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  • New Beginnings

    a haiku

    Cold December rain,
    Wet windows blur wistful gaze;
    Cat stretches and sighs

  • Dry Body Brushing

    Body Brushing<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Dry body brushing is an excellent way to exfoliate the skin and stimulate circulation.   It increases the elasticity of the skin and has been touted as a way to reduce cellulite, cleanse the lymphatic system, increase immunity, energize the body, and tone and tighten the skin.  <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />It&#8217;s best to do your body brushing just prior to showering or bathing.  Brush in the direction of lymphatic drainage, towards the heart in long, sweeping, brisk strokes. Brush in counter-clockwise strokes on the abdomen.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />You can find a body brush at a health or natural store for $15 or less.  I found mine at Whole Foods.Dry body brushing is a wonderful way to revitalize your health.  Skin, of course, is our largest organ. One of its functions is to help us get rid of impurities.  Dry body brushing can eliminate some of the dead skin cells that might be clogging our pores and reducing skin’s ability to rid itself of waste material.  The dead skin cells can also prevent our new fresh skin cells underneath from being visible, so brushing helps to keep the skin looking youthful and healthy as this fresh layer is revealed.

     

    In addition to dry body brushing’s ability to tone and tighten the skin through phsycial exfoliation, it also helps to activate circulation.   It does so by getting the blood flowing to the surface of the skin.  Because of this stimulation of circulation, the skin’s appearance improves and it is also energinzing, much the way a brisk walk would be.

    One of the most amazing things that dry body brushing does is to stimulate and aid the lymphatic system, which has the function of transporting waste and toxins from the cells.  As a result, it helps to increase immunity and fortify the body’s defense against toxins. Read more

  • Caramelized Onions Recipe

    Caramelizing onions is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to dress up a meal.  Caramelized onions have a nutty, rich and savory flavor.  The act of caramelizing them removes any pungency and sharpness and instead provides a subtle sweetness.  You can transform a simple piece of grilled meat or a burger or sandwich really easily and give it gourmet flair.

    Often times I will buy a bunch of yellow onions and caramelize them all at once and then freeze a portion.  The one down side is that it does take a while, so it’s not the best thing to do when you’re trying to cook up a really quick meal.  It’s a really simple process, though, so it’s good to do when you’re hanging about the kitchen one day.  Then on the days you’re rushed, you can use your prepped onions.  It’s an easy thing to do when multi-tasking or just having a chat and glass of wine.  Lots of times, I will tend to them as I watch Chief cook our actual meal, ha.

    Caramelizing onions is something good to do if you have invited someone over for a meal.  Even if you are just grilling a piece of meat, it makes the house smell like you are cooking up a storm.  I will usually get about 4 medium-large size yellow onions to do this recipe.  The only other thing you need is clarified butter and/or olive oil.  I like to use a mixture of both.  I have probably been too in to butter these days after reading about all its health benefits in books such as Nourishing Traditions, but adjust the fat to whatever you think is best for your body.  So really, all you do is as follows:

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  • Hydrating Oatmeal Banana Mask

    My skin was really dry the other night so I created a mask using some of the good hydrating items I had at home.  My skin looked incredible afterward and I promise I didn’t lick any off my face while I was in the bath 😉  This is a great mask to use in the winter to counteract chapped skin or skin that has been exposed to overly dry indoor air.  There are also some great ingredients in here that help acne-prone skin.  Sometimes even blemished skin is dry from the use of harsh products.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 banana, mashed
    • 1/2 packet Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    •  2 Tbsp full fat plain yogurt or 1 Tbsp whole milk

     Mix together in a small bowl and apply to a clean face for approximately 15 minutes.  Remove gently with warm water and moisturize afterward.

    This is a good way to use up a banana that has just turned over-ripe. The Aveeno bath treatment is just colloidal oatmeal so you could also mill 1/2 cup rolled oats in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle.  If you have blemished or problem skin, try using the manuka honey I referenced in this post. 

    Bananas are moisturizing.  Honey is a humectant and has antibacterial properties.  The oatmeal helps to soothe the skin and also exfoliates to get rid of any flaky skin or dead skin cells.  Yogurt and whole milk both have lactic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid.  This is a very gentle acid which helps to exfoliate the skin and reveal new fresh skin underneath.  The live bacteria cultures in the yogurt keep the bad bacteria that lives in your skin in check and really helps brighten up skin.

  • Emily the Strange – My Lame Adventures In Introversion

    We sit in the loft of my parents’ Minnesota lake cabin circa 1987, the old box fans covered in wet towels and lazily steaming out the hot air of mid-summer.  My best friend and I are sitting on one of the twin beds covered in a peach-colored comforter.  Our bare legs are tan from a day swimming in the fresh algal-smelling lake, rocking on an oversized inner tube to see who would crash in to the water first.  It was a wonderful day punctuated by padding up the pine steps for red Kool-Aid and Wheat Thins covered in Easy Cheese.

    Our conversation carried on as it had all day, incessant talk of the best way to get tan, which boys might be in our class the following fall and our grand plans for working on the fort in the mosquito-infested woods behind the cabin.  And then a familiar feeling began to rise in me again, like a yellow rubber duck in a quickly overfilling bathtub – smiling happily at me in the face of a grave threat.  For no discernible reason, I didn’t want anyone to talk to me anymore.  I wanted her to let me be before the fatigue of interacting with someone threatened to defeat me.  I wanted to be left alone with my thoughts.  I wanted to revert in to my own world with my books and daydreams.  I wanted to run, alone, in silence along the gravel road.  I made a hasty excuse and climbed down the ladder and made a nervous lunge at my mom, beseeching her with my eyes.

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  • I am the captain of a ship of souls

    I am the captain of a ship of souls.  It is wearying to keep these souls safe on a stormy sea.  The boat is built to handle the worst of conditions.  The lifeboats should be there if they need them. They should use their own common sense to determine if unsafe conditions are on the horizon.  And sometimes they do.  I know they rely on me though.  It doesn’t matter that I am smaller.  It doesn’t matter that exhaustion occasionally turns my head in to a dark puddle of inky consciousness, as bottomless and murky as the deep waters this boat crosses.

    I am always awake and always take the night shift, as the souls that inhabit my boat shift restlessly in their beds.  Every now and again, one of them can’t sleep or has a nightmare and comes to me unbidden in the dark of the night.  I say unbidden, but perhaps the softness in my eyes invited them.  Perhaps the way my lips turn up as I grimace in to the salty wind was mistaken for a welcoming smile.  Maybe they know that because I am a captain, I have probably heard it all.  They know listening has weathered my soul.  Somehow, that obliges me to deem their bidding.

    When the sea is uncertain, and the only ground beneath you is watery and rolling, the spirit drifts about in one’s body.  They find the hidden corners where all the soul’s doubts are held.  In these corners rest their flaws and weaknesses along with their most latent desires and shocking failures.  Every now and again, the skin can’t contain this restless spirit and one of them wanders up to me on the deck.

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  • Reaping What We Sow

    Plant CeremonySometimes we have a lousy year or we want a mulligan in life.  There are times we just need to release or start over.  What follows is a story about a clever little ceremony my friend conceived of on my birthday three years ago today to do just that.  Besides a birthday, I also think it would be a really good practice to perform at New Year’s, or I like the idea of fall being a time for renewal, as Victoria Smith blogs about in this post on Corbae Café.  This would also work really well after a break-up, after a recovery, or any time you are committed to turning over a new leaf in life.  In some years, I have decided to consider the Chinese New Year as my time to “start fresh.”  Immediately after the holidays, it can be really hard for us to plan for and implement a change due to the exhaustion that goes along with December.  There are bullets at the bottom detailing how this can be done.  Please feel free to read the meat in the middle about how it worked in my life.

    My 31st year had been a tough one.  There was a marriage separation and there was a move.  I wasn’t myself – I was feeling physically and mentally exhausted and mildly depressed. I didn’t know how my career was going to suit my new life.  I was lonely.  I was set to pass in to my 32nd year with no real plans.  After this year of seclusion and putting up walls in an attempt to go within and “find myself,” and shed some things from my past, my friend base was scarce and I had no family in town.  Just as I was beginning to anticipate the birthday blues, I found out a friend of mine, Karoun, was going to come in to town and was wondering if she could crash with me.

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  • 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.