Starcat’s Favorites: Barefoot In Winter

snowday2No, I’m not gonna step outside and put my bare toes in the acres of snow that surround our house. Though maybe I should. It could be quite invigorating. I get the chills just thinking of it…brrrrrr!

What I’m referring to is an amazing new opportunity for women (if you’re a guy, please read on below for this week’s links, and perhaps share this with the beloved women in your world!) who’d love to add some peace and purpose to your daily life. My sweet soul sister Nova Om created the Barefoot Being program in order to help you do just that. By working with daily intentions, supported in a sisterhood of spiritually-minded women, she guides you to a deeper and more powerful way of living.

Nova reached out and asked me to join the program last month. At first I was on the fence about taking on another online course, because I’m so focused on my own creative goals this year. But I know the magic that Nova can inspire, so I said yes. I’m amazed at how powerful and nurturing Barefoot Being has been for me thus far. It’s uplifting me in so many ways! In fact, I love the program so much that I signed up to be part of the “behind the scenes” team for the February session. It starts tomorrow. I’d love it if you’d join us! You deserve it!

In the meantime, brew a cup of your favorite hot beverage and put your feet up. Here are some links to help inspire you this weekend. And tell you what, if I do decide to try the barefoot snow thing, I’ll post a picture here later.

I’ve been spending some extra time in the kitchen during the recent snowstorms. I made these yummy peanut butter cookies (and added chocolate chips to some of them). I haven’t tried these vegan recipes for stuffed mushrooms and raw peanut butter pie yet, but they are both on my list.

How to release the feeling that you need to Do It All. Love it!

Some delightfully irreverent, hilarious, and useful advice for writers, and for life in general. Language warning – and be prepared to laugh!

Warning signs to stop and listen to your intuition. Trust your gut reaction!

Just as you suspected, it’s all about you. And the perfect corollary, how to stop taking things so personally. Don’t you just love paradox?

A lovely little article about kundalini and the chakras. And this one on listening to your soul. Simple and sweet.

Enjoy your weekend!

Starcat’s Ten Best Books of 2014

Each January, I like to reflect back on what, in my opinion, were the best books of the previous year. Below are 2014′s winners. Please note, these aren’t necessarily books that were published in 2014, though a couple of them were. These are just my favorites of the 45 books I read over the past year. Enjoy!

toreadCreative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. This book had lived on my shelves for many years, and I can’t believe I hadn’t read it yet. It’s a metaphysical classic! This slim volume contains many useful and simple techniques for helping you create the life of your dreams. One of my favorites was to visualize upon first waking up and just before going to sleep, when your consciousness is more fluid.

Practical Prosperity Magick: Crafting Success & Abundance by Ellen Dugan. This is a Pagan book on how to encourage prosperity in your life. She offers spells to help get the money flowing, but also encourages you to take action to follow through in practical ways. I found lots of helpful suggestions and ideas here.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I had enjoyed the movie and wanted to check out the book it was based on – especially after someone told me there was a long section of philosophical discussion in the book. I think they were trying to warn me, but I loved it. This book has so many layers to it, from the adventure tale itself to contemplation of the meaning of life and our interactions with other beings.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. BlackLion and Quester are the gardeners in our family. I love plants, but I seem to have a brown thumb. Still, I wanted to see what this whole permaculture thing was all about. I resonate with the philosophy of it, and I’m delighted that our yard is slowly being transformed in this direction.

Invoking Animal Magic by Hearth Moon Rising. I may be a brown thumb with plants, but animals and I have always gotten along wonderfully. This book is a treasure trove of information on communicating with and understanding the wild (and not-so-wild) critters in our lives. It also references many fascinating myths from a variety of cultures.

Shamanic Awakening: My Journey Between the Dark and the Daylight by Sandra Corcoran. This fascinating book ranges from Native American teachings to dreamwork to alien contact. The skeptical reader might be doubtful about some of the alien encounters Corcoran describes later in the book. Suspend your disbelief – whether or not the stories can be proven as literal truth, there is much wisdom to be found here. I think reality is much more fluid than we often give it credit for.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This was a fantastic novel that had me captivated. I can’t even really say why. Suffice it to say that my own imaginary world expanded after reading it.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D. This was a book that my friend Jenn read while she was dying of cancer. It’s about how a near-death experience convinced a scientist who had always thought of the afterlife as nonsense to believe that our souls continue beyond the death of our physical bodies. While I am already very open to ideas of past and future lives, it was captivating to read Dr. Alexander’s journey and see the changes in his mindset as a result.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. This memoir is one of those books that for some reason stuck with me long after I finished it. It’s about one woman’s epic personal quest, the heroine’s journey that Joseph Campbell wrote about. Raw and real.

Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. Okay, so technically I’m still reading this book, though I started it in 2014. Tolle’s words of wisdom are always succinct and profound. It’s delicious food for thought – or rather, no-thought. I very highly recommend this one.

A Graceful Snow Day

Sure, the weather outside is frightful. But it’s also beautiful. It’s been rather nice having a snow day, with the whole family here at home. Quester has been clearing the snow at our house and next door at Aunt Peg’s, with help from Dryst. I’ve been blessed to stay in and be cozy and warm. The kids went outside, all bundled up, and played like they were ten years younger! (They’re 18 and 16). We did lose our electricity for a couple hours, but it’s back on (at the moment, anyway).

This morning I slept in and hung out with Quester. Then, while he was out clearing snow, I did our taxes, which was a big job that I knew was going to take a few hours. We had some lunch, Then I got inspired by an oracle card in the Barefoot Being Sisterhood, a wonderful online course I’m participating in (more on that in a future post). I finally sat down to do my vision board for 2015! It’s based around my Word of the Year, which is GRACE.

bycandlelightWhile I was still cutting out pictures and words, the electricity went out. So I made my vision board by candlelight! It was so magickal and lovely.

We decided to play a family card game, and pulled out a new game some friends gave us for Winter Solstice. We played it by candlelight, and had lentil soup. Pathfinder Munchkin is a lot of fun! We own the original Munchkin but hadn’t tried this new one. BlackLion won. Just when we were finishing up, the lights came back on.

Now Quester and Dryst are out doing another round of snow removal, BlackLion and I just made some spaghetti sauce for Dryst’s dinner (he doesn’t like soup), and ElvenTiger is waiting for us all to finish up so we can watch the X-Men.

An extra day off is nice once in a while. Life is good, and I’m so grateful!

2015VisionBoard

Spending Time at Home (and a Recipe)

I love where I live. We’re in a small rural Maine town. Some of our neighbors include those who keep horses, sheep, and a very cool donkey who announces the arrival of morning. We live next door to my aunt, where my grandparents lived when I was growing up. It’s so peaceful here, and we can see the stars, take walks through the woods out back, and even skate on the pond down the road.

woodswalk

In the winter we spend more time at home, and I wanted to give you an update on our homesteading, something I haven’t done for a while.

The cats, as usual, are hanging out with us in the “cave.” They sleep a lot, and prowl around to see what we’re doing, and the brothers wrestle now and again. We gave them catnip treats and boxes to play in for their birthday last week, which was a big hit.

catsinboxes My Christmas present from Quester was tile in the kitchen, and it looks really great!

kitchen1

kitchen2

We’re making plans to paint the whole downstairs area in the spring. It really needs to be done. While the color, a sort of light mint green, is nice, it’s time for a change.

Even before painting, thanks to our de-cluttering and re-organizing, the house looks pretty. I’m so thankful to have such a wonderful place to live!

knickknacks

cuteshelfpic

We keep faerie lights up throughout the winter, and I love the warmth it brings to the great room.

faerielights

We also burn more candles. Our art supplies are kept close at hand.

artsupplies

Cooking is fun in the winter, and we’re focused on eating healthy meals. Soups are a regular part of our fare (except for Dryst, who takes after his uncle and doesn’t like them). I made a delicious lentil stew last weekend. Tonight’s meal was created because I had a package of tofu and some wild rice, and it came out quite well. Without realizing it, I made what tastes like garlic broccoli from a good Chinese restaurant, without a recipe.

Here’s the recipe ElvenTiger and I created, though sadly it was consumed before I thought of getting a picture.

Before leaving to visit some friends, ElvenTiger prepared the tofu. She cut it into chunks, then heated some soy sauce in a cast iron skillet. She cooked the tofu for several minutes, adding herbs (rosemary, black pepper, sage, and thyme) and turning the tofu carefully until done on all sides.

I started the rice. I had 1 cup of wild rice blend and half a cup of brown rice, which I cooked in 3 cups of water and a teaspoon of liquid smoke for 45 minutes.

Then I heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. I added chopped broccoli and 3 cloves of garlic, crushed. Once the broccoli began to get green, I added a cup of water and 1/4 cup of Bragg’s Amino Acids. This is the part that tasted just like garlic broccoli from a restaurant! Once the broccoli was done and the liquid was simmering, I shut off the pan and stirred in the tofu.

When the rice was done, I stirred all of it in with the broccoli. We served it with a delicious tossed salad made by BlackLion, with a choice of homemade goddess dressing or homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It was so yummy!

While the kids were out, the rest of us watched The Grand Budapest Hotel. What a fun and crazy movie!

I’m so thankful for being in a good mind space this winter, and that, other than some colds and viruses, my extended family is all healthy. I hope you are as blessed in lovely spaces and loved ones to share them with!

Keeping Lists vs. Letting Go

“Desire is summoning.  It’s always flowing through you. You have the opportunity of opening to the harmony of the vibration of your desire or not.  As the desires are being summoned through you, and you go with the flow, you thrive, but if you use things to be your excuse for not going with the flow, you are arguing for your limitations. We want to show you how to go with the flow.  Which means nothing more than finding vibrational harmony with your own desire, and letting the Universal Energy that your desire is summoning to it flow to it through you.  It is optimum creative experience.” – Abraham through Esther Hicks

 I’ve been focused on letting go of control, trusting, and going with the flow for the past couple of years now. As we began 2013, I let go of my usual list of goals for the year, and decided to focus on intentions instead. That seemed to work well, for the most part. Last year, when 2014 was about to begin, I further refined the process, mostly by realizing that I could be happy with my life just the way it is.

By going with the flow, I’ve been much happier and more open to creating a life I adore.

At the same time, I’m a Virgo and I love lists. I love organizing, planning, and scheduling my time. There have been some interesting changes in my relationship with my lists and plans as I work on letting go. I discovered ROW80, which is an ongoing writing challenge that encourages writers to be productive even in the midst of a busy life. It’s flexible, in that you set and adapt your own goals…but still, you have to have goals in order to participate.

Goals means lists of things to accomplish! Oh goodie! My Virgo side was delighted.

But I’ve had to be careful, because lists can become a driving force of their own. I start to feel like I’m “good” because I’m “doing stuff” and “making things happen.” Those check marks when you accomplish something on your list feel good, people. Really good.

The flip side, though, is when you don’t do the things on your list. It’s easy to forget that you’re the one who make the freaking list in the first place. Nope – you didn’t do all this stuff on it, so clearly you’re a loser. Talk about encouraging your limitations!

Then I remember about letting go. I relax, breathe, and start over. I let go of self-criticism and put down the list. I check in with how I feel. 

So, are lists and letting go just too different to be part of the same lifestyle?

No, I don’t think so. Lists are, after all, a tool. So are goals. They are ways to keep yourself focused on your most powerful intentions, your most cherished desires, the passions that light you up inside.

I’ve discovered ways to use lists and plans more as guidelines. I still keep lists, but I don’t take them as gospel. When I start to feel like I’m not accomplishing enough, I think about what I do enjoy about my life in this moment.  

It helps to make some adjustments to your lists: either cross things off the list entirely (the ones you didn’t really want to do anyway), forward them to another time (without guilt), or break them down into smaller tasks (which helps with avoiding overwhelm). Those “you may not want to but you must” items, like doing your taxes or going to the doctor, are still there, but you can temper them with fun things like working on your novel or taking a yoga class or playing a game with your kids.

Lists can be useful tools that help you remember to go with the flow. When lists and schedules are put into the appropriate context, they actually help make space for the creative chaos that enhances your life. They help you remember to focus on the flow, where the Divine connections get sparked and uplifting changes can transform you.

Starcat’s Favorites: A Cozy Nest

cozylightI confess – I’m a “glass half full” kind of person. So of course, despite the icky colds going around in my family, I’m looking on the bright side. Which means, for me, plenty of time for reading (I’m really enjoying my former neighbor Lynn Flewelling’s Casket of Souls) and writing and plotting and planning and drawing and blogging. Curled up in fuzzy purple blankets in my Hello Kitty PJ pants and warm sweater. Drinking cranberry-juice-and-mandarin-seltzer-waters and eating hot soup.

Right now I’m especially excited for two reasons (neither of which has anything to do with football – sorry BlackLion!). Here they are: 1. I received my (first-ever) Leonie Dawson 2015 Life and Biz Planner in the mail today! and 2. I finally got back to work on my novel-in-progress, Patterns in the Void. Woo hoo!

I’ve also had time to collect some cool links to share with you this weekend. Enjoy!

So, in discovering Leonie Dawson, I’ve been laughing aloud at her fun and outrageous style, and also picking up some great ideas. Here’s a list of her favorite productivity hacks, and for my fellow bloggers, her sage advice after 10 years of blogging successfully.

Ever tell someone they have too much time on their hands? Um, yeah, don’t.

I adore this list of 20 Habits of Highly Authentic People.

Yes, I realize we’re past the Winter Solstice, but this article still feels relevant here in the depths of winter.

Are you an old soul?

Have a beautiful weekend!

A Slow Start

How’s your 2015 so far? Are you still writing 2014 when you need to note the date? Have you taken any steps toward your big goals yet? Are you still ready to take on the world?

Or maybe, not so much.

If you’re like me, the first week of 2015 might have been a bit slower than you’d wished. I started off with my usual enthusiasm for a fresh slate and new plans. Then I got hit by a chest cold, and that slowed me right down. A lot of other folks have been sick, too – post-holiday crash, anyone?

dogsdreamingBut truly, being forced to get extra rest has been a good thing. Despite the wave of excitement about New Year’s resolutions and big plans, we’re still deep in the throes of winter. Winter is a time for dreaming. The trees are asleep, many animals are in hibernation, and those who don’t hibernate still rest a lot – like my two dogs, fast asleep on the couch. Winter is for being cozy in your warm nest and recharging.

A slow start to the year isn’t a bad thing at all. It gives you time to dream up some really fantastic new adventures, set inspiring intentions, and listen to your intuition. When you take the time to deliberately envision your dreams coming true, you’re setting energies in motion that will support you when it’s time to take action. Your imagination is a powerful tool for jump-starting the experiences you wish to bring into being.

So I’ve been reading, meditating, sleeping and dreaming more, zentangling, and working on setting intentions for 2015. I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of my Leonie Dawson Shining Year Life and Biz planner in the mail. I’m eating soup and doing some yoga stretches.

How are you gearing up for 2015? I hope you’re nourishing yourself at this time of new beginnings, and letting your imagination have free range as you dream up wonderful new adventures. Blessings!

My Word of the Year for 2015: Grace

Have you ever picked a Word of the Year instead of making New Year’s resolutions? I first heard of this idea through Christine Kane’s website several years ago. I guess it’s getting pretty popular these days. There are a lot of great resources out there now to help you pick and work with your special word.

This is my fifth year choosing a Word of the Year, but it’s the first time I’ve really had to deliberate about it. All of the other years, a word came to me easily, often before the month of December was even over. This time, there was some uncertainty.

I’m not sure why. I have intentions in mind for 2015, and perhaps I simply needed some time to discover a word that fit just right with them. At first I thought my word would be ENERGY, but it felt too aggressive for what I have in mind. I deliberated on EASE, but that was a bit too laid back. I tried on PURPOSE, but it felt constricting. KIND was good, but still not quite right.

WOTY2015GraceSo I took Susannah Conway’s free e-course on choosing a word, and it was extremely helpful! I narrowed it down to GRACE. My intentions are to devote more time to my writing and other creative arts, practicing and learning new things. I want to nurture my life and career as a thriving artist and share my creations far and wide. I also want to spend fun time with family and friends, improve my physical fitness, expand my spiritual awareness, and do the things I love on a regular basis. All with ease, purpose, and kindness…also known as GRACE!

I’m totally in love with my new word. I spent some time today making a GRACE art journal page. GRACE feels just right for where I am and where I’m headed.

Have you chosen a word for 2015? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your word and perhaps why you chose it. Blessings!

 

Easing Into the Transition

A confession: I think I’m falling in love with winter. It used to be my least-favorite season, but over the past couple of years I’ve learned to appreciate it more. The snowy winter landscape is so beautiful. Even the stark greys and browns outside my window now, our snow having melted away during a warmer weather pattern, are lovely in their own way. The moon last night was so pretty!

The other thing I love about winter is the coziness of snuggling into my home and having time to reflect, create, and dream. Now that the holidays are pretty much over and done, I’m settling into my own routine once again, and making big plans for the year to come.

I feel like 2015 will be huge for me in terms of my writing career. Watch out, world! Here are the tools I’m using for my transition to the new year.

1. Re-read personal journals from 2014.
2. Make notes and compile lists (how many books I read, what my favorite books were from 2014, ideas for the coming year).
3. Do Susannah Conway’s 2015 Unravelling the Year workbook.
4. Choose a Word of the Year using the Word of the Year worksheet by Christine Kane and the Find Your Word mini-course by Susannah Conway.
5. Outline my writing plans for 2015, and write up my goals for round 1 of ROW80.
6. Meet with BlackLion to finish compiling our 2015 road map for Feline Dreamers.
7. Complete the Year End Ritual process by Sarah Susanka.
8. Write out my intentions for 2015 and create vision boards and art journal pages.

I hope some of these tools will help you in your own end-of-year transition. If it sounds overwhelming, try picking just one. I’m a Virgo and I thrive on this type of personal reflection, but it’s not for everyone. May you find your own peaceful and joyful transition.

Blessings to you as you begin the New Year!

5 Sorrows and 5 Joys

Hello there! How have your winter holidays been going? Do you celebrate? I do, and mine have been both full of fun and very tiring. This evening I’ve been enjoying some quiet time to rest and reflect.

This blog post was inspired by my friend over at Spinster Jane. She found a prompt that asked her to list 10 sorrows, and changed it into 5 joys instead. I began to wonder: could I even come up with 10 sorrows? It got me pondering, and I decided to morph the prompt into my own thing: a list of 5 sorrows and 5 joys. Here goes.

My sorrows:

1. I’m sad that the odds are I will outlive many of the people I love the most. I’m 45 years old, and when you get to a certain age, it becomes obvious that people you care about in the older generation won’t be around as long as you might wish. I feel deep sorrow about that.

2. I miss my friend Jenn, who died last year. I wish we’d had more time together and that we’d done more fun things before she got sick. Guess I’m still grieving.

3. When people I love are sad or upset or unhappy. That’s a big sorrow. I’m an empath, so actually anyone suffering is disturbing. But it’s especially sad when it’s someone I care about.

4. I feel sorrow for the way we human beings (collectively) treat our lovely planet Earth.

5. I hold sorrow for those who feel that they have no hope, no future, no chance of joy.

Side note: Reading back over what I’ve written so far, it’s curious to me that money issues didn’t even make the sorrow list. It’s something I fret about at times, but hey, I have a roof over my head, good food to eat, and warm clothing. So truly, I have what I need in that regard. Interesting.

My joys:

1. My family is such a great joy to me. I have so many loving, caring, funny, creative, and interesting people in my extended clan. I’m blessed, that way.

2. Expressing my creativity is one of my most treasured joys. Whether I’m writing, making art, drumming, dancing, brainstorming new ideas, or a bunch of other stuff I can’t think of right now, being creative is really a blast.

3. Being outdoors in nature brings great joy to my soul.

4. My spirituality is another cherished aspect of my joy. While I tend to describe my spirituality as Pagan, the particular practices and beliefs that I hold dear are unique to me, and ever-changing. I love that.

5. Cats and books. Yeah, that’s two. So what? It’s my interpretation of the game. Cats and books are guaranteed to make me smile, even on the most difficult of days.

So there you have it. Now it’s your turn. Pass it on! Write up your own sorrows and joys, and share them with us. Or simply take a moment to reflect on them. May your joys increase!