Update

Hi everyone! I apologize for being so absent this last week. I have been very sick! I plan to return to normal posting very soon, and I will be sharing a new recipe with you! I also plan on sharing a few reviews. I hope you all are having a great day, and I look forward to writing for you some more. 

Week Two

Question for Week Two:

What did you last dream about?
My answer: I dreamt about sitting in a garden surrounded by lavender. I think that I was cloud gazing. 

The Start of my Weekly Blogging Challenge

Hey everyone!
I’m not going to lie, tonight has been terribly painful. I haven’t slept because of the deep pain in my hip and back. But, I’m trying to stay positive and face the morning with a metaphorical spring to my step… 

I’ve decided that I want to do a weekly blogging challenge to keep me motivated and on track. These posts will be mixed in with my normal post schedule, and I will try to keep these being posted on Saturday each week.

My goal with this challenge is to get to know the WordPress (and general blogging) community, while also letting you get to know me better. With each challenge will be a question that I will answer. After you read, please feel free to respond in any way you like. You can answer the question or simply respond to my answer.

If you have a blog of your own, feel free to follow along and respond to these on your own blog, I only ask that you source the challenge back to me when relevant.

My first question for the Weekly Challenge is: 

If you could have grown up in any different location, where would you choose? Do you think that growing up in that place would change your personality or outlook on life?
My response:

Although the Midwest is truly the place I consider my home, I have always wanted to live in Greece, Germany, or Italy. However, these places inspire me because of the beauty in the area. I don’t know how it would change me to grow up there, but I do know that I would not be the person I am today if I had grown up in a different area. So much of our life is shaped by our childhood influences. 


Quick, Cheap, and Filling ONE-POT Dinner Option

Hey everyone! I’m having a rough day, so this post is going to be short and sweet, but I hope that it proves useful for someone. I wanted to make a filling meal that would not require me to leave the house or work too hard when I’m feeling so ill. So, I grabbed a few things from the pantry and it turned out fantastic and was so simple! I’m going to walk you through it, and if you have suggestions for future recipes you would like me to try to find quick fixes for let me know!
What you need:

    Instructions:

    1. Fill a pot with about 8.5-9 cups of water. Though the soup mix only needs 8, you want to add just a tiny bit more since we will be adding in some rice.
    2. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
    3. Pour in the soup mix and stir.
    4. Lower the temperature of the burner to medium heat.
    5. Pour in some ragu pasta mix (I used the version made with meat, but the soup mix suggests that any pasta or tomato sauce will be fine.) In regards to how much to add, it’s all up to taste. I added about a cup, but you can add more or less depending on the thickness you want to your meal.
    6. Pour in rice as you cook. DON’T make the mistake of pouring in too much all at once. The rice may not look like it’s going to be much when you first add it in, but it will expand as you cook. The more rice you add the more filling the meal will be, and it will cover more servings if you go for a rice-heavy mixture.
    7. Continue to periodically stir, but beyond that this meal cooks itself! The soup itself will be ready to serve after about 10 minutes, but you can cook slightly longer to adjust to the added rice if needed.
    8. Serve and enjoy!

    Restless Insomnia for the Anxious: a Guide to Sleepy Mornings and Tired Eyes

    Good (early) morning everyone. 

    The time is currently 5:49 am. I have not yet slept, and I am absolutely exhausted. My cat seems to be sleeping just fine, and I can’t say that I’m not jealous! 

    I want to take a few moments to reach out to my fellow insomniacs…. Beyond even that, I want to touch base with everyone who feels more awake when the sun sets. Where are my “night people?”

    Over the years I’ve heard so many “helpful” tips to battle my odd sleep schedule. I’ve been called lazy for sleeping in despite getting my best work done at night. People often stress that I could get better sleep if I tried hot tea before bed or reading or even (and these are the worst suggestions) “forcing” myself to sleep. Countless nights I have laid awake and counted the cracks that lined my ceiling. 

    None of these things ever work, and anyone with chronic insomnia knows that to be true. 

    That being said, I want to share some of the things that actually help me get rest. Don’t let my current insomnia fool you-I’m awake because I’ve spent the last 5 hours writing and touching up old stories. When this post is published I’m heading to peaceful bliss.

    Without further ado, here’s my list of sleepy time resources.

    • Aromatherapy is perfection. Some people try to stress that you need expensive diffusers and oils to get the most out of this, but I detest that notion. You can purchase a small diffuser / humidifier hybrid for around 17$ at Wal-Mart (here) and some websites offer diffusers for an even cheaper price because they usually sell product in bulk. Find an essential oil that comforts you. Sure, lavender is excellent for bedtime-but not for everyone. Piping Rock offers discount essential oils. 
    • White noise! Now, Chase knows that I don’t always find the most peace with this, but on many occasions it has been a lifesaver. The best white noise generator I have ever used is My Noise. This app is available on both Andoid and iOS, but the true beauty comes in when using the browser edition. Layer various sounds and adjust frequency and volume to create a unique sound for your perfect sleep experience. Some unique options you’ll find on the website include: Rain on a Tent; Cat Purr; Laundromat; & Japanese Garden. 
    • Weighted Blankets have so many helpful benefits-not just for insomnia! These blankets can soothe restless leg syndrome, ADD/ADHD, ASD, Anxiety, Menopause, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Bipolar Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Auto-Immune Disorders, PTSD, etc. These blankets apply a gentle pressure that feels similar to being hugged. This provides a feeling of safety and security and releases serotonin. Here you will find the in-stock weighted blankets available from the company Mosaic. These can be slightly pricy, but the benefits are well worth the investment. 
    • Don’t sleep alone! Now, I’m not saying you have to sleep next to another person-but there are many benefits to sharing your bed, and your pets are no exception. Cuddling at night releases hormones that will help relieve anxiety and stress. If you don’t have a pet, there is no shame in seeking a stuffed comfort item. It doesn’t matter how old we get-some things never change. One of those eternal things is that holding something soft and fluffy is going to make you happy. Nowadays there are all sorts of stuffed companions that are incredible for sleep. Check out this heatable, lavender scented stuffed elephant for $27. 
    • Audio Meditation Guides are great for those of you who enjoy calming voices and guided meditation. If you’re not sure whether that applies to you, perhaps you have enjoyed audio books in the past. These can be quite similar. You can check out CDs containing audio guided meditation from your local library, or you can create a playlist of them through YouTube. Here is a great collection of over 150 guided meditation videos to get you started. If one voice or sound doesn’t appeal to you, move on to the next! There’s a wide variety of voices to choose from, and themes vary from religious prayer guidance to simply guiding you through imagining your “happy place,” whether that be in a hammock on a beach or relaxing on your couch.
    • Don’t laugh-but deep breathing is one of the easiest methods you can try. Honestly! No, I don’t mean huffing and puffing until your chest hurts. Get comfortable in your bed and let your body relax. Take in a nice, even breath and try to time it at about 4 or 5 seconds. Hold your breath in for around 6 or 7 seconds, but release earlier if you need to. Breathe out slow and even for 7 or 8 seconds, or as long as you feel is comfortable. As you breathe out focus on a part of your body that is retaining your stress. You can start at your shoulders and focus on releasing that tenderness as you breathe out. Each time you breathe in and out focus on a new part of your body. Relax your arms, hands, legs, feet, even your fingers and toes. Sometimes we keep much more stress in our body than we realize, and even if you don’t fall asleep using this method it can be calming and relaxing.
    • Don’t associate your bed with waking activity. Do you frequently watch television, read, maybe even eat snacks in bed? While these things are not necessarily bad (and in some health situations they can be completely necessary and that should be respected) individuals with insomnia may benefit from teaching their body to only view bed as an area for sleep. Stay out of bed until you feel that sleep is imminent, then lay down. If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes (set a timer with a quiet volume on your phone, don’t check the clock) then you should get back up and find a small repetitive activity that you find soothing. Some people do find help in reading at this point, but if I tried to read to help me sleep I would stay up all night to finish the book. Alternatives to this could be coloring, writing, jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, etc. If you struggle with racing thoughts or bedtime mental to-do listing: Use this time to write out what things are on your mind. It might help to keep a notepad and a pen on your bedside table. Documenting these racing thoughts might help quiet your mind long enough to fall asleep.
    • Warm baths or showers before bed are well known for helping us sleep faster and better. But what about those of us who shower in the mornings? If you’re like me, showering more than once in a day is only going to lead to dry skin. But the real reason baths and showers help us fall asleep is the warmth. So, it would really be no different if you used a heating blanket at night or a warm wet rag over your eyes. 
    • Get natural sunlight as often as possible. Insomnia is usually in part due to an offbeat circadian rhythm, which is often referred to as our internal body clock. Getting sunlight during day hours can sometimes make a difference in when we naturally get sleepy. If you find it hard to leave the house try opening up windows and curtains to let light in. If sunlight is bothersome due to eye problems, skin problems, or other health issues you may find comfort in a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Lamp. These lamps mimic some of the natural benefits we get from sunlight.

    • Set out your clothing for the next day, prepare your lunch for school or work, and find other ways to tell your body that “today is ending, and it’s time to rest and prepare for tomorrow.” 
    • Bananas at bedtime? Yes! As weird as it might sound, a bedtime snack of bananas might actually help you rest better. Some people struggle with digestion and may not benefit from eating a night time snack, but for those of you who saw this as a reason to excuse your midnight snack: I have great news! Bananas actually have great health benefits for sleep. The magnesium, vitamin b, melatonin, tryptophan, and potassium are all important minerals to help relax your muscles and ease you into sleep. Here’s a guide to making Banana Cinnamon Tea for night time rest. 
    • Finally, the viparita karani yoga pose is something I recommend to anyone that seeks my advice on handling anxiety. It works just as well with insomnia. To those of you who may have googled this and freaked out about the arching of the back-fret not! This pose is very simple, and you don’t have to be a yoga regular to benefit. Simply find a spot on your floor to lay down (you can use a yoga mat, a beach towel, pillows, blankets, or even lay on your bed if your bed faces a wall-just be considerate to your back and be wary of your own physical needs and limitations.) Put your legs up against the wall to form an L shape with your body. Close your eyes and keep your breath even. This pose has no true time restraint beyond that of your own needs, but I usually stay in this spot for 10-20 minutes. Relief of my anxiety starts within 10 minutes, and beyond that I am enjoying the slowed and even heart beat. Unfortunately, this tip will not help my friends in wheelchairs or those of you with major spinal injury. However, the effects of this pose mimic the psychological response you would get from guided audio meditation, so I highly recommend that to anyone who is unable to use this pose at night. 

      There you have it! These are my best tips for getting quick, restful sleep at night. I hope that these suggestions make a difference in your nightly ritual. Remember, though, that even if something doesn’t work the first time it doesn’t mean that it never will. Changing our natural body clock is very hard and can be much more difficult based on external and internal factors. Medications, illness, chronic pain, and stressful days make for even harder nights. Don’t feel down if you struggle with insomnia-you aren’t alone. More than 3 million people are reported to struggle with insomnia every year in the United States alone! The likelihood of experiencing it increases significantly as we get older, and in the average month 4% of USA adults use a form of prescribed sleeping medication to help them rest. If insomnia is an ongoing struggle for you then you’re likely experiencing a difficulty in maintaining concentration and a failing memory on top of sleepiness and mood swings. Once again, you aren’t alone. I’ve struggled with insomnia since I was a toddler, and I know numerous people who have as well. 

      If you feel that you need to be treated for your insomnia but cannot afford therapy or psychiatry, Sleep Review Magazine featured an article that might help connect you to an online resource for insomnia centered cognitive behavioural therapy (which aims to change our thinking patterns to improve our feelings and behaviours). The prices on this list vary, but will be much more affordable than long term therapy and psychiatry. 

      On that note, I’m going to get some rest!

      Sleep easy, friends.

      The Life and Death of a Midwestern Spring

      If Mother Nature ever chose one place to see the variety of her creation then she decided on the Midwestern United States. Growing up here I experienced brutal summers and frigid winters. Late September brought the changing of the leaves along our river; the spring came with blossoming Magnolia and Dogwood trees. Sometimes the weather could change from hot and sunny to windy and raining in a matter of just moments. A snow day was often followed with raging heat. I grew up hearing “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” In more recent years I have noticed a significant change to my surroundings here. What was once so vivid and breathtaking now seems rather dull.

      As someone who adores photography and art I can absolutely attest to the idea that perspective changes our outlook. I’m sure that everyone who grew up in my hometown has a different view of the area. We all know different shortcuts and secret hideouts (like the alcove under the bridge by my neighborhood park.) Despite growing up so close together no one ever experiences the same life story. Even if we have similar tales to tell we interpret them in various ways and in some situations these differences shape our future. My childhood was a mixed bag, but I grew up with incredible support from my friends and my family. No obstacle could have destroyed the bond between my mother and I. Her love and optimism helped me keep my chin up through the darkest times. As a whole I remember the Alton area of my childhood years to be full of life.

      Anyone that knows me knows that this past year has been hectic, to say the least. I have moved multiple times and bounced between the city and my hometown. Stress has been laid on thick, and my physical health is not the best. So, it really is no surprise to me that the world doesn’t have the same spring spark that I’m accustomed to. Sure, the trees bloomed and flowers blossomed-but the fluctuating weather has only left the trees bare once again. The magnolia tree outside my mother’s house was in full bloom during the first week of March. Today it holds only dried and darkened petals and drooping branches.

      I do not find these changes to be entirely off-putting. In my eyes, for every tree I see with dying flowers there is a tulip emerging from a newly tended garden. When I find signs of life fighting against the stormy skies I am reminded of how much strength it takes for the plants we admire to survive. No one looks at a daisy and sees a warrior, but I feel that we should start. Just like us, plants are fighting wave after wave of stress. Insects chew away at their leaves, storms shake them, wind tears off their petals… How is this any different from the onslaught of internal and external stress that we put on ourselves?

      I have decided to create this blog to bring my focus back on my passions. I want to return the world around me to the inspiration it once was. Writing once offered me an escape into a world of my own, but now I hope to use it to express the world I’m already living in. I don’t know how to feel about a set writing schedule for each week. While I imagine it would help to stagger my posting evenly, life isn’t even. For the time being I will be using this blog as an extension of my thoughts and feelings, and I will not be putting time restraints on them. Should a time come that I feel comfortable deciding on a schedule I will enact it. Further, I think that in my case the idea of a “blog genre” is absurd. My interests span so many categories… Books, film, music, makeup, style, advice, food… My posts will be eclectic and unique.

      On that note, I welcome you to my blog, “The Beekeeper and the Wax Lady.”