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Living shamelessly: day 3 (all about food).

August 5, 2011

The prompt for today’s shamelessness is so easy for me that it is downright absurd.  The charge?  Eat. Whatever you feel like eating.  This is practically my life motto.  I have a profound interest in cooking and have thankfully been blessed with some talent in that department.  I also have a most epicurean and gastronomic nature, of which I am sometimes-proud-sometimes-dismayed. I love to eat. I am sometimes frustrated with this because it makes me be a size, eh, hmiphfmyba instead of a cute and sleek smaller size.  This frustration is especially acute when I have to wear a swimming suit. But most of the time I am proud of my ability to cook, and I revel in joy that good food brings me.  As a small example, take a look at some of the many foods I have made over the past few years:

Quiches, fried egg sandwiches, strawberry french toast, chocolate cake (in several iterations), enchiladas, ratatouille tart, doughnuts, quinoa latkes, summer rosti, pot pie, cinnamon rolls, paella, bacon and goat cheese pizza, olive bread, lasagna (with homemade freakin’ noodles), cocoa peanut butter and loads of other stuff.  When I think of something I want to eat I make it.  Sometimes we don’t have dinner until 9:00 pm, or breakfast until noon because I was motivated to make something complicated and time consuming.  And then eat it with true pleasure.

I am so not into self deprivation.  I use butter, and cream, sugar and flour.  I eat cheese, drink wine, love bread, sausage and bacon. I also love fresh fruit and a good salad — it isn’t all about the fattening and intensely caloric.  It is about treating my body well and using my creativity to create something that nourishes me mind, body and soul.  I absolutely reject the notion that I should feed my body crap low-carb bread and fat-free milk and sugar-free yogurt and all this other nonsense non-food to achieve some artificial ideal of size and beauty. Food is good.  Food is essential to our well being.  Food carries meaning, culture, history.  Food brings people together, creates and brings back memories, and carries tradition. I honestly consider myself to be fortunate to be able to feed myself and my friends and family such tasty food.  So, as far as eating shamelessly goes, I have and always will rock it in that department.

Shameless Day 2: Look a fool.

August 4, 2011

Day 2 of 30 Days of Shamelessness encourages me to “Look a fool.” This goes to show how much I was not paying attention.  I’ve been putting this off for days thinking I had to act a fool.  Not that I am averse to doing such a thing, but the opportunity hasn’t really presented itself.  Though it might be my definition.  After all I’m a stay-at-home mother of a not-quite-one-year-old child. I think I might act foolish with regularity but it isn’t special; it’s normal life.  Then I saw the post of my cousin, also doing this exercise, and thought “oh!  I can just look a fool!”  So easy – so done.

I have never really minded looking a fool for a laugh or entertainment, even if the only person entertained is myself. I think WAY too many people take themselves too seriously in the looks department.  I do think there are times when it is appropriate or desirable to look your best, either to communicate respect (such as graduation) or importance (such as a job interview) or perhaps to be alluring to your preferred amour.  I also do not see anything wrong with wanting to look nice in a general way.  I appreciate flowers blooming and cute puppies as much as the next girl, and so a human that has a desire to present her/himself as an entity pleasing to the eye is understandable to me, to be sure.

Yet I find too many people that hang their perception of themselves on how they appear to other people.  Or at least how they think they appear to other people.  They don’t want to be seen as lazy, fat, unkempt, awkward, foolish, uninformed, or just plain out-of-it (there are so many things you can substitute for “it” there; choose your favorite).  I can vividly remember how when I was a kid my mom wouldn’t want the car windows down on a nice day because it would “mess up” her hair.  Even if we were just going to the grocery store or her sister’s house. Then I thought she was just a killjoy.  Now I think how sad it is to deny yourself (and the rest of your family) the pleasure of a cool breeze in your hair and on your face just to preserve a hairdo.  It’s not like there was someone in the deli who was going to say “whoa lady! What is up with that rat’s nest?”

But we are always our own worst critic, are we not?  Better to embrace all our pieces – our beautiful and brilliant, our dingy and dumb, our creative and curious, our inane and unintelligible.  Today I shamelessly claim my “foolish” bits, acts, thoughts and notions and hope you will, too.

No Shame: Day 1

August 1, 2011

I am excited about this project.  Way excited.  Too excited for it to be reasonable, in fact.  My friend and cousin, in collaboration with others unknown to me, created a 30 day challenge to combat shame and promote self-love: No Shame: Be You – 30 Days of Shamelessness.  Though I wish I didn’t need encouragement to be myself and be cool with that, I do.  Also, never one to turn down a good quest, I embrace this new opportunity to expose dim corners of myself to the light.  To open doors and pull back curtains and proclaim (perhaps loudly, perhaps in a whisper) pieces of myself that I sometimes prefer not to own.  Some look to be serious, some silly, but all have one good goal: to let you be shamelessly you.

Day One: Declare your love for an uncool TV show.
This one is not exactly possible for me because I don’t watch much TV. What I do watch isn’t on the TV, it is on the computer, and the only show I watch with any regularity at all is Glee, which is disgustingly popular.  Which, I think by definition, makes it “cool.”  However, I do engage in some video watching that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to.  I love, oh how I love, watching movie previews & trailers.   I always watch all of them before a movie, and I get upset if I have to miss them.  I also go to http://www.imdb.com a few times a month and watch every trailer I can find.  New movies.  Old movies.  Indie flicks.  Kid movies.  Foreign films.  If it has a preview, I want to watch it.

I’m not sure why, exactly.  Perhaps it is because I love movies a lot in theory but often don’t want to pay for them, so I watch the mini-version.  Perhaps it is because trailers always have the gut-factor – explosions, point-blank gun threats, smoldering glances, passionate kisses, adorable kids – all those things that are meant to lure you in to see the film.  I take it like a hit: bring on the next adrenaline-pumping 2.3 minutes!  Sometimes, I even go back and watch the same one several times.  Maybe I just like the tiny escape from reality.  I don’t know, really, but I do know I love doing it.

Stay tuned: day 2 is to “act a fool.”  Oh the possibilities.

Project: Simplify presents: The Paper Trail

May 13, 2011

As I have said before, I am by nature a very organized person.  But somehow having a baby, trying to start a new business, and trying to keep up with the house have become things I can’t seem to manage all together.  Months ago, literally, I took this picture of my office desk (in what we somewhat ironically call our “library”, even though we have books in nearly every room in the house):

Not even half the stuff that needs organizing or filing is shown here.

I was drawing on the urging of the Simple Mom blog to get myself going on cleaning out, refiling, finding a home for, and all the other tasks that needed doing regarding our paper lives.  In an era where we are supposed to be paperless, why do I still have just as much paper as I ever did?  I get a few less bank statements and certainly less catalogs.  Yet there are always small piles everywhere that need something done with them.  But they sit because, well, what do I do with them? When I get started with one pile, inevitably that leads to the next pile that I also need to go through, and I get about halfway through each of four piles before I get distracted by my son, or my need to find my water glass, or the phone or something.

What is all this stuff that lays around beckoning to be dealt with?

  • piles of notes about items that need doing for my new store
  • ads we’ve gotten in the mail that we want to figure out how to stop, and so have to call or email someone about
  • newsletters and reports from our financial institutions that I feel bad pitching without reading, but never really understand and so never finish
  • books or magazines that got started but were interrupted and set down for the next spot of free time
  • manuals, articles, flyers that have information I want to read but that isn’t urgent, and so, can wait, and wait, and wait…
  • wedding, shower, 1st birthday, graduation party reminders that we need to keep out to remember to RSVP, or buy that present…

Nearly always something needs my attention, but I want to do it later, not now, and so it goes into the piles.  And the later just gets later, until the pile gets bigger and dealing with it more onerous.  Why is this so hard to reign in?  I’ve seen it recommended that you put everything into three piles immediately upon receiving said item:

Pitch it, file it, process it.

Then, you pitch the first pile, file the second, and put the last into a pile that you handle on a schedule – once a day, or once a week, or whatever suits you.  But I don’t understand how to really enact this super-simple plan because the things that go in that “process it” pile need different things!  Some need a phone call, or to be read in more detail, or to be filled out and returned.  Some need to be discussed with my husband, compared against something I’ve already gotten before and filed and need to find, or need to be further researched.  Some just need to stay front-and-center so we don’t forget whatever it is talking about.

How I Feel Most of the Time

I actually did spend about 6 hours one day filing, piling, tossing, shredding, and for about two days had a pristine and clean desk.  Today I have five active piles just on this desk.  Not to mention the bills in the bill basket and the two random baskets that are overflowing with stuff that needs some kind of mental attention.

It seems like I never make much headway on getting ahead in the paper game.  Do you?

Mini spa – a cure for imbalance.

April 26, 2011

I was thinking recently of my life like a mobile.  The kind that baby nurseries have that have six arms, with something dangling off of each arm.  If the dangling items aren’t of an equivalent weight, then the mobile is off kilter. Unbalanced.  Dysfunctional.

I began to imagine the areas I would put on my mobile.  The different parts of me: spirit, emotional self, physical self, mother, wife, career-business self, home manager, social creature.  And immediately I began to visualize my mobile being way, way unbalanced.  The mother arm weighs the most, with a whole baby hanging on that one.  Because of the business venture I am about to embark on, the career self is also hanging heavy.  The wife and home manager roles are smaller, but not by too much.  But the other items, the ones that are about the care and maintenance of my body, my mind, my spirit and my emotional health… Those I can barely find.  They are tiny pebbles just swinging wildly, governed by the weight of the other arms.  I can see it in my mind: a mobile that is almost vertical because the weight on one side so outstrips the weight on the other.  I know this is not good.

I haven’t even been giving much thought to my needs, and I know this is a common new-mom problem.  Add to that the intensity of trying to start a business, and the time left over for me is running in the red.  So today I decided to do what I could to address that.  When the kid went down for a mid-day nap, I had a mini-spa. 

I think a lot of times we get hung up thinking we have to do it all or nothing, and that comes to taking care of ourselves, too.  I didn’t have time for a bath filled with rose petals, or a professional massage, or steamed towels, or any of the stuff that would have been so, so nice.  But I did have time for a little self-love and attention to my own needs.  So rather than bemoaning what I didn’t have time for, I made time for what I did: a quiet shower, relaxing music, a deliciously scented candle, and a skin-pampering routine.

I used my body brush (this is my absolute favorite self-care item ever) to gently scrub my dry skin, always towards the heart.  It removes dead skin and increases circulation – both very rejuvenating.  I used a foot file to get the dead skin off my feet, and then I rinsed myself off in a cool shower, to be gentle to my newly scrubbed skin.  I got out, toweled off, and then slathered myself from head to toe (ok, from neck to toe, to be precise) with Hempz Cucumber Jasmine lotion (a birthday gift).  All while listening to my girl, Norah.

I took my time, made sure to get every inch of my skin, sang along with the music, and just relaxed and enjoyed some me time.  Ah, the joy of a little me time.  The added benefit of feeling virtuous for using all eco-friendly tools (right down to my soy candle) just was icing on the cake.

Then the baby woke up, I moved the laundry over, and life went back to normal.  But for a small window of time today, my focus was just on my needs.  I can see the mobile hanging slightly more in balance.  My focus for the next week is really going to be to do what I can to find a rhythm that will help bring me balance.  Wish me luck.

Remove, refill, replace.

April 13, 2011
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I love organizing things.  I love the magical process of taking a mess and turning it into order and method.  I have been feeling a strong need to reorder things around the house lately.  I always do in Spring because the sunny, breezy, warm days make me long for wide open spaces and bright, light backdrops.  In order to cultivate that, there is always clutter that needs to be removed and disorder that needs to be reigned in.  This year has been especially bad because with a new baby around, I have had a hard time keeping things as organized and tidy as is my preference.  Sometimes I literally can’t take care of it, and sometimes I choose to play with the tiny person smiling at me instead of folding laundry.  I’ll have plenty of days for the latter.

But eventually, the chaos gets to me.  So it was today with the pantry.  I’ve been meaning to get to it for some time as part of the Simple Mom Project: Simplify. Today after moving  4 cans of soup around on the counter, again, because I couldn’t figure out where to put them, I decided enough was enough.  It started out like this.

Left, my baking shelf; right, the full view.

Once upon a time there had been an order to all my stuff, but many, many cooking projects later, it had been lost.  I like to cook.  Actually, I love to cook.  I like to experiment with new cuisines.  I like to try new spices, seasonings, flours, sugars, dried fruits, artisan-made crackers, exotic nut mixes, and the list goes on.  So, I sometimes have a hard time figuring out where my latest acquisition might be housed.  Do Honey Dates go with the baking stuff, the dried fruit, or the sweeteners?  Does the chipotle-infused dark chocolate go with the snacks, or with the baking chocolate? I also sometimes have a hard time keeping things organized because I buy a lot in bulk, which gives me a lot of saggy bags, instead of self-sufficient boxes, jars and cans.  When I got started today I pulled out something like 15 half-full bags of dried fruits, rice, sugar, flour, lentils, coconut flakes and dried beans.  I was daunted by the task of figuring out how to organize all these things.  However, Simple Mom had a brilliant suggestion: Mason jars.  Why had I never thought of this??

So much better!

I have a ton of Mason jars because I mentioned one time to my father that I needed some so I could can my excess summer produce.  So, in typical dad style, he provided me about 5 copy paper boxes full of jars.  Even in my most productive salsa and jelly summers, I haven’t needed that many.  Fear not, poor jars, you have purpose in life yet!  A few cute stickers and a lot of pouring and scooping later, I have a beautifully organized pantry.  It is way better than it ever has been.  The food is easier to organize because the containers are all similar shapes and sizes.  The food is easier to see in the clear jars, and thus I will better be able to tell how much I have of what and not be so wasteful.  Also, the little critters that sometimes find their way into the pantry generally can’t navigate jars, so no more having to worry about finding unwanted additions in my grains and flours.

I got so inspired after all this that I made mini-pumpkin pies, in muffin cups, and topped them with caramelized walnuts.  Ah, the joys of a well organized kitchen.

Cloth diapers and other terrible things to do to babies.

March 29, 2011

Diapers hanging out to dry on our clothesline.

I want to be high impact in my life – in my community, my social sphere, my local economy, and my personal life; I want to be low impact in the natural world.  I want to leave behind a legacy but not a mess to clean up. Partially because of this personal philosophy, we use cloth diapers & wipes on our baby.  Also, I breastfeed, make his baby food, and get as much of his gear used as we possibly can.  We still have the same compact car we had before we had our child, and just the same as before he was born, we acquire most of our goods second-hand (or third-, or fourth-, as the case may be).

While sometimes I see this as being the “right” thing to do, as often as not it is just the easy and natural thing to do.  Nursing my child is way easier for me than mixing up a bottle of formula, and washing a bunch of bottles.  Mashing up a banana to feed him seems more natural and intuitive to me than remembering to buy and then opening a jar of weird pink goo called banana.  Cloth diapers just seemed right and natural, too.  I know I prefer my britches to be soft cloth to some (what are they anyway?  plastic? paper?  polyvinyl icky stuff?) non-natural material.  Cloth diapers are soft on my baby’s skin, never causing him diaper rash or irritation.  And then he knows and I know when he is wet, and I hope that he potty trains as soon as he realizes he has some control over that wet-bottom issue.  But even if it doesn’t net us less months in the diaper, we still wanted to do cloth.  It puts his waste in the water stream (where most human waste goes already) instead of into the trash can.  It allows us to have nearly no disposable, one-time use products to purchase and repurchase.  It frees me from having to worry about what chemicals bleaches, dyes, or other things my baby’s delicate skin might be encountering.  And, we never run out of diapers – we just have to wash them.

Sometimes my commitment to natural, organic, local, reused, simpler things gets me labeled a “hippie” and sometimes a “liberal” and sometimes other things.  I personally like to think of it as smart and savvy.  Why buy “new” things when I can buy used things at a cheaper cost?  Then I have the added benefit of keeping a perfectly good item out of the landfill and having less anxiety about it getting ruined (which happens more often now that a baby is in the house).  To me it is just a simple win-win situation.

I plan to teach all of these things to my child.  There are worse things I could do.