Wintering

Dust of Snow

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of Snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I rued.

-Robert Frost

I have always loved the side of winter that is surrounded by the glow of a thousand Christmas lights, but come Jan that glow is gone and winter feels like trampled snow, cold dirty and never ending. That is why when I came across the book “Wintering : The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May I was thrilled at the idea of someone trying to relate to winter in a different way. We used the concept of embracing the dark cold times in your life and re-contextualizing these moments to inspire us to live intentionally during every season of our life as the framework for the first three months of the year.

Many animals and plants use the winter time to rest and rejuvenate in order to come back in the spring ready to take on another year. We can do the same. This time of year can become one of preparation where we learn how to live joyfully and carry that throughout the rest of our year. The goal of the balance project for the first three months this year is to focus on “wintering”, embracing the difficult times for what they are, a change to grow and adapt and become stronger. Each month will have a theme that ties into the Wintering concept:

Restore-January
Hibernate- February
Prepare-March

2020 has been a challenge; (understatement of the year) and it may seem difficult to frame this new year in terms of joy but even small steps towards relating to a season you usually find to be long and dark is a step in the right direction.

Start with a Small Space

Everyone has those places in their house. Where you think “if I could JUST get this space organized everything in my life would fall in to place”, that one small area that is holding you back from success! 🙂 For me, that area was under my sink. It seemed to mock me with its lack of organization and reminded me of all the goals I had yet to accomplish-for example my desire to rid my house of as many chemicals as I could. A fine goal to be sure but with the number of hazardous materials still under my sink, it should have come with its own safety video.

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In an attempt to rid myself of this impediment to my potential awesomeness and to continue to implement the principles we learned in February about minimalism I decided it needed to be dealt with. I was SO lucky in that Hannah Hearin from Home Refreshment (www.homerefreshment.com) reached out and offered her assistance to put me on the right track for success. Working with her was easy, and just the right amount of kick in the butt accountability I needed. I sent pictures of my problem area (not without a little shame) and she created a plan based on my budget and aesthetics. So simple!

I decided that anything that did not fit in the two containers I bought would just have to go. Side note: Thanks to Hannah I took my first trip to The Container Store-a magical place that I could probably blow an entire paycheck in! I also made some natural all-purpose cleaner to replace what I had discarded (if you want the recipe let me know-I love it!).

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A well-organized space is a beautiful thing to behold, isn’t it?

So now as you can see I am free to win my Oscar, climb Mount Everest, and bring about world peace-I just needed to get to that silly sink first!

Vegan Menu Plan

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Going from paleo last week right in to vegan is an adjustment. But we think it’s important to try different food lifestyles, to get a good idea of what you like and don’t like; what works and doesn’t work for you.

Most people are familiar with the vegan rules of eating-no animal products. No dairy, meat, or eggs, and some vegans avoid honey, silk, products with beeswax, etc.

So there is the list of “no”, but a great list of “yes” too- yes vegetables, yes fruits, yes grains and legumes, beans and herbs, nuts and seeds. So many yummy “yes” foods 🙂

If you want to try it out, check out our week of Vegan Menu plans and shopping list here.

Our Pinterest page has a board with all the recipes we use, divided by week.

We are excited to delve into vegan eating, and hope we can learn some new principles that we adapt into our eating lifestyles. Dive in and join us! Try it out for a week and see what you feel and think.

{Past food weeks include Mediterranean and Paleo.}

Simple Paleo

Of all the different lifestyle “diets” that I have tried Paleo has been one of my favorite. Paleo is short for Paleolithic and is, simply put, the idea of eating in a similar manner to the diet of cavemen based on what would have been available to them.

Do’s of the Paleo Diet:

I think it is best to focus on what you CAN eat first. 🙂

  • Big focus on protein  (beef, chicken, fish, etc.)
  • Fruits and veggies (lean towards 75% veg 25% fruit)
  • Nuts, seeds, good fat (i.e. avocado, coconut)

Don’ts of the Paleo Diet:

  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Legumes, beans
  • Coffee, alcohol, refined sugars

Now if any of the don’ts seem like deal breakers to you, don’t give up! If you have to have a cup of coffee in the morning to function make a small adjustment and allow yourself the exception. The main idea behind Paleo is finding balance and you can’t do that if you are thinking about the things you CAN’T have all the time.

As before Rachael and I have created a Pinterest board with all the recipes for this week and you can access the shopping list from the same google doc.

I am really excited to dive deeper into this week and be a little more mindful in my eating -let’s see if those cavemen had it figured out. 🙂

P.S. if you are an app person “nomnompaleo” is a great place to get some inspiration!

Food Feels

Me and food have had an interesting relationship over the years. I would not have called my five year old palet refined, I distinctly remember melting cheese in the microwave for a snack. My teen self would eat very little in front of others, because teen boys don’t like girls who eat right? College Kristin would bounce between eating way to much junk and then next to nothing diets to counter act the pounds that accompanied the junk food.

We come now to present day. I have done some soul searching over the years and I determined that what I want more than anything is for my life to be lived for me and my family. A big part of that is finding ways to balance my life (hence the “Balance Project”) and food is a big part of that. With the fun theme this month of “live like a French woman” I have been doing a lot of research into the lifestyles of past and current French woman. One common thread that I have noticed is that French women seem to have a very healthy relationship with food. There is a thoughtfulness in the way they prepare and eat food.  I am by no means the expert but here are five things that I have done to improve the way I view food and myself:

  1. I remember that the longest relationship that I have had is with my own body, I need to respect that.
  2. I eat my meals (whenever I can) at my kitchen table.
  3. I have learned to enjoy cooking.
  4. I have learned to respect where my food comes from.
  5. I don’t let one bad day (or carton of ice cream) get me down.

I am not perfect, and I never will be. But I have come a long way from the girl who did not want other people to know that she eats food (I literally now have a Pinterest board titled “I love food”). Above all we need to be kind to ourselves and a bit of chocolate every now and then to tell our bodies thank you does not hurt.

 

P.S. I went to an adorable local store called Honey Bee Produce Company and let me tell you I was in local cheese, fruit and honey HEAVEN!

Putting My Best Face Forward

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my skin for years. Off and on I’ve had acne, and have gone through the big treatments for it. I’m currently in a good spot for that particular problem, but years of acne have left me with some scarring. My dermatologist said he thinks it mostly all will fade over time, but I got impatient the other day, and went to see an aesthetic dermatologist for some options to quicken the process. Sadly it wasn’t the greatest experience, as the provider looked at my skin for about 7 seconds, and then quickly rattled off $3000 worth of treatments that would take a year or more, and boom, the provider was gone within minutes. The treatments certainly sound like they would help, but they came with side effects, time off of work, and a big price tag. Not to mention, I didn’t really feel like a person in her office. So, I humbly returned to my original dermatologist’s suggestion to be patient and do some simple things at home to help with the redness and minor scarring. I can be patient! (my constant mantra, as I am always working on it ;).

 

rachme, unedited, in all my glory 😉

I have recently made a plan to my skin, which if I am dedicated to, should help keep my skin looking and feeling healthy. I have found that consistency is key to see these results (just like with most things in life).

Here is what I’m currently doing to keep my skin looking as good as I can (talk to YOUR dermatologist before starting anything though):

  • Wash face daily–duh. Depending on the season and how my skin is, I swap between oil washing, and an organic facewash from Avalon Organics (you can get them at some grocery stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts, or on Amazon).
  • A topical antibiotic cream i was prescribed (usually every morning, or when I have little breakouts).
  • Retin-A. This I try to do nightly. It should help with light scarring and redness, and fine lines/wrinkles. Those sound like good outcomes; don’t mind if I do. It is not an overnight fix though, and should be continued long term.
  • Mandelic acid peels. I do a light version I get from MUAC. I love it. You do have to make sure to stop topicals like Retin-A a day or two prior. Don’t want to over do it on your sensitive facial skin! For me, mandelic acid keeps things clear, and gives me a fresh glow as it uncovers a new layer of skin. It’s not as harsh as some peels, and there is no downtime. I’m a fan.
  • Once every 2 weeks or so, I do a face mask. I like the masks from Eminence Organics, or sometimes I use a random one I picked up on a trip somewhere. Currently I have a stock of “snail juice” masks from a Korean beauty company, that I picked up in Thailand (random haha).
  • For moisturization, I currently am using Colonial Dames Vitamin E Cream. It is very thick and works well for my super dry Winter skin. The vitamin E in it should also help fade scarring. Sometimes I add a drop of pure lavender oil in it too, which is awesome for healing.
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. And a hat.

 

I have done most of the above interventions for a while, but haven’t been as consistent as I need to be. This month seems like the perfect time to really take the time and effort to care for my skin. After all, it will be with me for life.

 

begoodtoskin

 

 

Single-Tasking and the FDA

The focus this past week for our minimalist month was single-tasking. I was TOTALLY on board for this since slowing down is not something I do very often. I was perhaps a little skeptical about what the benefits would be but I was still willing to try. I got off to a slow start with slowing down things and I reached a point where I felt like I could not handle one more thing when…”BUM BUM BUUUUUM” the FDA showed up at work!!!

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FDA= This dinosaur    My face=Basically my exact face when they showed up.

I have mentioned before that I work in a microbiology lab and due to the nature of our work, we are subject to unannounced audits by the FDA. A coded page goes out to the whole company when the FDA shows up and honestly when I heard the page tears came to my eyes. In order to get everything that is needed for the audit a “war room” is set up (real dramatic right? 🙂 ) to support any requests the auditor makes. Then starts the never-ending barrage of requests. Training, calibration records, complaints, a tour of the facility, laboratory records all requested basically at the same time. Multi-tasking is not just useful, it is mandatory!

After multiple 13 hour days and rehearsal every night I was starting to feel broken. This is when it hit me: single-tasking is not just about concentrating every now and then on a specific task. It is about giving your mind and body the break it needs/deserves. I am a planner and I love to be busy but I think we get to a point where we have pushed ourselves so far that even our achievements and hard work fail to make us feel fulfilled and instead we feel like we are constantly behind and will never catch up.

My attempt to practice single-tasking this week was a total failure, however in experiencing the opposite of my goal I have become a true believer in the benefits of taking tasks and attacking them one at a time, of allowing ourselves moments to be understimulated, and in understanding that “being busy” does not mean you are accomplishing anything worthwhile. I am attempting to redefine what success is in my life and at this moment success to me is as simple as an uninterrupted cup of tea.

Our Favorite Eco-Friendly {affordable} Clothing Lines

I have had a shift in my clothing mentality over the past few years. I never bought too many clothes, but I would try and get the cheapest, easiest things I could. As I have learned more, and changed some of my lifestyle habits, I have switched to buying better quality (and still small amounts), and more environmentally friendly. It really does make sense to me to spend a little more on higher quality, and buying from an eco-friendly company is very important to me. The effect of “fast fashion” on the earth, and it’s implications on human working conditions in different countries, has led me to strive to support companies with responsible business models and practices.

I’ve rounded up a few of our favorite companies to buy clothes from. I know “affordable” is a relitive term, but trust me, I’m pretty cheap financially responsible, so me saying these are affordable is saying something. Are they big box store cheap? Nope (well, expect for thrift stores!). But they are better quality, and way better for our beautiful earth.

Do you have any favorites stores that are not on our list? We would love to hear your reccomendations!

Everlane

We shop here for comfortable basics. They have really great prices, and the quality has been good. They are very transparent with pricing, the conditions of factories, and how they fulfill their mission to have “green fashion”.  They also have cool shoes.

Patagonia

Their business model is one-of-a-kind (listen to this podcast with an interview with the creator-it’s great!). Their pieces are investment pieces, and will last forever. They are also big into repairing, and you can take a piece in and they will fix it. Sport/outdoor centered style.

Amour Vert

Made in the US, sustainable, feminine pieces. Social responsibility is an their forefront, and they have lovely fabrics, some of which are recycled.

Grana

They have really nice fabrics like silk, and don’t inflate prices. A good place for some basics with great fabrics.

Tonlé

This is a zero waste company out of Cambodia, and they do some amazing things! They take remnant materials (which are plentiful and usually go to landfills), and create brand new pieces of clothing. Clothes are handmade by workers in Cambodia, who are paid fairly for their craft, and they sign each piece they make; it’s really lovely.

Thrift or Consignment Stores

One of the most Eco friendly of all is to reuse and recycle clothes! It can take some time to sift through so much, but it can pay off, and you can feel good about avoiding more consumerism and landfill waste. There are gems to be found!

 

Some of my current favorites from each company:

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Love It Or Leave It: Wardrobe Week

New week, new challenge for minimalism! It’s time to focus on clothing, accessories, and shoes for this week. This is a big one for most of us. I think the biggest thing to remember is that a minimal wardrobe doesn’t have a certain “one size fits all” number of pieces you should have-it’s very personal depending on where you live, what you do for work, and what your hobbies are. Your wardrobe also doesn’t have to be a certain color to be minimal and simplified. I go for black, grey, and navy, but that doesn’t mean yours has to be neutrals. You like pink and teal? Go for it! You like fun patterns? Fill your closet with tacos and birds. The key is to just keep pieces you love and wear all the time, and ones that can be versatile for your lifestyle.

Here is the printable for this week- Minimalist Wardrobe (click for PDF):ED157D6A-1769-41A8-8E4E-E8DA3EA26118Print it out, and follow along!

A House Divided

Every four months or so my husband and I have the same “discussion”-what some might call an argument but who cares about labels? I reach a breaking point with the amount of things in the house and the constant cleaning so I go on a bender ripping through the house looking for things to get rid of. My husband usually follows behind removing things from the discard box saying “we might use this someday!!”

This scene is probably not foreign to many couples; there is not always perfect agreement when it comes to what is a “necessity”. My lovely husband is a keeper (in more than one way); he becomes sentimentally attached to EVERYTHING. When I tried to get rid of a pan that we had used in our first home he became very upset about it and insisted that we needed to keep it since we might need it. Mind you we had three other pans just like it so it was more about the memory for him than the usefulness.

This sort of interaction causes more than a little contention in my house. With this month of the balance project focusing on minimalism the “discussion” happened again. This time we decided to really have a sincere conversation and try to see the others point of view. I explained to my husband that the whole reason I wanted to downsize was to allow me more time with him and our daughter and less time with our home and things. He explained that he found use in the items that we wanted to keep and was nervous that I would simply throw everything out. I want to embrace minimalism to bring peace in my life and it seemed to be doing the opposite of that.

So what did we do? We realized that (not to be clichĂ©) communication is everything. We decided that a compromise would be the best way to solve our problem. I agreed that my husband’s studio space was his and I would not try to minimize it and we would let me help him organize his space so that when he needed something he could find it. We took a trip to Ikea and invested in some storage facilitators agreeing that everything he might need at some point should be able to fit in that space. I do believe Ikea has both saved and severed many a relationship. 🙂 In conclusion there is no right way to be a minimalist, the key is to remember the goal is more mindful living and there is no perfect formula for that.

Snapseed Me and the hubby as portrayed by a very generous caricature artist