Crafty Friday: Conquering Old Projects

The second-last of the backlogged Crafty Friday posts.

Today I stumbled upon this ages-old project of mine, I probably started it when I was like 13 or something. Just think of that! 7 years to partially finish a single tapestry piece! You’d think I was making a piece that would cover the entire walls of my room, but no, it’s just a small cushion front-piece.

Even though this is partially completed – I still need to turn it into a prim little cushion cover – I decided that finishing it would be this week’s Crafty Friday project, because I was too angsty about my exams to come up with an original idea.

I followed the pattern to the precise instructions given, but I had to borrow more yarn from the other kit my mom had purchased, because seriously, these people need to put more yarn in!

Here’s the (semi-)final product:

Tapestry piece

Tapestry piece

Crafty Friday: Ribbon Friendship Bracelet

Yet another one of the delayed Crafty Friday posts. I was busy studying that week, so I came up with something quick: a twist on the regular friendship bracelets I normally make, using ribbons instead of yarn.

Here’s the outcome:

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Ribbon friendship bracelet in purple, green, orange, and pink

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Crafty Friday: Green Flower Necklace

So. This post is almost a month late. I’m so sorry about that, but first of all, I had a hard time finding a clasp for this necklace, and then I got busy with exams and forgot all about posting.

Recently, I came across beading communities online. After browsing through all those pretty creations, I remembered that I had a couple of bead kits and some loose beads from when I was a kid – I’d only used a bit of them, not sure why. So I decided to make something. The other day we went to a shop that sells all kinds of clothing and jewelry accessories, and I got myself a few accent beads, one of them the flower used as the focal in this necklace.

I drew my inspiration for the chain parts of the necklace from this rope.

Here’s what I came up with:

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Close-up of focal

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The necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think of it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Crafty Friday: Crochet iPhone Cover

So, once again, I’m really behind on this post. However, this time it wasn’t just procrastination. Friday I was stuck out of town and didn’t have access to my stash of yarn and other nice goodies, except for a single ball of pink polyester really thin yarn and a corresponding crochet hook.

Since last week’s project, I’d been thinking of a new idea – making crochet iPhone covers, instead of sleeves or cases, so I could do my touch-typing while dressing my phone up in a pretty little crocheted thing. So I improvised with the thin yarn, and ended up working on the project for over 15 hours total, Friday through Sunday. And here’s the final product:

Backside of crocheted cover

Backside of crocheted cover

iPhone with the cover on

iPhone with the cover on

Side-view of the cover

Side-view of the cover

I.apologize for the not-so awesome lighting, I had to take the photo under artificial light with my mom’s iPad.

Also, I realize that this cover isn’t really as well as I wanted it to be – the sides are sort of exposed in the middle, and you’d need to remove the cover to charge the phone or listen to music. I will be working on fixing the pattern so these features can be accommodated, soon.

So, what do you think? Plastic covers, or crochet covers?

 

Crafty Fridays: Crochet Sunglasses Case

So this post is almost a week late. I’ve been experiencing lots of awful Internet and even more ‘busy’ work.

Anyway, to get to the point of this post: Friday is the first day of the weekend here, and also the alternative for the Jewish Saturday and the Christian Sunday, for Muslims. So, I decided to start a new personal tradition in which I start and complete a craft project within the 24 hours that make up a single Friday.

I had a ball of multi-colored wool lying around, and this not-so-nice sunglasses case:

Rayban Sunglasses Case

Rayban Sunglasses Case

So I decided to make one myself. It was inspired by this camera case. Some of the main differences are the crochet stitch, the flap, and the button. I used trebles, created a sloping-sides flap, and used an actual plastic button. Here’s the final product:

Crochet Sunglasses Case

Crochet Sunglasses Case

Sunglasses in Crochet Case

Sunglasses in Crochet Case

Close-up of button

Close-up of button

Whatcha think of it? Which one looks nicer, in your opinion, the Rayban case or my case?

A Pledge to Run

I’ve been struggling to keep my weight – and body fat percentage – under control for over half a decade now. I don’t have a problem with being a bit overweight, but I need to lose at least twenty kilograms (on a good weighing scale day, 25 on bad ones). Not just because of body image issues. (Most of my body image issues arise from the fact that I can’t wear certain types of clothing and still adhere to the modest clothing guidelines I follow as a Muslim.) I have a family history of heart disease. In fact, that’s how my late father passed away, after a simple routine angioplasty.

At the same time, my mouth waters every time I see a tub of icecream, and my resolve breaks if it’s from Baskin Robbins. Everything else, even chocolate, I’ve learned to resist. I try to be refined-carb-free during the week, and don’t chastise myself for eating sweets during the weekend. I even manage to resist non-Baskin-Robbins icecream during the week. And I’m happy with it.

The only thing that troubles me is that I still haven’t established a proper exercise routine. Yup, I’m aware that roaming around the farmer’s market and carrying groceries from the car to the elevator are forms of exercise, but that doesn’t happen everyday. Sometimes it doesn’t happen weekly either.

What I want to do is to get to a point where going out and walking around doesn’t mean I get to tick off the day’s required 30 minutes of exercise. I want to be able to run 5 km and also go out and walk around. But every time I start a C25K plan, something or other interrupts it. The farthest I’ve ever gotten is the third week.

You might ask me, ‘Okay, Bouchra, what’s the point of telling me all of this? I can’t force you to put on your running shoes and jump on the treadmill. Neither can I do it for you.’

Yup, you’re totally right. But here’s the thing. Telling people I’m going to do something helps. A lot.

I hereby propose a challenge to myself: I will lose three inches off my hips by April 20th, 2014. My mom will be able to declare all my long blouses and my lab coat hijabi-friendly. I will be able to run 2.5K in one shot. Not including warm-up and cool-down time. I will also be able to do a real push-up. And 200 squats in one shot.

I sincerely believe that I can do this, and will do more than my best (because my best hasn’t been enough all these years) to achieve my goals.

Bouchra Rebiai

The Flow Experiment: Conclusions

I am weird. I enjoy productive and nonproductive tasks.

With the help of the Flow Experiment, I found out that I can be in a state of flow while doing various things, ranging from chatting about global politics to studying chemistry to reading thrillers.

Doing the dishes and the laundry do not induce a state of flow. In fact, the only reason I do my own laundry is because I’m an adult and I should look after my stuff by myself. Looking after it by myself doesn’t entail doing it on time, however. With the dishes, I only do them to score points with my mom, and because she really needs the help. Again, this might take a few hours to get done. Or maybe days. Depending on who is doing the cooking.

But I digress.

The Flow Experiment only helped me confirm something I knew previously but refused to acknowledge: depending on the day and my mood, I can be in a state of flow doing things that may be pointless too. But.

Movies and TV don’t induce a state of flow. Although I tend to downplay it a lot, I watch too many TV shows. In fact, if you asked me to list all the shows that I’m currently following or catching up on, I won’t be able to remember all of them. I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be in a state of flow while watching, but it turns out that I’m not. I’m more engaged with intellectual videos, like SciShow and Minute Physics on YouTube. (Both of which are amazing, I may add. Nope, not being paid for this little advert.)

With regular TV shows, even ones that have some level of scientific stuff in them – aka Grey’s Anatomy – I’m not that engaged. I tend to whip out my iPhone and play Sudoku while watching them.

So I’m going to try and work on cutting them out of my life, replacing them with books, even ones with crapy plots, because they help me avoid mistakes in my own writing. Grey’s Anatomy and similar shows I might not cut out entirely, because they do help with the clinical terminology, but I definitely don’t need Revolution. Or Arrow. Or Doctor Who. Those I can keep for entertainment’s sake, but I need to cut them down to one episode per week. Not per TV show per week, though.

I also need to find something to occupy my mind while doing chores. I think revising the parts of the Quran that I’ve memorized (and working on memorizing more) will help with this.

So. Scientific conclusion of the experiment: parts of the hypothesis have been proven right, other parts proven wrong, and, I am a human. I am not a machine that is made to do one specific thing. I am diverse, and I have many interests, all of which keep my mind occupied.

Until next time. (Which hopefully won’t be too long.)

The Flow Experiment

It’s been a long time since I last posted on here, and I don’t know what to say – at the beginning of the year I told myself I would post 2013’s review and 2014’s plans, but I kept forgetting, and then suddenly it was the beginning of February. I decided then that I wouldn’t post any yearly or monthly or weekly reviews, because I couldn’t bother with promising to do something that I might not be able to do. So what I’m going to do is post occasionally, on different things I encounter in my daily life.

Today, I’m writing about Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, a book by Daniel Pink. Here’s the review I wrote for it on Goodreads, plus some bonus details:

An amazing book, with interesting insights into motivation, and why the current system of carrot-and-stick rewards doesn’t work for human nature.

One of the most important things discussed is “flow,” a state in which you’re so concentrated about your work that you don’t notice other things around you. It is important for us to find out which of activities that we normally pursue on a daily basis enable us to be in a state of flow, because without it, we will be exposing ourselves to psychological damage.

An experiment, designed by a prominent psychologist, Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, to help determine when you’re in a state of flow is described in the book. Over the course of the day, set 8 timers at random intervals, and answer three questions when they ring:

– What am I doing?
– How am I feeling?
– Am I in a state of “flow”?

Rinse and repeat for an entire week, then analyze the results.

Personally, I am going to try this, and I can’t wait to see what kind of results I get. However, as an aspiring scientist, I cannot embark on an experiment without a hypothesis, so here are some predictions regarding the results:

I will be in a state of flow while:

– reading interesting books
– working on my novel, Candy Curse
– studying the subjects I’ve chosen for my A Levels
– interacting with other people in meaningful conversations

I will not be in a state of flow while:

– doing my chores
– surfing the Internet idly
– watching movies/TV
– chatting about useless things

I will aim to report on this experiment everyday for the next 7 days, which I hope my preoccupied mind will not fail to remember.

Stay tuned.

Day 1: Change of Plans

Although I started on my water-only fast yesterday, I didn’t count it as Day 1 because I cheated a bit towards the end of the day. So today was the official Day 1, and here’s how things went.

First thing, I woke up late, due to having slept really late. Then I took a look at my to-do list and started working on it. Halfway through the day, my mom asked me to help her with some meal preparation — she’s doing her once-every-few-months-cook-and-fill-the-freezer thing again. While peeling the beets and turnips, I couldn’t do anything from my to-do list, so I reluctantly decided to watch yesterday’s episode of Homeland. This isn’t considered a violation of the no-film rule, though, because this was the only available way to keep my mind occupied … idle minds are the devil’s playground and all that.

Then I had to run an errand for her, and guess where it took me? To a place where I was surrounded by all of my favorite restaurants … and I successfully resisted the temptation to get a pack of fries.

I managed to finish 6 things from my to-do list and 2 big things from my December list. However, as the final hour of the day ticked past me, I remembered something. As part of wanting to start on a C25K program and be able to actually see it through to the end, I had started walking 5 km at a reasonable pace a week ago. I wanted to continue with it, to improve my walking speed stamina, but it never worked out somehow. I decided that it must be part of my weight loss plans for the next couple of weeks.

However, in order to be able to walk at said reasonable pace (4.5 – 6 km/h) I needed to consume some carbs to power those walks. So I had to change my water-only plans to something different: 16 – 20 hours of water-only fasting, with one meal at the end of the day.

The meal would be comprised of veggies and a protein source, but no legumes, refined carbs, or non-veggie carbs (potato included) are allowed. I think this will allow me to stay in ketosis, provided I watched my carbs and calories very closely.

So at 23:40, I broke my fast with a meal of scrambled eggs and some beets my mom had cooked.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day, because I start monitoring my weight and doing my 5 km walks again. Stay tuned for the update!

I Am An Addict

Most movies don’t take more than two hours. In those two hours, the writers manage to shove in a person’s story, from introduction, to conflict and solution, resulting in a happy (or sad) ending. I have watched more movies than I have read books. In fact, I have watched so many that I don’t even remember the names of half the movies I’ve watched until I see their covers/posters!

You would say, so what does this have to do with the title of the post? Well, let me explain a bit. When I watch a movie, the fact that time passes between the events in it can be ignored very easily, as compared to time passing between events in books. Subconsciously, a message is being flashed that you can reach the ending quite quickly, just as how quickly you get to it in the movies. Let me elaborate.

In movies where the plot involves the character doing hard work and achieving their goals, the part where the hard work is shown is usually a series of short clips or pictures of the work being carried out, with a musical soundtrack to accompany it. Time flies when you’re doing hard work, and it’s fun. But it’s not always like that in the real world. Yes, it’s fun to learn new things, and it’s fun when you look up in the middle of some work and find that the past two hours have passed by without your acknowledging it. Unfortunately, that’s not how the real world works. Learning gets boring sometimes, and you can’t wait for a study session to end.

When I realized this, I knew what my problem with everything in life is. I am addicted to instant gratification. I want the short clips or pictures of my hard work with the musical soundtrack to play at 2x speed, so I can get to the part where I reap all the benefits. I want to have instant conversations with people I care about, so I can figure out what they’re thinking/doing at the moment. I wait anxiously for my Facebook notifications as soon as I post something, so I can count the number of likes I get. I check my Site Stats every few hours after publishing a blog post, so I can tell whether it was a success or a failure. I want to hear a ‘Thank you!’ the second I finish doing something for someone. In fact, if I can get it while doing that thing, I get even more happier. And on and on the list goes. I need something, I find a way to get it ASAP. Instant gratification.

Obviously, at this critical moment in my life, with my upcoming exams, I have no time to indulge my needs for instant gratification. So I have come up with a plan to conquer my addiction once and for all, while at the same time cultivating more productive habits. It isn’t complete or perfect, but I have a skeleton to build upon. During 2014, I will be doing a Happiness Project, and some of the things I’ll incorporate in it will help with my addiction.

However, in my case, January is quite a long way off, and I can’t wait until New Year’s to start implementing changes in my life. So I formulated a plan for the next couple of weeks, and its focus is mainly on my weight loss goals, but I’ll try to incorporate a few other things too.

Over the course of the next 15 – 20 days, I’m going to induce ketosis, with the goal of losing weight. My plan is to drink only water and eat nothing, so that I can ensure that I’m not consuming any hidden carbs, which is what tended to happen every time I attempted the Paleolithic/Ketogenic diet. This will prevent me from using food as a means of instant gratification.

I’m also initiating a ban on all forms of entertainment, except for books. With regards to social networks, I’m going to reduce my presence on them to only about 1.5 hours daily, and I’m going to try emailing my friends for a change. I’m going to use the StayFocusd Chrome extension to block certain websites and pages, and my Site Stats is going to be one of those.

When I do a practice test, I’m not going to check my answers until I have completed another task that is completely unrelated to the subject. When I do something for someone, I’m not going to do it for the thanks, I’m going to do it because I’m a nice person and I do nice things to other people.

I am sure my plan is full of flaws, because the only way I know to combat an addiction is to stay away from what I’m addicted to, which is what I did to overcome my addiction to soda a couple of years ago. However, I’m open to evidence/experience-backed suggestions for modification. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.