3 Simple Breathing Techniques for ‘Weathering the Storm’

A few days ago I wrote 5 Steps to BEing Calm. In it I emphasized the importance of practicing meditation as a method for stress reduction. Meditation is simply being still for a period of time while focusing on one’s breath. What is the point of that? Isn’t breathing kind of . . . normal?

What if I forget to breathe?

I remember a time my elderly father asked me, “Deb, what happens if a person forgets to breathe?” We both laughed at the silliness of the question and I teased him saying he needn’t worry because he would pass out and begin to breath again, if he forgot. As I think back on those days when Dad lived with me, he worried a lot. He worried about dying, about having his daughter care for him, about being a burden. Apparently, he even worried about breathing.

Breathing: It’s good for our health

Worry is something I’m familiar with. I often say I come from a long line of worriers. The thing about habitual worriers is we aren’t consciously aware of our breathing. We are breathing, of course, but we are not doing the best job of it. I am certain my dad would catch himself either holding his breath or taking shallow quick breaths, perhaps to the point of an anxiety attack, like so many others, including me. Which is probably why he came to me to ask the question about breathing.

So what’s the big deal about breathing? Aren’t we all doing it all the time? We are. However, it’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves if we start paying attention to things like our breath.

3 breathing techniques to ‘weather the storm’:

  1. Awareness: Pay attention to your breath throughout the day. Is your breathing generally shallow? Fast or slow? Of course this will depend on activity level. Becoming aware of how we breath in various circumstances is the very first step. Think about your breathing throughout the day.
  2. Deep Breathing Exercise: Sit down in a comfortable position (commit to 5 minutes). Take a deep breath in through the nose and release it through your mouth with a sigh. Inhale slowly, feeling the breath go in through the nostrils and follow it into your chest, belly, or deeper. Now slowly exhale through the nose, completely and fully, emptying your lungs. Repeat, slowly inhaling deeper, if possible, pause, then exhale slowly and deeply. Pause briefly before inhaling again. Now breath normally, however it feels natural to you. How do you feel? Tense? Nervous? Calm? Silly? There’s no right answer, this is about how you being aware of how you feel.
  3. Counting Breath Exercise: Find a comfortable place to sit quietly (commit to 5 minutes). Close your eyes if you wish. Take a deep breath in through the nose and release it with an open mouth audible sigh. Now do it again. Close your eyes and breathe normally – inhale, exhale, however it feels natural to you for a few breaths. gradually inhale through the nose deeper, feel the breath entering the nostrils, flowing into the throat and deeper, into your belly if that feels comfortable. Exhale slowly and purposely through the nose. Next inhale while counting 1, 2, 3, pause. Exhale for a count of 3. Continue this for five or six additional breaths. Then allow yourself to breath normally and evaluate how you feel.

These techniques are simple and easy. While breathing is something we all do all the time, without thinking, I believe if we put some thought and focus into practicing and paying attention, it can help us to weather any storm life deals us.

May we all breathe easier – with practice.

Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie

Do you love chicken pot pie like I do? It’s not that hard to make from scratch. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Dutch oven, it can be done in any oven safe pot, you’ll just have to use option #2 to cook your crust. And don’t worry if you are not a pie crust maker, also like me. I’ve gotcha covered. PS: It’s got a quarter cup of heavy cream – not a lot in a recipe this size, but feel free to modify with whole milk instead (I’m sure reduced fat milk would also work).

Dutch Oven Pot Pie (Print Recipe)

Note: This recipe calls for frozen puff pastry. I could not find it in my local grocery store so I substituted a rolled fresh pie crust from the refrigerator section, near the refrigerator biscuits. I provide both options below.

1 (9 ½ by 9 inch) sheet puff pastry, thawed OR **store bought pie crust (see note below)

4 tablespoons butter

3 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and cut into ½ inch pieces, washed thoroughly

4 carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces

Salt and pepper

½ cup all-purpose flour

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 – 2 teaspoons tomato paste

3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 bay leaves

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 egg lightly beaten

1 pound asparagus, cut on bias into 1 inch lengths or broccoli as preferred

1 cup of riced cauliflower (optional)

1 cup frozen baby peas

Hot sauce

**Note for Option 2 Ready-made Pie Crust:

Pie crust for pot pie

I used rolled fresh pie dough from the refrigerated section of grocery store. The one I found had no hydrogenated fats and was made from real ingredients – if you prefer to whip up your own favorite pie crust that would work great too. **My cast iron Dutch oven lid was not the right setup for what this recipe called for, so as an alternative, I simply placed my pie dough into a glass pie plate, poked a few holes in it with a fork and baked it alongside my Dutch oven for about 15 minutes.

Instructions for Puff Pastry:

Cut sheet of parchment paper to match outline of Dutch oven lid and place on flat surface. Roll puff pastry sheet into 15 by 11 inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. With either a pizza cutter or knife, cut pastry widthwise into 10 strips 1 ½ inches wide.

Space half the strips evenly across the parchment circle. To weave strips: Fold back every other strip almost completely. Lay additional strips in opposite direction, repeat with remaining strips to create lattice pattern. Or layer the strips however you like – get creative! Trim edges around circle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare filling.


Adjust oven rack to accommodate your Dutch oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On top of stove, melt butter in Dutch oven. Add leeks, carrots, and about a half teaspoonful of salt and cook for approximately 5 minutes.

Pot Pie Veggies

Stir in flour, garlic, and tomato paste.

Slowly stir in broth while stirring to smooth out lumps. Stir in cream, soy sauce, and bay leaves. Stir in raw chicken (cut into 1 inch pieces), return to simmer, turn off heat.

For Option 1 Puff Pastry Crust:

Cover Dutch oven with inverted lid and place parchment paper with pastry on lid. Brush with egg and sprinkle with salt.

Transfer pot to oven and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes, rotating pot halfway through baking.

Remove pot from oven. Transfer parchment with pastry to wire rack. Remove lid and discard bay leaves. Stir your desired vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) into filling and return to oven for 5 minutes. Stir in frozen peas right before serving.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Set pastry on top of filling and serve with hot sauce to taste.

For Option 2 Pie Crust:

Chicken pot pie

Unroll pie crust and place in glass pie dish, brush with egg, sprinkle with salt, and bake alongside filling for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove and cut wedges using a knife or pizza cutter. Set wedges on top of filling in serving bowls. Enjoy!

Print Recipe

Indian Summer: a Christmas Letter

The calendar tells me it is indeed December, even though my brain cannot comprehend how fast the year has gone. We are content with the warmish temperatures lately – highs in the 40s – in our corner of Michigan. It’s like an Indian summer around here, finally. By the way, I discovered Indian summer has two meanings:

  1. a period of unusually dry, warm weather occurring in late autumn.
  2. a period of happiness or success occurring late in life.

As I write this we are mere minutes away from waving good-bye to autumn and welcoming (with mostly open arms) the official start of winter. The second definition of Indian summer reminds me that periods of happiness and success are something to be cherished. The trick is what we do with those moments in between.

We are having a lot of fun living this farm adventure. I’ve taken to sharing pictures of our animals on social media because they’re funny creatures – all of them. There’s a lot we can learn from watching animal behavior, whether in nature or in our back yards. The way they interact with each other and with us can be comical and it can be frightening too.

That ‘pecking order’ thing – it’s real, and not just with chickens. Rusty, the cat, is in charge of the other cats. Dixie, (our Black Beauty) is the boss of Zima. Lily, the lamb, is mostly in charge of her three siblings. While Rika, the wonder dog, is the boss of all the animals except the young rooster (who is currently undergoing ‘training’ to become a gentlemen, or else). It’s fascinating how they figure out their place in the flock or herd and they never worry about tomorrow. Animals know how to live in the moment.

To the casual observer it may appear to be complete peace on earth over here, but we know better – there is conflict and chaos all around us. You probably know what I mean.

Caring for livestock brings us silly moments of happiness and occasional feelings of success. I’ll take it.  When all are fed and watered, we do feel successful. But a kink in the hose or an unexpected rooster attack can ruin the day if we let it. Which means we must grab hold of, and be thankful for, all those little Indian summer moments. Those moments in between though, we should really practice a little gratitude for them too. Without them we might take for granted the lovely Indian summer moments.

It’s nice when the grandkids visit because they all want to help with chores. Although Owen is 12 and more interested in driving the Kawasaki Mule than gathering eggs. Olivia is 9 and leaps, pirouettes, and splits her way from point A to point B. Morgan is also 9 and does back-bends, and flip-overs across the yard, while dribbling a basketball. Ella is 6 and is happy as can be to kick a soccer ball everywhere she goes. And Charlotte is 2 and . . . well, she tries ALL the above with gusto (except for the driving part, of course).

Come to think of it they don’t really help that much with chores on their visits, but those visits are definitely part of our Indian summer moments.

May all your moments be filled with love and joy and gratitude.