Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Resolution Evaluation

Time to evaluate!

How can you ever achieve goals if you don't regularly evaluate your progress?

First - a February pledge I still have not fulfilled..... I intended to develop and begin a regular core/arm strength routine and I have not done it yet!  I am irritated at myself about it.  Often, putting off a goal means that you don't really want to do it.... and I KNOW I really want to strengthen and tone my core and arms... SO WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

   Yikes!  I have read a book about it.. JJ Virgin's Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy... and a routine was laid right out there for me.  But I still haven't put it into practice :-(

Okay - That will be NUMBER 1 on my April list and my first focus!

Then - March pledges:
          *get cholesterol levels checked .. JUST squeaked in under the wire!  I have been putting this off because I did not want to tell my doctor that I wasn't going to take the meds he wanted to prescribe!  The dilemma of a PLEASER!   I actually lost sleep over this.... crazy, huh?

I went to the doctor on March 29.  Of course, I don't have results yet but I did talk to my doctor about my reluctance to handle it with medication.  I needn't have worried about him.... his comment was that he would put it in his notes that I wanted to handle it that way.   He mentioned that while my numbers have always been a little on the high side, my ratio of good cholesterol versus bad cholesterol was always really good so he hoped that had come back where it should be.  At any rate, when the nurse calls with my results, I'll get copies of my paperwork and head back to my naturopath!
    
       * get tax paperwork handled early in the month - mailed it out on 3/25... not so early... but done anyway.  We usually pay and we usually have an extension... often through no fault of mine - but it will be my fault this year :-(
    *continue work of document shredding and cleaning out paper and electronic files -
      This is not specific enough to be a good goal - but I have in fact CONTINUED :-)  I haven't done very much on the sorting and shredding of OLD documents but have kept up with the new stuff coming into the house.
  * complete hat/scarf project for nieces & nephews - 4 
          It is too late in the season for the 4 I haven't completed.  I am moving the due date for these to Fall 2011        

* start and finish 2 baby gifts - Started only.  One is a baby afghan and is half done.. the other will be a diaper cake that I am just starting.  I will blog on that one when the parts are finished!
    
* Begin sorting/scanning photos - Yay for me!  I finally started this gigantic project!  I have my container by my desk in the office and am scanning a few photos every day.  I am hoping.... hoping .... hoping that the power of 15 minute bursts will be visible soon!  Fortunately (?) I have run across several envelopes of developed pictures that are unrecognizable shots of things my children must have thought important.  If a mother can't figure out what they are.... well, after all these years.... they are trash.  SHHHHH!  Don't tell my kids :-)
     
So... then ... let's see how I did with the full list as revised in February :-)
            
HEALTH/FITNESS

1.      Weight, weight, weight!  Maintain loss and lose a little more.  Tighten and tone…. Develop a daily regimen to stay fit for life!  Learn to eat like a thin healthy person.

   A) EAT
    I am still working on the daily habits - chemical-free, unprocessed real food.  It's a real struggle in this society we live in.  With processed food being so convenient and cheaper than real food, it's a challenge NOT to buy the quick easy stuff! I do still buy it for my kids but the types and amounts are different.

        *** I have added making little snack packs to my weekend - trail mix!  I buy nuts, seeds and dried fruit on sale... mix a couple of containers of them together in a large zip-lock tip bag... and then scoop approximate 1/4 cups full into snack bags.  This way we get the protein and low amounts of fat.  They are portable and easy quick snacks and don't take too long to prepare.
        *** I think next month I will try to make them with tortilla chips and see if that will help reduce my munchie trouble area

   Doing a LOT better with night eating.... it is FINALLY clicking in my head - after a lot of self-talk... that I sleep better on a slightly empty tummy.  Certainly I wake happier!

   B) MOVEMENT:
       dance classes & martial arts.  Focus has been dance trying to remember the steps to dances for the upcoming recital.  It certainly gets harder to memorize step combinations as I get older!

           - informal race training - DEF need to get formal training schedule back!  I've gotten lazy and simply haven't filled out the calendar
     Upcoming Events: Apr - Flying Pirate (OBX), May - Flying Pig (OH), July - Breast Cancer 3Day (OH)         

              LIFE BETTERMENT
 

              2..   Financial betterment - reduce debt, reduce consumer spending, increase savings, increase giving, property improvement 

                  I am glad I am working on this!  Our business is doing very badly right now!  We are dependent on my husband's salary - which is about 70% of what we are accustomed to living on.  It is getting harder to make headway with debt reduction.  We are still working on it in smaller chunks.

I have had to reduce my charitable giving to match out income stream :-(  

Major purchases schedule for this year are put on hold for now - though any business profits will change this. (new mattress & replacing 4 windows)

I have initiated a 'pantry purge'.... locating and using up random items in the storage areas (pantry, freezer & refrigerator) and am reporting weekly on that.

              3. Life simplification: Organize, unclutter, streamline, purge!  

We still have LOTS of items to go through and give away.  I got 7 LARGE bags of clothing & shoes out of the house in March... and will purge as we put away winter items & get out summer ones.   Too bad I have to keep 2-3 sizes of clothing... what is it with women?  A little bloat and I am a whole new size!

            PERSONAL PROJECTS

4.  Cards  
  Made it through March so I have already passed the best I have ever done!  Sad, isn't it?   Anyway - I have my April list ready and most cards bought.  I only need to purchase 3 special ones for my son (and SILs).  The others are ready to write out and mail :-)
 
5. Read a minimum of one book per week
  March saw me struggle through my books.  I am slogging through 2 of them right now and will have to finish them in April

   I read: 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Buried Fire by Jonathan Stroud
The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
 
6. Crochet for charity & gifts
    I have gotten caught up in the dishcloth challenge!  I have been having a lot of fun completing the small dishcloth projects.
   I finally mailed out 2 of the scarves I made for nephews & have finished the sets for my 2 nieces but will send next fall after I make scarves for their brothers.
  Other incomplete projects:  baby afghan for gift (half complete), a prayer shawl, 4 full-size afghans (long way to go!), and a few new projects to start: ponchos for the grandgirls, a diaper cake baby gift and more will come along.

    Charity crocheting has taken a hit in March.... I did about 20 lovie squares for Operation Christmas Child but not much else! 
            7.  Quilt projects and mending - neglected!
            
            8. Spiritual reading  - 
               I started 2 Lenten projects - one is an online course about Jesus and the other is the writing and publication of a daily reflection / prayer.


9.   Photo project -  I finally started scanning old photos into my computer.  This is a time-consuming endeavor as I scan & categorize them one by one.  Some of them I am even having to GUESS who and when!  But this will bear fruit eventually and I am glad to finally be getting some of it completed :-)


April Pledges:

#1.  Develop and Begin Core/Arm Strength Routine!
#2.  Finish Baby Afghan & Diaper Cake
#3. Quilt one strip of the quilt I am making AND mend 2 quilts
#4.  Continue with the shredding and categorizing paper and electronic documents -
                       Specific - hmm..   okay - I will deal with 4 folders in the filing cabinet
           #5. I will finish my online course and decide whether to continue my prayer / reflection blog beyond Easter
           #6.  Work on increasing charitable crocheting - minimum 30 lovie squares
           #7.  Photo project - scan 1/3 of container full of envelopes of developed photos
           #8. Appointment with my naturo Doctor to discuss bloodwork

Thanks for reading this far!  This was a LONG one :-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dishcloth Challenge # 16 through 21


       Okay - Still having fun with the crochet challenge!  I hope all my friends want dishcloths for Christmas because if I keep going, I will have more than I could possible EVER use!  My husband is chuckling about it but this is FUN!   Each cloth takes about an hour or less to figure out and finish.  But even if it took 3 times that amount of time, each one is still a quick project you can start and finish... and learn some new skills along the way!

This week I will add 6 cloths to the collection!  

I'll start at the bottom left with #16 - called Daisy Crochet Dishcloth.  I thought this one turned out really pretty for a minimum amount of time and work.  I'll probably do this one again because it looks so pretty AND is thick enough to be functional.

www.bestfreecrochet.com


#17, the variegated one in the center bottom row, is called the Corner to Corner dishcloth.  It starts small in one corner and grows to the widest point in the center and then gets smaller again as you work the last corner.  I like the way it makes a bit of a diamond shape with the stripes.  This one also adds a loop at the corner (you can't see it).  That is always a great addition to hang them up to dry.

#18 - bottom right - the Sunshine Crochet Dishcloth... named, I think for the variegated yellows the pattern called for :-)  I used a baby pastel variegated instead so it would look like springtime :-)  It is worked in a simple single crochet with a pretty edging.

#19 - back on the top left - is the Sunny Day Crochet Dishcloth.  This one was a little different... a basic circle - but the way that the rays were designed is a little different than I expected - but very easy.  The pattern called for a little more intricate manner of doing the face but as you know - I am a lazy crocheter and decided to simply embroider it!

#20 - center top - Peachy Path Crochet Dishcloth - but I used pink so maybe I should call it the Pink Path :-)  Interesting technique carrying strands of both colors (pink and white) as you crochet them one at a time.  Not too difficult if you pay attention!

And #21 - top right.  The Yellow Brick Crochet Dishcloth (or in this case - the BLUE Brick.. LOL!!) This one was a really easy pattern - but I had difficulty with the instructions.  I'm not sure if it was the instructions or my own focus - but fortunately the photo on the instruction page was clear enough for me to mimic!  Once I got the hang of the pattern, it worked up really quickly.

What will be fun later - is combining different cloths to make a gift package...  certainly there are several that are holiday themed - I will be posting a few Easter ones in a week or so.  So far I have seen a few flower ones for the different birth months... and I can see putting together a birthstone color collection.... and then there's always using the color-coordinating concept.... 

NAHHHH, that would be too ordinary :-)


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Resolution #1 Food as Medicine Part 2

When I left you last, I was headed back to my naturopathic doctor.  (Part 1 was published on February 17 - sorry it took so long to post the follow-up!)

By day, I studied what I was allowed to eat.  I made forays into different stores.  I felt like an intrepid explorer hunting down exotic and unusual foods... never mind that 'exotic and unusual' meant 'unprocessed and natural' :-)  I tried to choose organic fruits and vegetables.   I was inordinately thrilled to find an acceptable fruit/nut bar at a local gas station :-)   Gluten free sometimes works for me, but GRAIN free (wheat, oat, corn & barley) is what I really need to do.   Rice and quinoa are fine, thank goodness.

I HAD to (I thought) buy 'regular' food (like chips:-) for my husband and teens but for myself, I ate pretty well by day.

But at night, I was a creature possessed!  Anything loose was fair game.  I tried and tried but nights were the WORST.  Why is it that as soon as dinner was over, I was on the prowl in the pantry looking for something to MUNCH on?

But that is exactly what I was doing!  It was just before Thanksgiving... we were coming up on the "eating-est" season of the year.. and I had just put on 5 pounds in 2 weeks!  I was scared to death...  I had worked really hard to lose weight - and harder yet to maintain it.. and here I was... trying to get healthy but gaining weight.

I KNEW what was happening but didn't know what to do about it.  Seems easy, doesn't it?  Just stop the night eating.  But if you are like me, you know that it is not that easy!

But then I also WORRIED!  Would I be getting enough protein?  How on earth could I eat enough MEAT when I wasn't accustomed to even thinking about it?  Was there life without cheese?  What about the food I used to eat that was still in my pantry / fridge?  

Why is it that we have this "all or nothing" mindset?  This mindset is exactly what sent me reeling!  All I really want is to eat like a normal person... i.e. NOT be obsessed with FOOD and have my weight be normal too.

Anyway, back I went... and found some more solutions that have definitely worked for me.

First, it took me more than two weeks to feel the difference that good food can make.  It took FOUR.  So the first piece of advice is HANG IN THERE!

Second piece of advice, RELAX!  If you are worried about wasting the food you already have, then by all means, eat it or give it away or whatever you feel it necessary to do.  (I am talking about good healthy food, mind you... junk is junk.. get rid of the over-processed junk)  In other words, I used up my Laughing Cow cheese but got the aspartame (Nutrasweet) out of my house.

Third, my protein requirements.  I have become a pretty active person and I was worried about having the strength and energy to keep it up.  I used to manage it with whey protein powder and yogurt.  We agreed on a daily protein amount (about 55-60 grams) and I now get about 1/3 of it from the animal sources (meat and eggs).  That is about a 3-ounce (fist-size) serving of chicken.  The balance can come from nuts and beans.

Fourth, to address the night binging - which I still have trouble with some nights.  Several factors come into play.

     Are you really hungry?  Often I WAS!  I found that foods that are not optimal for me (bread of any sort other than live sprouted) or foods that are empty of nutrition (doughnuts), leave me hungry.  I don't care HOW MANY doughnuts I eat, I need a meal afterwards because they do not nourish me.  Period.  The solution?  Eat better food earlier in the day. If I am hungry late and MUST have something, vegetables work!  If I don't want vegetables, then I am not feeding hunger... something else is going on.

      Are you feeding your taste buds or your body?  It has been necessary for me to make this distinction.  Too often, my taste buds were in charge.

     Are you tired?  I fall asleep early and easily.  I found that I sometimes eat to stay awake with my teens and nightowl husband.  So I gave myself permission to go ahead and fall asleep.  I still wake around the same time but have found that I am better rested.  Apparently this is what MY body needs even if the bodies of my family do not.

      And one more thing that doesn't seem related.. but really seems to make a real difference..  NO MEDIA for a couple of hours before bed... no television, no computer, no electronic games.  This little bit of  'media fasting' seems to help me stay calmer in those post-dinner, pre-bedtime hours.  It also helps tremendously with the quality of rest I get.

    Where I am today- 5 months later - for the most part, I eat well.  Less of the 'required' junk food for my family is entering the house :-)  The night time rituals are working pretty well except on my late night dance nights.... but IF I eat on those nights, it is a nourishing snack as fuel.  The electronic fasting works most nights.  I use an hour before bed for reading quietly - but usually watch television while I crochet for the hour before that.

But I feel great!  I have energy for any activity I want to participate in.
I don't miss cheese or yogurt very much....

I use my crockpot for easy soups, meats and stews.

I always pack food to take with me so I have healthy options.  (I almost always have a bag of almonds in my purse) One of my weight loss techniques that still seems to work well for me is to NEVER be hungry away from home when I don't know what is going to be available to eat. 

My family now has TWO vegetable options at meals instead of ONE and I don't seem to mind fixing them things I "can't" eat.... because I know that I "can" eat them if I want to - but that they will make me feel sluggish or uncomfortable the next day.  MY CHOICE... somehow that makes a difference!

I feel more at peace with food than I have in a long time.  I could still stand to lose a few pounds but my weight is stable.  Eating more or less on a given day does not show on the scale any more.

So - of my initial complaints - depression, lack of energy & hair loss - these are solved :-)  The cholesterol is the next issue and I am going back for a re-check on that this morning. We'll see if diet change has helped me in that department.  I'll be sure to report back!
   

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fridays? or Mondays?

?You know, Fridays often look like Mondays to me.  I mean, people dread Mondays... the start of the rat race, the return of routine, the hum-drum business of life starting up again.

But I'm not sure about that.  Fridays often usher in an opportunity to finish up all those chores you didn't complete during the week.   Fridays often bring weekend meetings.... errands to do.... social engagements with friends and family... even weekends away bring their own flurry of stress and recovery.

My weekends are crazier than my weeks!

On Fridays I feel like I am on the top of the roller coaster.... that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach... looking at that WILD stretch of track.... that moment... just before the car tops the crest of the rails... that moment when you realize that you are SO not in control of the situation!   Everything is lined up before you with clockwork precision... all scheduled nicely and ready to be put into play.... And you throw your hands in the air and SCREAM!

Is it fun?   Of course!  Is it exciting?  Absolutely!

But man, the anticipation is a killer!

And it makes Monday's hum drum routine look like heaven :-)

I'm glad it's Monday and I can start over!  (I think :-)... I need another cuppa to be sure)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back to the Real World

The time I spent by myself when I escaped to the beach was good for me.

I got to do some new things....  and learned not to depend on others to schedule my time :-)

I got to focus on some things that I have been neglecting.... okay - I did spend some time on paperwork!  But I also spent some uninterrupted time with my books. 

I got to spend some uninterrupted time praying :-)




One of the gifts was the recognition that while I CRAVE uninterrupted time to do what I want..... I DO NOT KNOW what to do with it!  LOL!!  How funny is that?

All the times I have said to myself..... if I didn't have to do (you fill in the blank) for (you can fill in this one too!), I would...............  And the funny part is that when that opportunity exists, I am out of practice!  That is exactly one of the reasons I took advantage of the escape.... just to test the theory then I had no one to BLAME but myself :-)

And now I am back to the real world... MY world.  In some ways, I feel like I have had a revelation... in some ways a battery re-charge.  Certainly I needed to spend a little time appreciating my life and recognizing that I am part of a process.  And I NEED the family I live with (even when they drive me nuts :-)  They are a big part of my identity!

But the identity is changing and I need to change with it.  My family doesn't need me in the way they used to.  They need me in different ways.  All of our relationships are shifting as my children become adults.  Another new revelation is that my marriage is changing too... in a  good way... but CHANGE and EASY are not words that go together :-) 

My challenge is to take this new awareness and move gracefully forward.

I may no longer be my children's caretaker but I am still the role model of how life moves on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pantry Clean Out Update - Week 1

 My pantry clean out challenge is off to a SLOW start!  I went out of town for several days this week and did not use up too many things!

I did receive a recipe suggestion from a reader to use with the frozen lamb... so I'll give more details when I actually USE it!

So... here is what I DID do this week:

On Saturday night, we had grilled chicken tenderloins.  I basted it with the open jar of Hoisin sauce.  The bad news is that I THOUGHT I had a half jar - but there was actually more than that... I NOW have a half jar of Hoisin sauce to use!  So - not much impact to the fridge here.

But I did use the half bag of wild rice and added one of the cans of water chestnuts to it.  Water chestnuts are a great way to add crunch without affecting the taste of the rice.  Two items out of the pantry!

I left town on Sunday and took that open jar of Kalamata olives with me.  The only reason these are hanging around is because I am lazy and they are not pitted.  I am working on those - but not finished yet.

The only other item I used up was a can of beets.  This is another one of those items that I like but nobody else does.  So...here we go!  I also like red beet eggs.... so I ate a few of the beets and then added a couple of hard-boiled eggs to the juice.  I'll enjoy these out of the refrigerator. (I also found another can of beets in the pantry so I will add that to the April Clean Out!)

I googled roasted red peppers and apparently I should be able to put them in a lot of different foods so I will be experimenting with them as the weeks go on

So - the list is still below - I didn't have much impact this week..... but have some plans for next week :-) I hope life cooperates!  I have until Saturday April 16 for my final report :-)


PANTRY

jar roasted red peppers
bag sundried tomatoes
4 cans water chestnuts (4?)
2 cans pumpkin
1/2 box barley
4 bags of cookie mix
1 can evaporated milk
3/4 jar wheat germ
***1/2 bag wild rice
***1 can beets
FRIDGE

3 open bottles lemon juice (3?)
the end of a container of bacon bits
corn tortillas
jar sliced hot banana peppers
1/2 jar Hoisin sauce
1/2 jar Kalamata olives

FREEZER

1 box Schwan salmon fillets
1 pound ground lamb
1 bag cranberries
1 bag of frozen tomatoes
1 bag Schwan tamales
1 package of Italian sausage
frozen orange juice (not to drink)

*** = used up!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Too Busy to Exercise?

Yeah - me too!

Where on earth am I supposed to get an extra hour per day?  Half hour?  No way!!

So how can I possibly get regular exercise?

1.   LITTLE things add up!
         How can you add a little movement into your day?  You've read it a million times - so go do it!  Park a little farther away than usual... take the stairs instead of escalators or elevators...

2.  MULTI-TASK!
       Add some strength exercises to your normal activities.  Do calf raises while you fold the laundry... bicep curls while you are on the phone.... march in place while you do the dishes.

3.  Take a WALK!
          Make it a habit to go outside in this beautiful weather and take a short walk...it's good for your body AND for your spirit.

4.  Make it a GAME!
      Every time you go in the kitchen, do 10 push-ups off the kitchen counter.   Every time you plan to sit down..... sit almost all the way and then stand back up (this is a squat!)

5.  Do ONE MINUTE bursts of cardio!
              Time yourself and do one minute of jumping jacks or high knee lifts or run in place.  Too much trouble to time yourself?  Time yourself ONE time... and COUNT how many exercises you can do in a minute... then just count them when you do them.

6.  PLAN it!
           Make a commitment to yourself to do a certain number of specific exercises each day.  You are more likely to get it done if you are already planning on it.

7. TAKE a class!
          Take advantage of exercise classes in your community.  There are always a lot of opportunities to learn to swim, dance, hike, canoe, play tennis or other active pursuits.  Try one!  When you have paid for it, it is easier to make yourself go.

8.  MEET a friend or family member.
         Find someone who will walk or workout with you.  This is a GREAT one - fellowship, fun and encouragement for BOTH of you!  Usually we don't want to let other people down (even if we have NO problem letting ourselves down!)

 These are just a few ideas to get a little more movement into your already TOO BUSY schedule.  

Bottom line though, friends..... no exercise = poor health.   Is you are too busy to exercise, you will have to make time to be SICK!   Every bit of exercise prevention you can ADD to your life will reduce the amount of time you are ill.

Leave a comment and let me hear YOUR ideas!

Thanks for reading :-)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Estranged.... and stuck

I have a friend who is very sick right now and will have surgery soon.

While the diagnosis has left her reeling, her family members are gathering around to help.  What is significant here is that she has been estranged from much of her family for almost 20 years.  Her birthday was the other day and she confided in me that it was her best birthday ever.

The horrible diagnosis and uncertain outcome has been the necessary PUSH to get her family to sit up and reach out.  The sadness is that it took so long.


It is so easy to get STUCK.... in behaviors.  We get hurt and cut people off to keep the pain away.  It makes sense.  But then what?  So much of what we do is not thought through..... do we HAVE to wait until someone is dead or dying to reach back out again?


Is there someone in YOUR life that you need to make peace with?  Or failing that, is it time to sweep things under the rug and pretend like nothing happened?  Or even just reach out a hand and start over? 

I am not suggesting renewing relationships that are unhealthy for you.  Sometimes we get into behavior patterns with people that stunt our growth or prompt OUR bad behavior.  But if AVOIDING a person is causing you difficulty, then perhaps it's time to re-define the relationship.   I can think of several people who, when I am around them, I am not my BEST self.  So I need to juggle a bit to maintain relations.

It's okay to stay at arms-length.. things do not have to go back where they were.... maybe it wasn't a healthy relationship to begin with.  But certainly hanging on to pain and bad feeling isn't healthy either!


Challenge time:


        Is there a person (are there PEOPLE) in your life that you are avoiding contact with?  Someone who has hurt you or been a bad influence or whatever.....


  Close your eyes for a minute and imagine that person in a car wreck or some other tragedy.  What would you feel then?  If you still are not affected... then perhaps that is a relationship that is well and truly over.


  But I'd like to suggest that if you have an emotional response to this scenario.... it might just be time to extend a hand.  For YOUR peace of mind :-)


By the way.... snail mail "thinking of you" cards are easy and fairly non-committal.


And now you know ONE of the reasons behind my card resolution :-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dishcloth Challenge #11 through #15

The weekly dose of the Maggie Weldon Dishcloth Challenge at www.bestfreecrochet.com

These five patterns were great - both to do and to use!  I am particularly fond of NONclutter.... so creating pretty USEFUL items brings me joy.

#11 in the upper left hand corner is called the Ruffled Granny Crochet Dishcloth.  It is one of my favorites but then I'm a fan of granny squares.  It is a basic granny square done in two different cotton yarns, a variegated (aqua, lime, purple & white) with a coordinating purple.   The outer round is ruffled as an edging.

#12 right next to it in the center, called Circles and Shells Crochet Dishcloth, is done in a variegated yellow & white with a white scalloped edging.  It is done in the double crochet stitch.

#13 in the upper right hand corner gave me a chance to use some small scraps. The name of it is Sea Wave Crochet Dishcloth, I think because they used blue, green & white.  I had some small scrap balls of a variegated pink, rose, lavender & white, and scrap balls of pale pink and medium purple.  So I  used what I had on hand.  This one starts in one corner and builds outward.  I used a little bit of lavender for the edging.





# 14 in the lower left corner is called Singly Pink Dishcloth.  Oops.... I used a variegated green instead because it's March :-)  So mine is Singly Green :-)  Anyway it is a single crochet done in the back loops to form a ridge.  This makes it fairly dense and a great cleaning cloth.

And,lastly, #15 is called Simple Shells Crochet Dishcloth.  I got with the 'sea wave' program with this one, using a crochet cotton that merged 2 greens and 2 blues :-)  It is done in a double crochet shell pattern that was quick and fun to do.

I found all of these patterns to be easy to do.  The instructions for all the patterns I have encountered on this challenge are exceptionally clear.

Let me know if you do any of them!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Solo Act

The 3 hour drive to the beach was absolutely beautiful!  Sun shining.... normal traffic..... music blaring..... great road trip adventure!  Of course, my family comes here often so I know the route like the back of my hand... this location is like a second home to me

I arrived in 4 hours... because I stopped to pick up something for dinner & breakfast.  I unloaded the car and popped down to the beach.  BRRR!  Though the sun was shining, the wind was bitter so I beat a hasty retreat back to the condo.  I spent a quiet evening working on my online course, some crocheting and a long hot bubble bath with my current novel :-)  Nothing very exciting, I am afraid.... but just right for me.  The noises of the building put me a little on edge... just because I was alone... but it was good for me.

I woke early, spent some time on the computer (DUH) and worked on my crocheting (another DUH)  I can't seem to help myself :-)  Doing some of the same things that you usually do does help to keep you in balance.

I had decided before I came to the beach that I would take one of the days & take a LONG walk to make sure I was in good shape for my half marathon in a couple of weeks.  I left a little later than I intended because I got a phone call from my sick friend (that I think you prayer warriors know about - thanks again.. keep praying!)

Initially I thought I would set 12 miles as a goal.... 6 mileposts from the condo out and then back with lunch on the way somewhere.   But then I started moving.... my kickboxing class on Saturday left me a little bit (no - a LOT) sore.... so I decided that 5 miles out (10 total) would be far enough!   Mile markers were every half mile and I was definitely counting them.... up to 4.5.   And then I kept going and going.... and GOING!  I had just about decided to turn around when I saw the green marker in the distance.... so I kept going to get to it.... and the darned thing said SIX!   For SURE I turned around right then.. and headed back.

I stopped for lunch at about 9 miles and rested for a bit while I ate and drank.  I know the server must have thought I was a camel... with all I drank but with those miles, it is easy to get dehydrated.  Anyway, God played a trick on me and I got the 12 miles in after all... but I have to tell you... I am SORE now!  Swollen hands, swollen feet and really sweaty... but super confident about the half marathon now!

One thing about being alone is that you get a lot of time to think.... sometimes a good thing, sometimes not so good.  But one thing I thought about is WHY it is so hard to make changes, even little ones.  And one thing I came up with is that, as a mom, changes do not just affect me.  ANY change I go through, willingly or not, affects other people.  Even something mundane like getting my hair done.. takes time away from somebody.  And big things like changing diet or adding exercise (or running away from home) affect family members even more..... just like THEIR changes affect US.

But somehow we have guilt for upsetting their routines.  And it is good to take care of others.  But I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in it that we end up stifling EVERYbody, including that part of ourselves that needs growth (and change!)  And then we get resentful....... and then we blame.... but I like honesty.  And being honest means that I have to admit that my ROLE as mom gives me security.  Without my ROLE, I'm not sure who I am.  And THAT, my friends, is not healthy.   So this realization is something to ponder.... and I guess, another part of the journey!

Kay :-)

Exciting news!  I have a high school friend that I have been trying to get together with for a long time now.... and last night I invited her to come join me.  She called me up a little bit ago and will come tomorrow.. so more fun!   So my solitude will end.... but a different chapter begins :-)

Signing off from a quiet evening at the beach....

Monday, March 21, 2011

Carpe Diem!

...for those of you who don't know any better... that's Latin...  it means 'seize the day'!

Or, if you live in MY head..... Grab the opportunity!

I'm writing this from the beach.... not my home.    An opportunity presented itself to go to our timeshare at the beach... yes, I know I just got back from a beach.    My family is tied up and couldn't come.  Ordinarily I wouldn't even think about leaving them.... but it occurred to me... WHY NOT?

My husband is grown and capable... my children at home are not really children.. they are men themselves.   There is no reason that I couldn't (or even SHOULDN'T) pack up and take advantage of this opportunity.

Anyway, it's kind of weird.... I'm all alone.  I have a condo to myself for 3 nights and 2 days....    ME!  I am almost never alone..... and I rarely leave home.  And when I do.. I spend a lot of time cleaning and preparing ahead of time so that those I leave behind don't have extra work.  But this time?   Well, I packed my laptop, my work, my crocheting and my books.... and said good-bye.  I'm not sure who is more surprised - my family... or me :-)

The thing is .... I have always said... 'I can't leave them... they need me.'    So I have never considered going anywhere without at least one of my children.   But it's not true any more.  Not that they don't need me.... but it's not the same... and maybe it's time I rethink possibilities.  Because often what I am ABLE to do now is really NOT dependent on my family..... I'm just so used to it that I accept limitations that are no longer valid.  My life has changed when I wasn't looking.

And then maybe I'm just a little bit afraid to do something different.  Something alone.... on my own terms.  Whatever I do or don't do for the next few days..... I am totally responsible.   It is totally up to me!  THIS time, I cannot say, "I WOULD have done this but I couldn't because....(insert name here)".   

So I have set a challenge for myself to do a few of the things I have always SAID I wanted to do but never did because my men were not interested .... I will share with you later whatever I choose to do... but I have a question for you:

Is there something that YOU want to do.... that you are NOT doing BECAUSE of a reason that is no longer valid?  Are you using expired excuses or blaming people unfairly for your own reluctance to do something new?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rest Day?

I know that Sundays are called days of rest.... but I wonder how many of us really get that!

Sundays are usually full of church obligations (and weekly spiritual renewal,of course - but obligations, nonetheless) and then, often, the rest of the day is spent winding up chores that didn't get finished on Saturday.  We multi-task all the time, Sunday is no exception.

Weekends are a blur of activity... no wonder Mondays leave us reeling!

When do you renew your personal spirit?

Is going to church enough for you?  Or does it get lost in a blur of activity?

Most of us need some downtime.... some time to just think or BE.  We steal minutes in a bubble bath.... we hide chocolate in the laundry room.... we just stop midway between chores not remembering what we are doing.

Does this happen to you?

You know - you DO have control over a lot of the madness!

Change your thinking - give yourself and your family a day to play.  And, yes, you can do this!

First of all..... DECLARE Sunday a day of REST and RENEWAL. 

Of course you can't change the crises of everyday living... but you CAN make decisions as to what really needs to be done right now.  TRIAGE!

For one day a week......

1.   Can you put the chore off?   Putting off laundry means a few more loads for Monday... okay.  It will still get done.  Just remember to schedule it in during the week so you don't get overwhelmed... do not create a new problem for yourself :-)
      Give yourself a break and ONLY do what you HAVE to do.  

2    Can you prepare ahead?   Planning Sunday night dinner and getting things out to thaw on Saturday goes a long way to making the day simpler.  As a matter of fact, the weather is getting better... why not have a picnic?  Or if the weather still stinks.... have the picnic in your living room!
       Renewing your family ties is a great thing to do on a Sunday - make some memories!  But do it the easy way... don't let perfectionism get in the middle of it :-)

3.    Slow down.  If you catch yourself doing more than one thing at a time, STOP.  Give yourself a chance to focus.  You NEED the break :-)

4.  What would you like to do to get your mojo back?   Don't know, you say?  Think about all the times you've grumbled while keeping so busy on Sunday..... THEN you KNEW what you wanted to do!  But try just asking yourself and see what you come up with.  It is important that you take some time to rest and enjoy the many blessings you have.

Most of all... remember that God set the standard...... even God took a break to enjoy his work..... we need to do the same!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Pantry Clean Out

        In an interest to be more frugal and intelligent, I am going to check out my food storage places for the odd items that are not getting used - and need to be - and try to figure out what to do with them.  See the list below :-)

  I find I have an strange collection of items I keep passing over for one reason or another.  They are generally

a) items I bought to make a dish that never happened (and now I don't even remember what that was :-) like the roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes

b) items I bought with good intentions and haven't worked up the nerve to try them like the salmon and the lamb

c) items I bought on sale that seemed like a good idea at the time like the cookie mixes

and

d) items that got shoved around and hidden (like the tamales)

So I need to develop a plan over the course of the next month to use each of the items below or TOSS THEM!

Any advice from people who like to cook is more than welcome!  But be gentle.... recipes need to be EASY

Some things I see I can add to my daily salad..... some things I might be able to figure out as a marinade for chicken... some things just need to be used as either sides or entrees.

I cook for myself and 3 males.... 2 of whom are picky teens.  They DO eat what I provide for a meal.... but they usually eat very small portions... so whatever I fix needs to be something I either like or can freeze in smaller portions so that my husband and I can eat them later.

That includes baked goods.... often the boys turn up their noses at baked offerings.  Smart kids... then my husband and I end up eating them - and neither of us needs it!

So... at the same time I am working on the list below, I will do my best NOT to add to the random collection this month!  I'll report back next week and let you know what is GONE! 

I CHALLENGE you to join with me.... what's in YOUR pantry... freezer... refrigerator... that needs to GO?

And it you have any brilliant suggestions for me (especially for the peppers and dried tomatoes), please leave a comment and let me know!

   
PANTRY

jar roasted red peppers
bag sundried tomatoes
4 cans water chestnuts (4?)
2 cans pumpkin
1/2 box barley
1/2 bag wild rice
4 bags of cookie mix
1 can evaporated milk
1 can beets
3/4 jar wheat germ

FRIDGE

3 open bottles lemon juice (3?)
the end of a container of bacon bits
corn tortillas
jar sliced hot banana perppers
1/2 jar Hoisin sauce
1/2 jar Kalamata olives

FREEZER

1 box Schwan salmon fillets
1 pound ground lamb
1 bag cranberries
1 bag of frozen tomatoes
1 bag Schwan tamales
1 package of Italian sausage
frozen orange juice (not to drink)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Turn Off the News!

What a horrible tragedy!  I'm talking about the earthquake and the tsunami that happened in Japan recently.  An unbearable catastrophe..... like everyone else, I am shocked by magnitude of the disaster.

Are you finding yourself mesmerized by the footage from Japan right now?  The videos of the tsunami that have been circulating across the internet... the indelible images of the devastation left behind.  We watch, minute by minute, hour by hour, for days at a time,  as new stories emerge, as older stories are re-told and replayed over and over.

What a terrible, terrible thing to happen.

To be an educated citizen, it is important to keep up with the news from the rest of the world.  It is important to know about political upheaval, natural disasters, train wrecks, bombings and all the other urgent news of the day.  It is important to know where you can help in any little way.

But the constant 24 hour coverage of news from across the globe leaves us spinning.  Constant exposure to the news(or whatever you might call the media coverage) threatens the internal peace and security of the people in your home.  Children (and adults) are having nightmares about monster waves or wars.  Children especially need a place where they feel safe and secure.  But we adults need that too. 

To have a peaceful heart and home though, I think it is MORE important to learn to manage that media coverage.  It is too easy to become obsessed with the videos and stories.

While it is a priority to know about problems and do what I can to help, it is critical that my family home be a haven for the people who live here.

I learned this lesson years ago at the beginning of the Iraq war.... we were fixated on the television... wanting (almost NEEDING) to catch every bit of the drama unfolding... We had been watching for hours, when he walked up to the television, turned it off and said.... we know the news.  We know what is happening.  But it doesn't need to happen all day in our living room.   Wow!  Out of the mouths of babes!

For me, it was a wake-up call.  A call to focus on what is real and in front of me right now.   A call to pray, a call to send money..... and a call to take care of my own little corner of the world.

My laundry still needs doing, my family still needs to be fed, I still need to exercise and pay my bills.  So... OFF with the television and OFF with the computer....  time to take care of my own living room.
And I can catch up on ALL of the world's crises a little bit later.... a little bit at a time.

Kay :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japanese Magnolia in Bloom :-)

Okay - by now I am sure you are sick of hearing about my tree.  But this post will be mainly photos for those of you who like to see :-)

The last one where the buds were opening... well, when I came home, they still weren't open :-)  For all my anticipation and excitement, it took a few more days.


I got to watch them open slowly until they were a MASS of blossoms!  Magnificent!  And for ONE day... the scent of all those open buds was incredible...  I thought that was cool - just ONE day though.  They must have a scent JUST when they open so that when the greatest number of them opened... it was heavenly :-)



As the majority of the buds opened, the early ones faded and fell apart.


Something in that, I am sure.... that the first ones die as the majority comes into their full beauty... but for today I will just enjoy and share with you


Have a beautiful day :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dishcloth Challenge # 6 through 10 and 31

Hi friends :-)


Here's Number 6 through 10 of the dishcloth challenge!   Patterns are located at  Maggie Weldon's site  www.bestfreecrochet.com

#6 is the upper left hand corner - called Garnets in Lace... I used different colors since I am using up my stash AND because I was trying to bring in a little March green.  I found I didn't have much green so I might just HAVE to go hunting for a little more cotton yarn to add to my collection :-)
Anyway - I liked the pattern but it didn't look finished to me so I added another couple of rows to make it a little more symmetrical to my eyes!

#7 is on the right.. crocheted in a blue, green, white & yellow variegated yarn

#8 is located in the upper right corner... done in a pink, brown and cream variegated yarn.  This one is done a little differently than I had expected... working from the outside in with progressively smaller rows.  I've never seen it done that way so it was a nice learning opportunity.



#9 is in the lower left corner and was particularly fun to do as you watch the colors change.  If I did it again, I would probably have switched the yarns for #7 and #9.. because the fun of #9 is directly related to the different colors in the yarn.

and, finally #10  Grandmother's Flower Garden..... one of my favorite quilt patterns.. and I've made a couple of afghans with this pattern already.  I whined about it anyway though - I am pretty much a lazy crocheter and am particularly fond of patterns that you can do and finish without extra stitching or work.  This one is done in little hexagons that need to be sewn together and then crocheted around to finish up.  Worth the work.... but I whined anyway :-)

...and speaking of whining!  I went ahead and did dishcloth #31 - a shamrock - in honor of St Patrick's Day tomorrow.



I couldn't find any appropriate greens locally so I used a lime green for the center part.... and a green & orange variegated for the edging.  The pattern called for embroidery to outline the shamrock but somehow I managed to get the shape recognizable (which, in honesty, was all I was after.  There are definite perks to being a lazy crocheter!)

I will try and get the seasonal patterns posted close to the holiday so they are more appropriate.  The website www.bestfreecrochet.com has patterns posted up through #75 at the moment.... and personally I am on #23.. but I'll keep posting 5 per week.... plus the extra seasonals as they come along!

Try some... they are fun!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Today's the day!

Oh my!

This morning the sun is finally out... sparkling on my tree!

I begin the day in wild anticipation because the buds are impossibly swollen.  The few blossoms that opened early are beginning to fade.... but there are literally hundreds of buds ready to BURST.    Several are just beginning to open...





Today is the day when they will begin to open up to greet the sun :-)

I find myself going out to check on it every half hour or so to watch the flowers unfold.

The air crackles with excitement..... too bad I have a meeting I have to go to.   I will have to leave in an hour to face the world and my little tree drama will have nothing to do with it.  I will come home this evening and see what I missed.... there is a little sadness there...  but I have to say that seeing the sun shine on these buds surely does fill my day and my SPIRIT with JOY!

There is no better way to face the world than when you are filled with JOY :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Priority Number ONE

Do you ever get to those times when everything starts stacking up?

It seems like I have been running, running, running.... but am getting further and further behind.  My weekend was fun but very full... so not much accomplished there.

I am looking at a house that needs my attention.... a desk full of business work... an exercise schedule that has been neglected since I got back from vacation (including a couple of dance classes where I just can't seem to get the steps :-(... I've been eating too much junk (where IS it coming from?  Did I buy that?)... and then the extras that are on my resolution list.... BOO!

Can you tell that my attitude also needs a little improvement?

Soooo... what to do, what to do....  how to get a handle on my life again!

1.  Find some quiet space.... carve out a few minutes.... get up early (which works for me)... or snag a few minutes break from work... or lock yourself in the bathroom....  just a few minutes...

2.  BREATHE!  You are in control of that hectic overrun feeling!

3.  LIST... the act of writing down the things you have to do helps you to sort them out in your head.  The list will help you remember what they are and help ease the strain on your brain :-)

4.  TRIAGE...  some of those items need to be faced and taken care of right away on the pain of dire circumstances....  uhhhh some of my business paperwork MUST be done today....

          Some items can wait...... the dry cleaning will not go anywhere if it waits one more day to be picked up...... the same with cleaning the porch (the beautiful weather is making it more of a priority but it can wait too if necessary).  Schedule these things in on other days this week.   (If there are items that LIVE on your WAIT list..... make a decision about whether or not they EVER need to be done... why are they on your list if you never DO them?)

         Some items take little time and will make the whole list seem shorter....  a quick sort of paperwork, getting needed supplies together, starting a load of laundry, getting the dishes done.. and running through the main living areas with a vacuum.  Hit the major points on a busy day!

5.  DON'T FORGET about taking care of YOU!
         Last on the list...... and often not even GETTING ON the list... is food, rest and exercise!  Eat your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.... eat protein with all your meals... avoid chemicals, refined sugars and flours.... and get your 30 minutes of exercise every day.   Seriously.... we tend to BUZZ around taking care of everything except OURSELVES.

     So maybe, just maybe... the food and exercise should be FIRST on the list.  If you really want to conquer your LIST and stay in the game.... taking care of you needs to be the first priority :-)
       

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All the socks matched up :-)

Can you believe it?

I didn't.... all the socks matched up!  I mean, I pulled all the clothes out of the dryer, folded everything and all the socks matched up.    No lonely stragglers this time!

I'm not sure how the dryer does it.. but usually it spits out one or two socks with no mates.

Weird, I know... I mean... they started out as pairs..   they were worn on TWO feet or I wouldn't have them in the laundry.

So what happens?  Where do they go?

I know that occasionally I find a random sock in the couch.... or under a chair...  but you would think that USUALLY they would end up in the wash together...

What is it about socks that sends them off in such wild adventures?

Do they resent being paired up?  I guess someone who is a twin could give me that answer... I have no clue.   Kind of like the shoes you see in the middle of the road somewhere.... or hanging from a telephone wire.

But the socks.... with amazing consistency.... I find that they emerge from the dryer in ONES.... I know this is true because it has happened even with MY socks.  You see, I live with males and I buy pink ones so they leave mine alone..... and I have had brand NEW ones emerge singly.  And I KNOW that I didn't leave one somewhere else...  I COULDN'T have... that's for the people I live with... and me to fuss about.

But I find myself strangely disconcerted today.. Something I have always wanted to happen, something I have hoped for and prayed for.... has happened.  And it has rocked my world :-)

All the socks matched up

....with no hope of matching up anything in the collection of single socks still waiting for their mates :-(

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Waiting

I am still waiting for my tree to bloom.

The night of heavy rain came.... and the next day I was thrilled to see that all the buds were still on the tree.  No change.  They are still swollen and beautiful.... and, most importantly, they are still on the tree waiting for the sun.

So why am I disappointed?

It's gray out there....  and things haven't changed.

I am like a little kid waiting for a holiday.

Still waiting.....

If the blooms had fallen off..... there would be no more waiting.

Makes me wonder.... what is it that I dread so much?   The disaster?   Or the waiting?

Can I not just enjoy the day?  Must I have constant motion and Emotion swirling around me?

I will take a breath today... and just enjoy the beautiful life I have.... and know in my heart that change will come.... good and bad...   surely as tomorrow will follow today..


I love my tree :-)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Got Drama?

Drama is acting.

Drama makes your heart race, your palms sweaty, your stomach sick.

Drama leaves you confused, dazed, insecure.

Drama makes you act irrationally, speak unkindly and defensive.

So why on earth do so many people participate?

Reducing the drama in your life is one of the BEST things you can do for your health and happiness.  It's not easy.... but you will not believe the serenity you will achieve when you succeed!

If you are subject to a lot of drama in your life, I'd like to propose an idea that you may not like.  I'd like to propose the possibility that you are ONE HALF of the dramatic behavior partnership.  Below, I offer some suggestions that will reduce or eliminate YOUR contribution to the DRAMA.

Don't get me wrong.... I'm not blaming you. 

But I found that when I started making changes to ME, a lot of the drama in my life disappeared.  The people I live with and love began to change their behaviors too - NOT because I told them to... but because they followed my lead.

Of course, I lost some people I had called 'friend', too.  But their behaviors did not change... and their behavior was TOXIC to my attitude... so, while painful to realize this, losing those people meant losing their negative impact on my life.  And that, my friends, was a good thing!

1.  Be honest.
      Tell the truth.  Do not elaborate.  Be clear and concise... no pointed barbs, no half-formed comments.... just the facts... and ONLY the facts needed.  You might need to bite your tongue here!  Starting this practice is HARD... especially when you are a partner to dramatic behavior.   My tongue STILL bleeds sometimes from being bitten :-)
     If something REALLY needs to be said, then it will STILL need to be said in a few hours or a day after I have time to think about what message I really want to get across.

2.  Be responsible.
        If you say you will do something, then do it.  If you say something, mean it.  This means following through with commitments.  This means making decisions about what you will and will not tolerate.  For instance, I will not be party to a shouting match.  I will allow some people to yell at me.. if they need to vent their frustration or anger... but I will not carry that around with me.  I will come back later to deal with the issues.

 3.  Be in control of yourself.
          Do NOT let others control your life and emotions.  You can control your own behavior.  As for others, you cannot change them.  But you CAN limit your exposure to them.  And you CAN decide how much effort you want to put into your relationship with them.  And you CAN decide how you will respond to them.

4.  Be logical.
          The people you live with do not really want to make you mad.  Making you unhappy or angry messes up THEIR lives too.   It makes no sense that someone who is your friend or family is actively trying to hurt you.

        If you are criticized, listen.  Think about it.  Decide if it is true.  If it is not, LET IT GO!  If it is, then work to become a better person.

5.  Hold others accountable for what they say and do.
         If someone says they feel a certain way.... believe it and act accordingly.
Do NOT assign motive.  Do NOT assume you know what others are thinking.  Act on FACT.  

6.  Recognize your own self worth.
     Regardless of what anyone may say to you, you have a right to an opinion.  You have the right to make decisions.  Do NOT add an apology to everything you do.  Accept your rightful place as a person with dignity.
 
7.  Be realistic.
         Sometimes there ARE people who are trying to hurt you.  Re-think your relationship if you need to.  Decide how much you will let them hurt you.

         Do NOT accept the pain or behavior.  Accept the person for who they are.

8.   Do NOT play the game!
      Most of all, do NOT get sucked in to the drama.  Keep your head above the fray and do not participate.

Of course - maybe you know all this already.  Maybe you don't have this kind of drama in your daily life.. maybe everyone you deal with is logical and rational.  

But I doubt it... if you deal with people, you deal with drama :-)  So take a hard look at your interactions.... do the best you can.... and get a good laugh out of it! 

Drama can be comedy too :-)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What if?

I woke this morning to a gray sky filled with heavy clouds..  not even a sunrise I could see..


 Rain.... rain.. and more rain is in the forecast..

Not that I mind the rain sometimes.... but if you remember from a few days ago....  I am focused on my tree.  My beautiful "about to bloom" tree... the one with the extravagant yet fragile flowers.

What if it rains so hard that the blooms get battered about before they open?

What if the winds pick up and knock the blooms off the tree?

What if the temperature drops and the blossoms turn brown?

What if..... what if..... what if....   I am sad.... I am unhappy.... I am almost frantic with worry about my flowers.

Understand that the tree is fine... it's the flowers that will be ruined.   I am totally preoccupied with impending disaster.

Do you do this to yourself?  Do you allow your fears and worry to take over your day?

I am forgetting to sit back and breathe....  I am forgetting that my purpose.. RIGHT NOW... is to recognize the special beauty of those swelling pink buds in the eerie gray half light that exists RIGHT NOW.


I have enough to take care of in my life RIGHT NOW.  How about you?

Do we really have the time and energy to worry about potential disasters?

Prepare for, yes - and then - LET GO!

What hasn't happened..... well.... it hasn't happened.... so why waste time on it?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dish Cloth Challenge #1


One of my resolutions had to do with crocheting.... one of my FAVORITE things to do!  Sometimes I think if I were younger, I would be labeled somehow... but a reality for me is that I like to stay busy.  My brain sorts things out better if I am moving in some way.   I think that's why crocheting works for me.... I've been doing it so long that many times, my fingers are flying and my brain is free.

Not always though - and I promised myself this year that I would engage the brain and do some more creative things.. try some new techniques!  And, as often happens, when the wish goes out into the universe, the means presents itself...

I found a "dishcloth challenge".  At the website listed below is a challenge to create dishcloths... 365 of them :-)

ACTUALLY designing them is not part of what I want to do (right now).... but here before me was an opportunity - 365 short projects that would give me a creative challenge.

I also like the nature of the project... for one... dishcloths... come on, who can mess up a dishcloth?  Rip it out, start over, or go clean something.... no worries...

Second... the patterns are versatile..... most of the squares could be translated into afghan squares with different yarns.... so if there is one that particularly grabs me.... I can make 30 of them and sew them together in an afghan...

Some of the patterns can translate into winter scarves.... by simply using a warm yarn and NOT stopping at "square shape" but continuing on until the length is right.

The patterns are FREE :-)  I like that!

I will probably use these cloths as gifts later.... putting 2-3 of them together and doing a coordinating dishtowel or potholder would make a cute set.  Potholder could easily be TWO of the same dishcloth stitched together and adding a hanging loop :-)

And then - in honesty - I have more yarn stashed than anyone needs....  this challenge offers me an opportunity to work on my financial resolution.... by USING UP.  Small projects lend themselves to using scraps.... so anyway - on to the fun!


http://www.bestfreecrochet.com  Dishcloth challenge by Maggie Weldon

These are the patterns for # 1 through 5... the colors and shapes are geared toward Valentines.. so bear with me.

The heart is pattern #1... it was pretty easy and fun to see it take shape.

#2 and 3 are the small ones in the upper left hand corner.  They are kind of small and lacy... probably better suited for baby washcloths than dishcloths in my opinion.  Both would work well as scarves... particularly the ripple pattern one.  Also with a larger hook, they would make larger cloths - so the size could be changed pretty easily.

#4 is in the lower left corner.  I thought this one was the BEST one for actually cleaning....it is thick and has little bobbles on it that would scrub pretty well, I think.

#5 is the heart and lace.... really pretty but I'm not sure about usefulness :-)  Fun to do though!

Try them - I'll post some each week for a while so you can see how I do and decide if you want to try them (or put in your order...LOL!!)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tree of Promise

I have a tree that reminds me every year to recognize and enjoy the moments of beauty and happiness that occur in my life every day.

It is a tree that my mother planted years and years ago... so it reminds me of her a lot.

I think she called it a Japanese magnolia but I probably need to look that up someday.  But what it is for me is a reminder to stop and look and enjoy.

The picture below doesn't tell much... just a tree, you know?  But it holds a promise

what this tree promises... is


BLOOMS!    Tons and tons of booms!  Lovely pale pink clouds of blooms..  you can kind of see the buds just beginning to open to the spring sun. 

This tree blooms magnificently each year... for about a week.  The flowers pop out before the leaves even get started... they are large and extravagant flowers.   But the flowers are fragile.

Once they start to open.... any rainstorm.... or frost... or heavy wind..can damage them.  You have to WATCH that tree....  you have to look at it and drink in the beauty and promise every chance you get.  Because it is fleeting.  And it is easy to miss.


A few of the flowers are just beginning to open!  I will hope for a few days of sunny weather so that I can watch the tree in all its glory

But I need to remember that the beauty I am meant to see and appreciate is NOW.

I don't know what tomorrow may bring.... so I have a choice.... like you do...  to hope and wait for the beauty I know MIGHT come...  or to see what the beauty that is around me each day.  The choice truly is whether to remain empty hoping for something magnificent..... or to fill my life with gratitude and beauty every day...

So my personal choice is to enjoy the swelling buds and the first few flowers TODAY...  I will bring you photos of this tree as the week goes on and we'll see how much beauty we can gather together in the coming days :-)

Monday, March 7, 2011

NO WAY!

Do you know this person?

Ms Negative....  her consistent response to new challenges and change with... "I can't do that", "That won't work", "There is NO way that is gonna happen". 

Of COURSE you know her!  She is your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend.   She is perfectly nice.  You've seen her go out of her way for others.  You KNOW there is a kind heart in there... but her responses are off-putting and discouraging.  Of course, misery loves company and maybe she needs sympathy..... but honestly, doesn't she need uplifting more?

I know that, while I might like this person, I don't want to be with them much because they bring me DOWN.  I have enough to deal with all by myself.

Wait a minute...  we all know her.  As a matter of fact... you might even BE her.  Who me?  NO WAY!  It can't happen!  I am TOTALLY positive!  Are you?  Are you really?  Are you actively committed to bringing the people around you UP or trying to bring them down?

I challenge you:  walk around for ONE day... (just ONE day) and listen to yourself.

Listen to the SECOND HALF of your responses...
             For example, you meet someone and they say, "What a nice day it is!"  And you say, "Yes it is <of course, stopping right there is the best option, but do you find yourself saying the rest of this sentence?> BUT I think it is supposed to rain later."  WHAT?? Who asked you to be the spoiler?  Is your response going to change the weather?  Absolutely not - but it will surely change the ATMOSPHERE.   

How about this one.... 

Add the word YET or TODAY.
      Someone is trying to teach you something new and you just don't get it.  I mean, sometimes, the brain cells just don't click right away... you get frustrated and say, "I can't get it" or "I can't do this".  Wow!  Scary, isn't it, to set yourself up for failure?   This kind of statement affects everyone around you.... it puts a damper on others trying to learn too.   Instead, even when frustrated, all you have to do is say YET... as in "I can't do this YET"... and you won't bring people down with you.

Predict good outcomes instead of bad.
       You have a task to do or a test or something with an uncertain outcome.  You have this gloom and doom thing going on where you imagine all the bad outcomes.  Why not stir up your positive side and go ahead and imagine all the good outcomes?  Most little things in life can go either way and you get to CHOOSE whether to live in FEAR and NEGATIVITY or JOY and POSITIVITY.

No worries... your figures of speech and your attitudes are a matter of choice and habit.  You can change them IF YOU WANT TO!

What do you choose?  Post a comment and let me know how you did!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lent....Ready or Not?

In just a few days, the Christian world will begin their annual practice of Lent.  Contrary to popular belief, Lent is not all about giving up candy or soda.  It is defined as a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus.... it is a time of prayer and self-denial, a time of acts of charity and forgiveness.

For me, as a Catholic Christian, it is those things.  For me, as a practical person on a journey to a better life, it is a GIFT!  Lent is one of those annual periods, which while associated with religious practices, ALSO serves as an opportunity to start over.  It is a time when you can HALT the practices which are leading you toward the life you DON'T want.

The official time period for Lent in 2011 is from Wednesday March 9 through Sunday April 24, 2011.  Other religious traditions have other dates to use for this purpose.  Most major religions have cyclical times throughout the year designed for self-purification.  To my way of thinking, this is a clear indicator that "cleaning up your act" periodically is a good thing!

For me, after a winter of FIGHTING to get through some of these resolutions... and a week of vacation excess... I am ripe for a time of self-improvement!  I am not ready mentally (probably due to negative nutrition and lack of consistent exercise!)... but I am determined to be ready by Wednesday.

For prayer, I am beginning an on-line course for Lent and I will commit to staying focused and actually finishing it :-)  It is hard to carve out that time for spirituality but it is a good thing.

I will re-commit to my health, to create the healthiest body I can.  Real food only.... NO processed wheat products... NO products from a cow... so back to serious implementation of my personal food rules.   In my own best interest, I will also chart my weight and measurements (not here! LOL!)  and write down my food daily.  (I HATE to do this... but seriously, tracking your food intake is one of the BEST things you can do to monitor yourself!)

I will also consistently follow my training programs.  (which means that I need to WRITE IT DOWN!)  I had one through the 8TUFFMILE race but haven't followed through to continue it.

 I want to detail clean the rooms in my house that are decluttered..... and keep working on the other clutter spots to make a marked improvement in my family living spaces by Easter.  Today I will create a specific list for myself so that I can stay on track better.  Goals need to be measurable and specific...  "making improvements" is not a good goal... it's a good IDEA :-)

I want to USE UP the food in my freezer and pantry.  I did this last year and it was awesome.  This will fit into my efforts to save money too.  It means I will have to take the time to plan some menus.. a habit I am not consistent with.

And I want to GIVE AWAY.  I will continue my birthday card project and commit to connecting with loved ones I don't see on a regular basis.  I will continue the journey toward tithing and saving, continue crocheting for gifts and charity and search out places to donate the items I am decluttering.

The next few days will be preparation times.... I need to make some lists and schedules.... this makes me smile because I do like making LISTS :-)  I will be ready for my Wednesday start date!   Maybe I'll even come up with some celebrations for Tuesday just for Mardi Gras fun!

So my challenge to you is: what will YOU do for the 40 - 50 days that Lent is composed of?  What challenge will YOU set for yourself?  How will you reward yourself or keep track of your accomplishments?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bucket List - Do YOU Have One?

The movie Bucket List hit me hard!  The concept of having a list of things I want to do before I die - I mean BIG things - DREAMS - had not occurred to me in years.  Literally YEARS.

I feel like somewhere along the way, I shut down.  I think I was disappointed enough... I had enough life crises.. that I quit dreaming for myself.  Not that I have had a bad life - probably no more crises than anyone else.. and when I finally settled down in my mid-30s (with 3 children and a couple of failed marriages behind me), my Cinderella ENDing... was just that... an END.  And I HAPPILY rested in that ENDing, finished raising my children, dreaming for them... and realized it wasn't the END.

But I was content.  Content is good, right?  I wasn't too unhappy with my weight.. mostly because I KNEW with every fiber of my being that I could not lose it.... so I accepted it.   I LIKE being home taking care of things.... so I accepted it.  I LOVE being a wife and mother.  I was happy sitting on the porch in my rocking chair.  I THOUGHT that learning to be content with my place in life was the ultimate goal. 

By the time I turned 50, life had settled into predictable routines.  And I was content.  A friend asked me about my bucket list.... what were the things I wanted to do before I died.  And I didn't have one.   Not one dream.  Not one thing I wanted to aspire to, to achieve.  And I realized that in my self-induced coma of contentment... I was done.   Finished, caput..... DONE!  At 50?  In good health?

And my logical mind kicked in and said - if that is true, if you are finished.... then what's next?

Yikes!  Can you say 'wake up call'?  With the recognition that by most standards, at least half of my life is behind me, it's time..... PAST time... for me to DREAM about what I would like to do in this world.  The dreams, the achievements are what mean I am NOT finished..... I am still ALIVE!

So I started thinking about things I would like to do 'some' day.... and have begun to make goals out of them!  SOME day is NOW :-)

I created a page with 'bucket list' items on it - a few I've done and some I am working on.  I am still content... actually more so... I am HAPPY and LOVE the challenges I set for myself.

What about you?  Do you have dreams?  Dreams for yourself?  Do you have a bucket list?

Why or why not?

Leave a comment here and let me know!

Friday, March 4, 2011

February Resolution Evaluation

Time for a monthly evaluation!  Probably boring reading - but it does keep me on track and I intend for my resolutions to be reachable GOALS this year :-)

I'll have to evaluate them taking into consideration that the last week of the month was an expensive vacation week.  St. John is a beautiful little island... great for a VISIT... but I don't think I would like to live there.  Gas is $3.91 per gallon... driving is on the opposite side of the road.... but even if it weren't, the roads are tiny with steep grades and sharp curves.  Food costs about twice what I pay here in the states... and the lowest price I found for bottled water is $1 each. Water and power conservation are critical there.   It's good to be home!

Anyway - evaluation!

Resolutions 2011

HEALTH/FITNESS

1.      Weight, weight, weight!  Maintain loss and lose a little more.  Tighten and tone…. Develop a daily regimen to stay fit for life!  Learn to eat like a thin healthy person.

Okay - so rum is cheaper than any other drink in the islands!  I definitely fell OFF the food & drink wagon while I was away!  I enjoyed all kinds of junk food - have you ever traveled with a teenager?  Confined in a small space with candy and chip items... not the best scenario for me :-)

Anyway - on the good side - I have continued to eat a good breakfast and a large salad each day.  I struggle with grain free and dairy free eating but still do better than I did when the year began.  I also continue to travel with my own snacks to reduce the damage :-)

10.            Walk Breast Cancer 3Day again (July)  Training has begun!  I write a weekly update email letter for those who wish to train with me :-)  Let me  know if you are interested!
11.            Train for and do several races this year.  
               *8TUFFMILES  2:08  15:22 min pace (a full 30 minutes faster than when I ran / walked it in 2008!)
I am preparing for:  The Flying Pirate Half Marathon in OBX  (4/10); The Flying Pig Half in Cincinnati (5/1)

            12.  Continue dancing!
                     

       Okay - still enrolled :-)  Ballet, clogging, Christian lyrical, Irish soft shoe and Irish hard shoe lessons... preparing for the June recital - and I just tested for my green belt in martial arts

LIFE BETTERMENT

9.                 Continue debt reduction journey. 
                I am excited about February progress!  INCLUDING vacation expenses, my February food expenditures were HALF of January's..... woo-hoo!!   And our credit card balances have been reduced  a little bit. 
     We over-tithed and under-saved in January and that has not yet been corrected.  I will handle that in MarchOur goal is to donate 10% of our income - 5% to the church and 5% to other organizations our family supports.  And to save 10% of our income.

7.                Organize, unclutter, streamline, purge!
      Ongoing progress :-)  I will continue to have pockets of clutter for a long time but want to celebrate that which DOES get handled!  I have bags of clothing & household items to donate but we live far away from a reasonable place to give them.  Family members understand that they go in these bags under pain of death :-)  These items will leave but I cannot in good conscience throw away items that can still be used.
    I also have tossed, tossed and tossed items!  I have shredded many documents this month and have come a long way in taming the paper monster!

       Did NOT bring back a lot of souvenirs from vacation.. just a few items to use that will bring back memories :-) 

PERSONAL PROJECTS

2. Send birthday cards to friends and family / also be prepared with sympathy and congratulations cards
  
    I am pleased to say that I am still getting the cards out!  Sympathy ones too, though a little slower.

3. Read a minimum of a book a week for the year 
February - I completed reading 6 books :-)
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Syren by Angie Sage
An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
St. John on Foot and by Car by Randall S and Rebecca S Koladis
St. John Off the Beaten Track  by Gerald Singer
The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

4. Crochet for charity – and use my crocheted items as gifts when possible
I've completed several items for donations this month but haven't exactly counted them :-)  I have continued making lovies for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  Weekly pictures of completed objects are going up on Facebook... I am considering giving a day each week of this blog to completed handwork...
Personal projects: 
small gifts for each niece / nephew starting with youngest (hats. Scarves, wrist warmers, whatever)
I completed 5 of the 9 scarf sets for nieces and nephews - 3 of which have been mailed out.

  I started playing around with some dishcloth patterns to use up crochet cotton and practice new stitches.

            Handmade baby gifts for good friends
             have 2 to do so far this year.... am planning an afghan for one and am not sure what to make for the other one

Crocheted afghan for relatives / good friends who have momentous occasion
        I have 2 afghans in progress and need to plan for and make 3 afghans for guys!
5. Get back to quilting my own projects and mending the quilts my MIL made for us.
    A little progress in February - the panel is ready for lap quilting the dividing strips and I've mended 3 quilts and gotten them back in service.
 
6. Spiritual reading – I am considering reading the Bible through again. 
    Downloaded daily readings and read for a couple of days... I am starting a course for Lent and hope that will help me keep my head in a spiritual place!

8.      Photo project – 
        Progress in ways I hadn't planned :-)  My original resolution had to do with scanning / organizing the many hard copy photos that are LOOSE!  I have them corralled in a container... and this month I did get them to the office - but that is all I did with those.

I did, however, keep up with current digital photos and begin creating photo books when online services had sales.  I have photo books for two of my three Breast Cancer 3Day walks and have started working on the third one.  And I ordered hard copy prints of some of the photos I needed to continue the albums I have here.

 I had a few February pledges that I did not fulfill:         

      Develop/begin a regular core/arm strength routine
      Finish hat/scarf to niece/nephew project (5 girls / 4 boys)    HALF COMPLETE
      Get baby gifts planned and started   PLANNED ONLY
      Open photo container and start looking at/sorting hard copy photos

March pledges
           *get cholesterol levels checked
             * get tax paperwork handled early in the month
              *continue work of document shredding and cleaning out paper and electronic files
             * complete hat/scarf project for nieces & nephews - 4
             * start and finish 2 baby gifts
             * Develop/begin a regular core/arm strength routine
            * Begin sorting/scanning photos