Sunday, January 31, 2016

100 Things to Be Thankful For: 121-140

  1. Winter birds
  2. Happening to catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset
  3. Snow days!
  4. Spending an afternoon baking 

  1. Getting around to projects long cast aside
  2. Living in an apartment complex at which the office staff really cares about residents
  3. Getting lunch with friends during the work week
  4. My special "snow plow" for cleaning off my car

  1. Home hair-highlighting kits
  2. Twist-able, no-sharpen colored pencils (the big pack!)
  3. A closet with an organizational system beyond "just throw it somewhere and shut the door"
  4. Finding the perfect tufted storage bench at Marshalls
  5. New hand towels for the bathroom, just because
  6. Joining a just-for-fun jazz ensemble
  7. New reeds that play like a dream, no breaking in required

  1. My beautiful saxophone, Yoshi Yanagisawa, which apparently was waiting patiently for me to pick it up again rather than falling into disrepair

  1. 800 songs to learn
  2. Sporadic evidence that I once knew how to improvise
  3. The calming effect of age--I have significantly fewer cussing outbursts while practicing now
  4. The amazing thoroughness of YouTube. I can find a backing track for just about anything!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How to Cozy

When the forecast is calling for some serious winter weather, different people take different tactics for preparing: there are the classic milk-bread-toilet-paper hoarders, the survivalists loading their carts with batteries and salted hams, those who perhaps would rather not be snowed in with their feelings (24 bottles of wine in the shopping cart), and those who are just going to make the best of it. I place myself in the latter camp--I do not like being cold and wet, shoveling snow, or being stuck inside for days, but I do like the feeling of being warm and cozy in my little apartment. Your version of warm and snug might be different from mine, but here is how I get my cozy on.

Cozy Essentials: The 5 C's
  1. Crochet - Pick out a small project, so that you have something pretty to wear when you inevitably have to go back to work.
  2. Cake - Baking a cake is something to do with a tasty reward, and it's nice to be in a toasty kitchen on a blustery day. 
  3. Coffee - My caffeine game must be on point if I'm going to be cooped up indoors. Otherwise, it's headache city.
  4. Coloring - Because if you're going to give it a try, a blizzard seems as good a time as any.
  5. Candles - Lighting a candle immediately ups the cozy quotient by a factor of 4, and they're pretty practical if the power goes out, too. 

(plus a lantern and batteries, just in case)

I had been resisting the coloring trend, because I felt like it was a cop-out for people who think they should meditate but don't want to. Also I couldn't find a coloring book that I liked, until I found this one, "Whatever is Lovely." I bought it at WalMart while I was out stocking up on the other C's (and bread and soup and whatnot), but it's probably on Amazon as well. Here is my verdict on coloring: It is a really easy way to get into a state of flow, hence the meditative aspect, and it is legitimately relaxing and enjoyable. However, I still don't think it's a true replacement for meditation. I don't think 10 minutes of coloring could bring me down from a major anxiety situation quite like 10 minutes of actual meditation can, so color to your heart's content, but you may still want to have meditation in your emotional tool box.

Once the 5 C's are covered, you need cozy socks, warm pants, and a big hoodie, because you should be covered in softness while you color and crochet. Plus, pajama pants usually have an elastic waistband, just in case you eat a bit too much cake.

The "Perfect Size" cake, all whipped up.
Speaking of too much cake, for me, comfort food is a big part of creating a feeling of coziness. But, of course, if I go nuts, I know I will regret it. Maybe at 21 I could have sat around eating cookies all day and felt great, but, at 31, I feel terrible if I have a giant carb-fest. Cabin fever does not pair well with an upset stomach. 

There's also the practical consideration of weight gain. I will not be as active in my apartment as I would have been if I had done normal things like going to work, running errands, or heading out for a hike. Bake cookies or a cake and enjoy them, but don't throw the healthy eating habits you normally have out the window the second you see a snowflake. Eat a vegetable or two. Drink some water. Finding that your jeans don't fit anymore when you head out to shovel snow is like a loud record scratch through your warm and fuzzy snow days. Keep that feeling of ease and relaxation going by keeping things reasonably healthy and active, so you don't spend your next workday morning frantically searching for something that fits.

Happy Snow Days! Stay Warm!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

1000 Things to Be Thankful For: 101-120

  1. Bioluminescent dinoflagellates
  2. Gas station impulse buys that make a drizzly trip more snuggly
  3. When the heat turns on just as you're taking off your coat on a chilly day
  4. 'Insight from the Dalai Lama' page-a-day calendar
  5. Cuddles with the other Dolly Llama
  6. A decor fresh-start on the cheap
  7. Target clearance finds
  8. This goat cam
  9. An afternoon of tea-sipping and magazine-reading
  10. Practicing old traditions
  11. Starting new rituals
  12. Welcoming strangers
  13. Driving through parts unknown
  14. A sermon that puts into words things I've been feeling
  15. New earrings
  16. Stumbling upon the perfect biscuits and gravy
  17. Finding a new delicious flavor of coffee
  18. The feeling of freshly-vaccuumed carpeting under my feet
  19. Seeing the snowflake icon in the 10-day weather forecast (don't toy with me, phone...)
  20. Feeling like you're in the right place at the right time

Sunday, January 17, 2016

For Anyone Who Has Ever Felt Adrift

Purveyors of inspirational stationery supplies love the Emily Dickinson line "dwell in possibility," and it's easy to see why--it's basically permission to daydream. But have you ever come to a crossroads in your life at which essentially anything is possible and you find yourself dwelling in possibilities like, "What if I don't get a job?," or "What if I never find a place to belong?" Classic times for this sort of dwelling-in-negative-possibility include after college/grad school or the aftermath of a break-up. School or the relationship were "life anchors" of sorts, giving you a fixed constant, and, when that stability is gone, it is both exhilarating and terrifying. 

Of course, those life anchors just gave us the illusion that we're settled on a defined path. Life is such that anything is possible at any time, both good and bad; it's just more obvious during the times when you feel like your life is a giant pile of loose ends. There's nothing stopping me or you from going down the road of anxiety and worry during these pivotal life moments, but, if you read the poem from which the line is taken, it seems to me that Dickinson was writing from a place of both positivity and possibility. 

Anchor-less is not the same as rudder-less. We can always set a course for great things. Maybe we don't always have control over where our metaphorical ships come in, but we can chose to imagine wonderful things, and live our lives in ways that increase our odds of having them. (And we can learn to be our own anchor, but that is a topic for another day.) Dwell in possibility, but not without positivity. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hit of Happiness

Some things that gave me a hit of happiness this week:

Ironic candy packaging

Hearing from these guys on Instagram and eating their sour cream coffee cake

Being pretty like I mean it

Model walking to this song

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Off the Board & Into the World: One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

My version of One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
Today marks the beginning of a new project: Off the Board & Into the World. Like many dedicated Pinners, I find myself looking over my boards and thinking, "Someday I'll use this..." But someday never seems to come. Possibly because I'm too busy adding more and more pins during the time I could be using to actually follow through on the ones I already have.

Together with some Facebook and Instagram friends, I'm going to make a concerted effort to spend more time doing and less time Pinning. First up in this grand experiment is the recipe for One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese from Damn Delicious.

Here's what I pinned:
Pin it
My result is shown in the image up top. Not too shabby, huh?

The Verdict: This dish really is damn delicious. You get the creamy, cheesiness of a mac and cheese with the heartiness of a chili. Nutritionally speaking, you get more fiber and protein from the beans than you would from a regular mac and cheese, but it's just as tasty. The recipe was easy to follow and lends itself readily to swaps based on preferences (I subbed ground chicken for beef) and what's in your pantry (I swapped pinto beans for kidney beans and mini penne for elbows). Very filling and satisfying, and if you, like me, have frequent cheese cravings this is a good way to squash them without overdoing it on the dairy. 

Would you like to productively Pin along with me? Follow my 'Off the Board & Into the World' board, and I'll invite you to add the Pins you've committed to bring into the world. If you take a picture of your creations, use the hashtag #offtheboardintotheworld on Facebook or Pinterest so we can share the fruits of our labors!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Resolution: Take Good Care

In the past, I've made dramatic resolutions (spending hiatus!), specific resolutions (do crow pose!), and feeling-based resolutions (feel mindful!), and none have been spectacularly successful. This year, I'm going to do something different and just resolve to take good care of myself as best I can most of the time. Most healthy resolutions are, afterall, really just a declaration that you intend to take better care of yourself in the year to come.

How could I not take care of this little beauty?

While my resolution is purposely loosely-defined, I do not naturally excel at exceptional personal care, so I came up with a touchstone. When all I want to do is eat a pizza and fall into bed at a ridiculously-early hour, I will envision my 8-year-old self, and ask myself what kind of care she deserves. While I don't have much trouble setting aside the needs of my current, 31-year-old self, I have a much harder time denying that sweet little girl. She deserves healthy food, a clean home, and time outdoors. She deserves to spend time reading good books and working on craft projects. She deserves to spend time with family and friends. She definitely ate pizza from time to time, and that's fine, but it's all too easy for adult me to get in a habit of making poor wellness decisions when no one is looking. I want to make this the year that I take excellent care of myself, simply because I am worthy of it, and my inner 8-year-old is going to help.