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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!

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

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.

Day #18: A Little Sweeter

Kestans puppet
While we were shopping at Trader Joe’s today, a woman gave this little monster finger puppet to Kestan. He gave her a smile.  After she left he pushed his child-size cart down the aisle with his new friend “monster mash” as he made up stories about their adventures together in the grocery store.  Everyone shopping seemed to be in a good mood.  Great music was streaming through the speakers.  The clerks were super friendly. So today, I thanked all the people who made our grocery store experience just a little sweeter.
Your Personal Reflection:  Who made your day a little sweeter today?
And the 5 winners of the random drawing 
for a spot in either 
Rooted or
e-courses are:

Jennifer D.
Lynette G.
Shannon J.

Congratulations!  I will email you with details.  

Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful comments.  xo

Day #17: Jump With Both Feet First

Throw caution to the wind and just do it.
-Carrie Underwood

Our red maple dropped her leaves overnight and we woke to a yard covered in some crunchy goodness.  Seriously, it felt like a snow day!  And I’m sure my neighbors would much prefer we rake and bag them, but we happily ignored that notion. 
We did in fact get out the rake, but that was only to, as Kestan put it, “rake the biggest pile of our lives!”
And that’s how the story goes.  Life, like the dropping leaves, surrounds us with ever-changing beauty. There are times for cleaning up the mess, disposing of the piles, and seeing what lies underneath.
And then there are those times when you throw caution to the wind.   
When you are ok with imperfection. 
And when you know that messing up the piles is exactly where you need to be.
Today, I thanked my beautiful boys for sharing their playfulness with me.
And I thanked our babysitter for continuing to play in the leaves with them so that I could enjoy some quiet time in my art studio.
Later, after the boys finally came in the house to warm up, Kestan ran and gave me the biggest, sweetest hug “of our lives,” which was his way of thanking me.
Your Personal Reflection: Let it go, embrace the change, and be ok with the mess.  Go ahead…jump in the pile with both feet first.  See what happens when you throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
If you haven’t already, get on over to THIS POST and enter to win a spot in one of four life-changing e-courses.

Day #16: The Gifts of Giving


For it is in giving that we receive.
-St. Francis of Assisi
Halfway through Thirty Days of Giving Thanks and I’m completely grateful for the little bits of sunshine coming my way.  It’s simply beautiful – the gifts that giving thanks can bring.  
Your Personal Reflection:  What comes your way when you give to another?

Day #15: The Joys of Ordinary Life

Isn’t this just peaceful? I love this time of the year so completely. The leaves continue to fall and the weather is just cool enough for sweatshirts, but warm enough to be outside crunching and jumping in the piles.
And you know what I’m trying to practice as we gear up for winter?  How to keep this peaceful, playful feeling inside me, even within the walls of our home.  
Yesterday we stayed home all day.  It’s something I’m calling “Maintenance Mondays.” Because my husband and I share a car, he takes the car on Mondays and I stay home. with the kids. all. day. long.  Otherwise, I have this deep urge to want to escape into the world of drive-thru lattes and other distractions so I don’t have to face the stuff like…organizing, scrubbing, folding, wiping, budgeting – you know, the “maintenance” stuff that keeps things running a bit more smoothly – yet I usually want to avoid.
Sometimes I just love staying home – especially in the winter.  Fires, cookies, snow and pajama days – oh the thought of it makes me smile.  Yet, I am gearing up for the first winter with TWO little boys who get into EVERYTHING.  And being home all day trapped in the mess, that is the nature of play, can really get to me if I’m not careful.
Yesterday I did feel some irritation.  I did get frustrated at times.  I was kind of moody and let the mess get to me.  And towards the end of the day I got a little restless.  But I did it.  I resisted the urge to make plans and go out and do something and stayed home instead.  I let the feelings of overwhelm come and go.  And after getting the boys to bed I landed on the couch with Hand Wash Cold and read this:
In all this mess, I found the ingredients for the next stage in the spiritual journey: the opportunity to move beyond myself and into compassionate care of everything and everyone that appeared before me morning, noon, and night.  I found myself in the very heart of life, an ordinary life, the best spot to give and receive pure love.
So as evidence by these photos, my house truly was a mess yesterday, as it is every day I stay home with the kids.  It gets cleaned up at the end of most days.  Sometimes it makes me crazy and sometimes it doesn’t.  And I guess this is the practice – to find the stillness among the chaos, to find the peace within the mess.
I may trip and stumble and get tangled up along the way – that is the nature of the journey, isn’t it? And as I do, I continue to learn how to embrace and receive the joy and love that comes from daily, ordinary…life.
And now I sign-off to hit a yoga class with my husband, where I’ll be thanking another wonderful teacher near and dear to my heart.
Your Personal Reflection:  What joys in your ordinary life are you thankful for today?
And…make sure to enter for your chance to win a spot in some pretty awesome e-courses on my last post.   

Day #14: Create Yourself (& BIG give-ways!)

Create Yourself

Today marks the beginning of week three of our Thirty Days of Giving Thanks challenge and I’m continuing to make space to thank those in my life who have taught me something new.

As a thank you to YOU for reading my blog, I’m offering you a sweet opportunity to win a spot in some of the best e-courses out there!

Nothing brings joy and inspiration into your life like learning something new while connecting to other women from all over the world.  Here are just a few led by some of my very favorite women on-line.

Creative Courage – offered by Stephanie Levy
Creative Courage is an international e-course about finding, following and realizing your creative dreams. Creative Courage is a practical guide to help you clarify your own unique path and give you tools you need to start making your goals real. Creative Courage will run from January 9th – February 24th, 2012.

Journal Your Dreams – offered by Amelia Critchlow
This is a two-week long on-line workshop exploring dream-setting (reaching your goals) through watercolor, photography and collaged words. This course is open access and you can take it anytime from now through October 2012.

Sparklesoffered by Jamie Ridler 
Sparkles is a creative e-course.  For 31 days, you’ll go on an adventure designed to awaken your creative spirit and fill you and your days with sparkle.  Each day, you’ll receive a quick-to-read, quick-to-do inspiring creative exercise in your inbox.  Lessons come from an amazing array of creative guides from a wide range of disciplines (e.g. photography, writing, painting, sound, dance – even food!) They’ll show you how to get creative even when you feel like you have no time at all!  Registration is always open.

Rooted – offered by Megan Monique
Imagine your entire creation, your life, your body is a house.  The Root Chakra is the foundation your house has been built on.  In Rooted, you get the opportunity to take a good look at what it is your roots have grown into.  You will get to explore as you gain tools to assist you with creating abundance, freedom and so much more. Registration is always open.

Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery 
offered by me.
Become a bold explorer of your dreams, celebrate your unique brilliance and embrace the REAL you in this 5 week e-course experience.  Through art journaling, writing, guided meditation, and yoga principles you will learn how to limit the distractions of the outer world and reconnect to your intuition and creativity.  Rediscover the inner wisdom and beauty that live within YOU and be inspired to bring it out more fully into the world – all in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. This course runs January 23rd – February 24th, 2012.

1) To enter to win a spot in one of these e-courses, leave a comment below to the following question:

Your Personal Reflection:  What are you feeling thankful for today?

Let me know if you do any of the following and I’ll make sure to add your name for more chances to win!

2) For additional entries, join my Facebook Page or follow any of us on Twitter.

Stephanie @StephanieLevy

3) OR send a tweet out about this give-away or share it on your personal Facebook page. 

I will announce a winner this Friday.  
Happy day!

Day #13: Feeling a Shift

hand wash cold photo

I’m not gonna lie.  Last night was kinda crazy.  The boys were super hyped before bed. And I let their energy really get to me.  And then I started acted kinda crazy.  Once we all fell asleep the craziness continued.  Ashy is teething so he was up every hour. Kestan woke up crying in need of some extra snuggle time, which of course woke up Ashton just moments after I finally got him back to sleep.  And it seemed like between that and my own thoughts, the interruptions continued throughout the night.

I woke up asking myself, What am I doing?  What AM I doing? And then, as if a light bulb went off, something switched.  A new thought emerged.  I smiled and said, I surrender. And in the morning I got up from bed feeling as if a deep shift had taken place.

This slowing down thing seems to have merit.  Creating space is turning out to be a very good thing for me.  And I’m understanding that the more I stop trying to control the outcome of things, my environment and the people in my life, the easier it is to surrender to what IS and man, that makes my heart feel a whole lot lighter.

I struggle to find balance between the love of my creative endeavors and the love of being home with my children.  And for some reason, the light bulb switch – the declaration that I surrender –  has helped me see some clarity about this topic that I’ve had a hard time seeing until now.  Things they are a-changin’.

And in the middle of things today, I picked up Karen Maezen Miller’s book, Hand Wash Cold.  I literally had two minutes to read a few pages when the following sentence spoke to me – “Only when our hands and head are empty do we discover what we’ve been aching to find.”  That pretty much says it all.  Ahhh…I surrender.  

I sat there and felt the deep shift settle in.  And a few moments later Kestan brought me a “mountain sandwich cookie boo” that he created out of Play-Doh – the perfect thing to get me out of my head and into my heart.

So as part of my Thirty Days of Giving Thanks, I thanked my yoga guru for his amazing guidance and teachings he’s shared with me over the last 10 years.  And I thanked author, Karen Maezen Miller, for sharing her beautiful wisdom and goodness with me and the world.

Your Personal Reflection:  Have you ever read something or seen a piece of art or experienced a teaching that created a shift in your awareness? Take a moment to thank that writer, artist or teacher (or child) this week.

And the winner of the darling butterfly clutch is Debbie!

Psst…The Clean Food Challenge starts Monday.  I’m going totally gluten-free for 7 days. If you are ready to make a change then consider joining us.

Day #12: Thankful for the Space Between

My boys in fall
Slow down and enjoy life.  
It’s not only the scenery 
you miss by going too fast 
– you also miss the sense of where 
you are going and why.
-Eddie Cantor
Yesterday was the perfect day.  The weather got up into the mid-60’s, the sun was out and the fall colors are still quite magnificent.  I took the boys on a much needed exploration day in the park (as the day before they felt a lot like wild caged animals in the house (full moon anyone?!).  We picnicked, we walked, we climbed, and we moved very slowly, stopping to enjoy the beauty around us and looking for “hidden treasures” along the way.
And what I always seem to discover when I’m with my boys, with no agenda or time restraints, is that the relaxed and carefree feeling that comes in these moments IS the hidden treasure in itself.
So today, I’m thankful for the clarity that comes in the space between all the running, going, and doing.  And as I move throughout my day today I will spontaneously thank those who cross my path.
Your Personal Reflection:  Slow down and enjoy the scenery in your life today. What hidden treasures will you find?
There is still time to enter my last give-away – check it out in the previous post!