Play Pretend: Sleep

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On the heels of my previous post regarding the power of sleep as a method of self-care, I decided to play pretend and create the ideal space for a good night’s rest. Good sleep isn’t fashioned out of thin air for most. Many factors play a role. Some of these factors include the avoidance of blue-light from screens up to two hours prior to bedtime. Light in general should be avoided. Heavy duty curtains can prevent outdoor light from shining into the bedroom of a downtown loft. A cheaper option would be an individual sleep mask for the eyes. On top of sleeping in a darkened room, an ergonomic mattress has been shown to greatly improve quality of sleep. An added priority should be sheets that are friendly to the skin and worth sinking into. Lastly, humidity control and replenishing masks allow skin to recuperate overnight from the harshness of sunlight.

In an effort to create the ideal micro-environment for decent shut-eye, here are a list of home favorites that set me up for sleep success.

In an effort to stray from the indication that good sleep requires spending, here are a list of free actionable tips to improve your sleep.

  • Maintain consistency in following your natural circadian rhythms.
  • Avoid screens up to two hours prior to bedtime.
  • Drink a glass of water prior to sleeping and upon awakening.
  • Quiet the mind in the form of meditation.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Consider when you eat. Go to bed satiated, not hungry or full.

Of course, a combination of both creating the right environment and doing the right actions creates the best results. You may also find relevance in the following posts.

Related Posts:

The True Cause of a Spending Problem

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Do you have a spending problem? Are you someone who just can’t make ends meet? Have you found that no matter how much you increase your income, you can’t break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle? Do you find yourself shopping when you are stressed or tired or sad? Perhaps this post is for you.

It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth is this:

A spending problem is the result of not knowing who you want to be, or where you want your life to go.

Emotional spending occurs because a void needs filling. Unfortunately, more often than not, the spending itself fails at solving the problem. Rather, it extenuates it by creating a loop cycle that enlarges the void and brings us further from our true goals.

For example, have you ever tried to treat your stress by shopping online? At first, it felt good, but after a while, regret starts to sink in and your newfound purchase falls short of delivering lasting happiness, not to mention instantly decreases in value. Does it sound familiar to you? Because it sure does to me.

Not knowing who we want to be or what we want our life to look like makes it difficult to know what is worthy of our time and money. If we do not have a clear purpose, goal, or ambition, then it becomes easy to fall into the cycle of spending our resources on what people around us promote, rather than what we need. Because what we gain was never truly for us, it doesn’t fill the void at all, resulting in spending again, and again, and again.

If you want to treat a spending problem, my financial advice is to start with you. Define who you want to be and where you want your life to go. At least, that’s what we did and it worked for us. Because I used to be like you, too. I had $30,000 in credit card debt. I had more than half a million dollars in student loans. I went shopping every weekend in my early twenties and bought avocado toast while I was in dental school. I had a serious spending problem, until I realized who I was and what I wanted.

I am a simple person. I enjoy reading books and baking bread. I find joy in quiet time and yoga. My mind is healthiest when I am outdoors collecting rocks on a beach. I wanted a life of financial freedom. I wanted to be able to choose a job to my liking. I wanted the autonomy to work in a way that is aligned to my values. I want the freedom to call my own hours, to choose days of rest, to pursue other passions, and I understood that I couldn’t do that if I chose material stuff, trends, and status symbols. That’s how this all started.

I was lucky enough to find a financial advisor in my early years who delved deeply into what I wanted for my future. It was only then, when I saw the big picture, did I have the motivation to get rid of my spending problem. And if I am being honest, without a clear picture of where I wanted my life to be, I would just as likely have reverted back to my previous ways. It was the clarity that kept me going.

The true cause of a spending problem is not being intentionally clear enough about your life.

Here are good places to start:

Related Posts:

Monthly Goals: January 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

On the heels of my call to action for 2021 New Year Resolutions with the intent to make this year the most vibrant time of my life, here are my top goals and habits for the month of January!

Habits:

  • Meditate with TIDE app 5 days a week
  • Keep up with the ultimate cleaning list
  • Exercise 5 days a week
  • Limit Instagram to 15 minutes per day
  • Be 5 minutes early to every shift, event, and appointment
  • Give up alcohol for a month for health reasons
  • Sleep between the hours of 10pm and 7am (yes, I like sleep!)
  • Put the phone away one hour before bed
  • Limit coffee to one per day and lattes to weekends. Also, choose decaf for all lattes.
  • Be outdoors for at least 30 minutes 3 days a week

Goals:

  • Finish 2 books
  • Learn how to use a Kintsugi kit
  • Make bath salts and take a bath at least once
  • Complete 5 dental continuing education credits
  • Cook different recipes in a donabe
  • Take 5 SEO courses via Skillshare. Sign up now via my affiliate link and get 14 days FREE to learn any skill you want!
  • Publish 12 blog posts
  • Learn how to use ConvertKit
  • Create 15 Pinterest posts and 5 digital downloads (I use PicMonkey to create all of these! Here is a discount for my readers if you sign up using my affiliate link!)
  • Learn 2 songs on guitar and piano
  • Complete two levels in Duolingo French
  • Complete 1 drawing
  • Land 5 new collaborations for the blog using the techniques found in this course: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing (this is my affiliate link)
  • Prepare for the return of aggressive loan repayments in the end of January by implementing the following goals:
    • Spend less than $30 in fun money on myself
    • Spend less than $100 in dining out
    • No traveling to save money
    • Spend less than $250 for groceries
  • Declutter digital photos on camera and hard-drive
  • See family every week

I know this seems over-whelming, but I possess a deep determination to not waste the negative space that 2020 offered me. I can’t wait to see how much I accomplish by February.

Also, since I took a month off in December to focus on family, friends, and the self, there will be no recap of December Blog Income (because there was none!). Stay tuned for January’s Recap a month from now.

Getting Back to Okay

We inhabit a world built around a fallacy: that the more we have, the happier we will be. For the fortunate, they reach the “place-of-more” earlier than others, only to realize that they aren’t any happier than when they were ten years old. I am one of those unfortunate fortunates.

I understand that being exposed to this knowledge is a privilege that very few in today’s world experience. People spend entire lives getting to where they want to be. I spent twenty six years, and then decided, it was time to turn back. I graduated from dental school and landed a dream job with my esteemed dream title hand-in-hand with my dream husband and I felt miserable. Every day was a battle, and I knew that I was happier when I was fifteen and didn’t have a dollar to my name. So, I set out to undo the damage, in reverse.

I read books on happiness and living with less, learning about American consumerism and global waste, searched for alternative lifestyles with better environmental and social impact, while also searching for myself daily. I read up on how the mind works, how we process information, how we organize our lives, and most importantly, how to find joy – all with the hope of making sense of things and finding direction. I was lost somewhere underneath the possessions I owned (and thus owned me), the expectations people had, and the norms that wrap our society like a safety blanket. A mountain of more made and meant to keep me (the real me) buried and confused.

The undoing of it all was quite a process. Not only did I have to unwrite the narrative that I told myself, I had to do it while the world repeated that narrative and threw it at my face. I found that the path to what I call “getting back to okay” required one tiny step at a time. Ironically, it was much the same process as having more, but repeated with the thought of having less. I re-programed my mind around ideas and notions that I learned in my youth, in the exact same order that I learned them.

For example, I first learned of materialism when I was a child, watching television commercials for the latest toys or by playing the comparisons game with classmates, who arrived at school with new clothes, notebooks and backpacks. Those were my first exposures to wanting more of material things, and I spent many years trying to collect more stuff. So of course, this was the first thing I got rid of. Decluttering was my process of learning how to live with less.

The second thing I learned to seek is the approval of others. As a child, I tried my best to be agreeable, with my parents, teachers, friends … even people I just met. This turned into a desire for networking in my late teens and early twenties. I spent years trying to make connections and being a yes-woman. That was the second thing I rejected. I decluttered my relationships, almost in a non-conventional way, and kept only close family and a few friends. Rejecting my relationships meant freeing myself from the ties that would have the strongest pull on how I lived my life.

Looking back on it, I had to declutter my relationships in order to negate social norms. It was in high school that I learned the “ideal” progression of college, a profession, a marriage, a home, a family and finally, a good retirement. The thing with norms is that there are always people around you trying to put you in a box. Of course, with the best of intentions, but without really any thought as to what individual wants and needs you may have. I truly believe that if I hadn’t closed myself off from most of my relationships, like a hermit who retreats into the woods, I would not have unlocked the alternative lifestyles that I did. It is difficult to live differently when whispering “wisdoms” turn into urgent persuasions to stick to the status quo. I loved my friends and fam, but self-discovery was something best done on my own.

The last and final thing I decluttered was my achievements and accolades. This was the most difficult for me because I so closely tied what I did to who I was, which are not the same thing. Letting go of my notions of myself felt a lot like losing my identity. It was one of those weird paradoxes: you must lose your identity in order to find yourself.

I spent the last few years discovering what I wanted to do in life, taking up odd jobs as a baker, writer, dog walker, and dentist. Early 2020 slowed me down enough to realize I was approaching this self-discovery with the idea of more, more, more again. Unwriting narratives is hard work!

In March, I stopped dog-sitting to prevent social contact. I closed the bakery that I spent all of 2019 building. I reduced my dentistry hours. And each time I chose less, I got closer to becoming who I was. After all my experiences, I had enough confidence to take one giant leap of faith. In November, I quit my dental job altogether and really let go of everything I associated myself with.

I cannot put into words how it felt. Like a giant weight was lifted and I was unearthed from all that darkness. It was the first time since graduating dental school that I saw light.

Life isn’t perfect, I’ll tell you that. It never is, which is what makes it beautiful. But I’ve gotten to a place where I feel okay. There is peace that comes with that. I want to stay in this space. I fear that getting to a place of “great” is just another way of getting “more” out of life. Perhaps we all need to aim for some middle ground in this already tumultuous world we’re been born into. Perhaps our new marker for success should be getting back to being okay.

Cheddar and Herb Scones

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

When it comes to breakfast items, I am one who favors savory treats over sweets. That is why these Cheddar and Herb Scones are a staple in our household! I am already a big fan of scones in general for their simple and quick process. As much as I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, scones are one of the few baked goods that I make by hand, without any electric gadgets. There is something very meditative about the sifting of flours, the pinching of cold butter bits in between my fingers, and the kneading of shaggy dough with my hands.

My favorite time to whip up these beauties is in the early morning hours, between rising and making coffee. It helps ease me into my day. Rote motions work subconsciously as my body wakes with every memorized movement. The oven pre-heats, warming the cold kitchen cement floors while I prepare the dough. The scones bake for 18 minutes exactly while I wash the dishes I used and boil water in my Fellow kettle. I make my pour-over coffee with my Chemex, the sound of coffee drips melding in with the smell of cheese. I pour my coffee into my favorite East Fork mug just as the oven beeps. It is a routine that I have mastered and re-mastered.

Scones also get bonus points for their versatility. I like to play with different types of flours as well as toppings. I had previously published my favorite Rye Strawberry and Thyme Scone recipe here. Alternative additions in our household include Blueberry and Lemon, or Caramelized Onion and Bacon. This Cheddar and Herb Scone Recipe is a modification of all those recipes. Once you have a good scone recipe down, you can’t really go wrong with the experimentation.

I hope you enjoy this as much as me and the housemates do!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dark rye flour
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup einkorn flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs (I like a mix of chives, thyme, and rosemary).
  • 1.5 cups Mexican cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing
  • Smoked Maldon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

The Process:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter pieces and with thumb and pointy finger, flatten the butter, pinching floury bits into it, Tara Jensen style. Alternatively, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.
  4. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
  5.  Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk again until well mixed.
  6. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing until just combined. I l liken the end result to one big, shaggy mess.
  7. Lightly dust a clean work surface (I use my marble pastry slab from Crate and Barrel which I use for all my baking needs, but a wooden surface works well too), with flour. Turn the dough onto this surface and knead until just combined.
  8. Shape the dough into a square (6 inch x 6 inch). Cut the dough into four 3-inch squares using a bench scraper (my favorite is by Ateco but something like this would do, too), then cut the smaller squares into triangles.
  9. Arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with heavy cream using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the tops generously with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on the flavor profile you are aiming for, you can favor one topping over another.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This recipe was modified from Kinfolk Table, by far my favorite published recipe book for its unassuming simplicity and charm. If you can, support local and small bookstores such as Lido Village Bookstore, one of my SoCal faves.

Monthly Goals: December

Slightly delayed publishing of this month’s goals is due to the fact that I am trying my best to live it. I spent the rest of the year outlining tens of habits and success markers to measure my months by, but December is a bit special in that I only have a few.

  • Live every day in the present moment.
  • Practice gratitude for all that I have.
  • Be as intentional as possible for every waking decision I make.

These are my December goals. Nothing like my previous ones in that there are no markers of achievement. If you think that this list is a lame one, it’s not. It was actually made with utmost consideration. But first, a story.

When I was searching for a wedding photographer in 2015, I came across a man whose style I liked and went to his website to book a consultation only to feel my heart sink as I pulled up his calendar. All of December 2016 was booked one year ahead! I was highly confused and could not believe my eyes, until a small asterix at the bottom of the calendar caught my eye.

It said: “My family and I will be taking all of December off to focus on what’s important in life.”

I remember excitedly showing Mike the note right when he got home from work. I remember being so awed by the idea that someone could have a job that allowed him freedom to dictate how and when work influenced his life. I wanted so badly to live a life around this idea of complete freedom from the need to work. So it only made sense that financial independence found me in 2017.

Now that I’ve quit a job I disliked, I have had the space to think about why I started to dislike my work and how I could create a new work lifestyle that would give me deep joy. I have spent the last two weeks brainstorming, hemming and hawing my neurons for all the thoughts, emotions, and ideas tied to creating an intentional work lifestyle. I think I am almost there.

One of my firmest beliefs, however, is to set aside the necessary space for life itself. I fell in love with the idea of making the holiday season a time for rest and rejuvenation, as well as family and friends, ever since I laid eyes on that photographer’s calendar.

It is with this intention that I decided to make December’s goals the way it is.

If you are a person who looks forward to monthly goal ideas, I am sorry to disappoint you but I do have one suggestion.

Slow life down.

2021 is fast approaching and will come soon enough. Let’s linger here a bit in the year that helped us realize how little we needed and what we wanted.

What Could Happen If You Let Everything Go?

Aside from sounding like the title of a Dr. Seuss book, the question I pose today can cause a lot of emotions to surface. Raised in a society where the words “less” and “nothing” are deemed failure words, I myself used to feel fear with the idea of letting things go. In my youth, I took pride in being a “yes-woman” – a multi-tasking energetic force that can only be caused by extreme naivete. Today, I find myself in a much different place.

I have learned that letting go can create the negative space necessary for growth and opportunity. Letting go of material things that ground us to a hedonistic lifestyle can free us to alternative models. Letting go of our identity can access our fullest potential. Letting go of our biases can open our minds in a way that leads to kindness. Letting go of our wants can lead to inner peace. But most importantly, letting go of the fear of letting go is the first step to starting the journey to a higher way of living.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a wordsmith, I am keen on word selection. It is, after all, what I do. I often wondered why there was negative emotion tied to the idea of letting go, and I have found that many people ask the wrong question. Often times, the same question is worded with one letter changed: What would happen if you let everything go.

That “w” is enough to confuse even the surest of minimalists.

Letting go of everything would lead to negative repercussions. For example, letting go of my job would certainly lead to unemployment, less money, and no job identity.

Sure, giving up everything would not necessarily lead to better things.

But you know what? It could.

Letting go of work could lead to more travel, more peace, a new identity, a better future, a more enjoyable profession, and a more secure financial situation. It’s not definite, but it could.

We need to start switching the language around letting things go into a more positive one.

What could happen if you let everything go?

Absolutely anything is possible.

Play Pretend: Hosting Thanksgiving

Hosting Thanksgiving may or may not be on the horizon for you this year. In which case, we can pretend.

The spectrum of likely events run large. Whether you are feeding ten friends and family members, or gathering as a couple in solitary confinement in your own abode, I would still wish that we celebrate this holiday in no less a jubilant fashion than the years before.

After all, giving gratitude is a pillar for living a life of intention and joy. It is central to my minimalist life, since gratitude for what I have rather than what I don’t is the fuel to my less-is-more mentality. So crucial to simple living is this practice that I spend every morning listing three things I am grateful for.

I think in 2020, we all need to spend a day listing what we are grateful for.

Regardless of how divided we are in our current life situations or political views, I hope these differences are set aside for at least one day. One day wherein we are strive for inner peace. One day to avoid fear, anxiety, and anger. One day to let go of control. I hope for one day wherein we could go on as we normally would have if it weren’t for our miseries. I hope we can pretend that we had woken up, started over, begun anew, and continued forward.

I know that over apple pie, I will be giving thanks for the possibilities our future holds.

Regardless of the current environment I’m placed in.

Regardless of what tomorrow brings.

I give thanks for hope.

On that note, let’s play pretend, and host Thanksgiving in whatever ways resounds with us. Below are my essentials for holiday hosts.

1. Dyson V8 Absolute ($150 OFF until November 7, 2020) 2. Molekule Air Pro (Use code thedebtist to save $25 off Air Mini, $32 off Air Mini+, $50 off Air, $77 off Air Pro) 3. Boll and Branch Linens (use code DEALS to get 15% off select styles from 11/2/20 – 11/8/20) 4. Aesop Room Spray 5. Jenni Kayne Hand Soap 6. Le Creuset Stockpot (on sale until November 11, 2020) 7. Notary Ceramics Candle Holders and Taper Candles 8. Kitchen Aid Mixer 9. Fog Linen Natural Linen Tablecloth