“How are you?”

“I’m great! How are you?”

“Great!”

Last week, someone whom I see from time to time asked me that ubiquitous question and after throwing my auto-pilot answer back at her in a raspy voice, making some small talk and then walking away, I realized that no, I did not feel ‘great.’ Someone told me many years ago that if we always answer that question with a big smile, we might be able to fool even ourselves into feeling as wonderful as we say we feel. All those years, I carried that belief with me, subconsciously. But last week, I realized that I wasn’t fooling anyone. I should also note that, as an INFP, I couldn’t say that I’m a fan of making small talk. Could that be the real reason behind the auto-pilot answer I continued to give?

I was dealing with yet another cold, which later turned into laryngitis. I barricaded myself as best as I could inside my house and only went out to drop off and pick up my children at school. Amidst the misery of a runny nose, sore throat and a disgusting cough, I realized something: when I didn’t need to struggle to raise my voice to make myself heard through the noise of the boys throwing toys around or having an argument, I was enjoying being a hermit. Again, I could dump this one on my MBTI, or perhaps I just felt exhausted. I’m extremely thankful to two wonderful ladies who were able to sub for the classes that I was supposed to teach last week.

To be honest, isolating myself from the world proved to be useful as I had some extra time, in-between cooking, cleaning and looking after my family (moms can never truly take a sick day), to knit on the couch.

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I chose to ignore the mess around me. To give you an idea of what it looked like, I’ll share this photo of just a fraction of my living room:

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I’ve come to praise myself on my admirable barefoot agility around Lego on the floor.

Last week, I finished knitting booties for my boys, which they will receive for Christmas. I also finished my moms’ birthday gift, the pictures of which I will post in a few weeks, after I present it to her. And lastly, I decided to take on a quick project for myself. After all, I was feeling under the weather and needed some cheering up.

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I used beautiful kettle-dyed Peruvian wool from my stash to whip up these boot cuffs, and now, I’m looking forward once again to the return of the cooler weather.

Speaking of weather, Toronto has been basking in the return of the summer, but with warm golden foliage. I finally felt well enough on Sunday to get out with my family to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

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Indian Summer. I have always loved that name for this particular time of autumn. In Russian, it’s known as Butterfly Summer. I haven’t spotted very many butterflies over the past week, but I have seen many dragonflies, including this busy lady hovering above the pond in the backyard of my parents-in-law.

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Do you see it, right in the middle of the photo above? It was zooming around and wouldn’t stop to rest and take a breather, or pose for a photo.

Who said it’s the spring season that makes people walk a bit faster, with renewed enthusiasm? In the warm golden days of late September, everyone is preparing the harvest for the inevitable colder days… Just ask the raccoon neighbour that was recently evicted from our shed, where it laid out a cozy — and smelly — home for itself, right above our garbage and recycling bins.

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Do you see how many acorns that busy squirrel is carrying in its mouth? Isn’t it amazing how nature adapts to the changes all around? Even squirrels, with their Vata energy, take naps from time to time, as I have seen one squirrel do recently in our backyard. I’ll take that as a sign that it’s more than okay for us to make time to rest during this busy season, in-between tending to our turf.

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We need to ground and enjoy our mini-vacations, even if they last 10 minutes before someone comes calling, “Mommy, can I have a snack?”

How do we find the right balance between the buzz and high-energy of the everyday life and the need to get back to our roots, recharge and just be? I will continue to play hermit from time to time, hopefully as a way of preventing another cold before it sneaks up on me.

I read this wonderful poem by Robert Whyte the other day. He posted it on his Facebook page and I have copied and pasted it here. The wonders of technology!

REST

is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is not stasis but the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually, but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to become present in a different way than through action, and especially to give up on the will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we put it right; to rest is to fall back, literally or figuratively from outer targets, not even to a sense of inner accomplishment or an imagined state of attained stillness, but to a different kind of meeting place, a living, breathing state of natural exchange…

Excerpted from ‘REST’ From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. ©2014 David Whyte
To be Published in late November 2014

Reading the poem again, I feel traces of guilt, due to taking too much down time, start to melt away. So, I give you permission to do the same. Rest, recharge, and allow yourself the space to show up as you are.

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Thoughts? Tips? Words of wisdom? Share them with me in a comment!

Wishing you a great week,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

It all started with a creative writing exercise during which I was asked to write a vignette about my hair. Sitting at my sewing machine table that doubles as a writing desk, I smiled to myself as I typed the first words of my personal hair story. Here was a Pandora’s box, opened wide. At the time of writing the story, I was determined to let my hair grow. I wasn’t going to touch it until mid-December, when I was planning to return to a salon for a simple trim that would keep me looking presentable and avoid the awkward in-between stage that is inevitable with the growing out of hair. For a reminder of how my hair looked a week ago, refer back to last week’s post.

My hair and I have been the best of friends and we have been sworn enemies. A few times, I painstakingly grew my hair long only to get bored with it, walk into a salon and confidently say to a stunned hairstylist standing behind me and facing me in the mirror, “Just chop it off!” Okay, maybe my words weren’t as bold. Instead, I would sigh and say, demurely, “I think I want to go short again.” It feels liberating to have the old hair drift onto the sleek hardwood floor. There is something akin to a feeling of true pleasure as I would take a deep breath, look at my reflection in the mirror and realize how fantastic my hair looks. After each dramatic transformation, it looked — and felt — like a different person was gazing back at me. I would walk out of the salon, standing a bit taller, and catch myself constantly bringing my hand up to my freshly cut hair to play with my new short style.

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The last time my hair was long, in September 2011. This photo was taken in San Francisco.

And then, I would get bored with it. Suddenly, everywhere around me were images of gorgeous women with luscious long locks. Long hair envy. That’s what it is. Likewise, after years of growing my hair, I would get that old familiar pang upon seeing a pretty gamine pixie cut on someone who looks perfectly chic. I would turn to the person next to me (usually Pawel) and say, “Oh, I really want to get my hair cut short again.”

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This is what my hair looked like on most days, as I would wear it tied back in a bun. Nothing to write home about.

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And one more photo from that SF trip, just because I’m feeling nostalgic. See what I mean? Boring, pulled-back hair.

Each journey to growing my hair has been long and arduous, taking years. My first short haircut, in 2004, was inspired by Meg Ryan’s hair in You’ve Got Mail. In 2008, I decided to get a chin-length cut on a whim. Unfortunately, I went to a terrible new salon and the hairstylist was a bit over-enthusiastic when I told her I’m comfortable with having my hair cut short, so I ended up with a shorter style than I had expected to see. Nevertheless, I loved it. And in 2011, I did it again with an inverted bob, donating 10 inches of my hair to be made into a wig. Since then, I have been attempting to grow it, only to get bored with it once my hair reached a shoulder-length bob style.

Long hair is easy to hide on a bad day when we don’t have much time to style it. On most days, I would wear my hair in a ponytail or wrapped in a bun. Short hair is practically impossible to hide, especially on a humid summer day when I leave the yoga studio following a sweaty class looking every bit like a mad scientist, with curls sticking out in every direction. And yet, short hair is easier to style and looks fabulous with a great cut. So, what to choose? That was my embarrassing inner dialogue, and yes, I will confess — blushing all the while — to thinking about my hair too frequently, obsessively.

So, I decided to step into my grown-up shoes and make a decision about my in-between hair. I called the salon and booked an appointment.

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Et voila! The result is a pixie cut that I personally am very happy with.

So, I will keep my hair short for the next while and enjoy it to a hilt (an expression that I will shamelessly confess to have adopted from Audrey Hepburn). Thankfully, Pawel has gotten accustomed to my hair antics and is no longer shocked by my inch-long hair. At the end of the day, it’s just hair and I love to feel great.

***

Last week, we shared with you a recipe for our butternut squash and apple soup. This week, the apple theme continues…

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While I was growing up, my mom, who is an excellent chef but doesn’t enjoy baking all that much, would sometimes get the baking bug and make a rustic apple cake. She passed on the recipe to me, and it’s actually a simple traditional Russian recipe for an apple cake that goes beautifully with tea on a chilly Autumn evening. We made a few substitutions to the original ingredients.

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APPLE CAKE

Ingredients:

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2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup coconut sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk (almond milk would also be great in this recipe)

1/2 cup butter, melted (feel free to use coconut oil)

3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (be sure to use tart apples that will remain firm while baking)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a saucepan and use a small amount of the butter to grease a baking pan (we used a pan that is 8 by 10 inches in size).

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2. Whisk the flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

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3. Whisk the eggs, milk and melted butter together in a separate bowl.

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4. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then, stir in the chopped apples.

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5. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake on the middle rack for approximately 30 minutes or until the cake appears golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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6. Allow the cake to cool. Slice and serve with a cup of your favourite tea.

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Enjoy!

***

Over the past weekend, Pawel finished this beautiful piece, inspired by the goddess Pele.

Pele

Both Pawel and I are big fans of mythology from different places around the world. The story of the Volcano goddess Pele is truly fascinating. And really, who isn’t interested in the magic of volcanoes? Right?

Do you have a story about your hair that you would like to share with us? How about a favourite recipe that features apples? Or, you can simply let us know what you think of the Pele piece, or any other material from this week’s blog post.

Have a great week!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

In Southern Ontario, Autumn is in full swing. And we love it. Unfortunately, like many of our friends, we have also been affected by the cold virus. That’s something that can happen with the changing of the seasons.

Now that we are mostly feeling better, we have been going outside every day to enjoy the changing landscape and enjoy the crisp chill in the air. Apple-picking is a favourite fall activity for our family. The boys always get a thrill out of running through the orchard and choosing the juiciest apples they can find. So, on Sunday, we dressed warmly and headed to our favourite organic orchard to pick apples.

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Upon returning home with our delicious bounty, I was filled with inspiration to get in the kitchen and cook something seasonal and heart-warming. More on that below.

In Ayurveda, the fall season is governed by Vata, which is composed of ether and air. It’s no surprise that for many of us, this season also signifies the start of the cold virus. The lazy, lingering summer days are rarely strictly structured, keeping us up late at night and encouraging us to take cat naps in the hot and hazy afternoons. The following fall season signifies a complete change in energy. Suddenly, everything moves faster as we try to get back to our regular routine, sometimes anxiously struggling to keep up. This sudden change in routine can be incredibly stressful for the body and the mind.

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As someone with a dominant Vata dosha and a bit of Pitta, I love the fall season for the relief it provides from the humid and hot summer days. However, I get cold very quickly and when it seems to me like most people around me are walking around in September with short-sleeved t-shirts on, I can be seen wearing a cozy sweater. I no longer feel self-conscious about this. I do what I need to do to take care of myself.

What else do I do to take care of myself, following the lessons of Ayurveda for the Vata season? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ll share with you what I do, and please feel free to borrow these ideas for your own self-care, particularly if your constitution is mostly Vata.

I go to sleep between 9 and 10 p.m. every night and wake up at 5 a.m. This ensures that I get 7-8 hours of sleep on most nights. In the morning, after oil pulling and brushing my teeth, I drink a tall glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice and then exercise for an hour (yoga, cardio, pilates, or weights). After I shower, I do an oil massage before sitting down to have breakfast.

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I eat at approximately the same times every day: breakfast at 7:30 a.m.; lunch at 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.; dinner at 5-5:30 p.m. I consume a lot of healthy oils (avocado, coconut oil, EVOO) and hot, unctuous, mostly liquid foods such as steel-cut oats with cooked apples and cinnamon, soup, vegetable stews, etc. I still eat my greens (kale and spinach are great), but I either sprinkle the leaves on a hot bowl of stew/soup or consume a salad massaged with a lot of oil (see above) immediately prior to eating my soup/stew. I eat cooked/roasted root vegetables with — again — lots of oil. Why is oil consumption so important? The air and ether qualities of Vata mean that during this season, we have a tendency to feel dryness. We need the moisture, both on the surface of the skin and on the inside of the body.

If you, like I do, eat meat occasionally, I would suggest eating salad (at room temperature), followed by lean meat at lunchtime. Our digestion is strongest from 10 a.m. to 1-2 p.m. As such, my substantial meals are breakfast and lunch. Dinner for me is small and simple. Usually, I will have a bowl of soup with a toast of sprouted grains topped with avocado and sea salt. Eating dinner before the sun sets is also ideal, because our digestive system slows down after sundown. Of course, since the sun starts to set earlier these days, it’s best to try to eat dinner at around 5 p.m., if possible.

Interested in additional information on self-care during this season? I love this website and use it frequently as a great resource.

So, to summarize, this is a time to sloooooow down and get grounded, luxuriate under warm blankets, eat grounding food with healthy oil, and get plenty of rest. What about exercise? That, too, should be more grounding at this time. Long walks are excellent, as is a yoga practice with slow, deliberate Vinyasa and standing/balance postures held for a few long breaths. Restorative yoga is excellent right now.

A couple of years ago, shortly after our younger son was born, I felt I needed to get outside and move, but I also craved rest and relaxation to get me through the long days of taking care of our two children. And no, that pattern has not changed. Here is a video I made during that time, a how-to of one of my favourite restorative yoga postures, Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose):

Feel free to use a few blankets and cushions in lieu of the bolsters and blocks, if you do not have those at home. Relax and breathe in the pose for about 10-15 minutes.

So, back to the weekend… Here is what I cooked using butternut squash and the beautiful apples we picked on Sunday:

 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND APPLE SOUP

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We started with a few basic ingredients:

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Then, we chopped the onion and sauteed it with ghee while continuing with the preparation of our apples and butternut squash…

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We reserved the butternut squash seeds and roasted them later on a baking sheet at 300F for about 30 minutes. I didn’t add any oil or sea salt to the seeds this time, but that’s a great option, if it’s the way you like your pumpkin/squash seeds.

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Cook the squash and onions in a large soup pot, and then add the apples, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground turmeric.

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Add enough distilled water to cover the chopped squash and apple, and then top with another 3-4 inches of water. You can use vegetable stock in lieu of the water.

Bring the soup to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the squash is completely tender. Allow to cool a bit before using a blender to create a smooth consistency:

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Yes, our soup was steaming hot while we blended it, simply because we were hungry and our children kept asking when dinner was going to be served. I would highly recommend allowing the soup to cool before blending it.

To serve, we sprinkled the soup with cinnamon, but those roasted seeds were also great. We garnished the soup with the seeds for dinner the following day.

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The ingredients:

1 tbsp ghee (coconut oil or butter can also be used)

1 medium-sized white or yellow onion

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and chopped, with the seeds reserved for roasting

2 apples (choose firm, tart apples that will hold well together during the cooking process)

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Enough water to cover the chopped squash and apples, plus 3-4 inches on top. An alternative is to add vegetable stock.

Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

***

Our final update is regarding our latest product finishes. We are preparing for the Made by Hand Show and creating new, unique, interesting pendants for you.

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Knitting-inspired pendant, made of Purpleheart wood and crushed shell inlay.

sup red amboyna burl

SUP-inspired pendant, made of Red Amboyna Burl, with turquoise inlay.

mantis purple heart

We do like insects! Praying mantis pendant, made of Purpleheart wood with crushed shell inlay.

As always, please leave a comment to let us know what you think of our new products, this week’s recipe, yoga pose, or about whether you enjoy the fall season as much as we do. If you did take the Dosha quiz (link above), let us know what your Dosha is and how you cope with weather changes.

Until next time, enjoy the week!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

 

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I might be writing this with a big box of tissues to the right of my laptop on the sewing machine that serves double duty as my desk. Actually, make that a roll of toilet paper. We’re out of facial tissue and toilet paper is the next best thing, no? I might also be wearing my fuzzy soft blue bathrobe with pajamas underneath. The cold virus season arrived early and quickly this year, while the weather outside is slowly changing.

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The beautiful Rose of Sharon outside our front door is in full bloom.

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And yet, trees in our neighbourhood are starting to shed their gold- and orange-coloured leaves.

On Sunday, my in-laws arrived for a visit, hauling into our kitchen a beautiful harvest of tomatoes from their garden — sweet, dainty bite-sized cherry tomatoes, as well as large, juicy ones. I have loved tomatoes since childhood, choosing the fleshiest crimson one and biting into it as if I were eating an apple, to the astonishment of my family members, some of whom still are getting used to the idea that a tomato is, in fact, a fruit.

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See what I mean? Isn’t it absolutely, preciously perfect?

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Yep, adorable!

Even so, raw tomatoes and my belly are not the best of friends anymore. Roasted tomatoes, on the other hand… Or, even better, tomato soup! Mmm…

When I woke up in the morning yesterday with a sore throat and sinuses that were crying pitifully, I knew that soup was in order, and not the chicken kind. Don’t get me wrong, in my state, I was in no mood to head into the kitchen and cook, but as I’m the only one who could produce the soup within the shortest time, I forced my creative chef hat to stay on my head and got to work.

I wanted to eat those gorgeous tomatoes sitting on my counter, but not in their raw state.

I pulled together a few ingredients:

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After about 30 minutes — twice as long as it should have taken, as I did take many breaks to tend to my runny nose — this is what I had simmering on the stove.

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And it smelled delicious!

I added some water, let everything come to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes, and then came the fun part…

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I do enjoy my immersion blender. It allows me to make delicious soup quickly, without needing to use the traditional standing blender.

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Voila! The result was divine and warmed my aching bones. Oh yeah, and it helped clear the sinuses, also.

I improvised along the way and whipped up this soup in my virus-laden daze. However, thanks to the photographs I took during the cooking process, I was able to remember which ingredients I used. So, I’m happy to share the recipe with you.

Dharma Wanderlust Vegan Tomato Bisque

Ingredients

2 tbsp EVOO

2 medium-large white onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

7-8 medium-large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1-2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp cumin seed

1-2 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp ground coriander

3 cups distilled water or vegetable stock

Method

1. Heat the EVOO in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Then, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, on medium-high heat, until the garlic and onion are browned.

2. Add the tomatoes, sea salt, turmeric, cumin, fennel, and coriander and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the water or vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Then, simmer for about 30 minutes.

4. Let the soup cool. Then, use an immersion blender or transfer the soup in small batches into a standing blender, blending until the desired consistency is achieved.

5. Garnish as you wish, if you wish. I sprinkled my soup with black sesame seeds and hemp hearts.

Enjoy, and SHARE this recipe and the soup with your friends (especially ones who might be fighting a nasty cold)!

 

And for dessert, may we suggest our delicious, sugar-free date rolls:

As always, we would love to read your thoughts on these recipes. Feel free to leave a comment. And SHARE with your friends!

Stay healthy,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

Smoothies have become my comfort food. They soothe my hunger pangs and the shaky nerves that can come with the big BACK TO SCHOOL day.

My older boy, D, started his first day of senior kindergarten today. We both stood in front of the school, he behind the gate and I in front of it with my younger boy, A. Both D and I struggled to put on a brave face and smile through the anxiety. I’m confident that once he walked into the building, the anxiety did start to thaw as he was reunited with his friends.

As for me, my distraction came from A, who happily skipped along on our way home to play and prepare dinner… And yes, prepare smoothies! Oh, how glad I am that my children love smoothies! Healthy nutrition is one of my top priorities as a parent, and working with kids’ particular palates, it’s not always simple to get that healthy and nutritious food into their bellies without a power struggle of some kind. Enter smoothies.

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Ayurveda is my healthy living guide, and it dictates that fruit should always be consumed separately. However, I love to use fruit as a natural sweetener in smoothies. In addition, I never, ever combine fruit with dairy (I rarely consume dairy, in fact) and any other animal protein. I feel it’s important to state these guidelines before venturing into today’s recipe. As a woman with a primary Vata dosha, too much fruit and improper food combinations can quickly give me an upset stomach. I try to adhere to these Ayurvedic guidelines with the food combinations in meals I prepare for myself and my family. Another extremely important tip is to use room-temperature ingredients. Ice-cold drinks can weaken agni, the digestive fire, interfering with healthy digestion.

Without further ado, here is what I used in my belly-friendly green smoothie today:

– about a cup of vanilla-flavoured unsweetened almond milk

– one ripe chopped banana

– one large ripe mango

– a bowl full of baby spinach

– a small bit of grated ginger (I freeze the ginger root to make it easier to grate), to taste

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Simply add all the ingredients into the blender in the order listed above, and blend to a smooth consistency.

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The result is delicious and kid-approved.

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Feel free to follow the above guidelines to custom-craft your own smoothie. For the liquid, in lieu of the almond milk, other good choices are organic soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, or even distilled water. I recommend using a ripe avocado, pear, or banana, in addition to another ripe fruit of your choice. As for the greens, baby spinach or kale are the traditional options with which most people are familiar. However, collard greens or even beet greens are also excellent. If you are not accustomed to the taste of greens in your smoothie, feel free to start with smaller handfuls of greens and gradually train your taste buds to (hopefully) enjoy them. The fruit is not enough to tempt your sweet tooth? Feel free to sweeten the smoothie with a few pitted dates or maple syrup until your taste buds become accustomed to the sweetness of the ripe fresh fruit.

In the mood for CHOCOLATE? We have the perfect chocolate banana protein smoothie for you, and we even have a vlog to guide you along!

All you need are a few simple ingredients:

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– almond milk (or your choice of milk)

– a ripe banana (we couldn’t get our hands on a ripe enough banana for the above video, so we apologize for any confusion)

– approx. 3/4 cup frozen berries (your choice)

– tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

– tbsp unsweetened nut butter

– a dash of cinnamon

– a few dates or a bit of maple syrup (completely optional)

Watch the video for additional information! Blend and enjoy!

Are you a parent whose children are heading back to school today? Feel free to share your tips on dealing with nerves/anxiety, as well as about healthy nutrition throughout the school year. Curious about other healthy living tips and recipes? Leave a comment and let us know what you would like to see next on this blog!

Wishing you a wonderful first week of September!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust