Bone Broth: what it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

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Women who travel alone are great; so are women who travel with their partners

Thank you guys!! I was stoked to have received such a positive response to my last blog post about spending time with yourself 🙂 But while I was putting it together and investigating more of the “Women Should Travel Alone” thing, I found something else that got to me a little, so I wanted to write a bit of a part 2 today…

Writing last week’s post, I came to realise that I really am in the minority. At 31 years old, I’m not settled down with kids and doing the family thing, nor am I a sassy, independent single lady ready to go out and take on the world alone. Instead, I’m somewhere in between; I married relatively young for my generation (a few weeks before my 25th birthday), and have had almost 13 happy years with my best friend. I obviously don’t identify with the single ladies, but I’m also not ready to “settle down” just yet. And I discovered that there really just isn’t much of a market for the “happily married, without kids, still up for adventure” women of the world!

I typed into Google “WHY WOMEN SHOULD TRAVEL” and found the following results over the first two or three pages:
– Why Women Should Never Should Never Stop Traveling Alone
– Why Women Should Keep Travelling Solo
– Why Every Woman Should Travel Alone At Least Once
– 15 Reasons Every Girl Should Travel Solo
– Solo Travel: Why Women Should Travel Alone
– Why Every Woman Should Travel Alone
– Why Woman Should Travel Alone
– Why All Women Should Travel Solo Once In Their Lives
– Why All Women Should Travel Solo
– Why Every Busy Woman Should Travel Alone
– 10 Reasons Why Women Should Travel Alone

Next, I tried “WHY WOMEN SHOULD TRAVEL WITH HUSBAND” and got…
– Why Women Should Holiday Alone
– How Travelling Alone Can Affect A Marriage
– Why I Travel Without My Husband
– Why Women Are Travelling Without Men
– Why Every Woman Should Travel On Her Own Before She’s 40
– Why I Travel Without My Husband
– No, I Do Not Need My Husand’s Permission To Travel Alone
– Is It Healthy For Couples To Travel Apart?
– Traveling Alone Benefits – Woman Travel Without Husband

Seeing a theme here? Like I said last week, I’m all for anything that helps women see that they’re not helpless little girls. Of course we can travel alone! And yes, it’s great – in fact, I highly recommend trying it! But at the same time, for the minority like me who fall somewhere in the middle of the SINGLE – FAMILY spectrum, travelling with your significant other can be every bit as rewarding, empowering and fun 🙂

So, for the other ladies out there who are in the same boat as me, who have and can travel alone, but who choose to travel with their significant other because they want to, maybe you can relate to my reasons for choosing to travel with my husband (which, coincidentally are many of the reasons a lot of the aforementioned articles recommend travelling alone…):

1. LESS NEGATIVE MENTAL HEALTH EFFECTS
My mental health struggles aren’t something I hide, so I’m not scared to say that travelling with depression and anxiety can be a big challenge. It certainly doesn’t stop me (in fact, I’m travelling more than ever, now!), but I find that I get a lot more out of my travels with my husband by my side. He’s my best friend, he understands the challenges I face, and he’s patient with me. Having someone who knows you inside out and is patient and understanding can make all the difference between working through an anxiety attack and enjoying the rest of the day, or letting it win and going back to your hotel with your tail between your legs.

2. MORE CONFIDENCE
Following on from that, not only am I more comfortable with him around, I am actually much more confident. I’m a classic introvert and am usually quite reserved, but I’ve also always had a very pronounced independent streak; if I’m not anxious on my travels, that comes out. It’s almost like having a security net around; I’m not scared to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I’m not scared to try my local language skills. I’m not fussed by walking into the café first and placing our order. I’m not worried about wandering off the main street and down an alley to get that photo. I can get out of my comfort zone without freaking out too much, and that brings out my confidence.

3. DO SOMETHING NEW
While we’re very similar in a lot of ways, we’re also very different, which means that we’ve both seen and done some amazing things we’d never have done on our own. I didn’t think I’d enjoy an NFL game in San Francisco that much or a visit to Westham United’s grounds, but they ended up being two of the best travel experiences I’ve had!

4. SAFETY
As much as I hate to say it, there is safety in numbers. We live in an increasingly scary world, and travelling solo (whether you’re male or female) inherently increases your risk.

5. INDEPENDENCE, TOGETHER
It may be a little different for us that other couples, because we are both very independent and like to have time alone, which means that even if we don’t both want to do the same thing when we’re travelling, it doesn’t matter. We’ll quite happily go to a sports bar so he can have a beer and watch a game while I sit there reading the new book I just picked up. Compromise isn’t always neither party getting what they want.

6. PHOTOS
Yes, it’s great to have someone to take photos of you when you’re travelling so you don’t have an album full of selfies, but the best thing about travelling with your significant other is that because they know you so well, they can capture you so perfectly. When someone who really loves you takes your photo while you’re doing something you love, especially without you knowing, they’re able to capture you as they see you, not as you ask them to while you’re posing. And it often reveals a lot about the things they love about you!

7. LEARN YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
You learn this travelling on your own, too, but I think it’s magnified when you travel with your significant other; they’re generally not afraid to point out when you’re doing a great job or letting the team down. Personally, I’ve learned through travelling with my husband and having him point it out that that planning and organising are big strengths of mine (which makes his life easier, because they’re his weaknesses), but an associated weakness is an initial freak out when flights are cancelled last minute or a hotel can’t find our reservation (whereas one of his strengths is keeping his cool and going with the flow).

8. STRENGTHEN YOUR BOND
Inevitably (hopefully). Every time you and your significant other are in a situation that isn’t your norm, you’ll be tested and given the chance to strengthen your bond. You hear about things like one partner getting sick, losing a rental property, or returning to full time study making or breaking relationships. And even then, you’re still going to have familiar surroundings or other people around. When you’re travelling, you’re thrown in the deep end with all the challenges that come with it. And not only will you only have each other to turn to and trust, you’re simultaneously stuck together basically 24/7. And that can often be a lot harder than travelling alone. So far (touch wood), we’ve come away from all of our travels stronger. We’ve had dramas and arguments on the way, but we’ve always come home more solid than when we left.

I’m hoping I’m not the only woman in this situation, so would love to hear from other childless women travelling with their husbands, and welcome you ladies to add your thoughts, too 🙂

Women, spend time with yourselves (instead of the “travel alone” thing)

ALONE. Separated from others. Exclusive of anyone or anything else. Having no one else present. On one’s own. Indicating that something is confirmed to the specified subject or recipient.

Every two or three months, I book a night or two of accommodation for one person in Warburton. Yes, I have a husband, a best friend, a sister who could accompany me, but I choose to take these trips without a companion. Why? Because I believe that it’s incredibly important for people to spend some time with themselves. Especially when those people are women. It’s important for men, too, but it really hit me that this really is still predominantly such a women’s issue when I was sitting in a café on the weekend waiting to order breakfast; I eventually called someone over to take my order, and he said “ohh, I just assumed you were waiting for someone.” That’s when I decided to write this post instead of another food review.

If, like me, you’re a lady who enjoys her travels, you’ll have no doubt read the myriad articles and blog posts out there titled “Why All Women Should Travel Alone” or one of its variations. You’ll be a better person if you can be more independent, they say.  You’ll meet so many new people that you’d never have had the change to meet if you were travelling with a companion. You’ll be forced right out of your comfort zone. You’ll be able to eat and drink and see and do whatever you want and no one can stop you!!! Oh, and you should definitely do this before you turn 30. Because apparently your years of excitement and adventure end and your carriage will turn back into a pumpkin then.


These articles aren’t all bad; I’m all for anything that encourages women to take control of their lives, but I think there is a HUGE difference between “travelling alone” and “spending time with yourself.” 

As a textbook introvert who suffers from depression and anxiety, I actually really enjoy having my husband with me when I travel. It’s not that I can’t travel alone (I have) or that I don’t enjoy it (I did) or that I got nothing out of it (I did) or that I’m helplessly reliant on him (I’m most certainly not); it’s that he actually really is my best friend and I have way more fun when I’m sharing my adventures with him. The reason we’ve worked so well for almost 13 years is that he encourages my natural tendency to be independent. I’m just as capable of speaking to a stranger in a foreign country with him by my side. And forcing an anxious introvert out of her comfort zone without backup isn’t always a great idea! So I really don’t think “travelling alone” is all that relevant or important.

Some other articles propagate the idea of travelling alone in order to feel more freedom, to increase your confidence, to become more self-reliant and to better understand yourself. Those are all brilliant things for any lady to have at her disposal, but I don’t think they come from “travelling alone;” I think you’ll find they come from spending time with yourself. Go back to the definitions of the word “alone” at the start of the post. I read that as being isolated and cut off, maybe even from yourself. When I take my little solo trips, I don’t see them as taking time to be alone, I see them as taking time to be with myself. I meditate. I reflect on the last few weeks or months. I try to understand how I’ve come to be where I am right now. I set some goals for myself, treat myself to a massage, a riverside walk where I say hello to everyone I pass, a trip to an antique shop where I chat with the gentleman behind the counter.

Yeah, I’m taking these trips without a companion, but I don’t feel “alone,” separated or exclusive to anything. I’m spending time with me. Instead of ignoring the niggling feeling of “not enough-ness” that drives so many people to travel (thinking that if they ignore those scary feelings and just escape, they’ll magically find some answers), I’m learning to make friends with it. Instead of shoving it aside while I take a selfie under the Eiffel Tower and post it to Instagram with an “I-don’t-need-no-man-to-take-me-to-Paris” caption, I’m sitting down to a pot of tea and a jam-smothered scone with it and trying to work out how I can let it go on its way without me.


You don’t need to travel the world alone to grow as a person, ladies. You just need to spend a little time with YOU 🙂

Anything but ordinary…

This was originally written just to be shared on the site for my new little project, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories, but some kind words from my sister and her saying that it was “relatable” encouraged me to share it here, too. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised she was right – relatable is exactly what I was hoping for, and relatable is what we need more of. While I was writing, I believed I was writing for the sole purpose of encouraging more people to join the project and contribute their stories. I see now that it was much more than that; as I typed it up earlier today, with a dog napping on my lap and a pot of green tea steaming in my face (ahh, the perks of working from home occasionally), my subconscious clearly had a lot of feels stewing inside of it, and consequently, a lot to say…

 

 

Despite what everyone’s social media accounts might have you believe, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. This time that we’re living in right now is the most unique in history; we’ve never been simultaneously more and less connected to each other before.

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With a tiny little computer we can carry around in our pockets, we can send a photo of our birthday celebrations to the family member on the other side of the world who can’t be there, and we can just as easily send anonymous abuse to a stranger who we’ve decided that we just don’t like. We can see what our best friend is doing while they travel around the world as they’re doing it, and at the same time get so wrapped up in what they’re doing that we ignore the friend we’re having a coffee with in real life. This constant connection truly is a double-edged sword.

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With being constantly connected and observed comes another issue; the pressure to portray constant perfection. We’re acutely aware that the whole world is watching us, because we’re watching everyone else as well. And the more we see perfectly edited and filtered images of other peoples’ lives, and their carefully worded (and re-worded) captions, the more inadequate we feel unless we can curate our lives in the same way.

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So we show our perfect new shoes that we wear out to eat our perfect brunch with our perfect partner that we gush about so that everyone knows how perfect things are. What we don’t show is the hours of nightshift work that went towards being able to afford those shoes. Or the anxiety attack over going out to brunch with an eating disorder. Or all the fights and hard times your relationship has survived to make it to that weekend brunch. We all work so damn hard to keep up the shiny veneer of exciting and extraordinary, for the fear that we will be irrelevant and left behind if we show how “ordinary” we really are.

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The irony is that the ordinary stories (the nightshifts, the eating disorders, the fights) are what truly connect us. They connect us so much more than the new shoes and fancy smoothie bowls. Human beings have an innate desire to be understood and accepted and acknowledged. When all we see is perfection, it’s no wonder we feel so misunderstood and inferior.

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So here we are. A little space where we can be raw and honest in a scarily “perfect” world. Let us “ordinary” people share our extraordinary stories, so they all of the other “ordinary” people out there will feel less alone. And let us realise how extraordinary we really are.

Are you ready to share your story?

Photo essay: We learn to bend so that we won’t break

 

We learn to bend so that we won’t break.  Those are our options.

A part of me wants to tell the world I have been hurt too many times to move ahead.
A part of me wants to justify how my pain has left me frozen, petrfied, and unable to let go.
A part of me is so afraid to look at what is hurting me that it would rather escape than face it.
A part of me us afraid to see because it knows that in seeing, I will be asked to let go. And that in letting go, I will be asked to be reborn. And that in being reborn, I will have to uncover who I truly am.

But another part of me knows in every ounce and inch of its being that I am serving no one,  not one single life by staying asleep.
A part of me is beckoning me to move up and out from all of the places of ungrowth, the dark rooms of stagnant air.
A part of me is being propelled out into this great wilderness, and asking to discover the power hidden within the creases of my skin, resting on the tips of my eyelashes, travelling in the veins that surge through me.

You are longing to be more alive.
You are longing to be fully present to your one, precious life.
You are not afraid.
You are ready, dear one, to be accountable, to be wholly responsible for your life.

 

If you can relate to any of those words, I’d really recommend taking 10 minutes out of your day to listen to Sarah Blondin’s full meditation right here from the Live Awake Project. As for the photos, they were all taken in Warburton last week, while I was there taking a little time away from it all, learning to bend 🙂

Photo essay: an Italian family tradition – tomato sauce making day

There’s actually not all that much I want to write this morning; I’d rather the photos do the talking. Last weekend heralded our family’s annual tomato sauce making day at my grandparents’ house, something I’ve been meaning to capture on film for a few years now. As you may have notices from my blogging habit, recording memories is important to me, and I wanted to share some of the pictures I took to give others a bit of an insight into a centuries old Italian tradition that continues in the backyards of countless emigrants in Australia today…

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Want to fail-proof your New Year’s Resolutions? Look to the moon.

So, it’s almost 2 weeks into January. I bet most of you set some resolutions, goals, aims, whatever you want to call them. I bet this isn’t the first year you’ve done it. And I bet some of you are already wavering on those lofty goals. That’s human nature – when we go all in and face a setback, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But it doesn’t have to be that way; I’ve found a way of setting my “resolutions” and goals that has meant that I’ve actually been achieving them, and it’s so much easier than I thought it’d be. Allow me to elaborate, because this might help you, too…

A little over a year ago, I came across this blog post written by the lovely Vanessa, and she instantly had my attention. She wrote beautifully about the meaning and importance of the cycles of the moon in her life, and it resonated with me incredibly strongly. After expressing interest in how she incorporated the moon phases in her life, Vanessa also kindly sent me an email, explaining a little more about how she lives by the moon. After a bit more reading of my own, I learned that as the moon goes through several phases while it orbits the earth, it is believed that each phase is a “good time” to do certain things or ask certain questions of yourself, starting on a new goal/dream/desire each new moon.

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It really hit me then – this was what I needed in my life. I’ve always been a goal setter, a list maker, a checker, someone who needs a target to aim for. I’m need my compass set in the directions of my dreams at all times, otherwise I’m totally lost. But it’s always been hard for me to know when to set aside to sit down and re-assess where I’m at – like most people, I tended not to do this until I was so lost and spun out of control, that 10 minutes of contemplation just wouldn’t cut it.

I’ve spent the last year living by the moon phases. And, unlike previous years, I’ve actually achieved a hell of a lot more than ever before; my typically unrealistic New Year’s resolutions hadn’t all fallen by the wayside a few weeks into 2016. By December 31st 2016, I had a lot to be proud of; physically, mentally, emotionally, materially, I’d made progress.

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There is a truckload of information on meanings and methods available online (just Google “moon phases”), so I won’t give you all of the opinions and options out there – instead, I just wanted to write about what’s working for me.

 

First, I like to write each phase of the moon into my diary, so it’s front of mind. This will obviously be different depending on where you live, but I find this calendar to be pretty helpful.

Then, when I open my diary on January 12th and see I’ve written in there that it’s a full moon night, I set aside a bit of time before I go to bed to sit quietly (maybe outside under the moon if the weather is working with me, or up in my book nook), light some candles or incense, and reflect.

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As I wrote before, it’s believed that specific moon phases align with specific situations and questions, and I did a lot of reading  about what was best to focus on in each phase. Again, there are a lot of different ideas out there, but I combined and condensed a few sources that made sense to me, and came up with the following list of questions; on each moon phase, I mull over the corresponding questions and write down anything I want to come back to…

NEW MOON
– a time of conception, new beginnings and starting new projects
what do you want to start? what are your goals? what do you desire?

 *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

CRESCENT MOON
– resolve is tested, time to grow and overcome fears
what do you fear? what do you need to guarantee the survival of your vision?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FIRST QUARTER MOON
– a time to decide who you are and where you intend to go, time to reach a major turning point but facing outer resistance
– set your intentions and create an action plan

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

GIBBOUS MOON
– a time of waiting, a period of adjustment as you adapt to reality and limitations, time to gain perspective and see where changes can be made
–  what isn’t working? how can it be fixed?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FULL MOON
– re-evaluate and come to a compromise between expectations and reality, any difficulties are learning opportunities whether you succeed or fail
– what difficulties have you encountered? what of your original goals have you manifested?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

DISSEMINATING MOON
– time for introspection and review, ask questions, share ideas, gain clarity, time to deal with the outcome whether you’ve achieved your goals or not
– review your original goal; are there any questions that need to be asked and answered? is there anything that no longer serves you that you can let go?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

THIRD QUARTER MOON
– do you enlarge, rethink or replace your original vision? pull things apart and see them from a broader point of view, search for meaning
– review your original goal – enlarge, rethink or review? have you let go of the things you needed to?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

BALSAMIC MOON
– time to stop striving and rest/retreat, grieve any losses and let things come to their natural end
– spend some time alone to reflect on the cycle, consider what is coming to an end, clean your physical space, rest

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And that’s the bare bones of it. If you’re really into it and astrology is your jam, you may want to create a more elaborate ritual. If you’re not really into the “hippy dippy” stuff, you may want to just use this more as a goal setting guide. But whichever way you want to look at it, I’ve found that being guided by the moon phases has made it so much easier to break down what I want and work out how to get it. It’s forced me to slow down, think things through, focus, ask the right questions of myself, and commit to my goals (after all, each moon cycle only lasts 4 weeks before you can “reset” your goals).