Friday, April 23, 2010

C'mon, Get Happy!


My Maia is one of the happiest kids I know. She has a gift for letting stuff just roll off her back that I have long been challenged to possess. That said, I am really focusing on this trait this year. I have found that regular exercise, yoga practice, and mindfully living in the present has helped this immensely. Other than those things, some old favorites of mine are:

COLOR: Colorful gardens, colorful flowers inside, colorful decor, colorful clothing, colorful art, colorful food

CLEAN: Clean floors, clean windows, shelves and tables artfully arranged, clean, fluffy towels for clean, soft skin

FRAGRANCE: Candles, inscense, essential oils (sprinkled in mop water or even into the toilet bowl you are cleaning with vinegar), hand soaps, creamy bath soap, herbs in the garden and in your cooking, flowers in the garden and on your table


INSPIRATIONAL BOOKS (other than the Bible): Oh, the list here might be too long, but a few, old classics I return to again and again are: The Artist's Way and Walking in This World by Julia Cameron, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Living Out Loud by Keri Smith, Inspiration Sandwich by SARK and so many others (all these books, by the way, have fabulous bibliographies that provide hours of inspirational reading pleasure!)





EATING BEAUTIFUL, VIBRANT FOOD: You know, God didn't need to give us variety, but He did! I am continually amazed at the different flavor and aromatic sensations that can be achieved by blending different things in different ways. Eating in a compassionate way that honors my values of non-violence and peace makes me happy. Knowing that I can nourish myself and others without hurting sentient beings gives me joy - and knowing that we don't have to sacrifice anything to do so, enjoying flavorful, satisfying food is a gift.



HAPPY PLACES ONLINE: Tranqulity du Jour by Kimberly Wilson - She also has a fun, inspiring podcast. Kimberly blogs there herself and has guest bloggers too. Today, one posted this: 75 Simple Pleasures to Brighten Your Day, one of Wilson's regular bloggers, Kaileen Elise, and how about some good news with Inspiring Stories. Wish Jar is another old favorite and Sara's blogs are always positive (the link is to just one; she's got more - check them out in her sidebar).




MAKING ART AND CRAFTING: This hardly needs explanation, but you know ~ creating just feels good. Cutting and pasting and sewing and stitching and sculpting and making something new from something old or raw materials or found objects. It's just good for ya!





I'm about to head out with my girls to do some of that right now. We're off on our own mini sketch crawl today down on Main Street with the grand finale for tea and coffee at Starbucks. That ought to keep smiles on our faces for awhile!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Raw Wonderfulness

Go on outside, honey, and pick yourself some sour cream!

Another thing that's been making me smile lately is fast and fabulous and delicious-tasting raw food recipes! I know that some raw food recipes can be really involved, but I like to leave those to the raw foodies. I prefer simple, since I don't do a total raw diet; I don't have a dehydrator and some of the other things that the dedicated raw foodists like to use. But here's the thing. I hope no one will let themselves miss out on fabulous food - vegan or raw or otherwise - just because they don't ascribe to the whole diet or philosophy.



One thing I love about the raw dishes that I've had recently is that they are packed, packed, packed with flavor. That is something that I insist on in my own vegan cooking. NO BLAND FOOD. Time and experience in my own kitchen has made me comfortable enough to experiment and add more flavor as necessary. I often double or triple the garlic called for in some recipes. Nutritional yeast, my own dry soup base that I mix up, onions, tamari, ginger, and lots of herbs are regulars in all my cooking. The raw recipes I've had lately are no different and the ones I'm going to share with you have made their way into regular cirulation. Especially the "Sunflower Seed Sour Cream."



About two months ago, I went out to dinner to a local Mexican restaurant in Sarasota called Mi Pueblo. They had recently begun advertising that they had an organic, raw, vegan menu. Let me tell you, that any time I find a restaurant that serves more than salads and veggie burgers as vegetarian options I have to check it out - especially when it's not just one or two veg dishes on the menu, but an entire menu from which to actually choose!! Dreamy.



(There is, by the way, another Sarasota restaurant that I can highly recommend to my vegan friends. This one is Thai and is called Taste of Asia. It's downtown on Main Street and they too have an entire vegan menu. Wonderful selections and really delicious food!!)



So I ordered the raw tacos at Mi Pueblo and they were fantastic! I immediately fell in love with their sunflower seed sour cream and knew I had to find something like it to use at home. I also loved their taco "meat" which was made from pine nuts. I actually had a recipe at home that was similar, made from walnuts that a neighbor shared with me. She'd given me a sample that I loved, but I just hadn't made it myself yet.



The beautiful thing about the raw food is that not only are the recipes a snap to make, but after the meal, I felt just right. I was totally satisfied (the carrot-pineapple-ginger juice was a knock-out too! A perfect, sunny, orange addition to my meal) hunger-wise and yet felt light - not heavy or over-stuffed at all - even after I cleaned my plate! :)



BTW, this may be a mental thing, but whenever I drink fresh juice, have a great, green smoothie, or eat raw, delightful food, I just fairly feel that I am vibrating with good energy. It literally feels like the sunny vitamins go straight to the bloodstream and my body just says, "Mmmmmm!"



So, here are some of the delicious things I've been enjoying lately:



Sunflower Seed Sour Cream



1 cup water

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

4 T lemon juice

3/4 t onion powder

1 heaping t minced garlic

3/4 t salt



Blend in blender until smooth and creamy.



That's it!! So delicious. It's a great alternative to the often over-used soy products that act as dairy alternatives. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to have them, but I love a variety of options. This lasts a while in your fridge. I've used it so far on bean burritos, raw tacos, spooned over potatoes, and thinned and poured over salad greens. Wonderful!



Walnut Taco Meat



2 c soaked walnuts, strained

1 T cumin

1 T coriander

1 - 2 T shoyu or tamari (though I don't know if tamari is strictly raw)

1/4 c cilantro

1/2 c fresh cut corn (optional)



Pulse all in a food processor.



Brilliant! This is SO good. My dh doesn't care for cilantro, though, so next time I will make it without for him. I've been eating this on top of salads too.



This next one is from the January 2010 issue in Vegetarian Times Magazine.



Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars



1 1/2 c pitted dates

1/3 c raw, unsweetened cocoa powder (I just used the cocoa powder I had; likely not raw)

1/3 c whole chia seeds

1/2 t vanilla extract, optional

1/4 t almond extract, optional

1 c raw slivered almonds or raw shelled pistachios

Oat flour for dusting (optional)



Place dates in a food processor; puree until thick paste forms. Add cocoa powder, chia seeds, and vanilla and almond extracts, if using. Pulse until all ingredients are combined. Add almonds; pulse until nuts are finely chopped and well distributed through date mixture.



Spread large sheet of wax paper on work surface, and dust with oat flour, if using. Transfer date mixture to wax paper and use paper to press mixture into 1/2 inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly, and chill overnight.



Unwrap block, and cut into 8 bars. Dust edges and sides with oat flour, if using, to prevent sticking. Rewrap each bar in wax paper.



Here's how I made them: I used regular cocoa powder, because that's what I had. Also, I couldn't find raw almond slivers, only blanched ones, so they had to do. I used both the almond extract and vanilla, but will likely use only the vanilla next time as the almond flavoring was a bit overpowering for my older dd, though younger loves them! I didn't use oat flour and only had parchment paper - not wax. I didn't have any trouble with sticking. I did have to add a bit of water to my recipe. I had 1/2 fresh dates and 1/2 were older and drier, so I think that was why. But they turned out great and I like to have them for snacks and eat one about a half hour before a run.



I'll share more fun, raw finds as they come along and I give them a try. There are loads of sources for raw recipes on the web. I just like to pick and choose when I have the time. Try some of these or share some of your easy favorites in the comments!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Setting Goals



Are you a goal setter? I confess that I have never been one in the strictest sense. By that, I mean that although from time to time I have written lists of things I'd like to do in my life, it was more of a wish list. The main thing I never really have done is to put dates on my goals... until recently.

It all started this past January when, with my Christmas money I was able to get that fitness membership I'm so crazy about. I also got a good pair of running shoes from my sibs and mom, since the ones I'd had were not supporting my feet at all and were giving my knees terrible pain. When I got to Shapes, they took my measurements and weight, etc. and asked me what my goals were. I've always been pretty fit, but a few pounds had crept on over the last year and so I said that I wanted to increase my endurance, lose maybe 8 to 10 pounds, change some of that fat to muscle, and tone up. I also wanted to be able to strengthen my legs with the hope that I could run again.

I began working on that and I really began feeling changes right away! I know not everyone is in this camp with me, but I do love to work out! I just don't really like always working out alone, so the company really keeps me motivated. But generally, I love the way I feel afterwards and it really balances me.

Without thinking too much about it, I started setting other goals: wear a bikini by spring break (hadn't done that in about 5 years and had pretty much shelved that idea), run a mile, up my level on the eliptical, do that for 25 minutes... then 30, then 3 miles on it instead of 2.5... then 2 miles outside instead of one. Do the "crane" pose in yoga, balance on my right foot through all the one-foot balance moves as well as I can do on my left (did you even know you could strengthen your ankles?!?!), do the splits again like I did when I was on danceline in high school.

And you know what is so cool? I've done ALL of these things so far. Applying these little, weekly goals to my fitness started to flow over into other areas of my life. Maybe all these little, fitness baby steps were a metaphor for other things. Maybe I could apply these little, baby steps to, say, this idea I'd had simmering in the back of my mind for over a year now... Maybe I didn't have to achieve everything in one fell swoop 5 years from now. Maybe I could start now just a little bit at a time. Maybe every little step acutally counts, the journey is as important as the destination, and this idea... this business... this dream could slowly grow with me. And so, without the dream studio yet manifested, I have begun taking steps toward my dream and Creative Life Studio will be launching at the end of this summer. :)

Do you pray?? If you do, pray for me on this one, friends. I would greatly appreciate it!

I think I am coming to the conclusion that goal-setting, while very important when you are just beginning to make your way in the world, is just as important... and maybe even more important... the older you get. I know this may sound counter-intuitive, but I am believing this is more and more true.

At 41 years old, I have done a number of things that many people wish to achieve in their lives: marriage, children, a furnished home, a way to support ourselves. I also know that as our roles change in parenthood, as children get older and become more and more independent with each passing year (generally speaking... and that is the goal anyway, right?), our identities naturally shift within those parenting duties. It could be that you are no longer your child's favorite playmate, or it could be that you no longer need to be so physically involved in their upkeep, or it could be that you no longer need to drive them from place to place, or it could be that they even no longer live with you. Perhaps, even, you find yourself retired. I would argue that having fresh goals at all times, perpetually learning and striving to reach new summits, whatever they may be, is what keeps life invigorating, interesting, inviting, and fresh.

So, for education sake, I've been looking at a few different business books (The Creative Entrepreur is a current favorite. I've got Tranqulista on my wish list too!), but also goal-setting books.

Goal-setting books are - or rather, were - totally not my style... or so I thought. I'd always pooh-poohed them. "I don't want to be a millionaire," I'd think. I don't care about owning big boats or having two houses or being a big, corporate success. Simplicity. Peace. Balance. Art. Time with my family. That's my style.

But this is where I've been wrong, because, as I'm sure you've already figured out, my goals can still be my goals, my dreams can still be in need of reaching, even if they don't match the "suits". Heck, even my goal setting books don't need to look like the others!

Some of them do, though and Jack Canfield's book, The Success Principles is one that I'm a little late to the show with, but feels timeless to me in a lot of ways. I'd been reading some of the principles to my older daughter, 13, and she was begging to read it too! Happy me, when I found and purchased the teen version of the book! She loves it and is reading it for one of her non-fiction choices for school. Wish I'd had a book like it when I was her age!

So, yep, I've got my little stack of 3x5 notecards with my written goals on them that I review every day. I've long had an inspiration board in my bedroom closet, but my inspirations are sharing more space with visions now too. It's morphing a bit from "inspiration board" to "vision board" and the main difference between those two is, of course, goals.

The main thing is that I'm having a ball with all of it! Some of my goals are sky-high and others are short-term and quite achievable. But the truth of the matter is that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by at least trying.

I have a number of goals I'm currently working on and a number I'm right now just dreaming about, but at least they are "out there." I can read them and think about them and because they are in the forefront of my mind, I can take advantage of opportunities that may come my way regarding them that I might not otherwise recognize if I wasn't doing so.

The next challenge I'm looking at is running in my first 5K run on the 24th. It's another new thing to do: to enter into this world of runners, of people who do this thing regularly, in races all around the country and the world. But I am just being introduced. Crazy. And fabulous and fun.

I don't know. I don't think I ever thought I would call goal-setting fun. But it's one of the things that has kept me smiling since the turn of the year and seriously, I'm having a blast. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lucy


Though this is hard, I must take a few moments to say why I have been away for a few days longer than I'd intended. We lost our little dog, Lucy, on Wednesday. She drowned in my mother's pool while we ran an errand. We had done this many times before; we'd leave her out on the lanai with my mother's dog, Ernie, and we'd leave the screen door open so they would have opportunities to be out in the fenced-in yard as well as in the cool shade of the lanai.

Lucy was a Westie - a terrier with short, little legs. Terriers are earth dogs, but though I knew she didn't prefer water, I didn't know she couldn't swim... or maybe she could and hit her head or something. Of course, we'll never know...

So, despite my postitve outlook of late (which has absolutely helped me through), there has been great sadness in our family this week. And I suppose it goes without saying, but I wish I had thought... please never leave your dogs, - or any other pets for that matter - like your children, unattended by swimming pools. Please let my Lucy be a reminder of that, so other families will not need to know this regret and heartache.
Despite the sadness of this news - this unfortunate post - I can say that we are healing. I have been remembering Lucy's silliness - how she would run around in circles like mad, all hyper and excited, if anyone so much as lifted her and inch off the ground. She was not a lap dog by any stretch; she was uncomfortable being held and I think this nervous energy would send her off frantically like a little wind-up toy any time her feet weren't on the ground!
She was far from perfect; we all had a lot to learn about patience and what it meant to be a family with a dog. But she was a good dog and a loyal dog, the way I believe all dogs are if you simply love them... and we did. :)
Today, I had a happy thought and one that has brought me another measure of comfort. Though I know this is completely theologically incorrect, today I had a vision of my little dog with little wings. My little spirit doggie able to flit from our house - watching us work in the yard, checking up on us and the cats and the bird - to the houses of the others she loved: my mother's place and my mother-in-law's place, where her other dog friends, Ernie and Tiffany live.
I know animals don't become angels when they die any more than people do, but I do believe (unlike some) that animals do have spirits. I believe this is supported in Scripture. I also believe that the folks who came up with the idea that it is a lack of a soul that differentiates us from the animals may just be the same people who think of animals as things to be exploited at whim by humans for their own purposes. If you have known an animal, you would know that they are each unique individuals that show love, fear, anger, embarassment, and compassion, just as we do. These traits, by the way, are not limited to the animals we choose to keep as pets, of course, but to all animals, including the ones many choose not to know by not naming them and having others kill them for human consumption. Whatever your dietary choices, though, it would seem that most every person over the course of a lifetime will hear remarkable stories of animal bravery or kindness or compassion that we simply cannot explain. These stories are not limited to certain species and because they reveal personality and compassion, I do believe that animals have spirits.
Animal spirits may not be like ours - not as elevated or complex and not always (though not never) revealing conscience. Perhaps what really separates them from us is self-actualization and the ability to develop complex languages, rather than lack of a soul.
ANYway... though I don't believe my Lucy really does have little wings, it does give me a pleasant visual of imagining her. I do believe she is in Heaven and I expect to see her there someday. And I suppose she just might be able to check in on her Earth family and friends from time to time, when she's not too busy getting underfoot of the real angels and racing among the clouds.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Revamping!



It's time for some changes around here! Heavens. I didn't even think I would be back, but I just couldn't abandon this place just yet. We'll see what happens, as some major things have been happening and will be happening in my life. I hope I'll have time to continue to pursue this place, but it's all wait and see at this point.

Happy, happy, happy! I am happier right now than I've been in years and this is what is leading to the changes around here. And oh, joy, that this has been a sustained happiness since the beginning of the year. I am so grateful for my new mood and outlook and certainly hope it lasts!

So here are some of the addtions to my life that have slowly begun to build and create some major shifts in my consciousness, my mental health, and really, my whole life.

The first is fitness and yoga. While I have been vegetarian for 22 years, vegan for nearly 3, health consious and active, I never ended up sticking with a regular fitness program for more than 3 or 4 months at a time. I have long been an advocate of biking and walking, nature walks, and have always loved yoga when I did it. But for me, variety is important as well as the social aspects of a healthy lifestyle and even some accountability. To be brief, I never stuck with a regular program of fitness, because doing it all alone got to be pretty boring for me. I have always had more sustained, integrated fitness in my life when I could work out with friends or simply other people.

My mother has, for the past number of years, given us kids and our spouses a sum of money every year for Christmas. This year I decided to use it on a fitness membership to an all women's club in our area called Shapes. I can say now, that if I can help it, I will never be without a fitness membership again. The variety of classes plus what I do on my own is wonderful for me. The weight loss and toning has been great. But the biggest thing that I can say about regular, sustained exercise, is the positive shift in my mood. Before, I could expect to be moody and stressed a couple of days during the week and now I may experience that only a couple of days a month and that has proven to be a)hormonal and b) short-lived. My husband has noticed a difference and I am simply more peaceful, simply... happier!

So, my fitness was just the first step. I have also been practicing some "mental fitness." I seriously think that more oxygen to my body and brain and the mood elevation cleared out some cobwebs upstairs.

At first I thought I wouldn't have a word of the year this year, because at the end of the year (funk that I was in), I just wasn't in the mood. But round about February, when I began to really begin to feel better, my word became, "Indulge." This is really not as materialistic as it sounds, but instead, for me, it is to simply indulge in life. To not be so hard on myself when I fall short of my ideals and to allow for more fun - whatever that means for me at the moment.

As I was decorating a new journal cover, I came across the phrase, "Lighten Up!" and those words, plus my word of the year, have become a bit of a motto for me this year. I have a very serious and sensitive side (as I think to which many of my old posts can attest) and it is easy for me to sort of take into myself a lot of the negativity of the world. I am consiously working to refute that with simple positivity.

The yoga, and fitness, and positive outlook have added immeasurably to my life already. I hope to reflect that more in my blog and will talk more in detail about these things in future posts. More than this, though, is that I am also launching a new business that I'm really, really excited about! I'll talk more about that later as well, as it comes closer to fruition. Some of my personal and/or Facebook friends already know about it, but I'll save links to the new website for when it's complete. I can tell you that art, craft, and creativity are all a part of it!

In the meantime, I'll be tweaking this place a bit here as I find time, and hopefully be sharing uplifting and inspiring posts and links. I do think that it is interesting how far a metaphor can take you... as well as a name. Golightly Place was originally named for the green ideas I wanted to share that I used in my life. Now I see that it represents much more to me than that. It represents the kind of spirit I want to have and the kind of life I want to lead. Gentle on the earth, yes, but with a bit more spring in my step. :)
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