DSCN6139

Over the past few weeks, I have heard and read many reviews of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Although I already have a minimalist wardrobe and did not need to dispose of clutter in my closet, the book has influenced me to change my method of folding t-shirts. The book has also reminded me to make an extra effort to put items in the correct place as soon as possible after I finish using them. Although that has always been my practice, I realized I did have various old documents on my desk that needed to be filed away.

DSCN6222

 

The KonMari method of folding t-shirts.

I was also drawn to the mindful attitude toward maintenance advocated by Kondo. I pick up each object mindfully at home, asking myself, “Does this bring me joy? Will I or do I use this item on a regular basis? Where should its place be in my home?” I have never been an impulsive shopper, but these questions, in turn, help me to dedicate my undivided attention to the decision-making process when standing in a store.

know I feel better, more focused and relaxed when my environment is tidy and well organized. The mere idea of a cluttered space makes my shoulders rise up to my ears and strains my breath. However, Pawel and I do share our home with our two very spirited young boys who have the remarkable ability to create, within a matter of minutes, a mess in any room that is akin to the aftermath of a raging tornado.

DSCN6224

 

Minimalist selection of footwear. I have three other pairs of shoes, not pictured.

When my older son was a newborn with terrible colic, one day, amid the fog of exhaustion, I looked about me at the living room carpet, with dust bunnies comprised of the hair of our two cats scattered about, and sighed in defiance. Although the mess made my stress level rise, I chose to ignore it in favour of a 30-minute nap and the resulting preservation of my sanity.

I do my best to keep a balance between working diligently to uphold my highest standards and choosing to ignore a less-than-perfect home from time to time. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand: when I feel calmer and able to overlook the mess of toys strewn around the living room, I am a better mother to my children and partner to Pawel, better able to uphold those high standards. Some days, I feel exhausted after an hour of nagging my children in agitation about tidying up their rooms. Inevitably, 15 minutes after they reluctantly put away their toys, the living room once again looks less than ideal. Interestingly, when I make a choice to be a bit softer in my approach, more willing to overlook the mess until bedtime, I have more energy to be a kind, fun mom.

These days, instead of nagging, I focus on tidying up my own space, taking pictures of old documents and shredding the original hard copies, or folding my t-shirts and camisoles in the space-saving and pretty way recommended by Marie Kondo.

DSCN6225

My collection of Dharma Wanderlust jewelry.

When I start to feel upset about something in my home being out of its place, I catch myself ready to flare out at my family and remind myself of the words from Audrey Hepburn’s favourite poem:

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” 

If you have read Marie Kondo’s book, I would love to read about your impressions and whether the book has had a positive effect on the way you manage your living and/or work space. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

11223689_844559585626406_8588203153383854683_n

 

It’s not that there is no small talk…It’s that it comes not at the beginning of conversations but at the end…Sensitive people…’enjoy small talk only after they’ve gone deep’ says Strickland. ‘When sensitive people are in environments that nurture their authenticity, they laugh and chitchat just as much as anyone else.” ― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking


 

Small talk has never been my forte. When bumping into a person I don’t know well, my mind often goes blank after the polite greeting of, “Hello, how are you?” On a good day, I remind myself to ask about my conversation partner’s interests and use one of those as a jumping point into more interesting territory. The problem arises when I meet a person who, like me, keeps his cards close to his chest and doesn’t enjoy divulging any information about himself to someone he just met for the first time. Talk about an introvert’s nightmare!

The one banal question I dislike most, which most often gets asked at the start of a conversation, is, “So, what do you do?” I often feel tempted to answer with, “I breathe, I eat, I feel… How about you?” It troubles me that immediately after we answer this question, those who listen to us inadvertently will form some type of judgment about our character, based on the other social workers / nurses / teachers / engineers, etc. they have known in the past. It’s not surprising that the reply is often, “My cousin is also a lawyer! In which firm do you work?” I get it, people try to make a connection based on remote links. While it might work for some to start a chat in this manner, I try to avoid such questions by trying to be the first to ask a question that might lead us down a different path.

Sometimes, the conversation flows naturally and does not feel like any work for me. This happened recently at a get-together at a yoga studio where I lead a weekly class. Surrounded by like-minded instructors with most of whom I had never had a ‘real’ conversation before that event, we chatted easily about books and exchanged recommendations. I felt I was in my comfort zone. For about 30 minutes, we only spoke about books. YES!

When I sit down to have tea with a close friend, our discussions tend to run deeper than the annoying ‘he said / she said’ talk I sometimes overhear between two people in a café or the grocery store. When I speak with someone, I want to know about her passions, about what makes her happy to wake up in the morning, what enriches her life with purpose, as well as what she wishes to improve.

I was brought up in a family of quiet introverts. Now, in my early thirties, I remain quiet and relatively private about my life, this blog notwithstanding (I choose carefully the topics about which I write). However, I am also interested in expanding my connections. I found myself wondering, the other day, about how one can take a conversation beyond small talk. What are the questions one could ask in order to delve deeper into meaningful conversation?

Here is my list:

  1. What books are currently on your nightstand? What book have read recently that you would recommend?
  2. What made you smile today?
  3. What has been on your mind lately?
  4. What is an interesting project on which you are currently working?

Do you have a question to contribute? Please help me to expand the list by leaving a comment below.

Do you know a fellow introvert who dislikes small talk? Please share this blog with him/her!

walk

A walk in the forest: one of our favourite ‘quiet’ activities. This was my ‘artist date’ for the weekend that has passed.

If spring is known as the time of growth and renewal, summer is for basking in the sunshine while enjoying the fruits of our labour. To me, this transition time offers a good opportunity for personal growth and exploration of new ideas, new interests and plenty of ‘quiet time.’

garden

We planted our vegetable garden over the weekend. Growing in our garden are eggplant, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, swiss chard, and sweet peppers. We also have rhubarb, chives, and blackberry bushes from the previous years.

The garden has been planted – both literally and figurative – and now is the time to tend to it, to promote growth by providing the essentials of sunshine, water and nutrients. The months between early May to late August tend to be very hectic for many people; sure, they are fun-busy, but they are fleeting, not always in a productive way. So, I am changing my routine this summer. Instead of filling my schedule to the brim with various summer-appropriate outings, I am clearing extra time in my schedule to dedicate to silence and personal growth.

pawel

One of Pawel’s favourite ‘quiet’ activities.

Here are a few highlights from the month of May:

I don’t watch TV. I don’t miss it. – Giving up TV proved to be a non-event for me but has been essential to my personal growth.

Flirty Spring – I have been embracing my feminine nature more and more over the past few years, balancing out the masculine and feminine energies, allowing myself to receive life’s gifts amidst providing good care for my family.

Renew to Retreat – Minimalism does not mean life becomes boring. We can create big changes in our mental and emotional states simply by rearranging just one item to which we have become accustomed.

Magical Catharsis – On the practice of journaling as a ritual of emotional purging.

My Lifelong Experiment with Nutrition – Sharing my experience with this year’s spring cleanse. I have been reminded of our ever-changing nature and the importance of letting go of rigid ideas. Life is more enjoyable when we allow ourselves to be carried along with the ebb and flow.

sale

The sale continues in our online store until the end of the month, which means you only have a few more days to take advantage of the 30% off offer. We are also offering free worldwide shipping of every sale of a minimum of $100. Use the code ‘HappyBDay’ at checkout to receive your discount.

trillium

What have been your traditional spring/summer self-care rituals? Are you doing anything differently this year to take better care of yourself?

THANK YOU for sharing this blog with a friend!

tv

My friend and I sat at a restaurant on a recent Friday evening, catching up over dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in four months, we realized, and a friend date was long overdue. As we perused the dessert menu, the chatty waitress approached us and, seeing my friend’s iPhone case, gushed, “I love your phone case!”

 

I looked over at the back of my friend’s phone, at the words written in gothic letters and an image I immediately recognized from the ubiquitous Game of Thrones series.

 

“I love Game of Thrones! The new season is starting on Sunday, and I can’t wait,” my friend excitedly replied.

 

“I’m going to have a marathon Game of Thrones weekend,” the waitress continued. “I need to catch up on all the previous episodes before I start watching the new season.”

 

The animated exchange continued and very quickly, I started to feel out of the proverbial loop. The waitress must have noticed the tentative smirk on my face.

 

“You don’t watch the show?”

 

I believe I saw her take half a step backward in surprise.

 

“You have to watch it! You have to catch up.”

 

“I wouldn’t have the time to watch it,” I replied demurely, looking down at the dark-wood table.

 

What I didn’t mention is that, these days, I don’t watch anything on TV. Until very recently, I used to be an avid Once Upon a Time fan, drawn to the show’s fantasy element (a favourite genre). I confess, I was more than a bit obsessed with the story. The passion suddenly dwindled a few months ago. I used to watch one hour of TV per week. Now, I don’t watch it at all. And I don’t miss it.

 

When Pawel and I had first moved in together, all those years ago, we chose to not have a TV in our home. If we wanted to watch movies, we would watch them on DVD, using one of our computers. That was also the one and only time when, in-between studying for undergrad exams or writing essays, I binge-watched Sex and the City seasons on borrowed DVDs on my laptop. Even when I did not watch DVDs, I found that I liked not having a TV in my home, that no one felt inclined to turn it on to create ‘background noise.’ Without a TV, I could reclaim my time. I could focus my attention on one task at a time, instead of multitasking by studying while watching a show.

 

To simply state that I currently don’t have the time to watch TV shows might sound holier-than-thou. Of course, I have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. I choose to not make the time for television. The idea of binge-watching a show no longer appeals to me. No, it doesn’t just not appeal to me; it sounds kind of torturous. Likewise, Pawel doesn’t watch TV because he doesn’t want to direct his attention to it when he could be spending time woodworking.

 

Of course, Pawel and I do sometimes go out to watch a movie — probably about once every two or three months — but we are very selective in our film choices. I also have a small collection of favourite films that I like to watch at home from time to time.

 

Not watching TV allows me to make time for mindful activities that I truly enjoy. I do make time for reading, writing, yoga, meditation, crafting, and (yes) sleep. There have been times, in a distant past, when I would stay up late to watch a show in spite of feeling tired.

 

It’s a choice. This choice suits my quest to living more mindfully while embracing the minimalism lifestyle. So, perhaps, I shouldn’t be as demure about it.

 

Do you watch TV on a regular basis? Would you be willing to give it up for a week, as an experiment? Feel free to leave a comment. 

blog8

 Make a wish! Dandelions are FUN. I also enjoy using yellow dandelions to make head wreaths. It was one of my favourite summertime activities in childhood.

The warmer weather has been making me feel more flirty, pretty, playful, feminine, reminding me to rise toward the hot sun and sway with the cool breeze, to say YES to life.

blog6

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed an interesting shift in my interests. I have been returning to my needlepoint crafts after a longer-than-intended hiatus.

blog4

Gorgeous tulips in my parents-in-law’s tranquil garden. 

I have also been changing the way I approach exercise. In the winter, I became very focused on masculine HIIT-style workouts and wanted to challenge myself by turning up the intensity. These days, I put on my favourite music and allow my body to move, inviting the vibration to rise through the soles of my feet and up, moving through me.

blog9

I am starting to return back to my favourites when it comes to exercise, focusing on dance (including hooping), yoga, and pilates. Although I love to walk, my current living and work situation does not present me with frequent opportunities to walk to different destinations, and I miss the days when I used to walk my older son to and from school. However, I have been making the time to go for leisurely walks with my family.

blog9b

Enjoying a quiet morning at the zoo before the crowds arrived.

blog7

Walking in my favourite new — light and feminine — shoes.

The warmer days call for flowing skirts and sun dresses, soft pastels that mirror the cherry and lilac blossoms. I find that, over the past few years, I have been embracing these feminine colours, textures, and patterns more and more. It might have something to do with the fact that I am the only human woman in a household of males (we do have two female cats).

blog2

Lilacs are my favourite flowers, and they stay in bloom for only a short time, which gives me one more reason to get outside and enjoy them. I never pluck them off the bush, as they just don’t have the same effect when displayed indoors in a vase. 

So, here’s to spending more time outdoors, to dancing, to making time to craft and create, to giving ourselves permission to lounge and relax, to making time for ourselves.

blog9a

Here are two links I love:

10 Ways to Ban Busy {and Still Get Stuff Done!} by Left Brain Buddha

I have been following the Left Brain Buddha blog for some time now and enjoy the real-life advice from a Mindful mother to other parents working to lead a more Mindful lifestyle. Another way of embracing the Divine Feminine is to cut out the tendency to be ‘busy and important.’ Instead, I have been working to simplify and make time for LIFE, to let go of rigid rules and expectations, to cut back on my ‘to do’ list, and create opportunities to do what brings me pleasure.

Getting Along Fine Without Me by Karen Maezen Miller

I have been following Karen Maezen Miller since first reading her book Momma Zen. This is a beautiful, poignant essay for every parent who has pondered the conflicting concept of attachment (or non-attachment). I enjoy the point of view of a perfectly imperfect parent, and the final line will stay with me for a long time: “No one ever notices when a flower has fulfilled its purpose in life, just as no one ever regrets a moment lost to love.”

blog1

Last photo of flowers. I promise! I hope you have enjoyed this visual treat.

Wishing you a glorious, warm and breezy week ahead! And remember to enjoy life’s many treats!

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

 

In Canada, we are preparing for the Victoria Day long weekend, also known as the unofficial start of summer. Like many others, we are looking forward to barbecues, de-cluttering our crawl space, and making some time to sit back and read.

Speaking of reading, Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy, who has the impeccable taste in books of Kathleen Kelly of You’ve Got Mail, has just released her 2015 Summer Reading Guide. This is *the* comprehensive guide for excellent books appropriate for a beach and/or cottage vacation, as well as for bringing along on a trip anywhere in the world. I trust Anne’s book recommendations and after consulting this guide, my list of Books to Read has grown a little longer. I’m currently reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin — also one of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s recommended books — and enjoying it immensely.

À propos Kathleen Kelly, there have been many times when, after an annual viewing of You’ve Got Mail, I wished that she were a real person. We are kindred spirits, what with our mutual adoration of words, Jane Austen and literature, in general, as well as a love of independent book stores, Joni Mitchell, and butterflies… I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about Kathleen Kelly. Right?

And finally, here is our big announcement!

10422137_10206897228168698_1118198273108542633_n

Today, on May 15th, we are celebrating the birthday of our Chief Woodworker and creative mastermind. In honour of Pawel’s birthday, we would like to offer you a 30% discount on all items in our online store. In addition, every order of over $100 will be shipped to you anywhere in the world for FREE. That’s right, a sale and free shipping! We are also introducing loyalty points, which you will receive with every purchase, to be applied toward any future purchases.

11217549_840909622658069_7909924638325951241_n

To take advantage of this offer, head to our online store and use the coupon code ‘HappyBDAY’ at checkout. We will extend the celebration for a few days, but the offer is only available for a limited time.

Thank you for your support! Please continue to share our blog with your friends and feel free to subscribe to all our updates by entering your email address in the box to the right.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

photo-1421986527537-888d998adb74

https://unsplash.com

“You’ve been rearranging furniture again.”

My parents simply stated this fact while allowing their eyes to quickly drift from one piece of furniture to the other, acknowledging the changes. They considered the spot where our living room sofa was newly positioned, to the right of the piano, and I waited with bated breath. At nine years of age, I never felt the need to explain my motives to them, though I hungered for my parents’ approval of my designs.

“I myself used to rearrange furniture in my room as a boy. I would get bored and wanted to try something new, so I would work on making my surroundings look better,” Papa said calmly with just a mere hint of a smile. I sighed in silent relief.

Since my childhood years, I have been preoccupied with bettering my surroundings, trying to make my home a little cozier, more comfortable. The inspiration arises within me suddenly, and not only when I sit quietly at home. There are always meals to be prepared, laundry to be folded, tears or noses to be wiped. I feel the need to make an effort to sit quietly at home more often.

Yesterday, while out for a walk at lunchtime, I saw somewhere in my periphery that familiar spark of inspiration.

As soon as Pawel and I walked through the front door of our home upon returning from work, we kissed and hugged our children, asked them about their day. Then, without changing out of the dressier clothes we wore at work, we began to move sofas, to the delight of the boys who, it turned out, are just as thrilled as I am about the idea of something new taking place in our home. Pawel, it appeared, did not share my enthusiasm, but he chose to trust my idea.

Two hours later, after the boys were tucked quietly into their beds, I sat in our newly arranged living room, sipping herbal tea, gazing at the flicker of the lavender-scented candle on the coffee table in front of me, listening to a podcast and cross stitching. The rearrangement of furniture in my home awakened within me a renewed appreciation for my comfortable place of retreat. It also allowed me to carve out some time at the end of the day to relax with an activity I enjoy.

We didn’t feel the need to spend money on new furniture or home décor items, but the new design and placement of the living room sofa, a blooming Peace Lily plant to its left by the wide window, bring a sense of novelty to the space. The hearth has been tended once again. We feel a little happier in our home.

Do you enjoy re-decorating your home? Do you tend to purchase new items, or try to use what you already have?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_Typewriter

I reach for my journal, find the end of the satin bookmark wedged between the pages, patiently waiting for me to pick up from where I last left off, ready to receive my lazy drone of ramblings or precarious staccato outpours. The mood will reflect that of my day and the state of my mind. Do I feel calm and contented, full of gratitude and wishing to share it here, on this page? I write in order to help myself make sense of the stories that twirl in my head. Theirs is a wild dance, at times fluid and graceful, and at other times intense, turning from a moderately paced waltz into a passionate tango that morphs into an expressive modern-style outburst, culminating in a supine crescendo on the floor with pieces of the current version scattered around.

With fluid black ink at the tip of my pen, I pick up the loose pieces and watch as the words take shape on the page, creating a story that is more cohesive, more disciplined, now resembling a classical ballet. The emotions are expressive. The style is elegant, but like a skilled dancer, it leaves an impression on me as I feel everything the character feels. As I sit back and watch my pen move across the page, from left to right, again and again, it all slowly starts to connect. There is magic in catharsis. My mind is clear now, ready to experience anew, to absorb, to contemplate before once again, working to make sense of the stories that will start to weave themselves.

Writer Dani Shapiro, in a video she shared on Facebook on Sunday, introduces us to ‘commonplace books’: small books that she carries with her and in which she records poems, quotations from books, etc. She allows herself time to contemplate those pieces, letting them take their own shape and forming a type of memoir. She refers to the commonplace book as the antidote to social media. It’s a resource that allows her to mindfully absorb its content, moving through it at her own pace. In addition to my dancing stories, my journal also contains quotes and poems that move me and help to propel my own life story forward, influencing its present and future chapters.

The practise of writing for ourselves is slow and mindful. As I move away from a habit of frequent sharing on social media and toward personal contemplation, I make room for silence. I create new experiences and keep them to myself or share them with my friends and loved ones who are there in person, or to whom I will tell my story later. They are my secret vignettes of curious exploration, allowing me the freedom of choice and – yes – at times indulgence, and reminding me of the importance of mindful connection.

Last week, I wrote about my journey with this year’s spring cleanse. It has been my experience that when I mention the word ‘detox’ to some people, they ask whether I am juicing, how strict the cleanse is, and for how long I have to be on the program. My answers are no, I do not juice; my cleanse is not strict (however, as with all other programs, it requires commitment to the action plan); and I set my own time frame for the cleanse.

I can’t blame the people who ask these questions with a look on their faces that lets me know how sorry they are for me. I used to respond in that same manner before I gained the understanding that it’s possible to cleanse in a gentle way. To me, a cleanse is not a punishing process that we undergo for three days and then abandon altogether when we return to a lifestyle of relying on coffee consumption to stay awake, eating greasy foods in a hurry, and drinking alcohol several times per week.

For me, an elimination cleanse is an opportunity to remove certain substances from my diet that have a tendency to make me feel unwell and/or zap my energy. It’s an opportunity for me to tune in and notice how I feel when I eat cleaner, healthier foods. Leading up to the detox, I was already eating plant-based food 90 per cent of the time. I did not consume alcoholic drinks and did not smoke, so I was starting with a relatively clean slate. However, I wanted to eliminate a habitual craving for chocolate, caffeine, cheese, and foods containing refined sugar.

Meal1 (1)

My typical breakfast (complete with oily fingerprints on the table that accidentally got into the shot): Steel-cut oats with coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, walnuts and desiccated coconut; herbal tea.

Throughout this year’s 10-day cleanse, I was able to successfully eliminate those pesky cravings. I have been enjoying my clean plant-based (mostly) nutrition plan and chose to continue with it past the completion of the cleanse. I love the feeling of clarity and the natural boost of energy I get when I eat steel-cut oats in the morning, beautiful soup with lentils for lunch, and various salads with chickpeas, hearty greens and plenty of garlic for dinner. I have also been avoiding snacking in-between meals. Since I don’t miss the taste of cake or cookies, I don’t want to venture back down that artificial sweet path unnecessarily and then feel the need to eliminate sugar from my diet once again.

Meal1 (2)

My typical lunch: Chickpea salad with purple cabbage, red bell peppers. carrots, pickled cucumbers, and avocado, drizzled with a dressing of lemon juice, EVOO, garlic, apple cider vinegar and sea salt.

I am not strict, but I try to stay disciplined. I have started to re-introduce dark raw chocolate and caffeinated tea into my diet, because I am not entirely against those. I have made a pact with myself to set certain boundaries around tea and chocolate and respect them. Instead of drinking caffeinated tea on a daily basis, I now choose to have a cup twice a week. Instead of eating four squares of dark chocolate every day after dinner, as I used to do, I allow myself a single square of chocolate every few days. Right now, this is the right lifestyle for me.

Meal1 (3)

My typical dinner: Stirfry with carrots, broccoli, bok choy, bell peppers, cashews, tofu, and garlic. Served on a bed of brown rice and sprinkled generously with sesame seeds.

I’m truly starting to understand the importance of continuing to experiment with nutrition and learning on an ongoing basis. It really is a lifelong journey. The way I ate five years ago no longer serves me. The way I eat now might not be right for me several months from today. Nothing is static. We continue to change. Our bodies continue to change. We have to honour ourselves and meet ourselves where we are today. There is no golden rule that everyone must follow when it comes to healthy nutrition. The only guideline I would recommend is to be kind to ourselves and to trust the intuitive feeling to guide us along the right path for us at this time. Focus on what is working today, stay present, continue to pay close attention to the fluctuations as they happen, and make the necessary adjustments.

How do you make decisions about healthy nutrition? Do you tend to read books or magazine articles on nutrition? Has your nutrition plan remained the same throughout your life, or has it changed? What were the catalysts for those changes?

If you are enjoying this blog on mindful nutrition and lifestyle, please share it with a friend.

We have a BIG announcement from our store coming up within the next two weeks. To be the first to find out about it, please feel free to subscribe to this blog.