Friday, December 30, 2011

Re-Purposing


Today I'm working on re-purposing the Muse website.  If you want to see how it currently looks (for comparison later) the address is at the right, or you can click the banner above.  I love the name Maria the Muse as it really describes a lot about who I am so I want to keep using it.  But since Law of Attraction is taking a back seat to other things, it's time to change things up a bit.

What's interesting to me is the thoughts and emotions I've been working through around this whole thing.  Someone told me today I "think too much" and they're probably right.  But thinking, pondering, and turning things over and over is what helps me better understand myself and since I'm all about that I guess I'll be doing it forever :)

Anyway, I have a lot of emotional attachment to Maria the Muse as it is today.  I created that site over 4 years ago and I gotta tell you it was a lot of work!  That's where I learned all about internet marketing, social media, squeeze pages, making audio files, mailing lists, auto-responders, Wordpress templates, creating e-products, and all the other technical stuff that goes into the nuts and bolts of all that.  Plus there's so much of me personally in those blog posts, my newsletter and auto-responder series that I just don't want to let it go.  And I also don't want to let down my over 850 loyal Monday Musing's readers, who rely on me for Law of Attraction advice and info.  I mean some of them have been with me since the beginning... 5+ years is a long time (the newsletter started a year before the website).

But as I said yesterday, it's time to change gears and move on to other things.  Well, not other things really so much as a broadening of what I do and how I approach the way I help people.  But still the change is huge and rather daunting and I can't help but feel a sense of loss as I transition from one thing to the next.

One thing that I've been chewing on, and still not sure quite how to approach it, is how to preserve the LOA material on the new site.  I want it to all be there and easy to find because it's helped so many people over the years.  Also as a practical matter, I have tons of backlinks pointed to those pages and I don't want them to go dead all of a sudden.  So I'm working on that.  I'm also trying to decide what to do with the newsletter.  Do I keep publishing it every Monday but just expand the subject matter?  I mean I've been doing this for 5 years now and really, on LOA I've kind of run out of things to say.  Or do I change the name and frequency, giving it a more free flowing feel?  I want more freedom and flexibility in my life so perhaps that's the way to go.  Just not sure.  Oh, if you're subscribed I'll keep mailing as "Monday Musings" until I figure this out - won't leave you hanging :)

Also there is are a huge number of technical things that need to be changed and/or updated.  Honestly it would have been easier to simply start a new website all together and just leave the Muse site as is.  But I'm not starting over - I'm expanding so it feels better to re-purpose rather than begin again.

So today and this weekend is about putting the finishing touches on the new template, writing new copy and figuring out how to preserve the current info.  Pretty big tasks I've set for myself!

Hopefully by Monday I'll have a shiny new site ready to be unveiled.... we shall see :)

Oh, a technical note:  If you are trying to or want to get into this whole internet business thing then I'm happy to share what I've learned with you.  No, I won't do it for you - my web-authoring days are over for everyone but myself - but I'll freely and happily share everything I've learned along the way.  Also, my other website, www.MariaMeiners.com has articles on how I do things and what programs and services I use.  I started that site to help people make sense of the online world and though I never finished it, I am leaving it there to help anyone who needs it.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Crazy Cravings!

paleo berries
Ever since I was sick the other day my food preferences have changed drastically.  Meat isn't all that appealing to me and I can't get enough blackberries. 

I think I've eaten over a quart of them just today.  Crazy!

Blueberries are pretty tasty too right now and I'm eating my fill of those as well.  Except for a nagging concern I might turn purple, I'm not too worried about it because after all berries are quite paleo, and I figure my body is just calling for something it needs to help rebuild after feeling so yucky the other day.

By the way, a lot of people are getting this stomach thing so it's probably just going around.  Thanks to my kick butt self-nursing skills and great eating habits of the last couple months, mine disappeared after that one miserable evening but I've heard of it lingering on for days with others.

Just so you know, here's how I handled it:
  • Water, water, water.  I just kept drinking it, knowing it would flush things out.
  • Probiotic supplements every 30-60 minutes.  Those friendly flora can literally overpower the nasty bacteria in your gut.  I use this as a standard protocol every time I have any type of gut disturbance.
  • Water, water, water.... did I say water?  Really for anything gut related flushing it through is often the best approach.
  • The next day I ate really lite. Mostly those blackberries in fact.  Had some eggs for dinner but that was it.
  • Now I'm just listening to my body, which still means tons of blackberries (though I did eat other stuff today).

By the way this blackberry thing is getting really funny.  I really can't seem to stop eating them and when I went to Meijer for the second time today to get more the check out girl looked at me kinda funny.  I hope they get a shipment in soon - I'm wiping them out!

Two month paleo update coming next week... lots to share.

Career Change

The last few days I've been reflecting on all the changes in my life over this last year.  Sure, everyone goes through change but 2011 was a really big year for me.  Here are just some of the major changes in my life over the past 12 months...

  • Address - moved into this apartment exactly 1 year ago New Year's Eve, the first time in my entire life I've lived by myself (and I love it)
  • Size - down 4 clothing sizes and a good 40 pounds from this time last year
  • Vehicle - bought my first new car in 20 years (this is also the first time I shopped, negotiated and purchased a car all by myself)
  • Relationships - Ended, or rather transformed, a long term relationship that wasn't working 
  • Friends - Let some go, reconnected with others, and met some amazing new people who I'm delighted to have in my life
  • Travel - went on my first real vacation in well over 10 years and the first ever all by myself
  • Diet - changed everything about how I eat, transforming from a junk-food-junkie to a clean living paleo gal

Big stuff!

A lot changed in my work too, and as the year wore on I found myself more and more disenchanted with web design, bookkeeping and admin work (the mainstays of my career for most of my life) and exploring farther and farther into the world of metaphysics, intuition, channeling, psychic development and healing.  My writing also exploded, first in the form of projects for others, then my own writing and channeling, and finally through this blog.

I was also forced to rethink some things that aren't working for me anymore.  A big thing is this tendency I have to be the assistant.  Oh yeah I'm good at it and I love the people I work with (past and present) but being the assistant forever won't allow me to pursue my own dreams.  I didn't really get this until I asked a friend to help me with a project and he turned me down saying he wants to concentrate on his own work so he can eventually stop being the "assistant" in his industry.  My feelings were hurt at first, partly because I know it's a great project and it likely won't happen without his contribution and also because I kind of took it as a personal rejection.  But after I thought about it I realized he's just like me.  We both want to work on our own stuff and continuing to "do" for everyone else will never get us there.  So that was a huge ah-ha moment.

A second thing was coming to terms with my Law of Attraction coaching.  I love Manifesting and the Law of Attraction and I've seen some huge successes and met some pretty amazing people through this work.  However I also have been forced to face the fact that it's not as simple as everyone makes it sound and that we don't always get what we want.  At least I don't.  And that's caused a huge internal conflict in me.  How do I keep coaching and promising people they can have the moon when ... well when maybe they can't?  It's become such a huge ethical dilemma that it's gotten to the point that coaching just isn't so much fun anymore.  So while I'm not going to hang up that hat entirely, it needs to take a back seat to other things which I'm finding more fulfilling and empowering right now, both to me and my clients.

Which brings me to the subject of this post: Career Change!

It's time for change in that area of my life... major change.  And for the past few days I've been thinking really deeply about that.  How it looks, how it feels, how it allows me to have the lifestyle I want, how it helps people, how it contributes to the world, and how I can set it up in a way that supports me.


So here's what I'm doing... Over the next few days I'm doing a lot of "internal work" to really get clear about this new direction in my work life.  What I know so far is that it's going to be in the metaphysical/psychic type fields and I'll still be doing coaching, consulting and guiding.  I'll share more as the details come into focus and hopefully right after the first of the year I'll be off and running!

It's going to be an exciting year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

As Soon As....

So today someone asks me, "Maria, over the past couple days you've made some pretty bold statements about what you intend to do in the upcoming year.  Was that really you or was that some alternative version of Maria brought out because you were sick?"

Good point.  I was really out of it yesterday, and didn't even realize it until late last night when it all came to a head.  Even today I feel a little discombobulated, so no tellin' how much of this stuff is really coming from "me."

Then again, sick or not, it's all me isn't it?  Just different sides of me that make their appearance when the time and circumstances are right.

So what's the real story?

It's this... for many years I've said I was going to do this or that "as soon as...."

  • As soon as I have the money, time, and all that stuff.
  • As soon as I figure out my work stuff and can generate a stable income. 
  • As soon as this relationship ends or another one begins.
  • As soon as this or that health issue clears up.
  • As soon as this bill is paid off or that obligation is taken care of.
  • As soon as Donna grows up and moves out (newsflash... she's been out goin' on 3 years now!).

Seriously, my life has so much of "as soon as" in it you'd think I'm like 275 years old or something!

Well enough is enough.  I'm not getting any younger (and neither is anyone reading this) and I find myself asking more and more "if not now then when?"

  • When I'm too old to hike in the mountains?
  • When I'm too deaf to hear the roar of Niagara Falls?
  • When I'm too blind to see the beauty of a field of butterflies?
  • When the smell of wildflowers sends me into a coughing fit?
  • When I can't appreciate the flavor of exotic foods because my taste buds are worn out?
  • When I have to stop every 30 minutes to use the bathroom every time I try to go somewhere?
  • When I can no longer remember the town I was just in yesterday?

Really?  Is that a good time to finally start living my dreams?

No!

Double NO! NO!

The time is today.  That's why I made bold statements and that's why (sick or not) I intend to do my dangest to see them through.

Next year I'll be writing from a different life, in a different place with a different attitude.  I'll be alive... really alive in a way I can't even begin to fathom in this moment.  I KNOW this to be true.

Big changes people.  They're a-coming!

Paleo and Getting Sick

A few weeks ago someone asked me if switching a Paleo lifestyle would keep them from getting sick.  Of course I'm not a doctor or scientist so I can't answer that for sure, but it seems to me that if you're eating food that is healthy and life-giving to your body that you'd naturally have stronger immunity, get sick less, and get well faster than those eating the way most Americans eat.  Right?

Anyway... not the most satisfying answer but that's all I could come up with so I went with it.  And things were rolling along fine until last week. 

Then on Wednesday I developed this ear/throat thing which made my voice disappear entirely for a short while then when it came back I sounded hilarious (and it's still a little funny), then yesterday I felt worse and worse all day long until finally I got really sick last night (I'll spare you the details but lots of time in the bathroom was involved) and today I feel fine except I'm still congested and a little afraid to eat.

So what happened?  Is this the paleo lifestyle letting me down?  Or is it just a normal part of the lovely Ohio winter experience?

Well here's the thing.  I haven't been sick - not like this - in years.  I mean literally YEARS.  And many of those years I wasn't eating very well - ok I was a junk food junkie! 

And I think that may be part of the problem.  I can't prove this but I think when you constantly feed your body junk it does the best it can with what you're giving it.  But when you feed it well, I mean really well like paleo eating is, then your body comes to expect a higher standard of food.

So when you don't give it that good food it rebels.  And that's part of what happened last week.  I'd been doing so much running I didn't take the time to prepare all my own food and yes, I indulged in a bit more "eating out" than I normally would have.  Yes, I kept the meals as paleo as possible.  Even at Waffle House last week I ordered a steak and salad.  That's pretty darn good considering how much I love their grits! 

But it's the quality of the food we're talking about here.  A T-bone steak from Waffle House comes from who knows where... are there any actual cows involved at all?  But a steak from my freezer.... well I know where that comes from! So even though I ordered the most paleo stuff on the menu, it still was pretty bad quality.  Plus it tasted a little "off" (another risk of restaurant food) which I'm sure didn't help.

On Christmas I was still feeling bad (the congestion had settled into my upper chest, giving me a lovely cough) and though I again ate as paleo as possible, I did have a spoonful of this and a fork of that... you know.  Seriously tiny amounts of really yummy food but - there was sugar in it.  And flour.  And preservatives I can't pronounce.

So even though I minimized it, I think even that small amount was a shock to my already yucky-feeling body and it put me right over the edge.  I got sick, EVERYTHING I'd eating in the last couple days was unceremoniously and forcefully rejected, and now I'm much better!  Except that congestion... ugh!

So back to the original question... does switching to a paleo lifestyle keep you from getting sick?  Now I have to say no.  And furthermore it appears to make you (or at least me) more sensitive to dietary transgressions.  But is that a bad thing?  Or is it really quite wonderful to know your body is healthy enough to send you strong signals when you try to abuse it with bad food?

More Christmas Pictures

Ok the rest of the pictures from Christmas.  I'm terrible at candid shots so most of these are posed.  Some were taken Christmas Eve and others Christmas Day thus the different outfits.

Ok so here's Donna with her boyfriend Erik, really nice guy and he even puts up with her! Hehe.

Then there's me and Donna...




And of course a different angle of Santa getting ready to hug Donna.  Santa has been a part of our Christmas Eve tradition since.... well the way I hear it since my Mom was born.  But I bet even farther back than that!

 




Finally there is a picture of the kids playing Connect Four Launchers, which looks like loads of fun!

And below is my parents with all their Grandkids. Donna's the oldest but you can't tell it from there...wow they're all growing up!



Monday, December 26, 2011

Planning Day - Work Stuff

This planning day has turned into much more of a "musing day."  But that's ok.  The whole point is to reflect on the last year and think about the upcoming year so that I can get my head around a master plan of sorts!

I've had lots of master plans over the years, some which I took from that initial spark of an idea all th way through planning, launch, growth, and beyond.  And a lot that never got off the drawing board.  But such is life.  If every idea came to pass the world would be so crowded there'd be no room for all the people.

Anyway, what I came up with regarding work is this:

Since it's been on my list anyway for the past 10 years or better it must be pretty important to me so in 2012 I'm going to make a concerted effort to bring this one to fruition!  Here it is again, just so I'm perfectly clear:

This year I will do work that I love, that helps people and contributes to the world around me, that supports me comfortably, and that allows me to have a completely mobile lifestyle.

That clear enough?

How I get from where I am today to where I want to be remains to be seen.
Exactly what type of work that is remains to be seen.

But I have some ideas, and all day long I've been turning them over and over in my mind, trying on this and that to see how it feels, looking in my mental mirror to see how it looks, and projecting exactly one year into the future to imagine what I'll be thinking about on next year's planning day.

While absolutely nothing is written in stone yet (or even in sand at this point), there are a few things that became crystal clear to me and I want to put them out there, both as reminders to myself and a way of becoming accountable later:

First, virtually everything will change.  I've already dropped 80% of what I do for work and I expect over this next year another 19% or so will drop off too, leaving me with a mere 1% or less of what I'm currently doing.  This doesn't mean I won't take elements of what I already do with me.  But it will look, feel and be completely different than it is today.

Second, it is my intent to be in an entirely different physical location this time next year.  I don't know if I'll be living there, traveling through there or what but I've been wanting to leave this area for about half my life now and it's time I do it!  Family I love you but not sure I'll be here for Christmas next year.

Third, I am completely willing to make sacrifices, put blinders on, say no when necessary, and do whatever it takes to get me from here to there.  If that means more dish washing to pay the rent while I pursue my dreams that's fine.  If it means turning down lucrative work because it would divert me from my greater purpose that's fine too.  This is about building a life folks, not current or even future security.  It's been my experience that there is no true security in a bank account anyway so yes, I'm willing to risk ALL to live this dream of mine!

Big stuff.  Huge stuff! 

I'll definitely be writing more - a lot more - as things unfold.

Oh and one more thing.  I want to thank those people who've been helping me so far and supporting me through all these big changes I've been going through.  Though I am in a quandary about a lot of relationship stuff, I really do have a few good friends I can count on and who've been instrumental in helping me believe I can do this.  Keep talking to me people.  Keep supporting me, checking in, nudging me along, and even giving me a stern "talking to" when I need it! Really... you ARE the wind beneath my wings and oh man I'm gonna soar!

Christmas Pictues

Thought I'd take a break from planning day to post a few pictures from Christmas. Our family does the big thing" Christmas Eve at Mom & Dad's house.

Here's their tree all decorated with presents underneath.  I snapped this before anyone got there to mess it up.

My parents have had a live tree since before I was born (no, not the same live tree) so the house always smells of fresh pine this time of year.  Many of the ornaments are handmade (some by me when I was in preschool even) and there are even some heirloom pieces over 100 years old.  Of course those are for "looking only!"

After everyone arrived, the kids went back in the bedroom to prepare for their annual Christmas tradition.  7 of the 9 grandkids were there and they come out of the bedroom in procession, sing a Christmas song then each grandchild puts a Baby Jesus in a different nativity scene.  I remember when I was a kid fighting over who got to put the Baby Jesus in his manger on Christmas Eve at midnight (because he wasn't born until then you know) so it's much better that Mom has enough nativity scenes to go around these days!

After that Santa came and here he is asking Donna if she'd been good this year.  What do you think she said?

Then there were the presents and then snacks (and yes I did have some of my sister-in-law's egg nog custard which is decidedly not paleo) and we all played games and had fun and then it was time to head home.  Overall a pretty nice evening :)

Oh and here's the obligatory Donna-bow picture.  Good thing she didn't have the camera or you'd see a similar one of me!







My sister's supposed to send me some shots she got with her camera (much better than mine I'm sure). I'll post those later.  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Planning Day

For a number of years I've called the day after Christmas my PLANNING DAY.

This is the day when I look back over the past year, reflecting on what I accomplished vs. what I set out to accomplish, how I feel vs. how I thought I'd feel, and how much closer I am to my dreams vs. where I was at this time last year.

It always amazes me how much some of my dreams, goals and priorities change from year to year, and how I manage to completely forget certain things that I swore were at the top of my list this time last year.

So going into this planning day, the two things that are in the forefront of my mind right now are work/career stuff and relationships.  I've been thinking about these almost non-stop lately, and quite honestly, they're both big thorns in my proverbial side!

On the work/career front, each and every year I write down something like "by the end of this year I'll be doing work that I love, that helps people and contributes to the world around me, that supports me comfortably, and that allows me to have a completely mobile lifestyle."  I've been writing this one for well over 10 years now and guess what.... still hasn't happened :(

While I don't have all the answers as to why this hasn't happened yet, I think at least part of the problem is that I'm an entrepreneur who's trying to be satisfied with helping others be successful rather than working on my own success.  That makes me an entrepreneur by proxy I guess - always in the shadows while my clients stand in the limelight, reaping the rewards that I secretly want for myself.  Not that I'm some kind of exhibitionist.  Definitely not!  But there are personal and emotional rewards that come with being successful in your own right, a sense of pride and accomplishment and yes, financial rewards that simply can't be had as an "assistant."

So this year it's time to take charge of this part of my life, do it right, and start living what I've been dreaming about these last many years!

Switching gears now, the last year has been a big year for relationships for me as many people have come in and out of my life and some of my very closest friendships have radically shifted or even disappeared all together. This was extremely painful at times, but necessary so that I could begin to see what's missing in my relationships and how, going forward, that has to change.

To clarify, I'm not talking about romantic relationships here.  That's an entirely different subject.  I am talking about those few people who I consider (or want to consider) my inner circle.

Again, I don't have all the answers but I do know that when it comes to people I want to be close to I go about it completely backward.  I've really been observing myself in this area and I find that when I meet someone who sparks my interest and has energy that feels really good to me then I naturally want to be their friend.  Normal so far, right?  But what I do next sets me up for failure.

Almost unconsciously I start reaching out to them and giving - often a lot.  It's as if I'm pursuing their friendship and that feeling of closeness which I need and which right now is lacking in my life.  Of course this flatters them - who wouldn't want all that attention - but it also sets the scene for a very one sided relationship.  So I end up with friends who like me because I've been so dang nice to them but who really don't know that much about me and have little reason to give much (if anything) in return.

No wonder I end up feeling empty and uncared for!

This needs to change.  I want people in my life who like me because of who I AM - not just because I've showered all sorts of attention on them and made them feel good.  I want friends who call or send a text or e-mail because they want to connect with me, not because they're responding to something I put out there first.  I want to share thoughts and ideas and talk about something a little deeper than the weather forecast, what's on sale at Target or who's going to win the next big game. 

And even if they're far away (which virtually all my friends are these days), I want to hear their stories and to get all excited as we anticipate the adventures we'll have the next time we get the opportunity to hang out! And sure I'd like a little attention too.  I'm a very giving person and I love being that way but getting a little back "just because" is a nice feeling too and one I haven't experienced in a very, very long time.

So... lots of stuff to ponder today!

I'm sure I'll have plenty of insights and ah-ha moments to share, which of course I will :)

Have a Happy Today!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Plug Craziness!

Last night I was a bit chilly so I decided to plug in the space heater before going to bed.  Simple thing, right?

Well I plug it in and............ nothing. Oh well, this outlet can be temperamental.  So I plug it in the other hole (same outlet, bottom plug this time) and............ nothing.

So I jiggle the plug, keep going back and forth between the two outlets, flip the thing on and off, hit the reset button a few times, check the breakers and all that stuff. 

For 10 minutes I mess with this - I kid you not!

Then finally I pick up the heater to try it in the other room.

Guess what the problem was?

Did you guess?

Wait for it...... wait for it.......

Ok scroll down!
































I'D BEEN PLUGGING IN THE VACUUM CLEANER!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Making Applesauce

I'm not quite sure how this happened but over the past week or so I came into possession of well over a dozen apples.  Now I enjoy a nice, juicy apple now and again, but not to the tune of 12 or more all at once.  So after a few days of crunching some raw and frying others in butter and cinnamon I was done with them for a while.  But I still had a dozen left and couldn't find any eager takers.

So when I was at my Mom's last night I nabbed her applesauce mill and this afternoon set to work on saucing those apples!  If you haven't made applesauce before it's really quite easy.

Start with a nice stack of apples - pyramid stacking is optional but makes them look snazzy...


Then core and slice into 1/8s.  I suppose you could do quarters or even halves if you're lazy but the smaller slices cook just a little faster.


Then add a little water and go have a cup of coffee and relax while you let them simmer a while.  You know they're done when they fall apart and look something like this...



Next spoon some of the cooked apples into the applesauce mill and spin the pestle round and round so the applesauce comes out the holes in the sides.  Keep scraping the sauce off the sides and the peels down to the bottom and milling again and again until there's virtually nothing left inside but peels.  You'll know you're done either when nothing is coming out the holes or your arm is too tired to continue :)



When you're done take the mill out of the bowl, draw a little happy face in it and take a picture! Yum.... applesauce :)



By the way, you could probably add sugar or another sweetener (while it's still warm) but this is paleo-sauce so I just went with straight apples. Oh and if you don't have an applesauce mill and can't swipe one from a neighbor or relative than a metal strainer will work in a pinch.  It's just a whole lot more work!

Happy saucing :)

Weather, Picture Fun and Amish Country

I've been meaning to get together with my friend Lee for a long while now.  She's been a great friend for over 10 years now and thanks to my prodding, she recently jumped on the blog wagon herself. Cool ideas for free and fun stuff to do around Cincinnati and beyond. 

Anyway you know how life is... the best intentions and all never quite happening.  But yesterday a window opened up so I high-tailed it over there and we had a great afternoon!  I also took the opportunity to practice taking pictures from my car - yes, while driving - and found out it's not as easy as it seems.  So for all you fellow bloggers and others who pull it off like pros my hat's off to you!

I started the morning with a quick stop at a client's house to tie up a few loose ends.  Was a grey and dismal day in Cincinnati, and I snapped this shot off his back deck.


*Sigh* not such a beautiful day for a road trip. And road trip it is as my friend lives some 60 miles out of the city!  But off I went, hoping the rain kept to at least a light drizzle.  

What a nice surprise I got when the clouds started to clear and the sun actually peaked through!  It was as if the travel gods were smiling on me, brightening my day more and more as I got further and further away the hubbub of metropolitan life.  I've never liked living in the city.  Can't wait to get back out to suburbia or even farther as soon as the opportunity arises!

Anyway, I arrived at her house, which is actually a really cool machine shop with an apartment attached, just after noon.  Look at the difference in the sky!


So much nicer for driving!  Also see the "lake" where the drive is supposed to be?  Their entire front yard is like that as they've gotten a lot of rain lately.  Didn't see any ducks though :)

Not wanting to put our wading boots on and hang out there, we decided to head out to Amish country for a little shopping.  There is an Amish store not too far away (or so we thought) so we hit the road.  I also took this opportunity to practice my "on the move auto photography" skills.

Which are non-existent!  I mean heck I have enough trouble taking pictures standing still and when you add a moving vehicle well.... take a look for yourself.


This was one of my first attempts and you can see the glare of the windshield... ewwww!  The cool thing though is that some of the trees in the distance look like they have cotton candy growing on them (the clouds of course).

Here's a cropped and zoomed in close up... that any better?


Not really... I'll have to work on this!

Anyway a bunch of wrong turns later, stopping to ask for directions, heading around another bend...


And finally (some 50 miles out of the way) we get to our destination...


I didn't take pictures inside because I hear the Amish don't really like that and also it was just a store.  Bakery and gift shop in one building, grocery in another and huge furniture store in several large barns.

To be honest I wasn't all that impressed.  I've always thought the Amish are about making things themselves and using real ingredients in their cooking, etc. but I was disappointed.  While the furniture store was chock full of handmade Amish furniture, the ingredient lists on the bakery items read like something out of a grocery store bakery horror story, there were lots of sugar free jellies and jams loaded with splenda and aspartame, and the gift shop was full of touristy plaques, key chains, bumper stickers and the like.  All over priced I might add.  I truly got the idea this was the Wal-Mart of Amish country.  I hope it's not like that in other parts of the world :(

At the grocery I did buy some cheese and butter but not as much as I would have because I was dubious as to the quality and they couldn't answer my questions about how the cows were raised or cared for.  I skipped the meats entirely as they only had lunch meats and jerky type stuff.  But they sure had a lot of chocolate, baked goods (I guess over runs from the bakery building), check mix type stuff and the like.  They also had lots of bulk herbs and spices which actually were quite useful.  My friend snagged a lot of those before we left.

Oh one thing that I did find fascinating was the "lighting" in all their buildings.  As you know, the Amish as a rule don't use electricity so they illuminate their buildings with gas instead.  However that doesn't make for super bright light, especially in a large building like a furniture barn! So they've come up with this ingenious system for I guess what you'd call reflective lighting.

Here's a picture from the inside.  Doesn't it look just like florescent lights!



And here's the outside of the building.


I was able to catch a glimpse of an uncovered fixture from the inside (though I couldn't get a picture of it) and basically what you're looking at is a 4 foot tall or so rectangular shaft clad on the inside with an almost mirrored surface.  That's what concentrates the light and causes it to shine so brightly inside the building.  Pretty cool huh!

Now I understand this couldn't entirely replace standard lighting, especially in buildings that need to be lit once the sun goes down or on cloudy days but still... pretty ingenious, I'd imagine cheap to build and could generate a significant savings in the old electric bill over time.

Ok, heading own down the road now I snapped this shot.  Again not great but the cool thing is how the clouds just melt right into the tree line almost like snow capped hills or even waves.  Too bad that glaring sun messed it up.



And finally I stopped for this shot of a wooden covered bridge.  Vary narrow and I was worried about even my little car squeezing through (though I'm sure that was all in my head) but I love the sound of tires rumbling over a wooden bridge!  I wanted to back up and do it again but Lee nixed that idea so onward we went.



And that, my friends, was the end of our little adventure.  Obviously I have a lot of practicing to do before I start getting those picture-perfect shots I see elsewhere.  But I did learn a couple things.

1. Take lots of shots because only a few will be worth a darn.
2. Clean the windshield!  Cuts way down on spots.
3. The cell phone camera is useless for this. Use the regular camera.

You Get What You Expect

A long time ago I remember hearing a story about two monks that goes something like this:
A wise old monk was traveling town the road with his student when they passed a traveler going in the opposite direction.  The man, who was heading to the town they had just left, stopped and engaged the monks in conversation.  He explained that he was moving to this new town and asked what the monks could tell him of the people there.  The wise old monk in turn asked the traveler how he had found the people in the town he'd left.  The man smiled and said "Oh it's the most wonderful town!  The people are friendly, the air is clean and fresh and joy rings through the entire countryside with the noon bells!"  The old monk smiled and replied, "Excellent!  You'll love the town ahead for it is exactly as the town you left.  You'll fit in wonderfully there and be very happy indeed." With that the man went on his way, humming a happy tune as he anticipated the wonderful new town he was headed to.

A little further down the road the monks came upon another traveler, also headed to the town.  Again the man explained he was moving to that town and asked the monks what he might expect to which the wise old monk asked him how he'd found the town he'd left.  The man's shoulders kind of sagged and a frown crept over his face.  "My old town was miserable," he replied.  The people were rude, they stole things and took advantage of me, the streets were filthy, and I couldn't wait to get out of there!  I'm hoping this new town will be far better, both for me and my business."  Slowly the old monk shook his head in sadness.  "I'm so sorry," he said, "but you are bound to be disappointed.  The town ahead is exactly as you described, worse perhaps, and surely you will be miserable and meet with failure there."  The man was discouraged but he'd come all this way so he grudgingly went forward, shoulders sagging as he shuffled along the road.

After he was out of earshot, the student monk curiously turned to his master and asked, "Why did you give those two men completely different descriptions of the exact same town?  Surely it can't be both?"

The wise old monk smiled as he replied, "A town is just a town and unless a man changes his heart, he will see exactly what he has always seen there."  With that he kept walking.

This story seems especially poignant this time of year because I've seen so many contrasting accounts of the holiday shopping experience.  I've heard horror stories of pushing and shoving crowds, having to park practically in the next state, ridiculous prices, completely trashed aisles and displays, grumpy, rude shoppers and store clerks, and lines from here to the moon!

On the other hand, my personal experience has been the exact opposite.  Shopping this holiday season has been a sheer delight and everywhere I've gone the people have been friendly and helpful (both the shoppers and clerks), traffic has been manageable and parking is a breeze (yup, even got a front row spot at the mall the other day), the entertainment pleasant but not outlandish, the items I want have been plentiful and reasonably priced, and checkout lines non-existent.  At Wal-Mart last night my friend and I walked right up to an open checkout line and when I stopped by the post office the other day there was exactly ONE person ahead of me.  And that's one of the busiest posts offices around!

All this reminds me of the monk's story above and how perhaps we are indeed travelers on this road of life, seeing largely what we're conditioned to see.  Perhaps it's time for a change of heart?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trying to Fake Paleo Eating

Ok this isn't just for you paleo people out there but for anyone who is trying to improve their diet by eating gluten free. Or sugar free. Or dairy free.  Or grain free.  Or whatever free you think is better for you.

What I've noticed is this tendency to try to mimic the SAD (standard American diet) by substituting foods that are supposed to look and feel like the original.

Gluten free?  No problem!  There are bread-like substances that are supposed to mimic real bread.  Heck you can even get pasta, cookies and cake.

Sugar free? That may be tougher.  After all there are only about a MILLION sugar substitutes out there! :p

Dairy free? Thank goodness for soy, almond, rice, coconut and a whole host of other milk-like products.  Not to mention the fake cheeses, yogurts, and yes, even ice creams!

Vegetarian? Yup there are un-chicken nuggets and un-corn dogs and fake ground beef and just about anything else you'd want so you can pretend you're eating meat.  And let's not forget the traditional Thanksgiving "Tofurky!"

The truth is if you eat this stuff you're fooling yourself.  There is nothing natural or healthy about any of these substitutes - in fact they're about as far from natural and as close to chemically synthesized as you can get.  I mean c'mon... how much manipulating and conniving do you think it takes to go from this...



To these...



I'm not denying that some of these foods are pretty appealing.  In my vegetarian days I ate more than my fair share, and I really believed that I was doing good things for my body.  But really? There is absolutely no way to turn beans into all that other stuff without putting said beans through a ridiculously complex process, taking out most of the natural properties and adding a lot of chemicals, preservatives and other stuff.  If you don't believe me simply read the label.  Can you really pronounce most of those ingredients?  Do you really think they should be going in your body?

My point is this: Rather than try and mimic standard American eating with fake foods that have plenty of eye appeal, not so much flavor in many cases, and little nutritional value, why not just eat the foods that really are good for you and leave the rest behind?

I still have a breakfast of eggs and stir fried veggies, an omelet, quiche, and even bacon or sausage if I feel like it.  I just hold the toast, grits, quiche crust or other grains.  Don't even miss them!

Lunch is equally easy.  Salad instead of a sandwich with extra meat and cheese (I don't avoid dairy all together - I just minimize it), burger sans bun, and yes... sometimes I do have the fries.  Onion straws are great too (so long as they're not breaded).

Dinner. Ummm.... how does a thick, juicy steak sound?  Or succulent roasted chicken, swordfish right off the grill, or any other favorite meat of choice.  How about adding a fresh salad or stir fried veggies to that?  Seriously... this beats those lame soy burgers any time!

Do yourself a favor.  Forget the chemical compounds and start feeding your body real foods as close to nature as you can get them. Even if you don't go the whole paleo route, this alone will be a giant leap in the right direction toward improving your health through solid nutrition. 

Note - In a rare diversion from my photo rule, I did take these images off the internet.  Just didn't have time to hit the grocery store and snap the shots.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the Jukebox...

With Christmas right around the corner, I thought I'd share some of my favorite music of the season. 

Most stuff you've heard of, a few maybe you haven't but are all way cool!

First up we have my friend Glenn Morrissette's "four-Glenn saxophone choir reharmonization of Irving Berlin's old chestnut."  Unless you follow his blog, you probably haven't heard this one, as he just released it ummmm... 5 days ago!  Go ahead and share in his White Christmas - excellente!

Next we have one of my favorite female vocalists with her rendition of When a Child is Born.  And Donna - I don't want to hear it :p





This was one of my favorite Christmas songs as a kid!  I was so into Joe Cool and seriously, can you top a beagle on a mission to save the world?  Sing along... you know you want to :)





Another favorite from my childhood, this is such an upbeat and happy song.  I actually called my Mom and made her find the LP so I could look up the exact version I sang and danced along to.  Come along and let's go on a Sleigh Ride together!

Christmas Day is a really sad but beautiful song.  I'm not sure how it appeared on my computer (one of life's mysteries) but I really like it.  

I just love Harry Belafonte - practically anything by him makes my favorites list! As a teenager I remember working puzzles or building models in my bedroom while listening to his Live at Carnegie Hall album over and over.  Something about the orchestra and his voice, accented by all those pops and clicks... love the vinyl!  Anyway, check out Mary's Boy Child (one of my absolute favorites - gosh I get goose bumps!) and I heard the Bells on Christmas Day (another good one).

Finally I love this one, not because it's a Christmas song (because it isn't) but because of how these people synched it up to their Christmas lights!  Have you seen this version of Music Box Dancer?

Paleo Lifestyle and Cell Regeneration

Ever since I switched to a paleo way of being I've been curious about the effect it's having on my body, from my organs, tissues, bones, and muscles right down to a cellular level.

What I've heard (and this seems to make sense) is that each time your cells divide (meaning old ones die off and new ones take their place), the new generation is greatly affected by the food we eat.

It's the old "garbage in - garbage out" philosophy.  When feeding your body junk, new cells are more likely to be weak or malformed in some way, simply because they don't have the optimum building blocks.  Think of it like building a house from clumps of dirt vs. bricks.  You can still build it but it won't be nearly as solid or last as long.

Anyway, if that theory is correct than it follows that when eating food that supplies the optimum building blocks humans need, with each new generation our cells will get stronger and healthier until we reach optimum levels of health.

Here's where I get confused though.  I'm not sure if this happens in one go-round or over several (or many) generations of new cells.

My intuition tells me that it's probably a multi-generational process.  At the same time though I think that when making a major switch in lifestyle, the first few generations of new cells will probably be impacted the most (major healing and regeneration will take place), after which things will level out over time for the finishing touches.  I can't substantiate this though, and even though I've spent quite a bit of time trying to research it on the internet I haven't been successful at finding conclusive results one way or the other.

Whether it happens quickly or slowly though, it's very exciting to realize that the food you eat can have such a positive impact on your health! No you don't have to take a pill to be healthy... simply eat a juicy, mouth-watering, grass fed burger!

Yum!

While I'm on this subject, another point I want to address is this idea that our bodies completely regenerate themselves every 7 years or so (which I've seen posted all over the internet).  I looked high and low for some confirmation of this and I'm sorry to say I didn't find any.  What I did find however was this article which answers the question, "How old is my body if the cells keep renewing themselves?"  You can find the article at: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/17/the_odd_body_cell_age/.

Another interesting reference I found was this list of life spans of common human cells, found on Answer.com:

Cell Type -- Lifespan
  • Granulocytes (a type of white blood cells) -- 10 hours to 3 days
  • Stomach lining cells -- 2 days
  • Sperm cells -- 2-3 days
  • Colon cells -- 3-4 days
  • Epithelia of small intestine -- 1 week or less
  • Platelets -- 10 days
  • Skin epidermal cells -- 2 - 4 weeks
  • Lymphocytes -- 2 months - a year
  • Red blood cells -- 4 months
  • Macrophages -- months - years
  • Endothelial cells -- months - years
  • Pancreas cells -- 1 year or more
  • Bone Cells -- 25 - 30 years

According to this, since I converted to a paleo lifestyle about 6 weeks ago my granulocytes and stomach lining have replaced themselves 21 times or more, my colon and small intestine about 8 times, my platelets about 4 times, and my epidermis is into its second round.

It's interesting to me that the cells that replace themselves the fastest are the ones involved in digestion and absorption of nutrients.  If my theory holds true, these cells have already undergone a vast metamorphosis from being inefficient and possibly compromised cells to healthy and happy cells.  Also, because they've undergone several generations, I feel like at least these parts of my body are well on their way to optimum health!

By the way, I'm not an expert on paleo living or nutrition.  So feel free to add to what I've laid out here, whether you concur or not.  It's all good and I'm happy to learn more :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Family Time and Shopping

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my daughter and we did a little shopping.  Crazy huh... shopping the week before Christmas. What were we thinking?!

I got her a present (which she got to pick out), then we went here...

Hyde Park goodwill in Cincinnati, Ohio



...for some fun and cheap shopping. 

We didn't get much, just this stuff...

what we bought at goodwill


...which cost us a whopping $34.02. I know.  That's less than $5 bucks an item - Woot!  Donna got the two white shirts and the jeans and I got the other three shirts.  Pretty cool.

Donna on the computer checking stuff

Then we headed back to my place where Donna checked the computer...
Donna mending some old favorites


...then got out the sewing machine and attempted to do some mending.  She had a lot of fun going through boxes of clothes she hadn't worn in a few years.  Kept trying them on, doing a little fashion show right in the living room.

Over all it was a really fun day and I'm glad we got to hang out :)

Paleo and Dishes

If you've been following along you know that I've been doing a stint washing dishes for a catering company.  Really fun gig but its way more physical activity than I'm used to.  I literally run around all day long, washing, drying, putting away, then doing it all over again.  Some of the pots are really heavy and it's no easy task to plunge them in the sink, wash, lift to dump out the water, then rinse and lift again to dry.  Plus I find myself hiking trays of glasses over my head to stack them up. 

While the exercise feels good, it also taxes my rather soft muscles and I'm really tired by the time I get home.

Anyway, while eating breakfast this morning (a nice paleo meal of scrambled eggs, onion, and mushrooms swimming in luscious butter) it occurred to me that there's no way I could keep going like I am if I wasn't eating this way.  While I'm not bouncing off the walls, I do have sustained energy that allows me to work at a decent pace all day long with nary a break.  Sometimes I don't even stop for lunch which means I'm going 9-10 hours or more without eating.  And though I get a little hungry by late afternoon, I don't slow down or get cranky until I'm nearing the home stretch.

Just another cool benefit of living the paleo lifestyle... allows you to wash dishes all day long with little decline in efficiency or humor :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Work Musing - Cause and Effect

One thing about doing dishes for hours on end is that it gives me time to ponder life.

As I'm busily scrubbing away, I've been thinking about my work life and why - well why it hasn't worked out so well most of the time.  See I've been an entrepreneur since that first attempt to sell greeting cards door to door way back when I was about 8.  But though I've done lots of things, achieving success has always eluded me.  I'm not even talking wild successes and mega-riches here.  I'm talking about putting food on the table and heck, having a table to put it on.

Though I've started and ran many businesses, invariably they tend to sputter after a while, some of them simply fading away while others crash and burn in impressive conflagrations! On more than one occasion I've lost nearly everything, even coming close to being homeless (thank God that didn't happen though).

This has perplexed me to no end, as I'm a reasonably intelligent person, a great organizer, and indeed have contributed greatly to helping others be successful.  So what's my problem?

My current thought on this is that it comes down to cause and effect. 

See here's the thing.  When I'm doing dishes or some other concrete task it's very easy to know what to do and see the results of doing it.

Pile of dishes ==> wash them up ==> put away ==> clean kitchen!  Simple.

But in business it's not that straightforward.  I can't tell you how many times I've done what I thought needed to be done, followed the advice of experts, had successful people try to help me, spent inordinate amounts of time and effort, and poured my whole heart and soul into something just to have it bite the dust anyway.

For the life of me I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong.  It seems that if another person and I started the exact same project in the exact same moment and did exactly the same thing well - they'd turn out mega-successful and I'd end up broke and frustrated.

Somehow I am missing some intangible or subtle thing that makes the difference. Somehow I cannot seem to see the cause that will create the effect I'm after.

Ideas anyone... I'm way open to suggestions here.

Dishes, Dishes and More Dishes!

This is the scene that greeted me early yesterday morning....


And then there was the sink...

And let's not forget the floor too!



And I'm not even a dishwasher by trade!  But a friend called saying the catering company she works for needed help because they were extremely busy and their regular gal had hurt herself and couldn't work.

Always up for a challenge, I volunteered to help.  And help I did!  Over 30 hours in the last 3 days and it's worn me out physically.  My fingers are even tired as I'm typing this!

So why would I get myself up to my elbows in soap suds and grease?  Well it ain't the money for sure. Yeah they're paying me but really the amount is miniscule compared to what I usually make. 

No the reason three fold. 

First it sounded like fun.  Who knew, right?  But there is something fun and challenging too about being faced with a kitchen FULL of dishes and trying to get them all done and stay ahead of the cooks and servers. I never quite caught up yesterday but I gave it my best shot!

Second, they needed the help.  I love to help people and I know that because of my pro-dishwashing skills their weekend went a lot smoother than it would have otherwise. Nah I'm not patting myself on the back... they told me so.

Second, it's something on my "to do before I die list."  Weird, I know but I always thought it would be fun to do a stint washing dishes in a commercial kitchen.  And it is fun!  But sorry guys, I'm not looking to make a career out of this :)

Speaking of "to do before I die" lists, this has been on my mind lately along with what to do about work.  See there's a lot of things I want to do, but with each passing year they get swept into a corner, gathering a little more dust.  Among other things, it occurred to me that I'm just not getting any younger.... so now would probably be a great time to dust those dreams off and show them the light of day!

More on that later. Right now I'm going to give my fingers a much needed rest.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Musing About Work

So lately I've been thinking about work.  Not the work I "do" so much as what I might do, if I could do whatever I wanted.

I guess we've all thought about that from time to time.  You know... if time or money was no object, if you had the right connections, if you were mega-talented... what would you do with your life?

To be honest, I'm not sure I have an answer for myself.  Oh there's plenty I have done.  Plenty I thought I'd love, and maybe did for a while.  But not a whole lot that I love doing enough to want to do it forever - actually I can't think of anything.

And that's key to me.  Loving what I do for work and doing work that I love has always been central to who I am.

Sadly, it doesn't reflect a lot in my work history.  Like many others, I've spent way too much time working for the money gods - doing what I had to do to just get by.

I gotta say that really stinks!  I don't want to live that way anymore, and therefore I'm going to do something about it!

"What," you ask?

I have absolutely no idea!

But I do know this post is the beginning of several (or many) posts about figuring out what I want to do for work, and how doing work I love fits into a life I want to live.

Hey... at least I'm being authentic :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The End of the Quasi-Paleo Food

Well it's official - I am now completely out of quasi-paleo food!

When I committed to this lifestyle a couple months back there was still food in my fridge and freezer that I would qualify as paleo - almost.

This includes beef and chicken from a normal grocery store (i.e. not grass fed or free range), french cut green beans, peas, and a few other random items.

While some people would certainly call themselves paleo even while eating commercial, factory-farmed meats, it didn't quite ring true for me so I called these things quasi-paleo... almost but not quite.

Beans and legumes aren't considered paleo at all, though I suspect our paleo ancestors would have eaten them in-season.  You know.  Young, tender green beans, peas, and other bean like plants that were growing along the trail.  I'll look into this more later but for now I'm sticking with the guidelines and beans are out.

Anyway, since I had some of this stuff and didn't want to waste it, I've been slowly eating it over the past two months.  There wasn't a ton and I'd say it made up less than 10% of my diet but still... it was there.

But today it's gone (with the exception of a few pickle spears) so I'm pronouncing my kitchen 100% paleo approved!

Onward!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookies, Paleo Eating, and Cool Crafts

I spent a good part of today helping my friend Arleen make Christmas cookies for her family.  I'd sworn off making cookies this year, mostly because I didn't want to tempt myself with all that sugar.

But I hadn't seen Arleen all summer and she promised me one of her yummy pork & sauerkraut dinners in lieu of a tin of cookies so hey, I couldn't resist!

The cookies we made today weren't super fancy but I know from past years they taste delicious and they also travel well which is a bonus since she mails them to several people.

We started out with peanut butter kisses....














Moved on to even more yummy cookies....

 










Then ended the day with this quasi-paleo and amazingly delicious dinner...


I say quasi-paleo because strictly speaking the potato isn't really paleo (well it could be depending on who you talk to.... lots of debate over that one) but I haven't had a baked potato in over a year, it was small, and I slathered on the butter and sour cream so I figured what the heck! De-eee-lish!

After the cookie making and dinner were over and the dishes were all cleaned up, Arleen showed me these dolls she's been making and selling at craft shows.



Folks this woman is super talented!  She can crochet almost anything and she sews like a dream too!  Here are two tote bags she made for me.  If you look real close at the green one you can tell the handles are worn because I use it literally all the time.  The blue one is for my computer, and it has a special pouch inside to keep my laptop safe.


She has about 300 of these totes, all in different patterns, many more dolls, and penny rugs too, all of  which she sells at a very reasonable prices.  Let me know if you're interested in her very cool stuff and I'll put you in touch with her.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blogging Family

I've had several blogs over the past few years but one concept I never really "got" was the blogging family.

I was just putting my stuff out there, mostly for business (i.e. trying to make a buck or two), and often felt as though everything I wrote was going straight into the internet void.

It wasn't until a few months ago that a random set of circumstances led me to a page that led me to a story that led me to a blog that inspired me to start writing again... this time strictly for fun and with no thought of how it might line my pockets.

Wow what a shift this has been for me!  Instead of writing to uphold a professional image, doing all the marketing stuff (which I hate), trying to find and comment on blogs with high page rank that "might" get me a few crumbs of traffic, being a social media butterfly (which I also hate), and all that other internet marketing stuff you're "supposed" to do, I've just been following links and comments from one cool blog to another, joining in the conversations of people I find interesting, and having a great time.

What I've noticed also, is that since I started doing this I've begun to develop a kind of blogging family of my own.  While initially I was trying to keep with a few dozen blogs - you know, the excitement of something new - I've found that some resonated with me and others didn't so I've whittled it down to just a handful of people I consider uber-cool, and that I feel a connection with on a somewhat personal as well as Blogosphere level.

In addition to commenting on their blogs and exchanging an e-mail or several on the side, I've also talked to a few and just love how well we hit it off.  The world really is full of amazing friends just waiting to be discovered!

Anyway, hats off to my blogging family today!  You know who you are, but in case you don't know each other here's the list.... we need to have a big ole' family reunion sometime!


Thanks everyone for brightening my day and making me feel like part of a community :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coffee Anyone?

To see me today you'd hardly know it, but the truth is I couldn't stand coffee until I was about 40.  Oh I loved the smell but the taste..... Ewwww!  Give me a life-draining, sugary sweet soda any day!

But somewhere around my 40th year I became acquainted with coffee flavored ice cream, then milk-shakes, then frappuccinos, lattes, and... well I was hooked.  Not so much on the coffee per-se but the creamy sweetness that - well - just happened to have a coffee flavor.

My favorites were Burger King's Mocha Joe and Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino but there were others I flirted with too. I even discovered that home brewed coffee is much improved by the addition of a large scoop of ice cream.  Or is it that ice cream is improved by a coffee topping?  Hmmm... something to ponder.

At any rate, the beginning of my paleo ways a couple months ago signaled the end of my love affair with coffee.  See the idea of coffee without loads of sugar seemed so reprehensible to me that I simply couldn't fathom it.  So I made a pilgrimage to Starbucks, had one last Venti Java Chip Frappuccino, and said my goodbyes to that delectable beverage forever.  Or so I thought.

As fate would have it, coffee wasn't done courting me yet.  And so it goes that a couple weeks ago it crossed my path again, this time in an innocent looking mug at Williams Eatery in Yellow Springs, Ohio (an excellent place to dine I might add).  My daughter and I had been shopping that afternoon and stopped in for a bite to eat.  It was chilly out so she ordered coffee and kept remarking on how wonderful it was.  And she was drinking it black!

Intrigued, I tasted hers and then ordered my own.  It was marvelous!  So smooth and flavorful.  I'd never had anything like it.... truly I experienced coffee nirvana that day!  All in all I drank several mugs, mostly black but one with cream just to see... that was also wonderful.  Of course I got the name of this amazing coffee from the waitress, and a couple days later headed out to get some.

My first attempts at home brewing didn't go so well (I'm the world's worst coffee maker - just ask my ex husband :p), but finally I got it down and I've been enjoying delectable cups of coffee ever since.

Want to know my secret?  Here's how I make it...

The coffee.  Would you be surprised that it's really nothing special?  No gourmet or specialty coffee.  Just Mosaic brand coffee, often used by restaurants I'm told, and available at GFS (Gordon Food Service).

How I make it.  Would you believe I don't have a coffee maker?  My kitchen is seriously small so I don't have the room, and plus I just don't want one.  First I tried making it on the stove - that was a disaster.  Then I tried filtering it into a coffee cup but I didn't like that so much either.  Frustrated, I wondered if that restaurant had special coffee elves using age old secret methods that I'd never be privy to.  Then as a last ditch effort I tried this:

I put about 2 tsp of coffee into the bottom of a large mug (no, this isn't instant), boiled filtered water which I then poured over the coffee, stirred it up, covered with a small plate to keep the heat in, and came back a few minutes later.  Perfecto! Amazingly smooth coffee and so flavorful!

That first time I drank it black right out of the mug, stopping before I got down to the grounds. Since then I've gotten a bit more sophisticated, making it in a glass measuring cup then slowly pouring it into a mug to leave most of the grounds behind.

Flavorful variations.  Though I often drink it black, there are times I like a little variation.  One favorite is to simply add cream.  Snowville Creamery is really good, pasteurized but not over processed like commercial heavy creams.  It's got a rich flavor, clumps of real cream floating in it (you're supposed to shake it up first), and a slightly yellow color indicative of the high butterfat content.

Another favorite is to shave a square of really dark chocolate into the cup before adding the water.  The chocolate melts into the coffee, adding a pleasing mocha flavor. Yum!

And if I'm really feeling fancy I'll whip up some heavy cream, dollop it on top and add a little shaved dark chocolate or a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Truly amazing!


Remembering vs Dwelling

Every Monday I send out a newsletter about manifesting and the Law of Attraction (see the link to the right if you want to start receiving it).  This week I talked about remembering the past vs. dwelling in it and how that can affect our present quality of life. Given that I just finished an entire weekend of sorting through my own past, I thought it appropriate to post the newsletter here too.

Kind of like "Maria's insights from the weekend."  Enjoy!

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Remembering vs. Dwelling

In manifesting the focus is always on what we want rather than what we have, and where we're going rather than where we've been.

Even still, every human has a past, and memories of that past can help us move us forward, or can actually hold us back. So while I'd never advise anyone to forget the past, I often work with clients on putting it in perspective so they can move forward, creating the future they want to live.

This point hit home over the weekend as I was sorting through mementos of my childhood. I came across some letters and pictures which took me back, and which also reminded me of some of the mistakes I'd made and regrets I had about them. Suddenly I was sucked back through time and space and I saw a much younger version of myself going through some very painful experiences (no, childhood is not always idealistic and Pollyanna).

I found myself full of regret, wishing I could change things, and for just a moment I found myself dwelling on the past, blaming it for certain things my present that haven't yet worked out how I want them to, and feeling powerless to get out of that cycle. In other words, I slipped into victim mode - feeling as though I was destined to fail in certain areas of my life because of things that had happened in Jr. High. Ugh!

Of course I snapped out of it almost immediately, but it was a real eye opener!

How many times I wonder do we sub-consciously dwell in our past, allowing things that happened 20, 30 or even 40 or more years ago to influence our decisions and quality of life today? And what's worse - how many times does this happen below the surface, leaving us completely oblivious to what's going on?

Going through those boxes over the weekend turned out to be a great lesson and gift for me, and also allowed me to finally let go of things I didn't even realize I was holding on to.

I highly recommend this as an exercise for anyone interested in manifesting or personal growth, as it will open your eyes and allow you to put the past in perspective.
Want to try it yourself? Ok, here's the assignment:
  1. Find your own box of mementos from your past. For some it may mean a trip to Mom and Dad's, while for others it may mean rummaging through the back of a closet, garage or attic. Some may look online for traces of past friends, schools, and events. However you get to it, dig up your past and start sorting through it and reflecting on the memories it holds.

  2. If you find yourself embarrassed, saddened or full of regret, especially for something you did or said, it's time to stop and reflect on that moment. What happened? Who was involved? How did you feel back then? How do you feel today about what happened back then?

  3. Now tie it to the present. Are you still acting or reacting in ways similar to how you acted back then? I was surprised at how dynamic with others is in some ways very similar to how I interacted when I was young. To be sure I've come a long way but core personality traits are ingrained at very young ages and unless you make a conscious effort to become aware of them you may never realize you're dealing with certain things today just as you did as a child.

  4. Think about the whole situation and whether your present actions and ways of being are still serving you. In many cases, not so pleasant memories from the past continue to play out in our present lives, sub-consciously thwarting our efforts to get ahead.

  5. Resolve to change where change is needed. Now that you've uncovered hidden attitudes and emotions that are holding you back, you can change them. Yes it will take effort and constant awareness but you can do it! Then you'll be free to remember the past without dwelling in it or continuing to allow it to affect your present and future.
Try it this week and let me know how it goes. As always, if you need help you know where to find me :)