11 Ideas for Easy Handmade Gifts

Let’s get this clear:  A handmade gift is one of those gifts that can go terribly wrong.  If it doesn’t fit, is the wrong color, wrong style, or if it’s just plain ugly, it can’t be returned.

Mothers and grandmothers will, of course, absolutely love a handmade gift, any handmade gift, from their child or grandchild – even if it is the most puzzling, atrocious creation they’ve ever beheld.

Everyone else – be careful.  Your handmade gift may make some very awkward moments.

Well chosen and crafted, a handmade gift can be a delightful way to show someone how well you know them and how much you care about them.

Handmade gifts can also be great last minute gifts.

That said, I’ve been thinking about handmade gifts that have a good chance of being well received. Here are some ideas.

11 Ideas for Handmade Gifts

1.   Make an Apron

This is a good gift for the person who likes to bake and cook. Especially when baking or cooking with flour, most cooks will at least once in a while want to wear an apron to keep their clothes from getting splatters and flour smudges.  Unless you are quite sure of the person’s taste, avoid exotic or cheesy designs and go for functional, yet pretty.

One thing that makes an apron perfect as a handmade gift is that it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece in order to be functional.  In fact, if an apron is too pretty the cook might be reluctant to wear it and risk staining it!

Here are a few easy apron instructions that I found:

50′s Style Apron from Crafty Gal – A simple, retro apron. Dressing for Kitchen Success 

The instructions are detailed and the apron is simple, yet could easily be embellished

Apron with Contrasting Edge – Sew It love It  – How to Make an Apron with a Contrasting Edge 

Very easy instructions and the contrast steps the apron up a few notches.

 Pretty Half Apron – Sew It love It – Vintage Apron Patterns

This is for a half apron.  It is a little more detailed, but still quite simple to make.

Martha Stewart has instructions for a Baker’s Apron

 

2.  Sachets

These are nice because they are meant to be tucked away in a drawer, which takes a lot of the pressure off of making them look perfect.

 Martha Stewart has a simple instructions for Patterned Sachets

 

3.  Little Notebook

This makes a small notebook that is nice for keeping next to the phone or in the car.  Add a pen to complete the gift.

For the really creative, this can be used to make an actual book, such as a book of original poems, or a book of quotes.

See Kate Sew – A Little Tutorial for Making Little Books

4.  Bath snowballs

- made with Epsom salts, so can be used for a foot soak instead.

Fragrant Bath Snowballs

These are very pretty as well as practical.

 

5.  Planted arrangement – spices, herbs, flowers

Try this Mini Succulent Garden from  Real Simple

or Christmas Flower Gift

6. Secret Treasures Book

I’m not particularly fond of cutting up perfectly readable books, so I suggest using a book that is hopelessly outdated, or perhaps has damaged or missing inside pages.  As long as the cover and spine are in good shape, this project can make an attractive hidden storage book.

How2dostuff has good instructions for How to Make a Secret Hollow Book

7.  Family Calendar

If you have a printer and a word processing program such as MSWord or OpenOffice you can make a personalized calendar.  Use photos of the family, the pets, the house, the surrounding city, or even favorite vacation photos for each month.  If possible, note birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days on the calendar.

Here are some calendar templates  calendarlabs.com Photo Calendar

Microsoft Office has many free calendar templates office.microsoft.com

 

8.  Cookies or Bread in a Jar

- layer the dry ingredients for baked goods in an attractive pattern in a jar.  Be sure to attach a card or printout with the recipe and baking instructions.

Here is one for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Quick Bread

And one for Cowgirl Cookies

 M & M Cookies in a Jar

Christmas Cookies in a Jar

 

9.  Bookmarks

I love these beautiful bookmarks you can make with stray earrings

 

10.  Oilcloth Receipt Wallet

This one I personally like .  It’s unique as well as practical.  It can be used in a car or purse to neatly store all those little receipts, sales tickets, and scraps of paper.  It can also be used for storing the same small papers in a drawer or on a desk.  If you avoid the flowered patterns and go for a masculine color, this is even a great gift for the man in your life to keep track of papers in the garage or glove box.

Oilcloth Receipt Wallet

11.  Things I love about you list

There are many variations on this one … but I really like this one that uses a deck of cards:

52 Reasons i love you – this is a gallery showing many variations of the card book.  You can also purchase and download a template on this site if you are in a hurry.

50 Reason Why I Love You Jar – this sweet idea uses candy and small stickers to deliver the messages

A key to this gift is to make it personal.  Try to stay away from cliches like “You help me ” and instead be more specific “I love how you open the garage door for me when I get home.”

 

Hopefully these will give you some ideas for handmade gifts.  Now, you’d better pick your gift and get started if you want to get it done in time!

Merry Christmas!  I hope you and your family have a holiday filled with peace, joy, love, and prosperity.

 

Related posts:  Fat Dollar – Inexpensive Gift Ideas

Simple Life – Meaningful Gift Ideas

Fat Dollar – Last Minute Low Dollar Gift Ideas

Related posts from The Fat Dollar -  More Inexpensive Christmas Gift Ideas – $10 or Less!

Awesome, Yet Inexpensive Gift Ideas

 

 



 Easy Apple Cake with Caramel Icing

One of the best parts of fall harvesting is the baking that follows.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been freezing lovely orange bags of butternut squash and also lighter orange bags of pumpkin.  I saved aside enough to make both butternut squash bread and pumpkin bread, and it was a great pleasure to serve it to my family.

This year, our apple tree bore fruit for the first time.  The tree bore so much fruit that some of the limbs broke off.  I probably should have thinned the apples out so there was not so much weight on the branches.

The apples were sweet and crisp, but much smaller than a normal apple.  They were about half the normal size, so I had my doubts before I actually tasted one.

Small or not, they were great for baking.  I made Apple Cake with Caramel Icing.

 Piece of apple cake with caramel icing on a plate with a fork

The recipe was very easy.  The caramel icing is cooked, but it was also fairly simple.

The cake is moist with a subtle apple taste.  The caramel icing flavor blends perfectly.

Any extra effort to make the caramel icing was well worth it!

I posted the recipe on the Simple Life website – Easy Apple Cake with Caramel Icing.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

 



 8 Success Strategies You Probably Didn’t Think Of

I’ve been immersed in finishing out this year’s tax season, which had the government shutdown as a grand finale, so haven’t been posting as much these last few weeks.  I’ll be caught up soon and be able to write more.

For now, I’ll share a summary of an article from Oprah.com that caught my attention:  8 Surprising Things That’ll Make You Wildly Successful.

Wildly successful sounds very appealing.  Especially when you have been working nearly non-stop for days.

Businesswoman jumping

8 Surprising Success Strategies (That Will Make You Wildly Successful)

Here is a summary of the Oprah.com article.

1. There is a bacterium in soil, which are often inhaled while gardening, that may help the body produce serotonin, an anti-anxiety chemical.

2.  Don’t share your goals … verbalizing them gives you the false sense of having accomplished them which reduces your drive.

3.  Asking yourself questions, rather than giving yourself commands or self-praise (‘is it possible I can complete this?’ rather than ‘I will conquer!’) may make you dramatically more effective.

4.  Looking at cute puppies, kittens, or other sweet baby animals may afterwards make you better able to focus – yes it works even for men.

5.  Having a short,  friendly conversation with someone you don’t know tends to make you better at planning and self-discipline as well as having better recall.

6.  The best person to get career advice from is often someone in the first third of their career, rather than someone who has been on the job for a great number of  years.

7.  A few chugs of a naturally sweet drink, such as fruit juice or even non-diet soda, may give you the ability to strive for a goal rather than quickly settle for less.

8.  Turning the thermostat to 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit makes most workers more productive and error free.  (At 68 degrees, productivity dips and errors soar!) (I love this one!)

Try one or two of these.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even experience wild success!

 

Resources:

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Be-Successful-Success-Research/1

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net by imagerymajestic

 



 The Mulberry Lesson of the Green Stems

Some time ago, I blogged about picking and working with mulberries – Wild Blackberries, No, They’re Mulberries .

Mulberries June 2011One thing that makes mulberries more time-consuming is their little green stems.  You can see them in this photo of the mulberries that we had picked.

I learned a lesson in simplicity from those mulberries.  Funny how the gardens and nature seems to always have a lesson for me, if my mind is not too noisy and distracted to listen.

If you want to use the mulberries for baking muffins, a pie, tarts, jam, or other such delicious treats, then you must take kitchen shears and snip off each and every little green stem.  Otherwise, you will end up with what seems like chewy little sticks in your mouth as you bite into that tender muffin or flaky pie.  I’m guessing that after your guests have spit out a few stems, they won’t be back for seconds, no matter how good your baking skills.

Mulberries are slightly bland, but bursting with nutrition. Natural nutrition really lights me up.  Not in a radioactive sort of way, but in a “that is so cool and fascinating” kind of way.  I figure that besides the nutrients that we know of, berries and other natural foods likely have a whole spectrum of beneficial  ingredients that nutritionists have not even discovered yet.

However appealing that natural goodness is though, spending hours staining my hands purple-blue while snipping off each and every little green stem gets wearisome.  I’m good for about two or three cups of destemming mulberries, then the impatience begins to shadow my enthusiasm.

Then while I was snipping away,  a thought occurred to me:   The stems are edible.

I love smoothies and have one for lunch most days.  I always add some kind of berry to the blender;  several kinds of berries if I’m feeling artistic and getting awed by the sight of the lovely reds, purples and blues cascading next to each other.

Did I really need to snip off the stems of the mulberries that I will use in smoothies?  Ok.  You already guessed the answer: no, I don’t.  Didn’t.  The stems either grind up in the blender and disappear or they sink to the bottom of the smoothie glass where they don’t bother me at all.

Why was I meticulously snipping off stems from the mulberries meant for smoothies?  Because I wasn’t paying attention.  I wasn’t aware.  Like so many other things, I had done it that way before so I kept doing it without question.

Now that I am aware, my perspective has changed.  I can snip green stems until the enthusiasm has worn off and then just stop, rinse and freeze the rest of the mulberries in containers labeled “Mulberries for Smoothies.”   The label, boring yet effective, ensures that I don’t dump a cupful of frozen mulberries into a batch of muffins, only to discover that they all have lime-green, chewy stems.

I wonder what else I am doing because “that’s the ways it’s always been done” and I have never stopped to question it?

Now that  I’ve learned the mulberry lesson, I will make an effort to be more aware of possible alternatives when I find myself annoyed or impatient with something.  Maybe I’ll find a better way.

In order to allow the possibility of the better way, I’ll have to quiet the complaining, tense chatter in my mind.  Once I let go of that noisy,  negative mental commentary, those silent moments that follow can present some stellar solutions and alternatives.

I know this.  I’ve got the smoothies to prove it.

I hope that you, too, are able to quiet your mind and find some enlightening solutions of your own.

In peace,

Patti

 

 

 

 


 

 



 Finding Joy in Life – It’s Not That Hard

Woman Listening to Headphones --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
~Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes daily life can seem like drudgery, something to just be tolerated.  When I find myself feeling this way, it is almost always because I have been focusing relentlessly on a problem that overshadows me.  It might be a looming deadline, a bit of family drama, or something of the sort.  It might be nothing definable; I’m just in a rut and forgot to even think about finding joy in life.

Getting back to enjoying life, rather than enduring life, is really quite simple:  look for things that bring you joy.

Sometimes that may take a little effort if you’ve been in a long stretch of colorless and harried days.  You may have forgotten what makes you smile.  Even so, there is probably nothing to buy and nothing complicated to learn in order to bring back those points of joy in your life.  There’s no need to wait – you can start immediately.

Just start paying attention.  What brings a burst of happiness?

Here are some suggestions if you need a bit of nudging for finding joy in life:

  • Pick a flower
  • touch a piece of silk
  • pet your cat
  • listen to your favorite song
  • watch your peacefully sleeping child
  • sip a smooth drink of coffee
  • watch the sun rise
  • bake some cookies
  • breathe in the scent of lavender
  • dance to the music
  • sit on the deck
  • walk barefoot in the sand
  • hug a friend
  • kiss your spouse, slowly and meaningfully
  • walk your dog
  • sing out loud
  • give away a good book
  • read a good book
  • taste a piece of fruit
  • eat a piece of dark chocolate
  • …. what gives you joy? Do it! And again!

Deliberately do at least one thing every day that brings joy and you may be astounded at how happy you can be right here, right now.

What brings you joy or makes you smile?

 

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
~Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
~Joseph Campbell

 

 

 

 



 Learn to Distract Yourself to Increase Productivity

Increasing personal productivity can be more difficult than it would at first seem.  After all, isn’t it just a matter of “just doing it?”  And if it’s that simple, why aren’t we all just getting things done?
Father Son Happy Dance - Increase Your Productivity

In my website and blogging work, I find that I go through cycles.  I’m highly productive at times and a zero on the scale of productivity at other times. Learning to work with these cycles and have a consistent level of productivity would be ideal for me.

Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg, MD, authors of several books, including Words Can Change Your Brain and How God Changes Your Brain, have developed a strategy that may be just what I need.

Waldman and Newberg’s strategy is adding a deliberate distraction to improve your productivity and your creativity.

The strategy sounds quite simple, yet it can feel a little odd and it requires moving against some natural resistance to follow the steps.

If you can do the steps, you just may find yourself finishing that dusty, yet important project.  Or writing your book.  Or getting your business started.  Or brushing the cat and the dog and sweeping the floor, too. You may even find yourself lighting up with ideas and starting the art project that you’ve been avoiding.  Whatever you have wanted to do that you keep stalling on … it may get done if you try and master this strategy.

So here are the steps they recommend:

1. Get started on your project of choice. Immerse yourself and let yourself hit the point of “flow”.

2. As soon as you start feeling the first bits of stress (usually 20-50 minutes after you hit the “flow”), stop.

3. Stretch and yawn. Gently stroke your arms and face. This causes your body  to release the feel-good chemical oxytocin.

4. Run in place as fast as you can for 30 – 60 seconds. You can also dance wildly, which is my personal choice. Just move at a fast pace and keeping moving for 30 – 60 seconds.  This wakes up the brain. And anyone around you.

5. For the next 60 seconds,  focus on your breath while, with each breath, repeating a word or phrase that makes you feel good, such as “Love”, “Release”, “Joy”, “Abundance”, “Gratitude”, or “Peace”.

6. Now return to your project and start the sequence again.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

The roots of the strategy are from Dr. Harbert Benson, founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  His research was focused on stress and relaxation.  He, along with William Proctor, developed the “breakout principle” which helped high level managers regulate stress and increase their own creativity and productivity.  Benson and Proctor co-wrote the book The Breakout Principle.

The general point of the strategy is that initially, stress is a motivator.  Stress makes your heart rate increase and helps you become more alert, focused, and efficient.  After a certain period of experiencing stress, though, our bodies begin to become overwhelmed with stress hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol.  At this point, productivity takes a sharp plunge.

By using the stress just to the point of discomfort and then shifting to a relaxing and distracting sequence, Benson and Proctor found that individuals can experience  increased creativity and problem solving ability.  They further found that learning to use this method and continuing to practice it caused the practicing individuals to raise their overall level of performance and creativity.  They found this especially relevant for artists and athletes, but also very effective for businesspeople.

That’s right.  Practicing these six steps may actually make you consistently more creative, better able to solve problems, and more productive.

So, if you ever see me leap up from my chair and dance about or run fast to nowhere, it’s not that I’m flirting with insanity, it’s that I’m practicing deliberate distraction.

And that’s a good thing.

How about you?  Will you give it a try?  Have you already experienced something similar?  How do you keep your creative energy flowing?

 

 

 

Resources and references:

Improve Your Personal Productivity with a Few Distractions – to read more on the Simple Life site

Are You Working Too Hard?  Harvard Business Review Nov 2005 – A Conversation with Herbert Benson

Distract Your Way to Success – Science of Mind April 2013

 

Related Posts and Articles:

Want to Change Your Life?  Try Yawning

Try Just One Thing to Reduce Stress and Get Things Done

You Can Learn Prosperity

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 



 How to Pick Raspberries

Raspberries ready to pick


Raspberries ready to pick.
Photo by Patti Tokar Canton. All Rights Reserved

Today our raspberry bushes were covered with ripe berries. My husband Chris and I had noticed that they were ripening over the last few days and I was looking forward to doing some serious raspberry picking.

I’m not sure what I like most about picking raspberries – the pretty scene of the red berries against the vibrant green leaves, the anticipation of eating the berries, or the opportunity to spend some time with Chris.

One of Chris’ favorite things is raspberries, so whenever I mention that it’s picking time, he is always right there beside me, bowl in hand.

Today I’ll share some thoughts on how to pick raspberries.

First take note that raspberries are a member of the rose family and, like roses, raspberries do have thorns.  The thorns are slender, short,  sharp,  and almost fuzzy.

Our raspberries are growing along the length of our chain-link fence, so we don’t have to do much stepping into or reaching into the clusters of limbs.  For that reason Chris and I don’t wear gloves or long sleeves when we pick raspberries.

For most cases, though, when you pick raspberries, you should wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves.  This is especially true if you are picking from a thick raspberry bramble and will need to reach or step far into the bushes to reach the fruit.

Our raspberries turn a beautiful deep shade of dark red when they are ripe.  In the early summer, they start out as hard, little brown buds that seem to me to look like dried up raspberries.  With a little patience and a lot of rain and sun, the berries begin to turn white, then green, then pale pink, then orange-red, and finally dark red.  The dark, yet vibrant, red berries are ready to pick.

When the raspberries are almost too ripe, they will develop a faint dusty grey sheen.  Once they have reached this stage, pick them at once and enjoy or freeze them right away.

It’s really not hard to tell when a raspberry is ready to pick.  All you have to do is try to pick them.  If you gently pull at the berry, the ripe ones will just slide off into your hand. Ripe raspberries leave behind a stem with a soft white core on the cane when they are picked.  The berry itself will have a hollow tube shape in the middle.

If the raspberry gives resistance and is hard to pull off the cane, then it is not quite ripe.  Don’t worry if you pick a few that did not slide easily off the stem.  If they are just slightly under-ripe, they will finish ripening in your refrigerator.

Take note at this point that some raspberry varieties will ripen to a blue-black color, very similar to the color of blackberries.  Use the same test for telling when they are ripe:  If you have to force them off the cane, they are not yet ripe.  Further, the ripe blue-black raspberries will also leave a white core behind on the cane when they are picked.  (That is one way you can tell raspberries from blackberries, by the way.)

After you’ve picked a few ripe berries, you will begin to recognize the color of the ripe raspberries.  For our raspberries, the not-yet-ready ones will be orange red.  When they lose the orange color and deepen to red, they are ready to pick. So I watch for the orange tint and avoid picking the ones that have not reached dark red.

You have to check individual raspberries for ripeness.  Although they grow in clusters, I almost always find that they ripen at different rates.  One or two berries in the cluster might be rich-ripe while the other berries are still not even close to being ready to pick.

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Raspberries hidden in the leaves.
Photo by Patti Tokar Canton. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the raspberries are picked, they should be gently placed in the container.  The berries are delicate and can fall apart or bruise if they are not handled with a bit of reverence.

I don’t wash the raspberries before I refrigerate them.  I find that they last much longer if I rinse them just before eating.

If you prefer to wash them before storing them, be very gentle with the water spray.  (Some advocate adding a tablespoon or so of vinegar to the rinse water to help them stay fresher.  I haven’t tried using vinegar in the rinse, so I can’t say much about it.)  Lay the berries single file and let them dry before storing.  Water drops left in them will turn them soft and encourage molding.

Fresh picked raspberries will last a little longer in your refrigerator than store-purchased ones. I can keep raspberries for up to a week in the refrigerator.  After about four days, though, they start to get soft and begin to get overripe.

At this point in storage, or actually a day or two before they reach this point, I put the raspberries in the freezer and use them later in smoothies, on cereal, or for baking.  Raspberries freeze surprisingly well for such a delicate fruit.

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Freshly picked raspberries.
Photo by Patti Tokar Canton. All Rights Reserved

Here are the raspberries we picked today.

Don’t those look delicious?  I feel like a lucky woman to have the luxury of walking outside and picking an abundance of these beautiful raspberries.

 

 

 

For tips on picking mulberries, see our earlier post …. Wild Blackberries? No, they are Mulberries
 

 



 Namaste Yoga – Beauty, Grace, Strength

Two days ago, I wrote about ten minute workouts at home and included links to no-cost YouTube workouts.  One of my all-time favorite yoga workouts is Kate Potter’s Namaste Yoga.  I love the beautiful views, the shifting locations, the changing perspectives, the graceful, yet powerful moves, and the soft narration.

In my post I mentioned only one video clip of the Namaste Yoga workout which I like even though it  abruptly ends.  Now I have found something even better:  an entire episode.    The Namaste.tv site has a sample episode.

I’m thrilled to be able to share this with my readers!   Here is the link:

Namaste Yoga Practice by Kate Potter – Sample Episode

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 Ten Minute Workouts at Home – More Workout Videos

In a prior post, Getting Fit With a 15 Minute Workout – Start with a 5 or 10 Minute Workout, I shared a list of five- to fifteen- minute videos that make a great (and no-cost) way to stay fit with  ten minute workouts at home.

Fitness - Measuring WaistIt’s worth repeating:  going from no exercise to even five or ten minutes of regular daily exercise can improve not only your fitness level, but your self-confidence and your appearance.

More important, committing to 10 minutes of exercise everyday is easier at first than staying committed to a 45 minute daily workout.  It fits better into your existing schedule and it has the psychological feel of being something you can quickly and easily master.

All those factors combined mean that it is much more likely that you’ll actually get started on a daily workout and stay with it long enough that it becomes a deeply ingrained habit, much like the five minutes it takes you each morning to brush your teeth.

Once a habit is formed, you can start to build on it.  If you’ve been exercising for 5 minutes each morning, you can start going for 6 or 7 minutes, then after that is easy and automatic, go to 8, then 9, 10, and up.

If you hit a spot where you begin skipping your workout or dreading the burden of the time or energy commitment, then ease back just a bit either in the total time of the routine, or ease back slightly in the exertion of the workout until you again  accept that the workout is a part of your regular morning routine.

Find New Workouts For Renewed Inspiration

One way I have found that keeps me working out every morning is to have a variety of workouts and routines.  I will get attached to one workout and look forward to it every day, but eventually will start to feel a little bored with it.  Once that starts, I immediately search  for and find other workout videos, either from buying them on Half.com (half.com workout videos) or Amazon.com vidoes,  or by searching for them on YouTube.

Since the free workout routines on YouTube allow for more variety at no cost, I gravitate toward these first.  Plus, most of the purchased workout DVD’s have sample routines on YouTube, so I can try them out before spending money on a DVD without knowing whether I will even like the workout.

More Ten Minute Workouts at Home Videos

That said, here are some of the YouTube routines of ten minute workouts at home that I’ve recently been using and loving:

Yoga Workout for Happiness – Mandy Ingber Fitness – Class FitSugar.   I discovered this one by accident.  The 10 minute yoga routine is not only fun, but I really do feel light and happy during and after the routine.  A beginner will enjoy this video, although there are a few movements that are a little complicated (could just be me – it takes me awhile to catch on to new movements.) As a bonus, the video has another of my favorite features:  there is a countdown timer in the upper corner so that you know all through the workout how much time is left.

Namaste Yoga – Namaste Yoga 12 Minute Flex Part I.  The Namaste Yoga (a Kate Potter creation formerly a program on FitTV) is my all-time favorite yoga workout.  I love doing the graceful and sensual movements and I love the beautiful scenery and the way the view and the background changes right in the middle of a movement.

That said, be forewarned that this video just abruptly stops at 9:47.  There are other Namaste Yoga YouTube videos that I have found, but they are all little 2 or 3 minute snippets.

Amazon.com has entire seasons of Namaste Yoga for sale , but they are pricey! I’ve got them on my list, though, for buying one day as the ultimate gift to myself.   I’ve been watching for them on Half.com and even eBay, but apparently whenever someone gets one of these DVD’s they cherish them and don’t let them go.  I don’t blame them.  I will do the same.

Tara Stiles has many 10 to 20 minute yoga workouts that I gravitate toward because yoga is my favorite type of workout.

Tara Stiles is on the LiveStrong Woman channel.  The LiveStrong Woman series has a video for  nearly every type and time length of exercise that you can imagine.   Most seem to be in the 5 – 15 minute length, but I have not had the chance to look at all 123,000 of them to say for sure!

My favorite workouts at home are yoga and dance,  and sometimes pilates.  I’d love to hear what type of at home exercise routines you are doing!

 

 

 


 



 Chicken Chicken Chicken Chicken. Egg.

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.”
     ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Lady Madonna, one of our new chickens

 

 

Almost two weeks ago, we bought four chickens from a local microbiologist.  Despite the oddity of buying from someone whose interest in chickens seemed to be somewhat scientific – he was interested in egg color or something along that nature – it was a perfectly normal transaction.

Chris walked through the chicken yard with the owner and pointed out the hens we chose.  I hung back on the other side of the fence, not quite trusting the birds. Their beaks looked pointier and their claws much sharper than I expected.  Four hens – two beige and two dark tan ones – were lifted by their legs, carried briefly upside-down and loaded into the cage we brought.

After a noisy but uneventful ride home, Chris released the chickens into the chicken coop that he had built for them in the barn.  We coaxed them out into the yard.  We poured feed into their brand-new automatic feeder  – it resembled a big tin can the size of an oatmeal canister fastened above a big tin plate.   Their watering container was filled with fresh water.  The nesting boxes had fresh dried grass.  The bottom of the coop was lined with pine shavings.

We named the hens Lady Madonna (that’s her in the photo), Henny Penny, Lucy, and Ethyl.

Henny Penny took a fancy to Chris right away and breaks out into a run toward him whenever she sees him.  It could have something to do with the fact that he is the one who feeds them, but it’s fun to watch at any rate.

We got the chickens because we wanted the advantage of fresh eggs with higher nutrient content as well as to simply enjoy raising chickens.  We had space in the otherwise unused barn and a large fenced in area and Chris enjoys raising animals, so it seemed a natural step.

I started checking for eggs from the first day.  A couple of  times a day, I took a tour around the coop, checking the nesting boxes, the floor, and all the ledges.  Then I walked all over the yard, looking for eggs.  Nothing.

Our hens are a breed usually raised for broiling rather than laying eggs (Freedom Rangers).  They are usually not as prolific with egg-laying as other breeds.  While we plan to add more traditionally egg-laying pullets (no roosters!) over the next couple of months, we got these mostly because Chris had finished our coop and the opportunity presented itself to get these four hens.

We waited almost two weeks.  Every day the same question:  Did you find any eggs?  Answer: Nope.  Repeat daily, sometimes several times a day. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nothing.

We started getting a little nervous.  Would they lay eggs at all?  I was already attached to our “girls”, and loved watching their antics, even though I still felt cautious around them.  We decided we were keeping them regardless.

Then it happened. Chris went out to clean the coop and check on the “girls.”  There, in the coop (not in the nesting box, but that’s another story of chicken-egg-laying lessons learned) was a beautiful, perfectly formed brown egg.

Brown egg freshly laid

 

You would think we’d never seen an egg before.  It was simply lovely.  The egg was surprisingly clean, smooth, and I’d swear it had a bit of a glow about it.  We had a mini-celebration in the chicken yard.   I suspect this type of reaction on our part will wear off eventually as the hens start laying regularly.

Who laid the egg?  Not one of the hens behaved in the least bit differently.  We don’t know, but I think it was Lady Madonna.

Myself, I’ll never look at an egg quite the same way.   I understand now why a microbiologist would be fascinated with them. They are an oval-shaped miracle.

Have you had any experience raising chickens?