Monday, June 29, 2015

Mindful {Monday}

One thing I was overwhelmingly aware of last week was my feeling of gratitude.

Sure, it was my birthday and my Husband did an AMAZING job surprising me and he created so many lovely ways to surprise me... but there were also the calls, texts, cards, and emails from friends I haven't heard from in ages.

It was those little human gestures, efforts to connect, that were the highlights of my week.

It was feeling so entirely loved, by those I love, that made me so blissfully happy.

Each day I try to spend a moment reflecting on all my reasons for gratitude.  I find this really helps me focus on the things in life that truly matter.  When I have trouble falling asleep, I try to identify as many things {BIG and small} that I have to be thankful for... I usually fall asleep before I'm finished.  When I have a rough day or am just feeling down about things, I try as hard as I can to remember all the reasons I am lucky.

There is so much we all take for granted each day, and so much we do not even notice.  We spend so much of our time and energy wanting this or that, but often not enough time being happy with what we already have.  I try to catch myself when I am having one of those moments of want, and then try to just pause and mentally rearrange my priorities.

When you get into a habit of "counting your blessings", you feel grateful for so much: a hot shower, a clean comfortable bed, a simple home-cooked meal... I've even talked myself into feeling thankful for some of my problems.  Compared to some people.. my problems are even lucky.

My Husband, who I am extremely thankful for, made it his goal to celebrate my birthday each day last week. {He is the single most important blessing I have.} Last night, when we climbed into bed, he said "Happy Birthday" one last time... and I just laughed.  Aside from "Thank you," all I could think to tell him was that I have had MORE than enough celebration and it was time to put my birthday to rest.  I didn't want for anything more.  It wasn't the gifts or the trip.  It was the moments of connection and gestures of love that meant the most.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Shutters & Front Door Makeover

YAY! This project has been on my list for such a long time.  Unfortunately, since it wasn't one of the priority items, it's been pretty far down on our list.

Of course, I choose to bump it up the list and make it a priority during a record breaking heat wave! haha  Who needs hot yoga?  Not me... just give me a paint brush and send me out into the hot and humid Carolina summer! ;)
Here is how the color shows: Morning, Noon, and Night.

Anyway, it was way easier than I initially thought it would be.  Once I got over the sweating, the painting process was actually quite simple.  Our shutters and front door were in pretty good condition.  No paint was peeling and the old paint was worn pretty thin.  No sanding was needed, just a good rub down with a damp cloth to get of any dirt, pollen, or dust.

Overall, it took me about 2 hours in total to paint everything, including touch ups.

We chose Naval Blue (6244) by Sherwin Williams.  I was looking for a dark blue and was inspired by some other Pinterest front door makeovers.  What I really love the most about this color is the vibrancy of the blue during the brighter parts of the day.  It has this lovely ocean-like quality.  I remember back in my Crayola days, there was this blue "cerulean" crayon that looks like it would be really dark, but was surprisingly a bright saturated blue.  This SW Naval Blue is a bit like that.  It's not as surprisingly blue, which is a good thing, but it has such nice undertones that get picked up in the sunshine.

It came out very clean and classic looking, and I love how the exterior gloss really shows off the grain in the shutters and door.  It makes them a lot more interesting than the faded, worn, matte green that was on there before.

One special touch was a "hello" decal I ordered for the front door.  I LOVE how it turned out!

We are one step closer to a charming home with character! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston

Stop #1 on the Charleston, SC, birthday tour: complete!  

Magnolia Plantation was gorgeous. The bridges were a favorite sight of mine. Especially the surprise bridges tucked back in the bamboo garden. 

It's been a hot day here, but all the shade and soft breeze helped a bit. 

Next stop: Market Street and lunch!! :)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mindful {Monday}

It's pretty neat how when I started this mindful initiative, suddenly I also started to pick up on examples of mindfulness around me, or stories about mindfulness in the news.  

This week I bumped into the idea of mindfulness from two different sources: NPR and a TED talk from Tony Fadell, a product designer whose most notable concept and design is that of the iPod.

Most days during lunch, I listen to NPR.  Funny enough...last week ON my Mindful Monday, I heard a piece about Matthieu Ricard, a French molecular biologist turned Buddhist Monk.  
(He has had a fascinating life, as demonstrated by a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics, 
acting as the French translator to the Dalai Lama, and author of several best selling books.)

During the NPR interview, he discussed the positive effects that meditating and mindfulness can have on our abilities to focus on tasks, our attention spans, and our overall happiness and levels of stress.  Those benefits were not surprising, but what was surprising was when he talked about how it has been scientifically studied, and proven, that our thoughts can physically change the structure of our brain.  Meditation and the practice of mindfulness can increase the amount of gray matter in our brains and can also affect how our genes are expressed, or rather how our genes are turned on or off.  

This is an amazing concept to me and such a wonderful proof of the power each of us have to change; change our minds, our habits, our bodies, and the world around us. 

Here are some links to the NPR interview and other articles I read:
NPR: Altruism and Matthieu Ricard (Epigenetics around the 18 minute mark).

Next up, I saw a TED Talk advertised on my LinkedIn feed; the intended subject was on "the secret of design."  I was initially drawn to this video to learn some tips about good product/website design for end users.  Instead, what I got was a presentation on mindfulness.  Tony did not call it mindfulness, but instead he touched on the concept of "habituation."  

Habituation is essentially what I was describing in my last Mindful Monday post.  It was the reason I didn't notice the night choir of nature noises going on around me.  Humans are so good at becoming accustomed to stimuli and everyday tasks that we simply don't pay much attention to them. 

Mindfulness, paying attention, noticing, tuning in... however you'd like to refer to it, he noted this as the single most important thing we all need to do in order to solve the big and small problems around us.  When we start seeing these problems that most people just deal with because "that's the way it is" or "that's the way it always has been," this is when we can really innovate. 

Mindfulness - It's good for brain, body, spirit... and apparently also your career! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wander {Wednesday} Venice

This week I've had Italy on my mind.  Here are a handful of photos taken during our Honeymoon.  

Venice was one of the most magical and romantic destinations on our trip.  

Since getting my new computer, I've been FINALLY starting to organize the vast amount of lovely photos we've taken over the past couple years.  My goal is to start sharing more of them on here and in the photo account I opened months ago.

Little by little, I am getting there.

Finding these photos from Venice brought back such happy memories, Venice was one of our last stops during our European Honeymoon.  We spent New Year's Eve there and for late December/early January, it was surprisingly warm and so sunny! The colors of the sky, the fireworks, the buildings... everything was picture worthy.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mindful {Monday}

Last week, Paul and I went flat water kayaking at the U.S. National Whitewater Center as part of a celebration for his birthday.  It was so completely different than our typical way of spending a Friday night. We both got out of work a bit early and were on the river before we even get home most nights.

Being out on the quiet water surrounded by thick vegetation, a soft evening sky, and herons strolling along the banks was lovely.  It was silent and peaceful. We were amazed at how it didn't seem at all like we were only ten miles out of uptown.

We ate dinner and had drinks around a fire. It was a wonderful change in pace and setting.

The whole time I was trying to pay attention and be present, not as a task, but just kept steering my attention back to the moment I was experiencing.  I felt I was doing a pretty good job and was ready to walk away from the evening with a pat on the back, but just before we left we walked into the locker room area to collect our belongings and when we walked outside again, the "silence" we had been enjoying all night was chock-full of sound that we hadn't even noticed.

Crickets, frogs, and other night noises were so incredibly loud it made us wonder how we didn't notice it before.  It was beautiful and we had been missing it the whole time.  We were inadvertently tuning it out.  We recognized the absence of the urban noises (cars, planes, and people) we are so used to, but we let the the nature sounds blend together and then didn't pay attention to them.  It made me realize that I do this a lot.

In school, I learned how to ignore the background noises, so I could focus on studying.  At night, I've learned to ignore annoying sounds like a dripping faucet, a squeaky fan, or other creaks and nightly house noises, so I can get some sleep.  I do the same thing at work with phones ringing, office conversations, and the tapping on keyboards around me, attempting to distract and break my concentration.

At times, it is good to be able to block out the noise, but the constant urban assault on my senses has somewhat numbed my ability to notice the nice noises.  Now it seems, I need to retrain myself to tune back in. Especially, when I'm in a place that seems quiet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wander {Wednesday} Iceland

We have long ago caught the travel bug and we've been lucky enough to experience some amazing places.  Our adventure in New Zealand had to be one of the most amazing things we've ever done. Everyday was stunningly beautiful.

One of the next places on our list to visit is Iceland. A quick search on Pinterest and it will quickly be proved that Iceland is a magical place filled with scenery fit for fairy tales.

Sources: 1) Iurie Belegurschi; 2) CoolBieRe; 3) the london eye; 4) Brandi Mueller; 5) Wolfgang Pölzer; 6) Iurie Belegurschi; 7) bm_photo; 8) KáriK
(All sources were found on Pinterest.  If I repinned, I attempted to locate the original photographer and give credit as the source).

Even though I am not a lover of all things cold... in fact, quite the opposite, even I can't say no to a trip to Iceland.  Fiords, lava fields, puffins, the Aurora, and scuba diving in the clearest water... that sounds like an adventure that must be made!  I'm thinking of ways to make it happen. Spring 2016? It could be so!

I found a photo workshop that would be amazing to do, but it is full for the week we are looking to visit. The workshop is instructed by one of the photographers that took a few of the amazing pictures above and below. Iurie Belegurschi

Sources: 1) Iurie Belegurschi; 2) Orsolya Haarberg; 3) Trey Ratcliff
(All sources were found on Pinterest.  If I repinned, I attempted to locate the original photographer and give credit as the source).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mindful {Monday}

As I was saying in Friday's introductory post, I'm trying to make a better effort to slow down and enjoy more little moments in my everyday life. It's easy to enjoy and soak in moments during vacations, lazy weekends, or dinner dates with friends or loved ones, but sometimes its hard to appreciate the moments in your daily commute, making dinner, getting ready in the morning, doing chores, or any of the other mundane tasks we do so frequently that we don't really pay too much attention anymore. 

While I was contemplating how to get started shifting my frame of mind to the present, I thought about how babies and dogs are the best examples of mindful thinking. Since I don't have access to a baby, I'll speak about my fur-baby examples. 

Paul and I adopted a new puppy a month ago, and it has been such an amazing and sometimes tedious experience watching him learn new things everyday.  EVERYTHING he does is with excitement and joy.  Every item he comes across is a toy and he just can't help but get into mischief. Sometimes this is frustrating, especially when he decides to go swimming in the water bowl or we need to stop whatever we are doing to replace his newly discovered inappropriate toys (a shoe, a dish towel, the cat, a pillow...) with something that is puppy approved, not once but every couple of minutes. Yet, it's also incredible because I realize that he won't be like this forever, or even much longer.  

Soon, the noise the piano makes won't phase him, and we won't get to see the cute tilting of his head from right to left as he tries to make sense of this curious sound.  I won't need to comfort him when a noisy school bus stops during our walk.  He'll be well trained enough that every single bird, bush, leaf, stick, rock, etc... won't be THE BEST THING he's ever seen during his walk! haha  Soon he'll be a confident, well behaved, little guy with a goofball personality - we know that isn't going away - but they'll be less little things for him to learn and be amazed by. 

The great thing about dogs, is that they are masters of being in the present moment. 

He'll still always get excited for a walk, a treat, a toy, a belly rub, car ride, visitor, and so many other things that people would (and do) take for granted. 

Being mindful, to me, is focusing more on the little, and big, things I do everyday that I had to learn once, and that for a time were exciting and new.  I might not be as enthusiastic about them anymore, but I want to notice them and find the simple joys that can still exist.

This weekend, I started shifting my focus to the present one small moment at a time. I looked for pleasant moments during errands or chores, and as often as I would remember to, I tried to make a point of noticing the sounds, sights, and smells around me. I listened harder and observed more details. I think I smiled more, too. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Reflection {Friday}

New Goals & First Friday Reflection


I've been feeling very guilty and low about lacking time for all the things that make me really happy. Since I've named this as my small creative space, I'd like to make more time to write some posts. Therefore, I've given myself some new goals; Even if I get into a stretch of time where I don't have time to build, craft, cook, or garden... I'd like to write a couple/few posts a week.

I'm formerly introducing: Mindful Monday, Wander Wednesday, and Reflection Friday.

These three theme days fit in so perfectly with the way my mind works, because regardless of how busy I get, I never cease mulling over some idea, or dreaming of places to explore. I'll use two days to share my previous travel stories and travel inspiration, as well as share some quotes that get me thoughtful.

The Mindful Monday, will be an extension of a personal endeavor. As a severely "Type A" person, I tend to be a bit wound up and also always in a rush.  Being more mindful of the present, instead of tangled up in the past or in speedy pursuit of the future, is something I think will be very beneficial. Since, being good at something takes practice and Type A people need structure...I'm scheduling one day a week where I share my conscious effort at acknowledging and appreciating the present moment and things that might otherwise pass me by if I didn't slow down to notice them. :)

For my first ever Friday Reflection, I chose a quote from one of my favorite books/authors.  It aligns well with my new goals.

“Often we pass beside happiness without seeing it, without looking at it, or even if we have seen and looked at it, without recognizing it.”
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Almost Back in Action

It's been a rough few months at work, which meant I needed to cut back on my creative time. 
MAJOR bummer!

However, just because I cut back, doesn't mean I've stopped!
Oh no...
It just means that I have been spending that time dreaming up and planning.
Places to go, things to do, rooms to paint, projects to finish and start,
as well as all sorts of fun crafts that I am bursting at the seams to begin. 

Here's a brief summary of what's been keeping me so busy (work excluded)....

One.  A bun in the oven! Not my oven, my dear cousins', but that is still a lot to celebrate! 

Two.  3 Trips home to NY! = 4,800+ miles of driving! (because we're crazy like that.)

Three.  A new addition to our family! (Meet Watson. He has big puppy eyes and he barks.)

Four.  We took another vacation. (Can there ever be enough?)

Five.  A lot of lawn work, puppy proofing, and project planning

Six.  I was gifted a vintage sewing machine.  Do I love it? YES! 
(pictures coming soon).
Seven.  I got a Mac. Which means, I get to begin processing all our 
trip photos that I haven't had time for!  
I'll be updating my photos section with more than just 
unprocessed test images soon, and this makes me very happy!  :) 

I'll be back soon.

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