How to Make the Most of Your Staycation

It’s not surprising that more people are choosing to stay home when they have a holiday. Termed a Staycation, it’s a nickname for just that – staying at home instead of traveling. The latest coronavirus outbreak in China has given everyone the spooks, but over the years there have been multiple reasons to stay at home rather than travel, such as terrorism, natural disasters, plane crashes, outbreaks of gastro on cruise ships to name but a few. Other reasons may be ill health, economic or commitments at home.

My husband and I try to make the most of our annual leave and travel either overseas or within Australia. Our time off is precious to us because we both work odd hours and can go days at a time where we barely see each other. He has to go away for work sometimes, and I do shift work.

I am currently on annual leave for 2 weeks, and my husband only has one of those weeks off so I find myself with some time to myself. So that I don’t waste this time, I’ve compiled a list of tasks to do. It’s a chance to do things uninterrupted. I thought I’d share some ideas that other people may find helpful, to make the most of their Staycation.

  • Get on top of chores e.g. spring cleaning, yard work, gardening
  • Make appointments to the Dentist, Optometrist, skin clinic, etc. for your six monthly or yearly checkups.
  • Have coffee or a meal with friends and family you haven’t seen for a while
  • Visit the local art gallery, museum or historical society
  • If your town/city is in a touristy area, be a tourist for a day and go to a theme park or local attraction
  • Invest some time in yourself. Have a day of pampering at a spa, do a course on mindfulness or meditation, get your hair restyled
  • Read a book, do some craft or another hobby that you usually don’t have time to do
  • Cook some meals in batches to freeze for when you’re back at work
  • Rent accommodation or go camping in a nearby area that you wouldn’t usually stay. I often have a weekend away in a unit or house I’ve rented through Airbnb, in a town or suburb within an hour or two of home. That way we can feel as if we’ve been on holiday without the outlay of transport costs. I’m constantly surprised at the difference it makes to have a weekend away without going too far from home – it’s enough to revitalise you.
  • Declutter and sell or give away all the excess “stuff” you have. Your holiday at home might end up making you some extra cash
  • Do a short course to learn a new skill
  • Do any repairs around your property or organise for tradesmen to do work while you’re at home. We’re getting our roof repaired and repainted while I’m on a staycation
  • Rearrange the furniture in one room, redecorate it, add indoor plants or change the soft furnishings. Just giving one room a new look will be uplifting.
  • Plant a herb garden or some vegetable seedlings. If you don’t have a garden, use pot plants. Adding fresh herbs and vegetables to your diet will improve your health and wellbeing
  • See a movie or concert with a friend
  • Take your children or grandchildren to the park or beach. Make the most of your local area and spend quality time with the younger generations
  • Make the most of not having to do anything to a schedule. Sleep in, stay up late, have a rest during the day or exercise every day. You’ll go back to work refreshed and feeling great

You certainly don’t have to go out of your way or clock up a huge credit card bill to enjoy a vacation. Globally, the increased fear of traveling due to disease, natural disasters, terrorism etc., will lead to more people staying home. That doesn’t mean you should feel deprived – make the most of it! I’m such a homebody that I never feel as if I’m missing out by having a staycation.

I’d love to hear about my readers’ ideas for a staycation. Do you usually go away, and if so, are you considering staying at home for your next vacation?

Make the most of your holiday at home

The Half-Empty Nest

A week ago my son moved out of home. I knew it was coming – he’s nearly 25, but it still caused an upheaval in my life all the same. I have my other son at home still, so the nest is only half-empty, but I’m feeling a sense of loss akin to grief that only another mother could relate to.

This is the son who I bonded with immediately after birth when he latched on in the delivery suite. It was complete love at first sight with my second baby. My first baby had been born three years earlier when I was mourning the death of my mother, and this meant my bonding with him was affected by post natal depression and anxiety, and from not having the one person there for me – my mum, whose presence would have made such a difference to a new mother. He had colic as well so he cried a lot. In contrast, my second baby was a calm, relaxed and cuddly child, and I was a more experienced and confident mum.

For years my second son was my shadow – he clung to me. As he grew our bond was strengthened by our similar sense of humour and enjoyment of banter where we fed off each other, talking about diverse subjects at great length to the bemusement of the rest of the family who didn’t really ‘get’ us. Our mutual love of animals and our taste in music, our enjoyment of cooking together, and our daily walks with the dogs meant that we spent a lot of time together over the years.

My son went through a period of depression a few years back and he dropped out of university. 18 months later he decided to re-enroll in a different course in another university. I told him then that I would be keeping a close eye on him to make sure his mental state didn’t suffer by taking on another course of study. Our conversations became more in depth as I didn’t hold back with communication – I needed to make sure he was ok this time around, and that the pressure of studying, working and internships didn’t impact his mental health.

To my absolute joy he thrived under pressure, and was able to take on a heavy study load while working almost full-time and doing two internships at the same time. He was more motivated to accomplish his goals when his schedule was full. He completed his degree in communications, public relations and journalism in just over two years.

He applied for jobs all over Australia in his chosen fields, and was keen to start his new career and get out of the crappy retail position he’d held since the age of 14. He struggled to get so much as a reply to his application, and the few interviews that he attended did not even bother to let him know he’d been unsuccessful. After six months of knock-backs we were both disheartened and incredibly disappointed. For me as a mother, it was like a stab in the heart to watch him go through this. Honestly, I do not know what is wrong with employers these days – they do not even send out an email to let applicants know they’ve been unsuccessful. No wonder young people struggle to find a job, and when they do, there’s not the sense of loyalty that we had to our employers. I’m disgusted by how rude it is – the least they could do is send out a polite email thanking them for their application and telling them they have been unsuccessful.

So my son stayed in his retail position, stayed living at home and gave up on applying for jobs. My husband and I went on holiday and while we were there my son rang me to tell me he’d quit his job. He couldn’t work there anymore – it was making him ill, both physically and mentally. He was getting migraines nearly every day and spiralling into depression again. Of course I was stressed about this and begged him to reconsider. His employers met with him and pleaded with him to stay as he is a hard worker and reliable employee, so he dropped back to casual and took on another job (retail as well!).

Then he decided to go back to university and do his Masters Degree in Secondary Education – he’d be able to teach high-school English and History. I wrote about it in my last blog post Don’t Hold Back . He was all set to start university this month and then out of the blue he decided to move out of home and take on a full time position in his new workplace. Just when I thought he was set on one path, he did a 360 and has now put off going back to university just so he could move out of home.

Our household has been in turmoil for the last few weeks – quite a few deep discussions have occurred between my son and I as I attempt to persuade him to reconsider this decision. But he was set on this path and has now moved out. My main concern is that he’ll regret this down the track, and that he won’t be fulfilled in his current job as I know it won’t be challenging enough for him mentally. He needs a job that will stimulate him intellectually for his own well-being, and he acknowledges that but is still keen to spread his wings and become a fully functioning adult by cutting the apron strings.

I was fine until I drove toward our house the evening before he was due to move out, and I realised it would be the last time our family of four would sleep in the same house together. The floodgates opened and I couldn’t control the tears for the next 12 hours until I had to show up for work again. It felt like I was grieving for my father again – he’d passed away 18 months prior. That’s understandable because it is a loss, just like all the other losses I’d experienced in my life. I’d had the same reaction when my mother and sister had passed away, and when I separated from my ex-husband. No-one died obviously but I was losing a massive part of myself all the same.

I was prepared to be emotional because my son and I had been together during several of the hardest periods of my life, and despite his youth, he had proved to be an incredibly resilient person and very supportive, emotionally mature and caring. When my father was suffering from cancer and spent the last few months in and out of hospital, it was my son who came with me to New Zealand to see him. I leaned on him more than what a mother would normally do with their son but his strength of character showed that he could handle this. He did it willingly and generously, not holding back from seeing the brutality of his grandfather dying from pancreatic cancer. We grew even closer from that shared experience. We both felt honoured to have spent that time with my father, who, despite being in pain and hallucinating from his condition, displayed utter peace at being so close to dying. He was praying that God would take him and he had incredible faith right until his last breath.

If my son had moved out a year ago I would not have coped as well as what I have, because I was still grieving my father. For anyone who has lost someone that close, you know that the acute stage of grief varies. It has been different for each person I’ve lost – my mum when I was 24, my sister when I was 45 and my dad when I was 52. But eventually it becomes easier to bear. So in no way do I feel that my son moving out is in any way as bad as losing someone who has died – I still see my son, he’s only 20 minutes drive away. But it won’t be the same without our daily walks, our cooking sessions and our nightly banter at the dinner table.

I’d love to hear from you, my readers – how was the empty nest for you? What helped you to adjust to the gap left in your life? Do you still miss your children or are you enjoying the freedom of not having dependents at home? My immediate way to adjust was to clean out his room and turn it into a study for me. A space where I can write freely without interruption, and decorate it according to my taste, in soothing colours. I write surrounded by my pets who are great company.

My New Writing Space
My pets keep me company as I write

How to Grow your own Sprouts on your kitchen bench

Sprouts have many health benefits: they are full of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins such as Vit. D, A, zinc, biotin and iron, fibre which aids digestion, and omega-3 fatty acids. The process of sprouting enhances the nutrient value of grains, legumes and beans. They are easier to digest when sprouted, allowing our body to utilise the nutrients easily. While they are full of nutrients, they are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them without worrying about the calorie intake.

To buy them from the supermarket is relatively expensive and they have to be used within a couple of days. I usually end up throwing most of them out because they deteriorate too quickly. By growing my own, I can have sprouts at various stages of growth so that I have a steady supply. They are very easy to grow – you don’t need a garden for these! They can grow on your kitchen bench in a jar and only take about 3 days to grow.

Equipment Required

  • Clean glass jar. You can use any jar for this but a medium sized jar is best
  • A sprouting lid which has wire mesh to allow air to circulate, and water to drain off the sprouts. I have made do with the foot end of a pair of pantyhose stretched over the mouth of the jar. A piece of muslin or cheesecloth and a rubber band would work as well.
  • Sprouting seeds e.g. alfalfa, red clover, mung beans, chia seeds, broccoli, wheat, radish, soybean, mustard, lentil, sunflower seeds and pea shoots. Anywhere that supplies seeds should have them, and they will say sprouting seeds on the packet. Health food stores usually supply them too, and you can buy them in bulk online. It’s best to buy special sprouting seeds because they are free of bacteria and are packaged in a controlled environment. Using lentils or other seeds from the grocery store is not as safe because they are meant to be cooked, meaning that they may not be free of the bacteria that causes salmonella or e. coli gastroenteritis.
  • I use a tea strainer to strain the water off as some of the seeds are very small. The rinsing and draining process is important as you don’t want them to sit in stagnant water.
Equipment used to grow sprouts and sprout seeds

Steps

  1. Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar. Cover with warm water and leave overnight – 8 to 12 hours
  2. Drain water off (I use the tea strainer to drain it through). Rinse a couple of times until the water runs clear. Do this morning and night. Leave them pointing downwards so that the water drains well.
  3. After a few days the sprouts will be ready to eat. Put them into an air-tight container in the fridge and eat within a few days.
Sprouts growing – day 2 to day 5

You start a new batch of sprouts every couple of days to ensure a continuous supply.

Enjoy them in salad, sandwiches, wraps or stir fries.

Using sprouts in a salad

Don't Hold Back


My motto for this year is don’t hold back. For years I’ve left things on hold because of lack of self confidence. Last year I finally started my blog after having it on hold for 6 years! My confidence last year was inspired by my weight loss and new zest for life because I had more energy and felt good about myself. Once I had started writing, it just flowed. I have written in journals all my life but finally I am writing for other people! I’m learning new skills and connecting with other people who have a passion for a healthy lifestyle. Once I could see the possibilities open up to me, it flowed on to other aspects of my life. I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years but I’ve held myself back in my career even though I’ve studied and obtained other qualifications. Whenever a career opportunity has come up I’ve always said to myself that I can’t apply because I don’t have those skills or experience in a particular area. I’ve decided the best way to fix it is to get those skills! This is the year I’m finally going to give myself permission to learn new skills so that I can go for those jobs. If it means stepping out of my comfort zone then so be it. By learning new skills I’ll be opening myself up to working in areas that are much more suited to my stage of life – that being someone with chronic back pain who can’t work a day without it causing severe pain, and insomnia so bad that the shift work I do is intolerable.

My older son has always had a dream to be a film editor. He got the nickname “Steven Spielburg” when he was only very young because he was always filming on our home video camera. He’s been slowly building up his portfolio of work by doing free work for his niche industry (music and tour videos for bands). His goal is to be an editor and he’s been planning to go back to University to study towards this. He said to me a couple of days ago that next year he would start applying for editing jobs and if he doesn’t get one by the end of next year he will go back to studying. I said to him, “Why not do that now? You’re ready for it. This is the year we should all decide that we’re going to go for it. If we’ve had a dream to do something for years, then this is the year we will do it. What have I got to lose? I’m 54 this year and if I don’t do it now I probably never will.”

With that I could see the light-bulb moment shine in his eyes and he said, “You know what? You’re right! What have I got to lose? I’ll bring my plans forward to this year and start applying for editing jobs”. I’m glad my influence can inspire someone else to follow their dreams.

My other son finished a degree in journalism and communications a bit over a year ago. He applied for many jobs but was pretty let down by the lack of response and his dream was shattered. Mid last year he decided to look into going back to university and studying teaching. He’s had the dream of teaching since he was a child. I can remember him telling me that when he was at Primary school himself. It was always “Plan B” and something to do when his writing career was stagnating or he was settling down to married life and had a family. So he looked into university courses and decided to apply for a Masters course to become an English and history teacher- not some time in the future, but now, this year! It meant taking a few more history subjects at university last year but if he’d waited till this year it would have been one more year before he’d been able to start his Masters.

So this year is going to be the year that we don’t hold back. No more procrastination or self-doubt. Just go for it and give it a go. What have we got to lose? Nothing! But if we let self-doubt hold us back, then our dreams will be on hold for another year and another. So my message today is – If anything’s been holding you back, figure out why? What is it that you lack? If it’s skills or experience, then study or find a mentor. Volunteer or work freelance, or work for free to get some experience. Do a course or just learn it from books at the library or Youtube videos or online courses. Whatever it is, don’t hold yourself back. What have you got to lose?

How to Make a Healthy Burrito

Burritos are easy to take to work, can be as healthy as you want, and always go down well in my household. I usually serve them with all the ingredients in individual bowls, then everyone can just make them with their favourite ingredients.

To take them to work, I roll the wrap and cover it with Glad wrap. In a separate container, I take the filling. Then I can assemble the burrito at work. We have a sandwich press in my lunch room at work so I can toast the wrap as well.

This burrito uses the Super Spinach Salad, lean ham, shredded low fat cheese and corn kernels in a white wrap

How to Make a Burrito

Put a wrap on to a dinner sized plate. Assemble the filling on the wrap as shown in the photo. Don’t overfill it

Step 1: how to make a burrito

Fold the bottom half up

Step 2: how to make a burrito

Fold sides in

Step 3: how to make a burrito
Step 4: How to make a burrito

Pick it up and enjoy! Use a sandwich press if you want it toasted

Step 5: How to make a burrito

Ideas for fillings

  • lean meat or chicken
  • omelette
  • any salad ingredients – see my recipe for Super Spinach Salad for ideas https://midlifestylist.com/2020/01/10/super-spinach-salad/
  • sauces and salsas
  • shredded cheese
  • chili con carne
  • beans e.g. kidney beans, nachos-style re-fried beans
  • Asian stir-fried greens and vermicelli

Total Calories for Burrito as shown in photos: 289KCal, Carbs 30.8g, Fat 11.4g, Protein 16g

Super Spinach Salad

This is the salad recipe that I have used many times over. It is delicious, versatile and healthy. The basis for it is just three ingredients, then you can customise it to suit your taste.

Basic recipe

  • 60g baby spinach ( or approx. 2 cups, or half a bag of spinach from the supermarket
  • 250g cherry tomatoes (or two large tomatoes cut up)
  • 1/2 continental cucumber (or 1 Lebanese cucumber)

Method

Rinse spinach in a colander. Break off stems and remove leaves that are blemished. Wash tomatoes and add to spinach. Cut up the cucumber and add to spinach. Place in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last about 4 days.

30 kCalories per serving, total recipe 90 kCalories. Serves 3 for mains, 5 for side dish. 2g Protein, 6g Carbohydrate, 0g fat

Super Spinach Salad: the basic recipe is baby spinach, tomatoes and cucumber

Now Customise!

Optional extras

  • olives
  • feta cheese or shredded low fat tasty cheese (see note at bottom of recipe)
  • red onion
  • avocado
  • roast baby beetroot, skinned and diced
  • celery
  • corn kernels
  • snow peas
  • carrot
  • red capsicum
  • cos lettuce
  • radishes
  • sprouts
  • nuts, e.g. pine nuts, sliced almonds, pistachios
  • seeds, e.g. quinoa, flax seed, sunflower seeds
  • dressings, e.g. vinaigrette, Greek or Italian salad dressing, low fat mayonnaise
  • lean protein – grilled chicken breast, low fat ham or bacon (grilled), tin of tuna in low fat sauce, boiled egg
  • fruit, e.g. mango, apple, pear, dried fruit such as apricots or cranberries
  • herbs, e.g. parsley, chives, mint

My favourite combinations

Basic recipe plus:

  • olives, feta cheese and Greek dressing
  • chicken breast, avocado, snow peas
  • Feta cheese, baby beetroot, celery
  • cos lettuce, boiled egg, low fat mayonnaise
  • small can of tuna in sun-dried tomato and onion (John West brand, 99% fat free)
Super Spinach Salad with Fetta Cheese, Olives and Greek Salad Dressing

Meal Prep Idea

Make the basic salad, divide into 3 portions. Each portion is your lunch. Take the extras to work separately and add just before you eat it, then the salad won’t go limp and soggy.

Alternative way of serving: take a wrap to work, and combine all ingredients as a burrito https://midlifestylist.com/2020/01/10/how-to-make-a-healthy-burrito/

A healthy burrito using the Super Spinach Salad, ham, corn kernels and shredded cheese in a wrap

Note: a serving size of feta cheese is 20g, or a piece the same size as your first finger. This equals 53 calories. 2 Tablespoons of shredded cheese = 74 calories

My favourite apps for a healthy lifestyle

I’m one of those people who needs to keep a track of everything. I like to be organised and plan things in advance. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, I use a few apps to help me and give me incentive. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to keep a track of their exercise, weight, and dietary intake amongst other health goals.

Fitbit

This is an obvious first choice for me because I wear my Fitbit all day and night apart from showering and charging it up. It counts my steps, number of floors I’ve climbed, how many calories I’ve used, my heartrate and how many hours I sleep per night. I also use mine to track my calorie intake and my weight and water intake. Every week it sends me a summary of everything and gives me incentive to continue with my goals. I do challenges every week with a group of other people and am in a few support groups such as Healthy Eating which is like a forum. The most helpful aspect of the app is the calories in vs. calories out section. As long as my calorie intake is less than what I burn off every day with exercise, I’m on track to maintain a healthy weight. I also like the weight tracker where I can see graphs of my weight and fat percentage over time.

fitbit weight graph

Fitbit macros graph and calories in vs calories out

Samsung Health

I have a Samsung mobile phone which came with a free health tracker called Samsung Health. It is very much like the Fitbit App where it can track steps and exercise sessions, weight and sleep, but the reason I like it is that the calorie intake section is better than the Fitbit App. While the Fitbit is more accurate in counting steps and sleep, the Samsung App. has an easier calorie counter to use. It is possible to save numerous types of food in the data bank which makes it easier to track your diet as you go along. I generally eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch so it’s very easy to save a whole meal in the favourites section, or to work out how many calories are in a meal. Calorie counting is very tedious for most people but I find this App. makes it really easy for me to keep control of my eating. Keeping to 1500 – 1800 kCalories per day has been the way I’ve lost 17kg and been able to keep it off. The breakdown of my diet into macros (percentages of carbs, protein and fat) is very useful, and it goes into further detail by telling me how my diet is in relation to vitamins and minerals.

Samsung Macros graph and Vitamins and Minerals

Smiling Mind

I have been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. Doing shift work doesn’t help because I feel permanently jet lagged. Even with pretty strong sleeping pills I still have a lot of trouble sleeping. The Smiling Mind App. has been a Godsend to me because I’m usually lulled into sleep within minutes of listening to one of the sleep meditations. There are programs for Mindfulness, Stress reduction and improving relationships amongst other things. There are other Apps designed for meditation but this is the one I return to time and time again.

Apps that I use every day for tracking, insiration and ideas

Clever Guts

If you’re a fan of Michael Mosley then this is the App. for you. My brother and I have both lost weight using his programs, my brother with Intermittent Fasting and me with The Clever Guts diet and Mediterranean Diet. There are recipes, videos and podcasts on this App.

Health Calculator

I use this App. to work out my BMI ( body mass index) and there are also calculators for body fat, ideal weight and basal metabolic rate. I find that the body fat and ideal weight calculators aren’t very accurate but the BMI is easy to calculate using your weight and height. I use a website called calculator.net to calculate my body fat percentage, as I find this much more accurate. To compare, my body fat percentage is calculated as 35.55% on the App, and 28.5% on the website. The website uses gender, age, weight, height, neck size, waist size and hip size while the App only uses waist size and weight so that is why I prefer the website. It’s a handy App to use but I’d recommend only using the BMI calculator.

Pinterest

While not strictly a health App, Pinterest is a great source of information. I can look up thousands of recipes, ideas on food prep, motivation for exercise and self care, and links to bloggers around the world who talk about a myriad of different topics from plant sources of protein to growing vegetables. I follow many different Pinterest boards focused on living a healthy lifestyle. They have opened my mind up to many different ways of thinking, especially about diet and self care. I doubt if I’ll ever buy another recipe book because I can find exactly the recipes I need on Pinterest.

Pinterest search for healthy recipes

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner

Recipes have been created by many different contributors so there is a huge range of great recipes on this App. I can collate favourites and create a collection under different headings. I can also create a shopping list for the ingredients. It’s a handy App to use on the go, for example while I’m out shopping I can quickly look up the ingredients I need to make a particular recipe.

In summary, these are my favourite Apps that I use to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I would love to hear from you if you find any of these Apps useful, or any suggestions of Apps that you use.

We use our phone continuously throughout the day so try using Apps to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle