Friday, October 25, 2013

Free Hugs--Pass it on!

My son came home from school yesterday and shared this video with me. His language arts teacher decided to show this to her class. This makes me so glad that teachers are going beyond the text and actually connecting to their students.  Take a look, and please tell me what you think. Your comments will be your hug to me. Here's mine to you!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Present to Myself

On my 50th birthday, I'm going to give myself a gift: a yoga retreat. For a couple of years I have had fantasies of going on a yoga retreat all by myself. It's a fantasy that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

While I love my alone time, I do not like being alone for extended periods; but if I am to be alone, home is where I want it to be. My sister sends me a plane ticket every year to visit her in Georgia--a place I love to visit, but if I'm to be honest with myself, fills me with longing for home. My home is my favorite place on Earth. The older I become, the harder it is for me to want to travel.

So why do I want to do this? I need to grow and move through my fears. I am not expecting that I will resolve these issues, but rather understand them better. Yoga has always been a safe place to explore my mind and body without judging.

Starting in January, I will be saving money so that when the time comes, I can pay for it outright. I've had my eye on a few retreats: California and New York retreats look enticing, but I think I'd rather stay within driving distance from my home. I have time, so no doubt I will choose the retreat that fits my needs at that time. I truly am looking forward to this. Namaste.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Starting to Emerge into Youthful Yogini

This has been a year of many trials and tribulations, but also many wonderful gifts. As it so happens, 13 is my lucky number, and it does not surprise me that the changes being made have happened in this year.
For years I have been struggling to find balance with my family, in my work, play, gardening, alone-time, theater (also being a board member to the theater group that I'm a part of). To start, I had to give up a part in a summer play, because the balance in my family life was way off kilter. That, in itself, was a wise decision. The growth my family and I have made has been a blessing, though the journey has not been an easy one. But the pressures we've endured have certainly made us a stronger, tightly-knit family. Here are the lessons I have learned to date:

  • Fake it til you make it, and act as if
  • I do not control my destiny...I only play my part
  • I do the next right thing without being attached to the outcome
  • I always left my doors unlocked to show to myself that I trusted the universe to keep me safe. Now I am safe, so I will lock my doors.
  • My higher power (inner guide, subconscious mind, raw intellect, God, whatever you may call it, I just choose to call it my higher power) had to wear me out so that I could see what was right in front of me.
  • I need Mrs. Biddlebox. Great children's book. Check it out.
  • I finally have stopped caring what people think of me (for the most part anyway).
  • I have allowed change (death of certain ways of life) in my life and the fear does not control me as it did before.
  • I've learned how to stop seeking permission to be happy.
  • And PLAY! My kids and I have been having so much fun. My husband just smiles and occasionally shakes his head. Jeff, my love, my life, my partner...that's what I've finally rediscovered.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

For years I have been making stuffed bell peppers for dinner. I never use a recipe, but rather throw ingredients in as my mood dictates. But this evening, Jeff really liked the peppers more than any I've ever made before, so I thought I'd put it down here, lest I forget!

***So this morning, my youngest son and I clipped some Thai basil leaves and large-leaf basil leaves off my plants (he calls these plants 'breath fresheners' because he plucks leaves off periodically and chews on them.) We cut them and placed them in a bowl (about 1/3 cup leaves) and added about 1/4 cup of pure olive oil. We covered them and let them sit all day. Now for the recipe:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
4 bell peppers (assorted colors) halved and steamed until tender, but not overdone. 
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
***basil leaves soaked in pure olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (make sure they are gluten free)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups instant rice
scant teaspoon of each: marjoram, rosemary, thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
few dashes of tobasco sauce 
shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350◦. Strain the basil leaves from the olive oil and preheat the oil in a skillet. (Reserve the basil.) Saute the onions for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini and saute for a minute more. Then add the minced garlic and the basil leaves. Heat briefly--no more than 30 seconds. 

Remove contents of skillet to a bowl and then brown the ground meat. 

In the meantime, half and steam peppers. 

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cheddar cheese and peppers, and cook covered over medium heat until all the water is absorbed by the rice. You may need to add more rice if there is still water remaining. 

Place peppers hollow side up and fill with meat/rice mixture. Top with shredded cheddar just for taste. Do not add more than a tablespoon to each, otherwise the flavor and texture will not be ideal.

Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

I had taken a standard banana bread recipe and converted it to gluten free and added my own twist. It turned out fabulous! Here's the recipe:

2 cups of Carol Kicinski's flour recipe***
1 cup of gluten-free rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
3-4 medium-sized ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce (be brave: try the chunky kind!)
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, then add the remaining ingredients. Mix together the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and mix until blended. Do not over mix.

Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray. Mix a tablespoon of sugar and a scant teaspoon of cinnamon together. Sprinkle on the prepared pans. Divide mixture between two loaf pans, or if you want a large loaf, you can use one--but you'll need to increase the time to bake. (You may need to cover the bread with foil if you need to increase the time so as not to burn the loaf.)

Bake at 350º for 45-55 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center of the loaves. If it comes out clean it is done. Cool at least 10 minutes. Slowly remove the loaves and transfer to wire rack to cool. 

Tastes excellent toasted!

***Carol Kicinski's flour recipe
4 1/2 cups white rice flour
1 1/2 cups sweet glutinous rice flour (can find in the Asian section of grocery stores)
2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
1 cup tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour)
4 teaspoons xanthan gum

Friday, June 28, 2013

One Year Gluten Free

It was one year that I went gluten free at the beginning of June 2012. I would say that the biggest change in doing so is that I crave really healthy foods. I used to be gassy, have stomach cramps all the time, and now I rarely experience those symptoms. Most of the time my joints are feeling better, though I do have to say, this terrible weather we have been having with those vicious storms have not helped in that area at all. So I muscle through those bad days as best I can.

I also find that I am very full after eating foods that are gluten free. I remember eating wheat bread, donuts, muffins, etc...and feeling hungry about two hours later. That does not happen any more. I think the different flours that I use are more nutritious and satisfying than wheat and do not create the addiction that wheat products can. See my post on Gluten Free for 7 days  to read about that.

I do not miss anything with gluten, because I have found comparable to even better substitutes for my favorite foods. Here are some of the foods & ingredients I really like that I keep on hand always:

  • This cookbook Simply...Gluten-free Desserts by Carol Kicinski has a great flour recipe that can be used cup-for-cup with any dessert recipe that calls for wheat flour.
  • Pacific organic condensed soups
  • Swanson's Chicken Broth or other broth soups. Check the labels. Buying these soups in the GF section is way over priced. Just be sure to check the labels.
  • Kinnickinnick Foods are terrific. I use their pizza crusts and they are fabulous. It takes a bit of experimenting with different sauces and toppings, but it's worth the trouble.
  • Glenny's Snacks has great go-to snacks. I love their breakfast bars.
  • Glutino has good breakfast bars and breads, but I think Kinnickinnick has the best breads, but I usually choose to bake my own.
  • I use Bob's Red Mill flours when baking bread. The sweet glutinous rice flour (gluten free) is found in the Asian section of most stores, not the gluten free section for some reason.
I cannot say enough about going gluten free. My stomach troubles have gone, my joints feel mostly better, and I eat much more healthy and mindfully than I did before (and I already ate healthy!) If you have any wow recipes or products you've found, please comment. I love to find new foods and I love to experiment. For all the Americans reading this blog, Happy 4th of July! Namaste.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breath Work

A dear friend of mine made a comment today about a link I had posted on Facebook: Yogic Breathing with Seane Corn. I find the breath to be amazing, as I had written in The Subtleties of the Breath. She had stated that she didn't want to do yoga until she lost her weight. She said, "When I lose most of my weight I'm diving into simply wasn't designed for fat people."

My response to her was that yoga is available to everyone. It is all about breath and awareness. When we break down our misconceptions about yoga, it becomes accessible to everyone. I remember when I first started getting The Yoga Journal, and one of the first covers I saw was of a woman doing the crow pose.This pose seemed completely unreachable to me. But years later, as I broke down the pose into its smallest of parts, my mind was able to envision how it was supposed to look. Once I got the image and the "feel" of what it would take to do that posture, it began to become more attainable. I am in no way a crow pose expert, far from it, but when I fly in that pose, if I am not mindful of my breath and aware of where my body is in space, I will do a face plant for sure.

So to put a finer point on it, yoga is breath and awareness of our bodies and minds in space and time. Period. The trouble is, remembering that. Namaste.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Changes & Baby Steps

So yesterday, I wrote after a three month hiatus, and here I am wanting to write more. I was so afraid that if I showed the public my sad, depressed, not-so-enlightened, definitely-not-youthful-yogini side that I would....I would....hmmmmm....not sure what I thought. Crumble to a million pieces? Ha! There's my own twelve-year-old self saying, "Be careful! Don't go there! What will they all think?"

When I swirl thoughts around in my head, playing out the 100th possible outcome, then throw my hands up in the air and say, "Oh, forget it!", then I know that I have knocked myself down again.

I started this blog to get to know myself better. I wanted to grow. But what I didn't prepare myself for was the pain. Remember those growing pains when we were kids? I do! They sucked! My limbs were on fire, my hips hurt, but I don't remember the pains stopping me in my tracks. My growing pains for the last few months have done just that: STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS!

I said to my sister during a phone conversation about a month ago: I guess I have to wade through this pain, because hiding from it is doing no good. Now I finally think those words are starting to stick. I will be making myself a promise--I'm not sure I'll keep this one, but I will try--write, write, write! It feels so good to get all my thoughts out there, even if I'm not detailing what going on in the Whelan household at the moment. Actually, we Whelans are not unique. Our problems can be seen in any fiction/non-fiction book about marriage, relationships, children, etc...and in that there is comfort.

When we were first married and up till a year or so ago, Jeff and I promised we never be like our parents. We'd do better. We wouldn't fight about the age-old topics. But alas! It has happened: We've turned into our parents. UGH! And to prove this point, I'm adding a little anecdote:

On February 23 of this year, I forgot my parents 50th anniversary. You can't imagine how that made me feel (or maybe you can) when on February 24 I open an email my mom had sent me. In the subject line read: Happy Anniversary, and below was a picture of herself and my dad at their favorite restaurant enjoying their anniversary. Oh crap! So of course when I call my mom, and my dad fields the call (which he never does) I know I'm in deep dodo. My mom was so terribly disappointed. Of course I cried and then spilled my guts about what was going on in our household. And as my mom is trying to calm me down (she can't understand my sorry sobbing ass) I hear my dad in the background say loudly: "What's the worse that can happen? They turned into us!" Of course that broke the tension and I laughed/sobbed the rest of the conversation. And of course we took them out to dinner to celebrate a belated anniversary.

So what's the point of this blog post? I don't know. I just know that I'm growing. It hurts, but I'm growing. My yoga practice is still good, not excellent, but good. And maybe someday I'll blog about yoga again. Namaste.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

To Date

It has been quite a while since I've posted...things have been hectic to say the least in the Whelan household. I've decided not to blog because I felt that I had nothing inspirational to offer. And maybe I don't, but I did learn something about myself today: Acceptance.

I asked my therapist if he felt I were spiraling out of control. He took a very measured amount of time answering my question, but in the end, he said, "You are growing." Hmmm? Really?

The pain (emotional) that I have been feeling has been overwhelming. For years I stuffed every negative thought or feeling and it ended up as pockets of pain in my body (samskaras) which I've mentioned before in my post The Price of Perfection. I've always tried to make others around me happy, and in the process I have neglected my own needs.

Unfortunately for me, and those around me, when I exploded emotionally, I started doing for myself, however, in not so healthy ways. I have a few near misses in my life recently and it has brought me face to face with the rest of my life. This moment of clarity (in and out of the therapist's office) has been so illuminating: I had to go through every painful (and hell, I mean painful) moment to get to where I am right now.

But don't take this post as "Hey, look at me! I'm out of the woods!" Hardly. I have a lot of work to do ahead, but I trust that I am guided by my higher power who knows just where I need to be in any given time. I would ask, politely please, "Lighten up a bit on me, kay? Ahem...that was directed at me...not God.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Exercises to Combat Overuse of Muscles

OK, so I was out of commission for 3-4 weeks this past month due to an over zealous ego of mine and a body that wasn't willing to cooperate as far as I thought it should. I was in my wonderful Power Yoga class feeling ever-so limber and strong, and I decided to fly a bit higher in crow pose than I ever had before. Well my lower back and shoulders knocked my ego into submission. So after an MRI, a couple of therapeutic rounds of an anti-inflammatory, physical therapy, and daily use of a posture shirt I'm on the road to recovery.

It amazes me that every time I experience trauma (of any kind actually) I find such gifts in the aftermath. For example, the posture shirt I've been wearing is very comfortable, I wish they sold them in cute styles that I could wear by themselves and not under my regular clothing. (If any of you happen to know of some brand that does have snazzy styles, I'd love to hear from you.) And my shoulders are feeling much stronger and more relaxed. But what I think I like most of all is this Foam Roller I got from my physical therapist. My muscles feel like they have lengthened as a result, and in turn have been far more agreeable to me!

So in my effort to take my exercise to new levels, I've overdone it yet again. But this has also been a reminder to listen more closely to my body and be respectful of it and its limitations. Namaste.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Turmeric Milk

I came across a recipe for turmeric milk that I just had to try. Seems that turmeric is a kind of miracle herb that works on treating the immune system by decreasing inflammation. The benefits, the blog post states, go well beyond just treating inflammation. Slowing down the progression of Alzheimer's Disease? Really? Well I  was completely in love with the taste, though I couldn't get Jeff to try it. I said it tastes like a mild curry sauce that we get at our local Thai food restaurant. He prefers to keep that flavor with the Thai dishes we love, not to drink. OK, I get it. But, I think I'll be having this drink quite often. Click on 'turmeric milk' to take you to the blog called Frugally Sustainable. Let me know if you try it. Tell me what you think!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Power Yoga

I just returned today from a fabulous yoga class: Power Yoga at my local YMCA. The beautifully fit instructor, Liz, had us set up poolside to do our yoga practice. To be honest, I grumbled inside when I heard that we were going to be on the pool deck. I've never been one to introduce extra heat to my yoga practice, and I actually felt like fate was working against me (or working to my benefit, as I found out later).

We started with a quiet, grounding mountain pose, then very slowly started building heat in our bodies by doing a number of sun salutations. My muscles perked up and took notice! She then took us through a more fluid, vinyasa style yoga practice. About a third of the way through the class, I was sweating--sweating even more than when I attend my Zumba class! Maybe these hot yoga teachers are on to something! (I'm still reserving judgment, however!) I was amazed at her gentle, but focused approach. She gave quiet encouragement, and beautifully re-positioned students to get the most out of the pose.

Toward the end of class, she said something when we were in a reclining twist that just hit me right between the eyes! "We are as young as our movable spines. Take care of your backs." And yes, isn't that the crux of all yoga practices? Being mindful of our bodies (especially our spines and backs) so that we can keep them malleable in order to reduce injury.

I was amazed at how good I felt after the rejuvenating practice, especially since this weekend my body decided to have another flare up. No fun, and Jeff even questioned my decision to go to yoga. But honestly, I believe the moving and strengthening got to the center of my muscles and just made them respond lovingly. I will definitely be adding this class to my exercise repertoire! Namaste.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gluten-Free Bread Using Bread Maker

I realized that I have been making many changes to my bread recipe, but hadn't shared the changes. This is a recipe that I use playing with different ingredients depending on my mood. The ingredients that I've changed are all in the recipe separated by or, so have fun experimenting! If you have tried this recipe and have found little tricks that work better for you, please let me know! Thanks a bunch! Enjoy!

Flour Mix
1 cup brown rice or sorghum flour
½ cup teff flour
½ cup garbanzo bean flour or chia seed flour or GF oatmeal
2/3 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup potato starch or corn starch
1tablespoon xanthum gum
Scant T sugar
¾ tsp baking soda

Other Ingredients
4 oz. sour dough starter (substitute flour with gluten free flour)
2 XL eggs or 3 small
10.5 oz lukewarm tap water
1.9 oz. vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey or molasses (I prefer the molasses)
¾ scant tsp. apple cider vinegar
Scant 1/8 tsp dry instant yeast
1 ½ tsp salt (last ingredient to be added)

Putting it all together
  •  Using a standing mixer with whisk attachment, at a medium/low setting beat the starter with water, eggs, oil, vinegar, and yeast.
  • Add flour mixture and beat for 2 min. Add salt beat 1 more min.
  • Put in bread machine pan and hit start. 
  • A half hour before the bread is done, preheat the oven to 375º. Put a pan on the lowest shelf of the oven.
  • When the bread is done, immediately remove the bread and place in the preheated oven directly on the rack.
  •  Add a handful of ice cubes or a cup of cold water to the tray and bake for 15 minutes. This will give the bread a firm, heady crust. 
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few hours on a cooling wrack.
  • Once cooled, use a bread knife to cut loaf. Separate each piece with a square of wax paper. Store in freezer. Your bread will last longer this way, and it really tastes best warm or toasted.