blueberry avocado muffins thriving home

Thirteen: Unlucky Number or Baker’s Dozen?

blueberry avocado muffins thriving home

Today’s post contains my thoughts about the Five Minute Friday link-up prompt, thirteen.

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The number thirteen conveys so many different things.

The first aspect of thirteen is that it is the “unlucky” number. People feel so strongly about this that it has created many superstitions, even causing many tall buildings to not even have a thirteenth floor.

Although I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, I do naturally tend to see things in a negative light.

But thirteen has a better meaning; one on which I’d much rather place my focus.

The baker’s dozen.

What can be better than going to purchase your favorite home-baked donuts or fresh bagels and being offered a thirteenth, free baked good?

Instead of focusing on something negative or bad, I’d rather focus on the good, and even special things in life.

I need to remind myself daily to choose gratitude and to see things from a larger perspective, rather than dwell on what seems negative or difficult in the moment.

Besides, even difficulties can cause us to grow if we allow them, and I believe there can be purpose even in our pain.

It’s a matter of perspective.

So next time I see the number thirteen, rather than going down the path of negativity, I choose to focus on the good; the free gifts that life has to offer me.

It may not be easy or come naturally, but we can choose gratitude and a positive perspective.

This is the life I wish to cultivate.

Won’t you join me?

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Tim Horton's iced coffee and sandals

How to Take a Vacation

Tim Horton's iced coffee and sandals

Today I’m linking up with the folks at Five Minute Friday, where we are writing on the prompt vacation.

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What is a vacation?

It’s a special break that can be taken near or far away. It can be a brand new adventure in a place we’ve never been, or coming “home” to someplace familiar, already filled with pleasant memories.

A vacation can be enjoyed with family, friends, or even by oneself.

Some folks take “staycations” at home, but I find this to be difficult for me, as it’s hard to wrestle my thoughts and hands away from the many responsibilities there. But enjoying our homes in a different way, perhaps with no work and less technology, and doing things we don’t normally do there can be refreshing. Or we can venture out for day trips and explore the world around where we live.

Some people travel to different countries; many to explore new places and different cultures, but some of us cross borders to return to the familiar; such as our first family and home or a special place we like to visit regularly.

Wherever you decide to take it; whatever you decide to do (or not to do, which is also important!), I believe that vacations are important.

We need to set aside intentional times to stop, rest, relax, explore, admire, bask, play, think, or not think. We need to allow our minds and bodies and even our emotions to rest and be rejuvenated.

There isn’t any one way to take a break; there is no magic formula or time or place.

A vacation allows us to enjoy a different type of rest and fun, and then come back home with renewed energy and motivation for our everyday lives.

I thank God for vacations!

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May sky with day moon

Choose Your What Ifs

May sky with day moon

For today’s post, I’m linking up with the gang of writers at Five Minute Friday, where our prompt of the week is if.

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It’s easy in life to think of all of the what-ifs, and come up feeling mostly regret.

What if I had made different decisions, or done things differently? What if I had performed better, or refrained from certain actions? What if life had been easier, gone more smoothly, and things had been different? What if I had a better job, made more money, or had my dream home?

What if my life had gone according to my plan?

The fact is, we all have some regrets. A few are perhaps legitimate, in which case we need to seek and receive forgiveness and do something to make things right, or extend forgiveness to someone who has truly wronged us. In the end, we must let them go.

But our what-ifs are a choice.

What if I began each day with quiet and focus, giving it to God and waiting to hear and receive the direction, strength and wisdom I need.

What if I looked for the good in each person and situation, and trusted that good can come even out of the bad or difficult?

What if I allowed myself and others grace and used my gifts and resources for positive changes in my life and the lives of those around me?

What if I accepted each moment as a gift, rather than dwell on the past or reach too hard for the future?

What if I slowed down to enjoy my precious life and actually stopped to smell the flowers?

purple creeping phlox in my garden

What if I practiced choosing gratitude and learned to let more things go?

I believe we do have choices.

And I pray that I can live my life with my eyes looking up and my heart open to give and receive the good gifts all around me.

What if

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Bougainvillea flowers and hummingbird feeder

What I Learned this Spring

I’m always thankful for the opportunity to join in Emily P. Freeman’s What We Learned link-up each quarter. It’s a good way to stop and reflect on some of the useful or just plain interesting things that I’ve been learning.

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Bougainvillea flowers and hummingbird feeder

 

Here are 8 different things I’ve learned this spring:

 

1. I guess carageenan is best to be avoided, after all.

After revisiting my note in preparation for this post which stated, “Carageenan may be safe after all (and perhaps even provide health benefits?)”, I cannot see any information that proves this point. Embarrassingly, I have no idea where I read this information, and in further studying it, I agree with most of the reputable sources that I can find that agree that carageenan is best to be avoided.

It’s a thickening agent made from seaweed and is used in many foods, even many that are considered healthy or organic, as well as toothpaste. It has also been used to treat some illnesses.

Both practitioner and teacher of integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, and well-known doctor of natural medicine (as well as chiropractic and clinical nutritionist), Dr. Axe conclude that carageenan is best to be avoided, as it is linked to too many negative health risks. It is said to at least possibly be responsible for health problems such as digestive issues, inflammation, diabetes and even cancer.

Even WebMd uses wording such as “likely safe” and “possibly unsafe” in their description of the side affects and safety of carageenan.

There’s been a lot of conflicting information bouncing around over the years, apparently, but for now I’m going to read more labels and attempt to avoid this questionable ingredient when possible.

Here is a nice list of food products that do and do not contain carageenan to guide us in our grocery shopping.

 

2. Love really does make the world go round.

It may have been a phrase in a popular old song, but relationships really do seem to be the key to true happiness in life.

In a comprehensive, 75-year Harvard study, tracking factors such as intelligence levels, alcohol intake, relationships and income, one of the conclusions is that love is “the key to happiness”.

“That’s right, you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth — love is everything. A person can have all the luxuries in the world, but without love, they mean very little.”

Knowing the importance of love in relation to happiness should help us to prioritize our important relationships all the more.

 

3. SPAM turns 80 this year!

This much-loved or intensely-hated canned pork “delicacy” has been around now for an official eighty years!

Watch this video to learn everything you ever wanted (or didn’t want) to know about the history of SPAM:

 

 

 

4. I just learned about the hair highlighting process of balayage, and had it done to my hair.

Recently I asked my hairdresser if we could do something a little different for my hair (beyond the “normal” coloring to cover my many grays, along with a trim), and she suggested some highlighting. I hadn’t had highlighting since the days when I only had a few gray hairs…so quite awhile ago!

So when she mentioned doing balayage, at first I had to ask her to repeat it, and then I needed to know what it was. It is a more modern, and more importantly more natural process to highlight hair. (You can read all about it here and see more samples.)

“Balayage is a French word meaning ‘to sweep’ or ‘to paint’. It allows for a sun-kissed natural-looking hair colour, similar to what nature gives us as children.”

It is rather a work of art, I think, and one nice feature is that each person’s results will be different every time, yet an agreeable look can be achieved to compliment the person’s features, coloring and hair style.

my new hair highlights

my hair highlights

my hair highlightsmy bayalage highlights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m quite happy with the results (although it was difficult to capture the full colors on camera).

 

 

5. I can find no proof that the “pinch test” for 100% silicone is accurate.

I have some cute  and handy silicone baking cups that I use sometimes in place of paper muffin cups, and silicone bake-ware has become more popular elsewhere than in my kitchen. One of the things that is, frankly, driving me a bit crazy, is all the hoopla about doing the “silicone pinch test” to see if your silicone pieces are 100% silicone.

The idea is that if you pinch and twist your silicone and see any white, your silicone is not pure; if the item is 100% silicone it will remain fully colored.

The frustrating thing is that although I can find multitudes of statements stating that this is a true test, from personal reviewers to many of the companies that make and sell these products, I have as yet to find one shred of evidence explaining whether this is true or not. I have also found several examples from companies stating that the test is just an internet myth; I even recall one company stating that they could provide copies of their tests or certifications.

My conclusion? Although the internet is an amazing and wonderful tool, sometimes it can still leave you empty-handing or just plain confused.

I think I’ll just continue to use my little silicone baking cups at my own risk.

I need a little adventure in my life, anyway. 🙂

 

6. Negativity actually rewires your brain.

OK. I admit it.

Sometimes I complain too much.

It’s something I’ve worked at, but it tends to be my natural response too often. And although I’ve always known it can be toxic to myself and others around me, after reading an article on How complaining rewires your brain for negativityI’m more convinced (or convicted!) than ever!

 

“Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future — so easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it.”

 

That’s the bad news, and there’s more.

Complaining also damages other areas of your brain, and is bad for your health.

The good news is, we can choose to curb this destructive habit.

 

 “There are two things you can do when you feel the need to complain. One is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life. 

The second thing you can do — and only when you have something that is truly worth complaining about — is to engage in solution-oriented complaining. “

 

I, for one, am going to continue on my quest (and ask God to help me) to turn my negative thoughts and words into gratitude.

 

7. Rumor has it that we can get a discount on coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts if we bring our own cup and order a “refill”.

Here is one of the many posts I discovered that claim that this favorite coffee and donut chain will give you a cheaper price on hot or iced coffee if you purchase a refill.

I have seen different prices listed for this “refill” order, and have as yet to ask at my local coffee shop to see if they provide this service. I also need to check to see if we need to purchase one of their brand name cups to receive this discount.

I’ll be asking next time I stop in for a coffee, as it’s certainly worth a try.

 

8. Actors Daniel Lissing and Erin Krakow of my favorite When Calls the Heart Canadian television series have done some singing together, and it’s really nice.

Are there any more “Hearties” out there?

Those of us who know and love this family-friendly, inspirational television series based on Janette Oke’s popular books have also come to love and appreciate the actors who make the story come to life.

I came across some music performed by Daniel Lissing and Erin Krakow (who play Mountie Jack and his sweetheart teacher, Elizabeth Thatcher), and I especially like this song.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

 

 

 

Well, that sums up what I’ve been learning this spring. It seems that the busier I am the less I remember to stop and notice things I’m learning.

I hope you’ve enjoyed or learned something yourself from my list.

What have you been learning?

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backside of hand decorated wreath

Twisted Can be Beautiful

Welcome to my entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge, twisted.

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In our society, “twisted” seems to have gotten negative connotations. Sometimes this is obviously for good reasons.

But I believe that often we can find beauty and art in those objects or even life situations where things did not go as planned or turned out differently than we expected.

Sometimes we just have to make the best of what we’ve been given.

backside of hand decorated wreath

Hand-decorated wreath (backside).

I bought this cute, oval, grapevine wreath for a few dollars at a second-hand store. I then decorated it silk flowers and leaves I had left over from other projects. At first I thought that because I didn’t have any ribbon left from the larger wreath I had just finished at the time, I’d have to buy more for this wreath. But then I decided to use what I had and fashioned a design without the traditional use of ribbon or a bow. The twisted vines provide the perfect backdrop for my kitchen door wreath.

 

 

oval floral wreath on door

Proud of my pretty, economical decor.

 

I wrote more extensively about making something beautiful of our imperfections some time ago, and about using what you have as well.

Even twisted can be beautiful.

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my wet black mailbox with white post

Liquid Beauty

This post has been created for The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, where the prompt for the week is liquid.

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A rainy day this week provided all the opportunities I needed for my liquid photos, right in my front yard.

 

my wet black mailbox with white post

 

 

wet copper hummingbird feeder

 

 

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

 

 

raindrops on dwarf blue leaf arctic willow

 

 

magic carpet spirea in the rain

 

 

raindrops on car window and mirror

 

Beauty can be found anywhere, even in the rain.  We just need eyes to see and hearts that are open.

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shoe rack under windowsill with potted herbs

Place in the World

Today I’m trying something new. I’m participating in The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is Place in the World.

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Where do I belong? Where is my Place in the World?

My initial response is at home.

our shoes under kitchen window

…with my three tall, wonderful men,

cat and slippers

cat on chair pillow

…and my two boy kitties.

 

And although I love my home here in New England, I come from a neighbouring country.

coffee on car dash

Whenever I cross the border,

Canada US customs

…I feel a sense of relaxed belonging, even after twenty-plus years of living here in the US.

I still have family there, especially my parents, a 100-yr. old grandmother, and many close relatives and friends.

And on some vacations, if we keep driving north, we reach one of my favourite places on the earth, the Algonquin Park area. It’s a place shared by my original family and the one I’m part of now with my own husband and sons. We still meet here together with my parents and sister’s family and make new memories to add to those collected over the years.

We stay in cabins and soak in the beauty of nature for a week…

cottage dock at Oxtongue Lake

…relaxing,

Oxtongue Lake rowboat and neighbour cottage dock

…having fun together,

Oxtongue Lake evening canoe ride

…admiring the tranquility of God’s grande creation.

So if you ask me where I belong, I will tell you that these places inspire feelings of familiarity, comfort and peace.

But the greatest thing that unites them all is my family.

They are my place in the world.

Place in the World

Family plaque and photo

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bush shaped like a heart

Learning to Adapt My Dreams

bush shaped like a heart

Writing today for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where our word prompt is adapt.

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Do you have dreams?

I’m not sure I always do. In fact, a few months ago when I read or heard somewhere a question to challenge us to think about what was holding us back from our dreams, I realized with some dismay that I feel like lately I haven’t had any.

I naturally tend to get caught up in life’s busyness and “shoulds”, and often forget to dream for something bigger.

And I totally believe that there are some of us, in certain seasons, where we need to adapt our dreams to something bigger; something that only God can help us to accomplish.

But equally important, what if we were to accept the “regular” life we have right now, with all of it’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, as God’s dream for our lives?

I read two different blog posts this past week that encouraged me to think a little differently.

One reminded me that God’s dream for me may be the life I’m living right now; the other spoke about how all of life is art and that we grow closer to God’s purposes for us in the mundane tasks of everyday life.

One of my favorite songs from Switchfoot challenges me that this is the life I’ve always dreamed of, or at least it can be.

 

 

So instead of focusing on the future, on what may yet to be (as wonderful or ordinary as it may turn out), I am learning to adapt my dream to the amazing and complex and awesome life that God has given me right now.

I pray that I may live each day to the fullest, accept God’s plan for my days, and choose to do the next right thing along the way.

May I adapt my dreams to love the life I’m living.

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If you’ve enjoyed this song, you may purchase the song or the album on which it appears, The Beautiful Letdown.

What to Do When You Feel Stuck

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word prompt of the week is stuck.

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When I read the word “stuck” as our word prompt for this week’s link-up, it immediately resonated with me.

It wasn’t a completely encouraging realization, but it helped me to understand how I’ve been feeling lately.

We had a crazy year last year in some ways. I had a finger injury and surgery in the spring (which was a big deal for this non-medical-procedure-loving person), and then my husband had heart bypass surgery in the fall (which was obviously a much bigger deal!).

While I’m thankful that both my little surgery and my husband’s big surgery resulted in good recovery and improved health (it literally probably saved his life!), I’ve felt behind and overwhelmed since then. Even though, overall, things are going well, it seems like I’m still catching up.

I’ve felt like I can’t get ahead with decluttering, cleaning and organizing my home, my blog has been somewhat neglected as of late, and it seems like we’re just getting by in a lot of ways. I’ve been experiencing some different emotions lately and trying to figure them out as well. I think it’s just the “leftovers” from a trying year.

I wrote a post awhile back about what to do when your emotions are fickle, and I often realize I should read some of my own words for encouragement.

One day this week when the sun finally came out and I felt some spring warmth, it really lifted my spirits. I read some encouraging words of truth and that also helped me feel so much better. My husband and I completed one month of a good, healthy diet, and that made me feel good both physically and emotionally.

Sometimes we feel “stuck” for big, important reasons, and at other times, we can’t find a reason for our feelings or we struggle to understand exactly why.

So I’m writing this to myself, in the hopes that perhaps it will help someone else who’s feeling “stuck”, too.

These are some of the things that help me when I’m feeling “stuck”:

  1. Read or listen to some encouraging words of truth, and pray. – If you read the bible and pray, you will be reminded of how God feels about you and of his promises. Don’t forget to be quiet and listen as well. If you are not a believer, you can read something that lifts your spirits and/or reminds you of how special you are. You can also meditate on all you have for which to be thankful.
  2. Listen to music and/or do something life-giving. – Most of the time, a little good music goes a long way to helping me to feel better. I also find that doing something creative makes me feel alive. Spending some time outside in nature really feeds my soul.
  3. Spend time with those you love and/or those who are good at what you’re struggling with. – Being with people who like you always seems to help emotionally, and if I can chat with someone who’s been where I am or can help me with my problem, that is precious.
  4. Take a baby step. – Just do one thing to move in the right direction. This is so true of decluttering and cleaning, but works in most situations. Doing “the next right thing” can help us go from “stagnant and stuck” to at least progressing in our area of difficulty.
  5. Ask for and accept help when needed. – Sometimes we can’t do it alone. Whether it be a loved one, a trusted friend or even a professional, sometimes we just need a little help. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re imperfect and need support.
  6. Take care of yourself. – Often we are just in need of a good sleep or a nap, we need to take a break or even a vacation, or we can simply be hungry or thirsty. Sometimes we can boost our TLC with a healthy diet and some exercise. We aren’t any good to anyone else when we are not caring for ourselves.
  7. Give yourself grace. – This doesn’t mean to stay in a non-productive or negative state, but it’s OK to be nice to ourselves and recognize that there are times when we need time to process, think or heal.

These are just a few tips that I will continue to try to put into practice.

If we make even a small effort to do something positive, we will not remain stuck for long.

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Blue and pink sunset

All The Other Things

Blue and pink sunset

 

This post has been written for the Five Minute Friday link-up (even though it’s not Friday), where the word prompt of the week is other.

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Sometimes it seems my life is consumed by all the other things.

Does this happen to you? At the end of many a day, I realize (and sometimes complain aloud), that the thing I really wanted to get done didn’t happen.

I know I’m not alone. And I know it’s not easy.

But I desire to do more with my days than just all the other things.

Yes, I know that life is busy, and that responsibilities require us to give much of our time to things that may seem mundane, yet we need to find a way to do the things that matter.

Of course there are circumstances and seasons where we have little to no choice. Having a new baby or more than one young child, being the sole provider for your family, nursing a sick loved one…..these are all legitimate times when we may have to really sacrifice for a time, just to survive. (And I hope if you’re in a place like this, you reach out for help and accept it gratefully and with no guilt.)

But in our “normal” lives, we need to create space for thought & relaxation, find time for activities that fulfill us, and do something that gives us life.

So take care of your other responsibilities, but make sure you fit the “big” things in, too. Do the things that really matter and make a difference in your life, and be sure that some of them bring you pleasure and joy.

It may feel selfish to spend time on ourselves, but if we do, we will find we are better equipped to help the others in our life.

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