Did anyone else panic upon seeing wet, snow flurries glide past his or her window this weekend? I literally shouted, No! I already unboxed sandals and put away boots. I refuse to go back to winter. I’d like to think Mother Nature heard my indignant plea, because only a few minutes later the sun creeped back out. As I’m sure most of us are, I’m excited and oh, so ready for spring weather, and I have the perfect place to visit to shake off that sleepy winter haze.
The place is called Lone Elk Park and it’s located in St. Louis County adjacent to I-44. This park is home to beautiful wildlife, including deer, various birds, chipmunks, and bison, yet is most famously known for--you guessed it--elk! I have ventured there twice, once in the fall as the leaves turned bright red, yellow, and orange, and another time in early January with a friend visiting from Germany. Both experiences were awesome and totally free (side note: this is a great, cost-saving date idea).
Visitors can park their vehicles and walk the trails that weave through the trees and around the lake. If visitors choose to be more adventurous, they can get up close and personal, but not too personal (I’m looking at you with the selfie stick), with wild elk and bison. Visitors are not allowed to be on foot while approaching these wild animals. To avoid frightening the animals and to keep yourself safe, pay attention to all the signs and respect the rules. It’s important to remember that we are the ones imposing on the animals’ homes, so fight the temptation to do anything dangerous and just take in the relaxing sights before you. You will leave feeling rejuvenated and maybe even lighter after all those walking steps.
About three years ago, I became a podcast fanatic. The timing of this newfound hobby was not merely a coincidence as this was around the season I really began suffering from feeling alone and bored (you can read more about this in my most recent post “Being Alone and Happy”). After hearing a few random episodes with a friend, and everyone’s chatter about the series Serial, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. I downloaded the Stitcher app, which offers free downloads of about a bajillion podcasts--and that is an official number--some short, some long, some in between, and ones absolutely ev-er-y-thing. I try new podcasts regularly, but I am very loyal to three and I want to highlight one of those today.
One of those three is the podcast Happier.
Awesome name, right? The title alone speaks volumes, implying that it wants you to be better than where you stood today, and that might not mean that you’ll feel the happiest you’ve ever been, but it does mean you’ll feel happier.
This podcast is hosted by Gretchen Rubin, an observer of human nature, particularly what things, big and small, help people feel stronger, productive, loved, and calm, and anything else that fosters happiness. Rubin’s sister Elizabeth Craft joins her for each episode, and this may have been what drew me into the first episode I played, since I have a sister too. I enjoy how supportive they are of each other as well as how much they care about their listeners.
Happier is a podcast that is safe to listen with children. On top of that, because of its laid back nature, it’s an easy listen, one that you can play as nice background sound while doing other things, like household chores. Nevertheless, most times I do actively listen to the episodes, having learned helpful strategies for enjoying life and quite a bit about myself. Fyi, I am a procrasti-clearer and you might be too!
Visit Gretchen Rubin’s website for all of the podcast episodes and other cool things, such as The Four Tendencies Quiz: https://gretchenrubin.com/
Is there a podcast series that hooked you? Tell us in the comments below!
It’s no secret that in the last decade Smartphones have nearly become our next of kin. Smartphones help us do everything these days. I may be in the minority, but I really hate that. Okay, not having to bring a camera, a GPS, a cell phone, a laptop, and an audiobook, plus their chargers, on a vacation is remarkable, since all of those tasks can now be completed with one device.
We can do everything! Anytime! How could I hate that? My discontentment, really, lies in this logic’s counterpart. When I have my Smartphone I feel like I actually have to do everything. Respond to emails, open social media notifications, shop online, you name it. Furthermore, if I forget my Smartphone, I feel like I can’t do anything.
I don’t like that much reliance on one device, and definitely don’t like realizing I spent 30 mindless minutes on social media when I could have done something more productive, like hitting the hay early. Is there any way to stop the urge to grab our phones when we have a nanosecond of spare time? According to Manoush Zomorodi, the creator of the podcast Note to Self, YES! Her podcast, along with her other endeavors, explores how we navigate this tech-overload, information-overload world, and stay human and, in turn, sane.
In 2015, Zomorodi created a challenge for her Note to Self listeners called “Bored and Brilliant.” The challenge helps listeners disintegrate their increasing dependence on Smartphones, and counterintuitively, get bored. Zomorodi found in her own exploration that when people have a chance to be bored--and that’s completely bored, not the playing Candy Crush bored--they can unlock brilliance.
Have you ever heard people say that they have great ideas in the shower or running clears their minds? Zomorodi conjectures that our brains need boredom to feel refreshed and creative.
Right now, I am having my Creative Writing students attempt the challenge (one podcast per week, instead of day, so we have time to reflect and discuss how things went). At first, they weren’t on board. But before the first challenge week ended, I overheard students talking about what was difficult and how successful or not they had been. When discussions about class curriculum emerge naturally among students, meaning no teacher prompting, that’s a special moment.
Before we listened to the first podcast, I explained to my class that to be a creative writer you have to allow your mind to wander, and sometimes that means putting down the phone. We are currently in challenge week three. I hope that by the end of the challenge my students will at least be conscientious of their phone usage and choose to use it for productive purposes, not to procrastinate, not to avoid speaking to people, not to evade being in the moment.
If you desire to spend less time on your phone or never back down from a challenge, you can find the podcast challenge here: https://www.wnyc.org/series/bored-and-brilliant.
I must also recommend Zomorodi’s book titled Bored and Brilliant. I discovered her book before learning that she created a complementary podcast. The book is interesting and explains each challenge thoroughly. She also explains how she came to this discovery about boredom and brilliance, which puts the entire study into perspective. You can find more information about the book here: http://www.manoushz.com/book.
How is your relationship with your Smartphone? Do you need a break from each other? Tell us in the comments below!
I have to share one of my favorite gifts that I received this Christmas - a cookbook holder. Now that I have settled back into my routines, post-holidays, I have settled back into cooking, which is something I really enjoy.
Until my cookbook flops shut and I have to nudge it open with an elbow because my hands are covered in sticky ingredients. Why aren’t cookbooks made to lie flat? We have figured out how to call our friends hands-free while driving; I think cookbooks need the same technology.
I probably could avoid this nuisance if I used technology instead of an old-school hardback cookbook, like an iPad, as many people do nowadays to view recipes, but I’m generally a low-tech girl. I also have several beautiful cookbooks at home already. I almost feel like I’m cheating when I google a recipe instead of sifting through recipes created by people I know and love, like my family and next-door neighbors (smalltown fundraising cookbooks) or the Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks.
The cookbook holder my parents gifted me (thanks Mom and Dad!) is the Norpro Acrylic Book Holder. I love it because it’s like having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. This one is clear, simple, and sturdy. Many cookbooks are decorative, making them handy as well as pretty. Personally, I wanted a plain one since I don’t have much counter space. Because it is not decorative, the Norpro Book Holder is slim. I can easily slide it into a cabinet once I’m done using it. When I use this holder, my cookbooks are protected, too, and that’s a must because chopping and dicing can create a delicious disaster.
If you prefer using devices when cooking or doing other tasks, the Norpro Book Holder can accommodate iPads and tablets, too! Click the link to see if this kitchen gadget could work for you: https://www.amazon.com/Norpro-Acrylic-CookBook-Tablet-Holder/dp/B0002ZFXOQ.
*image credit Amazon