• Granola Recipe

    Everyone is always calling me a hippie, so it’s only natural I provide a recipe for granola.  You are what you eat, I guess!  I love preparing a batch of granola on Sundays so I have it for the workweek and because it makes the house smell good.  It makes a great breakfast or works really well for a late afternoon sweet craving that will help power you through until dinner.  It’s also a nice pre-workout snack.  As you prepare the granola, preheat the oven to 350° FYou will need the following ingredients:

    Mix

    • 2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
    • 1 heaping cup of mixed nuts (sliced almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, pine, etc.)
    • ½ cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seeds, etc.)
    • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I like “Let’s Do Organic” brand)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 tablespoon of wheat germ

    Add

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
    • 5 tablespoons maple syrup (use the pure kind)

     After baking

    • 1 cup dried fruit
    • ½ cup dark chocolate chips

    Mix the first ingredients together in a bowl and spread out on a baking sheet.  I like to use one with high sides so it’s easier to stir later.  Once you have it smoothed out, drizzle with the oils and maple syrup.  If you don’t have coconut oil, just use all olive oil.  Bake 25-30 minutes.  Every five minutes or so, pull the granola out of the oven and stir it with a wooden spatula and then return to the oven.  The granola tends to burn quickly if this step is missed.  Remove it from the oven when the granola is golden.

    After the granola has cooled down to room temperature, add roughly chopped dried fruit.  I like to use dried cherries and wild blueberries, but other ideas are raisins, mangos, and apples.  The dark chocolate chips are optional, or course, but I really like them in there to help satisfy sweet cravings.  These cravings usually strike when I am overly tired and this snack helps boost energy.  Store it in an airtight container.  I like to use a 1.5-liter screw top glass jar and just leave it sitting on the countertop.   Sur le Table makes some nice ones. It’s one of the weapons in my “hangry” prevention arsenal.  I get really mean when I get too hungry, as Chief can attest to.

    You can serve this with milk (cow, almond, soy, rice, oat, etc.) or yogurt.  Another idea is to layer the granola with yogurt and fresh berries like a yogurt parfait.  This looks really nice when done in one of the screw-top jars in a smaller size (.25 liter) and is a wonderful way to do breakfast on the go. 

    This granola is a great alternative to store-bought granola both for the novelty and because you can control the type of sweetener that is used, which is maple syrup in this case.  Maple syrup has the benefits of having iron, manganese, zinc and calcium and also contains antioxidants and polyphenols.  In addition to that, it has a more concentrated sweet taste for the same amount as cane sugar.  If you don’t like coconut, don’t be turned off by this recipe.  It only acts as a sweetener and doesn’t taste much at all like coconut.  Enjoy!

  • Ask a Beautiful Question

    “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” ~e.e. cummings

    I thought Thanksgiving Day would be a perfect time to publish a post that provides tools we can use that allow us to be in a grateful and appreciative frame of mind.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up asking ourselves dreadful questions…the “What if (insert worst-case scenario)?” and “Why am I so (insert self-deprecating comment)?”  It goes to follow that if these are the kinds of things we are focusing our energy and attention on, and these are the situations we are worrying ourselves with, we will inevitably throw off negative and anxious energy.  By sending this energy out, we only end up attracting more of it.  This works in much the same way that we can only find a song to listen to on an FM station if we’re tuning it to a FM bandwidth that operates in that particular region.

    One book I really liked was Anthony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within.  In the book he lists a number of “Empowering Questions” to ask yourself each morning.  I have found these are some lovely questions to put me in the right frame of mind each morning to go through my day focusing on the positive.  By doing so, it allows me to avoid asking myself harmful questions that can only bring a slew of potentially negative outcomes to consider that have yet to even occur.  I essentially think of this as a morning gratitude meditation.   I also use it any time I’m having a “woe is me” moment.  His questions are as follows:

    • What am I happy about in my life now?
    • What am I excited about in my life now?
    • What am I proud about in my life now?
    • What am I grateful about in my life now?
    • What am I committed to in my life right now?
    • Who do I love? Who loves me?

    Try asking yourself these questions in the shower or on your commute and see if you can get some beautiful answers.  I keep these questions in a list on the notes in my phone so that they are easily accessible when I get overwhelmed, feel unappreciated, or ungrateful for all of the blessings in my life.

  • Pumpkin Facial For Glowing Skin

    I thought this post would be timely with all the pumpkin we are likely to have around the house for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.  Resist the ridiculousness of consumerism that has smeared Black Friday into Thanksgiving night and hang out and do home spa treatments with your family and friends!

    This homemade mask is one of the few “products” I have ever used that literally left my skin radiant and visibly improved upon rinsing and for hours afterward.  The pumpkin is hydrating and contains antioxidants A, C, and E, which keep the skin looking youthful.  The pumpkin’s phytonutrients like cartenoids neutralize free radicals in the skin.  The cinnamon increases circulation, the clay draws out impurities, and the honey and oil moisturize.  It’s the perfect combination for beautiful skin, really.

    Mix the following ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup canned or fresh pumpkin
    • 1/4 cup bentonite clay
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • 2 Tbsp water
    • 1 Tbsp almond oil
    • 2 Tsp cinnamon

    An amazing product to use for the bentonite clay is Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, which is basically pure bentonite.  It’s really hard for the geologist in me to resist talking about clay mineralogy here but I will restrain myself! The clay also works incredibly well for blackheads, pore clearing, and acne as a mask when mixed in to a paste with water or apple cider vinegar.

    If you have access to manuka honey, I would highly recommend using that as a portion of the honey required for this mask.  Manuka honey is a special honey from New Zealand.  It is a monofloral honey so the bees only visit the flower of the manuka tree.  This tree is otherwise known as tea tree, which is well-renowned for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.  If you have problem skin, this is a wonderful way to harness the naturally antiseptic qualities of the tea tree through the honey.  I’ll reference manuka a lot on this site because I am pretty obsessed with it.  Manuka honey is now available at some Whole Foods markets and can also be found on Amazon.

    Leave the mask on for about 15 minutes, and be ready for quite the rinse when it’s time to remove it as the clay is super sticky and hardens.  Note that your face may be slightly reddened after removing this mask, so be sure to test out how your skin will react before applying this before an event.  The redness generally fades within an hour. Any extra mask can be saved in the fridge for about a week.  I like to wrap up the extra in wax paper.

  • Summer Dreams

    My maternal grandmother, Grams, died four years ago today.  Her spunky attitude was infective, her humor was a delight, and her warmth was vast. I wrote this haiku at her funeral in Fargo, ND:

    Fall turns to winter,
    Hot tears turn to icicles.
    Empty sky, full heart.

  • Prioritizing Our Personal Values

    “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

    Deep down we all know what we value in a vague sense, but very few people stop and consider what their core values actually are.  Recognizing what they are can usher success; not being aware of them can cause strife both internally and in relationships.  There are a lot of personal development books that address this awareness and prioritization of values.  Knowing what your values are can help you to arrange and spend your time in a manner that is most stimulating and rewarding for you.  If you’ve never really stopped to consider your values, do so now.  Some examples of what different values might be are as follows:

    • Love
    • Creativity
    • Success
    • Family
    • Spirituality
    • Passion
    • Fun
    • Athleticism
    • Wealth
    • Balance
    • Happiness
    • Growth
    • Faith
    • Achievement
    • Security
    • Health
    • Peacefulness
    • Power
    • Boldness
    • Charity
    • Freedom
    • Honesty
    • Adventure
    • Gregariousness
    • Activeness

    You get the idea.  This list is as diverse as the people that make up the world.  Most of us value all these things to some extent but certain values will float to the top for you.  Try and list your top 10 values.  Doing so will allow you to learn something about yourself.  Then focus on the top 5 values and try to prioritize them.

    If the way that we’re spending our days is not feeding our values, that is when we start to feel out of sorts and frustrated.  For example, if you love adventure and creativity, then working at a job that doesn’t allow you to live either value is going to cause some resentment.  This resentment may cause problems with your boss and/or co-workers and with the quality of your own work .  On the other hand, if you’re feeling frustrated by all the demands of home life, maybe it is because your values of freedom and balance are being tested.

    You should also note the order of these values and determine what your most important value is to help you prioritize and understand your actions.  For example, if you’re having trouble committing to a relationship and two of your top five values are intimacy/love and freedom, you might be able to see where this struggle is stemming from and then can think in an honest way about what is more important to you.  If your top value is family and your second value is success, you can come to understand why you feel so upset at having to explain to your boss that your child is sick today, yet again, and you won’t be able to make it in.  Knowing in your heart that family comes first makes it easier to deliver the news without feeling guilt.

    The other way the value hierarchy can manifest itself is strife between two people.  It’s helpful to know what your family members, partner or friends value so you can see where they’re coming from when you’re at odds.  For example, if one spouse is always craving to have people over for parties or loves going to big matches and events (values = excitement, gregariousness, competition, activeness) and the other spouse’s idea of a good time is taking a bath and reading an interesting book (values = peacefulness, personal growth, balance, tranquility), it’s hard to see eye to eye on whose activity will eventually win out without understanding where the other person is coming from.  If one person continues to “win,” these can stack up and build animosity.  It’s easier to discuss from a place where people can talk about their values.

    As an example, I keep my top five values in a list on my phone.  They weren’t easy to pick and I realize they could change if my life circumstances changed.  I visit them nearly every day.   They are as follows:

    1. Health
    2. Love
    3. Security
    4. Peace
    5. Adventure

    There are days I feel pulled in too many directions.  My friends or family suggest one thing and I want to do another.  Other days, I feel frustration as to what I’m doing at the office instead of at home doing passion projects such as tending to my garden, cooking up a storm, and writing a novel.  I question why I choose to sit under buzzing fluorescent lights 40 hours a week when I have the means to experience exciting adventures and relaxation in the great outdoors.  But then I realize how important security is to me.  I am one of those people that needs a reliable source of income and saving for the future is very important to me.  I strive for self-sufficiency and independence which are associated with my security value.  I can see that this need for security and this need for peace and adventure are something that I have to focus on balancing so that I feed portions of my day with all of them.

    There are days I wake up chiding myself because I over-indulged in wine the night before and feel crappy.  The reason I’m upset with myself is that even though I love adventure (and these hangovers are usually born of a grand exercise in spontaneity, adventure and companionship), I realize that I compromised my values of health and peace.

    There are times I feel guilty about having to leave work early or take some time off.  I am doing that to tend to my health, find peace or adventure, or to exercise my value of love to Chief and to Dove or to visit my family and friends.  If career success and achievement were in my top five values (instead of only my top 10), I might be there at the office with the workaholics who value success, pride, or status above all else, watching my precious Paid Time Off hours going unused.  I generally imagine that they just don’t like their home life as much as I adore mine, but who knows?  Perhaps family is at the top of their values and they are caring for their family the best way they know how.

    There are days these values shift.  Some times you have to put one in front of the other for the short-term.   But it at least becomes a tool for recognizing why I am feeling torn on those days.

    These values tend to be fairly different for genders, generations, personalities and for cultures.  I recognize that and I am at peace with that and am content to be who I am.

  • Nauli for Good Digestion

    There are a number of kriyas associated with yoga that may seem freakish at first but are wonderful ways to care for the body.  The kriyas are various cleansing rituals that serve the purpose of keeping the body healthy, clear, and free of disease.  Some have become archaic since we now have more access to clean foods and drinking water but some still have a place in modern society.  One that I like to do every single morning when I wake up and before I consume anything is called nauli.  It is a way to massage the internal organs in the abdomen area, thereby working the abdominal muscles, the intestines, the reproductive organs and the whole digestive system.  One of the things this accomplishes is that it prevents the digestive system from getting too slow.  It relieves constipation and keeps things moving along.  It promotes a feeling of well being for me like I am cleared out and attentive to a key component of my health, superior digestion.  Expect to notice the digestive system in alert mode an hour or two after this exercise.  It’s a bit hard to explain and I won’t dig myself in to a hole by doing a YouTube video that could result in an infamous claim to fame but you can try your luck Googling around.  The way I do it is as follows:

    • Start standing up with your feet a couple of feet apart as you take a big inhale.
    • Exhale everything out through the mouth quickly and forcefully with the lips pursed as you double over (head higher than hips with hands on knees)
    • Begin 10 “pumps” of the stomach while holding the breath.  These pumps can be explained by pulling the stomach creepily far in and then pumping it back out to fully inflated.  You may feel the stomach sort of jiggle on the out since it is done with a pretty intense energy.
    • Inhale back up after you finish the 10 pumps.
    • Exhale through the mouth again as you bend over with your hands on your knees for the second set of 10 pumps.  Do not inhale or exhale as you do this.
    • Inhale back to standing
    • Exhale down and at the bottom with the hand on the knees, pull your stomach in as absolutely far as it can go.  Really suck it in so that you can feel a pressure on your inner organs and hold for as long as you can, or approximately 10 seconds.  Inhale back up and exhale standing to finish.

     I like to perform this every morning.  I usually do it the very first thing when I get out of bed because it must be done on a totally empty stomach.  If I do it within a couple minutes of waking, I know there is no chance of me having drunk any water.  It energizes me to begin my day on a healthy and pure note.  There are more advanced ways of doing nauli which involve rolling the stomach muscles from side to side so that both the ascending and descending colon are deeply massaged but stick with this simple routine until you get more used to it.

  • Skinny Bitch Breakfast Fruit Smoothie

    The book Skinny Bitch has some good nuggets of information, despite being a little too hardcore in its suggestions for me and seemingly shallow in its premise.  I don’t think all the science is quite right but they did give me some things to think about.

    One aspect I definitely agreed with the authors on was the ridiculousness of the carb avoidance fad, including avoiding fruit.  They conclude that fruit is one of nature’s most perfect foods, supplying all kinds of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.  And, of course, it’s loaded with fiber and antioxidants and everything else we’re supposed to eat.

    The part I really like is they suggest we eat it in the morning before we eat anything else because fruit is very simple and breaks down and passes through the digestive system quickly.  For that reason, it shouldn’t be stuck in there with other things that take more time to process, like fats, starches, and protein.  I absolutely agree with this and have an intuitive understanding because my belly never feels quite right when I consume fruit with a meal.  The simple fruit sugar will stay in the stomach too long if it is being digested with the other things that break down slowly, so it will begin to ferment and cause problems like bloating, gas, and heartburn.

    I’m not much of a fruit lover, so I like the idea of wolfing it all down in a fruit shake first thing when I wake up some mornings, and then continue with whole grains (chia seed pudding or granola) and protein (hard-boiled egg or yogurt) an hour or so later when I arrive at work.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to not like fruit, but I just don’t get excited and jazzed up for it the way I do about vegetables.  The other nice thing about this shake is that fruit provides quick energy to get you going in the morning.

    I have this recipe down to a science now and you’ll notice everything is already prepped so I can prepare it in a bleary-eyed morning condition.  I have been tweaking this shake, but lately I have settled on some variation of the following ingredients:

    • 1 small banana
    • ½ cup frozen organic mixed berries
    • 1/3 cup pre-cut pineapple (frozen works fine)
    • 1/3 cup pre-cut watermelon
    • Any other fresh or frozen fruit you enjoy or that is in season
    • ¼ cup pomegranate cherry juice
    • ¼ cup beet-carrot juice
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • Dash of cinnamon

    Bananas have so much good stuff in them but I’m not a big fan of eating them plain.  I like to freeze bananas as soon as they start to get overly ripe.  Having a frozen banana and/or the frozen mixed berries helps keep the shake cold.  The frozen berries are quite a bit less expensive than the fresh and maintain all their nutritional value.  If something is in-season and available at a good price, I will use the fresh.  Pineapple has an enzyme, bromelain, that aids in digestion.  I really like watermelon because it’s inexpensive and full of the antioxidant lycopene.  Pomegranate cherry juice is high in antioxidants and cherry helps with inflammation.  As far as the beet-carrot juice, any juice you have made or have on hand will do.  Central Market in Houston or Whole Foods make some great fresh juices.  Coconut water is very rich in potassium, provides tons of electrolytes for very few calories, and acts as a natural diuretic and mild laxative to keep the belly slim.  Coconut water is a great way to replenish the body after hot yoga or a hard workout.  It’s basically nature’s Gatorade.  I add in the cinnamon because it helps regulate insulin levels which helps control the sugar in the bloodstream after consuming these natural fruit sugars.

    I like to mix my smoothie in one of those handheld blenders and drink it out of the mixing cup.  It only takes a couple of minutes and then fruit is out of the way!  One trick my mom taught me is to do a round with the handblender with some water and a drop of soap to get it clean after you’re finished.

  • Coconut Water Vampires

    Microfiction by Emily Ness

    Once upon a time, when the dark ages ceased to be so as a result of electricity and democracy and political correctness, all of humankind evolved.  Each of them traded in their armor and swords and lanterns for bicycle helmets and streetlamps that were paid for by a handsome cut taken right out of their corporate salaries.  These funds were hardly missed, as all transactions had become electronic, no gold or silver or trades backing their value.  Even after these cuts, there was enough left over for the drones to stuff their maws with an abundant source of fake food sold in brightly colored crinkly packages.  As these changes took places, a desperate change began to take place in those that relied upon the people as a food source as well – the vampires.  The blood source was tainted and no longer pure.  What’s more, the vampires began to have no cover of darkness due to the nights being constantly lit by crackling electricity.

    It is in this climate that we find two remarkable characters fighting to defend what the latest evolutionary paths seem to have destined for their kind.  So begins the story of the vampires who began to have to depend upon the only reliable source of an isotonic beverage- coconut water.  This coconut water was in abundant supply at natural and organic grocery suburban grocery store chains across the nation.

    Over the years, the strongest survived and the vampires adopted a very peculiar evolutionary mutation.  Due to the extraneous lights that found its way into every dark corner, the vampires that moved amongst the daylight began to thrive.  And they began to prey.  And they began to lurk among these brightly lit residential shops where their life-sustaining material waited, displayed tantalizingly, such easy access.  And the vampires were so thirsty, so very thirsty.  Their thirst had not been quenched for some time.

    “I’m going in,” declared Rainbow Flash, his large hand crossed determinedly across his heart that was leaping with pride under his orange jumpsuit.  He smiled encouragingly at Peacock Fangs.  “It’s not only because I’m thirsty as hell, but it’s for the good of our people.”  He blithely pulled his whip out of its holster and threw it underhand, the tip of its tongue finding the midpoint of the streetlamp between him and the balcony over the soccer practice rush hour below.  He launched and flipped and landed without hesitation on the coconut water truck heading into the loading dock area.

    “Right ON.  Right ON,” yelled Peacock Fangs.  He bit his yellow Lycra gloves and looked skyward, his heart swelling with pride at the success of his vampire clan and his special friendship with Rainbow Flash.  His unit sputtered to life.

    “Peacock Fangs.  We have a potential unattended victim.  Do you read me?”

    Peacock Fangs unharnessed his unit and brought it to his lips.

    “Rainbow Flash. You must redirect the palette or life-sustaining nectar to headquarters by any means necessary.  If you detect any purity in the driver’s blood, detain him, as he may be necessary to completing the mission to deliver the product to the clan.”

    Peacock Fangs felt a surge of arousal as he imagined the gray uniformed driver and his muscles, trembling as a result of being overworked by pumping weights at the gym and surging with nutritional blood, rich with a diet of dairy and meat and whey protein and wheatgrass.

    His reverie was shattered by static on his unit and the threads of his imagination shattered like glass.

    “The coconut water driver interrupted me trying to drive away with his load of nourishment!” cried Rainbow Flash.  “I did the only thing I could do, Peacock Fangs.  I’m so sorry.”

    The coconut water truck driver lay quietly in the street, the back of his thick brown hair sticky with blood, his large arms splayed and two small holes at his jugular.  A Golden Retriever that had escaped its fenced yard was lopping his way toward him with a vacant look.

    “He could have done it the easy way or the hard way, Rainbow Flash.  You did what you needed to do for the people.  Pick me up in the coconut water truck in the designated meeting spot and we’ll take you home where we’ll make you a peppermint bath and float some candles in it. Good job, Rainbow Flash.  Our people will live.”

    He smiled adoringly.