Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Winter Blahs, part three


Winter just drags on and on, doesn't it? I never find myself complaining that spring or fall drags on and on. I hardly ever gripe about summer, but I know others who do. Winter takes so much effort from us to stay warm, focused, productive, and even safe. These last tips on surviving the winter blahs are important.

Eat right. That's right, eat with care, concern, and wisdom. When the blahs hit, we often reach for a sugar high to boost our energy. Sugar may give us a high, but it also quickly lets you slide once more. Highly processed carbohydrates react in our bodies as pure sugar...quick boost, no long term help. Think of these carbs or sugary treats as straw in a campfire. A bright blaze and quickly gone.

Instead of a sugar boost, reach for a complex carbs like oatmeal and other whole grains. Fruit gives you a quick sugar high, but also a helping of fiber and nutrients. Even better is a small amount of protein...string cheese, a hard-boiled egg, some chicken, a hand full of walnuts or almonds. Protein stabilizes your blood sugar so you aren't craving a quick fix. Imagine a well seasoned oak log on the fire place...long burning and heat generating.

I can't tell you how much I crave comfort foods during cold gray days. If I eat well, I feel better and I'm more able to cope with the depression of the season. If I don't eat well...let's just say the cycle spirals downward.

A quick word about supplements. I'm reading a lot about the benefits of Vitamin D supplements these days. It seems that even if we spend time outdoors, many of us aren't producing enough Vitamin D, especially in the winter. This vitamin is not only good for bones, but may play a role in depression as well. Not enough means more depression. Consider adding a supplement to your diet.

Exercise. When eat well came up on the list, you knew exercise wasn't far behind. Exercise, deep-breathing, heart pounding, sweaty exercise releases feel good endorphins in our brains. Fresh doses of oxygen bathe our brain cells. Exercise warms muscles, flushes toxins, and burns calories. It just plain feels good to exercise. If you dislike getting out in the weather, invest in a piece of exercise equipment...and don't hang your laundry on it. Buy a few work out DVDs. Thirty minutes a day is all you really need. Load your iPod with great music or an audio book to listen to as you work out. I have friends who strap a laptop to the rack of their treadmill so they can watch a DVD or download of a movie or TV show as they stride. I prefer getting outside, even on cold days. I just flat out need the sunlight. So, if you are like me, invest in quality workout gear for outdoors. Layers are everything because as you walk or jog, you will get warmer and warmer. Don't forget to slather on moisturizer to protect your skin, too.

Lastly, do something. Travel--(St. Martin, anyone?) Take a class. Host a book club. Throw a party. Start a new project. Create. Keep yourself busy and active. Spring will be here before you know it!

Thanks for all your comments on these posts. It comforts me to know I'm not the only one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stained Glass Saturday


The Pilot Guy and I did another stained glass class on Saturday. In this class, we made boxes.
The most challenging part was deciding exactly what designs and glass to use. The owners of the shop had a big box of glass scraps and pieces to choose from. Plus, they would happily grab a piece off the sale shelves if we couldn't find the color we wanted. It was like being a kid in a toy store.

Designing the box was another challenge, but a happy one. I hadn't gone to the class expecting to get to make our own design. Fun.


The class of glass results

One way to beat winter blahs is to do something creative and colorful. Taking the time to learn a new artistic outlet gives your brain and spirit a new jolt, too.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Winter Blahs, part two

Frosty Frog Fowl Feeder

I hope you've had a chance to revel in some color in the past few days. It helps to notice something besides the cold and the dreary, doesn't it? I've enjoyed all your terrific comments. It seems I'm not the only one who gets the winter blahs.

Here are a few more tips for surviving the winter blahs. None of them will turn an avowed heat lovin' summer person into a winter lover, but hey, if it helps a person get through........

Light. This probably should have gone first. If you are affected by gray skies, turn on the lamps inside. We've actually gone through the house and replaced 60 watt bulbs with 100 watt bulbs just for the light boost during long winters. Open the curtains and let in the light. In Belgium, where the skies are often cloudy all day, the homes and apartments are designed with huge windows to gather every bit of sky light. It helps. There are professionally made lights just for people with SAD. I've never used one, but instead taken the idea and modified it for my own benefit. Look into getting one if you need more of a boost than ordinary lights can give.

I go as far as to light the darkness outside as well. After the Christmas decor is taken down and packed away, we put a couple of strands of white lights in the shrubs near the front porch. It's not Christmas decor, its winter wonderland decor. It stays up until near the end of February. This year, my son's girlfriend gave me a strand of flower garland patio lights for Christmas. We've wound those into the Japanese maple potted near the front door for a warm, quiet light. Every thing is on timers, so the lights come on at dusk and off sometime during the wee hours. This year, we also made the shift to LED lights for energy savings. Can I just say LED white lights are not white, but blue...and rather ghastly? I'm not sure I like them.

Get out in the sun when ever you can. One January in Belgium there were exactly five, count 'em, five days with an hour or two of sun. The rest were typical gray, cloudy days. Short, gray, and cloudy. For years, I've told my family and friends I'm solar powered, so you can believe that I was out in that sun every single time. Same applies here...Bundle up and take a walk. Drag a patio chair to a protected location and bask. Pretend you are a cat and stretch out near a sunny window.


Embrace winter. Yes, it's cold, gray, snowy, icy, and windy. But some days it's crisp with sunlight glistening through ice crystals or glinting off snow. Some mornings are ethereal with foggy frost. Enjoy the stark beauty that is winter. Learn to dress warmly and well so winter doesn't lock you inside. My friend in upper NY state, Rose, purchased snowshoes for her family. Together they can enjoy a nearby park with a path that leads to a lake. It sounds enchanting to me. I like to take a camera or sketchbook outside to capture some of the fleeting beauty of this season. The beauty is there if we look for it.

Make a list of the things you like best about winter. Don't say there isn't something you like....everyone likes hot chocolate don't they? Or hot coffee? Okay, then, hot chocolate/coffee/tea goes on the list. My list includes snuggling under a lap quilt with a fat book someone else has slaved over. A fire in the fireplace. Hot tapioca pudding. Icicles. Snowmen. Cozy sweatshirts. Flannel pants. Soups and stews. Cardinals at the bird feeder. Seeing bird's nests from last summer in the leafless trees. Make a list of what you do enjoy and post it on the fridge or in your journal. Can you get one hundred things on your list? Make sure you take time to savor those instead of hurrying past them.

Go make your list and we will compare in a day or two. I have one more set of tips for winter survival to post in a few more days. Until then, stay warm, turn up the lights, and focus on the pleasures of the season.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jolt of Color

In my last post, I told you to add a jolt of color to your gray winter days. Here's mine:


I found these at Tuesday Morning. Love them. Bright, cheerful colors that remind me of tulips for some reason. Even the insides are glazed a pretty color. Seeing them in the cabinet makes me happy.

More tips on beating the winter blahs coming in my next posts. In the mean time, the daffodils are doing their darnedest to usher in spring. Like sunbeams on the ground.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Winter Blahs, part one


The mid-winter blahs have me in their cold, gray grip. It seems a bit pathetic since we haven't had a long or significantly cold winter. Lethargy, a surfeit of ideas, and a craving for cheap carbohydrates are some of the symptoms. Every problem presses down, every goal seems too hard, and the siren call of mindless TV beckons endlessly. Plain and simple seasonal affective disorder or SAD. The acronym sums it up nicely.

I wonder if creative souls are more sensitive to seasonal depression than other folks. I've fought with this all my life. Over the years, I've learned to cope with the winter blahs without resorting to mayhem or drugs....too often anyway. Over the next few days I'll share things that keep me afloat during this season.

1. Color. When the landscape is dead grass brown and the skies are gray, I crave color.

Wear something bright...a shirt, a favored piece of jewelry, or a happy scarf. My purple and sunflower lap quilt was designed with damp, gray days in mind. A perfect jolt of warmth and color.

Put up some bold art.

Print out your favorite flower or beach photos and hang them where you can see them every day.

Paint your fingernails.

Paint the walls.

Buy the big box of crayons and use every one.

Eat colorful vegetables and fruits and pretend you are eating sunshine.

Visit an art museum or a favorite shop and notice color.

Winter is the only time I buy flower bouquets since I grow my own the rest of the year. A bunch of purple tulips, the happy faces of yellow daisies, or sweetly scented hyanciths add so much life to a room. A five or ten dollar grocery store bouquet can last a week or more and give me much pleasure. Living green plants add a touch of life to a room, plus they actively filter the air of many toxins.

Erase the gray....How many ways can you add color to your life today?

Winter is a season of our lives. It can be a time of joy and creativity if we know how to approach it wisely. In the next few days, I'll post more tips on coping with this season.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Touch Of Spring

For all my cold, snow-covered, northern friends....spring is stirring in Texas. Hopefully, these will keep your hopes alive...there are flowers under all that cold stuff.





We are having April weather on these February days. Makes me worry that we will have February weather in April....which would be a bummer for the spring veggies and flowers.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Want To Be More Creative?


Maybe you should paint your studio blue.

A recent study finds the color blue promotes creative thought while the color red helps emphasise detail. Given the same question of how many uses they could come up with for a brick, testers answered with practical answers when the question was displayed on a red background. 'Build a house' for example. Asked the same question but with a blue background, testers responded with more creative plans for the brick. "Make a paperweight or build a cat scratching post' type ideas.

From what I read, we associate red with caution, precision, and danger. Red traffic lights, red teacher marks, red alert lights. Previous studies found sports teams wearing red won more games and seemed more intimidating. (Is this why the Texas Rangers have added a new red uniform to this season's selections? Is it a coincidence that the team was a powerhouse in the late ninties when their uniforms were red?)

Red increases precision and attention to detail...great for proofreading, don't you think?

Blue, on the other hand, makes us think relaxing thoughts. Sunny skies, calm seas. Freedom. Happiness.

Naturally, the study of color's effect on creativity is still in the baby stages. More will come. It is still my personal belief that colors which make you happy are the colors an artist needs to surround him or herself with. For me, that remains yellows, greens, and purples. Interesting though, that purple is a combination of both red and blue.

In the meantime, can it hurt to add some lush blue accents to your creative space? Even something small to rest your eyes on can prove diverting. A piece of art. A book whose cover is predominately blue. A rich blue fabric. A pot of blue flowers. Try it and see if you think it makes a difference. I'd like to hear what you think.