Life is busy. I don’t know about you guys but sometimes it feels like the days keep rushing from one to the next and you don’t really get to enjoy anything! When I lived in the Caribbean, things felt different – time moved a little slower, people didn’t seem to work such long hours, and there was a little more time to relax and enjoy each other. Who knows, things may have changed there too – perhaps it’s just a sign of the times everywhere. I decided I needed to do an intervention for myself when I realized that I seem to be barreling through the day on most days, in an effort to balance work, my social life, and starting up my own business. I eat my meals really quickly – sometimes not even taking the time to savor what I’m eating, I would be so tired in the morning that I would get out of bed at the last moment and then rush to work – things that probably kept my body in a steady ‘adrenaline rush’ : not good!
So, to start of, I decided to make a few simple changes. Firstly, I made myself eat more mindfully. No matter what I was eating – a sit down dinner or a peanut butter sandwich – I made it more about slowing down and enjoying each bite, rather than shoveling food in my mouth before I ran off to do something else!
Second, I started getting ready a little earlier in the morning so that my days don’t start off as a mad rush! Hopefully this will also eventually make me more tired at night so I would go to bed earlier too! My job sometimes has erratic hours at night so I’ve become a major night owl – which doesn’t help since I still have to get up fairly early the next morning.
And lastly, I took up a slow hobby – weaving. I’m the type of person who NEEDS to complete things I’m passionate about as quickly as possible! This applies to my art projects as well as the latest Netflix series that I’m binge-watching! Lucky for me, I work in watercolors and so I CAN stay up late to finish what I’m doing in one night!
But with weaving, I can’t finish a piece in one night – so I have to be patient and slow down. I make it my goal to complete maybe one or two rows a day – nothing more. At first this was a little frustrating but now I’ve come to appreciate having a long-term project in my life. Something I can take my time with, savor, and see build up in front of me every day. It’s a moment to breathe, bond with my very-interested cat, Sophie (hey, where there’s yarn… ), and just appreciate doing something merely for the sake of doing it.
No deadlines, no rushing, no pressure.
Here are some other ways to help you slow down and enjoy your life more:
Simply taking the time to pay attention to your breathing helps you slow things down. Slowly breathe in. Slowly breathe out. Repeat.
2. Be less busy.
Pick three to five things to accomplish each day, get them done, and enjoy your sense of completion. Busyness does not equal productivity.
3. Spend time with the people you love
Filling your life with the people you care about is good for you – mentally, physically, and spiritually. Remember, we ARE social creatures after all!
4. Do nothing.
Sometimes the best way to increase productivity is to take some time off to do nothing. This time off doesn’t need to be a long vacation or even a full day – an hour here or there will work just fine!
Yes, that’s right, as soon as you finish reading this – turn off your phone or computer for a while! We are slaves to our emails and texts- being hyperconnected all the time is horrible for us!
Good luck with the Slowing Down! It’s going to feel strange and maybe even uncomfortable at first but you’re soon going to be very grateful to yourself for making this effort!
Winter can be hard for many. The days are shorter and darker, the weather is often cold and damp, and our moods are generally… well, moodier! It’s no wonder that most of us want to follow the examples of our furry woodland friends and hibernate!
Unfortunately, we just can’t do that so here are some ways to make these months easier on us. (If you feel as if you are depressed or experiencing the effects of SAD, be sure to talk to your physician.)
1. Eat healthy.
You know what that means for you. I totally understand the lure of fattening comfort food during this time but all things in moderation. Listening to my body, I know that I also crave vitamin C -rich citrus foods right about now. Perhaps to bolster my immunity during the flu and cold season. Whatever it is , those bright, sparkling flavors just seem to cheer me right up.
2. Surround yourself with the power of aromatherapy.
Again, you will know what makes you feel good! In keeping with the citrus from above, I tend to gravitate towards bursts of orange, infused with spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. A combination which is warming and energizing at the same time. Perhaps you prefer the cozy scents of vanilla or baked goods; or a bouquet of floral notes that remind you of spring. There is no right or wrong answer here. Pick something that makes you happy!
Although you may want nothing more than to curl yourself up with a good blanket and an even better book- shutting out the rest of the world- be sure to venture out and spend time with family and friends every now and then! A good laugh and great food in the company of people you care about can do the world of good!
4. And finally, take time to include some physical activity. A brisk walk in the cool air or even some gentle and invigorating yoga helps to clear all the cobwebs out of your mind. Never underestimate the power of fresh air or light exercise.
Look after yourself, train yourself to see the beauty in this stark season, and stay cozy and happy!
As you may know, every month this year I’m going to pick something to focus on, depending on what I feel I need during that particular month. For January, it was a no-brainer. Slow Down.
The past few months have been busy, both at home and at work, and I realized that most of my life these days has been a blur. Well, I intend to change that going into the New Year. Sure, I want to do EVERYTHING but I also want to savor time. Enjoy the slowness. Stop racing around.
One of the things I’ve given up while trying to be more productive is reading fiction. I used to read everything I could get my hands on but these days I mainly read nonfiction since I host the nonfiction book club at work. Or, I watch a lot of movies at home, since I can paint at the same time!
But you can lose yourself in a good book. You can travel to distant lands, meet fascinating people, solve mysteries, laugh, cry, love, hate. All of this can happen in a good book. You also slow down time – the world might rush by but within those pages you have no appointments to keep, bills to pay, or concerns to face. I’ve been avoiding good stories because I feel I’m just too busy to sit down and read. I think, however, that when you FEEL as if you’re too busy, then that’s when you most need to take that time to read. Even if it’s a few pages every night. TVs are loud and too stimulating. Books are quiet – in our world, we NEED quiet – and, by forcing you to rely on your imagination, great creativity boosters as well.
This year, I resolved to read more for pleasure and, as fate would have it, over the holidays I got an advanced copy of Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (Tin House Books.) When this book first came out in hardcover, I was actually so enamored of the beautiful cover art that I made a chalkboard sign inspired by it for our store display.
And the paperback version is just as gorgeous! The palette is very similar but with darker tones. Yet again I was inspired and this time, created a painting to evoke not only the loveliness of the cover but also the captivating, dark beauty of the story itself.
Have you read anything by Claire Fuller yet? If you haven’t, well then you simply must. I’m in cozy, nesting mode for winter right now – surrounded by introspective gray skies and moody, drizzly Pacific Northwest weather. Perfect weather, in fact, for reading Claire’s book ; filled with dark family secrets, the pain of the unfulfilled life, and some of the most lyrically breathtaking prose you’ll ever read.
Here’s a particularly resonant passage (page 265, paperback)
“The world had become harder, more abrasive; sheets scratched, clothes irritated, and people feared. It was when I was underwater or in the garden that I felt relief. But precise moments of grief, like the pangs of childbirth, are hard to recall after ththe most intense pain has passed: nature’s trick to ensure we survive and continue to reproduce.”
Wasn’t that just gorgeous? I’m not going to give anything away but if you like piecing things together, uncovering different perspectives of the same shared experience, and leaving a book wiser and more emotionally aware than you when you started reading it, then this is definitely the book for you.
“To slow down is to be taken into the soul of things.” – Terry Tempest Williams.
This new year, I resolve to take time off and go on more picnics!! But seriously, as I look back on the past few months, I realize what a blur they have been. As social a job as I have, I am, at heart, an introvert – and love nothing more than being cozy and quiet at home, curled up with something good to read or working on a craft project. Perhaps even spending a few hours by the water, watching the waves break and the ducks play. I love the outgoing parts of my life too but this year I’m prioritizing more quiet time as well. It’s important, not just for introverts, to slow down, turn off the constant noise we are all exposed to today, and recharge.
We let our phones recharge. Our batteries recharge. Parents impose routines and limits on their children to ensure that the kids get rest and don’t get burned out on the demands of life. Shouldn’t we give ourselves the same care as well?
For the Holiday Season, I wanted to give something fun and festive (and useful! ) to the community with a free demonstration on how to make watercolor gift tags.
Here was how I set up the space at University Bookstore:
As you can see, I also organized a Gift Wrapping class ( which someone else taught) that was held right after mine!
My class went really well and we had such a fun time make lots of tags to take home and use for all of our gift giving this season!
I taught them how to do three different styles of tags:
1. Messy Abstract
2. Repeating Pattern
3. Dip dye
1. Watercolor paper. I used Fluid 140lb cotton cold press. It was the perfect weight to hold our wet techniques but not too thick that the tag press wouldn’t punch through.
2. An assortment of watercolors in whatever colors you want. I picked turquoise, mauve, sap green, vermillion, gold, and a palette of glittery kids paints.
3. Watercolor brushes. A good selection would include a large mop or sumi-e brush as well as a smaller round brush.
4. Lots of water and paper towels. Perhaps a sheet or kraft paper to work on top of.
5. Glitter. I used an ultra fine gold
6. Mod podge and small foam brush
7. Tag Punch
10. water jars or cups
11. One hole punch that will allow the twine to pass through
1. Messy Abstract
This is kind of the anything goes (including the kitchen sink) technique! I told my students not to fear messing up, because you CAN’T mess up here! The beauty of punching out small swatches of paint and pattern here is that it’s very forgiving- as long as you don’t overdo it, you’ll end up with some lovely swirls of color!
We used several techniques to achieve our sheet of abstract paper: wet-in-wet, splatter, drip, and salting.
GRACE’S TIP #1 : tape your paper down!!! Or at least the corners – this gets wet really quickly and the page tends to buckle!
1. Wet the paper with clean water using the large brush. Make sure the paper is glistening but there are no huge puddles of water.
2. Load the same brush with pigment and lay down that color on the paper. Notice how the color swirls when it touches the wet page.
3. Wash out the brush with clean water in your jar and use it to pick up another color. Lay this color down on the paper as well. The two colors will mix in beautiful ways. Make sure to leave white space on the page as well for textural interest.
4. Splatter and/or drip paint onto the paper as well. Basically, get paint on paper however you feel inspired.
5. Finally, when you are satisfied with the color patterns, and while the paper is still moist, sprinkle some large-grained salt on the page and set the whole thing aside to dry.
2. REPEATING PATTERN
Grace’s Tip #2 : To add brightness and overall visual interest in your final tags, make sure you leave a lot of white spaces in your pattern.
Set aside to dry.
3. DIP DYE
For this technique, you need to punch out some tags first.
1 Fill a shallow bowl or cup with a thin paint mixture (pain diluted with water to a saturation that pleases you)
2. Dunk the tag into the paint to a height of about 1/2 to 3/4 way up. Do this quickly.
3. Set aside to dry
Grace’s Tip #3: If you can rig up a little “clothesline”, you can clip the tags onto the string to dry, since both sides have paint on them.
Punch out the pages you left to dry in techniques 1 and 2 and voila! Gift tags for all your presents this year!
Glitter : Add a strip of Mod Podge to the bottom of the tags and sprinkle with glitter.
Paint Pens: use white gel or paint pens to put tiny dots on the tags to simulate snow
After the class, I sent home the students with little kraft sleeves full of their creations, along with some bakers twine:
Here are some of the beautiful tags that the workshop participants made. If you make some tags of your own, I’d love to see your work – share them on Instagram with the hashtag #gracerajendranworkshops :
I just adore Christmas – to me, it truly IS The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! All of the beautiful colors, the glitter, the inherent joy in every little object. That’s why I’m doing a weekly Holiday Round-Up of Pretty Things I see at the various stores I frequent.
Here at University Bookstore, the theme seems to be whimsical, glittery pastels! Which is pretty much my theme for the entire year anyway so I’m blissfully taken by all of it!
Here are my the top four things on my wishlist:
1. SPARKLY, GLITTER STOCKING!!!! Ummm, where have you been all my life?!
2. WHIMSICAL ANIMAL ORNAMENT
I got a similar one a couple of years ago that featured a glittery pink Eiffel Tower and I absolutely treasure it! I like Christmas stuff that I can use all year round and that ornament has a permanent place on my bookshelf. These two little guys are going to join it!! Firstly, I can’t resist foxes and much less, a fox with a golden tail, and secondly – how sweet is this little alpaca! And check out the festive tassels!!
3. CHAMPAGNE FIR TREE
I love the color (a soft champagne gold) and the subtle sparkle (of course I do!!) of this very lovely little tree. And probably one of the best shapes for a Christmas tree I’ve seen around – that wide base adds a lot of dimensional charm.
4. PRECIOUS LITTLE PASTEL VILLAGES
These folksy little houses are sweet and lovely and just oh so Christmas-y. I swear I hear carols every time I look at them! And that delicate shade of rosy pink!!