Hangin’ around

Today has been warm and windy—a perfect day for playing outside. My siblings and I had a great time at the park. I brought along my hammock and slackline, both of which I’ve been enjoying very much this summer.

This was the first time the hammock (cutequeen brand, $12 on Amazon) has been hung up so high. A little wild, but it worked. This hammock has been a good place to read in the shade, a novelty for my nieces and nephews, and a nice place to relax. Earlier this summer I spent the night outside in the hammock. My original plan was to get in a sleeping bag inside the hammock and then wrap another sleeping bag around it for warmth. It was very warm, almost too warm, and extremely squishy. So I decided to just wrap both sleeping bags around the hammock with me in it. I tried several configurations late into the night, until sometime after midnight I was comfortable enough to fall asleep. I woke up very cold and still somewhat squished, but I still had a good time, though I probably won’t try to sleep in it again. I love sleeping under the moon and stars, and to hear the birds in the early morning. Something must change between one and five in the morning, because the mild night gave way to a chill morning.

The slackline is also a recent hobby. I like doing things that I’m good at and that challenge me, and the slackline includes both. It is like a loose, flat tightrope.  It’s exhilarating to finally master it enough to walk from end to end.

The third suspended hobby I have is rope climbing. I didn’t really think I could climb a rope until recently, and with a few YouTube tips I can climb it quite well. The trick is to use your legs more than your arms to propel yourself upward. I got the rope at Lowes (12 feet for about $8) and tied it to a swingset.

Once I went to see a group of acrobatic circus performers. The group stunned me with their strength, balance, and skill. I could tell that they truly were masters of their craft. I appreciated their dedication to the very best. The crowd would have been impressed with feats half as difficult, but the group held themselves to a standard higher than any audience would demand. They performed tricks I thought impossible: for instance, a man jumping high in the air off a teeter-totter, spinning head-down, landing with his hands on a beam of wood stuck through two ladders. Sometimes what limits us are our beliefs that the attainable is unattainable.

Since watching the circus group, I have been interested in aerial silk acrobatics. This is a beautiful, free type of gymnastics that is done by climbing fabric. Since I can climb the rope now, I’m ready to order some silks of my own. Time for some more summer fun!

So cute

Ok, if these aren’t the cutest inanimate objects you’ve ever seen. I got them at the craft store, in the itty-bitty section. There is a lot of cute stuff available at Michaels. I’m still not sure how to write on them, but I intend to.

My sister and I decorated the bonsai a couple of months ago. The birdhouse, fence, and bench are all made of popsicle sticks and hot glue.

Sometimes life is about the cute little things that make you smile. Those things are just as real as the more serious ones.

Yogurt and veggies and fruit (oh my)

Let’s face it. Being healthy is for the oldy-moldies. At least, that’s what I thought until I started getting a little older myself (from teenager to young adult), and started needing those health benefits in my life. The truth is, being healthy doesn’t have to alienate you from friends, make you suffer, or to taste like lima beans (if you don’t like them). Being healthy can be fun.

I heard yogurt is really good for the digestive system, and that meant I was in luck because I like yogurt. Now, you’re probably thinking, “When is she going to mention price again?” So glad you asked. Milk is generally less expensive than yogurt at the supermarket, plus it has less additives and sugar. So why not DIY?

I used a recipe I found online to make my own batch of yogurt for breakfast. It has only three ingredients: milk, powdered milk, and yogurt with live cultures. I was a little clumsy the first time with sterilizing the canning jars, but it turned out yummy. I was very proud as I ate my own yogurt for breakfast, with a little honey drizzled in. I tried again today and the preparations went much smoother (I’m also hoping the yogurt will be smoother this time too.)

I’ve been trying harder to figure out how I can solve some of the health problems that I’ve been having, and it turns out that eating more fruits and vegetables solves like a billion problems. And, eating them is not really that bad. It sounds bad. Ohh, it sounds terrible. You’d think those little green things were torture, the way some people avoid them. But I’ve found that as I eat more fresh foods, I am enjoying all of the food that I eat more and feeling fewer cravings for sugar. The trick for me in avoiding Vegetable Dread has been finding out what I like.

I don’t like frozen peas, carrots, or broccoli. They give me the shivers. But, I have found that fresh, young peas are a wonderful, sweet treat. Woody, slimy, and bitter baby carrots have been the bane of my lunchbox. But once in a while baby carrots can be so crunchy and sweet that I devour them. Big hunks of chewy broccoli stem are hard for me to palate, but small broccoli sprigs can add the perfect texture to a stir-fry. What I’ve found is that if you take the time to make healthy food desirable, it will be worth eating. Who has the willpower or desire to eat gross food today just to make sure things will go well thirty years down the line?

Just as I’ve found that I can eat healthy, I’ve found that I can do a lot of things I’ve assumed that I can’t. I used to think I didn’t like cooking. The yogurt taught me that you have to practice a recipe for it to go well. The next time I make yogurt, it will go even better. I used to think I was no good at anything medical, but I’ve found that if I give myself the space to lie down when blood or cadavers start to make me feel faint, I am actually quite interested in the human body and good at anatomy. I used to think I could never whistle or do a pull-up, but I can. Sometimes we feel we can’t do things. I think that usually the truth is we can do it if we believe we can, and if we allow ourselves to do it in our own way.

The yogurt is done. Still a little lumpy, but tastes even better than the last batch!


Families are the Funnest

This is the product of our family night. My brother suggested we make a mural, so we did, together. We had a good time, got chalky, and ate popsicles. Plus, the neighbors even seemed to like it.

I’ve  been thinking a lot about friendship and family relationships lately. I asked my little sister what she thought about friendship, and she told me that she thinks a good friend will be interested in the things you are interested in. Even if they don’t do those things, they can respect them and why you enjoy them. This summer, I’ve been trying to spend time with the people who understand and respect me and my quirky ideas, but I also hope to be a little more sensitive to the things that other people around me enjoy, like television shows and basketball. Even if they seem incredibly boring to me, I believe that anything worth doing is worth respecting. A book that brought this to life for me was Atlas Shrugged, which is all about big business owners. I’d never considered the pleasure of pouring steel or running a railroad before. But since reading that book, I pass by steaming industrial plants and feel respect rather than disgust.

I hope you and your friends or family go out and do something you love, even if others might call it “nerdy” or “boring,” or be so flabbergasted that they don’t know what to think.

My Enjoyable Exercise: Yoga

This morning I got up and went to a neighborhood yoga group. I’ve been doing yoga regularly for about a year now, and it has helped and inspired me to not only take better care of my body, but to appreciate it more.

For someone who has never done yoga, the exercise may sound weird and a little silly. (Probably because the media has done a good job of stereotyping it that way.) However, I think yoga is something everyone should try, because of the following:

  1. It’s inexpensive. All you need is some comfy clothes. A yoga mat is very helpful, but not required. I got mine about a year ago for about $12 on Amazon, and it’s still holding up to moderate use. There are some great yoga classes on YouTube, as well as a plethora of soothing soundtracks. You can also go for a nice mat, straps, bolsters, and blocks, or a membership at a yoga studio, but it’s not imperative.
  2. Everyone can do it. Yes. Everyone. Even if you’re in a wheelchair or extremely out of shape, there are types of yoga that involves only sitting or only the breath. When it’s taught at their level, kids love it. I’m sure there are as many kinds of yoga as there are instructors–fast, slow, hot, lukewarm, strengthening, stretching, calming, invigorating. If you promise not to be intimidated, check out this video of one yogi taking it at his level (expert).
  3. Lots of benefits, without the risks. Running is excellent exercise, but it can cause knee problems. In fact, most sports can result in serious injury. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be done, but if your primary goal is to get some exercise, yoga is a pain-free, gain-full way to get it. Yoga offers strength, flexibility, balance, and for quicker practices like ashtanga yoga, even cardio.
  4. It promotes whole-person health. Yoga is helpful for maintaining mental and emotional health. The relaxation exercises and positive self-viewing that are a part of yoga are excellent for preventing and alleviating depression and anxiety, as well as increasing gratitude and contentment.
  5. It’s fun! Not everyone agrees with this last point, but I like yoga because it is challenging, it feels good, and I enjoy doing it with others. I like getting away from the competition and “slimmer is better” attitudes of other exercise forms. There are days I have rolled out of bed onto my mat when I wouldn’t have been willing to hit the pavement, since I love it that much.

I hope I’ve convinced you that yoga is worth a try. It’s an exercise form and a philosophy that has been around for thousands of years, and I’m certainly glad I’ve stumbled upon it. I’m going to keep going to the neighborhood group, and maybe learn to do the splits and an unsupported handstand this summer! I’ll let you know how it goes.

DIY Yoga Water Fountain

Have you ever been to a good yoga studio? I’ve been going to a local one that is just excellent. The atmosphere is so soothing and peaceful, with herbal scents and Indian music flowing through the air. One of my favorite aspects of the studio is the fountain on the wall, which adds a calming backdrop of burbling water.

Since I spend much more time doing yoga at home than at the studio, I thought I might as well make my personal yoga area a little more comfortable—by adding a water fountain. I turned to the internet for a price estimate for a small one, and I realized that my budget would not be very happy if I bought one. (As a college student, my budget tends to be happy if luxury items are under $10, preferably under $5.) So, I thought, why not DIY?

I found two attractive garden pots in the garage (one with holes in the bottom, one without) and an empty milk jug that my parents had saved. Saving used containers is a great way to provide yourself with some free craft supplies and ideas. Then I took a tack from my bulletin board and poked a small hole in the bottom of the milk jug. I filled the jug with water, but the drips were too slow, so I poked a few more holes until the drips were a quick pace that wouldn’t drain the jug too quickly.

That’s where my little sister came in. With her help and ideas, my little fountain was not only set up, but the whole desk was transformed into a yoga studio installment. We used my houseplants, glass pebbles, fancy thread, and artificial leaves to achieve a calming, natural effect.

After all our work, my sister and I filled up the fountain and took a chavasana (yoga nap) on the floor, to the sound of gently plip-plopping water.

Let the summer fun begin!

After a long schoolyear, it’s time for the things I do best: crafting, climbing, singing, reading, writing, and creating! Click the posts to the left to follow my story and get some fun ideas of your own.