Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Bullet Journal Project

I can't remember how I came across the concept of the Bullet Journal - it was recent, and it was random, I know that. It may have been a Pinterest pin or a post on Facebook, I don't know, but I immediately Googled it to find out more. Once I did, I knew that I had to go buy myself a new notebook and get started, because a)I love buying new notebooks and I always carry a notebook, and b)I need a new and better system for keeping myself organized.

From bulletjournal.com (yes, the bullet journal has its own website): "The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less."

You probably haven't seen my most recent notebook. Until just now.

Look at that mess. The state of those pages. Victims of a leaky water bottle that went rogue in my bag. A random book title on one page. A weird to-do list. A vocal warmup. No order.

I like working off of lists. I like to have a list of things to do, and checking them off as I go. Makes me feel like I am accomplishing things. And this notebook was just that - notes and lists. But if I want to get more productive, and more organized, there has to be a system in place, and it seems that the bullet journal might be that system.

If you look up bullet journals on Pinterest (I don't recommend it), you'll see that there is a whole culture surrounding bullet journals. People treat them like a damn craft project. I decided that if I want this to actually work and be something I could stick with, I need to keep it very simple. No decorations, no washi tape (seriously, look up washi tape. Google "bullet journal washi tape", and get sucked into a wormhole of Arts and Crafts).

What fresh hell is this?

I just need to get organized. I need a tidy place for my to-do lists, a system for categorizing the things I need to get done, and a way to cross things off as I complete them.

You can buy notebooks that are specifically designed to be bullet journals. I looked, but none of them are spiral notepads and that is an important feature, in my opinion. You can get whatever notebook you want. I got a 3 dollar one at Walmart, with a cute fox on it.

Things don't need to enter your bullet journal in chronological order, but whatever goes in it, you create yourself (unless you buy one of the premade ones). You start by making an index page, so you can find everything once your book starts to fill up.

You make a "future log", where you just write down future things and events as you find out about them. You make a page for the next month and write down the things that are happening that month and the things you need to get to complete or accomplish.

You then make your own calendar, where every day of the month has its own portion of a page, and that's where you put your to-do lists, etc, with a little square next to them to fill in when you have done it. You can also write down things that happened that day that were not part of your to-do list (don't stress about this, fellow anxiety bunnies, unexpected things occur, and you will deal).

You can make any kind of list in your bullet journal - books to read, crime documentaries to watch, songs to learn, etc - just add any new list or post to your index page so you know where they are.

It's been about a week, and I am, officially, a fan of the bullet journal. I might get some different colour pens to brighten things a little, but I do not have a need to make it it into a an art project. I think it would really defeat the purpose for me if I tried too hard to make it look pretty - it just needs to do its job, and so far, it really has been. And so have I. I have been quite productive this week and gotten pretty much everything done that I was supposed to. Save a thing or two, but it's only Thursday night, and you can still procrastinate with a bullet journal, but eventually, you're going to want to fill in that square.

Look at the cute fox.
Look at it.
And the neatness of my to-do's.

I found a great blog called The Lazy Genius Collective, that had a post about how to set up your bullet journal while keeping it as simple as possible - it was a great help to me, and if you are interested in starting your own bullet journal project, you oughta check it out.

Peace.

-M.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Recipe Post - Cheezy Quinoa Burritos and Warm Nacho Dip (Vegan).

For quite some time now, I have been leaning more and more toward a vegan diet - long story short, I notice a HUGE difference in how I feel when I avoid animal products. Not just physically, although there are definitely physical health benefits, but it seems my mental clarity is affected by eating meat and dairy. Perhaps it's just in my mind, but I don't care - I feel better, I am enjoying feeling better, therefore, I will continue down this path.

No doctor told me to do this to help with aching joints, swollen hands, and brain fog - I decided to try it, and had I never tried it, I would never have known. We all make choices.

I enjoy knowing that my meal did not cause any suffering to an animal. I have not always been someone who cared about compassion for animals, but now I am. Deal with it.

My husband is not a vegan or even vegetarian, but as we live in the same house and eat our meals together, we eat the same things. And if I'm cooking, chances are that the meal will be plant-based.

I really liked what we ate last night, and so did he. It's one of those dishes that I have been asked to make again - the nacho dip, we have had before on numerous occasions, it's a fan favourite in our household. The burritos were evolved from another recipe that we tried last week and liked, but agreed that it needed...more stuff.

Both these recipes originated from a fantastic vegan cookbook by Angela Liddon called Oh She Glows. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are new to vegan cooking, but ESPECIALLY if you live with a non-vegan. Everything I have made from this book, my omnivore husband has liked, and that is saying a lot!

Both recipes have been adapted and added on-to by myself.

Recipe 1: The Warm Nacho Dip

For the cheeze sauce:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic (or 1/2 tsp pureed garlic from a jar)
1 1/4 tsp fine-grain salt
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2/3 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

For the dip:
1 cup chunky salsa
1/2 to 1 cup chopped yellow or sweet onion
2 to 3 handfuls of baby spinach, roughly chopped

Making it: First, preheat the oven to 425F and lightly grease an oven-safe baking dish.
Boil the chopped carrots until fork-tender, drain, let cool for a few minutes, then place in a blender. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews and add them to the blender. Add all the other cheeze sauce ingredients and blend until it's a smooth sauce. You may have to add a little more water, but the sauce should be quite thick.
In a large bowl, mix together the salsa, onion and spinach, then add the sauce and mix it all together. Put it in the baking dish, and sprinkle some crushed tortilla chips or panko on top, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top. Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread.

Recipe 2: The Cheezy Quinoa Burrito

Another version of Cheeze sauce:
3/4 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least two hours (the longer you soak them, the smoother the sauce will be)
1 clove garlic or 1/2 tsp pureed garlic
1/2 cup unsweetened, un-flavoured almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp mustard (yellow or Dijon)
1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1/2 fine-grain salt

For the burrito filling:
3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
Handful of cocktail or marzano tomatoes, quartered
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Make the cheeze sauce - the process is about the same as for the dip - place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This sauce will be a bit thicker than the sauce for the dip.

Make the burritos: First, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the package, and set aside.
Heat up a large pan and add some olive oil and cook the onions and garlic together until the onion is soft and slightly translucent (about 5 minutes, usually, over medium heat). Add the pepper and cook for another few minutes, until it begins to soften. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the beans and corn, mix it all up. If using frozen corn, cook until it is thawed before adding anything else. Add the tomatoes, let them cook down for a couple of minutes, then add the spices. Optional: add in a handful or two of baby spinach at the end and cook until the spinach is wilted down.

In a large bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa and the cheeze sauce. Then add the veggies you just cooked, and mix it all together. Stuff into tortillas (we used the half corn, half wheat kind), roll them up and bake at 425F for 8-10 minutes. I also put guacamole and some hot sauce in the burritos, but that's entirely optional.

I am not great at food photography, but here it is.

This is a very filling dish - One burrito kept me comfortably stuffed all night. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but both dishes are actually quite easy to make (or I would not be making them). Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you made either of these :)

-M.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Digital Detox/ Meditation update

I have to say, this was a good call on my part.

I haven't meditated every day, because some days I just haven't been able to make the time for it - I have been called in to work on short notice and it's been hard to plan my day. BUT, on the days I do make it a point to sit in silence for 15-20 minutes, I notice a significant difference in how the rest of my day goes. I find myself a lot more focused and productive, and also more creative in general. I get stuff done and don't procrastinate as much.

I also haven't been able to get off the phone as much - my own fault entirely. It's hard not to check it all the time! I have been pretty good at leaving it charging during dinner, movies etc., but I still tend to stay on it for too long in the evening and pick it up too soon after I wake up. Progress, though! On the days where I do stay off it more, I do notice a difference - I am more present and more positive, I see more, do more and move more.

The project continues.

-M.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Digital Detox

I always thought it was a sign on being old and stuffy when you started to complain about too many smartphones and computers and how nobody does anything IRL anymore.

Well, I guess I am officially old, and stuffy too. Call it what you will, I need this. I think too much time on various devices has, like I said before, disconnected me (Ironic? Perhaps.), and I also believe it has exacerbated my anxiety and made it even harder for me to be social. In the beginning, it was a tool to communicate when I wasn't very good at it in person, but it has become a handicap instead. So, it's time to detox.

Plan:

- Leave phone alone for the first 30 minutes of waking up.
- No phone while doing other things, i.e. don't scroll through Instagram while watching a movie.
- Turn phone off in the evening and spend the last 30-45 minutes before bed just winding down.
- Write to-do list on paper and check things off.

I am not very far into this project but I am already noticing a difference in my level of productivity, which really is the main goal here. I am looking forward to Getting Shit Done this week.

-M.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Meditation, part II - better.

I started this project because I felt that I had become somewhat disconnected. I can't explain it in a good way, maybe I will be able to later, but basically, I realized a few days ago that I spend too much time on my phone and not enough time in reality.

I have decided to somewhat limit my smartphone use. I am trying (it's harder than I thought) to not turn it on to check my messages the second I get out of bed. I am not one of those people who has my phone next to the bed at night, it charges in the kitchen while I sleep, but I usually check it first thing in the morning, before breakfast, before everything.
While I may be receiving emails and messages overnight, I am pretty sure they can wait.

I am also notorious for using my phone WHILE doing other things. Often, while watching a movie or TV show, I am scrolling on my phone at the same time. I am on the phone while I eat, and sometimes, I am on the phone while I am on the computer. It's like I never look up anymore.
I am also going to try to put the phone away in the evening and spend the last little while before going to bed without a screen in my face.
I don't plan on quitting it all, I just want to prioritize better and make some changes, so I can be more aware (in general) and more productive.

The medidation project is about just sitting in silence for a while and learn to focus. I used to be able to - I didn't use to be a person who constantly needed a distraction, that is a habit I have formed in the past few years without even realizing it.
It's harder than I thought. This morning, after having breakfast and watching the news and catching myself glancing a Facebook, I decided it was time to give it another try, so I turned off the TV, set the phone to airplane mode and set a timer for 11 minutes. For some reason, I felt that 20 would be too long but in hindsight, I realize that longer is probably more realistic, as quieting the mind takes time.
I thought about writing this.
I thought about my to-do list.
I had a song stuck in my head on repeat.
I heard birds outside. Birds and cars.
But for a few fleeting seconds here and there, I was able to just focus on my breathing and think of nothing else. I guess meditation is like a muscle that you have to train.

-M.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Part I - Meditation Failure

Last night, I watched Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday" and the guest was Russell Simmons. He talked a lot about how he does yoga and meditates and how it's the reason for his continued success.

I don't think that if I started meditating, I'm going to become a millionaire, but some of the things he said made me realize that I am really bad at just being in the moment. I am always thinking about stuff that happened in the past, or thinking about things that are going to happen,  things I hope will happen or hope won't happen. I have a hard time just being present (what a cheesy thing to say). Anyway. I have decided to give meditation a try and today was the first time.

It didn't go well.

I thought 20 minutes would be a bit much for the first go, so I decided to try for 10. I also decided - because it was hot inside - to go outside. The dogs came with me.

I sat down. No, I brushed off the yet unused this year patio sofa, and then I sat down. I set my cell phone to airplane mode and set a time for 10 minutes.

I closed my eyes. I focused on my butt on the cushion (THE PRESENT) and took a deep breath.

About 30 seconds in, the dog on the other  side of the fence started barking and my dogs went nuts.

They were not going to calm down.

The moment was lost.

I'll try again tomorrow.

-M.

https://youtu.be/R2RGDRRCjQ0

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 30th, 2016

It's been almost a year since my last post. The only reason I am posting now is because I am going to learn to meditate. Not tonight, but tomorrow. July 1st. -M.