Creatively Hang Christmas Stockings

Christmas stocking

Our family of 6 moved into a small 900 square foot home about 3 years ago. We don’t have a mantel.  We don’t have a fireplace. What we do have are stockings that need to be hung during the Christmas season!  I needed to come up with a creative way to display our 4 kids’ stockings. Whatever I came up with needed to take up very little space and not need to be stored when Christmas was over.  Our storage is quite limited too.

While enjoying our front yard one day, an idea came to me. I could hang the stockings from a spare evergreen branch.  I trimmed a branch from a tree on our property. Nailed it to one of our walls. Hung the stockings from it. In just a few minutes I had created a festive and functional way to display the holiday stockings.  No mantle or fireplace needed!

Christmas stocking
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    Meditation Made Simple

    morning meditation

    I’ve implemented meditation into my daily morning routine.  Being able to calm my mind and bring peace and quiet to my ever overactive thoughts felt like a skill I should improve upon. And so I am. I am not claiming to be an expert. I’m simply sharing what I do and how it has benefitted me.

    There’s a scene in the movie Eat Love Pray where Julia Robert’s character is learning the practice of meditation and she falls asleep. Later she attempts it again and can’t believe it when only a minute has passed. I can totally relate to all of this! Learning to quiet your mind can be grueling. It is work.  

    I’m still very much a newbie, but here are 6 tips that have helped me along the way in my pursuit of, what I consider to be, successful meditation.

     

      1. Choose the same place and time: I meditate each morning after being rested {to avoid sleeping through the whole process}. I do it as part of my morning routine, post coffee. During this time, I’m alone and my home is quiet.
      2. Take a deep cleansing breath. It truly helps to positively trigger your mind that meditation is about to begin.
      3. Start Small. I meditate for only 5 minutes.  I set a timer on my Calm app. 
      4. Visualize a place that makes you happy: There is a place in the British Virgin Islands that is so beautiful.  I envision myself there, floating in the water.
      5. Feel Free to Include God: Some people get weirded out by meditation.  As a person of faith, the Bible clearly references meditation as a holy practice {Psalm 19:14, Psm 119:15}. As I’m floating in the water, I envision God floating next to me holding my hand. All these elements represent a calming peace to me. That’s what I’m after with this process.
      6. Finally, I repeat a word in my head that reflects the quality I want to instill into my body, mind and spirit.  Most often I choose the word peace to repeat as I “float’. Sometimes I do not feel peaceful.  In those instances, I envision God softly whispering “peace” to me over and over. The thought of Him being there for me is so helpful.

     

     

    I perceive at the quick 5 minute morning meditation as a practice session.  It’s trial run for times I may need to meditate throughout the day when life is a bit faster and chaotic. In addition, I’ve found it very helpful to meditate  as I lay in bed. At that time, it’s perfectly fine to fall asleep mid-meditation.



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      The Best “Zoupa Toscana” Knockoff on the Block

      Fall has me craving all the hearty soups! One of our family-favorites is an Olive Garden Zoupa Toscana knockoff.  It’s so good. It’s so easy. Therefore, I tend to serve it year round. My family doesn’t complain about that one bit. In fact, they request it.

      Ingredients: 

      32oz carton chicken broth

      1 cup heavy whipping cream

      6 medium red skin potatoes 

      14 oz. spicy Italian sausage

      1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes {or to taste}

      3 cups fresh spinach

      Serves 4-6

      Step 1: Brown the Italian sausage until crumbly and no longer pink. Drain the grease and set aside.

      Step 2: In a pot combine the chicken broth & heavy cream, stir and leave on medium heat.

      Step 3: Cut the potatoes into bite size cubes. Add them to the chicken broth and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high.

      Step 4: Add the Italian sausage & crushed pepper flakes to the pot.

      Step 5: Allow the ingredients to simmer until the potatoes are soft.

      Step 6: Lightly chop the fresh spinach and add it to the soup.  

      Give it about 10 minutes to simmer with the added spinach and then it’s ready to serve!

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        My Adventure Badge Should Read ECUADOR

        Last month I met up with my sister, brother in law and their team. We hopped on a plane and headed to Quito, Ecuador.  My sister, Rachel, owns a gymnastics gym in Michigan. Her husband, John, works for a water treatment company. John has an uncle who has dedicated his life to providing clean water to remote people groups throughout Ecuador. When the three of these geniuses put their resources together, amazing things happen! I had the privilege of documenting it all with my camera. It was worth dusting that heavy beast of a lens off and lugging it to the mountains of Ecuador to photograph the awesome ways they are helping provide clean water to impoverished communities.

        For the last three years Rachel has taken staff from her gym to assist Ecuadorian people groups provide a clean water source for communities that don’t have access to it.  They team up with Life Giving Water International, a nonprofit started by John’s uncle. 

        The week I was along for the adventure, each morning we helped fill 5.5 ft. deep and long trenches that had already been dug by hand before our arrival.  The Ecuadorian people worked circles around us. Mercy. I blame the elevation. The 13,000 feet above sea level made breathing feel like a workout in and of itself.



        In the afternoons,  alongside the local missionaries, we helped lead a Vacation Bible School for the children of the community.  VBS was my highlight of the trip and not just because the other option was digging through blowing dirt at 40 degree temperatures. The children and their rosy-windburned faces captured my heart. Looking into their warm brown eyes as we taught them to wash their hands before snack is etched in my brain as a moment I never want to forget. 

        One of the words I want to describe me in 10 years is ADVENTUROUS.  A more apt current descriptor might be cautious. Having braved a week in Ecuador I do feel like I earned, at least, my first level Adventure Badge, if such a thing exists. Here’s why:

        1. Before we wound our way up the mountain, we took a late night hike in the Amazon jungle with head lamps in search of tranchulas and snakes. I lived to tell.
        2. I shared a hotel room with several cockroaches. I lived to tell.
        3. I rode in a single prop, 5 seater airplane with a grass runway. I lived to tell.
        4. I slept on the floor with 15 others, sleepover style, if your sleepover was in a room with no heat and previously housed, what smelled like, several wet dogs.  I lived to tell.
        5. We were encouraged to drink a lot of water to avoid elevation sickness and dehydration. Bathrooms were tricky to locate and I often used make-shift facilities, AKA: sides of housing structures.  This included, but not limited to, a home I was not aware was full of Ecuadorian people waiting to join us for work. I bet they didn’t know their day was going to begin with a view of a middle-aged white girls bum. I lived to tell.
        6. I tested out being vegan for a week. Some of the popular cuisine is guinea pig and ALL the parts of other commonly edible animals. Chicken breast, okay. Chicken tallon, I’ll pass. I lived to tell.
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          Making Drinking Water an Easy Habit

          healthy habits

          For most people, well for me, and I have to believe a few others, establishing a new positive habit can be hard! Drinking the suggested amount of water in a day was one of those hard healthy habits for me to establish.  When I first started out I made it a goal and had weekly check ins with my accountability group to be sure I was getting in 64 oz. of water a day. I did it, but I complained A LOT. My method was to keep count of the 8 glasses throughout the day.  The problem: it would be evening I’d have only drank 2 glasses of water and then I’d be guzzling h2o before bed to meet my goal and you know what happened next. I’d wake up multiple times in the night for drainage. 

          That was clearly not working.  Instead of giving up, like I really wanted to, I came up with a different method.  

                                                                 SAME GOAL, DIFFERENT APPROACH!

          I figured if I filled a water bottle with the amount I need to drink, when it was done I’d be done. Visually helpful!  The problem, carting a 64 oz. bottle around is heavy. Solution: I broke the amount in half and filled a 32 oz. Nalgene water botte. This was the game changer.  Here are 5 things I did to EASILY and successfully drink the recommended amount of water each day without struggle!

          FILL A 32oz NALGENE REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE:

          I fill a 32oz Nalgene water bottle with water before I head to bed.  In the morning I drink room temp water when I first wake up as I make my coffee.  There are apparently a bunch of benefits to water when you first arise, including waking your body up.  I consider this is my “bonus water”. I drink some quickly without concern about how much.

          THE LUKEWARM TEMPERATURE HELPS IT TO GO DOWN FAST. 

          Post coffee, I fill the Nalegene bottle back up and I carry it with me when I leave to take the kids to school. I drink it with my breakfast {that I often eat in the car}. I drink it with my vitamins {that I keep in the car #lifehacks}. My goal is to drink all 32 oz. by the time I’m done with school drop off and I’m entering the gym for my morning workout.

          I USE A FLEXIBLE SILICONE STRAW:

          Utilizing the science from a study McDonald’s did regarding soda consumption, I learned that you drink more when you use a straw.  If a regular straw is good, a large circumference smoothie straw is even better for getting the job complete! So, I stick one of those in my water bottle.

          REFILL A 32oz REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE:

          When I reach the gym I fill my water bottle back up.  I sip it as I workout. On my drive home I drink it with my post workout snack.  I sip it with lunch or as I run errands. I’m usually done with the suggested amount of water by 1pm.  

          DON”T ALLOW YOURSELF TO DRINK OTHER BEVERAGES:

          Until the necessary water consumption is complete, don’t drink other beverages. It’s a motivator to complete the water goal. {This does not including morning coffee, no one messes with the morning cup of joe.

          BONUS: Make your water bottle fun! Add cute stickers to your water bottle like a middle school girl!

          I now successfully drink an adequate amount of water each day without struggle and without middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.  I’d love to hear what tips you utilize to drink enough water. One thing I can attest to is that my body craves water now. I can clearly tell if I haven’t had enough to drink.

          health habits
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            The Fanny Pack is my New Best {Travel} Friend

            Last week I traveled to Quito, Ecuador.  It was an experience of a lifetime. I teamed up with Life Giving Water International, together we worked alongside the Ecuadorian people from a remote village to help supply them with a clean water source. More on that later!

            Right before I left for the airport my sister suggested I bring along a fanny pack. I’m not privy to such elegant accessories, but my 15 year old had a pineapple one he was willing to share with me. 

            Let me just tell you, it was a game changer!  I feel certain I won’t travel out of the country without a fanny pack again.  I know, I sound like a grandma who’s also outfitted with therapeutic shoes and a walker, but I’m sticking with my preferences here! 

            HERE’S WHY:

            It is extremely conveniently located. The front of the lower belly region is easy access for sure.

            It makes it harder for the thieves of the world to steal at least not without more of a challenge.

            It’s the perfect size to hold what’s most needed without putting a kink in my neck, like a purse and a backpack have the tendency to do. 

            In addition, here are the 5 items I kept at my ready with the help of the trusty fanny pack {in my case, aka: belly bulge}:

             

            Cash.

            Passport.

            Phone.

            Headphones.

            Hand sanitizer.

            Wet wipes {toilet paper is hard to comeby in Ecuador}.

             

            I’m not saying you have to use a fanny pack on your next trip, but I do strongly suggest it!  

             

            GRANNIES UNITE!



            Fanny Pack is an excellent traveling tool
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              These are a Few of my Favorite Things

              Shopping Few of my favorite things

              Since downsizing to our 900 square foot home in 2017, I’ve been much more intentional about what comes into our house.  In such a small space, just a few added items can make our house look and feel cluttered very quickly.

              With my intentionality intact, here are a few things I feel l can’t live without, even in our small living quarters:

              Madewell Whisper Cotton Crewneck Grey Tee:  I love the cut.  I love how it’s so soft. I love that you can roll the sleeves or don’t! This t-shirt goes with anything!

              ⅞ Zella Live In Leggings: This brand is my go-to workout pant.  The 7/8s part is because this girl has THE shortest legs! They are extremely comfortable.  However, I will be completely honest. I buy most of my gym clothes from Poshmark. I’d like to say it’s because I’m being kind to the environment by purchasing second-hand {well, I am}, but I really like their price point the best.

              Gap Breathe Bikini Underwear: These itty bitties are so comfortable I forget I have them on.  Okay, not really, but the comfort is for real.

              Pura Vida Jewelry: It’s by far my favorite jewelry. It isn’t fancy. In fact my friend, Ashley,  calls them my “camp bracelets”. And several 13 year olds have asked me where I got my wave ring.  Whatever, I love the jewelry and their cause.

              fav shoes isle jacobson

              Isle Jacobson Tulip Shoes: I get stopped and asked about these shoes the most out of anything I wear. They are extremely comfortable. Easy to slip on. Bonus, they are washable.

              Tyler Glamorous Diva Laundry Detergent: Actually, this may be the most asked about item.  I’m quite picky about my detergent smell. This one is de-lic-ious!  Clean. Fresh and a wee bit masculine… just as I prefer it.

              Harney and Sons Decaffeinated Hot Cinnamon Tea: In my effort to cut out sugar from my diet this tea has been a life saver.  I must often crave something sweet after dinner. Instead of grabbing a cookie I now enjoy a cup of hot tea.  Not just ANY tea! This particular one has sweet notes to it that make it feel like a treat, yet no sugar added!

              Nalgene Water Bottle: This water bottle goes with me everywhere. E-VERY-WHERE. I’ve found that I do boredom water drinking, especially in the car.  So having it always with me allows me to drink a ton more water.

              Lululemon Hair Tie: As much as I try to wear my hair down, it all too often gets pulled up.  This particular hair tie is kinda cute as a bracelet for the few minutes a day I don’t have my hair up. In addition the size is great for wrapping a few times around for the perfect ponytail.

               I love hearing about what people love. My hope is that you also find it intriguing. Do you have a favorite item you can’t live without?  Drop it in the comments.  

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                10 Easy Steps to a More Disciplined Life

                How to Live a Disciplined Life

                Perhaps you’ve decided you’d like to live a more disciplined life. Okay, so maybe that’s not how you’ve worded it in your mind. Instead you’ve thought things like: 

                I’d like to lose 20 pounds; I’d like to start a business; I’d like to go to the gym on a regular bases; I’d like to be on the honor roll; Or  I’d like to be debt free. All of those things take discipline to achieve. 

                Here are 10 simple practices you can implement into your everyday life that will jump start you into becoming more disciplined:

                Make your Bed: This simple act of making your bed as soon as you wake up mentally prepares your body for productivity. 

                Pay with Cash: If you don’t have the cash to pay for it. You can’t afford it. If you can’t afford it you shouldn’t have it. 

                Keep a Clean Car: Make it a practice to take everything out of your car when you arrive home. Don’t let it accumulate. A clutter space clutters the mind. 

                Wash your Face: You care for the things you value. Good hygiene is a way of saying you’re grateful for the body you’ve been given and therefore you will care for it.

                Get 8 hours of Sleep: A rested person has more energy to tackle hard things!

                Be Thankful: You can’t be thankful & angry or fearful at the same time. Someone who lacks fear is a force to be reckoned with. 

                Pray: Recognizing that you aren’t here on accident, there’s a God who created you,  he has a plan for you and he is crazy about you is a great place to put your trust. 

                Read a Book: Education is a powerful weapon for self-improvement. 

                Take a Walk/Move your Body: fresh air & raising your pulse clears one’s perspective and strengthens the heart. In turn it creates resolve to keep going! 

                Give Hugs Freely: Kindness is contagious. Pass it on. 

                Overwhelmed? Do those sound like too much? 

                Start with one. Start with the easiest one and don’t quit. Do it for 30 days without fail. Then add another one into the mix. Before you know it you will be living a more disciplined life and ready work toward your wildest dreams. 

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                • AnonymousGreat advice!  I’m starting this week!ReplyCancel

                • ChristyKeeping an uncluttered car. That’s a good one for me. Next round of goals, remind me to add that one! ReplyCancel

                How This New Yorker Eats for Under $50 a Week

                Hi everyone, I am back! I’m Ellexa, Sara’s oldest daughter and guest blogger on Simply Sara Anthony. I’m coming to you from my new home for the summer, the big and beautiful New York City. In case you’re curious,

                1. It’s been an absolute DREAM to live here; the bright lights never get old.

                2. Some parts aren’t as glamorous as the movies depict them.

                3. It’s confirmed, the cost of living is not ideal for a college student. 

                I, however, consider myself quite a thrifty 21-year-old. I have some tips and tricks for how I eat in the big apple for less than $50 a week. No, I don’t live off PB&J and ramen noodles. Everything I cook and eat in my home is gluten-free, plant based, and gooooooood.  

                Ellexa New York Healthy Eating

                HERE’S HOW I DO IT. 

                My groceries come from two places:Trader Joes and the local produce stands.

                On average, I spend about $25 at Trader Joe’s purchasing weekly essentials. When I check out I get $10 in cash back to get my fruits and veggies for the week at the produce stands near my apartment. That $35 food investment easily keeps me fed for the entire week for all three meals. Some trips are more expensive than others if I need to refill essentials like oats, pure maple syrup, spices,  and other items they don’t need to be purchased weekly.. The rest of the $50 is set aside for me to shamelessly indulge in the array of restaurants and bakeries tucked between street corners. 

                Let’s Get Specific: 

                Trader Joe’s Grocery List: 

                • Rice 
                • Beans (black, garbanzo) 
                • Rice cakes 
                • Hummus 
                • Leafy greens (arugula, spinach, spring mix, etc.) 
                • LARA bars (5) 
                • Extra fruits and veggies the produce stand might night not carry or are cheaper at TJ’s(carrots, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, bananas, etc.) 

                ** Last week I had to get extra things like peanut butter, coffee, and nuts and my total was $25.

                Produce Stand List:

                • Apples (4) 
                • Peppers (3) 
                • Blueberries  
                • Zucchini (3)
                • Onions (2) 
                • Oranges (2)

                I am always blown away by the amount of food I get at the produce stands for only $10. There are three locations within a block of my apartment. If one doesn’t have what I need,  I can go to another.

                I will admit I was a little nervous the first time I purchased from a produce stand. Honestly, I’ve found the fruits and veggies are fresh, plastic free {meaning less waste}, and have yet to make me sick.

                New York Eating on a Budget

                Meals I Prepare with my Groceries:

                Breakfast:

                Rice cakes topped w/ peanut butter and fresh fruit.

                Chia seed oatmeal with fresh fruit 

                Lunch:

                Various combinations of cut up veggies, fruit, hummus, nuts, and salads.

                Dinner: 

                Rice, beans, and sautéed veggies on a bed of greens. I change up the plants I use to keep it interesting.

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                • ChristyI love this so much! This is so simple. So clean. So thoughtful all around. Thank you too for the specifics!! Curious-  no goat cheese or vinaigrette or anything with the dinners? ReplyCancel

                • JohnI’m so very impressed with my small town Princess surviving in the Big Apple, not to mention driving her bosses’ (Enterprise) late model cars their during rush hour.
                  Just a note on veggies, don’t forget the sliced cucumbers. I think they R your meat substitutes.ReplyCancel

                • JohnI remember “Europe On $5 a day” in 1964, but New York City on $50/wk, wow! You can’t even add eggs to your diet or the subway.ReplyCancel

                • SuzanneMy daughter has lived in Brooklyn for many years and those produce stores are THE BEST! ReplyCancel

                Enneagram 9: The Peacemaking Sloth

                It seems like everyone is talking about the Enneagram these days.  No. Just me? No way. I can’t imagine. Yet, if you’re not up to speed, the Enneagram is a system for classifying personality types.

                 I grew up in a home where my mother loved to figure people out.  As a teen, it was not uncommon for me to have a friend over and Mom would subject them to a personality test.  In fact, when first started dating my now husband, Drew, he was given an assessment so she could “better understand my boyfriend”.  I’m so glad he didn’t run for the hills! It may speak to his aversion to personality tests or personality discussions of any type to this day.  In my mother’s defense, understanding someone’s temperament, what motivates them and their greatest fears is helpful. Maybe not necessary on a second date, but helpful.

                I recently read several books on the Enneagram and took a few tests. I have the results.  I’m officially a 9, the Peacemaker, on the Enneagram. When I read about the Peacemaker is resonates with me so much it has brought me to tears.  The feeling of “other people feel this way; it’s not just me” is enough to well my eyes with salty liquid.

                There are a few things I’ve learned about myself and now that I’m aware of them, there are some things I’ve done to compensate for the “negative” tendencies.  The deadly sin of the 9 is slothfulness.  That highly resonates with me.  I am not internally motivated at all.  In fact, just watching people that are highly motivated { I see you Enneagram 3s. You Achievers you} makes me want to take a nap.

                I do have dreams and ideas in me!  We all do. However, I can easily quit or give up on them if left to my “deadly sin”. 

                 Here are 3 things I’ve done to compensate for my lazy-like inclinations.

                Get Started!  I will let something I don’t want to do hang over my head for way too long and dread it.  Days, weeks, months, even years, yes, years may go by before I will accomplish something I’ve set out to do. If I will just BEGIN, I typically get into the process and then have a hard time stopping.  

                For over 14 years I was a portrait photographer.  I loved my job! I especially loved the editing process. Sometimes editing a session still felt like work when compared to shopping, napping or lunch with a friend. I could easily find things to postpone sitting down and getting to work.  I learned that if I would just GET STARTED I would enjoy the process, actually have a hard time stopping and would complete the work. Sometimes getting started needs an incentive!

                External Motivators!  Implementing an external reward isn’t only helpful for toddlers you want to smile for a photo. It can also benefit a 40-something trying to get her laundry completed for the week.  I’ve been known to tell myself if I complete a certain task I can watch the next episode of the show I’m currently watching.  

                I’ve also been known to give myself consequence for not completing something I have set out to do.  Recently I’ve really wanted to restrict the sugar I eat in an effort to become healthier.  I decided I’d give up all processed sugars for 30 days. If I cheated with even one itty bitty little bite I’d have to start over at day one. Starting over was NOT something I wanted to do and it helped motivate me to a successful go 30 days free of sugar.

                Now, if you’re thinking, “I could not give up sugar for 30 days souly on my own willpower.” I hear you.  I often have to have a safetynet to assist me with my goals of that nature.  

                Accountability.  Enter my accountability partners.  It’s a group of girls all of whom are working at becoming our best selves and we keep each other in check! If you’d like more information on that topic, be sure to click on the box at the bottom of this post and enter your email address.  All the details will be sent to your inbox. However, the gist of an accountability group is that I have built-in deadlines and weekly check in points to help keep me motivated. And when I want to cheat or quit I have a group of girls that cheer me on to success.

                We all have weaknesses. Recognize them.  Know you aren’t alone. And work to improve them. It helps to make you a better human.  Becoming better makes you feel empowered and it’s contagious. Work on becoming the best version of yourself and watch it catch on!

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                  Welcome

                  I’m Sara Anthony. I love keeping things simple, working along side my husband, Drew, & raising our 4 kids. I've dedicated this space to sharing what I've learned about raising teenagers, simplifying our home and staying motivated through accountability.

                  SimplySaraAnthony@gmail.com

                  Located in Southern Georgia