Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Slow your race

As I sit and enjoy my morning coffee, complete with my lactose-free milk, (because...well...you can be simple, but you can't be stinky!) I reflect on October, the month of change.

Some of this change was self-induced. Really, that's the only true change when you're talking about improvement. The change that you initiate and hold yourself accountable for. The change that you can feel radiating goodness in your soul and down to your tippy toes. The same change that makes you feel as though you might be going against every fiber in your body until boom! A breakthrough happens. That's the kind of change that September brought.

Then there's the change that is required of you, but you didn't chose it. Ours was around health. This change hurt. It was a surprise, it was up in our face, and it will hold us relentlessly up against a wall until we make it. When someone you love is struggling, you help them make the changes, to reduce the struggly. This is the change October brought.

I am sharing this with you because I like to believe that I like change, until I don't. It's probably the same for you. Change isn't always easy. Usually, this is because we're grieving the loss of one thing to have another. Sometimes it's not even something we need, like gluten. (Yes, I said it, I don't need gluten). When the loss is about all we've ever known, we grieve it even when it really isn't that important to us.

It helps to be ready for this change, the letting go, but we do have to give ourselves a little push. It hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be to give up some of the things I thought we needed. Still, we know we want to get back to simple. We've made some trades. We've grieved some losses. We've gained some sanity. We may never arrive and that's ok.

It's easy to get caught up in the next best thing. I think we're all guilty of that at one time or another.
Our mantra becomes, "when I just have this or when I can just accomplish that, I'll be enough." It's a journey, like a continuum. What happens when we realize that we'll never fully arrive? 

The truth is, we're already enough. What we're missing is relationship - with each other, with ourselves, with our world. When this is lost, then we are truly lost, and we feel it in the depth of our soul.

This hit me in the face, hard this week. It made me question taking a leap of faith to change jobs. It made me afraid that I made the wrong choice to leap when diagnoses and unknowns took over our lives. It made me angry that I lost track of the relationship, when I thought I was doing pretty well leaving the things behind. I spent hours reflecting on my work as a mom, wife, daughter, friend, educator, maker, adventurer and not once did the race to get it all done, the stuff I earned, or my title at work make it to the top of the list of things that were most important.

True change requires reflection. I did just that. With enough time to just think in the quiet of my own reflection, I know I made the right choice to leap. When I bring it all together and reground us, I know we'll get everything under control. When I wonder, are we doing the right thing trying to simplify our lives to enjoy each other the answer is an astounding yes.

I'll never regret letting the extra go.

Find your center this week. Spend time in the quiet space of your reflections. What speaks to you? Who do you need more of? What do you need less of? What brings you sustaining joy? This is your soul work.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Older as Better

Funny things happen when you turn 40. It's almost as though an instant meter of oldisms kicks in and you get a higher dose - bones creak, you get to have extra medical tests done, you need more sleep, recovery time for any self-induced injury is double, your body actually needs the vitamins you've been taking, coffee and you are besties, and computer glasses.

Computer glasses?

Yes. It's a funny thing how we change the name of something that's been around for a long time, because it sells. It sells, because it makes us feel better. Would you buy them at forty if they were still called reading glasses? Probably not.

Usually, we try to keep it simple around here. Much of my 9-5 work, however, requires computer work, reading, writing, and I'm finding that the lights have to be turned up just a little bit more each year. And threading a needle, well...bring on the LED spotlights!

About four years ago we had Lasik. This was a beautiful thing. It is incredible to be able to see all of the things all day long. Is it simple? No, but it simplified our lives tremendously. I think we may be past the point of no return. (HA!) Lasik doesn't help with the need for 'computer glasses'.

Why do I share this? I want you to know that it's okay to get older. It's okay to embrace the changes and love yourself. You don't have to make yourself crazy chasing perfection. The people who have something negative to say about your beautiful silver hairs, your reading glasses, or whatever else this journey has given you, their opinions don't matter. It's okay to be you. In fact, it's amazing to be you! You'll feel so much better if you just do you.

I figure, I made it into the forties and I deserve to enjoy myself. SO DO YOU!

I'm going to take my great new computer reading glasses and enjoy seeing things, all the things, even the sparkling silvers while I sip my Sunday coffee and learn more about keeping it simple to increase healthy living for the littles.

We all need something. Today, I need a little more self love and time to enjoy what is. I hope you find that too.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

You guys: We buy bananas to make banana muffins. Every now and then one of us will actually eat a banana, but the goal is ripe bananas = muffins.

I've tried a few times to make our favorite recipe gluten free. If you've ever tried to transition from a gluten delicious recipe to a gluten free recipe that can trick not only your taste buds, but the rest of your senses, you know that it takes a few fails. And, we have fails! Most of them have turned out gritty. No one wants a gritty muffin.

As I've been playing around with what makes gf baked goods similar, I've discovered that sour cream and cream cheese bind things together and help with the grittiness. This gf muffin recipe doesn't rise as big and fluffy as wheat flour muffins do, but the taste is the same. FINALLY! I get to enjoy what the people are eating!

With any recipe, you're going to change things up a bit - this recipe has room for that! If you like a more banana bread tasting recipe, you might add a dash of cinnamon or Penzey's cake spice.

Here's what you need: 
3 large ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1t baking soda
3/4c light brown sugar
2 cups gluten free Mama's blend almond flour (the brand and texture matters - must be smooth!)
1/2t xanthan gum
1/4t salt
1 stick (1/2c) butter - slightly melted (somewhere in between softened floating in some melted butter)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 to 1c mini chocolate chips to taste

How to make it: 
-Mix the dry ingredients.
-Separately, mix the wet ingredients.
-Combine the dry and wet, mixing until the bananas are broken up and mixed in well.
-Add chocolate chips.
-Fill regular sized muffin tins almost to the top.
-Bake @ 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

gluten free banana chocolate chip muffins stacked on a plate
A few notes: 
-The butter being partially melted helps the muffin ingredients bind better and makes for a creamier batter. If you accidentally melt it all the way, let your butter cool just a bit before adding it.
-If your batter seems way too runny, add a little more almond flour. This happens sometimes due to the variation in bananas and eggs.
-You can use regular size chocolate chips if you'd like a lot more chocolate flavor. The minis maintain the banana flavor with just the right amount of added chocolate fun!


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pasta e Fagioli

I am thrilled that the fall weather is upon us! Bring on the soups, stews, and all things comfort food.

We gave pasta e fagioli a try this weekend. It was pretty awesome, homemade, and an inexpensive dinner in under half an hour. This is a pretty flexible recipe. You can change up the veggies, use ground sausage instead of beef, beef broth instead of chicken broth and pick your spices. It's one of those whatever is in the kitchen kind of soups - my favorite kind!

Here's what you need: 
1 T olive oil 
1 lb ground beef or sausage
1 chopped yellow onion
1 to 2 cups diced carrots 
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
24 oz (canned or homemade) tomato sauce
30 oz chicken broth
1/2 to 1 cup water (add more after you taste test if you'd like) 
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 t granulated sugar (not required) 
1 1/2 t dried, crushed basil
1 1/2 t dried, crushed oregano
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried marjoram
2 t salt 
2 t freshly ground pepper 
1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed) 
1 15 oz can great northern beans or canelli beans (drained and rinsed) 
1 cup of dry pasta (ditalini or elbow pasta works best!)

Optional toppings: 
Finely shredded parmesan cheese & 3 T chopped fresh parsley or basil for serving

Cook it up: 
  • Brown ground beef or sausage in a large pot over medium-high heat. 
  • Drain the fat from the ground beef and transfer the ground beef to a bowl. Set this aside. Add 1 T olive oil in the same pot. 
  • Add veggies (onions, carrots and celery). Saute until tender (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for one more minute. 
  • Add broth, tomato sauce, water, canned diced tomatoes, sugar, spices, and cooked beef. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low. Cover with a lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft (15-20 minutes). 
  • In a separate pot, prepare dry pasta. Cook and drain the pasta. 
  • Add cooked and drained pasta, as well as beans, to the soup.
  • If the soup is too thick, thin with more broth or water. 
  • Cook for one minute longer. 
  • Top with toppings if you like.

We make both regular and gluten-free pasta in our house when recipes call for pasta. If you have leftovers or need to serve this dish to some people gluten-free, add the noodles as you dish up the bowls. Pasta gets pretty squishy and sucks up the extra liquid if it's left in the soup overnight or frozen.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Joy Factor

This last year has been about the search for simple. Things get too complicated. We spend our time running to and from, using products that are quick and accessible, buying things we don't even need. As moms, there is an unwritten expectation that we will mom perfect, work perfect, keep our house perfect, keep our people alive - perfect. That's not even possible. What we can do, is let go until we find balance. What we can do, is create space for play, and joy.

My work outside of the search for simple can be really stressful. This stress, it's a funny thing. You don't really see a wall coming, but it's in there, all disguised behind the stress, just waiting for your forehead to make contact. I knew it would come, but I was working on this simple life - right? So, obviously I could keep it at bay.


Here's what I've learned: there is incredible beauty in the imperfections of life. Simple is good. Imperfect is real, it's lovable, it's memorable, it's me. It's you, too, which is why we need it. We're losing ourselves, our joy factor, in the quest for perfect, while the quirky parts of us, the best parts of us that bring us joy -- they're shoved in a winter sock drawer somewhere. When we do this, we end up stifled. We shrink. We feel lesser about ourselves. We wonder, what else is out there?

If you know me, you might think me outgoing, outspoken, a doer of all things. An extrovert of sorts. When you know me well, you'll find that my peace, my joy, my energy, is in the little things...in the silence of thought and creativity.

So this joy thing is part of the simple I've been searching for, though this is a recent discovery. I have to pay attention to doing it.

I have been asked, how do you find time to do things like make candles and learn about essential oils? Well, sometimes I don't. Those times, I end up miserable. I race to get it all done and then my garden fails (miserable fail this year, laughable actually), I get cranky, I refuse to cook, I forget things, and I keep myself so busy that I start to feel badly about not being able to do it all. This, friends, is not good for the soul.

Truth be told, I have to make time. I schedule that time and then, because I'm a yes person, I have to fiercely defend that time. Multiple. Times. A. Day.

It goes like this: Could you put this together for...Thank you for thinking of me, but I can't help you with that right now. Ask me again next time. I can't get ahold of, since you're over there would you...I'd love to be able to help you, but I can't help you right now. Here's a resource that might help. Mom, I need this tomorrow and it's mandatory...I'm sorry you didn't plan this out very well, what other options do you have?

This is protecting time is dang near impossible for me to do. Did I mention I'm a yes person? I never thought of myself that way, until I started defending this me time. It's ok to say no. In fact, in order to keep myself in order and honor the time I set aside to do the things that bring me joy (cue candles and oils), I have to say no. It's part of defending the space to have my own joy.

tealight candle in dim lighting with twinkle lights behind
The things we share with you here, are my soul work. They are the things I do to bring me peace and joy, to give myself thinking time, and refill the ole bucket.

Give yourself this kind of time. Schedule it. Defend it. Start small and allow yourself to play, to create joy, to share it with other people. I am a candle maker, an essential oil lover, a seeker of simple things that make our lives richer, and these are the things that bring me joy. I need these things. I give myself permission to do these things and the joy keeps on coming. It's ok if you do it, too.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Cleaner Clean

This blogging monthly has become a thing. There's so much to share and so little time! I always think -- I'll get up early, before anyone else, enjoy my coffee and blog. Fat chance. I love this find so much, that I just had to share!

On our search for cleaner living, we've tried a bunch of different laundry solutions. Liquids, powders, homemade, store bought, weird things from websites that we didn't have a ton of experience with. So far, nothing we want to make that life long committment to.

We have some requirements for our detergents: must be able to break through big dirt and dust, must be able to get the smell out of work out clothes, has to be super sensitive skin friendly, and our clothes have to smell good when they are clean. That's not too much to ask, right?

Over time, my sensitive skin has decided to revolt against our old trusty store bought powder, so we needed another solution. I'm not a huge fan of borax on my skin and the homemade detergents we've tried just don't get the grime out that the better half of us collects at work. Also, we sweat big, and any detergent worth keeping around has to do better than a swish.

Given that we love our oils (and it's cold season), I thought well, let's use up some freebie points and give this On Guard Laundry Detergent thing a try. It smells delicious, just like On Guard, and we love that smell!

I have to admit. It's awesome. It's ultraconcentrated, which always makes me skeptical. How can so little detergent clean all of that stuff in the washer? It works. REALLY. WELL. All of our dirt, stink, stains, and sweat were gone (I'm half way through the bottle - that's a lot of washes!) My skin is happy. My clothes are clean and not as crunchy. It's human friendly, dog friendly, and earth friendly. I get about as many washes as I do with old trusty powder and I'm sold!

Try it out. See what you think!

P.S. I'll let you in on my laundry secret weapon, too. If you have a really stubborn stain, as simple as it seems, this stain stick is the best.

clip art woman with clean laundry shirt