All posts by mysticquill

Motivation, Such An AggrAvation

Here we are, half way through the New Year. I know I’m not the only one struggling to stay on top of everything, struggling for the get up and go, struggling for motivation. One thing that has helped keep me going is staying organized by writing down my to-dos and my routines. I’m a mom, I have a million things to do every day and there’s always something at the end of the day I’m forgetting. Here are the main five pieces of advice I have and the five ways I stay motivated throughout the year, especially in the first few months. 

  1. Write out a physical to-do list

It always seems so much easier for our brains to process what we have going on for the day when we can see it all written out. Not only is it a good way to keep track of everything, but it’s also super gratifying to cross off each task as you complete them. 

  1. Write out a morning/evening routine
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Same as above, having your goals for the day written out is the first big step to making sure you get all everything you need finished. I find it helpful to get together a solid morning and evening routing, allowing yourself plenty of time to get yourself established in the morning and also to wind down in the evening to help relax your mind for a restful night. 

  1. Leave yourself notes of inspiration or reminders
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Even a simple post with a kind motivator of ‘You’re doing great!’ can be a great reminder to be kind to yourself. I have a white board up in my office that I use for my daily tasks. While it was empty one day, my husband wrote on it ‘Remember to love yourself, too.’ and it warmed my heart so much that I’ve left it up for the last month. Every time I look at it, it’s a reminder to slow down and make sure I’m taking care of myself too. 

  1. Don’t overload yourself 
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While we have so many aspirations, it can be easy to overload ourselves. As I talked about in my post about resolutions last week, the best thing to do is set realistic goals. Stepping stones that can help lead you on your journey to your desired finish line. Great things take time and we can’t compare our chapter one to someone else’s chapter fifteen. Going at your own pace and taking large goals one step at a time helps you to stay motivated and not get quickly burnt out. 

  1. Treat yourself!
Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels

After a long week, or just a long day, of accomplishing your goals and checking everything off your to do lists, we’re exhausted. Something I love to do afterwards is treat myself. Taking a few hours of relaxation to binge a new show on Netflix or indulging in a nice dessert, or your favorite take out when you don’t feel like cooking. Whatever your heart desires. It’s important to treat ourselves, we work so hard every day that rewarding ourselves is one of the most important items to cross off our weekly to-do lists. It gives us something to look forward to and also reminds us to love and take time to care for ourselves. 

Habits you set in the beginning of the year can set the tone for the entire twelve months. Having healthy habits and productive routines in place already puts you steps ahead from where you started. Staying motivation is a struggle but staying organized and focused is the key to success. 

New Year. Same Me?

The infamous New Years Resolution. You have to admire the human spirit. We look at the first day of a new calendar year as a fresh start. A new opportunity to leave the past behind us, to drop all of our old habits overnight and step into a whole new way of being. It’s ambitious, it’s overwhelming and 9 out of 10 times it doesn’t stick. We cannot become new people overnight without putting in the work. Let me say that again, we cannot form new habits and become new people overnight without putting in the work. Creating a skincare routine will not eradicate the demons that are hiding in your soul. Showers are basic hygiene, not self care. It’s deeper than all that. 

Humans are creatures of habit. We will choose to sit in the same seats throughout an entire semester of class. We choose the same coffee mugs in the morning. We choose the same meal when we order food. There isn’t anything wrong with this, it’s just how we are by nature. This is why our New Year’s resolutions don’t typically make it into February. Losing weight isn’t about going on a diet for two months and then falling back into unhealthy habits, it’s about completely changing your mindset and lifestyle, which is hard as hell. Especially after the year we just had. 2020 was testing enough as it is, why push yourself even further?

I decided I was going to push myself. Every year I make a New Year’s resolution and most of the time, I don’t follow through. Even last year, I pledged to read more books. And while I read significantly more throughout the Spring than I did the year before, I didn’t complete the 25 books I set my heart on. This year, I set resolutions but I chose things that I was already doing. I know, that’s not technically a resolution, but we’re allowed to do whatever we want.

1. Make time for books, whether it be reading them or writing them. 

2. Cut back on single use plastics.

3. Love myself. 

That’s it, just those three things. But those are huge, lifestyle changing commitments. Especially that last one, that’s the hardest of the bunch. Honestly, using less plastic is going to be the easiest, and I’ll go more into detail on that in a future post. 

The reality is, it’s not the date on the calendar that puts us on a better or healthier track of life, it’s us. We hold all the power. It’s looking inside yourself and deciding you want to change. You’ll never accomplish anything that you don’t truly want and wanting it is already half the battle. 

Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels

Last year was tough, but it was a big eye opener for many of us, and I think with the arrival of this new year, it’s the perfect time to take the lessons we learned in 2020 and carry them with us. The idea that we are all human beings who deserve love, protection and justice. The idea that we can slow down and cut back, take time to analyze how we are treating our planet. If 2020 didn’t completely change you, I can’t explain it. I am definitely taking 2020 with me as I go forward. If we leave it in the past, then we can’t take what we learned with us. We need to learn from our hard times. We need to keep saying Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen’s names. We need to keep considering the health and existence of other human beings. Compassion is never a bad trait. Educating and bettering yourself is never a waste of time. As Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” 

To come full circle, the idea of a resolution is great, but it needs to be something obtainable. Something that will improve your life and most importantly, something you’re ready for. Brew yourself a pot of coffee, take your time, and step into this year with the lessons of your past and kick some ass. You create your own destiny, you decide who you are and what kind of person you’re going to be. We’re all on this journey of life, some of us are just getting started and some have been on this path for years, so be kind to your neighbor because you never know which part of the voyage they’re on. 

Winter Bucket List

The most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love this magical season. It’s the perfect time of year to cuddle up with a good book or spend time eating delicious food while celebrating with your loved ones. Yule is a time for celebrating nature and its many changes. Plants die off and animals hibernate to awake again in the Spring. Winter is a time to reflect on how things change and how that change brings about new hope and opportunities.

To me, this time of year is all about family. Taking a step back during the cold months to be thankful for what you have and also to celebrate it. Celebrating the health of your loved ones and how much you appreciate having them in your lives. While gift giving is a big way of showing love and admiration this time of year, making memories and practicing traditions is just as important.

Winter Bucket List

1. Make hot chocolate

2. Make paper snowflakes

3. Have a Hallmark movie marathon

4. Take a relaxing hot bath

5. Bake cookies

6. Decorate a gingerbread house

7. Drive around and look at Christmas lights

8. Make a blanket fort

9. Make a craft with pine cones

10. Bake a Yule log cake

11. DIY potpourri

12. Decorate for Christmas and Yule

13. Send out holiday cards to loved ones

14. DIY scrubs and face masks

15. Try out a new recipe

16. Enjoy the cold weather

17. Make soup from scratch

18. Journal a review of the year and intentions for the new year

19. Take family photos

20. Make homemade peanut brittle

NaNoWriMo Prep

November is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons. The cold weather, the delicious foods, the cozy sweaters, and most importantly, National Novel Writing Month! Now, I know some writers like to dive right in on November 1 with no plan, no direction, just writing by the seat of their pants. And while I think that’s wonderful, it’s just not something I can pull off. My anxiety won’t allow it. I need a plan for literally everything and my writing is no exception. 

NaNoWriMo prep for me begins usually in the summer time as I mull over the different ideas I have for stand alone novels. I like to do stand alone stories during NaNo because it’s a fresh page and I enjoy starting new projects that I haven’t touched before. The reason I gravitate towards new stories is that I like the challenge of writing an entire novel’s worth in just thirty days. It’s like a super power that few people can pull off. That being said, writing and prepping are two totally different beasts. 

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Middle of October I usually have a concrete story idea picked out and this is when I prefer to sit down and get a loose plot outline together. This can be as detailed as you want it to be. Sometimes I find it useful to type out a description of how I picture an entire scene but other times a simple, “Main character goes to talk to a side character” is enough for the time being. Honestly, you’ll change your plot more than once during the writing process so sometimes detail is not your friend. The main thing I try to get down on paper for NaNo prep is who I’m writing about and what do they want. 

One of my favorite things for NaNo is a new notebook. Yes, you’ll be doing most, if not all, of your writing on your laptop and probably your plot too but there’s just something about the first blank page of a fresh notebook to really symbolize the new beginning that is your NaNo project. 

So the first thing to decide during your NaNo prep is, what do I want to write about? What interests me? Who’s voice do I want to share with my readers? Who is this person, and most importantly, what do they want? What are they willing to sacrifice to get it?

When you’re writing about 1700 words per day for a month straight, you want to have a vague answer for these questions before you sit down on November first and begin your journey. Especially if this is your first time participating in NaNo. It took me a few years before I dove into participating. I was in college, I was already working on a book in my free time. I thought between working full time, being a full time student and still wanting free time to be creative in other outlets filled up my plate pretty full. And to be honest, it was probably a smart decision for me. So the first semester I had after graduating college, I was so ready to be creative in November like so many other writers around the world. 

Photo by Judit Peter from Pexels

Also, you want to make sure you have sufficient time throughout the day to sit down and write without distraction. If you’re a mom like me, you want to make sure you don’t have children climbing all over you or a significant other asking you questions while you’re trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Make sure you have snacks on hand, a nice cup of tea (or coffee or whatever you fancy), and a good pair of headphones. You want to be able to focus on and not get distracted. It’s hard to get lost in your own world, let alone create one, when you aren’t able to give it your all. 

Saging Your Home

I’ll be completely honest, I don’t smudge my surroundings or myself nearly as often as I’d like to. But next month we are bringing home our second child and while I’m knee deep in nesting, I figure saging the house needs to be part of preparing our home for the new baby. 

Smudging the home with herbs or cedar has been a staple in Native American tradition for centuries. The herbs used in smudging are dependent heavily on the particular region and tribe as to what is traditionally used. Today, white sage is the most common herb used in household smudging, but far from the only option. 

I have a bundle of white sage and a beautiful abalone shell that I picked up from an amazing spiritual shop in Austin (https://www.ancient-mysteries.net/). I decided to get an abalone shell to hold my sage because the shell itself is not only gorgeous but has amazing protective and balancing energies itself. I like having as many natural elements in my sacred space as possible, so the abalone shell was the perfect choice. I personally like to use white sage because sage grew wild where I was raised in the mountains of NorCal, so it reminds me of home. Saging is about clearing your energies and grounding yourself, so I figure what better way to help ground myself than to have a small reminder of my roots. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

To start, I lit my bundle of sage and let the flame dance around for a moment or two before I blew it out. Long enough to catch the herb and create a nice smoke. Hold the sage over the abalone shell (or whatever dish you choose to use) as you walk through the house so any piece of burning herb that falls from the smudging stick doesn’t land on your floors. I started in the entryway and worked my way through the natural progression of my home, following the hallway and into the kitchen. Working my way through my entire house in a clockwise circle, finishing the tour in my bedroom. As you make your way through the house, think very clearly about cleansing every corner in every room of negativity. Invite balance and growth into your space. 

When you have reached the last corner in the last room, take a moment to finalize your intentions and gently stamp the sage bundle out in the abalone shell. You can also spray it with water, but at this point in your smudging journey, the sage smoke will start going out on its own. So it’s super easy to finish it off this way and save it for your next cleansing ritual. 

I have been saging my home at least annually since I moved into my first apartment in 2010 (so long ago). Personally I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to smudge, as long as your intentions are clear and you do what feels right in your heart. I’ve been told very particular practices, such you can’t reuse a bundle of sage once you’ve smudged with it or you have to recite a specific chant, but that’s just personal preference, not law. 

Celebrating Mabon

History of Mabon

Mabon is the pagan celebration of the autumn equinox and one of the harvest festivals celebrated throughout the year. Summer has officially ended in the northern hemisphere and the days are once again the same length of time as night. Days and nights having the same hours symbolizes balance and unity during this time. During this time of the second harvest of the year, hearty foods such as pumpkins and other gords and apples are ready to be collected and shared in a great feast of abundance. 

The sabbat Mabon is named in the 1970’s after a Welsh God, the son is the Goddess who we celebrated to be heavy with child during the summer solstice. I don’t know about you but I found it interesting that the sabbat, along with the two holidays honoring the equinoxes, were named so recently. You can read more about that on this blog post written by Katrina Rasbold (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/energymagic/2015/09/mabon/). 

Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist from Pexels

How I Celebrated

Bake an apple pie

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Of all the foods associated with the fall equinox and the harvest, apples are one of the most iconic. I chose an apple dessert not only because of its symbolism but also its versatility! Apple pie, apple tarts, apple bread. There are so many different ways to celebrate this amazing fruit. 

Decorate my altar 

Apples, fall leaves, acorns, and tiny pumpkins are perfect additions to your altars during this time of year. Since our energies are so intertwined with nature, bringing foods and foliage from the outdoors into your sacred place can help make your meditation place even more special. At least it does for me. Celebrating holidays and sabbats are very personal, so make sure to do what you feel in your heart. 

Make a gratuity list

Photo from Pixabay stock

Take a moment to look at everything you have to be grateful for. Even the smallest accomplishments and joys should be celebrated. Family, health, food, books, coffee. Whatever helps you not only get through the day, but thrive is deserving of a place on your gratuity list. 

Declutter your home. 

Photo from Pixabay Stock

Pick a room and downsize things you don’t need. Not only is this a good thing to do for your physical home, but also for your soul. It’s not healthy to carry around all this weight and decluttering your home is a great exercise to literally and metaphorically cleanse your space. Closets and the garage are perfect places to start since these areas are mainly used as storage. We did the garage and the hall closet and it felt phenomenal to have gotten rid of things we should have donated years ago. 

Fall Bucket List

Fall is my absolutely favorite time of the year. It’s the season that I spend all of spring and summer dreaming about. There’s something magical about the way the trees shed their leaves, getting rid of old baggage as they begin their journey towards rebirth in the spring. I’ve always admired the transformation and I see humans replicated the process all the time. Letting go of people who don’t help us progress into our better selves, healing from old traumas. Our souls are a lot like those trees outside your window, sometimes barren, sometimes green and full of life. We are more tied in with nature than a lot of people realize, that’s why I make a list every season of everything I want to do to not only honor the corresponding holidays but also to honor my connection with the earth.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Fall Bucket List

1. Visit the pumpkin patch

2. Make apple cider

3. Carve pumpkins

4. Bake homemade pies

5. Have a family movie night

6. Decorate for Halloween/Samhain

7. Take family photos

8. Make DIY candles

9. Watch the sunset

10. Give back (Clean out closets and donate unwanted clothes)

11. Fall cleanse the house (Clean, organize, and smudge)

12. Make baked apples

13. Host a bonfire with friends

14. Prepare a fall picnic

15. Go thrift shopping for a new sweater

16. Make a pumpkin and cream cheese loaf

17. Go on a nature walk

18. Go trick or treating around the neighborhood

19. Cook a meal with squash

20. Craft with fall leaves

Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

Fall is the season for two spiritual holidays. Mabon, the fall equinox and the celebration of the harvest season, and Samhain, which falls on Halloween night and symbolizes the end of the Celtic year. When making these lists, I make an effort to blend the two faiths practiced within my family, and it’s much easier than I expected it, as many of the reserved holidays have deep pagan roots!

Five Things I Can’t Live Without as a Writer

There’s a lot of fancy writing apps and calendars and pretty floral cover everything, but do we really need all of it? Totally. You invest in whatever is going to help you be more productive and creative. Everyone has their rituals that help them get into the groove for making art. A special pen. A specific corner of the room with the best lighting for sketching. The sun at the perfect angle in the sky. For me, there are five essential things I need as a writer. Things I can’t live without and go out of my way to make sure I have on hand. 

An external hard drive– for backups. DO NOT keep all your writing on this and only this. My hard drive shit out on me a while ago and while I lost some pictures, thankfully I had all my current projects saved on my computer as well. Always have your work saved in two or three places, as much as we love and utilize technology, it’s still very fragile. 

Photo by Amy Chandra from Pexels

Notebooks. I shop for notebooks like I’m a kid going back to school, old habits die hard. When I was attending college, I had notebooks for literally everything. While everyone else was typing away during lecture, I was scribbling. Attempting to keep up with my professors. Even though I can type much faster than I can write, there’s something about a pen on paper. I retain information easier that way. I feel more engaged that way. When I’m on a streak, typing is definitely my go to, but when it comes to plot and drafting out chapters, I am still an ink on paper kind of gal. 

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Evernote and Google Docs. The thing I love the most about these apps, you don’t have to transfer information. You can access your account on your computer and your phone, and what you change on one, you change on both. When I would be at work and have an idea, I would open up whatever doc I needed and jot down my idea. When I got home, there it was waiting to be utilized when I turned on my computer. Having all your goodies in the same place makes your life as a creative writer a million times easier. 

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

A Day Planner. Again, old habits. There’s something about list making that makes productivity more magical. When I see it written that today I have to finish two chapters and do some laundry, I just don’t feel right until I check the boxes that I did those things. If I don’t write them down, then I feel like I’ll never get around to them. Organization is key, and this is how I stay organized. I also keep track of all my blog posts, bills, and my husband’s appointments as well. Let’s just say not a single day in that planner is blank. 

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Music. This may seem kind of cliche, but it’s so true. If you want to get in a mood to get some shit done, then all you need is the right playlist to inspire you. I have a playlist for every single project. Every story has its own soundtrack and when one of these songs comes on, I can’t help but feel the urge to get some work done. I went into more detail on this one a while back in a previous blog. (Insert blog link for inspirational music).

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Seeds, Core, and All

After watching the series Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu (based on the novel by Celeste Ng), I knew I had to read the book. Usually I don’t go in this order. If I know something is based on a book, I make sure to read it first but I figure I’d try something new. The series was amazing. Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are amazing. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. The book, on the other hand, was half exactly what I was expecting and half a complete surprise. 

First, what I liked about the novel was the writing style. It is a complete opposite of how I write, so it was interesting to see a different approach to storytelling. It’s told in third person, allowing the reader into the heads of not only the two main characters but their family members as well. A lot of times when writers do this, it can feel a bit chaotic but Ng pulled off switching narratives with such grace. It was the most natural flow of view points I’ve ever read. Like all the characters were running a marathon, passing the baton off to one another seamlessly. It was impressive.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

The parallels are anothing thing I admired about the plot. I’ll attempt to explain without spoilers, but Mia and Bebe’s story lines are so complex and similar. They really make you sit back and contemplate morality. What is right? What actions are truly justified? What makes a parent and what determines who is a good parent? Good books are ones that make you think, and this one definitely does that. As a mother, parts of this narrative struck really close to home. Sympathy for a character who suffered from half a dozen miscarriages turns to adoption only to have that threatened as well. The love that you feel for your children running so deep in your veins and having to accept the distance as they get older. The space they need to become their own person cracks your soul because cuddling them as infants becomes such a safe haven that slowly gets taken away. Safe havens, another parallel in the novel that isn’t what it seems on the outside. 

The town the novel is based, Shaker Heights, stuck out to me. Clashing of the social classes is nothing new, but it’s a theme in stories that I have always found very intriguing. How can someone feel they are more superior than someone else based on the square footage of their home? It’s something Ng did on purpose. No one can expose a town for what it truly is than someone who grew up there. Shaker Heights looks pristine on the outside. Progressive, idealistic, clean and crisp. In reality, it suffers the same issues that every other town in America does. Exclusiveness. Pretentious. White, very white. Although other races do reside in the town, it’s very much viewed as a privilege by many community members. “We don’t see color.” Is a common quote that comes up many, many times. It opens up a question that many people are pondering on today, what does not seeing color actually mean and what’s wrong with seeing people for who they are? Is seeing color the problem or is treating someone differently because of it the actual issue? It’s an important conversation and Ng does a fabulous job demonstrating the conflict some of her characters face with this particular topic. 

Photo by Igor Haritanovich from Pexels

All in all, it’s definitely a story I recommend, especially if you’ve seen the show. There are so many differences between the show and the book, naturally, but many of the changes I wonder why they did so. Other than attempting to make the show more edgy and dramatic, I didn’t see a need. Especially the ending. Completely changing who actually sets the fire that is introduced in the beginning of the novel really threw me off. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, yeah? 

Homemade Pie Crust Recipe

I want to begin by saying there isn’t anything wrong with store bought pie crusts. They are cheap, easy and quick. But you know what else is cheap, easy and quick? Making your own pie crusts. And yes, you can even make them ahead of time and freeze them for convenience. 

WHAT YOU NEED

Ingredients 

Rolling pin

Pie pan 

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour

¾ cup shortening (I use butter flavored)

¼ cup cold water

Dash of salt

See? Easy peasy.

Use a pastry cutter or a kitchen aid if you have one. If not use your bare hands to blend the shortening, flour and salt together until it resembles a fine crumble. You want the shortening and flour to be completely incorporated together.

Add the cold water and mix well until a firm ball of dough is formed. If the crust seems too crumbly, you can add just a tiny bit of water at a time until the proper consistency is found. If you add too much water and the dough is super wet, then add just a tiny bit of flour. 

Once the dough ball is formed, let it sit for a bit to rest, about ten minutes. Sprinkle some flour on a clean counter top and flour your rolling pin to prevent sticking. Roll out your dough as round as you can make it. I usually hold the pie plate over it to make sure I have enough. Carefully transfer the crust into the pie plate by rolling it halfway onto the pin. 

This is from my Mixed Berry Cobbler Recipe post. A great visual for how the crust forms to whatever pan you are using for your dessert.

Cut off the access crust around the edge of the pan and poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust to keep it from bubbling up. Also, you can get fancy and flute the edging of the crust. This is done with your knuckles like this: (photo demonstration). You can also use a fork, depending on what kind of design you want. There are tons of creative options. This stock photo is a great example of the fork method. It also helps seal a top crust if you’re using one 🙂

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

And you’re done. Wasn’t that super easy? 🙂 If you aren’t using the crust right away, you can wrap it up well and store it in the freezer.