Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)

 

Cinnamon buns are a classic treat to enjoy with coffee or to munch on in the morning. They make a perfect sweet breakfast for a lazy Saturday, or any day really, because who could say no to a cinnamon bun?

Skip the goopy glaze for these bad boys. This ain’t no cinnabon. They’re already perfectly spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and warm brown sugar — I think a glaze might even be overkill. Topped with a little egg wash and pearl sugar, this is the perfect recipe for a sweet treat.

Time: 2½-3 hours

Yields: About 15-20 buns

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk (I used skim since it was all I had, but whole milk or almond milk would be even better)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick room temperature unsalted butter
  • ¼ – ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • pearl sugar for garnish
  • vegetable oil

  • Begin by scalding the milk in a saucepan. Make sure you have it over low heat so as not to boil the milk — you will know when it’s ready when bubbles start to form around the edge, like a foaming ring. Once you see this, take it off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Once the milk has cooled enough, transfer it into a large mixing bowl and add in the yeast. Whisk this together until light and foamy.  Add the sugar, the egg and egg yolk, the vanilla, cardamom, and salt then whisk until combined.
  • Gradually add in the flour and knead until a soft and stretchy dough forms.  You can knead your dough in an electric mixer with a dough hook or just use your hands. I always use my hands – nothing fancy. It’s important to add the flour in slowly, because you may not even need the extra half cup — only add in as much as you need. The dough should be silky, not at all rough, but if the dough is still sticking to your hands after kneading and kneading, add more flour in by spoonfuls until it cooperates.
  • Mix in 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter a few pieces at a time until mixed into the dough. This will make your dough much smoother. (And tastier.) Set the rest of the stick of butter aside — you’ll be using it for the yummy cinnamon filling. Shape the dough into a ball.
  • Next, either clean out your large mixing bowl or get an entirely new one and very lightly dab a paper towel or tissue into some vegetable oil. Coat the bowl so it’s not greasy but just a little oily so the dough doesn’t stick to the bottom and sides. Then plop your dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Leave it to rise for 1 hour.
  • While your dough is rising, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and a pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Set aside.
  • After your dough has risen, roll it out onto a floured surface with a rolling pin. You want to make sure to roll it into a rectangular shape, about a 12-inch-by-18-inch rectangle, but it doesn’t have to be totally exact (i.e. no ruler necessary).  When you’ve got your rectangle, spread the cinnamon filling onto the dough using a knife. Be sure to spread it all the way to the sides.
  • Then we roll! Take an edge and begin rolling your rectangle into a big sausage. It will kind of look like a jelly roll. Once you have your roll, take a sharp serrated knife and cut into about 15-20 equal pieces.  Lay them on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper or a silpat. Cover them with some plastic wrap and let them rise again for 1 hour.
  • I begin preheating my oven to 350° about 15 or so minutes before the last hour of rising is up. When they’ve rested for an hour (those terribly needy little things), lightly beat 1 egg with a fork to make a wash. Brush the eggwash generously onto the buns and sprinkle them with a little bit of pearl sugar.
  • Bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they’re a beautiful golden brown. Cool them on a rack — but not for too long, they’re best served warm!


Welcoming Spring: Houseplants for Spiritual Wellness

 

March is for thinking spring. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve definitely had a less-than-languid month as a whole. Sometimes it can be grueling to weed out things in your life that just have to go, but it’s necessary change that’s usually fruitful despite the pains of transition. And spring is all about transition! Lately, I’ve been finding the solace I need in plants.

Did you know plants, herbs, and flowers have the capacity to help you grow spiritually and mentally? The very act of caring for a plant promotes wellness, nurturing, and a higher awareness of the world at large — after all, you are looking after another living thing. Simple household plants not only aid in physical health, but are also believed to bring forth energy to help you achieve a more balanced life.  There are several correspondences to draw from when choosing which plant might suit your needs best — perhaps you just like the way it looks, or maybe the symbolism and mythos behind the plant itself interests you as well.  Here’s a list of some house-friendly plants to enhance your personal space in various ways.

These plants are known to provide luck and good fortune in different ways, depending on the color of your flower. It’s helpful to know a bit about color correspondences when choosing which plants to display and where to display them, but not absolutely necessary. Red geraniums are good for vitality, courage, and strength, while pink geraniums correspond with love, friendship, and personal harmony. Choose white for fertility, safety, and transformation.

Roses are of course known for their properties of love, healing, and companionship — they’re known as one of the highest-vibrating living things on earth. While growing full on roses in the house might be a little intense, it is possible to grow mini roses indoors. They grow to be about 6-12 inches in height and are fairly low maintenance. Of course, be mindful which color rose you want to grow! Another plant that exhibits the same benefits is the maidenhair fern, corresponding to the planet Venus, just like the rose.

This plant, ruled by Mercury and often labeled “busy lizzie” does exactly as you’d expect: encourages movement, travel, and newness in your life. Impatiens are perfect for those stuck in a rut or just wanting to shake things up a bit.

Ruled by Saturn, this plant encourages tranquility and safety in the home, also known for calming fears and warding off nightmares or unwanted visitors. Another plant that achieves the same unique nightmare-warding effect is the cyclamen, which has been used throughout history to protect against evil spirits.

I don’t know why, but I love the name of this plant! The word “thistle” is so fun to say. Thistle thistle. The thistle (sorry, last time) is actually part of the sunflower family, though you wouldn’t really know looking at it. They are most often found in a beautiful purple hue, symbolizing a transcendent and calming introspective nature. Combined with green (stability, trust, nature) it’s a true meeting of the minds: a blend of stable ground and a higher power. In the old days, thistle was also believed to ward off thieves.

Yellow or orange plants embody the lively energy of the Sun. Both of these vibrant colors, no matter the plant, bring forth an increase in creativity, inventiveness, prosperity, and new opportunities. Simple flower magic, like positioning a few bright yellow flowers in front of a mirror is believed to reflect the positive energy of the plant back into your space, therefore dispelling any negativity and encouraging growth.

Taking care of plants can be increasingly rewarding for the soul while providing a little bit more freshness in your life and personal spaces. Welcome spring by going to your local greenhouse or florist and picking up plants that speak to you, then watch the good vibes pour in!

Finnish Coffee Bread

This Finnish coffee bread has been in my family for years. I follow my grandmother’s weathered and worn recipe every time I make it, so instead of resorting to an ancient note card stained with ink and probably a few coffee splatters here and there, I think it’d be best to share it with the world and type it up on my blog.

 

This sweet treat goes by a few names, but mostly it’s pulla, Finnish braid, or just coffee bread. It’s the perfect consistency; somehow dense and fluffy at the same time and just slightly sweet, spiced with subtle cardamom and sprinkled with raw sugar. It’s the perfect bread to have with a cup of coffee or even as toast in the morning. Or if you’re like me, you’ll just eat it all plain and fresh out of the oven…

A quick warning: this is not a quick recipe. From start to finish, you’ll need an entire morning or afternoon. It takes about 6 hours, because we are working with yeast, and it needs proper time to rise. This is a perfect recipe for a weekend or a day off — whenever you have the time to bake something truly special.

  • 2 cups scalded milk
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 1⁄3 shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 yeast packet
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1⁄4 tsp cardamom

* Makes 2 loaves

  1. Start by heating up the milk in a saucepan until scalded.
  2. While waiting for the milk to heat up, beat your eggs, sugar, and salt together. In a large separate bowl, add in the 5 cups of flour. Set aside.
  3. Add the shortening to the milk and combine with egg mixture.
  4. Add in yeast, making sure the mixture is not too hot, but at a tepid temperature. Dot some of the mixture on your skin to test heat before adding in the yeast, as the wrong temperature can screw up the whole process!
  5.  Add the yeast/egg mixture to the bowl with the flour and fold it in with a wooden spoon until a thick, stretchy dough forms.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board or surface and knead 150 times. Then, transfer it back into the bowl, cover it with saran wrap and a dish towel. Leave it alone to rise in a warm room until the size of the dough has doubled (about 2 1/2 hours).
  7. Once the dough has risen, transfer it back to your floured surface and cut into thirds and braid. You could also shape the dough into smaller rolls, but I prefer making one long braided loaf. After you’ve shaped your bread, cover it with saran wrap again and let it rise even more (about 1 hour, just until it puffs up nicely).
  8. Brush each loaf with egg wash then sprinkle with raw sugar.
  9. Pop them into the oven for about 15-30 minutes. I usually turn them halfway, so set your timer for 7 minutes and rotate them. Let them cook for another 7 minutes. You’ll know when your bread is done — it will turn beautiful golden brown and when you tap it, it should be solid.
  10. Let cool and enjoy!

 

Crystal Collecting: A Guide for Beginners

 

By definition, a crystal is a solid whose atoms are arranged in a highly ordered repeating pattern, known as a crystal lattice. There are seven different types of crystal lattices and more than 3,000 (!) types of distinct crystals on earth, all forming in different ways. Aside from being complex and beautiful gifts from the earth, crystals and gems are also known for their healing properties.

I’ve noticed crystal collecting come back into the mainstream in the past year or so, which I’m loving. I owe much of my crystal knowledge to my mother, who insisted on teaching me about different kinds, taking me to metaphysical shops and enriching my life with beautiful stones. My ears were pierced with my birth stone when I was only 5 years old, and I wore those aquamarine studs proudly as a little kid! My black onyx ring was passed down to me from my grandmother, who was also a collector and seeker of crystal knowledge and enlightenment. There are many reasons one might want to surround themselves with these beautiful things. Maybe the molecular structure interests you, or maybe using them along with meditation is more your thing — or even just decor. Whatever your reason for wanting to collect, crystals can be enriching in so many ways.

 

In my opinion, the best way to start collecting is to simply seek out a shop around you. There are tons of fantastic local businesses that carry a wide variety of stones and crystals. Some of my favorites in the Rochester area are The Purple Door and Archimage, but do some exploring for yourself and see what you’re drawn to. Once you get there, it can be really exciting to see all the different varieties, but you’ll usually feel a pull to a certain stone or at least a color that resonates with you — and that’s a good sign! Use your intuition when crystal shopping. Most small crystals and stones are extremely affordable; a small chunk of a geode can be around $4-$6, and single stones can go for as little as $1 a pop. Some places even carry smaller geodes that you can crack yourself!

Whether or not you just want to collect the crystals you deem the prettiest, there are also several ways to use them for maximizing your good vibes. If you’re still unsure on how a rock can help you add some serious zen to your life and you’re eager to explore the topic, I suggest you go the old-fashioned route and dig into some books. Crystal Enlightenment: The Transforming Properties of Crystals and Healing Stones by Katrina Raphaell is one of my personal favorites. The most important thing to remember is that like all matter around us, crystals are made of atoms and they still give off vibrations and energy, no matter how subtle.

Want to start building your collection? Collecting is entirely based on individual preference, but below are some suggestions to start with.

 



This is probably one of the first images that popped into most of your heads when you read the word “crystal.” Nevertheless, there are several different types of quartz, each more stunning and interesting than the last. Clear Quartz is one of the most common types of crystals on the planet, therefore easy to come by and utilized frequently. This baby is a must! The color can range from crystal-clear (pun intended) to milky white, excluding the colored varieties. It’s great for building a collection because it’s known as an amplifier, or something that boosts the energy it’s surrounded by, whether that’s another type of crystal or just your own good mood! It’s also a favorite of holistic healers and energy practitioners because of it’s high healing vibrations, ability to clear negativity and enhance spiritual receptiveness.

 



Tourmaline, like Quartz, has many different varieties, but I wanted to include Black Tourmaline because it’s known for being very protective. When building a crystal collection, you’re bound to want at least some stones that resonate with protection. It is safe and grounding, so if you know you’re going to be somewhere with heavy energy and possibly a negative circumstance, it may be helpful to wear some Black Tourmaline jewelry or carry it in your pocket. If frantic days and high stress has gotten the best of you, this is definitely a good stone to have!

 



Citrine is a variety of quartz, but the healing properties associated with Citrine are a little different. In color, it ranges from champagne to golden brown (that’s actually from heat, as most Citrine stones you will find in a store are actually just Amethyst that has been heated up). It’s really easily accessible and a good crystal to have in your possession whenever you’re feeling a little blue or if you have any kind of creative blockage. Citrine is known for adding a dose of cheeriness to your life, and I keep several pieces around my bedroom since that’s where I’m at my most creative. This crystal beams pure positive sunlight directly into your life — who doesn’t want more of that?

 



Boom, more quartz. Rose Quartz is one of my absolute favorite stones. It’s light pink in color, hence the name, and is associated with the heart, positive self image and all things love: a good gift for a significant other or friend, or just nice to have in your own space to cultivate love and ease negative vibes. My mother actually just gifted me a beautiful Rose Quartz wind chime set that I hang from my window, plus I always keep a piece on my nightstand, my dresser, in my purse… plus two gorgeous Rose Quartz bookends sit atop my bookshelf. Needless to say, it’s a very special stone. Powerful yet soft, comforting yet strong, it’s truly an essential whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been collecting stones for ages.

 



I know what you’re thinking… more quartz? YES! Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz that is absolutely lovely, and it’s also a stone that I find a lot of people are automatically drawn to. It’s calming and peaceful and is even known to promote better sleep and dream recall! I always keep a chunk by my bed & even gave a tumbled Amethyst stone to my boyfriend for his bed as well. Amethyst is highly spiritual but like all of these stones, it’s very easy to find which in turn makes it easy to utilize in your daily life. Keep some Amethyst on you if you’re feeling a bit spiritually drained or when the world demands too much of you.

 

Collecting crystals is the easiest way to add a little magic into your life. It’s a highly personal activity and can be so valuable once you commit to building your knowledge. Besides all the different healing properties they offer, they also act as a visual and tactile aid in working towards solid solutions. Above all, it is a personal experience that can offer insight in very unexpected ways, so get out and see for yourself which crystals work best for you 🙂

8 Ways You Can Be More Present in Your Relationships

We’re all guilty of taking advantage of things from time to time, which is why it’s especially important to focus on staying present in our relationships. When a relationship (whether that’s with an SO, a best friend, or even yourself) gets comfortable it can feel like a pair of perfectly worn slippers: reliable and trusty. Or sometimes life just gets in the way of things and you’re left feeling like you’re not getting the most out of the relationships you’ve worked so hard in. So I’m making it a goal to be more open and available to those we care about. I’m officially banning excuses for putting human relationships on the back burner, and you should too. Being present in our relationships is increasingly critical in this day and age – with so much collective chaos and negativity in our country and world lately, everyone needs and deserves to be present in their friendships and relationships to get the most out of life. I’m no doctor, but being loving and open to receive love will immensely improve your health! I strive to be the kind of person who drops anything to help out a friend in need, whether it’s a big favor or a just a confidence boost. If you want the same, or maybe just to hone in your already-mastered relationship skills, read on.

Make it a point to communicate your needs and desires and always make sure you’re on the same page as the other person. This way, no hidden hurts or feelings will muck up and everything will be out in the open. Of course, no one can ever really know every little thing going on in your mind, and that’s probably a good thing, but to have a successful and thriving relationship with anybody, you need to communicate! I know it can be tricky sometimes to let your messy emotions hang out in the open, but try. Little by little. Voice your thoughts and clear any blockages. The more vulnerable you feel, the more you know it’s working, because we cannot truly be ourselves with another if we can’t communicate our authentic thoughts.

After communicating, make a point to listen. Just sit back. Be a vessel of reflection and a pillar of non-judgment. I know we’re all guilty of zoning out when someone talks, even when it’s someone we love and are close with, but don’t do it! Focus on engaging with the person you’re conversing with. Ask about their day and genuinely hear them. Listen when they’re expressing discontent or complaining about their shitty coworker. Be there to when they had a good day or a bad day. You don’t need to have all the answers, just hear them, and be present. If you commit to building genuine conversation balanced with effective communication and honest listening, I guarantee they will always pay you back with the same kindness.

In these trying times, compassion and consideration are absolutely needed. If you haven’t noticed, our country is in utmost social turmoil. If you flip on the news at any given time, it looks as if hate has won. But even though it can look that way, it’s not the case. Don’t ever believe it! Love has never been stronger. If you pay it forward (to everyone, not just those in your inner circles) with kindness and thoughtfulness, you will cultivate a space of love and warmth. The truth is, we’re all going through personal battles along with this great big universal one. We all have our crises. Always be gentle with those you love — don’t mock, insult, or rudely joke. Treat those you love like royalty! It feels great to show your admiration and affection for someone else. Give when you can and go the extra mile to be there if they’re having a hard time. Stand by them now, because a true relationship cannot go far if it cannot withstand difficult times.

I feel like as I get older, the more I appreciate my ability to be flexible and go with the flow. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy following through with plans or sticking to a schedule, but I have always been pretty good at rolling with the punches. I believe this is a necessary skill to have, especially when working towards being more present in your relationships. Things won’t always go as planned, and that’s okay! Be able to recognize that the reasons for a change are not always about you, which is really quite a freeing notion. In order for a relationship to grow and improve, change is needed. Two people won’t stay the same forever – that’s both boring and impossible. So encourage change and welcome improvement in always remaining flexible!

This is especially important in romantic relationships and the relationship we have with ourselves, but of course it can apply to a friendship as well. How awful does it feel to be compared to someone else? How much more awful do you feel when I say that most of it is self-inflicted? I trust we’re all guilty of it in small ways… sometimes just scrolling through Instagram can spark a jealous rant fueled by subconscious comparison, going from “look how gorgeous this girl is!” to “wow, look how many pairs of expensive shoes she has!” to “how the hell does she afford so many vacations?! I work way more than she does!” Of course it feels rotten to compare yourself to someone else, yet we do it all the time without even realizing. Firstly, it’s absolutely fruitless to compare our lives to anyone else’s. Your experiences are your own, above everything else. How would you react if you realized you were doing this to someone you love? What if you were comparing them to someone else, and projecting your ideals onto them? It would probably hurt and make the both of you feel uncared for, because it’s a deeply uncaring move. The truth is it will improve our relationships so much more if we don’t compare ourselves to anyone else, or compare our loved ones to anyone else. It’s great to admire others, but so foolish to emulate or let our comparisons affect us negatively.

In our society, it can be really easy to get caught up in materialistic things like money, success, and reputation. Sometimes it can be difficult to find value in the small things, but this is really the key to living a contended life. I find the easiest way to mindfully stay grateful is record 5 little things a day that I’m thankful for. It can be the simplest things – good coffee, waking up next to my boyfriend, a text from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while, a peaceful walk, having time to myself to enjoy a good book… literally anything you are thankful for. Of course, we’re all thankful for the roofs over our heads and food on the table, but go deeper and find little things in each day that make you smile. This will help you become more present in your life overall, but in order to keep relationships thriving, be sure to voice your graciousness to those around you. Say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m so glad you’re here” and “I’m so thankful to have you in my life.” Expressing gratitude feels good and will always make those around you feel good as well.

This one can be difficult. I’m a sensitive soul, so if someone hurts me, I’m pretty much out. Gooooodbye. But sometimes arguments or little disagreements can come up, and crawling back in your shell refusing to see eye-to-eye just does more harm than good. Even if it seems like you’re saving yourself from the drama, you’re only adding more fuel to the fire. Let the arguments happen. Fight. Agree to disagree, but always let it go. Forgive and don’t dwell on it or bring it up 5 years down the line when you’re in another fight. Never keep score! We all make mistakes and we’ve all hurt others, even if it’s the last thing we want. Dwelling on negativity and holding grudges in a relationship will always cause problems, so learn to let some things go.

Out of all relationships we experience, the relationship we have with ourselves is always going to be the most important. In a lot of ways, I really believe that we are all that we have, and we can’t truly love and value another until we love ourselves first. It took me a long time to realize that, and looking back it’s probably why I found myself in a lot of unfulfilling relationships and friendships that didn’t really serve who I was. The relationship you have with yourself can be the best relationship you experience – it probably will be, seeing as you’re kinda stuck with yourself forever and you’re the one who knows yourself the most intimately. If you find you’re lacking in the self-love department, do something nice for yourself. Actually, aim to do something nice for yourself every day. Set aside some time in the day that’s just for you, whether it’s just enough time for a cup of tea, or a good half hour lounging in a bubble bath. Make sure you’re eating enough food and getting enough rest, listening to your needs and desires with a kind and thoughtful ear. Taking good care of your body and soul will only make it easier to thrive in your relationships with others. Loving and valuing yourself is the ultimate power!

The Importance of Openness in a Digital Age

 

The picture of our future in a digital age both amazes me and disappoints me — the disappointment could come from an imaginary longing for the past, for “simpler times” when it was easier to sit down and talk with someone over a cup of coffee, but perhaps more difficult to arrange that coffee date. It disappoints me that so many connections (romantic or otherwise) are based on the internet alone — on instant gratification, on face-value, on a left swipe or right swipe. So often our internet presence is a contrived projection of fantasy mirroring an entirely different reality. Instagram ruses, subtweets, the skewed desire to share only the best bits of your life on the web and leave the ordinary, messy stuff for you to trudge through on your own — these all get us nowhere. The amazement of our digital future however is unending: advancements in science, health, and communications are popping up so rapidly given the improving technology, and that’s great — but what is it doing for our personal relationships?

It’s easy to believe that social media and the ability to instantly connect with each other will only enhance our relationships, but looking beyond the surface-level, social media can severely silence some very important things while giving a platform to negativity, false comparisons, and gossip. Recently, little by little, I’ve been seriously detaching myself from technology. I’ve been trying to set aside specific time blocks during the day when I allow myself  to freely browse my phone or post on Twitter, knowing I’m spending most of my hours living without distraction, with only Me back in my head.

I realize that the world is full of distractions that are disguised in the cloaks of cellphones and mass media. I think that people are growing comfortable with being interrupted or getting distracted, and that only drives us further apart. It’s kind of ironic how all of these devices and mediums are supposed to help us keep in touch with one another, when really it’s putting up a wall between us and we are essentially becoming more superficial because of it. Your self worth does not rely on how many notifications you receive, how many followers you have, how many “likes” you get on a specific social media platform – it’s about the quality of what you send out to the world. You are not just a recipient; you also have the power to send information.

 

Yesterday, my phone died and I had no intention of plugging it in.

I had no intention of staring at a TV screen, or hearing the radio buzz, or even picking up a newspaper.

The first few hours of my day without a smartphone were not very hard, as I went for a drive with a friend, sat by the lake and enjoyed a nice day. I felt more clear-headed, like the experience was even sobering. It was somehow very cathartic to know that I didn’t have to be attached to my phone or any other kind of news and that I could just spend my day with myself, my thoughts, and conversations with others. I kept telling myself that this isn’t that foreign, or at least it shouldn’t be – I kept reminding myself that this is how people lived for years.

A big part of getting comfortable without your phone on or without being distracted by social media is getting comfortable with silence, because the silence in your own mind can be deafening. There were silences all throughout the day: while in the car, in my room, anywhere I happened to be. I know a lot of people that hate silence, but I tried my best to enjoy it. There are lots of things that have pleasant noises that aren’t necessarily musical, like a burning candle or the sound of a bathtub filling up with water, the sound of the kettle just beginning to boil. I feel like I paid more attention to minuscule and unexciting things – ordinary things were suddenly more interesting because I gave myself no choice but to pay attention.

By the time I returned to regular life, I felt better. I realized I wanted to genuinely connect with people in my life, see them and listen to them with no distractions. I wanted to promise myself to always stay that open to the people in my life. And most importantly, I wanted to be very careful with what I consume and what I send out into the world. In a world so driven by computer screens and fast-paced conversations, it’s more important than ever to stay transparent, to slow down, and use technology to our advantage by sharing positive stories and spreading compassion in hopes of uniting us all. Isn’t that what social media is supposed to do, anyway? Help us all connect in a safe space of positivity, valuable information, and love?

The role of our digital age is essentially to provide the agenda of the world’s happenings – the news that is deemed most important and most relevant to the people or stories that spark an interest, a relation, a feeling of “yes, that’s my life too.” Not only does media as a whole chronicle the past, but it also marks the present and future through everyday mediums like smartphones and the internet. The problem is we’ve become so obsessed, so attached to these things that spending only a day away from them is uncomfortable, but taking quick breaks from mass media will do nothing but help ease your mind and spirit.

If you’re up for a challenge, turn your phone off with no regrets. Leave it off till you’ve felt peace again. Step back into our digital world with fresh perspectives and clear minds.

Chocolate Macaroon Cake

Low and behold, my father’s most-requested birthday cake! This cake is like a candy bar: chocolatey on the outside with a gooey & moist coconut center. We always bake this cake using the classic 10″ tube pan, but I think any kind of pan would do — I’ve seen it done bundt-style as well as a  normal layered cake. Go with what you’re most comfortable with! This recipe was originally known in my house as the “8-bowl-recipe” because the original was absolutely insane.  Luckily, we’ve made a few changes and shortcuts here and there so that the baking process is seamless and the cake is just as delicious as it always was 🙂

For the cake:

  • 6 squares baking chocolate
  •  ¾ cup (1 ½  sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups flour, divided
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups pre-made coffee (you can also use water, but coffee adds a nice depth to the chocolate)

For the coconut meringue:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups (1 7-oz package) fine-grated coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup melted Nestle’s semi sweet chocolate morsels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup half-and-half

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease/flour your cake pan.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate. Turn off the heat once fully melted and stir in the sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda, and salt together.
  4. Transfer chocolate mixture into an electric mixer and beat the eggs in one at a time.
  5. Add the vanilla
  6. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt while beating the coffee in alternatively until well blended. Set aside.
  7. To make the meringue, begin beating the egg whites and sugar in an electric mixture on high speed. Once it becomes soft and marshmallowy, fold in the coconut.
  8. Turn  about a third of the chocolate batter into your greased pan. Pour ½ of the coconut meringue on top then cover with ½ of the remaining chocolate batter. Top with remaining coconut, then remaining chocolate batter.
  9. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick test runs clean. Cool ten minutes in the pan, then remove the cake and cool completely on a wire rack.
  10. Once cooled, beat the frosting ingredients together until of spreading consistency. Frost & enjoy!

5 Must-Haves for March

March is one of those in-between months. Mostly gray, wet, and cold, but still vying for the warmth of the spring  sunshine, it’s a month where we get ready to ditch all our winter sweaters and bring in the clothes that are lighter & brighter, trade in our scarves for sunglasses and itch to get our hands dirty in the garden.  Living in Upstate New York, March doesn’t always mean spring, but we can still look ahead! Here’s some things I’ve been loving for keeping myself in the springtime mindset, but still keeping one foot in the sub-zero door.

 

Himalayan Bath Salt Royal Gems by Thesis ($22.95)

I’ve admittedly fallen victim to the Himalayan pink salt craze — I want to cook with it, bathe in it, purify the air with it, you name it. Maybe salt bae had something to do with it. Did you know Himalayan salt baths used to be reserved exclusively for royalty?  Nevertheless, these bath salts make for the ultimate at-home spa treatment, harvested from the unpolluted Himalayan mountains and packed with over 80 essential minerals and natural detoxifying benefits. Perfect for those with allergies and sensitivities or anyone who just wants to pamper their body. This bath salt is ideal for smooth, silky skin and even promotes sinus health and better sleep. All ingredients are eco-friendly too, with a recyclable apothecary bottle and natural cork top.

Some times the best things in life are the simplest. I love the way a fresh bouquet brightens up a space. It adds a measure of sophistication met with the whimsy of nature and fills your home with the scents of spring! Keeping a bouquet around is always a good idea to bring a little more bliss into your daily life, especially during an in-between month such as March.

I think denim is always a good choice for transitioning into spring. It’s light and easily versatile and you can layer up underneath depending on the weather. If you don’t have a quality denim coat, they’re easy to find! I love this one from Kensie or a cute loose-fitting one like this. Denim never goes out of style so I believe it’s truly a  great thing to invest in, especially to get ready for spring. You can even keep your eyes peeled while out thrifting – you can find some awesome stuff secondhand, too!

Boho Raw Crystal Birthstone Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet by Leia Spirit ($85)

This cuff is definitely on my wishlist! Aquamarine is the birthstone for March, and being a March child myself I’ve always had a relationship with this stone. I have to admit I never used to like the looks of Aquamarine too much — I always wished I had a prettier birthstone and was so jealous of those January, April, and July babies! As I’ve gotten older though I’ve definitely grown to love Aquamarine in all of it’s icy-blue glory. It’s known as a stone of courage and inner peace and is most often utilized with the Throat Chakra. It can be used to promote better verbal self expression, enhance spiritual communication, and clear communication blocks. It’s also said to be a wonderful good luck stone, and mixed in with the Pyrite in this cuff, I’m sure it works as a positive opportunity magnet!

Seeds for a Butterfly Garden by Renee’s Garden Seeds ($6.79)

Get ready to grow! Prepping your garden for spring & summer is a lot of hard work but it’s sure to pay off if you keep with it. Start by sowing your seeds early and transferring them out into your yard once it’s time, you’ll be the first in your neighborhood with a fresh and beautiful garden filled with flowers and plants. My mom is religious in keeping up with her garden, which I’m convinced (as well as the neighbors) grows more lovely every year. Getting close to the earth can also help you in other ways: gardening has been proven to aid in stress relief, makes for an easy way to incorporate more mindfulness in your daily life, and can be an easy way to give — fresh flowers cut from the garden or maybe some homegrown veggies can make for a beautiful and thoughtful gift.

March, albeit sometimes chilly and gray, can be a great transition month if you know how to work with it. Setting goals and intentions for spring can also be an uplifting activity for this time of the year, and I plan on sharing my personal springtime intentions with you all soon! Feel free to let me know your March must haves down below in the comments 🙂

Chump Change: A Broke Girl’s Guide to Living Well

 

For many of us, the bulk of our stress has deep financial roots. Whether or not you make as much as you deserve, feeding your families, paying the rent on time, and having enough for extra fun is daunting.  Like a lot of 20-somethings, I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience in not having a lot of money. It can be really difficult, especially for those with student loans or medical expenses and those living under the poverty line. I in no way mean to undermine your struggles. I’m definitely no financial expert, but I have learned a few tips for living well within your means and finding the joy in things that cost no money at all, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Obviously, money is a security blanket. It’s what we can fall back on in case of emergencies or unexpected circumstances. It gives us peace of mind. It’s great to have savings and emergency funds, but money is not the be all end all, no matter what our society says. Being grateful for what we do have, whether that’s good health, good relationships, or a good sense of humor, will help you realize the significance simply because money can’t buy those things! Be thankful and count your blessings. Life is too short to worry about your bank account when you’ve been blessed with life’s biggest treasures.

Yes, it’s fun to try out trendy bars & expensive restaurants and go to the movies when you’re out with friends. But these aren’t your only options, and you certainly don’t need to shell out half your paycheck when you’re out on the town in order to have a good time. Get creative with your free time — make it a tradition to host stay-in nights with your friends and play board games with drinks & homemade dinners. Or opt for having date night at home for once. Also, take advantage of your local library! You can find pretty much any movie there nowadays and it’s totally free (as long as you return it on time ;)). If you stay involved with your city, you’ll be in the know when free events are happening too, like public markets or clothing swaps. Although the market may cost money if you plan to shop, it can also be fun to just wander around and people watch. You might even make some connections with someone who has an interesting shop or stand, or maybe even find out how to bring your own trade to the market for some extra cash.

It’s important to learn how being frugal can help you in every area of your life, but especially when it comes to things like clothes and shoes and things you don’t actually need. This one can be hard for me personally because I love keeping my wardrobe updated and switching things up, but you can get things on the cheap if you know where to look. Scour your thrift stores, people! There’s much more than ugly sweaters and old Keds. I’ve found designer clothes thrifting for a fraction of the price. Being frugal doesn’t mean depriving yourself of your desires entirely, it just means tweaking your expectations a bit. Maybe you won’t be able to afford everything that’s on your wishlist at the moment, but I’m sure you’ll be able to thrift some pieces that are pretty damn close.

If you depend solely on money for your happiness, I truly am sorry, cause there’s a good change you might be a miserable person. There’s so much more to life than your bank account — most of which are priceless. Of course material goods can bring quick satisfaction, but over time that satisfaction fades and you’re looking at an empty wallet and pining for a new item that you just can’t have. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to succumb to the cycle of depending on an outside resource for pleasure? Inner peace and happiness have no connection to money. You can say that you’re secure with yourself because you’re making six figures, but if you’re not really satisfied deep down, why does it matter? It may be rooted in competitiveness or maybe an outside source like the largely superficial culture  we live in. We can’t help that, but we can take steps needed to stop depending on anything but yourself for pure happiness. It’s priceless. And so, so worth it.

Always remember, whatever you’re going through right now is temporary. You may look back ten years from now and laugh or sigh with relief.  Maybe you’re in a pickle because the cost of living is up, or maybe you’re drowning in student loans, or maybe you just suffered a job loss  — but these things are temporary! It is way too easy to get discouraged about a less-than-ideal financial situation,  but always aim to enjoy every bit of your life because you may even be envious of what you have now some odd years down the road.

It’s lovely to go out to your favorite spot to eat and enjoy a bite with friends or loved ones, but it’s not always lovely on the wallet. However, dining in doesn’t have to suck, you just gotta up your cooking game! Make it a goal to cook meals at home when you’re trying to be frugal. There’s no shortage of delicious recipes out there, and cooking is a great way to bring some creativity, culture, and catharsis into your life without even leaving your home. It’s also way cheaper than eating out all the time! Even if you’re only going to Starbucks once a day on your lunch break, those drinks add up. Preparing your meals and coffee at home, even if it means waking up earlier, is worth it in the end if you’re trying to save.

And no, shopping does not count as a hobby. Read books that inspire you, watch films that open your eyes and make you forget even for a little while that you’re struggling. Use your free time to uplift yourself instead of getting depressed! Truly living well wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself into something that’s both fun and intellectually stimulating. Maybe you’re an artist and your job demands so much of you that you can’t seem to get anything done anymore — well on your next day off, make it a goal to finish something you started or at least get some artwork done. Feeding your soul creatively feels so good and it’s totally free. Getting back in touch with your hobbies means getting in touch with yourself, and that’s a habit anyone should get behind — frugal or not.

Even if you don’t make a lot, you can start a change jar — that chump change will add up someday! Or maybe you have enough to put away $20 a month, or even $10 or $5. So save up for that trip you’ve been wanting to take, or treat it as an investment for your future or just make enough to put away in your savings account for emergencies.  You deserve it, after all. If it’s a vacation, treat it like something that’s already planned or create a vision board so you can always be reminded of what you’re saving for. Start today by putting one dollar into an envelop and see where it takes you.

You don’t need to make a lot of money in order to be happy. Yes, a great job with awesome benefits can really help you out in a lot of ways, but it’s not necessary for happiness.  That comes from within. The tips above are just some of the ways to live the life you love without necessarily making a lot of money. If you have some tips of your own, feel free to share them! 🙂

Simple Ways to Live a More Spiritual Life

We live in a very superficial world, but you don’t have to govern your life based on the unfortunate default setting of our culture. Spirituality can be for everyone – it’s not just reserved for the yogi or aroma therapy healer, it can be as simple an act as monitoring your attitude and actions in a way that aligns with your true Self. But as simple as it may sound, taking the proper care to remain attentive to your spiritual needs requires work and commitment. Even though it can sound like something you don’t think you “need,” it’s one of the best improvements to your wellbeing that you can invest yourself in.

 

We learned back in preschool to always treat everyone the way you’d want to be treated, and it’s even more valuable in adulthood. Treating others with utmost respect will not only make you a kinder, more approachable person, but it will almost guarantee that respect back to you. It’s all about sending out the kind of energy that you want to attract, and why wouldn’t you want respect? Bad manners and negative attitudes will only result in people in your life bringing in more negativity. Close that door and only welcome the positive. Be mindful of what comes out of your mouth, since you never really know what someone is going through. This is also where the three-fold law comes in, meaning what you give will come back to you in some way or another. Take charge of your desires, greet others with a calm smile and always be kind and considerate.

A key to living a more spiritual life lies in harmony with self-awareness, meaning pop that bubble you’re living in and look at life from someone else’s perspective – probably a perspective of someone completely different than you. Remain objective in your life and open yourself to being empathetic, non-judgmental, and totally unblocked. You can also use this objectivity to take a good look at yourself: see what needs changing and improving through your new non-judgmental eyes! We are often too hard on ourselves, but observing your life from a new perspective can bring refreshment and rewards.

Sometimes we all need a social media detox. Keeping up with news, tweets from your favorite celebrities, and Instagrams from your high school buddies can all be well and good – living digitally is practically our way of life now, after all. But is it necessary for personal betterment, honing your spirituality and your psychic self-defense? Absolutely not! I urge you to turn off your smartphone and spend some quality time with you. Get comfortable with centering yourself in peace and quiet – light some candles, relax, spend your time journaling or doodling, try a recipe, explore your town, or simply just be. You’re bound to have some hobbies outside of connecting through social media… at least I hope you do. Taking a break from technology will quiet your mind — making you quicker, healthier, and more spiritual.

As the old adage goes, “change is the only constant.” It’s because our lives are fluid and some change along the way is only natural. Some people really stress out about changes and think of them as inherently negative – not true! When you begin to accept change as a positive thing, more doors will open to you. It can be difficult to accept certain facts of life, since some things are really tough and life isn’t always fun or simple. But realizing change is a part of life will give you a kind of closure that allows you to dwell on moving forward, not remaining stagnant. You’ll see more opportunities flowing your way once you refuse to see change as a necessity to life, not an obstacle to your optimism.

Mantras are positive little reminders just for you, something you can recite and repeat throughout the day when you feel you need it. You can write them down, put them in your phone, or just repeat them in your head. Anything from “I can do this!” to something deeply personal and catered to whatever you’re working through. Chanting a mantra repeatedly will force it to stick with you. If you’re constantly repeating positive affirmations, you’ll really begin to believe it! Some examples:

“I do my best, and it’s always enough.”

“I am deserving of everything I desire.”

“All that I have I give away, all that I give away comes back to me.”

These are some I think can work for everyone, but mantras and affirmations are meant to be personally uplifting — meaning go with the one you think suits you best, or modify some of the examples listed to better suit your needs. Whatever works for you!

Living spiritually in a superficial world doesn’t have to be difficult. What are some ways you add spirituality to your daily life?