Writing Tip: Keep a Word Collection

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When I was a young girl, I think my mom suggested each of us girls should start "collecting" something. I got into teddy bears for awhile, then baseball cards. Those collections have long been donated or passed on, but I still keep my prism collection in the kitchen window. Today, I would say I have a special affinity toward collecting books, pretty things made out of glass, fitness DVDs, pretty fabrics and vintage ephemera.

But there's one collection that I hadn't really noticed before: Word Collections. I guess, being a writer, it just comes naturally to pay strong attention to words and descriptions. I will often read and re-read really captivating or thoughtful descriptions, hoping maybe I'll remember the sentiment again someday. While reading magazines on the treadmill, my subconscious is always pointing out great word phrases that I could use at work. See, I like to write them on subscription cards from my fitness magazines...


Words that resonate with me (you have to understand the word nerdy-ness of a writer) are noted in my writing journal.



Sometimes they return again in a poem. Sometimes they're just there to trigger a thought. Sometimes they help me to explain things better. Oh yeah, maybe it helps build a better vocabulary too.

I started another word list in the notebook journal I carry around everywhere. Mostly these are "nice" words that I like to think about on an inspirational vintage book page:


This last one is my word collection from work. It helps me with product descriptions and such. I have a whole section dedicated to "color" descriptions and phrases that mean "fast." I have over 90 of those. Haha!


I can't always keep this many words in my head at one time. It helps to record them, especially when I hit a block. 

So my advice to other blog writers, and writers in general, is to keep a running list of word inspiration like this. I really think it helps your words stay fresh. Otherwise, just meditate on pretty words like "composure" when you're stressed out.

My Latest Thrifting Finds

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Here's the latest stash of goods from my last thrift shopping adventure.

I just fell in love this cute embroidered pillow. With a good cleaning, it's now my husband's new "snuggle pillow." He likes to hug a small pillow when he's sleeping, especially when I'm not around. His old one was looking a little...um...worn.
Speaking of embroidery...it's kind of become an obsession. This beautiful embroidered picture is now hanging in our office.
This beautiful hand-knit blanket is the perfect size for a toddler bed! And the colors were perfect for the Peanut too. I guess I have to give my husband a little lesson in dryers though. He has since felted a few of these knitted squares. Oops!

I've kind of been on the lookout for a small glasses case. As I sifted through the thrift store stash, I unearthed this cutie. The vine design was worth so much more than $0.50. Yay!

I also picked up an atlas and some pretty vintage papers for my art journal. It was a productive trip, I'd say.

A Crafty Sunday Evening

Saturday, February 25, 2012

This past Sunday, I had a surge of motivation that led me on a crafting frenzy. I sewed four spit-up rags for my brand-new baby nephew, whipped up one pair of super-adorable infant pants (that were supposed to be toddler pants, but oops), put together a sewn yo-yo garland, finished up a "happy birthday" banner for a work friend, ironed some wrinkly things that had been laying around, and put the finishing touches on a few other projects. I hooked up the embroidery hoop and am now dreaming of designs for a way-too-cute little onesie. Boats keep coming to mind, because his daddy's in the Navy. Maybe an anchor. We shall see.



This has got to be the best kind of therapy around. Nothing can beat me when I'm a-workin'. And there's nothing like that feeling afterwards when you look in awe at all you did and wonder how you did it. I'm going to try and remember this feeling so that next time I'm feeling down, I can replay this little trick. I'm also going to remember a few little projects that I can slip in during those 10 minute increments I keep talking about. I just love spending my time productively.

My Peanut, meanwhile, was completely engrossed in pretend play behind me. When I was done at the sewing table, he climbed his little legs up there and pretended to sew, cut, fold and perfect his little sewing craft. He brought in his two "babies" and taught them too! Those four little spit-up rags we put together are sure wrapped in a lot of love.

Here an Art Journal, There an Art Journal

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It must be a sign that I need to keep up with this art journaling business. Even my inbox is teeming with inspiration. I love the idea of art journaling because it's a combination of a bunch of my favorite things. I've never been much of a scrapbooker, but I like the idea of combining pictures with quotes, thoughts, or literature passages. There was an English teacher in high school who had everyone keep an art scrapbook for the semester and I was sooooo jealous I didn't sign up for that session. I like the idea of keeping a diary, but not in a "dear diary" sense of spouting how your day went, but in a more messy stream-of-consciousness way. And I like the idea of keeping a scrapbook of art inspiration, doodles, ideas, intentions and self-reflection. I think you can learn a lot about yourself by discovering patterns in your work. The art journal does all of this in one pretty little place.

If you're interested in giving this art journaling thing a shot, here's a link to a free e-book that just came to my email: Cloth Paper Scissors: Art Journal Techniques.

Note to self: it's about time you publish a few of your pages:)

Welcome to the Running Community

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I wish the whole world could be a big version of running events. Have you ever seen how awesome people are at 5ks and other events? Even the winners come back and cheer on those that are bringing up the tail end. Everyone's automatically amiable those days. And at the end, everyone gets to revel in the feeling of having accomplished something.

I never really was a runner until my later college years. One day, I just decided to enter a Half Marathon. I mean, usually people start a little smaller. But not me! And boy am I glad I did. My second run was a measly cross-country 3-mile run in hot, humid temperatures. I always say, if that had been my first run, I would've given up road racing right then and there. But the Half was one of the best experiences of my life. People were cheering at every corner the whole 13.1 miles. It felt like I was partying inside a huge celebration.

If you're thinking about entering an upcoming race, I encourage you to go for it! To help you decide, I've listed my most favorite parts about running road races:

1. You get a nice solid run in on a Saturday before most people have even rolled out of bed.

2. The quiet sound of thousands of feet on the pavement! I wish I had a recording of this so I could use it for meditation. Yes, it's truly that amazing!

3. You get some fun swag and usually a free T-shirt.

4. The amazing people who come out that early just to wave flags, direct traffic, ring cowbells and encourage runners. I need some of these people in my life every day. Imagine how much we could all get done with that level of enthusiasm and encouragement!

5. Vendors selling last year's shoe models for less than a cheap meal!

6. The feeling of community. No one cares how fast you are or what you're wearing, you just automatically belong. You're all there to run and encourage each other and that feeling of connection is amazing.

7. Water stations. I love them. People volunteer to just stand with their arms out to hand you a cup of water or Gatorade. Such a gracious act. And you totally have permission to litter afterward!

I'm sending in a 5k application today for my husband and I. It's become one of my dearly favorite yearly tradition with us. We plan on making running dates from now until April. How sweet is that?

Chia Seeds, the Next Superfood?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I've been reading Born to Run (which I highly highly recommend!), and these amazing little nuggets keep popping up out of the book. I just want more, more, more, just like those running endorphins. I can't help but be mesmerized by the feats of Ann Trason, the mystery of the Tarahumara, and the discovery of chia seeds.

Ch ch ch chia! Yes, those same chia pets from the 80s will get you pretty darn close to a mega-loaded superfood. Let's not pretend that these are a "secret cure" to anything, but they are really packed with so many amazing things. Even WebMD says: "Enjoy chia seeds for their flavor and to boost the fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3s in your diet. But don't expect a big weight loss boost." Obviously, I'm not a doctor, so don't take it from me. But even Dr. Oz has something to say about the teeny powerhouses. Because you know if Dr. Oz says it, then...

The Tarahumara, these seemingly superhuman long-distance runners in Mexico, use chia seeds as sort of our version of an energy gel. They mix the seeds with water and a little lemon juice and the mixture seems to give them an energy surge. The cool thing is, chia seeds hold water, which is a great benefit for the endurance athlete.

I don't normally eat fish, except for canned tuna, due to a taste aversion. I've always leaned on walnuts, flaxseed and Smart Butter for small hits of Omega 3s. This, to me, sounds like another good way to squeeze a few more vitamins in. I'm putting my order in!

This book is just fascinating. It makes me want to get up and run 100 miles every time I pick it up, because a 5k sounds really wimpy. I highly suggest you pick up a copy or rent it from the library.

Weekly Health Newsletter Subscriptions

Monday, February 6, 2012

I recently read an article about how Kaiser Permanente studies the effects of weekly fitness emails on weight loss. Turns out, weekly emails do have a significant impact on weight loss. Kaiser used a program called ALIVE (A Lifestyle Intervention Via Email) where they sent participants tailored weekly emails with simple lifestyle steps they could take to lose weight, such as walk for 10 minutes during lunch.

Since regular emails are probably a great weight loss strategy, I thought I would share my own personal list of newsletters that I subscribe to. Not all of these are great for everyone, and you may not want to subscribe to this many all at once, but here goes:

1. FabFitFun: easily digestible daily fitness tips for the modern-day, trend-conscious girl. Today's feature was about hot new youtube fitness stars. E! News' Giuliana Rancic is the driving force behind this fab website.

2. Prevention: this might sound, um, a little old, but prevention magazine has 12-and-counting great health newsletters, some of which even fit into a younger lifestyle, such as the "Feel Your Best Fitness Newsletter" and the "Eat This, Not That Newsletter."

3. Real Age: first, I highly recommend taking the Real Age test, which asks you a bunch of personal questions to tell you how old your body actually is. Then, subscribe to the Tip a Day newsletter. Today, for example, there were articles about the evils of soda and the 25 most healthy cities. Dr. Oz is one of the big names behind this site.

4. Whole Living: It all started when I signed up for a New Years' 30-day challenge. That easily turned into a whole-year-and-beyond challenge. The Challenge of the Day email sounds like it might be somewhat similar to the idea of the Kaiser ALIVE emails. One recent challenge was to give up one processed food today. The emails really do take a Whole Living approach, touching on so many doable mind-body subjects. The spa-worthy pictures and gentle personal-caretaking approach are refreshing.

5. Everwell: touches on subjects from healthy food (Carrot Camouflage Cupcakes) to fitness (at-home workouts) to consumer health tips (dangers of reusing plastic bottles). It's really a nice well-rounded approach to leading a healthier life.

6. Self: A handful of newsletters are offered by Self Magazine. The Move of the Week and Recipe of the Week newsletters will steadily build your repertoire on the fitness and food fronts. Other monthly newsletters explore news, tips and health topics.

7. ACE: Get tips and research insider information straight from the organization that trains the trainers. They explore fitness trends of the year, healthy food makeovers, fitness product reviews and of course links to exercise move videos. The newsletters also include handy links to thought-provoking conversations in the forums.

8. Sparkpeople: once you open your FREE (yes, no-strings-attached-FREE) account, you can manage your newsletter subscriptions under the Account/E-mail Preferences link at the top left of your home page. They offer 10 great health, diet and inspirational newsletters and 8 condition-specific newsletters (i.e. Seasonal Allergies and Heart Health). I really enjoy the member-written inspirational emails. They are very well-chosen and highly motivational posts, which always strike a chord with me.

Not only do these newsletter provide a wellspring of helpful information, they're just great reminders throughout the day and week to stay on track. They keep bringing your thoughts back around to getting up and moving, passing on the cupcakes, and taking your kid for a walk when you get home. After all, if studies are showing that daily emails can encourage your weight loss journey, you might as well take advantage of these wonderful, free resources. My theory is that the more knowledge you have about health and fitness, the easier it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It can change your whole mindset.

Do you have any other favorites that are not on my list? Please share! And Happy Reading!

Weight Gain Confession

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On a site where I have journaled about my weight loss adventures and posted tips on fitness topics, it feels really discouraging to have to admit that I recently gained weight and have not been able to effectively remove it. I know 8lbs might not be a big deal to many people, but it really is to me. For all the hours and work that I put into fitness; for the three years that I've been able to maintain a steady weight; for all the things I know about weight loss, I haven't been able to come to grips with this quite yet.

I thought once one or two of these pounds came on, I would easily lose them like always and there would be nothing to talk about. But the 8 lbs came on suddenly three months ago, and they seem to be stuck. But I don't want to gripe about them or keep them secret any longer. So, I'm setting up a game plan instead, because I'm just proactive like that. Ha! Here's how I'm hoping to combat the creep:

1. I need to set up an appointment to rule out anything health-wise that might have caused this. Hopefully, some basic thyroid tests and such can rule that out. I did have one medical health change in October, and I'm now wondering if it may have had an effect.

2. Adding 1 more day per week to my exercise schedule. I met with a fitness expert who advised this step (even though she said I look slimmer--thank you!). I have a hard time hearing that I'm not doing enough (I already work out hard three days a week, walk to and from work some days, walk on my lunch breaks, have an astonishing amount of self-control, etc), but I am willing to try this out. Two concerns: one, finding the time when I already pack in the workouts and two, my level of soreness and burnout after a solid week of working out.

3. Minding my Peas and Cucumbers: I've found in the past that tracking my food is one of the most effective ways for me to combat weight creep. Just being aware of my calorie intake is enough to fend off weight gain. I like to do this only about a week at a time or it feels overwhelming. Which leads to my next step:

4. Set up an appointment with our dietitian at work. Perhaps she can look over my food intake and tell me what I can do better, because there's always room for improvement.

5. De-stress. A job loss in our family also happened in October, which has led to a lot of stress in these last few months. This may have had an effect on my frame as well. I need to carve out time to deep breathe and dream until the situation changes. I also need to get my butt to bed a little earlier to decompress.

I'll let you know how it goes...