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Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Tea Party for One, Granola Bars, Zen and the Vision Board

Sometimes it's about the little things in life....messing around with an actual fountain ink pen and enjoying the flow of ink across paper, indulging in a hot bath with extra bubbles added, splurging for the expensive dark chocolate (vegan, of course), etc. 

I was having lunch with a friend to start the new year off and we were served tea in a french press.  I was enthralled.  I'm a big tea fan and love the fancy tea cannisters and have infusers and mesh balls, but nothing like this.  The waitress patiently answered my many questions about this contraption and also gave me the info that Target has them. 

So, first opportunity.....Tar-jay it was and I am now the proud owner of a French Press.





It's a fancy way to enjoy a nice hot cup of tea on these frigid January days.



I had some very nice loose tea that I acquired using a gift certificate thoughtfully given to me by someone who shared my love of tea (and probably knew how cheap, I mean, frugal, I tend to be, and therefore likely knew I would NEVER buy tea from a place as pricey as Teavana).  I was like a kid at Christmas pulling that bag out to try in this press.

Tea goes in first and then hot water and let it steep for several minutes. The first press gives you a nice cup (you don't press all the way down as that will bruise the tea leaves).  





You fill it up with more hot water for a second go round and this time you depress the plunger all the way down.

To go with this lovely tea, I made some granola bars.  I've been steering away from Clif bars, etc. as the whopping 250 calories per bar has made is presence known around my mid-section.  Not good.

I used the recipe from a wonderful blog, Undressed Skeleton.  If you have time, give it a look.  http://undressedskeleton.tumblr.com/post/31064437858  Taralynn isn't vegan and neither are all the recipes on her blog, but this one is, and her story is both infuriating and delightful.  Her tale is the portrait of someone who has been the target of extreme bullying, taken that experience and gained strength from it and transformed her young life.  Inspirational.

(I know a thing or two about bullies, Taralynn, having had this experience as a young girl and also in my adult life.  See my original post on bullies here: http://sunnyhawklane.blogspot.com/2011/02/usda-part-2-bullies-and-flaxers.html  Taralynn, you go, girl...."you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here"  Max Ehrmann  Desiderata).

I changed up her basic recipe, but not much.  She uses ripe bananas, oatmeal, sweetener, coconut, mini chocolate chips, flax seed, almond milk and vanilla.





(excuse the mess.....I love all those wonderfully perfect pictures on blogs....you just probably are not going to see too many of them here!)

Mix together.....I used Grandma's potato masher rather than get the mixer out.  I grind up my flax seeds in a coffee grinder that I use solely for that purpose.




I wouldn't dream of making this without adding my treasured cinnamon.  (I use non-alcohol vanilla - Trader Joe's has a nice version).  Viv, my wonderful Vitamix blender (seriously, sell all the furniture, whatever you have to do....get one....I know they are crazy expensive, but really....it'll change your world), mixed up some almond milk for me in a jiff.  (Actually, I was out of almonds, so this would be cashew milk.  I just soak a handful of raw nuts in water right in the blender for 15 mins or so and then put it on high.   This could be strained if you want a smoother consistency, but I find it to be no problem in most recipes).

Spread on a pan and bake up for 10 mins. or so at 350.  (I did not grease the baking sheet with oil, but just spread the mixture on parchment paper with no problems). Yummy and a much healthier alternative to what is on the shelves in the store.  See Taralynn's site for exact recipe. Obviously, there is no limit to what you can create with this basic recipe...add in dried cranberries, raw sunflower seeds, raisins, chia seeds, hemp seeds, other grains, anything.  (Note: some plant-based programs recommend steering clear of coconut, so you could omit that ingredient and easily replace with lightly grounded sunflower seeds or other grain).

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2013 is off to a good start for me.  I have resurrected some old goals and added some new ones.  I put them on a 'vision board'.  (Okay, it's actually a word document.....I knew I would get hung up in trying to get poster board, frame and all organized and then the creation of the vision board itself would become the goal).  I have various goals on there in different fonts and colors and I can add pictures if I want to get snaaaazzzy. 

About the time I was creating it, I ran into this wonderful post from a blog I read.  http://zenhabits.net/12rules/Zen  I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but most I only glance at from time to time.  This one sits in my inbox for months if I can't get to it.  I won't delete it until I at least open and scan the first bits of it.  Because I might miss a life-changing post....like this one.

I love the fact that vegetarians are used to make the point, which hit home with me in a big way.  It is true, the power of my decision to eat a vegan diet carries me through.  The rule....of my life....and what I will eat.  I never have to question, am I going to have cheese today....it just isn't an issue at all.  So why not have these rules for the rest of my life indeed?

Also around this time, I read another interesting post about what our true priorities are.  http://www.theminimalists.com/priorities/  Ok, this is a rocket science moment.....so hold on...., what are our true priorities?  It's how we are actually spending our time.  Oh....my....gawd.  Can't argue with that one.  So, while I may SAY that decluttering my basement or upping my exercise routine or finishing writing my book is a top priority, if I am spending my time surfing the web, then that is my TRUE priority. 

Which brings me back to my rules.  Crafting them and having them align with the goals on my vision board was a great exercise.  As a companion to all of this, I have a small log that I keep daily, that has my main activities listed that will align with achieving these goals.  I just do a quick, two minute check at the end of each day, or sometimes as I go along during the day, and tick these items off noting whether I did them, check-mark, or didn't, x mark.  I've trained myself NOT to use this time as a moment to beat myself up for not doing x, y and z, but as an INFORMATIONAL time, to see what is working, what isn't getting done that I might need to move some things around for.  It's also great to watch as habits form. 

I've had to tweak my rules, and addressing time on the computer became an area I had to confront as I tend to zone into oblivion and happy states of research bliss as I scan the limitless resource of the web-o-sphere. 

I had to face the fact that 'getting really good at surfing the web' is NOT on my vision board. 

It's funny, how one good habit can lead to another, and while I have been de-cluttering and reorganizing, I had our satellite t.v. system taken out.  We are a couple of weeks into this change and I can honestly say, I don't think we have missed it for even five minutes.  I never had the t.v. on during the day, but on weekends, it would be blaring in the back ground, and I was often in the habit of having it on as I fell asleep at night.  Now, if we want to watch something, we can put a dvd in or select something we TRULY want to watch, rather than just 'seeing what is on' and then surfing from channel to channel looking for something decent feeling now the question is WHAT will you watch not IF you will watch.  I had talked about doing this for months and now that I see how much better our lives are I wish I would have done it years ago.  (Ever think about the expression 'killing time'?  Who would want to do that?  And yet, I shudder to think of all the time I have horribly murdered while planted in front of that t.v.   I did this before when our kids were young...should have remembered what a great time-creator this is---not to mention money saver....I can easily hit even Teavana again with what we are saving per month).

Now, I can quietly spend time....because there truly are a few extra moments in my day....gazing out the window, with a beautifully prepared cup of tea and a lovely little granola bar--- served on Grandma's china--- and just zone with the zen of the moment. 

Not a bad way to spend some time....

and there are no commercials.

Sue, getting the hang of this zen stuff, in Ohio

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