March 25 each year is Tolkien Reading Day. The theme for the day, set by the Tolkien Society, is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction.
If your only familiarity with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is through Peter Jackson’s wonderful movies, you may not be aware of how prevalent poetry and songs are in Tolkien’s works. As lovingly and well-done as the movies are, they cannot pick up all of the nuances in Tolkien’s works. I encourage you to take a moment today and do so.
March is National Caffeine Awareness Month and March 20 through 26 is American Chocolate Week. Caffeine and chocolate naturally go together, so what better way to celebrate than baking some chocolate muffins with espresso?
With that in mind, I dove into a new-to-me-recipe. But let’s face it, sometimes we try things that don’t work. In this case, the recipe did not work to the extent that I won’t even link to it here. As I was putting ingredients together, I realized the ratios were WAY off. I looked back to the original recipe upon which the variation I was trying was based and adjusted a few things. What I got was a bunch of totally bland cupcakes (you can try to fool yourself and call them muffins, but they’re cupcakes) with neither strong chocolate nor strong coffee flavor.
Not one to waste food, I decided to see if I could make a Kahlua glaze that could save the day. Those who know me well know I do not like icing, so that’s really saying something. The glaze was quite good and a nice accidental discovery that I’ll add to my recipe file. Plus, it gives us a way to celebrate National Cocktail Day. Win-win!
Simple Kahlua Glaze
Whisk together to desired consistency:
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons Kahlua
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Have fun in the kitchen!
We all need a little downtime now and again and today’s the day! While not an official holiday, Goof Off Day is a time to remind yourself to pause and enjoy life. Taking a break from time to time makes us happier, more focused, and more creative. You don’t have to take the entire day off it, but whenever you think about it, stop and do something goofy or fun.
A few suggestions:
Life is short, so enjoy the ride,
The gentle soul that was Fred Rogers was born on this day, March 20, 1928. Although he has been gone since 2003, his message of loving acceptance of ourselves and others continues through the work of the Fred Rogers Center and the Fred Rogers Company.
I was born in 1970, just two years after Mister Rogers Neighborhood and one year after Sesame Street began airing, and both shows deeply influenced me. In particular, I loved Mr. Rogers because he never spoke down to anyone and he never shied away from how challenging life could be. But he made it seem like kindness was possible and everything would work out as it should.
So today, I challenge you in even the most trying situations to demonstrate a little kindness and respect for yourself and for your fellow human beings.
March 19 is National Chocolate Caramel Day. What a classic combination of flavors. I love to keep it simple and drizzle a little chocolate and caramel sauce on a plain cheesecake… or strawberries… or German chocolate cake… or in coffee… or… Well, you get the idea. It’s okay to indulge once in a while, so go out and enjoy all the flavors of life!
Yours in good taste,
Hope everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. Whether you partied and need to recover or would just like to add a gentle supportive pose to your yoga repertoire, a supported twist may be just what you need.
Supported Spinal Twist
Getting into the Pose:
- Build a support with bolsters/blankets with or without blocks underneath
- Use blankets under shoulders/legs and/or between legs
- Sit next to a bolster with hips on the floor, one hip next to the bolster, and legs relaxed away from the bolster
- Turn the torso so you face the bolster and let hands come to a rest on either side
- Lengthen through the spine and drape your torso over the bolster
- Knees closer to chest, intensifies the stretch in the lower back
- Arms extended stretches armpits and shoulders
- Turning the head away from the knees intensifies the stretch in the neck; turning the head toward the knees can be more gentle
- Relax space between shoulder blades
- Exhale, release into twist
- Inhale, create space
- Feel the body lengthen over supports
- Breathe quietly
- Hold for 3 to 5 minutes per side
- Relieves stress in backs, sides
- Stretches muscles between ribs
- Enhances breathing
- Bring hands under shoulders
- Inhale come up
National Freedom of Information Day is celebrated on the birth date of President James Madison, known as the father of the U.S. Constitution. Madison was a champion of openness in the U.S. government as well as individual rights. To that end, he was one of the main authors of the Bill of Rights, as the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known.
What can you do to celebrate?
- Learn how to separate fact from fiction in the news and stay informed by subscribing to a reputable news source either online or in print (hint: they have educated writers and fact checkers and everything!);
- Support your local library;
- Visit the Government Printing Office for resources and information; and
- Know who your representatives are and feel free to contact them with questions, concerns and support/opposition to specific legislation.
A democracy only works as it should when we all stay informed and take part.
May we all be free,
March is National Peanut Month and one of the best ways I can think to celebrate is to make some honey peanut butter cookies. This recipe is from the 1963 edition of the Betty Crocker Best Cooky Book. These have recently made it into the rotation of my Christmas cooky bake-athon.
Honey Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (I like chunky so you get some actual peanuts in the cookies)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt when I bake)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly mix butter, peanut butter, sugar, honey and egg. In a separate bowl, sift together remaining ingredients; stir into creamy mixture.
Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Place 3 inches apart on parchment lined cooky sheet. Flatten in a crisscross style with a fork dipped in sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes (they won’t brown much and should be just set). Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.
March 14 is Save a Spider Day. I’ll admit, spiders freak me out. But… I also know they are beneficial. For the past several years, I’ve had an orb spider build a web near my back door and the number of bugs that have made it into my house has definitely gone down. So if you want to keep bugs at bay, leave spiders alone and #thinkbeforeyousquish. Plus, it will give you a chance to practice the principle of ahimsa, or non-harming.
If you want to further honor our spider friends, add spider pose to your practice. I can’t find much info about the background of this pose, so feel free to enlighten me if you know more about it.
The Monday after the switch to Daylight Savings Time in the Spring is National Napping Day. It’s natural to feel a little sleep-deprived when we “lose” an hour of sleep. Taking time to rest can help us recover.
While technically one should not nap in yoga, savasana or final relaxation pose can give you the benefits of a nice long nap. The goal is to let the physical body relax as if you’re asleep while the mind stays alert.
Seems simple enough, right? Not so for everyone. Whether it’s a challenge to quiet the mind or to stay awake, many people struggle. If you’re someone who struggles with final relaxation, ere are a few tips that might be helpful.
- If you tend to fall asleep: Come into your version of the pose but lie with your forearm raised. If you fall asleep, your arm will waiver or fall and wake you up. (If you plan to try this, you should let your teacher know prior to class so they won’t think you’re trying to get their attention.) You may also want to put some padding under your arm so that it won’t thud or hurt.
- If you are physically uncomfortable, use some props:
- A folded blanket or bolster under the knees can alleviate low back pain;
- A blanket or block under the head and neck can help if lying flat creates indigestion or dizziness; or
- If being on your back is not comfortable or safe for you, you can do a side lying version of the pose.
- If you can’t quiet the mind, this may sound strange, but don’t stress about it. We all have days where it’s a challenge and our mind replays events from the day or we run through our to-do list. Be compassionate with yourself and come back to the present moment whenever you think about it. If you need something to focus on, there are a number of different methods that may work.
- Focus on the breath. Follow the breath as you feel it move into the nostrils, along the throat, and into the lungs. Notice the quality of the breath. Is it smooth and even? Do you pause at the top or bottom of the breath? When does it feel warm or cool?
- If there is an activity that makes you calm, imagine that you are doing it. Maybe it’s a long run, coloring, cooking, or something else where you are totally in the moment. It might even be your asana practice.
- Another visualization technique is to imagine you are sitting next to your favorite body of water or in a garden and try to imagine that location — not just the sights but also the sounds, smells, quality of the air or water, or whatever else helps you be there fully.
- Mantras can also help focus and calm the mind. If you have a favorite short, positive statement, feel free to repeat it silently to yourself. I like to use a couple from Biff Mithoefer: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out,” or “Breathing in, I know this is the perfect moment. Breathing out, I know this is the only moment.”
May you find a little relaxation today.
In peace and stillness,