Just 15 minutes: carving out time for what brings us joy

I wanted to take 15 minutes to answer a few emails and update my Facebook page. Half an hour later, a noise from the adjacent room startled me and I jumped, snapping out of my social media-induced trance, realizing that I had been scrolling my newsfeed mindlessly. At what point did I tread off my intended task of updating the blog page and into the Facebook deep-water whirlpool territory? I would guess it started at the 15-minute mark, after the updates had been posted and when I started to procrastinate. Within those 15 minutes, I could have put away the embarrassingly high pile of laundry that had grown before me earlier that day, played with my children, practised a few poses on my mat or meditated, or played the harp.

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Reading in the company of Miss Tigger

Like many others, I often venture off my focused, intentional path. However, I much prefer to approach my days with awareness, carefully designing a schedule that allows me and my family to cross important tasks off our ‘to do’ lists while carving out time for what is most important. Like many others, I have often caught myself saying, “I haven’t been knitting / playing the harp as of late because things have been so busy.” Two years ago, I started to track how I spent my days and what I do during those designated 15-minute breaks that I allow myself in the midst of cleaning the house, doing laundry, etc. Although I no longer track my schedule, I have become more conscious of how I choose to spend my time.

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The eldest Wanderlust Junior snapped this photo while we were goofing around at home.

It occurred to me that I could get on my yoga mat, read a chapter or two in a book, journal, or practise playing a new song within several short increments of time throughout the day. When I make a conscious effort to carve out those mini breaks every day, I no longer complain about not having enough time to do what I love and what nourishes and inspires me, allowing me to be healthier and more relaxed. I call those 15 minutes my self-care break. It’s important for me to schedule them into my day. I don’t often have an hour-long chunk of time during which to practise yoga, play the harp, knit, read, or engage in my other umpteen interests. However, I am able to create 15-minute segments four times per day during which I can enjoy one of those activities, ending the day on a calmer note, feeling more fulfilled. Self-care is a priority.

How do you make time for what you enjoy most? Please share your tips in the comments below. 

I would appreciate your assistance to spread the word about, well, my words. Please share this blog with a friend (or two). 

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!

In the bleak midwinter, I shall bake muffins

The Wanderlust Juniors and I spent the first week of the new year with my parents in cottage country, where we slept in, enjoyed plenty of time outdoors in the fresh winter air, taking walks and playing in fluffy snow — almost knee-deep for me, and even deeper for them. It’s truly a pleasure to grant ourselves a vacation from the everyday bustle, to start the year on a quiet note, with a retreat from the city, immersed in silence.

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Through the wardrobe… Winter is magical.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I do not care about weather changes. Although I do enjoy winter weather, the limited exposure to sunlight does affect me, as it does many others. Yet, staying indoors for an entire day when it’s cold outside also doesn’t help to elevate my mood. That is why I do my best, whenever possible, to bundle up, pull on my big faux-fur winter boots, and head outside for a walk or to play with Wanderlust Juniors. Even 15 minutes outdoors make a tremendous difference, reminding me that the world continually changes, that nothing is ever static, and that we must grant ourselves the opportunity to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and reconnect to the greater world. Perhaps, we just might find that the midwinter is not all that bleak.

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Playtime! Snow angels in the winter sunshine.

After the outing, we go back inside for a large mug of steaming tea for me, and muffins for the boys. Here is my ‘go to’ muffin recipe:

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Banana, Blueberry, and Lavender Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

a pinch of fine sea salt

1-2 tsp culinary lavender (In Toronto, I purchase culinary lavender from Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary)

2 ripe bananas

1 egg

1 cup milk of your choice

1/3 cup vegetable oil, grape seed oil, or melted coconut oil

2/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lavender. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mash the bananas, then add the egg and whisk lightly. Add the oil and milk and continue to whisk until the mixture is uniform.
  4. Carefully pour the wet ingredients into a well in the centre of the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries, stirring carefully until the batter is just combined.
  5. Using a tablespoon, pour the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.
  6. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin baking pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Notes: I sometimes substitute chocolate chips for the blueberries, if you wish. Lavender reminds me of summer in the midst of the cold months; however, if you do not enjoy lavender, you may omit it entirely. The Wanderlust Juniors also love these muffins as a school snack.

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Please leave a comment below to share your tips for staying healthy and joyful throughout the winter months. Also, I would love to read about your favourite type of muffins. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

My goal for 2017: Create Magic

Last year, I set out to focus on being Present in 2016. This year, my intention continues to build on the themes of presence, awareness, and mindfulness, to pay close attention to and seek out the magic that surrounds us every day. I also acknowledge that often, magic is in a spark that lurks just beneath the surface, waiting to be reawakened by our inspiration to live a life that is more robust, reaching beyond the bleak, dust-covered exterior, allowing ourselves to mine deeper with our own curiosity toward a greater potential.

And so, my goal — or mantra, if you will — for 2017 is to create magic.

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I will make more time and space:

  • to read
  • to write
  • to sit in silence
  • to meet a friend for tea and heart-to heart conversation
  • to laugh with my loved ones
  • to enjoy family hikes
  • to practise yoga, moving with ease
  • to make music
  • to dance
  • to play with fun recipes in the kitchen
  • to make cosy, pretty pieces using luxurious yarn

When we make self-care a priority and consciously clear space for what matters most, we create magic.

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What I do not want is to rush, to feel scattered, and to waste time. To me, those actions are the antithesis of magic. They dull creativity instead of stoking its precious embers.

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Do you have a goal, mantra, or word for 2017? To help you fine-tune your focus, you may wish to reflect on the following:

What practices worked for me last year? 

What actions and/or habits did not serve me last year? 

What do I want more of in the new year? 

Spend some time journaling, then read your responses and look for key words that show up on the page. Use those words to create your goal statement or mantra, or choose one or more words on which to focus this year.

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If you would like to share your word / goal / mantra with me, please leave a comment below. Here’s to a creative 2017!

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)

Festive season yoga time-out

Have you been busy? Although it’s the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, the festivities often start in early December. On top of that, there is the seemingly endless list of things to do and people to see before and during the holidays. For me, this pace has felt too hectic and I am looking forward to slowing down, taking some time to spend in solitude. Yet, I also know that when we chase something for which we long desperately, we often end up tripping over our own feet. Instead, I have been doing my best to set aside just 10-15 minutes every evening to rest and recharge. I could tell you that I spend that time in meditation, but lately, I have been feeling restless. Restorative yoga postures, however, allow my mind to follow my body into a settled, peaceful state.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of leading a group of beautiful women through a restorative yoga and intention-setting workshop at the lovely, cosy Forward Motion Yoga studio. The ladies graciously allowed me to take a few snapshots of them relaxing in a few of my ‘go to’ poses. So, join me for 10-15 of silence. Simply choose one of the poses below, read the instructions, and enjoy breathing deeply. If you have more time to spare, try two or more of the postures below in the sequence in which they are presented here. Please note that you will need a bolster or two large, firm rectangular pillows. You will also require at least two blankets. If you do not have yoga blocks at home, books or rolled-up blankets should be sufficient. Lavender-scented eye pillows or towels are optional, but I highly recommend them for the delicate, soothing aroma.

Supported wide-legged child’s pose

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Place the bolster (or two pillows) lengthwise on your mat. With the knees wider than the bolster, or as wide as your yoga mat, bring the big toes to touch. Fold forward over the bolster and either rest your forehead on the mat or turn your head to one side. If your knees are sensitive, you may place a blanket beneath the knees on the mat and/or between the thighs and shins. I also like to place a rolled-up blanket between the lower belly and the thighs to allow my lower back to round. If the bolster feels too low, prop it up by placing a rolled-up blanket or block beneath the bolster or between your face and the bolster. Allow the shoulders to soften, and breathe.

Supported spinal twist

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Come to sit resting on your right hip with the knees facing toward the left side of your mat. The right hip and thigh should be snug against the bolster. Twist from the navel to square the shoulders to the front and start to walk the hands forward. Again, feel free to lift the bolster higher with the use of the blankets or blocks. If your neck is healthy and you would enjoy a deeper twist, you may turn your head toward the right side of your mat. Otherwise, either press the forehead into a blanket on top of the bolster, or rest on your right cheek. After about 5-7 minutes on the right side, repeat the twist on the left side for the same length of time. Twists are excellent for the muscles along the spine and for the digestive system.

Reclined bound angle pose

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This gentle backbend opens the heart and hips. Place one block (or a thickly rolled blanket) at the medium height at the top of the mat. In front of that block, place a second block at the lowest height. Then, set up the bolster with the top portion atop the blocks, cascading downward. Come to sit with your lower back snug against the bolster. Keeping the spine long, use your hands to recline over the bolster. It’s a great idea to place a cushion or rolled-up blanket beneath your head at the top of the bolster. You may either stretch out the legs in front, perhaps placing a rolled-up blanket beneath the knees for additional support, or bring the soles of the feet together and open the knees out to the sides, with blocks or blankets supporting the thighs. If the backbend feels too deep over the bolster, you may need to sit with your lower back a few inches away from the bolster and place a blanket or cushion between the bolster and your sit bones to support the sacrum. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and allow your arms to rest heavy on the floor, with the palms open toward the ceiling. Melt your body into the floor and props, feeling fully supported.

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A variation of the backbend with the legs stretched out in front. You may place another bolster or blankets beneath the knees for additional support.

Supported butterfly pose

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Like supported child’s pose, this forward fold offers a chance to retreat from the noise into this cocoon shape. Sit on a blanket to elevate the hips, bringing the soles of the feet together or an inch or two apart, creating a diamond shape with the legs. I like to place blankets beneath the thighs to support this gentle hip-opening pose. Place the bolster on top of your shins, elevating it with the use of blocks, if needed. A blanket can be placed atop the bolster for additional support for your head. Allow your forehead or the side of your face to be heavy as the weight of your body leans into the props. Relax, and breathe into your backbody, starting from the kidney areas and moving up toward the top vertebrae.

Legs-up-the-wall pose

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If you have been on your feet all day, or dancing for several hours at the office party, this pose might be just what the yoga teacher ordered. Come to sit with one hip close to the wall. Leaning back on your forearms, begin to walk the hips toward the wall while reclining back, placing a blanket or cushion under your head for support. It is optional to elevate the hips with the use of a bolster or blankets, simply sliding the bolster or blankets beneath the hips. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and soften your torso on the mat, allowing the palms of the hands to open toward the ceiling and the weight of the legs to sink into the floor.

As always, I invite you to leave a comment below. Let me know your favourite restorative yoga pose, and feel free to share with me your trusted time-out methods to which you turn during this season.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend who could benefit from this soothing practice!

Please remember to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting a new exercise program or yoga practice.

Peppermint lip balm

When the weather outside is frightful my skin becomes particularly dry. I turn to my favourite sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, and essential oils to keep my skin and lips healthy over the winter season.

A playful, crafty mood and a shot of curiosity led me, several years ago, to create a recipe for peppermint lip balm that smells beautiful and works wonders. In addition, it can be made at home in under 15 minutes with a few ingredients:

  • Beeswax. I purchased a large 1 lb block of beeswax from a local online pharmacy two years ago, and still have plenty remaining. If using a block of beeswax, you will need to utilize a knife on a wooden chopping block to chip approximately 3/4 cup of beeswax. You may also purchase smaller beeswax pellets, which would save you some time and an arm workout.
  • Cocoa butter: approximately 1/2 cup.
  • Sweet almond oil: approximately 2/3 cup.
  • Peppermint essential oil: a few drops.
You will also need a few small containers for the balm. With this batch, I filled 12 small plastic containers that I found in the craft aisle of the local dollar store. I keep one for myself and gift the rest to family and friends.
The preparation is simple:

Melt the beeswax, and cocoa butter in a metal bowl over boiling water (double boiler technique), using a metal spoon to stir constantly, then carefully add the sweet almond oil.

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Melting beeswax and cocoa butter over a double boiler.

2. Add a few drops of peppermint oil. I added approximately eight drops to this batch and some might find it a bit spicy. The mint certainly will feel slightly cooling upon application.

3. Carefully and slowly pour the mixture into the prepared containers, dividing evenly. Allow the mixture to cool completely before screwing on the lids.

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Once completely cooled, the balm will feel solid. Only a tiny amount is needed to protect your lips from harsh wind and below-freezing temperature.
Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

A radical new intention

This year, I am starting the month of December with a radical new holiday intention. Instead of rushing to and fro, over-planning, and over-indulging, I choose to do one task at a time, say ‘no’ to what I do not want to do or because it simply doesn’t feel right at this time, and slow down to sustain my mindfulness practice. I intend to move as much as possible every day, even if I can only spare 15 minutes in the morning after a later-than-usual night. Speaking of late nights, I also vow to go to bed earlier, whenever possible. Like many, I require additional rest in the darker, colder months of the year to remain healthy and feel well-rested.

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How lovely is the Toronto Distillery Christmas Market, especially with all that sunshine! All we need now is a bit of fresh, sparkling snow.

In addition to those usual self-care intentions, I am taking on a challenge that to many might seem completely counter-intuitive right before the holidays: I’m giving up refined sugar. I could have waited until January to quit sugar, but I don’t believe in wasting time, nor do I enjoy waiting to do something that I can do right now, especially if it is a beneficial change that I can make today.

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Festive window decor.

For me, refined sugar (white or brown) is a substance on which I have come to depend, and this, to me, is problem. While some might be able to have one cookie once per week, then happily enjoy a few dessert-free days, that cookie sends me into a frenzy every time, amplifying cravings. According to Gretchen Rubin, I am an abstainer and as much as I might wish to convince myself that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, it turns out that when it comes to sugar, it is far from the truth for me. And so, on this first day of December, my challenge is to stop consuming sugar. Is this a permanent change? Maybe. Nothing is permanent, nor, in my opinion, should we expect it to be. I might choose to eat dessert on special occasions, if it feels right, or I might decide to remain strict with myself once and for all. Dessert ceases to appeal to me when I have been sugar-free for a couple of weeks. So, resisting treats at Christmas should be a piece of — sugar-free — cake.

I do indulge by substituting maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar, and honey for white and brown sugar when baking cakes and cookies or preparing oatmeal for breakfast. Personally, I do not ever develop a dependence on those healthier sweet alternatives and therefore am able to indulge in them mindfully, in moderation.

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I have previously gone off sugar for several long periods at a time, breaking fast when I convinced myself that I could eat just one tiny piece of birthday cake or a cookie. Although my will power is strong when it comes to other passions, it is not strong with attempting to moderate my sugar consumption. 

Do you wait until after the holidays to set resolutions for a healthier lifestyle? Is there an intention that you would like to set for the month of December? 

In search of stillness

 

In the midst of chaos, may we remember to return to the source, to continue to seek stillness. When the ground beneath our feet feels unstable and an ache pulses in our chests, may we remember to look to Nature for the greater lessons. May we continue to tend to our gardens and hearths, to smile at our children and marvel at the special fleeting moments of grace.

May we find comfort in uncertainty and trust that love will prevail.

I invite you to read and listen to this wonderful, timely poem by Wendell Berry, shared with me by Kristin Espinasse of French-Word-A-Day.
Wishing you peace.

Balance, or what my yoga practice looks like these days

I would love to tell you that I wake up at 5 a.m. every day, feeling refreshed and wide awake, ready to hop on my mat and flow through a perfect practice. Go ahead, picture me in headstand, handstands, and various fancy arm balances. Some mornings, that’s precisely what I do. On other days, I choose to sleep.

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Beautiful Georgian Bay in Autumn

The Autumn season, though I love it, often leaves me tired, adding at least an extra hour to my sleep requirements. Tack onto that additional responsibilities at home and at work, and I often feel too fatigued by 9 p.m. to keep my eyes open for a chapter in the current book that I’m reading. In the mornings after less than 7 hours of sleep, I sometimes feel groggy when my alarm clock goes off and, realizing that there is no way I could possibly drag myself out of bed, I choose to sleep for an extra hour instead of using that time to work out. For me, sleep now takes priority over exercise. When I ignore my sleep needs and power through a workout, or anything else on my daily agenda, my immune system suffers. Such is the fate of the Vata dosha.

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Cosy local countryside views

Rest assured, I do make time for exercise, even if it’s 10 minutes of yoga or 20 minutes of yoga and pilates. Movement in the morning is what wakes me up, especially since I rarely drink coffee these days. Sometimes, if my schedule permits, I take a walk at lunchtime, which often gives me a boost for the afternoon at the office. And some nights, when I’m able to get to bed before 9 o’clock, I wake up at 5 o’clock the following morning, feeling ready for a vigorous cardio barre pilates and Vinyasa workout. Since routine keeps me in check, I do my best to be in bed before 9 p.m. in order to wake up refreshed at 5 a.m.

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This photo was taken two years ago by Mr. Wanderlust.

Each day is different, and I remind myself to make healthy choices as I go, focusing on infusing my day with the lessons of yoga, rather than leaving my practice on the mat. I practise Ujjayi breathing while seated at my desk. I remind myself to maintain good posture and stretch periodically while at my computer. I move as much as I can throughout the day, drink plenty of hot water and herbal tea, and enjoy healthy meals. This is my balance. I’m doing my best, and that’s enough. 

How do you maintain a healthy balance when life picks up its pace? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.