Monday, February 28, 2011

Nailed it

I'm not sure why I have beauty products on the brain lately but I do. Maybe it's because I've been wanting to tell you about some products I love for a while, maybe it's because I've started following Glamology on twitter, or maybe it's because I special ordered my new favorite toothpaste and am due for some shampoo. Whatever the cause I have some ideas to throw your way.

The first product I dropped faster than you can read a digital pregnancy test when I found out I was expecting was nail polish. That stuff is toxic, toxic, toxic. The remover is toxic. Everything about nail polish is nasty business - and if I had to go with bare nails for a while to prevent formaldehyde from reaching my baby, I was ok with that. Thankfully, there are options now – at that point it was a pretty big deal that one of the oh-so-loved salon lines was just beginning to talk (read: pretend - they didn't do it) about getting rid of toxic chemicals in their polishes.

Priti was the first really acceptable polish solution I heard about - only at the time it was really difficult to find. Thankfully Priti is easier to find and has a gorgeous (huge!) line of colors now - as well as removers. Plus, their discontinued colors are a great price - more affordable than many polishes on the market!

Priti polishes are formaldehyde, dibutyl phathalate, toluene, and camphor free.  They are also cruelty free and vegan.

Next up: Scotch Naturals. Scotch Naturals polishes are all toluene, dibutyl phthelate, formaldehyde, acetone, and heavy metal free - they are also all water-based, which is a pretty big deal and a huge change in the nail polish business. Per their website: "The journey to healthy, nourished nails is a beneficial one, but it does take time. If you have dry, parched nails, your first couple coats of polish may chip or streak. But don’t be discouraged, it’s just part of the process. As you continue to use our conditioning polishes your nails will become healthy and strong, allowing your polish to shine in all its eco-chic glory." But this is true of a lot of natural products - we'll be talking about that more later this week so stay tuned.

Better yet - Scotch Naturals has a kid's line: Hopscotch - same great idea, lead-free bottles, kid-sized brushes, non-toxic fun for the girly girls and peace-of-mind for parents.

Another water-based lovely is Acquarella which also doesn't contain any "Formaldehyde or Formaldehyde like derivatives, Toluene, Ketones or other petrochemical solvents, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) or other phthalates, Polyurethanes, Parabens, Camphor, Gluten or wheat by-products, or any aromatic hydrocarbons" - also cruelty free and vegan. Acquarella polishes come in a pretty wide variety of colors - for your ever-changing mood or whim.

So, if you are in the market for a new spring color (or autumn - whatever your hemisphere) maybe take a peek at some of the oh-so-friendly options and consider updating your ideas about what nail polish can be as well!

Note: Though it should go without saying none of my posts about products are sponsored or otherwise endorsed. If they are you will know, right away. I tell you about products I love and believe in because I want to - no other reason.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

7 Cheap (and Green) Beauty Tricks


Somehow, over the years, I've amassed a collection of weird and wonderful beauty tricks - most of which are frugal and earth-friendly as well.  Here's a few to consider adding into your routine:

1) Felt Pads

Since we started eliminating paper from our house cotton balls and beauty pads went as well. For anyone who has ever taken off their own nail polish you know what a mess toilet paper can be - it's a pretty worthless nail polish remover. Enter felt scraps - a single square (mine is about 2 inches square) of cast off, rough felt (like the craft store grade, or even sometimes found with automotive care) is great for removing nail polish. Felt is durable, can be rinsed/ left to dry and used again, and it's just abrasive enough to really do a great job of removing polish without scrapping or abrading.

2) White Colored Pencils

Speaking of nails...I have no idea why or how, but around the middle of high school I had a pile of white colored pencils that I never used in my creative projects. One day I used one of the white pencils to color under the end of my nails - creating an instant french manicure with minimal effort and no nail polish needed. Of course you can buy "nail whitening pencils" at a couple bucks a pop but if you happen to have unused white colored pencils it works just the same (I've tried).

Bonus trick: use a white colored pencil (especially useful is the watercolor type made just a bit wet) to draw where you want to remove eyebrow hair and only pluck there - creates and instant and easy guide to follow.

2) Coffee

Drink coffee? Scrub the used grounds all over your hands and rinse. The grounds will exfoliate and make your hands soft, the oils will moisturize. If you have very dry hands add a touch of olive oil to prevent staining. Super soft hands, a cup of coffee, reuse of waste: a good way to start the day.

4) Hydrogen Peroxide & Baking Soda

Want whiter teeth? If teeth are pretty stained first brush with some baking soda. No, it doesn't taste great but it works. Wet your toothbrush, sprinkle some baking soda on the bristles and brush (and rinse, of course).

The easiest, most effective teeth whitener? Hydrogen Peroxide. Whenever I tell people this I get one of two reactions: 1) No way, you can't put that in your mouth! and 2) Gross. Ok. 1) Yes, you can put hydrogen peroxide in your mouth. If you read the bottle (the 3% drugstore variety) it says, on the bottle "to use as an oral debriding agent..." (In dentistry, debridement refers to the necessary removal of plaque and calculus that have accumulated on the teeth in order to maintain oral health). And 2) It doesn't actually taste like anything, so, not so gross. Also, if you look, you might notice the hydrogen peroxide is a main ingredient in many teeth whitening formulas and strips - might as well skip the middle man and all the trash and cut to the chase!

The 3% solution will usually say to water the hydrogen peroxide down. I don't, but you can if you like. To use simply swish around for a minute like your would mouthwash. Rinse thoroughly after and of course, don't swallow the stuff. If you like, you can follow with a mouthwash to freshen up but you don't have to. For the first week rinse everyday, then you can go to every other day, and then once a week or just when you feel like it until your teeth are as white as you like. 

If you have gingivitis this is actually a particularly good rinse - though you might notice some white spots on your gums at first after rinsing - this is where the peroxide is actually cleaning/getting rid of the dead tissues - it'll stop after a few rinses.

5) Egg Whites

Ever use one of those fancy pore strips to get rid of blackheads? Expensive, right? You can do the same thing without any wasteful packaging and one egg.

Take an egg, separate out the yolk and give the white a thorough mixing with a fork. Spread the white on your (clean) face, then cover with toilet paper (yes, squares of toilet paper). Let dry. Peel off. That's it.

For more info there are tons of videos on YouTube (just look up "egg white mask"). I have to admit, I don't use this much anymore (my skin has changed so much with time and having a baby) - but it works, it's gentle and it's cheap!

6) Vitamin E

Where to even start! Vitamin E is the best. You can use the oil (which I prefer) or even the capsules. If you use a capsule you'll be better off if you use the capsule contents with a bit of olive oil (otherwise it can be too thick/viscous to spread). Use vitamin E on burns, under your eyes, on your lips, on stretch marks or scars, on dry hands and heels, even on your hair to moisturize.

7) Olive Oil

Olive oil can be used in many of the same moisturizing ways as vitamin E (though not on burns, ouch!). Warm olive oil on your hair for 5-10 minutes before a shower is a great way to restore shine and moisture after too many laps in the pool or hours in the sun.

Mixed with sea salt or a more coarse, larger crystal sugar (like a demerara sugar or "sugar in the raw" style), or even oatmeal and you've got an excellent exfoliating scrub.

Olive oil is also an excellent eye makeup remover - bonus: you get an eye moisturizer and cleanser in one!


Before I get swept up and tell you every crazy concoction for facial masks and soaks I'll leave the list at that. What simple and earth-friendly solutions to you love? Would love to hear your tips and tricks too!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recipe: Fig and Cardamom Spiced Tiramisu

Some of you know that I entered a recipe in the Food52 weekly contest. I didn't win. That's ok, I wasn't expecting to - but I did get an "editors pick" and that is as good a prize as any in my book. One note I did get was that the sugar can be reduced - and I'm all for that idea! So, lest the recipe ever get lost on the internet or otherwise, I'm publishing it here, for you to see, reference and read. If you end up making it (or any of my recipes for that matter) let me know what you loved (or didn't) - I would really like to know!

Fig and Cardamom Spiced Tiramisu

While this isn't a traditional tiramisu, per say, as I omitted alcohol and eggs (so that my daughter could enjoy it and any nasty salmonella issues might be thwarted), it still holds true to the core tenants of tiramisu. I opted for dried figs and ground cardamom over other options as I felt they were easiest to find for the majority of cooks.
The fig and cardamom add a nice depth and a slightly savory backdrop for the otherwise purely sweet dessert. Coupled with shavings of an excellent quality dark chocolate on top I think you'll find this both lighter and more intensely flavorful that many tiramisu recipes.
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 4 tablespoons reserved liquid from soaking dried figs (see Instructions Step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese (2 8-ounce containers)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom (plus a few dashes reserved for finishing)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cups confectioners/powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup fresh-brewed espresso or strong coffee
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    Cookies and Topping:

    • 36-40 pieces ladyfingers aka savoiardi (hard cookie version, not soft)
    • 1-2 ounce excellent quality dark/bittersweet chocolate
    • Whipped cream (optional)
    1. As much as 24 hours prior to making tiramisu place dried figs in a heat proof container (a jar works fine). Pour boiling or very hot water over and soak for at least one hour until puffed up and rehydrated. If soaking overnight: cover and refrigerate.
    2. Chopped soaked figs into quarters and blend in a food processor with 4 tablespoons of the liquid reserved from soaking.
    3. For the filling: Combine pulverized figs, vanilla extract, mascarpone cheese, ground cardamom, ground cinnamon, heavy cream and confectioners sugar in a medium-large bowl. Combine well then beat (with a whisk by hand or with a blender) until stiffened - to a soft peak.
    4. In a separate bowl: combine espresso (while hot) with heavy cream and sugar for the soak. Stir well to dissolve sugar.
    5. Working in small batches quickly toss ladyfinger cookies in the soaking liquid. The cookies do not need to become softened or else they will quickly fall apart - simply place in the soak, roll over and then place into the bottom or a trifle or baking dish. Line the entire bottom of you dish with soaked cookies.
    6. If you are working with a larger dish spread half of the filling over the cookies. If working with a smaller dish or trifle container, use a third of your filling.
    7. Place another layer of soaked ladyfinger cookies over the filling. Again, spread filling over cookies. Repeat layering until complete.
    8. Finish with a final layer of cream filling, a hearty helping of shredded chocolate*, an a few dashes of ground cardamom. To shred chocolate if it is in a bar form: Can be accomplished with a grater, microplaner, or even a potato peeler. Optional but recommended: Add a layer of whipped cream before shredded chocolate & cardamom. Fresh whipped is preferred (whip 1 cup cream until stiffened, add a tablespoon or so of confectioners sugar until sweetened to your taste)
    9. Chill thoroughly and enjoy!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Further Explorations into Ridiculous Conversations

    Actual phone call, received about 2 minutes ago:

    "Hi, is this Elena?"

    "No, I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number."

    "Are you sure?"

    "Um. Yes."

    "Can you check?"

    First of all, I was in the laundry room, alone. Second, the only other person in the house is my daughter, who is not named Elena and is asleep at the moment. Third, knowing all of that I still looked around the room. Why? I have no idea.

    So I did the next most logical thing. I yelled "ELENAAAAA!" Put the phone down, ran around the corner and yelled back "Tell her it's a wrong number".

    Then I got back on the phone and said "Nope, sorry. No Elena here." To which the woman said "Really? Are you sure?"

    And then I looked around the room again.

    I'm beginning to wonder who was crazier in that whole mess...

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    52 Pickup: 7/52

    Remember, all 52 pickups are open to interpretation. My interpretation might not be the same as yours - make it yours, make it a mantra, make it life lived well.

    This week the pickup is:

    What is it about spring (and fall for that matter), that make us so desiring of change, cleanliness and vacations? While spring isn't, technically, upon us, I can feel it creeping in, whispering ideas about gardens and clean garages. Those little whispers keep me going, give me hope, make me overly ambitious.


    Without fail, every year, each spring and autumn, I have to remind myself  how to say no. I take on too much, get too many ideas, make too many plans and then I get swept up in being busy and not in enjoying the process. So this year, before it gets too much, I'm choosing to start saying no earlier and more often. I'm saying yes to saying no. 

    No. I will not grow beets this year: we had too many last year. No. I will not do free work for fundraisers, parties, and other jobs I should be charging for. No. I will not get overly ambitious and pretend we can renovate two bathrooms, a kitchen, and have a perfectly clean house. No. I will not overschedule, overextend, or overplan.

    Yes. I will plant more tomatoes. Yes. I will design something I love just for me because I want to. Yes. I will write that list I should have written a long time ago called "everything that has been nagging me and just needs to get done already" and I will tick every item off. Yes. I will clean out just the garage. Yes. I will enjoy today. Yes. I will know my limits and respect myself and others by not going beyond them. Yes. I will bake a pie, fly a kite with my daughter, take walks, dry clothes outside and take my shoes off as soon as the weather permits. 

    Yes to no!

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Pay it Forward: Free (Valentine) Download & Ideas


    A while back my husband gave me the most ingenious set of coupons as a gift. Sure, coupons are an old standby but these just looked so cool! He designed them himself, put lots of thought into the actual "gifts" and has, upon every presentation, done whatever they said, no questions asked.

    We have a funny little tradition to take the stress out of Valentine's day - no gifts over five dollars. The story is long but let's just say this - it is so much fun! It takes away all the hype and stress and the gifts get more comical every time. Homemade coupons definitely fall in the five dollar range.
    So give these a download for your sweetie, or save them for another occasion. Download the document here (click file on the upper left, then download original) and you are all set to fill in the fields as you like and print away!

    I designed a little sleeve to match so you've got it all here, a personalized coupon gift and a valentine for well under five dollars. Enjoy!

    Another inexpensive Valentine gift? Well, these were one of my husband's Christmas gifts - he being a home-brewer and mustache grower:

    I downloaded a variety of mustache shapes from here and here for a template and went to town with glass etching. The best part is we always know which glass is ours now!

    Hope you have a wonderfully sweet holiday - with or without a date. My favorite Valentine's Day memories are with some of my best friends - so just spending it loving life!

    Enjoy the download, with love from me and Mr. Em!

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    52 Pickup: 6/52

    Remember, all 52 pickups are open to interpretation. My interpretation might not be the same as yours - make it yours, make it a mantra, make it life lived well.

    This week the pickup is:

    Do you behave differently on vacation? How about when you are someone's guest? Are you a good guest - someone who is prompt to arrive and leave, helps out when you stay in someone's home, courteous and thoughtful? Or no? How is your behavior different when you are a guest rather than a host? 

    This week think about how you act in those situations where you are a guest. Then think about how you can be a guest in your own life. Are you slacking a little with your writing or freelance work? If so how would it be different if you were writing or working for someone else (a guest post, for instance). What about around your house? Are you courteous with your family? Prompt to clean up? What about in your head and stress areas? Do you need to relax more?

    When my husband and I were re-painting and re-doing some of the master bedroom in our house we couldn't sleep in our room. We had to move out. It was irksome. Clothes in one place, bathroom in another. I just wanted it over already!

    Then we slept in our guest room - waking up on a bright, beautiful Saturday morning. It was amazing. I had never been a guest in my own house, never experienced the wonderful bedding I so painstakingly picked out, never noticed how inviting the space really felt. I awoke refreshed, no longer frustrated with the slow going, and feeling pampered. 

    Funny enough, when the time came to "go home" and move back into our bedroom I didn't want to go. It felt good being on vacation. It was refreshing being a guest. 

    Now when something gets frustrating and the process isn't going as I want (especially writing), I like to think "how would this be different if I were a guest?"

    How would you be different if you were a guest?

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Spring Mantle

    Spring Dreaming Mantle

    I just wanted to show you a few quick pictures of our new spring mantle. I finally decided I had enough I decided to break out some of my favorite white pieces - all my cow creamers, beautiful bowls, etc. Then I repotted some small spring plants from the grocery into jam jars. Add a few springs from our ficus, a couple more little glass jars and voila! A spring mantle.

    Spring Dreaming Mantle2

    Total cost: $4.50. Everything else was already about the house - just brought together in one place to bring more joy.

    Total time: Maybe 20 minutes.


    And since everyone...I mean everyone asks about the mirror I'll tell you. We got it at Arhaus (an earth-friendly home furnishings store). It's a hollowed out root ball from a felled tree...with a mirror mounted inside. It's pretty neat, I can't lie.


    So there you go! A quick, cheap, and easy way to bring a little spring hope into your space - be it a shelf, a mantle, or a table.

    What do you do to bring spring into your space?

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Weekend Reads: Sharp as a...

    The other day I made the observation that many people don't know how to sharpen their own knives. I have to admit, I'm always surprised by this, no matter how many times it comes up in conversation. For me a sharp knife means less cuts, faster work, and, if there is an accident in the kitchen the cut will be clean and easy to mend. Sharp knives, good knives - they are crucial in my kitchen.

    I mentioned the conversation to my dad and joked that he should write the blog post for me. My dad, a guest-blogger, HA! And you know what? HE DID! He's amazing. He's also an amazing chef - and a knife pro. He knows more than I could ever hope to learn so I'm happy to give you, drumroll please, my dad's quick master class on kitchen knives! The images you see are books I've reviewed and would highly recommend - your weekend reads!

    My thoughts on sharpening your kitchen cutlery - intermingled with my thoughts on "types" of chef's cutlery:

    There are a great many people willing to offer advice on sharpening your knives - some of it really good, some bordering on insanity. In my opinion, the question to be answered is: Do you just want your knives to be sharp, or will you derive more satisfaction from making them sharp yourself regardless of "cost effectiveness"?

    Before answering the question - read the article you'll find here.  This is a pretty long read but very informative with good references and they describe a number of sharpening systems. Whether you decide to do it yourself or send out for professional sharpening - This is as good a "knowledge" article as I've seen and I assure you I've read at least 20 different tomes on the subject.

    If the answer to the original question is that you "just want them to be sharp": I heartily recommend that you use a professional sharpening service. The cost of good sharpening equipment is fairly significant and you can have your knives done professionally quite a number of times for what you might spend on the paraphernalia needed. There are many local professional sharpening services around the country that can do quality work; you just need to look around for them and give them a knife you're not in love with to try the first time so that you can check out their results. If you're inclined to be willing to send your knife away for sharpening I can recommend a few that are available for contact on the internet that are known to produce good results:

    -For Western (read that "German") chef's cutlery (think Wusthof, Henckels, F. Dick, Messermeister), one might consider Northwestern Cutlery in Chicago. The folks at Northwestern are knowledgeable and helpful...and if you're ever near 810 Lake Street they have variety of excellent cutlery brands, sharpening tools and kitchen gadgets.

    I specified "German" here due to the fact that the fine old French Sabatier brand has been perverted into oblivion because it isn't limited to one manufacturer and I don't feel they can be trusted today - and most home chefs will never even know that the excellent Swedish Fallkniven brand exists. There are lot's of private labelled knives made in China today and sold as Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Rachel Ray, Emeril, Wolfgang Puck and "you name it" - my view is pretty much "you get what you pay for"! IF you're inclined to be hard on your cutlery and want forgiving steel - GO GERMAN.

    -For true Japanese chef's cutlery (think Shun, or any of the myriad high quality true Japanese brands), try Japanese Knife Sharpening Service or Korin Trading Company - I believe Korin will also sharpen German knives, but best to check with them on that subject. Korin is also a great source for some of the truly fine Japanese brands of cutlery that use steel the German makers can't even forge!

    And now I digress into truly personal opinion: If you're willing to go to the extreme for sharp cutlery - JAPANESE is the answer whether you buy stainless or carbon steel! If you're REALLY into SHARP - by all means consider the best in carbon (yes, CARBON!) steel Japanese cutlery. Stainless is easy maintenance and high quality stainless is VERY, VERY good, but single-bevel edged carbon steel as practiced by the Japanese is capable of sharpness most folks won't even understand. To use the single-bevel concept you have to order your knife according to whether you use it right or left-handed. I suggest reading the material on Korin's website to get a feel for the subject as well as for what they describe as "Japanese" and "Western" style blade shapes by the Japanese manufacturers.

    If, one the other hand, you'd like to sharpen your own knives - pick one of the methods described in the eGullet article and have at it!

    I personally indulge in freehand sharpening with good Japanese waterstones, Japanese ceramic stones by Spyderco, and, on occasion, stropping with a homemade strop and polishing compound. You can spend well in excess of $100 on the stones necessary to get to that hairsplitting edge - but if you happen to be batty for a razor sharp knife it is quite rewarding. Reasonable Japanese waterstones and the Spyderco stones (and often knowledgeable advice) can be found at Woodcraft stores located around the United States. Woodcraft's forte is woodworking tools and equipment but you must understand that woodworkers also need to sharpen hand tools to a razor edge. Good beginner grade Japanese waterstones can also be obtained from Lee Valley Tools.

    Whichever way you decide to get to cutlery with a truly sharp edge - there's no excuse for a dull knife and little more useful in the kitchen than a sharp one!

    (Thanks Dad!)

    Ok, I'm back... So here's my quick and dirty guide. If you are totally new to sharpening your own knives, or want a really convenient system, consider a hand held sharpening model. Like this:

    This is a two-stage model. You'll pull your knife through, bolster (handle) to tip, straight up and down, through the coarse section when you have a really dull or dinged blade, then through the fine section. Most of the time you'll only need the fine section if you keep your knives sharpened. This is a great beginning staple.

    If you want to try the next step up, consider a steel or whetstone (or combo thereof). Like this:

    While your purchase should some with instructions it may not. In that case consider some of the above books to review, or the link at the beginning of the article. This short video is an excellent primer as well:

    There are a myriad of other techniques and many cooking schools (for home cooks) offer beginning knife skills classes. While it may seem more tempting to learn to cook Coq au Vin as opposed to knife skills when faced with the choice, the knife skills class is invaluable and will be significantly worth the effort.

    Happy cooking and cutting in the kitchen this weekend!

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    A spring in your step: 9 Tips for beating seasonal blues


    1) Take your vitamins!

    Vitamin D, for instance. I don't mean the sunlight version - though that would be lovely, but rather the supplement. Vitamin D does a world of good in the winter, from helping to fight off sickness to helping lift spirits.

    Other supplements to consider? B-vitamins (especially for women on oral contraceptives), Omega 3s (like fish oil - depressed people tend to report lower DHA levels and might benefit from the increase in fatty acids)*, and Coenzyme Q10.

    Of course each of our bodies has different needs but if you haven't been taking a multivitamin now might not be a bad time to start!


    2) Opt for alternatives

    Both coffee and sugar can increase symptoms of depression. If you have some beautiful decaffeinated teas you usually save, go ahead and brew yourself a pot instead of an afternoon coffee.

    Since cutting sugar can be quite a feat maybe consider more natural sugars like honey and agave nectar once in a while.

    Fresh Flowers

    3) Indulge

    If you can spare a few bucks an indulgence can do a lot to lift your spirits. Get a haircut, fresh flowers, a new shirt you truly love. Whatever it is make sure it is within your means (compulsive and depression spending is nasty, nasty stuff), and that it is something that truly brings you joy.

    Or treat yourself by using the good china, the best linens, the fancy guest towels - whatever you've been saving for no reason.

    Summer Sailing

    4) Borrow some summer

    Here's a free treat! The library usually keeps the past year of all the periodicals and magazines in stock. Take an hour or so and go find the spring and summer issues of magazines you don't already receive or haven't read - preferably ones chock full of beautiful images and bright colors.

    For me, getting a copy of the Donna Hay magazine from October/November (which was Australian Spring) was the best gift ever - it made me feel warm and bright.

    Can't get to the library in the snow? What about Bright Bazaar for some color therapy?

    baby robin

    5) Get physical

    And I do mean this in many, many ways...get busy and clean something, dance about, move your body, heck, have sex! Reconnect with your body, your spouse, your space - whatever it takes to get your heart rate up. Exercise even. Ok, ok, don't take it too far now...


    6) Make, bake and create

    This could fall under the indulge category for some - but turn off the TV and make something, bake something, create something! Challenging ourselves with complex problems presented by cooking and crafting open and use a different part of the brain than most daily activities. Those activities and the synapses fired can lead to feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, and accomplishment - all of which fight those winter blues.


    7) Breathe deep

    Did you know breathing can actually be used in therapy? Yep. Just the simple act of reconnecting to our breath can create profound healing. The first thing you learn in beginning yoga practice is about how to breathe - and look how many people are positively hooked on yoga...

    Truly though, there are many breathing techniques involved in radical and transformative breathing practices - this article gives a few and some great information to ponder.

    Can't face the idea of intentional and transformational breathing quite yet? That's ok, try the next idea.


    8) Stop and smell the roses

    What about triggering your senses with something else to help lift your spirits? How about aromatherapy?

    Here's a super quick aromatherapy idea: Bring a pot of water to boil, add in slices of fresh citrus or a squirt of lemon juice if you have it, turn down the heat a bit, take a few deep breathes of the wonderful citrus smell. After pour your citrus water in a mug and add some honey for a delicious warm beverage.

    Footprint in sand

    9) Run away

    Far, far away. Listen to a Beach Boys song for location inspiration. I'll say no more.

    When all else fails, right?

    Adams PB, Lawson S, Sanigorski A, Sinclair AJ. Arachidonic acid to eicosapentaenoic acid ratio in blood correlates positively with clinical symptoms of depression. Lipids 1996;31:S-157?S-161.

    ** I should note here, for a brief moment, that I have been lucky enough to never need medical intervention by way of drugs or medicines for depression, but, depression is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. Please do seek out help if you need it and remember that needing a boost or some assistance in any form is a sign of incredible strength, not weakness. 

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    52 Pickup: 5/52

    Remember, all 52 pickups are open to interpretation. My interpretation might not be the same as yours - make it yours, make it a mantra, make it life lived well.

    This week the pickup is:

    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
    – Sir Winston Churchill

    As most of you know, we were just hit with quite the wallop of snow. Admittedly, at first, I pish-poshed at the whole matter. I've seen snow. I've seen lots of snow. No need to get all worked up about it.

    Even I will admit that upon waking up this morning I was humbled. We got a lot of snow! As always I was the first one in the house out to dig around a bit, make some headway, to stave of any threats at our door. I poked around, dug out our walk, began our driveway and gave up. I came back inside, declared it "too much" and called a service.

    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is 
    dressed in overalls and looks like work."
    – Thomas Edison"

    This is where my always resilient husband comes in...ever the optimist he said "no", that he would tackle the driveway, snow waist-high or not. And he did. He worked and worked, and, with some neighborly help, he did indeed, dig out our driveway. 

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this was some miracle - we all must dig out, somehow, but what I was reminded of was simple: sometimes we simply have to remember to perspire. Sometimes we forget how much hard work can go into something - especially something worth doing, that we must pay our rhetorical dues and work hard in order to get where we want to be. Let's be's not always that fun, but you sometimes have to perspire in order to aspire to be more.

    The work element can be tedious, tiring, overwhelming at times...but it can also be fun, fulfilling, all-encompassing, nourishing, soulful, remarkable, valuable, defining, enlightening, and worth every moment. 

    Have you given in too easily with something? Not chased a dream as hard as you could? Maybe need to re-dedicate to the path you've chosen? Have you forgotten to perspire, or how to perspire? Well, get out there then! Shovel the snow and muck, do your work, get there!

    "In a free society, every opportunity comes with three obligations. First, you must seize it. You must mold it into a work that brings value to others. Second, you must live it. Opportunity is nurtured only by action. Third, you must defend the freedom to pursue opportunities."
    – Robert C. Goizueta