Friday, July 30, 2010

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. -Eckhart Tolle

Your Personal Reflection:  Take some time today to appreciate the goodness in your life.  Can you see the beauty and abundance all around you? 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Creative in the Kitchen with Baked Falafels

So I'm starting to get this meal-planning-on-a-budget thing down.  I'm having so much fun being more creative in the kitchen.  This week I made a yummy taco salad with black beans, carrot soup and falafels.  This homemade falafel meal is so delicious, light and cooling for the summer.  I created it by being open to play (and possibly failure!) while experimenting with the ingredients I had.  It worked out great so I just had to share.

Baked Falafels with Fresh Hummus & Cooling Cucumber Sauce
For Falafels:
1 15 ou can chickpeas
1/2 large onion (finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 t cumin
2 T unbleached flour
salt & pepper to taste
(serves 3 - double recipe for more servings)

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mash until you get a thick consistency.  I actually used my Vita-mix which gave me almost the consistency of hummus.  It was a little creamier but either way will work.

Use a spoon to make the balls and place on a plate.  Flatten slightly.  Lightly brush olive oil on both sides and place on a cookie sheet.  Broil each side until light golden brown (about 3 minutes on each side.)

Cooling Cucumber Sauce
1 small cucumber (peeled and finely chopped)
1 6 ou plain yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt to make this non-dairy)
2 t mayonnaise
1 T fresh dill 
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for sauce together and place in fridge until ready to serve.  I made a salad with fresh lettuce,  tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden and topped with the cucumber sauce.  Save some extra to dip the falafels in.

Serve with my Fresh Hummus and the rice of your choice.  
(I used jasmine rice and cooked according to package.)

This was yet another yummy meal using the beans I bought in bulk (and veggies from my garden) and they have provided several delicious meals.  More recipes to come!  (Did you see my black beans and rice recipe from a few weeks ago?)

Your Personal Reflection:  Let yourself be creative in the kitchen and see what you discover!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Instead of Watching TV...

I finished my first quilt that I started over two years ago!  Letting go of TV has definitely given me more space for the things I never seem to find time for.  

Sure, you would think that 110 degree temperatures wouldn't really inspire the desire to quilt.  But the heat can't seem to stop my sudden creative momentum and the urge to complete what I've started.

Instead of hearing judges critique dancers, artists and chefs on their reality shows, I have enjoyed hearing the cicadas in the background, while playing with my needle and thread.  The stillness and rhythmic nature that comes from stitching has invited my mind to quiet some, much like meditation.

For this quilt, I used Amy Butler fabric and the pattern is known as a Wonky Scrap Quilt.  I learned the technique at a cool local quilt shop, but found an on-line tutorial for those of you interested in giving it a try.  It is so fun and easy.  (And hopefully won't take you two years!)

My quilt is complete.

It has been washed...

 and is ready to find its permanent home.

I walk into my bedroom room and smile.

Other things that are happening since giving up TV:

I'm getting more sleep.

I'm having great evening talks with my husband, rather than laying side-by-side while zoning out to some mindless show.

I've started the outline for my book.  I took a class recently on how to write, publish and market my first book.  The teacher offered great practical advice, like getting a calendar and putting down your start and completion dates.  I have to say that I'm not sure I'll stick to her guidelines on how to complete your book in 6-weeks,  considering I'm also switching gears to prepare for the birth of my second son, but I'm using my TV-less evenings to finally give this big dream some attention.

Rather than crashing on the couch to watch others accomplish their dreams, I'm feeling more creatively alive and inspired to do less, create more, and enjoy BEING in the space of the present moment.

And, that feels really good.

Your Personal Reflection:  What is one thing you've wanted to complete or try but just haven't had the time for?  Now think of some of the activities, like TV, that take up your time and energy.  What is one activity you can let go of so that you can find some much needed time to finish a creative project or start something new?  Can you start today?

Friday, July 23, 2010

And the winner is...

Well, Kestan was the winner at the garden last night when he found our first watermelon!  It is such a joy getting to watch him discover how our seeds grow into the food we eat.

And the winners of my random drawing for the next Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course are...

(Yes, I said winners!  There were so many amazing, wonderful people wanting to win a spot that I decided to randomly pick two!)

Momma Rae and Karen

Congratulations to you both.  I'll be emailing you soon with details.  BIG thanks to all of you for taking the time to share your comments with me.  I SO appreciate your excitement and enthusiasm for creating the life you love.  You all are an inspiration to me.  xoxo

Your Personal Reflection:  What kind of surprises are you discovering along your life's journey?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tastes of Summer

It's been over three weeks since we decided to reduce our grocery budget, let go of TV and simplify our lives to an even greater degree.  I have to say, that overall, it has been a pretty amazing experience so far.  Hard?  Yes!  Frustrating at times?  Yes!  But, on the flip-side of the challenges, the clarity I continue to experience is really exciting.  I'll explain in an upcoming post how giving up TV has sparked some new creative momentum in my life.  But today, I want to continue sharing my journey of being more creative in the kitchen.

Along with enjoying the fruits of our garden labor, I am also trying to be mindful about using similar ingredients and using the items I've stocked up on.  So the following two recipes use the basil from our garden, heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market, and the olive oil, garlic and beans that I bought in bulk. 

Please note: being creative in the kitchen means being willing to play.  I rarely measure my ingredients so feel free to change the measurements below.  They are meant to be a guideline, but just as I approach art and the creative process, I do the same in the kitchen...there is no "right" way to cook and we all have an inner chef - so let go of perfect and have some fun!

Tomato Basil Bruschetta
3-4 tomatoes 
handful of fresh basil
2-3 garlic gloves (minced)
1-2 T olive oil
fresh Italian bread (or any kind you like)
dash salt & pepper

Chop tomatoes and basil, mix in a bowl with minced garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Add more of any ingredients to your taste.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes.   

Slice the bread, top with a little olive oil and broil just until crisp.  Top your bread with the tomato mixture and say hello to summer.

Fresh Hummus
2 cans garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
2-3 T tahini
juice from 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
2-3 T olive oil
dash salt & pepper
2 t cumin 
1/4 cup water 

Place all ingredients in a blender (I use a Vita-mix.)  Add more water or olive oil to get the consistency you like.  I prefer thicker hummus and my husband likes it really smooth.  Experiment to find what works best for you!

I like to top my hummus with a little olive oil and cumin.  Serve with blue chips, pita bread, carrots or cucumbers.  It's high in protein and so delicious.  I also use hummus on my veggie sandwiches or wraps in place of mayo and mustard.

I'll announce the winner of a spot in my winter Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course tomorrow.  I've extended the contest until this evening, so get on over to my last blog post and leave a comment for your chance to win!

Your Personal Reflection:  How does it feel to let yourself play and get creative in the kitchen?  Do you stick to recipes or try to experiment with the ingredients?  Can you continue to let go of perfect in the kitchen, and in other areas of your life?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Let's Celebrate with a Give Away!

We agree to consciously set an intention to become bold explorers of our lives, to listen more intently to our inner voices, to honor our unique brilliance and to celebrate our authentic selves.  -Inside Out participants

Today marks the last day of the third session of my Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course.  I continue to be blown away by the dedication and vibrant energy of these amazing explorers who choose to take this journey with me.  They are filled with hope, courage, inspiration, vulnerability, creativity, compassion, celebration and dreams ready to soar.

Together, we are becoming active participants of our lives, excited to create the lives we love, one small step at a time.  Today, like every day, is a fresh clean slate - the beginning of new opportunities waiting to be explored.

Many of you know that my sweet second baby is due in early October, so I'll be taking time off to bond and enjoy this new little soul.  The next Inside Out e-course will be offered early 2011.  I know that's several months from now, but the class fills up quickly.  So if you think you might want to take the course for the first time (or the second, third or fourth!), then enter for your chance to win a spot in the winter session.

All you have to is this:  1)  Join Free Spirit Knits Facebook Fan Page  (If you don't participate in Facebook, then skip this step.) AND 2) leave a comment on this blog post by Wednesday, July 21st.  I'll announce the winner next week.  (Please make sure to leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you directly.

Enjoy some of the discoveries and new artwork shared by Inside Out explorers - summer session:

I've discovered that there IS enough time, if you make it a priority, to create.

I have learned that I need to continue to do inner work and stay aware of my life.  If I forget to do this my life seems to have less meaning and gets all out of balance.  I think I need to take a life long e-course to remind myself to be aware and follow my heart!

I have learned (at age 40!) that I already have everything I need to make my dreams come true!  It's only myself that is holding me back, nothing else.

When I started this course I truly thought it would be some nice, relaxing me-time to create and play.  And while it certainly has been that, it has also brought so many things to the surface that had been lying dormant.  I started to see where I want to go in life, with what I have already (my passion and talents for energy healing) and with what I want to create for myself (a loving family that's near my family).  And talk about a holy crap moment, but I realized that I need to move back east!  That revelation did not come easy, though.  But the journaling really helped me push through my ego, brain and fear!  Pretty darn cool.

I think the biggest discovery is that I have a big fear of being considered too bold, too loud, too anything except for too giving.  I'll definitely be exploring this as I'm working through the class...and beyond.

I've discovered that I spend far more time being on other people's schedules than I do my own, and I have a deep resentment of it.  I didn't really realize how much having my day "planned out" for me, based on what other people want to do, really bothers me.  I realize that we all have to do things we might not want to do, but I also realize that it's OK to say no to some activities and commitments if they don't align with what I want.

I also discovered that there is great joy in the process and that to be entirely focused on end product not only destroys some of that joy, it also makes a much less interesting end product.  Hmmm...

I've discovered that my inner artist was not dead.  She was just trapped under a large piece of furniture!

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you ready to CREATE the life you LOVE?

Want to know more?  Read testimonials from Inside Out e-course past participants and check out why I created the Inside Out e-course adventure.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Are You Hungry For?

Truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is. -Nadine Gordimer 

Ok...the last two weeks have been weird for me.  I've felt strange, confused, frustrated, overjoyed, excited, agitated and at peace.  Here's what I've noticed up TV and reducing our grocery and entertainment budget has brought up a new set of reflections for me, like - What does it mean to feel deprived of something?  Where does this lack come from?  And probably the toughest one of all...What am I hungry for?

The more mindful I become of what I spend and how I spend it - both what I spend financially and how I spend my time - the more I'm starting to recognize my patterns of fulfilling a hunger that can't be fed by the external world.  When I come from a place of lack, and feel like I can't have something because I don't have enough money or I can't do something because I don't have enough time, then I find myself wallowing in a place of deprivation

The definition of deprive is to keep from possessing or enjoying.  Why would I intentionally keep myself from enjoying my life?  I know that I can live fully in the experiences of my life despite any amount of money or time I may have.  Living in a place of deprivation is now my past.  I believe that I can choose grace, gratitude and abundance over lack, not having enough and deprivation.

So as I recognize these tendencies, I will continue practicing mindful spending - how I spend my money and how I spend my time.  I will watch my mind that tries to talk me into spending money on things I don't need, just so that it can fulfill its old way of being.  I will refrain from spending more time on the computer now that my TV is shut off.   I will stop limiting my inner self.  And when I feel like I'm slipping to a place of feeding feelings of lack, I'll continue to ask the question, "What is it that I'm truly hungry for?"

Your Personal Reflection:  What are you hungry for?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Becoming Aware

Since my Who Are They? post I've received many mindful comments from those of you who relate to this feeling of wanting to embrace an authentic life - no matter what.  I sense so much change going on - don't you?  (Enjoy this great read about the solar eclipse happening now.)  It's like we're done with consuming, buying, and hoarding.  We want to live more simply. We want to clear the clutter.  We want to breathe again.  We want space for what truly matters most.

With this past week of making bigger changes, I'm reminded that gaining new awareness isn't always an easy road.  You know, like when you find out what's really in your food (watch Food, Inc.), well, once you become aware, it takes more work to make changes in your diet, to read labels and to learn where your food comes from.  It's a lot easier to go on blindly eating whatever comes your way.  But easier isn't always better, right?  And eventually, your new found awareness becomes second nature, your new way of life, and it's easy once again.

So in celebration of choosing an authentic, abundant life, I'm posting this photo as a reminder of what matters most in my life.  Love, family, growth, celebration, inspiration, connection, nature, compassion, simplicity, the present moment, happiness and awareness...  

And I share this with you because I know you are feeling the itch in your belly to make bigger changes, too.  So go for it.  Choose authenticity.  Choose abundance.  Become aware of what matters most in your life.  And do it, one small step at a time, starting today.

Your Personal Reflection:  What kind of life are you choosing to live?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Yummy, Healthy, Easy & Cheap

Like I promised, here is one of my budget friendly recipes using some of the bulk items I bought this week.  I'm trying to find creative ways to use the same ingredients - to simplify my cooking and to extend our weekly groceries. 

This meal is very easy to make, healthy, high in protein, inexpensive and so delicious!  (This is my version of a meal I like to eat at Chipolte's.)

Black Beans & Rice 
1 T olive oil
1 cup organic brown rice  (makes 4 servings)
2 cans low sodium black beans
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 onion
1/2 lime
1-2 T fresh cilantro 
salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Guacamole
2 avocados
1/2 lime
1 T fresh cilantro 
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the guacamole ingredients together, adding more lime, cilantro and salt/pepper until you are happy with the taste.  Set aside.

Cook the rice according to your directions.  This rice called for 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, adding 1 T of butter (optional).  

Bring to a boil, stir once, cover and simmer for 50 minutes.

While rice is cooking, heat the oil over medium in a large skillet.  Once warm, add minced garlic cloves and onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes.  You could add a little hot sauce or jalapeno if you like a little kick.  Drain and rinse your black beans (rinsing gets the excess salt off the beans) and pour into skillet.

Once your rice is almost cooked, add your cilantro, lime, salt and pepper to taste.  Fluff rice with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes, then mix it with your beans.

Top your rice and beans with the fresh guacamole and chopped tomatoes.  

This kid is a good eater but I was shocked at how he shoveled this meal into his mouth.  He asked for seconds - which is always a sign that the meal is good!  Enjoy.

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you feeling the need to simplify and save money, like I am?  What are some ways you can save money while eating healthy, fresh foods and simplify your time in the kitchen?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Creative in the Kitchen (& tips for reducing monthly budget)

So last week I announced I was feeling forced to make some bigger changes in my life.  It started with our decision to simplify and work less. Working less = less money coming in.  Less money coming in = creative thinking, pre-planning and big changes.  Big changes this week included cutting off our TV, reducing our grocery budget and searching for free entertainment options.  And I must admit, I've experienced some tears and resistance, as well as some moments of clarity.

Surprisingly, giving up TV hasn't been that difficult.  Partly because we've been busy and also because it's summer and there's not much to watch anyway.  Kestan has requested Elmo a few times (and I have let him watch it online once or twice), and I did watch The Bachelorette on the computer and that just gave me a headache.  Our evenings have been quieter and I've also noticed that I'm going to bed much earlier, which has been really nice.  I didn't realize TV was preventing me from getting a full nights rest!  (And thanks to ALL of you for your support and wonderful comments.  Stop by Suzy's blog as she shared her experience giving up TV this week, too!)

The most challenging change for me has been watching every dollar I spend on food.  I became aware of my addiction to Whole Foods!  I love that store.  I love to walk the aisles, and treating myself to lunch there once a week has become part of my routine.  It's fun, but it's expensive, and it's really easy to spend an entire weeks worth of grocery budget on one visit.  So I made the decision to stop shopping there, except for all-natural chicken, free-range eggs and the coconut-milk yogurt we like.  

After wiping my tears and returning to a place of gratitude that we even have the means to buy groceries, I started my research.  First stop, I Googled "How to eat a dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free diet on a budget."  I found some good information, coupons and recipes, and was surprised to discover that we had already incorporated some of the money saving tips into our daily life.  But there is still much more we can do.

Change is hard.  Believe me, I have my ups and downs.  Although I enjoy cooking, I don't want to spend all my time in the kitchen making almond milk, gluten-free bread and canning.  Eating healthy food is a priority for us, and cooking it ourselves will help cut down the costs.  I know as I get used to these changes I'll find a way to be efficient with my time so I can enjoy being in the kitchen, while balancing my other interests - like playing with my son, making my art, and creating my e-courses.  (Luckily, I have a husband who also enjoys cooking.)

Ideas for Reducing Your Monthly Grocery Budget:

1) Shop at your local farmer's market or start a garden.

I love shopping at the farmer's market and it feels (and tastes) so good to eat fresh, local food while supporting the ones who work so hard in the field.  This is our first year to be part of a community garden and I have to say it is the highlight of our summer.  We have our own 10x10 foot plot of land, along with several other beginner and experienced gardeners, all side-by-side at a church just two blocks from our home.  We've planted tomatoes, peas, beets, kale, peppers, carrots, broccoli, herbs, watermelon, and cucumber.  Last night we enjoyed our very first cucumbers and it was so fabulous getting to eat something that we picked just 5 minutes before.  (If our green thumb continues I see how growing our own vegetables will save us a lot of money this summer.)

2) Buy bulk, plan ahead and stock up

I used to break into a rash hearing the words "schedule" and "budget."  Now I embrace each of them and see the value in planning ahead.  I worked for about two days on making a menu for the next two weeks, using food we already had in the freezer and pantry, and then with calculator in hand we walked the massive, bright warehouse of Costco.  I have to say, Costco sure has a lot of organic and some gluten-free options.  We couldn't find everything there, but I bought bulk beans, brown rice, organic agave, avocados, and pesticide-free onions to name a few.  

3) Use cash

This is something we used to do and it worked great, but we became slackers and it was just easier to pull out the old debit card.  I find using a debit card is a great way to lose track and overspend.  So now I take out our monthly-allotted amount for groceries and place the money in weekly envelopes.  That way I have to really pay attention to what I'm buying and when the envelope is empty, well that's it for the week.

4) Find recipes for the meals you love

This week I started to look at the meals we enjoy eating out and I'm now trying to recreate them.  Chipolte's is a place we enjoy, especially for their rice, beans and guacamole.  I found a website that offers similar recipes and I know I can save money making this meal at home. 

5) Find several uses for the same ingredients

Being a vegetarian I eat a lot of beans, and since I just bought tons of beans in bulk, I have planned many meals that use black and garbanzo beans - like hummus, falafels, bean burritos, and kale bean soup.  (I will be sharing some of my inexpensive recipe ideas in future posts.)

6)  Gather some friends, cook together and freeze

Although I have yet to do this, I'm planning to spend a few evenings cooking with my mom and sister so that we have meals to freeze.  This way we can share on ingredient costs, cut down on the kitchen time and have fun cooking together. (I'm waiting to do this closer to my October due date so that I don't have to worry about cooking when our newborn is here!)

7)  Have fun!  

Reducing to create space for what's really important doesn't have to be full of dread, fear or sadness.  I have to say, I've actually had fun incorporating a lot of these new changes.  Facing the challenge has allowed me to use my creativity in new ways.  Spending a little more time in the kitchen to make bulk meals has allowed me more special opportunities to share with Kestan, too.

Your Personal Reflection:  Do you plan your weekly meals?  Do you have inexpensive recipes you'd like to share?  How about tips you could offer for those of us new to cooking on a budget?  What are some small changes you can make in your life to become more conscious about how you eat, what you eat, and how you spend your money on food?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Surround Yourself with Love

Everything in our life is a symbol.  Take a moment to look around your home and notice the symbols in your life.  What images are you drawn to?  What colors?  What textures?  Are there particular shapes, images, or symbols that you see throughout your surroundings?  

One image that I'm particularly drawn to is the heart.  As I look around my own home I notice we have heart symbols in almost every room - and I still can't get enough.  In fact, one of my favorite things to do is find rocks that look like hearts.

This is just one of many heart rocks I discovered on my hikes in Colorado.  

I was inspired when my friend and fellow blogger, Megan, visited me a few weeks ago. We pulled out the paints and played.  Since I'm hyperaware these days of abundance and gratitude, I'm especially drawn to making heart symbols.  Megan had the idea of creating a heart "pillow" and I wanted to share this project with you!

Continuing with my dedication to One Small Change, I like looking for new ways to use brown paper bags.  (See another fun idea here.)  

Supplies for Recycled Heart "Pillows"
*brown paper bags
*paints and brushes
(any other medium you like)
* glue or hot glue gun
*sponges and other textured stuff
*optional:  friends to create with you!

Step 1:  Cut two hearts the same size

Step 2:  Crinkle the hearts in your hand

This gives the hearts great texture for painting, as well as adds depth.

Step 3:  Take a sponge or brush and paint a background color on each heart.

Step 4:  Now the fun really begins.  Add your personality to your heart and play with lines, swirls, and doodles.  If you have trouble getting started, take the side of a crayon and rub it over the surface of your heart.  Play like a child would - without thinking about what you're doing.  Just explore lines and shapes and have fun. You'll surprise yourself if you stop worrying about the final outcome and simply enjoy the process of playing with your supplies!

Step 5:  When you are finished designing both sides of your heart, staple, glue or hot glue the sides together. (Of course make sure your colorful creations are facing out on both sides.)  Stop half-way through gluing and stuff some crinkled paper scraps inside your heart "pillow".  (Idea:  Stuff if with a journal entry listing all the things you are grateful for in your life!)  Finish sealing the heart.

Step 6: Find a special place to display your heart symbol in your home. 
 (Idea:  Take some fun photos of you with your heart and email them to me!  I'll make sure to post them on my blog.)

On another note: For those of you following Reduce Clutter; Create Space 2010; the theme for July is mementos.  It's time to clear and organize your old photos, books, letters and special things you've stored up over the years.  Good luck and let's continue helping each other create the lives we love!

Your Personal Reflection:  Slow down enough to notice the symbols in your life.  What do you see?