Tuesday, August 30, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 5

I have been slacking and putting off writing the post for this week. I got all of these done in a reasonable amount of time, but then school started for Grace last week. I spent the whole week cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and getting Andy settled back in before preschool starts.

First I need to pick winners for week 4. I must confess that I really enjoy driving Bryan's car alone, with the music playing and the windows down. Car ride won for relaxation for week 4. As for enrichment, I have always loved making candles. Watching the wax melt, adding the scent, pouring it and watching it harden and set. Then, of course, lighting it afterwards and letting the aroma fill the room. Candle-making wins for enrichment for week 4. On to week 5, which is also the last week of my relaxation/enrichment challenge. :-)

Day Twenty-Seven:
Relaxation - Music
Enrichment - Knitting

Listening to music is a great way to shift your mood. I listened to some jazz, blues, and a little classical while I straightened up the house. Singing along always makes it more fun! Knitting turned out to be so much fun, and I got a little obsessive with it right away. But I didn't use knitting needles, I opted for looms. You can say that's not "real knitting", but I say if there is an easier way to be self-reliant, that is the smarter way! Besides, my fingers lock up when I use them too much, so needles would have been a painful and long experience. I knitted 3 hats... one for Andy, one for Grace, and one for me. Bryan doesn't want one and Andy doesn't want a picture of his until I put a car on it. :-)

Day Twenty-Eight:
Relaxation - Sunset
Enrichment - Garden Prep

Watching the sun set is always a peaceful way to end the day. It is a reminder that the planet on which we reside is a beautiful place, carefully crafted to keep all upon it alive.... and bless us with amazing sights along the way. We can see the sun setting nicely from our front porch, across the field of the elementary school. The rays usually shoot up right before the sun disappears behind the horizon, then the hues of rose and gold slowly turn to gray, then slowly darker until night sets in. Seeing the sun set tends to remind me of all that I can be thankful for, so I keep a song of praise in my heart as I watch the day turn to night. Garden prep..... it's HOT. Even in the morning. Thankfully my herb bed has a plastic weed-blocker that was put in by the previous owners. I managed to get all of the old dirt and grass-grown areas up with relative ease. But I have not bagged any of it yet, because it is HOT. I plan on doing that later this week. The ground is ready, all I have to do now is put down a new weed-blocker (I got a 10-year roll from Home Depot), lay down the fresh dirt and compost, and plant away.

Day Twenty-Nine:
Relaxation - Evening Walk
Enrichment - Garden Box

The evening walk was relaxing for all of 10 minutes. Then I was a hot, sweaty, sticky mess. The relaxing part of evening walks will have to wait until Fall sets in. Making the garden box was a fulfilling experience. Bryan recently bought a cordless drill, and I used it to make holes in lumber I purchased from the discount rack at Home Depot. Leftovers from previously cut wood can be bought for as little as $.50 each. I spent $2.00 on wood for my garden box! I lined up the wood with the holes and screwed long woods screws in to secure the pieces to make a square shape. Then I nailed weed-blocker to what is the bottom of the box, placed it in the backyard, and filled with dirt. This box will probably be used for lettuce and spinach for the Fall/Winter garden. *note to self - buy a staple gun!

Day Thirty:
Relaxation - HPT
Enrichment - Jelly

My friend Belin is a certified HPT Energy Healer. This is an alternative treatment method that involves applying pressure to points across your face and over your heart to align energy. The focus of the session was relaxation, and the outcome was just that. I tried to upload it as video and as a URL link, but both gave me an error that they could not be posted. It might be time to set my blog up elsewhere, this happens anytime I try to post video or URL links. Dah! Oh well. I will try to figure out later and see if I can repost it. Thank you to Belin for doing the session. You are a wonderful person with a heart of gold.
The enrichmnet was originally going to be jam, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I already have a large jar of blueberry jam that I haven't opened yet, so jelly was a better option. I opted to make grape jelly, and ended up with 4 pint-sized jars of delicious grape jelly. I have a water bath canner, and it really is easy to make jams and jellies that will stay preserved for a long time.

That is it! I finished another challenge! I will pick winners for the whole challenge later this week and post another blog about it. This challenge has helped me reconnect with myself in so many ways. I feel more relaxed, more creative, more assured of my strengths and talents, confident that I can learn more and do well with it, and thankful for all of the gifts Heavenly Father has given me to use to help my family and others.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 4

Week three winners have to be picked before I can blog about my most recent projects. For relaxation, nap wins! When would a nap ever lose???? NEVER. :-)
For enrichment, I had to choose between making yogurt and the "fishing for compliments" chart. The chart was a fantastic idea! It has given my kids wonderful incentive to be on their best behavior in public. But the yogurt was really, really YUMMY, and yummy wins! Enrichment winner for week three is delicious homemade yogurt!

On to week 4, woohoo!

Day Twenty-One:
Relaxation - Swim
Enrichment - Scarves

Swimming would normally not be a relaxing activity for me. Last summer it was stressful and a major chore, since Grace was still gaining water confidence and Andrew couldn't swim. But this year has been wonderful, especially after Andrew learned how to take breaths when he is swimming. It was nice to see friends a the pool and not have to feel like each child needed an eye on them at all times.
The scarves were a fun project! I saw some rosette scarves and looped scarves in Old Navy's Fall line that I liked, so I took the idea and updated some of my scarves from last year. Instead of rosettes I simply chose a layered petal look, and the loop scarf was as simple as taking a regular light-weight scarf and sewing the ends together to make a long loop, then doubling in over when I put it on. Voila!

Day Twenty-Two:
Relaxation - Car Ride
Enrichment - Baking

I changed the relaxation for this day from pilates to a car ride, because, well, I needed a little alone time..... in Bryan's Challenger.... with the windows down.... and the sun roof open..... and the acoustic station playing..... it was NICE! I love the area down Clay Road between Katy and Brookshire where it goes back down to one lane.... thee are trees and land to look at, not cookie-cutter suburban houses!! :-)
Baking was fun, and I got to share it with some children I was watching. Dark chocolate M&M cookies..... they were really GOOOOOOOOOD. The whole house smelled delish all day, and you can't beat that!

Day Twenty-Three:
Relaxation - Facial
Enrichment - Body Spray

I went to visit a friend for a free facial, and it was a nice experience. She sells Mary Kay, and I figured it would be a win-win to go see her, get a little pampering, and help her out. The TimeWise products are nice, and the powder foundation made my skin feel soft and smooth. If you are interested in getting with her to ask a question or take advantage of the free facial (it ends August 31st!) here is her website:

My enrichment was something I have been needing to do for a while. I love jasmine essentail oil, and I misplaced mine several months ago. So I drove down to Boutique Botanica in Old Town Katy and grabbed some more. To make it last a while, I just added it to some warm distilled water in a spray container. It smells so luxurious! :-)

Day Twenty-Four:
Relaxation - Aroma Shower
Enrichment - Home Improvement

I needed the aroma shower on this day, I was sweaty and stinky from working on my enrichment project! I sprayed the shower down with a pre-mixed cinnamon and clove spray, and it was the perfect blend to soothe and make it a relaxing experience.
My home improvement project was a lot of fun, and I felt really accomplished afterwards. The cabinets in our kitchen and bathrooms are these ugly dark oak veneer shells with white doors and drawers.... it's AWFUL. So I decided to paint the cabinets an espresso color for uniformity and a smooth final look. I decided to test it on the kids' bathroom vanity with a spray-paint form. The spray-paint form makes the job go quicker, but the cleanup afterwards is more laborious (spray-paint dust, anyone??). I like the final look. I may need to sand down the doors lightly and apply one more coat, but it looks really nice right now, too.

Day Twenty-Five:
Relaxation - Hair Brushing
Enrichment - Candle Making

I loved getting my hair brushed or getting my head rubbed when I was a little girl. I would go to my mom and ask her to do either, and she would lovingly oblige. I decided to add it to my list because Grace enjoys brushing my hair and giving me makeovers. It was a nice mother/daughter experience.
This enrichment activity was something I have been looking forward to doing since I started the challenge. I have always enjoyed making candles. There is something soothing about watching the wax melt and then pouring it into a container to watch it firm and take shape. The end result is a beautiful candle, dyed and scented to your preference. Mine is a cinnamon scented mulberry color jar candle.

Day Twenty-Six:
Relaxation - Power Nap
Enrichment - Butter

The power nap is often looked at as the scrawny cousin of the full-blown nap. But I beg to differ! A power nap (30 minutes or less) can really boost your energy levels, if done at the right time, in the right place. Mine was done at 3pm on the living room couch. The trick is to intentionally clear your mind of clutter, close your eyes, and relax your whole body. Set a timer, that way if your power nap turns into dozing you will not have a chance to transition to REM. Hitting REM and then waking shortly after is what gives the "groggy" feeling, as the body has to take longer to adjust from deep sleep to a waking state.
My enrichment was making butter. I have been doing it for a few months already, but I made more than usual this time, so I could skip a week or so. :-)

The left is butter, right is buttermilk

The next post will be the last (4 days left), and then I will choose a winner for each category. I thought it would be easy to choose a winner at first, but now I am conflicted. I have really enjoyed doing several of these activities, so I might need to do a runner-up category!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 3

Just like my last post, I have to pick my favorite activities from my last post before I can talk about the new things I have done. I will tell you right now that Grace's ashiatsu massage wins for week 2 in the relaxation category, hands down!! There were several enrichment activities that I enjoyed (the mint sachets were fun to make and smelled GREAT) but I really enjoyed washing clothes by hand and hang-drying them. What could have been a chore became something relaxing and fun for me. I enjoyed it so much that I went and bought a better clothesline system at Home Depot (less than $20.00 and worth it if you want to try it out). So hand-washing and hang-drying clothes wins for week 2 in the enrichment category. Now, on to the "new" activities!

Day Thirteen:
Relaxation - EFT Therapy (Emotional Freedom Technique)
Enrichment - Budgeting

I learned about EFT from a wonderful sister in my ward (who I will not name, as I have not received her permission to do so), last year when I was struggling with some emotional issues. I enjoyed using it during quiet time after a particularly hectic morning with the kids. I won't go into the details of it here, but you can find some decent information if you google "EFT Therapy". Budgeting was a BIG cheat, possibly bigger than the other enrichment "cheats", because I update the budget every week. I have a weekly budget, bi-weekly budget (based on paydays and bills), a longterm budget (for mortgage, student loans, medical bills, etc), and seperate budgets for non-cyclical (but estimated and annually expected) spending, such as birthday parties, Christmas, vacation, back-to-school.... anyway. Checking the outgoing versus incoming money, and watching debt totals decrease (no matter how slowly) is something that simply grounds me and makes all sense of calm return. No pics of the budget, for obvious reasons!

Day Fourteen:
Relaxation - Foot soak
Enrichment - Organizing

I used to soak my feet all the time when I waited tables. It felt wonderful then, and it feels wonderful now! Add a little almond oil and lavender to the hot water and soak away! *insert big sigh*
On to the enrichment activity I have been putting off....... I am HORRIBLE at organizing! I may be able to organize a rehearsal, a schedule of songs, a schedule for my family, even a silent auction.... but ask me to organize the drawers and closets in my house and my brain stops working. I even had a conversation on the phone with my husband about my attempt to avoid organizing for this day, but he guilted me into doing it (unintentionally). I am posting pictures of my closets for the first time in my LIFE. This is AFTER organizing.... you should have seen them before if you are not impressed by the pictures..... oh, also, it took over 6 hours of work and concentration to get the closets to this point..... 4 bags of donations and 6 bags of trash later, of course....

Day Fifteen:
Relaxation - Star gazing
Enrichment - Food drying

Star gazing in Katy, TX is a bust (obviously). I counted only 28 stars that I could see through all of the light pollution. But I spent time alone outside at night, and that was relaxint in and of itself. On to food drying! I haven't used my food dehydrator since last Fall, so it was nice to pull it out again and make use of it. The cinnamon apples slices were delish, and they will last through Winter!

Day Sixteen:
Relaxation - Yogic breathing
Enrichment - Yogurt making

Yogic breathing incorporates the concept of deep breathing with basic yoga position and technique. My favorite was "the cooler". You curl your tongue and breathe in slowly and deeply through your mouth, then exhale slowly through your nose. The effect is that only cool air fills your throat, lungs, and diaphragm, therefore creating a cooling effect for the body. Breathe in and out slowly 5-7 times. Nice!
Making yogurt in a crock pot is soooo easy, and the result is tasty yogurt that will last one person at least one week before you need to make more (with your own home-made yogurt as a starter, of course!). You need 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt with live cultures, and half a gallon of milk (whole is preferrable for consistency, but I used 2% organic and the yogurt turned out just fine). Put the milk in the crock pot on low for 2.5-3 hours, then turn off heat, wrap in towel, and let it sit for 3 hours. Remove 2 cups of milk into a bowl and add 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with live cultures, stir, and return to milk in crock pot. Cover with the large towel again and let it sit for 8 hours. Then remvoe the towel, and voila! Yogurt. Save 1/2 cup of the crock pot yogurt to make your next batch. :-) PS - it tastes wonderful with a tiny bit of honey and some granola or fresh fruit.

Day Seventeen:
Relaxation - Nap
Enrichment - "Fishing for Compliments" chart

Can we ever say anything negative about napping? I LOVED my nap! I think this one is an easy relaxation winner for the week, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. ;-)
The "fishing for compliments" chart was an idea I picked up from a teacher's blog. I modified mine according to the supplies I had on hand. I picked up a cheap dry erase board at Wal-Mart, painted it with green and blue acrylic paint, then added foam letters to create the chart. I made the fish out of stickers and small adhesive magnets. The concept is simple, but truly ingenious. Every time one of my kids get a compliment from someone outside of the house, they get a fish by their name. When they earn "x" amount of fish they get a prize (treat, small toy, outing). It is creative bribery to behave in public!

Day Eighteen:
Relaxation - Manicure
Enrichment - Chalkboard menu

I didn't go to the nail salon, I enjoy painting my own nails in the comfort of my own home, for free! I might go get a pedicure once a year with my mom and/or sister for relaxation, but the company is the main reason I do it, not the enviroment. I had fun painting my nails bright blue and adding white polkadots.
The chalkboard menu was a last-minute change to the 30 day challenge. Today's enrichment was supposed to be garden prep, but it's.... HOT. So I am putting it off for now. I got this idea from Anna Mansfield (Hi, Anna!) when I went to her house recently. I found a cute wooden plaque at Hobby Lobby, and I already had the chalkboard paint. I had to buy a gold paint pen for another project, so that was really all I needed. Prime, two layers of chalkboard paint, let it dry, then use the gold paint pen to make it "pretty". This should look better than the hurried menu I write on the dry erase calendar on the pantry door!

Day Nineteen:
Relaxation - Reflexology
Enrichment - FHE ornaments

I didn't put too much effort in to reflexology. I did a double workout on this day, and also felt like I was getting sick. So my reflexology turned in to an absent-minded foot massage. Haha! Oh well.
I have the cutest Family Home Evening board on the wall in my kitchen, and the ornaments I had hanging on there originally were pathetic little wooden stars hanging on black wire with names written in black permanent marker. So I bought new ornaments (wooden hearts), painted them black, used the gold paint pen to write names, and got some fancy ornament hooks at Hobby Lobby. Yes, they are already out, along with all of the other Christams items....

Day Twenty:
Relaxation - Head Massage
Enrichment - Jewelry box

I enjoy a good head massage, and this one was no different. My scalp felt so relaxed afterwards! *insert happy sigh*
Okay, so I have a confession. My necklaces have all been hanging on the inside doorknob of the master bathroom closet for quite some time. I decided to buy a plain box and paint it so I could finally have someplace to store my necklaces! I had to get fancy with the painting so that it would feel unique, and I am happy with the end result.

I did a lot of painting activities this week. Perhaps it is the Summer heat, the business of end-of-summer activities, or the mode switch to prepare for school to start again, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time outside or doing big things around the house.... and I certainly wanted to avoid using heat of any kind in the kitchen!

Until next time!