Sunday, September 26, 2010

Easy Like Sunday Morning.

Every Sunday morning, regardless of what I have to do or where I have to be (ie, work), I always like to read Post Secret's Sunday Secrets. Post Secret is an ongoing Art project where people send in their deepest secrets written on a post card. It's a great way to start off the morning, I think. Anyway, I was scrolling through this morning's edition when I happened upon this secret:


Now, I've never given up a religion to be in a relationship, but it brought me back once again to my uncomfortable relationship with religion.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that I grew up Methodist and left it pretty much as soon as I left the house. I think I also have said before that, generally speaking, I respect the idea of religion/s, however that is defined for the person. It takes a little more openness of mind if you're in to worshipping Stargon, the Leader of an Alien Race Sent to Bring Us Back Home, but hey. Whatever gets you through the day.

I'm always on the lookout for a Religion that fits more closely with what I believe in the hopes that I can once again find that community I so treasured when I was young. Because, I think more than the spirituality of the thing, it's the community I miss. But it seems whenever I find something that behooves me to get past the books and into the community, the people seem to get in the way.

Don't get me wrong - 98% of the people I've met where GOOD people. Kind people. In fact, many of the people I've met on my various explorations remain friends. I guess, I've noticed over the years that:

Religion + People = Drama

If I must put it bluntly. Everyone comes together on a chosen day to Believe together for a few hours. Then, everyone breaks up in to committees and cliques and the drama begins. So-and-so thinks they're a martyr because they're on so many committees. This bunch of people are choir nazis. This, that, the other. The Religion isn't the problem, it's the people in it. Normal people who are otherwise perfectly likable get caught up in one-upping everyone else in who is the Better Follower.

Where is the spirituality in that? The devotion? The Love so many religions profess to offer to their followers?

So, I guess in the meantime I am content to explore and expand my spiritual horizons through books and contemplation. As much as I'd like to find other like-minded people to toss around ideas and grow with, adding people might just mess things up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's a Cooking Kind of Day

Normally I work Friday mornings from 9-1:30. However I switched my schedule yesterday afternoon when I discovered that not only was I 100% UNbooked, there were so many empty spots that coming in that early was pointless. So, I switched to a 4:30-9pm shift "on call" in the hopes I'd fill up some more. I need to call before I go in, but odds are greater I'll at least have a couple clients.

But it means I had the day to cook!

Which is a good thing, as I am in the process of changing the day I shop. Normally I do it Fridays after work, but as Tuesdays and Wednesdays are now my weekend, it just didn't make sense to buy all that food and then not have time to do anything with it. Down that road lies sugary, salty processed convenient yumminess.

Yeah. Kinda trying to do away with that.

So, today I spent the morning scrounging around to make food for breakfast and meals eaten while at work. So, I made some yummy banana coconut muffins. I started with the basic muffin recipe from the Zen Monastery Cookbook, then took a left turn at Albuquerque. Eggs? Why use eggs when I can use half a banana? No applesauce? I'll use the rest of the banana! I bet this mango orange juice would taste good too! Throw some of that in! Garam Masala? Sure, why not? I'm lucky they didn't explode in the oven.

I really am no good at taking food pictures.

I also made some kidney bean cutlets, which is based off the amazing chickpea cutlet recipe from the Veganomicon. I figured if you could do it with chickpeas, you could do it with other kinds of beans, too. I'd post a picture of that, but they frankly don't look appetizing at all (although they are very yummy).

Finally, I made some biscuits, again from the Zen Monastery Cookbook. Although this time I followed the recipe. I made them pretty large and thin, so they came out kind of like biscuity sandwich thins. My plan is to use them to make sandwiches with the cutlets, which I also made thinner by making six instead of the four the recipe indicates. I also don't roll my biscuits out and use a biscuit cutter. Not only does it make one unholy, sticky mess when I do it, it just seems like a waste of energy. So, mine are more "drop" biscuits. I use a 1/4 cup as a scoop and drop 'em on to the sheet. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I won't post a picture of those either, as my oven is wonky and they didn't brown well.

So now I have enough food to theoretically get me through until my new shopping day on Tuesday. Of course, I'll run out of caffeinated tea on Sunday. Also, I've pretty much used up all of my staples today. The last of the flour, the breadcrumbs, the kidney beans... it's going to be an expensive trip come Tuesday.

Sigh.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cleanse: Day 3

Yesterday was the final day of the cleanse. I spent most of the day at home (except for one trip to the laundromat and a light walk in the afternoon). I felt much better physically over the course of the day and my back wasn't nearly as vocal as it had been the day before.

I will admit that I added small amounts of sugar back in yesterday. I just couldn't face another cup of tea without it! Although, I will say that I cut back significantly on the amount that I used. That is something I'm hoping to continue with - using less of the stuff all around.

I also took 2.5 hours yesterday and cleaned the bejeezus out of my apartment. I decluttered, found homes for things that had none, vacuumed and swept and wiped my way to tidiness. I also had a pot of dried sage boiling (2 tsp of dried sage to 2 cups water) the entire time for an additional metaphysical cleansing. I hadn't done that when I moved in, because everything was already clean, but the space feels better having done it now. Lighter, somehow.

I ended my cleanse before going to bed last night with a evergreen/eucalyptus salt bath. Ahhhhh.

I am hoping to extend the healthful eating far beyond the three days. For this cleanse, I splurged and bought everything organic, and this is something I want to continue. If I'm careful and plan, I should be able to afford to once again buy organically.

I also want to get back to eating more veganly. If that's a word. Which I'm not sure it is. But this whole sinus broohaha straight on the heels of a dairy overload has really hit home for me. I will not call myself vegan; the last time I did so I felt I was in a hole dug by my own obsessiveness. It should not feel like that. I see veganism as a positive move toward a more sustainable way of life. It should not be frustrating and overwhelming. So, I will not be vegan. I will just strive to make every day as close to vegan as possible.

I also want to learn more about Ayurveda. Man, I cannot spell that for the life of me. Anyway, after learning how to spell it I want to really learn more about its "food as medicine" philosophy and some of its remedies and basically whatever I can get my hands on. I'm all for better living through healthy eating, so this is really calling to me right now.

I think the last time I did this cleanse, I had a lot of negative things to expel. As I am in a much better place this time around, this cleanse mostly served to support me in returning to a more healthful place, as well as supporting my body while it did/does what it needs to do to rid me of this sinus thing.

Still not a cold.

Damn it.

I feel good this morning. I am glad I did this cleanse.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleanse: Day 2

Yesterday was Day 2 of my three-day cleanse. It went well food-wise. I am convinced that the choices I made this go 'round fit me much better, and make it much easier to follow. Last time, I tried to push myself a little and tried new flavors during a cleanse. Needless to say, a cleanse is not the time to try and expand your culinary palate. I ended up throwing a lot of food out and was desperate by Day 3 for "real food". I am not feeling that this time around, food wise. Well, sugar-wise I'm going a little crazy, but that's probably for the greater good.

Yesterday my back ached like a MoFo. Which is very unusual for me as I don't usually have back pain. It took me half a day to realize most of the discomfort was centered around my lower back - the kidney area. So, odds are pretty good my kidneys were letting go of a ton of stuff and as a result I ached. At one point I had my Massage Table Warmer laid out on the floor and cranked up to 120 degrees. I laid on that for 45 minutes and that helped. A hot bath before bed helped some as well.

I took a 2.5 hour nap yesterday! I never do that, so obviously I needed it pretty badly. I also slept 12 hours again last night. Although it wasn't the best sleep as I struggled to find a comfortable position for my back. I ended up spending most of the night on my side with a pillow used as a bolster under my waist and another between my knees. It seemed to work well enough to keep my spine in alignment, which also makes me think that not all of my discomfort is cleanse-related.

I did two steams yesterday - a thyme facial steam (1 tsp of dried thyme in one cup of water heated to boiling), and another lavender steam bath. I think they both helped - the 2.5 hour nap came directly on the heels of the thyme steam.

All in all, most of yesterday was spent nurturing myself and managing the back aching. Lots of gentle yoga in addition to the heat did seem to help. My back feels some better today, but then I haven't really done much except get up from bed and sit here (ramrod straight) in front of the computer, so I'll have to get back to you on that.

Today is the last day of the cleanse officially, and I am debating whether or not I should extend it beyond today. I am definitely feeling the positive effects of it. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cleanse Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of my three-day cleanse. It went really well, if I do say so myself. I've made a few changes from the last time I did this cleanse, mainly because the foods I tried last time really weren't to my liking. So...:

1. Instead of using the kitchari recipe from the cleanse, I replaced it with a kitchadi (same thing) recipe from  The Ayurvedic Cookbook. The book has several recipes, and you can choose one not only according to your dosha, but also whether or not you want to fortify a particular internal organ (kidneys, lungs, digestive system, etc). I chose one of the two lung recipes as I'm currently fighting of some kind of sinus thing I am looking to prevent it from moving into my lungs. I literally cannot afford a repeat of this spring's bronchitis fiasco.

2. I have not cut caffeine out completely. I was most of the way there on Sunday (down to just half a cup of tea), when the sinus thing really hit me. I was at work and I couldn't tell if the sudden headache was a result of the caffeine withdrawal, the sinuses, or something I was getting from the client (it can happen, believe it or not). When I got home I had another half-cup and the pain went away, but my head continued to throb for the rest of the evening. That's when I decided that I wasn't up to cleansing, fighting a sinus issue, AND going through caffeine withdrawal. As I don't drink all that much caffeine to begin with, I figured it was okay to keep my sanity and my one cup of caffeinated tea.

3. This time I came up with a three-day menu plan and have posted it in plain view. It includes three main meals and three snacks. I was concerned about becoming ravenously hungry during a massage, and planning things out so I always had a snack nearby took out a lot of anxiety. My three-day plan is a variation on this each day, and based on suggestions in the original cleanse:
     Breakfast: rolled oats with unsweetened dried fruit and almond milk
     Snack: Fresh fruit
     Lunch: Kitchari with steamed greens
     Snack: Bowl of fresh fruit with plain soy yogurt and ground flax seeds
     Dinner: Black Bean Stew (recipe from original cleanse), steamed greens
     Snack: Smoothie made from frozen fruit and almond milk
     Drinks: Yogi Detox Tea, Yogi Immunity Support Tea, Water, and Almond milk

I'm using all organic ingredients, pretty much no sugar at all (which is painful not to have in my tea!) and very little salt. The order of the food varies a bit from day to day (ie, I used the oatmeal as a filling snack between massages last night at work), but I'm basically eating the same thing three days running.

4. I am working steams into this cleanse. It seems to work wonders on my clogged sinuses and they just plain feel great. I've already done two (technically the night before the cleanse started, but whatever). I did a straight "hang your head over a pot of water" facial steam, and then a much more intense lavender steam in the bath later on. I'm planning on doing another two today (a thyme-scented facial and another lavender bath), and one to two tomorrow, depending on the state of my breathing.

So... now you've got the low-down on my cleanse. Starting at Day Two, I'm feeling a little tired and a lot achy, mainly in my back. I'm unsure if the tiredness is sinus or cleanse related, or the achy the cleanse or poor body mechanics at work. I'm thinking it's all a combination of the lot of them. But over all, I'm feeling good. I'm feel much lighter, of body and spirit. Since I have today and tomorrow off, my plan for today is to take it very easy and just hang around the house. This is the first sinus issue I've had in a year that I've been able to take time and recover instead of just plowing through and making things worse.

You notice I refuse to call this a c*ld. Because it isn't. Really. It ISN'T.

Shut up.

Seriously though, I was in Borders yesterday reading books I'm not going to buy browsing and was reading in a different Ayurveda book that sinus problems are a direct result of a Kapha imbalance (Kapha is one of three "doshas", the others being Pitta and Vatta). All consumption of dairy should cease and desist until the balance is restored. Well, let's just say that not five days prior an excess of amount of dairy products was consumed. Seriously, it wasn't pretty. So, I'm chalking this sinus thing up to a doshic imbalance.

I can if I want to and you can't stop me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Sweetener By Any Other Name...

Have you heard about the latest move by the Corn Refiners to change the term "high fructose corn syrup" to "corn sugar"?

If not, here is a link to a brief article from NPR here.

This really doesn't surprise me, considering all the ads that have been running over the course of the last year saying that HFCS isn't any worse than regular sugar and that it's perfectly safe to eat.

That may well be, but does it really need to be in everything?

I won't say that I never eat things with HFCS. I am not perfect, and I enjoy junk food as much as any perpetual dieter who's starting fresh tomorrow. But I try. I do my best to make my own foods and continually strive to lessen my reliance on prepackaged foods. With better results some weeks than others.

One of the benefits of enjoying cooking and baking is that you learn what is in stuff. For example, you learn that you can make soup out of broth, vegetables, maybe some grains/pasta, and maybe some protein. Add some spices like oregano or cumin and you're set.

You learn that 3/4 of the ingredients on the Campbell's Soup label is completely unnecessary to producing a tasty soup. And that includes the addition of HFCS, which is in the vast majority of processed and convenience foods currently available in the United States.

Sugar - any kind - is not necessarily bad in small quantities. But the problem is, we aren't getting small quantities. We're getting huge amounts of it, and most people are completely unaware. My problem, I guess, is that it is in everything, in things it has no business being in, and the Corn Refiners want us to think that's not a bad thing. What they fear is losing a multi-billion dollar cash cow because people are waking up to the fact that it is in stuff it has no business being in. That it is making people fat because of its omnipresence.

I honestly have no sympathy for the Corn Refiners. They are not looking out for the "little farmers" who are growing that corn - there are no little farmers involved here. We're talking factory farms once again who in addition to providing us with a pointless product are raping the earth with factory farming practices. Personally, I would like to see these farms diversify - plant some HUMAN food crops, maybe.

Just don't try to tell me that HFCS - or whatever they end up calling it - isn't doing more harm than good.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cleaning House

I've been eating like crap lately.

Massaging has given me a bit of an excuse, as you can burn like 250 calories an hour doing it, and I've been averaging 4 a day. So, yeah. Now you know why all those massage therapists are so freaking skinny.

But still, I feel like I've been eating badly, and MyPlate has confirmed that my salt and sugar intakes are through the roof. Although, I'm getting more than my daily allowance of protein and fiber, and virtually nothing in the way of cholesterol. Take that all you pundits who say you can't meet dietary requirements on a veg*n diet.

(the salt and the sugar issues are my own fault, by the way).

So, I've decided that I need to cleanse my palate. So, next week (a week from today, in fact) I will be doing the detox I did a year and a half ago that I found in the Yoga Journal. There's plenty of food involved, but it is very simple and comprised mainly of fruit, veg and simple grains like rice. It is a three-day cleanse, which I may or may not do for three days, depending. It may just be two, it may be longer. I'm going to take this week to prepare for it by cutting back on the coffee, mainly. But also trying to make the cleanse work for me, as I have neither the funds nor the storage space to allow for the variety they suggest. Luckily I have no problem eating the same thing several days in a row. I will probably pick the two recipes that worked best for me the last time and just go from there.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where were you?

For my parent's generation, it was the Kennedy assassination. They saw it happening in live time, they watched it over and over again, horrified. They were confused, angry, and at a loss for words.

For my generation, it will always be "9/11".

At the time, I was still commuting in to work every morning. It was just another morning the entire drive in.  But somewhere between parking the car and arriving to work, the first plane crashed into the first tower. Someone told me this as I was sitting down and I didn't believe them. Then I had a mental image of a little twin-engine veering into the tower - just a horrible freak accident. It wasn't until the second plane hit the second tower that it became anything more than that.

At the time, my company was occupied in the suite on top of a building filled otherwise with apartments. One of my coworkers lived one floor below the office, so most of us crammed into his tiny apartment watching his television. The boss on duty stayed in the office to man the phones, but he said nothing to stop us from doing this. We watched as the towers fell. We cried. We tried vainly to contact friends and family in the area to make sure they were safe. At the time, I had a friend who lived in New Jersey who regularly used that subway stop when she commuted in for work. I was afraid for her and my other friends.

Nine years on, 9/11 has taken on an interesting meaning for me. I remember all of this, and I still am saddened by the horrendous and pointless loss of life. But it angers me that "9/11" was taken on as a battle cry. That we still use this to justify so much continued loss of life. That it is used to justify racial profiling and religious intolerance.

We should never forget what happened on that day, because as we all know those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. But there should be a second sentence tacked on to that famous saying: Those who don't learn from history are doomed to make things worse.

So, remember those who died a needless death on that day. Remember those who became heros in the hours and days after this tragedy. Fly the flags, use that moment of peace to offer up prayers, reflect. But please, learn the lessons that this tragedy has presented us. Because I think, regardless of our mutual opinion, we can ALL agree that we never want this to happen again. Ever. To anyone. Anywhere.

Peace.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Anniversary

This coming Tuesday will be the one year anniversary of me starting this journey to being a massage therapist.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

It seems crazy that it has already been a year. A year since I quit a marketing career, turned my back on a decent (for Vermont) wage, benefits, and security to work nights while going back to school. To not knowing if my paycheck would cover my expenses or if I was even going to be any good at my new profession. I took a huge gamble - I threw caution to the wind and hurled myself into a new life without considering the consequences. 

It was the best thing I could have done.

One year later, I've graduated and I'm working in my chosen profession. Moreover, people LIKE what I do. I'm helping people feel better. When I leave work at the end of the day, I'm exhausted but I'm happy. I'm happy to go to work, I love the people I work with, and I'm making a difference.

It all started one year ago this Tuesday. I had no idea what was in store for me, but boy was it one hell of a ride. I'd totally do it all again in an instant.

Well, maybe except for that bronchitis part. I'd prefer not to do that again.

I am so glad I threw caution to the wind and made that leap. My life will never be the same because of it. It will be better.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's Official.

I'm microwave free. I believe it's been over a week now. I'm really bad at keeping track of such things. If I ever get hitched, the dude's gonna have it easy because I'll be the one forgetting birthdays and anniversaries.

Anyway.

I'm loving it. It takes a little more planning, because if I want to use something frozen I need to remember to take it out of the freezer, but I'm loving not having it. The upside is, I also seem to be eating more whole foods, simply because I can't just nuke a boca burger anymore. I have to turn the oven on and blah blah blah. And when it's this frakking hot outside, who wants to do that?

It also helps that I have a burner that can boil water in about 90 seconds. On low. Yeah. I can't really use it for anything else but in this case I think it's actually FASTER than the microwave. It works really well for boiling water to make tea or oatmeal in the morning.

Overall, getting rid of the microwave is probably one of the best things I've done.

Now, I just need to, you know, actually get rid of it. It's still sitting in the closet. Only now it's got the old coffee maker in there with it (I went ahead and bought a smaller one, which I am loving as well).

This is Two.

Monday the 21st was our 2-year wedding anniversary. We build the Matrimonial Pizza, with my brother officiating and my Chick of Honor wat...