24 February, 2011


Salutations.  A spider's fancy way of saying hello (Charlotte's Web).

An expression of greeting, goodwill, or courtesy by word, gesture, or ceremony (Merriam Webster).

Dear ______.    Liebe.    Querido.    Cher.

But my favorite salutations right now are sun salutations. Surya Namaskar.

Beginning my day with this yoga sequence has helped me accept the grayness of winter, and to start each day with more energy and peace. If you have ever taken a yoga class then you know that this is usually the warm-up, and, sometimes that's what it is for me, but sometimes it stands quite nicely on its own. It makes me think of the scene from Black Orpheus, where the children awaken the sun with music. I don't do it every morning, but when I do it looks like this:

I wake up before the sun rises, go to the room that faces east,  clear the floor for my mat, light a twig of incense and open the curtains. I sit in simple cross-legged position or child's pose for a few minutes, waking up, becoming aware of my breath and my body. Then I start the salutations. Slowly at first, holding each posture for a couple breaths before transitioning. For the first several rounds it is still gray outside. But eventually, as I arch into Urdhva Muka Svanasana (upward-facing dog) and peek out the window, I see the sun for the first time. Sometimes there is a streak of orange just above the rooftops, sometimes a patch of blue amongst the leafless trees.

I conclude with a few still moments, sometimes lying down, sometimes seated, sometimes standing with my hands in Anjali Mudra, feeling the energy flow up and down my body. I am ready to start my day. If I'm lucky, my hair will smell like the incense and each time I catch a whiff of it I will be brought back to this place of silence and sunshine (even if it's still quite gray).

17 February, 2011

one year (belated)

I almost missed it. I've been writing on this blog for over a year and I almost missed it. It's pretty exciting to see that I really have kept it up, and pretty consistently too. Even during some pretty busy times I've posted something almost every 1-2 weeks. So, in honor of this anniversary I want to tell you a bit about how this blog began and what it has become.

Ian and I spent the summer of 2009 studying and exploring Europe. We decided to create a blog so that we could share our adventures with all our friends and family without having to write multiple e-mails on a regular basis. It was fun to write together and now we have this great record of everything, and I think people enjoyed reading it. My mom even printed them out and mailed them to my grandparents because they don't use computers.

Actually, I should start with sharing that the idea of a blog came from recipe searching. I was never much of a cook until we got married and moved into an apartment together. I decided that if I was going to cook I might as well eat really good food. It turns out I love cooking. It has become a major creative outlet for me and today I usually don't use a recipe, but I still have fun reading blogs about cooking. This is what gave me the idea for a travel blog to begin with, and then when we returned this is part of what made me want to keep my own blog.

So, a few months after our return (Feb. 7, 2010) I decided to start my own blog. At first I didn't tell anybody about it  because I was afraid I wouldn't stick with it. I still don't tend to bring it up in conversation, I guess it makes me feel vulnerable. But I post links on my facebook page and get really excited when a friend tells me that they have been reading my blog. (hint: you can leave comments on each post too, I loooove getting those!)

The concept of mindfulness is still something that is very important to me and that I am constantly trying to make a more constant and natural part of my - well, of my existence, really. It began as a search for beauty and to enjoy simple things, mostly because I was so wrapped up in planning for the future that I was missing out on the present. Now, I've gotten much better at living in the present. Maybe because thinking about the future is a bit overwhelming (applying to residency, taking care of patients, making life and death decisions, a lifetime of test-taking, etc.). Now, for me being mindful is more about being present to each moment. It's actually listening and learning immediately while in a lecture (I am failing miserably at that right now). It's enjoying winter because I know Spring will come eventually. It's eating slowly. It's trying to be in my body through every pose and transition when I practice yoga. It's using my time wisely without being stressed about it. It's a life-long journey of trying to be aware and appreciate and learn from every single moment of every single day.

10 February, 2011

sweet folk medicine

Back in Denton is this great natural foods store with an amazing salad bar and cafe. It is one of the places that makes me realize living in a small town like that was actually really cool. Occassionally they have sampling days, in which they lure customers in with many free samples and recipe cards, etc. On one of these days a woman gave me a taste of some raw honey and touted its health benefits, as stated by physician D.C. Jarvis. She even had her own worn copy of his book to show customers. If you have never had raw honey before, it is delicious. It is firmer than regular honey and has more of a bite to it. It's the perfect consistency for spreading onto toast. Sometimes when I feel a cold coming on, I dip a raw piece of garlic into the honey and eat it just like that. This woman convinced me to buy both the raw honey and some apple cider vinegar. I was a pretty easy sell because I had recently seen a recipe calling for apple cider vinegar and the honey was so tasty.

This summer I came across a copy of D.C. Jarvis' Folk Medicine at our annual library book sale, so I bought it and set it aside until recently. I only read about half of the book, but the main gist of it is that you should drink apple cider vinegar and eat honey. This is Jarvis' panacea - have insomnia? try a few spoonfuls of honey before bed; overweight? drink a glass of water with apple cider vinegar before each meal; is your livestock giving birth to underweight calves? pour some apple cider vinegar over their fodder every day.

Obviously I think that he goes a bit too far with these two, but there is some legitimate insight to be gained about Vermont folk medicine. One theme is looking to animals for an example of healthy living. This encourages physical activity and a reasonable diet, as well as things like sleeping with the windows shut in the winter to mimic hens tucking their heads under their wings.

Plus, there are some legitimate benefits to both of these foods. First of all, honey as been shown to reduce burn-healing time and ease symptoms of cough in children, and it may be of beneficial use along with standard treatments for high blood pressure. Early evidence suggests that it might help lower blood sugar levels in diabetic patients when compared to other sugar sources because of its effects on insulin release and glycogen storage. Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, so it might help you to ease a sore throat or relieve a canker sore. Some naturopathic doctors will prescribe patients with pollen allergies raw unfiltered honey that was made within 20 miles of their, the idea being that it exposes you to the antigen in a small amount, just like allergy shots. Apple cider vinegar might also have benefits for diabetics. It is thought to slow starch digestion, thereby decreasing the spike in blood sugar that carbohydrates will cause. It might also help you to feel full more quickly so that you are less likely to over-eat.

The Mayo Clinic website is a good, trustworthy starting place for learning more about the risks and benefits of nutritional supplements. If this is something you are really interested in, you might consider getting a subscription to the Natural Standard website. With the amount of knowledge I have right now, I'm not suggesting that anyone starts consuming either honey or apple cider vinegar by the spoonful on a daily basis, but you might consider incorporating them into your diet as alternatives for other sweeteners and vinegars. If nothing else, they really do taste good.

Here's a recipe for a salad dressing using both of them. Making your own salad dressing really does not take much time and it will greatly increase the nutritional value of your salad. It is so difficult to find a dressing that does not have vegetable oil or high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. Here is one with only six ingredients - and you might already have them all on hand.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe:

1/2 c. olive oil
4 T. apple cider vinegar
1 heaping T. honey (raw or filtered)
1 heaping tsp. mustard
1 T. ground flax seeds
black pepper to taste

Pour all ingredients into a glass jar, screw the lid on tightly and give it a good shake. Pour over your salad and enjoy.
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