Three relationships

treatfortI opened my email inbox this afternoon to find the Daily JOMO newsletter from Christina Crook. In today’s quest toward a slower, more mindful life, Christina invites us to focus on three important people and to dedicate some time to them. When I first heard of the idea of choosing merely three people toward whom to direct my attention, I felt limited, immediately retorting that I am fortunate to have more than three people in my life about whom I care deeply and whom I wish to honour. Yet, I don’t believe that we are meant to think of the invitation in absolute terms. The choice can be turned into a daily ritual of intention-setting. The people we choose might be different every day or might remain the same for a week at a time. It does not undermine our relationship with anyone else who is dear to us.

I considered my day today, at home with the Wanderlust Juniors, feeling tired due to the new adjustment to daylight saving time and having been awakened too early to tend to a boy with a — thankfully — mild case of food poisoning. My attention was required here, ready to assist with the construction of play forts; entertaining two little artists by sharing the pages of a colouring book; making raw chocolate treats; and slicing apples at snack time. Here were two relationships that demanded my undivided attention. The third person was my mum, who brought along treats for teatime and with whom I enjoyed a couple of lovely — albeit short — hours.

The three people often choose us. All that is required of us is to accept the invitation to remain present.

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Favourites from around the web: March 3rd edition

So, it is March, the first month of spring in the northern hemisphere. In spite of that fact, in southern Ontario, the cold weather prevails right now, and with it the will to hibernate. I have been craving time to read and craft. January and February were exceptionally busy months for us, and I feel called to slow down.

How are you doing?

If, like me, your interest lies with solitude and a slower pace, you might enjoy the following:

A few moments for meditation, or podcasts to enjoy.

Taming anxiety-driven thoughts.

Food for thought, for educators and parents.

Holding onto old-fashioned presence.

I learned to cook, do laundry, and manage other aspects of my home on my own, but I have always been a solitary learner. This concept is alternative and intriguing.

One week at a time.

Here’s to a tranquil weekend!

Slow mornings

Sunday morning.

A few overripe bananas alone in the centre of a large ornate bowl.

Hungry bellies await breakfast.

A yawn escapes while the countertop is set with a metal bowl, a whisk, and measuring cups.

The bananas are peeled, then mashed.

Milk is poured, with juice of half a lemon squeezed to replace buttermilk.

Coconut oil melts in the skillet.

The dry and wet ingredients intermingle in a large bowl.

A handful of chocolate chips tossed into the mix. Why not?

Coconut oil sizzles as batter is poured onto the hot surface.

The routine is tranquil, meditative.

The kettle emits a gentle whistle as the water inside boils.

Tea. Pancakes. Coffee. Maple syrup.

Simple, like Sunday morning.

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In the interest of saving time amid a busy weekday routine, we celebrated Fat Tuesday a couple of days early. In truth, Sunday morning pancakes are a tradition chez nous. Here is our favourite banana and chocolate chip pancake recipe:

Ingredients:

2 medium-size very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup buttermilk (or a cup of milk with lemon juice squeezed into it)
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut sugar or white sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
handful of chocolate chips
additional coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, bananas, buttermilk, sugar, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the batter showly. Add the chocolate chips and stir gently.

Fry 2-3 minutes per side on a skillet lightly greased with coconut oil or butter. Serve with maple syrup and/or other favourites.

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Place share a favourite pancake recipe in the comments below.
 

A few wardrobe rules

I have narrowed down my wardrobe and counted the pieces: 111 total. That number seems high to me. I console myself with reminders that this number includes outerwear, yoga clothes, dressy and casual pieces. Then I remember that I have not counted the footwear — 14 pieces, including winter boots and house slippers. That number also does not include accessories — once upon a time, I loved to collect scarves — as well as sleepwear, swimwear, and undergarments.

The number 111 might sound high, yet I can honestly say that I wear all the pieces at least once per year. Is that a good enough reason to hold onto them? I suppose it depends on whom we ask, and minimalism has many definitions. As I continue to fine-tune my personal style, I have developed certain rules to which I adhere when deciding what items to keep in my closet and before making a decision to introduce something new into my wardrobe:

1. Toss (and say ‘no’ to) anything that does not feel comfortable.

Gone are the days when I was prepared to suffer to look good. I have since learned that if I don’t feel comfortable, I most likely do not look good. That means letting go of any woolen itchy sweaters, curve-hugging camisoles that ride up and need to be readjusted every few minutes, dresses that are too short, t-shirts that show my midriff, and any tops that require a funky version of a strapless bra or adhesives to hold the piece in place on my body. Comfort is No. 1 for me.

2. Toss (and say ‘no’ to) anything that does not look 100% flattering on me.

Some pieces look fabulous on a hanger, a mannequin, or another person, but that will not always be the case when I try them on, and that’s okay. I love the look of one-piece swimsuits; after years of wearing bikinis, last summer I purchased a gorgeous fuchsia one piece. After wearing it once to the beach, I understood that I much prefer the comfort of bikinis, and because I have a long torso, if I ever again decide to try a one-piece, it will have to be one specially made for my build.

3. Keep items that complement and can be layered with other items that I have in my wardrobe.

Recently, I have developed a colour scheme that differs significantly from the colours I used to wear 10 years ago. Although I still like pinks and purples from time to time, those pinks have been replaced with darker fuchsia, and the purple with richer burgundy. I am particular about basic pieces (long-sleeved t-shirts in black, dark grey, and neutral are my favourites) and layering them with cardigans and sweaters.

4. Choose items that are practical and suit my lifestyle.

When choosing which items to keep and which new ones to bring in, I consider where I will wear them and how frequently. Although I have kept a few dressy items that I wear once per year, I do not bring anything new into my wardrobe that I do not plan to wear less frequently than once every few weeks.

5. Choose items that are of the highest quality I can afford.

This is a big criteria point for me. Gone are the days when I used to seek the most affordable pieces the seams of which would fall apart or the colours of which would fade after one or two washes (bear in mind that I hand-wash the majority of my clothes with gentle liquid detergent). Today, I look for versatile pieces that are made of sustainable materials, preferably in Canada or the U.S. I also enjoy items such as my Encircled Chrysalis cardigan, which can be worn in several different ways. I used to think that a well-made $100 sweater was much too expensive, until I purchased such a sweater several years ago and continue to wear it frequently, enjoying it every time. Because I no longer rejoice at acquiring 10 $10 items, I do not feel bad when I do, once per year, invest $100 in one timeless piece that I know I will wear for many years to come.

6. I don’t need more than one of everything.

I used to think I needed two pairs of black pants in two different cuts, but I only enjoyed wearing one of the pairs. So, out went the secondary option. I used to have three different styles of black pumps — one with a stiletto heel, another with a kitten heel, and a third with a chunky heel. I have since selected the one pair that I like most and donated the others. Do I miss them? No! I will go so far as to say that I have also significantly reduced my selection of undergarments, leaving only the ones that I feel most comfortable wearing. No one needs 20 pairs of underwear in 20 different shades of pink when 10 cotton pairs in basic colours will suffice. My selection might seem boring to some, but it’s practical and it makes me feel good.

7. I don’t need 20 different special-occasion outfits.

Once upon a time, I held onto every evening gown that I had worn once to a special occasion, and I thought that I needed a new dress for each special occasion I attended. Those gowns have all been donated because I rarely have an occasion that warrants such an outfit. I have kept one timeless black cocktail dress that I do not mind wearing to multiple events. Let it be my signature look!

8.  Never shop because I’m bored or require retail therapy, and never buy something just because it’s on sale.

This is an easy one for me, because I frankly do not enjoy shopping, and the concept of retail therapy has never appealed to me. I shop alone, never with a girlfriend, at two favourite online stores, and just because a t-shirt is on sale for $5 does not mean I need it or it is a smart choice for me. In my opinion, based on past experience, in most situations, a $5 item purchased on impulse is never a good choices and that money is better spent on a latte.

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T-shirts. Minimalism need not be boring. I continue to enjoy bright colours and patterns (I’m very partial to horizontal stripes).

Do you have several personal wardrobe rules? Please share them with me in the comments below. 

P.S. Please remember to share this blog with a friend!

Pantry declutter project: mung bean soup

I spent the weekend tidying the laundry room in our home and sorting through piles of paperwork that I had collected over the past several years. I’m also cooking my way through our kitchen pantry stash of beans, flours, and other items that we had purchased once upon a time within the past few years but have not used in substantial quantities.

On Sunday, I used a large quantity of flour to make play-doh for the youngest Wanderlust Junior’s classroom; banana pancakes for breakfast; banana and chocolate chip muffins for Wanderlust Juniors’ snack break at school; and a banana and chocolate chip loaf for our post-dinner dessert. I confess that my baking quest was not a result of attempting to bake my way through an entire bag of flour. Rather, there were too many very ripe bananas sitting on our kitchen counter, begging to be featured in several delicious ways.

Last week, I shared with you my recipe for banana, blueberry, and lavender muffins. This time, I will share with the result of my pantry declutter project: mung bean soup. I made a large pot of this flavourful, warming, grounding soup on Sunday afternoon for me and Mr. Wanderlust to enjoy at lunch all throughout the workweek.

Ground, warming mung bean soup recipe

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Ingredients:

2 cups dry mung bean

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped finely

1 green pepper, chopped finely

1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

Enough filtered water or vegetable stock (or a mixture of both) to cover the mung bean and vegetables, plus three additional inches of water and/or stock on top

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp curry powder

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preparation:

  1. Soak the mung bean overnight in a large pot in cold water. Before cooking the soup, rinse and drain the beans.
  2. In a large cooking pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook the onions and garlic until they turn a golden brown colour.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bell peppers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, and curry powder, and stir everything together.
  6. Add the salt and pepper and water and/or stock, cover and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to cook the soup, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour on low heat.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir once again.

I like to allow the soup to rest overnight, absorbing the flavour, and serve it the following day.

Do you have a favourite soup recipe that incorporates various legumes that just might be lurking in my pantry? Please share them with me in the comments below.

Do you know someone who might enjoy this recipe? Please share this blog post with a friend!

Wrap-up: Top 11 posts of 2016

Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.

Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment! 


If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:

1.  Mindfulness for the introvert business traveller, published on February 22nd

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2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

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3.  Our mindful Disney vacation, published on March 4th

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4. The best version of myself, published on April 21st

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5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

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6. A story of commitment, dedication, and love, published on June 17th

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7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

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8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

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9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

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10. Festive season yoga time-out, published on December 15th

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11. The top 11 books I read in 2016, published on December 22nd

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Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

What I learned in the past 10 days

I’m a bit late with the publication of this edition of the blog, and I apologize. You see, yesterday, I excitedly awaited the return of Mr. Wanderlust from a long business trip.

Today, although rain is in the forecast, I want to dance around the kitchen à la Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor, singing, “Good morning, good morning…” I am happy, and not only because it’s Friday but because Mr. Wanderlust has returned home. Over the past 10 days, I have regained an appreciation for single parents who do it all, every day.

It was also a valuable learning experience, with the following to add to the list of odd skills I have acquired:

– I learned how to add an HD channel to our digital TV tuner (no, we do not have even the most basic cable) in order to spend Sunday evening cosily watching the Toronto Santa Claus parade with Wanderlust Juniors. The mad wind did not help, but after spending several minutes standing still in front of the TV, holding the antenna in my right hand at shoulder height for a clear picture, I found a solution that worked surprising well: placing the antenna careful atop two rolled yoga mats snacked one on top of the other. Oh, how I wish I had taken a photo for your amusement!

– I learned to pump air into the tyres of our car when, after a cold weekend, while on my way to work on Monday morning, the tyre pressure light showed up on the dashboard. This might sound typical, but I tend to leave car repairs and maintenance tasks to Mr. Wanderlust. This was a new challenge for me and I must say I am proud of myself for facing it without too much trepidation.

– I became better at air hockey, which Wanderlust Juniors and I played at the local children’s hairstylist’s in-between their appointments last Saturday. In case you’re wondering, Wanderlust Juniors won every time (of course), but I enjoyed plenty of practice.

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I must confess, I am excited about the start of the Christmas season. The Toronto Christmas Market is one of our favourite annual festive traditions.

I also broke a few rules by decorating for Christmas much too early. I believe that the season officially starts on December 1st, but I broke my own rule and in seeking ways to keep Wanderlust Juniors entertained on a rainy Saturday, pulled out the Christmas decorations. We enjoyed a delightful afternoon rediscovering our favourite ornaments, and truly, the extra sparkle and bright lights are a welcome sight on these grey days. We normally get a real tree, but this year, simply because it’s already up and in the interest of keeping the season simple, we might just leave the little artificial tree that Mr. Wanderlust and I first purchased for our apartment 11 years ago.

Your turn: What did you learn recently? What have you done to break your own rules for your and your family’s benefit? Please leave a comment below. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

The in-between month

 

November. Living in Ontario, I acknowledge solemnly that this typically grey month is my least favourite time of the year. I call it the in-between phase when the trees stand bare, having been disrobed of their fiery leaves, awaiting the coming snow. This year, however, I’m choosing to acquiesce to the changes. Instead of resisting the transitions of nature, I welcome them. I retreat into the cosy comfort of the interior of my home, with its warm blankets on the sofa, the aroma of chicken broth steaming on the stove, bottomless mugs of tea and thick books, and laughter-infused living room dance parties with Wanderlust Juniors before the quiet of story time snuggles in the ‘big bed.’ I choose to delight in the in-between time as the sun continues to wane, remembering that soon enough, it will reawaken again and a new cycle of its year-long journey will begin just before Christmas. That idea in itself is heartwarming for me.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, how do you feel about November? Do you have a strategy for making the most of this time of the year?

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I learned something about stress

Last week, during a drive to and from cottage country for a work-related event, I listened to The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal. The idea that stress is not dangerous is relatively new to me. Ten years ago, I used to avoid difficult situations and experiences because of the stress and anxiety that they most often connote. Since then, I have learned that when we try to avoid potentially challenging situations, we often do so to our own detriment. Instead, by accepting each scenario as it comes, responding to it accordingly while keeping a focused and calm mindset, we can deal with stress in a mature and mindful manner. Our response to a situation determines our experience.

Yet, our mindset is only one piece of the puzzle. As a yoga and meditation practitioner and guide, I have learned that the state of the mind influences our physical and emotional states. As a student of Ayurveda, I have also learned that our physical energy and the energy of our environment have a tremendous influence on our emotional and mental wellness. If I spend a quiet evening at home, by 9 p.m., I feel blissfully tired, both in my mind and body. If, instead, I spend several hours before bedtime running errands and doing housework, my mind is abuzz due to my physiological state.

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Making time for apple picking at a local organic orchard.

September has been a busy time for our family. I typically avoid the use of that ubiquitous word because of its myriad convoluted meanings. For most of us, life moves fast and we must prioritize. The autumn Vata season is a time when we tend to start new projects, take on too much, and generally run ourselves off our feet, feeling spaced out and far from grounded. For me, whose dominant dosha is Vata, this is a time of year when I especially must make self-care a priority, eating warm and unctuous foods, keeping up with my daily warm oil massages, drinking hot liquids, moving slower, and enjoying plenty of rest. Yet, over the past few weeks, with changes to our family’s routines, I have not had many chances to slow down. Instead of going to bed earlier, I catch myself loading the washer and cleaning the kitchen at a late hour. We have been working diligently to avoid over-scheduling, paying no mind to the expectations of our fast-moving society and the priorities of the people who surround us. It has not been easy to completely isolate ourselves from those expectations, to heed only to our own directions. Yet, we remind ourselves that we know ourselves best and must continue to prioritize self-care, creating a schedule that feels intuitive and logical to us, whenever possible setting aside less important tasks for another time.

Here is today’s lesson: Stress is real and inevitable, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed, we must continue to approach life with a lighter attitude. Nevertheless, we must also make space for ourselves to slow down and pay closer attention to our own physical and emotional signals, instead of trusting the power of the mind to get us through challenging situations. Self-care must always remain a priority.

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Apples: a favourite Vata food. While raw apples are okay in moderation, baked apples with cinnamon are most Vata-friendly.

More information on Vata:

In a recent podcast episode of Yogaland, Andrea Ferretti and her guest Niika Quistgard discuss excellent tips for self-care during the Vata season for people with Vata dosha and for everyone else who lives in our fast-paced society.

How Ayurveda is helping me change my approach to exercise, published on April 13, 2016

Self-care tips for the Vata Season, published on September 16, 2014

If you have additional self-care tips to share, please leave a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

A nourishing celebration

 

At 11 o’clock on Sunday, the stands at the local farmers’ market are abuzz not only with the greedy wasps that land on the juiciest ripe peaches. Shoppers with large cloth bags tucked under their elbows stroll leisurely along the lane, their eyes lit with pleasure as they inhale the fresh, colourful scents that surround them. Late summer’s harvest bounty is on full display. There is nothing demure about it. The plump eggplants and oversized zucchini are sensually bathed in light in golden straw baskets, the vendor knowing all too well that before long, they will be picked up gently by large warm hands that will appreciate their weight. The vegetables will be admired by eyes that will grow hungry at the sight of the deep velvet aubergine and green colours. They will feed many a mouth at today’s dinner.

“Mommy, can we buy strawberries?” the eldest Wanderlust Junior’s eyes smile at mine as we pass the perfectly shaped heaps of shiny berries glistening in the sun. It occurs to me that I can actually smell them from several feet away in the open air. I yearn to taste those berries.

The next moment, my gaze darts to the florist’s stand with its smorgasbord of colours, and I am inevitably pulled toward them. Beautiful food and flowers are two of my beloved simple pleasures.

“Sunflowers! I want to buy sunflowers!” they are the youngest Wanderlust Junior’s favourite. Amidst scarlet gerbera daisies, they will be the perfect delicate decoration for our small round dinner table.

We buy 250 g of freshly roasted coffee beans to bring home for Mr. Wanderlust. The after-lunch espresso fills our home with an irresistible aroma. I mean it! I rarely drink coffee these days, but I give into the temptation of a delicate cup after our lunch of freshly baked bread with smoked trout, soft chevre, and a salad of spinach and multicolour baby tomatoes drizzled with a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, coarse Hawaiian sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, with those succulent strawberries for dessert. Simple. Delicious.

Last week, I read Elizabeth’s Bard 2010 memoir Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, in which she documents her move to the city and exploration of its culinary delights, the recipes for many of which are also shared in the book. As a Francophile, this book had been on my To Read list for the past few years, and I was glad to finally pick up a copy from the local library. I was familiar with recipes for several of the French staples, and ratatouille is on my annual rotation for the harvest season.

For dinner, I slowly sauté coarsely chopped onions in a generous amount of olive oil, gently moving them around the skillet until they are translucent and their sweet aroma cascades through the kitchen. I add chunks of aubergine, red and yellow peppers, and beefsteak tomatoes. I omit the zucchini today, since my preference is for the more flavourful smaller varieties, which weren’t to be found at the market this time. I sprinkle the beautiful medley with sea salt, black pepper, and a couple of pinches of oregano. After a few more minutes, the ratatouille is ready, the vegetables simmering in a perfectly thickened sauce. I serve it alongside fresh young potatoes coated with melted butter and chopped chives from my garden, then add a few pieces of leftover chicken breast. For dessert, we enjoy a yogurt cake made with ripe local nectarines (see photo above). The yogurt cake is a staple in many French homes, easy and quick to bake with basic ingredients that are likely already waiting in the pantry of the fridge. I enjoyed Bard’s version of this classic and will return to it over and over again.

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Ratatouille, simmering on the stove.

I have long been a fan of French cuisine, and not only for the recipes and variety of dishes. It’s the French attitude to food that inspires me, with an emphasis on slow cooking and eating, enjoying every bite. This style of food preparation and consumption celebrates each meal, whether it is a dinner served in honour of a special occasion or a simple lunch for one. I must say that weeknight dinners in our home tend of be rushed, but even then, I do my best to make every serving appear beautiful on the plate, presented with gratitude and tenderness. Weekend dinners are an opportunity for us to slow down, linger, and reconnect once again.

The weekend trip to the farmer’s market is itself an occasion, inviting us to browse, to caress, to close our eyes and smell the peaches, the tomatoes, to delight at the warmth of the corn nourished by the late August sunlight as an image forms in our minds of what we will prepare and serve for dinner. For me, a grocery shopping trip often feels like a chore, which is a perfect invitation to move slower, more mindfully, with complete presence as I purchase provisions for the school and work week. An excursion to the farmers’ market is different. It does not require coaxing. Later, after we return home, comes the meditation of stirring the onions in the skillet and observing their changing colour, listening closely for the subtle sizzle of the hot oil, breathing in the sweet scent. I smile as I adorn the table with flowers that tell their own story while eavesdropping on our pleasant dinner conversation. The entire experience is slow, intentional, inviting all our senses to join in the dance.

What’s not to celebrate?

Do you enjoy shopping at the farmers’ market? How do you cultivate presence while shopping for groceries and preparing meals at home?