Creatively Yours: Connecting the Dots

Heart us

image by amountofcoffee, from Flickr

You may have noticed something new about our blog in 2012. We are connecting the dots! Laurie, Elizabeth and I have decided to build upon each other’s ideas, and so when Laurie asked if you are grateful for your slow cooker, she was connecting to the idea of gratitude. Clever! And that is how conversation goes; we start off talking about one thing and end up talking about something completely different. As I don’t have any good recipes to share, I will let the slow cooker cook, and begin a new conversation on some upcoming events in February.

First off, February is heart month. That is a nice way to get us thinking about Valentine’s Day. Believe it or not, I heard a radio announcer the other day reminding men to remember the date (not once but twice in the same day).  Having just been to the grocery store, I don’t know how anyone could forget.  And then last but not least, there is Family Day, which is that nice extra holiday we get to spend with our families in Ontario. To my way of thinking, these three events cover some very important aspects of our lives: health, love and sense of belonging.

What will you do this February for your health, love and family?

LOVE to hear from you!

Creatively yours,

Angela

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Slow Easy!

owl crockpot

image by daftgirly, from Flickr

Are you grateful for your slow cooker?

I was out walking in the woods with a friend a week or so ago and began discussing the topic of gratitude.  Somehow we ended up talking about slow cookers.  Aeron is often out at the barn prior to dinner and finds it very convenient to start dinner before she and her daughter Emily leave for the barn.  A warm dinner is ready to eat when they return.  Aeron says that she finds it easier to eat well balanced meals when she is using her slow cooker.  She will be sharing her best slow cooker recipes with us shortly.

Do you remember having a slow cooker or crock-pot in your home when you were growing up?  The modern day slow cooker was developed by a company called Rival Industries using the trademark name Crock-Pot. The Crock-Pot was designed in the early 1970s based on the design of a bean pot called the Beanery.

With the emphasis on conserving energy, slow cookers became popular during the energy crisis.  The slow cookers were also a good choice for the record number of women who re-entered the workforce or began to pursue interests outside the home.

The motto for the Crock-Pot was “cooks all day while the cook’s away.”

I personally do not use my slow cooker to prepare my evening meals on a regular basis.  I do however use it frequently to prepare hot cereals overnight.  Here are two of my favourites:

This first recipe is based on a porridge recipe in The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook.

Crock-Pot Porridge

½ cup cracked wheat or bulgur 
1 ½ cup steel-cut oats

½ cup rye flakes

½ cup brown rice

¼ cup wheat germ7 ½ cups water or combination of liquids (rice milk, soya milk, almond milk)

4 ½ tsp vanilla

It is possible to add any dried fruit or nuts to this recipe.  I serve mine with ice cream!

Preparation:

Place all ingredients in a large crock-pot.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.  Cover.  Set on lowest cooking temperature and cook overnight.

The second recipe is not really a recipe per se.  This one is taken from Cooking Vegetarian.

Hearty Whole-Grain Cereal

Makes 4 cups

1 cup uncooked grain (such as amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, kamut berries, millet, oat groats, spelt berries, wheat berries or wild rice)

4 cups water

Put grains in slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours until the water has been absorbed.

Try the recipe first with 2 or 3 grains.  Later, you can experiment and create your own!  Both recipes can be served cold as a pudding (again especially delicious with ice cream) or refrigerated and reheated as needed.

Do you have a favourite slow cooker recipe or website that you would like to share?  Let us know!

Laurie

Thinking of Gratitude

Aside

Angela’s most recent post reminded me of a profile I read a few years ago, of the actor Tommy Lee Jones (OMG, it was in 1994!).*  The writer spent several days with Jones, and noted his habit, at the end of each day, of listing the good and interesting things that had happened that day.  Here’s an example from Oct. 31st:  “This was a good day.  We got the pumpkins.  We made jack-o’-lanterns.  We saw Hoagy and Bogart and Bacall in ‘To Have and Have Not.’  We trick-or-treated.”

I’ve forgotten everything else about the article except for this habit of his. Sometimes I use it myself when my mind is buzzing and I can’t get to sleep at night.  For me, this is a form of gratitude, and a tool for an optimistic realignment of my bad attitude.

I like Angela’s idea of choosing a theme for the year.  Looking forward to the blog posts that will flow from the theme of gratitude!

I’d also like to say thank you to the readers of our blog.  We are honoured that you’re reading us.

Elizabeth

Posy

image by horrigans, from Flickr

*Ross, Lillian.  (1994, April 4).  “Onward and upward with the arts:  Keeping up with Mr. Jones”  The New Yorker, 57-63.

Creatively Yours: Gratitude for a New Year

Journal Entry

image by JoelMontes, from Flickr

There has been much written in the past few years about gratitude and how being grateful opens the doors to abundance. Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book Simple Abundance, suggests we keep a gratitude journal and on a daily basis write five things we are grateful for. She suggests that over time you will find that the small, simple, overlooked things are what give us the most happiness. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and guru of happiness, is also a gratitude advocate.  She says,  “Gratitude is the key to happiness. Consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives.”

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage talks about the “Three Good Things” exercise, suggesting we keep a journal of three good things that happen to us each day. He calls this the “Positive Tetris Effect” which simply means that when we think about positive things we see things in a more positive light, which leads to more positive experiences, which creates more happiness. And, when we are happy we create more positive experiences – and so on.  And who wouldn’t want to feel happier?

But like many other good ideas, it is a matter of choosing something and sticking with it long enough to notice the benefits. Achor suggests that we need to do something for 21 days before it becomes a habit. So there is the challenge! Will you do what you set out to do (your new year’s resolutions or goals) for 21 days to achieve the benefits?

As I mentioned in my December blog post Before the Clock Strikes 12I am not big on resolutions and prefer to pick a theme to focus us.  So for 2012 I have decided that the theme will be gratitude.  Equipped with a beautiful leather bound journal and sparkly pink pen, I started my gratitude journal today.  Day one – check mark!  I’ll let you know how it’s going in 21 days!  And for those of you who have made resolutions or goals for 2012, and those who didn’t – I wish you much happiness and success, and I am grateful for your readership of our blog in 2011 and hope you continue to tune in during 2012!

Creatively yours,

Angela

Moleskine Journal Hack

image by budcaddell, from Flickr

New Year’s Resolutions After the Fact

stalled resolutions

Stalled Resolutions by ruffin_ready, from Flickr

As we move into the third week of January, I’m thinking it is time to address the concept of New Year’s Resolutions. New Year’s resolutions were first recorded by the Babylonians about 4000 years ago.  The focus of these resolutions was to ensure the return of farm equipment as the new year coincided with the start of a new farming season.  The New Year was moved from March to January by the Romans who spent their time counting stock from the previous year so that more ambitious goals could be set in the following year.  The Chinese equated New Year’s resolutions with house cleaning, viewing the new year as a time to clean the house from top to bottom.

Modern day resolutions can be defined as “a formal expression of intent” or “commitment to a personal goal.”  Resolutions almost always focus on self-improvement by making changes in habits and lifestyles.

At the end of the Depression, about ¼ of American adults made New Year’s resolutions.  By the start of the 21st century, about 40 per cent made resolutions.  Only about 10 percent of those that make resolutions actually keep them.

I’m personally not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  Any of my “bad habits” that I should change, I am really not that interested in changing.

The problem with most people who make resolutions is that they set goals that are not sustainable.  Let me give you an example.  One of the goals that most people make is to exercise more.  First of all, the goal needs to be tangible.  What does exercise more look like?  The more tangible the goal, the easier it is to attain.  So say your goal is to exercise three times a week.  What kind of exercise will you do?  Often people will choose an exercise that they hear is great to lose weight (running?) or a place to exercise (because apparently the Club has good equipment).  If you don’t like a particular form of exercise, DO NOT DO IT!  If you are not a runner but perhaps you love to dance, then dance!  Don’t join a club because your friend enjoys it.  People are Club exercisers or they are not.  Find out what you like to do, where you like to do it, and set a tangible, measurable, realistic goal.

Same thing for diet!  As most of you know, I love wine, broccoli and ice cream.  I probably consume too much of all three but if that’s my biggest food and drink issue, oh well!

Rather than taking away things from your diet, try to add.  For example, try to add more veggies to your diet (or in my case, variety of vegetables).  Try to drink more water (one glass every time I brush my teeth) and never be hungry (carry nuts with you at all times).

So my external goals are simple:  eat more kale and swiss chard, drink more green tea and add those dead lifts to your weight lifting routine at least three times a week.

How’s that for setting goals?  Internal goals to follow!

Laurie

p.s.  Resolutions are more sustainable if you share!

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Resolution by mikecogh, from Flickr

New Year’s Greetings to All!

january

image by hometownzero, from Flickr

How are you feeling?  Today seems like the day we can finally resume our routines and complete the post-holiday-recovery phase.  Over the holidays I seemed to communicate mostly in single words, such as “Tape?” and “Dinner!”, with occasional indulgences in multiple words like “When will you be back?” and “Could you get up now and help me lift this?”, not to mention “Is your hedgehog warm enough?”  My holiday coping strategy seems to require me to focus my thoughts on the present crisis, and potential crises in the immediate future, leaving no room for eloquence or reflection.

So I’m glad to get back to thinking and writing in complete sentences, and to taking a slightly longer view.  Hence, a blog post!

I came upon an article in the Toronto Star last week which might interest you.  It tells the story of a woman whose mother has early onset Alzheimer’s.  Although she can no longer talk with her mother, she is keeping their connection strong by exploring her mom’s collection of recipes and documenting the cooking and memories in a blog.  This idea reminded me of Angela’s blog post about her mother’s letters.  It seems to pull together the nurturing aspect of food, the way that smell and taste becomes embedded in our memories, and the informal diaries that can be created on our recipe pages.  Do you make notes on your recipes?  (And do you want your offspring to read those notes in the distant future?)

Speaking of offspring, it was life-changing for me a few years ago when I read about brain research that revealed that the brains of children continue to grow and develop until they are around 25 years old.  This information has helped me to have more reasonable expectations for the young people in my life.  Even if they are as tall as adults, they are still kids (until they pass the age of 25, when my expectations for responsible and considerate humans will kick back in).  So how can we tell when they’ve crossed over into adulthood, if not by appearance?

Here’s something I read this weekend, from the novelist Lynn Coady, who has a crowd-sourced advice column in the Globe.  She says, “True adulthood occurs the moment we grasp that the people who raised us do not exist solely for our comfort and reassurance. From that point on, the steady stream of unconditional love and support we’ve expected from them all our lives has to flow both ways.”  What do you think?

Bye for now,

Elizabeth

Creatively Yours: Before the clock strikes 12!

shirley temple new year 1937

image by carbonated, from flickr

The count down is on – three more days and the New Year will be here!  I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t spend much time thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I might pick one thing I want to focus on and in 2011 it was happiness! I started the year off by reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and made myself a promise to “work” at being happier. According to Gretchen there are things we can do to create more happiness in our lives. I tried some of her suggestions but then decided that I would find my own path to happiness. As the year passed I found myself more aware of what created happiness in my life. A few key things that I am certain increased my happiness quotient this year are:

Peace in my relationships with my husband, children, family and friends. It takes work but it pays dividends!

Getting off the couch and getting regular exercise – walking is my new sport of choice!

Getting involved with a cause I believe in – Art for Cancer http://artforcancerfoundation.org

Making art! Any day is a good day when I create something!

Spending time alone, or in the company of my dog Jessie.

Saying yes to new challenges like biking, hiking and riding horses even when my mind and body agree: “this is going to hurt afterwards.”

Writing for this blog!  I could never have guessed that I would enjoy writing as a creative outlet!

Writing letters to my children!  See my October 24, 2011 blog post Letters from my Mother for why you might want to consider doing this.

Rediscovering meditation – the ultimate gateway to happiness!

So rather than thinking about resolutions for 2012, I will ring in the New Year enjoying the happiness that I have right now. And that I believe creates more happiness than losing 10 pounds!

Wishing you all a healthy and happy New Year!

Creatively yours,

Angela

p.s. if  you want to know the one thing I will focus on for 2012, you will have to read about it in January!