May 16, 2014

5 Movies for a Jane Austen Fan

Do you love Jane Austen? You're in good company here! I thought it'd be fun to share five of my favorite Jane Austen films.

1. Pride and Prejudice {obviously!} with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

2. Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

3.  Emma, with Gwynth Paltrow.

4. Northanger Abbey with J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones.

5. Mansfield Park with Frances O'Connor.

Do you have any more to add to the list? Would you like to see a modern-day Jane Austen movie list?

May 14, 2014

Spring Days

I'm exuberant about these warm days, the last few have been chilly, but for the most part we've enjoyed beautiful weather. I'm drinking in all the color!

What's your favorite part about spring?

May 12, 2014

5 Reasons to Live Simply

A few years ago, some hard losses awakened me to the fact that my life was too focused on things that didn't matter (like the latest gadgets) and I was letting the real stuff slide by. It put into focus what I wanted to pursue. Discovering minimalism helped me de-clutter my life and embrace living. Life is short, I want to live it to the fullest.

Here are five reasons I've found to live simply:

1. To reduce stress. 

We are a culture full of stress. We're busy from morning to night and still feel as though we haven't accomplished enough. We put this pressure on ourselves and feel it looming over us. But living simply is deciding what things are truly needed versus what is just busy-ness. We often buy into what culture and advertising feeds us, we guilt ourselves into doing things that we think we "should". 

My good friend and I often tell each other to "stop shoulding yourself". If you find yourself saying, "Oh I should..." stop and evaluate why you're saying that. Do you really believe this is something you need to do? Or is it because of someone's expectations? Maybe it's because you're afraid no one else will do it? 

Those are not good reasons to add things into your life that you don't feel a strong love or a strong passion for. We spend enough time working to make a living, we don't need to add extras that we don't really care about.

My son is involved with sports and there have been moments I've felt guilty for not letting him sign up for many various sports a year. But when I examined that guilt, it was about disappointing my son, not really what I felt was right for him or our family. When I could pinpoint my reason, I knew I didn't want us to be that busy and that he could really focus on the sports he loves if we limit his choices.

2. To cut out the time suckers. 

Some years ago when my kids were young, I discovered Flylady ~ a woman who encourages you to de-clutter your things. I did so at the time but didn't completely grasp what degree my stuff was ruling me. That realization happened later on when we were cleaning out my grandmother's house. 

My grandmother was still alive but moving in with my Mom and Dad. Everything was laid out so that her children and grandchildren could take whatever they wanted of it. She wanted us to have what she was no longer able to enjoy. My grandmother was a good housekeeper, she had a small house and yet, there was all this stuff

It finally clicked for me that at the end of life, this stuff has to go somewhere. Someone has to deal with it. I decided then that I didn't want to keep anything that I don't actually use. I don't want trinkets in a cabinet that I spend time cleaning because I'm accustomed to them, but not because I love them anymore. 

Getting rid of excess and keeping only those things I love is a better use of my space and time. Now I actually wear what's in my closet instead of cramming stuff in and trying to find what I'm looking for. Reducing busy-ness and clutter gives back time to my day. It lets that time to go to something I actually care about, which leads to my next point.

3. To own your own life. 

It's okay to say no. Saying no gives you the freedom to say yes to the things you are really care about.

I have a passion for helping and teaching others, but if I also feel the need to go to every PTA meeting, church function, or neighborhood cook-out I'm invited to, then I might not have the time I need to focus on that.

During basketball season, our family is gone many nights of the week to go my son's games. During that time of year, I don't say yes to much else. I know that I'll be maxed with games. I want the pace of our life to stay slow and steady so I decide what is priority at that time.

You dictate what you spend your time on, don't let others dictate it for you.

4. To focus on the things you want to focus on. 

Do you find yourself saying, "I would love to do this or learn that, if only I had more time?" Let me tell you a secret, you probably have the time. That hidden time is most likely taken up by something else you allow to suck your time (I'm looking at you, Television).

Now, I'm not talking about neglecting our duties (we all need to eat and have clean underwear). But it's good to truly evaluate everything you do during the week. Can you let something go? Could some of those things be delegated to others?

Getting rid of stuff is a huge time saver. When you have less stuff ~ you have less to clean or keep up with. People rarely believe this until they try it. Just try it in one area of your home, maybe your kitchen. Box up everything and only leave the bare bones. 

Experiment on how easy it is to clean your kitchen and how one dishwasher load takes care of everything. The plus side is that your family might begin helping you with the dishes when they realize there are no cups and they're thirsty!

5. To enjoy life. 

We want to be participators of life, not just observers of it. Often what happens is that we're so numbed by keeping up with our overwhelming lives, we stop living. We stop engaging with life in a meaningful way. We let life happen to us instead of making life happen. Simplifying life is cutting out the excess so we can embrace what matters.

Instead of being so busy with meetings or overwhelmed with planning for events, we can go hiking, fishing, painting, or visiting parks with our kids. 

The simple life opens the door to space. Space to enjoy life, to give breathing room and time to explore the world around us. 

If our time is not filled to the brim with activities and busy-ness, if we are not consumed with keeping up with our stuff; then we can actually spend that time enjoying our one, beautiful life.

I'm still simplifying my life; it will probably be a continuous journey. But I'm getting freer and the more I experience this freedom, the more freedom I want.

What do you think of these reasons for living simply? Do you have other reasons you might add? Or maybe you struggle to simplify life; what keeps you from doing so? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

May 9, 2014

4 Time-Together Gifts for Mom

Moms love having time with their kids, so instead of spending money on another trinket your Mom will have to store somewhere, why not give her the gift of your time and attention? 

Here are four time-together gifts for Mom:

1. Neck Massage. 
A mom's life is full of stress, give her the gift that helps her relax by giving her a massage or taking her for one. It doesn't have to be fancy to be heavenly.

2. Mom's Memory Meal. 
Fix her the "mom meal" you most remember from your childhood (even if it's hot dogs and baked beans) and tell her what it means to you. Have fun reminiscing around the table.

3.  Adventure. 
Take a walk or a drive somewhere she's never been. Take snacks, water and detailed directions; or if you're both adventurous, just start driving and see where the road takes you.

4. Mom's Choice. 
Let her choose the activity and you set up a time to enjoy it together. She enjoys the date and gets time with you, it's a win-win!

What ideas do you have for Mother's Day?

May 7, 2014

Active Day in Photos

Since I wrote about being more active instead of sedentary, I thought it'd be fun to show an active day through photos. 

8:00 I wrote while standing and swaying on the porch.

 9:00 Photographed a beautiful discovery on a short stroll.

9:30 Spent the day taking down popcorn ceilings on our house.

 12:00 Took out the trash . . . many times.

3:00 Walked while waiting for my daughter to come out of school.

We worked hard, especially my son and husband, taking down popcorn ceilings. I didn't capture the rest of the day but I hope this gives a small glimpse into adding activity to your day.

What are activities in your day?

May 5, 2014

6 Simple Ways to Add Movement to Your Day

I'm not an avid exerciser. That's kind of an understatement, I actually hate exercise. I like swimming, walking around a museum, playing games, but to exercise just for the sake of doing it ~ no. I've never been able to get in the habit of that. I've always struggled with setting aside time to run or walk. It just seems so separate from my world.

Recently I read the book, Move a Little, Lose a LotAccording to the author, James A. Levine (from the Mayo clinic), you don't need to set aside time to exercise if you increase activity in normal, daily routine. All movements throughout your day help create a healthier life and higher level of energy if done on a consistent, daily basis. The trouble is, that we've become so sedentary we've forgotten how to add movement to our day.

Reading this book I realized how much time I spend sitting and with his suggestions I started incorporating movement into my regular routine. I've been doing this for almost a month now and I've seen a huge improvements in my energy level as well as some weight loss and muscle toning.  The more active you are, the more energetic you feel. I always thought it was the other way around and tried to conserve energy, but felt so tired all the time.  Now I'm more active and have much more energy to do the things I want to do!

Here are six simple ways I've added movement to my day and you can too:

1. Pace while reading. 

This is easier than it sounds. I pace around the house while I read a book instead of sitting. I read and research a lot, so this has added tons of movement to my day. It's become so natural I wish I'd always done it!  Also, walking while reading activates my brain in a way that helps me process the information and digest it quicker, so it's a win-win.

2. Walk around the house during phone calls. 

My ringtone has become a signal for me to stand up and walk, not fast, just a slow pace. Talking to my sister, friends or family can often add an hour or more of walking to my day!

3. Stand up while on the computer.

Since I do a lot of work on my computer, I moved my "desk" to a high counter to encourage standing and swaying from side to side while I type. If I really want to sit, a stationary ball is also helpful, it keeps me from staying completely inactive. {I'm also hoping to get a cheap under-the-desk pedal exerciser as another option.}

4. Do chores while listening to a podcast. 

I love listening to podcasts and used to listen to them in the car, but now I save them for chores and yardwork. This helps me keep working for thirty to forty minutes because I don't want to miss out on the podcast! Music works well for this too.

5. Walk while you're waiting. 

There are so many hours wasted on waiting, why not let them work for your health? I'll admit, it felt a little awkward at first to get up and move while waiting; but once I started, I really enjoyed it. There are so many spare moments to exercise when taking advantage of waiting: walking while kids are in music lessons or sports practice, pacing in the doctor's office or dentist, and walking around the school while waiting for it to let out. These are hidden moments in the day that I used to sit through, but are now vibrantly active.

6. Cook meals at home. 

I know it may sound minuscule, but every bit matters ~ cutting, chopping, stirring, lifting ~ all of these small movements add up. A side benefit is that cooking at home keeps you from eating fast food and gives you opportunity to make delicious, healthy meals.

It's easy to change a daily task from sedentary to active when you know what to look for. There are many tasks you can accomplish while standing or pacing and you'll be amazed at how it helps with muscle tone, weight loss (not fast, but steady) and increased energy. 

If you're struggling to know where to start, write down everything you do during the day that is sedentary and see if there is a way to make it active. For example, you might walk on the treadmill while watching the news or rock your baby standing up.  

Try activating just one sedentary task in your daily routine this week, I think you'll love the way you feel! 

What sitting task would you like to add movement to?

May 2, 2014

Five May Goals

This month was full of craziness (major house repairs), but I still finished 4 out of my 5 goals! I enjoyed many morning coffees on the porch; listened to three inspiring podcasts; sent a postcard to a friend; and savored a girl's night out. The only thing I didn't finish was a super-secret painting project for a friend. But life has been topsy-turvy and I haven't been able to get to my paints, so I'm giving myself some slack on that one.

Setting goals at the first of the month is helping  me engage life and accomplish more tasks. The beginning of spring with warmer days and bird songs has me so excited. Fall is my favorite season, but after our long winter, I'm thrilled to see the return of green!

So with all that inspiration, my five May goals are:

1.  Read a book outside.

2.  Get a cheap pedal exerciser to use under the desk while writing or watching movies. (Mother's Day is just around the corner, hint-hint.)

3.  Paint my desk before putting it back into my studio.

4.  Grow a herb plant.

5.  Have a picnic.

What are you hoping to do in May?

{See April's goals here and June's goals here}