Monday, May 31, 2010

DIY: Yoga Mat Bag

Well, it's official. My best friend and I are going to a yoga retreat in western Massachusetts for a few days in June.

I can't wait!

It's costing us around $530 each for lodging and food for three nights and four days. Since that felt a little hefty, we opted not to take any additional classes. We're just going to attend the free yoga and mediation classes.

Since I like making something for myself before going on a trip, I decided to make myself a bag for my yoga mat. I've never had one before, and I figured it was time to stop carrying my mat under my arm.

I looked at patterns in two different books for inspiration. Simple Sewing had a pattern for a yoga bag, but I didn't like the non-circular bottom. My crafting partner, Katie, suggested that I consult In Stitches to look at their laundry bag pattern, which does have a circular bottom.

Since I hate, hate, hate reading patterns, I pretty much improvised a very simple pattern. Here's what I did:

  1. I used my rolled up yoga mat to estimate the right size for a large rectangular piece of fabric (P.S. All the fabric was leftover IKEA fabric from other projects).
  2. I used a plate from my cupboard to cut out a circle for the bottom.
  3. I cut two long rectangles for the strap. I sewed them right side to right side (along the two long sides) and then flipped it right-side-out and ironed.
  4. I made a pocket for my keys (with a velcro enclosure) by sewing a piece of velcro to the inside of the pocket, putting two right-sides together, sewing around three sides, flipping it right-side-out, and sewing it onto the rectangular piece (closing up the last side as I attached it) after I sewed the corresponding velcro piece to the rectangular base.
  5. I sewed the long rectangular base closed along the side.
  6. Then I put the strap between the circular bottom and the rectangle and sewed the circle on (after stay stitching around the circle and then cutting out small notches to get the circle to connect more flatly to the rectangle).
  7. At the top of the rectangle, I sewed two button holes, opened them up with a seam ripper, and then folded it over twice (with the top of the strap inside) to make the casing.
  8. Then I used some extra fabric to make a draw string.
  9. Finally, I used a safety pin to thread the draw string through the casing.

Of course those nine steps make it sound a lot easier than it actually was. I didn't spend enough time thinking through the steps of my improvised pattern before I began, so I messed a lot of things up. A lot. I had to use the seam ripper to undo a lot of my work. A lot.

Despite my frustration, I was glad I went back with the seam ripper to get everything right (I almost settled for having the seam on the opposite side of the strap which would have put the seam front and center on the bag). Having my friend Katie there (she was working on a baby hat) really helped. She wouldn't let me settle for a warped bag!

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Friday, May 28, 2010


As I continue to prepare my body for conception by eating as many healthy foods as possible, I'm trying to find healthier snacks. I talked to one of my student's parents on the zoo field trip last week, and she is in the process of preparing for a home birth. Her midwife has her on a very strict diet, which includes limiting grains to five a day, really watching out for sugar (hint: even the sugar in flavored yogurt is too much, as well as dried fruit), and limiting dairy.

I've found one snack so far that I love: I blend plain yogurt with frozen mango just enough to form an ice-cream like consistency (in the picture above, I threw in a few extra pieces of whole fruit). The concoction is delicious! I now eat it every day after school.

My other thought is to make a batch of hummus at the beginning of the week and eat it with cauliflower, carrots, and red peppers.

These recipes look good too:

  1. Savory yogurt dip
  2. Split Pea Crisps

It's not so easy brainstorming snack ideas that fall within the recommended parameters...

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Time to Clean Up

Enough is enough. Matt and I are letting our physical environment get too cluttered. Some people aren't bothered by clutter. Unfortunately, I am. It makes me feel claustrophobic. I keep brainstorming all the ways I want to make our house nicer, and yet step one is to simply keep it picked up. End of story. It doesn't matter how much money we invest in nice furniture if we're going to cover that furniture in crap.

So I've already admitted the problem. What's the next step for fixing the problem? I think I need to get at the root of the situation and figure out what's causing it. First, it's a mindset. I hate picking up after myself. But I have to remember that I can either do it now or do it later. I need to make it a habit to pick up after myself immediately.

Second, I think I'm always busy, busy, busy. I literally run out the door every morning, leaving everything unkempt. If I pick up before I start doing my work (like put away the dishes from the previous night before I get engrossed in my work), then I will reprioritize keeping things clean.

Third, I need to invest Matt in helping to keep our place picked up. Maybe right after dinner we can spend a few minutes picking up together.

Okay, I'm off to go clean and start working on these steps!

How do you feel about the state of your physical environment? What are your next steps?

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Balanced Living

When I was lying in bed on Saturday morning just relishing the fact that my first obligation didn't start until 3pm (our end-of-year class pool party), I looked at the bookshelf next to my bed and spotted a book I haven't picked up in a while: Integrative Nutrition: Feeding Your Hunger for Health & Happiness.

It's a dense book--not one that's amenable to skimming--but I decided to skim it anyway. I found a chapter on "Primary Food," and this quote resonated with me:

"Primary food is more than what is on your plate. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary."

This concept is so, so true for me. When my life is not feeding me enough, I turn to junk food to feed my hunger. If I am overly stressed or bored or lonely, I eat. And I eat a lot. At one point in my life, when I was living alone in a commercial apartment complex and working insane hours, I would go to Amy's Ice Cream and order an entire pint of Mexican vanilla with cookie dough and cinnamon mixed in. And that would be after an unhealthy meal at Taco Cabana or a veggie burger and an entire plate of fries from The Hobbit Cafe.

My weight goes up or down depending on what's going on in my life. The more satiated I am with myself and my life, the less I weigh and the healthier I am.

Since Matt has entered my life, I've had fewer issues. I guess I was craving connection. I still go through phases in my life when something is out of whack and I can feel the physical manifestation in my body as I start to gain weight.

It reminded me of a simple exercise in another book of mine: Be Your Own Life Coach, called The Wheel of Life. Here's how it works:
"For each area of life, assess where you are RIGHT NOW on a scale of 0-10, where 0 is the worst things could be and 10 is the best. Using 0 as the center of the wheel (where the spokes come together) and 10 as the outer perimeter, place a dot in the appropriate place for that section, with the numeric rating next to it.

This small, simple exercise helps me identify which areas need a little work. It looks like I have some work to do with building more friendships and working on personal growth.

What does your own Wheel of Life look like? What are your strengths? Areas for growth?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Plans

My brother and me two summers ago in the mountains of Colorado

If my obsessive planning rubs you the wrong way or if you think I overextend myself and need to relax more, you might not want to read this post.

Just saying.

You see, during the boring minutes of my photography workshop (which was only about 15 minutes out of an entire day), I decided to finalize my list of what I want to do with my wide-open summer (thank you to the antiquated K-12 educational system that still has us on an agrarian schedule!).

I started brainstorming a list a while back, but I wanted to solidify it, as well as give myself a loose structure to the day. I know I need to relax and destress (especially as Matt and I start trying to conceive in June), but I also want to work on projects that I haven't had a chance to work on during the busy school year.

So, without further ado, here is the list:

  1. Prepare my workshop for the KIPP School Summit
  2. Travel to Las Vegas to present the workshop and take a side trip to the Grand Canyon
  3. Make my blogs look a bit nicer
  4. Prepare my body for pregnancy and birth through cardiovascular and strength training
  5. Attend a yoga retreat with my best friend
  6. Travel with Matt through California and into British Columbia
  7. Revise my book about tying the knot in a meaningful and memorable way without losing your savings or sanity
  8. Visit a progressive charter school in Waco Texas
  9. Work on creating an e-course
  10. Study Spanish
  11. Complete the Taking Flight course
  12. Start working on a charter school application for the Montessori International Baccalaureate school I want to create
  13. Collaborate with my colleagues to prepare for next year
  14. Attend professional development with a friend in Austin

I know it sounds like a lot, but I promise it's actually a very relaxed (and fun!) schedule. Here's what my loose schedule looks like during the weeks when I'm not traveling:
  • 8:00-9:00 = Check e-mail and work on Taking Flight class
  • 9:00-11:00 = Exercise and walk at the Arboretum
  • 11:00-12:00 = Update blogs
  • 12:00-2:00 = Revise book
  • 2:00-whenever = Work on specific projects

Of course I will abandon the schedule if fun opportunities with friends pop up. Or if I want to sleep in and watch a movie. I pinky promise!

I just like have a loose schedule for myself to make sure I accomplish everything I want to accomplish and feel productive and purposeful.

I'm excited!

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Questions to Ask a Midwife

Matt got home unexpectedly early this evening, so we decided to trek to the Houston Arboretum for a free walk (with Hoss, of course) through the tree-lined paths. Heavenly!

Afterward, we decided to skip our yellow split-pea meal for the evening and instead head to one of our local restaurants.

Over dinner, I asked Matt if we could brainstorm some questions for our visit with the midwife next week. Occasionally, my thorough planning gets on his nerves (mainly when he's trying to do something else and I'm asking for his input), but tonight he was up for it.

Here's what we came up with:

  1. What are the things that can go wrong at birth?
  2. Which of these situations have you faced with your clients? How did you handle them?
  3. What is your hospital transfer rate?
  4. What equipment do you bring with you to a home birth?
  5. Are there certain pre-pregnancy exercises I should do to better prepare my body for the demands of pregnancy and birth?
  6. What do you consider the role of the doula to be?
  7. In your opinion, who do you think should be present at a birth?
  8. Do you provide any type of pain relief during labor?
  9. What are your thoughts about working full-time while pregnant?
  10. What should we say to the critics of home birth?
  11. What other questions should I be asking?

So that's what we've got so far. I would love, love, love for your feedback. Those of you who are critical of home birth, now's the time to make your arguments against it! Once we've made a decision, I really won't want to subject myself to antagonism and criticism. It's too stressful. I'm also going to e-mail my friend who is a pediatric neurologist to get her perspective.

I'd also love to hear your thoughts about other questions to add or things to think about. Thanks!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Healthy, Whole, and Balanced: A Process, Not a Product

Oh holy yoga, how I've missed you!

I have to confess that I've strayed from my nightly Relaxation Ritual. I've mainly been consumed by other stuff. I've traveled out of town/state the past three weekends, so I had to move all my weekend work to the week. It's been a bit overwhelming.

But my schedule is clearing and I am once again making time for at least 15 minutes of yoga each night. It's amazing how it healthifies my entire attitude. For example, doing yoga makes me want to eat better.

I want to commit to eating more balanced foods (enough iron, calcium, protein, etc.). I want to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables (hello, green smoothies!). I want to drink at least 120 ounces of water a day. Eighty ounces is honestly not cutting it. I'm still getting what seem to be dehydration headaches.

I want to commit to saying no to empty calories. No to the cake at the monthly faculty meetings. No to the chocolate that shows up in my mailbox at school. No to the processed foods that my students bring for our community snack.

I want to commit to saying no to the restaurant binges that promise to lift my mood but inevitably leave me feeling worse.

I want to commit to adding new recipes to our binder that are healthy, whole, and balanced.

I'm probably going to head to a yoga retreat in Western Massachusetts with my best friend in June. It's funny how I'm motivated to adopt healthier habits in preparation for that trip. How very Western to focus so obsessively on the goal! Instead, I need to commit to the process. Healthy living is a process, not a product. It's daily and weekly conscious living. It's stretching and eating whole foods and moving more. It's not something I can achieve and then leave behind.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby?

Hello, my name is Sara and I am an obsessive planner.

I'm still at the stage in life where I consider it to be a hobby more than a neurosis (although I am open to the idea that the fact I consider it a hobby might be part of why it's a neurosis...). I love planning. I really do.

But let me introduce you to my newest "self-identified kindred spirit," Onnie.

Onnie does not have any children. In fact, Onnie won't even be married for another year and a half. But dear Onnie has already created an Excel(!) sheet entitled the "Ultimate BabyCost Matrix" designed to help her "figure out what stuff might ACTUALLY be needed when raising a little one for the first two years."

I am agape!

Her document is so far ahead of where I am. I just finished the conception phase (I only had to buy pre-natal vitamins and a basal body temperature thermometer!). I am now starting to read about pregnancy now, so that when I'm actually pregnant, I can start reading about how to raise an infant.

The best part is that Onnie agreed to let me share the document with all of you so you can give us feedback based on your perspectives/experiences. Hooray!

Onnie, thank you so, so much for sharing your hours and hours of work with all of us (there are two sheets included in the document!).

To everyone else: please be kind. It's completely okay to have a different opinion, since so much of what you "need" as a new parent depends on certain choices you make about parenting. Onnie's document is based on choices that she wants to make for herself. And we need to respect that. So if you're making different choices for yourself and therefore have different ideas about what should be on the list, please share your ideas in a way that doesn't make Onnie feel bad about her own choices.

I don't mean to pull out my teacher voice here, it's just that people can be mean commenters sometimes. I'm used to and have come to expect it occasionally, but I don't want to subject Onnie to any meanness because it is so, so kind of her to share this document with us in the first place.

Okay, I am getting down off my soapbox so I can finally share the document with you. Please share your opinions about how it should be revised in the comments section, so I can add to this document and make my own list. Thank you!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Toothcare + Conception

I am just back from my bi-annual trip to the dentist (although it has been two years since my last visit, due to our move from Denver to Houston and my general dread of dentistry).

I don't mean to bore you with the mundane details of my life, but this particular dentist visit was significant for one reason: It was the last official thing I absolutely had to do before Matt and I start trying to conceive.

Of course there are still significant things on our list, like have more conversations about whether or not we're ready, and we still need to figure out a sexual intimacy frequency that works for both of us (which will likely be shattered once I'm pregnant and once we have an infant...). But this was the last very concrete item on the list (since you don't want to get x-rays when you're pregnant).

I'm only at the beginning of my cycle, but Matt and I may very well start trying to conceive once the egg-white cervical fluid makes its appearance. Even though we're not completely ready, we recognize that this process can take years. It doesn't seem very strategic to wait until we are completely ready. If you're completely ready to have a baby (is there even such a thing if you're conscious of what it actually entails?), then each month of an unsuccessful conception attempt is a complete disappointment. If you're not entirely ready, then a piece of you celebrates the fact that you have more time to be more carefree and to just enjoy your partnership.

We've been having lots of readiness conversations, since I am more ready than Matt. Part of it stems from the fact that I am five years older than Matt (I'm 32), and I feel more pressure to start now (since fertility issues increase with age). Matt has been talking with friends and family and is starting to realize that most people don't ever feel completely ready to have children.

I want to be super, super careful not to let the conception process turn stressful. I'm going to keep taking my temperature on weekday mornings and recording my cervical fluid. If we decide to start conceiving, we'll probably have sex once a day during my fertility window. I'm not going to pee on sticks (waiting 4-5 minutes before getting in the shower gets really old really quickly). I'm not going to assess the state of my cervix. I'm not going to buy a fancy digital monitoring system.

As far as my dental hygiene goes, I begged my dentist to give me advice for beefing up my toothcare regime (since my family has really bad gums). Since I already brush two times a day and floss once, she said the next step would be upgrading to a Sonicare toothbrush. I asked her if I should also be using mouthwash. She said that is a good option, but she is hesitant to recommend too many "next steps." I also asked her if I should be using a rubber-tipped thingamabob to improve circulation in my gums (thereby strengthening them). She said that wasn't really necessary (although she finally conceded that it might be good to do it on the bottom, inside of my mouth, since that is my most neglected area).

I'm excited to take better care of my teeth!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green Smoothies

My green smoothie making has begun!

I've made two so far. Here are the recipes:

Smoothie #1:

  • Green chard
  • A pear
  • Half a banana
  • Ice
  • Water
Smoothie #2:
  • Red chard
  • Frozen peaches
  • Frozen blackberries
  • Water
The first one was really tasty. The second one was a bit too earthy. I'm not sure if it was the red chard or maybe it was all the seeds in the berries. Hard to tell.

This week, I'm going to do baby spinach and pear.

And my regular ol' blender seems to work just fine! (I'm scared to try a smoothie from a Vitamix because I might realize that I'm really missing out...).

Any other good recipes to recommend?

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Hoss and Me

I finally got around to watching Marley and Me (I'm always so behind on these things! I feel like an inadequate blogger...).

Part of me is flipping out about the prospect of having a baby. A significant portion of that movie was dedicated to the hard parts, with little attention devoted to the good times in those early years.

I think it's all compounded by the fact that I read Cate's amazing birth story yesterday, and I got to the very end when she and her partner are sitting on the couch with their newborn baby. When I read it I realized that I haven't thought much past the pregnancy part.

And then I read a few sentences about Amanda's lonely moments as a new mother.

And all of it is making me flash back to Naomi Wolf's book I read a while ago entitled Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood.

It's going to be hard. And that's okay. There is sweetness after struggle. My reservations and worries are good because they better prepare me for the reality of the situation.

But at the same time, I'm thinking about ways to ease the struggle. I think part of the struggle comes from having children really close together. I haven't talked to a whole lot of parents about this issue (note to self: I need to find more mentors!), but it seems logical that it would be more difficult to bring a new needy infant into the family (hello complete exhaustion) while your other child is still in the chase-the-toddler stage. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! It's hard to get people to open up and speak honestly because they are often more likely to defend their own choices.

I also think our current societal structure makes it more difficult. On the one hand, we have families with two parents who work full-time. That kind of setup creates lots of struggle to find enough time to fit everything in and it contributes to exhaustion and stress.

On the other hand, if one parent stays home, they tend to be isolated within their nuclear family. I can only begin to imagine how lonely I would feel if I stayed home with an infant by myself day in and day out. Play dates and outings to the park would not cut it.

Neither of these options feels right. A more nuanced combination might work better for Matt and me. I don't know if it's each of us working part-time jobs or one of us staying home and the other one working a full-time job at home. Or living within co-housing or an intentional neighborhood so there's more community, connection, and support.

And the trickiest part is that I can't plan any of it. I don't know when or if I'll get pregnant, so it's futile trying to think too hard about what we should do career-wise. It's premature planning.

And yet it's stuff I want to think about now because it's going to be easy to get swept away by a ton of other stuff if we do get pregnant. I don't want to lose my purpose or passions in life. I don't want to feel isolated or lonely for an extended period of time. I don't want to feel so stressed and overwhelmed and exhausted that I can't bask in the amazingness of a child's first few months of life.

A few days ago, I asked Matt to set aside some time to talk about what we want in our lives on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis once we have a child. I want to have a vision and pillars that can keep us grounded and moving in the right direction (or at least something that provides a frame of reference if we decide to go in an entirely different direction). All of this stuff will be good to throw into that discussion!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Flash Mobs?

Apparently I am not up on my pop culture (no surprise there) because I am just now learning what the heck a "flash mob" is.

I so desperately want to be part of one of these. Is anyone planning one any time soon?

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The First Call with a Midwife

Ohmygoodness. I am in love with my potential midwife. [insert swoon]

I was so nervous about calling her (unfortunately, that's how my shy self rolls), but I mustered the courage to do it. I always hate those initially awkward calls ("Um, I'm the one who e-mailed you last week? Sara? Do you know what I'm talking about?") And there's always that pregnant pause (ha!) while the other person desperately tries to remember who the heck you are and what the heck you want. Oh, how I hate that.

But anyway. I called her, and she's amazing. The bad news is she's down-sizing her practice. She's 68 years-old and she is finally trying to balance her needs with her clients' needs. I so get it. (I referenced a conversation I read over on Katie's blog about her own dilemma with the demands of midwifery.)

I asked her about any nutritional recommendations she has for the pre-conception period. She said no processed foods (like "pop-tarts") and no empty calories. She's also not a big fan of cow's milk and instead recommends that I get my calcium from leafy greens, almonds, and almond milk. I asked her if she thought my vegetarianism would be a problem for my pregnancy and she said she's seen some of the healthiest placentas come out of vegetarian women. Woo-hoo!

Matt and I have an appointment scheduled with her for a one-hour conversation about home birth (she no longer delivers at a birth center). Once I get pregnant, I go in for a 3-hour consultation. After that, the visitation schedule is the same as it would be with an ob/gyn (although she also visits the home a couple times in preparation for birth).

Her total price is $5,600, which is definitely high for a midwife. However, she's helped deliver more than 1,600 babies. In my mind, her experience is worth the extra money. If I'm going to birth outside the mainstream medical establishment, it makes sense to go with someone who has so much experience.

She also requires that I hire a doula. She recommends three doulas in Houston, all of whom are able to monitor the baby's heartbeat and do vaginal exams if necessary. The one thing that worries me is that she and the doula will trade off monitoring me if the labor is really long. I understand the need to be awake and alert during birth, but I would be a little nervous not to have the midwife there at all times.

I feel so ecstatic about this whole process right now. I so often leave doctors' offices with such a frustrated feeling. I finally feel like I'm working with someone who believes in a holistic approach to health. She gets that nutrition matters. She gets that the body is an integrated whole. How comfortable we are during birth, for example, will have a huge impact on how the birth goes.

Honestly, I am so nervous about veering off the accepted American birth path. It's one thing to get weird looks and skeptical sighs when you say you're planning a $2000 wedding. It's an entirely different thing to have people think you are putting your life and your baby's life in extreme danger.

I'm going to ask her very hard questions when Matt and I go in for our initial meeting. I'll start brainstorming ideas and bring them to you for revision!

Thanks for being out there...

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crafting Dates

Photo (and tutorial!) courtesy design*sponge

My friend Katie and I are planning another crafting date. I find that crafting is so much more fun with friends. We've only had two crafting dates so far, one to make holiday presents and another one in January (I made a purse and she started working on a quilt).

I should keep an ongoing list in my writer's notebook of everything I want to make, so I could just consult the list instead of trying to think of a project every time. I started one awhile ago, but then I finished that journal and forgot to transfer the list to my new writer's notebook.

So let's see. Well, since we'll be going on our Annual Adventure in a couple months, I'd really like to make a travel pillow. I've had a hard time finding a pattern, but this one looks really promising (and I like the premise of making "comfort pillow" for hospital patients). I would probably fill it with scented rice, but I worry that it might be really heavy...

I could also start thinking about my Halloween costumes. I know it's early. But I always run into a major time crunch with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Matt's birthday, and Christmas.

Speaking of which, I would love to start knocking out some Christmas presents. I would really like to hand-make presents this year. Maybe pajama pants for everyone? Or stamped note-cards?

Are you working on any sewing projects right now? Or scheming up hand-made presents for the holidays? I'd love some inspiration!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another E-Course

I'm thinking about signing up for another e-course. This one is about how to grow your creative business. The artist who runs it, Kelly Rae, looks super-cool. I don't really consider my blogs to be a "creative business", but it would be lovely to meet more kindred spirits online. The cost is $99 for five weeks. The timing would work perfectly, since it starts a couple days after school gets out for the summer and ends before Matt and I leave for our summer vacation. Ya-hoo!

Here's what the course topics are:

* Weeks one and two will focus on creating an effective online presence via blogs, websites, social networking, and more. We'll talk specifically about the ins and outs of these resources including how to create, how to improve, and the secret ingredients to using them effectively. We also talk about networking and the importance of creating community and how to build long lasting creative allies. We'll discuss all the fears that we'll inevitably come up against as we push the boundaries of our horizons and how to effectively push through them.

* Weeks three and four will focus on selling strategies (both online and offline). I'll give specific strategies for selling on etsy and other online marketplaces. We'll discuss effective ways of styling, photographing, packaging, and pricing our products and/or services. We'll also focus on a number of effective marketing strategies to get the word out about our businesses, including print media, newsletters, advertising, blogging, and more. We'll also discuss in detail all the ins and out of getting press and getting published. Finally, we'll discuss the actualizing of goals, creating schedules, and time management.

* Week five will focus on recharging our souls, handling competition as well as overwhelm and burnout. We'll talk about creating other creative ways of income such as teaching, licensing, blog sponsorships, affiliate programs, and more. We'll discuss an overview of taxes, money, and when it's time to ask for help (interns, etc). We'll also discuss organizing simple yet effective bookkeeping strategies when it comes to cataloging our income/expenses (so important when tax time comes around). Finally, we'll wrap up what we've learned together and celebrate taking flight into our creative dreams!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Calling a Midwife

Ohmygoodness. I'm about to call a woman who might potentially turn out to be our midwife. I e-mailed her last night to ask the following questions:

  1. Can my husband and I set up a time to meet with you to talk about birthing at home versus birthing at a birthing center? I am leaning toward the home option, but we would feel more informed if we at least toured the birthing center and explored that option.
  2. As part of my pre-conception phase, I am going to visit my general physician for a yearly check-up. Are there tests I should request in preparation for conception? Are there questions I should be asking that will help determine whether I am likely to have a normal, healthy pregnancy and can safely try to deliver at home?
  3. Do you have specific nutritional guidelines you recommend for optimal pre-conception health?
She replied that it would be easier to talk on the phone, so I'm about to call her now. I am much more comfortable and confident via the written word (hello, blogging!), but I'll try to keep my nervousness on the inside.

It also feels very, very weird to take such a concrete step in the direction of pregnancy (kind of like buying prenatal vitamins for the first time or attending a birth fair).

Here I go!

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Free Life Coaching

There's a neat little opportunity over at When I Grow Up to enter to win 12 free life coaching session via telephone. If you're interested, hurry on over there since the entry form closes tonight at 11:59 EST.

I love the idea of life coaching. I adore the conscious pursuit of self-betterment.

Crossing my fingers I win!

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Photography Passions

Photo courtesy of Bob Krist for National Geographic

I've been taking next steps to fulfill my wish to become a better photographer. I e-mailed some of my favorite bloggers to find out about their equipment preferences (and read about some others' preferences). It's pretty much a toss up between Nikon and Canon. Matt and I are letting a little more savings accumulate in our bank account before we take the plunge.

In the meantime, I signed up for two photography classes. The first one is expensive ($200!) but I couldn't resist. It's taught by two dudes who take photos for National Geographic. And it's a class about travel photography, so it addresses all sorts of information ranging from how to do close-ups to night photography. Here's an excerpt from the description:

Great travel photography requires a command of many types of photography – from close-up portraits and loose candids, to off-the-hip street photography at festivals and celebrations – from architecture and cityscapes, to landscapes and nature. Becoming versatile requires that you become like a one-man band, utilizing what technology has to offer while developing an eye for composition and a feel for being in the right place at the right time.

Join National Geographic Traveler photographers Ralph Lee Hopkins and Bob Krist as they share their secrets and insights into how to make travel photos that convey a powerful sense of place and capture rare moments. Learn simple tricks for using flash to expand when, where, and how you shoot, as well as collecting audio so you can produce multi-media slide shows of your work.

I also signed up for a basic introduction to using an SLR camera. The woman takes photos for the Houston Chronicle, so I'm excited to learn from her experience.

It feels really good to be taking concrete steps toward pursuing one of my new hobbies. I'm being careful not to add too many things to my calendar (I am serious about de-stressing!). I held off until June for one of the classes (since I'll be on summer vacation by then). However, the National Geographic photographers are only traveling through H-town in May.

What new/old hobbies are you pursuing (or thinking about pursuing)?

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How to Make Your Own Almond Milk

Photo courtesy of the amazing Progressive Pioneer

Last week's discussion of breakfast reminded me of this amazing post from one of my Blogger Mentors: Progressive Pioneer.

In this post, she details the steps for making your own almond milk. It looks seriously doable.

Wow! Double wow!

I haven't tried it yet, but talking about it here will help me remember to do it. (Thanks for the virtual kick in the pants!).

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Egg Recipes

When you have two chickens and they both start laying an egg a day, you better figure out quickly what to do with all the eggs.

Matt and I are at that point!

At the reunion this past weekend, the service project we were going to do at one of our Teach For America placement schools was canceled due to bad weather. We decided to meet up at Allison's house instead.

She took the leftover beans, tortillas, pico, and guacamole from the previous night, added eggs, and concocted the most amazing meal. If Matt and replicate that recipe once a week, we will at least consume six of our 14 eggs.

Here's what Allison did:

  1. Melt butter in a skillet
  2. Add finely chopped white onion and saute
  3. Pour eggs into the pan (she did not beat them in a separate bowl first--she and her mom swear their way gives the eggs a better consistency, and I agree!)
  4. Mix the eggs around as they cook with the onions
  5. Add diced tomatoes
  6. Take everything out of the pan and add cheese
We then made egg burritos with the leftover ingredients. So delicious!

When Matt and I got home from Louisiana, we had no food in the house and no time to go to the grocery store. But we did have eggs! I whipped up a sub-par version with a scavenged onion, tortillas, and guacamole. However, I look forward to making this meal again next week when we have the proper ingredients on hand...

And later this week, I'm going to an outdoor movie and picnic potluck (I love those!). I'm going to use six of our eggs to make a pound cake (with strawberry sauce) using my favorite recipes.

Any other egg-cellent recipe recommendations (oh, so cheesy, but I couldn't resist!)?

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Monday, May 3, 2010

May: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Photo courtesy of Nikki McClure's 2010 Calendar

I honestly can't believe I have only four measly weeks of school left before summer arrives.

As I say goodbye to April, here are some things to take note of:

  1. I took my class on a field trip to the Houston Arboretum.
  2. I helped Matt identify and clarify two of his passions.
  3. I spent a Saturday making homemade pizza, sweet potato fries, sorbet, and pillows with one of my students and her friend.
  4. I traveled to Austin for the Yeasayer concert.
  5. I made picnic place mats for a dear friend and celebrated her birthday with her at the beach.
  6. Matt and I coordinated a potluck picnic and silent-film viewing.
  7. I helped coordinate (and attended) my ten-year Teach For America reunion.
  8. I exercised regularly.
  9. I regularly updated my blogs.
  10. I said no to two potential commitments that came my way.
  11. Our fence got finished!
  12. I tutored my butt off to help my students get ready for the state assessment.
And here's what I'm striving for in May:
  • Order a new-used SLR camera.
  • Take a photography class from two National Geographic photographers.
  • Help my 3rd graders plan their own field trip (using the public bus system!).
  • Keep trying to create a potting area (I haven't had success locating a good table). (Although, I just took a major break from this post and think I found a vintage desk on craigslist for twenty-five bucks.)
  • Keep trying to turn our backyard into an oasis. I almost bought a couch off Amazon, but I had second thoughts about buying something new instead of used. But it can be so hard to find something used! I'm really not much of a shopper...
Hmm...I'm thinking that might be it for the month of May. The last month of school is crazy, and I'm trying to de-stress as we head into June.

Holy moly! I just realized this is my last month before we start trying to have a baby.

Hmm...I may have to write an entirely separate post about the month leading up to the beginning of our conception process. (To those of you who think I'm over-thinking this thing entirely too much: I hear your concern! I do keep your perspective in mind. I promise.)

What are you up to this month?

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