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Archive for December, 2009

Growing up in New England I have developed a very dysfunctional relationship with the winter. I try to love it, I really do.

I annually embrace the changing colors of fall, the first flake of snow, the smell of firewood burning from neighborhood chimneys, the quiet crunching sound of snow beneath faux-furry boots…but alas, the novelty always wears off.  As soon as the thermostat drops below 32 degrees, I am left scurrying around outdoors, in a suffocating amount of layers of long underwear, squeezing my chin to my chest to protect my neck from wind chill, mumbling under my breath to no one else but myself, that “I’m so cold…”…channeling Kate Winslet in the last scene in Titanic…”never let go, Jack….”

This is exactly how I feel...all the time...in Boston in the winter...

The one thing that does not lose its novelty in the winter months however, is the comforting warmth of a hearty winter soup. I pretty much turn into a soup-ivore as soon as it drops below 50 degrees.  Consequently, have found some fantastic recipes for soups that I would love to share with you all.

First up is a new discovery from Better Homes and Gardens website: bettertv.com…there’s even a video. The recipe is for an extremely simple, easy, and DELICIOUS butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash is one of my favorite foods to eat in the fall and winter and so easy to find locally. Plus with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg mulling in your kitchen….mmmm

I am a cinnamon fiend in the fall/winter...I added extra sticks for this recipe!

I’ve made it a few times now, the second time I added an extra cinnamon stick, low sodium Organic Chicken broth, some nutmeg, some ground cloves and  substituted the sugar for Splenda’s Brown sugar blend. It was a healthier version that got rave reviews…So here is My healthier version of BetterTv.com’s ….

Butternut Squash Soup:

Ingredients:

 

2 larger butternut squash, halved and seeded

3 tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 large onion, sliced

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons of Splenda brown Sugar Blend

3 large garlic cloves chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. of ground cloves

5 cups of Low-sodium Organic Chicken Broth

I love using Pacific Foods Organic free range low sodium chicken broth...so delish...available at most supermarkets

**(1 container of chicken broth is about 4 cups, so instead of opening another, I substituted that last cup for 1 chicken bullion cube with 1 cup hot water)

Directions:

1. Oil a large baking sheet; bake squash, cut side down, for 1 hour at 375 F.

2. Remove peel from squash and discard and cut of the squash a bit. It should be pretty soft and malleable already so just cut into chunks.

3. In a large pot, heat oil and add onion.

4, Add ginger, brown sugar, garlic,  cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and cloves. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.

4. Add squash and chicken broth; bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer another 10 minutes.

5. Discard cinnamon stick.

6. Add a few cups of your mixture to a blender and puree until a funnel appears at the top. Pour pureed soup into large bowl, add more mixture to blender, puree again, and so on. Serve with a little chopped parsley or creme fraiche, if desired.

**I served this with warm french onion bread with a tiny bit of homemade maple butter on it. It’s kind of like having desert with your entree…

***You can also experiment by adding apples, apple cider and sage to this recipe…just play around!

I improvised the maple butter:

For the maple butter:

1. Heat 1/2 cup of real Organic maple syrup on the stove in a heavy bottom saucepan until boiling.

2. Add in 1 1/2 sticks of butter, let melt, then wisk vigorously for 2 minutes.

3. Pour into a glass container and place in the freezer until solidified.

Spread a tiny bit on the bread and dip into the soup…mmmm

For a Butternut- Pumpkin Soup that’s to die for…

—-> You can also take this above soup recipe and Add in a can of packed pumpkin, then toast some pumpkin seeds to garnish!

My favorite Butternut/Squash soup experiences have been highly memorable.

Moment 1: Cocoa Wah Wah, Cape Town: A delicious Cape Malay spiced butternut Squash soup at Cocoa Wah Wah in Cape Town South Africa. South Africans LOVE their butternut, and their soups are spiced with perfection. There was nothing better on a rainy, windy June winter’s day in Cape town.

I would scuttle down the hill from school to study at this adorable free wifi cafe in Rondebosch, and order a Butternut Soup with a Rooibos tea garnished with a fresh slice of lemon and fresh grated ginger…mmmm. By the end of the semester they knew what I wanted when they saw me coming…

Cocoa Wah Wah in Cape Town

Moment 2. Teatro, Boston: The other week, a friend of mine and I were searching for a quick bite before a movie at Loew’s On the Common in Boston. It was sooo chilly and the wind blew us right in to Teatro. The decor was warm, romantic, inviting, the place was packed for a Sunday evening, and the waiter was very responsive to the fact that we were in a rush to see a movie. We looked down at the well thought out theater-goer italian menu and saw a “Sugar Pumpkin Zuppa with Maple Creme Fraiche” and immediately we knew we needed it. BEST IDEA EVER. Although it’s not butternut, I had to post it. So so so good! A Must TASTE this winter!

Moment 3: The Fireplace, Brookline, MA: Chef Jim Solomon has been known to have the best butternut bisque around town at the classic New England restaurant, The Fireplace, but I needed to see for myself. It  was SOOO good! Sipping Butternut Bisque next to a fireplace in the restaurant also may have added to the comfort-food factor…

The Fireplace Restaurant in Brookline, MA

Now that the holidays are approaching, many of us do not have the luxury of time to make soups from scratch so I found a few store bought substitutes, that, with a little bit of extra spicing, taste like homemade magic…I have tried a LOT of canned soups, and I mean A LOT and these are my two faves!

1. Pacific Foods: I have fallen in love with Pacific Foods line of products, especially their soups. All organic, free range, low sodium, etc. And SOOOOO delicious. I also love that you can buy bigger containers of pre-made soups (to avoid wasting packaging materials), pour as much as you want, then store the rest in the fridge. No can-openers! The soups taste incredibly fresh and are perfectly flavored. Also it’s super healthy with no unnecessary added fat or sugar.

2. Campbell’s V8 Golden Butternut Squash Soup is also a super healthy alternative to homemade soup. However, it is a little less sustainable than  Pacific Food’s products.

Now Manga!

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So it’s down to the wire for most of us and our holiday shopping, and when shopping for that sustainability-loving yogini or yogi in your life, you may be stumped.

Luckily, I thought ahead and brought back an entire Indian bazaar in two frame packs from India to give away as presents (I still can’t believe the deal I got on meditation bowls and bells)! However, I have seen some fantastic ideas for gifts for the conscientious gift-giver this season.

I put together a couple ideas of gifts for the girl or guy that is trying to detach from material gifts, but would secretly love some holiday spoils! (Just Click on the linked titles for more details on each product)

I just got the Chopra Center Catalog in the mail and it’s full of some great ideas for the health conscious yogi or chef in your life…If you know your recipients “Dosha” (you can figure it out through the catalogs Dosha Index) you can get them a corresponding Surya Dosha Spice Blend!

http://store.chopra.com/productinfo.asp?item=426&deptcode1=664

At $9 a piece they decrease the stree of trying to cook appropriately for your physical, emotional makeup. Such a great idea!

PAtti Page's Gingerbread yoga people!

Also, for the one who loves to eat…check out these adorable homemade yoga gingerbreadmen from Patti Paige.

I also found a Yoga Cookie Cutter in Tree Pose for $12 if you want to make your own!

Chakra soaps at Etsy.com!

Chakra soaps from Etsy.com are a perfect Yoga-inspired bath gift. Each soap is scented in accordance to the properties of each chakra!  You get the 7 major chakras for $20 at Etsy.com.

As the "Wandering Lotus" I couldn't resist posting this gorgeous handmade Lotus necklace

A gorgeous handmade sterling  silver necklace of a Lotus flower made by “gomegan” at  from Etsy.com for only $21!

One of my favorite things to give during the holidays is the gift of a charitable donation. Oxfam has some great packages for the holidays. Packages range from around $18 to give a set of books to a classroom of children, or mosquito nets or even a goat, to $1,500 with which you can rebuild an ENTIRE primary school in Africa! Check out their options under “Oxfam Unwrapped” in the “Gift Catalog” section.  Unicef.org also does something similar, as do many other charities, so just explore on the net!

Photo courtesy of Oxfam....

http://www.oxfam.org/

For the Traveler in your life: a pair of Tom’s shoes is the perfect gift! They are Comfy, durable, packable into any carryon, and for each pair, Tom will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. They come in all different styles and will run you around $40 (but it’s two shoes for the price of one).

http://www.tomsshoes.com/default.asp

I bought mine three years ago just when the company started and they are still my favorite thing to wear on my feet to this day! (Are you listening, family?)

Tom’s even has gift packs that include a $50 dollar gift card and a DVD about the charity and how it works. They even have baby shoes!

For other eco-friendly and sustainable gifts I love Uncommongoods.com and Westelm.com

Check out these yummy faux fur throws from West Elm starting at $79…

Sustainable Travel International is a greta resource for gift certificates that promote charitable and green projects

Also, for the well-traveled one in your life: at Sustainable Travel International you can purchase a biodegradable gift card through “snail mail” for as little as $20 and the recipient can choose which sustainable travel project they can donate to, or they can start their own! You can also contribute to your own Carbon footprint offset portfolio with the gift card.

I saw these little earphone/earmuffs and immediately a need was created for it in my life. As a runner, fiddling with my ear phones under my winter hat/fleece headband is such a pain. These are a perfect gift for a cold city dweller or winter outdoorsy athlete!  $34 at hammacher.com

Along the music theme…for me, my iPod is an indispensible part of my practice and teaching. Two years ago my brother bought me the (PRODUCT) RED ipod nano which they still make and keep updating today. When you buy a RED nano, which is literally the color red, 50 percent of the gross products go to help fund AIDS programs in Africa. It was a very appropriate gift considering I was on my way to South Africa for the semester and it reminded me of the more important things in life every time I looked/listened to it.

For the self-proclaimed Asana Addict in your life:

Yoga classes do not come cheap, so if you are a teacher, offering a free class may be part of your Karma Yoga for the season, like my class I’m holding next Sunday on the Solstice.

If you are the DIY-type, making the yogi in your life a knitted yoga blanket or a handmade yoga bag (so much easier than you think) is personal, inexpensive and extremely useful!

I found a great yoga mat bag tutorial here!

I love love love these recycled Silk Yoga mat bags made from Indian sari fabric…from Everythingyoga.com…on sale for $29 (love that they are discounted!) They come in a variety of patterns and brilliant colors.

Recycled silk yoga mat bags from Everythingyoga.com!

I also love these completely recycled Rice Bag yoga mat bags from globalgirlfriend.com for only $18.

These recycled rice bags are not only eco-friendly but the profits go towards combating human trafficking in Cambodia!

After testing a lot of incense…and i mean A LOT…my standard favorite that I keep returning to is Nag Champa. I luckily brought back about 20 boxes from India because it is SOOOO GOOOD (and so cheap over there as well). The sticks are handrolled,  last the longest (45 minutes) and smell so pure. Just a great standard scent for meditating and yoga and just in general. A great gift may be an incense gift set like this one from NagChampa.com

The best incense EVER....a great gift set from the source...only $19

You can also put together an essential oil and incense kit, make a scented eye pillow, or make a CD of your favorite relaxation/meditation tunes.

You cna create a custom bundle of 6 luxurious embroidered eye pillows for $60 from "naturalhome" at Etsy.com

I love these modern and luxurious eye pillows from “Naturalhome” on ETSY (above).

This hoodie states "Satya" or "truthfulness...one of the yamas of Yoga

For the Yoga Fashionista who wants to keep warm before and after class…I found these adorable hoodies lined with sherpa. Each one is  customized with one of the yamas (yoga social contracts) on the back, such as “Ahimsa”, or ‘non-violence’. find them at Zazzle.com.

Bamboo inspired wrap throwover from ahpeele at Etsy.com for $52

I’m in love with this (above) Bamboo wrap thrower from ahpeele at Etsy.com. It’s stylish and would keep any yogini warm and toasty while meditating.

I am in great “need” of a mediation alarm clock that doesn’t sound like a firetruck approaching my mat at full speed…usually the really nice zen clocks are pretty pricey but I found this Sound Oasis clock on sale for $79 (down from $100). Still a little pricey, but it would make a great gift!

For the Yogi in who live in Moderation...this Yoga wine bottle holder is a perfect host/hostess gift…$49

Fill it with one of my favorite organic wines such as Frey, or a local vineyard’s wine.

Also, as a gift you can give a friend a gift certificate to their favorite yoga studio or to a new studio that you’ve been dying to try together!

For me, my ideal presents are always experiences rather than actual material things…such as:

A Rest and Relaxation weekend, a day gift certificate, or full program at Kripalu Yoga Center in Western Massachusets. Such a Yoga Utopia out there! There’s a great New Year’s Detox program “for Health and Healing” for three days in January that I would die to go to!

simultaneously support the arts and have an entertaining evening at a night out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston…Every Third Thursday of the month they host an “Isabella Stewart Gardner After Hours” cocktail event complete with live music. A Great romantic event during the holiday season!

And for some of my favorite Yoga Cd’s and Book recommendations as holiday gifts….

Music:

Krishna Das' Heart Full of Soul

Krishna Das ‘Heart Full of Soul’...I may be a little obsessed…just a little…

Deva Premal in Concert: She has an INCREDIBLE voice…amazing to practice to

Tibetan Incantations is an incredible CD of Tibetans monks chanting Om Mani PAdme Om…heard this in every Tibetan shop playing on the CD players while in India and every time I listen to it, it brings back the magic of India.

Books:

Autobiography of a Yogi: a classic, along with The Yoga Sutras, and Light on Yoga, it’s a must have!

For the Yogi Chef: Eat Taste Heal is a wonderful cookbook on Ayurvedic cooking for the modern chef.

The Yoga of Caring: usually hard to find book from the YOga Institute…but well worth the find, and a great gift!

Half the Sky is a wonderful new book by NYTimes columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn. The book argues for the empowerment of women across the globe through their accounts of the oppression they have witnessed. A wonderfully written, inspiring call to arms for all of humanity.

One of my mom’s favorite yoga books is Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. It’s a visually and spirutally beautiful book and gift.

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To all you in the North Shore/Boston area of Massachusetts:

Put a little Soul in your Solstice this winter…

Please join me for a FREE Yoga Class next Sunday, December 20th at 3:30 pm at GReen Tea Yoga Studio in Salem.

Here are the details:

FREE SOLSTICE YOGA CLASS, Sunday December 20th 3:30-5:30pm

Winter Solstice Celebration: Free, and open to all levels!

Join Alexandra Freyer for a Celebratory Solstice Yoga class. Celebrate this pivotal
point of the year when light triumphs over darkness and the sun begins to
gradually return with its luminosity and fire. As a class, we will take this opportunity
to press your inner ‘Restart’ button and reflect on the past year, looking forward to
the promise of new beginnings.

The class will begin as a reflective meditation, move into a flowing Hatha yoga class
to awaking our own inner solstice and luminosity, and end with a restorative focus
on physical, emotional and mental renewal. The asana (yoga postures) will begin
at 4:00pm, however we have the joy of having Jerrie Hildebrand casting a spiritual
circle for us at 3:30 pm in honor of the solstice.

Space is limited.  Students are welcome on a first come, first served basis so please
arrive early to get a spot.

For more information check out http://www.greenteayoga.com/Events.html.
Hope to see you there!

Open your heart to the Sun in our Solstice Class!

Find out more about the Winter Solstice here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

And here is some more information about the benefits of yoga during the final month of the year:
http://www.yogajournal.com/health/101

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Walt Whitman’s Yoga

I received an amazing parcel in the mail a few days ago from SCOTLAND, no less, and immediately knew from where it came. My dear friend Lesley, a fellow Himalaya Yogini from my teacher training program had sent it.  She is an incredible force of a woman; a massage therapist, artist, dance teacher and luminous ray of sunshine.

Was Walt Whitman a Buddhist? My wonderful gift from Lesley!

I was so excited to get a last taste of the bonds I formed with her over our course; writing poetry and drawing in the afternoon sun on the beach…this is beginning to sound like a romance novel…anyhow…I RIPPED open the packaging to find two things: a hand drawn logo for my blog “Wandering Lotus” and a 1939 edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass and Democratic Vistas”.

She had remembered our long discussions on the infiltration of yogic and Buddhist philosophy on western intellectuals, poets and artists, and sent me a prized possession, for which I am forever grateful.

A few years ago, while a student at Colby College,  took an amazing class entitled “Buddhism in American Poetry” by Professor Peter Harris. In the class, I discovered how much Buddhist thought had influenced American poetry for decades.  Reading poetry could therefore become a meditation and a practice in yoga.

As I sat down to read my new gift I opened my self up to the poetry as a meditation and studied it for its poignant moments of utter awareness, of the realization of attachment and detachment, of its acceptance of the ebb and flow of time and pain. Walt Whitman practiced compassion for all beings in his poetry, self-awareness, meditation on reality, acceptance of the use of language as a mere human convention, realized the cyclical nature of time, accepted pain and suffering as a result of attachment and strove to praise the natural world continuously in his poetry.  Maybe he did do yoga…?

So today I am just going to leave you with a few passages from the great Walt Whitman that may inspire your practice today….

To be in any form, what is that?

(Round and Round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither),

If nothing lay more develop’d the quahaug in its callous shell

were enough.  –Song of Myself

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,

And the tree-load is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,

And the running blackberry would adorn the parlours of heaven,

And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,

And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,

And a mouse is a miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels. –Song of Myself

I hear and behold God in every objext, yet understand God not in the least…- Song of Myself

From imperfection’s murkiest cloud,

Darts always forth one ray of perfect light,

One flash of heaven’s glory -Song of the Universal

Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,

I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands,

Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,

Your true soul and body appear before me…-To You

And one of my favorites by Mr. Whitman…reminds me of meditating on the beach in Goa, India at dawn…

Moorthi...Spiritual Seeker and Himalaya Yoga Valley Philosophy/Meditation teacher...dawn on the beach in India writing on the sand

ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE

On the beach at night alone,

As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,

As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes of the future,


A vast similitude interlocks all,

All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,

All distances of place however wide,

Akk distances of time, all inanimate forms,

All sould, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,

All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,

All nations, colours, barbarisms, civilisations, languages,

All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe or any globe,

All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,

This vast similitude spans them and compactly hold and enclose them.


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Mandrem Beach, Goa India November 2009

Namaste All!

So this blog has taken a short hiatus due to my recent trip to India. I spent the past few months living on the gorgeous beaches of Goa, India studying yoga with the Himalaya Yoga Valley. I received my 200-hour Hatha  Yoga teacher certification after lots of blood, sweat and many many many happy and purifying tears. The choice to partake in the experience was one of the best decisions I have every made, and one that I am still trying to soak in, make sense of and put into words.

November 2009 graduates of the Himalaya Yoga Valley Teacher Training Course

During my program, our schedule was extremely full and I also wanted to avoid sharing a lot of my experience until I got back; hence the blog hiatus.

I am excited to create a refreshed and renewed approach to this blog after having this incredible experience, and I will begin writing again every day!

So now that I am back I look forward to reflecting on this past yoga-travel experience and all other musings on yoga and life in general with all of you, my dear readers! My first post will be coming at you by tomorrow morning, I can’t wait!

With love and shanti…

Fellow yogini, Lori, during a Morning Meditation walk on Mandrem Beach, Goa, India

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