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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Establishing A Morning Routine

Hello Friends!  Are you a morning person?  I admit that I have always been a night owl.  Even when I was a child, often I would wake up surrounded by my beloved books because I had fallen asleep reading far into the night.  Over and over again, I have heard how productive people wake up very early.  I have tried to be an early riser (by which I mean waking up at 5 am or earlier) and have failed miserably.  Living with someone who has a laundry list of health issues, more often than not, I am up and down quite a few times during the night.  By morning, I am a zombie.  However, I have found that, no matter if I have an early or late start, I have a morning routine that helps me start the day in a calm frame of mind.  When I refer to a morning routine, I don't mean one where you are scrambling to get the kids' lunches together or madly doing the dishes from the night before.  I mean one where you take a few moments just for yourself.

For me, my morning routine starts with a cup of green tea.  Even at the height of summer, I must have a cup of green tea.  There is a calming ritual to putting the kettle on, waiting for the water to boil and then waiting for the tea to steep.  I use full leaf tea, not tea bags as usually, tea bags are filled with the fannings, essentially tea dust, from tea production which is the lowest grade of tea.  Besides, I love taking the time to wait for the leaves to slowly unfurl.  It is such a lovely sight.  If you have some favourite china or a pretty mug or cup, use it!  Don't save it "for best", but savour using it every day.

Breakfast is usually light, a piece of fruit and yoghurt.  Sometimes I'll have oatmeal if it's winter.  Lately, I have found that saying an affirmation really helps me set my intention for the day.   There have been times when I couldn't get out of my bed because I was so overwhelmed with anxiety and dread for the coming day.  To help guide me through my day, I make a list of things I would like to accomplish on top of anything else that forms the day.  Are you a list maker?  So as not to feel overwhelmed, I started with just one thing. It doesn't matter if it is something inconsequential.  For example, last week, I put on my list to send out a thank you note that I had been procrastinating on for days.  When I sent out that note, there was a sense of accomplishment and completion that motivated me to continue to do another task.  This is especially important if one's mind is struggling with feelings of overwhelm.  Now I usually have about 3 tasks on my list. I know that 3 tasks might sound piddly but, again, the point is to build confidence.  Also, depending on how much time you have, you don't want to spend your entire morning routine writing a miles long to-do list!

I also spend a few moments in meditation.  Honestly, I think I have been meditating for years and not even known it!  Recently, I was listening to a podcast and the discussion was on the various meditating techniques. I had no idea that there were so many techniques.  I just thought there was just one which involved a lot of convoluted breathing exercises and chanting.  All I know is that even a few moments of meditating (or praying) is incredibly relaxing and centering for me.  I have also started a gratitude journal.  I am not sure whether to switch this to the evening as it seems to make more sense to me to write out what things occurred during the day that I am grateful for.  Do you have a gratitude journal?  Do you journal in the morning or evening?  And that's it, my morning routine.  Do you have a morning routine?

I am linking up with Share Your Cup at Have A Daily Cup With Jann Olson

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Simple Valentine's Day Wishes

Hello Friends!  Valentine's Day is just around the corner and, while a huge part of me still cringes at V Day (Valentine's Day? Pshaw!!  I hate V Day, so commercial, so uncool!), I feel like I should still acknowledge it in some form.  I remember a time when I would pretend not to stare at the lucky girls in the office who would have huge bouquets of flowers delivered to them and who would gossip endlessly (and overly loudly) about their elaborate plans.  Of course, I didn't care but secretly I did care.  Now, I have come to a point in life where something simple like going for a walk, even if arduous and difficult, is meaningful especially when one's partner is disabled.  These days if I were to be given a hugely expensive bouquet, instead of being thrilled to pieces, I would be fretting about the cost, both financial and environmental.  How times have changed!

So here are a few suggestions for a simple, meaningful Valentine's Day celebration:
1) For me, as an English Major, nothing is more meaningful than a heartfelt letter or note.  Tell that special someone all the things that you are too shy/busy/overwhelmed with life to say.
2) My sister always gives me a tin of homemade shortbread every Christmas.  Aside from the fact that they are delicious, the fact that they are homemade makes me appreciate them even more.  So cooking your special someone their favourite food will always be received well.  I have been thinking of a chocolate or cheese fondue.  Yes, a fondue is so stereotypical but, let's face it, it's a no brainer because even a klutz in the kitchen can do it.  What do you think, sweet or savoury?

3) Offer to do a chore.  I am the chief dish washer, laundress, clothes-off-the floor-picker-upper in my household.  An offer to do the dishes for the day (or the week, hint, hint) would thrill me to no end.
4) Give a gift that keeps on giving.  I received this travel tumbler recently.  The  brilliant thing about this gift was that it entitled me to a free coffee or tea at my local coffee shop every day for an entire month!  Amazing!  It was the gift of an experience.  Every day I looked forward to that little bit of me time.  I still bring my tumbler as I get 10 cents off my tea and I avoid the use of a disposable.

Last week, a friend of mine was looking particularly despondent.  When asked what was the matter, he said that he had been dating a girl for about a month.  Operating under the assumption that they were an "item,"  he said to her "Valentine's Day is coming up so I guess we should make plans?"  To which she replied, "I already have plans."  Turns out she had more than one tong in the fire. I know that he will be a glum chum on THAT DAY, thinking about the fact that he is stuck at home alone while she is out partying it up with someone else.  It reminded me of the times when my single girlfriends and I would give each other cards and little gifts on V Day, just to cheer each other up.  I mean, if we could do it in kindergarten, why not as adults?  So this is for all of your single friends or if you are single.
1) A little note saying how much you value their friendship. 
2) If you are single, consider getting together and going out for a coffee or movie or ask them over for a potluck dinner. Schedule a movie night and laugh/cry over all the crazy romantic escapades that you have  endured.  Make Valentine's Day Friendship Day.
3) And if you just want to be alone on Valentine's Day, that's okay too.  If you have a furball, give them an extra cuddle which I am sure you do every day anyway because they are your fur Valentine baby.  Be your own best friend and book some me time.  Get a massage, get your hair and nails done, or go for a relaxing walk because you deserve it.
Do you have any Valentine's Day tips or suggestions?

This week I am linking up with Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Homemade Chicken Stock

Hello Friends!  You know what?  Living in the city is noisy.  Sirens are blaring at all times of the day and night.  The roar of traffic is incessant.  It can be hard to find those little pockets of silence that keeps you sane and your brain from exploding.  When I first started thinking about living a more intentional life, I felt stymied and frustrated.  But what I have discovered is that it is possible by making the space for those seemingly small inconsequential actions.  You don't have to have a big garden or live on an acreage in the country to live a simple, intentional life.   Take chicken stock for example.  It can be made in any sized kitchen.  I am so embarrassed just thinking of the many, many chicken carcasses that I threw away as a carefree, single girl.  The great thing about homemade chicken stock or broth is that you don't have to worry about presentation or making it look pretty.  It is stock, after all.  I don't have a set recipe, I just use whatever I have on hand.  The main thing is that you are extending the use of the chicken as much as you possibly can and helping the household budget.  The mainstays for me are a small handful of whole peppercorns, a roughly chopped up carrot, a couple of celery stalks (I use the celery leaves as well) and whatever herbs I have on hand like parsley, thyme and oregano. Everything gets thrown into a stock pot and allowed to simmer away for at least an hour.

I used a whole chicken here because we were making a Thai dish but, after stripping the meat off the bones, I am going to save the carcass and make more stock.

A good tip that I have heard is to save the vegetable peelings in a freezer bag.  When you have accumulated enough, use them to make vegetable broth.  How genius is that?  Full disclosure, when I don't have any homemade stock on hand, I do buy it.  I don't beat myself up about it as I think it is important to be kind to myself and just do the best I can.  Here I have decanted the stock into a vintage mason jar.  Another good tip that I have come across is to pour the stock into an ice cube tray.  Then you will have frozen bouillon cubes ready for flavouring sauces and gravies.

The most important thing is the sense of accomplishment you feel when you look at the finished product.   It is these little wins that give you the confidence to try something else.  Do you have any other easy cooking tips to share?

I am linking up with Have A Daily Cup of Mrs Olson, A Stroll Thru Life.
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