Monday, April 21, 2014

Crafty Afternoons and Cinnamon Butter Popcorn

Happy spring, lovelies! I haven't posted a non-Birchbox/beauty product-related entry in a while, so HERE WE GO! Finally.

Setting aside time for myself is a huge part of stress management for me, but just setting that time aside isn't good enough. I have to seriously be involved ONLY in that activity for that time, whatever I've allotted that time for. I have a hard time just thinking about the activity I'm doing, and engrossing myself in it without feeling guilty about the business- or dentistry-oriented activities I could be doing otherwise. Unfortunately, that just adds to the cycle of poor stress management, and makes things that much worse.

Fortunately, I finally decided to begin organizing fairly regular group crafting events. I know, I know...add another responsibility, and surely stress levels will go up. Well, yes, there is the time spent trying to organize a date and time that will work for a small group of busy women, and then there is the decision about what project to do, and maybe stopping by the craft store to get a few things, but overall it's been great for me so far. I've only held two events, but they have literally made the difference in starting the following week off with a more positive attitude. It really helps to have at least one other person there enjoying the allotted time with me, it keeps everyone on track and adds a social component to the dedicated time.

The first crafty afternoon was back in March, and we had several girls show up - one I graduated high school with, the rest I went to elementary and middle school with, and one girl brought her sister in law. My mom was also there, since it was at her house. It was a great afternoon! I decided to kind of copy a piece of art I saw on Pinterest, except instead of making it a graphic print I did it all by hand in watercolor paint. I found a Google image of the Seattle skyline that I liked, used it as a silhouette, traced it onto watercolor paper (same method as my previous watercolor project with the posterized photos of the kids), freehand sketched the umbrella and letters, then painted. The whole project, I knew there was something about the quote that was SO familiar, I could almost hear the song in my head, and then a friend reminded me it was Shirley Manson from Garbage :) Perfect! Below is my finished project, unframed still because I don't actually have a place to hang it in my apartment right now...

I shared the photo on Facebook and a friend was so excited about it that I painted another one and sent it to him as a surprise! Truly Seattle, skyline and umbrella and rain reference, plus the fact that it's a total grunge reference too! Still love this, even though I can't take credit for the design idea. Just made it custom for myself, what with watercolor and all.

When I was shopping for some random project ideas and supplies for that craft party, I came across a couple cute home decor things at Big Lots. Now, I've said this before, but no matter how cheap a cute thing is, I always look at it and think "can I make that? I think I probably can, so I can't justify buying it..." Hahaha, SO, that's what happened at Big Lots. Below left is the photo of the thing from Big Lots, and below right is the one I made myself and filled with a bunch of shells I had in a shoebox from years ago. I currently have the jar's original lid on, and my ultimate goal for that is to drill a hole in the middle of the lid, paint it ocean blue, and attach a fun drawer pull knob to the top so it's all cute. I love PNW-themed things and anything beach or ocean related - so naturally, this piece of decor HAD to find a place in my home somehow. And I made it for free, because who doesn't have an extra jar, I had a thing of jute already, plus a ton of shells I've collected over the years from beach combing.

From Big Lots, $6 or $8, I can't remember.
DIY, free!

The second crafty afternoon I had was just over a week ago, and only one other lady could come, but we both worked on similar projects. She was reorganizing a ton of photos from her year in the Peace Corps for a big digital scrapbook, and I was working on my Ireland/Scotland scrapbook with photos and journaling from a trip I took almost NINE years So behind on these things...but hey, I got a couple of page spreads done in a few hours, and the other girl and I took advantage of catching up with each other (hadn't seen each other since college!) and thoroughly enjoyed each others' company.

So, planning craft parties is one of the ways I've been working on stress management - incorporating time for crafting, because I do love being creative in those ways.

A couple months ago I had also started yoga at the gym I go to, once a week. I'm most definitely NOT a yoga person - I think the way we've made it almost competitive and impossible for the average person here in America is just ridiculous. Whatever happened to listening to your body, doing the moves that are comfortable for your body and modifying as necessary, and MEDITATION? I mean, isn't that the whole point of yoga in the first place? Anyway, the yoga instructor at our gym is fantastic, but unfortunately a few weeks after I started the classes I had to quit because I see patients until an hour prior to the start of the class, and have to finish charts after that, plus commute there isn't really a way for me to get there ever. Fabulous. But on the bright side, I have a consistent part time job now!! Definitely helps with the financial stress we've been under since we moved back to Seattle. Direct deposit every two weeks is a beautiful thing.

Speaking of my consistent part time job ruining my gym schedule, it really screwed up my Warrior Woman (strength training) schedule too! So not utilizing my gym membership to its potential in addition to seeing my gym performance decline slightly, was another stressor. So, I sat down with the owner of the gym and figured out another way - AND, they are adding another Warrior Woman series to the schedule so I will be able to join that one. I also added boxing into my training regimen. Love it. 

So, I've done some really effective things as far as stress management over the last few months. Other minor things I've added in are: more walking around the neighborhood (more walking in general - even at the grocery store I park about as far away as possible and take the stairs most of the time for everything), more reading books before bed, decluttered our apartment a bit more (it's definitely a work in progress, but it's getting there), cuddling the dog more, and saying "no" to more things. 

Last week, I also was quite aggressive in an email to a company I rely on for web development and marketing for my business. They are pretty expensive, but the first live version they posted was a JOKE - I'm not even kidding, from some minor spelling and grammar errors, to NOT even posting my business phone number and address - with multiple email attempts at getting some of those issues corrected and seeing NO changes in three days, I finally went ahead and made a shared Google doc with all of my issues, drafted a very brief and sharp email attached to it, sent it to five people instead of just my main project manager at the company, and low and behold - within two hours of me sending that email they had held a meeting specifically for MY project, and fixed several issues already. The rest of that day was spent addressing other issues and continuing work on the subpage content. I have a phone conference with them later this week to review other recent updates and go over what comes next, and hopefully they'll start the tutorial on my dashboard site so that I can review ROI for the webpage and everything. 

In addition, I am finally on track with a graphic designer and should therefore have a logo and all my print products (stationary, etc.) really soon. Just in time for my Valpak to hit mailboxes.

Summary of the previous two paragraphs: being passive-aggressive as is very typical of almost any PNW-er does NOT bode well for stress management. I organized my concerns, was extremely firm in presenting those concerns, and followed through. This resulted in better efficiency and productivity, and therefore decreased my stress that much more. It was awesome.

Now, if only that would actually affect my skin health in a positive way too. Ugh. I still think my lady hormones are all sorts of screwed up, and am trying my best with sleep management and eating clean, but I still have just AWFUL break outs about the same time every month. Driving me crazy. I'm currently in the process of changing cleansers for good, and moisturizer as well, so hopefully that will help reduce some of the surface inflammation that's contributing to it. But I know I need better hormone regulation from the inside as well. Lots of experimenting still to do.

On that note, the next post will be about some products that I have tried outside of my Birchbox subscription (i.e. some of my favorite Mary Kay products, coconut oil, various gift sets and trial sizes of things on sale at Sephora and others, etc.).

OH, but I almost forgot - I made delicious stovetop popcorn while Husband was gone a couple weeks ago, and made it again yesterday. A quick how-to:

2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp grass-fed butter
4 handfuls popping corn
salt and cinnamon to taste
stovetop popcorn popper thing
Put the oil and butter in the pot and let it start to melt, then add the popping corn and salt and cinnamon. Once it starts to pop, start rotating the handle of the pot so none of it sticks to the bottom and burns. Once popping decreases to about a single pop per two or three seconds, it's about ready. Dump in a giant bowl and EAT ALL OF IT BECAUSE IT IS SO GOOD.

I enjoyed some yesterday with my afternoon (iced) tea. While cuddling with the dog on a giant blanket on the floor. It was great. I hope you do the same!

Hope you are all well, thanks for reading, and get ready for some more beauty products next time!

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