Personal effectiveness

homemade salad vinaigrette

Little Changes (and Homemade Vinaigrette Recipes)

I’ve always been interested in food but, when I became pregnant with our first child, I really started to pay more attention to where my food was coming from and what dangers might be lurking inside of it.  So, for better or for worse, I became a bit obsessed with eating healthier and cleaner than I had ever eaten before.  And what started during that first pregnancy is what led us down the path towards where we find ourselves today….eating organic foods, supporting local farms, growing our own garden, preserving food for the winter, keeping backyard chickens, raising meat rabbits…who knows what will be next!

 

I also love to read and am always looking for new books that talk about farming or homesteading (especially those inspiring stories about a couple or family that quit the daily grind and started on a new path to wholesome living and doing what they love…I find it all so very romantic!) but also books about our food economy or a specific part of the process, such as honey bees.  The downside to this literary education that I choose to immerse myself in is that the amount of negative information can all feel very overwhelming at times – to the point where I start to feel helpless and hopeless and like I should just throw in the towel and accept the fact that…

 

…one day we will all have cancer and our kids will have food allergies and ADHD and hit puberty at age 8 and probably be diagnosed with diabetes shortly thereafter and our global society will run out of oil and we will all have to put up windmills and solar panels in our backyard and the earth will eventually become inhabitable, either because it fills up with trash or because global warming kills us off….and there is nothing we, as individuals, can do about it in the meantime…

 

Maybe a bit over the top – or maybe not – but, hey, these are the things that keep me up at night.  When faced with fears such as these, it can be difficult to find something to hold on to and a way to feel like you can make a difference.  But then I discovered that little changes are much more manageable AND can still have a huge impact on the way we live our lives.  And so that’s what we did. 

 

Instead of looking around our entire house at once – in the pantry and refrigerator, under the kitchen sink, in the medicine closet – and seeing the overabundance of chemicals that were in almost everything that we ate, drank, breathed, cleaned the house with, and slathered on our bodies, we resolved to look at one thing at a time and do what we could to make a small change for the better in our small part of the world. 

Because that’s all that you can do, really. 

Make changes that affect your corner of the world so that at least you know that your family can have a safe haven to come home to after being out in the chemical-laden world.  And in this place, our bodies can recharge and detoxify and be ready to take on the world again.

 

Of course, not all of these changes have proved to be sustainable in our busy family life.  For example, I love making homemade hummus and yogurt.  However, I found that I had a really hard time keeping up with our family’s consumption of those products and we also happen to be lucky enough to have a healthy and affordable alternative available at our local grocery store.  So, in those cases, it didn’t make sense for me to keep spending my time making the “from scratch” version.  I’ve also tried making my own homemade laundry detergent in the past with great results but, again, I just couldn’t keep up with our laundry demands so I’ve gone back to buying that item.  And I’ve played around with some homemade versions of shampoo, conditioner, liquid dish soap, and dishwasher detergent.  But I wasn’t happy enough with the results to feel like it was worth the time and effort. 

 

But, in other cases, where maybe there is no healthy and affordable alternative available to us, I still make things from scratch.  For example, I still regularly make homemade granola, bake bread in the breadmaker, make homemade pizza dough, and mix up our own salad vinaigrettes, among other things.  I also continue to make our own hand soap and body spray and sunscreen. 

 

In the kitchen, one of the easiest and least time consuming of these “from scratch” options is the homemade salad vinaigrette.  You can also save a lot of money and avoid all sorts of additives and preservatives by making your own instead of buying a bottle at the grocery store.

 

Any basic vinaigrette recipe is simply a mixture of an oil (I like to use a good quality olive oil or avocado oil) with a vinegar or other acidic medium (such as lemon juice or orange juice) and some other ingredients mixed in to add flavor and variety.  Below are some of my favorite versions of the homemade salad vinaigrette.  In each case, I recommend that you combine everything in a jar or salad dressing container, turn on your favorite dance song and shake it like crazy around the kitchen. 

Dance like nobody is watching 😉

 

homemade vinaigrette recipes

 

 

P.S…If this concept of little changes sounds like something that you might want to try and want to read more about someone else’s story who used this idea to change her life and start a powerful eco-movement across the country, check out this book:

LittleChangesNewCover

Gaining Some Perspective: Life Lessons from a 3-Year-Old

Balance, Perspective, Clarity, Intention, Purpose.  These are all things that we want in our lives, right?  I know that I do.  And at a time when we are raising small kids, it is ever so difficult to maintain any, let alone all, of these things.  Over the past two years, I have been on a slow and interrupted journey to learn about and internalize mindfulness with the help of meditation and yoga…and lots of deep breaths…and forgiveness…and fresh starts…  And yet I still struggle daily with walking the tightrope that is strung between the platforms of intention and focus and sits high above a thin veil of CONTROL and then you inevitably fall off the wire and right through that silky fabric all the while grasping frantically at anything and everything that you can still maintain control over.  Next you land in a pit of frustration where you realize that you are so far off course and now all you can do is climb out of the pit and make your way back up the ladder of forgiveness as you mumble under your breath at every rung and finally reach the platform and give yourself a pep talk about why it is so important that you take a deep breath and walk back out on that tightrope again (and again).  I want so badly to just stay balanced on that thin rope where I am living my life with intention – reminding myself constantly why we are raising our children the way we are, why we chose the schools that we did, why we live where we do, why we eat the way we do, why we spend our time the way we do – and maintaining the focus that I need to carry out my daily tasks without losing sight of those intentions and those choices.  Why is it so easy for our brains to forget what we just told it yesterday?!  And why is it so easy for self-doubt and negativity to creep in and smother those good intentions and run away with our perspective? 

I have found that I can at least strengthen and widen that tightrope or perhaps fashion one of those long poles that tightrope walkers use to help balance themselves by giving myself the gift of a few quiet moments of meditation every morning and going to yoga once a week for an hour of moving meditation.  But it has taken me so long to make these things a regular part of my routine, maybe because it doesn’t seem possible to my fast-paced, over-worked brain that sitting still and doing NOTHING for 5 minutes a day could possibly make me more centered and more productive for the rest of the day.  When given the choice between rolling over and going back to sleep for an extra 10 minutes…or getting some exercise first thing in the morning to boost my mood…or just getting a head start on the day’s to-do list and sitting still for 5 minutes, I kept choosing the sleep or exercise or movement over stillness.  Besides, have you ever tried to be still with yourself for 5 minutes?  It is hard!  And scary.  I never know what I will find inside that head of mine and sometimes I would rather keep busy on the outside than look inward and see what lurks in the shadows.  But ever since I made this a priority and a regular practice (which was only 4 short weeks ago), I have already seen a difference in the rest of my day.  For example, because I have made the choice to make ME a priority through meditation and yoga, it is that much easier to prioritize my own needs throughout the day.  This doesn’t mean that I neglect the kids or my husband or the household duties to lie around and eat chocolate and read novels and take naps (although that sounds like a great way to spend the day!).  It does mean that I put on my own oxygen mask first, so to speak, and maybe I make myself a quick snack before preparing lunch for the crazy, energetic kids who are screaming and scrambling for food and attention. 

I was just rereading my very first blog post from over a year ago, which I have done several times since I first posted it, and looking at my list of ideas for inspiration that came out of my week of soul searching: a cleaning service (best idea ever!), finding “me” time, mindfulness, notes of joy, appreciation, or gratitude, and inspirational reading.  For the first time, I can look at that list and not feel as though it was a silly dream of mine that vanished in the face of reality and a life that was already too busy to allow for something new.  It took me a full year to line up a weekly cleaning service and until just last month to really get into this mindfulness and meditation stuff.  But, looking back (as is usually the case), I can see how these things take time and it is a journey worth taking one step at a time.  To wrap up this big long ramble (today’s post started with no clear theme or direction other than a desire to get back into blogging so thanks for sticking with me!), I will leave you with a quote from our wise three-year old.  Towards the end of an afternoon that began with big expectations and somehow got away from me, I said to my son, “Where did the day go?”  And, without thinking, he immediately responded with, “It is right here!”  So very true.  And the kid has never attended a single mindfulness workshop!  So now I remind myself of his words every time that I feel the day running away from me or my lists weighing heavily on my shoulders.  The day is right here.  This day.  And I am right here. 

May you enjoy this day and this Spring!! 

Happy First Day of Spring!

Happy First Day of Spring!