Using a Mala for Meditation

Mini MeditatorIt took some time as well as a bit of trial and error, but I have finally developed a great system for making malas that last. I really enjoy making them and the many combinations of beads and thread are fun to come up with too.

A mala is traditionally 108 beads with a guru bead (109th bead) and a tassel. They can also come in 18, 27 or 54 beads. You can have an all wood bead mala or mix in some stone or crystal beads which add additional properties to your mala. You may have heard the term japa mala used to describe the beaded necklaces. Japa is just a sanskrit word to describe the practice of meditating with a mala, so don’t let that strange word scare you away from trying this awesome tool for meditation.

Why should you meditate? Meditation gives you a period of time to refocus. If you are anything like me, you are being pulled in a thousand different directions all day long and all the issues or problems carry over into the next day until they are resolved. Meditation gives you a time to set them all down and pick them back up again refreshed and ready to make good choices. A mala is a good tool to help with that refocusing. It uses the sensation of the beads and definitive end to your time, along with counting each breath and repetition.

How do I use a mala to meditate? It’s quite simple and completely up to you. Traditionally, you would hold a 108 bead mala in your right hand only and use your middle finger and thumb to go through each bead, taking a breath between while saying a mantra for each repetition. This video is awesome (and short) for explaining the process as well as how to charge or cleanse your mala.

If you want a less rigid way of meditating with your mala, here is a fun video.

I don’t necessarily believe you have to have a 108 bead mala and the guru bead can simply be a good thought, a prayer to God or the universe, or a final, very deep breath to end your meditation time. It is up to you. There are many reasons why a japa mala uses 108 beads. I have made a handful of malas with only 90 or 100. You could give numerological meaning to those numbers if you’d like. A traditional rosary, for example, has 5 sets of 10 beads with a bead in between each decade. All that to say, it has meaning only if you give it meaning. If you are a christian, meditation can be a time of meditating on the word of God. Choose a short verse and make it your mantra. “Be still, and know” or “All things work together for good”. Whatever you are needing at the time, or whatever He brings to mind.

My personal mala has 108 beads with some of them being Carnelian and the rest Palm wood beads. Carnelian is used for clarification and motivation towards your goals. I often wear it on school days. I don’t have a dedicated mantra, but meditate on what is needed at the time. Meditating also helps get to the root of an issue in the way that you have to decide what it is you are feeling and how best to combat the negativity. Perhaps you are having a mom-guilt day, where you’ve failed a couple of times or let someone down. The mantra, “I am enough” or “I deserve love and I give love easily.” will quickly turn your thoughts positive and allow you to internalize truth. We talk to ourselves constantly, whether we realize it or not and it’s usually negative. If you make a mistake, you might beat yourself up about it for hours afterwards while you go about your day, replaying the situation and trying to come up with what you could have done better or differently. After a time of meditating consistently, you’ll start recognizing that hurtful talk, be able to take a deep breath and let it go or redirect your thoughts.

A mantra is a sound, word or phrase used in meditation. A quick search will give you a lot of different chants you can use or like in the second video, she uses, “I am healing every day”. Other ideas are; “I am light to those around me”, “I am content with what I have and need nothing more” or you may meditate on a person, perhaps someone you need to forgive. Saying the words, “I forgive you” will do wonders for letting that hurt go, even if you never speak to that person again. Taking a breath in and then out per bead will do wonders as well. You’ll come back to your breath in a stressful situation. A great quote I found by J. Donald Walters, reads, “The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of inner peace.” I love that quote and have found it to be true.

Meditation Tools

You can also incorporate other tools into your meditation time. A small singing bowl or some Tingshas are wonderful sound therapy. They can be used to cleanse energy in yourself or your home. If my family gets in a funk, I’ll take the tingshas to the corners of the room, much like with sage.

Finally, If you are having a hard time in Savasana after yoga, an eye pillow is a wonderful tool. It works much like the beads do on a mala. The eye pillow resting over your eyes brings attention to that sensation allowing you to then focus on your breath.

I enjoy using all of these things in my practice and it wasn’t until I started meditating that I really started to see a change in myself for the better. I encourage you to try it.

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Gluten Free Holidays

Thanksgiving 2015

I’ve had to adjust some recipes for our holiday meals, but thankfully not too much.

If you can have gluten, any flour recipe calls for a scoop and a dump and you’re on your way, but if you want gluten free, there seems to be 100 different flours you can use and 100 different ways to mess up the recipe. A lot of gf cooking is trial and error, really expensive trial and error. It’s also personal preference. Coconut flour is amazing to some people, but I cannot stand it. It’s too dense for me. You can buy premade gluten free flours, but they’re, again, expensive and I hate to buy premade when I can make my own. Bob’s is supposedly a good one (I didn’t love his pancakes, so I’m hesitant to try it), but it’ll do in a pinch.

I’ve found this site to be a great source of information when trying new flours. She explains the differences giving a system to it which allows you to create your own blend. I highly recommend it! I used Gluten-Free Girl’s recipe and had to grind the flour and then everything tasted like dirt. :/ That’s not to say that all of her recipes are bad. She’s got a great chorizo breakfast recipe in her book Gluten Free Girl Every Day. I’ve used other recipes with coconut flour that came out so dense I could have knocked someone out if I threw them. The last blend I tried turned out well and worked for all the recipes that need just regular flour, like homemade mac n cheese. I used one part Sorghum, one part Brown Rice and one part Potato Starch. I loved it. It definitely mimicked wheat flour without getting weird. Petite Allergy Treats has another flour recipe that was a good starter. I’m not a fan of a brown rice/white rice combo which is probably why I don’t care for Bob’s mix. I do use his individual flours however. Anyway! Pick your poison! ;)

On to the recipes! Substituting gf flour is the first way to make a holiday gf. What about gravy? They have gf gravy packets, it’s gonna come with all the rest of the junk, but that is an option if that’s what you like. There is also a really easy homemade version that I found to be awesome. If you want brown gravy, just use beef broth instead along with your gf flour and you’re good to go. It’s a great basic recipe, but I added some spices like garlic and onion powder.

My all time favorite mac n cheese recipe is Fanny Farmer’s. Other mac n cheese recipes I’ve tried are really complicated and the timing has to be perfect. This one is simple. The kids love it. I just use Barilla Gluten Free elbows and my gf flour. I’ve found that a mix of corn and rice flour pasta is the key. Single flour pasta like brown rice pasta is gross. Don’t do it! No taste and the pasta is mushy. :( I’d love to make my own pasta one day, but that is far into the future.

My aunt has a cornbread dressing recipe that we’ve used for years. This year I substituted gf cornbread instead of the usual jiffy. It turned out well!

Here’s the original recipe:

Aunt Carrie's Cornbread Dressing

Aunt Carrie's Cornbread Dressing


  • 1 (16 oz) package dry corn bread mix. (2 boxes of Jiffy – I make muffins)
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons dried sage
  • 2 cans vegetarian or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the dry corn mix according to package directions. Cool and crumble.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease one 9x13 baking dish.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the celery, carrots and onion until soft.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the celery, carrots, the crumbled corn bread, veggie stock, orange juice, sage and salt and pepper to taste; mix well. (It should be a little soupy.)
  5. Place into prepared baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
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(I’ll update the recipe with a better picture after Christmas because we will definitely be making some)

It’s not always easy to accommodate gluten free, vegetarian or otherwise, but it’s nice when you’ve got some basic recipes to swap out that taste good! Hope you have a lovely holiday! Let me know if you use any of the recipes and how they turn out. :)

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New Necklaces at BBY

Jewel and Tassel Necklaces

I love the jewels on these necklaces, so bright and adds a fun spot of color to any outfit. Each necklace is on a 24 in chain in Antique Bronze.

Key and Tassel

Fox and Tassel

Moon and Tassel

Deer and Tassel

Owl and Tassel

Jewel and Tassel Necklaces

Owl and Fox Necklaces

2for30Necklaces are now 2 for $30 (or $18 each). One for you and one for a sweet sister, friend or secret santa! :) Beyond Bending Yoga will be open 10a-2p on Friday (with a morning class at 915a), so stop by for some special deals.

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Stitch Fix Bandwagon

I’ve heard about Stitch Fix for a while, but was pretty content with shopping for myself…until winter came and I realized that all the winter clothes that fit me last year were postpartum nursing clothes. Thanks to yoga and the Phelps genes I’m down a few sizes (though honestly I miss those nursing boobs, for realz). Anyway. I talked to my bestie in Portland and we decided to try Stitch Fix together.

Stitch Fix, if you don’t know (and there’s no reason you should unless you are a blogaholic because I’m pretty sure that’s their main market), is a personal styling service. You pay $20 and fill out a styling profile and they will send you 5 items to try on either; once a month, every other month, or every three. They even encourage you to link up a board on Pinterest to help with choosing your items. Your $20 becomes credit if you keep something and if you keep all 5 items you get 25% off. What you don’t like you put in a prepackaged bag and mail back within three days. Easy-peasy.

Stitch Fix

I got my box yesterday. :) It’s really fun to get a box in the mail and you know it’s something good, but you don’t know exactly what’s in it, like receiving a present. I pulled everything out to see what I got, but had to wait until a bit later to try them on.

Stitch Fix

It looked promising! The colors were pretty and the material was soft. Warning: When someone aims a camera at me I get weird.

Stitch FixI really liked this sweater, it just fit strange around the tummy. It bunched around the middle with extra fabric. She also sent me the jeans. They were a mid-rise waist and that kinda freaked me out and though they were comfortable, the fit wasn’t quite right, sadly. The material for the sweater and jeans were quality, however. SENT BACK BOTH

Stitch Fix Yeah…this was way low cut and shiny! I don’t have much to flaunt so needless to say. SENT BACK

Stitch FixI thought this was a poncho at first, but it’s actually a dolman top, meaning fitted at the sleeves and triangular shaped. I liked it. KEPT

Stitch FixThis was a heavy, yet holey sweater. It smelled kinda funny and I have no idea why, I wish I had looked at the material. This was no bueno mostly because it was heavy and didn’t help me out at all. I’m also not a fan of the length. SENT BACK

Stitch FixOne neat thing is there is a note attached from the stylist with helpful advice about pairings as well as a guide to other possibilities. I found that helpful in making a decision on the versatility of the item.

Let’s break it down.
My overall choices: I was extremely detailed in my profile, maybe a little too detailed because these seemed like safe items to me. The first box for most people is hit or miss. I think she did quite well. All of those could have easily been something I picked for myself. After checking out, I modified my profile to add Romantic pops of color and more fun items. Stitch Fix will also send jewelry, bags, scarves and shoes in all price points. I chose everything, but jewelry. I’m secretly hoping for an amazing bag.

Prices: You get to pick your price points, which is nice. As cheap as possible is one of them and then they give you a range of dollar amounts. For example, I chose “as cheap as possible” for tops because kids, but went a little higher for jeans because I’ve been spending about $25-$30 and they ain’t lasting. $50-$100. The blue top I liked was $48, but the $20 I paid for the box went towards it, so I paid $28 for it. I contemplated that sweater. It was $68. That’s way more than I have ever spent on a sweater and I decided to wait for something I absolutely loved. Here’s the kicker: I live in a rural area. I have a small department-type store and walmart as my choices for clothing. If I want Target, Kohl’s or the mall I have to drive to Asheville, 1.5 hours away. It costs me about $30 in gas to go to Asheville. If I buy two tops at $30 each from Target or Kohl’s I’ve spent $90. Those two Stitch Fix tops together were $116. A bit more, but I didn’t have to leave my house, drag the kids around, spend way more money on other things I “need” and make a 3 hour drive. It seems like a good deal to me.

Is it worth it?: Stitch Fix uses exclusive clothing lines. I don’t think they did to begin with, but they do now. I couldn’t find that particular top anywhere else. My items were higher-end fabric, but still a blend. I kinda felt like those were items I would have already picked for myself, so why was I paying someone to pick them for me? Well, I didn’t have to spend an hour combing through websites, reading reviews looking for a promo code and crossing my fingers there won’t be any bad surprises, like “whoops this is sheer”. It’s like you need an online shopping degree to make good choices sometimes. I don’t really enjoy it. I look at it like I am paying $20 to have someone do the work for me. My compromise is choosing every other month for a Stitch Fix. I like that that’s an option. I’m gonna give it another go for January and I’m hoping there will be something in the next box that I LOVE.

Here’s some good info if you still want to know more:
Your picks are based on an algorithm. An interesting look at the Stitch Fix founder and CEO, Katrina Lake.
Straight up FAQs for Stitch Fix
One blogger’s tour of Stitch Fix (real photos of the company)
My referral link. If you wanna try it out, use this link and I’ll get a credit. :)

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Mamabluebird at Beyond Bending Yoga

It’s been quiet over here, but I’ve been busy! All this year I’ve been slowly building Mamabluebird into a potential company where I sell my handmade items. I’ve been perfecting my malas, my eye pillows and recently started making jewelry. I love it!

Mamabluebird at Beyond Bending YogaNow, anyone local can purchase handmade items at our local yoga studio, Beyond Bending Yoga.

Essential oil dIffuser necklacesShown above are a few of my necklaces. The first is a honeybee necklace with yellow jewel, pink tassel with pink jewel, blue and green tassel with adorable little key attached and finally (my favorite) glass bottle and feather charm necklace. You must see them in person! More necklaces are in the works and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Add a drop or two of essential oil to the tassel and bring your favorite scent with you throughout the day. After a few days it will dissipate and you can try a different scent or blend.

Mamabluebird at Beyond Bending Yoga Grab a business card while you are there and keep in the loop with me on fb and instagram.

Savasana Eye PillowsFor my eye pillows, I use organic buckwheat hulls and a double layer of fabric, so when these lay over your eyes for final relaxation pose or when you want a moment of peace to just breathe or meditate it feels like heaven. The buckwheat hulls give just the right amount of weight that’s soft and light encouraging rest and relief. (Add a few drops of essential oil to these as well to encourage relaxation or a clearer mind.)

If you are in the area, stop in before or after a class (or hey, why not try a class too!) and check out my lovingly handmade items in our awesome yoga studio.

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Fall Colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colorsI love the changing seasons. I’m still surprised when it happens, especially fall. It will begin to cool off and maybe I’ll notice one or two yellow trees, maybe a random bright orange one and then one day I go, “wow, it sure is pretty out” because it seems all of the trees have changed overnight. There is also a peak of the colors and I think this is it.

These pictures are on the road that leads to and from my house. The first is early morning and the others are late afternoon.
Fall colors

Fall colors

These two are from a hike to Wayah Bald last Sunday. Each year is different depending on how much rain we got over the summer and how quickly it gets cold. Some years the leaves seem to go straight to brown. This year is pretty though and I thought you might enjoy a piece of what fall looks like to me.

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Happy Birthday Banner

We had a combo Father’s Day/Birthday party for my hubby and FIL a few weekends ago. I saw two items in Joann’s while in Asheville and decided to make a cute little banner.

Happy Birthday Banner


between knots

Baker’s Twine, less than a yard
Chalkboard Paper tags, half a package

I separated the tags out for the phrase I wanted and decided to have two separate strings. I counted the letters and began to knot the twine. I spaced the letters out less than two inches apart and made two knots per letter for them to rest inbetween. I then used tape to hold it on the wall, but you can use whatever you prefer. It doesn’t have to be perfectly measured, it’s meant to have charm and look handmade. :o)

The whole thing cost me less than five dollars and I was able to make a second banner that said “Happy Dad’s Day” not enough tags left for “Father’s”. Ha! I have a TON of twine left over for other projects too. What’s great about this is you can say anything you want and use whatever colors you desire. “Happy Vasectomy!” “Congrats on Your Pet Adoption” “Happy 29th Birthday, Again” Anything you want. :o)

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Clipping Chicken Wings

Fatty keeps flying over the fence. We let the chickens out some evenings and on the weekends to “free range”, but most of the time they are kept in their area. It’s quite large (it used to be for dogs) and they get scraps most days, but I’m afraid Fatty will get to my garden, as she has been caught in that area a few times, so we decided to clip her wings.

I cut Lorelei’s finger when she was a tiny baby clipping her nails, so cutting a chicken’s feathers did not appeal to me. It was a two person process and we took turns assuring each other and the chicken that it was going to be okay.

This video was awesome in preparing us to cut their primary flight feathers.

Step 1: Get your chicken
Get your chickenStep 2: Calm your chicken and shove her under your armpit
Calm your chickenStep 3: Spread out her wing gently and try not to think of tasty, tasty chicken wings
Spread its wingsStep 4: Cut the primary wings and don’t have flashbacks to the time you cut your daughter’s teeny tiny finger by accident when she was a week old
Cut its wingsRepeat.

We decided to cut all three chicken’s wings in case the other two got any ideas. It was pretty quick and painless and we could do it again once they molt and regrow them. We feel like real chicken farmers now.

Feather aftermath
All done All done! Happy chicken, happy mama!

*To read about the early days of having chickens, go here

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Gluten Free Recipes

My chiro (he’s more of a naturopath) keeps telling me that gluten is not my friend based on my ailments. The first few times he told me, I ignored him because it’s so trendy now to be gluten free. I was like, “psh, you’ve read the hype, blah blah, whatever”, but then I began to think, why am I going to him if I’m not going to listen? About a month ago I said, “fine”, and decided to try a month gluten free (gf).


Going gf was actually really easy. It’s mainstream now, so I can grab a box of regular spaghetti and a box of gf spaghetti (it’s not bad!). I also found that I don’t actually like bread or pasta all that much and that I only ate it because I thought I should and to fill me up. Going dairy free, however, would be another battle entirely! Taking bread off the menu forces me to eat more veggies and get creative; two of my favorite things. Instead of a sandwich for lunch, I’ll do zucchini pizzas, tuna with lentil crackers or deli meat and cheese with some fruit. I’m much happier and feel great. I have found that I do need to eat more often and there was an adjustment period because I was used to feeling like I was gonna burst after a meal, but I’ve learned to snack well (eg. raw almonds) and I never have that over full and bloated feeling after a meal anymore. I only feel satiated which is an entirely different feeling. After a few weeks gf, I went out to eat and didn’t want a salad, so chose my usual hamburger and fries meal. That afternoon I felt awful. I was irritated and tired and didn’t want to do anything but sit on the couch. It turns out my body is much happier when I don’t eat gluten, as am I! My joints used to ache all the time. My body was tired and I would nap for no reason almost every afternoon. Like, can’t keep my eyes open anymore fall asleep on the couch, tired. That did it for me. I much prefer having energy to wanting to crawl under a rock and yelling at my kids because I’m irritated with myself. I’ve been more productive in the last month than the last year because I have more consistent energy and my mood stays level.

I’ve just begun learning about eating gluten free. I’ve started reading Wheat Belly. It’s a difficult read in my opinion because it’s mostly about dieting and that’s not my reason for eating gf, but it does have some interesting information in it. Next on my list is Grain Brain (so catchy, these titles). There is a lot of hate about these books and eating gluten free. Most articles I read are against going gf, but can’t explain why a person who isn’t a celiac would feel better not eating gluten or what is . If you have any good recommendations I’d love to hear them!

GF hamburger buns

I’ve hesitated to say out loud that I’m not eating gluten (insert eye roll from my entire family), but I’ve begun trying recipes and want to share the good ones! The first recipe I’ve found that I really enjoy is from Petite Allergy Treats. She has a gf hamburger bun recipe that tastes really yummy. I’m finding that for savory recipes I do not like coconut flour, but amazingly there are so many alternatives to wheat flour.

I’ve tried a pizza crust I didn’t love and rolls I didn’t enjoy either. The kids liked the rolls and you may as well, but they were quite dense. I’ve started a Gluten Free Recipes board on Pinterest and continually add to it, if you wanna follow along. I’ll be posting my faves here soon too.

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Spring Garden

porch pretties

It’s warming up a little more everyday and the flowers are blooming everywhere. I’ve been wanting to hang up some pots on the porch and maybe have a small herb garden out there as well.

Chicken scratchOn the side of the house is an area Jason’s dad prepared for a garden. This was the tale end of winter. I had already started some seeds and we were prepping to plant.

turning over the dirtWe let the chickens roam while we turned the dirt and pulled out the old weeds and flowers.

turning over the dirt

ready to plant Here’s where we ended up at the end of that day. It stayed like that for a few more weeks.


little helper Once the sprouts were about 3 inches or so we were ready to put them into the ground. I had a little helper that day.

Tomatoes I do not know how to spell “tomatoes” apparently. :) I just used paint sticks to label what and where we planted everything.

Seeds I had such good luck with the first seeds, I wanted to try again with herbs and a few more vegetables.


watered 10 cups of water later…

cherry tomato seeds Tiny seeds!

ready set grow They sit on the side of the grill until they are ready for more sun.

porch pretty We tried so hard to grow things at our old house without much luck. This time around I’m extremely lax about the whole process. If it grows, awesome, if not, then we’ll keep on buying from the produce stand. I feel like gardening is more of an intuitive process and I hope to have better luck growing plants from seeds and in better soil.

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