February 16, 2015

The Art of Coziness

Its winter, which means the weather outside is frightful but that doesn't mean your home can’t be cozy and delightful. A cozy home should hug you when you walk in the front door, with warmth and comfort surrounding you from every side.
Cozy isn’t just an adjective it's an attitude. The people of Denmark have mastered this attitude with the word “Hygge”. It’s a concept that evokes coziness particularly when relaxing with good friends or loved ones enjoying good food. A true moment of hygge would be sitting together with family on a rainy night while dinner is cooking and the fire is blazing. I think we should take a tip from the Danish, after all Denmark is the happiest country on earth. At least according to US nations it was # 1 in the 2013 world happiness report.
Here is my definition of a true moment of Hygge. With the alarm blaring and the sun peeking through the window shade, your groggy body reluctantly rises out of its slumber ready for another work day. Then you realize that it's Saturday, glorious Saturday, and you feel just how warm and cozy you are all snuggled up in your comfortable bed, knowing that if you want to you can lay there all day. That, my friends, is the ultimate in Hygge. I'm convinced that if I had a crappy bed, I would not feel the same way. A good bed will support your spine and keep your body in alignment. And if you're striving for good sleep, your bed had better be a good one to sleep in. Now, I don't think I need to tell you how beneficial sleep is; I just know that a good night's sleep in a cozy bed helps me to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to start the day. Part of this good night’s sleep comes from a sense of overwhelming calm and relaxation that a cozy home brings. Cozy happens when we slow down…when we drop into the gorgeous stillness of a moment. I think of evenings spent with family and friends, baking cookies, drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying the warmth of the great indoors. Those warm feelings come largely from being around the people you love – but there are a bunch of things you can do to achieve an indoor space that emits coziness from every room. I am envisioning big cozy comforters, oh so soft and huggable down pillows, and fluffy living quarters to warm up in! So, sit back, relax, and let the cozification begin!
Mix It Up
An important thing to keep in mind when shopping for furniture is this: "Don't buy all your furniture from one store” The reason behind this is that you don’t want your home to look like a furniture store. To get away from the store-front look, try fitting together pieces from different styles. Try not to worry about what matches, but rather what goes. Mismatched pieces create visual texture, which will make any space more inviting and cozier. An old leather chair, a worn wood table, a fluffy throw, a patterned rug, are all items with lots of texture, which are interesting to touch and hold, and add warmth to a room. Try creating a nook in the corner of your room. Throw down a small area rug and add a big, soft, and comfy chair for lazy afternoons of cozy bliss. Lay area rugs in social places as well. Scatter cozy accent pillows and cushions all around. Lay out blankets that resemble your favorite sweaters. Do you have a favorite sweater that is no longer wearable? If so, you can create your own throw pillows. It’s super cheap and super easy. Just follow these directions. Temperatures usually drop at night during the winter, which causes heating costs to soar. Counter these costs by setting your heater a few degrees cooler at night. The temperature when you sleep should be around 62 to 72°. A mild drop in body temperature will induce sleep. You will sleep better a little bit cooler and you'll stay extra cozy during the night. Add a heavy quilt to the end of your bed in case you get too cold. Soft textures like cashmere and velvet, will add a cozy element to any room. If you have wood floors, throw a shag rug by your bed to treat your feet in the winter.
Set the Mood
Every color has a mood. Cooler colors make a space feel larger and airier. Warm colors do the opposite - they make a space feel smaller and cozier. There is no doubt about it; warm colors are cozy, radiant and uplifting. Warm colors are found on one side of the color wheel including various hues of red, orange, yellow and yellow-green.  Warm colors make small rooms appear larger and large rooms more intimate. Every color, even whites and blacks, can have cool or warm undertones. Some interior decorations in wood, accents of warm colors or a brick stone feature wall can add warmth to a cold design. Plants and flowers will also liven up any home. Stunning ochre, gold, burnt orange and Bordeaux all make great feature or accent colors when warming up a space. Bright yellow and dark purple create a warm and cozy atmosphere, as do shades of red, orange, and gold. These deep, resonant hues are richer than their primary, energetic versions because they are influenced by brown. A brown undertone turns yellow into amber and red into russet. It cozies up other hues as well, such as teal, eggplant, and aspen green.
Never Underestimate the Power of good Lighting.

One of the most important factors in how a room looks is something most people usually don't even think about: light. A fireplace can warm up and illuminate your home. They make any home or living space for that matter more welcoming and cozy. You can achieve the perfect glow in your home. Bulbs of all varieties have distinctive hues, it is important to pay attention to the choices available. To get a light bulb that will help create a cozy mood, pay attention to what it says on the packaging. Instead, look for a softer bulb to provide a warmer glow." The main goal here is to prevent that spotlight type of illumination that is ever so present in your local department store dressing room. A woman’s worst friend is a high watt spotlight revealing every minor imperfection. Creating a cozy atmosphere depends on more than just the bulb selection. Using indirect light is a good way to set a mood. Indirect lighting has no glare, which means it is a softer, subtler light. The light from chandeliers or sconces also can be soft light. If you choose chandeliers or sconces that use candelabra bulbs that resemble candles, that provides an almost instantly warm look. Take a tip from me; everyone goes to target to purchase that floor lamp with a three way bulb to lighten up there living quarters. A little effort and ingenuity goes a long way. Using this thought process my husband and I decided to take a stab at something different. We heard about the benefits of track lighting and witnessed its effects first hand while dining at a friend’s house. You might be thinking, “I don’t know how to install track lighting.” Well think again, we live in the era of YouTube. If it’s been invented then YouTube will have a tutorial on it. So I looked up the product on YouTube and sure enough, How to install Hampton Bay track lighting. A few hours later, we had track lighting in our living room. Candles create a mood and also can be flattering. One of the reasons restaurants put candles on the table is because it creates a soft atmosphere and helps us look better. Candle light is calming, soothing, warm, and inviting. I like to use vanilla bean or fresh linen candles before going to bed. I just love the way the light fills the room from a candle.
Keep it real
Let your home reflect who you are by keeping it practical, keeping it real, and keeping it you. Add some personal items to your home. The family photo album, your grandma’s vase… these things will make your house feel like a home because they will remind you of the people and things you love. Your home should feel like a place where you truly belong. And that's the whole idea of coziness. Try buying a recycled piece of furniture. The thing about vintage furniture is that it bears the traces of life on its surfaces. A cozy home is a home that’s lived in; a home that shows you’ve been there. I love the idea of adding unexpected details somewhere, like a vintage sofa. Neatness and order should also be maintained but it doesn’t need to be perfect. Perfect homes aren’t relaxing and they often make people feel uncomfortable. Just remember that a mess can ruin any sense of a cozy home so keep the clutter out of the rooms and maintain a clean and tidy look. Be sure to clean every day. You will form a good habit and the added bonus is that you will only need a couple of minutes to clean the house before guests arrive... A simple welcome from you and your family is all that is necessary. Offer your home favorably, and greet your guests knowing they are there for you, not to inspect your home. They just want a relaxing visit with you.
Bake! Bake! Bake!
Baking is the perfect way to give your home a cozy feel in the winter. For me, smells play huge role in creating my cozy space. Cooking creates a cozy atmosphere. The smell of fresh baked bread, hot cocoa, apple cider, and fresh-baked cookies garner the feeling of cozy within me. The actual activity brings warmth to the heart and soul. Just like a great cookie recipe has a handful of delicious ingredients that mix together in such perfection that a masterpiece of flavor bursts in your mouth, a family has a handful of special ingredients that bring it to life.
Holiday Family Cookie Recipe
21/4 cups of crazy Aunt Effie
1 teaspoon of your happily retired Father
A pinch of your overly educated slacker brother
2 sticks of Grandma Rose, whose pungent aroma lingers in the house for days
¾ a cup granulated smiles
¾ a cup brown Uncle Rico, who must be adopted as he bears no resemblance to any member in the entire family.
1 teaspoon Aunt Ruth, whose ugly Christmas sweater has survived so many holidays it has now come full circle as it graces the pages of Nordstrom’s Holiday Catalogue. Ironically it was once a source of laughter among cousins, but is now back in style.
2 large yawns as your cousin tells her yearly sob story about relationships past and why men suck.
2 cups of treasured memories
1 bottle of champagne
Pre-set the dining room table
Combine Aunt Effie, Your retired father, and your slacker brother at one end of the dining room table.
At the other end add Grandma Rose, granulated smiles, and two large yawns.
Slowly introduce some treasured memories and 1 bottle of champagne and mingle together until the table is nice and toasted.
Make it snuggle-able
There's often a difference between furniture that is pretty to look at, and furniture that is comfy to sit on. When purchasing furniture, ask yourself if you can you picture yourself curled up in it with a good book. Do you get a feeling of weight lifting off your shoulders? If that is not the case, perhaps you should keep searching. In a perfect world, furniture should be both comfy and stylish. But if coziness is what you are after, a tiny compromise in beauty may prove to be a good idea in the long run. Always remember, no matter how beautiful your furniture is, it should be comfortable to sit or sleep on. Opt for soft upholstered furniture in pastel and warm colors. Puffy cushions and throw pillows can soften firm furniture while floral tablecloths and ceramic tableware can add a cozy touch to your modern dinner room or kitchen.
Cozify Yourself before Bed
Turn on a space heater in the bedroom right before you go to bed, then shut the door to warm up the room. Turn it off before going to sleep as the electricity will sap your energy and you won’t awake refreshed. Be sure that you turn off your phone as well; you don't need anybody waking you up if it's an emergency they will find you. Clean your pillows on a regular basis and replace them every one to two years. Old ones can be turned into leisure guest pillows. One way I like to stay cozy at night is to take a shower before bed. This will keep your skin clean, warm, and soft. The shower will remove allergens that have hitched a ride during the day. Following the shower, dry brush your skin to loosen up the lymphatic system to prepare your body for sleep.
Create Your Perfect Sleeping Environment
Your bedroom is the most private room in the house and it should be the most personal. The perfect bed will beckon you to get under the covers, close your eyes, and drift off to dreamland. You should do all you can to make sure your bed is totally fit for snuggling up inside. You may think this perfect sleeping environment is unattainable but that's just not true. You too can create your own version of the comfiest, coziest place of all. Position your bed in the corner of your room. The small space created by the intersecting walls will allow you to feel safe and warm. Make your bed every day it will begin to feel like you're in a hotel but it’s free and you are the only guest. Throw lots of different-textured blankets on top of your comforter and top off your bed with every pillow you can find. Add throw pillows in different colors, textures, and shapes. It may seem frivolous to some, but, indulgent bedding has always been one of my weak spots. There's absolutely nothing like crawling into a luxuriously dressed bed after a long day of work and wrapping yourself in heavenly comfort. Soft sheets are worth their weight in gold. It will cure all that ails you. So go ahead and write yourself a prescription for cozy, you deserve it!
If you build it Sleep Will Come
This is my idea of the perfect bed:
here now
All Season natural down comforter
hygge heaven
The Venice Bedding set
Linen Duvet Set
cashmere throw
Striped Cashmere Throw

January 12, 2015

Betta Believe It

Betta splendens, also known as Siamese fighting fish are part of the gourami family. They got their name because people used to bet on them during betta fights. This is also why they are called fighting fish.  There on the smaller side only reaching about 3 inches in length an half an inch wide. They are naturally brown and green but have been selectively bred to produce a beautifully hued fish. In vibrant colors like yellow, purple, blue, and red just to name a few. Betas breathe air through a primitive lung called the labyrinth organ. Bettas are freshwater fish and live in warm waters with a temperature of about 76 to 83°. Bettas are very aggressive and shouldn't live with other bettas, although there are exceptions, similarly with Mr. Sprinkles and his Luna.  Bettas are a great choice for a first pet, because they are easy to take care of and are extremely fun.
The video above is of my two betta fish. My husband and I purchased the male first, his name is Mr. sprinkles. He is the red and white one with a long tail. His sidekick Luna,  is the blue-and-white female beta. After we purchased Mr. sprinkles we thought he might be lonely so we decided to get him a tank mate. Enter stage right, Luna. Upon introduction we were unaware of the bettas urge to be violent towards other bettas, especially females. We considered removing her or putting up a divider, but it has been months and they get along great. From what I have heard this is quite unusual. Our betta Mr. sprinkles also loves it when we pet him. I have never known a fish to have such emotional qualities. Maybe this is normal? Do you have a betta?  If so, what is his or her temperment like?  I would love to hear from you. 

November 22, 2014

Friday Fitness Study Guide


Visualize Yourself Kicking Butt

A study in The Journal of Conditioning Research found that visualizing yourself kicking ass before a workout or race can drastically enhance your performance.   Runners who visualized themselves sprinting superfast up to 2 minutes before a race ran faster than those who did not. Timing is everything though, the effect disappeared if it was done more than 3 minutes before running. This is probably because having more time between dreaming and doing causes you to loose the physiological momentum you have built.

Take it Outside

According to a study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, It requires less effort to move  on a treadmill versus walking or running outdoors at the same speed. Researchers tracked how much energy people burned walking outside and on a treadmill, and found that choosing a 3 percent slope on the treadmill best matches the energy requirements of walking on flat ground outdoors.

RISE and Shine

RISE is the new it word in exercising.  It stands for resistance, intervals, stretching, and endurance. According to a study in The Journal of Physiology, mixing these four exercises will maximize fat burning.  Individuals in the study consumed a diet of high protein meals and they exercised using RISE or they ate a normal diet along with an exercise regime of sprinting and weight training.  The individuals who used RISE lost more weight than the individuals who sprinted and lifted weights. Different activities trigger different metabolic pathways that work together to burn off fat more efficiently, says study author Paul Arciero, PhD.

Warm it Up

The next time you warm up before a workout try incorporating squatting and whole body vibrations into your warm-up. By doing this you can boost your sprint power by 6%, says a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Problem is: You may not have a whole-body vibrating machine. Instead, follow this three-step program proven by researchers at Bloomsburg University to boost your golf stroke speed by up to 24 percent: Take 2 minutes to do aerobic exercises like walking lunges, stretch for another 3 minutes, and then take practice swings for another 2 minutes.

Cool it Down

Take your next cool down to the next level. According to a review published in The Cochrane Library, cold water immersion (CWI) can reduce muscle soreness between 15 to 20 percent in the 24 to 96 hours after an intense workout session. Researchers compared the effects of CWI to passive recovery (basically doing nothing), active recovery (slowly jogging for several minutes), and compression (from socks and other tight clothing). The study found that ice baths were about as effective as active recovery or compression.

Are you As Strong as a Teenager?

According to German researchers, the average 25-year-old is only as fit as a 15-year-old kid. Researcher tested the running speed and chin-up strength of 8,000 German students, and compared their numbers to people in their 20s. The results: Both the average kid and 25-year-old could hold a chin-up for 40 seconds and complete a 1,000-meter run in 270 seconds. Your move: Hammer out intervals three times a week to burn three times as many calories compared to a moderate-pace run that’s twice as long, according to researchers at the University of New South Wales.

Boost Your Vertical Jump

Need to add a few inches to your vertical jump? Try squatting deeper. According to a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, bringing your squats below parallel when you’re squatting is the best way to improve your vertical jump. Before you start deep squatting, take a look at your heels: If they lift off the ground as you go low, use box squats to build mobility and strength before dropping to the floor.

Bring a Friend for Motivation

Having trouble staying motivated? Grab a training partner. Hitting the gym with a buddy can double the length of your workout, say researchers at Michigan State University. Even better: Join a team. Participants who rode together on the same team exercised for 2 minutes longer than their counterparts who rode with a single partner.

Get a Mouth Guard

According to a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, mouth guards can improve your performance on upper and lower body power exercises. Researchers found that people who used a mouth guard could jump higher on a vertical jump test than those who didn't have anything in their mouths. The researchers concluded that clenching your teeth can increase blood flow to the areas of the brain associated with motor control and timing.

November 11, 2014

Motivational Monday: Learning to Let Go

Picture Courtesy of Google Images

Learn to let go. Most of us want to be in control of every little peace of our lives, from how we look, to how others perceive us. Trying to mold the world to your will can drain your happiness, cause unneeded stress, and even alienate the people around you. If you find yourself faced with this dilemma the best thing you can do is surrender. Let go of the control and start to bring joy and fun back into your life.

Wish Them Well!

You need positive energy to attract success into your life, so stop comparing yourself to your coworkers or friends.  Constant comparisons with your friends or coworkers can hinder your own triumphs. Instead of harboring ill feelings toward that coworker you think stole your promotion, or your friend who is happily married while you are single and having a little bad luck in the romance department, wish them well. I know this can be hard, heck it can be downright impossible at times. If your situation falls into the later, just fake it.  Even if you don’t really want to wish them well, just saying the words will create a positive energy you need to attract success into your life.

Don’t Force It!

Sometimes, no amount of  brainstorming or analyzing can further your cause.  When this happens, don’t force it. Forcing things only leads to distress. Instead of fuming or ruminating when you hit a bump in the road, sit back, take a deep breath, and assess the situation at hand while feeling calm and collected. Begin to ask yourself what can be done to further your cause and how else can you address the situation at hand. Listen to your inner voice and follow those gut feelings as they may help you tune into a solution that has previously been beyond your reach.

Don’t Hold Back!

Sometimes we tend to see crying as a weakness so we hold back the tears.  Or we are afraid to open up the floodgates by allowing ourselves to have a good cry so we hold back the tears. Whatever the reason, don’t hold back anymore. Tears are healthy and healing.  Tears are your body's way of releasing stress, sadness, grief, and anxiety.  Letting go of pent up emotional and physical tension will help you to resolve and avoid being consumed by whatever pain you may be feeling.

Take a Time Out!

Life is hectic and most of us feel as though we don’t have time for anything else.  When life is this busy, your body needs a time out now and then to recharge and renew both energy and enthusiasm. Try a mediation exercise during this time out. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on a relaxing image for three minutes.  Carry this image with you throughout the day to bring feelings of peace to help you relax throughout the day.