[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Experience Summer Camp

daisy dreamingYes, I realize we are nearing the end of those “summer camp” days, but I think there’s still time for you to have a summer camp experience. Perhaps you have already sent your kids back to school, and you have gotten back into the school routine with carpools and after-school activity schedules. Or now that the calendar has shifted, you find yourself adapting to a new/familiar routine. But did you have a chance to run barefoot through the sprinklers, eat a Popsicle under a shady tree, or just curl up and get lost in a new book for an entire afternoon? Let your imagination and your creativity have a play date.

Farmer’s Union Camp was not anything glamorous.  Located at the edge of Whitewater State Park in the heart of Midwestern farmland, the camp had seen better days having taken abuse from the hundreds of summer campers over the years.  But for my brother and me, we were eager to have the opportunity to stay in a cabin with kids other than our brothers and sisters from Tuesday through Friday night.

It was the trip of a lifetime. My one summer camp experience included hiking in a state park, sleeping in bunk beds in pine cabins with eight others, painting ceramics, and performing in a Fractured Fairytale skit which we helped write.  

My mother had the ceramic fruit we painted on her kitchen wall for years. I remember the rainy afternoon we labored over the exact red we wanted for the apples and the perfect shade of yellow for the bananas.  By the time my daughter went off to summer camp, her activities included horseback riding and panning for gold in the Colorado Rockies.

Take a minute to think about what your favorite summer camp experience was as a kid. Didn’t have one? Well, choose an activity and make it happen! Summer 2016 will soon be a memory. Give yourself  the summer camp treatment!

photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Go Bounty Hunting

July heat brings the easy living and the abundant foods of summer.  If you have been putting off taking a break because your work schedule doesn’t take a vacation just because the calendar says it is summer – take yourself  browsing at a street fair or a farmer’s market.

Check the local listings and make a date with yourself for this weekend or block out a day to take a long lunch to explore the bounty. Bring home something seasonal for dinner, or a trinket from a street fair stall. 

My step-father tells tales of going out to the rhubarb patch with a bowl of sugar to “chow down” on green and red veined stalks. I have fond memories of climbing up into the branches of the apple tree outside our house and gorging myself on the sweet little green apples (they were the size of apricots and tasted like pears). My aunt enjoys this time of year because she absolutely loves tomatoes. She relishes eating them just the way an apple enthusiast looks forward to biting into a tart, juicy Granny Smith.  No cutting it up into slices, wedges or bite-size pieces – she just brings it to her mouth and bites down letting the juices and seeds fall where they may.

Congratulations if you have been nurturing a garden and now are able to enjoy the fruits of your labor by simply stepping outside to your backyard. Savor the warmth from the sun, the sweetness from the earth and the satisfaction of your home grown repast. You have a hobby that is is a feast for the eyes as well as your stomach! 

 

photo credit:  MEKnippel

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] It’s Women’s History Month so Celebrate YOU!

Happy woman with stretched arms in flower fieldMarch is Women’s History Month…let’s celebrate YOU!

Among the many women we could celebrate from world leaders, distinguished scholars, educators, healers, accomplished entertainers, and those who do countless other jobs serving humanity, don’t forget to honor the one who greets you in the mirror every morning – You!

Yes, You. You are a leader in your corner of the world. No one can tell a Knock Knock joke quite like you. And you are the Go-To Gal for all the homework questions! While you may not see yourself as making any grand gestures in the world (doing mountains of laundry, packing lunches, preparing dinners, sewing Halloween costumes, supervising craft projects,  filling Christmas stockings, and driving the circumference of the earth to band practice, soccer, ballet, gymnastics, ice skating, hockey, and piano), but I’m sure there are those in your life who would disagree with you.

Give yourself a pat on the back and a “You Go, Girl!” cheer.

What you do matters and you deserve to be celebrated for every dirty sock, meatloaf, meeting, report and all of the other thousands of creative things you do!

While to the world, you may never be famous, never be written up in Who’s Who, or interviewed on Oprah, you are a very important person in your circle…important in your own life.

In honor of National Women’s History Month, I celebrate YOU. I celebrate me. I celebrate Us. Let’s celebrate each other! 

photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Compose a love letter…

quil antique paper writingWrite a love letter…to your valentine. That’s not an unusual suggestion. February is for lovers and this time of year we all may be looking for love and forgetting that we already have somebody to love…YOU! Greeting card sentiments cannot capture your unique essence.

Those mass produced remarks cannot reflect your true authentic self. It is up to you to write a short note of love, encouragement, pride, and gratitude to show your inner self tangible evidence that the outer world recognizes how amazing she is! 

Don’t worry about procedure, if you have pretty handwriting (this is definitely a time you want to have direct hand-heart connection), or fancy paper. Writing lines of love establishes an emotional connection. If you have never actually sent a love letter before, I’m sure you have written them in your head many times. Now is an excellent time to learn what an impact this incredible gift and loving gesture can have when you give it to yourself.

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world. But before it produces a transformation in the other person, it has to produce a transformation within us. Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.” 
― Thich Nhat HanhYour True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings from the beloved Zen teacher 

photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Jump into the New Year!

bubble bathJump into 2016!

January 8th is National Bubble Bath Day…my favorite kind of hot water! And you can celebrate this holiday whenever you want. I eagerly jump in and celebrate with one on a regular basis.

How is the new year treating you? Did you jump in with both feet…anxious to start something new? Or are you wading in…cautiously dipping your toe in the water?

Either approach works…it doesn’t matter…just so you are getting excited about the new year and launch into making your dreams a reality. That takes planning, of course, and work to transform fantasy into fact.  Whether it is your Bucket List, your 5-year plan, or that nagging need to master a skill that has eluded you…

What do you want to explore?

What do you want to discover?

What do you want to learn?

I remember when I was learning how to swim as a little girl. There wasn’t a pool in our town, so we took lessons in the summer. For one glorious week giggling and excited elementary-aged children, clutching terry cloth towels, decked out in bathing suits under our t-shirts and shorts, and smelling of suntan lotion,  boarded a bus to cross the Minnesota border into a neighboring Iowa town.

As I recall, we spent more time on the bus coming and going, goofing off on the playground equipment, and waiting in line at the snack bar than we did in the water. Little wonder I never progressed past the Guppie class where I mastered floating on my back and putting my face in the water. I always hated being in any part of the pool where I couldn’t touch bottom and that the water was so cold.

Eventually, I did learn to swim as a adult, but I still get uncomfortable in the deep end of the pool. And I still hate when the water is too cold.

Wonder if that is why I love bubble baths? I definitely can touch bottom, and the water is wonderfully warm in temperature. 

What are you jumping into in 2016? 

photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Joy…

Do you like music? Do you let it touch your heart and get deep into your soul?

This time of year the sounds of the season are everywhere. Perhaps the piped in stuff in the mall and the store’s sound systems are not exactly optimum musical enjoyment, but I hope you are able to recognize the melody most of the time.

I love all the music (well almost all…not the Grandma…reindeer one) whether it is disjointed or symphonic. With a daughter who took dance from age 3 until high school, I’ve also had the pleasure of attending performances (not to mention the pre-requisite rehearsals) of The Nutcracker probably close to a hundred times.

When I was growing up, learning new music for the Christmas programs was very exciting. Music class was devoted to learning new songs. None of us read music, so it was a matter of repetition. Sister Judith would play the melody then we’d repeat, repeat, and repeat some more.

We had programs every year from elementary through high school. At Sacred Heart Elementary, our programs followed the story of Joseph and Mary on their journey to Bethlehem. Usually my brothers, sisters and I were in the choir, or maybe even angels on stage. A few times I got to be Mary cradling Baby Jesus, really my Tiny Tears doll, wrapped in swaddling clothes. My favorite songs today are the ones I learned for the children’s programs and performed for the cold drafty auditorium filled with friends and family. Only hours before, in the same auditorium where we’d been eating fish sticks and peas, our cold drafty auditorium was transformed into a celestial oasis.

What sort of music are you creating this season?

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Here’s to pumpkin eaters

I don’t know about you, but all this talk about pumpkins has gotten me very hungry for my favorite kind of pumpkin treat…no, not pie. I love pumpkin bars. You know, the kind with thick cream cheese frosting. So, I went to my battered recipe file, pulled out the Here’s what’s cookin’ index card with my crisp 1973 secretarial handwriting, and looked over the list of ingredients to share the idea with you here.

When I look at my recipe box, it’s like a visit with family and friends. I cherish the pieces of paper with Grandma Emma’s handwritten instructions to make sure the bacon is crisp on her German potato salad. Or, to drain the doughnuts well before you sprinkle them with powdered sugar. I am grateful that I was able to learn so much about baking from her. She was so creative in the way she was always eager to try a new cake or bar recipe and then tweak it a little to make it her own. 

Pumpkin bars:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ICING:
  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cream (half ‘n half)

Directions

  • In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until well blended. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well (as if you were making a cake). Pour into an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.
  • Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until set. Cool completely.
  • For icing, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl. Add enough cream to achieve spreading consistency. Spread over bars. Store in the refrigerator. 

Enjoy!

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Observe moments of Grace

stary coastside (1)Now that it’s November our thoughts may turn to time spent with family and friends gathered for a festive affair, or the first inkling of overwhelm in anticipation of daily To-Do lists to insure everyone in our life has a wonderful holiday.

You deserve a wonderful holiday too. And here’s how to make sure you get it.

Now is the time for you to put a new plan into motion, a strategy designed to empower and nurture you, and to assure that the end of the year will bring you tidings of comfort and joy along with comfy slippers and new PJ’s.

When you are making your list of things to buy, places to go, stuff to do, remember to include Hot Chocolate breaks on your errand runs, listen to seasonal music while you bake cookies, stir up a batch of fudge (in my case Peanut Clusters) or write your holiday letter (The Nutcracker comes to mind), schedule a Christmas classic movie marathon (all versions of Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, even Frosty the Snowman)while wrapping gifts, and observing silent nights while watching the evening sky for one special bright shining star.

photo credit:  canva.com

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Positively positive…

Positive thinkingCall it mindset, inspiration, optimism, confidence, creativity, habit, attitude, motivation, intelligence, relationship, belief or reasoning…what you think influences what you do.

October is Positive Attitude Month and I believe for your own well-being, you’d benefit from every day being a Positive Attitude Day.

What would happen if you changed your mindset for one day to stay positive in your thinking for 24 hours? Consider the possibility your positive attitude would be a magnet attracting others to you and opening up wonderful opportunities for you. The ultimate result is that an intentional change in your behavior will have such an impact on you, you’ll continue the next 24, the next 24 and so on.

Great..you are thinking! Another thing for me to do in my overcrowded day. I realize that change is challenging…not impossible…your new behavior could be a small piece of a bigger result:  

  • to achieve a healthy lifestyle, you start by cutting back on your soda consumption and drinking water instead
  • to write a book, you start by keeping a journal and writing in it for five minutes a day about your subject
  • to have better relationships, spend time together and deepen your connections 
  • to start a big project, you’d write down all the steps involved in the project
  • to be more creative, you may want to visit an art class or pick up a craft kit and play. Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the benefits of  play and adventure so that you can experience contentment and joy, and explore and build new skills.

Drop over to my Facebook page to share what you will do to recognize Positive Attitude Month?

Photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Take a walk in the fall colors

Fall is here, can you feel it? It arrived just when the pumpkins started showing up and the air began to have that crispness you only feel in the fall. It’s been such a grey summer here on the Coastside and we may be missing the carefree beach days which we never got around to having. There’s still time!

Fall is a time of new beginnings…starting back to school…starting to harvest the crops…starting another quarter in the business world.

Walk in  your neighborhood, a local park, observe the trees along busy city streets, or the changing  landscape in the fields near you. I’m lucky enough to have  the Coastal Trail where I can enjoy all the new scenes Nature has to share with us.

What is your favorite way to enjoy the change of seasons?

In Minnesota, the burnt oranges, golden reds and bronzed greens crunched under our feet.  In Colorado, the golden hues let us know what time of year it was. 

Trees, shrubs and plants are dressed up for the occasion…let’s give them some attention!

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Visit Hermitland…

Have you noticed the leaves? Are you enjoying the golden hues? Or, do you find yourself ignoring the trees because you are so busy fighting your way through the forest? Maybe you just want to find a cave and be by yourself.

Did you know October actually has a National Hermit Day? Perhaps you’d like to make that holiday a cherished tradition where you go off by yourself to ponder all the wonderful things about living a hermit’s life. Would that spark some creativity?

Getting away by yourself. A retreat away from the world and time to concentrate on YOU!

Living in a cave would mean not much housekeeping, that sounds good. But not being hooked up to electricity and modern plumbing would be bad. I have a friend who takes her children camping, but brings all the comforts of home with her. The tent has three rooms, there is a television set and refrigerator powered by a portable generator. Is that really ruffing it? Guess a campground really isn’t Hermitland after all, but the general principle is the same. Wanting to get away from everything and bond with Nature. That part I can get behind. Spending time listening to the quiet and being able to hear your own thoughts. Sounds lovely.

Well, you don’t have to disappear into a cave in Hermitland, or take all the comforts of home with you at a campground. Pack yourself off for a walk in the neighborhood, or stop on a tree-lined street on your way home from work. Just drink in the beauty of this time of year. Have a mini-retreat for a few minutes counting the colors of the leaves, maybe even press some in your journal, and write about how the colors make you feel.

How many hues do your see?

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Sharpen your colored pencils

notebook and penSchool is back in session again. Take advantage of the back -to-school sales to stock up on notebooks, pencils, pens and grab that big box of 64 colors. Go shopping for your inner child and pick up anything and everything you on your special edition school supply list…something you wanted desperately…and never got! Now is your chance to indulge in that paint set, the colored markers, construction paper in all the colors of the rainbow…and more. Take your time picking out notebooks, 3-ring binders and filler paper. Check out the pocket folders and don’t torture yourself over the decision of how to choose between the sweet kitties, Charlie Brown or Justin Bieber.

Students at Sacred Heart Elementary never had the option of anything more exotic than the Big Chief writing tablet and No. 2 pencils. The Franciscan nuns were, of course, concerned with our spiritual well-being and not as concerned with us tapping into our creativity. I remember an art project where we had a choice to paint something with primary colors of red, blue and yellow, or black and white. I wanted to create my own colors and Sister insisted I choose one or the other and not waste her time experimenting. It started me thinking that I was wrong because I wanted to do something different. As an adult, I can see her frustration of having to manage 25 energetic elementary school children wielding paint brushes.

So today I make it my mission to create messes and add color to everyone I encounter in my life…life is too short not to explore your creativity when you have a fresh box of crayons and blank sheet of paper!