Yoga Week

My friend started her own happiness project recently and one of her goals for January was to do yoga each night. She started doing the Yoga Journal podcast series, these ~20 minute yoga sessions online. I found it on iTunes, just by searching for yogajournal podcast, but you can also follow the link in the previous sentence to Yoga Practice Videos between 16-35 minutes. They are so awesome because you focus on one part of your body, whether it be hips, or shoulders, or core, and just spend 20 minutes working on it. It is over before you even notice. I started doing them at night in order to calm down from the hectic day. It seems so simple to do something for 20 minutes. Previously, I was trying to do this hard-core 90 minute yoga and only succeeding at doing it like once a month because it feels like such a huge commitment of time. We’ll see if I can stick with 20 minutes a couple of times per week. If you are looking to try out yoga, it’s a great guided tour for beginners, or an update for more experienced yogis. Enjoy!

P.S. My mom started doing yoga recently, as in multiple times a week at a studio, and I could not be more proud of her. You rock, mama!

Meditation – tricks and tips for the world weary

contorted lady

French Riviera International Village in Cannes, France

I’ve started paying more attention to being mindful. I’m not sure why or where this started, but I’m intrigued, and it doesn’t come naturally. I’m a highly motivated, type-A, anxious type of person. I like being busy, I know that sounds crazy to some people, but it is just what I feel inside. Watching my oldest on a daily basis makes me realize that she must feel the same way. This trait we share serves us very well, we usually set our mind to do something and achieve it. I’ve done almost everything I’ve ever set my mind to do, and I imagine my kid will be the same way. It is awesome, I know she will be successful in whatever she decides to do. The drawback to this trait, is that we both have a hard time slowing down, and smelling the roses, and relaxing, living in the moment. Sometimes this can cause anxiety, and trust me, it is not fun, at all. Your heart starts racing, which makes you feel sick, you feel a bit panicky, sometimes you can’t sleep. I want to make a change in my life, and also help my kid have the necessary tools to handle any situation she faces in her future. All we can do is give them the tools. So I decided to interview my good friend, Gwen Williamson. She is a brilliant lawyer in Washington D.C., and has been working on meditation and yoga for over 3 years now. She has completely turned her world around using these techniques, and I wanted to know how she did it, and hopefully teach myself a few tips and tricks along the way.

Question: Tell me about your specific version of meditation – how long do you meditate, how does it work?
Answer: I don’t do a lot of sitting with my legs crossed meditating like the hare krishnas!  But there are several ways that I engage meditation on a regular basis:
  1. The first is through traditional vinyasa yoga.  At the beginning and end of every yoga class there is a meditative time in which you close your eyes, center yourself in the present and in your body, with the ground beneath supporting you fully, breathe deeply (in through the nose out through the mouth, and set an intention for your practice.  The breathing should be slow and deep, and longer on the exhale.  Like 4 counts in and 8 counts out.  This makes it so that the entire yoga practice is a kind of meditation, where your mind is clear and focused only on the immediate present and the link of your breath and thoughts to the movement of your body.
  2. There are other special types of yoga that are not the typical asanas (poses) and workout.
    • Yoga nidra, for example, is a restorative yoga practice where you curl up in various comfy poses with blankets and bolsters and close your eyes while the instructor guides you to contemplative/meditative trance.  It’s EXTREMELY relaxing.
    • Bhakti yoga is another trance-like meditative state that is really cool – it is musical and a nice little meditative experience.  It’s a call and response chanting kind of thing, and you can do it in a class with actual musicians or just have a cd on while you’re working on something else – you’ll be amazed how the rhythm builds and how the almost solemn but also invigorating notes calm you down and put you in a more present, less anxious state.
    • Another cool yoga class is a chakra breathing workshop – basically for 45 minutes you stand up and bounce with your eyes closed while breathing in time with this music that gets increasingly faster until you are breathing very fast, then the music/breath cycles back down to slow and you build back up again in speed.  It is amazing….as the speed builds you try to focus on the various chakras and what they are telling you, what they have given to you, what they might need you to do for them.  It’s really very awesome and kind of life changing.
  3. Another meditation I use is called Teflon Mind, and it’s kind of indistinguishable from general mindfulness, but it takes effort, as all meditation does, so I’ll include it here.  Think of your mind like a teflon coated pan.  When you put meat or vegetables or whatever in a teflon coated pan, they slide around, slip and slide right off.  Nothing sticks, that’s the whole point.  When practicing Teflon Mind, try to think of your mind like the surface of a teflon coated pan.  Ideas, thoughts, feelings (ANXIETY), they come into the pan just like the meat and vegetables.  But the anxious ideas, thoughts, and feelings don’t have to stick anymore than the food does.  Let them pass through. I try very heard to notice worrisome thoughts for just what they are:  worrisome thoughts and nothing else.  And to let them pass through my mind.  Ok worrisome thought, I see you, I hear you, I acknowledge that you exist, now on and out with you, you have no power over me!
  4. Emergency fixes:  This last method probably works the best for me, and this is to center yourself fully in the present by breathing deeply and then looking around and naming specifically 5 things you can see, 5 things you can hear, and 5 things you can physically feel.  Then do 4 of each, 3 of each, 2 of each, and then 1 of each.  After this I sometimes honestly cannot remember what it was I was so worried about.
wellnessretreat

Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ.

Question: Where did you learn how to meditate, or did you teach yourself? Where would you send newbies to learn?

Answer: I learned mostly from my yoga studio and from a therapist.  Most yoga studios have some sort of basic meditation, guided meditation, or intro to meditation class.  That’s what I would recommend, at least at first.  It’s hard to do by yourself, especially if you’ve never had a guided meditation.
Question: What was the result of meditation for you? Do you feel better doing it, sleep better, become more mindful? How does this effect anxiety levels?
Answer: Meditation definitely helps with mindfulness, and yes I always feel better after doing it, whether for 30 seconds or 45 minutes.  I think that the more regularly you do it, the more chance it has of reducing chronically high anxiety levels, but for me anyway I am always pretty chill for a good day or two after any intensive meditative practice such as yoga nidra or a chakra breathing workshop.  What meditation and mindfulness together help you do, help me do anyway, is recognize and acknowledge what you are feeling/thinking and accept that and be kind to that part of yourself and then move on from it as opposed to kind of slugging along feeling like crap and not really knowing why.
treepose

Tree pose in Belgian crop circle

Question: Tell me the pros and cons of doing meditation.

Answer: I don’t think there really are any cons.  People often feel like they aren’t doing it right, that they don’t get it or something.  And that could be a bad thing because as far as I understand, it is a very difference experience for everyone and there is no one right or wrong way to do it.  It takes a lot of practice just like anything else and no one should expect to be sitting there like Buddha right away, if ever.
Question: What do you personally do to stay healthy? I would love to hear about exercise here, too.
Answer: I mostly do yoga, although I have been wanting to try out zumba and this other workout that is set to Indian music, called doonya.  I just can’t run anymore, so old!  But I walk everywhere I go, which is what allows me to have a chocolate chip cookie here and there. 🙂  Mostly I eat healthily – you know, lots of fruit vegetables, not a whole lot of meat, no cheese really, plenty of protein from nuts and yogurt, lots of fiber and lots and lots of water.
Thank you, Gwen, for sharing your journey and wealth of knowledge about yoga with me and the readers here at Foodie Mama. I hope to try several of these this year. I’m still working on me!

Delicious Navels

navelorange

Delicious winter find

I discovered that navel oranges are delicious right now. I mean to say, go to the store and buy some today and eat one immediately. I’m not sure what it is about the middle of winter that makes oranges taste so good, but I’ll have two. Plus, they are a whole food, so bonus! They are so juicy and orange-like. Winter time – get some navel oranges. I don’t know why I associate oranges with summer, but I’m never happy with them in the summer.

A new foodie friend and I went for a killer 5 mile run yesterday. It was killer mostly because I was pushing both of my kids in the double joggy stroller, plus the hills. If you think you are a strong runner, grab a double joggy and add 50 pounds to it and see how strong you are. I’m sure it would break most people. I like to call myself hard-core, even if sometimes I have to walk up the hills. But yesterday, I did not walk, and was barely breathing up the hills, but I did it. This chick was fast, and I’m nothing if not competitive. It really is ridiculous when I’m competitive, random Tuesday run – competitive, race day – depends. Anyway, it felt so very fantastic last night to be post-run, basking in the glow of physical tiredness. I haven’t pushed my body like that in a long time and it reminded me that I need to do it more often. Push yourself today, go for a long walk, or swim, bike, or run if that is what you are interested in. Your body will thank you.

Accidental stock

I needed to cook some chicken today for a Thai recipe so I decided to try something new, boiling chicken. Allrecipes.com has a Boiled Chicken recipe with very few ingredients, mainly water, vegetables, and spices. SCORE! I love when I want to make something and I actually end up having all the ingredients on hand. It’s like the stars align, okay not really that intense. Anyway, I started cooking and when the chicken was done, I pulled it out of the water, and I had stock. It was so easy. The stock is in my freezer right now in ice-cube trays, and I’ll be transferring them to a plastic freezer bag in the morning. I can just pull out the 1 ounce stock cubes whenever I’m making something that calls for stock. How amazing to have my own homemade stock on hand, with no preservatives, or fillers. I’m so proud!

Making your own stock is a real money saver, if you have the time, since the basic recipe is chicken, water, spices and veggies. I added some minced garlic and sauteed the veggies in oil before adding the chicken and water. Spices were salt, pepper, rosemary, and oregano. And bonus –  I used some celery, onion, and carrots that needed to be used or composted today. A smart cookie/good friend recommended saving celery and carrot ends when you chop up veggies, as well as any leftover fresh herbs you don’t need, and freeze them for the next time you make stock. Good luck if you decide to make your own, it is so simple and worth it, just do it, right now, go do it.

Rib Rub Spices

ribrub

Recycled glass container stores delicious rub

One of my good friends shared a country-style pork rib recipe a couple of years ago. The meat ends up really tender and delicious, mostly because you cook it so long, but also because you put a rub on it at the beginning. The ribs are so good, you will want to slap your mama! (I don’t know where that phrase comes from but it always makes me laugh.)

I use this rub on every single bit of pork that makes its way through my kitchen. We had a cookout recently and my husband used all of the rub on a couple of Boston Butts that he grilled for hours. The meat was ridiculously good, and my rub was all gone. So I had to make some more today, and realized you guys might be interested in having this on hand.  In the picture to the right I halved the recipe and used a recycled jelly jar to store the rub. I love how the mixture layered in the jar, and its so easy to shake out this way, just like the fancy spice bottles! I’m a nerd, I know.

Recipe:
4 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tbsp cayenne
2 1/2 tbsp black pepper
3 tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp salt
1 1/4 tbsp oregano
1 1/4 tbsp thyme

Enjoy! Oh, and if you have kids, you might want to reduce the cayenne, it is quite spicy.

Duped!

duped berries

Duped by strawberries

Dangit! I found these frozen strawberries at the local grocery store and was excited. For some reason washing berries and chopping them up feels like a lot of work. I know, it really takes less than a minute. But you can just scoop these out and serve in oatmeal, yogurt, or on their own. We decided that afternoon snack today was going to be strawberries with greek yogurt and then added some honey on top. Boy were the kids and I happy campers! It tasted like eating ice cream, and it was healthy, or so I thought. Turns out these strawberries have 35 g of sugar per serving. 35 grams! The American Heart Association recommends, “Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. (In order to accommodate all the nutritional requirements for this age group, there are fewer calories available for discretionary allowances like sugar.)” 3 teaspoons comes out to about 15 grams of sugar. So my oldest was having more than double her daily recommended intake of sugar at snack today. I’m so ashamed. I was duped, because I didn’t read the label. Rookie mistake.

Here is the part where I give a bunch of excuses: See, I went shopping with both kids, and the littlest is completely hit or miss on shopping trips. Sometimes she loses it and I have to manage pushing a cart, and carrying a 20 pounder. The day I shopped for these berries was one of those days. Lots of screaming, and the berry purchase was at the end of the trip when I was just thankful to have almost made it out alive. Anyway, lesson learned, READ LABELS!!!

Side note: The organic greek yogurt is divine though, as is the local-ish honey. Just have to wash and chop my own berries next time, or buy the frozen ones without sugar.

Composting – back at it

I recently started composting again. I think it had been at least a year and a half since I last composted. I’ve been meaning to get back into it, feeling guilty about my laziness, and finally bit the bullet last week. You see, I had a baby a little over  a year ago, and no matter what you think you know about kids, and raising kids, and making time, nothing prepares you for how busy you are when you have multiple children. It is like the work triples overnight. So, I decided to feed and bathe my kids, and hug them instead of composting.

It really doesn’t take that long to manage composting, you will need to devote time to where the compost will be dumped, but managing it doesn’t take long at all. Here is a link to the Composting 101 website I found that helped me set up our composting system. My version of composting is keeping the scraps from cutting up fruit and vegetables, as well as egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels and apple cores, and putting them in a container under the sink. When the container fills up, I take the container to a spot in our backyard that we sectioned off using chicken wire, and dump the scraps out. I take some organic materials from our yard, mostly leaves that are decomposing, and put those on top of the rotting food, mix it up a bit, and I’m making compost! It really is pretty cool for several reasons:

  1. You aren’t filling up the local landfill with your food scraps. A lot of stuff, even food, won’t disintegrate in landfills because the trash and dirt are packed so tightly that air can’t get in to help things break down. 
  2. You aren’t filling up your trash can with food, so you are saving money by using less trash bags.
  3. You don’t have to buy gardening soil, you can make your own super organic brand and save more money.
  4. You can teach your kids about conservation and help them think about the consequences of their actions.

I was intimidated, but have been really pleased with how simple composting is. I haven’t taken the next step to use the organic soil in a garden, but I’m not a gardener, at least not yet.