Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Take a Break: Try Paper Batik and Tie Dying


Recently my brother-in-law gave me a present wrapped in the most incredible paper-it was Batik or possibly tie dyed. Which ever I’ve been enthralled and have been trying various techniques.

Checking different videos, I noticed that if you drop food coloring onto paper towels, it spreads and leaks through to the surface below. After laying down a piece of plastic (a trash can bag), I placed a sheet of paper-the kind they wrap glass in at the store-and
Paper towel with blotches of color
placed paper towel on top of it. I used cheap food colors and dropped color splotches all over. While some of it bled through to the paper, I wanted more of an effect.

I should have sprayed lightly with water, but since I didn’t want to look for a spray bottle, I doused it with way more water than needed. It bled in all sorts of directions and ended up with an interesting effect. 

After wetting it-note the spreading color


After it dried
Below are links and videos to check out:

Crayon Batik If you prefer written directions,try Crayon Batik 





This is a cool video of Tie Dying for a notebook. Can think of a lot of cool ways to use this.  


Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It’s the Little Things That Make a Big Difference When Someone is Ill


I spent the past week in New York City (NYC) as our son was having a  heart procedure as a result of a hereditary condition. It was extremely anxious situation for him and for us. However, all of it was made so much easier by the little things that people did. While it may not seem like you’ve done very much, the smallest of kindnesses is worth its weight in gold.

Below are all the ways that made a difference
 • Walking up to the NYU Langone hospital complex, we were greeted by a 38 foot tall Dalmatian balancing a NYC yellow cab. It made us smile and improved our mood. It also sends a message that anything is possible. Spot is the creation of Donald Lipski, who has been a patient at the hospital. He provided the following insight into his sculpture, “It is a stressful time, and I wanted to make something that would delight them; something so astounding it would distract even those arriving for the most serious procedures, and so lovable that young patients coming back again and again with chronic conditions would see it as an old friend,” said Lipski, who believes there is a reparative quality to art. “Art has actual healing power. That’s a fact! I like to think that the parents, the doctors and nurses and staff, the neighbors, will all love this sweet young dog doing the impossible.” Couldn’t agree with more that art can improve one's mood and aid in healing. 

• Several people e-mailed the day before and the day of the surgery to let us know they were thinking of us and praying for a speedy recovery. The fact that they remembered and took a minute or two to let us know lifted our spirits.

• My older son took time off from work to be with us. Our sons’ good friend also joined us for the lengthy wait at the hospital. There was lots of laughter, which always helps.

• There were various times during the 24 hours we spent at the hospital where we could be with our son. Watching his brother rub his feet did wonders for all of us.

• A liaison staff member at the hospital kept us informed of what was happening.

• My brother-in-laws and their close friend opened their homes to us, so we had a place to stay together, park our car and provided us meal after meal along with lots of hugs and support. My husband’s brother has the same heart issue, and had gotten our son into care when he began to have problems. We couldn’t have stayed with anyone better who understood exactly what was going on. Can’t imagine we were the best of house guests, but you’d never know it by how we were treated.

• While it was hotter than blazes in NYC, it was quite cold in the hospital. One of the nurses brought me a heated blanket. A moment of bliss.

• My son’s medical team brought lots of humor and support. In addition, they were also able to talk to our older son about what he needs to do if he should have symptoms. While no one wants to hear that they are at risk for anything, the physician’s assistant made him feel he had a place to go and would be well taken care of.

• The ancillary staff at the hospital that greeted us with a smile no matter the time of day or where we were. A genuine smile matters more than you know.

• The other people waiting to hear how their family/friend was doing became an impromptu support group. Talking to someone in a similar situation definitely helps.

• Our friends who watched pets and made sure everything was okay at home.

• The “get well” messages that people e-mailed and facebooked all touched us in such positive ways.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Skip the Brain Games for Brain Health


Despite all the claims by Luminosity and other “brain training” games, the scientific evidence is just not there. In July 2017, the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH)  issued a statement saying the evidence that “brain games” can maintain and improve brain health is “weak to nonexistent. These games can be fun and engaging, but often, the claims made by companies touting the benefits of these games are exaggerated.”

In the last week, another study was released showing “Brain Game Doesn’t Offer Brain Gain,” which adds credence to the GCBH report. According to one of the neuroscientists connected with this newest study, Bobby Stojanoski, the best thing you can do to help your brain is to "Sleep better, exercise regularly, eat better, education is great -- that's the sort of thing we should be focused on. If you're looking to improve your cognitive self, instead of playing a video game or playing a brain training test for an hour, go for a walk, go for a run, socialize with a friend. These are much better things for you."

So what about crossword puzzles? Sodku? If you like doing them, continue. If you dislike them but are doing it for brain health, skip it. Go learn something new instead. Learning a second language, an instrument or new technology skills on the computer are helpful and can make a difference

The GCBH  makes the following recommendations for Enhancing Brain Health: Find new ways to stimulate their brain and challenge the way they think (e.g., learning new skills, practicing tai-chi, taking photography classes, investigating their genealogy). It is also important to participate in mentally-stimulating activities that include social engagement and a purpose in life (e.g., volunteering as a companion and mentoring others in your community). In addition, people should consider physical activities (e.g., dancing or tennis) that involve both mental engagement and physical exercise to improve brain health. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Pick a skill or hobby that you want to learn and find a friend or companion to help you do it. Select activities that fit with your schedule and are easily accessible. 

Activities that combine motor and cognitive functions, such as learning new dance moves, Tai Chi or Qigong are more beneficial than just doing one type of activity alone. Interestingly “exergames” doubles the mental benefits above and beyond traditional exercise. Not familiar with Exergaming? It’s a technology driven physical activity, such as video game play that requires participants to be physically active or exercise in order to play the game. Examples of such activities include Dance Dance Revolution, WII fit, games for stationary bikes etc.



The Alzheimer’s Association offers “10 Ways to Love YourBrain” that are similar to CCBH but also recommend not smoking; wearing a helmet; and managing stress, anxiety.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Take a Break: August Holiday Gifts to Start Now-Puzzle Pieces



It’s the first Wednesday in August so time for making some fun items that you can give as holiday gifts come December. Since August is vacation month, it’s nice to have a project to aid in relaxation with the added bonus of some interesting presents for future giving. At the end of this post are past years August Holiday Gifts to Start Now

 Puzzle pieces can be turned into some really fun gifts that people will enjoy receiving. Whether you have a drawer full of puzzle pieces, or you pick up puzzles at the local thrift store or yard sale for a quarter, consider some of these ideas:

Wreath: Cut out the shape of a wreath (using two different sized bowls) from card stock or cardboard.  Glue the puzzle pieces one layer at a time until you have three to four layers. Depending on what you have on hand, you can just use green, white and/or red pieces, spray paint the finished product; use a floral motif puzzle; or another “themed” type of puzzle. A candy cane shape would work well, spraying red and white stripes.

Puzzle Letter: Using a letter stencil, trace the letter on to heavy cardboard, foam core or something that’s strong and sturdy. Cut out and start gluing pieces of the puzzle on to the letter. Can leave as is or spray paint one color. The finished letter can be left as is or mounted onto canvas and framed.  Easy project to do with kids.

Coasters For the friend that loves puzzles, create special coasters and hot pads by gluing puzzle pieces to a piece of cork backing (available at your local craft store in rolls) or a piece of wood. Be sure to coat the coaster top with a number of layers of varnish to keep it water and/or heat proof.

Ornaments & Pins: Picking the same shape puzzle pieces and spraying one color, which will then
be decorated after being attached, can be used to create items for the Christmas tree or to wear as a brooch. Altered puzzle pieces appears to be a big thing in England, so there are lots of ways to bling out a puzzle piece to make a very classy pin. Larger puzzle pieces, such as from a child’s puzzle, are perfect for making name tags and/or gift tags. Putting a hole through a puzzle piece can be done by using a sharp needle or dart.

Wine charms, key rings, earrings: Put a hole through a puzzle piece, insert ring and you can make everything from a wine charm to some interesting earrings. Keep in mind that you’ll need to put layers of Mod Podge or varnish to create a smooth finish and make it durable for use. For a group of friends, link some puzzle pieces together. Place the holes for rings, clasps, necklaces or whatever you choose to use in such a way that the pieces can remain connected when first presented. Decorate as you see fit. Can be a nice way to recognize connections of friends, support groups, special event etc.

Gift Tags: Paint and include the usual "to/from" using Sharpies. Have made some using just acrylic paints and it works fine.

Note that the puzzle piece is used as the logo for Autism Awareness.

 Previous Years  August Holiday Gifts to Start Now






• 2016 Bowls 

• 2017 Jars 


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Access Green Space


A study published last week in JAMA Network Open  has shown that green spaces are associated with better mental health.

Having access to green space is healing on multiple levels. Finding it in your community and spending time there could be a real boost, improving how you feel and function. Whether you have personal access to green space or not, consider working with a community group, a support group, church etc. to establish green spaces were they may not have them. Planning and implementing such a volunteer effort is not only rewarding and healthier for the environment, but lots of research shows how volunteering makes people a lot happier.

There are lots of options to consider including small informal spaces, such as by a river bed, roof terrace, vacant lot, or backyard to larger projects such as a park or nature trail. You can clean up an existing lot. One study found that 10 or more trees per city block positively impacted how people felt. Just looking at trees makes people feel better.

Don’t less cost deter you as it’s cheaper than you think.  The Philadelphia project found that converting an abandon space could be done for as little as $1,600 with an additional $180 per year for maintenance. You don’t need to go that big as simply cleaning an overgrown lot can be done for free.

To get started, check out Create a Green Space in Your Community.

Don’t overlook houseplants as they help to keep a space clean. In fact they can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. In addition they improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels and boost mood. Check out The Best Houseplants for Every Room.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Take a Break: Make Water Marble rocks


This is the time of year people take long walks along the beach or hike and bring home lots of rocks. Some towns have "hide a rock" programs, where decorated rocks are hidden around town.

The easiest way to learn how to do this is by watching the video below. Note not every nail polish can be used with this technique so take note of which ones work.

Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Dialing Down the Angst


Life is full of angst regardless of whether you are living with a chronic condition(s) and/or being a caregiver. The damaging effects to the body are well documented but more importantly, it  just feels awful. 

This post is broken into two parts: what to do to break the immediate grasp of being anxious and how to be proactive to avoid angst in the first place.

 Ways to Immediately Relieve Angst: This is for those times when you are suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of dread or fear, have a lump in your throat, racing heart, dizziness or any other sign that you are highly anxious.
• Stay present and breathe. Try one of the following breathing patterns to see which one works best for you.

-       CO 2 Breathing: Cup your hands over your mouth or use a paper bag. Breath into your hands or the bag slowly. Breathe normally and deeply.

-       Gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling up your lower lungs first and then your upper lungs. Hold your breath to the count of “three.” Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.

-       Sit in a chair or on the floor with arms on your lap or sides. Take a deep slow breathe through your nose for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. Hold the breath for 2-3 seconds and breathe out slowly through your mouth for another 6-7 seconds. Breathe like you’re whistling. Repeat 10 times

-       Equal Breathing helps you fall asleep. Inhale and exhale on a count of four through your nose. Repeat for 10 breaths or more. You can extend counts to 6-8 seconds per inhale/exhale

-       Alternate Nostril breathing: Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, hold your right ring finger over your left nostril and release and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat the breaths 3 to 5 times.



• Take a walk, stretch, yoga pose-move

• Laugh out loud

• Talk to someone friendly

• Change the dialogue in your head. Run through a mental checklist-is there a reason to believe something is wrong; is there evidence; could I be blowing this out of proportion? Try affirmations, such as “I’m okay, this is just anxiety;” “my thoughts aren’t reality.”


Changes to make that can reduce anxiety driven situations
• Identify what makes you anxious and think about ways to reduce or eliminate these types of situations.

• Put some processes in place so they don’t become sources of stress. One of my recent ones is to use the “reminders”  feature on my phone and keep a list of things I need. Before I would run around trying to figure out what we need before I went shopping and I’d not only miss things, but I’d over buy thinking I was almost out of something. Now as I notice we’re running low, I add it to my virtual shopping list. Don’t have a phone, attach a note pad to your refrigerator and use it. Yes, I’m becoming a list minder, but it definitely reduces stress so I’m okay with it.

• Clear clutter as piles of “stuff” can drain your energy and make you feel stressed. Your home should be your sanctuary. Check out The KonMari Method for Tidying When Affected by a Chronic Condition

• Evaluate your relationships and eliminate or significantly reduce time and interactions with people who make you feel anxious. Cultivate supportive friendships.


• Simplify finances: put as many things on autopilot as possible (direct deposit of paycheck; auto deduct for savings , monthly bills etc); reduce the number of accounts you have, particularly credit cards; examine monthly bills and determine if there are things you aren’t really using, such as cable TV; pay for weekly expenses with cash (you save money doing this and reduce the need to continually balance your check book).

• Simplify responsibilities: Learn to say no. Only commit to things you want to do and have time for. Over commitments turns into poor performance and leads to anxiety and resentment.

• Reduce or eliminate screen time be it TV, smart phone or computer. Social media can not only be a time suck, but studies show it doesn’t increase a sense of well being. Set your phone so it doesn’t ping you every time there is a call, e-mail, text etc. Select the most important features. The world isn’t going to end if you miss a call.

• Go for contentment and skip the happiness obsession

• Have a news block out. Media exposure to disturbing events can literally make you feel sick. The goal is to be informed but not obsessed. Many people listen or watch the news as they eat breakfast, prepare dinner etc. Switch it up with interesting pod casts.

• Take vacations

• Learn to say “I don’t care.” You don’t have to have an opinion on everything so only optimize what’s really important to you.

• Put off till tomorrow or even until next week what you can. Everything doesn’t have to be a priority. Live in the moment and avoid multi tasking. You can’t really multi task anyway.

• Relax: Dance, listen to music, draw, paint, do nothing, read a book, exercise, take a hot bath, write. Do whatever that makes you feel comfy, cozy and saying “aaahhhhh....”