The Bliss of Doing Nothing Together

The Bliss of Doing Nothing Together

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By Toni Tiu of Wifely Steps

It’s been tough for us lately. My husband and I have been working like crazy. In between multiple work commitments, we would have to see to household tasks. There’s laundry to sort, a grocery list to tick off, the occasional broken toy of our son’s that needs to be repaired. We’ve been kicking our days off pre-occupied with the tasks for the day ahead. It’s a shame to admit it, but the first thing we seem to do in the morning is check our own mobile phones. What should we accomplish today? By when should we do it? It’s become a crazy cycle, one that has taken a toll on spending quality time together.

So when joint free time comes up, like a rare Saturday morning when our son is sleeping in or our son spending a day at the mall with his grandparents, we seize it. What do we do? Where should we go? How long do we have? We begin cramming that precious free time with an activity outside the home, eager to make up for lost time. Let’s go watch this movie! Let’s visit that date place we haven’t gone back to in ages! Let’s paint a masterpiece together!

Some dates were successful (eating in places we like but we know our son dislikes). Some weren’t (We couldn’t agree on what movie to watch so we ended up roaming the mall… separately). Overall though, it got tiring. We got tired chasing time. We got tired trying to cram things we could do together in a limited amount of time. We got tired arguing about where we could go together — each of us had our own idea of quality free time which the other didn’t agree with. So most times, we ended up at home.

Tired with no agenda. Tired with the need to breathe separately, but together.

That’s when things began to look up.

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Finding Joy in Quiet Togetherness

We realized we could still spend time together without doing anything together. Being together was enough. That was what mattered the most.

We would be in the bedroom together – I would be reading a book while he would be putting a model figure together. There was no joint activity, and that was okay. There was love in the air even if we weren’t holding hands. We quietly revelled in each other’s presence. We were grateful for the quiet time we both needed to recharge individually, but still with each other.

On cool afternoons, we would walk around the neighborhood. There would be no need to fill in the quiet with conversations. Walking down the street, hand in hand, doing nothing else — that was enough.

When driving to the grocery or to the laundromat, we would sometimes just be quiet in the car. He would be concentrating on the road. I would be gazing out the window. But our hands would be together – his right hand on my left, and that would be enough. We knew we were headed to a place where chores would be our priority for that time. But at that very moment in the car, we were grateful to be together. We found joy in our quiet togetherness, made even more blissful knowing we were headed in the same direction together.

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Bliss can be found in doing nothing together, in simply enjoying the moment of quiet togetherness. Have you also experienced this kind of quiet joy in your relationships? Come share your thoughts and stories in the comments!

The Bliss of Spending Time With Yourself

The Bliss of Spending Time With Yourself

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By Toni of Wifely Steps

We don’t give ourselves enough time to be alone.

Go on. Ask yourself. When was the last time you truly spent time with yourself? I can’t even remember the last time I went on a date with myself. Sure, I recall cab trips home alone or grabbing a quick solo breakfast at the office canteen. Those do not count, even though I was alone.

We get caught up in pursuing matters for the family, matters for work, that we sometimes forget to pursue matters for ourselves. That happens to me often. My friends remind me, “Don’t forget to nurture yourself too!” It’s a reminder I am grateful for as in the pursuit of getting things crossed off my everyday to-do list, nurturing myself seems to have fallen off the list.

It’s essential we spend time with ourselves, though. It gives us an opportunity to recharge, to rejuvenate. It’s the time to refill the tank. There are three ways to help make sure you truly spend time with yourself, but they require commitment. It can be hard to do at first but once you get into the groove, you’ll be glad you truly spent time with yourself.

First, declare that you are going on a date with yourself.

This is why quickie breakfasts in the office canteen do not count as dates. Exclaim, declare, claim it. “I am going to spend an afternoon at the bookstore, browsing through aisles of books then will have a leisurely cup of coffee afterwards.” “I am going to get my hair and nails done tomorrow morning.” “I am going for a morning walk and will be back by breakfast time.” Saying it out loud helps make sure it will happen. Tell your partner about it too so you can coordinate chores, taking care of the kids, and other things. Resist the urge to invite anyone else. This would defeat the purpose of going on a date with yourself! Acknowledge that you ARE having a date with yourself and move on to the next step.

Second, when on your date, focus on your date – you.

Would you send text messages or play on your phone when on a date? No, that would be rude. Consider the same practice when you’re dating yourself. Have a quiet conversation with yourself. Lose yourself in the book you’re reading. Commit to the ice cream cone you are having and avoid the urge to check your mobile phone. Going on a date with yourself requires focus. Entertain yourself. Amuse yourself. Woo yourself. It may be a little awkward at first, but you’ll find yourself enjoying your own company more and more.

Third, date yourself once a week.

Call it me-time, alone-time, recharging-time, or simply going on a date with yourself. A lot of our week goes into sharing our joy and energy with other people – our partners, our children, our colleagues, our friends. There should be a time when you channel that joy and energy towards yourself too — that’s when weekly dates with yourself comes in. It’s a good way to stay connected with yourself. A few hours is enough for some, a full day for others – start with what you’re most comfortable with.

We don’t give ourselves enough time to be alone, but we so badly need that alone time. We just don’t realize it until we’re there, having an ice cream cone with ourselves, walking through the park on our own. The resistance may be strong in the beginning, but embrace the need for quality time with yourself. You won’t regret it.

Have you discovered the bliss of spending time with yourself?

Strength of a Warrior Princess

Strength of a Warrior Princess

Strength of a Warrior Princess
by Toni Tiu of Wifely Steps

I was raised in the company of strong women. There was no shortage of womenly examples to live by, and at a young age I witnessed and experienced the innate power women have. No one has influenced my concept of womanly strength more than my own mother. But now, as I grow older myself, I am beginning to realize how I am growing into my own kind of strength.

Fierce, Feminine Strength

My mother is fierce. She has this strong, aggressive power that emanates with every step she takes. From her I learned not to take things sitting down, to fight for what I believe is due me and the family. As a young child, this kind of strength fascinated me. I couldn’t marry how my Mom was with what I read in fairy tales and local legends — meek women waiting for their knights in shining armour to rescue them. I saw my Mom like a warrior princess, wielding shield and sword. It impressed and scared me at the same time. But the more I recognized how assertive my Mom was, the more reserved I became. I was intimidated. While I was in awe of her energy, I couldn’t imagine being as strong as she was. That is, until I became a woman myself.

Thrust into the “real world”, I was stripped of the protective shields formed by my gradeschool, highschool and college walls. I couldn’t hide behind rules and regulations — life beyond the educational system operated differently. So I began trusting myself more. As I learned to trust myself, I found myself holding on to an inner strength I didn’t know I had. This was the strength my Mom had planted in me during my childhood years. It was the bud of a warrior’s strength ready to blossom. I nurtured it. I bloomed. I began walking with purpose, with the steps of a warrior princess, wielding shield and sword like my mother. When people tell me “You’re just like your Mom” – I smile. From my mother, I learned that a warrior’s strength can be found in a woman’s heart.

Strength of a Warrior Princess

The Gift of Gentle Power

There were times the fierceness didn’t feel like ME. Sure, it got things done. I defended the weak. But the fierce warrior’s strength felt tiring. This is when I realized there must be another kind of power that fit me more, another way for me to more naturally show my strength. This was how gentle power was born for me. I discovered I could be committed, but not controlling. I also learned that there is strength in being vulnerable, that there is beauty in surrendering. As I learned this about myself, I became more loving towards others and also myself. I found strength in the gift of gentle power.

From my Mother, I learned to be fierce. From my own experiences, I learned to be gentle. It is the combination of both that has fueled me to move forward amidst life’s obstacles. It is the fusion of both that has given me my personal brand of strength – the kind of strength that’s helped nurture my family, that’s helped keep me standing.

It’s been working for me. I realize that while I have learned much from my Mom, I am my own kind of warrior too. Yes, I have a warrior princess’ heart. But in place of shield and sword, I use my hands for nurturing, and my quiet words to help strengthen myself and others. It is a more subtle strength but it doesn’t mean it is weaker. It is as strong as strong can be. This gentle strength blooms in my warrior princess’ heart.

How did the women around you influence your strength? How are you inspiring others with the kind of strength you have?

How do you want to feel in 2015?

How do you want to feel in 2015?

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By Toni Tiu of Wifely Steps

STRONGER. This is how I want to feel in 2015. Last year was a rollercoaster ride for me as I struggled with feelings of unworthiness. Then towards the latter part of the year, I discovered how much love I had in me, how much love I was rejecting because I thought I wasn’t worthy. I didn’t realize it but putting other people’s needs before my own was taking a toll on my self-worth. I was a wife before I was Me. I was a Mom before I was Me. I was a daughter before I was Me. I thought it was normal for a woman to be doing that given the phase in my life – Mom to a pre-schooler, wife for 11 years. But I was getting more and more lost. I wondered…

“What about me?”

Just asking myself that question gave me the shivers. “How selfish!,” a part of me berated. “Why would you put yourself first?,” another voice inside me scolded.

After many talks with my dearest friends, who were also part of my support group in a life coaching program, I was enlightened. It’s okay to ask that question. In fact, it’s more than okay. It is good! When I embraced being vulnerable and focused on nurturing not just others, but first and foremost, myself, I learned that I had even more to give. By loving myself first, I no longer felt spent.

That is what I wanted to feel last year and set about feeling towards the end of the year – LOVE, mostly for myself. “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all,” the popular song goes. With that anchor feeling in mind, I made it through the rest of the year more wholeheartedly, more lovingly, more peacefully.

That was 2014. Now it is 2015, and I’ve anchored myself on another feeling: to feel stronger.

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This 2015, I Want to Feel Stronger

“Stronger” is a spectrum. There is strength in being quiet. Pope Francis shared in his Tacloban Mass homily, “I have no words. I walk with you with my silent heart.” There are times that to feel stronger, it is obvious what I should do – lace up my running shoes and go for that jog. A morning run will definitely make me feel stronger versus sitting on a couch, eating chips. “Stronger” is also knowing when to slow down and nurture myself. Last week, I fought the urge to go to work and just stay in bed – I had the flu. The workaholic in me was throwing a tantrum, but I refused to give in. To feel stronger, to be stronger, I needed to rest. And that I did. I do feel stronger now.

How do I know what plans and goals I should prepare if I want to feel stronger in 2015? These will be plans that will help jolt me out of the status quo. “Keep moving forward,” that line from the movie ‘Meet the Robinsons’ says. What makes me stronger is the choice that will move me forward.

To feel stronger means taking better care of myself – so I can nourish my family more, so I can nurture them more and love them more. But most of all, to feel stronger is to embrace loving myself too.

This is why it’s a beautiful segue for me coming from 2014. I believe that the plans and goals I set out to accomplish will make me stronger because they will all be grounded in love. Strength in love.

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What do YOU want to feel in 2015?

Think about the goals you want to set for yourself this year. Anchor them on what you want to feel this year. This is your internal compass. To feel more loving, these are the action plans I need to accomplish. To feel more powerful, these are the goals I have. Some call it having a focus word. Others, a value. Others may suggest words for you, but remember that it is YOUR path. It is your journey. The question is about you. Ground yourself in your core desires, core feelings, and the compassion and love for others will follow.

It is a blissful life we all are aiming for, but we each have our own paths to getting there. And so I ask again — what do YOU want to feel in 2015? Come share your thoughts in the comments section, and let us learn from each other.

Images from picjumbo.

New Twists to Old Favorites

New Twists to Old Favorites

By Toni Tiu of Wifely Steps

There are scents and tastes highly associated with the Christmas season. When the zesty aroma of gingerbread wafts through the home, you know it’s Christmas. When the sweet smell of pineapple sauce from baked ham begins tickling your senses and making your mouth water, you know it’s Christmas. It’s assuring to know that come December, these classic favorites will be present. A Christmas feast won’t be complete without them! Now what if these favorites were transformed a little bit? Would they still give off the same Christmas vibe? Definitely! Old favorites can be given new twists and still retain their Christmas essence.

Three of the many staple Christmas dishes would be Christmas Ham, Macaroni Salad and Fruitcake. Let’s see how we can tweak tradition with these delectable dishes.

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Christmas Ham is typically prepared by basting the ham with glaze then baking. Boxes of Christmas Ham sold in supermarkets sometimes have a packet of pineapple glaze. But why not amp up the glaze your way with the three tips below? The perks of making your own glaze – you get to adjust the sweetness or the tartness. Whichever glaze you choose, bring the combined ingredients to a boil over medium heat and cook until thick and syrupy.

  • Make your own pineapple glaze. In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of mustard and enough pineapple juice to make a thick glaze.
  • Ginger-glaze it. Nigella Lawson’s Ginger-Glazed ham looks absolutely yummy. The ginger glaze needs 1 cup of chunky ginger preserve, 2 tablespoons of hot mustard, ½ cup of dark brown sugar and ½ teaspoon ground cloves. Mix them all in a bowl. That’s a different kind of glaze. If ginger preserves aren’t available, you can substitute with orange marmalade and a teaspoon of grated ginger.
  • Bake it with brandy. Combine ¾ cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of brandy and 1 tablespoon of mustard.

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Macaroni salad means it’s Christmas time! The ingredients are elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, carrots, onions, cooked ham or chicken, pineapple tidbits, pickle relish. With all these combined, you’ve got yourself a classic macaroni salad for Noche Buena. Now to twist it up!

  • Color it red and green. A typical macaroni salad would be mostly white. Why not make it look more Christmassy? Scour the supermarket’s pasta aisle and you will find pasta in different colors. Don’t be limited by elbow macaroni either! Try green fusilli (corkscrew-shaped pasta) or red farfalle (ribbon-shaped pasta). The rest of the recipe ingredients will be the same, but your pasta salad will look like it’s embracing the holidays more.
  • Perk it up with Pesto. Want to give your pasta a green kick? Pesto. Here’s what you do: in a blender, puree the pesto and mayonnaise. Add this pesto mayo mixture to cooled pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well. Season to taste. Serve.

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Fruitcake is delicious, but it’s a Christmas treat not everyone enjoys. These sweet cakes are decorated with candied or dried fruits, nuts, spices and liquor (the key to fruitcakes lasting for a long time). Try these three ways to level up your fruitcake experience and you just might end up falling in love with fruitcake. The world needs more fruitcake lovers!

  • Enjoy it with Brandy Cream Sauce. My friend Patricia shared that this is one way to enjoy fruitcake. I think the idea sounds luxuriously yummy! You can make your own brandy cream sauce. Simply combine 1 cup of cream, ½ cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of granulated white sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Beat 4 egg yolks, 5 tablespoons of white sugar in a bowl with a mixer until thick. Gradually pour in the milk mixture into the egg mixture, making sure to beat it constantly. Put the mixture back to the pan and stir over low heat, without boiling. When the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, strain the mixture and stir in the brandy. Drizzle over a slice of fruitcake.
  • Crumble it over ice cream. Not a fan of brandy? You can still enjoy your fruitcake in a creamy way. If you find the fruitcake’s flavor too intense, mellow it out by sprinkling small chunks of fruit cake over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
  • Make it cheesy. Slice a piece of fruitcake. Top it with a thin slice of cheddar cheese. Toast it up in a toaster oven until the edges get a little crisp and the cheese slightly melts. You’ve got yourself a salty-sweet treat with that fruitcake kick.

Why not bring new twists to old favorites? These eight twists to three tasty traditions still give off their signature comforting Christmas vibe even with a twist here and there.

Photo Credit: whiper via Compfight cc | Photo Credit: elana’s pantry via Compfight cc | Photo Credit: I Believe I Can Fry via Compfight cc