50 Ways to Connect with Yourself and Life

On my phone I have a folder for little articles and stories that I consider hidden gems, not wanting to lose these pieces of wisdom I have taken to saving them to re-read in the future. For years I have re-visited this piece written by Neil Legault from Unbelievable You which found me at a time in my life where I felt lost and desperately needing connection. Perhaps you need this in your life too!

50 Ways to Connect with Yourself and Life

1)      Practice Kindness – With everyone and everything.

2)      Exercise, sleep and listen to your body – Your body is your temple. Treat it well.

3)      Simplify your life – Your time is precious.  Spend it living your way.

4)      Be Helpful – Offer someone your help for a day.

5)      Do a Random Act of Kindness – Do a kind act out of the blue. Surprise someone.

6)      Relax and Enjoy the simple things – When you are too busy, it’s hard to enjoy anything.

7)      Do what you Love – Make the time for YOU and what you enjoy out of life.

8)      Drop the useless stuff – Eliminate the non-essential stuff cluttering your life.

9)      Focus on what matters – Remind yourself often about what’s most important in your life.

10)   Have Fun – Don’t take life or yourself too seriously. It’s meant to be an enjoyable.

11)   Reassess your priorities – Is what you’ve been focussing on a priority?

12)   Compliment others – Tell someone about a quality you admire in them.

13)   Compliment yourself – Remind yourself about the qualities you admire about you.

14)   Treat yourself to a day off – Take a mini vacation from your routine. No guilt. Just enjoy!

15)   Make a list of what you love doing – This helps you see more clearly into you.

16)   Write down what you love about you – This list reminds you how special you are.

17)   Get away from negative people – Some people drain all your energy. Be positive and say NO!

18)   Have a day off from technology – It’s amazing how quiet you feel when it’s not there.

19)   Be there for someone – Really be present and listen.

20)   Have that awkward conversation you’ve been holding off – You’ll be happy it’s done with.

21)   Find a personal mantra and live it – Find something that resonates with you and read it daily.

22)   Show someone you really care – Caring for someone is caring for yourself at the same time.

23)   Make space – Clean out your desk, closet, garage… You’ll feel better when it’s finally done.

24)   Laugh as much as you can – Watch funny movies, going out with friends and have a silly time.

25)   Stop trying to fit in – Your happiness and freedom is in being you! You’re wonderful already.

26)   Spend some time alone doing just YOU things. – This grounds you and fosters Self-Love.

27)   Go with the flow – Don’t decide. Let Life move you. If you are invited somewhere then go.

28)   Meditate – Go for a clam peaceful walk, stop thinking and feel yourself being here.

29)   Smile as much as you can – Try to be as genuine as you can.

30)   Connect with Love – See if you can let the feeling of Love be present without an attachment.

31)   Don’t take yourself too seriously – When we do, life gets heavy and grim. That’s the ego.

32)   Forgive yourself – We’re all human and we make mistakes. Let the past go. Today is a new day.

33)   Cut out what’s not working – Is it time to let go of someone or an activity and move on?

34)   Do something unexpected – Try something new. You just might REALLY like it!

35)   Listen to music – Listen to music that really inspires you and fosters joy. This works great!

36)   Practice Self-Love – This is hard but the more you get to know YOU and become the genuine person inside, the easier it gets. Love emanates from the core of your being. It cannot be possessed or given away but the more it flows out of you in every direction the more you become it.

37)   Get rid of Self criticism – We are our own worse critics. We put ourselves down way too often!

38)   Let go of worry – Take a few steps and try to trust that Life will provide for you.

39)   Trust yourself – Have confidence in you and your abilities.

40)   Tell yourself the Truth – This is the foundation of respecting and loving yourself. It is also the cornerstone of your spiritual path.

41)   Grow in Spirit – You grow in spirit when you become more peaceful, kind, loving and compassionate.

42)   Appreciate yourself – Take the time to enjoy just being you.

43)   Cultivate your dreams – Focus on what brings joy and bliss to you. Take a step into it every day.

44)   Feng Shui Your Life – Make changes and surround yourself with things, people and activities that make you feel you.

45)   Try to see the Beauty in all things – So much of life is hidden in front of you.

46)   Have great Sex! – There is nothing like a deep, romantic, loving, passionate connection to make you feel really alive.

47)   Spend time with your lover – Don’t speak, just touch or caress each other. Go for a long walk and be fully present with them.

48)   Spend quality time with your pet – Pets like a dog or a cat are wonderful because they love you unconditionally most of the time. 🙂 That’s why so many people have them. It’s extremely therapeutic spending time petting an animal. It forces you to be present, it forces you to feel.

49)   Spend quality time with your kids – Your complete attention is the greatest gift you can give them.

50)   Spend quality time with yourself – The most important thing you can do 🙂 and the one we neglect often.

“To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction is to live twice.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Vegan Chocolate Maca Mousse Tart

My husband Mark and I recently bought our first patio set, we had been dreaming of one ever since we moved into our home three years ago, but as life tends to go, we always had more pressing expenses to consider. As the parents of six children, we desperately needed our own little relax space and finding a moment of peace in our home to recharge out batteries was becoming scarce.

We excitedly made the purchase not really considering the size of the box it came in and were sad and felt pretty silly when we realized there was no way we would get it into the car with all of the car seats… yes, things we should have thought of in advance. So home we went to empty the Explorer, and Mark headed back to Sears to pick up the box as I scrubbed down the front balcony and hung the string lights that I purchased three years earlier. We managed to assemble the two chairs, love seat, and table before dinner as Sophia and Aston played dress up, then excitedly waited for the kid’s bed time when we could enjoy the space in peace and quiet.

In honour of our new found space, we opened up a bottle of Summer Hill Winery’s Alive Blend along with some fresh fruit and settled in to enjoy the warm summer night. Omara Portuondo played in the background, and the string lights twinkled against the dusky sky, but one thing was missing.

Mark is a savage for chocolate, and I knew the second I saw the little cheeky glimmer in his Irish eyes that he was thinking of something sweet. “You know what would be great with this wine?” he asks, “Let me guess… Chocolate?” I reply, and his smile widens. “Fine,” I say and head into the kitchen pantry, but the chocolate was gone! (One of the mysteries of having a large family is trying to figure out who the chocolate caper is.)

Not wanting to disappoint my sweet toothed husband I decided to quickly whip up a new recipe, and boy did it ever work out! Thankfully I wrote down the ingredients as I went along, (which is something I often forget to do) and I now have what I would consider the perfect Vegan Chocolate Maca Mousse Tart!

I hope you enjoy this decadent dessert as much as we have! Let me know in the comments below what garnishes you used on your tart.

Vegan Chocolate Maca Mousse Tart

Ingredients

Prep Time: 10 mins

Chill Time: 1 Hour

Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

The Crust

  • 1/2 Cup Raw Pecans
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Cashews
  • 4 Soft Medjool Dates (pitted)
  • 1/8 Cup Coconut Oil

Method

  • Toss all ingredients into a food processor and blend until a paste forms.

  • Press paste into tart pan, making sure to press the crust up the edges. (Wet hands if the paste is too sticky)

Chocolate Maca Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Raw Cashews  (I buy raw cashew pieces as it’s usually far cheaper than whole cashews)
  • 1 Cup Dairy Free Milk (I used coconut milk)
  • 1/3 Cup of Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Cacao Powder (You can use Cocoa too)
  • 1 Tbsp Maca Powder
  • 1/8 Tsp Sea Salt

Method

  • Throw all ingredients into blender and blend on high speed until a smooth creamy mousse develops. About one or two minutes.

  • Pour over crust in tart pan and place into the freezer to chill for an hour.

  • Enjoy with your choice of garnish, fruit, coconut whip cream, and cinnamon are some ideas!

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto

One of my favourite dishes as a vegetarian was a nice creamy risotto, and like many, before me, I was one of those people who said ” I’d go vegan, but I could never give up cheese, ” and with that, I believed I could never give up risotto. Giving up dairy initially felt like a major sacrifice but after learning more about the dairy industry, and the adverse effects dairy has on the human body it became easier.

I recall a year after going vegan I was at a Sunday brunch at a popular winery where I live, and I came across a massive plate of cheese. Smoked gouda…. one of my past favourites was calling to me, so after a year dairy free I figured what would one cheese cube hurt and I had love smoked gouda so much. So I took a small piece much to the surprise of my also vegan husband who asked if I was sure I wanted to break a year of solid veganism. I decided I just had to have that one little piece and I popped it into my mouth; the flavours startled me. The cheese that I had enjoyed for years tasted nothing like I remembered and had a more oily texture and to be honest really grossed me out.

That was my moment of confirmation, I no longer needed or wanted dairy. A funny thing happens when you go vegan, your taste buds change and natural flavours start to appear that are of such a beautiful quality it leaves you wondering how you’ve lived so long with a blind tongue. I always find it funny when I hear people refer to a vegan or plant based life style as bland when it is quite the opposite!

You don’t need to sacrifice your health or flavour to enjoy a beautiful risotto, this recipe has been a labour of love for me, and I have spend years trying to get it just right. I’m so excited to finally share it with you!

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook time: 22 mins

Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Ingerdients

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Small Onion Diced
  • 2 Cups Chopped Mushrooms (mix a variety for a gourmet flair)
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove Pressed
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme or Basil
  • 3/4 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 2 Tbsp Wine (any kind will work)
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Cup Dairy Free Milk (I use Cashew Milk)
  • 1/8 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

  • In a pot fry the diced onion in olive oil until it is clear.

  • Add pressed garlic and mushrooms and cook on med/low until the mushrooms have softened.

  • Add Arborio rice and fry on low until the rice is evenly coated in oil, then add wine and stir.

  • Once the wine has mostly evaporated add the veggie broth, dairy free milk, and nutritional yeast, and herbs.

  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 22 minutes.

  • Add salt and pepper to taste, serve and garnish with vegan parmesan.

ENJOY!

Teaching Compassion To Children And Teens

I think we can all agree that the world needs more compassion and teaching our children to understand the need for it is a mission we as parents must take on! With growing social media platforms we can sometimes become desensitized to the things happening around us as much of the information about the world today is filtered in some way. Yes, we have all seen photos of suffering but is that enough to teach our children to feel compassion? I think compassion needs to be taught through hands-on learning, yes some of us immediately connect with news stories or seeing a bird with a broken wing but do we actually do anything about it?

I want to see my kids stand up and help, offer kindness to someone who is down on their luck, and know that compassion ALWAYS matters. I’ve created a list of ten ideas to try with your kids that have been successful with mine in our journey to create a more compassionate world.

Ten Compassion Building Ideas

Plant A Garden: Compassion doesn’t just extend to humans and animals but to plants as well. The trees provide us the essential oxygen we need to survive, some bare fruit and essential oils. We acquire vitamins and energy, as well as maintain our health through plant foods and pharmaceuticals that have plant derived ingredients. All of this giving and we so often fail to honour and recognize all that plants and trees do for us. By planting a garden, we teach our children how to show compassion to plants; from a tiny seed in our little one’s hand to the excitement they feel when they see a little sprout appear. Children become invested in their plants; they have a natural desire to nurture and care for new life. This creates compassion not only for the plants they personally grow but the plants and trees they encounter in the outside environment.

Volunteer At The Food Bank: Take your older children to volunteer at your local food bank, there is something interesting that happens to kids as they enter their older child to teen years; for a time many become a little ungrateful and a bit self-absorbed. This is totally normal! It’s hard to go through that tradition from child to teen, and they have a lot going on, but it’s still important for them to recognize the wellbeing of others. Volunteering at a food bank teaches your child that not everyone has the same luxuries you enjoy and many families can’t afford to put food on the table. Working with these families develops an understanding that even in our own communities a large number of families are struggling and could use the help. Even in donating a few hours of their time they can make a difference in the lives of others.

Adopt A Shelter Pet: We all get excited about baby animals but what we often fail to teach our children is that adult or senior pets are just waiting for someone to play with them too. Shelters are full of abandon, lost, or neglected animals and are often overrun with them. Two years ago we adopted a fifteen-year-old labrador who we named Deefer to teach our children about compassion. What they learnt was that even at fifteen and with his old man gray chin Deefer loved to play catch, go for walks, and run around. He lives for play time! Not only that, but he was also well trained, and we didn’t have to deal with any of the puppy drama. We often wonder what he was like as a young pup and the kids like to make up stories about him from his younger days. Of course, with shelter pets, you need to make sure they are a good fit for your family, that they are good with children, and that any health issues they may have are manageable. When we first added Deefer to our family, we were asked why we chose not to get a puppy, and the kids have no problem saying “Old dogs need love too!”.

Make Care Packages For Homeless People: Most people hurry their children away from homeless people as if hoping their children won’t notice them sitting there. I assure you, your child noticed! This is the perfect opportunity to teach your child about compassion and take it to an even higher level. Talking to your child about the homeless in a way that gives a life and story to the people they encounter turns them from someone who is begging to someone who came from somewhere just as they have. Everyone has parents, we all have a family even if some us don’t have a loving family, we didn’t just fall from the sky and become. A series of events has led us to where we are now, and unfortunately, some of us fall into hard times. This doesn’t mean we are any less worthy of compassion. A great way for children to understand compassion is by helping others, small care packages in zip lock bags are a wonderful way to support your local homeless community. Pack some essential items into the bags, like toothbrushes, mini toothpaste, snack items, hats and mittens, matches, etc. Small gestures can go a long way! Though I will say not everyone is going to want a care package, typically if given by a child they are very well received.

Sponsor A Child In Need: If you are able to, consider sponsoring a child in a third world country. Our family had a lovely sponsor child called Faith who lives in Uganda. We made the decision to sponsor through SOS Children’s Villages as after considerable research we found that this organization would make sure the majority of the money we send each month goes directly to Faith’s care and activities. We receive letters and photos from her, and our children love to write and draw pictures for her. It’s a lovely exchange and has sparked a curiosity in my children to learn more about the part of the world Faith lives and what an average day looks like for her.
http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org

Visit Seniors Homes: Caring for someone smaller and younger than ourselves seems to come naturally to most children, but age certainly doesn’t define the level of compassion we require. Visiting seniors homes is a great way for kids to connect with older souls and discover how similar we really are. Aside from learning from the people in the homes an incredible exchange happens, the children add a flair of fun and excitement in the day of the residents and in exchange they are usually given some gem of wisdom. For teens, it’s a wonderful way to make friends with a senior and form a more mature relationship or mentorship.

Consider A Plant-based Lifestyle: Plant-based lifestyles are compassion based, health-based and environmentally based. It’s very easy for us to disconnect the link between animals and food as most of us grow up eating animal products. When looking at a bigger picture it a pretty good assumption that the animals who are raised for meat would rather live, and the environmental effects of factory farming is doing a considerable amount of damage to our environment. Living a plant-based lifestyle means no longer purchasing or consuming products that are animal derived creating a more gentle way of life. Teaching your children compassion for animals through this type of lifestyle has not only health benefits but is also delicious! This doesn’t mean you have to make the change overnight, many people are making gradual changes toward a plant-based lifestyle, and that is a fantastic step to take!

Donate To A Local Cause: Hop online and check out Go Fund Me, you will be surprised at how many local causes you will find. From families that have encountered death, to injuries, and ailing family members, each of these local causes will have a story. When something happens in your life that is difficult or traumatic, community support is incredibly important. Share the stories of these people with your children and ask them how they think they can help.

Get Your Teens and Children Excited About Volunteer Work: Get your kids involved in volunteer work and helping others! The organization Change Gamers has developed an app that makes charity work and volunteering fun, with a great community they are making positive contributions to communities near you! Great online discussion and brainstorming add to the community lead by the Change Gamers Ambassadors who empower kids to change the world! Check them out at https://www.changegamers.com

Donate Gently Used Toys To Children: Have you ever walked into your child’s room, looked around and thought “Where did all of this stuff some from?!” I am with you! With six kids in our home we are at a surplus of barely used toys, and every year around the holidays we get our kids to go through their rooms and find the toys they no longer use. We always make sure these toys are clean and gently used and explain to our kids how happy another child will be to have them to play with. These toys can be dropped off at your local food bank for holiday hampers or to many various organizations such as The Women’s Shelter and the Salvation Army.

Many little things that can go a long way! Let me know in the comments what you have tried that worked for you. Of course, this goes without saying, safety is always the number one priority, I encourage my kids to be as compassionate as possible, but never at the expense of their personal safety. Unfortunately, not everyone is full of kindness, and this too is a lesson we should inform our kids about.

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Island Energy For The Empath

There is something magical about islands, it’s almost as if they are little vortexes of concentrated energy dotted all over the world. I’m not just talking about tropical islands but islands in general; I arrived in Maui for a writers workshop on Thursday and noticed immediately on my arrival that the energy of this incredible place was identical to the energy I feel when visiting Ireland and Vancouver Island.

I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to energy (here is where I go hippie on you, the site is called Hippie On The Grid… you were warned!), since childhood I’ve been able to sense the energies of other people, plants, animals, and the general energy of a place or situation. As a child this was incredibly confusing because I would automatically think I had angered someone if they were having a bad day as I was picking up on that unhappy energy, in reality, I had nothing to do with their mood, but because I could feel it, I assumed I caused it. It wasn’t until my twenties when my lovely friend Maartje taught me about empathic people. Those who carry this trait or ability often can’t identify it and live their lives constantly absorbing the energy put out by the world around them; this can be both confusing and stressful if you don’t know what you are dealing with.

We are all energy, everything around us is energy, so it makes sense that we can feel and absorb the energy around us. We all do this every day, but some of us are hypersensitive to it, and without the proper protections we can easily become heavily overwhelmed causing depression, anxiety, and avoidance.

There are a few things empathic people can do to alleviate this intake of energy, protecting themselves from the more negative or lower vibrating energy out there. One is to create what is called a psychic shield; this is simply a visualization of protective white and gold light covering your body bouncing the dark energy away. I do this every morning when I wake and often pause throughout my day to recharge this protective shield by repeating the visual. Another great tool for empathic people is the use of crystals; I truly believe they help and always have either my pockets or bra full of these precious gems. The three crystals I have found most helpful are hematite (reflects negative energy away), smokey quartz (protects and blocks negative energy), and rose quartz (inviting love in).

Let’s talk about island energy; islands are grounding places for empaths, it’s as if the surrounding water acts as a buffer from the mainland chaos. The term “island time” is often thrown about jokingly due to the slower pace and more relaxed disposition of the inhabitants. Island energy is almost like being caught in a time warp for an empathic person, our heart rate slows, we become more connected to our environment, and we are more easily able to repel those invasive type energies.

Islands are usually dense in vegetation, and because plants and trees are incredibly healing and raise the energetic vibration of the land, they create an energy cleanse. If you consider the mainland which is often highly populated with much of the vegetation cut away to create infrastructure; the energetic vibration will be lower allowing those unpleasant energies to thrive.

Even with an arsenal of tools to help alleviate the symptoms known to visit empathic people, we all need a break from the constant demand on our consciousness to sort out what feelings are ours and what is just energy put off by others. Islands are the perfect place to reset and recharge ourselves quickly when we have taken on too much.

I try to take some kind of island holiday once a year to clear my system and feel grounded again. It wasn’t until this past week in Maui that I realized the connection between the islands I’ve visited and the healing effect it has had for me. I have always naturally been drawn to islands, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. Our subconscious is incredible and knows exactly what it needs to thrive, guiding us in its gentle manner to our greatest potential if we would only listen and follow along.

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Autumn Pumpkin Bunt Cake with Raisin Whisky Drizzle

 

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Okay! This is hands down the best cake I have ever created… so far! I am so excited to share it with you today, as I have mentioned in previous posts I live for Autumn and all of the hearty comfort meals that come with the season. This cake is not only dense but moist and full of flavour that is perfectly complimented by a warm raisin whisky drizzle. I am beyond delighted with how this cake turned out and I am sure you will be delighted too.

I could go on and on about how great this cake is but I’d prefer for a moment to talk about Autumn and what the season brings to us. Autumn or more specifically the Autumn Equinox is the time when light and darkness have balanced letting us know that the darkness of winter is coming. It is a wonderful time to go within an work on ourselves; snuggle up, have a cup of tea with a slice of cake and journal about how the year went for you, in a few months this year will be coming to an end.

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Autumn is also a time of celebration, ancient civilizations would gather and celebrate the bounty of their harvests that would nourish them and allow then to survive the harsh winter. Yes, most of us no longer have to worry about how we will make this through the winter but we certainly have reason to celebrate! We may not have been out harvesting produce but have been working hard in various different areas in our lives and should celebrate that.

For myself I will be celebrating the hard work and completion of acting in my fist Shakespeare play, Macbeth! So much work and time has been put in to learning lines, understanding what my character was saying, developing trusting relationships with fellow cast mates. For me opening night will be the beginning of my harvest and closing night will be a great reason to celebrate!

What have to accomplished this year? No matter how big or small there is always reason to celebrate your victories! Make merry with those you love, smell the smoke on the Autumn breeze, and for goodness sake reward yourself every now and then 😉

Autumn Pumpkin Bunt Cake with Raisin Whisky Drizzle

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Prep Time: 15-20 mins                                                                                                   Serves: 8

Bake Time: 50 minutes at 350

Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Almond Sour Cream (Blend 1 Cup Ground Almonds with 3/4 Cup of Unsweetened Almond Milk, 1 tsp Lemon Juice, 1 tsp Rice Vinegar, and 1 tsp Sea Salt  until smooth and develops the texture of sour cream)
  • 2 Flax Eggs ( 1 tbsp Ground Flax Seed mixed with 3 tbsp of water per egg you wish to replace and allow to sit for five minutes)
  • 1/3 Cup Grape Seed Oil
  • 1 1/4 Cup Organic Cane Sugar
  • 1 (15oz) Can of Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp All Spice
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 tsp Himalaya Pink Salt or Sea Salt

Method

  • In the bowl of a mixer add Almond Sour Cream, Flax Eggs, Grape Seed Oil, Organic Cane Sugar, and Pumpkin Puree and mix until combined evenly.img_5323
  • In a separate bowl combine Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, All Spice, Nutmeg, Cloves, and Salt.img_5327
  • Add dry mixture to wet mixture in mixer bowl and combined; stopping every now and then to scrape the side of the bowl.img_5329
  • Pour batter into greased bunt cake pan and place in the oven at 350 for 50 minutes.img_5331
  • Once baked remove from oven and place on cooling rack for ten minutes and then flip pan onto the cooling rack to release the cake from the pan and allow to cool completely.img_5337
  • Drizzle with Raisin Whiskey Sauce and serve!img_5351

 

Raisin Whisky Sauce

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Prep Time: 5-10 mins                                                                                             Makes: 1 Cup of Sauce

Vegan

Ingredients

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  • 1 Cup Raisins
  • 1/3 Cup Melted Vegan Butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 Cup Icing Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Dairy Free Milk
  • 2-3 Tbsp Irish Whisky

Method

  • Add Raisins, Melted Vegan Butter, Icing Sugar, Dairy Free Milk, and Irish Whisky to a blender and blend until a smooth sauce forms, you will need to scrape down the side a few times.img_5336
  • Put sauce into a piping bag and drizzle over the fully cooled Bunt Cake.
  • Enjoy!img_5348

Super Simple Coconut Curry with Cardamom Basmati Rice

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As a mother feeding a family of eight a simple yet delicious dinner is always appreciated, the problem is there aren’t many recipes out there that are super low maintenance but will satisfy even a fussy one year old in the process. I always try my hardest to avoid anything processed if I can and spend a good part of my day cooking to ensure I know exactly what my babies are putting into their bodies. My concern over what my children were consuming kick started my journey into recipe creation and has since become a passion of mine.

Since my transition from a vegetarian to a fully plant based lifestyle which happened a little over three and a half years ago, I have been trying to recreate my favourite vegetarian recipes in a more eco conscious and cruelty free manner. You see, when I went vegan I had zero support aside from my husband Mark who made the change with me. I had no idea what I was doing only what I desired to accomplish and I truly felt like a fish out of water.

I had always been known for my baking and cooking skills and now I felt like I no longer could create the fun and unique dishes I once had. Boy was I wrong! I was shocked to discover as many other who have made this transition will say that I had never really understood the beauty of food until I became a vegan. The flavours, true natural flavours of vegetables and fruit untainted by artificial chemicals were out of this world!

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The culinary world was at my finger tips and my kitchen was about to become my sanctuary of creation. I poured myself a glass of red wine (vegan, of course) put on my playlist of crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett and would pour my heart and soul into creation! Cooking is really quite simple once you develop a passion for it and make the decision that you are willing to try new things and forgive the times when recipes fail… that will happen at times and its okay!

This recipe that I’m about to share with you was a recipe of instinct and intuition. I believed that the ingredients would combine beautiful and simply on the rushed evening I threw this dish together for the first time and it came out perfectly! I was tickled to discover that such simple recipe could taste so lovely and be prepared so easily and quickly. All of the kids loved it and ask for it time and time again. I can always tell when a recipe creation is a success when there is utter silence at the dinner table because all six children are enjoying their meal.

So here it is just for you from my kitchen to yours, I hope your family will love this recipe as much as mine does!

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Super Simple Coconut Curry

Prep Time: 10-15 mins                                                         Serves 4-6 (Depending on tummy size)

Cook Time: 30 mins

Vegan, Gluten Free

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to Large Onion Diced
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Garlic Cloves Crushed
  • 1 Tsp Ginger
  • 1 Tsp Turmeric
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Curry Powder
  • 1 Tsp Himalaya Pink Salt or Sea Salt
  • 1 Can of Coconut Milk
  • 4 Cups Chopped Baby Potatoes
  • 1 Cup Corn (Fresh or Frozen)
  • 1/2 Cup Rasins
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Cashew Pieces

Method

  • Add Diced Onion and Olive Oil to a pan and fry until golden.

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  • Add Crushed Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Cumin, Curry Powder and Salt to Fried Onion and mix.

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  • Add Coconut Milk to Spiced Onion mixture and stir until combined.

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  • Add Chopped Baby Potatoes, Corn, Raisins, and Cashews to Coconut Milk Spice mixture and cook (stirring frequently) on medium/high for 25 mins until potatoes are soft.

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  • Once cooked mix thoroughly as the oil in the Coconut milk may separate a little and sever over rice.

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  • Enjoy!

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Cardamom Seed Rice

Prep Time: 2 mins                                                                                                                         Serves 4-6

Cook Time: 18-22 mins

Vegan, Gluten Free

Ingredients

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  • 2 Cups Basmati Rice
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Cardamom Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Vegan Margarine (I use Earth Balance)

Method

  • Add Rice, Water, Onion Powder, Cardamom Seeds, Salt and Margarine to a large pot.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 18-22 mins.
  • Fluff rice with a fork once its ready.
  • Enjoy!

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There you have it, a simple yet delicious dinner in less that 40 mins. I always get the sauce going then start the rice and find that they will both be ready at the same time. This is a very light curry that is great in the summer with a glass of white wine or in the winter with a glass bold red wine. I always garish with Watercress or Pea Shoots for a nice finishing touch just to add a little flair.

This dish has also been a guest favourite on the nights we decide to entertain and has received rave reviews. I guess the secret is out as this dish is far less effort to create as the flavour would have you believe. I hope you enjoy this simple and quick dinner on those rushed nights when you’d prefer not to be cooking at all.

Warmest Regards,

Natasha 😉

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Vegan Rosemary Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Okay, I know it’s still summer and spice cake certainly is a more Autumn and Winter fare but I couldn’t help myself! You see, I live for Autumn and spend the great majority of my summer wishing and willing an early Autumn to come. I know all of the Summer people are ready to smack me for wishing away the summer but I’m just not one for the sunshine and heat.

Nothing makes me happier than a rainy day or sipping apple cider as I watch the leaves fall from the large Autumn Blaze Maple in my front garden. I love the crisp air, the smell of smoke dancing on the wind, and long for the day when it is cold enough to wear my fuzzy red Canada mittens and my cozy red scarf. I adore heavy coats with knobbly toggle buttons and high brown boots with fleecy socks, there honestly is nothing I don’t love about the colder months.

There is something magical and whimsical in the air from mid September to the first snow fall, it’s a grounding feeling. I feel rooted and connected to the earth when the leaves start to fall leaving vibrant piles of orange, red, yellow, and gold on the ground.

Part of the Autumn fun is inventing new spicy, warm, and comforting recipes. This spice cake is one of those recipes. This cake was fun to create and has worked beautifully time and time again, with incredible flavour and texture it’s perfect for an afternoon tea with friends or an evening treat while snuggled up with someone you love. As with all of my recipes this cake is completely vegan down to the cream cheese frosting, nothing makes a dessert sweeter than knowing that it’s cruelty free as well.

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Being that our house is full of kids I never ave any shortage of little helpers when baking! As soon as the kids see the apron go on they all battle over who will be lucky enough to get the spoon. Today however as the sun is high in the sky and the paddling pool is set up in the back garden the kids are enjoying an outdoor adventure. I only have this one little munchkin to indulge in my Autumn fantasies with me. My littlest and cuddliest Miss Aston, she is always excited to have Mommy all to herself. Today the spoon goes to her!

 Rosemary Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Vegan)

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Vegan Rosemary Spice Cake

Prep Time: 15-20 mins                                                                                                            Serves: 8

Bake Time: 45-60mins at 350 (bake times may vary depending on the pan used and type of oven)

Vegan

Ingredients

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  • 1/2 Cup Vegan Butter softened (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Vegan Butter Milk (any dairy free milk with 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice added to it)
  • 2 Vegan Eggs (1tbsp ground flax seed to 3tbsp water per egg to substitute, allow to sit for 5 mins)
  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
  • 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Finely chopped fresh Rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Method

  • In a mixer cream Brown Sugar and Butter.

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  • Add Vegan Butter Milk and Vegan Eggs to the Brown Sugar and Butter mixture and mix until creamy.

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  • In a separate bowl mix Flour, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Allspice, Nutmeg, Fresh Rosemary, and Sea Salt. Mix until combined evenly.

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  • Add dry mixture to wet mixture in mixer and mix until smooth (for a lighter cake you can add more Vegan Butter Milk if you like).

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  • Pour Mixture into a greased cake pan (I used an 8″ Spring Form pan for mine as I wanted a smaller, but taller cake).

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  • Place in oven for 45-60 mins at 350, you will know its done when you stick a tooth pick into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean with no batter attached.
  • Place cake on cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

 

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

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Prep Time: 2 mins                                                                             Serving: Frosts one large cake.

Vegan

Ingredients

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  • 1/2 Cup Vegan Butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 Cups Organic Icing Sugar
  • 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Method

  • Allow Butter to completely soften.
  • With a mixer or whisk mix the Vegan Butter and Icing Sugar until light and fluffy.

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  • Add Apple Cider Vinegar and mix (for a more cream cheesy taste add more vinegar until you are happy with the flavour)
  • Place in the fridge until the cake has completely cooled.
  • Frost the cool cake how ever you choose, I like to frost the top and add a sprig of Rosemary as a garnish.

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A little taste of Autumn at the end of a long hot summer! Hopefully my wishes for Autumn to hurry along will be answered, but for now I can enjoy this spicy treat to carry me over the last few weeks of summer. I hope you will love this seasonal cake as much as I do! It pairs lovely with coffee, tea, or as my adorable Husband pointed out it goes well with a pint of Guinness which is now vegan WOOHOO! Aston gives this cake a 10/10, I couldn’t have asked for  more enthusiastic taste tester!

Enjoy,

Tasha

 

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Yuan Fen: A Divine Connection

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There was once a man who found a beautiful woman who he fell deeply in love with, their relationship was one of constant bliss and peace. As the relationship progressed the couple decided that they would marry as they had this deep loving connection neither could deny. As the wedding date approached the woman suddenly pulled away, disconnected, and told her fiancee that she had decided to marry another man.

Shocked and deeply confused the man could not understand what could have happened to his beloved to have ended their perfect relationship. He fell into a deep depression and collapsed in tears in a public garden one afternoon; soon a monk passed through the garden and spotted him. The monk asked the man “Why are you so upset?” as he placed his hand on the mans shoulder and sat beside him in the garden. “My beloved has left me suddenly to be with another man!” The monk nodded and said “Yuan Fen”. “What is Yuan Fen?” asked the man “Let me tell you a story” responded the monk.

“Once, hundreds of years ago there was a lovely woman who sadly died alone and naked on the beach. Many people passed by her lifeless body and would shake their heads in silent sadness and pity for the poor woman. A few passers by even said a little prayer for the woman and pressed their hands into the sand around her body so her soul would know she was not alone and that someone cared.

A young man was walking on the beach that day and spotted the beautiful dead woman laying naked in the sand. He instantly felt that she should be covered to preserve her dignity and privacy in this intimate moment. He removed his clothing and dressed the woman in his pants and shirt, he brushed the hair from her brow and straightened her body so she looked less pitiful in her death. Once he was satisfied he had restored her dignity he said a prayer, wished her soul well and left the beach never forgetting the woman.

Some time later another man came across the woman, he immediately dropped to his knees in sadness and scooped up the woman’s body in his arms and held her. He sang a soft tune his mother sang to him when he was afraid as a child and then he picked her up and carried her to a beautiful field he knew of a short distance away. In the field he dug a grave for the woman, he lined it with wild flowers and delicately lay her body in the flower filled grave. He began to cover her with earth as he wept, he was overcome with how short and tragic life could be. How unfair he thought, he wish he had had the chance to know her. Once she was buried he placed a flower on her grave and vowed to visit her there often.” recited the monk and the man nodded.

“Now lets move forward to present day, we all have had past lives and these lives deeply connect to our future incarnations. There is a divine force that connects us all and the relationships we are meant to have. Every day we pass people in the street who smile at us, when you were with your beloved those people who would smile at her were those who saw her on the beach that day and felt the sadness of her situation and said a little prayer for her.

You were on the beach that day as well, for it was you who selflessly dressed the woman to preserve her dignity because you cared. It was your beloved who lay on the beach that day, you were meant to share some time with her in this life because of the connection you made on the beach that day. What you must come to realize is that there was another man on the beach that day, the man who held her body and buried her. He was the one who was meant to be her one true beloved in this life, her departure from you was only sudden because the power of their connection was meant to be and once in a lifetime .

When the divine connection is made it becomes undeniable, I know it is hard right now but you must believe that there is a truer beloved for you just waiting to connect with you. Don’t allow your heart to close, allow it instead to be free and open so that when you cross her path you will know by the warmth and light in your soul. Do not hold any ill will toward your beloved but send love and happiness to her and to her true love.” said the monk.

“But I hurt so deeply” the man said “and so you shall for a time, but it is only the growing pains of your soul” the monk replied. “Yuan Fen; it is what connects us to who we are destined to meet and be with, it is the most divine and the truest of all connections, you experienced it with your beloved but you were not meant to share this entire incarnation with her but only a piece. Do not be sad, you have served her well and in her heart she will always hold a space just for you that no one can destroy” with that the monk rose, he smiled at the man; a smile that made the man feel hopeful.

The End

 

A dear friend and one of my Yuan Fen connections told me of this concept on a snowy Christmas Eve in 2011. He suggested that since I loved to write that I should take the concept and the brief story he had told me and asked that I write it in more depth. I’m not sure what took me so long or why suddenly today I remembered his request but I felt deeply compelled to find the short message he sent me those years ago and breathe life into this ancient story.

I truly believe in Yuan Fen and hope that you too will find your truest connections.

Natasha 🙂

Finding More In Less

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“Less is more” a saying I’m sure we’ve all heard that can be related to so many areas in our daily lives. I remember rolling my eyes at 16 as I started to explore the world of make-up, every day my Mom would look at me and say “You’re such a beautiful girl, you don’t need all of that make-up. Less is always more when it comes to make-up”. I just assumed she was trying to hinder my growing up and found the saying annoying!

Now as adult and mother of five girls I can completely understand where she was coming from. That saying echoes in my head daily and has become a kind of quest for happiness. In our world today it is so easy to become lost in trying to keep up with the latest technology, newest fashion trends, newest car models, newest everything! So many of us feel like we aren’t succeeding in this life if we can’t keep up with those around us. I have fallen into that trap myself more than once, but in the end you can’t take it with you right?

Two years ago myself, my husband, and five children were living in a lovely two bedroom condo that was once Marks bachelor pad. It made sense at the time for us to stay there as the mortgage was low and aside from sleeping we really didn’t spend much time at home due to the central location in the city to parks and beaches. Yes it was cozy, but we were happy and we felt it was a stepping stone that would allow us to save some money for something bigger.

After about a year and a half we found out we were expecting another baby and knew it was time to upgrade to a house. Up the condo went on the market and we set off to search for our new home. We both had it in our heads that we wanted something newer as we weren’t very good at dyi home improvements and really didn’t have the extra cash or time to throw into renovations. Finally we found a beautiful home that was in one of the best neighbourhoods in town that was in the middle of construction that seemed perfect for us!

The price was a bit more than we has intended to spend but we knew we could make it work, after all we were pretty lucky to have bound a new home in that area of town. Moving day came and we all buzzed with excitement as we unpacked, the kids were eager to get out and explore the neighbourhood. I can remember how nice to was on the first night to cuddle up and our couch and listen to the sounds of the forest rather than city traffic. We thought we had hit the lifestyle jackpot!

As time passed I noticed a shift in myself and Mark, all we did was work to pay the bills and keep the house clean. The blissful enjoyment was replaced with stress over bills and our lack of time together was really getting to us. Numerous times he would throw up his hands and say “We should have never bought this stupid house!” But we had made the decision and now had to live with it.

The biggest mistake we made was the we got sucked into the illusion that if we had the new big fancy house in the nice neighbourhood then we would be happy. Wrong! All we had succeeded in doing was making ourselves more unhappy as we had taken away the time together and the freedom of the smaller mortgage. It was too late by the time we realized that material things wouldn’t make us happier.

That was where the quest began, the quest for less! We both started craving less, all of the “stuff” around us only reminded us of the payments we had to make to keep it. All we wanted was time together without that new smart phone interupting. We actively started working on a three year plan to get out of the house and into something more modest with perhaps more land to enjoy. We didn’t want the entertainment room in the basement, we wanted fresh air and wild flowers.

The first thing to go was cable TV, and you know what I started reading again. He gave up his fancy coffees in the morning and found that he had deeply missed the cheaper black tea that reminded him of his childhood in Ireland. It was little things here and there that may not have seemed like much but it was movement.

We committed to learning new skills that were useful in the days before modern technology like baking our own bread, growing our own food, canning and fermenting veggies to save for the winter. We both felt this deep desire to take it back to the times where people had survival skills, knew how to used nature to treat illness, and could mend a tear with out having to take a shirt to the tailor. Simple life skills!

When did we stop teaching these things to our children, how many of us don’t know how to cook a meal from scratch or grow some strawberries in the garden. Yes these things take time but are so worth the accomplishment you feel when you create something on your own. The less we shopped, the happier we were. The less we had, the happier we were. The further we took it back, again the happier we were.

The thing is we will never be able to keep up, ever, period! Something better is coming out everyday, something new is developed to take away our life skills. I used to count down the days until the newest iPhone came out and all I ended up with was a stack of old iPhones that worked perfectly fine just sitting there, how silly! We want and then we suffer because we can’t have it all right now!

We forget that people live in utter poverty and we feel sorry for ourselves when we can’t have the newest gizmo that we actually don’t need to make it through a day. I hate that the world has become that way, I hate that capitalism has taken over, and I hate that I fell for it just like everyone else!

So here we are two years after buying the house and living what anyone would say is the “North American Dream”. Yes, I should feel grateful and don’t get me wrong I am; but I realized that I don’t want it, I don’t want any of it. I would die to go back to the days when we lived in the cramped little condo and had less. In the little we had we had so much more of each other and that is what it important at the end of the day.

Have I found the golden answer to happiness? No, but I do believe I am on the right track. So our game plan is to when we are able, sell our North American Dream Lifestyle and go back to our beautiful, cozy, and loving life. Grow good food, bake good bread, teach our children how to survive the old school way. Teach them to cook, to care for our planet, to become self sufficient because who knows what the world will be like when they are all grown.

I shutter to think we will lose all of our survival skills, but I worry more that we will become so attached to technology that we forget how to have a simple conversation with each other in person. I no longer want more, in fact I run from it. I want simple, I want the tried and true hands on skills that once were. Without those skills we might not know how to survive one day.