archive • giving RSS feed for this section

The Gift of This Season

The Light of Winter
photo by Chris Duh

Here it is.  December.  The time of year where our hearts long for stillness, serenity and solitude.  And where we seem to be bombarded by everything but.  Black-Friday-this, cyber-Monday-that, sale-upon-sale, and advertisements that make us believe I gotta have that. right. now!

I’m making a conscious effort this year to stay. calm.  To slow. down.  To be present rather than buy presents.  And just when I think I’m relaxing I get a little tripped up. I notice I’m back to running around again, feeling the tension in my shoulders rise up to my neck, where that stress headache lingers on, reminding me that I’ve done it again.  I over-committed.  I over-spent.  I’m trying to do too much, take too much, give too much.  All at a pace that is…stressful.

So as I relish in the aftereffect of giving thanks for the last thirty days, I’m reminded of the intimate notes and beautiful comments I received.  I’m reminded of the wisdom that was brought to light.  I’m reminded of the new connections that were made (from all over the world). I’m reminded of the free coffee given, the tears of joy shared, the email from my grandfather, the note from my 84-year-old friend, and the amount of joy received from being more mindful and making space for the people in my life.

And when I remember the simple gifts that come from going slower, I can take pause from this fast-paced world, and truly embrace the peace that can come from this season, and which ultimately comes from within.

I’m choosing stillness, serenity and solitude.  How about you?

Your Personal Reflection:  How will you stay centered this holiday season so you can bring the gift of stillness and solitude into your life?


If you are feeling a little on overdrive, you may be interested in reading my newest Rhythm of the Home magazine article, Honoring the Gifts of Winter.  There is also a give-away going on right now for a spot in my upcoming Inside Out e-course, along with many other wonderful prizes.

AND…there is still time to enjoy the 2-for-1 offer for Inside Out registration.  Visit my Facebook page with all the details. Offer ends tonight at midnight C.S.T.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the 
highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. 
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy




Day #30: It’s Just So Wonderful

Today, on this 30th day of giving thanks, my 3-year-old and I were creating small thank you gifts together in our art room when this song started playing on one of my Pandora stations.  Kestan said, “Aw, this song makes me cry – it’s just so wonderful.”  And instantly my eyes filled with tears and I felt nothing but pure love.

  • Pure love for this child.
  • Pure love for this moment.
  • Pure love for this life.

And then in Kestan fashion he added, “Mom?  How do onions make you cry?”

Our kids.

They make us laugh.

They make us cry.

They make us crazy.

They make us fall in love.

Again.

And again.

And again.

My heart is full, I’m very THANKful, and giving and receiving is just so wonderful.

Your Personal Reflection:  How will you keep the spirit of giving and receiving thanks beyond the month of November?

And a special thanks to each of you who shared this month with me.  I have so enjoyed hearing your stories of giving.  Please keep them cominng!

Day #29: Thank the Quiet Givers

signs of the season

We kicked off the Christmas season on Sunday at an annual holiday party with some friends.  I met these two women years ago standing in line at orientation for our new job (which only one still works there part time). We worked for the same company but didn’t work in the same area, and yet, managed to remain friends.  Since our first day we’ve all gotten married and now each have two kids, so our holiday party has grown in numbers. This year we celebrated our 11th party with a wonderful dinner and gift exchange.  The kids had a great time playing and us parents enjoyed wine and yummy food.

And it wasn’t until a day later that I started thinking about how much effort my friend who hosted the party must have put in to prepare for our visit.  She had us over at her house, which we all know means you have to clean.  She cooked the main meals, including an extra vegetarian option.  She made side dishes for the kids.  She had drinks and appetizers.  And she did all of this at the tail end of a holiday weekend where she even had houseguests.  Oh and did I mention she is a mom of two, with the youngest being a four month old baby girl who has acid reflux and who is fussy most of the time?  Oh yah, and her husband travels and was scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. the following morning.  We brought an appetizer and salad and my other friend brought dessert, but that was not nearly the amount of work as our gracious host!

Needless to say, this very giving mama deserves my thanks today.  So I have a handwritten note ready to go and will drop in a Starbucks gift card before mailing. Because even though we do things for others because we want to and it makes us feel good, it also feels good when they notice.

Your Personal Reflection:  Who in your life is always quietly helping others?  You know they aren’t looking for acknowledgement, but take some time to recognize and give thanks for their kindness today.

Have you seen the 2-for-1 Inside Out e-course special I have going on until Friday? Check out Facebook for details.  (And if you don’t do Facebook but still want to know about the special, email me at livefreely@mac.com.)

Happy day!

Day #28: More Action, Less Words

photo
Sometimes saying “thank you” requires no words at all.
Your Personal Reflection:  Whether it’s giving your partner a foot rub, or bringing cookies to your friendly neighbor, or giving your child an extra long hug – share your thanks this week with action, rather than words.

Day #24, 25, 26, & 27: We Rest

my sleeping beauty
This is how I feel after 4 days of playing with family and friends.  It has been a wonderful holiday and now I dream of jammie day tomorrow with a fire and some soup on the stove.  
I’ve been thanking the people closest to me.  And tomorrow I will return to letter writing and thanking some very special people from my past.
But until then…we rest.
Your Personal Reflection:  Do you feel the need to rest after the holiday buzz this past week?  I hope you enjoy the gift of slowing down today, too.
And the winner of Carole’s beautiful yarn bomb is…
Anne!  Thanks to all of you who entered.
I will be announcing a really sweet discount for Inside Out very soon, so if you are interested, make sure to join my Facebook page or newsletter.  xo

Day #23: It’s All About Family

turkey-art

The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.
-unknown

Today, I am taking a quick break from food prep and “pine cone turkey art” to share my complete love and gratitude for my husband, Chris.  He is the most gentle, compassionate and dedicated man I know.  And because of his care and support, I get the amazing opportunity to be with our children during the days and work from home.
Chris, you are the love of my life.  You are my best friend.  You are and will always be my home.  I love you forever.  Thank you for being you.
Check out Chris’ photo taker website and see the photos where he captures the love of family in his third wedding shoot.  He’s an artist and designer, but photography is becoming another creative endeavor that he’s turning out to be pretty amazing at.  
I’m taking a blogging break over the next few days as there is too much food to eat, too much ping-pong to play and too much family fun to have.
Be well and happy week.  Thank you for being in my life.
Your Personal Reflection:  Take a moment to close your eyes, enjoy a deep breath and smile softly as you embrace all that you are thankful for in this moment.
And the random winner of Susannah Conway’s print is…
Suzy!

Stop by THIS POST to enter to win a “yarn bomb!”  (I’ll announce a winner this weekend.)
Psst…A special announcement about Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course registration is coming soon.  Make sure to join my Facebook page for early bird discounts!


Day #22: Sharing the Love (& another give-away!)

yarn bomb with grandma
Some of you may remember that I discovered Yarn Bombing this past summer.  I love anything that involves spreading goodness anonymously – so it must be why May Day was always one of my favorite holidays growing up.  (Does anyone do May Day?)
Well, my mother-in-law, secretly known as the “yarn doodler,” is one creative, inspiring woman – that is for sure.  On her last visit she…er…um…I mean…the “yarn doodler”…dropped a yarn bomb at our neighborhood park at Kestan’s request.  After I left a felted flower at our local farmer’s market, Kestan started making his own knitting creations (balls of tangled yarn) to be secretly dropped in locations of his choosing.  So he was more than ecstatic to share this experience with his cool grandma.
With hammer in hand, together they discovered a new happy home for this felted flower – in perfect view from the swings and slides so Kestan could see it each time he visited the park. (Unfortunately it was gone after a few weeks, but that is the exciting nature of “yarn bombing” – you just never know where it will travel to next.)
Yarn Bomb in the Park
So today I’m thanking the “yarn doodler” (due to her sleuth yarn bombing international skills – her name must remain anonymous.)  YOU…knitting-felting-painting-dancing-full-of-joy-and-love-beautiful-woman…are such a source of happy light in our lives.  Thank you for all you do for us and thank you for being YOU!
Yarn Bomb
And as a thank you to one of YOU, the “yarn doodler” herself is giving away a hand-made flower like this one – ready to be dropped anonymously at a location near you.
For your chance to win, simply leave a comment here and I’ll announce the yarn bomb winner this weekend.  And you can still enter to win yesterdays give-away HERE.
Make sure to visit the Yarn Doodler on Facebook and Do Dads For You to see more of her fabulous creative crafts.
Your Personal Reflection:  Have you ever dropped an anonymous gift to someone before?  How about giving it a try this week?

Day #21: It’s All About the Food (& give-away!)

broccoli salad close
A special thanks today goes out to Kelly for hosting the Clean Food Challenge this past week.  I did it! I went a whole week without eating gluten or dairy.  Granted I don’t eat much dairy to begin with, so that one was really easy for me.  But, gluten – not so much. I would take a good piece of freshly baked bread over just about any other food.  Maybe, just maybe, even over dark chocolate.  
I cook gluten free for my family, but usually hide away some whole grain or sourdough bread just for me.  So I was very excited to see giving up gluten wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  Granted, it was just a week.  However, I am committed to keep my home gluten free.  Sure, I may have a bagel or pastry from time-to-time.  But I really like how I feel off the stuff.
I noticed at the beginning of the week I felt really, really hungry!  So I had to make sure to plan ahead.  And towards the end of the week I noticed there was a moment when I found out some disappointing news and my first reaction was to want to go eat something, ya know, like a chocolate croissant with a frothy latte.  That’ll make me feel better.  I resisted.  I passed on the pastry (although I did still stop for a dairy-free latte).  I sat with the feelings and they soon dissipated.  That was pretty cool.  It was a good reminder to watch the next time I reach for food in an emotional state.  Maybe if I stop feeding that hunger with gluten I might discover something new about myself.  
broccoli salad
Another reason I’m so thankful for this past week is that it really got my creativity going in the kitchen.  We tried different green smoothies each morning (which has now become second nature).  I made egg salad and instead of bread we used cucumber slices. Instead of toast we had brown rice cakes with apple butter.  Other snacks included roasted pumpkin seeds, celery with almond butter, popcorn, and nut crackers with hummus.  For lunches I made corn tortilla tacos, home-made gluten free pizzas and this raw vegan broccoli salad (so good).
What I learned is that eating this way takes time and commitment.  And since I continue to work on slowing down, it’s probably a really good practice for me. 
black bean soup
It’s been far too long since I’ve shared one of my creative-in-the-kitchen recipes.  Since black beans are a staple in this vegetarian home, I’m sharing today one of my favorite soup recipes.  It was a good filling option for us this week.
Black Bean Cilantro Soup (vegan & gluten-free)
2 cups of dry black beans (soak for 8 hours)
OR 4 cans of cooked beans 
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
5 garlic cloves (minced)
4 cups of veggie stock 
OR 4 cups of water & 2 veggie bouillon cubes
1 1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
4-8 drops of liquid smoke (optional)
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

black bean soup 2
Cook your beans according to the package (I use a pressure cooker).  If using canned beans – drain and rinse them.  Heat up the olive oil in a large soup pan and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes.  Add the carrots, cumin, chili powder, and a little salt. Stir to mix the flavors.  Then add the beans and broth OR water with bouillon cubes.  (If you are wanting this to be fully gluten-free, make sure to get a gluten free broth or bouillon.)  Cook on medium and then turn down to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Just before eating, stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.  This meal goes great with a salad or gluten-free cornbread.  You can also top it with green onion slices or vegan cheese.

black bean brownies
Would you believe that these brownies are made with black beans?  I’ve wanted to try these for a while now as I’m a huge fan of sneaking in healthy food wherever possible. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.  They are really good and you can’t taste the beans at all.  I used this Whole Foods gluten-free flourless brownies recipe.
black bean brownies close up
And a big thank you to all those wonderful chefs (like Gluten Free Goddess and Elana’s Pantry) for making up new, delicious vegan and gluten-free options that make eating healthy and working through food allergies much easier and delicious!
Your Personal Reflection:  Who in your life has been a positive influence on your health and wellness path?  Take a moment and share your thanks with them today.
And speaking of food…
Cupcakes of Happiness
The lovely, talented and super authentic Susannah Conway, is giving away this print, Cupcakes of Happiness, to one lucky reader.  This Polaroid is featured in her Polaroid book coming out in May.  It may not be gluten-free, but we can dream… 
For your chance to win – simply leave a comment on this post.  Tell us what you are thankful for in this moment.  I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday!

Day #20: Baba!

dad
This is my dad, known to my kids as “baba.”  When Kestan first started talking he had a hard time saying “grandpa” so he said “baba” instead, and well it just sounded so darn cute that the name stuck.  And now Ashton is starting to say it, too.  
They sure do love their baba.  In fact, at dinner tonight the two of them were yelling his name as loud as can be, “baba baba baba baba baba!”  
Thank you dad, for never hesitating to get on the floor and play with the boys for hours and hours.  You are the best “baba” (and dad) ever.
Your Personal Reflection:  The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is so very special.  Thank a grandma, grandpa, grammy, papa, nana, or baba in your life this week.

Day #19: My Mom and Sis

us-2
us1
us-4
us-3
Sometimes pictures just say it all.  Thank you, Mom and Lins, for a wonderful day together.  I am so grateful that we live close and get to share moments like these.  You make me laugh.  I love you!
Your Personal Reflection:  Who makes you laugh?  Thank them today.