Update from Self-Quarantine —lost count what day…

Today, despite suffering from a flare of my TMJ due to concentrating too much this week (I grit my teeth when I am focused on a task), I am in a good mood. The summer term is over for my university teaching and my grading is done. I also received feedback on my dissertation draft and it is not as bad as I thought it would be. I still have to add some information to make it more cohesive, but four out of the five chapters are good. I seem to have gotten out of my slump when it came to being productive (don’t look at the laundry baskets waiting to be folded in the kitchen!).

So when my son asked if I wanted to make something in the kitchen, I thought why not? We experimented with baking a pie with filling from scratch. Sorry no recipe because we used two frozen deep dish pie crusts from Walmart and followed the directions for cook time from that. Everything else was a little of this and a little of that. We used the apples from my Misfits Market order…we had a lot of apples this time. The pie came out actually looking like a pie which I think is a first for us when it is not a Sara Lee frozen pie.

 



My house smells like Fall because of the pie and it has me thinking a lot about what the next couple of months will be like. It is way too humid out right now to enjoy the porch or the deck, so I am looking forward to cooler weather with the leaves changing. It is looking like we will still be social distancing. School will continue to be virtual, but my son will be a freshman…he will actually be driving in a couple of months. Scary!

While I would like to return to a semblance of normal, I don’t think we will ever return to the way things were before. Supermarkets gave me anxiety before the pandemic and now it is even worse. So I am thankful for Instacart and Walmart Grocery pickup. I have even setup some of non perishable things I routinely buy to automatically reorder every month from Amazon Prime.

As you know from reading previous posts, I love the concept of Hygge which is appreciating the joy that comes from life’s moments. I take more naps now, cook more at home, listen to music, play with the dogs, and spend time with my family. This is a time of reset and I appreciate that. Now I am going to grab a slice of pie!

Easy-Peasy Sticky Buns

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and wanted to try it. So I included the ingredients in my Walmart Grocery order (*hint* place your order after midnight to grab a time slot during this time of social distancing). There was just one problem…I ordered the wrong frozen product. I got yeast rolls instead of cinnamon rolls…and my pudding was substituted for instant. So I did what I could and hacked it with what I had. Turns out it was pretty yummy!

Materials:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 package Rhodes Frozen Yeast Rolls
  • 1/4 tbs Cinnamon
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 stick salted butter
Procedure: 1. Grease the bottom of your baking dish by rubbing it with your butter stick. 2. Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan.3. Place frozen rolls in pan, they should touch (I added another row after the picture was taken).

4. Sprinkle with pudding mix, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Slice the remaining butter into pats and place around your pan.

5. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm dry spot, and wait 3-5 hours. Yes, hours. Your frozen dough will defrost and begin to rise.

6. Preheat over to 350 and take plastic wrap off your pan. See how the dough is bigger?

7. When oven is ready, bake for 15-20 minutes. Careful that your sugar does not start to burn. Take out and let pan cool. 8. When cooled, place a tray or baking sheet over the top and flip your pan onto the tray. 9. Scrap remaining bits out of pan and sprinkle on top of buns. 10. Enjoy! Thoughts for next time…Add more nutsMake a simple syrup with brown sugar mix to make it stickier…maybe use lemon or orange juice…

Do Nothing Day

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.” – Christopher Robin

Today is Saturday, but it is a different Saturday. Today is a Do Nothing Day…leave the teleworking and the homeschooling behind. Okay, so technically January 16th is Nothing Day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it today. Don’t plan on being productive today. Just plan on being…you may find that by slowing down and doing nothing that you actually discover something. Of course, doing nothing doesn’t mean just sitting in silence like a mystical monk on top of the mountain somewhere. But it also doesn’t mean that what you are doing has to be for purposes of anything other than you enjoy it and can relax.

According to a study conducted in 2014 by the American Psychological Association (APA), 77% of the people surveyed reported regularly feeling stressed. An almost equal percentage of 73% reported experiencing psychological symptoms caused by stress. Half of those responding reported experiencing a negative impact to their personal and professional lives. The cost to employers for stress related health care or missed work is over $300 billion (American Institute of Stress, 2016). Stress is an epidemic plaguing many Americans. It can affect their relationships, their work, and their health. However, through making small “c” type creative endeavors part of their daily routine, an individual can see a positive return on their emotional well-being that can lead not only to a lessening of stress levels, but also prevention.

When we are stressed, the body goes into protection mode. Our blood pressure rises, heart beats faster, and our senses become more alert. According to Abbott (1998), “our hormones can also rise the levels of fat, sugar, and cholesterol in the bloodstream” (para. 5). When we are stressed, it can affect our mood and interactions with other people such as being short-tempered and irritable. It can also lead to sleep disturbances, constant colds, and in some extreme cases: death. Overall, being in a constant state of stress is unhealthy for us physically as well as emotionally.

According to Runco (2014), “[c]reativity can help the individual maintain both psychological and physical health” (pg. 110). While many creatives face a stigma of the “mad genius” where the creative is believed to be so immersed in creative work to the point that they let their mental and physical health suffer, that example has more to do with manic type states and does not actually categorize every creative. Actually, creativity can help to alleviate stress and build a more positive mood. Nicol and Long found that music hobbyists with low levels of stress were among the group that had the highest amount of creativity (Runco, 2014). Creative endeavors are one way to cope with the buildup of emotions that need to be let loose.

Maslow (1971) also describes a need for creativity as being part of his Hierarchy of Needs. Creativity is part of the highest tier of the pyramid because creativity is part of what is needed for the individual to reach that stage of Self-Actualization. Artist and author, Julia Cameron (2002) refers to this as “discovering a sense of perspective”. She recounts the story of a woman named Sarah who was described by many to be high-strung, crazy, and nervous. This woman went from therapist to therapist, treatment to treatment. It wasn’t until she began to use creativity tools as part of her daily routine that she began to find balance in her life.

A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who do small creative projects report feeling happier and more relaxed (Lewis, 2016). According to the study, “[i]ntervention designs are still relatively rare in creative research […], but research suggests that art-making interventions can reduce stress and anxiety” (Conner, DeYoung, & Silvia, 2016, pg. 2). In fact, the study found that the effects of small creative endeavors, small “c” tasks, could induce states of “flourishing”, as described by CsikszenItmihalyi theory of flow states. These states were recorded as lasting longer, up to a day longer, than the time the participant invested into the activity. If emotions can have an effect on levels of creativity (Runco, 2014), then it makes sense that the inverse is also true where engaging in creative endeavors can have a similar effect on emotions resulting in a more positive mood and therefore reducing stress levels.

Stress Reduction Strategies

One suggestion on how to beat stress is to play music; however, music alone is not enough to beat stress. Researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine found that when played in conjunction with stress-reduction techniques, stress levels dropped for the participants in their study. They found that upbeat music was also the best selection to play during the activity (Harrar, 1999). A study of the relation of knitting towards stress reduction stated that many people choose hobbies as a way to reduce stress because these types of activities can provide a distraction from the stressor and also provide the individual with a feeling of control in the situation (Utsch, 2007). While avoiding a problem is not healthy, immersing the self into an activity like knitting can induce a feeling of concentration that allows for a more mindful and present sense of being. There may also be connections to Csikszentmilhalyi’s concept of flow and Torrance’s studies of Japanese satori (Runco, 2014). Similarly to knitting, baking is another small creative activity that can provide focus and control (Lewis, 2016). 

Journaling and creative writing are another method for relieving stress and contributing to positive mood building. Building on the work of Maslow’s self-actualization, researchers have found that if an individual participated in positive-writing, this was followed by an increase in mood and well-being. The study also found that writing created an outlet for solving problems and working through difficult experiences. In addition to affecting mood, there was also a documented increase in immune function as well (Lowe, 2006). As was mentioned in the work of Lowe (2007), positive-writing can increase mood and well-being. However, it is also important to record moments of triumph or success. Dr. Stacy Shaw Welch, Director of the Anxiety and Stress Reduction Center of Seattle recommends keeping a folder of past successes and referring to that folder when struggling or feeling anxious about a current project. By doing this, it can lay waste to the internal squelchers that distract us from believing that we are capable of accomplishing our goals (Weiner, 2007). According to Runco (2014), it is important to not only stimulate a good mood, but also to know why one is in a good mood. Therefore, it is important to keep notes or some type of journaling for reflection purposes as well as being able to analyze what task or routine was being completed that lead to the good mood.

Runco (2014) also suggests as creative tools the idea of shifting the perspective of a problem so you can see it from another angle or turning it upside down. The benefits of looking at something from a new angle is that it can inspire renewed interest in the problem which can generate new ideas and it also can change the perspective enough that new ideas will be generated because things will no longer be looked at as obstacles. A major way of changing your perspective may be leaving the problem entirely, taking a break and trying something new or even traveling. Runco (2014) states that traveling produces excitement as it can be stimulating. This change in mood can facilitate creativity as well as help people to be more grounded. They may even produce those aha moments because the individual is no longer so focused on the thing that was stressing them that they are finally able to think clearly.

So how will you spend your day? Will you pack it full of to-do lists? Or will you take a moment to savor the opportunity to find balance and center your being?

References

Abbott, I. O. (1998). Practical strategies for reducing stress. Practical Lawyer, 44(8), 63-74. Retrieved from http://www.library.drexel.edu/cgi-bin/r.cgi/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/274310495?accountid=10559 .

American Institute of Stress. (2016). Daily life. Retrieved from www.stress,org/daily-life .

Conner, T.S., DeYoung, C.G., & Silvia, P.J. (2016). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. In The Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

Cameron, J. (2002). Walking in this world: the practical art of creativity. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam.

Harrar, S. (1999). Got pain? Got the blues? Try the music cure. Prevention, 51, 100-105+. Retrieved from http://www.library.drexel.edu/cgi-bin/r.cgi/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/212668450?accountid=10559 .

Lewis, D. (2016 November 29). Feeling Down? Scientists say cooking and baking could help you feel better. In Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/feeling-down-scientists-say-cooking-andbaking-may-help-you-feel-better-180961223/ .

Lowe, G. (2006). Health-related effects of creative and expressive writing. Health Education, 106(1), 60-70. Retrieved from http://www.library.drexel.edu/cgi-bin/r.cgi/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/214706253?accountid=10559 .

Maslow, A.H. (1971). The further reaches of human nature. New York, NY: Penguin Compass.

Runco, M.A. (2014). Creativity. Theories and themes: research, development, and practice (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Utsch, H. (2007). Knitting and stress reduction (Order No. 3250730). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304742173). Retrieved from http://www.library.drexel.edu/cgi-bin/r.cgi/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/304742173?accountid=10559

Weiner, L. (2007). Yes, you’re stressed…but what are you doing about it? Shape, 26, 138-146. Retrieved from http://www.library.drexel.edu/cgi-bin/r.cgi/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/195288526?accountid=10559 .

Finding My Way Back On Track

If you were to only look at my site stats for November, you would see that I am having one of the best months ever…but I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of October. Most of my traffic is coming from recipe pins on Pinterest which makes sense since this is the type of weather where you just want to curl up with a bowl of soup or stew. In other words, it is Instant Pot weather and I have a lot of recipes for that. So why haven’t I posted anything? Well, it comes down to motivation and I have had a decided lack of it lately.Read More »

Instant Pot Black Bean Soup

I am the only person in my house that likes Black Bean Soup. So when I make it, I don’t want a huge pot since I will be sick of it before I can finish it. Every recipe I find seems to call for dried beans and makes way too much. I wanted to see if I could make a simpler batch.

On Sunday, I made myself a small batch that portioned out perfectly for lunches during the week. Honestly, I did not plan on making this ahead of time. It was more looking in the pantry to see what I had and what I could make. I typically keep canned beans on hand and had the tomatoes and chilies just in case. Everything (except the dried cilantro) came from Aldi, so it was a cheap meal that has saved me the cost of lunches for a whole week. Win!

I will caution that I like spicy food. This has quite a kick to it. So if you follow the recipe exactly, be advised. I also did not account for the saltiness of the chips. Different brands might have different levels of salt. This is not exactly a dump soup recipe. Be aware that the same ingredients were added in stages in some places. However, it took under 30 minutes to make. It gave me enough for six servings. Plus everything came from my pantry!

My son even tried it, but it was too spicy for his tastes. You could leave out the chilies and just use tomatoes if you wanted something a little milder.

Materials:

Instant Pot 6qt Duo

Ingredients:

  • 3 12oz cans Black Beans
  • 1 10oz can Tomatoes & Green Chilies
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Dried Minced Onion
  • 1 tbsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsp Salsa
  • 2 tbsp Dried Cilantro
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (optional)
  • Sour Cream (optional)
  • Tortilla Chips (optional)
  • Lime Juice (optional)

Procedure:

  1. In the Instant Pot, dump chicken broth, tomatoes and green chilies, all dry seasoning except for 1 tbsp dried cilantro, and 2 of the cans of black beans together. Set on Soup for 10 minutes.
  2. When soup is done, carefully release the vent on your Instant Pot. There will be a lot of steam, so be careful not to burn yourself.
  3. Take your immersion blender and carefully blend your ingredients together. Again, be careful! This is very hot. Don’t burn yourself!
  4. Add your salsa and the last can of beans. Stir. I like the texture this adds. Also add that last tbsp of dried cilantro. I love cilantro, so the more the better for me.
  5. Serve your soup with crushed tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. You could also add a squirt of lime juice if you have it. Enjoy!