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Friday, January 22, 2010

Randomly Quirky Friday Friend Shout Out

So I am not going to lie, life has been damn busy!!!! Jill is making nutritional waves in Rwanda, Lauren is breaking ground in corporate wellness and I am immersing myself in all things yoga, fertility and pre and post-natal health. It has been a challenge with the three of us so very busy and on different continents taboot! Blogging here is that little piece of wonderful that makes all the craziness worth it. And the three of us know that by pooling our knowledge and resources together we will actively create greater change in people's health and wellness. And that dear readers, is the best high of all!!

So, today's blog post isn't the typical Friday Friends Shout Out. I just really wanted to give a shout out to all of our readers.
It makes us feel fabulous to know that someone is reading our blog! And who doesn't love feeling fabulous!!! We love answering all your questions, reading all your comments and it brings a huge smile to our faces to know that we're being read!

So thank you readers for reading and making us feel fabulous!!

Keep it Fresh!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Year, New Decade, New You!

So I may be 21 days late, but rather than setting New Year’s resolutions, I am sitting down to make a list of goals that I would like to accomplish this year. What is the difference you ask? Well, they are really a list of life goals... the year is just a rough timeline. I think that each year we all say “I am going to do this more” or “I am going to doing that less”, and we put pressure on ourselves to make drastic changes overnight. Inevitably, after a month or two we give up. Just look at any crowded gym in January and then a month or two later... free treadmills again! I don’t want to force myself to make changes, instead I want to make choices in my life in the upcoming months that will precipitate changes in order to create the life I want to lead, in the world that I want to live it in. And I encourage you to do the same.

Not sure where to start? Start by envisioning your future. Picture yourself a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now. What do you see? What will your career path be, where will you be living, with whom will you be living, with whom will you have meaningful relationships? Don’t be afraid to get detailed! Think about the things that are most important to you.

Then take a look at the present. On a piece of paper write down categories for each aspect of your life: work, home, relationships with friends, family or significant others, exercise, hobbies, health, etc. Next to each category write down a number between 1 and 10 indicating your satisfaction with that area of your life, 10 being completely satisfied. Now look at the lower numbers, the areas that need improvement, and think about what you can do to improve them. Write a few words next to each describing the reasons why those things are not fulfilling.

Now make a list of desires. Things that you want in your life that will help feed and nurture you and improve the areas that are unsatisfying. If you scored your home life with a 3, how can you make it a 10? Would redecorating, reorganizing or de-cluttering make your home more comfortable? Maybe you are unhappy with the location of your home and want to move somewhere warmer or closer to work. Whatever it is, write it down. Write down all of the things that would make you happy, whether small or large, but be clear about your intentions.

Lastly, write down at least one step that you can make towards achieving each desire, and take action! Call Bob and get the number for his real estate broker, or go to the store and get the boxes you need to reorganize your closet. As you accomplish each step, check them off and take a moment to reflect on how good it feels. Continue to add steps and check them off if necessary until you reach your desired goal, and be sure to reward yourself in the end!

Keep your lists somewhere where you can see them everyday as a reminder, like your nightstand. As you fulfill your desires, more will come. Write them down too. It is often helpful to start each day by writing down your intentions for the day... what steps you can take during the next few hours to help reach your goals. And don’t forget to take a moment before you go to bed to reflect on your day and check off your steps! If you missed a step or two, do not punish yourself. Instead, state the intention for the next day and find a way to motivate yourself to get it done. To keep track of your progress, re-score your categories every few months. Good Luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter Squash

I have to keep reminding myself that it is January and winter back home, which can be difficult to do in 85 degree tropical, on-the-equator type weather. While I can’t say that I miss the blustery cold, I can say that I do miss the many varieties of sweet winter squash to choose from. There are so many different types available and accessible in most grocery stores. There are many ways to cook these sweet gourds to help keep warm during those winter months that I am maybe not so fortunate to be missing out on.

Generally best during the fall and early winter months, but thanks to their thick skins, most winter squash have long storage potential. They come in many different shapes, sizes and colors, but cut open any variety and the flesh will almost always be somewhere between a golden yellow to vibrant orange, thanks to its high level of beta carotene. Due to its high level of Vitamin A winter squash boasts anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, folic acid and potassium to name a few. All of these combined, make them a nutrient rich food that can help ward off cancer and heart disease, help lower cholesterol or blood pressure and fight inflammatory diseases. Every part of the squash can be eaten, including the leaves and skin once cooked, and is often the best way to take advantage of all the nutrients the vegetable has to offer. Even the seeds can be eaten and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids!

Varieties: So many to choose from it can be difficult.(Helpful tip: some stores, like Whole Foods, have guide books in the produce section with images of all the different varieties of vegetables, making it easier to determine what is what). Here are a few to help you get started...

- Acorn: Dark green skin (there are orange varieties too, just to give you even more options) with a sweet yellow flesh.

- Buttercup: Round with deep green skin and dark yellow-orange flesh with a sweet and nutty flavor and creamy consistency.

- Butternut: Pale orange skin with a deep orange buttery flesh, similar to a sweet potato.

- Carnival: Small and pumpkin shaped. Appropriately named due to its colorful, speckled and striped outer skin, with a sweet yellow flesh similar to butternut or acorn.

- Delicata: Small oval shape with white-yellow striped skin and golden, sweet and creamy flesh.

- Hubbard: Large tear drop shaped with pale, dull green-blue skin and dense orange flesh.

- Kabocha: (Sometimes called Japanese squash and similar to Buttercup) Pumpkin shaped, hard knobby green skin with bright orange flesh with a strong flavor and moist texture.

- Spaghetti: Oval shaped with yellow skin and yellow spaghetti-like flesh.

- Sugar Pumpkin: Small version of the “halloween” pumpkin with bright orange skin and flesh. The stuff pumpkin pie is made from.

- Turban: (Part of the Butternut family) Round turban-like shape with outer color ranging from dark green to bright speckled oranges and yellow-orange flesh.

Selecting: Look for firm, heavy squash with tough skins. Avoid vegetables with bruises, cuts or areas of softness that can indicate spoilage. And of course, choose local and/or organic when possible!

Storing: Some varieties can be stored up to six months before going bad. Generally squash can be kept out for a couple days, but it is best kept away from extreme temperatures and sunlight, so storing in the refrigerator is best. Or, cut them up and freeze them future use.

Preparing: A versatile food, squash can be prepared in many different ways.

- cut up and add to soups or stews

- roast them with a little olive oil and herbs.

- use spaghetti squash in place of pasta noodles with your favorite tomato sauce

- halve, scoop out seeds, bake and stuff with wild rice, quinoa, veggies or beans

- puree sweeter varieties and use in pies, cakes, breads or other desserts

- toast the seeds plain or season with olive oil, tamari, salt, pepper or other favorite seasonings

Try different ones and share your favorite variety or recipe in the comments section!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Muraho from Kigali

So I have been in Rwanda for three months as of today (my how time flies!), and doing a poor job of blogging about it! Mainly because the last few weeks have been a roller coaster ride of trying to decide if I should stay or if I should return to the states. Lots of factors have been at play in this decision (some will remain unmentioned....), but my 90 day visa was running out, I am now homeless, and I am pretty much out of money as I have had some difficulty finding full time work here. Well a quick trip border hopping into Goma (in Democratic Republic of the Congo) solved the visa issues and some generous friends have welcomed me into their home for a couple weeks until I figure out my plans... so now there is just the money/job dilemma to tackle.

Fortunately, things seem to be looking up in that department! I have a few leads on contacts for various organizations that I have reached out to that may be promising. But the most exciting part is that I have had, and hopefully will continue to have, the opportunity to work for an organization called Project Rwanda (PR). Led by National Bike Director Kimberly Coats, PR aims to help improve the economy of Rwanda by helping rural coffee farmers throughout the country run their businesses more efficiently. They do this by supplying them with “coffee bikes” that are designed to transport harvested coffee cherries. In conjunction with the organization is Team Rwanda, the nation’s professional cycling team lead by coach Jock Boyer.

Throughout the year coach holds training camps for the team in Musanze, a region in the north of the country close to the Ugandan border. Jock and Kim wanted me to team up with their cook to develop healthy meals for the team during one of the first training camps of the year. So, last week I took a 2 hour mutatu (public bus) ride up to Musanze and got to work for two long, but very fun days! With a team of 16 very hungry riders, we had a lot of cooking to do!

Each day would start with a trip to the local market, a large open air building similar to the one here in Kigali, and purchase tons of fresh ingredients for the days meals. Back at the house armed with fresh veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, and whole grains, we spent the day cooking a healthy lunch to feed the team after a morning of riding, only to start all over again for dinner once they were all satisfied.

Four meals and two days later, and an exhausted, sweaty mess, I prepared for my trip back to the city while watching coach run tests on the riders using a stationary bike hooked up to his laptop. According to Jock’s recent Facebook status, the team’s performance level has improved during this camp... for the first time a rider put out 400 watts during his test ride, and another 370 watts. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I know it is good! And I would like to think that home cooked, healthy, nutrient-dense, whole foods had some help in the matter!!

All in all it was a wonderful experience working with the team. I am just sad that my camera has broken and I was unable to document my time with them, but I am hoping to be invited back for more camps, and I hope to witness more improvements with the riders as we feed them nutritious meals. There is nothing I love more than finding the freshest ingredients and preparing healthy meals that feed the body and the soul. There is certainly something to be said about the power of food and I am beginning to wonder who is being nurtured more, me or the team!

Check out Team Rwanda, Project Rwanda and the work they are doing: http://projectrwanda.org

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2009 - GREAT Year for Music!

Music has always been an essential part of nourishment for me each day. Whether I’m getting ready in the morning, practicing yoga, working, driving in my car, cooking in the kitchen, etc.…I’m always listening to music. What I’m listening to sets the tone of my day and since I listen to such good stuff, it really helps me enjoy each day that much more!

2009 was such an amazing year for music!!! I am excited for 2010 and all of the new albums to come, but I’m worried it won’t be able to beat it!! I CANNOT stop listening to Yeasayer's long anticipated sophomore album, Odd Blood, that officially releases in February 2010, so we are already off to a great start! We’ll have to just wait and see (hear, rather).

Below are some of the best albums of 2009 (in my opinion). I starred a few of my favorite songs on some albums. I wish I could go more into detail for each album/artist but we'd be here all day!!

Top Albums of 2009

- Regina Spektor – Far

*Two Birds *Dance Of The 80’s

- The Swell Season – Strict Joy

- Devendra Banhart – What Will We Be

*First Song for B *16th & Valencia Roxy Music

- Real Estate – Real Estate

- Boozoo Bajou – Grains

*Flickers *Big Nicks

- Mos Def – The Ecstatic

*Auditorim *Quiet Dog Bite Hard

- Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

*Ready, Able *Foreground

- Wilco – (The Album)

- Atlas Sound – Logos

*Walkabout *Quick Canal

- The Black Crowes – Before the Frost…Until the Freeze

* Aimless Peacock

- Muse – The Resistance

- Metric – Fantasies

*Gold Gun Girls

- Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

- Bat for Lashes – Two Suns

- Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

*Temazcal *Man Named Truth

Of course, I can’t leave out the beautiful compilation album, Dark was the Night, as well as the new Yo La Tengo, Animal Collective, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Antlers new albums of 2009. There were SO many good ones!!!

I had an awesome LIVE run of shows throughout 2009 too, seeing artists such as Andrew Bird, Ani DiFranco, Ravi & Anoushka Shankar, Ray Lamontagne, Monsters of Folk, Thievery Corporation, TV on the Radio, Fleet Foxes, The Black Crowes, The National, Coldplay, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and of course the return of PHISH!!! There is something about sharing a room with hundreds (or sometimes even thousands) of people who share the same love for a particular artist/band. The energy that collects in the room is so fulfilling and inspiring! I will be seeing my first concert of 2010 this Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall for The Swell Season. I am SO psyched!

Photographs: Top = The BEST concert(s) I saw of 2009...Fleet Foxes!!!! Middle = Terra and I in Boston, the night before Phish's Summer Tour opener at Fenway Park, one of the BEST Phish shows I've ever been to! See how excited we are?! Bottom = My last concert of the year, Phish at MSG! Terra and I danced our tooshies off! Another one of my favorite Phish shows EVER!

Did I miss any from 2009? Please share below!!!

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren