Blame It On The Baking Show

I went into the grocery store for two nonfood items and came out with them plus a chicken pot pie. I blame it on pastry week on The Great British Baking Show. There’s also an American version, The Great American Baking Show, inexplicably filmed in the same tent in England but I digress. Both versions follow the same format of three challenges per week: a signature bake, which is a personal specialty; a technical challenge, a recipe that is long on difficulty and short on instructions; and a showstopper, a big, over-the-top show piece, think freestanding edible sculptures. Each week someone is sent home and each week someone is declared Star Baker.

I’ve learned an awful lot watching the various baking shows and almost none of it involves flour. For example, the technical challenges are the perfect illustration of how you don’t need to know everything about your new thing before you start. Contestants often haven’t even heard of the dish, let alone had a chance to perfect it. And you know what? They can still have successful bakes, really delicious, impressive-looking results.

Something else I learned is that even when your bake looks like a total disaster, don’t throw it in the trash! It could still be delicious. Baking, like life, is not all or nothing. Just because your towering showstopper pastry sculpture collapsed, doesn’t mean that you are an abject failure. You can still score points from the ruins. You can still win.

Speaking of winning, I have also learned that you can go from Star Baker to being sent home in a single week. You are only as good as your last bake. There is no resting on your laurels, in baking or life.

Lastly, I learned that when your work is done, it costs you nothing to help someone else. Who knows, next week you may be the one that needs that extra pair of hands to steady your showstopper.

Whether your thing is baking or beading, get out there and do it, whether you already know it all or are flying by the seat of your pants. You’ll amaze yourself with your results and have a blast in the process. Just promise to save me a biscuit!

Gotta Relax ‘em All

Even before Pokemon Go burst onto the scene this summer, my youngest nephew was a Pokemon evangelist, trying to convert me and the rest of the world to the joys of Pokemon.

“Aunt Julie, what’s your favorite Pokemon?”

“I don’t have one, sweetie.”

Then he’d suggest one, describing its finer points in great deal, all to no avail. He told me about one that reminded him of his dog Charlie and one that resembled my dog Henry. I remained unmoved. Then he mentioned Flabebe, which floats arounds on a flower. I thought it sounded cute and said sure, I’d watch an episode about it. I’ve done that before and each time emerged without a favorite.

That all changed when I discovered how Flabebe “battles.” Forget Pikachu’s lightning bolt; Flabebe sends out a golden pollen that relaxes its opponents to sleep.

A Pokemon that relaxes everyone—finally, something the wellness coach and yoga teacher in me could get behind! I may not have magical golden pollen but I’d like to relax everyone too. Because when you can get the stress out of your body and your mind, you won’t have the knots in your muscles anymore and you’ll be able to sleep at night. Suddenly, everything will seem just a little easier. Ahhhh.

If you would like to learn how to relax yourself, send me an email at julie(dot)corron(at)gmail(dot)com. I can’t teach you how to float on a flower but I can help you better manage your stress. No battling required!

Phoning It In

Have you ever had something you really wanted to say and yet you couldn’t get it out? That’s me on the topic of mobile phones in yoga class. I’ve been trying to write about this for months now but keep getting hung up by trying to be all nice and yogic about something that really pushes my buttons. Here’s the unvarnished truth.

When I teach yoga, I usually announce “Phones off and at the back of the room” at the beginning of class. Recently, I forgot and had to whisper to a student texting during class to turn off her phone. She looked chagrined but obliged. But two days later, in another class, I was met with resistance from a young woman who flat out refused.

“But I’m on call. I might have to jump up and run out of class.”

“Then maybe this isn’t the best place for you to be tonight.”

That response got me the death glare. But when she came back the next week, there was no phone and she was much more present.

Present is what I’m asking my students to be. Present to themselves and their yoga experience. You cannot be present to yoga if you are texting or emailing or anxiously awaiting a call. And neither can anyone around you. Invariably, if one phone is out, multiple pairs of eyes are drawn to it. And then other phones start to appear. Forget the fact that you’re missing the class you paid for; you’re at risk of losing your balance and hurting yourself or someone else due to inattention. Or disturbing someone else’s moment of peace and stillness with the clicking of your  keys.

So please, do yourself and everyone around you, this teacher included, a favor and turn your phone off and put it away before you unroll your yoga mat. If you truly are on call, think hard before you come to class. Can you pay attention to the class and your phone? If you need to leave suddenly, can you do it without disrupting everyone around you? Are you by the door or in the middle of a crowded class? Or do you really need to be somewhere other than yoga class?

Be present for yourself, wherever you need to be.

Sprung

It’s finally starting to look and feel like spring in my neck of the woods. Not that that keeps sleet and freezing rain out of the weather forecast. Still, the trend is toward less cold, more sunshine, and new growth everywhere. I’ve gone from hibernation to walking more than six miles a day, from contemplation to writing again.

Every year I’m awed by this miracle of regeneration and growth after the seeming death of winter. Every year I feel the spring in my step as well as in the air. It’s an exciting time of year. To me, it feels more like the beginning of the year than January 1st.

It’s certainly the new year in my garden. The crocuses have started blooming and the tulips and daffodils aren’t far behind. I’m still new to gardening. I had no idea what an act of faith it is to plant bulbs in the fall. Over the winter, as the snow piled up where the crocuses and tulips and daffodils are planted, I worried. Should I have protected them more? Could I have protected them more? Would they survive?

It turns out that blooming crocuses aren’t helped in the least by my worrying on their behalf. They respond to their own rhythms. I did my part by planting them and walking away. I wonder where else in my life I could benefit from stepping back and letting nature take its course, where else I’m worrying needlessly about processes completely outside of my control. Or is that the very nature of worry?

I’ll be contemplating that on my next walk, now that I’m finally breaking free of winter. What about you? How do you know that spring has arrived, in your garden and in your heart? And how do you let go of worry?

Waking Up

I reluctantly saw the movie The Giver recently. Reluctantly because young adult dystopian future flicks fill the theaters these days. Yawn. Imagine my surprise when I realized how much it translated to my grown-up present.

One of the plot points concerns keeping the populace subdued or protected, depending on your point of view, from the pains of life through the compulsory use of pharmaceuticals. Naturally, if there’s no pain there’s no joy and no hate is accompanied by no love. It was a soulless world.

What I’ve been thinking about since I left the movie theater is how often we voluntarily do the exact same thing to ourselves, the myriad ways we numb ourselves to life. Some use the aforementioned pharmaceuticals, legal or illegal. Others turn to alcohol or gambling or sex or food or tv or the internet or comic books or shopping or work or <insert your preferred way of avoiding pain or feelings of any sort.> I’ve done it myself, like when I ate a lot of hot fudge sundaes while going through an IRS audit many years ago. Taxes are taxing!

I’m not going to get into addiction. There are entire books on that. But I will challenge you to look at how and when you numb yourself, if ever, because some of ways listed above are tricky. It’s easy to label heroin use as numbing yourself; it can be a little more problematic with food or work. We need to eat. We need to work. Does that mean that we “need” candy bars? No. Do we “need” to tweet about our 9-to-5 jobs on Sunday evenings? Probably not.  

What does all this numbing cost us? There can be a financial cost but there’s a good chance that the emotional and spiritual cost will be higher. An evening spent glued to the tv or computer is an evening of not interacting with other human beings. A weekend spent working is a weekend not spent with your child. Or spouse. Or friends. And then there is the poison of secrets. “Don’t tell my husband about my shopping spree!” “Don’t tell my wife about happy hour.”  Now avoiding pain has led to causing it.

How do we step off this merry-go-round? By waking up. Even if it’s just a little at a time, we wake up and feel life as it really is. Yes, there will be downs but there will also be breathtaking ups. The sun follows the clouds as surely as day follows nights. You don’t have to be perfect to have a great life. And you can have a hot fudge sundae. Take it from me, it tastes even better when the IRS is not at your door.

If you’re not sure how to start, try a practice like yoga or meditation. They’re both excellent ways to reconnect with yourself and feel life in the present moment, even if it’s only for a moment. With practice, you’ll find yourself stringing those moments together into a vibrant, soul-filled life.

What’s your favorite way to wake up?

Sparkle Plenty

Have you ever looked at something and thought, “Nah, I don’t need to do that.” That was my initial reaction to Project 333. After all, I don’t have a big wardrobe to start with. How could limiting my clothing choices to 33 items for three months help at all?

Silly me.

When I started this in the spring, the first thing I did was toss out the ratty, worn out clothes. It was a little embarrassing just how much of that there was. Then I pulled out the stuff I had never, ever worn. Suddenly my closet held not just a small wardrobe but a wardrobe of clothes that I actually wore, that I wasn’t worried about being seen in public in, that made me feel more me.

The area I found most challenging was reducing the jewelry options. I love jewelry! I love the flash of metals and the sparkle of cut stones, even if they’re not real gems. But seriously, how many pairs of silver earrings does a women need to sort through every morning? I kept out a silver necklace, a gold one, and gold and silver (okay, two pairs of silver) earrings. I am amazed at how much time this frees up every morning! I’m slightly horrified at how much other jewelry I have and do. not. miss. I need to find new homes for it because I’m sure it would delight someone else.

As the new season approaches, I have a little shopping to do. I’ve noticed a couple of holes that I’d like to fill when I find the right pieces. There’s no rush. I have way more than three months to do this. That’s what I love the most, the intentionality of the process. Now my wardrobe isn’t small because I couldn’t be bothered to shop, now it’s small because I know what I really need.

What about you? Have you ever experimented with a capsule wardrobe? What was your favorite part? And what challenged you the most?

If you’re interested in trying this yourself and finding way more free time in your morning but need some ideas to get started, check out The Project 333 Dress With Less course. Courtney Carver has this way of making things so very simple. Sign up from here and I’ll even make a little money. I just won’t spend it on jewelry!

The Geography of Sunburn

I use sunscreen every day. Religiously. So how did I get my first sunburn in years last week? By not putting sunscreen on all exposed skin, specifically my shoulders. The really puzzling part was why I was more burned on my left shoulder than my right shoulder. What the heck?! Then I realized that while gardening, I had been facing  the front of my house/west so my left shoulder got the southern exposure, aka, extra crispy.

As I shook my head at my own carelessness, I remembered a conversation with a dermatologist years ago, when I was fretting over sun damage on my face, which I declared “too big to be a freckle.” “Why?” he asked. Why indeed? When I went on to announce my plans to always wear sunscreen and a hat he interrupted with “and never leave your house. Listen, just do the best you can. Don’t make yourself crazy with this stuff.” That got my attention. It really would be crazy to stay indoors forever for fear of the sun.

It’s too easy in our wired world to never leave the house or office, to lose touch with basics like the angle of the sun and the feel of the earth between our fingers. That kind of disconnect not only robs us of glorious experiences but also makes it easier to mistreat the environment. “Who cares what it’s like outside? I have air conditioning and a water filter!” When you’re in touch with the natural world, even the world of a single tree, it’s harder to justify not recycling or driving a gas guzzler.

I have my things that I like to do outside– walk, hike, play with the dog, swim, and even garden now, all things that move my body, ease my mind, and soothe my soul. I bet you do too. Let’s make a pact to go play outside more often, not less.

Just remember to put on your sunscreen.

No News Is Good News

I did an experiment last week. No, nothing involving test tubes or beakers. Instead, I experimented with not watching the news right before I went to bed.

This is a long-time habit of mine so it’s probably not surprising that the first couple of nights I got a little twitchy when news time rolled around and I wasn’t watching. To distract myself, I went to bed a little earlier and read. Wow, what a treat that was! I love to read but I don’t always make the time for it so this felt quite luxurious. On the nights I didn’t read, I spent a little extra time petting my dog, Henry. He loved it. There’s never enough ear scritching for him. The compromise nights were when I had a book in one hand and was petting the dog with the other. Bliss all around!

The funny thing about bliss is that it’s a whole lot easier to feel when you’re not being bombarded by images of bad news. It’s not like skipping the late news means that I don’t know what’s going on in the world. I still do read, listen to, and watch news stories. Just not right before I go to bed. That makes it easier to fall asleep and then stay asleep without dreaming about crime, wars, or natural disasters. (Although that dream I had about going to the prom might count as a natural disaster!) It’s definitely a much gentler way to end the day. I like it so much that I’m going to not only continue the no news before bed practice, but I’m also going to experiment with turning off other electronics earlier in the evening, things like the computer and smart phone.

Do you have any experience with turning off your electronics early in the evening? Does setting a particular time, like digital Quiet Hours, work? Please share any tips you have. Something tells me that this could be a little more challenging for me than no news.

 

Just Relax Already

I don’t know about you but being told to relax causes me to clench my jaw, grit my teeth, and generally do the exact opposite of relaxing. And yet relaxing is one of the healthiest things we can do.

In yoga, I remind my students to relax into the pose. That generally includes things like softening the muscles so it’s not a struggle and deepening the breath. It also includes releasing the holding in the mind, the striving to be perfect that makes everything so hard. On the yoga mat, no one fights relaxing; it’s often a big reason why they’re there.

Breath, muscles, and mind–three areas of potential relaxation off the mat as well. The possible applications off the mat are endless. For example, the next time you’re hunched over your keyboard, typing like a crazy person, frustrated with one typo after another, try this. First, sit up and take a deep breath, so deep that your belly can expand like a balloon (this is when you find out if your waistband and belt are really your friends). As you slowly let it out, take your fingers off the keys and stretch. Wiggle your fingers around a bit too. And then remind yourself that it’s okay not be perfect. We’re humans and humans make mistakes. I’m all for proofreading and fixing typos but it doesn’t have to be an exercise in crazy making. When you return to your work after your micro-break, notice how you feel. Are you still a knot? Or have you relaxed a tiny bit?

It doesn’t just have to be when you’re working either. How do you build relaxing into your day?

Doing the Detox Dance

Last month, I had a migraine that lasted 10 days. Ten. Days. Shortly after it ended, I attended a lecture by Dr. Mark Pettus. His talk on the Origins of Health covered everything from epigenetics to inflammation. Migraines are caused by inflammation so when he advocated an anti-inflammatory diet, I was inspired. Re-inspired really. I’ve used anti-inflammatory diets in the past to great success. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me this time. Maybe it was because my head hurt.

The lecture was on a Thursday evening. I came home and cleared all the grains, dairy, soy, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc.) and, gasp, sugar out of my house and then went grocery shopping so that by Sunday morning I was ready to go. Sunday was not a perfect day, as it included cupcakes at my nephew’s birthday party, but apparently I cut out enough that by Sunday evening I was craving, of all things, beef jerky. I don’t even like the stuff!

Monday I was much more with the program and did not feel great. I took this as a sign that all the toxins were leaving my system. I drank lots of fluids and none of my frenemy, Coca Cola. Victory!

By Tuesday the cravings were gone. It’s Friday now and the cravings are still gone and I feel good. Without cravings, I’ve been able to tell when I am authentically hungry and eat accordingly. Something tells me this will be good for my waistline as well!

As a bonus, my joints already hurt less too. I’m excited. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What about you? Do you have any foods that hurt instead of help?