#170 Roast Marshmallows

Some people like their marshmallows lightly roasted – the color of toasted bread and soft, almost completely melted on the inside.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#170

Roast Marshmallows

Yesterday, I wrote about Camping (or Glamping) and anyone who’s had that experience knows the pleasure of sitting around a ‘camp’ fire. Tradition, for our family at least, has been to include marshmallows so that we can roast or toast them as an evening treat. There have been many a conversation about how to do just that.

Perfection

Some people like their marshmallows lightly roasted – the color of toasted bread (perhaps where the term “toasted” originates) – and soft, almost completely melted on the inside. It’s accomplished by finding a part of the fire that is mostly molten coals with a low blue flame,  if any. A slight roterisse action will assure coverage across the entire circumference. It will bubble just slightly and color slowly. If your marshmallow meets matches this description and you wait just a few minutes after pulling it back from the fire – it will be slightly crispy on the outside as the sugar begins to crystalize again – making it absolute perfection – IMHO.

Variations

Others seem to find enjoyment by placing their marshmallow directly into the flame until it, in itself, becomes a torch. Quickly, it turns black and will consume the sugar entirely if it is not blown out. The underbelly of these are still firm and can often be toasted again if only the blistered ‘skin’ was removed. It’s a great way to extend the life of your marshmallow if – you can tolerate the ‘burned’ flavor. There are a few who are fearful of burning and lack patience to thoroughly roast so they ‘warm’ their mallow to the point of being soft enough to quickly dissolve.

Alternatives

A campfire is perhaps, the most favorited location to pass a bag of fresh marshmallows but it’s absolutely not the only way to experience the joy of the sugary treat. In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of homeowners with backyard fire pits or chimineas on patios and decks – offering year round alternatives to traditional campfires. In the absence of those options, there’s always the convenience of a gas grill or the flame of your own gas stove. In a pinch, there’s the heat produced by the electric burner on your kitchen range. Pop a marshmallow on a large meat fork, turn the burner on high and rotate. (I may have resorted to that method a time or two during my apartment living years.) As a novelty, a few companies now manufacture ‘roasting kits’ using a small sterno can as flame fuel. Hey, whatever works!

Savor the memories

No matter how you do it, the simple act of popping a perfectly roasted marshmallow into your mouth or smashing it between graham crackers with a block of chocolate (s’more) will instantly remind you of one of the most fun aspects of childhood. Take yourself back and enjoy a few minutes of pleasant memories by savoring the flavor and all that it brings with the satisfactory act of…

Roasting marshmallows.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#187 Swing on a Swing

A mental break is often just the thing we need to interrupt a stress response and/or regroup our energy.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#187

Swing on a swing

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a poem called “Up in a Swing” and published it in A Child’s Garden of Versus in 1885. It was one of the first poems I recall memorizing and I cannot hop on a swing – even today – without thinking of that poem.

Remember

Most playground swings will fit adult behinds and there is a certain charm to partaking in the childhood delight of moving through the air. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment the sensation you remember from the last time you played on a swing. Do you remember how you learned to ‘push’ your legs to gain height? Do you recall jumping off the swing? Seeing who could jump further or from the highest point?

Flying

Swings may be one of the first opportunities that humans had to experience movement off the ground. The freedom we feel as the swing moves through the air, pushing it against our face and lifting us up and across the ground may have been the inspiration for bigger and more industrious flight.

Auto Mode

In those few moments that you allow yourself the childish delight of swinging, you allow your mind to take a break. It will automatically settle into auto mode and recall the body movements you learned in childhood to lift and push the swing across the ground. It will automatically flashback to youthful memories of play and simplicity; perhaps offering you a much needed mental break.

Mental Break

A mental break is often just the thing we need to interrupt a stress response and/or regroup our energy. This is another suggestion that will get you outdoors in the fresh air – good for your body and spirit. It will induce pleasant memories and perhaps laughter – increasing serotonin levels. The soothing movement will help reduce cortisol levels – good for your mind and body.

If you find yourself passing a playground, remind yourself to take a few minutes to give yourself a short mental break and …

Swing on a swing.

 

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#225 Finger paint

Not only are we stimulated by color, creativity, and imagination, we are spurred also by the sensation of the paint and our hands on the paper – sliding across the page with color trailing behind.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#225

Finger paint

I write a lot about creativity, imagination, and the simple art of fun as contributing significantly to one’s sense of happiness.  One of the ways to incorporate all three elements is to don an apron, grab some paper, and dig into a pile of finger paints.

Feel It

Finger painting works at increasing well-being because it incorporates the additional sense of touch. Incorporating tactile senses allows more parts of our brain to be engaged in the activity at hand. Not only are we stimulated by color, creativity, and imagination, we are spurred also by the sensation of the paint and our hands on the paper – sliding across the page with color trailing behind.

Artistic Recipe

You’re never too old to get your hands full of color but if you feel better, or more justified… grab a kid, niece, nephew, or grandchild and make some magic. You don’t have to get any special supplies… just follow the following recipe and make your own!

Martha Stewart Homemade Finger Paint

Stir 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch together. Add 2 cups of cold water and heat over medium heat until the mixture is thick (the mixture will further thicken as it cools).

Divide into four or more containers, and add food coloring as desired.

Plain paper works, but photo paper is best. As a last resort, just for the fun of it, you can use plastic wrap or wax paper. These last two won’t offer a solution to keep your creations permanently but they make clean up a breeze.

Be Present

Take some time to enjoy the experience. Make sure to be present – stay focused on the chance to imagine and create. Use colors – or combinations thereof – to express feelings, whatever they may be as you…

Finger paint.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#226 Find Shapes in the Clouds

Indeed, stimulating imagination at all ages fosters creativity which, when  used, is a leading characteristic of happy people.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#226

Find shapes in the clouds

This may be the epitome of a childhood folly. It’s the thing we did as children with mom that was mostly spontaneous, free of charge, and used complete imagination. We could do it anywhere as long as it was daylight and the sky was filled with clouds.

Everyone wins

It’s a game where there is no right or wrong and everyone is a winner. It’s completely subjective and potentially more fun than charades as our imagination and creativity take root to see faces, animals, and inanimate objects in the vapor swirl collections that dance above our heads. Often, before we can describe our vision in detail an upper level wind moves across the sky to change the configuration completely, forcing us to quickly recalculate the interpretation.

Imagination

Einstein postulated that “imagination is more important than knowledge because knowledge is limited but imagination encircles the world.” Indeed, stimulating imagination at all ages fosters creativity which, when  used, is a leading characteristic of happy people. As you step outside on the next sunny day where puffy, pillowy clouds dot the sky, take a few minutes to ignite your imagination and…

Find shapes in the clouds.

**Today’s photo – See the ‘heart’ shaped pillow tucked in those clouds??

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#273 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

My children are always intrigued about my childhood and how I spent time before video games and electronics. They find it interesting to imagine…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#273

Write down a favorite childhood memory.

Close your eyes for a minute and allow yourself to go back in time – back to when you were a child. Allow yourself to remember a moment of laughter, of comfort, or fun. What was happening then? Who was there? What were you thinking and feeling? What about that particular memory stands out?

Go ahead and write down the details – the answer to the above questions – for this memory and then do it again, and again.

Take the time to cherish, even savor, each of those memories as you write them. The act of writing will refresh your memory even more (perhaps stimulating additional details). Remembering pleasant times stimulates those pleasure areas in our brain and while they don’t spur the same level of chemicals that the actual even does, there is some dopamine production with the remembering.

Writing down the fun times helps to honor the experiences so that they balance our perspectives more evenly. Our brains are still wired to be noticing everything that is wrong (survival instinct) and so when we take time to reflect on the positives, we appreciate the true balance that typically exists in our overall existence.

If nothing else, writing down these memories captures them for our later reflection or maybe even more importantly, for the people who love us. My children are always intrigued about my childhood and how I spent time before video games and electronics. They find it interesting to imagine how we lived in a time that they’ve only read about or seen represented on television. The world is continuing to change, so capturing this little slice of history may be impactful to all of our future generations. How fun for all when we sit around and remember that time when Granny…

Write down a favorite childhood memory (or two).

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

#285 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

And… while after a visit to Amsterdam where bicyclists have the right of way at all times because there are millions of them – really… they are everywhere and as a pedestrian, you are easily overwhelmed. But, we’re not there yet.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#285

Ride a Bike

When was the last time you rode a bike just for fun?

While biking has been a stable pastime for children since the introduction of a miniature tricycle, it seems as if we Americans ditch the bike for 4 wheels and a motor as soon after the age of sixteen as possible. Certainly, the exception is those adults who use bicycles for sport and exercise or those of us who mosey along side streets while on a beach oriented vacation; perhaps taking advantage of dual pedal power on a tandem machine and Some people have converted their primary mode of transportation at least for commuting.

But… when was the last time you just took a leisurely bike ride… just because? Most major cities have made amazing progress in becoming bicycle friendly, offering rideshare stations and dedicated bike lanes. And… after a visit to Amsterdam where bicyclists have the right of way at all times because there are millions of them – really… they are everywhere and as a pedestrian, you may be easily overwhelmed. But, we’re not there yet. In fact, the bike lanes in our cities are mostly open… beckoning us to grab a bicycle and get out there.

I rode my bike as a kid and then didn’t own one again until my 30’s… rode my babies around a bit that that resembled working out too much and so that equipment was donated to a worthy cause. Fast forward 25 years and I’ve taken up bike riding again. It’s different for me because it is purely recreational and fun. It’s not a workout (at least not intentionally), which means that I am often riding a Rail Trail (flat) or just cruising around town a bit. I meander a bit – not in a hurry – just enjoying the fresh air, the breeze across my face, and the scenery that I don’t take in while driving by at 30+ miles per hour. It’s mind time and I have two simple requests for the people who may ride with me. First… don’t push – I ride slow. Second… don’t talk – I am in-a-zone.

Biking can be simple. Do yourself a favor and find a bike share station, put on a helmet, and …

Ride a bike

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#357 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

When we sing, we literally send vibrations through our body and affect brain changes. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who sing experience less anxiety and have better quality of life.

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#357 Sing

As children, we sing songs to learn things and to just have fun. We sing with carefree voices regardless of our tone. We celebrate our birthday, our school loyalty, and our patriotism through song. As we move into our teens and young adulthood we tend to associate songs with events such as first dates, key dances (prom), weddings, and fun times.

I recall singing along with favorite songs frequently in my lifetime, particularly when I was alone and happy. I never thought too hard about how good I sounded. I was just in the moment, enjoying the music, and expressing myself in unison with the beat; mostly.

When we sing, we literally send vibrations through our body and affect brain changes. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who sing experience less anxiety and have better quality of life. Think of the last time you saw someone in a car singing along to a song, perhaps alone and yet seeming to be in the process of intense enjoyment. Singing can produce higher levels of dopamine and oxytocin – both brain chemicals that are associated with happiness.

After a particularly challenging time in my life had started to settle, I spent a long weekend alone finishing a list of abandoned responsibilities that had been badgering my psyche. I turned on some calming music and set about the tasks at hand. Before long I realized that I was humming along to the familiar tunes and stopped for a minute because I realized it was the first time – in many years – that I found myself singing.

It was one of those things that you didn’t notice was missing until you found it. It was a moment of realization that I recall because it was proof in my own mind that the changes I had just finished making were in part, survival for me. I was singing again.

I don’t have a nightingale voice. Indeed, one of my vocal chords was paralyzed during Thyroid surgery a few years ago and since then, any ability I had to carry a tune has been impaired. Our brains don’t care about tone – they care about the act of singing – the rise in happy chemicals. The point is to sing, with or without other people; with or without accompaniment; with or without the right lyrics…

Just sing.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo on Foter.com