Meet My Two New Best Friends (plus: winners!)

My blender:

And my green smoothie:

Ahhh... green smoothies. A little bit of sunshine on a grey February day. I realize that for some of you, that doesn't look very appetizing. Should have wiped off the edge of the glass. Just trust me on this one: Once you try a few, you'll recognize the green goodness of these concoctions.

Earlier this year, I did a raw food trial - I ate only raw food for ten days. I? Loved it. Loved. it. I felt light and free and energetic. Me! Energetic! The most energy I've had recently is when I ran from the couch to get the Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe Joes from the kitchen and back.

I first heard about eating a raw diet from an interview on NPR, with the authors of the cookbook Raw. I thought it sounded interesting, but I didn't think it would be for me. Last year, I kept getting hints that I needed to improve my diet. I made a soul collage card, and all the pictures I picked and put on my card were of raw fruit; I didn't consciously do that, I just grabbed the pics I loved, and that's how it ended up.

Reading about Steve Pavlina's raw trial and subsequent way of eating was intriguing, but again - nah, not for me. Well, maybe. OK, maybe I'll add in a little more raw food each day.

I started thinking seriously about it this fall. I heard that eating a raw diet increases your intuition, and that was a big motivator. I knew something had to change. I was thinking this coming Spring, when the farmer's market opened, I'd start. THEN, my Dad got me a Target gift card for Christmas. As soon as it was in my hands, I wanted to get a blender. Forget about the trash can we need in the office, and new measuring cups (mine got melted!), or clothes. I was picturing a blender.

So off to Target I went. Target is right beside Trader Joe's here, so after I got my blender, I walked over to Trader Joe's and loaded up on organic bananas, pears, kiwi, pineapple, spinach, clementines, kale, sugar snap peas, and broccoli, before I even knew I was doing it! It was like I was on auto-pilot. OK! Raw trial starts tomorrow! That's cool.

The blender I got is 700 watts - pretty powerful for a department-store blender. Lots of people who eat a raw diet use either Blendtec or the Vita-Mix, but my Target Michael Graves blender was under $40, and it does a GREAT job.

So I did it. It was EASY. I didn't miss anything. I wasn't craving anything. I would eat three or four clementines at a time, loving every bite. HUGE salads, of iceberg (love the crunch!), spinach, apples, avocado, lemon juice. And - green smoothies. How I love thee, green smoothie!

Here's an example of one recipe:

All the ingredients are laid out - 1/4 of a pineapple, juice of one lemon, one whole kiwi (peeled), 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/4 lb. spinach. (all organic) (Thank you, Trader Joe's!)

I add the liquid first. You can use just water, too, or fresh orange juice - anything, really! Rum, maybe?

I use a celery stick to unstick the fruit from the side of the blender - then I don't need to worry about the blade accidentally nicking some plastic something. I can then throw the celery stick in at the end, or just it eat. After the initial unsticking, everything usually blends smoothly.

Yummm, kiwi.

I didn't get a shot of the blueberries going in, but that's why it's pink/purple! I put the spinach in one handful at a time, lots and lots of spinach.

Blend, blend, blend. The blender I got has a "smoothie" setting, and it really gets everything all mixed in.

Yum. Yum. This smoothie was tart, 'cause of the pineapple and lemon juice. Really tasty.

The simplest smoothie I've made is 2 - 3 bananas, 1/4 lb. spinach, and water to blend easily. That smoothie is prettier, it comes out a bright green color, without the blueberry bits in there. AND - it tastes like just the bananas! I've put in HUGE handfuls of spinach, and it still tastes like the fruit. Another recipe, with no pictures:

1/4 pineapple
2 kiwi
juice of one lemon
couple chunks fresh ginger
5 strawberries
2 whole kumquats, de-seeded
~ 1/4 lb. spinach (several big handfuls)
several leaves kale
water to blend smoothly (~ 1/2 cup)

Now THAT one's very refreshing. You get little bits of kumquat rind. Obviously, I'm not eating locally. When the organic farmer's market opens weekly this Spring, I'll incorporate more local produce. We do have one open every other week through the Winter, but that's hard to get to with no car, and I'm hopelessly bad at asking for rides.

I'm not eating a raw diet right now, but I still start every day with a green smoothie - it's like a vitamin/mineral shot at the beginning of my day. Highly recommend it.

Annnnd, we need winners, don't we?

All right, writing down names and pulling from a hat, we have:

Winner of the book - tysdaddy!!

Winner of the feelgood list - hahamommy!! (Otherwise known as Diana -this is the second thing she's won on my blog!)



It's February. And I Want You to Feel Good.

Oh, February. It looks like I'm in the clutches of this month again.

There is part of me that knows it's part of a natural rhythm, the lowered energy levels, the looking within more. And then there's part of me that just wants to feel *better* NOW. In February, I feel down a little more, I'm a little more vulnerable to negative thoughts and feelings.

It used to be SO much worse, I used to barely be functional when I was depressed. A huge - HUGE - gift of unschooling, especially radical unschooling, has been that I've learned to aim for joy. Keep my compass aimed for joy. I've (we've) created a life that I love, and what a gift that is, to wake up each day grateful for what we have. By keeping the relationship with my sons primary in my life, I've been guided to a life that's fulfilling and amazing. In doing that, I dropped the depression. I needed some help with the shift - I took an antidepressant for about a year, just about five years ago. Since then, true depression hasn't happened. I've had my down times, just one really bad one spell that lasted a couple of weeks, but I haven't dropped off that abyss again. I am so freakin' grateful for that.

I also credit drumming, meditation, prayer, and reiki for that shift. And, of course, my boys.

I have learned through the years to accept February for what it is. I have learned some coping things, that I wrote about last year. To that list, I'd add: dance, often, as wildly and silly as you want. What a mood-shifter!

This year, on a friend's blog, I found another tool to use. It's a list, a reminder list, of things I love to do, that can shift how I feel. Here's her list:

How lovely is that? She has more lovely things, in her etsy store. I'm eyeing those printable Valentines! I ordered my list - you can customize your list with what helps you, and she'll design it up and send the pdf so you can print out as many as you want. I haven't yet filled mine out, though - I'm thinking of what I really want to have on there. Bake with Seth. Watch videos on YouTube with Evan. Draw with both boys. Draw alone. Take a walk with the boys and the dog.

I have so many possibilities! And I've decided that because the list is so pleasing to look at, I'm going to frame one copy and put it on my wall. It makes me happy just to look at it.

And it would make me happy, to help make you happy! To that end, I'm having a double give-away! First, I'm giving away a list for you! The winner will get an e-mail with details on how to get their very own customizable feel-good list. And, I'm giving away a copy of The River Why, which I wrote about last year. What a great book. I'm feeling all excited just thinking of you receiving either one of these!

All you gotta do is leave a comment, and in your comment, let me know what you do to help yourself feel better. How do you shift your mood? Does it include chocolate? Or do you just burrow under the covers for a while? I'll draw two names from the list of everyone that comments; one will receive the feel-good list, and one will receive the book.

Good luck! I feel better already!


I Can See! I Can See! Now Maybe I Can Dress Myself.

After five years of not buying contact lenses, because to spend the money seemed frivolous, I finally treated myself yesterday - AND I got new glasses, because my prescription had changed quite a bit.

It feels really, really good to be able to see again. I also found an Aveda training salon, where I can get a nice cut for not much money.

Here's the before & after:

I have eyes! I feel so much more open when I wear contacts, like I'm hiding behind my glasses. Maybe I am.

It felt odd but good to spend money on myself, for what I consider "outside" stuff. It always blows me away on What Not to Wear when they give the participants $5,000 to spend on clothes. Five THOUSAND dollars! On clothes! My mom is from Maine, and I feel so at home when I visit my family there - you're not expected to spend a whole lot on clothes, they're just supposed to do their job! And I've pretty much always held that view of clothing. I'm seeing now why you don't want to wear worn-out clothes out in public, but it seems SO wasteful to throw out perfectly good things because of a tear or two. I have a sweater that has a small burn mark on the arm - the underside of the forearm - and I've been wearing it that way for probably the last year or so. It just dawned on me last time I started to put it on that maybe, just maybe, I ought not wear it. But it's a perfectly good sweater! It keeps me warm!! It goes against my grain to throw it out. I can hear my mother now: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." That's probably part of her post-depression-era/WWII upbringing, as well as the practicality of Down Easters. Isn't it better for the environment to not consume, consume, consume?

I have learned it does make a difference if what you're wearing looks good. I don't have very many things that I think look nice on me, but when I wear them, I do feel differently about myself. And that really, really bugs me! It seems so... superficial.

This is an area I'm just gaining awareness in - I need guidelines. So: no stains, rips, or tears (or burns, apparently). That much I can do. And, yeah, I'm just learning that. I feel torn!

OK - funny story about the burn: At church, we have candles at the front that folks can light for joys, concerns, prayers, etc. There are two circular stands, each with about 25 candles on it. I went up & lit a candle one morning, and when I got back to my seat, I crossed my arms, and OUCH! My hand got burned just a bit. Apparently, when I reached across the candles to light mine, my sleeve caught fire. And I didn't notice. There weren't flames, it was barely smoldering. I rubbed it out with my hand, and soon after, the lady beside me started sniffing: "Do you smell smoke?" Of course, I just sniffed, too! "Hmm - I think I do!" I was cracking up inside. If it had gone on any more than that, I would have come clean, but that was the extent of it.

So not only does my sweater keep me warm, still, it has a story attached! I told a friend this story, and she said, "Caren, you deserve to wear clothes that don't have burn marks." I don't really know what to make of that. Deserve? What does that mean? I know it's all tied in with self-esteem, values, etc. It seems like too much to think about, most of the time.

Maybe I'll just stay in my jammies. My sister did get me a pair of these for my birthday! And I feel silly telling you how much I love them... but I do.

At least I know enough not to go out in public in them.