Summer without stress

I’m off! Today is the day I have been longing for – for months – the first day of the summer holiday!

I am off to spend 3 delicious weeks in a summer-house by the sea.

I can hardly wait.

Summer

Summer

I am so excited and at the same time I know it’s important to plan ahead, so that we make the most of it. Successful holidays don’t just happen. Holidays can be disappointing! We all have expectations and dreams and they may not turn out the way we wished, hoped and longed for. Unfulfilled expectations cause stress and disappointment!

The time leading up to the holidays can be particularly stressful.

We all need our holidays – to recharge, rejuvenate and fill ourselves with new energy.

So how can we increase our chances of fulfilling it …

This is “my” plan for a stress-free summer:

  • Unplug. Actually turn of all electronics and be out of reach. Yes, no need to check emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs etc.
  • Mindfulness – live in the moment. Practice mindfulness, breathe, and be in the moment.
  • Meditate – to reconnect with myself through daily mediations
  • Read books – instead of computers and internet, I want to read great books, in the shade …..
  • No plans – be spontaneous. No schedules, just feel the flow and be part of it.
  • Play – God yes, be crazy, play let go, have fun, look silly
  • Bare feet – connect to the earth and the ground -lots of research on this …. great idea.
  • Go slow – nothing I need to do or nothing I need to get to – just inhale the moment – remember to stop and smell the roses.
Smell the roses

Smell the roses

“Every Sweet-scented rose tells from it’s heart the secrets of heaven and earth” –Rumi

Bare feet in the sand

Bare feet in the sand

Beach

Beach

I know this will not be easy and I am sure I will have withdrawal issues for a while 🙂 But I also know how vital, how crucial, it is to disconnect to reconnect – and recharge.

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” And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”

Khalil Gibran 

I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

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Can you lower your hereditary cholesterol? Naturally?

Yes, absolutely you can!

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I never thought it would be, because my doctor told me –

“young lady, you have the hereditary kind of high cholesterol and that means no matter what you do, you will never be able to lower it naturally. The only way for you is medication.” 

So, for the past 10-12 years, I have been on statins – every single day I popped a pill, to help me to keep a low count on my cholesterol.

However, other health problems inspired me into changing my lifestyle.

And today, I can celebrate 3 years with normal cholesterol levels and no medication!

So does that mean you need to be on a really restricted diet? No desserts, no streaks on the BBQ, no butter, no cheese, no life…….no fun ?

Nope – I eat everything and I have lots of fun!

Even cream cake

Even cream cake

So how do I do it?

It’s really simple and if I can do it, so can you!

(Please don’t go off your medication without talking to your doctor!)

This is how I do it:

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  • I shifted the balance on my plate. So 80% of what I eat is plant-based. This means 80% of what I eat is vegan, plant-based, green leaves, lettuce, salads, spinach, kale, nuts, seeds, lentils, grains, roots, all kinds of veggies, and lots of fruit.
  • I eat plenty of food that contains natural cholesterol lowering agents, like nuts especially walnuts and almonds, oatmeal, berries, avocado, fish, tomatoes, etc.

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  • 20% is whatever I like to eat – it can be anything.
  • Every day I exercise, except for one day of rest!  45 min. to an hour! Yes I know, you don’t have time! I didn’t either, but you can find time! Exercise is brutally important when it comes to lowering cholesterol naturally. I get up earlier in the morning. I wake up and have millions of excuses for not going, but I tell myself that I only have to tie my shoelaces, get out and run to the end of the curb. If I still don’t like it, I can go back home……. but it has never happened, once I am out there, once I have taken the first breath of that beautiful morning air, the last thing I want is to go back home.
  • Meditation – When we are stressed and tired we are more likely to make unhealthy choices, eat fatty foods, drink too much etc. Also research shows that the release of stress hormones can damage the blood vessels, so plague sticks more easily. I find mindfulness meditation is a great way to unwind.

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A great article about food writer Mark Bittman and his concept VB6 – Vegan before 6 

Stay tuned for the VVP – The Virtual Vegan Potluck, taking place this Saturday! 160 + bloggers will bring their delicious food to the virtual party 🙂

Unplug

Last week it was “National day of Unplugging ” did you know?

It went by without me having the slightest clue even of its brilliant existence. Probably while I was myself plugged in and most likely busy working online, tweeting, blogging, updating Facebook,   Unplugging Day came and passed me by!

Hmm, I asked my two gorgeous teenagers – “did you know it was National Unplugging Day, a few days ago?” No reaction – and not surprising – they didn’t know either.

But when talking about health and well-being, unplugging is crucial! We need to unplug and create space to slow down, be quiet and simply just be.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

 

We need this quiet time to listen and tune in to our needs. Even though, the body is amazing, the perfect GPS, always reliable; it has to have the space to tell us what we need. It can tell us if we are happy and content, if we are stressed and out of tune. So often we look outside ourselves for the answers, but the best answers come from within. The body never lies it always tells the truth. But, it needs to be “unplugged” from the outer influences and given time to relay its messages.

Our happiness and health rely on us taking that time to tune in.

I remember when I trained to become a psychotherapist, part of my training was going through intense therapy sessions and I remember how difficult and humbling it was for me to try to answer the simple question “How do you feel?” – How did I feel? Really feel? I didn’t know!

The honest truth was, I was so used to, when asked that question, to say “fine” without ever actually feeling my body responses. It was a new experience to me to connect to myself, to listen to my body and then be able to answer honestly how I felt. An even worse question was “What do you need?” – Again, I honestly had no clue. That was painful!

It took time and practice to learn and relearn. We are born with the ability to feel and know what we need, but early on we learn to suppress those feelings – in order to fit in.

I am a great believer in creating unplugging moments, every day. But how do we do that in a world that is so plugged in all the time?

I have devised a set of unplugging strategies, that works for me:

  • Getting up 1/2-1 hr before everyone else to meditate, sip tea, write my journal (with a pencil), run, jog, or just sit.
  • Unplug over the weekend just giving myself time to hang out with the family, read good books, wear my gumboots and do gardening, hike, walk, feed the hummingbirds and generally just be.
  • Before bed some quite time for a hot bath, a good book, some journalling, a lit candle, some gentle music, an evening meditation.
  • Sitting still with a hand on my heart, closing my eyes, while asking my heart (not my mind) the questions “how do I feel'” – ” what do I need” and quitely wait for the answers.

How do you unplug?

Presence

Presence

Here are some great links to inspire you further:

http://www.expresswhoyouare.com/

http://zenhabits.net/

 

Raw for a day

Try to go raw for a day? To eat only plant-based foods that have not been heated! A whole day with freshly pressed juices, greens smoothies, veggies, fruits, nuts, leafy greens – what better way to boost your energy and nourish your body!

For those of you who know me, you know that I am a big fan of VB6, i.e., be Vegan Before 6 pm. Often the whole family go whole days as plant-based eaters and we feel huge changes in our bodies, both physically and emotionally. And our body are satisfied, so we keep coming back for more.

I think it is great to go one day a week completely raw and allow the body to feast and rejuvenate.

This means for one day:

  • No coffee
  • No processed sugar
  • No diary
  • No meat
  • No alcohol

It means lots of:

  • Filtered water
  • herbal tea
  • freshly squeezed juices
  • green smoothies
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • leafy greens
  • nuts
  • seeds

Going raw for one or more days can be a really great way to boost your health.

Menu

For breakfast – Raw banana oatmeal with almonds and freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juice

Mid morning – A green smoothie with spinach

Lunch – Salad with apples, pomegranate, pine nuts and a pomegranate dressing

Afternoon – Chocolate milkshake made with almonds, dates, vanilla and coco

Dinner- Green and delicious spring rolls

Breakfast: Raw banana oatmeal with almonds and freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juice

Banana oatmeal:

1/2 cup raw oats

1/4 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup filtered water

1 banana

3 Medjool dates

Add it to the blender and blend it to a smooth porridge, serve with slices of banana and a teaspoon of agave syrup

For the juice I simply pressed organic oranges and 1/2 pineapple – served it on ice.

Mid morning:  A green smoothie and a handful of nuts

This smoothie is so good!

Good handful of fresh spinach

a pear

1/2 some pineapple

a grapefruit

an orange

some filtered water

crushed ice

Blend all of this, serve and enjoy

Lunch: Salad with apples, pomegranate, pine nuts and pomegranate dressing – avocado and a green smoothie

I love this very fresh salad – the pomegranate and the apples go so well together, and with the pine nuts and the  dressing it is just heavenly good.

I use a mix of organic lettuce – use any of your favorite

1/2 pomegranate

one apple

2 spoonful of pine nuts

For the dressing:

1/2 pomegranate

2 spoons of raw honey or agave

2 spoons of balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/2-1 clove of garlic

sea salt

Take out the seeds of the pomegranate and add to the blender along with balsamic vinegar, garlic and olive oil – blend into a dressing.

Arrange the washed and dried lettuce in a bowl, toss it with some of that delicious dressing, cut the apple in to bite sizes and add to the lettuce, sprinkle with pine nuts – enjoy!

Slice an avocado in half on the side and some of the green smoothie.

Afternoon: Chocolate milkshake made with almonds, dates, vanilla and coco

This is a treat – to make it extra smooth soak the almonds beforehand for at least 3-4 hours.

Add 1 cup of soaked raw almonds

2 -2 1/2 cups of filtered water( all depending on how you like it)

a bit of vanilla

5-6 Medjool dates

2 spoons of  raw coco powder

Crushed ice

Blend and enjoy – cool, chocolaty, creamy and sweet!

Dinner: Green and delicious spring rolls 

These rolls have become a favorite of ours – packed full of flavors.

see recipe here

Plant-wild week-day 4

Day 4 – This morning I went for an early morning run along the beach while the sun was rising, thinking, I can do another day of this! Another day eating greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains – everything that supports my body and fills me with this zippy wonderful energy!

 

Breakfast

Rawfood musli with blueberries

This has become a breakfast stable in our family – we eat it almost every day. It is so tasty and creamy. I came up with this recipe because I wanted to make a healthy version of an old favorite that had both full fat yoghurt and cream in it!! This tastes just as good and just as creamy and sweet as the original, but without the guilt!

In the blender/food processor add:

1 cup of raw oats,
2 good handfuls of raw almonds
1 big apple cut into chunks
6-8 Medjool dates ( more or less depending on how sweet your tooth is)
1 cup of filtered water
Blend it all – not too much because it is nice if it keeps it’s crunchiness

Enjoy with either fresh berries, banana or dried fruit in the winter – today I served it with fresh blueberries from the garden.

The Good-Morning Smoothie is made from fresh raspberries and pineapple today.

Variations.
You can add a little less water and add an orange – orange and dates are a perfect match. You can also add a bit of cinnamon or cardamom

Morning snack

A delicious green smoothie made from fresh kale out of the garden, peaches, pineapple, lemon, ice and 2 cups of water

Lunch

Delicious vegetable wraps with garlic/ginger dipping sauce

Rice paper

1 avocado

1 red pepper

fresh spinach

2 carrots

1 zucchini

1/2 cucumber

3 spring onions

Fresh basil

fresh coriander

fresh basil

fresh mint

Rinse and cut everything into strips of julienne.

Prepare the rice paper – one at a time. Take a clean tea towel and make it wet, place one rice paper on the wet tea towel and fold so it is completely covered with the wet cloth. Leave for about a min. Over the sink, wring out the water and carefully place the soft rice paper so you can fill it and roll it. Fill it with spinach leaves, a little avocado, carrot, red pepper, zucchini, spring onions and alfalfa sprouts, add some fresh basil leaves, some coriander leaves and some fresh mint. Roll them together and cut them in halves and arrange them on a plate along with the garlic/ginger dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce

juice of 1/2 lime

4 small lime leaves

thin slice of fresh ginger

1 clove of garlic

2 spoons of hoisin

1//3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup water

4 spoons of braggs

Blend it all together and serve with the vegetable rolls

Dinner

Baked zucchini and eggplants- served with new potatoes and green salad with fennel

I found these gorgeous looking green and yellow zucchini and some beautiful eggplants. I decided to make a really tasty dish that i think is perfect for summer with ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs and all you need to make this dish amazing. So this is my take on the Turkish specialty, Imam Bayildi – baked zucchini and eggplant topped with a spicy fresh tomato sauce, served with little new potatoes gently baked with herbs and garlic and a green salad with fennel.

2 eggplants

2 zucchini

600 g fresh ripe and chopped fresh tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic

4 shallots

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

2 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme

3 table spoons of chopped big leaved parsley

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1/2 cup of water

Finely chop the shallots and the garlic, gently saute them in oil til they are soft, add tomato paste,the herbs and the cumin. Add the tomatoes and the water. Cook for about 15 min. Season with sea salt and pepper, set aside. Add the parsley.

Cut the zucchini and the eggplant in halves on the length wise. Gently brown them in a bit of olive oil – on the inside. Place them in a baking dish on some baking paper and add the sauce on top.

Bake in an 350F oven for about 45 min

You can eat them right out of the oven but they taste amazing at room temperature too.

Potatoes

It is season for new and delicious potatoes – I love new potatoes!!

I prepared them like this

I washed them and cut them in to quarters and put them onto a piece of baking paper, drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, added some fresh thyme and some fresh rosemary – packed them in to little parcels and baked them in the 350F oven for about 45 min. They tasted so good!!

I served everything with a green salad with some fresh fennel

The dressing is a classic that has been in my family forever – we use it, let me just say, a lot
The trick is to use the best ingredients – the better the ingredients the better the dressing. So in other words don’t use the cheapest hot dog mustard.

2 spoons of good balsamic vinegar
a teaspoon of good Dijon Mustard
a pinch of sea salt
one clove of freshly squeezed garlic

Mix this – then add a little olive oil while you constantly stir, add more olive oil while stirring – continue doing this till you have a thick, dark yummy dressing. You can add a little maple syrup for a sweetness if you like. This salad dressing is so good and so easy to make.

Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation is a great life skill, one that is part of a balanced life. For example, I feel that meditation ought be taught to children in school, along with math, PE and social studies!

Mindfulness meditation has been, and is, an important part of my life. It is one of the elements in my life that keeps me healthy, sane and adds balance to my life. It is as important to me as cleaning my teeth, eating well or going out for a run. I can live without it, yes, but …………….

when I feel stressed and imbalanced, when life is overwhelming, hectic or confusing; meditation, is a way to effectively find balance again. Breathing mindfully, even just a few deep breaths.  Sitting in mindful peace, even for only a few minutes, can make a difference, and I can feel the balance, peace and life-connection again.

Often I meet people who say “oh, I so wish I could get into a meditation practice but …….. I don’t know how, and every time I try my mind keeps racing – so I must be doing it wrong and I am also too busy, but I so wish that I could”.

I think that we all long for quiet space – we crave it. Meditation is such a great way to get it!

But we tend to have this illusion that meditation has to be done just right, sitting down on a mountain, cross-legged, for hours and years, with a perfectly blank and quiet mind. So many give up before even trying. And even if we give it a try, then we experience just how busy the mind is, thoughts bombard us with, what do I cook for dinner, oh, he won’t like that, I need to remember to buy washing powder, I should have asked…, I have to remember to call……etc. When this happens, we think we are doing it wrong, and give up, not realizing that is actually quite natural and part of it. The mind is a wanderer and we will think of a billion things while we meditate, thoughts come and go, feelings come and go, sensations come and go.

As Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a researcher, a scientist and a teacher of mindfulness meditation says, ” if you have a mind it is going to wander“. We are not doing it wrong, we are just human with a wandering mind. Simply observing that there are different thoughts coming, without following the thoughts, just noticing and going back to the breath. Don’t strive, let whatever happens, happen – just notice and be mindful with what happens, without analyzing or judging it, then return to the breath.

Dr. Kabat Zinn has been an amazing inspiration for me on my meditation path! What I like about mindful meditation is that it is simple – there is no right or wrong – it is “just” being – it is straight forward and down to earth. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn makes meditation simple and obtainable – he removes the mystic part and makes it easy, durable and fun. Something for everyone!

Meditation can be done anywhere and anytime, sitting cross-legged on the floor or on a chair, on the bus or in the airport, walking, standing in a line up or laying down.

This YouTube is a workshop he did at Google – it is full of great and inspiring information. I hope you will enjoy it.

12 years ago, when I first started meditating I bought Jon Kabat-Zinn’s  CDs and I have used them ever since. They are so helpful when you start out and still to this day, I use them – fortunately, before I wore the CDs out, I added them to my iPhone and  listen to them when I need it.

You can read more about the CDs here

You may also want to read these two other blog posts I wrote on meditation :

Compassion 

-Meditation changes the brain

Muscles reward exercise

I found this very interesting interview with Professor Dr. Med Bente Klarlund Pedersen in one of the Danish newspapers, Politiken (the Danish Article).

Professor (Dr. Med.) Bente Klarlund Pedersen is the director of Copenhagen Muscle Research Center and her focus is on inflammation and metabolism(CIM)

Her results are very interesting to us looking to improve health and balance our lives. For example, her early research has shown that there is a connection between physical activity and the immune system.

She shows that our muscles are not alone making us capable of moving around, but work similarly to other organs producing hormone-like compounds – important for our overall health. She has shown that muscles work like vital organs setting “turbo-on” conversion of sugar and fat during exercise.

Another really interesting point that Dr. Klarlund has found is that in people who are not physically active, not only do their muscles deteriorate, but lack of exercise also makes them more prone to diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer, osteoporosis and depression. She is focusing her research to find out how inactivity can be connected to so many different lifestyle diseases.

Her basis research shows that muscles not only get messages from the nerves, but also communicate through many hormone-like compounds. Thus, muscles work like organs. Some of their research experiments with people paralyzed from the neck and down showed that by stimulating their muscles, they could achieve the same positive effects as if they had been exercising! Their bodies burned sugar and fat and they could even experience “Runner’s high” even though they were paralyzed and not physical active in any way.

In another experiment, they asked a group of people to limit their activities to walk a maximum of 1.500 steps a day – where 10.000 steps would be the norm. The results showed that lots of things happened – for example, they lost 1.2 kg muscle mass. They became insulin resistant which is the stage before diabetes. When they consumed fat, the fat remained longer in the body and built up around the inner organs – in just 2 weeks!!!

Her own 2 sons were part of the study and she explains how they, during the research, became irritable and short-fused. This gave her the idea to the next study she did. She teamed up with Neorospychologists to research how peoples’ focus and ability to concentrate changed when they didn’t get exercise. They are still collecting data but preliminary results show, as they expected, that it is more difficult to concentrate and focus when we do not exercise.

Professor Dr. Bente Klarlund Pedersen recommends a minimum of 1/2 hr of exercise every day. Some of her new research also points out that exercising helps to keep muscles stay younger for longer.

I find her research interesting on so many levels –  when it comes to preventing disease, how exercise affects our levels of concentration and our performance. I  find it fascinating to read about research on how exercise affects our emotional health and well-being.

Dr. Pedersen is currently researching marathon runners – she says she is fascinated by the extremes – to find the difference in the people who exercise a lot – and the people who do little or no exercise.

It is exciting to see what comes of her research.

Morning run in the clear blue

The weather here on the west coast of  Canada has been grey, cold and rainy all winter so many of my morning runs have been in pouring rain. But, I don’t mind, I actually think it has its charms – the freshness and the coolness of the air is invigorating. But…I must admit that it is much more fun when the sun is shining and the sea is calm — like this morning!  I hit the road at 7 am with my friend and running partner – and as we solve the world’s problems as we run, I always return with a light heart and a smile on my face.

 

The Olympic Mountains (USA) in the background. Amazing clear blue sky.

This arrangement made me laugh!

By the lighthouse at the end of the pier.

You can walk on the side of the pier on these impressive stones.

The lighthouse in its full beauty.

The pier – not protected by anything – which is quite amazing considering. It gives me a sense of freedom as I head out to the lighthouse.

Beautiful wild flowers and grass – I adore that everything is natural and allowed to be wild.

Mr. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

The sea is as clam as my soul after a good run.

Hope you have a great Saturday !

Space within

Yesterday evening I went out kayaking with a group of girlfriends. We went out at 5pm, after work. None of us are pros in any way and most had only tried kayaking a couple of times – It was a blast!

What caught my attention the most was the peace – it was such an incredible experience to cut through the water, quietly. Hearing the water, smelling the sea, hearing the birds –  it was like meditation.

I saw a couple of seals on the way and one in particular caught my attention – he was right next to me, floating on top, with his eyes almost closed, looking so peaceful. Every now and the he took a deep breath in –  just enjoying the moment, being in the now. What a great reminder it was – it was like he was telling me – “slow down, close your eyes and breathe in”

We live in hectic times and often we don’t even think about it – but we are on 24/7 – we can always be reached, cell phones, emails, text, Skype, Facebook, internet –  we have the cell in the pocket, close to heart – just in case. Then there is the television, the radio, the constant business of life. Wow yesterday – I  felt just how important it is to tune out, every now and then.

One of my favorite websites is called – excuse the name – but “free cabin porn”. It features secluded cabins all over the world – small private sanctuaries – where people go to tune out. Check it out here

I am reminded to create that space within to tune out – and leave the world as it is – just for a while.

Never underestimate what YOU can do

A friend of mine send me this youtube – while watching it, I got goosebumps, tears in my eyes, a joyful heart and the urge to stand up and clap my hands.

This story is inspiring – it shows that when we take charge of our health and well-being – amazing things can happen!

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