The Power of Getting Away

cropped-elephant-mandala-prev1255185447ux166f.jpgHave you seen this Ted Talk about the Power of Taking Time Off? It led to this amazing family sabbatical, a year above the Arctic Circle. Fabulous photos, and an endearing story.

The concept is, Why don’t we take five years out of retirement and spread them throughout your working life? What might you gain by stopping and taking time to collect your thoughts?

Great idea, but not all of us are set to take a year off – never mind have jobs or prospects we can walk away from for such a period of time. But the good news is, even a week away with time to escape, to think, to create, to reinvent can have valuable results in your life.

Refresh, renew, rethink your direction! A vacation is really much more than just time out of the office.

NaBloPoMo is…What?

Little Jessie

Oh gosh, I got my notice that November is NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). This is pressure, and I don’t always do well under pressure. It can make me feel crabby, probably because I am annoyed I allowed myself to not be more on top of things. But then I realized – WAIT! This is exactly what I am trying to help creative souls move beyond. Myself included!

I am overwhelmed and crabby and busy because I allow myself to be. I don’t put my foot down. I always let everything else (laundry, errands, housecleaning) become more important than the thing I really want to do. Why is it so hard to schedule in the very things that give us the kind of pleasure that renews us for more of every day life?

Maybe it’s reading a book, or sewing a new dress, or knitting a scarf. Maybe you want to learn how to weave or dye. Or paint. Maybe you just want to sketch your beloved dog snoozing so peacefully after an afternoon’s romp.

Really I just want to get back to Guatemala.

But we can’t always take a week and immerse ourselves into a more relaxed and creative view of the world. On the other hand we can press on, demanding we make time for our 30 minutes a day to do something that isn’t Required. Something that just makes us feel good.

Ideas for making this happen?

Lake Atitlan; Mindfulness and Marathons

RUN!

Really, I am not a runner or an athlete, I much prefer the more sedentary mindful activities, like sewing, knitting, reading (ok, I do some walking too). But I do know many people who find creative bliss in getting out there and killing themselves in a marathon. And some of them are fiber fanatics too! Can you imagine….

So I am SUPER excited to see that there are plans for the Second Annual Lake Atitlan Marathon in November 2013. Our fiber addicted athlete friends can go to Guatemala for DOUBLE the thrills!

The 2012 run had over 300 participants from South and Central America and from far reaching countries like Viet Nam and New Zealand too, and the non profit event served as a fundraiser for environmental projects to protect the lake. Awesome, this is good for everyone.

The main event for 2013 is a marathon – full or half –  November 30th. If you want to run it  you can be sure we’ll make it happen, and create an amazing Thanksgiving-Creative-Gratitude week to compliment your obsession. And I can be there to cheer you on.

So pack up those running shoes along with you knitting or embroidery project, and let’s go!

Why We Knit (or Crochet, or Sew, or…)

This weekend is the fifth anniversary of my favorite LYS, Stitch House. In reality my relationship with them began because of my sewing (and they have great fabric and patterns) and I have been known to teach a class or two there…. but as a secret, lurking knitter I can never resist the textures, the colors, the design of all the yarn and ideas that live there…. so I have been spending my Fridays of late with the Friday Night Knitters at Stitch House. So. Much. Fun.

Last night I asked – WHY do we knit? The answers varied but really were all the same. They said: It’s ZEN. It’s relaxing. It helps me focus, and release tension. It keeps my hands busy. It helps me think. It makes me feel good. It helps me socialize.

Many of the knitters don’t know what they will do with their project (or if it will even be finished!) but that seemed to not matter. Wow. So you mean I can keep starting projects, never really have anything to show for it, and that’s just fine? I like that.

Why? Because I believe the knitting (or the sewing, the crocheting, the embroidering…) is just a pathway to feeing us from the places we get stuck in every day life. The excessive Busy-ness. Jobs, chores, bills, kids, errands. Facebook! We need, we like to go to a quiet place. When we’re ‘quiet’ we have time to ‘listen’… to  our own new ideas, new thoughts, new creativity. And all of those things make us better people. Happier people. More energetic producers in the production line of life.

And now I have to get to Stitch House to pick up the free pattern they’re giving away today. I guess I need another unfinished project!

Plantains Without the Fat

Plantains on their way to ripeness.

When I was last in Guatemala I fell in love with a particular treat at breakfast – boiled plantains. Plantains are those big banana looking fruit, but they stop the resemblance there. You might know them in a fried state, with your jerk chicken or rice and beans. Oh sure, I love the fried ones too, but consuming them kind of ruins my caloric intake. But boiled? No fat  and soooo delicious.

Here’s how to make them:

Start with well ripened plantains. Like, black. A dark plantain is a ripe and sweet one. But don’t wait until the fruit flies take over the kitchen (as happened to me).  Wash them with a tiny bit of soap to be sure the skins are clean and any dirt is removed.

Keeping them in the peel, cut them in half, or if they’re huge into thirds. Some plantains are really huge.

Put them in a pot and cover with water. Add a dash of cinnamon, or a piece of cinnamon stick.

Boil till soft through when stuck with a fork – about 15 or 20 minutes.

Be sure to let them cool! Then slice open the skin and enjoy.

It’s true a plantain by itself has plenty of calories so you probably don’t want to eat gobs of them. One cup of boiled plantain contains contains 230 calories and zero fat, with 2 g of protein, 60 g of carbohydrates and 5 g of dietary fiber. Not bad for something so yummy!

Crazy Busy

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How about you?

Explore in Guatemala

Traditional Guatemalan Breakfast.

Here it is, the plan you’ve been waiting for….. The goal: Get away from yourself!

We need a minimum of 6 people to make a group – a nice intimate gathering. But if you have a lot of excited friends we can handle many more – – or for a private group can adjust to fewer people too.

B, D refers to included breakfasts and dinner.

Day 1, Saturday: Get on a plane to Guatemala City. There are nonstop flights from Dallas or Miami (@3 hours). Bring a kind-of empty suitcase… You won’t need to take much and there is so much to take home! You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to a small, quaint hotel in Antigua for the night.

Day 2, Sunday: this morning we’ll head to Chichicastenango for market day. Sundays are bustling here, and bargains abound.  You’ll find souvenirs and mass market, machine made items, as well as authentic, hand woven articles. Any questions? Our guide will help point you in the right direction. We overnight in a beautiful hotel in a quiet oasis just off the path of the market. B

Day 3, Monday: Rise early for a stroll to the nearby local cemetery where Guatemalan tradition abounds. Crypts resting above ground are colorful and memorable. After a leisurely breakfast we’ll head to Quiejel to meet up with Mayan women who will teach us what they know about rug hooking with recycled materials. You’ll have the chance to begin a project to take with you; materials are supplied but you might want to bring a favorite fabric with you. This afternoon we’ll ride to Lake Atitlan and the town of Panajachel where we settle into our lake front hotel for the next 4 nights.  Located just off the main street, you’ll have easy access to a lively tourist market for excellent shopping and bargains. B

Day 4, Tuesday: Wake up to birds singing and, if the sky is clear, a lovely ring of volcanoes circling the lake. Enjoy the view as you partake of a traditional Guatemalan breakfast. Afterwards we head off to the Tuesday market at Solola. This market is truly authentic; we may be the only tourists there. A narrow, winding maze of fabrics, fruits, meats, fish, clothing, yarns, and everything else you can think of.  This is a crowded, bustling, and AMAZING market. Be prepared for the local, friendly custom of pushing and crowding.  But, again, our guide is with us to help navigate the scene. Optional visit to the agricultural village of Concepcion, and its lovely church. B

Day 5, Wednesday: This morning you have the opportunity to experience a Mayan shaman ceremony. Come with your ‘intentions’ and questions, and enjoy an hour of calming introspection. Later we’ll go off the beaten path to tour the locals’ market with an expert in Guatemalan weaving. This evening learn how to make delicious tortillas with our friend Carmen – it’s harder than you think! B

Day 6, Thursday: Today we’ll hop a boat for a tour of the lake and its communities. We’ll visit San Juan where we meet the Mayan women who form a weaving cooperative. We’ll learn about using natural dyes, and you can try your hand at back strap weaving. It is every bit as miraculous as it seems! On to Santiago for lunch and local artisans. Here you’ll find bead work, and extraordinary embroidery. B, L

Day 7, Friday: after check out we’ll head back to Antigua where we began. En route we’ll make a stop at the ruins of Ixchme, and another Mayan ceremony to grace our journey home. After checking in at our Antigua hotel we’ll walk the colonial city. Enjoy a farewell dinner tonight with the group and guide. B, D

Day 8, Saturday: We provide transportation to the airport to catch your international flight home. B

If you wish to extend your vacation, we can make all the arrangements for you. You might:

  1. Add one hotel night for another day to simply relax in Antigua…. or
  2. Add one hotel night and hike the Pacaya volcano…..or
  3. Add three hotel nights and spend a couple of days at the magnificent ruins of Tikal.

We can’t wait to hear from you – let’s go!

Escape! Create!

hands creating

I always wanted to be an artist. I am a champion of collecting fabrics, paints, yarn, and ephemera of all kinds. The problem is, I never allow myself the time to fully explore my potential. I steep myself in work, then in laundry, dishes, dust balls and ‘errands’. Really, do I think there is ever going to be a time it is finally all DONE?

Maybe you are like this too. So try this: Escape! Leave town, go to a beautiful place where you won’t have a care in the world. Be inspired by the art and culture of a new place. And with nothing more pressing on your day, you’ll have the time to create. Maybe you’ll weave, or knit. Maybe you’ll paint or crochet. Write. Think! Create a new attitude, a new outlook on your life. Create something to give away or keep forever. And then return home, with all this new excitement clinging to you.

Everything may suddenly hold a different light for you.

Even those dust balls.

The Bathroom Trick

Take the time to climb the stairs…what might you find at the top?

This is an odd sort of post that has been brewing in my brain, while waiting to finalize our creative journey to Guatemala…. Hopefully I offend no one.

I was at work the other day, and on a quick trip to the bathroom I had a moment of thinking I might just stay put for awhile. When you work in a ‘pod’ with lots of distractions, conversations, and interruptions – and virtually zero privacy – a trip to the bathroom brings a kind of peace and serenity you can’t otherwise find. You close and lock the door and no one else is there. It can be dark and oh so quiet – Right ?!? I remember this as a mom with demanding children – the bathroom (you hoped!) was sanctuary.

Don’t we all need some quiet to think our own thoughts, and time to pull together threads of creativity? Even in the middle of a work day, or a mom day. Get away from the work phone, the cell phone, the fax, the colleagues, the kids, the meetings, the internet, the wild chaos of life in the year 2012. IT IS SO EXHAUSTING.

I admit it, sometimes I do this.  Behind the locked bathroom door I wait, pausing for longer than I need to, relishing  in the impossibility that someone might crash into my thought process and destroy the thing I was on my way to discovering.

What if you could do this for a whole week? Wouldn’t that be amazing? You could use your vacation time to escape all of the pre-conceived notions, all of the interruptions, all of the vapid  nothingness of sitting on a beach. You could discover and grow into someone new, more meaningful, more powerful. Find the thing that has been niggling in your head. Escape. Create.

Come with me!