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Practicing Self-Improvement + Bonus DIY Fun


The toxicity that comes from negativity–whether it’s your own or someone you know, is useless if you want to lead a positive and fulfilled life. It’s a new year and there’s no better time than NOW to remove what no longer serves you.

SHIFT YOUR FOCUS

We all have times where we feel stuck in a rut of negativity. Whether it’s complaining about life, getting in what I call “victim mode” aka feeling as if everything bad is only happening to you, or just feeling bored and unsatisfied with life, being open to change is the first step to learning how to shift this negative behavior. This isn’t magic, it’s merely a state of being that can literally transform your life for the better. The second I got out of feeling as if life was happening to me instead of for me, everything calmed down.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Be responsible for your life and be selective with who you decide to spend your time with. My dad always taught me that I am who I surround myself with, and if you think about it, it makes total sense. Why would you allow yourself to spend time with those who drain your energy and suck the life out of you? Taking responsibility for the things we can change in our life is the first step toward a more peaceful existence.

REACTION

There are of course instances where you want to walk away, but for one reason or another, you aren’t able to ie: a family member, in-laws, holiday gatherings etc, so find a way to protect yourself in these instances by choosing how you react. Charles R. Swindoll said it best, “that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” If you know you’re going to be around those who drain you, plan ahead. Think about how you will handle the situation in advance.

OPEN YOUR HEART

As Tony Robbins says, “when you are grateful, fear disappears.” Once you open your heart and have patience in knowing that the universe and God are working for you and not against you, your world will change for the better. By focusing on the negative, you’re robbing yourself of what the universe has in store for you.

RELINQUISH COMMAND

Once you relinquish command and give into whatever it is that is happening in your life, everything becomes easier to deal with. I see this in myself which is why I know it to be true. When things don’t go your way, trust that it wasn’t supposed to happen the way you wanted it to, and that something GREATER is coming your way.

Up until recently, I didn’t have the mental clarity I’m experiencing today. Whether or not it was due to my brain tumor, heavy workload, stress or anything else that may have hindered it, I want to share the changes I made that have led me to mental clarity.

Dr. Habib Sadeghi who is an integrated doctor, co-founder of Be Hive of Healing Integrative Medical Center based in Los Angeles, Goop contributor, healer to the stars like Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily Blunt etc, and author of several books including “The Clarity Cleanse: 12 Steps to Finding Renewed Energy, Spiritual Fulfillment, and Emotional Healing.” was kind enough to recently join me on “Conversations with Maria” on Sirius XM alongside my friend Lori Bregman, to discuss mental clarity.

Below are some takeaways from our conversation that I suggest you write down and keep where you can easily find them. As I mentioned in one of my previous newsletters about health and happiness (which you can find here), I find unique ways to surround myself with my favorite life mantras as a constant reminder to keep my mind focused on the positive.

FREE UP THE SPACE IN YOUR MIND
Can you imagine waking up everyday to a peaceful state of being vs immediately getting pulled into the black hole of Instagram, Twitter, texts and emails? One of the practical exercises Dr. Sadeghi refers to as “guru” (gadget unsaturation, rejuvenation uninterrupted) is the removal of those technological distractions. Don’t allow your cell phone to be in the room when you sleep. Get yourself a simple battery operated clock to use in place of the alarm on your phone and take control of what you FOCUS on everyday.

PURGE EMOTIONAL WRITING
Dr. Sadeghi suggests taking 12 minutes a day to list the things in your life that are disturbing your inner peace. List your low hanging fruits, negative thoughts and any other feelings and emotions that no longer serve you. When you finish writing everything, rip up the paper and throw it in the trash to symbolize the removal of these things from your life.

LIVE IN GRATITUDE
As I mentioned in my previous article, the second I started seeing the challenges I was faced with this past year as a gift, everything I’ve ever wanted has come to fruition. It’s been like a flood of beauty that just keeps coming. Walk in gratitude and open your heart and mind to experience the beauty life has to offer. Another way to do this is to take some time each day to list out what you’re grateful for.

CHIN UP
Dr. Sadeghi mentioned on my show that if you walk with your chin up, it shifts the direction and flow of blood to the brain.

RECLAIM YOUR FEMININE
Can you be a balanced human being? Masculinity is about doing while feminine is about being. Can you balance that? Or are you so rushed and goal oriented that day after day you don’t stop?

One of the conversations I’m having with women is what it means to be a woman. We feel like we have to be the perfect mother, daughter, aunt, sister, grandmother, wife, employee–the perfect EVERYTHING. We have so much going on in our heads that it’s no wonder we are ravaged by anxiety, thyroid illnesses and all kinds of auto-immune issues. As women we need to slooowwwwww the ride down. We need to find a way to reclaim our femininity and create a balance between the masculine and feminine.

YOU’RE NOT STUCK
I know I’m not the only one who has felt stuck before. Whether it’s stress, anxiety, being overwhelmed, overworked etc it’s not easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel but I love this acronym Dr. Sadeghi shared called IPACT (interest/intention/ideal scene, participation, acceptance, commitment, trust).

I — INTEREST, INTENTION & IDEAL SCENE
Are you interested in your life? Look around. What is the intention that you’re holding? What is the ideal scene? Do you get up in the morning with an intention for the day? Your intention has everything to do with it.

P — PARTICIPATE
Be a participant in your own life. Don’t sit back. Don’t let anyone drive you. Be involved. Ask questions.

A — ACCEPTANCE
Accept that what’s coming at you is not to kill you. What’s coming at you is to disrupt things. It breaks things down because there is a newness to be developed.

C — COMMITMENT
You have to be committed and disciplined.

T — TRUST
Trust that life is good. That life has your back.

THE GIFT OF LIFE
Remind yourself that it is a gift to be alive. Start here and things will start changing and shifting in your life. I’m a believer that with gratitude, fear disappears, and I thank God multiple times a day for my blessings.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

My priest keeps telling me the importance of patience. This has shifted so much for me and has eased my anxiety. When you have the trust to be patient, everything happens the way it’s supposed to.

 

This easy and fun DIY is the perfect craft for taking your Valentines Day to the next level! My friend Tamara Berg made these adorable Valentines Day print out movie quotes which you can scatter on your dining table during your Valentines Day dinner, or pile a bunch in a jar, add a ribbon and create a romantic gift for your favorite movie-buff. Whether you choose romantic movie quotes, or any other quotes that you love, these hearts make for a great conversation starter and will certainly add a memorable touch to the night.


What You’ll Need:

  • Decorative Paper
  • Templates
  • Scissors
  • Glue dots – like Zots, Medium size
  • Printer

Choose the template you like. I’ve created three different movie-quote based ones here, here and here. Print on decorative paper.

Important note: When choosing the scaling settings on your printer, choose: “fill entire paper” to get the intended size hearts.

If you can’t find the perfect paper at the craft store, you can print both sides – one with decorative images, and the other with heart quotes. I found this beautiful string-light design here on Etsy.

Cut out the hearts on the lines using scissors.

Cut slit from bottom. The slit is not marked on the hearts because the line would show on the finished product.

On each heart, cut from the bottom area where the ‘jog’ is at the bottom, to just under the quote lettering – about ⅛” below the letters.

Place a Zot on one of the sides near the bottom of the heart. Lift the opposite flap over the Zot and press down.


Repeat with as many hearts as you like, and you’re done!

These chocolate truffle spoons are just as adorable as they are delicious! Thanks to Tamara Berg for sharing the recipe just in time for Valentines Day!


Chocolate ganache is a magical kitchen concoction. It’s an elegant cake drizzle, a silky whipped-frosting topping, and a gorgeous truffle interior. It’s versatile, impressive and deceptively easy to make. Ganache is one of those things that everyone should have at the ready. (And now that Trader Joe’s carries shelf stable whipping cream, at any time, you can be 5 minutes from a perfect ganache!)

These truffles can be easily adapted to fit your taste. Craving a little spice? Add ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon or cayenne pepper to the mixture. Need a kick? Add a teaspoon of instant espresso. For a more adult flavor, 2 or 3 Tbs. flavored liquor does nicely.

For texture, mix in a couple tablespoons of finely chopped nuts, crispy rice, or toffee.

But the best thing about these little cuties is the presentation. I received these super cute wooden ice-cream spoons from Sucre Shop in my Christmas stocking from my sister. I wanted to make chocolate nib truffles for Valentine’s Day, so the elements all came together for this treat.

About Ingredients:

Better chocolate makes for better truffles. Considering there are only 2 or 3 ingredients in these truffles, know that your chocolate will be the star. I love Belgian Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate. It’s delish all alone. In a truffle, it’s magnificent.

Cacao nibs. You may have seen them in fancy chocolate bars. Basically, they are the ‘mother’ of chocolate products – Nibs are cacao beans that have been shelled, roasted and crushed. Eventually the nibs/beans get pulverized, pressed and mixed with sugar and other ingredients to become what we know as chocolate. The slightly bitter nibs add a rich, lovely, vaguely nutty element to the truffle.

Salt. It’s all the rage to add salt to sweets – the fact that Starbucks has a ‘salted caramel hot chocolate mix’ indicates that the fad may have hit its peak. But truth be told, the salty-sweet combo is legit. Let’s face it, we like it, and we’re gonna continue to like it. (See Toffee Pretzels) That said, instead of sea salt, I use a Brava coffee flavored salt (find it here. I’ll show you how to make your own in another blog.). It adds another layer of flavor that really makes these truffles special.

How To Make The Chocolate Ganache Truffle Spoons:

(Click here for a printable version of the Chocolate Nib Spoon Recipe.)

Truffle Ganache Filling:

  • 1½ C semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1-2 Tbs. cacao nibs, coarsely chopped

Chocolate Coating:

  • 2 C chocolate
  • 2 Tbs. shortening
  • Coarse salt (optional)

If using bar or chunk chocolate, chop coarsely. Place chocolate in a glass bowl or pitcher. Add cream. Place in microwave, and heat for 30 seconds. Stir with a whisk. Return to microwave for another 15 to 30 seconds and stir again. Repeat heating and stirring until chocolate thoroughly melts, is fully combined and glossy. Voila, ganache.

Note: Be careful not to overheat, as the chocolate can easily burn. Depending on your microwave, the melting process should only take about one to two minutes.

Allow to cool. To speed up the process, place in a shallow dish and refrigerate.

In order to pipe the ganache onto spoons, the mixture needs to be thick, but not so firm that it won’t pass through the pastry bag. The desired consistency is like that of frosting.

Place the ganache/truffle mixture into a piping bag, and pipe onto spoons. If you find the ganache is not thick enough, pop into the fridge for a few minutes. If it’s too thick, knead with warm hands for a few minutes, and it will loosen up.

pipe onto spoons

Place the piped spoons onto a parchment or waxed paper-lined tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the spoons are chilling, in a small saucepan, place 2 cups of chocolate, and 2 Tbs. vegetable shortening. Warm on low, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Piped spoons

Remove truffle spoons from fridge, and quickly dip into the melted chocolate to coat, allow to cool on waxed paper or parchment. Do this step quickly, as the warm chocolate can cause the ganache truffle to melt and fall off the spoon! (Learned that one the hard way.) Sprinkle lightly with salt and refrigerate another 5 minutes.

Dip Spoon

Fresh Salt

Delish finished spoon

Serve immediately or wrap and give as gifts. Makes 30 to 40 small spoon-sized truffles.

Variations:

Truffles on metal spoons

Use larger spoons for a larger ‘bite.’

These truffles can also be made without the spoons. Simply scoop with a spoon and roll with your hands, cool and dip in melted chocolate, or roll in cocoa powder or finely chopped nuts.

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And since you can never have too much sweet on Valentines Day, here’s a recipe for the cutest heart shaped gingerbread cookies by Tamara Berg. =)


What You’ll Need:

  • 1-1/2 C dark molasses
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 C cold water
  • 1/3 C shortening
  • 7 C flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Royal Icing

How To:

  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • In a large bowl, mix until smooth: molasses, brown sugar, water and shortening.
  • Add remaining ingredients (except frosting).
  • Roll dough about 1/4” to 3/8” thick on a floured board.
  • Cut out with heart-shaped cookie cutter.
  • Place on lightly greased cookie sheet – about 1” apart.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Cool and decorate with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing:

  • 1/4 C meringue powder (or 2 egg whites)
  • 1/2 C water (eliminate if you’re using fresh egg whites)
  • 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • food coloring
  • colored sugar

How To:

  • Combine meringue powder and water, whip to soft peaks (if using fresh eggs, just whip to peaks).
  • Add vanilla, then 4-1/2 C sugar to combine. If icing is too soft, add more sugar, if it gets too stiff, mix in more water by the tablespoon.
  • Separate into 3 bowls, and add food coloring.
  • Outline the cookies with piped icing and wait a few minutes for it to harden.
  • Once hardened, fill in the outline with ‘pooling’ icing.  (I generally use one or two colors besides the white, and always have sanding sugar (you can make your own!) on hand to add glitz.)
 
Maria Menounos

Maria Menounos

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