Monday, June 15, 2015

New Bakes and a Meditation check-in

It's been quite awhile since I've posted any pictures of desserts.... yeah, its a travesty. I am deeply sorry, and (slightly mad at myself) for not being better at documenting all the baked goods I encounter on my day to day. They deserve to be seen!
So, that being said, I have a few pictures lined up to get you right back up to speed.

First up, birthday treats! Both my friends Avi and Leah (the first) had birthdays in the past few months. And what better gift than sweet sugary bliss? For Avi, after some prodding, I found out that he liked the peanut butter/ chocolate combo, and decided on a layer cake. I need all the practice I can get with layer cakes, so it was a two-birds-with-one-stone situation.
Here she is!


Truth be told, I did go a little crazy with the side decoration. Once I started I just couldn't stop! 

 
I also ended up with a bunch of extra batter, so I made cupcakes for my house mates. They were demolished pretty quickly. 

For Leah's birthday, I made her a batch of salted caramel brownies. I've been making a lot of salted caramel at work, so it felt pretty comfortable to incorporate into her present. 

Whaddup sexy. 


Ta da! I didn't get a chance to try them but it sounded like they were enjoyed. Leah had to wrap them up and hide them at one point so that she was guaranteed the rest. 

My aunt had a paella party/ graduation celebration to honor my recent entrance into the "real" world, so I made a huge pan of brown butter blondies. For some reason, I rarely ever make treats to bring to my relatives house, and they bug me about it every time. This time, I came prepared. 


This is the browned butter. You can see how the butter solids separated and browned, giving the blondies a delicious nutty, almost caramel flavor. 


Big ol' pile of dough. 


I didn't take a picture of the finished product, but here they are about to head into the oven! 

I also baked some standard brownies while babysitting (or sitting around while the baby slept), but I wasn't super impressed with how they came out. I think I could tell from the recipe that they weren't going to be the dense, fudgy kind that I am addicted to, but I went for it anyways. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I'll just post a picture of the batter, because that was certainly on-point. 


I like making brownies just so I can get some of that batter. Drool. I can imagine that being killer with some vanilla ice-cream...

A quick update on my meditation so far. I think I have been doing a pretty good job incorporating it into my day. I do miss somedays, especially if I have to wake up early and feel too rushed to fit it in. I had been doing 5 minutes at a time, but now I'm increasing it to ten minutes. I'm finding that I need a little more time to sink in to it, and allow my mind to move freely. It's not as if it really stops my thoughts, but it allows them to soften, to detach from the constant flight-or-fight response that they tend to activate. It's pretty amazing to watch my mind from an observant perspective. It's capable of so much, but it gets caught up in certain small aspects of my day. I'm learning to keep moving forward, to let uncomfortable feelings exist. 
I have used a guided meditation through UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and it can be really helpful if I'm having a particularly anxious day. 
It's not perfect, but I'm willing to keep trying. I'm excited to see what else I find in the practice. 
<3 Lia



Thursday, June 4, 2015

My Meditation Challenge


So I've been trying to meditate. Again.
I've been sitting in my bed every morning, as soon as I wake up, and tuning in to the flow of my breathing. I watch as my thoughts swirl and tie themselves in knots. I watch as they cause tension in my shoulders, my stomach, my face, until they move on again and my body relaxes. I can feel the anxiety and uncomfortableness of sitting still, of allowing my thoughts and pulling back on my desire to control them. And I feel the cool air flowing in through my nostrils and then out through my mouth, slightly warmed from its travels.
It feels like an entire process that I have to mentally prepare for, but someone walking in on me would just see a girl sitting in bed, breathing. It is as simple, and yet as mentally confounding as anything I've ever experienced.
I keep coming back to the concept of meditating, starting and then stopping again, feeling guilty but lacking the discipline to continue. But I think as time passes, and I learn more about myself and how my brain works, I find the desire to meditate grows stronger. And when I think about the ebb and flow of life, its understandable that meditation can sometimes decrease and increase with need. However, I think that making it more of a consistent part of my day would really push me in the right direction with my mental health. So....here comes the challenge.
I'm going to commit to meditation in the morning and night, starting with 5 minutes at a time and moving on to 10 minutes the next week. I'm starting small because I find that easing your way in to habits is really the best way to go. When you dive in, it becomes too overwhelming and you stop. Perhaps thats not the case with everybody, but it certainly is with me. Plus, I want this to stick, so I think the best way for that to occur is to be slow and steady.

I think one of the main reasons for meditation, at least in my practice, is to train my body and mind to handle negative emotion. Not control it, not push it away because it is uncomfortable, but to sit with it. My mind, the tricky devil that it is, has slowly been collecting these different compensatory habits over the years that will prevent me from feeling the full force of my emotions. When I feel something "bad", I immediately feel the need to counteract it with...anything. That might be something as mellow as just switching positions, going outside, picking up my phone and mildly scrolling, or trying to find someone to talk to at that moment so as to distract myself. Or it might be more damaging things, such as restricting my diet/ eating to cope, hiding myself inside for hours upon hours, or using drugs/ alcohol for more than recreation. I've found that my brain is so accustomed to having these safety nets at my disposal that to sit and just concentrate on my breathing is an extremely difficult task. My thoughts will be screaming, "Move! You need to move!", as if something so terrible is speeding in my direction and I only have seconds to jump out of the way. My body starts to itch, fingers tremble, and my heart's beating becomes louder and louder. I can't even be sure what I am running from, all I know is I've been running too long and its time to stop and face my fears head on.
To put it simply, I'm teaching myself how to feel sad. 
It's a completely alien concept for me, and yet it seems so basic. I've been sad before, haven't I? I should know how to do it. And yet, when I really think back on the many different times that I've been sad/ angry/ embarrassed/ nervous, I can't help but see all the different ways that I avoided confronting the brute force of these feelings. And even as I watch my thoughts, I can see the way that my brain "jerks" every time I feel something I don't like. As if I am so afraid of just allowing the concept of feeling bad to exist in my mind, that my brain has found a way to shut it out. I think i've always considered negative feelings to be unacceptable, and yet the more I pushed them away, the more they pushed back. That's when you start to feel overwhelmed, like you are drowning. But, I'm ready to start feeling things again. It's time.

I've kind of already started doing this for a few weeks, but its been pretty inconsistent. I also noticed that I tend to reach straight for my phone/ computer when I wake up and as a way to calm me down before sleep. I'm planning on putting both on my desk before I go to sleep, so that I can focus on the meditation as a top priority. I've used guided meditation in the past, like the Headspace app., but I think I can manage on my own this time. I like the idea of quiet, just me and the space around me. This morning, I managed to get out of bed and start meditating right away. I took notes after my five minutes, and I noticed a lot of internal resistance. That was to be expected. But I also noticed a moment of calm, of clarity. It only lasted a few seconds, but it felt good. It gave me hope for the future.

I'll keep you updated on my progress as I go along. And if anyone wants to do a meditation challenge with me, I'd be happy to keep you motivated. Let's get our meditation on.

Lia






Saturday, May 23, 2015

Goodbyes and Greetings


It happened. I graduated. I walked across the stage at the Greek Theatre in my cap and gown, was given a fake diploma, and shook hands with a man I'd never met before but I believe was the head of my department (yep, star student over here), and got like sixty awkwardly-posed photographs. And the entire time I couldn't stop smiling.

After all this time being a student, I can't really imagine what life is going to be like as just...a person.   My brain doesn't have the capability to process it quite yet, but I'm sure it will hit me sometime in the next few weeks. I can tell you that I am definitely feeling a lot of fear and anxiety, some discomfort, and a fair amount of sadness as many of my friends from the past two years pack up and move on with their lives. I'm glad that they have these amazing journeys to embark on, but the somewhat childish part of my brain feels so insulted that they would ever think to leave me. I love how maturity goes right out the window when the emotional part of the brain kicks in. Classic amygdala. But, as hard as it is for me to feel all these feelings that are part of this transition, I'm working to accept them. I'm not used to allowing myself to feel anything but the "good" emotions, and chastising myself when I focus too hard on the "bad" ones (which, actually, just makes me feel worse). Its takes a lot of effort for me to just breathe and allow them to wash over me, not judging or adding to them, just welcoming them and letting them go. Its that ebb and flow that comes with change.

But my graduation itself was nothing and everything like I expected it to be, and of course my dear old dad was there to capture the best moments.





(So distinguished) 

I think the best part of graduating was seeing my family and friends out in the crowd and reveling in the fact that I got to share this day with them. It is only because of them that I was able to make it this far, and only to them that I owe my success. There were times this semester that I thought I would have to dropout, especially when I started having panic attacks and felt like I couldn't be left alone. But these people, these beautiful people, stuck by me and helped me through the roughest of days. Thank you to my mom and dad, my two sisters, Hannah and Katie, my best friends, Jenny and Gina, my boss Natalie, my professors who allowed me to take time off lectures when I needed to, and my beautiful house and all the people in it who kept/ keep me feeling noticed and loved. 
And can I make a shoutout to some beautiful grad presents I got! I'm all about gift giving, and receiving them makes me feel like I'm going to explode with emotions. I literally feel like I can't keep myself together. I only took a few photos, I was too busy being overwhelmed. 

Soooo liiiikeeee, what do I do now? Ah, the age old question. 
Well, I kinda figured that the time after I graduated would be a weird floating period of confusion, so I'm mainly trying to embrace that. But, I'm also still a working gal on the lookout for a second job. Any bakeries out there desiring a hard-working, slightly clumsy (kidding, kinda) baker with a production experience and a constant flow of energy? I can also bring kitchen D.J. experience to the table, if thats a convincing factor. 
Other than that, I've finishing up a class for my degree and taking on a ceramics class just for the hell of it. Look forward to a lot of misshapen mugs, made with love. 

I'm also just looking to gain a little more balance back into my days since the whirlwind of finals, graduation, and house move-outs/ goodbyes came crashing into me. I've missed the times of meditation, deep breathing, and exercise. I've also missed journal writing, which is a key grounder in my experiences. And I've missed baking for nothing at all but to create and share. I'm hoping that I can incorporate some serenity, even with some somewhat hectic plans this summer. And I'm telling you all, so at least I have some people to keep me accountable. I had so much fun hanging out with all my graduating friends, eating, drinking, and laughing, but my self-care tactics have kind of fallen to the wayside. Time to bring em back! It's all about that balance, people. Anyone who wants to do some yoga with me, go on some nice long walks, hit the climbing gym, or just veg and watch movies while we eat weird cookie creations is more than welcome. No, seriously, come over. 
I'll keep you all updated on the summer of newfound adulthood, and all the food adventures therein. I'm looking forward to a little more cooking and such. You know, some cake and some kale, the best of pairings. 
Thanks for checking in and I'll be back soon,
Lia <3

P.S. I'm currently pinning the most amazing adult-esque recipes right now. Meal prep? Who knew. Plus like twenty kinds of cheesecake. Stay tuned. 

Happy Graduation to all those newly-minted adults out there! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fear

Heyo, long time no post.
I apologize for being so sporadic, but I'm nearing the end of my college career and life is pretty hectic at the moment. Its good, its bad, its heartbreaking, and its exciting. It's forcing me to face the reality of the world of adulthood, which is a crazy concept in itself. My approach right now is to let control go, and feel all the whirlwind feels that come with such a huge transition. But trust me, I'm gonna miss so much about my college experience, especially the people that have kept me going through all the ups and downs. Big shout out to my home and homies for the last two years, Hoyt Hall <3 

Something that I'm been considering a lot over the past few months is fear. We all have fears, rational and irrational. In a perfect world, they are meant to keep us safe. We need fear to tell us that something is not right or we are in danger. But, more often than not, fears seem to hold us back. They make us avoid things because of the all the negative possibilities, even when the positive possibilities are just as likely. Its our natural instinct, to avoid. 
I've been avoiding for most of my life. I remember avoiding relationships for a long time because I could stand the idea of vulnerability, that I would have to put my trust in another person. I avoided any situation that would cause me embarrassment or pain. I avoided by shutting my thoughts up tight inside my head, praying that no one would know all the horrifically raw things that went through it. I focused a lot on my appearance to keep things in control. I needed control. And truthfully, I know many of us have our own ways to keep fear at bay. We are human. 
However, now that a lot of my fears/ insecurities/ dark thoughts have finally burst through the carefully constructed shell I had, I realize that there is no avoiding fear. You might be able to stave it off for awhile, but eventually it will come back and knock you down. And even when its being avoided, its always there, looming in the background. The only way to cope with fear, to really survive it, is to embrace it. Not to deny it, not to hide from it, but to allow it a space in your heart. Having fear doesn't mean having weakness, its completely natural. Its what you do with that fear that really affects your life. You have to push through the fear, meet it face to face, to really overcome it. 
You have to let yourself be vulnerable, or else you will shut yourself off from all the truly beautiful gifts of life, along with the things that you fear. You're shutting yourself off from what you can become. 
I'm not saying this because I have overcome fear, I definitely have not. I still fear many, many things. But I'm coming to a place where admitting my fears and allowing them to exist is finally allowing me freedom. Each risk I take, whether it ends how I pictured or brings on the unexpected, gives me a little more strength and confidence in myself. It allows me to feel happiness, because I am starting to accept all the other emotions that I am capable of. Its hard, really hard, but its worth it. 
I actually came across the Brene Brown Ted talk yesterday when I was thinking about vulnerability, and it reminded me of everything that I've been working toward in my mental health journey. She discusses shame, and how holding ourself back from things that make us uncomfortable also cuts us off from joy. She experienced that realization in her own life, and in her desire to "beat" shame. Anyone who is interested, I would highly recommend watching it. 

Quick switch, here are some pictures from the last week or so! Its been a tornado of tears, goodbyes, and drunken bonding experiences. 


This is the cake I made for the Iron Chef competition at the Berkeley Student Cooperative graduation party, the chocolate covered strawberry cake. Any cooper could enter in a dish to be judged by BSC alumni, so of course I chose cake. Cake is really all I know. And I actually won money for our house!  Nailed it. 
P.S. It was actually extremely fucking heavy, and I suffered carrying it's chocolately-goodness to the alumni house. 

All the graduating seniors from Hoyt. Babes, babes as far as the eye can see. 

Two of my closest, most beautiful friends. I love you, m'doges. 

A few ways to remember my time at Hoyt. 

And then, here are some bakery pictures from the craziness that was Mother's day preparation. This is actually scaled-down version of the massive list of orders we had. 



Mothers Day Sugar Cookies 

Salted caramel cupcakes 

Cinnamon rolls and orange almond rolls 

Shortbread jam sandwiches (as part of a tea cookie box) 
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Add in two more kinds of cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, lemon lavender shortbread, vegan peanut butter cookies, and caramel almond thumbprint cookies, and you have our night in a nutshell. I definitely had moments where I wanted to lay my head down on the table and just pass out right there. There's nothing like those late night bakes. 

There you have it! Things are going to change, but I'm grateful that I was able to have all the unique experiences that only the BSC and UC Berkeley can provide. I'm going to be spending the next week studying/ cramming/ crying and knocking out my finals, but I'll check back in soon. 

Lia <3 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Velvet Cheese Birthday Extravaganza

Its been awhile since a baking post hasn't it? Well never fear, my phone was repaired to its original, unsmashed glory. And that means I was able to snap some pictures of....



The Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake or as Veronica named it, The Velvy Cheese/ V-Cheese Squared.

When I asked the birthday girl Wendy what kind of cake she wanted, she said red velvet. It always happens that whenever I hear someone want a pretty standard dessert, like chocolate chip cookies or vanilla ice-cream, my head is already buzzing with all the possibilities for expansion.
"Dude, brown butter and toffee is gonna take the chocolate chip cookies to the next level."
"Lets bake brownies and grab a container of raspberries to go with that vanilla icecream. And how do you feel about chocolate sauce...?"
I'm not sure if its just for the sheer entertainment of adding cool shit on top of already cool shit, but I am just obsessed with complex desserts. Especially when making them for other people. So when red velvet came to the table, I started brainstorming ways I could make it even more awesome. I remembered reading a recipe many days back about a red velvet cake with a layer of cheesecake in the middle, so I knew that this was the perfect time to use it. It just so happened that Wendy loves cheesecake. Bam. Done.

Unfortunately, I was so rushed in the process of baking the different layers that I only took pictures of the finished product. My b. But I can still walk you through.

Step 1. Bake the two layers of red velvet. I only had one cake pan of the size I wanted, so this took me a little extra time. I used the Paula Deen cake recipe, which made me feel slightly guilty for some reason. I have mixed feelings about Paula, as I'm sure we all do...

Step 2. Freeze the layers. This is a really important step for successfully putting the cake together, especially if you plan on doing it a different day. I found that if I wanted to saw the dome off of the layers to make them level, it was SO much easier when they were frozen. You don't have to worry so much about the cake breaking and falling apart on you.

Step 3: Make the cheesecake layer. This is a pretty simple step, you just need to combine the ingredients and pour into a greased springform pan. Its in your best interest to add a layer of parchment to the bottom of the pan, otherwise you might have a really fun time trying to get it out. You'll put the springform pan into the freezer after baking and wait a couple of hours. You want the cheesecake pretty rock solid.

Step 4: Layering. So with this step, you're gonna work to make sure the cake is level and even on all sides. I took each red velvet layer and I sawed off the dome that puffed up in the oven with a serrated knife. The serrated knife helps to make sure the cake doesn't drag with you as you try to cut. I put the excess cake in a plastic bag.
You put the first layer face up, then add the cheesecake layer. You then add the next red velvet layer face down, so that the flat side is in view. At this point, I noticed that the cheesecake was hanging over the edge of the cake by about an inch. To solve this I took the serrated knife and sawed away at the sides until it looked even all around. Thankfully, any weird edges could be covered by buttercream. I put the whole cake in the freezer.

Step 5: I made a cream cheese frosting, using a 2:1 powdered sugar to butter recipe and then adding cream cheese to taste. We have this fluffy whipped cream cheese at my house in bulk, and I think it really added something to this frosting. I honestly didn't add that much, I didn't want to overpower the cake with too much cream cheese.

Step 6: Then, I frosted the cake. I had purchased a cake spatula awhile back for just this occasion, so I  used that to smooth the process. I've just started learning about cake decorating, so I was stoked to try it on my own. It actually went really well! I started with the crumb layer, froze it, and then did another coating. At this point I left it out, and crushed up my bag of extra red velvet. I used this to coat the sides of the cake, a technique I'd seen done with many other red velvets. It was harder than I thought, and I ended up with a red crumbs everywhere (table, floor, dress, hair, hands, face, you name it). There is some sort of trick to getting really small crumbs, which I just didn't know about, and they ended up kinda clumpy. But whatever, I thought it looked pretty fucking cute for my first try.

Step 7: I wrote on the cake in chocolate, because that's the only way I've ever learned in my baking career. I did have a pastry bag and tip, so that made things a little easier. I'm excited for the day when I can branch out and try new decorating techniques. I was just nervous for this cake so I didn't want to go too out there.




Victory. 

It got pretty rave reviews. Granted everyone was pretty intoxicated when they ate it, but I'm not about to turn down a compliment. 

When I was younger I always wished that I could be skilled at something, because it felt like I couldn't do anything. It was hard to maintain focus, nothing seemed to stick. It feels good to improve with something, especially something I can make for other people. It makes me wonder what other things I can do, that are just lying dormant. For now, I'll continue to make birthday cakes for anyone and everyone.

Here's the recipe for the whole cake from Recipe Girl, just in case anyone wanted to try their hand.

Seeya! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Understanding OCD

(Im about to get super serious, so bear with me)

OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A name. A label.

Last week, I started my therapy at the Santa Rosa Cognitive Behavioral Center, and learned precisely what has been my constant struggle over the past few years of my life. It's both relieving to know, and  somewhat unnerving. I hadn't heard much about OCD before studying it in college, but I think the common stereotype is someone who needs to wash their hands multiple times in a row or spends a huge block of time double checking/ triple-checking that everything in their room is just right before leaving it. And these are not wrong, but they are such a narrow view of the bigger picture. Even at this point, after reading so much about it and talking it over with my therapist, I also only have my limited knowledge to go on.

However, I do know one thing, having OCD does not mean you're crazy. I've come to hate the word crazy, but that's another post for another time. It means that you have a certain type of brain, an extremely brilliant and quick brain, that has lost control of its ability to let go of intrusive/ distressing thoughts. So they circle, over and over, until you've spun yourself so deep into a web of disillusion  that you feel you can't get out. These are called obsessions. We all have strange thoughts from time to time, one's that kinda freak you out, disgust you, or make you shiver. However, for a more level-functioning brain, these thoughts can easily be rationalized and released, a balance restored. The issue is not so much the thoughts, but the reaction to the thoughts that causes the problem for people with OCD.

So there you are, keyed up with anxiety over the possibility of an extremely terrifying event or "truth" . At this point, all you can think to do is something to get rid of that anxiety, something quick because you feel you can't deal with the discomfort. This is where compulsions come in. Compulsions are some sort of action taken to reduce anxiety caused by the obsessions, and it varies depending on the person. Hand-washing, checking, seeking reassurance, repeatedly touching or counting, etc. The mind is trained that these actions will reduce the anxiety, for a brief period of time. However, this does not get the anxiety under control, it only delays it until the obsession resurfaces, which it will. But an individual will continue to use them, because the feelings that are hiding beneath the surface are too monumental to be faced.

Its an extremely scary and debilitating disorder, one that steals any power you have away from you. The deed to your life is handed to the anxiety, and it rules for however long it takes until you decide that you are going to fight back.

Now, I've heard a lot of jokes and referencing to OCD throughout my life, but you never quite understand the reality of a situation until you or someone close to you experiences it. And I have to say, there is nothing funny with this kind of struggle. Or any mental illness struggle, for that matter. That's not to say that there isn't a positive side to the experience and the recovery, because there is supreme growth in accepting that part of yourself. But damn, its a hell of a fight. There's no way I can really describe the inability to trust your brain, but its one of the most chilling experiences I have ever had.

Okay.

I felt like a lot of that just needed to be said, for me and for others. If you ever want to learn more about OCD, you can check out the International OCD Foundation. Or read some blogs online, because every person gets to tell their own story, and no two are exactly the same.

OKAY. DONE-ZO.

So, on a lighter note, you might wonder why I haven't been posting pictures of treats. This is supposed to be a partial baking blog, right? Well, my friends, that is because I smashed the front of my phone into smithereens and it is revolting against me (understandably). My other camera was forgotten in Santa Rosa. Or maybe its hiding there, hoping it won't be subject to the same fate as my phone. Either way I don't have the means to take pictures, which is a major bummer. However, I will have both fixed/ in-hand by the end of the week, and there will be pictures aplenty to share. I'm baking my friend a birthday cake that's going to need to be documented. Unless it's ugly, in which case....well I might post it anyways but then hang my head in shame.

Think cheesecake. Think red velvet cake. Think of their giant, layered love child.

Yes. It will be a mighty sight to behold.

As for now, you'll just have to stare at my words and pretend they are food pics. Ugh.

<3 Lia

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mindfulness (How to Stay in the Moment)




What is the trick to living in the moment? And is that even possible?

I've always been a worrier. Well, actually I think my main concern as a child was candy and how to get it in my mouth as fast as possible, but other than that my brain loves to worry. Whenever I find myself in a new situation in my life or am confronted with a new problem, I find my mind in a constant negative tornado, picking up speed quickly and destroying everything in its path. Its rumination, the mind's true enemy. 

I never actually considered that there was a way for me to change. And to be truthful, subconciously, I found comfort and stability in worry. At least I could be prepared for any negative possibility that could occur, right? At least I would be safe. I think it has taken me this long to realize that you really can't prepare for some of the scariest things in life. You don't know when bad things are going to happen, and does it really make your life that much better to be mentally prepared for them? Not usually. Obviously this is my own personal experience, but I find mentally preparing myself for negative consequences leaves me both fearful and paralyzed. And I don't want to live my life that way, I don't know anyone who does. 

I've encountered the idea of mindfulness many times over the past few years, and I've only just started understanding what it truly means to me. Mindfulness is the reinserting of yourself into the present moment. Its releasing control of your thoughts and fears, and allowing them to drift in and out of your mind. It's allowing both the positive and negative of a situation to exist, not just attaching yourself to one or the other. It's just being, not judging or controlling, but being. Looking at our society, especially in the realm of education, it is really really difficult to be mindful. We are constantly bombarded with a slew of technology, media, and expectations for our success. If we are not part of the constant race to be somebody, we don't exist at all. If we don't create an image of ourselves that is so unique, and yet so conformist, we are lost. 

I am a slave to social media and technology as much as the next person, and I do find numerous benefits to the connections that it provides. And yet, the time that I devote to it really isn't fulfilling. It's more a distraction. A way for me to find stability in a persona that I create, as opposed to focusing on the rather uncontrollable aspects of my own state of being. I started reading a book recently called the The Mindful Path Through Worry and Rumination. Aside from the obvious cheesiness of the title, there's a lot of really good insights in there. While reading it, I was reminded of all the complexities of the brain and how rumination can cause such distress and hopelessness in one's life. It also reminded me that the best way to "cure" myself was to accept the way that my brain works, and use it as a tool to increase my happiness and ability to enjoy my life.  My stability is within myself, surprisingly enough. I would recommend it to anyone who deals with uncontrollable worry or rumination in their life. Here are a few techniques that I've been reminded of while reading:

1) Breathing exercises: I've gone in and out of using these consciously, but they are surprisingly helpful. Even on days when I don't make a point to sit down and take slow, calculated breathes, I find myself taking these when I am out and feeling overwhelmed. It kind of resets the body and allows you to take a step back from the situation that is causing you distress. I find it good to do whenever I have a moment in the day, but usually in the morning and at night.

2) Exercise: I always find myself falling off track with this, but for all the mental energy I have, this is an unbelievable help. I find myself feeling so positively stimulated when I exercise, not to mention stronger and healthier. I don't usually get too intense with it, but a little bit everyday keeps me grounded. It's not so much a competition for me, I'm just in it for the endorphins. And being outdoors,  thats a big one. I'm hoping to fit in a walk and climbing today!

3) Radical Acceptance: Radical Acceptance in mentioned many times over in this book. It's extremely simple but can be extremely difficult. Its about accepting every aspect of your life, both good and bad. Its about realizing your life is the only vehicle you have to happiness and contentment, and its up to you to use it. You can't get too caught up in the negative or distressing aspects of life, because those will always be there. Everyone suffers, that is a solid fact of life. But, everyone also has the ability to find the beautiful aspects of life as well, as those are much more easily located when we stop giving the negative aspects so much power. They ain't all that.

4) Negative thought challenging- Sometimes I like to use this and sometimes not, it just depends what will suit my mind the best that day. Basically, this is just taking each negative thought that you have, and challenge it using its neutral and positive opposite. For instance, if someone blows you off when you had plans, you could spend the rest of the day assuming that they didn't really want to hang out with you and that you are boring. Or, you could realize that it probably had more to do with them than you. Perhaps they were feeling stressed or sad, or they had some work that they needed to finish.  Usually, its more likely that they had something going on in their own life that prevented them from hanging out, not because they don't enjoy your company.

5) Its the journey, not the destination: Huge, huge realization. I think we've all probably heard this before, but life is absolutely, 100% a journey. There is not going to be a moment when you suddenly have everything you every wanted and it is perfect. There are always ups and downs, always things to work on or work toward. Thats why its important to enjoy the things that are in front of you right now. If you are constantly looking forward or behind, your whole life may fly by without you every getting to experience it. I would hate to feel like I missed out on some of the most enjoyable aspects of living because I was so busy worrying.

So, in the spirit of this, with all the pressures of my life on my back (tests on tests, papers on papers), I'm going to slow down and enjoy my life in every way that I can. Why not?

And, here's a quiche picture to hold you over until next time. Bacon, cheddar, spinach, holla.


Catch you later. (Hopefully with a new, shiny baked good)