Spring and morning rituals

tumblr_mtg41oL7FS1sfzmz7o1_500Down here, in the Southern Hemisphere where I live, Spring has arrived. The sun is rising earlier, and that means every one in my house is waking up earlier – the dog, the kids… I’m still getting up at 6am to meditate and do some yoga but this past week my routine is being disturbed by everyone else’s routines changing to an earlier time slot. So hubby says to me this morning, “I think we’re going to have to get up earlier.” His reason of course, is so we can meditate in silence with just the sound of the birds, no kids or dog needing our attention. Of course I know he’s right, but my instant reaction to him was a very resounding “Uh uh, no way!” But I know I’m fighting a losing battle and that very soon I will be rising with the sun again, just like I did through the winter. It takes a little adjusting, but eventually you get used to it. It’s amazing how beautiful it is when the sun is rising, and because there’s so much time before we all have to leave the house, everyone is ready to go, there’s no shouting or frustration from us with the kids, because as I said, everyone is ready to go on time. So, there’s always more than a few positives to rising early, don’t you just love the silver lining?

love & light xo

New Tricks

girl_dog walking_sep 2009

Hello Everyone!

You may be wondering what I have been doing with myself while on my break from blogging? Well, the plain truth is that most of my time has been spent working (yes I know, sad) but in between endless work, being Mama to my girls, wife to my husband, etc, I’ve also applied and been accepted to Yoga Teacher Training! I’m very excited about this because it’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I began practicing yoga over ten years ago. Finally I think I’m ready!

And so with commitment to teacher training comes the pre-commitment – six months of abstaining from any mind-altering substances (as well as for the duration of the training period of 12 months). That’s 18 months in total. Now, this commitment is the least of my concerns because these days the extent of my mind-altering substances is limited to red wine. So giving up red wine is not all that hard. At least, that’s what I told myself initially.  The hard part is the commitment to a practice of daily mediation and yoga. That is the hard part for me. But more of that in a later post.

Of course you may be wondering – “So why the commitment to yoga teacher training then?” Well, it’s exactly for that reason. It’s because I need the commitment. I have to do it. The rebel side of Heidi is taunting me daily “you have no dedication, no staying power, no idea how hard this is going to be, ha!” Which is exactly why I must do it. What’s that saying by that writer? Oh yeah, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it – Steven Pressfield, the War of Art.  Besides, fear and excitement are the same thing, right? Or is it that they just feel the same?

Mercifully, my darling husband has also decided to quit drinking for the duration so it’s not been so difficult. If it’s not in the house, then you’re not tempted right? Actually, I’ve not been tempted at all. And there were times when I would drink red wine a lot, it was my comfort, my numbing device, my self medication for the times when things were too horrible to face or I just wanted relief from the sharpness of life’s problems. After a glass or two of my red medicine, nothing seemed too bad.

kick_back_july 2009

What I’ve noticed from not having anything to numb my bad days with is that I’m much more productive. I have loads more energy and I’m not struggling to help out more with homework, I’m sleeping better and my anxiety is much better. And while the house work is still my last priority, I’m not so annoyed about the tumble-weeds of dog hair that collect in the hallway anymore. 🙂

Another lovely thing that has come out of not drinking is my husband and I now have “tea time” every evening after the children have gone to bed. I make a pot of Chamomile tea and we sip this while nibbling on something I’ve baked like choc-chip cookies or something like that. It’s soothing, comforting and settling. Peaceful.

I’ve also begun a spa night for myself. Something I’ve not done for myself – ever! Scented candles, himalayan bath salts, face mask, a good book and I’m chill-axing in the tub. And if you know me at all, you would know I loath baths, but these days I am loving them!

Who says you can’t change a person?

love & light xo

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Rituals: Mornings (and New Year’s Resolutions)

morning walk

How do you wake up in the morning? Do you wake up happy and bounce out of bed ready to start the day? Or do you roll out kicking and screaming, begging for it to be the weekend? Have you resolved to change a habit or routine this year? While I have changed my morning routine in the last few months, I am also going to try, realllly try, to make more time for exercise… I am inherently lazy you see. I need to trick myself into exercising. Disguising it as a simple activity seems to work wonders!

Most mornings I get up, take my beautiful black Labrador, Jet for her morning walk, sometimes I’m accompanied by one or both of my daughters. After which I usually have a shower while my darling husband makes me breakfast. Trust me though, this wasn’t always the case!

I found this article in The Gentlewoman magazine, issue  No. 3 Spring/Summer 2011 about women and their morning rituals and routines, I thought I would share some of them with you as some of them are so good!

0:600am – Robyn (singer, Stockholm) is an early riser. “I like to wake up super-early,” she says. “The feeling of being up before other people or before my email or phone is going crazy gives me great pleasure.”

 06:30am – Julie Verhoeven (a London-based artist) tricks herself in the morning by setting her alarm clock 30 minutes forward. “I call it the Greenwich Mean Time con,” she says. “With it, I gain fake extra morning minutes. It makes you feel spoilt for time, if a tad confused.” She also recommends delaying the first look in the mirror, to allow the face to settle into awake mode. 

06:45am – Sadie Stein (editor, New York) relies on big band recordings to start her morning. “Nothing gets you out of bed like ‘In the Mood’,” she says, referring to the recording by Glenn Miller.

07:30am – Monica Galetti (chef, London) follows an astringent ritual. “I love a piping hot shower followed by a blast of cold water,” she says.

08:00am – Johanna Chemnitz (yoga teacher, Berlin) “takes time before anything else to remember the last fragments of my dreams from the night, and then let my thoughts wander around to just wherever.” To aid this, she has a “cup of rice-milk coffee with freshly ground cardamon in it, along with a piece of fine dark chocolate”.

I love this last ritual of warm milk with cardamon and dark chocolate. I also like to let my thoughts wander around in my head, mixed with last night’s dreams.

What about you? What are your morning rituals?

love & light xx

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Rituals: Oil Pulling

 

A little over 3 months ago I started doing something that has really changed my life.

I began a little practice called “oil pulling”. Hubby and I do this each and almost every morning. It’s really quite simple and extremely rewarding.

You take a tablespoon of oil, we prefer sesame (organic and extra virgin) and you swish it around in your mouth for 2o minutes. I know it sounds bizaar and highly irregular, but I am telling you things happen when you do this – good things!

The first thing I noticed was the positive effect it has had on my teeth and gums. They are so much whiter and my gums are the perfect shade of pink. My skin is clearer and brighter. The usual body aches and pains I suffered from daily are now much less noticeable, especially my lower back, knee and shoulder/neck issues. My hair is so shiny and healthy, and it’s even beginning to thicken up, something which I thought would never happen because I had lost so much from stress over the past few years. I thought it was never going to grow back, but I can definitely see new hair growing.

The concept of oil pulling is very old, it comes from Ayurvedic tradition. It has a detoxifying effect because the oil acts like a cleanser. When you put it in your mouth and work it around your teeth and gums it “pulls” out bacteria and other debris. You can learn more about oil pulling here and here.

And I’ll tell you something else – it’s excellent for arthritis. I have it in my thumbs and since I’ve been oil pulling, my arthritis pain is nonexistent. It’s different for each person, so it may take longer to receive benefits, but I’m telling you at the very least your teeth and gums will thank you for it. Another benefit is the lovely quiet time I get before my day really gets going. I take the dog out for her morning business, I take a shower and I check my email. It makes for a very easy start to the day.

I’ve passed this wonder practice onto many of my friends and work colleagues and I am surprised how many of them have taken it up themselves and are enjoying their own personal benefits from the practice.

If you’d like to ask me any questions about oil pulling, please feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll leave you a reply. xx

 

Leave a Reply and let me know!

Rituals: Choc Chip Cookies

I’ve been baking Choc Chip cookies for as long as I can remember.  The recipe I use is from the Australian Women’s Weekly and it’s a fairly standard recipe.  Over the years I’ve tried different types of flours and even added peanut butter to the mix and the cookies always turn out delicious.  But I was bored with this recipe and so I started to look around for a variation.  It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for on one of my favourite blogs; A Cup of Jo, and the best part is that the recipe is gluten free – bingo!

Jo’s recipe came from Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille, a delightful food and photography blog that you simply must visit if you haven’t already.  The photography and recipes are so beautiful and inspiring.

So I couldn’t possibly blab on about these incredibly tasty cookies without giving you the recipe, right?

The Best Chocolate Chunk Cookies You’ll Ever Have
By Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille

Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Muscovado and Fleur de Sel (I used Maldon Sea Salt in lieu of not having Fleur de Sel in my pantry)
Makes 2 dozen cookies

If you don’t have issues with gluten, you can use 8 ounces (230g) of all-purpose wheat flour in place of the gluten-free flours. (I used whole wheat Spelt flour)

You’ll need:
1 stick (110 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) packed light muscovado sugar
1/4 cup (50 g) natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature
1 cup (140 g) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60 g) amaranth flour
1/4 cup (30 g) tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus more for topping
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (170 g) chocolate chunks or chips

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, muscovado sugar, natural cane sugar and vanilla extract. Mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes until light. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the egg and mix until combined.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, amaranth flour, tapioca starch, fleur de sel, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together.
3. Add the chocolate chunks and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
4. Scoop the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. With the help of the parchment, roll the dough into a log that is approximately 2 inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Wrap the log with the parchment and refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. In this time, preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Cut the log into 1/2-inch disks. Place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats leaving 2 inches in between the cookies.
6. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of fleur de sel. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until edges set and start to turn golden. They might look a bit underdone, but this is fine. They will harden as they cool and slightly under-baking them will keep them chewy and moist.
7. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before trying to lift them. Store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

These are definitely the best choc chip cookies I’ve ever tasted. They are a smidgen more involved to make, but the results are more than worth it!

Rituals: Making Kitchari

Kitchari (pronounced kitch-a-ree)is a delicious Ayurevedic dish made with rice, mung dhal (or yellow split peas) and spices.  It tastes delicious, like a cross between creamy rice and dhal. I like to make it a couple of times a week, it’s a great for lunch time and after yoga.


The benefits of Kitchari are many. In Ayurveda, the ancient science of healing in India which dates back 5000 years, the mix of rice and beans is extremely gentle on the digestion and is said to purify and cleanse the body of toxins.  It is often used when recovering from illness, surgery, childbirth or in times of emotional stress and it is an excellent antidote to the dietary excess of this time of year – Christmas parties and feasting leave quite a toll on our stomach and liver.


It is deliciously warming on a cold day and cooling on a hot and humid day.  I really believe that Kitchari holds magical healing properties because whenever I have it, I always feel lighter, calmer and more relaxed.  I look forward to eating this hearty vegetarian dish.  It is neither soup nor porridge, something in between. If you enjoy congee, then you will enjoy trying Kitchari then for they very similar.


The recipe for Kitchari I am going to share with you today is from my Yoga teacher, Angela.  She is the one who introduced me to the delights of Kitchari.


Ingredients:

1/2 cup basmati or brown rice 

1/2 cup yellow split peas/mung dhal 

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 pinch Asafoetida powder (also called Hing, this is important as it cuts out “air” factor of beans)
1/4 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon Ajwain seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1-2 teaspoons Salt (Saindhava; Ayurvedic rock salt is best)
1 tablespoon Ghee (Ghee is the best as is stable at high temps and is best medium for medicinal properties of herbs to carry into tissues)
1 1/2 – 2 litres of filtered water, approx.

(You could also use black mustard seeds, or yellow mustard seeds, pepper, cinnamon, fenugreek etc, but try to stay at around 2-3 teaspoons total of seeds or dried spices so you don’t overload)


Method 

Wash rice and dhal together in a sieve, then soak for at least 1 hour, over night is even better.

On medium heat, warm ghee in a large, deep, saucepan.

Add all seeds and asafoetida, and fry for until the seeds begin to pop, usually a couple of minutes.
Add the onion, garlic and ginger and then fry for a minute or so.
Add the dry spices: coriander, turmeric and then fry for a minute or so.
Add the washed and drained rice and dhal to the pot and fry grains/beans for a couple of minutes in the spices.

Add the  water, stir through the rice/bean mixture, then cover and bring to a gentle, (and I mean gentle) boil, then put the heat on low and let simmer for anything up to an hour or even longer.  


*Keep checking the liquid when cooking, don’t forget to give it the odd stir every now and then so it doesn’t stick on the bottom of the pot.  

You want the rice and peas to break down as much as possible – this will happen much faster for the rice, you will find the peas might not break down all together, which is fine.  You will end up with a soup or porridge-like consistency, neither too thick or too runny.  Sorry, but there is no technical term for that!  Just go with your instincts and frankly, how you think you would like to enjoy it.


Yum! 


Avoid using the microwave to reheat any leftovers. 


Kitchari is a wonderful addition to your recipe collection, don’t be afraid to get creative with the spices and discover your own delicious version of this wonderful, healing food.    

Bon appétit!

Heidi 

Image sources: from my own kitchen and Google.

Rituals – Making Bagels

A few months ago I took to making bagels for my girl’s lunch boxes for school.  Let’s face it, sandwiches can be monotonous. I remember my mother giving me what felt like the same thing for lunch day in and day out for all my years of schooling – a Vegemite sandwich, a muesli bar, an apple and a frozen drink, if I was lucky.  Needless to say many times I chose not to eat my lunch and bought from the school canteen instead. School lunches these days are a high priority in the morning routine.  My girls’ school requests that there be an emphasis on no pre-packaged foods and never any chocolate, lollies, or chips, (not that I would) and no packaging, so a litter-free lunch box must be provided each day. The children police this between themselves often coming home from school telling me where I went wrong.  I was not to use plastic wrap ever! I wasn’t supposed to give them cookies – I mean, home-baked chocolate chip cookies – really?  So we came to a compromise, I still put in the home-baked cookies, but now I alternate with home-baked slices, muesli bars and their absolute favourite – bagels. 


A fresh batch of home-baked bagels cooling down.

The bagels have become something of a ritual for me, and for the family too.  Usually I bake them once a week, sometimes twice, and they always get devoured by my husband and children.  I have to make sure I save some for myself – I love them toasted with either Vegemite or peanut butter and washed down with a nice cafè latte of course.

The bagel recipe I use is full-proof because it is a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess cookbook.  What makes these bagels so good is they are based on a traditional Jewish recipe, so that involves poaching the dough before baking in a super hot oven.  The recipe makes about 15 or so, depending on how big or small you want them to be.  My girls’ love to roll out the dough and make them with me, so it’s nice to do with family around.  

The recipe calls for strong flour, my flour of choice is organic unbleached Spelt.  The gluten in Spelt ensures a perfect dough, but it is different to wheat gluten, so it doesn’t upset my daughter Chloè’s gluten intolerance.   



Bagels
1kg strong flour, plus more as necessary for kneading
1 x 7g sachet of yeast or 15g fresh yeast
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar (I use an organic raw variety)
1 tablespoon of plain oil (I use Rice Bran oil)
500 ml warm water
2 tablespoons of malt or sugar (I use organic brown sugar) for poaching the bagels
2-3 baking sheets 

Combine flour, salt and yeast together in a bowl.  
Add the sugar and the oil to the warm water and pour into a well in the centre of the flour and then mix to combine into a dough.  You can do this by hand or with a dough hook, whichever you prefer.  It doesn’t take long to do and I love the feeling of the yeast coming to life in the dough, so I do this by hand.

The dough will be very stiff and quite hard work, but keep kneading until it becomes smooth an elastic, about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning once to coast all round, then cover the bowl with cling film and leave it to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  A warm spot with no breeze is best.

Now punch the dough down, then give it another good knead.  Then divide the dough into 3 equal sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope, then cut each rope into 5 equal sized pieces.  Roll each piece between the palms of your hands into a ball, and then roll into another rope, circling it round to form a ring.  Seal the ends by overlapping them a little and pinching them together.

At this time, put on a large pan of water to boil.  When it boils, add the malt or brown sugar.

Sit the bagels on the baking sheets, cover with tea towels and levee for about 20 minutes, by which time they should be puffy.  Now preheat the oven to 240C or your maximum oven temperature. 

Now you can start poaching your puffy bagels.  Drop a couple at a time into the boiling water and poach for 1 minute, turning them once.  As you poach them, put them back onto the oiled baking sheets, well spaced, then bake for 10-15 minutes or until they’re shiny and golden brown.  Makes 15 bagels.

Once cool enough to touch, dig in!


Heidi 

P.S.

*Please note that I have not added all of Nigella’s recipe commentary, you can find the recipe in detail in her book.


Sources: How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson (p.304) from Nigella.com and my own photograph taken with Instagram.
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