These are the times to hold onto…

savor the momentI’m amazed that summer is flying by and the calendar is already approaching September. I posted a picture on Instagram this morning and captioned it, “These are the times to hold onto,” and have been increasingly aware of enjoying the moment, and that time is so fleeting. I was discussing parenthood with a student in my yoga class the other day, and he said, “yes, the days are long but the years are short.” How true.

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So, increasingly I am trying to savor the moments. We’ve spent a lot of time at our lake house this summer and I feel incredibly grateful for the serenity that I have here, the time for quiet reflection and the pure enjoyment that it brings us. We bought it when I was pregnant with Aria, and being pregnant here again is a blessing– and big relief from the city heat and our walk up apartment stairs! Aria is increasingly excited about her baby brother coming, showering my stomach (and him) with love, sweet words and adoration. Life is sometimes so sweet.

kids swim lessons learningShe’s also spent plenty of time splashing around, just recently beginning to swim on her own. I wrote about swimming lessons of past– which ended up being very short lived as she wanted no part of being told when she had to get in the water (my little stubborn girl). However, her determination is also are what got her swimming all on her own. All she needed was a little time, and the ability to do it on her own terms. That’s my girl.

So, today may we all be a little more mindful to not let the sweet moments just pass us by. To be grateful and focus on all the good that we do have in our lives, and hold onto to it tightly.

Homemade Granola: Insider Secrets From Someone Obsessed

OK, so lately I have been absolutely obsessed with making granola. I decided to start making my own since “crunch” is Aria’s go-to breakfast (mainly because it is also her dad’s favorite and he is up with her in the am), and so many store bought brands are loaded with unnecessary sugar. I love granola that looks like granola (yes, you can see the oats and big pieces of nuts or dried fruit), and I’m not into spending $8.99 a bag for it (hello NYC).

granolaSo, I’ve been obsessed with mixing and matching ingredients and finding the perfect combo. Here’s what I’ve found out about mixing the perfect blend.

OATS:  All granola has a base of oats. Most recipes will tell you to use old fashioned oats not the quick oats. I’ve tried all and actually found my best success with Trader Joe’s Organic Oats and also the surprising inexpensive organic oats from Mrs. Greens (in the bulk self serve bins). Quick oats will bind a bit better, but I like the texture of the real deal.

CRUNCH: So, my biggest hurdle in the first few blends was getting a little crunch out of it. In researching online I found a few secrets including switching to a quick oat, and also adding some oat flour to get it all to bind. I used ground flax instead of oat flour and this also seemed to work. Also, I read about adding a little applesauce to the mix to get some more clumps which turn into crunchy oat clusters. However the biggest secret is adding an EGG white to the recipe. SCORE!

SWEETNESS: It doesn’t take a lot to bring in a little sweetness. The popular sweeteners include maple syrup, honey, brown sugar and vanilla extract. I usually half whatever the recipe is calling for (0r nothing at all). I’ve found using a mixure of honey and brown sugar yields a best result, but also skipping it all and adding in some dried fruits works for us just fine!

COATING: You’ll need an oil or melted butter to coat the oats. I usually use coconut oil, but have also used a mild tasting safflower or olive oil. I stopped measuring and usually use enough to coat my batches. You may not need as much as some recipes call for, but it is important that there’s enough to coat and bind.

ADD IN’s: The best part!! Adding in coconut and dried fruit also kicks up the sweetness factor. I love these hence I cut down on the other sweeteners. Also, nuts and other add-in’s can add flavor and nutrition. My last batch I added some sprouted quinoa to the oat mixture before popping it in the oven (so good). I also am big into adding chia seed (packed with power) and flax seed which both give added flavor, texture and nutrition.

THE BAKING: I suggest baking a bit lower temp than the recipe suggests. Also, use a good cookie sheet. My first batch burned at the 350 temp on my not-so-great sheet. I’ve done the last few at around 250, and actually have had great success baking them in the toaster oven (on the small sheet that comes with it).

My perfect recipe to come!

3 Simple Steps To Finding Your Flow (on and off the mat)

flow

Spring is in full bloom and everything is flourishing around us. I sit at our lake house staring out at what are now full canopies of green leaves, when just weeks ago there were just little buds springing out on bare branches.  Nature is an amazing and beautiful thing, constantly renewing itself and allowing the seasons to take their course.

I taught this past weekend at Mayfest (see post below) on Finding Our Flow (both on and off the mat.) So, how do we do that? It’s an ever-progressing task and, even though teaching on the subject, I must admit, often I am not in flow. It’s always a work in progress, and indeed I believe we all come in and out of flow. But, when we are in that space, doesn’t it feel so good? When all seems aligned and we are in the place of effortlessness and fluidity. When we feel like all within and around us is just moving in the right direction, or we are just “in the zone” and operating at our best.

I did a bit of reading on the subject of how creatives “get in the flow,” and much of the research comes back to a Professor of Psychology, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, who asks the question “What makes a life worth living?” He concludes that pleasure and satisfaction in lasting activities that bring about “flow” (versus the material or superficial) are the only answer. From yogis to composers to star athletes, we all seem to want to be in that flow space. Even just as human beings– as moms and dads, entrepreneurs or just regular ol’ folk making our way– we all desire to be in a state of ease, having the feeling that we are at our peak, effortlessly creating and exactly where we are meant to be.

So, how do we get into flow? Easier said than done, right? When is the last time you felt content or, moreover, in flow?

3 Steps To Get Into the Flow

Do the Work: Well, as mentioned, Flow is a work in progress– the key word being work. We have to make efforts to get to that space, no matter what we are doing. And, as Dr. Csikszentmihalyi points out, we have just the right balance of challenge (in activity) and skill to take on that challenge. So, we need to find our achievable challenge, and work at it.

On the mat that translates to knowing our asana (poses and alignments), and being able to execute them without letting anything else, especially our minds, get in our way. If we’re too busy thinking about our foot placement, or where our hands are supposed to go, or what the pose looks like, we cant get into flow. We need to know the poses and alignments, so that we can stop thinking about them, and just do them. Proper alignment also (literally) opens us up, allowing energy to flow easily (along our meridians) within.

Off the mat we also have to do the work that’s required to get to our desired place. Life is full of challenge, but when we can align ourselves and our lives with our ultimate goals we can move toward happiness and flow. But first we have to figure out where we want to go. What are our passions? What brings us happiness? We need to know this before we can move in that direction. Then we also need to do the work. How do we make the changes in our life that are necessary to get to that place? What do we need to eliminate? What do we need to work harder at to bring change? We often get comfortable or lazy in life, not wanting to reach toward the ultimate, and instead settling for a life the is “good enough.” Good enough doesn’t bring flow, or the ultimate bliss that comes along with it.

Be Present: Csikszentmihalyi’s work has identified that one of the factors of flow is “intense and focused concentration” on the present moment. Makes sense, since we can’t be fully in something if our mind, intention or body is not fully involved.

On the mat this is often challenging, no matter what our experience level. As new yogis, we often get uncomfortable in the poses, feeling awkward and challenged, often yearning to get out. Even experienced yogis battle with fully being in each pose, perhaps jumping ahead of whatever the pose by predicting the sequence, or simply getting uncomfortable and looking forward to next movement. No matter what our level, often all the chatter in our mind and our “inner critic” further prevents us from being fully present. We are instead thinking about how we didn’t do that last movement right, or how we don’t look as good as the person on the mat next to us. But all of this only hinders us, and our flow. We need to just BE where WE are, not worrying about anyone else, or even about what we did up until that point, silencing our inner critic and just being present. Be in the pose of the moment. Breathe in it, and be there.

Off the mat it’s also often a challenge to stay present. We often get caught up thinking about what has already happened, or what’s to come in our lives. We repeat the past in our mind, letting it literally hold us back, instead of just letting it go. Or we are constantly thinking about (or worrying about) the future– what we still need, or all the things we don’t yet have. These are extremely limiting, and will block flow completely. When we are IN the moment, completely immersed in the present, we can’t be longing for anything of past or future. If we can just be where we are, trusting it’s exactly where we need to be, then are we able to experience the fullness of it, and move with ease through it.

Just Breathe : Here comes the yoga teacher in me, bringing it all back to breath. I believe that both on and off the mat, a simple way to move toward flow begins with breathing. Focusing on the easy, steady, rhythmic, balance of breath can allow us to move toward a state of calm, ease and flow. Our inhales open us up, literally letting gravity (or the universe) fill us, and create more space within us. Our exhales allow us to release and let go, only to be filled again. It’s this steady, even cycle that allows us to tune in, and be in tune. Just  like the trees and so much of nature, we can effortlessly move through different seasons.

When we set our intentions, do the work/meet the challenges and remain present, we move toward flow. I believe the real yoga happens when we can drop out of our heads and into our hearts. When we can can operate from this space, letting our hearts lead, we can navigate with a little more ease– both on and off the mat. So, perhaps today we all breathe a little deeper, open up a little more and move with a little more steadiness and grace. Ultimately, we can find our flow.

Looking forward….

Our last snowy pic of winter 2015 by the amazing Ana Photo!

Our last snowy pic of 2015 by the amazing Ana Photo!

It seems unbelievable that just a week ago we were taking snowy pictures with the amazing Ana Schechter.

It feels like Spring is finally on the horizon now. We hit the playground for the first time this week, and despite slushy puddles and wet pants and socks by play’s end, it was nice to be out, feel the sun on our face, and feel hopeful that winter (and snow) is just about past!

In teaching yoga this week, I’ve been paralleling the natural elements around us, and asking students to consider what we need to let thaw in our own lives. What can we let go of in order to prepare space, and prepare ground where new seeds (and we) can grow?  It’s necessary, and worth considering for anyone who wants to bring in the new, fresh and better stuff in life.

In a practical sense we’ve also been preparing, thinking about next year and our plans for living in the city (or not). Kelcey Kintner, who I adore and seem to be living a parallel life of some days (minus 4 kids of course),  recently wrote about how she lost a piece of herself in leaving NYC (her blog Mama Bird Diaries is a must follow). I’m sure many of us NYC moms battle with the question of going or staying. I know I’ve been for quite some time.

For now, we’re still keeping our love (some days hate) affair with NYC going. Pre-K applications open on March 16 for all the NYC moms out there, and I’m hoping the process is not too painful. Apparently, with the new Pre-K for all initiative, there are many more seats available, but it’s still important to get the application in ASAP.

So, here’s to Spring and many new things on the horizon. Let the sun shine on your face today, and enjoy it!

We are so lucky…

A particularly grateful moment! We are SO lucky to have family in Florida!

A particularly grateful moment! We are SO lucky to have family in Florida!

So, gratitude is a big thing that I try to instill in Aria. And myself. “We are so lucky”, seems to be my catch phrase these days. So much so that just the other day, Aria called me on it and said, “Mom, you say that ALL the time!” And indeed I do.

But realizing how lucky we are is something that I want her to know. I want her to look for all the good in every situation, and always focus on the positive that life hands her. To know that she is fortunate and blessed and to hold on to that.  To not be spoiled or complacent,  but really appreciate every good thing that our life holds.

Quite often she and I will run through all the good people we have in our life– those who love her so much, as well as all the good things we have. Or we recap our day and talk about how lucky we are to spend so much time together doing fun things.

I don’t think we could ever wear out the phrase “we are so lucky.” My hope is that she will always feel gratitude and realize the good and wonderful things life holds for her. After all, we are so lucky.

A Simple Green Smoothie That Will Change Your Life

Ok, so it might not change your life, but this smoothie will indeed make your mornings a little sweeter.

Last summer I got both a Vitamix and Nutribullet (which I LOVE incidentally– read more on that here), and my go-to morning brew is now this simple smoothie. It’s filled with good stuff and the splash of apple juice and ice (surprise–who says green juices need to be room temp?) make it refreshing and oh-so-good.

Kid Tip: Sometimes, after I pour out half for me I’ll throw in some banana and a few frozen berries and blend up the rest for Aria. Totally toddler approved.

green smoothieIngredients:

1-2 Celery Stalks cut up.

1 Persian Cucumber (or about 3-4 inches or so off a regular one. I find the persians sweeter and tastier).

1-2 cups of baby kale or spinach or mixed smoothie greens (often baby kale, chard, and spinach).

1/4- 1/2 cup of Apple Juice (depending on sweetness desired)

1-2 ice cubes

*go organic on as much as you can!

Directions:

Throw it all in blender of choice and blend! Pour into a pretty glass (adds to the enjoyment) and indulge in the deliciousness.

Imperfection is the new perfect.

So, as we start off a new year, amongst other things, I look forward to being more diligent with updating this blog. I got on here today thinking about reposting holiday memories and pictures or posts I intended to do weeks ago– like our fun trip to Botanical Gardens Train Show and thoughts on how the magical wonder of the holidays comes back when you have little ones– but, alas, it is 2015 and it feels like nobody has the need or desire to revisit the holiday season or the year past.

So, instead I sit and think about why it is that I so often have good intentions of writing but then don’t. Sure, time is one factor, and the very un-endearing quality of procrastination that I possess another, but bigger yet is my perfectionism. As great as it is to expect top quality from myself, it’s also my biggest barrier. How many posts have gone unwritten, videos unedited,  projects ended before they began, and great ideas never taken off the ground because they were not “good enough” or “thought out enough”(when indeed they were likely over thought), and, ultimately, how many opportunities have I missed because I never put out there what was imperfect (or at least imperfect in my eyes)?

So in 2015, I say imperfection is the new perfect. Over thinking and perfecting is so 2014. Instead, I look forward to many more posts (grammatical mistakes may be included), and following up in action where my many ideas take me… imperfect and all.