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Enjoying February:
The Present-Month Project

It’s February. The luster of the snow has faded, winter continues in its third month, Valentine’s Day over-hype can be grating … maybe it feels like there’s a reason it’s the shortest month. So what is there to enjoy about February? I’m glad you asked! Here is this month’s Present-Month Project post about enjoying February.

Enjoying February - Present Month Project

Similar to January’s post, there will be sections of “Taste”, “Listen”, “Do”, and “Learn”.

taste

– Chocolate is huge in February. And not just for Valentine’s Day – there are a whole assortment of national chocolate-related days in February. But really – does it actually have to be National Chocolate-Covered-Nut Day to enjoy chocolate? I think not. But it is really nice that your favorite coffee shop will probably be featuring specialty chocolate drinks this month, and all sorts of varieties of chocolates will be on sale after Valentine’s Day. Hot cocoa is so nice this time of year when you’ve had to spend time out in the cold. Or if you’re looking to create a chocolate treat at home, here’s something I came up with this month. I love the combination of chocolate and peppermint – so I baked a chocolate cake, and added in a few drops of peppermint extract. I got whipping cream to beat into whipped cream, and added peppermint extract to that as well. And then, using an idea my husband came up with, topped it off with crushed peppermint candy canes in a spice grinder. It was a glorious chocolate peppermint experience. But, if that’s not enough – you can also melt chocolate chips, white chocolate, and peppermint chips on top of the cake as well.
So, enjoy! (But don’t over-do it. Bear in mind that February is also host to National Toothache Day.)

Chocolate Peppermint for February

listen

– February might tend be the month where cabin fever sets in the strongest. So, for those days where you might be indoors more than usual, this is a perfect time of year for listening to a book being read aloud as a family. As Emily Dickinson said, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.” I’ve been reading Snow Treasure aloud to our kids this month, and they have been loving it! And it’s a fun experience for me, too, both enjoying the story, as well as the excitement I see on their faces as we read the book together. Tonight after reading a chapter of the book aloud, my eight year old said something along the lines of, “Isn’t it amazing how a book can take you places?” A similar thought as Emily Dickinson! So pick a book, and have someone in your family read it aloud – or do it yourself! Do voices for the characters, get into the story. Snow Treasure is a book I remember reading as a child myself, all about children in Norway helping to sneak gold out of the country on the sleds, past the Nazis. It’s definitely a kids book, but still very neat, and it’s the perfect time of year for it!

Snow Treasure - February Read Aloud Book

do

– I remember when I did NaNoWriMo (November’s National Novel Writing Month, where you write a novel in a month), I thought to myself – “Why November?? That’s such a busy month, with holidays and travel! February would be perfect – there’s nothing much going on then.” And while there are legitimate reasons for NaNoWriMo to be in November, the argument still stands that February is a good get-something-big-done month. One year in February, I participated in a group project called “Thing A Day”, where the challenge was that every day in February, you were supposed to make something. It didn’t have to be anything huge, or take tons of time each day – but just the goal of making something everyday, and then posting a picture of what you made on the site. It was a fun project – sometimes it was something as simple as a doodle, or it might be that you baked something, or sometimes it was a bigger art of craft project like making a piece of jewelry. But it was really neat to look over your own pictures and see the different things you made in the month. The site is no longer up, but even so, I found myself kind of mentally noting this month what things I made. I wasn’t doing the full challenge, but even just noting the little accomplishments of things I made this month, whether a meal for my family or something artistic for my shop was a fun experience – even if I wasn’t intentionally setting aside time to make things. Late in the month this year, I started using the hashtag #makingfebruary on Instagram as a simple way to note some things I made this month. Even though it’s not as official or large scale of a challenge as Thing a Day was, it’s still fun to see progress and little accomplishements – especially in a month where it can seem like we’re just trying to get through. But whether you want to do a large scale project, or just enjoy the small everyday things, February is a great month for making things.

Making things - Febrary

– Speaking of making things, I want to share an idea of what my family did for Valentine’s Day growing up. I am intentionally not including much in this post about Valentine’s Day. It seems to be one of those holidays that gets so over-hyped that is becomes either a big pressure and high expectations, or depressing, or any number of things, which are pretty much the opposite of this post. Also, February is much longer than Valentine’s Day. However, what my family did growing up, I thought was really neat, and we’ve just recently started doing it in our family. For Valentine’s Day, we all would make homemade cards for each other person in the family (you know, construction paper and drawings and what-not) and made a big envelope for ourselves. Then at the end of the day, we gathered at the table to put our cards for everyone in their envelope, and we would maybe have made some sweet treats to eat, and we would all sit together and open our Valentines from each other. It was really fun and sweet, and an expression of love for each other. The cards were often funny, or clever, or artistic – I still have ones from my family tucked away, including some hilarious ones from my brother who has since passed away. Of course, you don’t need a holiday to tell people you love them, obviously. But if there’s a holiday about love that is unfortunately stressful or overrun by high pressure for lavish gifts and expensive dates for couples, feel free to reclaim it as a simple and happy time to let your family know you love them.

Non-stressful approach to Valentines Day - The Flourishing Abode

learn

– While February might feel like the season of cabin fever, you might be surprised to learn what all might be in your area to go and do out and about, even in the depths of winter. We, for the first time this year, were able to attend a big winter festival here in our city, which happens every year in February! Some friends of ours also found a February winter festival near their town. I’ve heard that Quebec has a huge winter carnival through much of February. I think various communities that experience cold winters realize that February could use some winter cheer, and you never know what you might find in your neck of the woods. And while you might not find something as winter-specific as that, at any time there might be jazz concerts, or craft nights at the library, or quirky vintage markets, or an art gallery opening, or any number of other things. And it is good to find ways to get out and enjoy something out and about, even when it’s cold! Search your city’s name and calendar of events, and find out what pops up. Here’s a few shots of the WinterFest we went to here in Lowell – I’m so glad we found out it was going on in our area!

WinterFest Lowell - February on The Flourishing Abode

WinterFest Lowell

WinterFest - Enjoying February

– There are also great individual or smaller-group things to do outside in February. Sledding or skiing or snowtubing can of course be great for this time of year – but also stargazing! It’s often in the early months of the year that there are the most interesting things to view in the night sky. And you don’t have to stay out all night (and freeze) to enjoy a little stargazing – but bundle up with blankets and hot cocoa (and I even made a printable stargazing chart for kids in a past post), and on a relatively “warmer” night clear night, head out to a low light area and see what you can see for even just a little while! You can check astronomy sites online to find out when and where events like meteor showers, the northern lights, or visible planets might be happening, to find a good opportunity as well! Stargazing is just one of those things that fills me with wonder, and this is a good time of year for it.

gostargazingphoto heavensdeclare printablechalkboard

I hope that gives you some happy February things to think about or do. This being a leap-year, we have an extra February day, so I hope you enjoy it! Any unique ideas for what to do on a leap-year day? What are your favorite February things to do? Let me know by clicking here to leave a comment below the post, I love to hear from you! :)

Enjoying January:
The Present-Month Project

As much of the east coast is blanketed in white blizzard drifts, even though it is late in the month, it seems an appropriate time to post about January! And whether the thought of snow-days already fills you with images of steaming mugs of hot tea while watching the snowflakes flitter past the windows, or whether your mind first goes to thoughts of cold toes, this post is for you: a post about the things to enjoy in January. This is part of the Present-Month Project, focusing on the joys of each month as it comes.

What to enjoy in January

Overall, January is new and fresh. A time to make new goals, to step back and evaluate. A time that is less hectic, after the holidays. A time for renewal and freshness. Even the ground is often covered in clean, white snow.

January is also, in my mind, the purest Winter month. December is wrapped up in the holidays, February is heavily themed in Valentine’s Day, and March is looking toward Spring. January is a wonderful time to truly appreciate the slower, cozier side of winter, full of thick blankets, fresh snows, steaming mugs, and good books.

This post will largely be a list of ideas, centered around these themes. The categories: TASTE, LISTEN, DO, LEARN. As you scan it, and find which parts you like, I hope it gives you a variety of pleasant connotations to the month of January!

taste

TO TASTE:
January suits itself well to fresher, brighter tastes … especially after the richness of the last couple months’ turkey dinners, egg nog, and sugar cookies. I love foods in January that are still cozy, but not so heavy.

– Ginger and Cranberry. This is a flavor combination I started noticing a lot last January, and immediately fell in love with it. We had cranberry-ginger bagels, cranberry ginger-ale, cranberry-ginger anything I could find. It is such a fresh and clean and delicious combination, and just feels perfect after the richness of holiday foods. Keep your eyes open for it in January, or concoct your own versions at home.

– Citrus. There’s something so nice about that cheerful splash of brightness that in-season citrus brings us on the grey days of winter. I like to keep a bowl of clementines readily available for January noshing.

– Soup. There is nothing quite like having a pot of homemade soup bubbling away on the stove on a winter’s day. There is an absolutely endless variety, as well, just pick a favorite! I tend to like simpler flavors in January, like chicken and vegetable with dumplings.

January is National Hot Tea Month

– January is National Hot Tea Month! I love hot tea this time of year. A delicious steaming mug to wrap my hands around on a cold January day is simply perfect. And unlike coffee or hot cocoa, where I limit to maybe one or two cups, I can drink hot tea pretty much all day. And there are so many delicious options- green teas, black teas, herbal teas, you name it. Tea bags are convenient, and what I often use, but there is something beautiful about the ritual of brewing a pot of hot tea. (And it’s very easy. My favorite way? In a French Press!)

Here are a few of my favorites teas:
(and I do recommend a splash cream and sugar!)

Hot tea and other things to enjoy in January - The Flourishing Abode

– Harney & Sons: Boston. This is a black tea that was gifted to me and became an instant favorite, with its caramel and floral notes.

– Twinnings Irish Breakfast. A rich, malty tea, Irish breakfast features my favorite type of black tea, Assam. Assam is notably dark, sometimes called “the coffee of teas”.

– Republic of Tea Ginger Peach. Ginger is a favorite flavor of mine in January, and pairs deliciously with peach in this tea. One of the few fruit teas that you can have with cream.

– Cinnamon Plum. I rarely drink teas that can’t take cream (the fruit would curdle it), but this one is worth it. With the combination of warm spice and bright fruit, this is a refreshing but cozy flavor combination- which fits January perfectly!

listen

Classical Music and other things to enjoy in January

TO LISTEN:
– I think January is an excellent time for classical music. In general, I tend to listen to a lot of modern indie music, but classical music resonates with me this time of year. There is something beautiful that is a mix of somber and sweet that just fits the feel of January, at least in my mind. My husband took me to the symphony this month, and I can’t imagine a better time for it! I also stumbled across a Winter Classics album on Google Play Music, which I have been listening to and loving. (In fact, while writing this, it is playing, and I am sipping hot tea. Yes, it’s lovely.) Plus, I do like to have our children grow up experiencing beautiful pieces of culture like classical music.

Classical Music in January.jpg

Some favorites for January:

– Vivaldi’s Winter. This is a perfect choice, for obvious reasons. Music written specifically to capture the beautiful essence of winter? Yes, please. Do look for all 3 movements of “L’inverno” (Winter).

– Peter and the Wolf. Beautiful music and story. This, in my book, calls for both watching and listening. There is a very beautiful stop motion film made of Peter and the Wolf. It has no dialog, only the classical music, accompanied by the visuals of the story, and sound effects such as wind. It is set in a rather grim winter setting, and much like European desserts tend to be more bittersweet than their sugary American counterparts, this film it certainly more European in feel as a tale. Some people might not like it for their children, as it does have some bleak or dark aspects to it. Our family very much enjoys it, though, it is a January tradition in our house.

– Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. This is one of the pieces we heard at the symphony and has become a new favorite of mine. Three richly beautiful movements featuring a soloist of one of my favorite instruments, the cello.

– Gustav Holst’s Jupiter. One of my favorite pieces of all time. This is one very warm and powerful section in the middle which is the music I walked down the aisle to in my wedding. But the piece overall has a fascinating colder feel to me, perhaps tied into the outer space theme of the Planets suite. Regardless, I love all the dynamics of it from start to finish, and feel it is very fitting in January.

do

TO DO:
– Plan a long project. Especially if winter seems to go slowly to you, pick a big project that you want to get done before winter is over – one that you’re not sure if you can get done in that timeframe. I have a children’s book about winter that I’m wanting to write before Spring – and I don’t think I’ve ever known of a winter that has seemed to be rushing by more quickly. Because instead of the end of winter seeming distant, as each week passes, it seems like too short of a time to get my project done! Plus, slower snowy days can lend themselves well to indoor projects.

– Go sledding. It’s fun, it’s active, it’s only available part of the year. Bundle up the kids and go do it. Make sure you go down the hill yourself, too!

January - a good time for reading

– Read books. Go to the library and stock up. Read books aloud to your kids. Read books yourself. Put books and blankets around where you can grab them just as easily as your phone! Have a reading party where all the family piles up pillows and blankets in the living room, and have mugs of tea and stacks of books, and everybody enjoy reading together. It’s so cozy to be warm and snuggled with a book in your home while the January snow swirls around outside.

– Make goals. Not just resolutions that are going to be given up before the month is even over, but more substantial goals. As a new year has begun, it is a good time to ponder. While this post is about more light-hearted things, don’t neglect the more important things. Ecclesiastes is a good book to study this time of year, in thinking about perspective. (There’s a separate post on that coming later.)

– Light candles. It’s pretty, it’s cozy, it’s warm, it’s lovely, it’s perfect for January. Need I say more?

Board games and other ideas for snow days

– Play games as a family. This is the perfect time of year for board games with your family. Even simple ones – I’m not one to get excited about jigsaw puzzles, in general, but this time of year when we’re more homebound, spread out the puzzle pieces (and maybe some mugs of tea and a bowl of clementines) on the table, and before long you’ll find I gravitate to it, and we’ll be chatting and putting the puzzle together. Just pick and game and set it out on the table. A favorite of ours this January has been Suspend – it’s a building game, similar to Jenga, but with wires balanced on a post. Simple but fun. Whether it’s a new game like Suspend or Splendor, or old classics like Battleship, games are a great way to spend a snowy afternoon with family.

learn

– Learn about what other cultures do in the winter-time for fun. That is the basic concept behind our January WinterFest celebration. We pick a different theme each year and plan fun January activities, food, and puzzles about that theme. But you don’t have to build a holiday around it – just find a couple good ideas that other places do to make winter-time lovely, and try adopting them. Here are a couple fascinating articles to get you started: one about how the Norwegians enjoy all of winter with koselig, and one about the hygge approach to winter in Denmark (disregard the alcohol references). These are fascinating examples of how people in places that have even longer and colder winters than the US, don’t see winter as something to put up with, but rather something to enjoy.

Enjoying January on TheFlourishingAbode

I hope this has given you some pleasant thoughts about January! If sipping a cup of hot tea while curled up in a blanket reading a good book to your family sounds like a pleasant way to spend a snowy afternoon, then I call it a success. What are some of your favorite things to do in January? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The Present-Month Project

The Present Month Project - TheFlourishingAbode

I love living in New England. One of the things I particularly enjoy is that we get to truly and fully experience all four seasons. Fall, in particular, is absolutely glorious here, not just a quick blip in time, like in some other places I’ve lived. However one of those seasons is, obviously, winter. That’s not naturally my favorite time of year, and we certainly do experience it fully! But even winter has its advantages. Peppermint mocha and mittens, for instance.

The Present-Month Project - The Seasons

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is choosing to enjoy whatever season I’m in – whether it is a season of life, whether it is a season of the year, or whatever the circumstances are where I find myself — instead of wishing for something different.

I remember when I was about 10 years old, we were living in Europe. It was an amazing experience, and one of my favorite places I’ve ever lived. But I had to leave all my friends in the US to go there, which made me sad. And then when I was about to move back to the US, I was really sad to leave Prague. I was pretty down about it, and in both directions. I remember my dad sat down with me and explained something that affected me deeply. He said:

‘You can be the type of person who is always sad about what things you don’t have right now – you can spend your time in Europe being sad you’re not in the US, and spend your time in the US being sad you’re not in Europe, and you’ll just stay sad wherever you are. Or, you can be the type of person who focuses on what good things you do have right now, and spend your time in Europe being glad you’re in Europe, and then when you get to the US, then be glad you’re there. And then you’ll spend your time being happy. Which type of person would you rather be?’

I knew which kind of person I wanted to be, and I decided that then.

Seasons - The Present-Month Project

This past year, I started noticing a trend with my daughter, who is 8. If you asked her what her favorite season was in January, she would say “Winter!” After a couple months then she would answer, “Probably Winter – but also kind of Spring.” Soon the answer was “Spring!” Come July, it was “Summer!” In September, she would answer “Summer and Fall!”, and by November, it was fully “Fall.” I don’t know that she even realized that her answer was changing. She just fully appreciates whatever she is getting to experience at the time. She’s that type of person, and I admire it in her, and I tell her so.

When we hit the middle of winter, though, I struggle to keep that in mind. It doesn’t help that culturally, people here bond by commiserating together about how bad the weather is. And, to tell the truth, it really can be bad – here in Lowell last winter, we broke records for amount of snow, and were at the time the snowiest city in the country. It was blizzard after blizzard. But for some people I know, and in some areas of the world that do a better job embracing the cold, that is exciting, and this winter I want to focus on the positives. Because the fact is, it is going to be the current season whether I like it or not, so I might as well enjoy it!

And after all, in any season there are amazing things that you typically can only find peaking at certain times of the year, and that gives them a delicious feeling of expectancy and exclusivity. Fresh strawberries sliced on a puffed German oven pancake in June. Going apple picking in October. Hanging twinkle lights in December. Fireworks at the baseball park in July. Baking pumpkin pies in November. Juicy red ripe tomatoes in August. The scent of bountiful lilac bushes in May. A day of sledding ending with mugs of hot cocoa in February. And recognizing these things is what I’m calling “The Present-Month Project”.

The Present-Month Project - enjoying the season of each month

I often hear people talk about how they want to do a better job of eating seasonally- focusing their cooking on the particular produce that is at peak for that time of year. This is the same concept, just broader than food alone. The idea is that each month I want to come up with things that are unique or particularly enjoyable for that time of year, and take the time to recognize and appreciate them. Not all of them will necessarily be absolutely exclusive to that month, but I do want to really focus on what makes that particular month special, whether foods, activities, holidays, opportunities, or what-not-and-what-have-you.

fourseasons

I want to make this more specifically focused than just by season – I’ve already made illustrated art lists of general seasonal activities, above – and I love them, but those are fairly broad. Because after all, even though both are associated with winter, December is very distinct from February. And September has a very different feel than November, even though both have autumn. The Present-Month Project is about finding the particular tone of the present time of each month.

This project is not only about months that are perhaps not as popular, either, because even in months I just naturally enjoy, sometimes opportunities fly by and I suddenly realize I’ve missed it for the whole year (I always miss pick-your-own strawberry season, for instance!).

Also, it can be easy to mentally skip past special and wonderful times of year, in the hurry to get to something else down the road. For instance, how Christmas season often starts the day after Halloween. There’s still a lot of fall (and Thanksgiving!) to be enjoyed before winter begins, and it often gets missed or overshadowed — and in the meantime we hype up all the winter-cheer, but then Christmas and New Year’s Eve are over in just the first two weeks of winter and the whole freezing remainder lies ahead, with the festive side of “winter” having passed while it was actually still autumn. That’s just a weird set up, to me personally. We do only a little for Christmas, and just use it as a spring-board into the winter season, and have our big winter holiday (WinterFest) at the end of January. I know that very non-typical, though! While not all my monthly focuses will be so different from the norm, I still do want to be aware, as I go through the year, and as I go through my life, that I’m not neglecting to see current blessings in my hurry to move on to something else I want.

I think this will be a fun way to really take advantage of each month for myself and for my family. Plus, with a list in mind of all the happy things about each month, that will be an easy way to combat the list of complaints that can sometimes pile up at certain times of year. *cough cough* winter *cough cough* I’ll be planning to share each month’s post here on my blog. January’s is in the works, I want to get it up soon before too much of the month is gone!

I’m really glad I live in a world where God made seasons. All four of them.

(But I still totally reserve the right to have fall as my favorite.)

What is your favorite season, or some of your favorite seasonal things to do? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

My Plan & Progress! Look Good Despite the Holidays

Last week I kicked off a new challenge series: Looking Good .. Despite the Holidays. I’m very excited about it! A little while back I emailed myself a list of smaller goals and habits that I wanted to aim for to help me along the way, and I wanted to share that list with you. As you will see, there are a variety of different types of things on my list. The exercise related goals are in red, the style related goals are in blue, and the food related goals are in gray, so there is definitely a mix.

This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all kind of list, this is just my personal list. And it’s really just a list of things I need to do better about, not everything I need to do. For instance, I thought about including “put on makeup in the morning” – but I already do that, typically, so I didn’t add it to my improvement plan. So each person’s list would look different. However, having some smaller quantifiable goals I think can help achieve a more nebulous goal, like “looking better”.

And I’m feeling especially good about it now that I’m starting to see progress. As I mentioned before, this is not a weight loss advice series … however, I personally have been needing to lose some weight, and over the last few weeks of working on my list, I’ve lost 10 pounds. WooT! I’m starting to be able to fit back into some clothes I couldn’t wear before. I still have more progress I want to make (and not just on losing weight), but I feel like I’m on a much better trajectory now – and one that I can stick to, even after the holidays. Although I definitely haven’t done perfectly on my list … I think now that I’ve shared it with you all, though, I’ll feel much more accountable to it! I’m still really bad about drinking enough water. *sigh* Some of the goals we might end up talking about in more details in other posts.

So, what do you think of the idea of having a list of mini-goals?
What might be some things on your list? Things that are the same or different than mine – I’d be curious to hear either way! Leave your thoughts and comments below. :)

Looking Good … despite the holidays. New challenge!

Ah, the holidays. I love this time of year. Special memories with family, seasonal good cheer, laughter, delicious food … and the post-holiday surprise of extra pounds when we step on the scale. Um, yeah, not so fond of that last part. No wonder getting in shape is such a common New Years resolution! This year, I’m hoping to keep all the good parts of the holidays, but not feel the regret in the mirror. So for the next weekly Friday challenge, happy holidays can still be healthy holidays!

This challenge is actually very personal to me. It’s not that appearance is the most important thing at all!! But over the last couple years, I’ve put on some weight. And at the same time I’ve been going through a style dilemma. And I’ve not been as active or as healthy as I wish. And I don’t like the results. So this autumn, I’ve started working out again and trying to get into some healthier habits, and finally have been starting to make some headway. WooT! But I don’t want the holidays to stop (or reverse!) my progress.

This series is *not* going to be a weight loss advice series. It is going to be about my attempts to become more healthy, and to improve my appearance in the process. I definitely am not going to be giving any medical advice! I’ll be just sharing what is (or isn’t) working for me. Some of it will have to do with getting in better shape, while some of it will have to do more with style and poise. I feel like I’m muddling through some of that right now, and I intend to share my thoughts, foibles, and even perhaps some occasional successes. But I can pretty much guarantee there will be opportunities for you to laugh at me. :)

And, right as we are getting started, I’ll have an exciting announcement on Monday for a special opportunity that I think you’ll be excited about! So stay tuned for that. :)

But in the meantime, here is one thing I’m going to try to be working on this week: posture!

Posture can have a huge (and immediate!) impact on your appearance. Even if your outfit is well put together, and your hair looks great, if you are slouching, that can make you look so different. Whereas even if you’re not perfectly put together, good posture can give your appearance a boost (don’t you always stand with great posture when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror?) – plus it is healthier for your body.

I’m fairly tall (around 5’10” or 5’11”, plus I wear high heels), and I do like being tall. But I don’t always have very good posture. My grandmother was also very tall, and I remember her saying to me, “Don’t be ashamed of your height, stand up tall!” I remember being surprised to realize I wasn’t standing up straight – I didn’t feel like I was slouching. But as soon as I stood up straighter, I could feel it.

It wasn’t until I went to the chiropractor when I was older that I realized part of why I didn’t stand up very straight. When I was small, we were hit by a drunk driver, and it did some permanent damage to my neck, making it lean forward. My chiropractor urged me to work on standing up straighter and retraining those muscles, and not holding my head so far forward. He said that one of the biggest differences between how healthy and limber his older patients were was in what kind of posture they carried through their life.

I realized in talking to him, just how little I realized what good posture actually felt like! I found this interesting little info article thing that helps to define exactly what good posture is.

So! I need to work on better posture. Hm. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with how ironic it is that I’m writing this while slouched back on the bed.

Ahem. Excuse me. *adjusts position*

Much better. I think in addition to just trying to remind myself during the day to have good posture and build better habits, I want to work on stretching and doing more yoga/pilates to help practice good posture.

Plus, as a friend recently said to me, “The quickest way to look 10 pounds lighter is to stand with great posture.” So true.

How’s your posture? And what do you think of this overall idea for the new challenge? I’m excited about it – it will definitely give me some accountability during the holidays. Leave your thoughts and comments below! :)

Unplug & go outdoors! A break till next challenge

I recently saw a little cartoon where it shows a woman in the morning, thinking to herself, “I’m going to get so much done today!” Next block, she had been punched in the face by a figure saying, “Nope.” That figure was labelled “Internet”.

There is a sad and growing trend of people’s online lives beginning to eclipse their real lives. We read of social media addiction and people frustrated that their offline life is not as full as it is online. That is NOT what I want. I see my online presence as a way to chronicle and supplement my real life – not replace it!

I know there are always tons of things vying for your attention online. But for the next week and a half, my blog will not be one of them. I just finished up the Adventure-a-Week challenge last Friday, which was SO much fun, and the weekly “hack”/upcycling challenge isn’t starting until May 11th – so in this brief period in between I’m taking a step back, and a short break from the blog. I’d encourage you, too, if you find that the Internet is taking up more time than you would like, to disconnect and spend more time in the real world! Go hiking, read to your kids, cook a meal, have some friends over – all that beautiful real-world-real-life living.

Think of it this way- which are you more likely to regret:
Spending less time online?
Or spending less time in your real life?

So unplug and go outdoors! And then when coming back online, to supplement and not replace real life, you’ll have so much more inspiration and things to share. I’m personally looking forward to a little break – and I’ll look forward to seeing you back here on The Flourishing Abode for the new challenge starting on May 11th, Lord willing – and I intend to have a much cleaner real life Abode by that time. Spring outdoors (and spring cleaning) here I come!

Until May 11th, signing out,
-April

Huzzah! Free 2012 resolutions printable

Well, the FlourishCafe birthday celebration continues with a free printable!  I actually opened shop last year on New Year’s Day, which is a common day to start things, resolve things, set new goals – a day for beginnings.

Chances are, you set some resolutions 4 days ago this year as well.  How are they coming? How will you be doing on them at the end of the month? What about in July?  Often, New Year resolutions get dropped almost as fast as a porcupine mistaken for a pillow.

I heard it said recently that written goals are the real goals- unwritten goals are called hopes and dreams.  Hopes and dreams are much less likely to be followed up on than actual goals.

So in that spirit, I’ve made up a free 2012 printable resolution sheet – write those resolutions down! Post them where you will see them. Don’t let them float away as unwritten hopes, put them on paper, and stick to them!

Just click on the image below to be taken to the PDF file of the printable. Write those resolutions down!

Free Resolutions Printable - TheFlourishingAbode.com

So what are some of your resolutions this year? Tell me about them in the comments below!

(Psst! Don’t forget to enter my art giveaway .. it ends Friday! )

Get the creative gears turning- Be a local explorer!

Are you a local explorer? You’d love it!! Few things inspire me creatively more than this.
Not sure? Ok, I’ll give you some reasons – and then some helpful tips and tricks. :)

All of the photos in this post are from my local explorations here in Knoxville!

I’ve lived in several awesome places in the past — places that other people take trips to go visit. (Prague/Czech Republic, Gettysburg/PA, Tampa/FL..) But one thing that completely took me aback was how people who had lived there their whole lives had never taken the opportunity to go see the sights!

I mean, c’mon –  someone else pays a lot of money to travel here, but you don’t ever take an afternoon to go check out your own backyard? It’s available right there, all the time!
(Actually, that’s one of the reasons why people don’t: its always there. You can do it next weekend, or next month. Maybe next year. But in the end, you never get around to it.)

It’s easy to get the point if its somewhere famous. But taking the time to play explorer in your own town, where ever it is, can really be a great way to get your creative gears turning. Consider…

1 – It gives your brain the chance to unwind.
You know the feeling: You’re trying really REALLY hard to remember the name of Rupert’s-great-grandmother’s-cat, but you just just can’t think of it. So you stop thinking about it — and a minute after you stop trying to remember it suddenly pops out – “OHHH! Mr. Mittens!!!” It can be the same way with your creative focus. If you’re thinking TOO hard about it all the time, give your brain some “time off”, and you’ll probably be surprised to find a little while later the ideas come spilling out.

2 – It’ll introduce you to new experiences and new inspirations.
If you’re stuck in a rut, stop and consider when was the last time you did something new? Introduced yourself to new tastes, new sights, new experiences – or even looked at something familiar with a whole new perspective? I like to imagine I have little creative monsters running around in my head, always giving me new and awesome ideas. But sometimes they get hungry for new materials. Give them something to play with!

An everyday sight, from a different perspective.

3 – It’s just plain fun.
Take your family. Take your friends. Have some fun. I mean, why not?!

4 – It’s free!
Going on vacation is fun, but can be expensive — and complicated. Arranging schedules, finding a place to stay, packing, etc, etc. Having a day trip in your own town avoids all this – its like a getaway without the stress.

Ok, ok, but I hear the gentle murmur of concern coming from you through my computer screen: “Sure, if you live in a vacation destination, that’s works. Here in Bland-ville there’s not much to do!”

So sure are you? I currently live in Knoxville. Have you ever gone to Knoxville on vacation? I kind of doubt it. When I first moved here I asked my husband if we could go exploring. He, having already lived here a couple years before we got married, seemed confused and said, “Well, there’s not really much to do!” And I’ve heard that from someone or other pretty much every where I lived: “Well, there’s not much to do here.” I took him exploring, and now he thinks very differently – and even takes other people exploring!

From a photo my husband’s sister took while visiting us and doing some local exploring! Her photography site

And really, when I’m talking about exploring, I’m not talking about amusement parks, resorts, or tourist traps. I’m talking about finding a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that makes THE best hot and sour soup. I’m talking about discovering that little shop run by an old man who has all kinds of experiences to tell you about from WWII. I’m talking about visiting your local farmer’s market, riding the trolley, driving down a road you’ve never driven down before, taking a tour of a local farm, hiking in the state park, listening to a local band play at the park! Where ever you live, there are things to do, places to explore!

So here are some tips and tricks to find out about awesome things to do where you are, whether where you live, or somewhere very nearby:

1 – Google “the-name-of-your-town visitor’s information”
There’s a lot of info out there. Check out your city’s .gov website, look for a schedule of events, look at the list of attractions, historic sites, museums, etc. Find out if there are fairs, farmers markets, concerts, free events. For instance, the Tennessee Theater, an opulent art nouveau theater downtown, offers free “Mighty Musical Mondays” – you bring a sack lunch and listen to a free concert from local talent in gorgeous surroundings. And where do they put the information for this? Online! Find out what’s offered near you.

2 – Visit your local Visitor’s Center.
They’ll have information on all kinds of things going on. Talk to the people there – let them know what kinds of things you’re looking for. Find out if they host any events at the vistors center! Here in Knoxville the local bluegrass station, WDVX, hosts the “Blueplate Special” each day at noon – you can come to a live concert they are broadcasting onto the air! Go. Ask. Find out.

3 – Request a information pack from your state.
This is something people do when they’re planning to visit other states – why not find out what your own state has to offer? There are various places you can find this – here is one site that lists the information by state.

4 – Ask local friends for recommendations
… and don’t get discouraged if they say “There’s nothing to do”. Keep asking (and ask specific questions like, “what’s the best local restaurant?” or “when people come to town, what do you take them to go see?”, etc.) and you’ll find some good ideas. Then go back and take those people who thought “there’s nothing to do” exploring with you!!

5 – Follow local newspapers/radio stations/visitors centers/etc on Twitter.
I’ve found out about various awesome events in Knoxville from tweets!

6 – Find out if local businesses give tours.
I’ve seen how an antique letter press works, eaten potato chips while they’re still hot, found out the back story on a local seller’s coin collection, seen the amazing machinery in the back of a capitol’s post office – all from “tours” of businesses. Some in scheduled group tours, some just the owner showing you around. I LOVE IT!

7 – Just go do it!
Park the car somewhere, and get out and walk. See what you can find!!!

8 – Take your camera and sketchbook when you explore.
Snap a lot of pictures. Jot down places you want to remember, ideas you have, or events you hear about for later. Or sketch the sights you see! When you get back home, look though your photos, notes and ideas. What drew your eye? What did you end up taking lots of pictures of? (I’ve been amazed at how many of my pictures are of building/architecture/arched windows) What flavors made an impression on you? What do you want to find out more about? Let the ideas start flowing!

Are you a local explorer?
Do new experiences inspire you creatively?
What gets you out of a creative rut?
Tell me about it in the comments!

Questions

Do you ever feel like you have so many activities going on in your life and so many possessions that they’re getting in the way of doing what you really want to do – and what you really need to do?  Do you ever feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort – but for what purpose?

I made this typography photograph recently, and it describes what I have been doing.  I have been working on getting rid of activities and things that just suffocate from what is really important

What is your purpose in life? What is most important to you? Are other things in the way?

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33