Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Today: Staying hydrated on the go with 16 Water.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 16 Water. All opinions are 100% mine.

I know you’ve heard it before, but… you should probably be drinking more water.  And by you, I mean we.  And by we, I mean Americans (but I’m guessing we’re not the only ones).  According to WebMD (AKA the site that hypochondriacs like myself should be banned from visiting), Americans still consume more soft drinks than water.

Stay hydrated on the go with 16 Water and On Tap for Today

When I was pregnant with Grace, our doctor repeatedly stressed the importance of doubling or tripling up on my water consumption.  “If you call the office and say you’re not feeling well,” she said, “a nurse is going to tell you to drink a tall glass of water and then call us back.”  Pregnant ladies are not the only ones who mistake dehydration for other things (hunger, some sort of mysterious universal mood altering force, etc.).   A well-hydrated body performs better.  A well-hydrated body feels better.

Stay hydrated on the go with 16 Water and On Tap for Today

I’m usually pretty good at drinking up while I’m at home or at my desk, but I often fall short when I’m on the go.  In my ongoing quest to get out of my own way when it comes to making healthy decisions, I’ve started stashing a bottle of water in my handbag, in my glove compartment, in Grace’s diaper bag, and frankly, anywhere else with pockets or secret hiding places.  Having a bottle of water waiting in the car for my commute home means I’m less likely to sneak an afternoon coffee, less likely to become an out of control snack monster before dinner, and less likely (…usually) to arrive home cranky and out of sorts.  Good commuting jams help, too.

While I tend to drink from a reusable water bottle during the day, sealed and disposable (by which I mean recyclable, obvi) bottles lend themselves to being stashed for later.  I recently received several bottles of 16 Water to review, straight from Jeju, a volcanic island off the coast of the Korean peninsula.  I was this close to Googling, like, all the words in that last sentence when the package from 16 Water arrived, but I was too busy scrolling through my Twitter feed.  And then this appeared.

And that, folks, is the Law of Social Media Attraction.  Ask and the Twitterverse shall answer.  That pretty place makes for some excellent tasting water (and for those who think all water tastes like water… welp… agree to disagree).

16 Water is naturally purified and filtered through 16 layers of volcanic rock (hence the name) and is newly available in the US… and in my glove compartment.  Interested in stocking up on your own stash? Get your 16 Water on Amazon now.

Visit 16 Water online or like16 Water on Facebook to learn more.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you stay hydrated on the go?

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Today: Take 5 minutes and turn your day around.

You know when you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, overtired and overextended… but you’ve just got to slog through it, because you see a moment of reprieve on the horizon?  That was me last week.  I spent the first part of the week in Detroit and the second part of the week consumed by a work event.

Our home looked like a special kind of mess (two parts yet-to-be-unpacked luggage, one part baby bottles, six parts laundry, one part unopened mail, and an aging French bulldog hidden somewhere inside the sofa).  My hair looked like a special kind of mess.  My brain felt like a special kind of mess.

And while it would have likely been easiest to wait for my calendar to clear, I found myself on the morning of one of our biggest work events of the year needing to do something, anything, to calm the frenzy.  All it took was five minutes to turn my day around.

Take 5 minutes and turn your day around: quick tips for heading off the frenzy and infusing more calm and serenity into your day.

Minute one: Spend just 60 seconds moving from room to room, picking up anything that is out of place and has a defined place to land.  We’re not talking about clutter (that’s another topic for another day).  We’re talking about the things that are easy to put away.  For me, this includes Grace’s toys and books, Clark’s toys, a stack of clean laundry, mail that can be recycled and a few pairs of shoes.  Put those items where they belong.

Minutes two and three: Make your bed.  Not only does a made bed instantly make your home look and feel more tidy and serene, it sets you on a better path for the day.  Don’t believe me?  Maybe you’ll believe a Navy SEAL Commander?

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

You can read more of Navy SEAL Commander William McRaven’s 2014 UT Commencement speech here: Business Insider.

Minute four: Write a note (or two, or three) of gratitude on a Post-It.  Leave it where a loved one will find it, or hide it for yourself to find in the future.  Did you know that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness by 25%?  These dudes did the research.  A few words about what your most grateful for, or what you appreciate about your loved ones– especially when you’re experiencing stress– helps bring the good into focus.  Knowing that Nick would be coming home to find these notes of appreciation and acknowledgement made me smile throughout the day.

Minute five: Spend an entire minute just breathing.  Fight the urge to run out the door and onto your next commitment.

It’s incredible what you can fit into five minutes, and how good intentioned acts can turn your entire day around.  You can fit these quick practices in throughout the day, before you head out the door, or whenever you feel stress, anxiety or crankiness rising (around these parts, we call that the Elizabeast).

What else can you do to turn your day around? Here are a few more ideas:(Some are quick, some take a bit more time, some are free, some cost whatever the guy behind you in line felt like spending…)

  • Pay a stranger a compliment (I mean, this works well with people you know, too)
  • Buy coffee for the person in line behind (This is one of my favorite things of all time… although I will admit, part of me does panic a tiny bit when I think, What if the police officer behind me is picking up lattes and donut holes for the entire precinct?  And then I think, Won’t it be fun when I suddenly become impossibly rich and things like this won’t matter?)
  • Make an iPhone photo album of your favorite photos.  Scroll through them over and over until you feel less beastly.
  • Speaking of iPhones: Make an actual phone call.  No texting.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • November 13 is World Kindness Day!  Boston friends: Stop by South Station between 7-9 AM to celebrate with KIND, grab a flower from their flower wall and pass it on to someone else – a friend, loved one, teacher, coworker or even stranger. Throughout the day, KIND will also surprise people in the community who embody kindness, including firefighters and other local heroes.
  • Love this: Awesome idioms from around the world via A Cup of Jo
  • Unpacking… so we can pack for something and somewhere fun!

How do you turn a frenzied day around?

Today: Dill, lemon and garlic kale chips and snack prep.

A few years back, when eating small meals throughout the day came into vogue, I was like… Duh.  Been doing that for ages.  (I think that was the only time in my life I’ve been ahead of the curve and/or a tiny bit hipsterish.)  For better or for worse, I’d much rather graze than eat an entire meal of food.  Except at dinner time.  It’s nice (and, I think, important) to make time to sit down as a little family.

Meal planning and prep, for me, is really more snack planning and prep.  I whipped up a few especially good snacks this week, including the dill, lemon and garlic kale chips below.  One look at our fridge will tell you that kale is in season in New England.  And that I can’t resist a farm stand deal.

dill lemon and garlic kale chips recipe

Dill, lemon and garlic kale chips

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 heaping teaspoons fresh dill
  • zest of 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
  3. Wash your kale and blot it dry with a paper towel.  Remove stems and cut or tear leaves into small pieces.
  4. In a large bowl, combine kale, olive oil, garlic, dill and lemon zest.
  5. I hate when people say massage the kale, but um… massage the kale, and make sure it is evenly coated in oil and that your other ingredients are well distributed.
  6. Artfully (just kidding…) arrange kale on your baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes (or until crispy, but not… burnt).  Let your kale chips cool before eating.

I love the combination of lemon and fresh herbs (and who can say no to garlic?), and while I will always have a thing for actual chips, these kale chips are a great way to green up my afternoon snacking.

snack prep

While the kale chips were baking, I chopped up some vegetables for salads and baby food purees and scrolled through the new fall edition of the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan for some snack prep inspiration.  I purchased the plan a few years ago, and love when new updates are released to members.  There are so many vegan recipes that I am looking forward to making from the fall edition. I started with their spicy roasted chickpeas, frozen yogurt blueberries and Heart Beet juice (pictured above). Each recipe only took a few minutes to prepare, as I (miraculously) had all the ingredients on hand.

One shortcut (I’m all about the shortcuts, ’bout the shortcuts, no longcuts) I’m willing to pay a bit extra for these days are packaged, cooked organic beets.  Same goes for butternut squash (for safety reasons alone, it’s worth the price — you do not want to be see me wrestle a squash while wielding a sharp knife) and other tough produce that Grace seems to love.  I’m finding that so many of the snacks and meals I’m planning for the week can be seasoned and then pureed or mashed for her to enjoy, too.

Speaking of that lovely baby, we have had a rough couple of weeks sleep-wise.  I suppose we needed to make progress in order to regress (some good ol’ parent spin zone talk for you), but we’ve been firmly in the grips of a sleep regression lately.  As much as I want to reach for the Diet Coke (like, a hundred of them) in times like these, I know that more caffeine is probably not the answer.

I’m making good on my October goals by getting out of my own way, and ensuring I have better choices on hand: lots of iced green tea (I brew a pitcher and divide it up once it has cooled), fresh juice, and plenty of water to pair with all those meals snacks.

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you a snacker or a full meal type of person?

Today: Feeding baby, Part I (and a Delta Labs giveaway)

Sort of obvious disclaimer: This post is about breastfeeding.  If Google brought you here because you searched for “breasts” and now you’re sorely disappointed and regret clicking through, that’s okay.  You do you, boo… no judgement.  

Slightly less obvious disclaimer: I am not, like, a breastfeeding specialist.  I am grateful to be able to breastfeed my daughter.  It is what I hoped for, and it is what works for our family.  With that said, it is not the only way people care for and feed their children.  And I feel like that’s important to acknowledge.  Something I think all parents need to hear more of: You are doing a good job.  You are making good choices. In other words: You do you, boo… no judgement.  

Real talk of the day: Being a parent means being on a permanent learning curve.  (I guess that’s true for all humans, though, right? Life is one long learning curve.)  Now that we’re past the newborn phase, I figured I’m semi-qualified to share a bit about what I’ve learned along the curve.

I was very fortunate to have access to great lactation consultants when Grace was born.  Expectant mother friends, if you have access to lactation consultants while you’re in the hospital, I think it’s totally worth meeting with them.  I was hesitant, I thought it would be weird, and I kind of just wanted to stay in my Craftmatic adjustable hospital bed.  It wasn’t weird.  It was actually quite, well, normal.  They taught me very helpful things like how to hold my tiny baby like a football (but first, I needed to learn how to hold a football), how to tell if she was actually eating, and what hunger cues might look or sound like.

Someone’s ready for their 22nd meal of the day.

It didn’t long for us to establish a BF relationship (in this case, I like to think BF stands for both breastfeeding and best friends… but I guess that last part is sort of up to Grace).  Because Grace was born with jaundice (I initially thought she was just super Portuguese…) and lost weight rather quickly, our pediatrician encouraged us to feed Grace at least every 2 hours during those first weeks.   Needless to say, by the time she was a month old, I felt like a seasoned BF pro.  I also felt like my bum was permanently attached to the rocker in Grace’s nursery, but hey.

I rarely had time to pump when I was on maternity leave, so when I went back to work, I felt acutely aware of being on that learning curve again.  I stared at the woman on the package of my pumping bra and wondered, Who the H looks that casual and yet perfectly put together while pumping?  Why is there no spit up in her hair?  Why does she look so well rested?  When did she have time to get a manicure?  And those were just my questions about a bra.  You can only imagine the inner monologue about the actual pumping process.

If this is what it looks like to pump “in style,” I can only imagine what the pumping while frumpy version looks like. Also: Thank you, Obamacare.

Eventually, I figured out how often I needed to pump in order to have enough milk for Grace while she is at daycare.  I (mostly) learned how to avoid spilling milk all over myself five minutes before a meeting.  I even managed to pump in an airport bathroom while a work colleague tried to engage in conversation (I have a strict no talking in the ladies’ room policy).

And so, of course, just as soon as started to feel comfortable pumping, it was time to introduce solids.  I think solids warrant a post of their own (Cliffhanger! Just kidding… but seriously… stay tuned.), but I will say this: I was terrified of feeding Grace anything that didn’t, like, come out of my boobs.  Everything new is scary.  It’s been about two months now, though, and our little lady loves to eat.  And we’re having quite a bit of fun with it too.  OK.  But back to best friends breastfeeding.
I am really happy that I was able to exclusively breastfeed Grace until she started solids at approximately 6 months.  (I am still nursing her, but we started supplementing with one bottle of formula a day at 8 months, just a few weeks ago.) I was worried I wouldn’t make it to 3 months, so when we made it 8 months I nearly erected a breast-shaped statue in my own honor.  For the most part, I’ve had a very good supply.  There have been days, though, where I’ve had to pump at home in the early morning or late evening (when I’d much rather be doing, well… anything) in order to have enough milk to send to day care.  Without fail, those have been days when I’ve slacked on water, eaten like a bird, stressed too much, or slept too little.

I am obsessed with Ball jars. Like, I would live in one. If I could fit in there.

Which brings me to this:

How I’ve kept my supply up

  • Drink water.  And then drink some more.: It’s so important to stay hydrated while breastfeeding.  Your body needs fluids to, you know, make fluids… plus it needs fluids to perform its normal functions. In other words, you need to drink more.  I keep a giant mason jar on my desk (complete with an adorable drinking straw #targetdoesitagain) and refill it every time I pump and every time I get up from my desk.  At home, I make sure to drink up after nursing Grace.  It’s helped to associate the two (feed the baby, hydrate thyself).
  • Eat more, not less.: While I’ve felt the same pressure I am sure most new moms have felt to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight, restricting calories seems like a surefire way to decrease milk supply.  I’ve tried to focus on eating healthy, quality food, but I am still eating more rather than less.  One day, I’ll fit into my skinnies again.  But in the meantime, I’m busy taking care of my girl.
  • Nurse often.:  We’re fairly scheduled on week days.  We’re like a cellphone plan during nights and weekends, however: unlimited texting and minutes breast milk!  It’s the best.  Come Monday, I definitely see an increase in how much I am able to pump.
  • Think positively.: I find that when I focus on Grace and the health benefits we both receive from breastfeeding, that milk flows like water.  (Or is it wine? How does that saying go?)  When I worry about having enough milk, however, not so much.  I’m no scientist, but I don’t think this is a coincidence.
  • Supplement with herbs.: This may sound a little hippy-dippy, but several people recommended herbal supplements when I first started breastfeeding (the facilitator of our moms’ group swears by fenugreek).  I worried that my supply would drop off when I went back to work and stumbled upon Delta Labs Postnatal formula during some late night Instagramming.

In addition to fenugreek, their postnatal formula also contains glucomannan, white kidney bean, and marshmallow extract (herbs proven to help enhance lactation, and in a combination safe for babies and mothers as determined by the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines). An added bonus: The capsules also contain decaffeinated green tea, CLA, L-Carnitine and vitamin B6 to safely and naturally increase energy and promote weight loss (though it’s not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise… if only obvi).

I’ve used this product for several months (and was running low when Delta Labs kindly sent me a complimentary bottle) and would definitely recommend it for mothers looking to increase or sustain their supply.

Giveaway: Delta Labs Postnatal formula 

Fellow new moms: Would you like to try Delta Labs Postnatal formula for yourself? I’m happy to be hosting a giveaway, thanks to Delta Labs and FitFluential.  One winner will receive a bottle of Delta Labs Postnatal formula.  This giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry, neighbors to the North). To enter, please leave a comment below AND Like @DeltaLabsUSA on Instagram.  A random winner will be chosen and contacted on October 20th.

Delta Labs Discount Code 

Use code FitFluential to save $5 on any item from Delta Labs (one time discount; no expiration date).
Also On Tap for Today:

Got BF (best friend or breastfeeding, depending on your area of expertise) advice to share?

Today: October goals.

I showed some serious restraint in not naming this post Goaltoberfest.  This month, I am committing to some much needed life adjusting.  With fall and the back to school rush being one of my busiest times at work, I’ve found myself feeling spread more thin than usual.

I’ve caught myself cutting corners (I ate a donut for breakfast the other day and barely lived to tell that sorry tale) and I’m only slightly exaggerating about the effects of gluten on my fragile digestive system.  I could eat bread by the loaf (and sometimes did) while pregnant.  These days?  No.  I’ve been making convenient choices rather than good choices.

There are days lately when I feel particularly sluggish and slow, both physically and mentally (not a shocker: the donut day was one of these days).  Case in point: Last week, I drove all the way to daycare before realizing that I had left Grace’s bag (and bottles and food and extra onesies and a love note and whatnot) at home.  I don’t forget anything. Like, anything.  (I know what you did last summer and in the summer of 1988.) The security guard saw me whip a safe-ish u-turn and jokingly asked if I had forgotten the baby.  I almost cried because Oh, my Lord! What if I had forgotten the baby?  I’m still recovering from that panic.

Even my dreams are telling me I need more sleep (just in case the dark circles under my eyes weren’t sending the message loud and clear). In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I dreamt that Nick and I decided we should skip Grace’s swimming class and sleep in a bit.  When my alarm went off, I silenced it.  When Nick’s alarm went off, he wondered why everyone else was still in bed and not running around the condo yelling “Swimmy time!”  Fortunately, getting ready for parent and baby swim class requires little more than a diaper change for Grace and shimmying into a bathing suit for me.  No hairdos.  No makeup.  No six hundred outfit changes.

Oh, and that pesky back and hip pain I was feeling after each run?  Apparently that’s not normal.  So instead of enjoying three blissful runs each week, I’m hauling my sorry ass bum to PT until that’s resolved.

Are you regretting attending my pity party?  I wouldn’t blame you.  And at the same time, I’m making a concerted effort to not blame myself.  With so much pressure to have and do it all, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a quest for that ever-elusive balance.  Being a wife and a mother and a friend and a career lady with cool outfits is both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly challenging.  Lately I’m seeing (more than ever) how important it is to take care of myself in order to take the best care of everyone else.  I feel like I’ve said that before.  Many times.

Simply put, my big goal for October (and like, for life… because LBS, important things usually take longer than 31 days) is to get out of my own way.  When I think about what would make my days more blissful and less stressful, it’s clear that I am often my own worst enemy.

  • If I want more peaceful mornings, I need to change my evening habits.
  • If I want to spend more quality time with my family, I need to make plans and stick to them.
  • If I want to make better food choices, I need to have better food ready and available.
  • If I want to reap the benefits of physical activity, I need to commit to what I can do and stop bemoaning what I can’t do.
  • If I want more space in my life, I need to make the room.

Don’t things seem so simple when you free them from the chaos of your busy brain and write them down?  Man.  After thinking about what I want and how to get it, the practical, smaller steps came easily.

  • I will pack our bags (and meals) the night before.
  • I will not wait until I have a smidge of gas in the car to fill my tank.
  • I will plan several dinners at home with Nick each week, along with a few weekend plans to look forward to.  Oh, and we will dance every day (we forgot to do this for a little bit and my moves have seriously suffered).
  • I will not let the laundry back up to the point of becoming an international underwear crisis.
  • I will embrace the fall weather and take more frequent walks with my favorite little lady and our favorite little Frenchie.
  • I will practice more yoga (even if it’s for 10 minutes between meetings in a dress and control top pantyhose).
  • I will carve out time each day for religious practices that are important to me and central to my wellbeing: prayer, reflection and gratitude.
  • I will ask for help when I need it.

You may have been expecting something more along the lines of “Do 3 workouts a week.” Or “Go leaf peeping.” (I love the expression leaf peeping. Love it.  It sounds both creepy and enchanting.  Also: I accidentally typed “leaf peeing” and laughed so hard that I almost left it.  Almost.)  Or maybe you saw me walking into work yesterday with my fly unzipped and thought, “This lady needs to get her act together before she even thinks about working out or leaf peeping.”

Either way, there you have it.  My grand October life plan.  Octoberlifeplanfest!

Also On Tap for Today:

What grand plans are you working on?

Today: From marathoner to beginner.

As I shared shortly after the Dirty Girl Mud Run and approximately fifteen showers, I started following the Couch to 5k program in an effort to get back in the running groove in a smart, sustainable, strategic way (i.e. not in a “Hmm, I wonder how far and fast I can run today?” way).

from marathoner to beginner

Going from marathoner to beginner is both exciting and humbling.  Humility: that’s sort of my life’s keyword these days.  

I’ve run two marathons (Disney and New Yorkclick through for the world’s longest, most emotional race recaps of all time), and yet here I am, proud to be able to string together a few minutes of running at a time.

For the past four weeks, I’ve followed the Couch to 5k plan to a T.  I’ve walked when I am supposed to walk, even when that meant passing by a group of bros playing KanJam at the M Street Beach, who took notice of my walk break and started chanting “Don’t give up now!”

I’ve run when I’m supposed to run, and continued to keep my pace right around 8:30/9:00 (solid for a lady who thought she’d always be a 10 minute miler).  I’ve resisted the temptation to quit approximately 56 times over the span of each 30 minute workout.  I’ve tried to talk myself into quitting, and then talked myself into sticking with it.

Being a beginner is different the second time around.  And in many ways it’s more challenging than when I first started running and training with any real purpose seven or eight years ago.

Many of those differences hinge on being a new mother.  My hips don’t lie, nor do they move the way they used to move.  I have sports bras in three different sizes and yet, on any given day, none of them fit.  I often feel a pang of guilt as I head out the door, wondering if I should stay with Nick and Grace rather than being out on the road alone, trying to ignore the KanJammers.  The closer I get to home, the more desperate I am to be home.  I’m exhausted.  I haven’t slept through the night since… maybe, last September?  I’m hungry.  I can’t find any of my old workout gear.  I’m always a bit out of sorts.

But most of the things that feel different this time around hinge on being a regular person who has done what regular people do as seven or eight years lapse: we get older.  And the older I get, the more myself I’ve become, for better or worse.  For better, I am more confident and self-assured than ever before.  I care less who is passing me, or what I’m wearing, or how long it takes me to get where I am going.  Mostly because I’m doing my best… just to get where I am going.  For worse, well, I somehow managed to both drop and kick my own iPhone during a run last week.

Above all, I am more grateful than ever to be able to run.  Running longer and faster each week, especially after months of feeling sort of like an alien in my own body, has been so gratifying.  More importantly, I’m learning to make peace with being a perpetual work in progress.  I have the deepest appreciation for my body and all that it can do.

I cherish those minutes and miles alone with my thoughts and prayers, especially during a week such as this one, when there is so much going on in our world to be sad, worried and upset about.  I am thankful to have an outlet for the stress and anxiety that builds up over the day and follows me home.  I am proud to be making time to take care of myself, so I can do a better job taking care of my family.

In life, we get very few chances to begin again.  And these days, being a beginner feels just as good as being a marathoner.

Also On Tap for Today:

Have you had the chance to start over from the beginning?

 

Today: Making room for creativity.

I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace.  I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged.  If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored.  And when I get bored, I get cranky.  And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.

Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook.  I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.).  Like, in all facets of life.  So far, that’s not going perfectly so well.

As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection.  A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought.  I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.

Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it.  Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.

Back on topic: I need room to be creative.  Like, even more than I need Junior Mints.  Or Diet Coke.  Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example).  You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative.  And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.

Believe it or not, creativity can be learned.  (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.'”)  You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good).  You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.

Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.

Making room for creativity

Rethink your routine

Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse.  Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time.  I promise.  It’s possible.

If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit.  I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious.  I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out).  There are only 24 hours in the day.  If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later.  Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).

I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey).  If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show.  For me, everything feels possible in the morning.  For others, this may be true at night.

Carve our your time and protect it.

Arm yourself

Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you.  That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready.  On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home.  That project got a little messy.

A note about sketchpads:  If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality.  Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good.  Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture.  If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.

I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe).  I usually draw first, and that add color later.

Accept a challenge

It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033.  While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and  forget to post a photo… on the second day.  Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor.  Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”

You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge.  Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two.  Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month.  Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others.  As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.

Set it to shuffle mode

Yes, I am talking about music.  And yes, I am talking about other things too.  Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library.  I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:

  • Weird Christmas song
  • Tupac
  • A song about (but not by) Tupac
  • Michael Jackson
  • The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
  • Ambient Reiki or yoga music
  • Sad Whitney Houston song
  • More Michael Jackson
  • Jock Jams
  • Another weird Christmas song
  • An awesome Christmas song
  • Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
  • Another sad Whitney Houston song
  • A HIDDEN GEM!

Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile.  Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.

Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on.  Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011″– first).  Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).

 Enjoy a change of scenery

I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery.  We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other.  If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.

Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move.  Duh.  Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach.  When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.

Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,

“Elizabeth!  I took your advice!  I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it.  And now I am missing my wallet.  AND AN EAR!”

Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY.  Be careful and be safe.  Think with your right brain while using your left brain.  Please.

Pick up your camera.  Or don’t.

These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses?  Does anyone out there wear them?).  On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event.  On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone.  I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason.  I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera.  Mostly because it’s just a camera.  It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.

Wheewwww.  This was a long one.  Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post.  My apologies.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you make room for creativity in your day?  What are you working on lately?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram #29

Let’s be serious: It was time for the sleep-deprived lady to ditch the Roman numerals.

The Weekend According to Instagram #29

1.  Our little deck garden has really taken off this week.  We’ve got more cherry tomatoes and basil than I know what to do with… so I am eating all of them.

2.  As I shared last week, I recently started using the Couch to 5k app and am embracing the opportunity to start fresh.  I woke up Friday and thought “Yes! It’s Friday (standard Friday thought)! I get to run tonight!”  I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about running.  I think I stopped running and switched to rowing at CrossFit two months before Grace was born, but long before that I hadn’t run for the sake of running in ages.  I broke out my KIND tank (given to me by the lovely KIND folks at FenwaYoga) and was thankful for the opportunity to be kind to my body and brain while out on the Harborwalk by myself for a little bit.  Speaking of KIND, they are launching a really great program in Boston tomorrow.  As the “official snack partner” of the Boston Red Sox, KIND is working with Red Sox Nation and the rest of the city to spread kindness this summer.  #KINDBoston launches tomorrow and fellow Bostonians are invited to share their ideas for making Boston a kinder place to live and work.

From KIND:

For every kind act submitted, KIND will donate a piece of sporting equipment (up to $5,000) to the Red Sox Foundation’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, which teaches inner-city youth the importance of being kind on and off the field. KIND will also bring select kind acts to life in August to demonstrate how small actions can make a big difference.

#KINDBoston will debut at Fenway Park on Tuesday, July 29, with KIND honoring an RBI player and coach who embody kindness. Fans attending the Red Sox game that evening will be able to share their ideas before exiting the ballpark. Anyone not in attendance will be able submit via Twitter using #KINDBoston until August 31.

3.  Now that Grace is a bit more mobile, she and Clark have become fast friends.  She loves to roll towards him and reach for his wrinkly mug, and he is being as patient as I could have hoped.  They spent Saturday morning cozied up together, surrounded by various baby maracas, tambourines and stuffed monkeys.

4.  It would seem my Instagram feed was very food-focused this weekend.  We went to see my parents on Saturday afternoon and brought some  strawberries, blueberries and blackberries with us.  You can’t go wrong with berries. (You know how if you type a word too many times, it totally looks weird… that just happened.  Berries.)

5.  On our way back to the city, we stopped at the farm stand in my parents’ neighborhood and filled up a basket of carrots, Romaine lettuce, cherries and onions.

6.  More food:  After seeing this recipe for yogurt breakfast popsicles on The Kitchn, I thought I’d give it a try.  I mixed Greek yogurt, gluten free granola and some raspberry preserves in an ice cube tray (which, technically, I bought for freezing baby food… but hey) and let it freeze overnight.  The result: messy, but tasty.  Perhaps they would make a good addition to a smoothie.

7.  This is what Clark (my official snack partner) looked like while I sampled the aforementioned frozen yogurt bites. #gimmesome

8.  And this is what Grace looks like when she’s being a goofball, which is quite often lately.  She has been such a smiley girl these past few weeks.  I think she’s enjoying all her newly acquired skills (yelling and rolling are her favorites).

9.  Oh… and she ate her first solid food this weekend!  It was so much fun to watch her reaction (she mostly looked horrified) as she tasted her first few bites of pureed sweet potato. I promised Allison a post on feeding Grace solids and look forward to sharing our experiences with that… once we have… a bit more experience with that.  In the meantime, I highly recommend Lucy’s List and their series on starting solids.  Oh, one thing I know for sure: You do not need to bake and puree three whole sweet potatoes for one small baby.  That’s, like, two and a half too many.  Trust me.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Today: DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014 and being a beginner again.

I’m usually partial to good, clean fun.  Mostly because I am lazy and don’t like cleaning up messes.  This weekend, however, was a bit of a departure.  My sister and I ran our first DirtyGirl 5k on Saturday morning and I swear, I am still smiling.  Also: 4 showers later, I am still finding mud in various places.  Like way inside my ear.

I’ve participated in one other mud run before, and it happened to be on the same course at the Amesbury Sports Park.  Nick and I ran together, and by together, I mean that he blazed ahead and I met him at the finish line six hours 30 minutes after he started his celebration beer.  It had rained quite a bit before the event, and the narrow and steep trails felt, welp… super dangerous.  People were falling left and right and on one another.  The obstacles were fun, but it was hard to run between them due to the thick mud.  Basically, I fell from one obstacle to the next.  I was happy I participated, but not eager to sign up for another event.

When the folks at DirtyGirl reached out to me, however, I was starting to run again (this was shortly after Grace was born, but before I broke my toe… I think) and was looking for a race to train for.  I convinced my sister to join me and figured if nothing else, we’d have fun together.  And did we ever.

Before and After (and yes.. that is mud ON MY TEETH.)

I hadn’t run since the whole toe thing, so to say I was undertrained would be an understatement.  At the same time, carrying around a 13 lb. baby in a 35 lb. car seat and practicing inversions while she sleeps has paid off, making those climbing obstacles a breeze.  I tried my best to keep up with my sister (who actually, you know, works out), but if nothing else, those walking breaks served as great motivation to be thoughtful about future goals and training.

Getting back into shape (whatever that means, seeing as I feel like I am a totally different shape) after having Grace has been humbling, which is both challenging and freeing.  The slate is wiped clean, so to speak.  After dropping my sister off, I took a ridiculously long shower and then promptly downloaded the Couch to 5k app.  Having completed two marathons and countless other races, it bruises my ego a bit to think of myself as a beginner, but hey… that’s where I am right now.  I think my new mantra has something to do with meeting myself where I am, not where I was.  Also:  I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay.

Back to the mud: At one point, I was doubled over with laugher when my sister looked at me and yelled “AAAAH!  You have a mustache!”  I had nothing clean to wipe my face with, so on we went.  I swear, I laughed for the full 5k.  Which explains how I got mud on my teeth.  Gross.  I have never been so eager to see the professional photos from an event.

I kept thinking, I wish every workout could be this fun.  While there can’t always be giant inflatable obstacles and tutu-clad competitors alongside me, I bet infusing some of that playfulness into my training or yoga practice would do some good.

DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014: The Highlights

  • The course was the perfect balance of muddy, yet still run-able.  While I had take breaks to walk here and there (those hills are no joke), you really could run this course.  It took us just under 40 minutes to complete the 3.1 mile loop, including obstacles… and two laughing induced asthma attacks.
  • The obstacles were so much fun.  They were challenging, but not impossible and unlike similar events, you can opt-out, if you choose.
  • No offense, dudes, but there’s just something about an all female event…
  • The event had a really positive, supportive vibe.  Fellow runners cheered one another on and staff and volunteers were helpful and friendly.
  • From the parking and shuttle bus to the post-race showers and everything in between, the event was so well managed.

My sister and I are already looking forward to next year’s event (we’ve started recruiting teammates and designing our outfits… there may be sloths involved muhaha). To save on your registration to an upcoming Dirty Girl 5k, use the code BLOGFRIEND.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to this event in exchange for writing articles for the DirtyGirl blog.  All the dirt shared here is my own.  Get it… dirt…?

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your current mantra?

Today: Bet on Better with me.

Shocking news: Grace will be five months old this weekend.  She celebrated early with 6 consecutive hours of sleep last night.  Meanwhile, I got up every 6 minutes to check on her, starring in disbelief as the baby who rarely slept more than 3 hours in a row continued to sleep soundly in her crib.  Is this what the next 20 years will be like?  Me peeking around corners, tiptoeing in the darkness, and spying on my own child to ensure everything’s okay?  I should probably invest in a periscope.  Or maybe some Spy-Tech (coolest 80’s toys, hands down).

Now that Grace’s schedule is starting to level off, I’ve got some catching up to do.

I don’t know why, but I had this ridiculous idea that once I went back to work (12 weeks after Grace was born), I would be sleeping through the night, eating something other than a handful of Fritos and an entire quart of raspberries for dinner (i.e. my sixteenth one-handed meal of the day), working out regularly at the gym, and oh, I don’t know, fitting into non-stretchy pants.  Needless to say: not happening.  Not yet.  Or at least, not all in the same day.

The combination of sheer exhaustion and a desire to spend every second (that I am not working, or like, showering) with our little family has made working out… challenging.  Throw in the broken toe (which is nearly healed, and almost looks like a regular toe again), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster the perfect excuse.  I eat reasonably well and have fit in daily walks and some great spinning and yoga classes over the past few months, but I feel like it’s time to really make a commitment to my health and wellness.  Life is not going to get less busy.  As the months pass, it may not be any easier to eat thoughtful meals, or sleep longer than a few hours in a row, or balance work and family time.  It may not get easier, but judging by how our lives continue to change, especially recently, it will get better and better.  

In an effort to stay accountable and motivated, and to build community around making the best possible choices for ourselves and those we love, I am hosting my first DietBet.  I’ve named it “Bet On Better” because, for me, it’s not simply about losing a few pounds (though I do look forward to fitting into real pants).  It’s about making better choices for myself across the board, choices that will help me honor my commitment to a healthy, happy, and well-lived life.

If you’re new to DietBet, you can read my full run-down here, but essentially each 4-week game includes an initial bet (in this case, $35) which goes into the pot.  Participants who successfully (and safely, please!) lose 4% of their weight during the game split the pot.  You also have the option to donate your winnings to charity, which I find to be great motivation.  I have participated in games before, and really enjoyed the community fostered among players.  As a host, I will be providing a little extra motivation, support, and helpful resources throughout the 4 weeks.  The game begins on July 8th.  I hope you will join me and consider bringing a few friends along (this is definitely one of those the more, the bigger pot merrier cases)!

Click here to join (or learn more about) the Bet On Better DietBet!

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your best source of motivation when it comes to making better choices?