Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of "all things calm & cozy home."

She shares "how-to" plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It's THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Posts by this author:

5 Hacks To Help Kids Fall In Love With Books

When a young person acts as if they’d rather eat dirt than to read a book ….. any book, is there hope to help them fall in love with books and learning?  You better believe it, honey.

fall in love with books

When I hear kids or even adults say those blasphemous words, “I hate reading,” it makes me sad because I think of what richness, depth, and adventure I had lost in the books I read as a young person. Yes, I was a cheerleader, a ballerina, and I was very involved with my friends and church activities – very busy …

But when I got a hold of a good book ….. I could go anywhere and I could do anything. 

I can’t solve the world’s literacy problems or special needs with one optimistic article. No, I’m speaking about the children or teens in your life whose struggle to read is minimal or non-existent because they have chosen not to like books.

I believe they just haven’t found the right book yet. That first book that will ignite a fire within them to jump in for more and enjoy one of life’s greatest gifts.

 fall in love with books

It was my Daddy’s love of reading that helped me fall head-over-heels in love with books. I caught him reading during every spare minute and he read almost every genre – the Bible, history, military, mystery, Sci-Fi, Westerns, you name it. I went with him weekly to the library when he would borrow and bring home stacks of books. I remember that special day he said I was old enough to get my own library card.

My love of learning began…at that moment.

 fall in love with books

When I had my first-born, we shared a love of books and admiration for certain authors. My youngest soon caught the bug and found her favorite genres too. They understand the reality of sadness when a fabulous book comes to an end. They also understand the thrill I feel about sequels and book-to-movie events.

Ahhh, I feel like Meg Ryan when she says in a movie, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does…and I…I’ve gotten carried away, haven’t I?”

For the Love

I can remember the excitement in my son’s eyes when he first discovered 

        • Call of the Wild
        • The Chronicles of Narnia series
        • King Arthur
        • Old Yeller
        • Lord of the Rings series
        • Eragon series

Or when the light came on for my daughter as she fell in love with

I’ve shared lots of belly laughs and many tears with my kids through the pages of great literature. It matters not whether kids receive public, private, or home educations because parents, grandparents and others can always help to instill book love. Dear one, it also doesn’t have to end just because they grow up either…..

Even though we had 642 things to do the day before his wedding, my 22 year-old and I stood in the middle of a huge, two-story Barnes and Noble store a month ago drooling over exquisite, collectible editions to many of the great classic books. We were mesmerized by their gorgeous hardcovers and gold-tipped pages. We talked about the stories held within them that meant so much to us both.

We were both so completely giddy that it was comical. My cup runneth over, y’all. Before leaving the store, he just had to take a buy several of the super-thick classics including the most important classic of all — their new family bible {that they included in their wedding}.

fall in love with books

So what if kids under your influence need help to fall in love with books? There’s always hope. Don’t give up!  Promise me you’ll do all that you can to invest the time as Mom, Grandma, Aunt, Tutor, or friend to help kids and teens become enamored with books.

Help Kids Fall in Love with Books

           1. Let them catch you reading often. Your excitement about reading is key. They will emulate you.

           2.  Read aloud to them. I don’t care if they are 14 years old – they won’t admit it, but they’ll love it.

           3.  Surround them w/literature. Place extraordinary books around your home and spend time in libraries.

           4.  Help them choose their genres.  Allow them to find exceptional books on topics that interest them.

           5.  Talk about it. What did you love about your book? What did they love about theirs? Talk & listen.

We’ve visited many libraries, bookstores, and frequently spend gobs of time on Amazon because of the incredibly useful Amazon Prime which is worth every cent to me for free, 2-day shipping on books we can’t wait to receive.

When they find that book that excites them–they will never be the same. The next ultimate goal can be helping them find joy reading God’s word. There are many intriguing stories of miracles, warriors, dinosaurs, princesses, giants, war, extreme weather, betrayal, forgiveness, and unconditional love. Let them know that many ideas for books and movies got their inspiration from the Bible itself.
Helping this generation fall in love with reading will be a gift to last a lifetime. I hope this was helpful to you and your family.

Question:  Which “fall in love” hack has already worked and/or what you plan to try?
Follow:
Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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Morning Person? 7 Hacks To Make You A Happy One




Ahhh, mornings. Gotta love ’em. Thank goodness for that beloved snooze button, huh? I hear ya. I’m not what you’d call a morning person but rather a self-proclaimed night owl myself. It’s when I come alive. It’s my jam.

But, I’m breaking up with my late night soirees of solitude. I need to spend more time with the hubs {who is not a night owl} and I know without a doubt that staying up affects my health and productivity in a negative way. It’s simply not worth it. And you know what?  Unbelievably, I’ve never been healthier and happier!

Morning Person

Yep, I’ve been easing into this idea of being a healthy and happy morning person for a while and researching to help me find the facts about this old habit o’ mine.  So what’s a girl to do? “Go your fanny to bed, that’s what.” people would say.  But for some, it’s not quite that easy, is it?  Maybe you have a hard time unwinding or you’ve stayed up late for years and can’t imagine hitting the hay sooner.

I’m not really asking you to.

I just want you to look at all sorts of habits throughout the day, right before bed, and throughout the night so that we can help you and me become a better morning person {not just to feel good but to bless our people!}.  Believe me when I tell you — You can do this. You can make good sleep a priority. If I can {someone who used to stay up for 24-48 intervals at a time in the old days}, anyone can.

You can trick {train is probably a more accurate word, but I feel like I’m being sneaky here – work with me} your body into becoming more of a morning person. It just takes time, clear intention, and especially ….. consistency. I’ll confess that this is still a work in progress for me {like how I’ve stayed up later to finish this article}, but I can tell a huge difference in how I feel each morning and it feels GOOOD.

 

7 hacks I’ve learned to become the morning person that you wanna be:

 

1. Set a bedtime routine and be a Nazi about it.  For optimum health, our bodies excel  with rhythm and routine. Don’t let anything short of a crisis get between you and your bedtime. Also, try your best to get up at the same time every day. Yes, even on Saturday!

2. Unwind. Think about those times that you drift off when you didn’t want to, what were you doing? Reading or watching tv while lying in bed? What really relaxes you? Give yourself one hour to chill out before drifting into la la land. That means no electronics, food, or drink. Dim the lights or use a lamp.

 3.  Bow to sleep cycles.  So here’s the short version. Your body basically has about 5 sleep cycles while you sleep {you’ve heard of REM, I’m sure}. If you wake up in-between a cycle, you’re good. If you wake up during a cycle, that could be bad, groggy news. First, you can make sure you wake up at the right time by using the sleepytime bedtime calculator. You can also check your sleep patterns by using the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock App.

 4.  White noise, perfect temps, and darkness are great tools.  There are documented studies that show how much healthier it is for you to skip the “blue” light at nighttime of television and electronics. So get it dark in your room, Sister. Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature helps with good sleep, and how about some distraction-free snoozing with rain or white noise? {I’d love to review a white noise machine!}.

 5. Give the snooze button the boot. If you are relying on that snooze button, guess what?  You need to get more sleep or you aren’t waking up during the correct sleep cycle. Simply check the sleepytime calculator before bed and then set your phone’s alarm to a different sound. Did you know you could actually set the sound of your phone alarm to something not so annoying? It could actually be an inspirational song favorite {like good morning by mandisa}  This alone is guaranteed to turn the grump rate way down.

6. Start with a hardy breakfast to look forward to.  I realize that you don’t have tons of time in the morning and believe me, I do not like to cook breakfast during the week! Ahead of time, prepare one or two breakfast units for the week and chunk them in the freezer like the perfect oatmeal bar or egg omelet muffins.  No protein-rich breakfast you can grab?  Enjoy some oatmeal with a tiny bit of milk and chopped bananas or my favorite balanced, but super-yummy protein shakes.

7.  Start the day with a Sword & a Shield. I believe it’s so powerful when you can begin a day armed with the sword of God’s Holy and inspiring word. Just read a few verses or a devotional entry while you eat your breakfast.  Even better, why don’t you do some old-school calisthenics {you know, jumping jacks, toe touches, etc} or walking while you are listening to scripture or some inspiring tunes? Start with just 10 minutes, honey!
Morning Person

I’m learning to consistently work these seven hacks into my life, but I can already tell enough positive difference that I will keep keeping on in order to finish well.  How about you, friend….. Will you join me?

 Question: Which morning person hacks do you plan to improve?

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Follow:
Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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How I Get Protein-Rich Dinners On The Table With Ease

Last week was officially the first week of the Fabulous Fall Challenge and I promised to share how I get simple, protein-rich dinners on the table without a big fuss. Let’s talk about getting wholesome meals planned and done without the pomp and circumstance. I promise I’ve found an easy way!

protein-rich-dinners 

When Superman and I met, I was a workaholic stylist that didn’t eat very much food, especially meat. Dinner for me usually consisted of a big bowl o’ cereal.  He was a country boy that was used to meat-veggie-potato dinners – if you know what I mean.  

Oh Geesh, this should be interesting!

I had not learned how to cook one single thing growing up and now it was crunch-time. It was just me and the cookbook I received as a wedding gift. I started with convenience meals from boxes, then moved up to semi-homemade meals where I started substituting in real ingredients, and finally I learned how to recreate our favorite southern meals in a healthier way without losing the flava and that resulted accidently in plenty of protein-rich dinners.

The real breakthrough was when I figured out how to plan meals, buy ingredients, save loads of money, and then get those meals on the table in the quickest and easiest way possible. One thang is for sure- if there is a shortcut, I’m gonna find it but it just took me twenty forevers to figure this one out. I’m prayin’ that this helps you bless your family with amazing food but also blesses you because now, you can finally have fun and not dread it like tax season.

What’s amazing is that instead of dreading it, I adore planning, buying and cooking meals for my family!

 

Where to start

1.  Only think about meals for one week at a time

This cuts down on the overwhelming pressure to do too much at once.  I personally try to grocery shop every Friday so I know that I need to have meals to get me to the next Friday…and that’s all.  

2.  Know how many meals this week to plan for

Superman and Princess go on a Daddy/Daughter date so I know I don’t have to plan for that meal each week. Fridays we have “family movie night” so we’ll get take-out and watch a movie unless the hubs wants to grill a steak and potato.  That leaves me with only five meals to plan for the upcoming week.

3.  Look at the calendar for the coming week to see what activities you have planned

I know that each Thursday night, I need to have a crockpot meal because I will be gone most of the day.  I know on another day of the week that we’ll be heading out the door about 5:30 so that night’s meal needs to be quick or on the go.

Now that you know how many nights you must prepare for and how many crazy nights that you will need on-the-go meals, what will you cook?  I start with a list of the {mostly lean} proteins that I will plan my dinners around.

  • Chicken
  • Ground Beef
  • Cubed Steak
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Pork
  • Egg
  • Ground Turkey





Next, I check for any leftover meals in the frig or freezer that I can jazz up, add to, or change completely. I can usually plan a meal from a one leftover meat in the frig with random ingredients. I always have eggs in the frig so I know I could fall back on breakfast-for-dinner if I need to. OK, so if meal #1 is made with chicken, and meal #2 is breakfast for dinner, then I’ll plan the other three meals around the other meats so we won’t get bored.

4.  Check your freezer for meat

Hopefully I can find at least a meat or two in the freezer that I can plan a meal around. This week I found leftover ham we had cooked for our Son’s wedding reception and a pack of pork chops. We typically don’t eat pork that much but guess what? We are this week! I’ll just be sure to space these out from each other.

Yipee, now I only have to purchase and plan for one more protein in one more meal.  Woohoo.  

5.  Add a vegetable and a good carb and you’ve got a meal

You’ll get better and better at this part, and later we’ll talk about using the veggies and carbs that are on sale at your store.

See how easy that was?!  I just wanted to take you through my “thought process” of how simple this can be once you plan around your protein first.

If you need some meal ideas to use with your protein-rich meats, I’ve shared how to cook Cube Steak, Tilapia, Meatloaf, Parmesan Pork Chops Chicken, and Salmon. Next in the series, you’ll come along as I show you how I take the next step and save the most money on those ingredients you do have to purchase to complete a week’s worth of meals. 

 

Lose the stress and get you excited to cook protein-rich dinners for the week

 

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Follow:
Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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October 2015 How-To Monthly

I promised you some How-to Monthly fun for October – snippets of our Southern life, my favorite How-tos, fashion pieces, entertainment, beauty tools, with encouragement thrown in for good measure. Boots, oh how I love fall boots.  Wait, what was I saying?   Oh yeah, it’s October and I’m excited to do the How-To Monthly all again.  Let’s get started, shall we?!

october's favorite how to

Southern Life

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you know that the wedding happened recently between our Captain and E.  You’ve probably heard bits and pieces about our rain-soaked-so-we-had-to-pack-light, reception food-hauling, creek raiding, pampering, stranded-without-our-vehicle, broke-down-on-the-way-home, comical trip.

You see, the wedding was six hours from us and we had to get ourselves, our formal wedding clothes, and the pre-made reception food all the way to North Georgia without incident. Not too big of a deal, right? Except that the night before we left, Superman informs me that since we have to drive the truck {so he can haul the huge coolers of reception food in the bed of the truck} and it is supposed to RAIN when we head out, all of our luggage and formal wedding clothes have to fit inside the truck on one side of the backseat.

WHAT?

Princess and I literally had to cut out one suitcase a piece for everything to fit. Did I mention that we were staying for at least four days and not sure what the weather would really be like?   Super-huge coolers and random items covered in black trash bags, luggage and hanging clothes crammed to the brim, yep, we looked like Beverly Hillbillies comin’ to town.

Yeehaw!

Yep, it rained on us as we began our journey alright.  All of about an hour.  That’s it.  No more rain after that for the entire trip.  Grrr.  It’s OK though because soon I was in one of my absolute favorite places to be…those North Georgia mountains.  We’d rise early every morning and hit the pavement to get a run in while checking out our surroundings.  We were having such a good time that we thought we could throw in a super-quick creek raid before having to do our all-important day-before-the-wedding duties but literally got caught standing in the creek when the bride-to-be called and said, “Come on, let’s get the last minute stuff done.”

“OK, here we’ll head that way shortly,” I said as I stood barefoot with Superman and Princess in a Helen, Georgia creek.  Oh, only us.  I love our spontaneity.  Well, I love my husband and daughter’s spontaneity.  They pull me out of my introverted self!  Anyhoo, we high-tailed it back to civilization and went to help.  E wanted us girls to join the other bridesmaids and herself for some pampering time so we girls parted from Superman and Captain so they could get some groomsmen stuff done.  As the pampering was cranked up in the salon, I start getting texts that the guys were stranded – the truck had shut down.

WHAT?

God is good and a relative nearby {who just happens to work at a dealership} got our truck in the shop and gave us a loaner.  We ended up having time to spend time in Helen Georgia with our friends and family that made the long trek to wedding central.   😉 

To be continued …..

wedding week collage

Let’s get to those How-Tos.  Just know this— the wedding was perfect, sweet, and God-honoring.  I’m so proud of both of them starting their life together on a firm foundation.  

Recent How-Tos

Did you catch all these?

Quick & Easy Cube Steak

How to Fill what’s missing 

How to Submit to your Husband when you don’t feel like it

Fabulous Fall Challenge Begins

 

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October Favorite Thangs

Fall outfit #1:

outfit #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Outfit #2

fall outfit #3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall outfit #3

fall outfit #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Verse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book:

TV Show: 

Photo:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie:

Inspiring Video:

Watch Singing Contractors.

 

Follow:
Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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How To Make Delicious And Easy Cube Steak {video}

How about a quick and easy cube steak recipe for those insanely busy weeks {like this one for me} and for some healthy protein for our Fab Fall Challenge?  This seriously took me all of about seven minutes to throw together.  I paired the easy cube steak {or cubed steak} with a side of field peas and rice.  mmmm mmm   I’ve discovered how to make a healthier gravy these days and hope to share soon, but this week we’re keeping it quick and light.

easy-cube-steak-

 

As long as you follow these simple directions and don’t overcook the meat, gravy is not required!  My secret sauce weapon is the gem called, Liquid Aminos, All Purpose Seasoning.

 

I’d never heard of it before, {thank you Advocare}, but Liquid Aminos is a safer alternative to conventional soy sauce which is loaded with sodium and other ingredients.  We use in moderation and it sure does add lots of flavor to meats.  If that bright, yellow label seems familiar, it’s probably because you have bought Organic Apple Cider Vinegar  from the same Bragg family.


 
How To Make Delicious And Easy Cube Steak {video}
 
Ingredients
  • Cube Steak, thawed
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper
  • Liquid Aminos
Instructions
  1. Pat dry your meat so that salt and pepper will adhere. Melt butter in skillet {cast iron rocks} and cook steaks on medium/high heat for first two minutes to brown on each side, add liquid aminos generously, and then cook 2-3 minutes more to cook throughout.
  2. Let meat rest for a few minutes to retain juices before digging in!
  3. Enjoy
 

Side note:  I failed to mention in the video but included it on your recipe card that you should definitely let the meat rest after it’s cooked to let the juices seal.  If you attack it too soon with that fork and knife, the juices will run out and it may be dry.  

OK, you’re drooling and it’s getting intense in here so let’s get on with that easy cube steak video, shall we?

 

Trouble viewing video?  Watch How to Make Delicious & Easy Cube Steak

 

I told you it was easy.  

So tell me, who’s having super-easy cube steak for Dinner this week?

 

Follow:
Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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How To Fill What’s Missing In 6 Steps ~ Fab Fall Challenge Week #1

The very first day of the Fab Fall Challenge starts with this question:  Why do we feel like a big fat failure when can’t get the following together all at once?

  • Buying groceries at the lowest possible cost
  • Cooking healthy, wholesome meals that actually taste good
  • Planning meals ahead of time with your full arsenal of amazing meals
  • Cooking, serving, and eating healthy most of the time
  • Exercising now and then
  • Getting plenty of rest each night

I mean, are you are doing OK at one or two of these pieces of the puzzle but struggling to get a good grasp or system without stress.  I hear ya, Sista!  I was in the same boat, but wow, I have come so far ~ and I want the same for you. 

fall-challenge-week-one-01

The “help me!” cries of other women have prompted me to not only write an ebook with simple hacks to take care of your home without stress {working on it}, but to also begin a fall challenge for you, that starts today ~ which focuses on just one area of our crazy:  food.  Saving money on it, making it healthier most of the time, and how to get it on the table as quickly as possible.

 

Fab Fall Challenge Hack #1:  Finding what’s missing

We always read about what our bodies need and how many servings we need of proteins, fruit, and blah blah blah. How does this practically happen on a BUSY, daily basis and what does it have to do with what’s missing in your daily food choices?

When your body doesn’t get what it needs, then it will crave {and I’m talking about the good stuff}.  When you fill it with substance-lacking foods {picture: Lay’s potato chips}, it is still craving, so you want more junk because the satisfaction isn’t fulfilled.  On the flipside, if you fill your well {so to speak} with what your body really wants {the good stuff} and consistently, you are less likely to crave the junk so that you can enjoy a goody now and then without guilt.

Here’s the simplistic version of the solution:

As far as foods go, we need protein, good carbs, and good fats, and food should be fueling your body every 2-3 hours.  For most of us, this would look like breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and dinner.  Not rocket science, right?  You pretty much knew that ~ I’m just reminding you.  

We won’t focus on what ingredients are “less than healthy” in each of your meals but rather what good stuff you have in your meals…..

 

  1. Are you eating 5 meals a day?
  2. Are you getting protein in each of your 5 meals?
  3. Are you eating a good, complex carb at lunch and/or dinner?  Here’s an article I wrote about complex carbs last fall.
  4. Are you eating fresh fruit once or twice a day and mixing the variety?
  5. Are you eating vegetables with lunch and dinner?
  6. Are you enjoying some good fat {nuts, nut butter, avocado, coconut, etc} in your two snacks?

If you are not doing one of the six items listed, I’m convinced that you are missing a lot that would fuel you and help you stop grabbing for those chips.  If you are missing more than one of these steps, you can probably see how huge the gaps may be.  Adding plenty of H2O and vitamin supplementation is vital for women but those are topics of other posts.  😉

We’ll spend more time later in the challenge with specific recipes for your 5 meals, but for now, will you spend some time thinking about your current meals you ate over the last couple of weeks.  Were there at least 5 of them each day?  Did they contain the nutrients I listed?

If you answered no to these two questions, here’s my free advice for baby steps to healthier choices on what’s missing:  Start with #1 on the list and master it in a few days.  Then move on to #2, and do the same.  Skip the ones you already do.  Work at doing this every single day this week.

fall-challenge-week-one-02

I’ll be sharing how to get the protein, good carbs, and good fats easily in your simple meals.  So do your homework and keep checking in while doing your best.  Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already so you can join the community of women joining you!

What was missing for you in the 6 steps?

Follow:
Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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