Finding Sunshine on A Cloudy Day

Now you’re all humming “My Girl” by The Temptations, aren’t you? That’s just fine… because it’s close enough to what I’m referring to. Today is a beautiful day here but it’s surrounded by lots of rainy days with ground well saturated with melted snow (some places still have several inches, if not feet, of snow that hasn’t yet). So you’ll understand why the idea of finding sunshine on a cloudy day is on my mind.

My Girl - The Temptations

Of course, in the song it’s all about the girl and hey, if that’s your answer – do your thing. 🙂 Read no further. You’re all set. But even for those in love, there are moments when you just need a little help finding the joy in life when it isn’t coming from outside of yourself.

I’m sure a lot of us have noticed how happy people get when the weather changes from overcast and cold to sunny and warm. Happy, friendly, and usually more optimistic. At least, this has been my experience almost everywhere I’ve been. The weather plays a large role in our mood and our outlook on the future. Recognizing this is one element of being able to turn the dial up on your own inner happiness, on your own, when the outside isn’t quite as uplifting.

And, of course, this concept of sunshine and clouds is also a metaphor for broader situations we can get ourselves into. Just the very idea of going to your job away from home, taking care of the kids, etc. can get a person down and out. Some days things are going great, other days something just isn’t connecting or you aren’t feeling appreciated. I’ve had plenty of all of it.

But it’s all the same – it all hinges on being able to recognize the impact that your external surroundings have on your own mood and outlook on life. If someone gives you a hard time, you have a choice to make. You can internalize that moment and feel bad about it and upset and angry about it. You can feel resentful toward that person for your changed mood and lost happiness. You can bemoan the unfairness of it all that you should be one chosen to be the target of this person’s ire (or whatever). And et cetera.

But where does any of that get you? Where has any of that every gotten any of us? Emotions are tied into a complex biochemical and psychological web of influences that are not easy to tease out. Emotions are a part of how you respond to the world. It isn’t really helpful to criticize yourself for your emotions. But it is useful to examine them and to examine your actions in response to them. How do you act based on your emotions?

Here’s an example. My friend Sanjay has just had a going over by his boss for forgetting to turn in a weekly report needed for his boss to be able to write his own report. Sanjay is getting the third degree and afterward he feels pretty bad. He goes to his friend and complains about the whole thing, complaining that his boss is a jerk and he doesn’t deserve to be spoken to in that manner. He complains that he doesn’t make enough money to put up with the nonsense (he probably uses more colorful language). Et cetera.

And I come along and ask Sanjay, in this fictional example, how he’s feeling at that moment. Most people would say something like: “I’m pissed off.” or “I feel like punching him.” or “I just feel like quitting.” Right? Any of this sounding even vaguely familiar? Even if you don’t work in an office – you can extrapolate this to other situations where you have had to knock heads with someone who is a position of power over you (student-professor, other employee-boss, child-parent, adult “child”-parent…)

But you see what I mean about identifying emotions really as the subsequent _actions_. Our fictional dude is probably _feeling_ angry and devalued, and who knows what else based on his own past history – he could be feeling depressed, sad, lonely, unloved, resigned, anxious, fearful, terrified, hopeless et cetera.

My point being – if he could instead focus on the emotions, rather than the actions, then he could see that his response (being upset with the boss’ actions) isn’t really useful _for him_. It only exacerbates what is upsetting him so much.

And so instead of allowing this moment with his boss to turn his day upside down – he could instead chose to use it as an opportunity for self-improvement, for change. He could instead brush it off and find ways of seizing the rest of the day in productive ways – ways that would be positive. He could instead relate in positive ways with those people he knows _do_ appreciate the work he does, rather than in negative ways through a rehashing of the upsetting moment. He could instead find the sunshine in the potential cloudy day.

Now, I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna and suggest that anytime something bad happens or someone does something wrong to you, you should just put on a happy face and brush it off and that’s that. Or even that this is always possible. But the act of trying, of knowing that it is _possible_ will allow you to find those happy moments more often than not. And happy moments usually feed off of each other. Remember how I reminded you that people tend to be happier when the sun is out? Same thing happens when people are around others who are happy. Granted there are some who react negatively to bubbly people, ok… but in general people react positively to happiness around them. Hence, happiness can be a self-perpetuating phenomenon. Your positive attitude can chase someone else’s clouds away.

Photo credit: hotblack from

Hopefully all this happiness and sunny metaphors hasn’t had you rolling your eyes too much!  Then again, eye exercises are good to relieve the eye strain that might come from reading long posts like this one…  😀

Comments welcome. Stay tuned for a post that will seem like a counter-argument to this but isn’t really. Basically a post on the meaning of happiness, how it manifests and how Western society places value on certain kinds of happiness which may or may not be happiness at all (depending on your own perspective). Not sure when I’ll post that – I have to be in the right mood for it. 😉

Post shout out to @_anawhite because I am in love with her DIY furniture plans.


Vegan Cauliflower-Spinach Casserole


  • 1½ cups almond milk
  • 3 T coarsely chopped organic almonds (optional)
  • 2 T vegan margarine
  • 2 T whole wheat flour
  • 1″ thick slice of vegan soy cheese, grated (or ~1/4 cup loosely grated soy cheese)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp white pepper (adjust as needed)
  • 2lb head of organic cauliflower, cut into 1½” florets
  • 1 medium organic onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T reduced sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 2 handfuls organic baby spinach
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika

This recipe is completely vegan and 100% creamy, cheesy deliciousness.  I wouldn’t overindulge on it (but that goes for most things, no?) – and it makes a nice side dish to bean burgers and a raw veggie salad.


– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

– In a medium saucepan, melt the margarine and stir in the flour. Whisk immediately over medium-high heat for 1 minute.

– Add the almond milk and whisk continuously until the sauce thickens.

– Remove from the heat.  Add half the cheese to the sauce with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and whisk.  (Clean off your whisk immediately.)  Keep the sauce warm while you prepare the cauliflower.

– In a large skillet, bring ~1/2″ of water to boil.

– Add the cauliflower florets, cover and cook for ~ 4 min until cauliflower is tender but still slightly crisp.  You don’t want them mushy so be careful not to overcook them.

– Drain cauliflower immediately in a colander and let sit to drain completely.

– In the dry skillet, add about a Tbsp of olive oil and saute the onion and garlic to light brown.

– Add the cauliflower back into the skillet with the onion/garlic.

– Add 1 Tbsp soy sauce evenly and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.

– Transfer vegetables to a casserole dish.

– Rinse spinach leaves in a colander and loosely dry with a paper or clean cloth towel.

– Coarsely chop spinach leaves and add to the casserole dish.

– Top off with almonds, remainder of cheese and paprika.

-> Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and browned on top.  Let set for 10 minutes before serving with a fresh veggie/lettuce salad.


The contrast of the crunch of the almonds and the creaminess of the cauliflower/almond sauce is delightful but not to everyone’s taste.  Hence, the almonds are certainly optional.

The health benefits of almonds are an added bonus to the recipe, however.  The “nutritionally dense” nuts are high in protein and fiber as well as other nutrients (eg. magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and Vitamin E), which are increased if you top the casserole with raw sliced almonds rather than cooking them.  And don’t forget the salad as a fresh counterpoint to the baked dish.  🙂 Happy eating!

Other Possibilities

– broccoli florets, fresh parsley, 5-6 chopped scallions, 1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers, 1 cup chopped seitan, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms… etc.

Motivation & Mindfulness

It seems that I have some sort of auto post setting on Posterous and now that the Thing-a-Day project is up and running, the 2nd post (by splashpaint) motivating everyone to join up before Feb. 1st posted both on Posterous and here on my blog (as if I posted it). Bizarre. Scared me for a bit though because I thought a spammer had access to my account!

Having said all of this – I am more than happy to take this as an opening to talk about motivation and creativity. Namely, what motivates me and “reawakens my creativity”, as the original post said. I would like to say that there is a simple off the shelf answer that you can pick up at your local muse shop. But as with so many things in life, I’d have to say instead that it depends.

For me, the struggle with motivation and harnessing the wild flashes of creativity, is just that – it is a struggle and the creativity does come in wild flashes. Part of my own path of mindfulness and acceptance of myself as I am, has been understanding and acknowledging that many of the ways that I process the world are deeply influenced by a traumatic past. And so, a large part of my creative process has had to include a feeling of safety.

What does this look like? Well it isn’t always an obvious thing. Something as simple as routines are helpful to me. With my writing, it helps to write at the same time each day, even if nothing is forthcoming. I’ve found that leaving a roughly sketched idea to explore is helpful or even just a word dangling, ready to launch a new sentence the next day.

When it comes to matters of health and wellness, motivation still requires a sense of safety, if you want to think of it like that, because I am most successful at being mindful of my exercise routines and eating habits, if I am equally mindful of habits of self-judgement. You know the habits I mean – little things we tell ourselves that are just as critical, if not more so, than if we heard them from someone else, about how we look, how healthy we are, chances of success et cetera. These little voices are, of course, not terribly helpful but they can be put to good use.

More on turning the little voices from demons into angels soon. 😉

For now – this was fun – thanks for listening. Amusing what can happen when technology goes awry, in other words this post is all thanks to a goofy autopost feature. Though it is interesting that I was then inspired to write about motivation and how a feeling of safety helps motivate me, considering it all began with a concern that someone else had posted to my blog (which was technically true but not intentionally). Wonders never cease.

Post shout out to January. Check out her blog.

Gratitude: What Could Have Been

I am not a big fan of blogging about places of employment, past or present – I don’t think it’s a generally good practice for what should be obvious easons.  And I don’t mean this in a proscriptive sense, I mean it in a i-dont-trust-myself-to-not-say-something-stupid sense. 🙂

Having said that, I feel like sharing something I am grateful for.  And it requires posting about a former place of employment.  Someone reading this who knows me really well will know exactly where I mean, but I would thank you to keep that to yourself.  🙂

So, visiting said former place of employment last week was a surreal experience for me. The place I used to work at was not the best fit for me and my skills, hence the “former”.  Leaving there was one of the better things I’ve done in my life and really I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my sister for helping me realize what options I had available to me at the time.

Enviro Chamber

Last week I had the very bizarre opportunity to re-visit that place, not out of choice but by chance. Basically the place I used to work at is an environmental lab and this many years later I had need of their services.  I was there dropping off the samples.  I could have mailed them but that would have delayed the results. And, anyway, I guess a part of me was curious.

Photo credit: sri_grafix from

The building hasn’t changed much from what I could see. Some sprucing up in the entry way but overall, the same layout as when I was there.  What shocked me most though was who greeted me at the desk.  The (second-to) last person I expected to see.  I guess the boss would be the actual last person I’d expect to see (not because he’d have left but because he wouldn’t be at the front desk).

But this person, Former Colleague #1, didn’t appear to have changed one iota. Slightly older, sure, but the exact same mannerisms. And a second person I used to work with was clearly still there (their name was everywhere) as well but not available for a proper reunion. It was just as well – all the reasons I left were apparent within seconds of talking to Former Colleague #1.  And later when I called to get the lab results, Former Colleague #2, was pretty much unchanged as well.  And yet they were both what one could call good co-workers.  Generally nice people, easy to get along with, helped me get up to speed, and weren’t overly competitive.

But the whole experience of walking in there that day was surreal.  Made me feel as if sometimes you do get to travel in theTARDIS TARDIS. Just for a moment. Crack open the doors and see what could have been…then back home in time for dinner.  No time to ask questions and get sucked into another reality.


P.S. Further gratitude and love to a fellow blogger-goddess, Go-Go Rach, for whom this post was written.

RECIPE: Creamy Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup (vegan edition)

My sister and I found this delightful recipe online – mind you it’s called “Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup” but we were searching for a garlic and kale soup so that’s what this soup is to us.  Choosing this recipe involved a few things:

– determining that we wanted make something soup-like to warm everyone up on a chilly pre-winter night (New England doesn’t really do fall – anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to get you down here to stimulate the local economy during the so-called leaf-peeping season and/or to jump-start the holiday season.  Don’t fall for it.)

– checking out ingredient availability and discovering lots of kale, the usual assortment of garlic heads, potatoes, celery, etc.  The makings of a nice hearty soup.

– being interrupted by washing dishes, talking to another sister on Skype and who knows what else…

– the first few garlic+kale+soup+recipe searches yielded recipes with wheatberries and while I happen to _love_ wheatberries, we’re all out. Which implies that we normally have them stocked and you’re welcome to believe that if it will increase my coolness factor.  🙂 But they are good for snacking on (cooked) and are an intact whole grain so very good for you!  But we didn’t have any so … moot point.

– removed the wheatberries from the search and a few recipes later we find a recipe post by Anna Thomas from her book Love Soup. The story of the soup is probably about 35% of what sold us on the recipe – you’ll have to read it yourself.

The preparation was not short, but with two of us it went easily and fairly leisurely.  Plenty of chopping and boiling and blending and what not but in the end, it was very pretty and very yummy.  At one stage, before it was completed, my sister exclaimed that it just tasted like “weird mashed potatoes” and I can’t say I agreed with her but it definitely is one of those recipes that leaves you wondering as you prepare it and then comes together at the very end.  The constituent parts are like musicians queuing up before the curtain rises…or something like that.

So without further bad metaphor, here is the recipe, with modifications and notes.  The original recipe is linked in the title.

Continue reading

New Path To Health Workshop

This past Friday, I was sponsored by the Hampshire College Community Health Collaborative‘s New Path to Health series to give a workshop for the community – this time scheduled one week before our Holiday Bazaar to potentially give attendees some inspiration for their own creations.  The well-attended workshop focused on bath bombs.  [A similar workshop in April was an invitation to talk about my book and we made basic lotion.]  While I didn’t have time to discuss Mindful Beauty Is In Your Hands this past Friday, a few participants were interested and asked to look it over.  Thank you for the support. ♥

Rambling IntroBasic RecipeBasic InstructionsBath Bomb Resources


Rambling Intro 🙂

Bath bombs, as it turns out, are not a universally known concept.  A few participants were unaware of what they were and what to expect.  Queue the fun times! Seriously though, while they are messy to make – there are few other bath products that you can make yourself so easily and quickly and with so few ingredients AND have a “blast” doing so at the same time.  Ahem.  Sorry.  But there was laughter and giggling!!  And I should have taken pictures (*slaps forehead*) because the before and after of the table top alone would have you chuckling.  You’d have thought we were 8 year olds making brownies.  It was that messy.  And that much fun.

And, of course, finding out they got to take their bath bombs home was the highlight.  I’m always amused at this moment – what do they think, I’m using them as cheap labor so I can have tons of bath bombs to enjoy later?  Hmmm – then again.

Due to a lack of time, we had to split the large group into two groups and have each do a batch.  One group used a gardenia floral water I brought as their water source and their scent.  Nice idea!  Their batch looked really good at first but when they went to press them into molds, it was clear that the mixture was already starting to fizz up rather considerably.  Ah!  It was fun to watch though – especially since we were putting the mixture into muffin tins, so they looked just like rising muffins, albeit white ones.

The premature fizzing action is, as you’ll see later from the recipe, due to excess water.  It doesn’t take much. And this was in large part because the spray bottles weren’t working for some odd reason.   I had forgotten to bring my spray bottles so grabbed some cheap new ones on my way through the store getting other supplies.  Bad idea apparently.  But in the end they did manage to take home recognizable bath bombs once they’d dried out a bit – and I am hopeful they will still have significant fizzing action left in them for later.

The 2nd group did a rose scented batch that turned out much better, still slightly too wet but they all held together quite nicely and dried out as we cleaned up.  Both groups added glycerin (vegetable) to their water for its emollient (skin-softening) properties.  Kudos to them for their creative leaps.

And now – a basis for your own creative leaps…


Basic Recipe:

2 cups baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

1 cup citric acid

2 tsp oil (eg. almond oil)

1 tsp essential oil (SKIN-SAFE)

Water in a spray bottle (can add glycerin and/or use scented water, eg. rose water or other floral waters)

Bentonite clay can be added to preserve the dryness of the bath bomb for longer but isn’t as easy to obtain…

And there are hundreds of variations on the internet – really and truly.

YIELD: Depends on the size of your mold!  This yielded ~ 16 bath bombs made in standard muffin tins.


Basic instructions:

Mix baking soda and citric acid together in a bowl with the oils, and hand blend.  [NOTE: consider wearing a dust mask at this stage because both dry ingredients are very dusty!]

Spray a small amount of water onto the mixture and continue kneading until you have a crumbly pastry dough-like texture that holds together but isn’t wet.

Make sure it isn’t wet otherwise you’ll over-activate the citric acid – which is the point but not at this stage! 🙂  It will fizz, but just knead until you get a moldable mixture.

When it’s moldable – then you need to pack your mixture into your molds.  What can you use for a mold?  Many options:

– you can just use your hands!  Gives a rough-looking shape but works just fine.

– you can use pretty much anything that allows you to pack your mixture in and then after a few seconds get it out again.  So measuring cups, cupcake molds (with or without liners), ornament molds from craft stores, muffin trays, etc.

Just be sure to pack the mixture in tight.  For a two-sided mold, first pack in a bit loosely on both sides to the top, then add a bit more to one side and squish the two sides together really tight.  This will give you a nice spherical shape with a seam – really pretty.

Let it sit for about 5-10 seconds before removing the bomb from the mold, carefully.

Your bath bomb is ready to use!

But if you want to store it – you’ll want to let it dry out while also keeping it from soaking up moisture from the air.  So pack it and others together in plastic tub lined with a cloth towel and/or shredded newspapers and leave them be overnight.  Then you can wrap them up and package them with ribbons and gift tags.  There’s a TON of resources on the ‘net about making gift tags and how to package your crafts.  Another post will outline a few of these.

So that’s the rundown on bath bombs.  Bottom line is – they’re very easy and perfect for getting creative and making your own recipes.  The only required ingredients are baking soda, citric acid and water.


Bath Bomb Resources

I have to lead with these because they are just SO CUTE.  You’ll see what I mean.

Cupcake Bath Bombs

Even more basic than this rundown with an even more advanced guide if you sign up for her mailing list:

Excellent Living Guide (to get the guide, she wants you to sign up to her mailing list – you’ll need to do this twice – worth doing if you are really into bath bombs though)

Citric acid is a main ingredient but, as I found out this past Friday, it isn’t the easiest to find last minute in the Pioneer Valley.  It is _very_ easy to get online and it was easy to get at one of our local natural food stores but I guess they stopped carrying it.  Fair enough.  But, here’s an eHow that goes over both all the places you can look for citric acid and some really neat alternatives:

How to Make Bath Bombs Without Citric Acid

The following two online stores are sources I rely on for ingredients (not just for bath bombs!) and information. As an added bonus, they seem like really good people and I’ve had very positive customer service interactions with them.  I post these links (wholly unsolicited) just to give you an idea of who is out there and to give you a starting point, please do your own research!  🙂

From Nature With Love

Mountain Rose Herbs

~Be Well & Remember to Breathe (deeply…mindfully)~