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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where is My America? - and a yummy dessert

This is a post I put up on my FaceBook page today to express some thoughts I had on the 'day after the day after'. 10 November, referring, of course to our presidential election in the U.S.  I was surprised to see that a few of my friends shared it on their pages and since I have been neglectful of this blog, thought I would post it here; possibly someone else will find interest in it.

Since my focus has been on food on this blog, (and since we could all use a little bit of a treat following this difficult week, month, year), I'm sharing a recipe I adapted from The Happy Pear.  I hope you will enjoy both....

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Where is my America? (Warning: long. You might want to go watch a video of cute puppies instead).

Yesterday I spent most of the day reeling from the realization that a man that represents fundamentally everything I hate about the corporate status quo, the male-ego-driven power mongers and the intrinsically unfulfilled sexist bullies of the world, was elected to the most powerful position in our country, if not the world. It felt like a sucker punch, a kick in the deepest part of my heart and I could not help but grieve for something that I felt was within our grasp and yet snatched from us at the last moment.
I was not alone; one of my dearest friends even wore black yesterday, in mourning. Black; yes, that is what it feels like. Dark, no light, no hope.
This morning I am feeling a little bit differently. I am seeing demonstrations across America; a passion brewing that I haven't seen since we protested the Vietnam war or since we burned our bras to symbolize to the then bullies that we women are a force that will not be ignored and we WILL be heard.
Maybe this is what it takes to galvanize change. Maybe we need to put a junk-yard dog of a bully into the highest office and give him the nuclear codes and live with that hanging over our collective heads to get real in this country.
We need change. The powers that be are running our planet into extinction and are failing to do their sworn duties. They continue to cater to their own best interests and look away from the bigger picture.
Out of the ashes that this election has created, perhaps a strong Independent Party will finally emerge. Maybe a true Democratic party will create itself. Maybe those of us who have now been forced to see that perhaps fully 50% of our country is actually racist, sexist and white supremacist, (something we kind of sort of already knew, now didn't we!!!?) will make our little inroads into these archaic ideologies that only serve to demean the people on the other side of the prejudice. (I swear Trump's campaign really wanted to be: Make America White again).
Guess what, Mr. Old Guard White guy, America isn't the America from 1950 and wasn't all that 'great' then either. It's too late to go back. Women have rights. Gays have rights. Our country has always been a melting pot of cultures, genetic diversity and religious freedom. This is a source of strength, not a disease you need to deport or wipe out. There isn't any 'greatness' to go back to.
And you are not the first bully to try to push us around. I got chills when Michelle Obama spoke about how we know you. Yes, we do. There isn't a single one of us who hasn't had to deal with somebody somewhere who decided that they were better equipped to run our lives than we were. No, we aren't going back to the America you want again, where gays hide in closets and women freshen their lipstick and straighten their slips and wait on you hand and foot, spread their legs on command and bow to you.
So, where is my America? It has never been where I have looked for it. It is only there waiting for me to create. To the degree that I can surround myself with those that also believe that the individual matters, that she or he has rights, that personal expression and diversity make us strong.....up until the point where it becomes so divisive that it breaks us down......to surround myself with these visionary individuals and build them up to the best of my ability, while making it CRYSTAL CLEAR to those who would snatch my rights away that NO, THAT IS NOT OKAY, is to create my America, my true family, my strength.
I'm not going to Canada, or Japan or Australia, or even taking a very tempting offer of a place to stay in New Zealand, although the reaching out to me from my international friends over the last 30 hours or so has touched me in such an intimate way; I thank all of you for that loving extension of support. The world cares, and is watching. Because this is a more important issue than geography....this is human rights.....this is women's rights.....this is the freedom FROM tyranny....and that is what America was founded on....not some playground for a bully to get rich on and just use until it is used up.
I'm not leaving because America needs me. It needs you. If all of us that believe the individual matters leave, then who will be here to balance the forces of sexism, discrimination and hatred?
Stay. I know you are hurt. I know you want to leave. I know you want to immerse yourself in a bag of Doritos and double-chocolate rocky road (vegan) ice cream. Go ahead and do what it takes to mend yourself, but I need you to be here now more than ever. Make your voices heard. Let's find a way to work together, yes, even with those who want to cut us off at the knees.....why do we have to take the high road? WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE ONE OPPRESSED THAT HAS TO TAKE THE HIGH ROAD????

Because we can and they can't.

It's a new day and we have been through worse than this. Some of you aren't old enough to remember, but trust me.....this isn't the worst.....come on. We can do it. Show them your strength. Show them your true spirit and your beautiful colors.
With love and determination.
S

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Determination Dessert

I based this off of the Happy Pear's 'Chocolate Lasagne' dessert.  It is 3 layers:  a crust, a filling and a topping.  It goes together fairly quickly, depending on the equipment you have.  I used a small food processor for the crust and pre-soaked the dates to aid the blending process.

Crust:

   large Medjool Dates (approx. 8 soaked in water, save water)
   raw walnuts (1/4 c)
   raw sunflower seeds (1/2 c)
   raw cashews (1/4 c)
   pinch vanilla powder
   (Note:  quantities are estimated as I never measure and I keep adding what I need more of, wet or dry, to get a consistency that will press down well into the bottom of a pie plate, custard cups or decorative muffin tins---nice for making individual servings)
  
   Blend in processor.  Add small amount of date water as needed.  Press into bottom of suitable dish.

Filling:
  
Medjool Dates (approx 2, soaked)
1 T coconut oil
peanut butter (approx 1/2 c - or other nut butter)
1T maple syrup
pinch vanilla powder
1/2 c unsweetened coconut

Blend in processor.  Add date water as needed.  Layer on top of crust.  Place in refrigerator.

Topping:

(Note: pre-chill a can of coconut cream or coconut milk to make this work)

1 can of coconut cream, pre-chilled in refrigerator overnight-scoop out solid portion.
Drizzle of maple syrup
pinch of vanilla powder

Whisk by hand in bowl until fluffy and smooth.

Dollop on top of filling layer.  

Dark Chocolate bar.  Microplane or grate on top of cream.  Keep refrigerated until serving.

{Link to the Happy Pear's more elaborate dessert is here:  https://thehappypear.ie/recipe/ultimate-chocolate-lasagne-vegan}













  

Sue, determined, in Ohio

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Year and A Half with Yoga

Happy 2016!  

I love January.  It always feels like a clean-slate, a do-over, a chance to change.  In reality, every day, or even every moment is a new beginning, but January just has that 'anything is possible' feel to it...it's like an engraved INVITATION to change, to grow.

In 2016, I have planned to continue some successful actions, as I chase down my 6th year anniversary (coming up this summer) of embarking on a plant-based diet and I plan to implement new actions based on recent research and ruminations.  (More on that in a future post:  hint:  microbiome!).

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One of my changes that I am now happily calling a fully-established habit, is Yoga.

Yoga.

Widely defined and even more widely practiced in its various forms, has become a integral part of my life.  I began practicing a year and a half ago, and I love thinking back to where I was when I started, to compare with where I am now.

I started with a few older programs I had and added in Trudy Styler (Mrs. Sting) & James D'Silva's DVD Warrior Yoga.   It remains one of my favorites and is in my practice at least one day per week.

Trudy's DVD, bottom center

I started with the 25 minute workout and remember painfully working towards making it through the 50 minute version at all, then adding it in one time per week while doing the shortened version two other days a week and gradually working up to doing that 50 minute workout 3 times a week.  I still find the flow of this workout challenging and beneficial and it has become like an old friend that I know very well.

I am currently doing yoga at least 5 times a week, with a preference for 6 days and I now cycle through a collection of DVDs that I have worked to find and that suit my goals.  My body craves the practice now (but I remember having to DRAG myself to the mat) and I notice that I move better, have improved balance and now enjoy almost zero joint issues despite having previously had chronic knee, back and hip issues.

Yoga is, I believe, a very personal journey, and I think it is a good idea to try various styles and instructors to find what works for you.  I went through a large number of DVDs (most sampled from the library, but some borrowed from friends) before I began to get a feel for what I could physically do and what music/teaching style/instructor's voice wouldn't irritate the heck out of me (some instructors just rub me the wrong way, despite how beautiful they look & how enticing the back drop settings may be; sorry, canNOT do Shiva Rea as lovely and energetic as she is...nope just can't do it).


My current favorites.  I know, the picture is terrible.  They are listed by title below.


So, with regular practice you can expect to get in better shape, to have better alignment and posture and better muscle tone, but beyond the many physical benefits of yoga, there is something more that is a little bit difficult to articulate.  Maybe it is due to the breathing that you learn to regulate and deepen, maybe it is just the act of 'showing up' for yourself on your mat on a regular basis, but somewhere within it all, you learn a bit more about yourself....you might even find yourself feeling a bit more confident, challenging yourself in other areas of your life and learning to appreciate the here and now.  

Is that a bit far-fetched and too much to ask of a session with a DVD?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Maybe it's a bit like that great Harrison Ford line in Six Days Seven Nights in reference to 'finding' something on an island...."it's an island, babe....if you didn't bring it here, you won't find it here".  Maybe what we cultivate in yoga, or any other practice, is there within us all the time and we just need the time, space and attention devoted to it to bring it out or peel away the barriers.

Whatever it is, I know that I have grown to love this practice and despite being a night-person by nature, will get up long before dawn to make sure I have the time to do it.

Now, to master that camel pose....I'll put that on for 2016 as well.

Sue, facing my dogs downward, in Ohio





My newest set....Yoga Warrior 365 with Rudy Mettia.
I wasn't sure about adding this set to my mix.  I had sampled one of Rudy's DVDs and knew that it would be a challenge for me to learn from him.  He's a bit more, well, let's say 'chatty' than I like from an instructor; it's almost like he feels like he has to entertain or something and really, I prefer some quiet space in the instruction.  But, I am glad I got this set as I have found his detailed instruction has deepened my understanding of the movements as well as given me more options to allow for physical limitations if needed and his challenging flows of the movements are making me stronger.  I believe I may learn more patience/tolerance as well as I repeat the DVDs.  Also, there is a lovely spirit about the man that comes through even when he's being a bit annoying.  I found my set new on Ebay and was able to buy from a Canadian seller, which worked to my benefit currency-wise.





No Yoga DVD collection is complete without at least ONE Rodney Yee, in my opinion.  I have done many of his dvds in earlier years of practice and sought him out again while looking for DVDs in 2014 when I started again.  I settled on his Yoga Conditioning for Athletes and I do like it, but I believe I'll be adding more Rodney in later as I don't think it is necessarily his best.

Once a week I pop in my Yoga For Strength with Vytas Baskauskas (or Vytas, The Punisher as I call him).  I really enjoy this DVD (except for the opening core work which just KILLS me).  Vytas does have a separate core workout in the special features though that is a bit kinder than the opening of this set. I work on that with the goal of eventually being able to hang with him through the opener. I really enjoy Vytas' demeanor and tone of voice and lack of incessant chatter.  I am working towards being ready for his multiple-set called Deepen Your Practice.   Vytas has an interesting back story. Read about him here:  http://www.vytasyoga.com/index.html


Once a week I spend some time with Caley Alyssa in her Yoga for Balance DVD and try not to swear at her young and graceful self.  I bought this DVD specifically for balance and it really has made a difference for me and I feel more balanced for the rest of the day after working through the set.  She is straight-forward, no nonsense, easy to follow.

I hope you give yoga a try and if you do, I hope it brings you all of the benefits, and more, that it is bringing into my life.   

Namaste.
S.





Friday, July 17, 2015

Follow the Pain & "Superlife" by Darin Olien

"Follow the pain", I quipped to a friend of mine in an e-mail recently.

"Follow the pain....it's a compass point leading the way out".

The context of this comment is complicated and probably unnecessary to detail.  We are both working on our emotional fitness in a specific context that is often drama-filled; I'll just leave it at that.

But did you ever write or say something to someone and then it began to tickle a part of your brain, coming back to visit you as if to say, pay attention here, there may be something for you to learn?

I think we can and do use others as a mirror for ourselves....what bothers us about others can often merely be a reflection of our own foibles, short-comings and can point us to areas that need improvement.

Follow the pain.

In my own case as I work to stretch out of my comfort zone in a few areas of my life, I find the seductive pull of the status quo nearly irresistible.  Why am I resisting change?  Change is inevitable and can be exciting.  The universe abhors stagnation as does nature.  All arrows point to change and change is the only constant!

Why resist?

Follow the pain.

In my childhood, change meant pain.  I craved consistency, predictability, stability.  Even the mere sound of the automatic garage door opener starting up signaled a massive energetic response coursing thru my body....all systems on red alert...be prepared for anything, fight, flight or sink into despair.  It became a Pavlovian 'bell ring' to my adrenal glands.  Growing up in a home with an abusive alcoholic will do that to a person.

I thought I had long ago slayed that demon.

Follow the pain.

Could it be that the craving for stability was now, in my late adult life, planting itself firmly in my path to becoming the best me as a formidable road block?

I think so.

Follow the pain.  Embrace change.  Chart a new course.  The unknown does not always signal pain....sometimes it brings new discoveries and happiness only heretofore hinted at.......

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Superlife, by Darin Olien.

I ordered this book after hearing Rich Roll's conversation with Darin on a recent podcast.  www.richroll.com    Darin's basic approach to nutrition and the 'superlife' is by integratingwhat he identifies as the five life forces (nutrition, hydration, oxygenation, alkalization and detoxification).

He talks about feeding our cells properly; that if we do that, we've got the rest covered.  I've only skimmed through parts of the book, but I already know I am going to find it quite useful.  I especially like the section in the book that categorizes food by purpose, so, for example, if you wanted to eat to address stress issues, you could look to see what foods support the systems/organs that help us cope with stress.

There are recipes and general guidelines.  (I will forgive Darin's inclusion of eggs and a tiny bit of dairy here and there as otherwise most of the information blends with my other research -- although he does use oil). 

I enjoy his clear writing style and statements that cut through to the crucial points such as these on p. 129:  "The mere fact that our immune systems react to animal-based food should tell us that it contains something unhealthy for us.   .........every meal triggers a new bout of inflammation, which we constantly renew with every plate placed before us.  At some point it becomes a chronic conditions.  Our immune systems don't get a breather."   He goes on further to define this condition as 'nutritional stress', something that I think is vital for us to understand and deal with properly in order to achieve optimal health.

I'm sure I'll do another post on Darin's book.  Learn more about him here:  http://www.superlife.com/five-forces-that-will-make-you-healthy-fit-and-eternally-awesome-darin-olien/

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Cool beans.  Wet conditions have made my garden go just crazy and I'm still harvesting lettuce which normally would be long past its prime.  Fresh garden lettuce in July in Ohio, hard to believe.

I doubled up on a bean I tried last year that I thought would be fun for my grand-daughter to grow....dragon tongue beans.  (I ordered from Baker's Creek:  http://www.rareseeds.com/dragon-tongue-bush-bean/)    The plants are huge and bushy and I harvested the first of the beans this week; not only are they fun, but they are mighty tasty just lightly steamed, plain.  And you gotta love a bean named after dragons.



Sue, enjoying the simple beauty of the garden, dragons and all, in Ohio