A Charmed Life


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eat – courgette noodles with avocado sauce

Courgetti.jpg

Food and I have never been friends. It’s not that I’m fussy when it comes to eating, more unadventurous and uninspired. It makes me cringe when I think of past eating habits and I do wonder how I have made it this far with no ongoing health issues. Bizarrely though, I may have been a lousy eater but I am actually a pretty decent cook (so I’m told) –  now it’s all about redressing this imbalance; exploring eating better with home cooked meals. Right now I am loving courgette noodles (also known as courgetti) – a yummy and healthy substitute to pasta.

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courgette noodles with avocado sauce

ingredients
serves 2

for the noodles
2 large courgettes
dash of salt
olive oil

for the sauce
1 avocado, pit removed
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp cracked pepper
¼ lemon squeezed
1 clove garlic (crushed)
dash of olive oil
sprinkle or two of chilli flakes(for a little extra kick)

preparation

1.Using a spiralizer or mandoline (or a grater will work if you haven’t got one of these) to julienne the courgettes into long strips (they should resemble spaghetti). Place in a colander and add a few dashes of sea salt to the courgette and toss. Leave the courgettes in the colander for about 20 minutes, this will help to drain off excess water.

2.To make the sauce mix all the ingredients together until it has a smooth creamy texture (I use a fork but a food processor will make the much job easier.

3.You can eat the dish raw (as is) OR you can heat up the noodles and add sauce on top OR you can heat both up – it is just a matter of preference. To heat: Add a little olive oil to a sauté pan and once pan has heated up add the courgette and cook for 2 minutes. If heating the sauce, add and mix through noodles, cook for another 2 minutes.

Hopefully you feel inspired to try if you haven’t already.

Sat Nam

ps how cool is the tablecloth 😉

 

 


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do – skipping

What was your favourite playground activity when you were younger? Was it Tag? Or Bullrush? How about Rounders? The Jungle Gym? Or was it Hanging off the monkey bars? Elastics? Or Knucklebones? Mine was Skipping and yet as much as I loved it I outgrew it, as one does with many childhood occupations and so it would have remained but a fond memory, had it not been for a bout of acute insomnia which led to late night tele watching – got to love those infomercials!

So I picked up a jump rope and rediscovered my love for it. Now I can’t get by without my daily fix. Yes for some of us it’s a skinny mocha, pour moi its 1800 jumps in 15 minutes. I’m not so good at being consistent when it comes to exercise; I lack passion for the gym, I don’t live near horses to ride regularly, I’m not a strong enough swimmer, I’m fickle when it comes to running and I’m still a newbie when it comes to cycling. I do love yoga but twice maybe three times a week is enough for me. So skipping has been quite the revelation – an exercise that I feel inspired about and can do everyday AND it is the exercise that keeps on giving – here’s a list of reasons I’ve compiled as to why skipping rocks:

♦You’ve done it before so you know what to do. Who didn’t jump rope when they were younger even if it wasn’t something you did by choice at lunchtime, you still had to for Phys-Ed or at the very least for the jump rope for heart fundraisers.
♦You can do it anywhere; backyard, garage, in front of the tele, in a park, hotel room, foyer – basically any empty four by six foot area.
♦Totally portable, you can take the rope with you in your handbag/man bag and it’s a fits all ages and sizes exercise.
♦The only gear you need is your workout clothes (ladies, a good sport bra is a must) and a jump rope.
♦Assuming you already own workout gear the only outlay is for the jump rope and if you still have your rope from when you were young happy days you don’t have to spend a single cent. Although it has to be said ropes are fancier now, forget cloth ropes, most are now made from moulded plastic, metal wire coated in acrylic or space-age polymers – all made to be smoother and lighter. There are also digital ones available that can track number of jumps, time taken, calories lost.
♦When I started skipping I knew if I was consistent I could end up with killer calves. I have since learnt that it is a full body workout for apart from using your legs for jumping, shoulders and arms for turning the rope it hits almost every muscle in some way chiefly the biceps (front of upper arm), triceps (back of upper arm), forearms, deltoids (shoulder) core (abdominals, lower back and obliques), glutes (butt), quadriceps (top of thigh) and of course your calves. This makes skipping the perfect total body toning exercise. It’s high intensity cardio so using a jump rope improves your heart rate and blood pressure. Other health benefits – it is less jolting on your joints than running AND improves flexibility AND as skipping forces you to keep a rhythmic pace and use proper form it enhances your coordination and balance  AND it is a weight-bearing exercise so can help in improving bone density, which we need to ward off osteoporosis.
JumpRope.jpg♦Once you get into a flow there are many different variationsthere is no boredom factor.
♦You can do it at your own pace for as long as you like. It does take a few attempts to get into a rhythm but even a few minutes skipping can make a difference to your well being. It has taken me a good few months to work up to my current regime, this involves doing three 5 minute bursts with 10 second rest in between twice a day.

Skipping – Easy, Convenient, Fun and Good for you. I totally recommend it. Relive your youth and have a go.

Sat Nam

 


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do – Ho Ho Ha Ha

I first heard about Laughter yoga when Fearne Cotton talked about it on her radio show. Thought it sounded interesting but I didn’t give it another thought. Fast forward a few months later and today I find myself at a Laughter yoga class. What can I say? I saw a sign for the class and it had to be done.

Here I am, it’s a small class, five people including me and six others all wearing the same purple t-shirts so I’m assuming they are making up the numbers (turns out I’m right, apparently this type of yoga is done best with a crowd). Once our instructor welcomes us in prayer, we begin with clapping – palm to palm clapping – to which chants are added HO HO HA HA (reminds me of the scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ when Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio are at lunch and Matthew starts beating his chest and chanting Hmmm). This warm up is done to increase energy levels.

Next to follow are deep breathing exercises and then for the next fifty minutes we continue to do the breathing with stretching and different types of Laughter exercises including one that had me fake milking a cow. The instructor keeps repeating that we want to attain a child like playfulness. We are encouraged to make eye contact with each other as this encourages laughter.  Anyone want to pretend to be a lion with me (yet another exercise we did).

SOME FACTS: Laughter yoga was created by Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria. The concept of Laughter yoga is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits. Clinical research show that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and it helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins. Yes its true people laughter really is the best medicine.

MY VERDICT: Before I went to this class, someone said to me ‘Laughter yoga? Come on yoga is yoga – don’t bastardise it with all kinds of weird variations.’ And he is right, that is exactly why I was intrigued in the first place and having done the class I’m still not sure what the ‘yoga’ component was meant to be and I did feel a sense of the ridiculous at first, but eventually fake awkward laughter gave way to real laughter and it felt good.

And although I have never had a problem laughing or laughing in public for that matter, as this is a physical rather than a mental laughter you are left feeling uninhabited. If I had to describe how I felt after the class I would say energized and open – kind of loose if that makes sense.

I’m not sure I’m going to convince the skeptic in you to give it go except I will say when does it not feel good to laugh? I would say give it go if you are up for anything, in need of a laugh or just plain curious. Laughter clubs are popping up everywhere and my class was free so you are not left out of pocket (well I did make a donation).

I will leave you with this fact: In the 1950s people laughed for an average of 18 minutes per day, but now the average is just six minutes. I think we all could do with a little bit more laughter in our lives – wouldn’t you agree?

Love


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drink – watermelon coconut smoothie

When I was a little girl we would celebrate a Hindu festival called Navratri which went on for nine days. Whilst I had no clue about the religious reasoning behind it, for me it meant I got BlogGoa.jpgto dress in Indian clothes and go to the Indian hall to dance. After some time there would be a break whereby there would be prayers and prasad (edible religious offering). I loved to dance but my favourite time of the night would be when it came time to receive the prasad, all sorts were offered but I always opted for shredded coconut. Yum! Other than that I only experienced the delight of coconut when I was overseas namely India. So it goes without saying that I am beyond happy that coconut water is now readily available at my local Tescos.

Pure coconut water is a natural beverage with no artificial additives or sweeteners. Now that it is widely available for all to enjoy, this has to be a more healthier option than the sports drinks of the world surely. In some cultures the palm tree, from which coconuts grow, is called the Tree of Life and I can see why, the benefits of the coconut go on and on. For it –
♦Lowers cholesterol
♦Reduces the chances of heart disease
♦Aids the development of strong, healthy bones and teethBlogGoa3.jpg
♦Prevents osteoporosis
♦Helps prevent obesity by speeding up metabolism
♦High in dietary fiber
♦Has a low glycemic index
♦Reduces sweet cravings
♦Improves digestion
♦Supports overall immune system functions
♦It has no trans-fats
♦Is gluten-free, non toxic and hypoallergenic
♦Contains antibacterial, antiviral, anti fungal and anti-parasitic healing properties
♦Is a quick energy boost
♦Ayurvedic tradition considers the coconut as a natural stress-buster.

That’s already quite a lengthy list no doubt you will agree but I’m sure there are other benefits I have missed, as the coconut really is a miracle of nature.
Whilst nothing beats coconut water au naturel, I tried this variation and it was delish, would definitely recommend giving it a try.

watermelon coconut smoothie

Serves One

blogcoconut.jpg2 cup watermelon
½ lime (juiced)
1 cup coconut-water
2 to 3 mint leaves
1 cup ice

Blend everything until smooth

Enjoy


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do – right here, right now

lotusIn previous blogs I have talked about being mindful, taking it for granted that its meaning is a given. It wasn’t until a friend asked me if being mindful meant being aware and if it did what were you meant to be aware of – I realised that maybe I might have been a tad presumptuous thinking people would just know. After all I didn’t know about it until I started looking into it.

For years I have been practicing mindfulness in my morning mediation and in my everyday life. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it yet but I’m getting there. So what is it? Inherited from Buddhist tradition, my friend is right – it does mean exactly that – being aware but to quantify it further mindfulness aims to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations at any given moment. For much of our lives we are on autopilot and unfortunately in living like this we miss the gifts of the present. When you live in mindfulness you live consciously moment to moment so for example when walking down a street you are noticing the colour of the sky, the people you pass, the buildings, the footpath, you are conscious of your breathing, the smell of grass, sounds of traffic and so forth.

The benefit of mindfulness is that it takes you away from living in your head thus aiding you to live calmer, focused, alert, creatively and with less anxiety. Who doesn’t want to live like that? Such are its benefits that it is used to help deal with depression and it has been included in the curriculum at some schools around the UK.

See Think you need more convincing to see if this is for you – watch 10 mindful minutes AND/OR

Read Recommended Books for all ages.
1) 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving our children – and ourselves – the skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happier lives by Goldie Hawn and Wendy Holden
2)The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide to Meditation by the World’s Most Revered Master by Thich Nhat Han

Do If you are at all interested in learning how to incorporate being mindful into your day – check out tips on how to AND/OR are you an app person? Then head over to headspace AND/OR Londoners if you are interested in mindful meditation I highly recommend London Meditation, based in Camden they hold informative workshops for all levels in a calm urban sanctuary.

Love


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drink – avocado milkshake

Did you know that because it has all the nutrients you need, you could survive on just avocado alone. Not sure I’m willing to try this but I do like a little avocado in my day. This is my all time favourite drink. Healthy-ish, yummy and easy peasy to make – just the ticket to kick start your New Year detox.

avocado1avocado milkshake

Serves One

1 medium to large sized avocado
1 cup milk (how much milk exactly will vary on how thick you want it)
1 scoop ice cream – optional if you want to add sweetness

avocado2.jpgSlice and pit the avocado.
Scoop the flesh and add to blender
Add milk and ice cream
Blend everything (should retain dense consistency)

Best drunk fresh, as if left you will find your beautiful green drink has turned into a murky brown hue (not very appetising).

Very easy to make and your taste buds will thank you and yet bizarrely it is not common at all. I’m not quite sure of its origins only that I remembering drinking it in South Africa when I was young and still to this day when I visit my parents in Australia, my mother makes it for me. So for me it is a reminder of home. I know variations of it are common in Vietnam and the Philippines.
Although I have it as a milkshake, my brother eats it like pudding with flake sprinkled over the top. Whichever way you try it, drink or pudding, its divine I promise.

Enjoy


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do – floatation tank

I had my first experience in a floatation tank yesterday. Twenty four later I am still feeling the effects of it, my body feels floppy and my mind is relaxed.

Float7.jpgWHAT IS IT  A floatation tank – also known as an isolation tank, sensory-deprivation tank or restricted environmental stimulation therapy tank – is sold on the idea that it is the closest possible simulation of being in the womb. You float naked and weightless in complete darkness, enveloped in a salty solution. But, unlike the womb you can play music.

WHAT HAPPENED After taking my clothes off and a quick shower, I stepped into the tank which was about ten inches deep, made up of a solution of Epsom salts and water that is the same temperature as the outside of your skin. Once in, I closed the door shut, Float5switched off the lights and lay myself down in a supine position with my arms over my head (as instructed). I let the music relax me into it. There was a little movement at first as my body adjusted but then there was just stillness.

As for my mind… firstly I had these random thoughts  – ‘there is water going in my ears’ ‘can I drown’ ‘how do I possibly stay buoyant the entire Float5.jpgtime’ ‘if I fall asleep how will remember so I can blog it’ 😉 – but then as the music stopped I could feel my brain activity reducing to nothingness and I entered into a near meditative state of complete calm and in this state I could only hear my heartbeat. One hour later music played again to announce that the float session was coming to a close. I was so out of it I wasn’t even aware of it coming back on. It wasn’t until the pumps started that I gently aroused back into consciousness. Taking my time to get my bearings, I made my way out of the tank and had a refreshing shower to rid myself of the salts and then after getting dressed I made my way to the chill out lounge. Feeling like wobbly jelly I plopped myself onto a sofa and relaxed with a cup a tea.

AND IT FEELS LIKE As for the experience, as mentioned above, it is meant to feel like being in the womb but I can’t remember that far back so can’t quite relate to that. I can only akin it to the idea of being in space or beingFloat8.jpg buoyant like seaweed  – that kind of weightlessness. As I transitioned back to the real world I could feel my senses heightened. Out in the street the surroundings felt sharper. I went to lunch afterwards and as I was seated everything around me felt brighter and my hearing was more acute, my taste buds more intense. This is to be expected as being in the tank effectively shuts down all your senses. I also had a very deep sleep last night (not usual for me).

It is called floatation therapy even though there is no therapist involved, it is just you and the tank but it is a form of therapy. Epsom salts are made from naturally occurring minerals and are renowned for their health and beauty benefits; reducing stress, soothing muscles, helping with anxiety, pain, swelling, insomnia and jet lag. I will definitely be doing it again (and again and again). If you want an all over feeling of immense relaxation that lasts definitely give it a go; even on the off chance you have no need for relaxation in your life, it is still a pretty amazing experience to try.

Love


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drink – almond and kale smoothie

I am not known for healthy food habits, but as I have got older I am paying more attention to what I eat and drink. Unfortunately that all goes out the window for me at this time of year, what with my birthday and Christmas all within a month. So as we are in the party season I thought I would share my current pick me up.

kalesmoothie3.jpgalmond and kale smoothiekalesmoothie

Serves One

1 cup chopped kale
1 cup almond milk
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds  (whole preferably but ground are fine also)
throw in a few apricots or dates (or any other dried fruit)
1 tbsp coconut oil

Blend everything in a blender until completely smooth.

Drink and Enjoy.


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do – hot yoga

After years of being curious about it I finally did a Bikram Yoga class – that’s hot yoga to you plebs out there – while I’m still sticky with sweat let me quickly tell you about it.

I had been warned that to endure the full session would be my biggest challenge as a first timer, I’m a girl who doesn’t even last 10 minutes in a sauna so I went into the yoga room thinking if I last 11 minutes I’m a winner. So there’s the heat to endure that is akin to what you feel when you are in an Asian country, humid hot and then there is the smell of sweat – other people’s sweat . Neither is pleasant so it does take some adjustment in those first initial moments. I felt a slight panic as I sat down knowing I was mean to try to finish the 90 minute class, so I took my place at the back of the room near the door.

The session started with breathing techniques which were aimed at increasing  lung capacity in the humid air – these were good for they helped to make me feel relaxed in my surroundings. Then the class progressed into the postures and I got lost in concentrating on the different poses. Some came easy, others with effort and some not at all.  All the while I was sweating  – I have never been a particularly sweaty person but today I learnt I have the capacity to sweat like a proverbial pig. While I did feel dizzy at times I made it right to the end – whop whop – and I came out feeling like I had had a great workout. I would definitely recommend it if you, like me are curious to see what the fuss is about.

And now that I do know… I want more but I think I will take an extra thick towel next time.