SmartChick Gets Silly Exercising with Barbie

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. When I do it regularly, I feel good and I like that. When I don’t do it regularly, I can’t remember what I liked about it and I have to drag myself back to it kicking and screaming. (Actually, kicking and screaming isn’t really accurate because that would be much more active. I suppose that I have to drag my body out of bed as it resists by slumping into a heavier and heavier state!)

Of course, the trick is to find exercise that you truly enjoy doing. And I do have that. In particular, I like hiking. I also like other active, strength building things like indoor rock climbing and pilates mat classes. Unfortunately I just can’t make these things happen on a regular enough basis for them to be my sole form of exercise. I need more cardio in my life in order to feel good.

So what I’d really like to do is find a way to make exercising at home more fun. Home-based exercise is great because it doesn’t require any preparation, it works in any weather and you can fit it in between work and social networking and watching TV and whatever else you’re already doing at home. There are certainly drawbacks to home-based exercise and I definitely don’t think it could be my only exercise option either but combined with out-of-the-house activities it offers a well-rounded exercise option.

In theory. The problem is that it’s tough to find a home-based workout that I can actually get enthusiastic about. It’s easy to start one and then halfway through it decide that I’m done for the day – a huge flaw of the home-based workout. So, in an effort to get excited about exercise again, I decided to try a dance workout with Barbie.

The truth is that I love silly campy things. I love retro things that were sort of kind of cool when they first came out and are now just totally ridiculous. They make me laugh. And if you can laugh while you’re working out then you can enjoy what you’re doing, getting many more benefits than you would get with just straight gritting-your-teeth-through-it kind of exercise.

So I turned on this 30 minute video thinking that the silliness of it would at least get me excited about moving and being active in my home. It’s supposed to be for ages 6 and up so I didn’t expect a major workout. Boy was I wrong! Although the exercises themselves aren’t tough in the way that holding a yoga pose or climbing a mountain is tough, I found it nearly impossible to keep up with the dance moves of the Barbie instructor. How the kids on the video learned those dance exercises is beyond me.

But the truth is that it worked. It made me laugh. And I got most of the way through the video before I gave up on it, did some crunches and quit my home workout for the day.

What do you do to workout in a way that you actually enjoy?

Related article: 5 Ways to Burn Calories (that aren’t all about exercise)


Tips for Girls with No Time to Sew

Most of us like to be involved in DIY craft projects when we can. At the very least, we like to be able to dress up our own clothing or make some of our own accessories now and then. But let’s face it, sometimes being crafty takes a back seat to practicality. There just isn’t always time to do things like sew.

For those of you looking to pull your look together without having to mess around with needle and thread, here are a few tips:

· Button Guns – These craft toys are inexpensive and can be efficient in a bind. Toss it in to your purse and the next time you have a button pop off, you can use your button gun to put it back on quickly.

· Fabric Tape – Have a pair of pants that you want shortened but don’t have the time to hem them? Next time you’re at the store, pick yourself up a roll of toupee tape. Stick the tape on the hem edge of the pants you’re shortening, turning it up so the leg sticks to itself and voila – you’re all set!

· No-sew Snaps – Use these instead of buttons to tighten clothes where they need to be tightened or loosen your look with some decorative picks.

· Patches – With the right choice in designs, fabric patches never go out of style. Rather than getting the sew-on kind, use the self-adhesive ones to jazz up your jeans.

And if you want to make things but sewing isn’t working out for you then I’d recommend trying crochet. I’m still working on learning to sew but it frustrates me a lot. In contrast, I’m finding crocheting to be super easy. I even made that cute little neck warmer recently. :)


10 Things I Want to Learn More About in 2010

I think one of the most important things that you can do to keep yourself happy is to keep learning new things. This inspires you. It motivates you. It gives you a reason to wake up in the morning. It stretches your boundaries and makes life more interesting.

I try to learn new things all of the time. Most of what I learn comes from random experiences and ends up being about stuff I never planned on learning. However I do think it’s good to think about the things that you want to learn more about.

10 things I plan to learn more about in 2010 are:

  1. Crochet. I just barely learned how to crochet over Thanksgiving weekend and have completely fallen in love with it. It’s the first craft that I absolutely can not get enough of. I want to learn new stitches, new projects, new use of yarns and fabrics. (The photo above was made from an old sweater and some black cotton yarn.)
  2. Lomography. I recently learned about this interesting type of photography. I want to know more about it.
  3. Photoshop. I FINALLY took a photoshop class late last year and started to learn the basics. I really want to actually start using this program and learning how to do stuff with it which I haven’t really done yet.
  4. Pilates machines. I really like my pilates mat class but I want to branch out and learn more about how to do pilates using machines. Haven’t tried that yet but will have tried it by this time next year!
  5. Celebrity fashion. This isn’t a topic that I thought I’d ever be interested in. However I’ve started exploring it for a new blog I’m helping out with (the blog for super cool Bay Area clothing company Edgi). I’m actually taking a keen interesting in this and want to learn more.
  6. Pandora. I just started using this online radio program (behind the times, I know) and think it’s something I’ll be exploring a lot in 2010. Any suggestions from people who already like it?
  7. Various types of dance. There are a couple of workout-style dance classes that I want to take this year. I want to learn fire dancing. I want to learn hula hoop dancing. We’ll see if that leads to any other dance interests.
  8. Snow and Water Sports. This is a hands-on goal. I know a bit about things like skiing and tubing down rivers but I want to learn to actually do them.
  9. Buenos Aires. I’ve read a lot about this city and have wanted to visit for awhile. I don’t know if I’ll actually get the chance to explore it in person this year or not but it’s definitely a 2010 goal to aim for.
  10. San Francisco. I know a lot about this city that I live in and love but there is always more to learn here. I definitely plan to keep exploring and learning more about it!
What do you want to learn more about in 2010? Leave it in the comments here to help make your goals public and make you more likely to stay committed to them!

SmartChick Watches: Naked States

This morning I woke up earlier than I would have liked. It was one of those mornings when you’re still too tired to get up and do anything but you’re not quite tired enough to actually go back to sleep. I tried reading for awhile (am almost done with The Knitting Circle) but decided that wasn’t feeling right so I switched over to watching a documentary on Netflix instead. The documentary was called Naked States and was about the work of a photographer named Spencer Tunick. Thought-provoking little piece of art.

Tunick had a goal of going around the country and taking photographs of nude people in public spaces in ever single state in the continental United States. He didn’t seem to set any specific goals about how many people would show up to be photographed or where specifically he wanted to capture his images. Some of the things he did seem to establish as goals or parameters for himself included:

  • The nudity would be total nudity and wouldn’t include things like shoes, jewelry or hats in the images.
  • He would get the people for each shoot by going around the area when he arrived and asking people to participate.
  • The shots would be done early in the morning in public spaces. Some of these would be famous spaces (like the Boston Public Library) but many would be random, urban, industrial spots that he found. He didn’t want to do “pretty” shots or a lot of nature shots.
  • The images would provide a lot of contrast in them. He poses large people with small people, black with white, etc.
  • At some point he did seem to want to get a lot of people involved. He achieved this when he shot at a Phish concert and had more than 1000 naked people participate.
The documentary shows Tunick going around completing this project. It shows some of the positive and negative reactions that he experienced in different places. I loved that it showed some realistic footage of how people in various areas would react but didn’t stereotype things too much. For example, it showed people in places like North Dakota saying that this was a weird thing to do but it didn’t make them out to be hokey rednecks who couldn’t handle it which a video like this totally could have erred in doing.
The content of the video is interesting. It’s interesting to see how the different models felt about themselves while participating in a public nude art session. It’s interesting to see who shows up. It’s interesting to ponder the many questions that arise in terms of the controversy surrounding public nudity and the various strong stances that people take about it. What I really liked about the documentary, however, was that it showed a lot of insight into the creative process.
Naked States shows how an art project goes from an idea to a gallery show. It shows how you have to believe in your own artwork, go out there and create it, promote it while staying true to the vision of it and then eventually network it into a show. It shows how people who are helping you may get frustrated with you, bicker with you, doubt you. It shows, in other words, what it’s like to be a working artist today. It’s a cool flick. I’d Netflix it again. :)

50+ Ideas, Inspirations and Tools for Creativity

There are a wide range of different topics that I write about on a regular basis. My favorite topic of all is probably creativity. In fact, I try to take a creative slant to almost any other topic that I write about (although I wouldn’t say that I always succeed). I believe that writing about creativity makes me more motivated to be creative in my own life. I hope that it encourages other people to be creative as well.

Several of my recent articles on HubPages were about being creative. These included:

  • 10 Fun and Creative Projects to do with your Camera Phone. It was so fun to try to think up different projects that you could do with just the camera on your phone. I have to admit that I haven’t done all of these myself but now that I’ve thought of them there are certainly some in there that I plan to try. I think your camera phone is a great tool for little daily bits of creativity.
  • 7 Fun, Free Tag Cloud Programs for Creating Word Art. Tag clouds can be so inspiring. I put this HubPages article together as I was trying to find a good tag cloud program for myself. (I like Wordle best, big surprise). This inspired another article on my own blog about using tag cloud programs to benefit writing.
  • 15 Ideas for Using Your Writing to Make Christmas Presents. I believe that your writing can always be used as a gift. Here are some creative and fun ideas for how to turn your writing into affordable and appreciated presents for Christmas.
  • 10 Terrific Niche Books for Curious Readers. Creative people are usually readers. These are a bunch of books that I’ve read that are on unusual topics that you don’t normally get the chance to read about. How fun!
  • 10 Stunning Surrealist Artists. Finally I recently wrote an article highlighting the work of ten different surrealist artists who are not from the original era of surrealism but instead are putting out amazing works of art today. I’m so inspired by these people!
That’s over fifty ideas, thoughts and sources of inspiration. I hope they make you feel as creative as researching them made me feel!

SmartChick Travels: New Old Tucson Attractions

I just returned from a really great trip home to Tucson. The point of the trip was, of course, to visit my family. However I ended up actually doing a lot of fun things during my stay. I went hiking in the desert with my mom, sis and the dogs. I went to a terrifically unique book reading by Sausalito author Richard Polsky with my dad and sister. I saw not-so-great-but-still-unique Aztec dancers. And I got a chance to get a new look at a place I’d been before that’s a Tucson attraction of sorts: Old Town Artisans.

Old Town Artisans is a set of stores that are all grouped together in Downtown Tucson. In the center of them is a courtyard where there are live music performances and other things to see and do. I had been here before because there are musicians featured there every year during the Tucson Folk Festival which I used to attend frequently with my dad. I had checked out some of the shops in the place before but never explored the area in depth.

It turns out that the shops are all housed in what used to be a large home. I learned this because my sister got to talking to a vendor in the courtyard who makes Native-American-style pottery using the clay that she digs up herself from the local riverbeds. It turned out that this woman used to work for the place and was very interested in Tucson history so she knew all about the building. She ended up giving us a little tour of the shops to show us about the way that it was built.

The tour ended up providing us with a lot of little tidbits of Tucson history that I didn’t really have much awareness of before now. The building was constructed in the nineteenth century. At the time it was the home of a single extended family – housing great-grandparents, great-grand-children and everyone in between. Our guide walked us through the building and pointed out things that I never would have noticed on my own – like the areas of the roof that were built from old wine barrels, the packing crates that the family arrived there with and ribs from old saguaro cacti. We learned that the pine used to construct part of the building was taken from Mt. Lemmon but it took about six weeks to go up to the mountain in a horse and buggy and bring that wood back down. These days we consider Mt. Lemmon a short drive up to see a nice scenic view of the city. How different it was back then!

The woman that was giving us the tour even had some old pictures of what the building looked like over one hundred years ago. At one point it had been turned into a general store complete with a root cellar in the bottom and a canvas painting on the outside. We saw these pictures and got to stand in the store that exists there today which is, of course, quite different from the old general store. We learned that this place had been everything from a distillery to a brothel. It was almost torn down not so long ago but was then saved by someone interested in preserving Tucson history and is now the home to artists working in the Southwestern style.

It’s not that this place is particularly fascinating exactly. It’s not that the art here to see is stunning. It’s just that this is one of those little Tucson gems that I’ve been to but never actually paid attention to before. It goes to show that there are new things to be discovered everywhere that you might spend your time even if you think that you already know all that there is to know about a place. Keep your eyes open, talk to other people about the places that you visit and be willing to learn something new every day!


Enjoying the Move to Mac

I have always been a PC person who wanted to become a Mac person. Maybe I’ve just been lured in by the hype around Mac. I certainly don’t have strong reasons for wanting to become a Mac person other than that the people in my life who have them swear that they never have any problems with them. I’ve had terrible problems with my PCs over the years and when both my desktop and my laptop computer recently died on me I decided that it was definitely time to make the move to Mac. I didn’t really have the money to spend but I also knew that it was worth it to get some good computers since these are the tools of my trade. I went whole hog and bought both a new iMac desktop and a MacBook Pro laptop. And I’m loving both of them.

In fairness, though, I have to say that I would probably have loved a new PC if I’d gotten a high-quality one. All of the PCs that I’ve gotten in the past were on the cheap end. The last several were all HP products and I can tell you from in-depth experience that HP laptops are not worth even their lowest prices. My HP desktop did last a long time but my laptops had to be reformatted more than once and I had to buy new power cords for them every year or so because they burned up from overuse. Frustrating. So any new computer that didn’t have such problems would probably have made me happy. It didn’t have to be a Mac. It just so happens that what I decided to get was Mac and I was glad with my decision.

What I love about the new computers (besides just the fact that they’re new) includes:

  • The facial recognition feature in iPhoto. I don’t like everything about how you organize pictures inside of iPhoto but I do love this feature. I’m also going to like the tagging feature (descriptions of photos) once I start using it. It’ll be so much easier to find the images that I want to find now!
  • The photo booth. This is a ridiculous little program that shouldn’t be a reason to love a computer but it’s totally a major reason I’m having fun with mine. It allows you to take photos with your webcam camera. But more than that it lets you actually change the effects on the photos before you take it so you can see on the screen what weird shapes you’re making. The photo above is me and my brother in the middle with my dad on the side and my sister sticking her hands in the scene. I can’t tell you how many hours I could spend playing with this feature!
  • The little things. I think that it’s really the little things that I like. I like the easy method of ejecting discs with a button. I like the functionality of the design of the machine itself. I like the Magic Mouse that came with my desktop computer (although I’m still adjusting to the tiny size of the wireless keyboard it came with). These little touches are what make these computers so much better than my HPs.
  • The idea of the Time Machine. I haven’t used it yet but I think I’m going to like it.
  • The fact that there is still more to learn and do. It seems like these machines have a lot of neat functions that I wasn’t using before so I’m looking forward to continuing to play with them.
I also just really like the fresh start. I think it’s great to wipe everything off of your computer and start over every few years. I didn’t transfer most of my files or favorites to the new computers. I’m starting fresh adding the things that I want right now. I’m using a new browser (Safari), using iGoogle which I had stopped using but suddenly got motivated to use again and am learning the tricks on Office 2008 (although I don’t really love that program so much yet). It’s good to learn new things even if they’re in some way the same old things (computers) that you’ve been using every day for awhile.
Who else uses Mac out there? What features do you think I must check out?!

HubPages Review for August

One of the sites that I particularly enjoy writing for is HubPages. I get to write about a lot of different topics here and to interact with a great community of writers through the site.

I like to see which articles do well through the site and which ones don’t. I think it provides a good overview of what people are reading on the web at any given time. If that’s something that interests you then maybe you’d like to know how my Hub articles did in August.

The ten articles that got the most traffic in August were:

  1. Short Layered Haircuts and Styles
  2. Calorie-Burners: Swimming vs. Running
  3. How to Delete a Browser Cookie
  4. Indoor Activities that Bring Couples Together
  5. 25 Fun Things to Do at the Beach
  6. Teacher’s Checklist for the First Week of School
  7. How to Build a Treehouse
  8. Can’t Find a Job: Make Sure You’ve Done These Things
  9. How Do You Know when Mushrooms Go Bad?
  10. Simple Trail Mix Recipes

What a range of topics people were reading? I’m not surprised to see that the articles on summer stuff and back-to-school stuff are popular right now. But what about the article on deleting browser cookies – isn’t that a strange one to be so popular? I guess it’s information that a lot of people need so I’m glad it’s been useful.

The ten hubs that got the least traffic in August were: Continue reading


Your Thoughts Welcome on Photos of the Day

Every afternoon I post a photo of the day here on the blog. Some of the reasons I do this include:

  • I like sharing my photos especially the ones of the city where I live.
  • It motivates me to keep taking pictures on a regular basis.
  • It also motivates me to try to get better at taking photographs.
  • I think it adds something to this blog to have visuals like that.

But this blog isn’t just here for me. It’s here for my readers too. So I’m curious, what do you think of the photo of the day? Should I keep doing it? Should I be doing anything differently with it?


Photo of the Day: More Than a Tree

Sutro Tower is a sight to be seen. It’s impossible to ignore this structure that towers above the city of San Francisco, peeking it’s head above the fog even when there’s nothing else to be seen through the mist. What I love about this picture is that the perspective of it miniaturizes this towering creature and focuses instead on the tree in the forefront. What do you think of this one?