Monday, February 1, 2010

Creative Valentine Planning

I have a plan to make Valentines Day a special remembrance this year. I have been married almost 40 years, and it's about time to retrieve a celebration out of our own history to help create a new memory this year. First, let me share with you what I did for Valentines Day almost 23 years ago. Then, I want to invite you to help me plan my tribute this year by way of a little contest with a PRIZE! I will share that at the end of this post!

Twenty-three years ago, I wanted to do something special for my husband for Valentines Day. We were pretty broke but I longed to get away on a little overnight. If you had 6 boys and the youngest was 6 months old, wouldn't you? I knew it wouldn't be likely we could afford much and shared that with my mother. She suggested that we could trade houses for the evening and overnight -- and she would throw babysitting into the mix. That set me to doing some brainstorming.

Of course, I planned a nice meal and thought about candles and a great movie we could watch. But, I was a little frustrated that it might not have much pizzaz just going to my parent's house even then. That's when I got to thinking of something my husband had done that was really romantic when we were dating. He would pen little notes and hide them in fun places that would lead me to a gift.

I knew a lot of the people where my husband worked, so I collected a bunch of leftover kiddie Valentines and wrote little messages on them. I took them to his work and distributed them around, including taking one to a flower shop nearby where I purchased a single long-stemmed red rose. I baked the last message into a heart-shaped cake and took it with special instructions for his office mates.

On Valentines Day morning as I kissed him goodbye, I told him I knew there was a message for him in his mailbox he needed to check right away. He was a bit puzzled, but did as I requested. That message led him to all the other messages different co-workers had for him, and finally to the rose and then to the cake. His instructions then were to share the cake with everyone to help him retrieve the final message. When he discovered it, he was led back to his mailbox (he was to arrive no later than 5 p.m.)  -- just in time for a friend to walk in carrying a silver tray lined with a doily. On the tray was a chocolate and a goblet with wine. She announced, "Limo for Mr. Brandow!" and proceeded to whisk him to her little Honda Civic.

She played the part royally! He was told he was being whisked off on a romantic rendezvous. When he worried he hadn't packed, she told him his suitcase was in the rear. They pulled up to a number of luxurious hotels and inns, after which she would state simply, "no, not this one." Finally, he arrived at the door of my parent's condo where I was dressed to the nines and had soft music playing and candlelight. It was most memorable -- in fact, so memorable, I have not been able to top it!

Now, I think it's time. It's another one of those years when the money is very tight -- but we need some special time together more than ever! So, I have decided to have a contest. If in your comments on this post you would leave me suggestions on inexpensive or free ideas for my Valentines Day evening this year, along with a way to contact you, I will put them into a drawing to be done on Saturday, February 6th this week! The winner will receive one of my handmade Valentines -- zipped off in the mail right away so you have plenty of time to give it as a token yourself. You can see more in my Etsy shop -- and you will have your choice of any of the 6 styles of "Secret Message" handmade cards there. Pass the word along! I really need lots of suggestions to help me out! And, of course, others reading the comments will enjoy discovering some special ways to do some creative Valentine planning themselves!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When the Lights Go Out

This is the time of year when snow begins to fly here in Colorado, and with it, the winds whistle and blow. As it often happens, branches break and power outages occur. We are so accustomed to having electricity, we can be hugely challenged on how to make dinner, let alone what to do to occupy our time as we wait for the power to come back up.

Let me take you on a journey back in time to days before electricity to spark creative ideas when the lights go out. You might even want to turn the lights off on purpose to enjoy these, rather than wait for that blustery day!

Cooking without power can be a challenge -- but how could it also be an adventure? If you have a fireplace or wood stove, there are a number of wood stove cooking recipes -- and some common recipes can be adapted easily for open fire cooking. For example, did you know you can slow cook a pizza over an open fire? If you have one in the freezer, just pop it onto a pizza pan or cookie sheet and lay it over coals, slowly baking til done. If not, making your own dough can be accomplished without a mixer or electricity. The dough can be allowed to rise in a warm place (somewhat close in to the hearth). Then, make your own pizza from scratch.

If you want to cook something a little more simple, toast grilled cheese sandwiches over the coals. I have also put a covered cast iron pot next to the fire to heat soup or baked beans.

Of course, having lanterns to light or candles to burn is important to light the way during a power outage. But, enjoy creativity as you do. Setting the table with a cluster of candles adds romance! They can also provide enough light for a game of cards. Let's get even more creative, though. It might be a bit chilly in the room and if you move around, you will add warmth to the atmosphere. How about a game of charades?

We always enjoy the old stand-by of reading, but spice it up a bit and read aloud to one another, bringing the story to life with the addition of character in vocal inflection. Take turns and watch as each person ups the ante in drama!

Don't just decide to sit in your own corner and knit or crochet. How about teaching someone the art? My sons learned how to crochet in just that way.

Pull out a book of games and try something new. In days gone by, families entertained one another with trick games, parlor magic, or intellectual games. And, with the shadows cast in lamplight, of course, it's one of the very best times to practice making shadow puppets or sketching shadow portraits of one another.

I actually look forward to the times the lights go out now. I can slow my pace of life and really savor the moments! Hope you will enjoy those moments when they come, too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creating for the Holidays

If you are planning on making this a "handmade" holiday season (creating gifts for loved ones rather than purchasing -- or maybe shopping handmade to support independent business), it's time to get started! In fact, for some it may be way past time to get started.

I first "caught" the bug to make gifts when I learned how to sew at about the age of 14. My dad was in graduate school, my mother was working full time -- and money was scarce. I knew my parents were not going to be able to purchase many gifts that year. I was babysitting in the neighborhood and was a latch-key kid. Perfect combination! -- a little money and time on my hands. That Christmas I made my dad and my two little brothers each a set of pajamas, my mother a three-piece suit, my little sister a nightgown, my grandmothers each a "duster" (light housecoat), and my grandfathers each a chef's apron with "chef" hand-embroidered in red on the bibs. I set myself up to be -- "sewing superwoman!!!"

From there on out, rather than stop to think about how much time I had on my hands back then to enable that sewing marathon, I would make decisions to make it a handmade Christmas far too late to enjoy the process.  I found myself up all hours of the night, feverishly stitching -- and there were many times some poor family member received a box with fabric, a pattern and a promise to create inside. My husband eventually got me the little sign you see in the picture, "Caution, Crisis in Progress!" that now sits in my sewing room.

I have learned a few things since then. If you have a deep desire to make something for several people on your list, how do you do it without it becoming the crisis I described? We have a very large family now (five of our six sons are married -- with four grandchildren in the mix). If I were going to make something for each person, I would calculate how much time each gift might take, add an hour to each project (for cushion),  then count back that many weeks/months to give myself a starting point. Because "life happens" (sickness, emergencies, etc.), it is wise to back the entire process up by at least another 2 weeks. Now, look at what you see. Is it realistic? What can you cut? For example, maybe instead of knitting a sweater, you could knit a scarf or hat. Be sure you are also taking into account your need for free time!

There is still time to make this a handmade Christmas or holiday season! If you realize it is too late to make something yourself -- use these tools as an opportunity to plan ahead for next year. Then, take advantage of the many wonderful handmade gifts available for sale by other talented artisans. Etsy shops are a great place to start! I have listed a number of handmade gifts for men $10 and under on my other blog, and you can read about our own family's plan for making this a simpler Christmas there.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Drains Your Energy?

I promised a simple questionnaire in my last post that would help to identify areas where energy may be leaking away due to clutter. The value in stopping to discover where those leaks may be is in our ability to address an area with intentionality to free up energy to work on other areas. So, as you look at this simple tool, don't let yourself get overwhelmed with the number of areas for clutter to accumulate. Instead, take a look at which one shows up with the most -- and that, if cleared, will bring you back the greatest amount of energy. Then you will find it easier to tackle the next area.

(Please feel free to print this off and make it more user friendly -- but please acknowledge the copyright and do not copy for others -- send them back to the blog. Thanks!):

Check all that apply in each of the following categories
___The car needs cleaning, de-cluttering and/or repair
___I haven't got any clean clothes, or they need to be mended or replaced
___My closets, drawers and/or desk are cluttered and need to be cleaned or organized
___Repairs need to be done around my house or my apartment
___I can't find a serene or quiet space to think or study
___I am embarrassed when someone stops by unannounced and dash around to pick things up
___I can't find anything! I don't have a system and I'm not organized
___I miss having more beauty in my living space; I'm not happy with the aesthetics
___I get distracted playing video games or watching TV
___I spend too much time on the internet or reading magazines
      _____ Total Section #1

___I have too many phone calls or texts interrupting my routine
___I do too much for others to the neglect of priorities (I just can't say "no")
___I am involved in too many groups (sports, community, band, carpool, PTA, etc.)
___I need more time with my significant other/partner -- romantically or just in planning and talking
___I have unreturned phone calls, emails or correspondence piling up
___I miss being part of a supportive and caring community (I feel isolated)
___There is someone I need to forgive
___There are people (or a person) in my life who drains my energy
___I have unresolved conflict with someone at home, school, work, or?
___I miss having time for quality relationships/friendships and a social life
      _____ Total Section #2

Body, Mind and Spirit:

___I eat or drink things that I know aren't healthy for me -- but I can't stop myself 
___I am not happy with my appearance
___I don't get the sleep I need to feel rested
___I hunger for true "down" time when I can relax -- body, mind and spirit
___I waste time or procrastinate
___I don't get enough exercise/physical activity to keep my energy levels up, my weight down, and to maintain wellness
___I haven't been to the dentist or had a physical exam in a while
___There are hobbies I used to enjoy that I would love to do again
___I want time to set goals and create a plan, but I'm too busy to make it happen
___I hunger for more time to know God, grow in my faith and connect with others of like faith
      _____ Total Section #3

___I am stagnating and bored in my current job
___My computer (or other tech pieces) don't work and bog me down
___My work is stressful and leaves me exhausted
___My office is a disorganized mess and I have trouble finding things
___I'm not up-to-speed on the latest technology, and I feel on edge because everyone else is
___My work doesn't allow me to use my strengths or express my creativity
___I am overwhelmed by the paper in my life (mail, books, periodicals, research articles, etc.)
___I no longer enjoy my job, but my lack of education or finances is limiting me
___I have a hard time delegating tasks or asking for help
      _____ Total Section #4

Money/Financial Planning: 

___I am behind in filing and/or paying taxes
___I pay bills late
___I have major purchases needing to be made (car, appliances, etc.) but I don't know how to fund them
___I spend more than I earn
___I don't have a regular savings plan
___I have debts overwhelming me
___I don't have adequate insurance
___I can't give to charitable organizations because I need charity myself
___Members of my family are struggling financially and I wish I could help, but I'm too strapped
     _____ Total Section #5

What do you see? Which area is filled with the most energy leaks? Consider this: If your energy is being drained away throughout each day in these areas, how much energy do you have left to focus on what is really important to you?  Which one do you want to work on to stop the leaks and restore the energy you need? I have provided you with some links to great reading resources throughout this blog post. Here's to your energy renewal!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clutter Blocks Creativity

As a creativity coach, one of the first things I ask a client who is struggling to find time for the things they love is this: "Describe your desk/office for me." More times than not, the description includes clutter or papers needing to be filed, or comments like, "I would really like my space to . . ." or "I really should clear/clean . . ."

Clutter blocks creativity. It's like trying to see something when a fly keeps buzzing in front of your eyes. It is distracting! So, if you are having difficulty finding time to be creative, look at your creative space -- your office, your desk, your sewing table, etc. Ask yourself what is distracting you in other ways (are there any "shoulds" you have been putting off?) What do you see? Taking time to clear the clutter will free up more than just the space you see. It will free up your thoughts as well, allowing more space for the creative juices to flow.

I have created a little questionnaire that helps ask questions about clutter in various places in our lives and the energy that may be going in those directions instead of in creative channels. I will share that in my next blog post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bring Your Creativity Home

I just adored watching this youtube video on taking a run down cottage and making it live again. I hope it will inspire you as well!