15 Dec

A Simple Winter Practice

Misty Morning by Markus Trienke

I have written and reflected on the winter solstice and end-of-year rituals before, but this is the first time in many years that I have felt the true weight of this longest night. Outside my window, the snow is piled high, my back and hands sore from so many driveway shovelings already this season. At 4:30 in the afternoon, it’s time to close the blinds and turn on the Christmas lights, and there are gifts of handmade scarves and rice pouches that go in the microwave to keep me warm as I sit at the computer. Today, there were a few hours of glorious sunshine, the whole landscape glittering – but for the most part, it is cold and dark.

I’m grateful for these tangible reminders of the changing seasons – I have missed this. Some of us have an easier time of tuning in with the passage of time and the subtle shifts in the natural world; perhaps because I am, after all, a Midwestern girl, I need these louder announcements from the weather to truly feel connected.

While this time of year is often characterized by the high energy and festive pace of the holidays, it can be helpful to recognize the disconnect with the slow and quiet rhythm of the season. If you’re feeling out of sync, it may be more than just the eggnog. Though the chill has been in the air for many weeks now, winter is just beginning. This season of cold and darkness is made for rest, reflection, solitude. Can you allow that for yourself?

I have a script I follow for my end-of-year reflection, but even that feels daunting this December. I’m looking at simplifying. The moon was full on Tuesday night, and one of my favorite sources for lunar wisdom had this to say (among other things), something that spoke to me as a complete practice:

“… If we value peace, how do we embody that peace in our daily lives? Or if we value truth, or harmony, or any other higher-vibrational ideal – how do we become that quality as we decide how to proceed from here?…”

Perhaps this is all I need this year. Maybe I will scale back the writing practice, sleep in, do some meditating… contemplate the values that I seek to embody in 2017. Maybe that will be the simple meditation that works for you, as well.

31 Dec

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve Cupcake Toppers - LaStudioprints via etsy.com

New Year’s Eve Cupcake Toppers – LaStudioprints via etsy.com

 

Just wanted to send a quick note to wish you all a very happy new year, and to share a couple of rituals I find comforting this time of year. My new year’s celebrations are simple and consistent – basically: reflect, set intention, eat. Since I’ve written about these before, this year, I’ll give you the highlights in link form:

My all-time favorite reflection/intention exercise comes from Andrea Scher – this year, she put it into a really sweet video message.

You can find some other helpful tools in my January 1 post from last year.

And if you’d rather work together in person to set a strong foundation for the new year, have I got the retreat for you (this Saturday!).

Oh! And let’s not forget the food! Do you do cabbage and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day? This is a tradition that my midwest relatives find baffling, but let me tell you, the biggest display at the front of my Randall’s grocery store today was a bunch of cabbages and black-eyed peas. Peas for good luck, cabbage for prosperity. Can’t hurt, right? I laid out my favorite recipes last January in this post.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013!

04 Jan

New Year’s Meal

Argh.  Do you know how aggravating having your house broken into can be?  I mean, first, there’s the obvious irritation of coming home to find the broken window and the empty space on your desk where your MacBook used to sit (and don’t get me wrong, that part’s really bad).  But then there’s this lingering annoyance when, months later, you go looking for something you haven’t used in a while (like that cord that connects your camera to your computer so you can download the photos you’ve taken), and you know that you always keep this certain thing in the same place, and it’s not there.  So you go looking in the four other places that it just might be, and it’s not in any of those places, either.  And then, even though you’ve been fighting it, you just have to give in and get mad at those robbers (again) because dammit!  It’s like they just keep stealing from me.  And what did they even need with that cord anyway?

So.  Perhaps we have established that we will not be viewing any new photos on cindyscovel.com anytime in the near future.  We’ll see.  I’m still in that state of deciding how much I need to replace and, well, this is probably one of the necessary items (I mean, I’m still taking pictures), but I’m also kind of holding out on the little things (is it possible that I just misplaced it?  Yes, it is).

In any case, I really wanted to start this post with a picture of my New Year’s meal from the other night, because that would be the thing to start out a post with recipes, wouldn’t it?  Instead, you will just have to read the recipes and imagine it.  Or maybe cook them, and then you wouldn’t need the imagining part.  It is probably too late to get in on the good luck and good fortune that comes with these black-eyed peas and cabbage (that’s for January 1, you see – apologies for my delay), but you can still enjoy the deliciousness all year-round.

Here you go…

Spicy Black-Eyed Peas from Paula Deen

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (16-ounce) package dried black-eyed peas, washed
  • 1 (12-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups water

Directions

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, crumble, and set aside to use as a topping for the peas. Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until tender. Add the peas, diced tomatoes and green chiles, salt, chili powder, pepper and water. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Add additional water, if necessary. Serve garnished with crumbled bacon.

A NOTE ABOUT THE PEAS: If you follow the link to this recipe, and check out the comments, you’ll see a lot of discussion about whether or not to soak the peas/beans.  I followed the “quick-soak” method on the pea package (peas + water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover, wait an hour, rinse and drain), and then PD’s recipe took about an hour to cook.  I also halved the recipe.

Molly’s Recipe for Braised Brussels Sprouts (I’ll explain) from Orangette

Ingredients

1 ¼ lb. Brussels sprouts
3 Tbs unsalted butter
¼ tsp coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

Directions

First, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem end of each sprout and pull off any ragged or nasty outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges.

In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes or so. I like mine to get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor.

Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low or medium low: you want to keep the pan at a slow simmer. Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.

Remove the lid, and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the sprouts. Serve immediately.

NOTES: First, if you follow the link, you’ll find more headnotes, plus you’ll get a dose of Orangette, which is always good.  Second, this recipe is for brussels sprouts, not cabbage (I know).  I actually follow the recipe for braised cabbage found in Molly’s book, A Homemade Life – a good read, and full of tasty morsels to try.  To prepare cabbage instead of the sprouts, cut a small cabbage into 8 wedges and arrange in the pan.  Turn the wedges after 5-7 minutes in the pan, and add the cream (2/3 c instead of a whole one).  Cover them for 20 min, then flip again and cover for another 20 min.  Follow the instructions for the lemon juice above.  Enjoy some delicious comfort food, and a prosperous New Year!

01 Jan

New Year’s Resolutions

Planner and goal-setter that I am, I’m not really one for making resolutions.  I think there’s plenty of information out there on the downside of overhauling your life on January 1, so I’ll spare you that discussion here.  I do have a new year’s ritual, though – one that works for me, and maybe one that will work for you, too.

Each year, I take stock of what’s happened over the past 12 months, and I meditate (think/write/talk with friends and family) on what it is I’d like to bring into my life in the year to come.  It’s simple, takes only a couple of hours to do really well, and never involves dieting.  Oh, and it works.

This practice has evolved over several years of collecting advice from people I trust on the matters of personal planning, intention, and success (I’ve linked to my favorite resources at the bottom of this page).  And over these years, I have seen magic happen every time: new friendships, home sales, personal growth, good jobs, … the list goes on and on.

This year, I stuck pretty close to the Mondo Beyondo script – it’s what felt right this time around.  I’ve decided not to share all of it here – for one thing, my list of accomplishments and challenges are probably not that interesting for most of you, and for another, I think the pressure of an audience sometimes takes away from my ability to be totally honest with myself.  I will share the second half, though, since it helps me with accountability, and perhaps it helps you to see an example of how this works.

With that, I wish you a very Happy New Year!

3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?

2011 was a very good year – better than any in a long time.  Part of it was fun, and part of it was relaxing, part of it was really hard – and almost a full half of it was downright shitty.

What made it so good then?  I took risks.  I listened to my soul more closely than I ever have.  I had to practice this – and a lot of 2011 was about that practice.  I got enough sleep.  I expanded my boundaries.  I challenged my definition of myself.

When I look at the list of things I have to grieve about 2011 [Question 2] – the disappointments, the shortcomings – my first reaction is that it is long.  Immediately, my second reaction is a feeling of guilt because, of course, they are all first-world problems, not a one of them resulting in injury or homelessness.  Still, they are real to me, and I know it’s good to acknowledge what has caused me to stumble throughout the year.  After that – and this is what it’s about – I’m grateful (honestly).  This is a good list to work on.  There are things I did not succeed at this year.  And that’s what next year is for.

Thank you, 2011, for all that you have given me.  I declare you complete!

4. What is your primary intention or theme for 2012?

2012 is my year of FREEDOM.

Freedom to be whatever my soul desires.  Freedom to find new love and new friendships.  Freedom to travel.  Freedom from self-judgment and criticism.  Freedom from material trappings.  Freedom from “what will people think?”.

FREEDOM.

 

Resources:

Mondo Beyondo – Completion Worksheet, Class

Andrea Scher’s thoughts on her word of the year

Chris Guillebeau’s instructions for conducting an annual review

Christine Kane’s Word of the Year Discovery Tool

06 Sep

Okay, no more excuses.

It is Tuesday, September 6, the day after Labor Day. And so begins a new season. Everybody knows that the “new year” doesn’t really start on January 1 (right?). It starts that morning when you get up early for the first time in a long time, put on your new jeans (90 degree weather be damned), struggle with your new haircut, and head out to the bus stop.

And so, with that spark of back-to-school excitement in the air, I am getting up early, putting on a clean pair of pants, and getting to work. I’m starting my 40-day yoga challenge, and along with that, my 40-day (no) alcohol challenge and (what the heck) my 40-day (no) caffeine challenge. Feels like New Year’s, doesn’t it?

I’m ready. I’ve had a long, beautiful summer of resting, connecting, dreaming, and figuring things out. And now it’s time to switch gears and turn those dreams into something real. It’s not about the new year’s resolutions – those are commitments that help me mark my January 1st and get things off to a healthy start, but they’re not the real story. What it is about is creating a plan for my business, getting the word out, and making this Retreat right here in your own hometown happen.