craft verb \'kraft\ to create with care, skill and intention

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Challenge ~ Week 2

Last week, I posted about kicking off this challenge. I said I was sick of being tired and needed to take better care of myself. Would you believe that the very next day I got sick?! No worries, it was just a cold and I am definitely on the downhill side of it now. I guess I really was letting myself get too run down!

I hope that you are all well and that you are feeling rested and hydrated :-) The hardest part of last week's challenge for me was the sleep part. Once the kiddos are nestled all snug in their beds and the house is quiet, I don't ever want to go to bed! I want to stay up and knit in the quiet, or read in the quiet, or watch non-animated TV shows in the quiet. So I found that I just have to give myself a bedtime. Right now, it's about 11:00. Once school starts and I have to get up earlier, my bedtime will have to be earlier, too. And every night I have to tell myself the same thing I tell the kids when they complain about their bedtime: "This is not a punishment! Your body needs a certain amount of rest everyday and it's my job to make sure that you get it!" I have to admit that I don't really like it any more than the kids do.

As for drinking plenty of water, that's pretty easy for me. I like water. I feel better when I drink a lot of it. But if I'm not intentional about it, I can easily forget about drinking enough water during the day. Here are the things that help me out:
  • Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Before I even grab a cup of coffee, I gulp a glass of water.
  • If I want a diet soda when my energy starts to lag in the afternoon, I let myself have it. But I drink a glass of water first.
  • I fill a reusable water bottle (aluminum bottles at the dollar store ~ woo hoo!) with water when I leave the house. When I get thirsty in the car I sip from that instead of swinging through a drive-thru. 
And the final portion of the challenge was to do something nice for myself, so I gave myself a little manicure yesterday evening. Did you do a little somethin' somethin' for yourself? Oh, I so hope that you did. You deserve it!

Now on to this week's leg of the Take Care of YOU! Summer 2011 Challenge. Of course, we are going to continue to get enough rest and drink plenty of water, but we are also going to add a couple more healthy habits to our routine!

Over the years (almost 35 ~ yikes!) I have learned some things about myself. One of those things is that the very second I put myself on any kind of restrictive diet, I immediately begin experiencing overwhelming cravings for whatever it is that I am supposed to be restricting. If I go on a low-fat diet, I crave cheeseburgers. If I go on a low-carb diet (which I do love, btw), I crave fruit. Fruit! It's so ironic to me that I crave fruit. If I always craved fruit like that I probably wouldn't even need to diet in the first place! Ack!

Anyhoo, just in the last couple of years I have learned a related lesson about myself. When I put myself on an inclusive diet instead of an exclusive one, a remarkable thing happens: the snowball effect. Here's what I mean. Instead of telling myself I can't have X today, I tell myself to go ahead and indulge in X, just be sure to get in all of my servings of vegetables for the day. And do you know what happens most of the time? One of 3 things:
  1. I am so focused on what I am supposed to eat that I forget to think about eating X.
  2. I am so pleased with myself for making such healthful choices that I don't want to eat X.
  3. I am so full from eating all those veggies that I couldn't possibly indulge in X.
But it's like I'm tricking my brain because it feels like I am making empowered choices instead of being deprived...even though going on a restrictive diet is a choice it often doesn't feel that way. That's why it's like tricking my brain. I know it's convoluted, but it works for me. And when I start to feel empowered, I want to continue to feel that way, so I just keep making better and better choices for myself and the whole thing builds up like a snowball.

Here's another related lesson: If I try to add too many changes at one time I will end up scrapping the whole thing altogether. If I decide that this week I am going to get 8 hours of sleep every night, drink 8 glasses of water everyday, eat lots of vegetables everyday, eat a yogurt everyday, etc., it just gets a little overwhelming. By taking it a little bit at a time each change just becomes part of my daily routine.

This week's challenge is to eat all of my servings of vegetables/fruits (for me that is 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies) everyday and also to consume a serving of yogurt or a probiotic drink daily. ALSO, I pledge to do 2 nice things for myself this week. Are YOU up for the challenge? It's time to Take Care of YOU! Join in the fun, your bod will thank you!

Be good to yourself!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Take Care of YOU ~ Summer 2011 Challenge

Okay y'all, here it is: The Take Care of YOU Summer 2011 Challenge. Are you guilty of putting yourself at the bottom of your to-do list? I am guilty as charged!! Let's band together to offer each other encouragement and support as we pledge to take better care of ourselves. I'm sick of being tired and here's the first prescription: plenty of rest and lots of fluids. 

I'm stuck in an unhealthy cycle of staying up waaaay too late and then drinking caffeinated beverages all day long to maintain my chipper personality keep myself awake. So my first challenge is to make two relatively small changes: I will go to bed early enough to allow myself 8-9 hours of sleep per night and I will drink 8 glasses of water per day.

While these two changes are small, their health impacts can be huge. Check out this article on WebMD on the effects of chronic sleep deprivation. You might be surprised by just how negatively your physical and mental health is impacted by depriving yourself of even 1 hour of sleep on a nightly basis. Don't feel like reading the whole article? Let me hit the high points for you: In addition to obvious short-term problems like accidents, injuries and cognitive impairment, if you're skating by on 4 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis you could be setting yourself up for serious long-term problems. Heart failure, high blood pressure, psychiatric and mood disorders, and even obesity have been linked to sleep disorders and chronic sleep deprivation. Here's an article on Huffington Post that explains how sleep loss may be hindering your efforts to lose weight. You may already know how much sleep you need to be at your best, but if you don't, another article on WebMD can help you figure it out.

We already know we should be drinking more water, right? It's just that it can be so tempting to grab that diet soda instead ~ especially when you didn't get enough sleep the night before and you need a jolt of caffeine to rev your engine :-) Just to be clear, I'm not pledging to give up caffeine or to drink ONLY water, but by drinking 8 glasses of water a day I expect to decrease the number of other beverages I consume. Now you may be saying, "But Brooke, studies have shown that the whole '8 glasses a day' rule is junk!" Okay, there may not actually be anything magical about 8 glasses of water. But I figure 8 glasses of water a day is not going to hurt me (drinking 800 milliliters in an hour WILL hurt you, so let's practice moderation), and if I am replacing less-healthful options with a glass of good old H20 then I am bound to benefit.

In addition to these two changes, I am also pledging to take the time to do something nice for myself this week. It will be something that makes me feel pampered like painting my nails or doing an at-home facial or something similar. To recap, here's the challenge for the week:
  • Get more sleep!
  • Drink more water!
  • Do something nice to pamper myself!
Are you up for the challenge? Join the fun and pledge to take better care of yourself! Leave a note in the comments so we can all support each other :-)

Laurie's hosting another great party this week! For reals y'all - at the time I linked up there were already almost 600 project links!! Check it out for some awesome inspiration!
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Ideal Woman

Friends, I hope you will excuse me and my behavior today because I'm feeling a little pissy. It all started on Friday when I got online to do a little blog surfing. So, it probably actually started loooong before that, but I digress. Anyhoo, my homepage is MSN ~ I should probably change that to help prevent incidents like this in the future ~ and as soon as the page popped up I was greeted by this article/photo series called "Celebrity Bikinis He'd Love (or Hate) to See You In." Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. I don't know why (okay, I have some ideas), but the whole thing just hit me wrong and really pissed me off.

So I did what any sane mother-of-five with a to-do list that is longer than she is tall would do...I tossed aside all of the things I should have been doing and spent an embarrassingly large portion of the day scouring the internet trying to find what it is REALLY that men want in a woman. Because you know what? I find the whole idea that what men really want is a celebrity-type woman in a bikini ~ and not just any bikini: as the article points out it has to be the right bikini, no matter how hot the lady is who is wearing it ~ anyway, I find that idea really insulting. And not just to women, but also to men. Real men. Like the real man I'm married to.

I guess what I was hoping to find in my internet adventures is some kind of evidence to support the urban legend that what women think that men want is not the same as what men actually want. You know, like how women think that men want a bikini-clad celebrity style woman but that men really think that sexiness is about exuding confidence. I hate to tell you this, but I found no evidence to support this idea. The internet is full of articles about what men want and it basically boils down to this: boobs. Yep. Breasts. Ta-tas. And the bigger, the better.

Here's an interesting little tid-bit: Of all the articles I read, some written by men and some written by women interviewing men, I never saw a single photo of any of the men making the claims about what constitutes an ideal woman. After a while, I determined that these men - alright, let's call them boys (after all, most of them were in the 22-26 year old age range) - are likely knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers living in their parents' basements and that made me smile :) And the women they are describing are what they consider to be ideal sex partners, not necessarily ideal life partners.

You may be wondering why I even care about any of this. I am a happily married woman. But I still desire to be desired. I want The Hubs to think I'm hot! I want him to be proud when I walk into his office! When we go on a date I want him to look at me and think, "How did I land a chick like this?" 

"Celebrity Bikinis He'd Love (Or Hate) To See You In" \\ Actress Selena Gomez in fuchsia bandeau bikini \\ Photo: Getty Images Entertainment
Yeah, Selena's got it going on. There's no
doubt about that! Photo by Getty Images.
But reality's a bitch, isn't it? And the reality is that I am exhausted. Here is a taste of what I do in a day - it is probably similar to your own day. I am a cook, a maid, a nanny, a teacher, a book keeper, a taxi-driver, a nurse, a personal shopper, a gardener, a therapist, etc. I think you get the idea. On top of wearing all of these hats, I feel pressured to maintain a calm demeanor and a sunny outlook. There is also pressure to use my "spare time" to pursue my own interests so that I will have something to talk about other than "just" the kids. Oh, and at the end of the day I should look like Selena Gomez if I really want to keep The Hubs happy. You must be joking.

But it's not just a joke. It's a lie. It's all a big fat lie. The people who are trying to make you believe the lie are trying to sell you something. Do you want to know the truth? The Hubs thinks that I'm the ideal woman. And your hubs thinks that about you. That is why, out of all of the women in the world, he asked YOU to marry him. I'm not perfect and neither is The Hubs, but we are perfect for each other.

I'm not saying The Hubs would be disappointed if he came home one day and I greeted him at the door looking like that pic of Selena up there, but The Hubs is realistic (and mature) enough to know that an 18-year-old hottie would last about 5 minutes in our house. (And he has no patience for tantrum-throwing divas.)

I know this is kind of a weird post, but this is my place for working things out and I've been working this out all weekend. It's likely that most of you are better than I am at not taking this kind of junk quite so seriously. Sometimes I guess I just reach a threshold and go nutty on it. The internet, the movies, the television shows, the magazine racks at the grocery can all just be a little much. And maybe you sometimes feel the same way.

So I've decided to do something about it (besides just this rant) and I am hoping that you'll join me. Because it is possiblethat I have let myself go taken "taking care of myself" off of my to-do list. I haven't done it on purpose. It's just that, with SO many responsibilities, sometimes something has to give. And something may have to give, but it doesn't always have to be me. And it doesn't always have to be you.

I'm going to challenge myself to do things a little differently and I'm extending that challenge to you, friends. I'm going to start taking better care of myself and I'd like for you to do the same. I want to make some changes and I want these changes to last, so I'm going to take baby steps. Won't you join me? I'll be posting soon with all the deets :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Patio Furniture Makeover!

A while back I showed you a sneak peek of a project that, at that time, I hoped to complete and show off in just a few days. So now it's been a month :) Better late than never is becoming my personal mantra!

Some history: About 5 years ago, we were the lucky recipients of a really nice, gently-used wrought-iron outdoor dining set when my sister-in-law bought a new set. After 5 years, however, it was not looking so nice anymore.

A few years back I fell in love with a similar set that was bright cherry red. I came across it at a local plant nursery and I have never seen anything like it again! And since we were going to have to put some fresh paint on it anyway...well, you see where this is going right? A few Several Many cans of Rustoleum Sunrise Red later:

I picked up a drop cloth at Lowe's for about $12.00 and I only ended up using about half of it, so $6.00 for this project. I cut out pieces of the fabric to make cushion covers for the chairs and ties to hold them on. I just made the covers by folding the pieces in half, seaming up the sides (sewing ties into seams along the way), stuffing them and sewing the back closed. I made the ties by making strips into double-fold (not on the bias though) tape and sewing along the edge. Easy peasy.

I got those pads at Wal-Mart. A 2-pack is about $7.00 and I needed 2 packages. Stuffed the cushions, sewed them shut, added a couple of stitches in the middle to give them little tufts and stenciled on designs using acrylic craft paint. Including the cheap stencils and craft paint, the total project cost was less than $25.00 for all 4 cushions. When I shopped Home Depot I found plain beige cushions at $28.00 EACH! Ouch. Even with the many cans of spray paint, this entire makeover cost much, much less than 4 new cushions at a big box store. Woo hoo!

I love it! I hope you're having a great time with summer vacation! If I don't make it back before the weekend, have a safe and fun 4th of July!

Come to Meg's party!
A Little Knick Knack

Check out the party at Tip Junkie's! Literally HUNDREDS of projects!
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Come to Beth's party at A2Z. You'll find lots of great project inspiration plus some awesome pics of Beth's West Virginia vacation ~ gorgeous!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Week in Review - Peru and Brazil

Last week we "traveled" to Peru and Brazil and we had a wonderful time!

We ate FABULOUS food! You will definitely want to try these: Lomo Saltado, Fruit Espuma, Feijoada. Especially the lomo saltado! It is so delish that The Hubs asked me to start making it once a week.

To celebrate the traditional weaving done in Peru, we made woven bookmarks. I used instructions that I found on Craft Stylish. We were about a nickel short of a total project FAIL when it suddenly clicked for everyone and we ended up being successful. My sweet Little CC had a complete meltdown. Fortunately for both of us, I have a little bit plenty of experience with craft-induced breakdowns so I was able to calm her down fairly quickly :)

In honor of the Brazilian celebration of Carnival the kids decorated masks with glitter glue and feathers.

Finally, we spent a little bit of time looking at the globe (I seriously did not realize how huge Brazil is!) and updated the kids' passports. See those little flags at the bottom of the pages? Those are our "stamps" for each country. I found the images on the CIA website (yes, that CIA). They have tons of info on every country and flag. Not TOP SECRET info, silly, just demographics and stuff. And along with the images of the flags they include info on the symbolism and importance of each element of the flags. Very cool.

So now we are heading to Europe. This week we will visit France and Spain. The food alone is very promising :) I hope you all got to spend time with family for Father's Day and that you had a great weekend!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Week in Review - Mexico

We had a great week in Mexico last week! The kids were {mostly} awesome! The activities were fun and the food was sooo delish! Seriously, pickled cactus is one of my new faves. It tastes a little like capers, all salty and vinegar-y. Even the kids loved it - and I wasn't even sure I would be able to get them to try it! I made a "cheater" version of the Nopalitos con Papas because tamales are a lot of fun to make, but they are a lot of work, too! So I just cooked up a package of hash browns with peppers and onions according to the package directions and threw in about a cup of nopalitos toward the end. The kids went nuts for it! For reals! I couldn't believe it. I would still like to try the more traditional version sometime, but some form of this dish will become part of our regular repertoire for sure.

I hope you are all having fun! We are off to Peru and Brazil this week. And you know I'll be sharing about that! Have some fun and do something nice for yourself ~ you deserve it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Travel Plans

Hi all! I hope you had a great weekend! I am so excited to kick off our week of imaginary Mexican travel. Today, we are going to start working on a papier mache pinata. It takes a little bit of work every day for several days, so if we start today it should be ready to fill with candy in time for our Mexican fiesta at the end of the week. If you want to make a pinata with your kids, you can find great instructions on DLTK's website. There is a wealth of information over there. Lots of craft ideas for every occasion under the sun. So fun!

We're going to keep our pinata pretty simple. I'm going to blow up a 12" balloon to use as our form, then we'll add a layer of papier mache everyday for a few days, letting it dry overnight between layers. Then the kids can have a day or two to decorate it before our fiesta.

On DLTK's website you can also find instructions  for a craft to simulate Aztec pottery. You use paper plates for the base and the kids draw or paint decorations onto them. Awesome! For both the pinata and the pottery craft I had most of the supplies around the house and only needed to purchase paper plates and balloons from the dollar store. Two dollars for a few hours of crafting fun! Not bad!

I picked up a book at the library about Mexican holidays. It's written for kids and has lots of great photos. Plus it gives a lot of cultural information as a background to the different holidays. It has a pretty delicious-looking recipe for Mexican hot chocolate, too. I'm sure we'll be drinking some of that despite the 95 degree temps :)

We'll spend a little bit of time looking at the globe and talking about geography and other basic facts - money, language, and of course food. Then we'll wrap up our week with a Mexican fiesta. I'm going to attempt to make tamales using a recipe from allrecipes. For our side dishes we'll have tropical fruits and Nopalitos con Papas. Nopalitos (cactus) in a jar are in the Mexican food section at the grocery store. I've had them once before and they taste a lot like green beans...yum! For dessert we'll have Tres Leches cake (made from a Duncan Hines mix) and then we'll bust into the pinata.

Can you tell I'm a little excited about all of this? Summer is my favorite time of the year. Having all the kids home can be challenging, I'm not going to lie about that, but we get to have so much fun too! I like for most of the time to be pretty loose and unstructured - the school year feels so scheduled all the time and I often feel that there just aren't enough hours in a day to do all of the things that need to be done. Summer is so different! If something doesn't get done, there's always tomorrow! Didn't make it to the library today? No bigs - we'll just do it tomorrow. Didn't make it to the store today? No prob - we'll have pancakes for dinner. See? Love it!

And I think unstructured time is good for the kids, too. So I don't want to give the impression that this is a curriculum designed to fill every hour of every day. It's more like a framework. I find it helpful to have a few structured activities in my back pocket to fill in the holes when things get a little too loose. So our imaginary trip around the world just gives me sort of a theme to work with to plan a couple of activities a week. It also serves as a fun way to sneak in (Ha! The kids don't even know about this part!) a little bit of learning so the kids don't go back to school in August with mashed potatoes for brains. Plus, let's face it, I'm a geek. If something involves crafting, cooking, and doing some research on the web - count me in.

We would love for you to come along! Feel free to add suggestions!