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Image courtesy of http://jaymantri.com/

My eyes scan the long lined piece of paper in my left hand. In black ink, I have crossed out the blue items I have already completed. Yet, there are still so many blue words on the page, uncrossed, and not very attractive.

I dislike the word ‘busy.’ I’m not looking to make myself ‘busy.’

I still have much to learn.

I surround myself with reminders.

I’m still learning to slow down, to stop rushing to get it all done.

Simplify the ‘to do’ list.

Focus on one task at a time.

Don’t over-analyze.

Ignore the mess.

Embrace the chaos.

Breathe.

Sleep when you can.

Have faith.

Trust that it will all work out.

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This week, I’m reminding myself to keep my mind and heart open to receive delightful surprises, such as this sneaky neighbourhood watcher whom we met during a Sunday afternoon walk.

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This is a candid account of how meditation sometimes feels, even after many years of semi-consistent practice. I wrote this piece for a writing course that I took last fall, and it has become a favourite. I wanted to share it with you as a reminder that we all deal with the chattering monkey mind. Whenever I feel impatience and frustration start to arise, I remind myself to approach my practice with a sense of humour. Who said meditation has to always be taken seriously? Be patient with yourself and perhaps, for just a quick but important moment, you can step into the temple and live fully in it.

Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. And how illusive it is!

“Ooh, I just sat for a few minutes without thinking a single thought!”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Sssshhh! Quiet! That was a thought.”

Inhale. Exhale. “Continue to focus on your breath.”

Inhale. Exhale. “It will lead you to stillness.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

“What should I make for dinner?”

“Thinking.”

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Silence. There’s suddenly nothing but silence and the sound of my breath, travelling. My thoughts continue to circulate, but I’ll keep them in that perpetual vortex, allowing them to spin without escaping through the door into the temple. Oh no, this temple deserves peace. This temple only welcomes silence, but it tolerates the hum that continues to buzz just outside its front door. Accept it, but keep it on the other side.

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New from the workshop:

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This is a Maori-style Hei Matau (fish-hook) design, made of beautiful chocolate-brown Cocobolo. The inlay is made of pale yellow crushed shell. 

Although this piece is so new it has yet to be added to our online store, there are other pieces in the shop that might appeal to you. Pawel has been working on custom orders recently and would be thrilled with an opportunity to create a special piece for you. So, drop us a line to let us know what you have in mind.

Favourite links:

Here are a few interesting articles I read over the past week and would like to share with you:

Skills in Flux

A New York Times article about the skills we need to develop to succeed — socially and professionally — in ‘today’s loosely networked world.’ This article resonates with me — an INFP with a small circle of friends whom I hold very dear and work hard to keep the connection alive. I often have to negotiate extroverted social networking, followed by periods of relaxing a bit more when I have a chance to get to know a person better and build a true connection. It’s a lifelong learning process that demands evolution of various communication and social skills.

Bare essentials: Learning to live mindfully with objects that ‘spark joy’

This article almost made me want to take a 2.5-hour road trip to London to check out this exhibit. However, having recently been on such a road trip for a work-related meeting, and given that I don’t enjoy driving for longer than an hour at the most, I am reluctant to make the time for the trek. In any case, I wanted to share this article with you because it brings focus to a mindful lifestyle in a tiny home, living with the bare essentials, which is a fascination of mine. We are currently living with as few possessions as possible, though I know we can downsize further. I found it interesting to read the comments of other readers about what possessions they would keep if they had to leave almost everything they own behind. What would you keep if you were to downsize and move into a (tidy and uncluttered) tiny home?

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

An article on why the current generation of 30-something adults is embracing the minimalism trend. This is a fun read and even features a quiz to help you find out whether you just might be the owner of too much stuff or if like me, your results will be, “You’re a minimalist. Live a little.’

If you are enjoying this blog and would like to read more about our journey along the path of mindfulness, please feel free to subscribe to be the first to receive our updates in your inbox once (sometimes twice) per week. Please also feel free to SHARE this post with your friends via email or a social media platform.

Thank you for you support!

Wishing you a fantastic weekend!

Photo By Joshua Earle

Photo courtesy of https://unsplash.com/

On a Monday evening, I arrived at home from work and, after changing into my pajamas, was about to head downstairs to start preparing dinner. First, however, I thought I would check my email. In my email inbox were 20 new ads from various retailers, quietly shouting at me about their latest promotions. Since I was already at my computer and remembered that I was expecting a reply from a friend via a private message on Facebook, I opened a new tab in my browser only to see that not one private message but 50 notifications were awaiting my attention. Fifty?! I shut the lid of my laptop and took a deep breath, exhaling to release the feelings of overwhelm.

When I returned to my social media accounts later, I took a proverbial step back to look at what, exactly, was taking up space on my feed. Pictures of food. News about a celebrity who deliberately tried to embarrass herself in public. Articles about why a Paleo diet is the best thing we can embrace. Articles about why sugar is terrible for us. Articles about loving ourselves as we are today. Articles about why too much meat is unhealthy; about why certain types of fat are good; about why a juice cleanse is not for everyone. Articles about free-range parenting, a controversial topic that sparks angry debates. Memes about breastfeeding in public, shaming the opponents. Articles about why the yoga selfie phenomenon has gotten old. Articles about why the yoga selfie trend is inspiring.

That is the information of which I made note within the five minutes I allotted myself for checking social media before sitting down to work on my writing. I did not click on any of the above articles, nor did I comment or click ‘like’ on any of the pictures and status updates I saw. Yet, I was feeling – frankly – exhausted after merely skimming through all the information. Enough.

When I told Pawel I was thinking about taking a long break from Facebook, he asked me why it bothers me as much as it does. I know I tend to engage deeply with a lot of information, and I am the first to admit that after reading several articles with conflicting information, I feel the need to take a long nap. This social media exhaustion, as I have come to term it, can take a toll on my energy level.

I realize, also, how counterintuitive this may sound to those of you who may have found this blog post through one of our social media outlets. Pawel and I appreciate each reader of this blog. For that reason, if you wish, I invite you to subscribe to receive the updates from this blog in your email inbox once a week (sometimes twice).

I am making space, simplifying my life, directing my energy where it is truly needed most. I am stepping back and choosing to create less noise. I am choosing to ignore the noise. This is part of my practice of mindfulness in the age of social media.

We will continue to log in to update our Instagram, Twitter, tsu, Pinterest and Facebook account once a week to share our blog with you. Pawel will continue to manage our accounts at this time. And of course, we always enjoy connecting with you. Please feel free to leave a comment or email us directly through our website.

In the meantime, here’s a spring-themed recipe for a raw plant-based lemon tart that we whipped up last weekend within about 25 minutes. The original recipe is from Wholefood Simply, which is one of our favourite blogs. However, I modified it slightly and below is my version of the tart. Enjoy!

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Raw Plant-Based Lemon Tart

Ingredients:

Crust:

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

½ cup walnuts

9 pitted dates

1-2 tbsp coconut cream (from full-fat canned coconut milk that has been refrigerated for at least eight hours)

A pinch of salt

½ tsp natural vanilla extract

Filling:

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup walnuts

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Zest and juice from 2 lemons

¼ cup maple syrup

1/3 cup coconut cream (see above)

Pinch of salt

Preparation method:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the crust in a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes, until the ingredients start to come together, forming a ball.
  2. With your hands lightly moistened, press the crust into a greased non-stick tart form.
  3. Place all the ingredients for the filling in the food processor and pulse until creamy and well-integrated.
  4. Fill the crust, using a spatula to spread the contents evenly.
  5. Decorate with thin lemon slices, if you wish.
  6. Place in the fridge for a few hours to allow the tart to set. You may also overwrap the tart with foil and plastic wrap and freeze it, if desired.

Enjoy!

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I started knitting a honeycomb stitch cowl neck (the pattern is free over here) in early December, using beautiful three-ply chunky wool yarn in a gorgeous raspberry shade that I purchased from a charming farm-based shop called The Philosopher’s Wool, located in Inverhuron, Ontario. We chanced upon the store while cruising around the countryside during our stay at a nearby cottage last summer. I love knitting cowls and have a small collection of them in my wardrobe. I keep coming back to them because a) they are quick to knit, b) fun, and c) can really showcase the yarn and the stitch used.

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I used to knit larger pieces and have a few favourite sweaters in my wardrobe that I made for myself. However, these days I prefer to knit accessories. The reasons for this are: a) a sweater would take me probably about a year to complete, since I don’t currently have enough time to dedicate to the activity and b) I’m working on making my wardrobe more minimal. From a practical perspective, I don’t need many hand-knitted sweaters, but I love to play up an otherwise grey, brown, and black outdoor winter wardrobe with splashes of colour and pretty accessories.

Since early December when I first started working on the cowl, having spent those 30-60 minutes per week on the project and completed it on March 8th, I would estimate that the project took me a total of eight hours to complete. This estimation is solely done for entertainment purposes, as I don’t usually count the number of hours a project requires. Instead, I choose interesting projects on which I enjoy working, and for which I can use gorgeous yarn.

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You may notice the pattern is for a longer cowl that can be wrapped around the neck twice. I chose to make it shorter, simply because I prefer shorter cowls that showcase the stitches. Since I used chunky three-ply wool, the stitch on my cowl is more open than in the original photo. I also used a cable needle to knit this piece, but you can get away with a third straight knitting needle, if you wish.

I’m curious… Do you have a project (and it doesn’t have to relate to knitting) to which you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate, yet you persist to work it into your schedule whenever possible? How do you stay motivated?

In other news…

Now that the weather is a bit warmer and spring is trying to make its way over the threshold, Pawel has been working in the garage workshop again, creating new pendants. This is the latest piece, to be added to our website within the next few days:

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Over the winter, Pawel has been daydreaming of sandy beaches, but since we haven’t had a chance to travel, he has been living vicariously through our travelling family members and friends. In lieu of the usual souvenirs — and sometimes alongside a few treats — they have been bringing back small samples of sand for us. Pawel has been taking macro photographs of the sand and creating a map of the sand’s origins.

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The sand project is a work-in-progress, so check back to see various new photographs of samples that Pawel will add to the site as he receives them from generous world travelers.

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Image: https://unsplash.com/

It started with a typical Saturday afternoon, during a weekly house cleaning session. One moment, I was wiping dust off the floor-to-ceiling book shelves in the basement, which serves double duty as a playroom, and the next, I found myself starting to pick up toys with which our children no longer play, putting them into an empty cardboard box. The children were playing upstairs at the time, but upon hearing me make noise in the basement, they came downstairs to inquire.

“Boys, you have many toys with which you don’t play anymore. Correct?”

They both nodded.

“I’m wondering whether we can share these toys with children who might make better use of them.” I watched their faces for a sign of understanding.

They nodded again and agreed with me when I explained that this meant we would collect toys that are no longer needed or wanted in order to give them away. I clarified that we would never have the toys returned to us.

The boys readily started to pick up one toy after another, considered whether they need it, and then added it to the box, which filled very quickly.

The children got to keep their favourite toys (mostly Lego) and are now able to easily find the toys they need when they need them. Not surprisingly, they realized they don’t need very many toys at all, and since they naturally gravitate toward Lego and other building blocks that encourage the use of imagination and creativity, I have a suspicion they will not be easily bored anytime soon.

This impromptu de-cluttering session led to a change of perspective. For the remainder of that day, whenever I stepped into another room in our house, I asked myself whether we need all the material items we managed to acquire over the past 7.5 years after moving into our current home. Pawel and I have never had a fear of letting go of material objects. Neither are we serious collectors of random tchotchkes. Yet, there seemed to be too much stuff that we do not need. I grew tired of seeing busy kitchen counters. I spoke with Pawel and explained to him that I wanted to edit our home and throw out, sell, or give away various pieces that we do not need to keep and/or do not enjoy. To my relief, he told me he’s on board.

I will continue to write more about our project to ‘edit ruthlessly,’ inspired by the Ted talk by Graham Hill. I will also share photographs of our home as it looks now, after our most recent de-cluttering session.

For now, let me leave you with a few of our reasons for choosing to de-clutter our home:

  1. Having fewer possessions that need to be maintained and cleaned / dusted on a regular basis allows us to spend less time cleaning our home and leaves more time for family fun.
  2. Getting rid of old stuff simply feels good. We like to think of it as a home detox. We have more empty space in our home, which feels refreshing. I used to feel the need to fill every empty spot, but that is no longer the case. I want to live in rooms that feel comfortable but appear more spacious.
  3. We don’t like to feel that our possessions own us.
  4. Editing our possessions helps us to appreciate the items that we do have and use on a regular basis. We don’t need 10 different pots and pans in the kitchen, but we appreciate the two large pots we use for cooking soup every week (one to reheat and bring to work in a thermos for our lunches and the other to enjoy for dinner, at home).
  5. It’s easier to find something in an uncluttered home. We know where every item is located.
  6. Our style has changed in the past few years and our design philosophy has evolved.
  7. I was inspired by the numerous minimalist bloggers who have emerged in the recent years. I enjoy reading about families who have drastically reduced the size of their belongings and moved to live in small apartments or tiny homes. I have always preferred to live in a smaller home, so I’m intrigued by the tiny home trend.

How do you feel about minimalism? How would you describe your own lifestyle when it comes to collecting possessions? Perhaps you also have recently gone through a substantial de-cluttering session. I would love to read your story.

Are you enjoying this blog? Please share it with a friend who might be interested in reading the content. To read more about our ongoing adventures and ramblings, please subscribe to receive updates directly in your email inbox.

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We needed to take some time to adjust to a new change in our household. After a blogging hiatus, we’re back and ready to share more of our adventures and ideas with you. To our loyal readers, thank you for your continuing support. And if you’re new to our site, welcome! We hope you will enjoy its content and will share it with your friends.

My older son and I were sitting at a local coffee and doughnut shop yesterday in the evening after dinner, enjoying a mini escape from the house, a mom-and-son date. While I waited for my mint tea to chill, I watched my son and answered his questions about the various signs he kept noticing in the small shop, advertising sandwich combos, a new roast, and free WiFi (“What is WiFi, Mommy?”). He was sipping his hot chocolate, slowly at first, until he started to take bigger slurps and finally finished it before reaching for his double chocolate doughnut. Like me, my son has a sweet tooth. I have often wondered whether in our family, we all have a sweet tooth gene that continues to be passed on from generation to generation. When I started to introduce my son to ‘real’ foods as a baby, I offered him pureed beans alongside pureed yams. Guess which one he relished, seated in his high chair with a smile full of sweet-tasting orange-coloured happiness. The other vegetable was promptly spat out, as soon as the BPA-free teaspoon touched his lips.

As a student of Mindfulness, I have a profound interest in how we can utilize Mindfulness practices to change negative habits into lasting positive ones. Particularly, I have been applying the practice to my personal eating patterns by observing my emotions and thoughts during stressful/challenging times, noticing the foods I crave during those times: anything made with sugar.

I am also a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work, the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Her new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, to be released on March 17th, explores the science behind habit-forming behaviour. Visiting Rubin’s website, I came across this quiz and as I read the post, I had to pause to listen to the ‘ding ding ding’ sound coming closer toward me from a distance.

It turns out that some people are natural moderators while others are abstainers. As much as I don’t enjoy labels, what this means is that for some people, like me, it’s easier to give up sugar cold-turkey and after struggling through the initial 14 days or so, to abstain from sugar altogether. Others more easily take the approach that ‘life is too short to miss out on treats,’ and are able to stop eating dessert after the first two bites. Rubin mentions yet another fascinating fact, that moderators often try – unsuccessfully – to turn into abstainers, and abstainers – again, unsuccessfully – attempt to become moderators.

This information provides a different perspective for my practice. It also leads me to wonder whether, perhaps, Mindfulness practices that relate to food consumption come more easily to people who are naturally better at moderating. On the other hand, a daily seated or walking mindfulness meditation practice might come more easily to a person who takes the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I would assume that people who are able to effectively abstain from consuming certain foods would also be naturally better than others at repeating the same behaviour every day. I might be wrong, but to learn more, I will just have to read Rubin’s new book and continue practising.

What are your thoughts? Would you say you tend to choose the ‘all or nothing’ or the ‘you only live once, so let’s enjoy the treat’ approach? Please feel free to comment.

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