or switched positions on my lap.  He would still curl up there if he had the chance, and those flimsy store-bought separators weren’t enough to keep him at bay.  With my brother’s help I fashioned a device to keep Elliot in the back.  Sometimes I joke that I moonlight transporting prisoners on the weekend.  J  Besides Elliot, I use the back seat for groceries and luggage.  The trunk always has miscellaneous junk in it.

My boyfriend’s car is immaculate, and fortunately we take his car anytime we go anywhere together.  There is no extraneous clutter, I never have to position my feet around any loose articles on the floor, and it is always comfortable and clean.

From learning about what I haven’t been doing right, and observing what other people seem to do right, I have compiled a list of top tips to help keep the car clean.

  1. Every time you get out of the car, take what doesn’t belong. 

This is one thing my boyfriend always does, and what I used to always do when I first had my own car.  Take it all out–trash, things that belong in the house, and especially, things that will melt or smell if left in extreme weather.

This is simple, but easy to avoid.  If you can, try to take everything that doesn’t belong out of the car all at once.  This may require multiple trips at first, but it will also help you to avoid bringing things into the car that don’t belong!

  1. Don’t treat your glove compartment like a junk drawer.

It’s okay to have a little change for tolls, an atlas or roadmap, a pair of sunglasses, and a phone charger.  And certainly, always keep your car’s manual, insurance cards, and registration handy.  And as a single woman cruising the highways, I am a proponent of a car emergency kit in your trunk, complete with jumper cables (trust me).  But don’t overdo it.  An overnight bag is too much if you’re just going to the grocery store.  I know all kinds of things can happen on the road and it’s easy to accumulate little things you don’t know what to do with.  But chances are you’re not going far from home, and if you are going on a long trip you will probably have anything you might need in your luggage.

  1. Plan ahead

As I said, I don’t have children.  But I know that Elliot will get wet, his feet will get muddy, he might accidentally scratch the seat and his drool will get on the window.  Gross, I know.  That is why I keep a seat protector on the back seat of my car (and of course, the barrier I mentioned from keeping him in the back).  And on the bottom floor of the back seat, I keep carpet cleaner (to clean the car’s upholstery), window cleaner (to address the drool), and paper towels in case of accidents.  To combat my own mess, I also try to keep a bag for trash in the front.

For those of you with different circumstances, that will look different.  Some children will need to stay occupied in the car, and will require activities and toys.  Some families have accident-prone members that may spill things or need band-aids close at hand.  Children may require car seats or booster seats, and adults may need extra back support.  A trip to the beach will result in extra sand and wet clothing, and snow and mud can accumulate on the floor during the winter.

You get the idea, and obviously everyone’s situation is different.  Pinterest has a lot of great ideas on how to keep stuff for the kids organized, and how to protect areas that may get messy.  Plan for where you’re going and who will be in the car; just be careful not to accumulate a lot of stuff that’s unnecessary.

  1. Do a deep clean on a regular basis

Just as with your home, a vehicle will benefit from an occasional deep clean.

Every couple of months I stop at the car wash on my way home from work to take advantage of the coin-operated vacuum cleaner.  My boyfriend takes advantage of a free vacuum during a Jiffy Lube Oil change. Yesterday I used my lunch break to get some sunshine as I cleaned out all the trash, grouped together all the items that I needed to take into my house (which I took in the house as soon as I got home—see tip 1), and give the seats and windows (especially in the back) a wipe down.

Another option is paying to get your car detailed.  I’m extremely thrifty, though, so that type of treat is not something I indulge in on a regular basis.  About a year ago I bought a Groupon for this.  It was thrilling–the car was so clean!  The seats were vacuumed, the control panel was dust free, it smelled fantastic, and it felt like I had just bought a new car.  (Dear friends and family, if you ever don’t know what to get me a gift, a gift certificate to have my car detailed is always welcome!)  You can also take a little time to detail your car yourself, there are tons of products and tutorials on this.

These four tips are the best I’ve seen for keeping your car neat.  Regardless of your method, you will appreciate your car more when it is clean, clutter-free, and comfortable, and you will want to keep it that way!

What other tips do you have for keeping your car clean?

Making Goals for the New Year

Making Goals for the New Year

 

Think about what your life was like a year ago.  Five years ago.  If you’re anything like me it is drastically different.  Where you live, the people you spend the most time with, the community organizations you’re involved in, the hobbies you participate in, have likely all changed.  If not, ask yourself why.  On a daily basis you make decisions in each of these areas that affect where you are at the present moment. 

Look at your life in the four main areas:  social, physical, financial, and spiritual.   Even better, write these categories down and think about them for a minute.  Do you have anything you’d like to achieve in any of these areas?  Create a goal for each area.  Be specific, and don’t be afraid to think big.  You’ve got your whole life to improve yourself; don’t expect everything to fall into place in a week.  ?  You can use any time frame you’d like—a year, five years, 10 years, or even six weeks.  Just make sure your goal is realistic for the time frame you have set it for. 

If you have not made any changes in the past year, why is that?  Are you afraid of change?  Are you content with the life you have?  Most of us want more out of life.  However, not all of us are willing to take the steps (or risks) that come with moving forward in life.  What are the things holding you back?  How much influence do you have in removing these obstacles?   Much of the time, we are the biggest things standing in the way of our own success.

Sure, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control.  Family members fall ill, the economy affects our financial stability, people around us make decisions that impact our lives.  These things, unfortunately, are all part of daily living, and are things we have to learn to deal with in order to move forward.time-273857_1280

However, even if a circumstance is out of your control, you can still decide how you’re going to deal with it.  There are two things that a person has control over—their attitude and their actions.  If you are facing a situation that is not ideal, confront it with confidence that you can overcome it.  Think about which parts of the situation you can affect, even if it just how you view it, and go from there.

The hardest part for some people is letting go of what they are familiar with.  It has been said, “the only constant in life is change”.  In other words, your life will change whether you want it to or not.  You need to decide for yourself whether you guide that change yourself or allow things to happen to you.  Don’t be a victim of circumstance.  Create your own future.  Make your own plan for your life and follow through with that plan.  You choose the direction you’re life can take!

Consider the next year and think about where you want to be a year from now.  Write it down, be specific, and put your goals somewhere you can see them on a regular basis.  Happy New Year!