The early-morning darkness greets me as I rise and stretch into another day. It’s 5 a.m. and I slip quietly downstairs to feed the cats, swish some coconut oil in my mouth, and drink a tall glass of warm water with lemon before stepping onto my mat to say hello to the new day with yoga.

A few hours later, I am finally able to see the trees outside as the daylight makes its mellow appearance, becoming lazier with each passing day and deciding to sleep in. Some days, I follow suit, but I prefer to get to bed earlier. I have never been a night owl, unlike my partner in life and business.

Each day, with the illusive appearance of the sun somewhere behind the grey clouds, I notice the colourful leaves on the trees start to become sparse, with the strong northern wind whisking the fragile leaves right off the branches and with a mesmerizing, swirling, aggressive dance, leading them around on the dance floor, mid-air, before finally allowing them to land on the cold ground. Laying them to rest. Just like that. The grand finale. It’s a dramatic prelude to the dull, grey month of November that inevitably follows. It’s not a favourite of mine.

Too many goodbyes have been said in the recent weeks, and not all of them bittersweet. We continue to watch the world around us change, as some of the personal and private sinks deeper into a secret hideaway, while other hidden stories come to light. Can we retreat into our own quiet sanctuary while continuing to remind others of all the gifts we have to offer? It’s a delicate balance I’m trying to find, learning to trust, to acquiesce to the unknown while laying low, like the fallen leaves, trying to create warmth on the cold ground.

Acquiesce. Let go. Allow nature to take its course, as it inevitably will every time. For now, we say goodbye and look for the nuggets of joy in the transformational seasons of our lives. They’re in there. We just have to mine for them and continue to create warmth, leading with the heart, and digging a little deeper to invite the sunshine in from behind the clouds.

***

We have created beautiful autumn mementos for you:

maple paduak

The maple leaves are made of Yellowheart (photo below) and Padauk (pictured above). We also have Purpleheart leaves available, but those are not shown here. The pieces are approximately 1 1/4 inches in height and 1.5 inches in width.

Yellowheart maple

We will add these items to our website within the next couple of days. So, check back soon and follow us on Facebook  or Twitter for frequent updates.

Stay warm and go with the flow,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings.” – Buddhist Sutra

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What makes you feel alive? What brings out in you the vibrant spirit of innocence, inspiring you to leap in pure joy, to dance? The forest has always felt like home to me. I’ve been known to joke about having been born in the forest and magically teleported into my mom’s arms at the birthing centre. I remember the exact moment, in early childhood, when I first felt the calming effects of the trees, the mossy ground, the shimmering sunlight whispering down to me through the rustle of the leaves on the giant tress. I was about four or five years of age and, while enjoying a picnic under tall fir trees, my dad used a thick crown of moss nestled on the ripe earth to build a few houses that resembled The Shire. My imagination ran wild with images of witches and fairies peeking out from behind the doorways of the cozy inch-tall houses. Yet, I felt rooted, strong, peaceful and calm amidst my daydreams. To this day, I feel grounded in the forest like nowhere else. It literally is my happy place, my home.

I’m fortunate to have been born into a family that adores nature. Every weekend, until I was well into my teenage years, my parents would plan a family picnic for us, driving out to explore new hiking paths, trails, and lakes. It’s natural for children to love being outside, exploring freely, and I refuse to let it go. I don’t ever want to lose that love, and I strive to continue to cultivate the same passion for the outdoors in my children.

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Safety, comfort, and freedom. Child-like freedom that flickers from the soles of my feet, rising up within me, bringing out an indescribable enthusiasm. Bring me into a forest and I break out in dance, or get some yoga on, all with a melodic giggle born from the depth of my heart and a bright smile on my face.

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See what I mean?

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Yes!

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Nothing else makes me feel this rooted and at once, this fairy-light. The forest is my playground, and I don’t ever want to leave.

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And forest hikes make for a perfect date!

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Pawel and I most often bring the kids along on picnics, walks and other outdoor activities. But it’s important, especially to those who are sensitive to noise, to enjoy some silence (and fellow introvert parents will understand this well). Restaurant conversation with the background noise of music and the chatter of other diners just isn’t the same as a comforting hike among the wise trees, with the soothing whispers of the golden leaves atop their regal Autumn crowns. It had been too long since our last date just before my birthday in early August. Instead of our usual dinner-and-movie-style dates, we escaped to the woods yesterday. While I danced, practised a few poses, threw leaves, and giggled, giggled, giggled, Pawel laughed along with me (and probably at me) while experimenting with a fancy new lens he recently acquired for his Nikon.

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I’m grateful for my naturally talented photographer husband and creative partner, for my parents’ offer to babysit, and for the stunning late-autumn colours. I’m grateful for yoga, for October, for the magic of nature, moss, maple leaves, birch trees, abundant bird houses, and fairies.

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The beautiful maple leaves in and around our neighbourhood, as well as in the lush forests around us, inspired the creation of a few new maple leaf wooden pendants…

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We will add the new necklaces to our web store within the next week. Pawel used a few different types of wood to make these beauties.

Also, the third knitting video is on its way. We will post it within a few days.

Until then, leave a comment, subscribe, and share this blog with anyone you know who might enjoy following our creative adventures.

Wishing you a bright, kaleidoscopic last week of October,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

I promised to teach you to knit. So, allow me to begin by sharing our first instructional knitting video in a series of three. In this week’s video, I provide you with a quick tip for choosing the perfect yarn for your first project, show you my favourite cast-on method and teach you the basic knit stitch using the Continental method of knitting. If you have any questions, please do leave a comment below.

In the second video, to be released on Oct. 17th, I will show you the purl stitch, the lovely sister of the knit stitch. In the first video of the series, to be released on Oct. 24th, I will show you a few variations with the knit and purl stitches, to allow you to play and practice, and teach you how to cast off your first project. To be the first to receive an update in your email inbox as soon as the video is released, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Over the past weekend, unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to spend much time on my knitting projects. That was the case for a couple of reasons: (1) Thanksgiving dinner and (2) preparing for an upcoming craft show.

We hosted Thanksgiving this year. Usually, Pawel’s parents host the dinner at their home, but I decided to take on the pleasure this year. I realized this weekend that it was a good decision, as our younger child was feeling under the weather and we wanted to stay close to home, instead of having to drive for 45 minutes there and back.

In any case, our family in Canada is small, and since my parents had a prior commitment and my sister celebrated Thanksgiving with her partner’s family, it was just the four of us, Pawel’s parents, and Pawel’s sister.

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We had a lovely dinner for seven people, if I do say so myself. 😉 Here are the photos of the dishes I prepared:

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Butternut squash, pumpkin and cranberry soup. The cranberries were an intuitive last-minute addition to the soup and I must say, the tart fresh cranberries mingled well with the sweet taste of the pumpkin and squash.

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Field greens salad with apples and fennel, with a dressing that I whipped up intuitively. The secret ingredient was raw honey.

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Roasted harvest vegetables.

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Roasted brussel sprouts. These are a favourite of mine and I could eat them as a snack anyday! If you have never tried roasting brussel sprouts, simply toss washed and halved brussel sprouts (with the core trimmed and the outer leaves removed) with EVOO or coconut oil and sea salt. Spread them evenly on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 400F, turning them once after the first 15 minutes. If you are a fan of kale chips, you will probably like this dish.

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Slow-cooked lamb roast with cranberry sauce on the side. My mother-in-law always prepares turkey for Thanksgiving, and although we love it, I wasn’t in the mood for turkey this year. Lamb is a big favourite of ours and the cranberry sauce paired beautifully with it.

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And of course, apple and cranberry pie for dessert. Although I love pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, and make great pumpkin spice muffins, I have never enjoyed pumpkin pie. It’s just not my favourite. Instead, we go for apples and cranberries in this delicate flaky pastry.

You may be wondering about whether I followed my usual Ayurvedic eating and food combination rules with this meal. The answer is no, because I do believe that it’s okay to venture off our usual path every once in a while. Instead, I focused on cooking and baking with love and chose the best ingredients while allowing my intuition to guide me to play with a few flavour combinations. The result was a good one for our taste buds and for our bellies.

And now, we’re back to preparing for the Made by Hand Show, to be held next weekend in Mississauga. We will showcase several items that have never been featured on our website.

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We have new inlaid pendants for you.

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And earrings!

Come see us on Oct. 18th and 19th at booth 110.

Wishing you a great week!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

 

I have tried to be the perfect modern yogi, trying to grow my hair, wearing Birkenstocks (I do like them, but they aren’t the most flattering or dressy shoes, in my opinion), and sticking to a Paleo diet. Somewhere along the line, within the past 16 years of my yoga practice, I had absorbed the idea that to be a good yogi, I needed to fit the perfect Instagram image of a yoga girl and that to inspire others, I needed to live up to a certain lifestyle stereotype.

Over tea with a dear friend this afternoon, I confessed this to her, adding, “Really, I love drinking lattes with real dairy milk, not almond milk or soy milk lattes. I love eating dessert with real sugar from time to time and I don’t want to give up my favourite crème brûlée. I sometimes eat too much chocolate.” Deep breath. Let it out. Phew.

My friend was not in the least surprised. “Of course,” she said, “you’re a European girl.”

I’m curious to know about the lifestyle of European yogis, though I have heard that the health craze is not as strict in Europe as it is in North America. I have never been to a studio in Europe — it’s been six years since I last traveled to Europe — but I’m curious. I love real coffee and dessert. I had given it up for a short while, just as I attempted to give up gluten. I also gave up dairy for a while. Yet, I soon realized that my approach to healthy diet and exercise was an ‘all or nothing’ approach that stemmed not from within, from the desire to feel better in my body. Instead, it stemmed from the ubiquitous stigma that certain foods are ‘clean and good’ and others are ‘bad for us.’ Because of this, if I allowed myself to slip and eat a sweet pastry one day, the following day all my diet rules would go right out the window.

Ayurveda has been the perfect approach for me and I learned how to eat best for my constitution, how to best honour my body, when to eat my most substantial meals (breakfast and lunch) and how to eat a light dinner, as well as which food combinations to avoid. Nevertheless, though I know that it’s never a good idea to mix two different types of protein, I still love St. Julien cheese with its beautiful walnuts in the creamy centre. I eat that particular cheese probably once a year (also because it’s not cheap), but I enjoy it to the maximum. Nowadays, I’m trying to take a more balanced approach to nutrition, eating healthy foods 90 per cent of the time and allowing myself treats on occasion. I eat a bit of dark chocolate every afternoon while taking a short siesta, but I allow myself dessert with real sugar (gasp) once a week. Sometimes, I even drink a bit of wine. I don’t drink green juices and smoothies in the colder months and only enjoy them in the summer. I don’t use protein powder because I’m wary of anything over-processed, and that includes what the health world considers to be good for us. I make my own diet rules. I eat real food, made with real ingredients. I use olive oil, coconut oil, ghee and yes, butter. I eat real bread from time to time, slathered with organic peanut butter. Some mornings, when I want to take a break from my usual steel-cut oats, toasted bread with peanut butter is the best complement to a latte made with organic 2% milk (there’s the dairy and nut protein combo again).

I do take Ashwaganda and a few other supplements that could be featured in an article or video titled Sh*t Crunchy Girls Say. Yes, I do some crunchy things and eat typical ‘yogi’ foods. I do enjoy Ezekiel sprouted grains bread and happen to go crazy for a splash of almond milk in tea or when it’s used as a base for smoothies in the summer.

The bottom line is that I will continue to make my own rules, listen to my body and its needs every day, and choose wisely… Most of the time. I will continue to fine-tune the way I eat and my approach to nutrition. I believe most of us need to continue to make small changes to our diet and the way we eat, in general.

Now, here’s a truly healthy simple, vegan (unless you do choose to add the chicken breast mentioned at the end), gluten- and dairy-free, and (I think) guilt-free recipe that I’d like to share with you…

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I love roasted root vegetables for their sweet taste and grounding effect. For the Vata season, roasted vegetables are my go-to recipe.

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Aren’t beets absolutely gorgeous? I’m in awe of their stunning colour.

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes

3 beets

1 red bell pepper

1 tbsp melted coconut oil

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp dried oregano

1 onion, sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

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Method

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Coarsely chop the sweet potatoes, beets and peppers and place in a baking pan. Pour the melted oil over the vegetables, sprinkle with the sea salt and oregano, and stir. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

3. At medium-high heat, stirring constantly, toast the pumpkin seeds. Remove and set aside to cool. TIP: The seeds will continue to toast if they remain in the hot pan, so it’s best to pour the seeds out into a separate bowl.

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4. Using a small amount of coconut oil, toss the onions at medium-high heat until they are soft and golden-brown in colour.

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5. To plate, serve the roasted vegetables with the onions and seeds on top.

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If you prefer meat to plant-based protein, omit the seeds and place grilled chicken breast pieces on top of the vegetables.

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The result is delicious and satisfying.

Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

We are curious to know about your approach to healthy nutrition, so leave us a comment with your opinions.

Until next time,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

Does it not feel as though this year is just zooming right past us? Here we are, in October, and just this evening, as I was putting my summer clothes away for the colder months, I realized how quickly the seasons appear to be transitioning this year. Thankfully, Pawel and I were able to make the most of the summer months, starting with backyard barbecue dinners in early May, camping during the last weekend in May, and many other interesting daytrips and getaways all through until the end of August. And although the month of October is my favourite month of the fall season, I know that it, too, will make a swift grand exit. Hey, at least we’ll get to say goodbye while dressed in costume!

Since this is one of my favourite months of the year, I am determined to make the most of it. I will continue to explore all the luxuries of this beautiful golden month; I will continue to create; and I will seek to be inspired every day in order to inspire others. It feels as though this year has been a roller coaster ride for many, and we all deal with challenges. Yet, I want to make life sweeter. Every day. Who’s coming with me?

To go along with the above theme, I will share with you a recipe for a fantastic sweet and heart-warming soup. I first experimented with this soup two winters ago and its simple and delicious flavour brought me home to comfort.

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Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

2 medium-large sweet potatoes or yams

1 tbsp butter or ghee (to make the soup vegan, you may use EVOO or coconut oil)

1 large white or yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 medium carrots, chopped

7 cups vegetable stock or water

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 bay leaves

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

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Method:

1. Wash and bake the sweet potatoes for about an hour at 350F (preheated oven). Using a fork, pierce the potatoes to ensure that they are soft enough. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool before peeling them and chopping into 1-inch cubes.

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2. In a heavy-bottom cooking pot, melt the butter / ghee / oil on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium heat, until golden and soft.

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3. Add the chopped sweet potato and carrots to the pot and continue cooking for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in the salt, turmeric, bay leaves, and cinnamon (if using). Continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.

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5. Add the vegetable stock or water and bring to a boil. Then, cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

6. Allow the soup to cool. Then, discard the bay leaves, and puree in batches in a standing blender or use an immersion blender. The consistency should be completely smooth.

7. Serve and enjoy!

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I served this soup for lunch last week with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. On the side are two mini pitas with avocado and sea salt on top, with baby spinach, homemade sour cabbage and carrot slaw, and a drizzle of EVOO.


 

Come visit us!

Pawel and I are thrilled to have a booth at the Fall Made by Hand Show on October 18th and 19th at the International Centre, Mississauga. We will showcase our wooden jewellery, wine bottle stoppers, and belt buckles.

If you are in the Toronto area, visit this wonderful show to purchase unique handmade products. It’s a great opportunity to start your Christmas shopping early. We will be at booth 110 and look forward to meeting many of our clients there.

Best wishes for a colourful and sweet first week of October,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

Call me strange, but I have always enjoyed doing push-ups. Even in elementary school’s gym class, I was the girl who would lift her knees up off the floor to attempt the full push-up variation. No, it didn’t look pretty or impressive in any way, but I suppose I was a bit Type-A with my fitness goals.

When I was first introduced to Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga in 1998, Sun Salutations intrigued me with their smooth flow. I relished the fast-paced but graceful movements that released tension from my body. Yet, Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) was a confusing transition pose for me. I remember thinking, “Aha! Lowering down into a low push-up position from high plank is so much easier than having to press back up!” Of course, a few years later, I realized that the reason it felt easy to me was because I was cheating! I didn’t lower into the pose with control. My hips drooped low, my belly sagged, and my elbows splayed out to the sides as I tried to get Chaturanga and Upward-Facing Dog over with in order to make it to the place where I really wanted to be: Downward-Facing Dog, taking a delicious break for a few breaths. The power of confession!

Chaturanga Dandasana is a pose that is often approached as a quick transition pose in the Sun Salutations portion of a Vinyasa / Ashtanga practice. However, it’s important to maintain focus, integrity, and strength in this pose as it can be incredibly informative for the physical and emotional aspects of our yoga practice.

I prepared this step-by-step guide to help you find this focus, integrity and strength in your own practice. I recommend working on these steps with a qualified yoga instructor and using my tips only as a supplement for your personal home practice.

1. To prepare for Chaturanga, come to rest on your hands and knees, positioning a block on the mat at the medium height directly underneath your chest. Align the elbows and shoulders directly over the wrists and the hips directly over the knees. Inhale and allow the belly to soften. On the exhale, lift the pelvic floor and the belly. Keep this core connection as you inhale and allow your elbows to open out to the sides, keeping your hands firmly planted on the mat, pressing down through the thumb and index finger parts of the hands. Exhale, and hug the triceps in toward the midline. Now, your arms and core are firmly engaged. Stay here for up to five full breaths.

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Take rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths. Then, if you feel ready for the next step, proceed as follows.

2. Continue to keep the engagement of the upper body and core as you inhale and stretch one leg back, pressing the ball of the foot firmly into the mat. Exhale and repeat the same motion with the other leg, planting the balls of both feet into the mat. Continue to breathe deeply as you keep the arms strong, the triceps hugging in, keeping the elbows soft, reaching the heart forward toward the top of your mat and keeping your gaze forward without straining your neck. Keep your core strong by continue to lift the pelvic floor and belly upward. Spin the inner thighs up toward the ceiling to broaden through the lower back while pressing the heels toward an imaginary wall behind you. Broaden through the scapula. Continue to breathe deeply and hold plank pose for up to five full breaths.

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Lower the knees down to the mat and rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths. If you feel strong after holding plank, continue to step 3.

3. Repeat the steps outlined above to make your way back into plank pose. Ensure that the block is at the medium height on the mat directly underneath your chest. Inhale and lower your knees down to the mat. Exhale and continue to hug the triceps in toward the midline as you bend the elbows toward a 90-degree angle, coming to rest your chest on the block. Inhale to press back up to your hands and knees and take rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths. If this Chaturanga prep felt good and you continue to feel strong, repeat it again, this time hovering the chest an inch or two above the block. To challenge yourself further, practise staying in this pose for an extra breath or two.

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Continue to practise Chaturanga with your knees down on the mat until you feel strong enough to proceed. Remember that you might even need to stay with this variation for a few months before you feel ready to move on to practice the same move with straight legs. Be honest with yourself and never rush into anything that does not feel right.

4. To try the straight-leg variation with the block underneath the chest, repeat step 2. Inhale to prepare. On the exhale, with the legs strong and inner thighs firmly pressing up toward the ceiling, start to bend your elbows toward a 90-degree angle, with the arms hugging in toward the midline. Continue to lift up through the core as you work to gently lengthen the tailbone toward your feet. Hover the chest above the block and if it feels good, hold the pose for an extra breath or two. To come out, either press up to high plank, with the entire body engaged (see step 2), or simply press back to the hands and knees. Rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths.

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Repeat this until you start to feel stronger. Again, you may need to continue practising with a block for a while. Honour your body and the work will pay off.

5. To move into the full version of Chaturanga, start in high plank. On an inhale, bring the heart forward, keeping the shoulders and elbows over the wrists. With a strong core and legs to support you in the pose, leading with the heart and gazing toward the front of the mat, start to hug in the elbows toward the midline of the body as you exhale and bend the elbows toward a 90-degree angle. Hover here as you inhale, imagining the block positioned under your chest. Do not allow your shoulders to lower past the elbows!!! On an exhale, still keeping the core and legs in the same position, straighten the arms to return to high plank. Bring the knees down and press back to Child’s Pose to rest for five or more breaths. To challenge yourself further, hover in Chaturanga for an extra breath or two before pressing back up to high plank.

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Here is a video of a slower transition from plank to Chaturanga, and back up to high plank.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, keep practising and always honour your amazing body!

Namaste.

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust