Everything the Light Touches Say "This is worthwhile" a little more often.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Photo Tour: Waterford, VA

Today is my brother's birthday! We share an intense desire to be creative and to share that creativity with the world. He particularly loves music, film, and photography. In his honor I am finally publishing some pictures I took last Summer of a quaint historic town in my native Northern Virginia.

Photo Tour: Waterford VA - a tour of a historic town in Northern Virginia

Waterford, Virginia is a seemingly preserved picture of Loudoun County's past life. I had never seen the town before going on a day trip with my friend, Chelsea, who was visiting with her precious new Schnauzer puppy. We hitched up the pups and went for a day in the June heat and getting lost on a one-way hike... But it was worth seeing all the rustic stone and pasteled homes, the one cobblestone road that ran through the village, and the overgrown gardens that spilled over with magic.

stone steps Waterford VA

country cottage Waterford VA

yellow bike Waterford VA

historic cottage Waterford VA

The Old Mill Waterford VA

dog hike Waterford VA

shaded arbor Waterford VA

Catoctin Creek Waterford VA

cornerstone established 1886 Waterford VA

secret passageway Waterford Virginia

door knocker Waterford VA

town smithie Waterford VA

rustic cottage Waterford VA

garden Waterford VA

general store Waterford VA

front porch Waterford VA

birdhouses Waterford VA

The classic cottage with the orange scooter is my favorite snapshot from the day. A little ETLT trivia: That is the image that served as the inspiration for the new look and purpose of the site this year. And I've been trying to recreate that emotion in everything I do ever since. Do any of these images speak to you? Tell me about it in the comments. Or link to your image inspiration. Happy Saturday!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

My Top Found "Make It Again"-Worthy Recipes

The Food Network, a television channel dedicated to food culture and bringing culinary education to the masses, launched in 1991. I am 99% sure that I've been watching since day 1 at the very conscious age of 2. Early shows like Two Fat Ladies and chefs such as Sarah Moulton were part of my after-school and Saturday morning line up, right along with Power Rangers and Sailor Moon. Practically everything I know about cooking comes courtesy of the Food Network.

For a long time I aspired to be a famous chef and restaurant owner. When the Disney Channel Original Movie Eddie's Million Dollar Cook Off premiered with Bobby Flay I felt part of a special club because I knew who that was! You could find me in cooking clubs sponsored by my school and baking competitions at picnics. I almost opted for technical school to pursue culinary arts in high school. In the end I choose the business route, and that didn't fair well, but I have always been interested in everything food.

Lately though there hasn't been as much time or my own space to make in. Pinterest has become a significant part of my culinary experience allowing me to simultaneously research and hoard quick and approved recipes. Today I'm dishing out some of my favorite repeat recipes from the internet to share my adoration in a different way.

My Top Found "Make Again"-Worthy Recipes - a roundup of favorite Pinterest recipes that are definitely worth making again

Main Meals & Entrées

Man Pleasin' Chicken
The appropriately named Man Pleasin' Chicken has a unique sauce that is out of this world! If you don't have fresh rosemary, no worries. Add a little less than the recipe calls for of crushed up dried rosemary and you're good to go. From Witty In the City

Fish & Chips
Beer-battered Fish & Chips without the beer!? Yes! This recipe offers the insanely helpful option of using soda water instead. The batter is perfect leaving the fish crispy and oh-so-tasty. Now that I know I will never EVER look back. From RockRecipes.com
Take out that random pasta maker and put some effort into Homemade Spinach Pasta. This recipe requires some muscle but is totally worth it. Reward your hard work with double topping of your favorite store-bought red AND white sauces. You'll have Italy in the palm of your hand. From Hubpages

Thoroughly diggin' on Asian-inspired food right now. Bonus if it's quick and simple. Enter this P.F. Chang's copycat recipe for Chicken Lettuce Wraps which uses ground chicken. From Damn Delicious <<< P.S. She's AMAZING.

Hey this one is actually from Food Network haha! My mouth is watering right now just thinking about some Fried Chicken Salad. I prefer nuts (pecans, walnuts) to the veggies in this recipe, but to be honest all you really need is the fried chicken and cayenne. SO GOOD. From Damaris Phillips (Southern at Heart)

Breakfast

This recipe makes my life. It's cake in the microwave! I have it for breakfast about 3 times a month. Not an applesauce fan? Swap it out for equal amounts (2 Tablespoons each) of your favorite instant oatmeal and hot water. From Heather Likes Food

Dessert

Nothing like the perfect dessert: classy, simple, and still looks like you slaved all day. These Cranberry Tea Cookies fit the bill perfectly. They are a perfect potluck or new neighbor gift. Or eat the whole batch yourself. I won't judge. From Lisa Is Bossy

Another perfect dessert recipe that meets my criteria is this one for Mini Cheesecake Cupcakes. I like to go the semi-homemade route (if you couldn't tell) by making the cheesecakes from a box recipe then topping with homemade caramel and, of course, sea salt. Or switch it up with homemade cheesecake and pre-made sauce. Either way they'll always be a hit. From Cooking Classy

Well, if I were clever there would have been pictures of me having actually made these. I was too busy eating them. Sorry not sorry. I guess you'll just have to go make them for yourself. Eat hearty, my friends!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

For Those Who Struggle With Alone Time

I am terribly uncomfortable with being alone. The worrier and control freak inside waste all kinds of time wondering what everyone else is doing, and sometimes assuming they are all doing things without me on purpose. Most of the time I attempt to remedy this by filling my schedule and staying busy with random to do lists and projects. However, the fake escape can have an opposite effect because having all the extra demands on my time can heighten my unofficial anxiety. Trying to manage all those thoughts can leave me feeling helpless and useless since I've never truly required myself to just sit and relax.

Basically the thought of having to deal with myself and my thoughts incites panic. Quite literally I'd rather hide. When we are alone with our thoughts we have a greater chance of criticizing ourselves. Being preoccupied, even artificially, influences our thinking away from the tough stuff. We don't have to think about it if we are worried about other people or situations. Thus if we dislike spending time alone we give ourselves two options: get up and distract yourself or stay under the covers for as long as humanly possible.

For Those Who Struggle With Alone Time - for some of us being alone can be scary, but it doesn't have to be

While I wish staying in bed weren't a problem, there is a solid bit of commentary on emotional, physical, and interpersonal concerns. I've spoken before about how humanity thrives because of community. The biggest issue that sticks out to me is if we never come to terms with who we are, both good and bad, we can never improve. Defeating shortcomings begins with personally accepting them. Constant distraction from real life allows our defense mechanisms against negativity to become part of our personalities. In short, we really do become useless. Alone time, on the other hand, provides a chance to work it all out and let's us learn more about ourselves. In turn we are better equipped to deal with the world around us.

A secret about alone time that I've recently discovered is finding activities that work in already established interests, skills, and talents without pressure to perform. The reason we don't like to be alone is because we are afraid of what we think of ourselves. Afraid we don't meet our own standards. The time might be spent in critique of our latest experiences, charging us to do better in the future. A better use of that time might be in the creation of something that doesn't demand anything from us, where the results of what we make are just happy to have been made. No comparisons or competition. Just making for making's sake.

Over time we can see how much we've accomplished on our own. Eventually spending time alone won't devolve into self-deprecation but instead lead us to self-actualization. We are capable of being alone because we can honor those parts of us that simply are - you know, the ones we were afraid of in the first place.

Activities for When You'd Rather Not Be Alone (But Have To)
Through experience, I've come to understand when I need these breaks and what to do with the time. Before I was scared of choosing to go off on my own, for all the reasons listed above and more, and I overwhelmed myself to the point of being paralyzed. Now I am learning to understand my needs better since I spend more time with myself. The activities you choose to structure your time alone should be simple, preferably you can completely zone out. You may compare this to mindfulness or inner thinking. The point is to experience yourself in places that are purely your own. Some suggestions from my favorite alone time activities are...
  • Brainstorming, Mindmapping, or Brain Dumping - Sometimes it's good to just let it all out with no boundaries. It's okay to use upcoming projects for this because you aren't trying to finalize anything. You are just to come up with as many ideas as possible. The process can ease tension, provide perspective, or just plain clear your mind. Color and scribbling required.
  • Watching TV - Documentaries, catch up on shows you've missed. Learn something or don't. As long as you are vegging out, as television is so beautifully designed to do, it works.
  • Reading - Series are especially good here because you can stick to a set of books that keeps you going for a while. Extended reading opens you up to new ideas, and helps drive your interests and creativity. Not to mention it can be addictive when you find the right books. I've read six books in the last 3 months, finishing off a series that I couldn't recommend more emphatically and starting a new one that I also enjoy. And I'm already looking forward to my next one.
  • Writing - Working "serially" is perfect here too. Journaling, scrapbooking, and even light (no pressure) blogging are outlets that help you learn to express your feelings in words. Better communication and understanding is always a good thing.
  • Walking - Grab your loyal buddy, either a pet or a camera, and head out for a walk around the neighborhood. Appreciate the world around you and get healthy. Bonus points if you are walking for charity!
  • Coloring - Adult coloring books are extremely popular these days. I myself have about 4! And since I have no drawing skill whatsoever, it's nice to have the images already created for me. The focus required for coloring can be very calming and colors can affect your mood.
  • Cooking - As long as you are alone in this one it can be a perfect way to spend your time. Cooking uses a grouping of different skills and the results can be amazing! Take what you make to the local homeless shelter or hand over some baked goods to the neighbors.
  • Music - Put on your favorite tunes for some bedroom karaoke or a personal dance party. Or learn a song on your favorite instrument. Again this uses your brain a few different ways so you'll be spending time and energy. Plus you can go all out because no one is watching.
Examples of things I wouldn't do...
  • Group Exercising
  • Phone calls/Checking email
  • Cleaning or Organizing
  • Social Media
  • Work
These activities require other people or they just aren't fun. Remember to choose an activity or two that you actually want to do for which you can find a secluded spot to accomplish. And no cheating with group classes at the gym or heading to the dog park. That's a habit for another time when maybe meeting people is the point. For now, enjoy you because YOU are awesome!

P.S. I'd like to invite your awesome self to my Facebook group Writers Without Limits. My fellow wordsmiths and I share all kinds of writing and creativity ideas and you should be there! Receive your official ticket in by signing up for the ETLT email list.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

How To Think About Clothes the Right Way

If you have cynical or defeatist thoughts about clothing, please leave them at the end of this sentence. Today I'm talking about why what we wear is important to defining how we represent ourselves. Sure clothes can be materialistic, mocking, gender-specific, or annoying, depending on who you talk to. But in the end we all make judgments based on appearance and that should be acknowledged.

How To Think About Clothes the Right Way - your clothes say a lot about you so dress like it

As part of this wanderlust I call becoming a way cooler version of myself, I have been paying special attention to my closet and the settings in which I might be found on a daily basis. I wouldn't be surprised if I earn the phrase "The clothes made the woman" as my epitaph someday. The effort and time that goes into my clothing choices says a lot about me without me even opening my mouth. An outfit has the ability to give away attitude and mood, professionalism, self-perception, status, relationships... and so on and so forth. In a world of first impressions we shouldn't take this for granted. 

Communication is a large piece of the Life pie. To ignore that would be rude and wrong. You see, we can be as selfish as we want, expecting others to take us seriously just because, but that isn't a thing (as I have to re-learn often). Like it or not, relationships are important to the human identity. Thus they should be treated as precious. We want people to care about what we think so we have to be willing to care about what they think, at least a little bit. If we deny what our appearance says to other people while still demanding they get over the stigma we might represent, then we are being unreasonable.

We can improve the message we send by playing the part. Last week I told you my plan to become "an independent, successful, and resourceful creative." Before I require others to believe that about me without any basis, I should be presenting myself as savvy and worthy of respect. I do my job to meticulously word emails and such, try my absolute hardest to be on time to meetings and events (which doesn't always work out), treat others with respect, and take time to select outfits that say what I value, i.e. comfort and confidence.

You can establish the image you want before anyone has the chance to think otherwise. Your image reflects your thoughts and it is your responsibility. Just like a sports jersey or school uniform, an outfit promotes what you want the world to know about your associations. Take your wardrobe as a banner, or testament if you will, to everything that makes up who you are. Don't sell yourself short. And certainly don't get cocky, kid.

Just something to think about.

In My Closet
If you're into this sort of thing, I've tried to keep track of some of my favorite outfits for the past few months. A few things to keep in mind when browsing these photos: 1. All of these photos were taken with my Galaxy S6 2. These are my first OOTD selfies so go easy on me 3. Flats are my best friends as I am teaching a lot these days and 4. Suddenly I've taken to wearing a lot of black... Ultimate Conclusion: My clothes need to get a little more feisty if I'm going to get the "creative" part about me done right.

OOTD Blazer and Cargo Pants

OOTD Boyfriend Cardigan and Pencil Skirt

OOTD Dressed Up Top and Flared Jeans

OOTD Midi Dress and Military Jacket

OOTD T Shirt and Slacks

OOTD Heavy Layers and Colored Jeans

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Checklist of Questions For When You Want To Give Up

In my first three years of college I failed accounting three times. My big "when-I-grow-up" dream at the time was to become the owner of a Food Network-worthy restaurant someday. This dream had lasted from my childhood when I was pretending to cook mixtures of grass and sticks in my backyard. Everything my Kindergarten heart had ever hoped for rested on my ability to get a Hospitality and Tourism Management degree. Yet there I was, barely making it out of basic accounting after a third attempt and for sure not being able to make it through the next level class. (I had a 13% at midterm!) Embarrassed, I began to consider other options.

At the time I thought the choice to change majors was smart. I was switching to History Education. All the political science and history classes I had been taking for fun were suddenly useful. At least there wasn't going to be anymore wasted time on classes that I couldn't pass. I also justified my "new dream" with Disney's The Princess & The Frog because Tiana changed her dreams of owning a restaurant too, right? Well, sort of. 

Actually, an honest explanation was that I was giving up. Becoming a teacher was easy and therefore more worthwhile. Rather than stay on a path that required me to get myself together, I chose to dodge to another more reachable goal assuming that, by holding on tight enough, the original failure would be overshadowed by the shining results of an easier plan. This was to hide the fact that I had failed. Not because of my grade in accounting, but because of my lack of will. I was looking at all the things that were done wrong instead of maybe things that were done right. My other related classes for business were interesting and enjoyable. My ideas were valued. Still I let that one stumbling block of calculations take me down.

The Checklist of Questions For When You Want To Give Up - before giving up on your goals, take a minute to see how far you've comeSo I let the hard stuff win. I let the assumption of bad things to come win. For those of us in the world who are worst-case scenario visionaries, thinking positively can be difficult. We are already our worse enemy because no one else is. We'd rather accept the Best as the way life should always be instead of allow ourselves to be unprepared when things go awry.

Our only saving grace are the people we know who are more optimistic or often just realistic. They look at worse-case scenarios as an opportunity for self-evaluation and planning ahead. They are the people that snap their fingers to bring us back to reality. My husband is a fantastic example of this. He's the one holding my string when I've got my head floating high above the clouds, always reminding me that the world is not going to end. At least not today anyway...

The Questions
Positive influences can also be fleeting or unexpected. Our responsibility is to recognize the good energy and use it. For example, fellow blogger Daniela Uslan sent out an encouraging email to her followers a few weeks ago that provided some questions for reflecting on the progress of our goals. She understands how being a creative person is sometimes a burden when results aren't immediate. To counter this Danelia reminded us not to focus on details that haven't been dealt with. Instead take stock of tasks or milestones that have been completed, then look ahead to doing better on the next one.

I've paraphrased the questions she offered below, and added a final one of my own for the sake of continuity. The first three questions alone are a good start to planning for tomorrow. That last question gives us a chance to take the first step in that plan. When it's all over maybe we'll be more willing to move forward versus allowing ourselves to be weighed down by the unsure feeling of doing worse.
  1. What am I proud of accomplishing since I started working towards my goal?
  2. What have I learned since I started pursuing my goal?
  3. If I could fast forward to 3 months from now, what would I love to have created/accomplished in regards to my goal?
  4. What resources or relationships do I need in order to keep moving forward?
Remember that 'positive' doesn't just mean 'good', it also could mean 'helpful' or 'motivating'.  Asking ourselves honestly about our effort is an important part of meeting goals. We are shielded from that whole "definition of insanity" stuff that keeps us from progressing. We also learn to be more supportive of our own talents and skills because we can come to more truthful conclusions about our ideas and how we pursue them. 

The Answers
It's a short list, but the answers can be very introspective. Choosing a specific goal then considering how you would answer these questions can be a singular experience - if the experience itself is respected. And finally writing it all down is exciting! Each of these questions requires some rules which I have included. Also, for the sake of being a real person, I've given my answers to these questions. Welcome to my exercise in positive thinking. Let's see how it all comes together, shall we?

Specs
First off you need to define the goal or experience you are evaluating. Be as specific as possible. Use descriptive words, measurements, and give yourself a deadline. WRITE IT DOWN. And for the reflection part establish a time period in which your goal will be considered. Don't think ahead or look back from the time period you set. That will keep your answers more focused and realistic.

My Specs
Goal: Defining myself as an independent, successful, and resourceful creative freelancer. 
Time Period: January 2015-January 2016

What am I proud of accomplishing since I started working towards my goal?
You have permission to bask in your intermediate accomplishments. And not to forget them! Taking those little steps means you are moving forward. Remembering them reminds you of your importance and talent. We choose our goals because they make us feel special. If we don't acknowledge that we are actively pursuing them, we'll forget our purpose. Then what's the point?

Give yourself a chance to be happy with what you've done so far. Otherwise you risk having done it for no reason at all.

My Answer: In 2015 I started this blog, wrote and released an original song with my band, learned a new skill (Social Media Marketing), and found writing again. All of these accomplishments were things I've never done before. Now I am confident in my ability to take things to the next level: a solid creative freelancing business that incorporates all the things I love to do.

What have I learned since I started pursuing my goal?
This question is worded perfectly for positive thinking. Instead of "What am I not proud of...?" the question allows us to put our failures or setbacks in the box of things gained, not lost. Forgetfulness, negativity, dreaming too big, miscommunication, finances, scheduling - they become things to do better because the steps are more clear now. To prepare for the future learning from our mistakes is actually satisfying. If we plan on becoming more we have to start somewhere!

Use those setbacks to propel your goals forward as you go on, better equipped to deal with whatever is next.

My Answer: Though I still need practice, I've discovered balance and discernment. When life got tough there was opportunity to see what was actually worth it and what wasn't working for me. At times I listened, opening myself up for growth and learning. Other times I didn't, suffering from less pleasant results. Now I have a better understanding of what I want, which of my skills best suit my goals, how much time I have, and why I choose to do what I do. Everyday I learn more about what I have to offer.

If I could fast forward to 3 months from now, what would I love to have created/accomplished in regards to my goal?
Chances are you have already thought about the far, far future. Big house, fancy clothes, global recognition, and lots of orphan puppies that now call you Mom. (Okay maybe that's just me.) The problem is with a long term view there is little energy put into making immediate strides. By constantly thinking about where we are going to end up we don't make plans for how to get there.

Think short term for a minute and make something happen now that will give you skills and resources for what you're planning down the road.

My Answer: I'm really looking forward to building my writing improvement group on Facebook, Writers Without Limits. We are an close community right now and I would enjoy watching it blossom as we move into the Summer with at least 60 members. In the grand scheme of things I would reach more people and learn from their experiences too. *fingers crossed* Would you like to be one of them?

Also I want continue building on the freelance social media and writing work I have been doing. I'm working on a legitimate business plan to back the services I currently offer. I'm creating a whole new brand identity as a legitimately registered business. Right now I'm *very* early in the learning stage so there isn't much to say except hashtag excited!

What resources or relationships do I need in order to keep moving forward?
Humans need each other to survive. Quite honestly, we cannot accomplish everything on our own. The advantage of having connections is that we are able to reach our full potential with the guidance and offerings of those around us who are more experienced or have more access to the things we want to become. Let yourself be molded.

Examine your needs authentically. Then, identify who or what should be in your life now that you are preparing your next steps, and where you can find them.

My Answer: There is a lot of research in my immediate future as I prepare my money-making ventures. I've met with a business mentor courtesy of the Small Business Administration SCORE program. This is a huge step in creating face-to-face relationships. I have some great new friends online thanks to my research, blogging, and writing. Now what should really happen next is me getting out there to meet people in person.

The Experience
The thing I love most about this set of questions is that they aren't dripping with bias. In order to answer them properly, one must be totally honest. The definition of success is influenced by individual experience which means that sometimes we need a minute to step back. When given this opportunity to look deeply at our lives we can create room for identifying happiness and applying it to our day to day. I have so much to be proud of that I had hardly considered before forcing myself to look back without assumptions. The turning points I've met and what is left to look forward to are experiences that never crossed my mind before. Dreams literally do come true!

I encourage you to take some time to answer these questions for yourself. If you are willing, tell us your answers too. The exercise will keep you humble. Good luck and don't give up!!
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Kristyn here. I'm really good at Googling, dreaming, and thinking outside the box. Someday I'm going to save all the puppies and perform on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

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