Saturday, October 31, 2015

Carving Traditions

For as long as I can remember, my Halloween has not been complete without carving pumpkins. 

A night or two before All Hallows' Eve, my mom, dad, brother, and I all face a critical decision: what pumpkin do we want to carve and which pattern do we choose.  Our 4 (or 5, or 6 depending on how carried away we get) pumpkins stand at attention and undergo a careful examination by every one of us.  Eventually, each canvas is drafted by their artist, and awaits patiently to be sculpted in the kitchen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cozy up With Tea: My Tea Bag Recommendations

You need not be a British aristocrat nor a Buddhist monk to cozy up with a cup of tea. 

Chinese legends say that tea dates back to an ancient emperor who relaxed beneath a tree while his servant boiled him drinking water.  When the wind blew, leaves fell from the trees and into the pot.  Naturally, the flavors of the leaves steeped into the water, brewing the first pot of tea. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Scary, Spooky, and Silly Hallowen Movie Recommendations

In the dark, you mask yourself within the shadows cast by the full moon's light.  Your chest rises up and down, up and down, up and down.  Creeeak.  A door opens.  The harder you try to silence your breath, the louder it whispers to him, calling him nearer.  Errrrack.  The wooden floor boards murmur.  Your fingers grip your knees closer to your chest.  You desperately try to squeeze yourself into disappearance, but your fingernails carve deeper into your skin.  The pain reminds you that you're present.  And so is he.  "Heh,"  you hear faintly. He waits behind the door.  Knock, knock, knock.  "Can I come in?"  Although you can't see his face, you know that he smiles.  A devilish grin slowly unfurls across his cheeks while he sardonically asks for permission.  He doesn't need your answer; he doesn't need your consent.  He wants to come in.  He wants you.  He enters. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saladspiration: Balsamic Chicken, Lima Bean, and Hummus Spinach Salad

I'll admit - I have a lot of eccentric mini-hobbies.  I love reading ingredients on label packaging (both food and inedible products).  I love Yelping every new restaurant I pass by.  I recently love collecting acorns.  While the usefulness of these hobbies is questionable (someday I WILL make something out of my acorns!), some of my mini-hobbies actually hold some kind of benefit.  One of these hobbies is looking at pictures of food.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Nature's Wisdom: Advice from a Lone Leaf

Advice from a Lone Leaf - The Unique Stand Out
From the drying grasses to the turning leaves, autumn's touch transforms nature all around us.  Attracted to the vibrant hues of reds and yellows, many people focus on this beautiful scenery that falls with autumn.  The new foliage trends seem to harvest much of the attention.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

10 Ways to Boost Creativity

Photo Credit: chrismetcalfTV
 Have you ever watched The NeverEnding Story?  There is one scene in the movie where Atreyu's (the main character) white horse, Artax, gets stuck in this mucky, muddy Swamp of Sadness never to get itself free.  I'm sorry to repaint this image in your minds first thing in this post; it really is a horrifically sad moment (that is still just as traumatic now as it was watching it as a child)!  However, this scene comparably depicts the sensation of being stuck in a creative rut. 

Having a lack of inspiration or ideas, especially for those that depend on their creativity to make a living, feels like you are slowly being sucked into a black hole of nothing, not even daunting, gothic darkness!   It's like your hands, feet, and mind are being held so strongly that they are forced to wither.   
How can you save your creative self from sinking into a hole of unproductive nothingness?  Whether you are writing, drawing, photographing, crafting, building, or cooking, try out my 11 suggestions to save your inner Artax and set it free! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It Helps if You Turn the Stove On

Your brain is  a file cabinet, tucking away hundreds of recipes for your dreams and goals.  On those wistful days where you relax and daydream about what foods you want to devour, you rummage through your dream cookbooks, coming across a recipe that spikes your inner cravings.  Your mouth waters, your tongue dances across your lips, and your stomach yearningly moans as you imagine those recipes fully prepared, plated on the most intricate china next to the finest silverware that will be used to carry each bite to your lips.  You've found your recipe. 

Once your hands elevate that recipe out of the rest, you excitedly throw all of the ingredients you need into a pot, anxiously anticipating the moment where your meal will boil into the most delectable feast.  Except it doesn't boil.  It waits on the burner, still cool, still uncooked. 
You forgot to turn the stove on.   

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Healthy Creamy Sweet Potato and Tomato Sauce Pasta

During these chilly, autumn days, a lot of us like to cozy up with steaming, hearty dishes like creamy pastas, meaty stews, and gravy-topped everything.  Unfortunately, many of these hearty dishes require the use of heavy, not-so-healthy ingredients, such as heavy creams and butters.  While indulging on an unhealthy meal once in awhile won't do you too much harm, frequently relying on these types of meals to fill you up will sure enough wreak havoc on your health and your gut. 

Fall wants us to enjoy cozy meals, so it graciously gives us a bountiful harvest of healthy, nutrient-filled ingredients that will give meals the illusion of being heartier without making them unhealthier.  One of these ingredients is the mighty sweet potato. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chickpea, Broccoli, and Onion Stir Fry

Stir fries are always a perfect go-to meal, especially when you want to quickly toss together whatever is in your fridge.  One of my favorite parts about stir frying food is that you can have a lot creativity with your ingredients.  If you don't mind having a simple, basic stir fry without special authentic Chinese sauces and the like, you can whip together ingredients that you already have on hand.  Almost all types of veggies are fair game, and so are your proteins. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

5 Steps to Choosing Healthier Groceries

Avoid gluten.  Eat more fat.  Eat less fat.  Buy whole grain.  Whole wheat is better. 

With all of the different diets in the world, going grocery shopping for the "right" healthy products can get rather confusing.  There are recommendations for all sorts of food items to buy, and many of those recommendations contradict each other.  So, how do you know what grocery items are the healthiest to purchase?

Of course, you'll never go wrong choosing fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and the like, but some of us may not be ready to do a complete 180 on our lifestyle, completely avoiding decadent desserts and "junky" snacks.  However, I have a few tips to get you thinking more about the food choices that you make.  No matter what diet you follow, you can use these tips to help you develop a healthier lifestyle.

Here are 5 grocery shopping steps to help you make healthier purchases:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Don't Wait to Appreciate

Closing up and winterizing our tiny cabin is always a sad experience; it is officially putting an end to the year's summer traveling and is a gloomy reminder that we won't be back to our cozy forest cottage until next spring.  However, besides all the goodbyes and closings, my family and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful "end of summer" vacation.  Although autumn's cold hands have already touched us, the weather warmed up, the stars twinkled brighter than on any of the summer nights, and our family spent most of the days enjoying the outdoors. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wisconsin Travels: Traveling Along the Wisconsin Mississippi Byway

Disclaimer:  I apologize for the quality of the following pictures, but most of the photos were taken from behind a fly-stained window in a moving vehicle on a cloudy day.  As the passenger, I had little say about when we could stop to snap photos, but this probably was for the better as I don't think that I would have made it home.  Almost overwhelming, the plethora of scenic views and historical stops could provide a month's worth of entertainment for any nature-loving enthusiast, photographer, history-buff, or adventurer.  Like most of Wisconsin, the nature along this drive captures your heart, seduces your eyes, and replenishes your soul.    

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Snuggle Up to a Good Movie: A List of My Movie Recommendations

On chilly autumn nights, there is nothing better than to simply snuggle in a blanket and cozy up to a good movie, especially one that you love.  

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but sometimes, when I am all settled into the couch with my bowl of popcorn, PJs, and fuzzy blanket, I actually can't think of a movie to watch!  If you are ever in this scenario, check out my list of top 10s (okay, sometimes I cheated, but it actually is really hard to narrow down your favorites!) in the following movie genres.  I've organized the movies into the genres that I consider each of them, but some may fit into other genres as well.  The movie titles are in no particular order, but my absolute favorites have *s next to them.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Baked Autumn Harvest Turkey Breast

It's turkey time! Well, the beginning of it, anyways.

One of my favorite meats to eat during the fall season is turkey.  Besides its popularity with Thanksgiving, turkey lends itself to this cozy time of year because its milder taste pairs extremely well with late summer and early autumn's heartier harvest.   It is a lighter meat that lets you eat heartier sides without feeling disgustingly full (unless you eat the whole bowl...that's another story).

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I'll Never Force My Body Back to a Size 0...Unless It Wants to Be

This is probably one of the toughest posts that I will ever write.  Typically, I do not like delving this deep into my personal life and sharing this to the world.  But I write this as much to help those struggling with a similar issue as much as I write this as a reminder to myself that what may be healthy to one person, may not be healthy to you.  

I was never anorexic.  I was never bulimic.  But I did something just as terrible to my body - I stopped listening to it. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nature's Wisdom: Advice from a Mushroom

Keep your eyes open.  Listen.  Observe.

Existing from the beginning of time, nature has some of the most influential, meaningful messages to share.  Although it has changed throughout the centuries, nature has found ways to preserve itself and adapt to the changes.  It has never given up, no matter how harshly others have treated it.  Having experienced change, obstacles, time, fruitful moments, and the other many facets of life, the wisdom that nature has to offer exceeds even that from who you consider the most intelligent human beings. 

As you walk through nature, don't ignore the messages.  Instead, learn from the many secrets and advice hidden between the leaves and the branches.  Grow with the plants.  Evolve with the earth. 

Advice From a Mushroom: Even the Broken are Beautiful

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Warm Buckwheat, Cabbage, and Kohlrabi Salad

If you haven't heard of buckwheat yet, it is time to introduce you to this delicious, nutritious food.  Perfect for those with gluten sensitivities and sensitive stomachs, buckwheat is a seed used in an assortment of ways including noodles (Japanese soba), flour, and porridge.  Buckwheat is typically more common in Asia and Europe, but it needs to start making its presence in the North American culinary world because of all the health benefits that it offers.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dear Diary: 4 Things to Write About For a Better Night's Sleep

Have you ever read that book that drifted you off into a fantastical world too mesmerizing to escape each night? Or have you ever read an article that inspired you to march right out into the world and make changes?  What about reading an ad in a magazine that made you crack up so hard that you could barely breathe - have you ever read one of those?  Thus is the magic of writing.

Writing is a powerful tool used for a variety of purposes, from advertising to telling stories to offering instructions and tips.  There are so many things that writing can accomplish, which is what attracts it most to me.  It is a creative tool that can be manipulated to have any voice, any style, and any purpose that you wish.  Better yet, through writing you can make an incredible difference in someone's life, including your own.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

6 Simple Ways to Start Your Morning Right

Photo Credit: Mislav Marohnic
Some fortunate people are morning birds that are raring to start the day from the moment their alarms buzz.  Others aren't as lucky.  For the latter folk, the early morning can feel torturous, pulling them away from their restful sleep.  Many people have written healthy tips for morning routines, but "tips" such as 15 minutes of journal writing and 30 minutes of exercise are obviously meant for and written by those morning birds. 

Starting your day in a healthy, good way does not have to be complicated or time-consuming, even for you night owls out there.  You don't have to surrender that precious hour just to have a good start; this extra hour of sleep is necessary to some people!  Today I have for you 6 easy, time-conscious routines to add to your morning that can you get your day started on the right side of the bed.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Start Your Day With a List

Feeling unaccomplished can be one of the worst sensations.  You become a judge harsher than Simon Cowell, negatively criticizing your actions each day.  You make yourself wrongly believe that you are going nowhere.  Once you start believing that your goals are failing and your tasks never get done, you lose any sense of motivation to complete the things that you have to do.  If you never can achieve anything, why start trying now?  This kind of thinking, especially at the beginning of the day, can actually stick you into a never-ending cycle of unproductiveness that is hard to escape.

Trying to reverse negative thoughts about your progress can be more difficult than the process of actually getting somewhere.  To get out of this vicious cycle, you literally need to prove to yourself that you are wrong, and people rarely enjoy admitting to that accusation.  Physical proof of your accomplishments is the evidence you need to turn your critical thinking around.  This evidence can be as simple as checking off a list.