October 25, 2014

Slowing Down

All around me I see people who live busy lives, sometimes because it's a product of that particular season of life, but often it seems there is a false sense of accomplishment or importance in being busy. I think it's good to have space in our lives for quiet and thinking, to just see where the day takes us. Choose to live a slower pace. Decide what's important to you. It really is that simple. It might take some time to make the adjustments but start taking small steps now to work toward your goal. I bet you'll feel the weight just fall from your shoulders.

I receive a lot of comments and emails about living a simpler life. I didn't really set out to slow down, it just started creeping into my daily life and the more it crept in, the more peaceful I felt. I'm a slowly reforming type A. I still have my moments of insanity but I try to find more balance these days.

I believe living a more simple life comes down to three things: reducing stress, managing time and finding joy.

1.) Rid your life of chaos and negativity.
Eliminate the negative as well as the unnecessary things that make you busy but don't add value to your life.

This one has been big for me. I'm a work in progress. I'm trying to cut out negative thoughts about myself and others. It changes my perspective to focus on the positives, while eliminating the negatives in my mind and my home. I invested time organizing my house and try to stay on top of it. I ask myself if I need it or love it (hopefully I answer yes to both), if not, then it goes. The same rules apply to bringing new things home. I limit the magazines I subscribe to and even the TV shows that I DVR. I cleared out my email subscriptions. I limit my time online. Instead of bringing me pleasure, all of that felt like another item on my to do list. I ask myself is this adding to my life? Pinterest? Yes. Obviously! The Bachelor? No! It's different for all of us. When there is too much chaos in my life I can't think. I can't focus. I can't relax.

2.)  Be smarter with your time.
There will always be obligations that you can't get out of, but you get to decide how you spend your free time. Choose wisely.

Say no. Sorry, I can't. That's all that is necessary. Then say yes to yourself. Few things make me as anxious as having a calendar full of commitments and appointments. I try to limit myself to one social visit during the week with a friend. I love a day when I don't have to leave the house (I'm an introvert at heart) and try to have 2-3 of them a week. I try to plan my errands so I can do them all in one day. I menu plan, have a laundry day, pay bills twice a month and have a cleaning schedule. I keep tweaking til I find something that works for me. I don't have it perfected yet but I've come a long way.

3.) Feed your soul.
Do more of what makes you happy. Seek out joy. Be inspired.

For me, this changes depending on the day. It could be yoga, a walk through the Village, knitting, having friends over for dinner, reading, creating in my studio, playing games with Em, baking with Maddie, snuggling and watching a movie with my guy. There is no better feeling than waking up excited to live your day.

Here's the thing I've come to realize, when I have less in my life it feels like more. When I put space in my life, I live it more fully. When I live life more fully, it feeds my soul.

October 08, 2014

Simple Pleasures

Maybe it's the change of season, more likely it's my own personal change of season, but I'm enjoying a more simple life these days. Even the touches of Autumn that are showing up around our house are simple. A bit of nature, a little texture and warmth. Just enough to signal the change and make it feel a bit cozier around here.

I'm happy to live in a little bubble devoid of politics, scary news stories and reality tv. I prefer small joys like cuddling up and watching reruns of Gilmore Girls and Hart of Dixie or watching newer favorites like Manhattan Love Story (please check it out!) and Cedar Cove which I was a bit embarrassed about since it is geared toward middle-aged women but then I realized that I am a middle-aged woman!

 I love the simple pleasure of going into the kitchen, putting on some lovely music and baking. I always tell my girls, food isn't love, because I don't want them to confuse the two. But then the truth is, it is a little bit, right? It's love and comfort and celebration. I love to cook and bake for people to show my love and appreciation for them. So I guess that makes me a liar. A chocolate brownie baking liar. And really, if you have to be a liar, that's the best kind I think.

Liar's Brownies
2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cup flour
 1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter over medium low heat. Take off burner and add vanilla and sugar mixing until combined. Add eggs and blend well. Add unsweetened cocoa, flour and salt and mix just until combined. Pour into 9x13 greased or parchment lined pan (I used a slightly smaller pan which yielded thicker brownies) and bake at 375° 25-30 minutes or until done. All that just mixed into the pot. It couldn't be more simple.

I know you think all I do is bake but I also made a really simple, lovely fish for dinner the other night. I can't show you a picture because A.) I'm not a food photographer. See photo above and B.) If you saw my photo you wouldn't want to make it because see A.).  I heated some butter and olive oil in a skillet, added a couple sprigs of rosemary, put my fish in, seasoned it with salt and pepper, added the zest of one lemon and the juice of 1/2 a lemon sauteed until done and then poured that special sauce over it. It was so good that I spent the rest of the evening talking about how amazing it was. And maybe a little bit the next night too. But really, it was so simple a man could make it. Ok, not mine but maybe yours? If it doesn't involve fire, smoke or a waffle maker my guy isn't interested.

The leaves are really starting to fall here in the Village. While we are finally wrapping up our porch project, there are a couple new improvements on our street creating chaos (because it always gets uglier before it gets prettier) where I had hoped to see only the beauty of Autumn. So I head inside where there is dappled afternoon light coming through the windows. The evenings are getting chilly and it's about time to pull out the flannel sheets. The cozy sweaters are starting to make an appearance and I know hats and scarves aren't far behind. The days are spent knitting, soup making and cozy book reading. The evenings are spent cuddling with my hot natured Hubby who always loves me a little more than usual when the weather turns brisk. Simple pleasures are my favorite.

September 23, 2014

Autumn's First Blush

Autumn is dawning. Everywhere I look, the first tinges of color where before there was none. The oaks are starting to turn and I know the maples won't be far behind. The last of the flowers are hanging on to their color and cozy mornings are bathed in golden light.

The squirrels and chipmunks are busy foraging for food, providing constant entertainment for the cats and constant nose prints on the windows for me. I know as soon as I decorate my porch with cornstalks, they will strip all of the cobs. I'm fine with this. We have an arrangement. At this time of year, more than any other, this place resembles a Disney movie, resplendent with woodland creatures. The squirrels stand above me in the tree eating as much of the fruit on the tree as they can, and throwing their discards down at me. They know what they are doing. The other day I was driving down Walnut St. and a squirrel stood in the road playing chicken with me. He won. My lovely, enchanted Village.

In the mornings I drive Emma to school, coming home on the back roads so that I can drive slower and my constant companion, Millie, can hang her head out the window the whole way. If we get really lucky, there will be nobody behind us and we can drive 10 mph under the speed limit making the trip that much better (and longer) for each of us. We pass large, round bales of hay and cows grazing. We pass a tractor sitting idle in a field, appearing to glow from the sun rising around it. We pass field after field of golden, spiky corn stalks.

At home things are quiet, the corners still shadowy this early in the morning. The dog wants to lay on the back porch breathing in the brisk air. The cat is more demanding of some love and I am happy to give it.

The day's demands are calling: laundry, cleaning, errands and appointments. All I really want to do is knit, read, write, bake and make soup. Pursuits that feed my soul. It feels like the right time for feeding my soul, like it came just when I needed it.

I know that October is the main event but I'm just realizing how magical September's build up is. Welcome, Autumn! I've been waiting for you.