Cold Minnesota musings

It is winter and it’s cold, making my usual outdoor lunch excursions a thing of the past (at least for now – once temps hit 30 degrees I might venture back out there). As a full time editor it’s been difficult for me to schedule free time for personal writing and editing but I feel this quiet desk time might be a good place to start. And The Black Keys are playing in the background, so there’s that.

As usual, big life events have pushed me back to writing. In less than two months I’m moving and in four months I’m getting married. My near future is full of planning, packing and plotting – mostly concerning DIY projects I’d like to tackle with my fiancé (kitchen table, cushioned bench, container garden).

What I find remarkable is how much all of the lives around me are moving. I have an amazing core group of friends that are approximately my age and from similar backgrounds. My ladies have made big physical moves – one to Colorado, another to Hawaii. They have also made big life-moves – one recently got married. Yet another is applying for Doctorate programs. Several have started new jobs or begun to follow personal passions with full force. All are in a different place – physically and emotionally – from where I first met them.

When I take the time to reflect on how far we’ve come since graduating from college I’m floored by how much a person can change. Today I have a stronger, more vivid idea of what I want my future to look like. At the same time, I am also reaching a point where I am content with the fact that I will never know exactly where I will be tomorrow. And I have to be honest, my confidence in my own abilities is strengthened by my friends’ ability to fearlessly move forward – as well as send out nervous, late-night texts – when taking on completely new paths.

We are all of a generation and a social class that has been told that we can do anything and be anything that we want, that we can change the world. And sometimes that is incredibly daunting. And depressing. If we can truly do anything, our dissatisfaction with our current state of being is no one’s fault but our own. Our inability to be 25 year old geniuses is the result of our own hesitations. We are naturally hard on ourselves and forgiving of those we love most. I think that is why I am so empowered by my friends’ accomplishments. I see the professor in the nervous student applying to PhD programs. I see the nurturing mother in the worried woman figuring out when to start her family. I see the human rights activist, the powerful leader, the compassionate teacher, the beautiful artist. But often I also see myself – a young woman trying to fit everything in and figure everything out – a young woman who will define her own success. I owe much to these young women who remind me that taking on the world can be done with a small step as well as a giant leap, and who stick by my side when I am afraid and standing still.

No-sugar added: Banana Blueberry Bread

I’m currently on day 23 of a no sugar added diet. So if the food contains sugar that you wouldn’t find in it naturally, I don’t eat it. No stevia, no high fructose corn syrup, no dextrose (I could keep going, but I’ll stop). While not an easy journey, I’m honestly enjoying it.

One great benefit is my new-found desire to cook and bake! More food options that way🙂. So I decided to look around and make no sugar added muffins!

I looked around for a recipe, didn’t find one I really liked and combined a few. Total time is about 45-55 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup walnuts

 

I’m not really a baker, but here are my instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients, set aside. Mix the wet ingredients, leaving out the bananas and blueberries. Beat bananas into the wet ingredient bowl and once well mixed, slowly fold in the blueberries.

I decided to make 6 muffins and two mini loaves (coat the pans with nonstick spray).  The muffins took about 20 minutes, loaves about 30 minutes.

photo 1

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

I didn’t add the walnuts this time around, but it adds a nice texture. This bread is a little more “banana-y” than the usual bread, but I really love the taste.

photo 4

Discussing April’s Challenge

Acting with “great love” has proven to be quite a challenge. As today is the first of May, I wanted to give you all a brief update on three things I discovered about myself during my month of following Mother Teresa’s advice and acting with great love:

1. I hold others to (impossibly?) high standards. When focusing on acting with love, I realized how often I get upset with others for not living up to my expectations, my high standards. And is that really their fault? Sometimes they have no idea what was even expected of them! So in the last few weeks I’ve begun to learn that forgiving others for small shortcomings is a great way to make your everyday life happier. I’m less upset with the random driver who forgot to use his signal, or a friend who shows up 20 minutes late.

2. Being mad at yourself is not a great way to start the day. Here’s an example: I have a terrible time waking up in the morning, and I press the snooze often. While this is something I’ve been working on, I really nag at myself and feel bad when I realize I’m up late and will have to skip straightening my hair or making eggs for breakfast. The easiest way to wake up in the morning is with self-love. You forgive and move on with your morning – it’s that simple.

3. Genuine gratitude is the best. Saying thank you to the person bagging your groceries? Tipping your waiter? It’s easier to say “thank you” when you really mean it. In the last few weeks I’ve had more conversations with those providing a service to me than ever before – and I leave the store/restaurant/coffee shop feeling better than when I came in. While I’ve always been good at saying “Please and Thank you” (Thanks, Mom!), it was focusing on acting with love that has made usually automatic interactions more real and positive.

great love

Small Things with Great Love

[Let’s just say March was busy and move on from there.]

This morning I was looking for some snippet, some quote, some tea-ism to bring feel-good motion to my day. Before I even tried a Google search, this little quote came to mind:

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Mother Teresa

In this short sentence Mother Teresa shared that the greatest thing we can do in this life is to complete every task and live every moment with great love. While she’s saying a lot of things here (I’ll leave the true analysis to philosophers and theologians), this is what I got out of it: Our greatest, most powerful ability as humans is to love greatly. And, it is possible to make a difference by doing small things backed by this great love.

So I started thinking: What would driving to work “with great love” look like? How would buying our groceries “with great love” feel like? What would raising our children, talking to our parents, passing by strangers, or sending out emails “with great love” look like?

As part of living 2014 to the fullest, I’ve decided that I’m going to step away from my New Year’s Resolutions for the rest of April and focus on doing small things with great love. I’m honestly not sure what this is going to look like in my day to day. Do I think I can complete every action with great love? Probably not even half. I’m human. But I’ll report back here during the process and once May hits, to let you know how it goes.

Grandma love: “Is that a new blouse?”

My friend Claire recently c0-launched a lady-focused page called Scotch and The Fox. The endeavor is lovely one, showing that women can write (and live) in a powerful, feisty, sweet, opinionated and ambitious way (I’m doing a little guest posting there).

Claire started this week off with a post on the development of her personal style, and as I wrote a short piece on my own style journey, I couldn’t help but think about my grandma.

Même passed away a little more than two years ago.  My clothing choices were always far too wild for the woman, so I wouldn’t say I developed my style after her. The woman also hated shopping. So why do I think of her when the topic of style comes up? It isn’t because  her clothes spoke to her conservative, Catholic core. It is more so in the fact that I will always think of her when I put on a new sweater or slip into a new dress.

Let me explain.

When my uncle spoke at her funeral, he recalled Même’s tendency to lead conversations with statements like, “Is that a new blouse?” no matter how tattered your shirt was. Even on days mom went over “wearing rags” to clean my grandparent’s house, Même would ask if she had a new outfit on.

It wasn’t that my grandma was blind or so far behind the times that she couldn’t tell old from new. No, Même opened with this line the way most Minnesotans open conversations with talk of the weather. She usually didn’t follow with an outright complement of your attire, either. Just the opposite, she often gave a slight reprimand for your obvious shopping addiction (if the shirt happened to be new). But, her intentions were always good. I believe she often found it difficult to connect with people. She wasn’t a huge conversationalist. Asking about someones wardrobe was her way of showing interest in that person’s life. These openings were honest and loving in the way that her need to feed you snacks an hour after dinner was.

You can head over to Claire’s site for a look into my style journey. It’s been a long one, and I’m sure it isn’t over yet. But, no matter what I’m wearing, whenever someone asks me if it’s new, I get a little misty-eyed.