Friday, March 26, 2010

Couscous, Silence, and Photographs

For the last few months, I have been reading the Happiness Project and have been trying to make my life more pleasurable. This month's challenge is to improve my work life. One of the pieces of advice engraved in the black and white text is to add more novelty and challenge to my day. I have always been a huge fan of trying new things and learning new skills, so I was excited to add this challenge to my to-do list. Accomplishing a difficult task or experiencing something new is invigorating, so the other night, I decided to try a new food I have always been curious about: Couscous. I had seen the food featured in recipes I have ripped out of magazines, but I had never actually bought it. While picking up milk and bananas at the local grocery store this week, I discovered couscous with mushrooms that cooked in five minutes. I was a little spectacle of the "five minute" ploy, but the dish was very easy to prepare. It may even be easier than my old stand by: brown rice. After savoring the delicious dish, I have decided to add this to my list of groceries to always have on hand.

Yesterday, work was torture, and I was feeling particularly stressed out. Since the weather was decent, I decided to walk around the park to clear my head. Normally, I stick my purple ear-buds into my ears before beginning my walk, but I had accidentally left my ipod at home. Strangely, it was the first time I had walked without music in a long time, and the silence gave the walk a different tone. I relished the sound of children laughing and of the gravel under my feet. I heard sirens, a donkey, and a gentle rustle of leaves. The new playlist was more relaxing and beautiful than the typical drums and guitars I listen to. While my ipod is helpful when I am trying to get my heart pumping, the natural melody is now my preferred soundtrack for relaxing walks.

This weekend I plan on starting a new project inspired by a tip I read in a magazine. The article suggested scrapbooking an ordinary week instead of a special occasion. While special occasions - holidays, weddings, vacations - are precious, the little moments are what add up over time and help create our identity. Starting tomorrow, I am going to photograph the ordinary parts of my day - my morning coffee, my attempts at exercise, my mountains of homework - and to collect the mementos of an ordinary day - grocery receipts, movie stubs, junk mail. Twenty, maybe even fifty years from now, I will be able to look back and share with the younger generation what life was like in 2010.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Green Easter

Many of us practice good habits such as healthy eating, exercising, and recycling on normal days but allow ourselves to slip on special occasions. I, however, believe that special occasions give us an opportunity to share our good habits with our family and friends. Instead of pigging out and sitting on the couch, we can bring healhty dishes to holiday dinners and take a walk with our family after eating. Healthy living isn't just about taking care of ourselves; it is about taking our of our loved ones, and the best way to teach our loved ones healthy habits is to lead by example. This goes for all of our lifestyle choices including being eco-conscious. Instead of giving gifts that jeopardize our family's health and our planet's cleanliness, give a gift that will last a lifetime; teach your children, your spouse, even your friends healthy living habits. For some great "green" Easter gift ideas, check out my article on building a "green" Easter basket.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Food Revolution

Everyone needs to watch this show. End of Story.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How to Become a Morning Person

Earlier this week, I fell in love with an AM yoga video, and I vowed to start doing it every morning before work. Well, my commitment lasted two days (the two days that I didn't have to go to work). I set my alarm clock an hour early every morning, but end up ending the snooze button for an hour before I have to get ready for work. I can't seem to figure out how to get myself out of bed. Every morning I slack on my routine, I feel guilty and lazy. I thought that the pleasure of yoga and my desire to feel relaxed and energized would be motivation enough, but apparently, my body prefers sleep. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to become a better morning person?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Power of AM Yoga

Most days, my mornings are hectic. I hit the snooze button more times than I can count on both hands, I rush around to leave on time and usually end up forgetting something, and I have no energy until I drink at least 16 ounces of coffee. I have always longed to be one of those women who rise an hour early, fit in a kickass workout, and skip around all day because they are filled with tons of energy. I have read countless articles convincing me of the benefits of working out in the morning, but every time I attempt to set my alarm clock an hour earlier, my bed always wins. There is nothing appealing about a treadmill or aerobic video first thing in the morning; in fact, a perfect morning allows extra time to just sit and drink my coffee without moving. On a quest to improve my health and to de-stress my life, I roamed the fitness aisle at Walmart this weekend, and I discovered an intriguing workout video: AM Yoga. At first I was spectacle of any video with the words AM, but I have always enjoyed the relaxing benefits of yoga. For 10 bucks, I figured I could always do the video at night if the morning routine didn't work out. After spending my money, I had to figure out how to convince myself to actually put the video in the DVD player. Since I am not a fan of waking up earlier than necessary, I decided the best way to get in the habit was to take advantage of my current spring break schedule and to do the video on mornings I could wake up at my normal time; I figured if I enjoyed the workout enough, I would want to wake up earlier on a normal day to fit it in. This morning, I did the first workout on the DVD, and I was instantly hooked. In just 20 minutes, I felt relaxed and energized. While at work, I was actually in a good mood and felt invigorated. One small change to my morning routine improved all aspects of my day: I felt more optimistic and at ease with the world, I could relax at work instead of fidgeting in my seat to move around, I had energy to burn even after a long work day, and best of all, I actually had the energy to enjoy a wonderful evening with my boyfriend instead of falling asleep on the couch after dinner. Hopefully, I can continue this new routine by waking up a earlier hour after day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Article

The last few days have been hectic. It has been difficult to fit in time to enjoy myself, but there as been one good thing to motivate me the past few days: I published my first article online. For a while now, I have been playing with the idea of becoming a freelance writer. I have always loved the power of words and being able to express myself, and I am one of those people that start to hyperventilate at the thought of sitting in a cubicle for 10 hours everyday. My ultimate dream job would allow me to work from home or my favorite coffee shop or a park bench on warm spring days. While I am far from a successful freelance writer, I finally published my first piece. Check it out at I would love to hear feedback!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shoe and Handbag Intervention

Next to coffee and chocolate, shoes and purses are my number one weakness. When I gave myself permission to sit on the couch for an hour and watch Oprah today, I expected to relax and maybe learn about a serious issue in the world. Instead, I found myself fighting the urge to shop online for new shoes and a new purse. Oprah's shoe and handbag intervention showed women the shoes that are making them look fat and old and the purses that are making them look frumpy. Despite my shoe addiction, most days I fall into the shoes that make you look fat category. A busy schedule makes me want to be comfortable instead of stylish, but Oprah has me second guessing my go-to shoes. I think my "me time" this weekend (after I get my paycheck of course) might just include some shoe shopping.

According to Oprah, the shoes that every woman needs:

a two inch kitten heel

a comfortable flat shoe

a show stopping gorgeous shoe

a cute sneaker (not a gym sneaker)

a tall boot

an weather boot

Monday, March 8, 2010

Good Morning Sunshine

After months of record breaking snow storms, I was beginning to think I lived in the Artic. Snow is fun during Christmas season, but during the rest of winter, I'd like to hibernate. Something about cold, gloomy days makes me want to snuggle under blankets and stay there until spring.

To be annoying, I enjoy waking up my boyfriend in the morning by shrieking "Good Morning Sunshine!!" Ironically, neither one of us are morning people. Most days, I perfer the day to start after 10 am, but today, the sun was shining through my curtains and I could hear birds chirping. "Wow, birds still exist," I woke up thinking. At first I tried to pull the covers back over my head, but the pleasant weather was drawing me in like a a shopolohic at a shoe sale.

With two hours before class started, I tried to decide how I wanted to spend my morning. I could lounge in bed and waste the day away, I could wake up and do chores around the house, or I could get out of bed, dust of my sneakers, and go for a walk.

Thanks to an office job and a full time college schedule, I spend most of my time indoors with artificial lighting and limited windows. By the end of the day, I typically feel lazy and ghostly. Nice weather inspires me; I can spend all day just sitting outside, soaking up the sun, and watching the world around me. After a little debating, I decided that the housework could wait, and I headed outdoors.

Today, my "me time" included sunshine, exercise, and a great playlist on my ipod. After just 30 minutes, I was rejuvenated, motivated, and relaxed. As a sat in class for the next eight hours, instead of longing to be outdoors, I remembered the beautiful morning that I had outside. Crossing my fingers for beautiful weather all week.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lattes, Books, and Gelatis

Recently, I had an epiphany. I realized that I spend all my time working my little tush off to please all the people around me, but I rarely make time for myself. The little bit of free time I have is usually spent on cleaning or homework. Rarely do I take five minutes to truly relax and do something that I enjoy. From now, I am spending at least five minutes everyday doing something just for me, and I am going to spend more time appreciating the little moments in life instead of stressing about the bigger issues that I can not control.

In light of my new mission, I spent the entire morning by myself and allowed myself to do anything I wanted. Surprisingly, I woke up at 7 am. On work days, I dread getting out of bed, but today, I woke up energized and refreshed.

My first stop was my favorite coffee shop. It was amazing to just sit and enjoy a latte without having to rush off to work or school. For over an hour, I sipped my delicious drink, flipped through newspapers, and watched the other customers.

After savoring my mocha latte, I wandered around a bookstore and a thrift store. I could spend hours admiring all the books at Barnes and Nobles. All the different ideas and cover art are fascinating; it is like being transported to a different land or time period. Books are so powerful because they allow you to escape reality for a brief moment and to see the world through someone else's eyes.

On my way home, I stopped and enjoyed my first gelati of the season!! Tasting the sweet treat conjures up images of flip-flops and tan lines. There may be two more weeks of winter, but in my mind, it's spring.

At first, I was a little spectacle of spending too much time just focusing on myself. My to-do list is so overwhelming most days that I feel like I have no time to waste on people watching or window shopping, but today, I proved myself wrong. When I finally returned home, I felt rejuvenated. Instead of being irritated by the dishes in the sink, I washed them with a smile on my face (true fact.... no exaggeration). A few hours to myself made me more productive. Instead of spending three hours doing book keeping work, I finished in 45 minutes.

It is easier to find time for myself when I don't have to go to work or to school, but I am challenging myself to make at least five minutes of me time everyday no matter how busy I am; I challenge you to join me.