February 2, 2014

2014: Watch

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
(Source: attributed to Frank Outlaw and several others)

My teacher opened the first yoga class of the year on Jan 1st with these words, creating an introspective intention for this year ahead. The essence of the message is “we become our thoughts”. To choose who we wish to be, we must choose what we think.

Now at first, it seems that our thoughts just pop in and out any which way but closer observation suggests that our thoughts are the sum of our experiences. Our environment, our families, our friends, the books we read, the movies we watch, the people we follow on Facebook, Twitter, blog feeds or the news, the teachers we’ve had, the coworkers we engage with daily all influence our view of the world. Yet, we do not accept each advice we receive, each rumor we hear, we like some movies and dislike others – we choose what we let in.

Three ways to choose what we let in:
1) Start positively
Each morning, let us set an intention for one thing we will do on that day that is of personal value. Maybe it is finishing a work assignment on time, going to the gym, having a leisurely family dinner or finally returning an overdue library book. Or maybe it is a little ritual to do each morning like a leisurely cup of tea or a few pages of writing to clear thoughts. I like to read from Eknath Easwaran’s Daily Thought to set an intention for each day.
http://www.easwaran.org/thoughts-for-the-day-quotes.html Some days I read before work and some days I blog. I’ve been making myself a warm quinoa porridge or a choco-peanut butter banana smoothie for breakfast.
We create momentum by foreseeing and acting on future needs or by catching up on the tedious items long procrastinated. We form and store energy in congenial company. Allow ourselves to be happy that we have done something that was good for today and will make tomorrow better.
2) Immersion
Read more books, watch more movies about the things we care about so that we learn more, understand more and thus change more. Whatever we choose, if it is climate change, world hunger, our own health, let us educate ourselves by investigating widely and diversely on the topic. Try to spend just 10 minutes of each day in immersion or deliberation. Create a habit of thinking about what is important to us, as our thoughts align with our core values, it becomes easier to create new habits.
This year I want to create a habit of meditation. I created a personal reading syllabus of six books on meditation and philosophy. To concretize my goal I set a target date for completion by the end of the year. On the days when i find it hard to sit in meditation, I can still read about it to inspire myself and remind myself of its importance.
3) Practice gratitude
At the end of each day, let us remind ourselves of one thing that we are thankful for. A beautiful sunset, a smile from a child, a message of love, a chance courtesy from a stranger. Each day, I look forward to hearing the bird song in the trees. Some days I watch for a sighting of the moon. And then there is the serenity at the end of a yoga class. Or the days my husband cooks dinner when I am too tired. The occasional letter or call from a long time friend that warms the heart. A melody on the radio that brings forth a happy memory makes me thankful for both melody and memory.
As we begin to look for these things during the course of a day, we become more aware of the present and the opportunity to participate and create such a moment for others in our daily encounters. We become grateful for the opportunity to give.

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November 3, 2013

Diwali Desserts: Gujias

Wishing all a Happy Diwali and Prosperous New Year ahead!

Now that I’ve eliminated dairy from my diet and avoid white sugar, it’s made it challenging for me to buy Indian sweets and desserts from the usual stores and restaurants. So I decided to innovate in my own kitchen and get my sweet fix my way :)

Some times called gujias, ghughras, karanjis or somasis these delectables symbolize Diwali to me. While the different names represent different regional cuisines and have their unique fillings the coconut filling is a classic memory for me. This year is the first time I learned to deep fry thanks to my mom-in-love during her summer visit and I gathered my courage to attempt this on my own so that we could have a traditional Diwali sweet.

DSC00013

The filling

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cream of organic wheat (farina, instead of rava)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 Tblsp poppy seeds
1/4 cup + 1 Tblsp sucanat ( dehydrated sugar cane juice granules)
1/2 tsp ground cardamamom
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp coconut oil

Directions:
Slow roast the cream of wheat with the coconut oil while stirring continuously.
As it begins to turn a light golden, add the almond flour and slow roast till the aroma releases.
Then add the shredded coconut and wait for its aroma to join.
Finally, the poppy seeds, and ground cardamom and nutmeg and roast the mixture.
Remove from the stove to cool and add in the sucanat and mix in the bowl.

The shell: I got the proportions of the recipe for this at Rak’s kitchen’s blog.

Ingredients:
1 cup organic pastry flour (instead of maida/all-purpose flour though I need to try a brand with a finer grind next time)
1 tsp corn starch
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin coconut oil
pinch of salt
pinch of sucanat (my addition)
water as needed
canola oil for frying

Directions:
Make into a stiff dough and set aside.

Assembly:

Divide the dough into approx 16-20 small balls.
Roll out each circle into thin pooris. You may need to dust a little flour to prevent sticking.
I used a calzone shape form to get even sizes.
Lay out the poori in the form and then fill with 1 Tblsp of the filling and close.
If doing by hand you will need to either crimp the edges with a fork or do a roll and pleat.
Another alternative is to simply press down and roll a cutter to trim the excess dough.
Lay each of these aside in a wet towel and cover to keep moist while you finish assembly.

Finalement
Heat up the canola oil for frying and test the heat with a tiny bit of dough.
I used a small pot to reduce the oil I needed for frying and fried the bits in batches of 3 each.
As these bites got devoured as soon as they were cool, I did not have time to soak in syrup or dust in powdered sugar
:D, which I guess is all for the best.

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July 2, 2013

32 Pounds Lighter

weight

My scale tells me I’ve lost 32 pounds over the last year! This is almost 22 percent of my initial body weight from July 2012.

01 Jan 2012  we stopped drinking alcohol. No wine, beer, cocktails, not at parties, while socializing with friends or even weddings. This was not a big decision for me as I’ve never had more than two and more often just zero as I always preferred dessert over drinks. It was however an intentional choice to stop completely.

July 2012, I realized I hit my maximum adult weight when I had to go dress shopping for a friend’s wedding.

August 2012, when we came back from a trip to the West Coast, my husband decided he wanted to stop eating dairy and white sugar. A week later (Aug 17th), I joined him. Now we’ve been 100% dairy-free for over 10 months. No cheese, ice cream, ghee, butter, cream, yogurt, etc. The refined white sugar elimination has been trickier. I’ve fallen off the train on this one a few times. But hey, nobody rides a steady bike the first time.

September 2012, I started having green juices to boost up my immune for the onset of winter. When I was having dairy and/or sugary items, the green juices tasted nauseating to my palate. However, with the elimination of those products I began to detox and my palate changed and actually began finding the green juices hydrating  – I felt like a sponge absorbing long deprived nutrients.

Jan 2013, after several months of juicing I began to feel much higher in energy and was looking to start some physical activity. Those who know me, know that I do not run so of course I re-initiated my yoga practice. I think the nutrients in the green juices must have helped my body to recover faster as I found my practice deepen quicker than it had several years ago. I also had the endurance to go to yoga classes more than just once a week.

Mar 2013, spring arrives and we begin seeing all the beautiful greens in our farmers’ markets. This was the perfect time to convert our weekday office lunches into salads. I would take a box of nuts (1/4 to 1/2 cup),half a tub of greens with some other chopped veggies and olives, as well as a piece of fruit for a mid-afternoon snack. I found that my work days were more productive as I could stay more focused and did not get sleepy after lunch time.

Was 32 pounds a goal? No, though I’m really looking forward to fitting into a dress I got for my 26th birthday. I’m going to be 32 years soon so the real blessing will be that I have gained back the fitness and energy that I had along with these new healthy habits to maintain them.

June 3, 2013

Snails and Baggage

Can you imagine carrying your own personal shelter with you wherever you go? Like a snail or a crab or a turtle?

Look around you – if you had to cart all your shelf with you whenever you wanted to go for a walk around the block what would you take? I bet we’d all de-clutter in a hurry if we had no surety that our treasure hoard would be there waiting for us.

We all move at some point in our lives – some from our parents home to college, from there to our own home or to a home with a partner. Sometimes we move for our careers and sometimes we move to be closer to family. Folks move after losing a loved one and others move to make room for a new baby. Sometimes we need to flee or evacuate our homes in a hurry – I think of the recent wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes . Some newlywed friends of mine lost their home to an electrical fire – no forewarning in that case.

What are we carting around with us through all these travels? How much is truly essential for our needs or even comfort? More importantly why are we carting all these things with us? Does it reflect our frustrations or unresolved business? Are we carrying our past as baggage with all the pain and disappointments or is it the ancient history of our once triumphs. Maybe instead we are holding onto those things that will be done when we have that elusive free time. Does it represent our hopes and aspirations for the person we wish to become or said another way – the person we wish we were?

Are we carrying a memorial or a to-do list?

And what about the person we are today? How much of that would we recognize in our stuff?
Is it hiding under the glossy shadow of the past and the foggy future?
Let go and celebrate who you are today.

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March 10, 2013

Rightsizing My Wardrobe

There are some amazing people in the world:

Sheena Matheiken who started the Uniform Project where participants wear a little black dress for a year to raise money and awareness for their charity. Dave Bruno who lived with only 100 things for one year and Leo Babauta who took it down to only 50 things.

And Courtney Carver who started the Project 333 Experiment – 33 clothes for 3 months. In this one, I found myself brave enough to participate during Apr-Jun 2012 and reduced my wardrobe by 25% last month. I’m definitely a slow tortoise when it comes to editing my life and I don’t expect to get down to double digits in my wardrobe count this year but I’ve been inspired in many ways to re-think my purchasing decisions and to create a strategy for going forward.

Strategy for Rightsizing a Wardrobe and its Contents:

1. SET A CAP LIMIT
Obviously, it is necessary to count your clothes before you choose a limit. I’m choosing my current 180 items as the cap limit. So this means that should I need to purchase an item this year, something else has got to go.  Furthermore, I’m going to set a goal target of ratcheting down to 135 items by next spring i.e. another 25% reduction. I expect to do this primarily by purging items as they wear out and occasionally by replacing items with a smarter choice.

2. CHOOSE A FUN FOCUS
Some people enjoy scarves, others shoes or purses. Jewelry is my personal vice. I enjoy expressing myself with classic pieces for work, sparkly ones for parties, and vintage, quirky or eclectic items for casual wear to align with my mood. I adore exploring arts markets and talking with the artisans and especially love it when I can get an original piece made just for me and right in front of me. So I’m giving myself license on this aspect of my wardrobe and have not been including it in the tally. Jewelry seems to be a good area to choose as a fun focus as it takes up less space, is lightweight for air travel, and lasts longer than most items in your wardrobe.

3. CONSIDER A UNIFORM
I realized I have a simple and direct way of choosing clothes for work. I wear jeans or pants and tops. When it comes to parties or casual wear, then I tend to wear more skirts and dresses. My current work wardrobe has 10 tops – 5 for warmer weather and 5 for cooler weather. Since I wear them on a regular cycle, they wear out faster and I replace them more often.

4. CHOOSE A COLOR PALETTE FOR MIX AND MATCH
There are many TV shows that are always demonstrating how to get more mileage from your wardrobe by mixing and matching. While they definitely have good points, it helps to narrow down your focus. All my skirts, pants, leggings are in the white, black, grey and dark blue denim range of colors. This makes choosing tops, purses and shoes easier since I only have to make sure they will go with four bottom colors.

5. CONSIDER DRESSES
Dresses give you a finished look and save a lot of time in the getting ready routine. You just pull one on and you are done. Sure you may throw on some stockings or leggings occasionally and then fill out your accessories but you don’t have to debate your mix and match.

6. REVIVE OR RE-PURPOSE CLOTHES
Shorten your once-worn evening gowns into cocktail dresses, your ragged hem pants into capris. Take in clothes that are too loose but you love. You can shorten sleeves or remove them to summer-ize clothes. Make sure what you keep is within an inch of fitting you right.

7. CONSIDER VERSATILITY
My 10 work tops (16% of my tops) supply 71% of the days in a year. Going forward I need to think about purchasing items that are more transitional – I have decided to stop purchasing tees since I never wear them at work. I’ve also started getting frock-style kurtis or tunics to condense my ethnic and regular wardrobe. This way I can wear them more globally – just as a summer printed dress or with leggings to blend in at Indian parties.

My favorite multi-functional piece: A black and white paisley silken maxi skirt that can also be worn as a summer wrap dress, or a sarong at the beach.

How do you edit your wardrobe?

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