Thursday, July 30, 2015

Minimalist Adventures: Why We De-clutter In A Materialist Culture


   Yep, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I've got too much stuff. Does anyone remember the article I wrote on this exact topic last year? Here I am, still on the journey of purging and de-cluttering. Since setting my noble goal to get rid of 75% of my possessions, I've done quite a bit of chucking things into the Goodwill pile. However, I also did a fair bit of acquiring new things, which slowed the process down a bit. Thankfully, with the institution of the shopping ban, the steady flow of stuff has slowed to a dull trickle. 
   While my consumption is so limited, I'm taking this excellent opportunity to evaluate the things I do have and toss out more of what I don't need. I've already made considerable headway this month. I've gotten rid of about one garbage bag full of stuff! 
      But you may be wondering why I am choosing an existence which might seem austere to some. I'll give you three good reasons why I'm de-cluttering when everyone else seems to be - well - cluttering:

Stuff Takes Time and Space and Money
    This might seem confusing at first, but once examined, this concept is simple. Let's say you have 76 articles of clothing. Each of these items takes time to care for - washing, folding, putting away, repairing (if you're thrifty like me!). Each one takes up space in your closet. And each one took money to purchase and takes money to wash and care for. The less stuff you have, the more time, space, and money are freed up for you! 

Stuff Makes You Unhappy
     Not kidding, this has literally been proven. Possessions stress you out! And with all that time, space, and money you spend on them, it makes sense that they would. What really gets to me is clutter. It's an eyesore, it makes any room feel smaller, and it's just not fun. What if you could spend all the time and money you use to care for, acquire, and house stuff on something else that could really make you happy, like spending time with friends or traveling to new places? That would beat a pile of stuff, any day. 

Lots of Stuff Makes Moving Super Annoying! 
   This last one is rather specific, and it's mostly on my mind because I'm a college student, so I'm in a period of ongoing transition. Every few months I move out of one place, into another. And it sure is easier to move when you don't have as much stuff to pack up. In May, when I was preparing to move out of my dorm, I packed up a lot of my stuff a few weeks early and sent it home. It was all stuff that I did use occasionally, but I new I wouldn't NEED any of it in the last few weeks of school. What I discovered was quite liberating; all that stuff was mostly just useless crap. I had sent off most of my clothes, and suddenly it was so easy to get dressed in the morning. A lot of the things I'd kept in my desk were pretty much useless. Needless to say, moving back into my parent's house for the summer was much easier once I got rid of many of these things. 

   If you're wondering whether I did ever get rid of 75% of my stuff, the answer is: I'm not sure but I doubt it. I realized very quickly that quantifying that sort of thing was not for me. In an upcoming post, I'll give you some tips on getting rid of your crap. Until then, I hope this helped and that you may consider a lighter, less cluttered life :)
                                                                                    Love, 
                                                                                        Madeleine

Photos: 1

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Super Easy No-Knead Bread Recipe!

     Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have noticed that I triumphantly baked my own bread for the first time this weekend! It turned out great and it was super easy. I was originally going to follow this recipe, but some people in the comments were saying that certain steps weren't necessary. I ended up following the steps I've outlined below:

Ingredients:

6 cups bread flour (recommended) or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (Note: I used all-purpose and it worked fine)
1/2 tsp instant or active-dry yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 2/3 cups cool water


Directions: 
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Let the dough rest 12-24 hours on the counter at room temperature. When surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is dotted with bubbles, it is ready.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch oven, in the oven as it heats. Sprinkle flour all over the risen dough, using a spatula or your hands to tuck flour down between the dough and the side of the bowl. You can also flip the dough to make sure the whole ball is covered in flour. 
3. When the oven has fully preheated and the dough is ready, bring out the pot and dump the flour into it, placing the side with any seams or wrinkles facing down. 
4. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is a golden brown. You can check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer; it should be 200 degrees in the middle. 
5. Remove from or leave in pot and cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. 

Slicing Tips:

- This can make two loaves of bread if you cut the bread in half and then slice each half up as a loaf. The second loaf can be saved for later use (apparently it freezes well) or given to a friend, which is what I did! 
- I find it easier to slice the bread by turning the loaf upside down, so that the bottom is on top and you can cut through the bottom first. 
- I recommend using a bread knife :) 

     That's it! Pretty easy, right? This is how I plan to supply my bread for the rest of my shopping ban, so I'm glad this recipe works so well. There are also some variations available in the recipe I linked to above, including Dark Chocolate Coconut, which sounds super yummy. I can totally see making that for a party. Happy Baking! 

                                                                       Love, 
                                                                           Madeleine

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Things I Love Thursday!


      Hello friends, I hope you're all having a fabulous Thursday! Today I would really like to take my hat off to the universe and feel the energy of gratitude for all the things I love, so it's time for a Things I Love Thursday list! Read mine and try making your own, they're fun and they feel good :)

Clean, cheap drinking water + Living in a safe place + Being surrounded by nature + Music that makes me feel good + Spending quality time with myself + Surprise visiting my friends + Dogs of every shape and size! + All of my wonderful and inspiring friends + Art + Making art + Having the capacity to create + Going out to delicious breakfasts + Trying new recipes + Trees + Warm breezes + My Etsy shop, and Etsy in general, it's such an inspiring place to see what other people are doing and creating + The blogs that inspired me to start blogging on my own (I've been blogging for seven years!!) + Finding inspiration + Being overwhelmed by positive feelings + Kids and their unique point of view + Smiling and laughing + Going to the beach + Riding bikes through the park + Doing things that scare me a little bit + Delicious ice cream on a hot day + Also lemonade! + Getting back in touch with people I miss + Getting lots of exercise and getting toned and more in shape + Telling and hearing scary stories + Donuts + Making my own food! I love cooking so much + Going on hiking adventures + Genuine compliments + Interesting people who do cool things + Going swimming + Composting stuff! + Maximizing creative potential + Good books + Exploring new places + Creating anything + Stickers + Wearing cute underwear + Kissing nice people + Hugging nice people! + Gay marriage is legal! + People who care about other people and the earth + Being mature + Clouds and the shapes they make + Going to the library + Learning new things + Rainbows + Markers and other art supplies + Fresh haircuts + Delicious salads + Fruit! It is the best thing ever! + Sunrises and sunsets + Sleeping a healthy amount + Field guides + Art journals + Natural history + Pink stuff + Bright colors + Being healthy and taking care of myself + Embroidery + Meeting cool new people + Loving myself :)

     Doesn't reading all that just make you feel good!? I want to hug someone! Happy Thursday, beauties. Stay grateful and rock on. 
                                                                                   Love, 
                                                                                        Madeleine 

Photos: 1

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Take Care of Your Whole Self

     
    Do you take care of and tend to your whole self, mind, body, and spirit? Do you check in with yourself regularly and evaluate how each of these areas is doing? If you don't, that is a-ok! Fitting in self-care can be tough, especially in busy daily lives and in a culture that neither teaches nor emphasizes the importance of this practice. While time-management is a discussion for another day (as well as one of the many forms self-care can take!), let's discuss the three areas to focus on when working with self-care. 

Spirit and Emotions
    This arena is probably the most easily noticed when it's feeling off. If you're emotions are sitting right, nothing in your life is. I think your spiritual or psychological wellbeing is deeply tied to your emotions, so you must tend to your feelings in order to care for yourself on this level. 
     Suggestions for caring for your emotions include regularly checking in with yourself and acknowledging your emotions (a process I wrote about here) and asking them what they want you to know or why they are occurring. I also suggest creating a daily practice that can include relaxing your mind and checking in with yourself spiritually and lifting yourself up. This can include stretching, gratitude, journalling, meditation, visualization, you name it! In addition to these things, it can be good to evaluate different areas in your life and assess how these are affecting you emotionally and spiritually. If your work, friends, or some other aspect is bringing you negative spiritual and emotional energy, try making some changes and tinkering until you find a balance that satisfies your emotional well-being. 
    Just do things that make you happy and make sure your feels are well-resolved, instead of bottled up, and your emotions and spirit will be well cared-for!

Mind
    Tending to your mind can involve practices that also tend the spirit and emotions, like visualization or focusing on positive thoughts. However, another aspect of caring for the mind is to ensure you are keeping your brain intellectually stimulated, rather than allowing it to get bored and unhappy. Some methods of keeping your brain busy and happy include learning new skills or subjects, trying out/having new experiences, or engaging in problem solving or creating new projects. Two things I love to do to keep my brain happy are reading non-fiction books from the library and keeping an ideas journal. An ideas journal is a great way to get your mind active every day and come up with solutions to problems and new projects. You can read more about it here
   In addition to stimulating your mind, tending to it may also involve finding ways to relax your mind and turn it "off". Good ways to do this include organizing your schedule and tasks so that you have time to relax and still get everything done, and you can do things besides work without stressing out. Things you can do when your brain is "off" include doing things with your hands, like a craft or art project, cooking meals, or going for hikes or walks, or hey, just watching a little Netflix (DO NOT BINGE, however. That is NOT what self-care is about. Unless that will have good outcomes for your body, mind, and spirit, that is). 

Body
    Tending to the body can be challenging for some folks, but it is definitely a vital part of the equation of self-care. Caring for the body is a multi-layered process that includes eating well, exercising and moving your body, keeping up with your healthcare and allowing time for recovery when the body is sick, sleeping enough, relieving stress, taking care of your skin, hair, and any other exterior concerns, and generally ensuring that your body is healthy and happy. 
    Exercise and observation are excellent ways to check-in with your body and get a sense of its "mood", or state of health. Is it easy to move your body? How do you feel before and after eating? When you wake up in the morning, do you feel rested? These and other questions will help you get a good reading on your body's health. 
   Taking care of your body and tending to all these aspects of doing so requires time management and tinkering. Although there may be a certain diet or exercise plan that works well in theory, you must find what foods, workouts, routines, etc.. work for you and makes you feel best. Make sure you enjoy the exercise you do, and savor the food you eat. A healthy lifestyle has to be fun, otherwise it's not sustainable. 
   What's great about caring for your body is that the actions involved sometimes overlap with other areas, a phenomenon that permaculture babes will recognize as stacking functions. For example, exercising is not only great for your body, but also for your spirit and emotions, as it floods your systems with endorphins. Likewise, cooking healthy meals is a great hands-on opportunity to turn your mind off. Coming up with a workout plan and schedule is also a great way to engage your brain in problem-solving. 
    To read a little more of what I have to say about exercise, look here

   One more important thing to mention is that self-care is not the same thing as self-pleasure. Yes, self-care and self-pleasure both fall under the umbrella of self-love, and yes laying in bed watching Netflix and eating donuts is a very fun, treat-yo-self act, but it will not have a positive effect on your overall wellbeing as a whole. I'm not saying that it's not ok to do these things - it totally is! However, it's all about balance. Take care of your mind body and spirit, and you will be one well cared-for being! Not to mention, probably healthy and happy too :)
                                                                                  Love,
                                                                                      Madeleine

Photos: 1, 2

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Get To Know Your Bioregion!


    No matter where you live, whether it be a city, a suburb, or the boondocks, you live in a bioregion! The place you call home is alive with plants and other animals. Ecosystems are thrumming with life all around you, which is why it is both exciting and important to get to know them better! 
    How you go about doing that is up to you. Your strategy will probably vary depending on what kind of environment you live in, but the overall process is pretty much the same everywhere you go:

1. Observe
    Get out into your environment and look at what is growing and living around you. Even if you live in a city, these places abound with native plants and animals, as well as invasive and/or highly adaptive species (ahem, rats and raccoons). Notice where these organisms make their homes and observe their habits, if you can. Take note of the weather patterns and seasonal changes in your area. Try identifying what wild native edible plants that grow in your area, or try gardening yourself to discover what grows best!           

     Additionally, if you live in a city, you can also try to venture outside of it to a natural area to experience something else. If you do this, note any similarities and common inhabitants between this place and the city. Also, if you live in a populated area, get to know the human inhabitants as well! Humans are animals, after all, and observing their habits (aka people-watching) can be quite entertaining and interesting. So look around your neighborhood, introduce yourself if you feel able, or just observe from afar, and see how each person contributes to the social and biological ecosystems of your bioregion. 

2. Research
    Even when you're trying to get more into nature, the internet can be your best friend. Look up all kinds of stuff, like what plants and animals are common in your area, or what the population of your town is, or what the average yearly precipitation is, etc… If you see something out in the environment that you don't recognize, try identifying it either through the internet or through a field guide (they're quite handy!). 
     While researching, it can be good to write down some findings in a notebook, which you can also use to write observations in when you are in the field, and even draw pictures if you're fancy! 


3. Ask and Answer Questions
    What do you want to know about your bioregion? About the patterns of nature happening around you every day? Try to draft a list of questions and then go crazy answering them. If you need inspiration, I love this Bioregional Quiz. Try taking it before doing any research and then taking it again later to compare your scores! Ask yourself about your neighbors, about whether the stars were out last night and what planets you can see in the sky, what threatens the ecosystem of your bioregion, what some of the defining geographic and biotic features of your bioregion are, and what the history of the land is. Ask, answer, and become aware of the natural world that surrounds you. 

4. Reap the Benefits 
     You might wonder what you have to gain from learning so many things about your bioregion. Besides wonderfully useful knowledge about growing seasons, edible plants, and ecosystem threats, you will also reap the psychological rewards of increased nature connection. I literally wrote an entire ten page research essay about this phenomenon, but long story short - the closer you are with the nature around you, the greater your feelings of vitality, mental and physical health, and creativity will be, just to name a few things. So learning about nature is good for you! You will also probably increase your enjoyment of and appreciation for the place you live, and be able to impress your friends with all your knowledge. You are also more likely to be more invested in your environment if you know more about it, making you a great conservationist and environmentally conscious person! And you know who benefits from a cleaner, healthier, more diverse environment? Every single member of the human race, including you, that's who! 

    In case you were wondering, both of these photos hail from my own bioregion, the Santa Cruz Mountains! I'm working on preparing a bioregional lowdown on the area in an upcoming post for all my Santa Cruz readers, and even if you're not from around here, you might want to read it just for some inspiration! 

    Alright, that's all for now.  If you really liked this topic and want to read more about it, I recommend reading this essay about natural history, which has a lot to do with what I've discussed here today! Now get out there and learn some stuff about nature!! Have fun!
                                                                                              Love, 
                                                                                                 Madeleine
Photos: 1, 2

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living



     Today I made a video telling you how to improve your life by questioning everything. I talk about examining your choices and lifestyle and discovering your beliefs and desires, which you can use to more closely govern your life. Is this the first you've heard of this, or do you regularly examine your life too? Does it help? What are the effects? Let me know down in the comments! And also remember that you can subscribe to my YouTube channel to get some good vibes there too. Enjoy! 
                                                                                Love, 
                                                                                     Madeleine

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Butter Cake


     Yes, this is as delicious as it sounds. I made this quite a while ago for Mother's Day, and I wanted to share it with you all because it is so. Good. I adapted the recipe from Recipes Food and Cooking (which is also where the photo is from) to make it more shopping-ban friendly :) Here you go: 

INGREDIENTS
Cake
  • 1 German Chocolate Cake Mix (or follow the "Cake" portion of this recipe, but using the amount of butter and egg indicated here)
  • ½ cup butter - melted
  • 1 egg

  • Cream Cheese Layer
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 4 cups confectionery sugar

  • Chocolate topping
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, 325 degrees if using a glass pan.
  2. Combine the cake mix, egg and butter together. Beat until it is combined. Spray a 9 x 12 pan with cooking spray and then put the cake mix layer over the bottom. Pat it down.
  3. Combine the cream cheese, vanilla and peanut butter together until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and mix them in. Add the butter. When this is all combined together add the confectionery sugar. Spread evenly over the cake layer.
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes. I used a glass pan and it took just over an hour. The mixture will be puffed up in the center when done. It will jiggly just slightly. Remove from oven and let cool.
  5. Melt the chocolate for 1 minute in the microwave. Add the oil. Stir until combined. Spread over the top of the cream cheese layer.