BEST SELF, HEALTH, TIME FOR CHANGE

Sleep – Tips & Tricks for a Better Night!

02/22/2019

Since beginning The Hourglass Project a few of years ago, I’ve really been trying to reflect on how to achieve balance in my life.  Despite the ups and downs and unexpected turns – I’ve really been able to learn a lot about myself and what I need to help me stay centered in my life.  My experiences have only made me more confident that the fundamentals of The Hourglass Project – sleep, activity, and nutrition while paired with a focus on mind, body, and soul are truly the keys to finding happiness.

Each time I find myself off kilter in regards to my personal mental or physical well-being, I can honestly say that it is typically connected with my neglecting one of these areas.  The most common culprit for throwing off my balance is lack of sleep.

Sleep seems to be the most pivotal component to finding balance.

I do realize that all together so many behaviors that are better for our health are easier said than done.  But instead of focusing on trying to change all unhealthy elements at once I’d encourage your entire focus to be on taking one small step at a time towards better sleep, because without good sleep, it is extremely difficult to achieve sustainable, healthy changes in our lives.

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way in regards to help improve your sleep.

First, schedule is important!  Anyone with kids can tell you how true this is.  From the point we are born our body craves structure.  Having a relative schedule that we can stick to in regards to sleep is important.  Now sometimes this is impossible, so just do your best, but if you have the ability to construct a bedtime and rise time for yourself I highly encourage you to do so.  Having a set time you go to bed helps tremendously in allowing your body to get on a schedule. It’s kind of like muscle memory. Go to bed at 10 o’clock every night and when that time rolls around your body will naturally tell you it is tired and ready for bed.

Second, cut out caffeine – as much as possible.  I know that it may be asking a lot to ask you all to give up caffeine all together.  I mean, I drink coffee so who would I be to tell you to stop, but it is important to be aware of how it affects your body and your sleep cycle.  Often times we do not think it affects us because we have consumed it for so long, but we cannot see the actual effect until there is a substantial absence of the stimulant. When I am working to get my sleep back on track I will abstain from all caffeine until I am successful. So, try cutting back on caffeine or cutting it out all together.  At the very least find a time in the morning to be your cut off point. I make sure not to have caffeine after noon because I find that on days I do, I have difficulty shutting my brain down at night.

Caffeine is a chemical and has a half life, it takes time to get out of our system and even though it seems to wear off throughout the day it does have a lingering effect which can affect us even 12 hours later.  So my advice, follow my lead and cut out all caffeine intake after 12 pm. Or even better 10 am!

Third, get into a routine.  So beyond just setting a schedule, create a routine for yourself.  This again is similar to the muscle memory. If you follow the same routine every night of getting in your pajamas at a certain time, drinking a soothing glass of tea, and cuddling up with a good book (not electronics!) your body will start noticing these cues and work to shut down your body. You will notice over time that your body will be able to get into relaxation mode faster and just simply getting into your pajamas may trigger a sleepy response.

And lastly cut out other stimulants beyond coffee.  This means get away from your computer, your television, and your smartphone.  The bright lights, noises, and data that come from each of these products are stimulating to your brain and do not allow you to unwind.  Additionally, the stress from checking last minute emails can be detrimental to your sleep cycle. What I suggest is to sleep with a notepad next to your bed and write down any “urgent” thoughts that may come up as you try to get to sleep so that you can deal with them first thing in the morning.  Most of the time these urgencies are not truly urgent and can wait til morning, we just fear that we will forget. In the morning take your list and read through them and attend to any truly pressing matters.

If you can handle it, I suggest sleeping with your phone in another room completely, or at least on the other side of the room so you are not tempted. If you use your phone as an alarm clock – invest a whopping $10 in an old school digital plugin and throw that excuse in the trash. Your health and well being is well worth the small investment.

Follow these basic tips and you should see a significant difference in your sleep quality within a few weeks.  But remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, so you have to trust in the process and give it time. I’d love to hear if you have tips or tricks of your own to share – or if you’ve tried these techniques, how they’ve worked for you! Comment below!

 

BEST SELF, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS

A New Take on Vision Boards

02/06/2019

Vision boards are not a new concept by any means.  People have been creating vision boards for many decades, working to manifest their dreams or simply as a way to work towards a specified goal. In a way, a vision board is a storyboard for our desired lives. I have engaged in creating my own vision boards over my lifetime at various retreats and workshops and also on my own after watching “The Secret”.

My vision boards have changed over time depending on where I am at in my life as they are typically reflective of my current goals and trajectory. I am sure if I pulled out my old vision boards, there would be a few things that remain consistent, but plenty of pieces would no longer be relevant – because we change.

The last vision board I completed was probably 6 or 7 years ago. I remember doing one that was full of beautiful images of photography studios and women’s portraits, because at the time I was engaged in creating a successful photography business. However, the goals I had then are not aligned with the goals I have now – at least at the moment.

I had the opportunity this fall to create a vision board at an adult camp that I attended, but declined to do so. It was not really the craft that I had hoped for and did not feel pulled to create one. I went to the crafting station and rifled through the magazines, but I did not feel a strong attraction to any of the images. A lot of the magazines were already cut up and decimated. It almost felt like the activity was put together last minute to fill a void in the schedule rather than a true vision board activity. Or perhaps it was just my mindset at the moment and I was unable to fully embrace the activity due to my own lack of self confidence and skepticism. Honestly, it was probably the latter.

Rather than create a vision board I opted to do more of a ripped paper collage creating a sunset ocean scene – which in a way could be looked at as its own sort of vision board. I was seeking peace, serenity, and surrender. A sunset can represent a vision of closing chapters and moving on – which was what I was in the process of doing. The same image could also be viewed as a sunrise, which can be representative of new beginnings. Either way, the activity was peaceful and enjoyable, but it got me to wondering why I had shunned the vision board activity.

When returning home from the weekend away, I noticed the growing stack of magazines in my home. I held onto these magazines for a long time, despite never truly sitting down to read them. It worked against my desire to declutter, so I decided to make it an active project to read through them and remove them from our home. In the process I noticed myself pulling out images that spoke to me. Over the last few months I have been able to read through the entire stack of magazines, but I was left with a huge folder of ripped out pages and no real plan of what to do with them.

I decided to make a vision board.

Over the past week or so, I’d take a little bit of time to sort through the pages and images, cutting out and pulling aside the ones that really spoke to me and placing them in an envelope. I was intentional about the ones I saved, releasing all others into the recycling bin. I had a large picture frame that used to house a family portrait until the glass broke. I decided that it would be the perfect host for the vision board.

Yesterday I completed the culling process and sat down on my floor, spread out the pictures, and started to create my vision board.

The process of creating the board was an incredibly cathartic experience and I reflected on each image as I carefully selected where it was placed and glued it down to my board. When it was done, I felt a sense of pride and excitement. It was beautiful and a true vision of what I’d like my future to look like.

Completing this project taught me two very valuable lessons that I’d like to share.

First, creating a vision board is not necessarily a “sit down in an hour and pull together pictures” kind of activity. It took me several months of organically pulling out pictures that spoke to me from a variety of magazines and catalogs. I was not limited from where I pulled the images from or in how many hours it took me to complete this project, which allowed for a more honest reflection of my vision. I highly recommend this approach for a more authentic outcome.

Second, whether or not you believe in the law of attraction, a vision board is an incredibly useful tool in reaching your goals.  As I reflected back onto the completed board I asked myself the very pointed question – am I taking steps every day to try to make this vision a reality? Does it align with who I am and who I want to be? Or is it simply who I think others would like me to be? It doesn’t matter how many images of yogis and healthy food that I put on my vision board – if I never take action in that direction and I sit on my couch binging on Netflix and Cheetos, the vision is never going to become a reality. And if the vision is not truly mine, but a vision of how to impress others or gain their approval, that also will not culminate an authentic life.

A vision board is only useful if it honestly aligns with your dreams and if you are taking steps towards them. The value comes in using it as a prompt and a reminder to take action each and everyday towards those goals. I reflected honestly on each picture and sometimes I answered yes, that I was making positive progress towards those goals, but other times I had to say no. In which case, I had to ask the followup question of whether or not that was truly my vision and something I wanted in my life, or if I just liked the idea of it. If it was indeed something I wanted for my future, I glued the image down and came up with action steps to work towards making it a reality.

I do believe in the law of attraction, but only to the degree in which your positive attracting mindset is also aligned with action steps to get you there. I’m not a believer that sitting on the couch dreaming of yourself behind the wheel of a Ferrari will manifest itself into someone knocking on your door and handing you a set of keys for one. We have to be taking steps towards our goals – and now I have a beautiful visual reminder of my goals that will help give me a boost of confidence and excitement when I start feeling overwhelmed or questioning whether the hard work is worth it.

Although this activity may feel elementary, it was a wonderful process which taught me incredible lessons and gave me a vessel for self reflection and goal setting. I highly encourage you to take some time to go through the same process. I’d love you to share your finished boards on the Facebook page or to comment below, sharing what you have learned about yourself from engaging in the process. As always, thanks for reading!   

HEALTH, NUTRITION, RECIPES

Mint Chocolate Chip Clean Eating Popsicles

02/01/2019

As I’ve shared, since late August I’ve been focused on clean eating. This was kickstarted by the Whole30 diet plan which has now transitioned into a lifestyle for me. Although I have been focused on healthy eating, I believe diet is really personal so I have not forced my diet choices on my family – however – after getting through the fall without any sugar or processed foods, I became very aware of how much sugar and processed foods the kids (and my husband) were eating.

Some of the foods were ones that we purchased as a family, including snacks, cereals, and granola bars, but for the most part the processed or sugar foods they ate were outside of the home. This included school celebrations, extracurricular activities, dining out, and of course all things holidays.

I addressed my concerns in December, but it did not seem like the timing was right to make any major changes. We were amidst the holiday celebrations and about to go on vacation with my family. It did not feel right to ask them to give up sugar at that time. But, it did seem appropriate to discuss it as a family and come up with a plan for change. I explained my concerns and asked the children if they would be willing to do a one month no sugar challenge. We discussed how we would overcome obstacles and what I would do in order to make the month easier. This included coming up with special treats that were made from whole foods and did not require added sugar. The kids agreed and so we began the challenge January 1st.

Overall, the month went really well and the kids did a great job explaining to friends and their parents about our challenge in order to follow through with their commitment.  I have to say I am quite proud. And as they stayed true to their word, I also stayed true to mine. We came up with various treats that they could still enjoy throughout the month. Our absolute favorite was our clean eating popsicles in which we used coconut milk and dates as our primary base for the popsicles.  We have had so much fun testing various flavors this past month.

One of our absolute favorites was one that I created for my birthday. I’ve never been a big ice cream fan, but I love me some mint chocolate chip – so I was determined to create a simple recipe for mint chocolate chip popsicles – and I succeeded.  We LOVED these.  I posted them on my instagram (@thehourglassproject) and got several direct messages asking for the recipe, so I figured I’d write it up on the blog. It is super easy and only takes about 10-15 minutes to prep and then of course overnight to freeze. I hope you enjoy as much as we do!

Mint Chocolate Chip Clean Eating Popsicles:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 oz)
  • 5-6 dried dates
  • 1/4 cup of cacao nibs
  • 1 cup of spinach (for color!)
  • 1 tsp of peppermint oil

Process:

  1. Soak dates in hot water for a few minutes (not necessary, but helps with blending)
  2. Pour can of coconut milk in blender, add dates, spinach, and peppermint oil
  3. Blend on high til smooth and creamy
  4. Add cacao nibs into mixture and stir around until incorporated
  5. Pour blend into popsicle mold
  6. Put in freezer and wait til frozen
  7. Enjoy!

Feel free to modify the recipe to your taste as well. You can always taste test the mixture before you pour it into the molds and freeze. Perhaps you like more mint or more nibs! Or maybe you want more spinach for a brighter color – or no spinach in your popsicles.

Also, we have two sets of popsicle molds. I purchased one at Ikea for a few bucks and I also invested in a stainless steel popsicle mold from Amazon (as pictured). They both work great – so don’t feel like you need to get anything crazy expensive to make this work! Also, a helpful tip is to run them under warm water really quickly to help release them from the mold before serving! We try to make them nightly taking them out of their molds and storing them in pyrex with wax paper separating each popsicle, so we have them ready to go at all times. They have been a wild hit in our home and will help us continue the process of clean eating way past this January challenge.

Let me know if  you try this recipe! I’d love to get your feedback!

DIY, HOME, THE SIMPLE THINGS

DIY Faux Marble Top Table

01/24/2019

I am in love with Pinterest. There is an endless sea of possible DIY projects out there and I have a running list of ones I would love to do.

One project that I pinned years ago, while still living in Florida was a faux marble countertop project. Before we had our countertops replaced, I was constantly looking for a way to change the turquoise color to something more appealing. I had seen ways to paint your countertops as well as a technique using contact paper. I never followed through because my husband and I decided to replace the countertops instead – of course as soon as they were done we were transferred to DC! LOL.

Last month while finishing up some Christmas shopping I saw a roll of the faux marble contact paper at Walmart for around $6. Although I did not have a specific project in mind, I decided to grab it because it was a good price and I knew there would always be a way I could use it.

Fast forward about a month – I have been working really hard on finally settling us into our home.  We’ve been here for 6 months now and I feel like I have a better understanding of our movements and habits within the home and have been trying to organize and declutter in such a way to help the intentionality of our behaviors. In the process I’ve also been re-decorating to some degree – moving pictures around, adding area rugs, buying house plants and changing around furniture. I figured our coffee tables could use an upgrade as they are just the basic black metal and glass Vittsjo nesting tables from Ikea. I had seen on Pinterest many hacks where people have painted them and added the marble contact paper.

But as I got ready for the project and was scanning the room, I became concerned that the white of the marble would look unbalanced with our new cream area rug. I glanced at our dining table, which I had bought used off Craigslist (with chairs) for $80 in the fall. I had already painted and reupholstered the chairs, but I left the table in its original state. The table seemed too dark for our home, as well as for the white chairs – so I decided that was where I wanted to use the contact paper. I polled the family and everyone seemed on board, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to pull it off.

After a quick search on the good old internet I saw some tips and tricks and decided, what the heck, it would only be a $6 error if I messed up. So I went to work.

Before I began the project I cleaned and dried the table so that the adhesive would stick properly. I did not want any dirt to come back to haunt me.

The table was larger than the contact paper, so the first step was to cut the contact paper into sections to cover the table – for me it was three strips.  I then started in the middle and peeled back just a bit of the paper backing revealing the sticky adhesive. I left enough paper to hang over the edge and placed the sticky side down onto the table. I used a plastic card (my metro card, but any credit card or gift card would work) to smooth down the paper and remove any air pockets. I continued to do this until the entire sheet was adhered to the table.

I then sat in front of the edge of the table where it was rounded. I removed the adhesive and using a tip I found online, used my blowdryer on low to heat up the paper creating a little bit of a stretch. I gently pulled the paper over the edge and tucked it under the table. I continued this process slowly until I had finished the entire section of contact paper. I could not believe how perfect the finish was. It totally molded to the curved edge. I then went and smoothed down the contact paper on the underside of the table.  This part is a little less than perfect and I could have benefited from using less paper – or trimming it – but no one will see it, so no harm, no foul. I used the blow dryer to make sure the paper adhered to the underside and that it was staying put. I then completed the other side in the same manner.

The next phase was a bit harder because I had to line up the seams. I was able to find the match in the pattern and I lined them up perfectly. I pulled back a bit of the paper to expose the adhesive and I placed it down and lined the two edges up.  There was a lot of trial and error during this process, but the adhesive is forgiving and allowed me to try and try again (and again and again). At one point I used the blow dryer to try and stretch the material to fit better – I do not recommend doing this. It didn’t really work and it made the process go slower. I started at the far end and and traveled from left to right, but when I did the third portion I started in the middle of the table and came outward towards the end of the table which worked lot better.  Once the table was covered I followed the same method as described above (with the hairdryer) to do the edges.

On the second side I totally forgot to match the material before I cut the excess, so it left me with a mismatched pattern. Oh well – at least faux marbles forgiving, right?

When all was said and done the table was far from perfect. Using the blowdryer in the middle to try and join the seams worked against me pulling extra material and causing slight overlaps. I worked on pressing these down and minimizing them as much as possible, but I had to move past the idea that the table would be perfect. I also had areas where there was a slight gap between the seams (we are talking millimeters, but I could definitely notice). Again, I had to just accept that it wouldn’t be perfect – which was a great learning lesson and tool as my eight year old daughter was helping me with the task.

Once the table was done I had an idea to add some paint to the gaps in the seam and to add some faux marbling as well to the side where I forgot to line up the patterns. It worked and finished the table off well. The paint does change the surface texture of the table in the areas I added the paint, but I’m okay with that because you only notice when the light hits it just right. I may eventually redo the table with the tips I’ve now learned, but only if the current contact paper gets used and abused.

If I did it again, here is what I would do differently:

  1. I’d try to better match up the print so that it lines up continuously. I did this on one side, but not the other.
  2. I would not blow dry the top at all – this messed me up a bit when trying to line up the seams.
  3. I would worry less about perfection knowing that I could add a little paint to smooth things over.

Overall I am thrilled with the table. I think it takes our dining area up a notch and it certainly lightens up our home. What do you think? Have you ever used faux marble contact paper? If so, tell me about it! I’d love to hear!

BEST SELF, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, MY TRUTH, TIME FOR CHANGE

It’s All in the Numbers – Turning 38

01/18/2019

My birthday is rapidly approaching – only 11 days away as I post this article. I will be turning 38.

It is not a milestone birthday, merely another trip around the sun, but I do have a thing about numbers and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year.

I was not necessarily looking forward to 37, as the numbers just didn’t feel right to me. It’s such a wonky thing to say and I have a hard time explaining it, but 37 just didn’t feel right. I’m not into numerology as a study, although perhaps I should start looking into it, but for whatever reason that number seemed jarring to me. Perhaps it was because it was an odd number? Although 33, 35, and 39 don’t bother me. But there is something about that seven. It seems like a sharp, free floating object, not anchored down or tethered to anything, ready to hurt.

And 37 did hurt.

This year brought a lot of pain and sorrow with it, but it also brought a lot of growth. I was able to adopt some really great new lifestyle habits and focus on a lot of personal development. As I think about it now, 3 and 7 are both prime numbers and prime numbers are the building blocks of whole numbers.  Perhaps I unconsciously knew it was going to be a hard year – one of challenge and self discovery, but those building blocks allowed for a year of growth that I am forever grateful for. So as I finish up my last days at 37, I look onto this year of growth with gratitude and closure and walk humbly towards 38 – a number that insights joy and vitality in my heart.  

As I started thinking about the number 38, the first visual that popped into my mind was the plumpness of the 8.  I write my 8s as two balls stacked on each other in a snowman like fashion. When I first started visualizing the number I saw a 3 and a plump little me. Well, that’s not going to happen. No sir, no ma’am – this woman has these lifestyle choices on lockdown and I’m not going backwards.  That couldn’t be it. I had to explore this some more. I had felt all year that 38 was such a strong and powerful number. That it was a year of change and empowerment. It was not the year of a dumpy little me.

Then, last night when completing some personal development worksheets on finding your hourly value, the number I got was $333.33. With the randomness of the 3 repeating I went ahead and looked up the significance of the number 3 and was shocked when I read that three, biblically signified divine wholeness, perfection, and completion.

In addition to that, there is a thing called the “Angel number”, in which  333 signifies encouragement and aid. It noted that the angels are close by, reassuring you that your plans are going well, that your prayers are answered, and that what you requested is in route to you.

Wow.

So 3 was more powerful than I realized. I closed my eyes and meditated some more and as I visualized the number 38, I saw the number 3 pushing down the 8 and knocking it right over – and with this motion, the infinity sign appeared.

Double wow.

This was it. The image which matched my feelings around this number. Yes. This is the year where great things are happening. Where I will stretch and grow beyond measure. The year I push myself outside of my comfort zone and see what happens.

Thirty eight. A year of wholeness and infinite possibility.

When completing the recent development workbook yesterday, one thing I really took away was that at this point in my life, I am less fearful of what others will think of me and more fearful of the regret I will feel if I keep pushing aside my dreams and goals in fear of other people’s opinions. I’m still not sure what my end goal is – or if I even have one. Right now I am just enjoying the journey of self discovery as I focus on vitality. Some days I still feel like a 17 year old girl trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Grow up – what an idea. So instead of focusing on this end goal of what I want to be – I’m just focused on being. I am challenging myself in ways that make me feel more alive and more connected to this universe and all those within it now. That’s what I am working on and I am so excited to see what the next chapter brings.

And if reading this article left you thinking “Man, this is one quirky chick, trying to find signs and meaning behind all things” well, you may be right – but hey, that is just me.  And this year is all about me embracing me. So, cheers to that, and cheers to 38!