Mamabluebird

Fast Shutter Speed

that view The cats sit still and I might be able to catch Chip sleeping, but when we go for a walk, Chip lets loose and looks like a Greyhound.

Chip

Chip It gave me a chance to play with my camera using a fast shutter speed and a maintained ISO.

Oreo and the kids Oreo came out from nowhere and found a spot in the shade while the kids played on an old swingset behind our house.

It was cold, but it was fun! Love learning how to use my camera.

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First of the Plants

CarnationsI couldn’t resist grabbing a few plants this week while grocery shopping. I needed some color on my porch!

Herbs I love cooking with fresh herbs. I grew from seeds last year, but just went quick and easy for now with Parsley, Oregano, Basil and Cilantro.

Pansies are so hardy and bloom big and quick, so I went that route this year. We’ll see how they do. We’re still in the process of prepping the garden, but hopefully we’ll be planting soon! I guess I need to get my seeds going, but I bet we do plants for that area as well.

Pansies I took these pics with my camera in Manual Mode. I am very much enjoying learning how to use it, finally. I think it was a Christmas present a few years ago… better late than never!

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Spring Mala

Is it Spring yet?? I feel like the hamster with his ball in Bolt, “LET IT BEGIN!!” Haha.

Spring Mala

This shade of green is my favorite, especially coupled with a dark brown wood in which you can see the grain. Love it! I’ve also added howlite for the guru bead to aid in calming rage and soothing anxiety. Spring is a time for new beginnings as we come out of the dormancy of winter to bright sun and a fresh start.

The new Spring mala is in the shop at Beyond Bending Yoga. Remember, all malas are 10% off this month in honor of mindfulness and meditation.

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Learn Something New

Spring Blooms I’m only a few lessons into learning how to use my dslr, but I am loving it! I’ve taken a few “classes” about taking pictures, but mostly related to blogging. I feel like this is next level, which is so exciting.

We were out in the yard on Saturday. It was such a beautiful day and we were finally giving the yard a little tlc. We cleaned out the flower beds, prepped the garden a little, picked up sticks and trash and toys galore. We raked and blew the leaves. Along the way I found these buds. I just love seeing the first bit of spring. Blooms coming from sticks!

Spring Blooms I took these pics in manual mode and I am just so proud. We’re learning how to manually focus, but ISO comes into play automatically with that. It’s amazing what creatively opens up when you venture into learning something new. Tweaking them in Lightroom is another adventure as well.

Spring Blooms I noticed this little bud that grows on the vine on our fence. It blocks the sunlight to the garden, so we were taking it out, but it is fierce! I encourage you to learn something new this Spring. Get out of your comfort zone and see the world a little differently. :)

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Journey to a Half Sleeve

I got my first tattoo at 18. It’s hidden and not my favorite. I waited almost ten years to get another and it was quite a liberating experience. I enjoy writing, so I chose a quill.

Feather tattoo

The following year I decided on another tattoo and contemplated the idea of an eventual half sleeve.

Icon tattoo Icon Tattoo in Portland, OR in the fall of 2011. I traveled to see my bestie and made an appointment there because they are amazing.

Icon tattoo

Icon tattoo This is still my favorite tattoo and what led to the name, “Mamabluebird”. I get compliments daily during the summer and this artist was just starting out and now is so booked in advance you most likely can’t even get an appointment!

Two years and a baby later I decided on another tattoo.

Geisha tattoo I held onto the image of this geisha for a couple of years. I like that she’s dancing and I imagine that she’s dancing for herself with memories of who she used to be taking with her only the things that matter. I had this tattoo done in Waynesville. It was okay, but the shading wasn’t great. I went back in 2013 to Portland and had an artist there “fix it”. I love the delicate lines, but don’t love the dark shading, though it was necessary. PSA: Don’t settle on an artist and don’t make rash decisions just after giving birth. Lol

Recently I got two new tattoos. One is a small acorn. My family (way back) is from Sweden and Norway and descended from vikings according to my aunt and uncle who are extremely into genealogy. There is a Norse myth that during a storm Thor took refuge under an oak tree and because of this people used to place acorns on their windowsills for protection against lightning. I also like that acorns only grow on mature trees (20+ years old). Imagine what that tree endures in order to produce acorns? I like the determination behind the symbol. I got it at Sacred Lotus in Asheville and set up an appointment for a few months later with the same artist.

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Sacred Lotus Tattoo

20160206_141329 We probably placed the stencil ten times, to make sure it was placed with enough space between my other tattoos. I had originally thought I’d get a mandala and flowers, but a week or so before the appointment I knew I wasn’t that into sacred geometry and I knew that a deer would mean more to me as well as be more unique. Jessica worked hard on my sketch incorporating a rose and ranunculus into the sketch. (Some of the pics to follow are not really flattering, just me documenting the process for myself)

Sacred Lotus Tattoo This is the position I was in (or with my arm straight) for about 4 hours. There was a pee break or two in there. :)

Sacred Lotus TattooA break after the line work was done.

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

She did an awesome job. She is a portrait/paint artist as well, and listens to what you want and takes her time.

The tattoo was really angry for a few days, but after about a week the swelling went down and it started the itchy peeling process.
Sacred Lotus Tattoo

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

For the last year or so, since we moved further away from town, we see a lot of wild animals. My mom and I play this game or whatever about spirit animals. When you see an animal, going about your day, it is sending you a message. To see a deer is to be reminded to be gentle with yourself and with others. I like that they also are strong and protective of their children while representing nurturing and femininity. I chose the rose for my mama, being dark pink for gratitude and appreciation. The ranunculus is a flower Jason and I used in our wedding.

I love that tattoos can just be cool pictures or they can have significant meaning. They represent a choice made at a specific time and can reflect how far you’ve come. I’ve been working on this half sleeve for about 5 years now and although it isn’t finished, I like that it is something I’m building on over many years.

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Fire Mala

Fire Mala

Most of the time my malas are planned out and coordinated, but sometimes inspiration strikes. This new mala I’ve named the Fire Mala, has multi-colored thread and three different kinds of wood beads; grey wood, rose wood and palm wood. It also has carnelian stone for the guru bead. Carnelian is one of my favorites since it helps motivate and to clarify your goals.

Mamabluebird

The Fire Mala has half of the beads a regular mala has (54 beads+1), so it is shorter, about 24 inches in length. If you’d like to meditate on your goals or need help in the motivation department, this mala is for you. Especially, if you need a spark of creativity or confidence.

You’ll notice a second mala with the rose wood beads in the picture above. I made one sans knots for those that prefer a more simpler mala. You can find both at Beyond Bending Yoga this week.

Fire Mala

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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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http://www.mamabluebird.com/gluten-free-holidays/

(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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