Love yourself a little this Valentine's day

The longer I’m around, the more I realize how important it is to cultivate a loving relationship with yourself. Self-care and self-love sound like the latest buzz words within the wellness-mindfulness world and they might be. They’re also key for building meaningful relationships with others.

Ahimsa, nonviolence, is the first ethical observance mentioned in the yoga sutras. This nonviolence starts with ourselves with how we treat our body and mind everyday. With compassion and love, we will grow and flourish. Maybe this sounds out there to you but try it. Try one of the (free) self-care practices below for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference in how you feel. Notice if how you treat yourself affects how you interact and treat others. The whole nonviolence thing is a big ask and a big task. Even a little nonviolence and love goes a long way.

We all need a little extra love and today is as good a day as any to start.

Self Care suggestions:

Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a compliment.

Laying in bed at night, thank yourself for one thing you did on that day

Take a few minutes before bed to rub oil on your feet - any oil will do at first but sesame is a good one to try

Sit quietly at any point during the day - take a deep breath or ask that you may be filled with loving kindness

Release yourself from an expectation or even part of an expectation

Tell you that you love you

I’m sure there are many more out there- How do you express self-love?

Cecelia BaumComment
2019

The start of a new year is like the start of a month, a moon cycle, a week, or a day. The specific day may be arbitrary, but with the beginning of any cycle we have an opportunity for setting intentions and starting in a way that may be different than how we have started our lives, the last year, or the last 10 years.

 This year, the first day of the year was only a few days before the new moon. I took the days between to think about the last year and about the year to come. I usually don’t set specific goals these days, departing from my corporate training in making SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time sensitive) goals, but I do set intentions, recognize how I want to spend my time, and pick some words that will guide me for the upcoming year. Occasionally, I set a SMART goal or two for the year as I find it can be helpful, but I also like to remain open to what may happen, what I haven’t planned for in my limited view of the world.

 A few years ago, I listened to an author explain a theory about how helpful it can be to list a few things you want to spend time on in the coming xyz (month, week, year…)  to organize your brain and so that when you have time, you can recall those areas rather than default to looking at your phone or watching TV. While downtime and staring off into space are certainly things I appreciate, I also have benefitted from making this list. When I have ‘vocalized’ that I want to work on something like knitting a blanket or learning Sanskrit and I have some extra time, I find that I am more likely to spend that time, even 10-15 minutes on something I find fulfilling and balancing rather than feeling like I’ve wasted that time. I find this also helps in my overall concentration and centeredness- if I don’t spend 15 minutes distractedly looking at Instagram, I find concentration comes easier when I return to whatever is next.

 I’m so excited for this year. The main areas I want to spend time and energy are Ayurveda, breathing-yoga, cooking, building a business, and friends-family. Each of this topics has more SMART-type bullets like taking anatomy and physiology, completing the Ayurveda Health Counselor program, etc. which help to focus my energy. I check in every quarter to see what is still serving me and what is not.

 As part of these energy areas, I’m teaching several classes at The Happy Cook, I’m working with a local farm Atelier Farm to create a series of summer cooking classes, I’ll be hosting Ayurveda meet-ups, and I’ll be heading back to Kripalu to continue working towards the Health Counselor certification.

 Wishing you balance, growth, and contentment in 2019.

 

Warmly,

Cecelia

Cecelia BaumComment
Some thoughts on the new year

Endings and beginning are full of many emotions- I particularly like the feelings of closure around the year ending and the prospect of what a new year can bring. Much like the start of a moon cycle or each new day, the start of a new year provides another chance to give ourselves birth into the world. With each beginning, we can move away from patterns and habits that no longer serve us. We can make choices that help us honor who we are.

A new year also allows us a chance to move away from expectations and attachments. There is a fine line between resolutions, intentions, and attachment and expectation. Attachment to outcome can narrow our view of success, happiness, health, and contentment. If the outcome is not the vision to which we are attached, we can feel disappointed, sad, and frustrated. If our expectations are unreasonable, we can feel like failures before even beginning. On the other hand, if we can enter into the new year with openness and receptivity, we may find that we are able to more deeply experience the world around us and our own life. You may even be surprised to find what you enjoy, what brings you joy, or when you feel most connected to yourself and those around you.

Moving into this year new, try to trust you ability. Your ability to take in the joy of a new year and day, the ability to tune into what habits you feed to find vitality, the ability to listen to yourself and trust what you hear.

May 2019 bring you adventure, peace, and curiosity! I’m looking forward to seeing you and working with you in the new year.

Warmly, Cecelia

Cecelia BaumComment
Always a student: part I

One of the ideas that has been instilled in me, over and over by many of my teachers is that we are and should always be students. We should remember that there is always more to learn, ways to deepen understanding, and places to expand that we have yet to consider. In that vein, I’ve been back in the classroom learning more about Ayurveda!

This fall I’ve spent time virtually and in person deepening my knowledge and application skills in Ayurveda. It has been wonderful to dig into textbooks and let lectures wash over me. This past week, I was in western Massachusetts completing a foundations course that leads into a certification as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, an exciting step for me! Over the next 6 months, I’ll take some more trips up north to work with some of the most knowledgeable and experienced Ayurvedic doctors and teachers in the country.

So, I’ve been absent for the past month, but my enthusiasm is high! There will be two meet-ups (one downtown and one north of town) in the next week as we start moving towards Christmas and the New Year!

Cecelia BaumComment
Eating while traveling

It’s been a busy few weeks for me- involving an election and two weekend trips. As a result it feels like the last 4 weeks have disappeared with the beautiful leaves here in Virginia. I want to talk a little bit about eating while traveling.

As someone who follows a pretty simple, ayurvedic diet (honestly most people would find my day to day diet pretty boring!) traveling can be a bit tough. On one hand, it can be wonderful to release the attachment to what I eat every day. It can be a joy to try new foods and explore a culture through meals. On the other hand, I can be stuck in towns with few fresh, vegetarian options. I can feel frustrated and left with digestive issues. What to do? As with most questions in Ayurveda, balance and flexibility are key. Remember, it’s not just what we eat, but how we eat it that matters.

Two examples form recent travels:

My first weekend away was a car trip to Upstate New York for a Coherent Breathing Teacher Training. I attended a similar weekend last year at the same location last year with my mom. I was left eating lettuce for lunch- not fun. This year I traveled with food. I felt a little crazy as I packed up daily portions of overnight oats and kichari, and even crazier when I put the rice cooker next to my yoga mat in the car. But during the weekend, I felt smart and prepared. More importantly, I was able to participate fully with a nourished self. Packing my food made sense because there were not a lot of options for cooked food during the day and dinners didn’t have vegetarian options.

The second weekend was this past weekend when I traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for an old friend’s wedding. Having visited the area before, I knew that there would be fresh, vegetarian food available. I also knew that I was meeting a friend and eating out, exploring the area through food would be part of the experience. I traveled with only my lunch for the first plane trip. Eating there was easy, I looked for options that favored cooked over raw, and fresh rather than processed. Was my diet ‘perfect’? No. But when is it ever? I had a wonderful time and because my food choices were guided, I felt pretty great the whole time.

Traveling can be stressful and vata aggravating. It can also be fun and relaxing. As we move away form dogma and absolutes in food and life choices, remember that there is no ‘right’ way to eat when you take a trip. Try to think ahead a little and keep in mind where you are during that time. Happy Travels!

Cecelia BaumComment
Foods to Favor in Fall

Autumn is a season of change. Our bodies are shedding heat from summer and getting ready for the cold months ahead of us. Luckily, nature provides much of what we need to build and stay healthy in the season. Unluckily for us, grocery stores and restaurants provide all sorts of out of season foods that can make it more difficult to follow the seasonal shifts.

In general, opt for warm or hot, cooked and moist food during this season. That includes warm drinks. As the temperatures drop, our digestive fire can fade. By eating warm and hot foods, we can help to stoke this fire. While your MO may be to eat raw salads, try a week of eating cooked rather than raw foods and notice any if there are changes in digestion or if gas or bloating subside.

Root vegetables are in season and wonderful for building. Dark leafy greens are back after their hiatus during the summer. Enjoy them steamed or sauteed. Winter squash is also great this time of the year. Eaten in excess, it can cause some congestion in bodily channels.

Fruits to favor are apples, cranberries in the early fall, pears, figs, raisins, and dates. Bananas can also be nice in this season. Try adding a fruit to your morning oats. I love apples braised with cinnamon and cloves at this time of the year.

For grains and beans, favor brown rice, oats, wheat berries, and small beans. While all whole grains are great, some can cause a little excess air. Try cooking grains and beans with a little extra water at this time of the year.

Tahini, avocados, raw nut butters, and ghee are all good sources of fat this time of year. If you take dairy and eggs, they also provide sweet, building qualities to balance the cool, drying effect of the autumn.

Finally, maple syrup, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom are all great at this time of the year.

Remember a hat, a scarf, and an extra layer when you’re out and enjoy the beautiful leaves!

Cecelia BaumComment
Comforting Kichari

Fall is a great time for cleansing as our bodies are making a big shift from summer to winter. Cleanses in Ayurveda are much different from the restrictive, limiting juice or supplement based cleanses that are common. In Ayurveda, a cleanse is supposed to promote ease in the body to allow it to naturally remove toxins and restore balance. In order to do this, a cleanse usually involves several days of eating one type of food, kichari.

Kichari is nourishing, easy to digest, and allows to body to focus on removing gunk from the rest of the body. I also think it is insanely comforting. I prefer it to noodle soup now when I’m sick or need a hug in a bowl.

This recipe can be adapted for different seasons but this is a good starting point.


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Ingredients:

1 cup white basmati rice (soaked overnight)

1/2 cup whole mung bean (soaked overnight)

4-6 c water

2 tbsp ghee

1 tsp of black mustard seed, cumin, ginger, fenugreek

1/2 tsp of salt, turmeric, coriander seeds

2 cups of chopped vegetables (squash, beets, sweet potato, kale, collards, cabbage) cubed or chopped

How to:

RInse the rice and the beans well. Soak for at least several hours but preferably overnight.

In a medium pot, warm ghee over medium heat. Add spices and saute until the mustards seeds are popping and they are fragrant. Add the rice and mung beans. Add water and bring to a simmer for 30-40 minutes on low.

If using sweet potatoes or squash, add with about 15 minutes of cooking time remaining. Add leafy vegetables a few minutes before it’s finished. Add more water if necessary- the consistency should be soupy and a little looser than the photo!

Serve with cilantro, avocado, a little ghee, or sunflower seeds. Enjoy!

Cecelia BaumComment
What's healthy?

Reading the latest health news or diet books can be really confusing. It seems like each week there is a new superfood or dietary cure all that will save us (mostly from ourselves). If only we can eat enough acai berries or drink enough kale smoothies, we will finally achieve health. Until tomorrow when there is something new to eat.

Most nutritional reports and news blurbs focus on the food in isolation- the food’s basic nutritional components. And, to be fair, I assumed that’s all there was to it for a long time. If a food is high in a vitamin or low in something else, it must me ‘good for me’. And what’s good for one person must be good for everyone else.

What these reports don’t take into account, is that food is not macro- and micronutrients in a vacuum. They are substances that are being consumed by individual people with unique constitutions and lifestyles during a particular time of the year in a specific climate. Not to mention how they were grown.

In Ayurveda, how a food interacts with your constitution is more important than its general make-up. What works for person a (during summer) may not work for person b (during summer) or person a during winter or person a during the summer of another year.

This means that even if we eat every food mentioned in the news, we still might not be at our optimal health. Our bodies may also be very confused. Bummer. Or not?

Maybe eating in an Ayurvedic way is freedom from health trends. Maybe this means you have a chance to figure out (by trial and error or by working with someone) which foods work for you now and help you feel your best without feeling pressure to stay on top of each of the latest food trends.

Treat eating like any other experiment. It’s a chance to explore different foods in different seasons and figure out what works for you. And don’t feel so bad if you can’t afford acai berries or don’t really like kale! However, I’ve heard morning celery juice is all the rage right now!

Cecelia BaumComment
Masala Chai

This recipe is for the lovely masala chai served in India. It is a warm, spiced beverage that is oh so comforting. Indian masala chai is a little different from what you get here at a coffee shop or from the grocery store- stronger, sometimes sweeter, and definitely smaller. If you’re looking for a warm, comforting beverage on these cold mornings, try this! Masala chai can be made with cow’s milk or non-dairy milk and the spices and caffeine can be tailored to fit your tastes. If you try non-dairy, opt for a milk with a decent fat content like coconut or say if you tolerate it. Almond has a tendency to separate and rice is a bit thin. Hemp works well but don’t boil it.  If you don’t tolerate caffeine well, this can be made without the black tea, and it will still be a delicious drink.

Masala Chai

Makes 4 regularly sized mugs

4 cups water

1 cup milk

1 1/2 tbsp tea (look for Indian tea powder for an authentic taste. PG tips or another British brand will also work well)

2 tbsp coconut sugar or jaggery powder

1/2- 1 inch fresh ginger sliced

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 cardamom pods (green!)

Optional: nutmeg, cloves, fennel, or even coriander powder.

How To:

Boil water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the spices and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. This step is key for a nice, spicy drink. Return the heat to medium and add milk. DO NOT WALK AWAY! As soon as the milk boils (or is close with non-dairy), reduce the heat to low, add the tea and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Simmer for 4-9 minutes (less time means lower caffeine and less astringency which is easier on the tummy).

Remove from heat and strain into smallish mugs. Enjoy!

Note that masala chai can be made anyway you like- change the tea, the sweetner, the spices, the amounts of anything. Try it out and see what works for you in this season.

Cecelia BaumComment
Oat Bars
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as fall begins, salad days and cold overnight oats mornings fade in the rearview mirror. We need something warm and building to get us through these darker, colder, drier days. It’s great if we can sit down for all of our meals and eat mindfully. However, that’s a pretty big ask for most people for each and every meal of the week.

Just because you’re on the run, doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on what you’re eating. These bars are like a solid version of oatmeal. They are not dry and crunchy (tough on digestion this time of year!), but moist, filling, and comforting. They’re a little sweet without being cloying.

I’ve made them here with cranberries and cacao nibs, two ingredients that are great for this time of year as we shed the excess heaviness of summer with astringency. As the fall and winter progress, they can be made with seeds, dates, nuts, raisins. Basically any goodies you might normally put into oatmeal or have in the pantry!

Makes 20 bar

2 1/2 c rolled oats

1/2 cup oat flour (almond, rye, and chickpea flour also work) *

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1 c shredded coconut

1 c applesauce

1/4 c maple syrup

1 c coconut milk (other non-dairy milks are also fine)

1/4 c coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice)

1/2 c cacao nibs

 Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and prepare an 8x8 baking dish if you like thicker bars (pictured) or a 9x12 baking dish if you like thinner bars, with coconut oil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, spices, salt, and coconut. Whisk or stir with a fork to combine. In a small bowl, combine apple sauce, maple syrup, coconut milk, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Beat with a fork to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold to combine. Fold in cranberries, cacao nibs, and any different additions (like dates, almond meal, sunflower seeds).

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 mins for thick bars or 20-25 min for thinner bars until the bars are starting to brown. Remove and cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Keeps for a few days in a sealed container.

*Oat flour can be made easily by putting rolled oats into a blender or food processor for a few minutes!

Cecelia BaumComment
Ghee!

It seems to be everywhere these days but what is it? How does one make it? How does one eat it?

In many parts of the world, France, I’m looking at you, ghee is called clarified butter. At its most basic definition, ghee = butter - water - milk solids. So, ghee is the essential fat that is left from butter once the water has been boiled/evaporated off and the milk solids have come out of solution. The end product is the magical substance, ghee.

In life, ghee is a great cooking medium because it has a high smoke point (much higher than butter without those milk solids) and is a very pure fat. In Ayurveda, ghee is also known for being easy to digest, quick to penetrate the tissues of the body, and nourishing. Ghee helps bring all of the nutrients of your food into your body more easily.

Ghee can be used to cook, to spoon onto toast or over oatmeal and soup, and added into lunch or dinner for some extra delicious fat when your body is craving it.

The ghee making process is fairly simple, but does require that you stay present. Step away for a few minutes and you risk burning the finicky milk solids which will change the flavor or spoil the batch. Try to find local, cultured butter if you can. Happy cows make for happy fats- but organic from the store will do just fine.

It is possible to buy very high quality ghee now in stores. However, it’s very easy to make and a nice way to start adding homemade ingredients and skills to your repertoire. Why not give it a try.

Ingredients:

2-4 sticks of organic unsalted butter

How to:

Place the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If possible, don’t use a non-stick pan. It’s easier to see the milk solids if the bottom of the pan is not black.

After the butter has melted, reduce the heat to low and wait. A white froth will develop and you’ll hear popping sounds. This is a water from the butter evaporating and boiling off. At this point, it’s important to stay and watch the ghee. When the popping slows, pay close attention! At this point, move the froth from the pan and see how the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are doing. The yellow liquid should be clear and golden.

When the milk solids at a golden color, the ghee is done. Remove the pant from the heat and cool for 10-15 minutes. This waiting period will make straining a lot easier! Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a sterilized glass jar. If any foam remains in the ghee, skim it off with a clean spoon.

As long as you use clean utensils in the ghee, it will keep at room temperature for quite some time. You can also store it in the refrigerator.

It’s fall and we need fats- enjoy your ghee!!

Cecelia BaumComment
Fall Oats
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It feels like autumn in central Virginia the past few days- cool, crisp, like change is in the air. The transitions between seasons can be tough on our bodies, made a little harder in that we often resist these changes by eating the same food and observing the same rituals. You might notice that will the cooler weather, you’re craving different foods. Listen to those cravings!

The warming spices, building oats, and detoxifying apples in this recipe will help you to smoothly transition into fall.

Fall Apple Oats for 1

1/4 c rolled oats

1/2 c milk of your choice (cow, rice, almond, or coconut work well)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp cardamom

1/2 of one apple chopped

Options: Raw honey, flax seed

Combine oats, spices, and milk in small saucepan*. Cook on med-high heat to bring to a simmer. While the oats are warming, peel, core and chop half an apple. Add to oats.

Reduce the heat, add more water if necessary, and cover for 5-10 minutes depending on your soak and oats.

Garnish if you wish (don’t cook the honey!) and enjoy!

Notes:

I soak mine overnight at room temperature. This speeds the cooking time in the morning!

While it can be tempting to make a big bowl of oats loaded with toppings, keep in mind that combining too many foods can be difficult on digestion. Keep it simple for a while and see what happens.

If you want a hot breakfast but don’t eat before leaving the house, get a small thermos. They’re wonderful

Cecelia BaumComment
A little burp

Our bodies are great communicators. The problem is, most of the time, we’re terrible listeners. A nice example is a little burp we release when we’re ‘full’. Full meaning that our stomach is at capacity for the amount of food it can digest, not that we necessarily feel full, generally a much fuller feeling!

Before being told about this, I had never noticed it. My body will tell me when I’m full? I don’t have to rely on intuition or willpower or weighing out portions??

What a revelation! What freedom!

I still listen for this little burp, especially when I’m distracted at a meal, like at a restaurant or at a social meal. It helps me to keep tabs on if I’m balancing my body’s need for nourishment with it’s need to have adequate room and resources to digest. I usually stop at the burp, but not always. When I do consistently, I notice that I feel better and maintain my weight with ease.

Over the next week, try to listen for this little burp. It’s likely that it will happen way before you’re finished with your meal. You don’t have to stop but take a pause and notice how you feel at that burp. What does it feel like for your stomach to be at capacity? I hope you enjoy it, I know I still do!


Cecelia BaumComment
You Can Saute Lettuce
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Generally, and especially during the fall, when the weather is becoming cooler and drier, Ayurveda advises against eating raw vegetables. If you’re a salad lover, this can seem like a pretty big bummer at first, but give it a try, your tummy may thank you. Raw foods are difficult to digest and can quell digestive fire. As with most things, raw foods every now and again are fine.

If you’re part of a farm share or CSA, you may end up with a lot of lettuce especially now during the shoulder season when lettuce thrives. If so, try sauteing it! It will wilt beautifully just like spinach and has a really nice flavor. This week I had mine with small black lentils, a small sweet potato, cilantro, and tahini.

FoodCecelia BaumComment
Welcome / Week 40 2018
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Beginnings can be refreshing. And scary. There seems to be so much potential on a white page. So, here we are.

Why a new health and wellness website in a world full of health and wellness websites? Don’t we already know the advice and have too many sources telling us the next trick to get fit/skinny/happy/content/rested/peaceful?

Perhaps that is exactly why. I believe that health does not have to be as complicated and as moral as we make it. I don’t think that health is a battle we are waging on ourselves. In fact, I believe that our bodies, left to their own devices, would nourish and heal themselves. I believe that what we are today is the culmination of lots of little choices over the past week/month/year/decade. It stands to reason, then, that the small choices we make today, tomorrow, and next week will help us to slowly transform, to uncover what’s really inside of us. Think of a bird building a nest. The bird does not manifest a nest by wishing it so, they spend time collecting twig after twig, slowly building, slowly bringing something into being.

Small steps in a participatory process.

This website is a way to help share those habits, mindsets, and ways of eating that can help bring the transformation about. I believe that a healthy, vibrant life is within everyone’s reach.

I also believe we can get there with a lighthearted, inquisitive approach. Let’s start!

Cecelia BaumComment