A Year in Gratitude (part II)

Hello, friends! And Happy New Year! This post is a continuation from my previous one…although, it’s not entirely necessary to read that one to know what’s going on here. But if you did read the last post, you know that gratitude was the key word from 2017 and that there were a few important factors and challenges that played a role.

{I originally planned to have this as a three part series, but last minute decided to squeeze it into one last post…so I apologize in advance for the lengthy ramble! I am excited to share some new recipes with you hopefully next week!}

Other key players from last year were: meditation, mindfulness, and presence. And, in my opinion, those three go hand in hand. They’re connected.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

**Unless otherwise noted, the photos within this post were taken by Willow last year with her camera – she gave me permission to share them 😉

***I am in no way judging or pointing fingers at those who use social media daily. My life and “career” do not require my presence there, but I do recognize and understand those that benefit from social media. My message here is how my life changed by unplugging. Social media isn’t all bad when used with the right intentions, nor do I believe that those who do what I once did are bad. With that being said, here we go…

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Before we made that drive to take Abbey to her new person, I kind of gave a heads up in my Instagram Stories that I would be taking a step back to be with my family during this time. Little did I know that the whole experience would set off a chain of events that would eventually change my life.

Saying goodbye to Abbey was really hard for the three of us. It was a big adjustment and unplugging from social media was easily the best decision I made – it was a gift to myself and my family. Rather than throwing myself into distractions and mindlessly scrolling my IG feed, I allowed myself to feel all of the emotions – to essentially work through the process of grief. I allowed myself to fully BE there for Willow – to comfort her when she let me in and to be a strong, stable presence. When I say strong and stable, don’t be fooled, I was sobbing uncontrollably at times, BUT I was there every step of the way without a phone in hand. My eyes and ears were tuned into Willow and not a screen.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

I pride myself in being present with Willow, Josh, and my family. When we’re together hiking, eating, playing games, reading, or just enjoying time together, I make a conscious effort to leave my phone in another room or turn it off. My time spent with them is in the moment and in tune with them…no longer thinking in the back of my mind about the comments I’d like to respond to or something I’d like to share on Instagram. It wasn’t always that way. I was guilty of snapping a handful of photos to try and capture that “perfect” shot of my meal (while it was getting cold or melting), or I was stopping every few minutes to try and get a photo of the scenery on a hike, or I had my phone in camera mode ready to get that action shot of Willow doing something. I’ll be the first to admit that social media was kind of like an addiction. I would get hit with the fear of missing out and feel the strong need to immediately open Instagram and see what people were up to, what they were eating or reading or buying or sharing. It was bad and I felt like I needed a detox.

I took this photo…obviously 😉 My sweet girl with her camera:

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

I remember not long before I came to that realization, I was at a local tea house with Willow sharing a pot of chai – my phone was in my purse and as I was about to grab it to snap a photo of this precious moment we were sharing, I happened to glance around and EVERY SINGLE PERSON WAS ON THEIR PHONE. Eyes glued to a screen as if in a trance. The worst part was that all of them were in the presence of another person – sitting together at a table, yet so far away. I remember seeing a little boy looking bored out of his mind while his mother was busy looking at her phone. Now, I’m going to give that mother the benefit of the doubt and guess that maybe she was sending a quick text to her husband or replying to an important message that was time sensitive. But for the sake of the message I’m trying to send here, let’s say she was scrolling Pinterest, or Facebook, or Instagram. All the while sitting with her son as if he wasn’t there. How sad is that?

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

Unfortunately, this is our society. Unable to live purely in the moment and so focused on the outside world that they lose sight of within, of those around them. Unable to just BE and enjoy the person you’re with or to take in a few minutes of silence. Our phones have become a security blanket and they’ve dehumanized many of us. I personally feel that our society over-documents everything…and I was definitely guilty of that. Whether it was posting everything I ate in a day, every activity (hiking, crafting, teaching, etc.), or anything that felt share worthy, it was uploaded to my IG profile or in Insta Stories. Nothing was sacred. I remember watching some accounts’ Stories and they couldn’t even walk down the street without videoing the view…or they were recording their feet while heading to their destination. Their stories were fully loaded with every moment of their day.

Our discomfort with confronting ourselves in the naked stillness of absolute quiet lead us to eat too much, drink excessively, socialize mindlessly, and engage in a host of activities out of a desire to simply avoid being still. This constant whirring in our minds creates disharmony and imbalance. The mind simply cannot function at its optimum level when it’s constantly under siege from endless opinions, criticism, and ideas. ~ Shefali Tsabary, The Awakened Family

I would spend hours browsing on Pinterest, pinning recipes I’d like to make one day, or projects I had hoped to do, or ways to “improve” something. I was getting so caught up in things I’d like to do one day, rather than enjoying what I had in the here and now. Like many of you, I was being bombarded with allowing myself to be bombarded with hidden messages/things that I should be doing…that my current state (diet, health, life, etc) wasn’t enough. Not to mention, I’d sometimes lose hours out of my night browsing! I’m sure some of you know how that goes…you go on to search for a broccoli soup recipe and before you know it, you’re looking at funny cat videos or something.

Mindless activity. That was my habit. I had to be doing something.

One of our greatest untapped allies in life is silence. Most of us are terrified to enter it, believing it to mean nothingness just because it doesn’t involve some sort of doing. Being still in silence is uncomfortable for most of us not only because it runs counter to the diet of constant busyness and achievement we were raised on, but because it puts us painfully in touch with the emptiness within where our true self ought to be. ~ Shefali Tsabary, The Awakened Family

I traded in my nightly Pinterest obsession and mindless Instagram scrolling for reading, meditation, or anything else that could be considered “me time.” Josh goes to bed early almost every night (he works crazy hours) and Willow is my night owl buddy until about 10pm, but then after she falls asleep, I focus on me. Well, that is if I don’t fall asleep with her! If that’s the case, I do my “me time” in the morning before she wakes up..I’m lucky that she sleeps in until 8-9am.

Willow caught me enjoying a quiet moment…

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

Meditation came into play when everything happened with Abbey and I felt a pull to go inward. It was something I had always wanted to incorporate on a regular basis, but I was really good about making excuses…and honestly, social media kept telling me there was a right way and a wrong way to meditate. BUT just like diet and lifestyle, TO EACH THEIR OWN. You figure out what works for YOU and do it! Ignore the outside chatter and recognize what feels good in your heart.

That was when I stumbled upon Insight Timer (an app) and it became a part of my daily/nightly routine. Taking a few minutes out of my day or night to sit quietly with a guided (or music) meditation changed everything for me. It woke something up inside of me and helped me to become my true self…my highest self.

I learned that meditation doesn’t require sitting in silence for an hour…I can work with the time I have or how I’m feeling. Some nights I listen to a short 8-9 minute guided meditation and other nights I enjoy an hour long one.

Sitting in stillness for a few minutes through the day allows us to begin to be aware of our essence, enabling us to recharge. Taking a few minutes to sit and place our awareness on our breath provides a break from the barrage of information our minds are constantly asked to process. These few minutes in centering allow us to remember what really matters in life – connection to self and others. Despite having all the trappings of external achievement, if we don’t have connection, we essentially have nothing. ~ Shefali Tsabary, The Awakened Family

Meditation has helped to bring a sense of calm and peace to my mind all day. If I feel myself getting tense or worked up, it is easy for me now to stop and focus on my breathing…to bring myself to the present moment. I’m also able to meet Willow’s occasional meltdowns with calmness rather than chaos. The best part is that my practices have rubbed off onto Willow. Some nights we’ll lay in bed and listen to one together, at her request. Her favorites are any by Sarah Blondin’s: Live Awake. You can find her meditations through Insight Timer or her podcast. I’d have to agree with Willow, her talks are some of my favorite as well.

Here’s her profile on Insight Timer…

Throughout the day, Willow can sometimes be heard saying, “I want to enjoy the quiet.” She’s able to recognize when she’s feeling overwhelmed or in need of a recharge. And that means turning off the music and allowing her to just BE. Sometimes we’ll sit together and quietly read or literally just sit and take in the silence. She’s taught me a lot.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

You know what else I learned? I was so consumed with the fear of missing out that I was actually missing what it meant to really LIVE. TO BE. TO ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS.

All of those times I was trying to capture a perfect photo of a hike or Willow riding her bike, I was actually MISSING the moment. A moment that couldn’t be rewound. Nothing was sacred, until now. Today, my phone is either in another room, hooked up to the iHome speaker so we could listen to Willow’s Spotify playlist and dance, or on airplane mode. I’m noticing things that I once overlooked and I have a newfound appreciation for others. Scents are more magical, the snowflakes falling have an almost spiritual feel to them, food tastes better, and watching Willow do the things she loves is so much more meaningful. AND I’m doing them with her!

*This is not to say that I don’t take photos anymore, because I do – I’m just more mindful of how often or how many. And I use an actual camera most times instead of my phone to avoid any distractions.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

My experience from 2017 makes me want to stand up and shout from the rooftops, “WAKE UP, EVERYONE!!!!”

What made last year even more special, was that my relationships grew stronger and deeper. The connections were more alive and spiritual. And the friendships that were strong to begin with became unbreakable. Everything just flowed. My patience became my super power and I felt almost unstoppable. Nothing and no one could bring me down because all that mattered (and matters) is what I think and feel. I was FREE.

My photo…

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

I feel truly blessed for the friends who have remained during the last four or five months. I remember feeling an intense fear of losing connections or friends by unplugging from social media, but in reality, stepping away allowed those real friendships to shine, for them to step forward. Was it sad to lose friendships? Absolutely. But then I had to remind myself that if there really was a friendship to be had, it wouldn’t be lost.

I know I’ve rambled…A LOT and I think it’s because 2017 was a huge period of enlightenment for me and maybe some of this will resonate with one of you. And others of you might think I’m just weird. Thank you so much to anyone who reads this to the end.

Other things I’ve learned:

  • Mindfulness, meditation, and probably unplugging from social media, does wonders for my skin and digestion (hello, happy gut).
  • When I’m away from social media, I’m more creative! More ideas come to mind and things just flow.
  • If it’s important, they’ll call you. There’s a beautiful thing about a text message…it’s a message to read and reply to when the time is good for you. Although I frustrate some people with my lack of promptness! We need to stop living with phones attached to our hips and stop jumping at every notification! Be a rebel and turn those notifications off sometimes 🙂
  • I don’t like the phrase, “I’ve been busy” or “I don’t have the time.” Truth is, we all have the time, we just choose to live it differently. And we’re all, in a sense, “busy” living, but if someone or something is important to you, you find a moment to send a quick text or an email. In my opinion, if you have time to post or browse on IG, FB, or Pinterest, you have TIME to reach out to friend or read a chapter in a book.
  • I LOVE writing and sending letters to people. I started doing that again this Autumn and I feel like it’s so much more personal and meaningful. The recipient knows that I sat down with a pen and paper with them in mind…I was fully present in the moment.
  • To become your true self, you need to focus on yourself. And to trust yourself! I was constantly second guessing or doubting things about myself, but this break away from social media has shown me that some of my negative habits were influenced in fact by social media. I eat differently, feel differently, and I’m a much different consumer. No longer taking cues or messages from photos/captions people post, I stay in tune with myself. If I randomly stumble upon a product and it looks good to me, I buy it…not because a big name account said it was good. I eat and drink things because my body agrees with them and not because it’s the “right” thing to consume. Over the last few years, social media taught me to fear oil. Guess what? I cook with it sometimes and my body doesn’t hate me. I eat all the almond butter I want and don’t care about the fat grams. I eat raw foods when my body feels called to it and if my body wants a nice plate of coconut oil roasted veggies, I do it. Oh, and potatoes? Yep, they’re pretty much a daily staple (carbs are life). It’s all about how it makes YOU feel, not doing what people say is the “right” way. I admit that I definitely don’t miss reading comments on bigger accounts that are riddled with criticism and judgement. I think a lot of times we fail to recognize that everyone is different. I also don’t miss the labels that take away from the fact that we’re all human. Part of being mindful in my eating, is passing along the same practices to Willow.

Also watching Willow’s love for creating and helping in the kitchen has increased because rather than striving for a perfect outcome to match the blogger’s recipe photos, she just gets to do her thing. Being mindful of how important it is to have her involved means more to me than anything else…and to watch the excitement and pride in her eyes is priceless. Here’s a pic of the gingerbread men she made (recipe courtesy of Natalie @ Feasting on Fruit):

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

  • Unplugging and disconnecting from social media doesn’t mean I’m selfish and disconnected from life. I had someone tell me I was being selfish by stepping away from Instagram – she went on to say that it would be easier if I was on there. I had to laugh because I think she was struggling with having to actually connect with me outside of social media…it was easier for her to broadcast to a wide audience rather than connect on a more intimate level. For me, I was growing tired of reading the robotic comments that didn’t seem to have any real emotion behind them. So for someone who was craving more personal connections, I realized that social media wouldn’t fulfill that need.
  • Lastly, I learned that by being more mindful and present, I was finding more joy in the simple things. A new book from the library, building LEGOs together with Willow, or a quiet walk through the neighborhood. I hold more close to my heart and don’t feel the need to take a lot of photos anymore to share (with essentially mostly strangers) on social media.

I had someone the other day ask when or if I’m going to return to Instagram and to answer…I honestly don’t know! I’m just taking things day by day. If I wake up one morning with an urge to pop over there, then I will. But for now, I’m enjoying the interactions I have through this little blog of mine and the connections I have through texting, email and Skype. Willow keeps me present and on my toes…she also reminds me that true connections happen outside of social media.

Don’t let this girly dress and crown fool you…most days Willow can be found wearing her Spider-Man shoes and crawling around playing with Hot Wheel cars 😉

Thanks for stopping by! I promise my next post won’t be a novel 😉

A Year in Gratitude (part I)

I dedicate this post to my soul sister “weirdo” – may we always live a life filled with gratitude and find joy in the simple things. Thank you for waking me up, Karina. xo

I’m also dedicating this post to Tonya – you taught me about the beauty of unlikely friendships and to have faith. xo

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. ~ Zig Ziglar

Come January 1, 2018, Willow and I will have completed our first 365 days of writing in a gratitude journal together and if I continue down the path I’ve been on, January 1st will also mark 81 consecutive days of meditation for me. Two things that have helped me tremendously. This past year has been full of ups and downs, joy and sadness, love and loss. But more than anything, these last few months have been filled with positive growth, learning, and freedom. I honestly feel like a new person or as if I have been reunited with my soul…that I have become the very person I have aspired to be.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

Those who know me well, know that I have always struggled with balance. Whether it’s biting off more than I can chew, spreading myself thin, or feeling like a failure, the one consistent thing was that I was exhausted in every sense of the word and felt like something was missing. Today, all I feel is immense gratitude and love. Love for life, love for where I’m at, love for the simple things, and a deeper love for family and close friends.

Our favorite kombucha from 2017 even fit with this post…Living in Gratitude from GT’S. Not only is the flavor incredible, but the bottle itself is beautiful. Especially this quote found on the bottle:

“When we root ourselves in gratitude, our joy grows and blossoms. It reaches up and branches out until a forest blankets the earth and fills the whole sky.”

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

That quote on the kombucha bottle couldn’t be more accurate. I have found that when I am living in a state of gratitude (and not dwelling on the could haves, should haves, or negatives), my entire presence is overcome with joy…and my joy spreads onto others and vice versa. Which is why I have spent my last few months surrounding myself with those who live in gratitude and in the moment. Joy and gratitude are contagious.

We live in a very fast paced, go-go-go society and sadly, many of us have lost the beauty of stillness and being present. Falling into the habit of journaling with Willow, along with meditating, has taught me just how magical and necessary it is to be mindful. Both have taught me to slow down and appreciate what is right in front of me.

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. ~ Robert Holden

Every night, before we cuddle down to read and fall asleep, Willow and I sit down together in bed to share three things we’re grateful for. There were days where I wanted to hit a reset button or fast forward through due to the amount of meltdowns or challenges, but every single night had us focusing on the positives – the joys and things we felt incredibly blessed for. And every night, our heads hit the pillow with the rough day behind us. No longer upset or sad, but rather happy and at peace.

The other day, Willow asked to read through some of our earlier entries in the gratitude journal and a few things happened:

  1. We laughed…a lot.
  2. I noticed over time how Willow’s entries grew to be more meaningful and heartfelt.
  3. Lastly, I recognized some recurrent things that we were grateful for.

The things that came up repeatedly (and almost daily) were the little things, which in reality, were the big things: spending time with family; doing things together (reading, drawing, painting, dancing, hiking, etc.); good health; supportive + loving family and friends – both near and far. I am so incredibly grateful for my family and for the genuine friends in my life who have been with me every step of the way. I really am blessed to have relationships that feel equal and not one sided. This year I let go of those where I felt like a person of convenience and embraced those who lifted me up. Where the love and care came from both parties and not just me.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

Our first entry in the gratitude journal. Willow cracks me up with her replies the first few weeks. All about animals!

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

The theme throughout our journal was family and there was one big challenge we faced that really taught us just how important it is to stick together. Over the summer, we decided as a family that it would be best to find a new home for our dog Abbey. I saw the signs early on, but refused to face them because I loved her and selfishly wanted to keep her with us. Abbey was here for Willow’s first spoken words, when she learned to ride her tricycle (and bike with training wheels), Willow’s first camping trip, and when she started homeschool cohort. I associate a lot of memories with Abbey so this decision was definitely not an easy one. We weren’t just going to drop her off at a shelter or anything like that because despite our decision, she was part of our family. We adopted Abbey when she was 10 years old and I knew how hard it was to rehome senior animals – so after a lot of research, I found Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon. Which, as you can guess, was a group who found homes for senior dogs.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

I reached out to them via email and telephone and we began the process. I helped to write up a bio about Abbey, sent them some photos, and then we scheduled an appointment for a checkup for her with our vet. Here is when things got really rocky and stressful. We took her in for what should have been a routine dental cleaning, but we received a call about an hour after dropping her off that her liver levels were elevated. So they couldn’t do the dental – instead, we were sent home with several prescriptions and had to postpone the cleaning for another month. Throughout this process, I kept the rescue organization in the loop and they began to grow concerned about moving forward.

I prayed and envisioned Abbey in a loving home where she could live out her remaining life in peace and no longer shaking out of fear with all of the loud noises and commotion in our house (between two cats and a busy five-year-old). She deserved better and I would do everything in my power to see this through.

A few days later, I received a phone call letting me know that there was a woman interested in adopting Abbey and that she lived in a house on a few acres of land (fully fenced in). In the bio I helped to write, I mentioned that Abbey needed to be in a home without children, cats, or small dogs. This woman met the first two requirements, but I was told she had a black Labrador Retriever – so clearly not a small dog, but we’d need to see if they got along.

Well, we brought Abbey in a month later for attempt number two at a dental cleaning and just like the first try, we received a call saying that her liver levels were double or triple what they should be. I broke down. Why was this happening? Was this a sign to halt trying to find her a new home? Who would be willing to take her on with health issues and numerous prescriptions?

I prayed again and told myself that whatever happens, things will work out the way they were meant to. If that meant keeping Abbey in our home and making some major adjustments or waiting for the right new home to come along, we needed to be patient and have faith.

Sure enough, I got a call saying that the woman who was interested was still willing to give her a new home and that the liver issue and prescriptions weren’t a deal breaker. I cried a mix of happy and sad tears. Happy that Abbey would be moving on to a better suited home, but sad because it meant we were going to have to say goodbye. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.

So we set a date in September to drive to Corvallis to meet – For us to meet Tonya (the potential adopter) and her black Lab Milly. The drive there was filled with heightened emotions and I began doubting our decision…and I seriously hated myself. I remember asking for a sign to tell me that we were making the right decision and not even 20 minutes later, a beautiful rainbow appeared. I remember my heart breaking while crying tears of peace. Since we had Willow in the car, I had a lot of internal conversations going on because I didn’t want to make things harder than they were for her. I told myself that if I didn’t like Tonya’s energy, we wouldn’t go through with it. And to be honest, a part of me wanted things to fall through – I was hoping to not like her so that we could drive back home and be the family I wanted to be. Sad, right? Like I said, I hated myself.

When we arrived at our meeting spot, I lost it. Tears couldn’t be stopped and I kept hugging and telling Abbey just how much we loved her. That just because we were letting go of her didn’t mean that the love wasn’t there – it was because we loved her that we recognized she deserved better. We ended up really connecting with Tonya and I could just feel the love she has for animals. She is very passionate and her dogs are her babies. Abbey warmed up immediately to both Tonya and her dog, Milly, so I knew that this was us saying goodbye to Abbey.

The next couple of weeks were some of the hardest that we faced as a family. I thought we broke Willow. Daily meltdowns, anger, and I felt like I didn’t recognize who she was anymore. Everything was a fight – getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating, leaving the house, cleaning up. All battles that I just didn’t have the strength to fight. So there were quite a few days of staying home in pjs in tears. Most days I beat myself up for being a failure to Abbey and for breaking my daughter’s heart.

What got me through? Josh listening to us cry about how much we missed Abbey and allowing us to fully process and grieve. Recognizing that we were all hurting and struggling meant that it was so important to be there for one another. To be an ear for words that needed to be spoken, a shoulder to cry on, and provide an embrace when the words wouldn’t come out. The biggest light was Tonya. We connected really well at the meeting that we exchanged phone numbers. She would text us daily with updates – letting us know how Abbey was adjusting along with an occasional photo. As the weeks went on, we really got a sense of how well Abbey was doing – as if she was thriving and getting to be the dog she was meant to be. She was exploring the land, becoming good buddies with Milly, and being spoiled by Tonya and her husband with lots of car rides, walks, and treats. One evening Tonya and I spoke on the phone for over an hour and that was when my heart was filled with tremendous peace. I knew we made the right decision and that Abbey was incredibly lucky to be with Tonya. All we ever wanted was for her to be a happy dog and Tonya has been able to make that happen. Every now and then I’ll get hit with a wave of “why couldn’t we be that home?” but more than anything I am grateful for the way things ended up. Abbey in a perfect home and Tonya gaining another baby AND I gained a friend. While it took us quite some time to fully process all of this, there were too many signs pointing to the Universe aligning our paths – that everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.

{Little similarities that made it all the more obvious our paths were supposed to cross: Tonya’s black Lab’s name is Milly….growing up, I had a black Lab named Milly. Tonya’s previous dog was named Maggie…my first dog’s name (the one before Milly) was named Maggie. And our shared love for dogs – they aren’t just a creature who walks on four legs, but rather, they have our hearts. They are family.}

From September to present day, I found myself mentioning Abbey and Tonya in our gratitude journal pretty regularly. Tonya set me free from the thoughts of being a failure and showed me that we tried all that we could to be a home for Abbey. Joy has replaced my previous feelings of sadness and pain – when I close my eyes, I can almost see Abbey’s energy and see a dog at peace – she is where she is supposed to be. And for that I am GRATEFUL.

GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE.

This year has taught me a lot. To find magic in the little things. To be be more aware and in tune. To recognize just how incredibly blessed I am. These last few months have been filled with so much beauty and joy and I can without a doubt say that going to bed with a heart full of gratitude has aided in that shift. I wake up with a grateful heart, which is how each day should be greeted. Now I see that there is SO much to be grateful for…that listing just three things each night has become difficult because I could easily write a full page. I highly recommend grabbing a notebook to start this daily/nightly habit. Just a few minutes out of your day can create big changes in your life and mindset.

I have really enjoyed watching Willow grow throughout this journey and seeing her recognize just how lucky she is has been amazing. I can see the light in her eyes when she talks about the things she is grateful for and that makes me a proud mom.

I recently asked Willow, “What do you think about writing in the gratitude journal? Do you like it?”

Her response: “I want to keep doing it when I’m 18 and 20!”

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

I’m looking forward to the next year spent in gratitude. What were some things you were grateful for in 2017?

Stay tuned for part two where I discuss meditation, mindfulness, and presence.

Thanks for stopping by! Wishing you all the very best in 2018!

REVIEW: February Favorites

Hello, friends! It’s hard to believe that yet another month of 2016 has flown by so fast! We enjoyed a very spring-like February, went on some hikes, did some rockhounding and I celebrated my 37th birthday. This was such a fun month for new products, books and of course delicious new recipes! So let’s dive in!

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REVIEW: February Favorites

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If you were to ask Willow about her February Favorites, it would consist of her Frozen princess dress (which is currently covered in holes due to wearing it ALL THE TIME), her light up shoes and the Taylor Swift CD my Mom gave her for Valentine’s Day…if you ride in the car with us, you will undoubtedly hear Shake it Off on repeat. I know the words by heart. Here is cover of Shake it Off featuring Willow’s favorite ukulele player. I’ve lost track at how many times she’s made me watch this…

Her version of Riptide is another Willow favorite.

FEBRUARY FAVORITES:

PRODUCTS I FELL IN LOVE WITH:

GODDESS PROVISIONS >> SELF-CARE BOX >> I learned about Goddess Provisions through one of my best friends (Jen @luminousspirit) and when I found out that there was a monthly box perfectly suited for what I loved (crystals, aromatherapy, apothecary, beauty, tea and all things spiritual) I absolutely had to give it a try! While I’m not financially ready to commit to a monthly subscription, I did order a one time box that was offered in the month of January. A $64 value, but the boxes are only $35…then I had a coupon code for a few dollars off. They offer four types of boxes: Self-Care, Energize Your Senses, Sacral Chakra, and Third Eye Chakra. My Self-Care Box contained:

REVIEW: February Favorites

I absolutely LOVED this box! The lip tint was so perfect for me – I’ve been on the hunt for a new lip tint and the shade is exactly what I was looking for. Smells amazing and super moisturizing. The roller ball fragrance is REALLY strong and while it smells really nice, I can’t wear it all the time (and when I do, it’s a super tiny dab) since I’m sensitive to overpowering scents. If you like a strong vanilla-amber scent, this is perfect for you. The bath salts though…heavenly! I cried when the last bite of the chocolate bar was gone. SO. GOOD. I loved that it was raw, organic, no refined sugar (used coconut sugar) and contained lots of beneficial ingredients – I could see myself ordering more of these chocolate bars! I didn’t have a tangerine quartz in my collection yet, so this was perfect! Definitely check Goddess Provisions out and their IG page is beautiful – they feature some lovely, magical accounts and they radiate nothing but good energy!

FROODLES FRUIT STRIPS >> We’re always browsing to see what new items have become available at Natural Grocers and Whole Foods. Earlier in the month, we spotted Froodles! They’re like fruit leathers, but in strips…kinda like fruit noodles…hence the name Froodles! We got them on sale from Natural Grocers throughout the month of February. I love that there’s no added sugar, artificial flavors or preservatives – just fruit! We only saw the 1 oz pouches (perfect for an on-the-go snack), but I noticed online that they offer a 3 oz pouch as well. I originally bought these for Willow, but when I stole a bite, I fell in love! Chewy, sweet and zero guilt. I have a feeling these will come in handy over the summer during hiking trips and camping adventures.

REVIEW: February Favorites

JEWELRY!!!! I WAS GIFTED SOME PRETTY FANTASTIC ITEMS FOR MY BIRTHDAY FROM TWO OF MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SHOPS!!!!

I love these two shops for several reasons and gravitate towards both when it comes time to find a gift for someone’s birthday or Christmas. The makers behind each shop are incredibly genuine, kind, supportive and their work stands out among the other shops out there. You can definitely feel the love put into each piece as they’re passionate about what they do!

REVIEW: February Favorites

SUN METAL JEWELRY >> A beautiful nature-y pendant and earrings to match! I absolutely LOVE Diana & Ted’s shop and these two items are a wonderful addition to my Sun Metal collection! I love the copper and silver mix AND that little leaf is so perfect!

COMPASSIONATE PAWS JEWELRY >> I had been wanting a necklace from Jen’s shop and was SO excited to receive this gorgeous, wire-wrapped Amethyst necklace. A sweet friend also gifted me the beautiful bracelet (the heart charm is perfect) – I’m in LOVE!! So grateful for the amazing friends in my life.

LIVING LIBATIONS >> For the last few years, I have wanted to try some of Nadine’s magical creations…OK, all of them…and was so excited to get an email from The Raw Food World that there were some Living Libations products ‘At-Cost’ in February! You better believe I immediately jumped on that site and scrolled through what was available. A lot of the oral care products were part of the special and oh, my! The prices were significantly cheaper! Then I used the coupon code ‘rawfood7’ for an additional discount…AND I had a $10 store credit, so score! Here’s what we ordered:

REVIEW: February Favorites

Just after one day I noticed a difference! Josh and I both LOVE everything! I’ve used several other clay toothpastes and this one is hands down the best I’ve ever tried! It has a very creamy, smooth texture – not gritty and doesn’t have a strong clay taste. Leaves your mouth feeling incredibly clean…especially when you’ve also massaged your gums with the Happy Gum Drops! The Yogi Tooth Serum is a cinnamon lover’s dream!!! From what I’ve read, if you’re a tea and/or coffee drinker or green smoothie lover, the Tooth Truth Powder Polish is for you! I’ve been bouncing between brushing my teeth with that and the clay toothpaste and seriously love both. When I do use the Tooth Truth Powder, I also add a drop of the Yogi Tooth Serum to my brush.

Oh! And everything smells absolutely amazing!!

Click HERE to see the 8 Steps to Successful Self-Dentistry – this is what Josh and I have been following since receiving these products…and I’m not kidding when I say that after each time I’ve followed those steps, it feels like I just had a trip to the dentist. The links to the products above will take you to the Living Libations site for full descriptions and details. Please note that the Yogi Tooth Serum and Happy Gum Drops are similar, so it’s not necessary to have both. We were just anxious to try as many Living Libations products as possible and took advantage of the sale! I HIGHLY recommend checking out the site as there are way more products beyond just oral care.

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RECIPES WE TRIED AND LOVED:

CROWD PLEASING TEX MEX CASSEROLE >> THE OH SHE GLOWS COOKBOOK >> My dear friend, Julie, had raved about this recipe and it’s one we had marked to try so I immediately added it to the following week’s menu. WHOA! Why we waited so long to try it is beyond me! SO simple to make and one of the most flavorful dishes we’ve made – the leftovers tasted even better the next day. Willow wouldn’t touch it, but when we deconstructed it (separated each ingredient) she enjoyed some with some tortilla chips.

RAW HEMP CHOCOLATES >> UNCONVENTIONAL BAKER >> We had a girls only Valentine’s Day this year since Josh had to work late and my Dad was out of town – so Willow and I spent it with my Mom, Oma, and Aunt Diane. I chose to make these to share with everyone and doubled the recipe because I knew they were going to be amazing…oh, man. I am SO glad that I did! Sadly, my candy making skills need a lot of work, which is why I didn’t share a photo on Instagram…they were all sorts of sizes, messy (I’m pretty sure Willow could have done a better job) – next time I’ll be sure to freeze/chill the tray first to avoid the melty chocolate mess! But they were INSANELY good. So good that I almost didn’t bring them to share – terrible, huh? They’re rich, decadent, dreamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Everyone LOVED them! I’ll definitely be making these again!

REVIEW: February Favorites

CREAMY CURRY DRESSING >> THE FIT FORK FEED >> Holy drinkable deliciousness!! I’ve been following Lindsay over @thefitforkfeed for a few months now and I’m constantly drooling over her creations – her IG page and blog are both beautiful. As soon as I saw her post a photo of this dressing, I knew I absolutely needed to try it because (1) I LOVE curry and (2) the vibrant yellow sunshine-like color was jaw dropping. Verdict…easily one of my new favorite dressings and I want to put it on everything and pretty much did! I made a couple of minor adjustments and cut the oil in half (replaced with extra water) and used maple syrup instead of honey.

REVIEW: February Favorites

BUTTERFINGER ENERGY BITES >> THE FIT FORK FEED >> These took a few minutes to whip up and they’re absolutely INCREDIBLE! Only five ingredients, but a powerhouse of a list…including dried mulberries…our favorite! These are so perfect for Willow since they’re high in protein and contain healthy fats. She had fun helping me make these and quickly devoured one after they set in the freezer for a bit. I love how much they remind me of an actual Butterfinger bar – for lack of a better word, they really are buttery, melt in your mouth and have little pops of crispiness, thanks to those magical mulberries. Definitely give these a try!!!

REVIEW: February Favorites

EASY VEGAN MEXICAN CHEESE SAUCE >> THE VEGAN 8 >> I’m honestly shocked that it took me this long to make this amazing cheese sauce! It’s so hard when the list of recipes to make grows longer by the day and you just want to try them all! Well, we finally got around to making this and used it on top of potato nachos…insanely good. I’ve actually got a Mexican cheese sauce coming to the blog soon, but Brandi’s is easier and super quick to whip up. I kept it on the mild side for Willow’s sake and she really enjoyed it, too! Josh and I added extra salsa to ours to give it more of a kick, but it wasn’t really necessary. This is one of those sauces where the possibilities are endless – roasted veggies, baked potatoes, pasta, rice bowls and SO much more.

REVIEW: February Favorites

HECK YEAH, BANANA PANCAKES >> YUM UNIVERSE COOKBOOK >> I really can’t tell you enough how much I LOVE this cookbook. For me, it’s tied with The Oh She Glows Cookbook because EVERY single recipe we’ve tried has been fantastic. This has been one of our go-to pancake recipes for a while now, but I make one adjustment – I replace the chickpea flour with King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose flour. I found that the chickpea flour was too overpowering for our liking and the gf flour mellowed it out. They turn out perfect every time!

BASIL & PEPPER PINE NUT CRISPS >> YUM UNIVERSE COOKBOOK >> Well, we found out Willow isn’t a fan of pine nuts, but Josh and I devoured these! I had every intention of pairing these with soup, but we couldn’t stop eating them. If you try these, definitely be sure to press them into a really thin layer to bake evenly and crisp up – I had to bake mine way longer than suggested because I made them too thick. I love how cheesy and buttery these were!

REVIEW: February Favorites

LEMON BLUEBERRY WAFFLES >> MINIMALIST BAKER >> We finally got a waffle maker last month and LOVE it! I immediately Googled “vegan gluten free waffles” and the top three were Minimalist Baker recipes…another favorite of ours since each recipe is a huge hit with the whole family. I made Willow the Oatmeal Waffles one morning (subbed melted coconut oil instead of vegan butter) and she loved them! Since I’m still easing back into oats, I took a couple of bites and saved the rest for her. A couple of weeks later, we made these Lemon Blueberry Waffles and I thought they were the best! I used chocolate chips in Willow’s batch since she’s not a fan of blueberries present in food – she loves them on their own and blended in a smoothie, just not in pancakes or muffins. Anyways, I thought the lemony flavor was so perfect and they crisp up beautifully!

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BOOKS I’M ENJOYING:

February was a big month for reading…I decided to give myself a break from the things I felt “needed” to be done and took more time for ME! That also meant taking a break from Instagram for several days and unplugging. Willow would fall asleep at night and I would curl up with a book and Willow in my arms – pretty much perfect. I fell into a bit of a creative slump and really needed to recharge, refocus and get inspired. I used most of my birthday money to order some books that have been on my to-read list and they were just what I needed!

REVIEW: February Favorites

I finished The Moonlit Garden (on Kindle) and REALLY enjoyed it! I almost gave up on it shortly after my last monthly favorites post, as I felt that it was moving too slow, but it turned out to be a beautiful story. I also finished Meet your Soul. Here are some others that I’ve read, working on or referred back to in February:

JUST ASK THE UNIVERSE: A NO-NONSENSE GUIDE TO MANIFESTING YOUR DREAMS by MICHAEL SAMUELS >> If you have Amazon Prime (and a Kindle) you can borrow this book for free! Which is exactly what I did. I also finished it in a day…quick read, but incredibly inspiring! A great little book on the Law of Attraction – how positive thoughts attract positive things to happen – focusing your energy on gratitude and really envisioning yourself accomplishing tasks, goals, dreams and wants. The author helps you to create an “I Want” list – which was really strange for me to write out at first, but then I couldn’t stop! I had pages filled with things I wanted for myself and others – when I put the pen down, I felt excited and incredibly positive. He also has you write out a list of things you’ve already accomplished or gained which opened my eyes to just how blessed I am. I really loved his writing style as it was obviously upbeat, but had a touch of humor to it unlike the most of the spiritual books I’ve read. Definitely add this to your list!

HOW TO BE A WILDFLOWER by KATIE DAISY >> I actually pre-ordered this book for my friend Jen’s birthday and almost ordered myself one…well, my parents ended up giving me a copy for my birthday! Little side note – Katie Daisy was raised in a small town in Illinois and currently resides here in Bend, OR – she is insanely talented and I absolutely adore everything she does. Her artwork is so inspiring, I literally want everything from her Etsy shop. But moving on to this book! Gorgeous!!! As I turned through each page, everything around me suddenly disappeared and I was completely drawn into a world filled with magic + beauty. Since I’m such a big quote person, this book is perfect for me as it contains so many of my favorites. This book is a constant reminder about just how amazing nature is and the importance of connecting yourself with the Earth.

REVIEW: February Favorites

GHOST GIFTS by LAURA SPINELLA >> I chose this for my February Kindle First book (free) and it ended up being one that I just couldn’t put down! I hesitated to pick this one because it was under the “romantic suspense” genre and I honestly don’t read romance books, but the description reeled me in. It’s about a woman who (from a very young age) communicates with the deceased and while working for the local paper, she gets assigned to a story which reveals her secret ability. I genuinely enjoyed this book as it moved at a great pace, the characters (for the most part) were well developed and the romance factor was minimal – so it ended up being a great mystery book!

WRECKAGE by EMILY BLEEKER >> Yet another Kindle First book that I downloaded last year and forgot about! I plowed through this one in a few nights and it was a fun, quick read. It’s a mystery-romance (I swear I didn’t expect the romance part!) about two survivors of a plane crash who come home after two years on a deserted island. The book goes between two timelines where we’re with them on the island and being interviewed in present day.

THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL LAWS OF SUCCESS by DEEPAK CHOPRA >> Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book now. You will read it in one sitting, but it’s one that you will absolutely hold dear to your heart, and one that you’ll most likely refer back to…I’ve already read it twice. Such a practical set of “laws” that will open your eyes to just how powerful energy is – where you choose to focus your attention – to be more aware.

“With the knowledge and practice of the seven spiritual laws, we align with nature’s intelligence, and our dreams and desires are easily fulfilled. When we understand these laws, and apply them in our lives, anything we want can be created.”

THE UNTETHERED SOUL: THE JOURNEY BEYOND YOURSELF by MICHAEL SINGER >> This book has been on my list for quite some time, so I was very quick to add it to my Amazon shopping cart after my birthday. I’m not done with it yet, but I’ve had several moments where I found myself saying, “YES!” out loud. Very eye opening and has, so far, helped me to better understand some of my inner battles.

I’ve been referring back to You Can Heal Your Life & A Return to Love quite a bit even though I finished them a while back and I used my birthday money to purchase: Radical Self Love, Light is the New Black and The Surrender Experiment, so look for reviews for those in the next month or two!

 

What are you reading?! Please share any of your recent finds, favorites, or highlights of February – I’d love to hear, so leave a comment below.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Love & Light