Monday, April 19, 2010

What’s (Not) Cooking?

Although I have been a veg*n (by which I mean vegetarian of varying degrees, occasionally vegan, but for the most part lacto-ova) for more than 20 years now, over the past couple of years my diet has slipped a bit from the whole foods my body craves towards "quick and easy" (read: processed). I subsisted almost entirely on string cheese for the better part of a year when Kiira was just over a year old, and now that I have two young children the situation has, in some ways, gotten even worse. Since Kiira is still such a light eater, it barely makes sense to cook up a whole dinner each night, and we have gotten accustomed to snacking all day and often not even having a proper meal together. Not that grazing is all that bad, but this did make me want to make some adjustments and get back into a routine of family mealtimes. I also recently I noticed my skin breaking out more than usual and realized that a more serious dietary overhaul was probably in order. I decided to focus on cutting out the processed stuff and buying more whole foods, and in effect, force myself to prepare more wholesome foods. I considered eliminating dairy, but due to the B12 issue I will (probably) never be completely vegan. Although I am not opposed to taking dietary supplements, I want to be able to get all my necessary nutrients from the food I eat. Although some would argue with me, I have seen enough evidence that B12 is not readily available from a 100% plant based diet to make me think that it is not a perfect diet, especially for children (I'd rather them have a little milk or cheese rather than pond scum spirulina or chlorella). I have dabbled in and researched some more extreme diets over the years, but in the end I am a believer of moderation and a super natural path. For instance, I recently read The pH Miracle
and found it a little too drastic for my tastes; so many wonderful fruits and veggies get cut out in that diet and it seems to me that God wouldn't have put them here if they weren't meant to be eaten.

That being said, as the weather warms, I am starting to explore raw food again.

I unintentionally started this a few months ago when I was gifted a juicer that I have been putting to very good use (thanks again, Megan!!!). I think that daily dose of living enzymes worked to prime my system and give me a newfound craving for more raw foods. Around the same time that I started juicing regularly, I started making other changes in my life as well, such as the feng shui that I mentioned in my last post, and starting to exercise more regularly. As I was getting my priorities in order, I decided to drop one of my classes so as not to get as stressed out as I was in December, trying to finish two intense classes on top of taking care of my girls and building my fledgling business. A few weeks later I found a check in the mail, a refund for the class, and I decided to splurge on a kitchen appliance that I have wanted for many, many years. (Ironically, it is a food processor…)

My Vita-Mix (yay!) arrived a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely love it! What a great investment! I have been using it several times a day on average, and have made everything from hummus to smoothies to bread to hot soup in it. Not everything I have made in my Vita-Mix is all raw, but the machine is so versatile that I just had to mention some of the cooked recipes as well, because even cooked food prepared in a Vita-Mix is so much fresher than anything you could buy premade from the store. Speaking of recipes, I have been scouring Paperback Swap, Amazon and Barnes & Noble for good raw food (un)cookbooks, but found that many of the recipes are too complicated for everyday eating; they often require days of preparation and sprouting, not to mention ingredients that are not easily obtained here in rural Virginia. For a diet to be truly sustainable, it needs to be based on local, seasonal produce. Years ago when I first tried an all raw diet, I found it hard to plan meals and have all the ingredients on hand and ready to use (sprouted, fermented, etc), and eventually went back to cooked foods. I am now realizing that it is possible to eat a raw diet with minimal preparation and planning, simply by buying seasonal produce and having a few staples on hand. I am seriously considering creating my own recipe book of the easiest and tastiest foods I discover. One of my favorite recipes so far has been the Caramel Apple Breakfast Pudding from Vibrant Living, a living foods recipe book that I rediscovered on my shelf recently. It consists of shredded apples topped with a "pudding" made from sprouted wheat berries, soaked almonds, apricots, banana and a dash of cinnamon.

If you're hungry for lunch, here is a recipe for a Raw Butternut Pecan Salad, adapted from a salad I discovered at our local co-op.  Please note that the given amounts might have to be adjusted a bit, since I was given this recipe without the exact amounts (and for a much bigger batch!). As a guideline, the squash should make up about half of the salad, and the pecans, onion and raisins combined should make up the other half. This makes a big batch!

 Raw Butternut Pecan Salad

2 lbs butternut squash, grated
2 cups pecans, soaked in water for at least 2 hrs
1 small onion, finely chopped
1- 1 1/2 cup raisins and/or dried cranberries 
A couple handfuls fresh cilantro (or parsley, in a pinch), chopped
2 Tbs ground cumin
2 Tbs ground coriander
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

More Decluttering and Revelations in Feng Shui

Ah, so real life has taken over and I have neglected my blog again. Ever since I was computer-less a couple months ago I have not been inclined to spend as much time on here as I did before. Instead, I have continued my battle against the clutter in my home, and am pleased to report that I have been making some great progress! 

The Feng Shui book that I mentioned a while back arrived and I was excited to try out some of the ideas. However, a couple chapters in, I realized that it was way too much to try to figure out how to 'feng shui' this house on my own, even with the step-by-step approach in that book, and decided to look into having a Feng Shui consultant come and help me out. Apparently there is only one consultant in the area, and after talking to her I discovered that I couldn't really afford it at the moment, but I did squeeze some information out of her that included a little about her training and background and the type of Feng Shui that she uses. I learned that, although classical Feng Shui can be very powerful, it originated in China in the days when it was possible to pick the very best location for a building according to one's personal astrology and the landscape. Of course, these days, when building a house, it would still be most beneficial to have a professional Feng Shui consultant work with the architect to create a harmonious design for the client. However, when working with a structure that is already in place, it is often simpler to use the "east meets west" Feng Shui that is taught at the Western School of Feng Shui. Back online I went, and found another book in PBS written by the founder of the Western School of Feng Shui, Terah Kathryn Collins. I found this book much easier to work with, as it is based on the Bagua map rather compass directions and astrology. If the astrology part of classical feng shui is too confusing for you (with the charts given in the first book I read, it seemed simple enough to find the harmonious colors and forms for one person, but when I tried to figure out what I was supposed to do to harmonize all three of the inhabitants of my house I got lost), the key points to remember are form, function, and beauty. Objects should be in good working order, useful as well as pleasing to the eye. The five elements also come into play, but above all, the d├ęcor of a room must be pleasing to its inhabitants. It is amazing how much of a difference you can create in a room's energy simply by moving stuff around a bit! Although some of the Feng Shui ideas I have read seem to border on the edge of superstition (such as closing toilet lids and even the sink drains when not in use), in practice I have found that this helps keep the focus and energy present, and mostly the concepts are rooted in practicality. For instance, leaky plumbing, especially in wealth and prosperity areas, is symbolic of your money draining away. Even "non-areas" of your home (cluttered closets and garages, for example) become indicators of the energy flow (or stagnation) in your home. Basically, once you immerse yourself in Feng Shui, you find that there is nowhere to hide! 

I decided to start by rearranging and energizing my Wealth & Prosperity areas. I was able to open up and beautify these areas quickly by removing any clutter, dusting and rearranging objects and adding symbols of prosperity. To my surprise, within about a week of doing this, I signed up several new customers into my business, and then, out of the blue, sold a sling from my Etsy shop that I had posted for months and months and had pretty much given up hope of ever selling. Nice! At that point I had a revelation and a flashback to grade school when I took a career aptitude test and my top career result had been interior design, and I am now seriously considering switching from the graphic design program to the interior design program at the Academy of Art, and then supplementing that with a Feng Shui program.

Here is an easy Feng Shui tip that you can implement in your own home.

Beautify your home's main entrance (even if you enter from the garage or laundry room) to help draw positive energy flow into your home. Make sure that the area has ample light, no objects such as hoses, old newspapers, dead plants, etc. block the flow of energy, and that the door can be opened a full 90 degrees. Place some fresh flowers in a vase and/or a beautiful picture that you will see immediately upon entering your home. 

Try it and let me know what results you get!


Recommended Reading:
The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Creating Balance, Harmony, and Prosperity in Your Environment (Feng Shui)
The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Room by Room

Western School of Feng Shui (lots of great infor here including a free Bagua map download, five element chart,  room balance analysis, Essential Feng Shui decluttering guidelines and more!)