Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reframing Life Events as a Success Strategy



I've written about reframing (a different way of looking at a situation by changing its meaning) before as a means to take some frustration out of the day. It came up again in my recent post about using Valentine's Day, not as an excuse to binge on champagne and chocolate, but as a resolution reminder.

It got me thinking about just how important reframing is in creating a life that is happier, less judgemental, and more encouraging both to ourselves and those around us.

Read my other post about reframing here.

If you are a regular here you know that I love self improvement and personal development just about as much as I love bees and gardening. I read very little fiction because I prefer to read biographies and learn from the life experiences of other people. I also love to read stories about people surviving the most tragic situations. And boy do I love a good rag to riches story of a successful entrepreneur!

My new love though, is podcasts. While most people are listening to their favorite playlist on Spotify (I have one too, though my family would make fun of it) when I'm in the car or on the treadmill I prefer to listen to people who are at the top of their game sharing how they got there. As Tony Robbins says, "Success leaves clues." The best of the best have a lot in common.

A clue that I keep hearing repeated is reframing, though people don't always use that term. 

 Recently Ed Mylett interviewed UFC Champion and Fox Sports Analyst Dominick Cruz. Now I'll admit that I'd never heard of him and almost skipped this interview because I cannot stand to watch this sport. Still, one thing I have learned in adulthood is that I can almost always learn something from interviews and books about athletes even though I'm not sports minded or athletic myself. Doesn't matter. The rules of life are often the same regardless of the context in which they are being applied.

So I listened. Here's the link: Knocking Out Your Weaknesses: Dominick Cruz and Ed Mylett

One of the key take aways from this interview is "These things didn't happen to me. They happened for me." 

This is how successful people use reframing to their advantage. They see all the deprivation, pain, loss, and disadvantages they've endured as fuel, as opportunity. They do not see those things as excuses. They also see the bad stuff as what make them strong and gave them the grit to carry on when things got  tough. To keep going long after most people have given up because it's hard. They frame their hardship as a necessary ingredient in their success.

What about you? Are you reflecting on some negative thing in your past and holding on to it with bitterness and regret or are you using it as a catalyst for change? Maybe you can use it as a marker of how far you've come. Owning it as something that happened for you to make you the person you are now will serve you now and in the future.






Saturday, February 17, 2018

My 2018 Healthy Habit Trick and a Recipe for Thai Curry Soup



I've already told you that for 2018 I chose a word instead of a singular resolution. I've done this before and it's worked great because it tends to get infused into a lot of different areas of life. Last year's word was Creativity and I feel like it did help me be super creative. The word of the year is kind of like that app on your phone that runs in the background, but instead of draining energy it adds it.

This year's word is nourish. 

Whenever I go to eat something, the word nourish pops in my head. Well, usually. It was nowhere to be found while I stuffed lemon squares into my face during a recent flea market. Many times so far this year I have had something in my hand or already in the glass and thought Will this nourish me? I don't even want this. As much as I love a good cocktail by the fire this little trick has even made it possible for me to save that treat for restaurants. If you can have a glass of wine or slice of cake only when you eat out, it greatly reduces both the opportunity and amount available.

I'd never go in a restaurant and say "Can you bring me half a cake in little slivers at a time because the chef is just evening it up?" But if I have a cake at home I may do exactly that. Okay, I actually have done that! And brownies, and cookies, and that time I made pralines...

Where was I? 


One of my favorite winter foods is soup. To me, it just says NOURISH. I have a Healthy Meals Pinterest board. Although you'll find some not so healthy pins on there as well. I recently pinned a yummy looking Thai Coconut Curry Soup. Thursday I cooked some stock overnight (chicken stock is something I have high standards about, unlike, say, frozen pizza) and, knowing I was making this soup, added some frozen lemon grass from the garden.

Here's the link to the original recipe from Key Ingredient. 

Here's the ingredient list.

Meat
  • 2 Chicken breasts
Produce
  • 1 handful Bean sprouts
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, roots
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, leaves
  • 1 small knob Ginger, frozen
  • 2 Green onions
  • 2 stalks Lemon grass
  • 4 Lime, leaves
  • 2 Limes, zest and juice
Canned Goods
  • 2 cups Chicken broth
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans Premium coconut milk
  • 1 heaping tbsp Thai curry paste
Condiments
  • 2 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 1 Sprinkle or two of salt or soy sauce
Pasta & Grains
1 (8-ounce) package Rice noodles

 You could easily make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock and eliminating the chicken, or pescetarian by using vegetable stock and substituting shrimp. 

I added mushrooms and some shrimp.  I skipped the noodles and the bean sprouts I had were canned. I also omitted fish sauce because I can be weirdly squeamish about food and that sounds disgusting. It's the same reason I have no interest in home made kombucha. My main kitchen goal is to not have anything living on my counter.

You can see why this isn't a food blog. 

Y'all! This soup was amazing!  I'll definitely be making this again and frankly, it's all I can do not to have the leftovers for breakfast this morning. 

So there you go. When you don't know how to initiate change, pick a theme word and make some soup.

 Ya gotta start somewhere.





Thursday, February 15, 2018

How to Create a Portrait Style Selfie


I snapped this pic yesterday when I was keeping my grandson and he fell asleep on me. There was no fancy lighting or camera equipment. I took this with my iphone 7. It wasn't posed. We were sitting there and I simply reached for my phone.

Proving once again that photographers' quip about the best camera:

The best camera is the one you have with you. 

A couple of things made this into a really good shot.

First, my daughter and son-in-law have a home that is mostly white.

Second, we were sitting in a chair facing a large window.

Third, no one is looking at the camera, making it feel like a legit portrait and not a selfie. 

Lighting is everything when you are trying to get the best photo whether it's of yourself, the dog, or a birthday cake. This was also a cloudy day, perfect for providing flat even light that creates extra exceptional lighting with out fancy equipment. Even though everyone loves sunlight it can be the killer of lovely photos creating harsh angles and shadows.

This photo I took of my daughter's family last October is further proof that overcast is a photo blessing. I took this with my Canon Rebel and not my phone, but my point here is about the light.


On a sunny day this would have been a challenging photo shoot, but the natural light was fantastic. For photos I take of other people and for selfies I avoid the flash. It is very rarely flattering and selfies are by nature, up close, so stick to natural lighting.

Most photos I see people take are too far away. Don't be afraid to go close. For some shots a Selfie Stick might be helpful, but to create an intimate photo it's putting too much distance between the camera and subject. 

Use the editing features in your camera app to make the photo looks its very best. I was wearing a bright red shirt in the original version which I felt detracted from the quiet feeling I wanted in the finished photo. Some photos look best in color, like the family shot above and others look better in black and white. Try them all to see which one is best for your image. 

Taking selfies can seem like a Millennial self absorbed activity, but that moment will never happen again. So peaceful. So candid. I'm thrilled to have a record of it.

Here's the take away:

Keep your phone handy.

Keep the background in mind.

Find great natural lighting.

You don't have to look at the camera.

Turn off the flash.

Get close. 

Feel good about capturing the moment.

Feel free to edit to get the look and feel you want.

Did I mention the lighting, y'all? Lighting is everything! 




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How to Use Valentine's Day for a Resolution Check Up


Valentine's Day is a great day to take a moment to check in on how we are doing with those resolutions.  Why it's not too late to resolve great things for 2018. 

I'm a big fan of fresh starts. I love waking up on the first day of a new year and imagining all the ways I'm finally going to perfect myself in the next 365 days. Then January second rolls around and I just want to eat a box of cookies on the couch watching Notting Hill for the four thousandth time.

Anyone else? 

So here we are six weeks in. I like to use Valentine's Day as a day for a resolution check up.

 Mostly because eating healthily and exercising are two of the things on my list as well as most everyone else's. All those hearts floating around in the middle of February can be put to use as reminders of why we made resolutions in the first place and to help us get back on track if we've given up.

💖 The two most popular resolutions are to eat a more healthy diet and to exercise. Both of those are good for your heart health. Of all the reasons to get moving more and improve our food lifestyle fighting off heart disease is at the top of my list due to family history. So while it's an ongoing quest I do still resolve to improve every year. Valentine's Day is the perfect day to focus on the why and not just the how.

💖 Maybe one of your resolutions was to improve relationships, strengthen your marriage, make new friends, or stay connected. Again, let the hearts remind you that the people you love and care about are a main priority in 2018. And you won't be around for those you love if you don't take care of yourself!

💖 Was your resolution to get organized? Remind yourself that one way to love yourself and your family is to be able to find things. Think about how good it makes your heart feel when you can find what you need or you wake up to a clean kitchen. As The Fly Lady says "It's like your house is giving you a hug."

💖 Valentine's Day is also a great day to make that doctor's appointment or check up you've been putting off. How about using it to make that dreaded dental appointment. The health of our teeth and gums is directly linked to heart health.

💖 If you are a creative and want to make sure you get some work done every day (see yesterday's post) think of it in terms of putting your heart into your work. You might even save a valentine or pick up a heart trinket for your desk to serve as a fun daily reminder. 

If you don't have any hard and fast resolutions, you might want to use this month for making minor repairs and completing nagging tasks. Here's what I accomplished last February.

Give yourself a little treat for the day either as a reward or to jump start a resolution. I've been struggling with making my 10,000 steps while the weather is cold but also because using my phone for that means that no steps I take without my phone count. It's discouraging to have my phone say I took 242 steps because the only time I had it with me was going to and from my car. At the gym I lay it on the treadmill and at the store I put my purse (with phone inside) in my cart.

As a Valentine treat for myself I ordered a Fitbit that will arrive today. That means I can put it on when I get up and get an accurate count. In the past a "treat" might have meant letting myself have a sugary pink cookie or a few chocolates. You do know "a few" means the whole box, right? Your treat could also be a massage, yoga class, or magazine. Find a way to reward yourself that doesn't involve food.

If you need some help with making changes and learning what works and what doesn't when building new habits read, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

So whether you have been trudging along diligently with your resolutions or you abandoned them on day two, this is a great week to either give yourself credit or just start again. Keep going and do not give up!

We all need more than one chance a year to get it right. 💝




Saturday, February 10, 2018

Creative Work: Quantity vs. Quality



We usually hear the quality vs. quantity debate swirling around parenting. But just like my recent post about tension and balance, quality vs. quantity is applicable to lots of other areas but particularly creatives and their work. It's one of the reasons I decided to go from about one post a week to a non-negotiable 3 posts even if I don't think I have anything earth shattering, gorgeous, or new to share.

Read Why I'm Posting More in 2018 here. 

This week while making a batch of soap I was listening to Jordon Harbinger's podcast The Art of Charm and this subject came up again. While we all want to create quality work, whatever it is we do, we are much more likely to do that if we are creating a lot of work instead of sitting around waiting for inspiration  or a lightening bolt of genius. Sometimes, I've noticed, making a lot of crappy work helps a lot in eliminating things that don't work or aren't all that great and doing all of that allows my mind to sink down to where the good stuff is.

I cannot tell you how many times ideas and inspiration come while I'm doing the work.

If you are stuck and can't get inspired, are out of ideas, or have writer's block, just do some work. This is where I have to recommend Steven Pressfield's masterpiece of motivation, The War of Art. A major theme of which is putting your ass in the seat every day and getting your work done.

I'm mimicking Pressfield there. He writes this book like he's talking to you at the bar while you do shots of tequila. 

I've recommended a ton of books on creativity to my son who is an artist, over the years and he hasn't read them. He returned this book to me telling me it was the message he most needed to hear.

If you aren't a creative this is still an important piece of advice. Doing a quick swish and swipe daily in the bathroom, as recommended by The Fly Lady, is more effective than a deep cleaning once a month.

Daily workouts that aren't particularly long or strenuous are more effective than the killer kickboxing class once a week.

And of course,  spending a lot of ordinary time with your kids is way more important than planning the perfect family vacation or over the top Christmas morning.  

One last word about quality. If you have talent the quality will show up when you do. Sitting around waiting for it or talking about it is often just a high sounding ego-centric ticket to the do-nothing ball. We just want to masquerade as people who don't have any bad work.

If you are getting anything done, you have crappy work and a lot of it.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tension and Balance at Home and in the Garden


While writing this week about my shopping excursions and loot I'd collected I mentioned that I'd had a period of cleaning out, for the past few years since losing 3 relatives whose possessions I had to cope with. Also the kids moved out and I had to deal with everything they didn't choose to take with them. Then there were repairs and painting and last January a massive room by room reduction in stuff.

Everything was so fresh and clean I kept reducing, and getting rid of things. There were lots of blank surfaces. It felt great.

Until I reached a tipping point. The point when it went from clean and fresh to sterile and cold. I'd had colorful walls for years and painted them all white as a clean slate to start over. The house was on the verge of losing its sense of cozy. I carefully added a few things.

The Hive Guest Cottage is a great example of the process! See the pics here. 

As I mentioned in the last post I also deal with this same scenario in the garden.

But as I thought about it more I realized this is all part of the tension or balance of life. Something in the brain craves both a sense of visual order as well as stimulation and interesting things to look at. Plus I just adore looking around a room at treasures collected on travels or favorite books I've read. This search for balance occurs in other areas of life as well.

I have spent tons of time thinking, talking with friends, and trying to work out what would be the ideal capsule wardrobe, for instance. I've even written about it. But after a few weeks I notice there are still things I never wear and something I need to dress for that then sends me out shopping. I'm often guilty of over purging.

For years I've thought I could put this puzzle together but I'm beginning to realize that I may have to be comfortable with a pendulum that swings back and forth a bit. Minimalism is never going to work for me even though part of me feels like it's a "should." There has to be a sweet spot somewhere between that and the next episode of Hoarders. But I'm okay with thinking that target might shift a bit one way or the other depending on what's going on.

Read about how I rediscovered and rescued our lost tool shed. 

I've learned that my tolerance and/or appreciation for things changes with the seasons. I love seeing more books displayed in winter, for example. In the summer I put lots of things away to make room for fresh flowers.  My "summer look" is definitely cleaner which I associate with cooler. In winter more stuff equals cozy. There is a warmth to layers of favorite objects. Cozy also means a lot more color and texture.

In the garden I finally achieved a certain amount of balance by letting the cleaner landscaping rein in the front yard and fostering my love for all things cottage and rambly in the back. A classic solution. I like a front yard that looks more "managed" even though I still have more going on than most people. In the actual garden I like definite areas, some wilder than others.

Creating areas is a great solution indoors as well. I don't think you can have too many trays. Something about a collection or tablescape on a tray says "this is a contained mess." Much easier for my brain to handle.

In an upcoming post I'll discuss how I've been adding color back in.

That's right, Joanna Gaines. I said color.




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Soul Mate Treasure Hunt


I've had a few years of paring down, clearing out, and editing. Only recently have I allowed myself to indulge in adding a few things back in to create a cozier mix. After toying with minimalism while cleaning out other people's possessions, I've realized that my Pinterest boards and Instagram feed are full of lovely collected rooms with rich details and color. There was so much stuff that wasn't even selected by me to start with that being ruthless was necessary for a period. That clean slate means I now get to curate things I treasure and that spark my feelings of hominess and creativity.

Read about my purging phase here. 

The pendulum has swung inside just like it does outside where I swing between clean landscaping and an overgrown cottage style. I've come to the conclusion that the perfect tension between the two may not exist at all. The search for it is a pressure I can let go of.

Why don't I just do what makes me happy whether it's cleaning out or collecting?

As I mentioned in a recent post I had been saving some shopping to do while I had companions to enjoy it with. The problem with flying anywhere is asking "But how will I get it home?" when you happen upon a treasure. This was a problem my friend, The Food Maven had while she was visiting last week. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as she eyed some darling find.

She still had some fantastic finds and so did I. Here's the run down of what I picked up:

8 silver mint julep cups


a double lamp for between the twin beds in The Hive Guest Cottage


a very large antique jar


two small silver vessels




one teeny tiny rose plate from Paris




a duvet cover for the guest room. I've decided to let my love for pink have free rein for a while. I cannot tell you how over white and grey I am.


dish towels (from IKEA that I made into pillows for the guest cottage beds)



 lidless honey pot with bear. How cute is this?


 The most expensive thing here is the lamp at sixty-nine dollars. The least expensive thing is the rose plate at less than two dollars. Best buy is the king size IKEA duvet with shams marked half off from forty. I'll cut it down to size and use the excess for pillow trim or other details. The most interesting find is that little silver dish from the La Salle Hotel in Chicago, which was the site of a tragic fire in 1946 and was demolished in 1976.

Shopping with friends is something that I'd forgotten I enjoy so much. I am in such a habit of buying necessities online it was great fun to shop as a form of socializing and entertainment for a change.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Let's Talk About Sleep



I was recently out with my husband and some friends to hear a local musician we all love. Around 9:30 I started to feel super tired. I'd worked all day but wanted to participate and not be a kill joy. I'll be honest, in the winter when it's dark when you leave to go out I really struggle with anything that goes on past about ten o'clock.

Read about creating a bedtime routine here. 

None of this was lost on my group who have known me a long time and there were more than a few jokes and comments. I get it. The night owls do not understand me any more than I understand why they aren't up at 5 AM getting their day together.

Two words: Circadian Rhythm.

While lots of people are careful about the food they eat or what they eat or what medication they take and getting to the gym, far fewer people realize the importance of sleep. As a matter of fact, in our culture, it's practically a badge of honor to brag about how little sleep you can get by on. A lot of people will tell you that they feel fine, but it's because they've become used to a low level exhaustion that they don't even recognize anymore.

Arianna Huffington wrote a whole book about it called, The Sleep Revolution. 

In the spirit of full disclosure early to bed and early to rise comes naturally to me. It always has. I'm all Ben Franklin that way. In high school I had one of those digital alarm clocks where the numbers physically flipped over like in Groundhog Day. Every night I set it for 6:00 AM. It never went off. Not once. Every morning I would wake up, and look at the clock to see 5:59. So I'll admit to being a little weird about the whole sleep thing.

Man, have I seen a lot of beautiful sunrises though.

I've written about this before but since a lot of people are still working on their New Year's projects and resolutions I propose that you might want to consider your sleep habits.

Here are my rules for getting the best night's sleep: 

1. I have a bedtime. Yep. Just like a 10 year old. I stick to it religiously if I'm at home. 10:30 is the cutoff. If I'm watching something interesting that goes beyond that I just set the DVR. The real goal during cold and flu season is 10:00 and if I can be in bed with a book at 9:30 it's a bonus.

2. No screen time in bed. Not even the Kindle. Light from all our devices signals to our brains we should stay awake.  Bedtime means reading a physical book and that the TV, phone, and laptop are banished to the den, dining room, and studio.

3. In the winter I start getting ready for bed right after dinner if I'm at home. This means I brush my teeth. The added bonus here is that it signifies the end of eating and prevents nighttime snacking. The main reason I do it though, is that getting ready for bed can feel like a chore that I put off if I'm really tired so I try to take care of some things throughout the evening.

4. No news before bed. Just no.

5. I use a diffuser with lavender next to the bed and a noise machine. When traveling I have a white noise app on my phone. Drowning out random noise is very helpful.

6. This should have been number one. I don't wait until I feel tired and/or sleepy to go to bed. The bedtime is the same regardless of how I feel. This is the main mistake most adults make, they don't see the need to go to bed until they feel like it. An overactive overstimulated mind at the computer or watching TV is a terrible barometer of how much sleep the body needs.

7. I think of my bedtime routine as pampering and self care.

8. I don't keep any business-y type things in the bedroom. That's what the office and a desk are for. Anything that looks like it might promote over-thinking or worry are banished. Do all work someplace else.

9. Unless I'm sick the bed is only for a couple of things and one of them is sleep.

10. If I wake up and can't go back to sleep within 20 minutes I get up, get some water, maybe read a bit, then go back to bed.

If you are feeling sick, run down, and exhausted changing your sleep routine is a good place to begin getting yourself to a healthier state.






Thursday, February 1, 2018

What Makes You Happy?


What makes you happy and are you doing it?

I'm currently reading Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project, and I'm up to the chapter about making time for and researching what you think is fun. Like Gretchen I sometimes do things I think I should do as opposed to what I want to do or what makes me happy.

While I thought about this and how much fun I had shopping with my friends this week I realized I had given up a lot of scrounging around in little shops and arranging and rearranging things in my house because I felt like I ought to spend less time doing those things. Much in the same way that I feel I ought to enjoy parties and museums when what I like much more are rearranging books on a shelf or creating something.

I wish party invitations filled me with excitement the way they do my daughter, but the truth is I prefer small gatherings and quiet evenings. Yet I think weddings are lots of fun.

I hate staying up late and can even feel resentful about it.  I adore being in bed "on time." I was recently out with my husband and some friends and everyone began poking fun at me around my bedtime. That's okay. If I don't take good care of myself no one else is going to. 

My circadian rhythm is something I feel is important to my health.


Read about my bedtime routine here.

 I love getting up early enough to catch the sunrise. I usually dislike classes and instruction of any kind and prefer a trial and error method of learning. But then I just love to instruct other people in the very way that I hate.

I know. I'm a tangled mess of contradictions, but I think we all are.

And a lot of things I used to think were fun and interesting I am apparently just kind of over.

Like being overly informed. The news junkie in me has died a quite unceremonious death and I find that my happiness is increased by not knowing every boring detail of some current debate. I also find that while I used to so freely share my opinion, I very often now sit quietly and listen even if I know that someone is misinformed and plainly wrong about something (well, usually). Both research and my own experience has taught me that few people actually want to know the truth. They only want their own opinions to be confirmed or to argue. Not only that, they actually see the truth as threatening. All that arguing and debating I used to engage in, was a huge waste.

Not fun any more. I'm out. Please refer to Google.

I've noticed that part of being an adult is accepting that change is inevitable and it's perfectly fine to say that you just don't enjoy something that you used to or that a lot of other people do. I'm sending my husband off to a Super Bowl party alone because I've spent the last week and a half being super social and what sounds like fun right now is having the game on in the background while I work on something creative.

Of course that doesn't mean I wouldn't have fun if I went. I'm sure that I would but since it isn't really an intimate group of friends it also means there's going to be small talk which I find exhausting. Plus I won't want to stay out late and if I don't go my husband doesn't have to worry about if I'm having a good time. Do men do that? Last week I went to see The Greatest Showman with friends. One friend who had seen it previously with her husband said she enjoyed it so much more the second time.

"I didn't have to worry about if you were enjoying it."

I'd love to know if this is a female phenomenon. Do men enjoy things more because they aren't so consumed with whether or not anyone else is having a good time?

So what about you? What makes you happy? What doesn't give you any joy at all that you do because you feel like you should enjoy it? What have you given up because it wasn't fun anymore?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Recapping Soul Mate Reunion 2018







How is the week up already? Today my friend and soul mate headed home and we didn't even do half the things on our list!

We may have been overly ambitious. For instance, yesterday our plan was to go to Sheffield's Antique Mall, then hit all the little shops on the Collierville Town Square, and have lunch someplace darling.

That was until we stayed in Sheffield's for four and a half hours.

But it was so fun! We met another old friend (from our photo remake) there and we all adore picking up every beautiful dish and plate, laughing at things that you wonder why people ever purchased (like the Richard and Pat Nixon salt and pepper shakers), and imagining the homes some of the most beautiful objects came out of. And of course wondering if vintage gas masks would be good protection from this wicked flu season.

Much to our dismay, this entire week we did not find our way to one single bookstore. Who are we?  

We did however make it to both Muddy's locations. I guess that's who we are.

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Here's the complete list in absolutely no order whatsoever: 


Me and Mrs. Jones: Germantown and Overton Square
Maggie's Pharm
Movie: The Greatest Showman
Kendra Scott
IKEA
Goodwill
Southern Vintage Antique Mall
Sheffield's Antique Mall


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Here's the food run down: 

Original Muddy's 
Muddy's Grind House
Sushi Jimmi
Babalu
The Second Line
Booya's 
Seikisui  
Owen Brennan's
IKEA Cafeteria



Evenings were spent sitting by the fire with the animals and occasionally the husband. Every moment was filled with all manner of fond memories of past adventures, silliness, and laughter.

How did we not take one single selfie?

No. Seriously HOW?



*gas mask photo by The Food Maven