September 2006

I was reading Gluten-Free Girl’s blog posting, food blogs being my fave after yoga blogs. She’s getting a book published (yaye GFG!). And she included a bit from her book proposal about real food and how the current generation think that packaged pudding and boxed cereal are real. It took her realizing she’s sensitive to gluten to start making *real* food from fresh basic ingredients. Now she’s a better, happier person – with a book deal.

It was the pudding comment that twigged me. I’d googled homemade pudding recipes a couple weeks back because I thought the toddler in my house would like it. I don’t want to feed him the mush in the plastic containers with the unpronounceable ingredients (shiver). I’d found a bunch of interesting recipes and then promptly forgot about them.

I know, you’re saying “Corilee I only eat raw broccoli – pudding? are you crazy??” And I hear ya’, it’s good to eat healthy food, but sometimes you need food that’s gonna feed your soul too. And Luna bars and hard cold raw veggies sometimes just don’t. So read on.

Making pudding from scratch didn’t just occur to me out of the blue. My Mom is a great baker. When I was growing up we had dessert after dinner probably more than half the time – can you imagine? And I started baking with her from the time I could stand on a stool and get my finger into a bowl for a lick.

Puddings were part of her repetoire too. She had this great little paperback cookbook, I think from one of the food companies, published in the sixties. It had great stylized illustrations of women baking with big hair and high heels. Yeah, that was life at our house too – not!

Last Saturday was damp and dreary. I tracked down the recipes and made Banana Pudding. It’s ridiculously easy. You just need to keep an eye on it while it thickens so the milk doesn’t burn (you don’t need a double boiler). A little burning actually adds some flavour so no worries. It’s vanilla pudding and when it was done I put it into bowls and sliced a banana into it. The banana bits get soft in the pudding. We each ate a bowl of it warm, with digestive cookies. The toddler ate *all* of his *and* could say the names of the ingredients. Yeah it’s made from milk and eggs and sugar, but it’s real food. And it was the most satisfying thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

Next I’m trying chocolate.

I went to a John Coleman class (see him here in the instructor section) and he did a lovely little flow that I’ve added into my home practice. Here’s how it goes:

1. Standing with feet at least hip-width apart, bring arms up into a T-position. With palms up, sink into a backbend, letting your head drop back, arms open wide, press your hips forward slightly. Stay for a couple breaths. When we did this pose in class John said “feel like you’re hugging the sky.” I love that.

2. As you come up out of back bend, keep arms open, turn palms down and slowly drop forward into a Forward Bend. Stay for a couple of breaths and head back to standing for another backbend.

Repeat the flow at least 3 times. Place your hands on your lower back for the back bend if it needs more support.

Variations – In your Forward Bends add variations after the first, like holding your big toes with elbows out to the side, or lift your toes and slide your hands, palms-up under under your feet. These variations can be used to *gently* lengthen your spine and direct your torso a little closer to your thighs.

I’ve found this flow very heart-opening and calming too. Enjoy.

They say that having a pet is really good for you. Pets bring down your blood pressure and love you to death even on bad hair days when you feel fat. They make you look outside yourself, which is handy when you’re stressed out and think that nothing is more important than all the craziness going on in your YOUR LIFE.

And I’ve experienced that, mostly with cats, but since Gabby died a year or so back we’ve been pet-free and we missed her like crazy. But once we got over that we’ve been feeling pretty happy that now there’s no dirty litter box or cat hair on everything we own.

We weren’t looking for a new pet and never in a million years would we have gone looking for an Australian Bearded Dragon, but one kind of wandered into our life.

This bearded dragon was a little neglected by his previous owner who’s on the football team in high school and never home. So after some discussion, Jim (yes, Morrison) and his tank, plug-in fake rock, log, stick, sand, food/water bowls and lights – he doesn’t travel light! – came to live with us.

We put his tank in a spot where he can look out windows in two directions and see the sun rise. Jim gets greeted every morning with screamy hello’s by my two-year old son who slaps the sides of the tank with his peanut butter hands.

We’ve been getting to know him. We discovered that Jim grooves on kale and grated carrots. His skin looks like stone but when you touch him his skin isn’t thick, you can feel his delicate bits underneath. He has little spikes running up the side of his body, but they’re not sharp, they’re rubbery. We’re learning to read more from his body language and eye movements. He’s not a real interactive guy but when I showed him the plastic alligator I got in a fishbowl-size drink once in Buckhead he got visibly upset .

Last night I put Jim on my lap while we watched Bleak House . I rubbed the smooth dry skin between his eyes and they slowly closed. I kept smoothing my fingers down his back as I talked to him. He relaxed into my lap soaking up the warmth of my body heat. His body sags and squishes out at the sides like a water balloon that’s half full. I’m sure I saw him sigh, the little pouches in his neck slowly filling and emptying of air.

Of course our yoga practice *is* precious, how would I survive without it! But sometimes our home practice can be *too* precious.

Sometimes we get really particular about where, when, how long, what we need to be wearing, what music needs to be playing, what we need to have (not) eaten or drunk beforehand, where the towel needs to lay, what we do with our hair. You know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes things need to be Just So. And when we need them to be Just So it can limit our ability to be open to new experiences.

Sometimes all this structure just gives us an excuse to not practice at all. Or to spend less time on the mat than our bodies would like. Or to allow ourselves to be bothered by details that aren’t Just So, when we need to breath through it and let it go, just like anything else.

Here’s something to try – practice after eating cold pizza from the night before. Practice jumping on the mat and doing a couple poses in whatever you’re wearing and wherever your mat happens to be. Practice doing some poses, with breathing, on the floor while you watch a movie. Or see what happens to your Sun Salutations when you listen to electronica instead the usual new age music.

Your practice will be fine. In fact you might find out new things about yourself. Let the rules go.

Now that you’ve de-cluttered, here’s how to get rid of the stuff:

1. Give items to a friend or family member. You’ll feel good about giving them something they’ll use and enjoy and that has so much more value than watching it collect dust at your place. Hand it over and immediately feel good.

2. Sell it. If you want money for stuff, organize a yard or garage sale. Keep prices low, that way your customer feels good they got a bargain and you feel good that you don’t have to carry it back into your place – everyone wins. Also, post on Craiglist, For Sale news groups and anything else that’s available. If it feels like alot, just focus for one week, you can get rid of so much stuff and then you will have a few bucks to do something fun with.

3. Give to charity. Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Diabetes Association pick stuff up with their truck here, you probably have charities around that do the same. Make use of it. Your stuff goes to a good cause and you get clear fresh space.

4. Drop boxes. You have those drop boxes for clothing etc. at the gas station or store? Make a regular habit of tossing stuff in a bag and when it’s full drop it off to a box that’s on your driving route.

5. Give it to the garbage man. If all else fails, just toss it. Yes, it’s great and you got it for your birthday but let’s say it again together – if you don’t LOVE it and don’t USE IT it has no value to you – so toss it.

When you find the methods that work for you, regular clearing becomes routine so your space doesn’t get cluttered again. We yogis put a priority on clearing our bodies of stuck energy – now your house gets to enjoy the same results. Here’s to feeling calm, happy and stress-free in our own homes surrounded by things we love, that reflect who we really are. Happy clearing.

So let’s talk about clearing clutter. Here’s how to do it. Turn on some good tunes, roll up your sleeves and tackle one room. Identify everything you don’t love or use regularly. Everything else you need to get rid of. If you don’t love it, it’s a downer to have around. If you don’t use it, it has no value to you so it’s a downer. If it makes you think you “should” do something you have no intention to do, that’s a downer too. Be who you are and surround yourself with only the stuff you use and value. You do yoga to treat your body as a temple right? You need to treat the real estate in your place as a temple too.

When you look at your mantle or a tabletop it should contain a *few* things, each of which you love and that make you smile. It should not be crowded with inappropriate gifts that don’t speak to you but you’re too guilty to ditch. Ditch it. The person who gave you the gift will not notice, or they’ll love you anyways. Not convinced? Then offer them the gift back and they can value it. If you’re really not sure about something, put it in a box and create a reminder to check in a month if you missed it or not – then ditch it. Ditch stuff that spoke to who you were five years ago. Move on. Ditch books that you know you won’t open again, we know you’re smart and well-read, now move on.

This is also a good time to think about storage – the things you love and value should be stored in furniture that makes them accessible and keeps them clean and organized. It’s great to have 200 CDs if you love music, but they shouldn’t be in stacks all over your living room gathering dust. Organize them so you can find them and enjoy them.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have a junk drawer, but it’s a contained spot and it gets a go-through regularly too. I’m a pretty sentimental person so I love my tchotchkes and used to believe that I needed to be surrounded by them all the time. Then I purged a bunch and kept only the ones I love in a box in the basement. I take out only a couple at a time and cycle through them based on my mood and the season. This way my living space isn’t jammed and I appreciate them more.

When you’ve got a room de-cluttered give it a good cleaning. Then notice how it feels. Sit in it and look around. Notice the stuff and how it makes you feel. Now you’ll feel motivated to move to the next room to achieve the same results.

When you’ve done a room-by-room clutter clearing it gets easier. Your space feels so great that you’ll want to maintain it. You may gather up new stuff less. You may start to look at your stuff with a more discerning eye regularly. And that’s good because ideally clutter-clearing should become a habit.

Here’s a good one – when you pull out your winter clothes go through them. Anything that doesn’t excite you, turf it, before it even gets into your closet. As you’re putting the summer stuff away turf anything you *didn’t* wear. This a great way to guarantee that you don’t stand in front of the closet and say “I’ve got nothing to wear!”. There may be less stuff in it, but everything that’s there works for you.

It’s interesting how much this process brings up our issues. Do we horde stuff because we believe we may not get any more – ever? Do we buy stuff that we hope will say certain things about us? Do we hope that the stuff we have in our place will reflect parts of ourselves that we want to be on display? It’s interesting process in letting go and being who we really are.

The fact is, there is no need to horde stuff because, new stuff *always* comes around, in abundance. This is all about trusting the Universe — you’ll be OK without this clutter because you are enough. You can trust you’ll always get what you need. And you don’t need *stuff* to tell people who you are. Right?

The next post is about getting rid of the clutter.

Taking care of our space is an ideal task for Fall. We talk about spring cleaning, but fall is just as good a time to get rid of stuff. In some ways it’s better because you know you’ll be inside your place more. It’s a good time to rethink the stuff that’s sharing your space. I’m really sold on de-cluttering. I used to be the tchotchke queen and now you wouldn’t know it, and I like my living space so much better. Don’t think that it’s all cold blank minimalist, but it is clear and comfortable (or at least that’s my standard). So I’m going to devote more than one post to this topic. First some background:

Decluttering is very much a part of feng shui. There’s a good book called Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui . It is a good down-to-earth useful resource and the best value is that she talks you out of your stuff. She gives you all the reasons why your reasons for holding onto junk are as useless as the junk itself. That helps you start to mentally do inventory while you’re reading to get you in the mood. She does get a little uber-gleeful in parts, but you can’t doubt her commitment to the subject.

So the Feng Shui thing boiled down, is about energy. You know how you can’t wait to get to your yoga mat when you feel tight and stiff and pockets of energy have holed up in your body? Your house feels the same way. The piles of magazines, useless tchotchkes and depressing items your ex gave you do the same thing. Stuck energy glues to the things in your house making your space feel heavy, sodden and tired. When you get rid of the clutter then the energy moves more freely – your place feels brighter, lighter and more spacious. You make room for good things to come into your life.

Another component of Feng Shui is the baguas. I didn’t really trust Feng Shui initially because I thought they were just too simple – like I put a plant and a mirror in my “love” corner and ohmygod now there’s a hot man in my life?? Come ON. But my Feng Shui guru Grace MacKnight told me that it’s all about intention. And thanks to yoga I get that. If I want to make a change in my life, reflecting my committment to that intention in my space will continually remind me. Even when it’s an unconscious reminder, it’s really powerful.

And I think that’s the value Grace and her Feng Shui skills brings to table. She works consciously on the elements that affect us unconsciously – and her touch results in a really *comfortable* space that works harmoniously. Even if you’re not sure why. I went to her house once to walk her labyrinth. She lives in a straw bale house in the forest on a lake. I walked into her place and felt like I could have dropped into a seat and immediately fallen asleep. How often do you feel like that at someone else’s house? Heck, how often do you feel like that in your own house? Her place was comfortable and spacious and yet cozy. If had the solid feeling of a cave with natural light. And I know she planned it that way. It made me realize how powerful intention can be in a living space.

But let’s get back to the beginning and talk more about clearing clutter in the next post.

Let me add to my last post – I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m going to use all my ‘buckle down’ Back-To-School Fall energy for eating squash. The other cool thing about this time of year is that you can get some fun projects on the go. Think of all the free time you’ll have now that you won’t be spending hours doing yoga on the beach, or lolling around reading trashy novels.

I started knitting a scarf three years ago at this time. It’s beautiful burnt orange wool from Norway that feels so good in my hands. I made the scarf way too wide so if I ever finish it (yeah right!) it’ll be more like a shawl than a scarf and good thing cause it’d be way too itchy to wear around my neck. But it can’t be a shawl either because it’s got too many holes in it. I decided I wasn’t going to rip out rows, that was just too depressing, I was just going to knit for the sheer meditative joy of it. And boy it must get me into the zone, it looks like I have a mouse in the house.

I’m thinking about starting another knitting project just so I can get intimate with some new wool. I’m hoping to go to a Pacafiesta event this weekend where, as far as I can tell, everyone brings their Alpacas, angora rabbits and other furry creatures to Exhibition Park and then knits, weaves or crochets their body covering into attractive garments. Holey orange shawls, if they’re lucky.

Knitting not your thing? There are plenty of projects you can start. And don’t give me this “I’m not creative” thing. Ever held a crayon in your hand? Then you’re creative. It was just beaten out of you by your algebra teacher and it’s high time you resurrect it.

It’s not about being *good* at it (no judgement!). It’s not about the *commercial value* of whatever you create. Don’t be such a capitalist oinker, you’re going to give your creations to the people that love you unconditionally. No expectations right? We do it because it’s fun. We do it because being boring responsible adults all day gets old. And finally, if you’re female and think that knitting and other crafty projects are too cute and girly and grandmother-in-an-apron, then read this.

K, are you over it? Great, here are a few resources to get the creative juices flowing:

Craftzine – good knitting illustrations and dead-easy Coco Lip Balm

Instructables – feel like there’s still so much to learn? Sure there is, learn how to make a boat, a chair, or a chocolate latte.

Get Crafty – you don’t need Pacafiesta! You can get your cat involved in the comfort of your own home. Here are tips on converting Snowball’s fur into felt.

There are some fun how-to’s here too – don’t miss hostess snack cake sushi and marble magnets. Impress your friends at cocktail parties with your mad skills!

Also, check out ReadyMade Magazine, WikiHow and PingMag from Japan.

Don’t just sit there – make something!

Even though I haven’t attended school in a zillion years, the breathless expectations that come with back-to-school time are welded into my bones. I didn’t put on a tartan skirt, with hair in pigtails, grab my barbie lunchkit and skip off to school this week. But it’s there. School’s starting. Time to buckle down.

It’s time I looked at my white pants with disgust. It’s about time to stop using shocking orange paint on my toenails. It’s time that I gleefully toss the last tablespoon of the husband’s hamburger relish and recycle the bottle (seriously, who over the age of 10 even *eats* relish?). And it’s high time I pulled up my socks.

We call this time “Fall” even though the season doesn’t technically change until the 21st, but really, this is it. Major change. I’m more likely to do resolutions this time of year than January. Try to do some things better. But of course the challenge is keeping it reasonable so I’m likely to stay on the wagon. Here are the tips I’m hoping to follow to keep it somewhat sane.

Work on 25% at a time. I heard a cool thing on the Ayurveda 201 podcast on Hip Tranquil Chick . She said for any change you want to make, work on changing just 1/4 at a time. Now I’d have some hope with that. Instead of quitting something lock stock and barrel, I’m going to try just easing back 25% at a time. I can handle that.

Pick one or two important things to focus on. Don’t bother trying to boil the ocean, if it’s worth doing it’s going to need focus. However I find it’s easier to *add* stuff to my life than to try to *stop* doing something. So if one of my goals is to eat more squash, then bring it on, I can do that and something else too. If my goal is to stop doing something I love? Then I’m gonna focus and not spread myself too thin.

Stay grounded. Ayurvedically-speaking, this time of year can be a very Vata time. Out bodies want to slow down with the seasons and instead we crank it up. So we end up feeling scattered and nutty. So in my yoga practice I’m going to make sure I do my calming forward bends. I’m going to eat warm food, keep some inward focus, take breaks and *breath*.

Wear layers. I’m too all-or-nothing to do the in-between seasons really well. I also often think I know in the a.m. exactly what I’m going to need for the day but in reality the weather is as fickle as, well, the weather. So I’m going to wear layers and be prepared. And put the white pants in storage.

These are a few of my intentions for the Fall, hopefully they’re useful for someone else too. Just remember to find out where the bathrooms are, offer to share your lunch and whatever happens – play nice! Happy back-to-school.