Friday, February 13, 2015

Simple Abundance

For those of you who are at least as old as I am, (37) do you remember when the book "Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach came out back in the mind-90's? Do you too vividly remember that salmony colored cover that was so popular and featured on the Oprah show? For some reason, that book cover stuck in my head like a familiar memory, and when I came across several copies this fall at our library book sale, I felt compelled to purchase my own. As odd as this sounds, I think I bought the book because I actually felt GUILTY for not reading it so many years ago. I have a vague memory of hearing Oprah talk about the "transformative power!" of these 366 essays - it's
"A Daybook of Comfort and Joy." Being too young at the time though, I made no great effort to find the book and read it. Fast-forward twenty years, and something about that peachy cover called to me.


Because I'm short on time before I need to pick Noah up from school, I will let Amazon's book description explain Simple Abundance for me. They do a better job than I could anyway.......

"With the grace of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea and the wisdom of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, Simple Abundance is a book of 366 evocative essays-one for every day of your year-written for women who wish to live by their own lights. In the past a woman's spirituality has been separated from her lifestyle. Simple Abundance shows you how your daily life can be an expression of your authentic self ... as you choose the tastiest vegetables from your garden, search for treasures at flea markets, establish a sacred space in your home for meditation, and follow the rhythm of the seasons and the year. Here, for the first time, the mystical alchemy of style and Spirit is celebrated. Every day, your own true path leads you to a happier, more fulfilling and contented way of life-the state of grace known as... Embrace its gentle lessons, savor its sublime common sense, dare to live its passionate truth, and share its extraordinary and exhilarating gift with every woman you encounter: the authentic self is the Soul made visible."

Basically, each day you read a short essay on simple abundance - finding joy and gratitude in the everyday! I was already on a path lately, to growing my awareness and thankfulness for things in my life big and small, but this book has been a wonderful addition to my journey. One of the basic "tools" in finding simple abundance is through journaling. Sarah Ban Breathnach journals everyday and suggests that we do it too. It doesn't have to be any kind of written masterpiece, just get your thoughts, your fears, your questions and conflicts out on paper, rather than holding them in. She calls this: "having a conversation with yourself." Sarah's belief is that often times, if you journal out questions or dilemmas that you might have and get things down on paper, when you return at a later time, you just might find your answer. So, for what it is worth, I've been inspired by Simple Abundance to journal/blog today, the small things that I've found joy in. I hope that this book or post can inspire you too, because I promise, once you start seeing the joy in the everyday ordinary, it can truly enrich your life.....

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I really liked this picture that Jon took of Noah using his new camera from work. It's a much nicer camera than the one that I own, and a much much nicer camera than the one on my phone that I'm always using! It makes me happy that we were able to capture this nice winter moment.



A small moment of peace. Josie taking her afternoon nap at the foot of my bed. I've found that if I give her my mittens, she'll often chew on them, snuggle up, and go to sleep! What you're seeing here is a BIG DEAL. (Picture below.)  It's a big deal for me, because it means that I can now have a bit of my old life back. 

This may sound strange, but in years past, especially in the cold weather months, after I've done all of my housework downstairs, I've usually headed upstairs for the remainder of the afternoon before school pick-up to do any other work that I can or to blog. This is because our little, old house is quite cold, and especially in the back of the house, it doesn't get much sunlight and can be depressingly dark. Chilly and dark. The upstairs though, my bedroom, it's lit up everyday with sunlight (if there is any) and my room is the warmest and brightest in the house by far. I can't explain, but just being up there makes me feel happier! I have a lap desk to work on, and our laundry is up there too. There's space to exercise.  So I've always spent an hour or two up there when I could. It's not just my bedroom but also my office, my laundry mat, my exercise studio and writer's retreat!

That was until Josie. We never taught her how to go up our ancient, steep stairs. We rarely took her up either. Jon and I wanted the cats to kind of have their own space in the house. And so, from September until just this week, I spent all of my days, everyday, downstairs with Josie. I had taken to wearing lots of fleece jackets over my outfits on the coldest days and I could certainly feel a sense of sadness and longing that I couldn't be upstairs in my sunny, happy place like I used to.

Then, last week, Josie decided to start wailing and barking and whimpering, every time that I would quickly run upstairs to change a load in the laundry or grab my purse. Then she took to crying in the evening if I went up while she spent time with Jon and Noah. It got worse and worse. Finally over the weekend we decided to just teach her how to go up and down the stairs. It took a few days, but now she's doing well, which also means that she can FOLLOW me up and down the stars at will. Which also means, she has found for herself, THE WONDERFUL SUNLIGHT and warmth in my room! 

Now all Josie wants to do is go upstairs with me (sweetly, she won't go unless I go with her.) and to lay on my bed or in the sunlit patch on the floor and take a nap! Today around 1:00, she sat barking at the foot of the stairs while I cleaned up from lunch. I knew what it meant. It meant: "Woof! Go upstairs with me!" So, after everything was done, I made coffee and we went upstairs, and for the next hour and a half she rested and chewed on my mittens, as I worked on emails and blogging and laundry. It was WONDERFUL! I am so so happy. Josie and I both need the vitamin D that comes through those upstairs windows! (Hey, can you make vitamin D even through glass?) * Oh apparently not. Darn. But there is still some emotional pick-me-up that one gets in the winter from light and warmer temps!


I'm always happy when I can get some crochet in. I don't crochet frequently like I used to, only here and there now. I'd like to more often, but I think that it makes it even more special when I do pick up my hook and yarn. I've been trying to crochet pink and red hearts to decorate the house with for Valentine's Day and have some extra pink yarn. I used it to make this ear warmer / headband. It's just three crocheted roses and a bunch of leaves on a band.


Josie will now demonstrate how it buttons in the back for a custom fit.


Who wore it better? Just kidding, of course Josie did!!!! \(^-^)/

For some reason, everything, I mean EVERYTHING that I have ever crocheted comes out lopsided or comically huge or just...cartoonish. I like how this cheerful ear warmer came out, but I kind of felt like Chiquita Banana with it on my head!

This month I am enjoying vegetables and fruit, even though we're in the dead of winter. That way, when summer comes with it's bounty of produce, I can be even more thankful for what variety lands on my plate.

Ok, I need to preface the following. It's VERY important to me for you to know that I do NOT judge others on their food choices. Just like I strongly feel that there is not right or wrong in coloring your hair or going gray, I believe that what you choose to eat is a super personal decision and judgement is not something I am interested in. And besides, I can't judge anyone on what they eat because, heck! I am the QUEEN OF CHOCOLATE! :)

I almost can't believe that I've done this, but several days ago, I signed up for The 30-Day Vegan Challenge! I've never been one to do anything TOO extreme, and even as a long-time vegetarian, veganism always just sounded.....a little intense for me. I always thought that I could never give up dairy or eggs or be dedicated enough to check each and every label. 


Then, at my recent check-up, my cholesterol number was slightly up. This was a surprise for me, because in the past, I've always had good numbers. My raise quite possibly could have been a fluke, the result of holiday eating (my check-up was January 5th and before that, Jon and I had polished off two wheels of truffled brie cheese!), but still fluke or not, it was a way to challenge myself to eat healthier. I am a vegetarian who might be getting too many of her calories from carbs and cheeses perhaps. Maybe. Also, in addition to learning a new way to eat healthier, I looked forward to learning a new way of cooking and baking and for more opportunities for me to make compassionate choices in regards to animal products. 

Sooooo.....even before last month, I've been playing around with the idea of taking the 30-Day Challenge. I came across this all-inclusive online program about six months ago, and since that time, have really wanted to give it a shot! I figure that 30 days is a very doable commitment. This is a great way to try something new and it gives me the chance to see if I like veganism before I decide to permanently make a change. More so, the program takes you step-by-step and really educates people on all kinds of topics, from health and nutrition to grocery shopping, cooking, baking, eating out and affording fresh produce. I like that it's basically a "course" in going vegan! I also love that the 30-Day Challenge is teaching me how to cook new dishes. 

Here is the crazy thing guys..... I swear, this is TRUE, but how can it already be true!? So I'm only 4.5 days into being vegan. No dairy, eggs, meat.... yesterday, I was busy and didn't have a chance to make my 2:00pm coffee of the day. Everyday, around 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00, I seriously need a coffee because I'm feeling tired. Well, yesterday, it wasn't until 4:30 or so that I realized...."Oh my gosh! I forgot to make my coffee!" And then it hit me....."WHAT!? I don't even feel like I NEED my coffee!!!" What in the world!? Is this even possible? Is this even possible on only day 4!?
Who knows if it is true, but all I can tell you is that I feel very good. Not only am I eating lots of fruits and veggies, beans and lentils and grains, but now, I am actually CRAVING them. This is so foreign to me! I have a salad from last night waiting in the fridge for me and I can't wait to have some for lunch! Also, I am in shock about this, but I don't feel deprived at all. In fact, I feel 100 times MORE full and satisfied than I did when I was eating a vegetarian diet.

I've been starting my days with a small coffee with almond milk. Then I have a banana. Then I exercise and have a bowl of steel cut oats with frozen fruit. Lunches have been leftovers from dinner the night before or salads, fruit and almond milk yogurt sometimes. I will show you some of the things I've made below. I snack on fruit, a small handful of vegan chocolate chips if I want. I even made banana-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies! No flour, sugar, or eggs and they're great! I'll share the recipe below. Then we have dinner. Veggies, sometimes tofu, quinoa or rice or pasta and often that's that! (Although I did have home popped popcorn with NUTRITIONAL YEAST on it the other night. Ha! Never thought I'd type THAT sentence! LOL.) Basically though, if I'm hungry I eat. I try to choose some kind of healthy choice, a whole food and I eat. There's no deprivation like I worried that there might be. 

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you that I'm finding some daily joy in learning about a new way to eat. It's truly been a lot of fun!

On Monday evening, I knew that we'd be out until dinner time, so I made this "Slow Cooker Tofu Curry" that I learned about from my friend Carrie. Thanks Carrie! :) It was delicious and SO easy! I just served the curry with brown rice and a salad.  And like most meals, I got dinner and the next day's lunch out of it!
*Oh, and in case you are wondering....Noah usually has no interest in my vegan meals so far and some of my vegetarian meals, so, he often has his own dinner. Jon likes to try anything, but sometimes the guys eat their own meaty meals. I have zero problem with this. I don't ask them to be vegetarian or vegan. They can choose what works for them.


Here are the remnants of my lunch salad that I later ate at dinner. It was, before this picture, mixed greens with cucumbers, shredded carrot, some avocado, cherry tomatoes and a can of Garbanzo beans. I topped it with salt, pepper and a simple balsamic vinaigrette. I could only eat half the beans, so the second half made a nice bean salad to accompany my dinner.


I liked last night's dinner very much. Again, a basic salad and some rice, but then I made a homemade, super fresh, tomato and pea curry with polenta. It was GREAT! You can find the recipe in the book "The Forks Over Knives Plan." It did take me close to two hours to properly wash, chop, puree', cook and put everything together, but it was worth it! I had this and was stuffed.



Part of the vegan challenge, at least for me, is to eat less processed food and also less added sugar. I gave up sugar in my coffee about a month ago and it's been going ok! While most bakes goods and and starchy treats have dairy and/or eggs in them, you can still bake vegan treats and often times they are super healthy! Take for example these DELICIOUS Oatmeal - Chocolate Chip- Banana cookies!
My friend Heather posted the recipe to her Facebook page and I was excited to try them. I had the perfect opportunity to bake some up when she surprised me by stopping by yesterday.

These cookies are great for anybody with a gluten allergy because they are gluten-free, plus vegan, plus NO sugar added and SUPER quick and easy!

You will need: 3 ripe, mashed bananas - 1/3 cup applesauce. (I used no sugar added apple sauce.) - 2 cups oats - 1/2 cup almond milk - 1/2 cup chocolate chips - 1tsp. vanilla and 1tsp. cinnamon.

Now smash your bananas in a big mixing bowl and add in all of the other ingredients until combined.  I used two tablespoon sized spoons to put rounded heaps of the "dough" on a baking sheet. In retrospect, I think I should have flattened my cookies a bit before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes and there you have it!!!

And the great thing, they're really more like having oatmeal and bananas with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on. You're getting the fiber in the oatmeal and the nutrients of the banana, sooooo EAT THESE COOKIES FOR BREAKFAST! ;)
Oh! And they are very filling and satisfying. A nice, healthy way to get a chocolate fix.



The other night Jon asked me to take a picture of what a "Dad Dinner" looks like. Don't you think he did a great job? Jon is a much better cook than I am. I feel badly because I'd bet the guys would rather have "Dad Dinners" every night. This was Chicken Piccata, peas and mashes potatoes.


Early this morning I met my good friend Irini at my favorite coffee shop, Commonwealth for a quick tea. I was hungry for breakfast so I ordered their Irish Oats with almond milk, brown sugar and fruit. (This was the first time I added sugar in a while. I shouldn't feel guilty about it, but oddly I did...) Anyway though, it was so pretty looking when it came, that I had to take a picture.
I find happiness in seeing a friend after a long time, and eating oatmeal.


All this cooking takes time. This was Josie last night, watching me cook dinner. It was sweet. :)


I had what I think was a personal improvement over the need to control things this past week. When Noah called us into his room the other day, only to find that he had found some old Spongebob wall decals in the back of his closet and had plastered them all over his bedroom wall, I normally would have been like: "You put WHAT on  your walls!?" (A bit of back story.... I worked really hard when we moved to make Noah's current room less frenetic and cluttered than his old room. I didn't want the walls covered in all kind of things, especially because his room is on the first floor and every guest can see right in.)  Instead of cringing over three hundred Spongebobs splatted on the wall above his bed, I stopped, congratulated him on his efforts and instead of telling him to take the stickers down, I asked Noah's permission to take the four foot blob of stickers and perhaps spread them out around the room. He readily agreed and enjoyed the following results......  Patrick and Spongbob mesmerized by crabby patties.



And what he calls: "Stalkerbob." Which is creepy and self-explanatory. 


In other Josie news..... a most amazing thing happened in the past week..... she started doggie daycare!!! I just need one day a week, ONE day where she can go play with other pups for several hours while I have some uninterrupted time to get things done. I couldn't even believe that we actually got our act together and made this happen. I've been asking around about doggie daycares for MONTHS! I asked at the vet, asked friends who own dogs, asked dog walkers that I know and asked my neighbors who they use. Everybody liked a different place. Then I did my own research of the five closets doggie daycares. I called them, I made a comparison chart! Then we went and visited the day care that Jon and I chose. It was all a process, a big application form, faxing of Josie's vet records, a visit for a temperament test. I'm so so SO glad that we did it though. She went for a few hours on Sunday, just as a "test." They told us that she played the whole time! And then, this past Wednesday, she went for her first official day. I dropped Josie off around 10:30 or so and camp back just before 4:00. I GOT SO MUCH DONE!!! FINALLY!!! \(^-^)/

OF COURSE I missed Josie a lot and like a HELICOPTER PARENT I called the daycare to "check-in" on her mid-day, but it was still great!

I really think Josie loves it too. She is in the "Small Dog" group. They have their own HUGE area and there are NO CAGES or kennels. One room has cots and blankets if they choose to rest and little divided areas where they can eat privately. Then, the main room has two big couches covered in fleece blankets where they can lounge in front of the giant flat-screen TV that plays the ANIMAL PLANET channel 24/7/ LOL. There is also a large indoor play area, and a door that is left open to their own outdoor play area so they can come and go as they please. Then, about twice a day, the small dog group is lead out to the REALLY big out door area where they can run super fast and climb on the toys. It sounds like a nice time to me! Here is one of the pictures that they posted of Josie. She loves being around other dogs, and on this day, I was told she befriended a puppy named "Harvey" and that they played the whole time. (That's Harvey in the lower-right corner.)  :)


Silver Sisters!!!! \(^-^)/ I'm so sorry that I haven't had a lot of "hair news" for you my friends. I know many of you visit this page for the "hair." If you ever have an idea for a hair-related post that I've yet to write, I'm always happy to hear your suggestion! 

I cut off quite a few inches of my hair in August. I regret doing it myself, but my hair salon was closed and the next several days that followed was a huge event called "The Dream Cruise" and it's too long of a story, but I didn't think I could get into see my stylist Lydia any time soon. While trying on clothing at Macy's I saw in the dressing room, the back of my hair. I was in horror when I saw how yellowed my ends had become from using products and heat styling. I was really due for a trim. I think I trimmed off too much. At any rate, my hair is slowly growing back.  I don't know why it looks so short in these pictures, but today, not being curled up on the ends, my hair is now about 2-3" below my collarbones. Sadly, the ends are yellowing again. GAH! Time for some special shampoo or a trip to see Lydia.

I wanted to ask you guys if you ever feel more self-conscious when you wear your hair in a style that shows your gay hair and your old hair color? For example, I've been braiding my hair, like on the left recently. When I pull my hair back, it shows a lot of my dark brown color compared to when I wear my hair down on the right. I don't know why, but when I show my two-tone hair, I worry it looks more strange. It certainly doesn't stop me from going out with my hair braided, but do you ever worry about this too? Is it all just in my head? Get it? (Pun intended.)


I am thankful each day for having hair and the ability to make fun hairstyles and for Youtube videos that teach me how!


You know, one thing that I really really feel lucky about, is that I'm just a two-minute walk from our local library. The other day I got bundled up and returned my dog cookbook (LOL) when my Forks Over Knives book came in. There's nothing like new reading material, huh!?

When I walked out our door, the BEST, most smokey, BBQ smell came wafting from a food truck parked behind an advertising firm across the street. I swear, it smelled so delicious, that for a second, I almost ran over and ate the entire meaty truck! At least I wanted to. Then I walked past our friend Josh's new church! He's now the reverend there. I waved and said: "Hi Josh!" Since Josh and his family, who are also our good friends, still live about an hour away, he stayed at our house the other weekend. That was the weekend of the BIG winter storm. Josh needed to be at church on Sunday morning at 7:00am, so he stayed with us the night before. Instead of a long long treturous drive in a snow storm, he only had a one minute walk to church from our house. I hope he stays with us again. It was fun for Jon and I to chat and really cool to see a priest's collar and how that works!


Well my friends, this post is so long and tangent-y, that it's taken me a WEEK of working on this darn thing. I think it's time to stop here.  Thank you form the bottom of my heart for reading along, even on the small small things.

I wish you lots and lots and lots of tiny joys this weekend. Keep an eye out for the little pockets of happy in your day-to-day, and soon you will find more smiles upon your face! :)


Until next time!
xoxoxo,
Lauren \(^-^)/

10 comments :

Lori said...

I love reading your blog! I did find this site because of "the hair thing" as I am transitioning to grey myself; but I love to read the rest too. Really enjoy hearing about your family - including Josie! I think your hair is beautiful any way you wear it. Love the two tones!

Traci Turner said...

Love reading your blog. I found it because of your grey hair posts, but have continued to read and enjoy it. I like the 'two-toned' look. I'm now on month 6 of my grow out. It's taking so long!! But I'm sticking with it. Thanks for the inspiration. Have a great Valentine's Day!

Lauren said...

Awww. Lori, THANK YOU!!! Thanks for reading along, even for the not "hair" parts. I'm so glad that you're here! :)
xoxoxoxo,
Lauren

Lauren said...

Hi Traci!!! \('-')/

Thank you for writing!!! Congratulations on being six months into your grow-out, that's huge! I know it can feel like forever when you're in the middle of things, but I PROMISE, in the end, you'll be so glad that you did it and you'll look back eventually and think it wasn't too too long. Hang in there, great things to come! :)
Thank you so much for your nice comment and for reading along. It means a lot to me. Hope you have a great weekend!
xo,
Lauren

Dawn said...

Hi Lauren

Love when the tones mix. It gives your hair so much dimension. I like to style my hair so that all the different tones and colours show.

Dawn
PS. I do know how to spell, I'm just writing to you from across the border;)

Lauren said...

Ha! Hi Dawn!!! \(^-^)/

I take it you are one of my lovely Canadian friends with beautiful colours in your hair! :)

Thank you for your comment and encouragement. You also made me laugh. I say "center" and you say "centre." Right? I love it! :)

Thanks for stoping by!
xoxoxoxoxo

Anonymous said...

This is a "Hello" from France :-)
This is very generous from you to share the Youtube video about the braids. I precisely was wondering how to proceed. Then, thank you so much!
Besides, I want to tell you that you look FANTASTIC with your silver hair, and even much better and much younger and really more special than with your dark ones. It inspired me: I am 42 and I decided to free my white hair from their henna coating :-).
Ok, I do not have a lot of white hair but wait and see. I already took some pictures (I did my last henna by the end of December 2014).
Talk to you soon and my greetings to all the silver sisters!
Wapita.

Lauren said...

\(^-^)/ Wapita!!!! My new friend from France! WELCOME!!!! :)

Hi Wapita, thank you so very much for your nice comment and all of the super kind things you said about my hair. <3
I too was using henna. Henna is great, but it has also been nice to let my silver shine! ;)
I hope you love your gray as it grows in.
I'm glad the blog could help you on this journey. I'm glad that you are here and thank you so much for writing me!
Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

xoxoxoxo,
Lauren

Nora in Austin TX said...

Hello! We are strangers, but I thought of you recently when I ordered a great pair of comfy and stylie striped Stockholm pants from www.hannaandersson.com
I love this company so much for the styles and truly top notch quality. Boden has let me down lately with the high prices vs. not so great quality. Hanna things can be pricey, but I've been able to find good deals on eBay including (I'm such a nerd) matching striped beach pants for my toddler son and myself.
I wasn't sure if you'd heard of Hanna Andersson or not, but I've been so happy with the few things I've been able to get my hands on. I found them because they mainly make really great kids clothing that fits and lasts.
Thanks again for your wonderfully positive and fun blog!

Lauren said...

Hi Nora!!!! \(^-^)/

Thank you! I'm so glad that you thought of me and wrote about Hanna Andersson. You know, I have been "pinning" her clothing to my clothing wish list on Pinterest for years now, and I receive their catalogue. So many times I've wanted to purchase some of their clothes and never took the leap! You've inspired me! :)

I have a good friend who also found lots of great Hanna deals on ebay. I'll look too. And, I think that's ADORABLE that you match your striped beach pants to your son's. Awww....so cute!

I love Boden, but you are right, at least recently, I've had a few pieces that I love, but that have let me down in the durability department.
Thanks again for stopping by Nora. I can't wait to poke around for some Hanna!
xoxo