Declaring Personal Independence from Stress

jackson and corabelleOn this Independence Day weekend, besides thanking God and American heroes and military for our freedoms, and enjoying good food and each other….it might be fun to ponder something you’d like to “declare independence” from today: perhaps you’ll declare freedom from taking abuse in any form, freedom from guilt that holds you back, perfection that keeps you paralyzed, worry that wastes your time, bitterness that is eating you up or grudges you have held so long that you’ve forgotten the lightness of soul that letting go brings.

How about freedom from attachment to certain outcomes, or demanding life and people be other than they are, freedom from wanting what we don’t have, freedom to love without people-pleasing, freedom to validate others instead of dictate what they should think or do to be more like you?. Freedom to relax, and be who you are, and permission to nourish yourself body, soul and mind.

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Freedom to say no, with kindness instead of resentment. Freedom to detach, when you need a break, with love. Freedom to nap, to play, to slow down. To create a life that makes you want to get up every morning. To bless those who disagree with you, without angst or rage, and get on with doing the good stuff in the world you have been called to do in the circles around you. To laugh more, whine less. Be more humble and easy-going and understanding that all humanity is messed up in some way, including our very flawed selves. Freedom from judging, while welcoming more grace.

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Aren’t we blessed to live with these everyday choices to choose freedom over bondage?

Jesus said, “I have come that You may have life and have it more abundantly,” and “You are no longer slaves, but free…”

In our world, and in our thoughts, Lord, let freedom ring!

(A note of thanks to two of my adorable grandchildren, Jackson & 3 week old Corabelle, for providing the cuteness to this blog.  And to their mom, my daughter and co-author, Rachel, for the excellent photography!  If you want to read more about Corabelle’s debut, you must read Rachel’s latest post on her arrival at http://www.thenourishedmama.com/blog/meet-corabelle )
 And if you want to read more about how to prioritize and nourish your life… check out our latest book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep. 

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Easy, Crunchy, Spicy, Asian Slaw

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(Becky, the Mama)
It was only four years ago that I discovered  that I am, in fact, a wee bit Irish! My great-grandmother,  who died when my paternal grandfather was just sixteen years old , was named Mary Kathryn McNally.  My grandfather loved her fiercely and my Aunt Ann told me that  his mother’s passing would remain, for most of his years, the saddest day of his life.  Saint Patrick’s Day took on new meaning once I realized I was part of the Irish clan.
Of course, like most Americans I am my own walking Melting Pot:  a Dash of Irish, a Sprinkle of  Spanish, a dollop of English  and who knows what other ingredients are mixing around in my gene pool?
To celebrate diversity, I decided to share my recipe for an Irish-Asian-Cajun fusion slaw today.   How’s that for eclectic?  It’s base is shredded cabbage and carrots — a nod to the Irish.  But it’s quickly marinated in an Asian-sesame dressing with hints of Cajun red pepper spice for added kick.
My son popped in the other day, found a large bowl of this slaw in my fridge and ate nearly the whole thing!  He loved it and asked for the recipe, a high compliment since he is a talented cook and foodie. This crunchy, refreshing slaw is a perfect Spring and Summer side-dish, a nice alternative to a lettuce salad and even easier to throw together.
Some of you may be stumped on how to decorate your table for tonight’s meal or event.  So I wanted to suggest this green themed table decoration for your Saint Patrick Day’s Party:
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(If you’ve not already heard us shout it from the mountain tops:  our newest book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep is out and available everywhere books are sold, in stores and online!)
And now, an Irish blessin’ for all our beloved readers!
May your hearth be warm, your holidays grand, and the Good Lord hold you in the palm of his hand. 
Crunchy, Spicy, St. Patty’s Day Slaw 
1 lb ready-shredded cabbage slaw (green and purple cabbage and carrots)
1/3 cup rice vinegar (or any mild white vinegar)
3 T. sugar
1 T. water
1 t. salt 
1/2 t. Cajun seasoned salt (I like Tony’s Cajun Seasoning)
1 /2 t. pepper 
1/2 t. celery seed (optional)
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. black sesame seeds
2 T. sliced almonds or sunflower seeds 
Optional for added heat: few shakes of Tabasco or other pepper sauce
Directions:
Whisk all the ingredients above, except for the coleslaw and almonds (or sunflower seeds).  Pour over coleslaw in a big roomy bowl, and toss with tongs, turning until the dressing has coated the slaw.  (The slaw will absorb the dressing and get a bit softer and juicier as it sits a few minutes).  Just before serving,  toss in the almonds or sunflower seeds. Check seasonings and add a few shakes of Tabasco if you want more heat.
Store leftovers in an air tight container.
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Easy, Scrumptious Apple Dumpling Cobbler

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(Becky, the Mama.)

What is it about being snowed in that turns even makes even the most anti-cooking folks fire up the oven and don an apron? Here’s a recipe that is not only easy to make, and scrumptious,  but will make your house smell like Pure Love.

I know, I know… the last recipe I posted was an apple dessert, too.  But as you read in that post,  I had somehow purchased THREE  huge bags of apples and so, forgive me,  but since I am still up to my ears in apples…. here’s another  fabulous apple recipe I created that used up the last of my surplus.   You’ll take one bite and think, “Oh. My. Goodness. This tastes like my grandmother’s home-made apple dumplings.”  (And if you didn’t have an Apple Dumpling-Baking-Granny,  the Apple Dumplings at Cracker Barrel are a pretty close second.)

A few decades ago, my mother went through a spell of baking Apple Dumplings from a recipe in the red and white checked Better & Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  They were delicious!  People raved about them and begged for more.   But they were also a LOT of trouble.   For my taste they were also a little too sweet and there was too much pastry-to-apples ratio.

This recipe is ridiculously fast and easy and creates a just-right-sweet “cobbler” of apples that make their own “dumplin’ syrup” and is topped with just one flaky pastry crust (thank you Pillsbury for making this part simple, too). Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in Apple Dumplin’ Gang Heaven.

One hint:  the only time-consuming part of this dish is peeling and chopping apples.  To make this effort go faster, conscript every able-bodied adult and child over 8 years-old to come in the kitchen and peel at least 2 apples each, while you do the chopping. Promise them they will be sweetly rewarded for their labor.

Finally, a little bit of fun news from “First Magazine for Women” (you will often see this at  grocery check-out counters).  Last week the editor of the magazine gave a lovely review for our book, Nourished.  Here’s a picture of the article:

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As long as you are huddled up inside eating dumplings this week you might as well buy a copy of our funny, uplifting, practical book to cozy up and read as well.  🙂  And our heart-felt thanks to those of you who have already read the book and perhaps posted a review on your blog or on Amazon or sent us a note or email.   We are soooo thankful for your encouragement!  Be sure to join us on our Facebook Fan Page, too, at We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.

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Apple Dumpling Cobbler

6 to 8 peeled, chopped apples (about teaspoon size pieces) to make about 6 cups total

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1 small to medium fresh lemon

1/2 t. salt

1 T. flour

2 T. butter

1 Pillsbury  refrigerated pie crust

Sugar and Cinnamon to sprinkle on top (about 1 T. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon, but just eyeball it to your liking)

Directions

Turn oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl put apples, brown and white sugars, flour, spices and  salt.  Mix thoroughly.  Butter a 9 by 11 casserole pan and pour the apple mixture into it.   Squeeze a fresh lemon over the top of the apples and then dot with butter.   Place one Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust on top of the apples, tearing it and patching it (pinch pieces together) to create a rustic, “quilted-together” pastry crust as shown below.   Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.   Note that you just kind of  loosely fold the edges and tuck them around the apples.  I also cut a heart shape in the middle, though as you can see, I am not a pastry artist.  No worries about it looking messy, it will come out delicious and beautiful.

DSC_0198Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden and flaky and apples pierce easily with a fork and the juices are golden brown and syrupy.   Serve warm, using a big spoon to place in bowls,  and top with ice cream.

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Fresh Apple Nut Cake with Citrus Butter Glaze

DSC_0189(Becky, the Mama. )

If you have not figured it out by now,  I have ADD.  More specifically, I have what my friend and pioneer brain doctor, Dr. Daniel Amen, diagnosed as the Inattentive Type of ADD.  (Press the Pause Button here for a minute: Thank you to the wonderful, brilliant, kind Dr. Amen for his review of our newest book, Nourished. His fabulous blurb adorns the cover!)

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The Inattentive Type of ADD is less likely to be hyperactive.  Which is certainly true for me.   Put me in a hammock and tell me it’s time for a nap, and I am at my happiest.

Our types tend to be under-focused on things like to-do lists or anything smacking of organization; and over-focused on things we find interesting, absorbing, fun or creative.   I can get so lost in a new idea for a book, blog topics, photography, recipes, decorating projects, researching the history of a vintage find, or helping a friend — that hours pass like minutes.   I once got out of the bathtub one morning, wrapped in a towel with my hair dripping wet, sat down at the computer with an idea for a book chapter, then got totally lost in the flow. When I looked up, to my absolute shock —  my kids were home from school, and I had not moved, dressed, or eaten for 7 hours.

We also tend to lose and forget things with incredible regularity.  As my husband says, “It is a full-time job just being a Becky.”

One other quirk I have is thinking I am out of a particular grocery item, and then buying it repeatedly, ad nauseum.  Until I suddenly realize I have 13 jars of mustard, 6 bottles of sesame oil and 5 heads of cauliflower. This week I discovered that I had unwittingly socked away FOUR  big bags of apples.  The benefit of these surprising surpluses is that it kicks in with my creative juices as I come up with a dozen creative ways to use up the overstocked item.

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Today’s recipe comes courtesy of my apple surplus and daydreaming of a fresh apple cake made from an old church cookbook.  I’d lost the cookbook somehow, but my former mother-in-law Beverly was kind enough to send it to me this week so I could recreate this moist and mouth-watering dessert.  It calls for 4 cups of fresh apples, rough chopped in fairly large pieces,  plus a cup of pecans.  These goodies are bound together with a sweet and cinnamony cake batter.   I made a few small tweaks to the original recipe, which I think enhances the flavor.  You can use a bundt cake pan, as I did in the pictures shown, but  you have to grease and flour it really well, and even so there is a good chance the top of the cake will stick here and there to the pan and you’ll have to patch it a bit.  (As I did here:)  It pops out much easier if you bake it in 2 bread pans, plus you can give one away to a friend or freeze it for later.

Besides being perfect for an afternoon snack, we also love this cake that is chocked full of apples and nuts for breakfast, with a couple of slices of turkey bacon and a cold glass of milk or hot coffee.

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FRESH APPLE CAKE

4 cups 4 1/2 cups  apples, peeled and coarsely chopped (leave some the size of a teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups sugar (I prefer raw sugar)
2 eggs, separated
3/4 cup canola or coconut oil or other healthy oil of your choice
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon  baking soda

2 t. baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon
l cup pecans or walnuts, broken into fairly big pieces

Mix chopped apples with sugar and let stand in a bowl.
Beat egg whites till stiff, add yolks and beat, add oil and mix well.
Combine sugared apples and oil-egg mixture.  Mix well by hand.
Stir dry ingredients together.
Add dry ingredients and nuts to apple mixture.
Pour into  VERY well-greased and floured Bundt pan or tube pan, or 2 bread pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour,15 minutes. (Just one hour if you bake it in bread pans).

While cake is still warm to the touch, but cooled some, loosen the edges with a sharp knife.  Turn over onto a plate and drizzle with the following glaze:

3 T. melted butter

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Juice of 2 clementines, or 1 orange, or 1 lemon

Mix well in a small bowl with whisk or fork.

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Vitamin Roulette: Confessions of an Almost Lethal Messy

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(Becky, the Mama)

Least you think that because I’ve co-authored a book on the subject of self-care that I somehow “have it all together” — let me hasten to assure you (before others start volunteering to do so on my behalf) that this is SO not the case.  First, a visual: a couple of snapshots my daughter (and co-author Rachel) put together of my actual dishwasher after I loaded it (“drunk monkey style”) and one of Rachel’s dishwasher, the way she loads it (like “a lab scientist”).

These are actual pictures of how we each load our dishwashers. I can say this, at least: I am a FAST loader.

These are actual pictures of how we each load our dishwashers. I can say this, at least: I am a FAST loader.

Next, here is a little excerpt from Nourished, where I share a couple of my other potentially lethal flaws.

I’ve always found a measure of comfort in having lots of stuff around me, even when I sleep, like a pack rat’s nest.

I could list dozens of areas where I fight the tide of disorganization, but few have been as daunting as keeping pills, vitamins, and supplements in their bottles, something that unnerves both Rachel and Greg. We have several spots in the house where miscellaneous pills and supplements have spilled then mingled together, like jelly bean assortments. I always plan on sorting them out, one day, looking up the embedded numbers on the internet to figure out if a mystery pill is an Aspirin or Gingko or rogue cyanide. The other night Greg asked if I had a Tylenol in my bedside table. I opened the drawer and took a dubious look at the pharmaceutical collage rolling about and asked, “Are you feelin’ lucky?”

“Never mind,” he said. “I’m not brave enough for Vitamin Roulette tonight.”

He always double checks even when I give him a pill from a bottle, since the night I accidentally gave him a No Dose instead of a sleep aid—a night he recalls every moment of in vivid detail. My purse is another interesting place where pills and vitamins like to gather and do odd things. Rachel and Jackson were recently here visiting, and the adjustment to the altitude gave her a nasty migraine. “Do you have an Excedrin, Mom?” she asked as she rubbed her head.

“Just a minute,” I said, digging in my purse. “Ah ha! I do! Here you go.”

She took the pill, and a puzzled look crossed her face. “Mom, that’s a red M&M.”

“No, honey. See the E on the front? It’s ‘Excedrin.’”

“Mom, put on your reading glasses. See, you’ve got ‘the pill’ rotated the wrong way. Give it a quarter turn. See? It’s an M, and there’s a little chocolate showing where the red candy has melted in your purse, and is now melting in my hands.”

“My goodness, I’ve kept those three M&Ms in the zipper pocket of my purse for two months, sure they were pain killers. Whaddaya know?”

Besides learning that an “M” looks like an “E” when laid on its side, I have also discovered that if you put a few Tylenol PMs into a Ziploc bag and then the bag falls into a hotel sink , and then you accidentally turn on the faucet in the dark of night (and do not close said bag very well), in the morning you will have a blue Play-Doh-like substance that can also put you to sleep and cure a headache.

You might also ask me how I know that a fish oil capsule, warmed in the sun in the lining of a purse will leave it smelling like three day old tuna for weeks.

All this preamble to say, though I am much improved from my days as a teen and young mom—I still struggle. Organization is as sticky a subject as the console of my car.

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If you are curious as to whether or not I ever found my Inner Organizer,  you might enjoy grabbing a copy of Nourished and read “the rest of the story.” 

“In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find – and I hear from other people that they agree – that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness. Gretchen Rubin

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He Calls Me Darlin’ — Hearing God’s Voice of Love for YOU, Personally

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In the last chapter of our book, Nourished,  we talk about the foundation of a nourishing relationship with God, the way we view Him, and closer to the heart of the topic: how we believe God sees and feels about us. 

(from “He Calls Me Darlin'” , an excerpt from Nourished)

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(Becky, the Mama)

I recently came to realize, with some measure of gladness and satisfaction, that each of my grown children had assumed that they were my “favorite child”—which is exactly as it should be. It let me know that I had done at least a few things right as a mother. And they are absolutely correct: each and every one of them is my favorite child.

In the book The Shack, the God “figure” is played by an African American woman and she has an endearing way of talking about each of her “children” and adding, “I’m especially fond of that one.” The main character, Mack, begins to notice this trend, and asks her at one point, “Are there any you are not especially fond of?’

She answers, “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.”

Could it be that God is “especially fond” of each of us and that we are, every one individually, his most favorite child?

I find it interesting that the apostle John referred to himself, over five times, as “the disciple Jesus loved” or “the beloved disciple.” His identity, his name, after so many years with Christ, was simply, “The one Jesus loves.” I cannot help but wonder if the other disciples might each have believed they were Christ’s favorite, too, that he was “especially fond” of them as well. Or perhaps John was so focused on the great love of God, he wanted to make a point by replacing his own name with a description of his belongingness. When you abide, which means to “settle down to make yourself at home” in God’s love, your whole identity changes. Your central role in life is no longer Becky, or Rachel, or “mom,” or “wife,” or “writer,” but the older you get and more you allow God’s love to seep in to your very pores, the more your identity becomes, “The beloved daughter of God.”

Try tacking on this “beloved” identity to your own name, just for fun. Here, I’ll go first. “Hello, I am Becky, The Woman Jesus Loves. But for short, some people just called me Becky the Beloved.” Now you try it, with your name.  Let it soak in.  And just for today, simply let God love you. Nothing more.

 


Your Inner Elephant: How to Make Changes that STICK

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(“Dumbo and Me” — an excerpt from our newly released book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full NIght’s Sleep)

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Lasting change requires two things: a plan and the motivation to tackle it. In the fascinating book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath refer to these two parts of our decision-making brain as The Rider and The Elephant. The Rider is the planner, the logical part of us that researches, makes lists, and follows steps into change. The Elephant is that big, emotive part of ourselves that has to be reached and motivated in order to make a change, even a small one. An Elephant without a Rider is all feeling and impulse, lumbering and stampeding with heartfelt, unbridled, and directionless emotion. Still, The Elephant has its own kind of intuitive wisdom, and needs to be heard and acknowledged.

The Rider without The Elephant, on the other hand, is like a woman standing on a path in the jungle, a well-thumbed guidebook in hand―but without the gumption needed to move off center and actually go anywhere. How many of us have embarked on a new diet or exercise plan, or determined to “get this house organized”―only to find our Inner Dumbo has decided to sit down and roll over our best intentions? Perhaps dousing us with a spray of pond water for good measure? What happened? In short, we did not take the time needed to hear, get to know, and motivate our Inner Elephant.

Think back to a time in your life when you made a real change that lasted. You’ll recognize that your inner Elephant and your Rider were in sync, working together to get you down a new path that took your life’s happiness quota up a few notches. Though I am naturally a messy person, I fell deeply in love with a good man who needs at least a modicum of order to feel balanced and happy. Motivated by love for my husband and desire to see him functioning at his best (engaging The Elephant of feeling and motivation), I made a plan and put into action the steps of cleaning up the kitchen and living room every evening (The Rider) until they became natural habits. Our lives are happier for this relatively minor adjustment that eventually turned into a habit that I’ve kept up for almost a decade now.

One of the simple reasons that Rachel’s extreme schedule makeover didn’t work out (besides factors like illness and drop-in-crazy people) was that, frankly, she didn’t give her Inner Elephant that much-desired cup of coffee. And that Elephant wasn’t going to budge without caffeine, no matter how much her logical Inner Rider argued against it.

If you want to follow a lasting and nourishing way to change, you’ve got to make friends with your inner Rider AND  Elephant.

(To read more about ways to make lasting, positive changes that stick & stay, order or download a copy of Nourished today! )

Here’s what Dr. Daniel Amen, brain research pioneer, had to say about Nourished:

“Those familiar with our work at the Amen Clinic  know we believe that when you nourish your brain, you nourish your life.  The converse is also true: when you nourish your life with one healthy change after another, you also nourish your brain.  Becky and Rachel are, at turns, funny and informative, light-hearted and deeply inspiring.  I found their book,  Nourished, to be delightful, practical brain tonic for women dealing with every day stresses. “

Dr. Daniel Amen, MD,  New York Times bestselling author ( Change Your Brain, Change Your Life; Unleash the Power of the Female Brain;  Use Your Brain to Change Your Age) and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller, The Daniel Plan (along with Rick Warren and Dr. Mark Hymen).  He is also producer and host of 9 public television specials and founder and director of The Amen Clinics.