Progress Updates

July: Save Some Money

Well, it seems I’ve dropped the ball a bit on my update this month. You can’t see it, but I’m blushing with embarrassment. But, to my credit, it’s been a very unusual four weeks, including a three week stint of a summer cold whose symptoms are still lingering in a very inconvenient way. So, hopefully, dear reader, you will forgive me.

 

As you may recall, last month’s resolution was to carve out days off of work and to actually not work on those days. It was a pretty easy resolution for me to keep. A couple months ago I had dabbled with taking on more workdays, and that proved to be just too much for me physically, so the lesson was learned … again. Now, despite sometimes wanting to make a little extra cash, I am unwilling to add extra workdays to my schedule. It’s just a personal boundary that I’m unwilling to breach.

 

So … let’s move on to July. It’s only appropriate since the month is already almost over, yeah?

Save-Money-cable-internet

July’s resolution is about saving some money. And while I’m not going to disclose the particulars of this resolution, I will let you in on the fact that I have been working on my budget pretty diligently of late. I am close to laying all the puzzle pieces together so I’m building up some savings on a regular basis. This may seem like a small feat, but I’ve never been good at saving, so it’s actually a big deal. There are several special purchases that I am saving for, at present, so it will be a little slow-going at first, but I’m optimistic. Plus, work is always much slower in the summer, so I am expecting things to get a lot easier come autumn.

 

In any case, I feel like I’m in a decent place in relation to my goals right now. Things aren’t perfect, but I’d never expect them to be. All I am hoping is that this resolution experiment will help me to make some good healthy progress on my life journey.

 

How about you? How’s your year progressing? Are you keeping resolutions? Breaking them? Rewriting them? Pretending they never existed in the first place?

 

Good luck, whatever your path!

xoxo,

melanie

MAY: Meditate!

Well, I declare! It’s already MAY! This year, like so many of its predecessors, is passing by much more quickly than it seems it should be. I’m managing to keep up … barely. I hope you’re faring well in the maelstrom, too.

So, April’s resolution was to do something creative every week. I was to make artist dates with myself ala The Artist’s Way, and have some kind of finished project to show for my efforts at the end of this (and every subsequent) month. How’d I do? Well … I did okay.

I am sad to report that I did not do so well at making my artist dates. I am happy to report, however, that I did do some creating this month, and I do have a finished product to show for my efforts. Unfortunately, I am unable to show that project here in this blog entry. I made a present for my mom, and I don’t want her to see it before she opens it on Mothers’ Day. I feel pleased with the end product, though, and I hope she will, too.

Image

Aside from my mum’s present, I have also been creating a new website for my [professional] self. I’m almost done with the preliminary version. I am only awaiting photos to make it live. That will, hopefully, be May’s project: my photo shoot. I’m in the process of setting it up with my friend who happens to be a brilliant photographer. (I actually have several friends who are brilliant photographers. How lucky am I?) So, I will be getting creative putting together a number of general poses, scenarios, ‘looks’ and such and then my friend will work her magic and … voila! … I will have photos for my new site. Hooray!

 

May’s resolution is to cultivate a meditation practice. I was already working with this one earlier in the year, but my motivation petered out as the year got busier. This really is the perfect goal for me to be working with right now. And, of course, since it’s something I am in desperate need of in my life, I am already feeling absolutely resistant to it. Argh! Why do we so often resist the things that are most beneficial for us? (I know I’m not the only one who does that!) I’m going to give it my best effort and hopefully I will be able to make some good progress. It’s all about getting on the mat (or the zafu, or the floor, …), the rest is easy. I can do this!

If any of you want to join me for a month of meditation, you are most welcome! You can make a public declaration in the comments section below, or make a private commitment to yourself. Either way, I’ll be sending you support, and hope you’ll do the same for me.

 

How are your resolutions progressing? How are they changing? How are YOU changing because of them? I’d love to hear your stories! Share your progress below, if you’re so inclined.

Image  Image  Image

(Some bonus photos for you.)

 

I’m sending you all love and light and solidarity!

Namaste,

melanie

APRIL: Cultivate Creativity!

April is here, and with it a new resolution to add to the mix. This month’s resolution is all about cultivating creativity. Seems appropriate, too, as Spring – the season of creativity and rebirth – is getting into full swing. But before we explore this month’s theme, let’s take a moment to recap the previous resolutions’ progress.

 

Image

 

January was about getting organized. Much progress was made as I was moving into my new loft apartment during that month. (Read this post for more details.) And I’m still making progress in the organization arena. In fact, I finally got the rest of my office/craft room furniture last weekend. I’m currently working with getting that space organized and made efficient in preparation for this month’s resolution. These monthly resolutions are like gifts that keep giving. And each one benefits the others. It’s a beautiful synergy that’s happening here. Yeah!

 

February was about experimenting with healing my body through diet/nutrition. This has proven to be an amazing and ongoing adventure that is changing my life and my health in ways I never imagined. I worked a fairly restrictive elimination diet for two months. You can read about that experience here, here, here and here. This month I’m making even more changes to my diet with a new experiment in nutrition. You can read about it soon on my personal blog: Experiments In Bliss.

 

March’s resolution was to get my body moving. I had already been working with regular physical exercise, and am continuing to do so on an almost daily schedule. I’m doing strength/toning work an average of five days a week. I don’t have a car, so I walk almost daily, and my pace is a fairly brisk one. I’m trying to keep up some cardio work, too, though since my rebounder died a couple weeks ago, my cardio routine has been on a brief hiatus. (I did just get a temporary rebounder this weekend that I am hoping will last me until I can afford the very fancy (read: expensive) one that I am coveting.) I am cultivating my home yoga practice as well, and teaching two classes a week to boot. So, I feel like I’m working this resolution pretty well. I do hope to build on it even more as the weather warms up and I can get outside in the sunshine more. You’re absolutely invited to join me!

 

During this month I have become increasingly aware of how one can learn a lot about a person by the way they approach their fitness program. I have noticed that despite the increased physical difficulty of my Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis workouts, I continue to work diligently on the mat to perfect my form. In the past I would often speed up my movements using momentum to get the thing finished and to be able to say I did my workout. Of course, that negated at least some of the benefits of working out in the first place. I have noticed that I no longer do that. When I work out now, I actually try to slow myself down and work my body with the very best form possible for each movement in the series. I don’t beat myself up if I need to take breaks, but before I break I ask my body for five more repetitions. Sometimes that is all I need to continue through the discomfort. If not, then I take a break without guilt or shame knowing that I am doing the very best I can do. As a result my body is becoming steadily stronger with more endurance. This is being reflected in other areas of my life, as well. When I feel challenged by my work or by life, in general, I feel more capable of gracefully and agilely mastering those challenges. And that is a great feeling. Thank you, exercise!

 

Image

 

So that brings us up to date. April, as I mentioned, is about cultivating creativity. And I have been celebrating the ultimate creative endeavour all weekend: my birthday! This was a nice, big, round birthday. A birthday that carried me through the gates of a new decade of living. I am 40 now. That’s right … 4-0. As a child I had very definite ideas of what forty was, and the gist was that it was old. But, I’d like to send a message to my younger self:

 

Forty is not old. Forty is freakin’ awesome! I feel better than I ever have. I am comfortable in my skin and in control of my life … well, as much as I care to be. I have long been aware of the fact that I am a late bloomer, and I am embracing that fact wholeheartedly this birthday. I’m only just getting started. My mojo is just starting to rev. And I’m not going to let a number slow me down. Got it? Good.

 

Ahem .. so we were talking about creativity. This month’s resolution is to do something creative every week. Make actual artist dates a la The Artist’s Way. Have some kind of finished project to show for my efforts at least once a month. This couldn’t have happened at a better time. I’ve been feeling very removed from my creative spark, but also very nostalgic for it. This is one of those times of year when I start feeling the rush of the Busyness of Everyday beginning to snowball into an avalanche of Too Much To Do that bears down on me in a most uncomfortable way. So, it will be a good challenge to make some time for a little creative play amid all the work of living. I’ll be posting my finished projects either here or on Experiments In Bliss, so stay tuned for updates. However, if any of you have any suggestions for creative experiments, I’m absolutely open to hearing them.

 

How do you express your creativity? How do you carve creative playtime out of your busy schedules? How are you doing with your own resolutions? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line in the comments below to share your experiences.

 

Image

 

I hope you’re all having a beautiful Spring full of showers and flowers.

 

xoxo,

melanie

Three-Quarters

So posting has been slow with new baby in the house and a work project in full-swing. For the sake of getting something down, here are my standings for the year. I’m feeling pretty good about the outcome so far. I’d like to post specifically about some of the projects, but that will have to wait until there is more time. Is there ever enough time?

 

Capture

red=done; yellow=in progress

A few words:

  • I’m working on a three-day getaway idea for the fall, but I have to get certain other member of my family on board.
  • I have been inspired in many ways this year, just not in the original intention of the resolution.
  • I have officially read more than four classics in the year, but still have to read the last book chosen by vote – Walden.
  • I have tried out way more than six new recipes, but haven’t really come up with a sixth ‘theme”.
  • I’m am making an effort to spend more quality time with the husband and the oldest child. Those are on going and I will be posting soon. I may fall short of 12 here, but I think I feel pretty good about my efforts so far.
  • I forgot knitting required two hands – I’ve had half a hat since May. Six word stories are ongoing as I think of them. I am writing and editing a poem about my crazy neighbor. I am in the middle of a drawing project. I have a few more ideas for the rest of the year – maybe sewing, a one-night pottery session, a series of haikus. Open to more ideas as inspiration hits!

How are you doing on your resolutions this year?

One-Third

by Erin

We are one-third of the way through the year already. Holy moly.

I feel good about my prospects for resolution completion (red is done, yellow is in-process).

Capture

Where I am headed:

1. Explore – Still thinking about that one.

2. Learn about someone ; be inspired by their story to act/do- I kind of want to read about Mark Twain, whose stories I finally got around to reading recently. Maybe some inspiration will come from there. Otherwise, I am  open to finding inspiration elsewhere.

3. Read  classics – The blog poll still says the next books are Candide and Walden. I assume that won’t change. After blasting through some newer novels recently, I might be ready for another classic. There has been talk about some sort of parallel reading of Walden. As I may be distracted these next few months, Candide might be first so I can be a better reading partner later, when I am out of my baby fog.

4. Try new recipes – I have all the equipment for cheese making, so that is coming up. May also marks the beginning of CSA season. With Kid suddenly discovering his aversion to veggies, I may try a “kid-friendly” veggie recipe theme. Or maybe it will be a “CSA survival” theme. I also want to make more use of our Crock pot, so perhaps there will be something there.

5. (Re)connect – These are coming more easily than expected. There are a lot of people who deserve connection but I don’t want to ruin any surprises. In addition, I am exploring the possibility of what it means to connect to oneself. Connecting to a stranger is also intriguing, but I don’t know what that looks like yet.

6. Get selfishly creative –  I don’t have enough ideas to get me through the rest of the year, but some that I have been kicking around are: taking a “pop-up” art class at a local art center, writing poetry, draw portraits of my kids, take on a sewing project, attempt a solo painting, revisit “photography” projects from earlier this year after learning more about photography and recreate some of the photos.  Of course, “to create” doesn’t have to be arts related. Any suggestions on alternate ideas of creation and accompanying activities are welcome in the comments.

So, how is everyone else doing?

Goodbye February, Hello March

by Erin

It is the end of another month. I would still say that I am pretty pleased with what I have accomplished. In addition, I feel like I have already learned a lot in just these two months.

Explore a new place:

No progress yet, but I am thinking strongly about the possibilities. Does this mean something in my hometown? Does this mean some sort of trip? Or is this spiritual? And what does “explore” mean?  Does it mean simply encounter for the first time, or does it mean to really dig in?

Be inspired by two great people:

I am holding off on this one, too. As above, I’m thinking about what this could mean.

Read four classics:

Two down, two to go. What have I gained from this resolution so far?

1. From The Great Gatsby: Surrounding yourself with people does not mean you have friends. You have to truly connect to others. (Thank goodness for resolution #5!)

2.  From The Jungle: Though the book was written over 100 years ago there are still so many people hanging by a thread in our nation.  I believe that the book has renewed values in me that may have been quieted for a little while.

3. Also from The Jungle:  I am thankful for my vegetarianism. I do not advocate that everyone should be a vegetarian, but I do feel that we need to continue to look at our meat industry and decide what we are willing to accept as high quality practice and standards. Possibly to the detriment of our family grocery budget, I want to be even more vigilant when buying meat for the omnivores in our family.  There is so much more to learn. Do I sense another resolution?

4.  I have been inspired to read more classics beyond my goal. With this resolution I find that people keep giving me books. There is no reason I can’t knock off a few more from my “to read” list now.

Try six new recipes:

I found quickly this had to be tweaked. I guess I try out new recipes much more often than I anticipated.  So now it is recipe themes or “cooking adventures”. Where it stands so far:  I have made two of the three 15-minute meal recipes again and they will probably surface many times this year; I am on a citrus hiatus for a little while; I am still happy with my homemade cleaners. Where I am headed: I’m thinking about making my own cheeses. I also want to try a few recipes from the “Real Snacks” recipe book that I got for Christmas. This has led me to the purchase of those “strange” flours I keep seeing on the grocery shelves. The sixth theme/adventure idea has yet to surface and I will welcome suggestions.

flour

(Re)connect about once a month:

So far it has been a “first date” with another woman that I had only previously spent time with as members of our family units. We just made plans again, so this was worth the anxiety of trying the one-on-one for the first time. Then it was the family trip to meet friends for a weekend getaway. It was a nice reminder that creating a family does not  end your social life, though it does change it in profound ways. Currently, I have four envelopes addressed and sitting on my desk. My intention is to connect by means of those old fashioned letter things…now for the writing part of it. There are many more plans in progress so I feel good about my future prospects with this resolution.

Get selfishly “creative” about once a month:

I crave the process of creation. Beyond what I have shared here, I often take opportunities to make something new, something beautiful, something useful. The key word here is “selfish”. In this case, it is not doing it for others, but for myself, just because. With Big Box of Citrus and my upcoming 318 project, so far it has been about creating photos. As there are many more ways to create, there are many more ideas in progress. I’m just waiting for the right time. I am finding I am shy of a few ideas, though. Some of them also depend on timing as well as finances. I am sure that I will get close to fulfilling this resolution, but I may need more inspiration to come my way. Any ideas?

Has There Been Progress?

by Jennifer

I am quickly discovering that there is a flaw in my plan, a snafu, a fly in the ointment – there is a disconnect between posting regularly and my new method of task completion. It is proving difficult to accurately track progress when tasks are taken in such small sips that they can’t always be quantified. I have been pondering this for several weeks and still have no clear idea for corrective measures. Hmmmm, what to do? Well, since one of my goals this year is to simplify I shall let things fall into place as they will.

There, I feel calmer already!

Now to the progress so far this year:

Use Skills:
1. I have tried several new cupcake recipes and shared them with neighbors, friends and teachers. Because of the yumminess being passed around I have been commissioned to make mini cupcakes for a babyshower in March. Getting paid for something so yummy is a bonus!

2. I knit LaLa a scarf (Totally Fabulous Scarf – I think it is ugly but she loves it), completed a pair of handknit socks (Ichabod’s Bad Night Socks), finished knitting a shawl with my Christmas yarn (Pomegranate Shawl) and knit matching cowls for LaLa and I (Bandana Cowls).

100_1921100_1924100_1904100_1925

Try New Things:
1. The new cleaning products are working well but I need to add some essential oils or make some infused vinegar because both kids complain about how gross it smells. I’m on the look-out for an allergy/pet carpet cleaner too so it must be time to search pinterest again.

2. Bleu Cheese has been haunting me. Because of this I have discovered that it is tasty on burgers (from Granite City) and also on pizza. Oh, and it is also yummy on turkey sandwiches.

Try New Techniques:

1. I sampled a new knitting technique in December when I knit five new stockings for Christmas (yes, I am insane!) Fair Isle, or stranded knitting, has always befuddled me but this year I will master it, or at least become familiar and comfortable with it. I knit a hat (First Fair Isle Hat) and picked up a great tutorial that will walk me through six more projects.

100_1932

2. I spun bunny fur! One of our local farms raises English Angora Bunnies and I purchased a small amount of fiber last summer to try. It is amazingly soft but the fiber sure floats around in the air during spinning. Maybe that was why both cats were drawn into the room? I would like to try some more but I need to wait until the weather is nicer so I can spin outside.

100_1929

Research SPD, PDD-NOS and Anxiety:

After reading many blog posts, searching through my books and having discussions with Topher’s OT I have ordered a weighted blanket for him. He is a sensory seeker and comes home from school so wired that he crashes into everything in an effort to signal his brain where his body is. Hopefully the blanket will provide him a safer and less boisterous way to self-regulate. Maybe it will help him sleep better at night too…

Simplify:

1. Since we have been using safe cleaning supplies the kiddos have taken over bathroom cleaning. Three cleaning tasks eliminated from my list – yippee! Topher does a much better job than his big sister. LaLa is planning to have a maid and housekeeper as an adult and feels that learning the correct methods of cleaning are a waste of her valuable reading time.

2. The playroom has been rearranged, the new storage boxes have been purchased, the built-ins are undergoing a transformation, the toys and books are still being sorted and both children are doing a great job tidying up every night. Now I just need a few pieces of artwork and decorative touches and that room will be complete – for a while anyway!

3. I have reclaimed a small part of my fiber studio. In theory it is the dining room but since the kitchen was remodeled no one eats in there and it seemed like a waste of space to me. Now I am turning it into a lovely little sitting room filled with my spinning wheels, loom and office.

100_1937

Be Mindful:

This is ongoing as I try to experience mundane, ordinary or boring activities as something to cherish. This is going to be a tough sell as there is little about certain tasks to cherish. Unless I reward myself with chocolate…..

January Recap

by Erin

red = done

yellow = in progress

green = yet to do

January

I think I am “suffering” from new resolution excitement. I’ve been kind of knocking things off at a good pace and have many more ideas on the horizon.  I’m anticipating a slow down by March, but we’ll see. The whole point was to find things that I really looked forward to doing.

How are the rest of y’all doing so far?

Has any one else been inspired to start something new for yourself that you want to share with the rest of us?

Cleaning and Sorting and Tossing, Oh My!

by Jennifer

So far this month my efforts have been centered around clearing out the things we have too much of, sorting what we are going to keep and finding better ways to keep the house clean. Sounds pretty boring but wait, it really can be a very freeing experience! Really! No joke! I have to admit that this creates chaos and for this family chaos is BAD! For OCDish me, it makes me crazy to have clutter all over. For “transitions are hard for me” LaLa it can cause major anxiety. For sensory-sensitive Topher it’s just overwhelming.

BUT,

in the end we will have an organized, clutter-free, naturally cleaned home that makes us all feel better!

What I have completed so far to make this a reality?

First: I sorted through four years of professional pictures (dance, sports, school and just regular visits to our favorite photography studio.) Let’s just say that the stack was over 6″ tall and leave it at that! Once that was done it was time to collect everything necessary to get those photos into albums. After sale shopping at Michael’s I have the albums and decorative papers ready to go.

Second: I started working my way through all the boxes of toys in the playroom and basement. This task will take some stamina as there are way too many to attack at one time.

Third: I have been madly pinning all kinds of natural cleaning tips to use instead of chemicals. I have cleared out the cleaning supplies and replaced them with the following:

100_1883

On the surface it doesn’t seem like much but each box sorted, each picture placed in an album and every spray of vinegar is creating a better home for the people I love and that is no small thing.

3 Recipes Down, 3 To Go: 15-minute meals

By Erin

  • Explore some place new
  • Be inspired (x2)
  • Read a classic (x4)
  • Try a new recipe (x6)
  • (Re)connect (x12)
  • Get selfishly creative (x12)

Well regarding this whole “try a new recipe” thing, I grossly underestimated my kitchen exploration. In an attempt not to tie myself down and make too much work, I figured a new recipe every other month this year would be easy and sufficient. But here I sit at Day 11 in the new year 50% of the way through my goal. So I am rethinking this one. I’m considering six themes throughout the year in which there will be at least three recipes in each theme. Still stewing on it, though… (pun intended).

And now to this week.

Apparently I am in desperate need of some quick recipes that do not include grilled cheese nor come from a box because I tried three new super fast meals in five days. The trick with our household is that our food must be meatless (or adaptable) for the adult vegetarian, hearty for the adult omnivore, and interesting enough for the two-year-old. I can, without a doubt, recommend two of the three that graced our table.

#1. Tofu Scramble Tacos

Hearty, vegetarian, lovable. The recipe is here. I had to substitute feta for the cojita cheese because Trader Joe’s doesn’t seem to carry such a thing. It came together easily and made a huge mess all over our plates and floor. It was totally worth the mess. (Photo credit to Maria Robledo)

#2. Creamy Avocado Pasta

We love avocados here. The kiddo will eat an entire avocado with a spoon straight from the skin, so I wasn’t worried about hearing “I not like it” tonight. For the omnivores, I served it with a garlic chicken sausage. The pasta alone was enough for me. Clementine oranges went all around. The perk to making this one was that I was able to use my new immersion blender. The perk for our taste buds was the intense garlic goodness. The recipe is here.

avocado pasta

#3. Sesame Peanut Pasta

This one bombed. Way too bland and boring. I even doubled the green onion then added tofu and yellow peppers and soy sauce and more peanut butter and more salt. I’ll save the author of this one the embarassment of sharing the link. Instead, you get another version from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express cookbook. This one was so much better.

  1. Cook 1 1/4 lbs. egg noodles according to package directions. (I probably would use a whole wheat pasta or udon noodle.)
  2. Whisk together in a bowl: 1 T sesame oil, 1T garlic-infused oil, 1T soy sauce, 2 T sweet chile sauce, 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter, 2 T lime juice.
  3. Place cooked noodles into a bowl with 2 cups bean sprouts, 1 1/2 cups snow peas, 1 sliced red pepper, 2 finely sliced scallions. Mix.
  4. Pour dressing over mix and coat well.
  5. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1/4 cup cilantro. (Our house skips the cilantro.) Serving cold is recommended.

20130111_182721