Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A few things to inspire NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

 I love New Year's Resolutions.  It's fun to set goals and even more fun to meet them, the trick is to make your resolutions attainable.  And I think it really helps to make it fun.  Treat yourself to some new yoga pants or some nice gear to compliment your goal.  If you are trying to be more organized, get some nice bamboo organizers, make sure you have the tools to see it through.

Every year the resolution I hear most about  is to improve eating habits.  I do NOT recommend going on a "diet".  If you are going to refine what you eat to be healthier---great.  But don't torture yourself.  It has to be a lifestyle change and it has to be enjoyable or it probably won't take.
Enter APPETITE FOR REDUCTION, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  I have all her books and have relied on them for my baking needs (scones, cupcakes, muffins, cake...after all that we needed her recent effort).  For a while I was baking all the time because I was having so much fun with her books and I really appreciated not having to veganize conventional recipes.  She has done a lot for dispelling the myth that vegan food equals rabbit food or that it's not satisfying.

APPETITE is just as fun--look at the sassy cover.  As with her other books, I love the little shadow box tips and the way she anticipates the readers needs.  The book includes gluten free and soy free recipes immediately identifiable by icons. The tone is conversational and often humorous and the book is not just about leaner recipes.  Appetite refers also to environmental impact, animal cruelty and your bank account. 

If one of your goals is to have a calmer 2011, or to get in the habit of  mediating, there are tools for this as well.  Time factors heavily in meditation.  That temptation to wonder how long you've been sitting there, the urge to peek over at the clock..this is distracting!  And sort of the opposite of meditating.  This MEDITATION TIMER from Sage Meditation is a nice solution for this.  You set the time you want your meditation to last from five to sixty minutes, and a pleasing gong sound goes off at the start and at the end, allowing you to slowly come out of your meditation.  You can hear what it sounds like on the website. My five year old loves this--we have started with the five minute increment which is actually quite great for a child--and he enjoys the ritual.  *I like Sage Meditation's offerings and plan to become an affiliate in 2011.

Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally
LIFE IS A VERB: 37 DAYS TO WAKE UP, BE MINDFUL, AND LIVE INTENTIONALLY would be a fun way to start the new year. As the title indicates, there are 37 creative and fun exercises to live intentionally.  I love the ephemera-type multi media artwork and short little stories that inspire. 

Bosu Balance Trainer Home Version
I think this is a good thing to have for at-home fitness, particularly for small spaces.  It  works great as an alternative to the mini trampolines and large fitness balls.  It works your core and is fun at the same time.  My five year old got very excited about it and enjoyed the dvds that come with it.  Of course he's too small for it, but at our house, anything that helps expend that excess winter energy in a safe way (it worked for us) is welcome.  I think it's fun too, and appreciate that it is multifunctional. 

A Year in Art: The Activity BookA Year In Art: The Activity Book is fabulous for art lovers with kids.  The book's format is to introduce a new work of art to your child each day of the year.  There are little exercises and spaces to color or draw and learn about different artists and movements.  My little one loves this book almost as much as I do.  The cat on the cover is fuzzy, making it instantly enticing to little ones, although I think I would have wanted this book even if I didn't have a child.
Manduka BlackMatPRO 85-Inch Yoga and Pilates Mat 
If yoga is on your list for the new year, consider treating yourself to  Manduka's Black Mat ProYou can't go wrong with anything from Manduka, I love all their stuff and find it inspiring to practice with such beautiful and functional gear.  This is the nicest mat I've ever used and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.  

To keep all your yoga or meditation equipment contained, this extra large Yoga Pro Duffle bag from HUGGER MUGGER.  It's big enough to hold at least two yoga mats, small yoga balls, blocks, straps, etc.  It's also big enough to house your meditation cushions.  It converts into a backpack for easy transport.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas

Just the word solstice conjures up feelings of reverence in me.  Astronomically, solstice is when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator.  This occurs twice a year, once in the summer and once in the winter.  This winter, it was Tuesday.  Winter is officially here.  For me, solstice has a more emotional and sentimental connotation.  Winter fills me with wonder, particularly snowy winters.  It's a good feeling to be in touch with our natural world and winter does that for me in its own unique way.  I love acknowledging the different seasons and the beauty they hold.   Thank you for sharing the seasons with me my wonderful readers!  I wish you all the magic of winter and a beautiful cozy Christmas filled with love.

Image Credit:  mikeancient

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last Minute Gifts--Books!

Books make wonderful last minute gifts--they make wonderful gifts period, but in a pinch, you can go to your local bookstore and pretty much cover everyone on your list in one fell swoop.
Kansha: Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions  
KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions, by Andoh is a beautiful coffee table cookbook if you know what I mean.  The photographs are gorgeous and tantalizing. It wasn't as easy as I thought finding vegan food in Japan, not in restaurants anyway.  I wish I'd had this before and after my trip to stretch out the experience (food is so key) and give me more insight to the culture.  There are not a ton of authentic Japanese vegan cookbooks out there, especially not with color photos.  This would be a lovely gift for anyone who likes to cook, but particularly for the vegetarians/vegans in your life.
Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book
For kids of any age, DOODLES: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book by Taro Gomi is a big thick book filled with inspiration for coloring outside the lines.  "Here is a tree--make leaves," is the kind of thing you find within.  Fabulous! 

Charlie and Lola: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice SkatesCharlie and Lola are absolutely and completely wonderful and they have a new book perfect for winter.  I REALLY REALLY NEED ACTUAL ICE SKATES finds Lola in a new predicament of wanting new skates and having to learn something that's a lot harder than she thought.  It's supposed to be for kids 4-8, but I will forever love Charlie and Lola.  

Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the HeartFor the person who likes to take pictures or just got a new camera, EXPRESSIVE PHOTOGRAPHY: THE SHUTTER SISTERS' GUIDE TO SHOOTING FROM THE HEART is a collection of photographic techniques and ideas from a group of women who call themselves The Shutter Sisters.  Check out their cool website to get a feel for their style.  I love the life-infused tone and hearing different approaches to this accessible art form.  Why not go the extra step and turn your photography more into art than chronicles? 
Creative Is a Verb: If You're Alive, You're Creative
CREATIVE IS A VERB: IF YOU'RE ALIVE, YOU'RE CREATIVE is great for those whose creativity is bubbling under the surface and want to explore that side of themselves.   Or it's just plain fun for people who live and think creatively to begin with.  The book is filled with cool illustrations, inspiration, and ideas and has an ephemera vibe.

KEEN ALASKA BOOT (Still Available for Christmas!)

Need an awesome last minute gift?  It doesn't get much more last minute than this for online shopping--Zappos.  You can still get it by Christmas Eve if you order today by 1:00.  How about a pair of cozy winter boots?

KEEN is one of my favorite shoe companies, I love that they use recycled materials, that they are socially and environmentally conscious and that they make good looking quality footwear that lasts.  I'm not a person with a closet full of shoes, in fact I pretty much have just one pair for each type of weather/activity and that's it.  Keen suits my minimalist approach and a good third of my shoes are Keen.  I've had a pair of their boots for about seven years that I've put mega mileage on and they are not even half way through their life span.  This is one of the things I look for in footwear--longevity.  Yes I want my shoes to look cute, but they have to function.  They have to be super comfortable because I walk so much, and the tread has to last.

I don't know what is going on with me this winter but I just can't seem to get warm.  My feet especially, they're freezing, even with double layers of socks.  It is a colder season than usual, and supposedly it's going to get much colder with La Nina.  I say bring it on, I love cold weather and I love the snow, as long as I have the right gear.  Enter the KEEN Alaska Boot.

These Alaska boots are both cool looking and functional in the cold.  You don't need that peripheral pair of "snow boots" that you take off once you get out of the cold and switch into your more fashionable boots.   These may not be everyone's idea of fashion, but they look super cute with skinny jeans and they are not too hot to wear indoors.

They felt a little stiff at first, but they softened up after wearing them in the house for short break-in period.  They have great traction for snow and are easy to get on and off with that toggle and loops to hang on to.  Keens tend to run a half size small, so order up.   Give a functional gift that will keep your loved one warm, or treat yourself!  Find them HERE.

*note to my vegan readers:  While I am not a full on vegan, I try to always choose the most animal friendly option.  I am consistently torn as to which is the more eco and less cruel choice in terms of my shoes.  Are a pair of vegan boots (which--I've yet to find a functional pair for winter purposes) that are made with non biodegradable often toxic materials that are not eco friendly and are made with the industrial destruction of wildlife any better than a pair made with leather which is an animal byproduct.  For me right now, one pair of leather boots, particularly from a company like Keen or Patagonia which does so much environmental work is preferable to several pairs of vegan boots that didn't work out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meditation for Children

Kids like to meditate.  Does that sound crazy?  I was skeptical, but I read Baby Buddhas(now out of print) and realized that not only is it super good for children to meditate, but that they are totally open to it and can actually sit.  Meditation helps kids learn to focus their energy, self soothe and calm, improve concentration, build self esteem, and feel more at peace in the world.  When I showed my five year old the photos in the book and introduced the concept, he couldn't wait to get started.  And he really does it.  Now it's only for about five minutes at a time so far, but that's a great starting point.  What a wonderful habit to get into at an early age. And what a great way to start the new year.

Look at these cool children's meditation cushions from Still Sitting.  The round ones are called Zafus and they are placed on top of the rectangular Zabuton.  They are filled with eco friendly kapok, come in several different colors and patterns, and the zafus have carry handles.  The child sits on the zafu with her legs crossed on the zabuton.  This makes it more comfortable and helps achieve the correct posture. These cushions and many other meditation supplies at Sitting Still are lovingly created by its founders, Koshin Christopher Cain and Soshin Lidunn Cain. who began Sitting Still while establishing the Puget Sound Zen Center.  I think this set would be wonderful for every child to have at their disposal.  My son and I have started a tradition of meditating together and it is wonderfully bonding.  These cushions make it more special and more of a ritual, and they also make it easier to sit longer.  Sitting Still is having a sale right now so be sure to check out their beautiful site.  Highly recommended!
Peaceful Piggy Meditation (Albert Whitman Prairie Books)
I always think it's a nice idea to have books that accompany your interests.  Peaceful Piggy Meditation is a great book to get kids excited about meditation.  The piggy sits on his own zafu and zabuton and the book outlines all the ways meditation is beneficial with really sweet illustrations.
Moody Cow MeditatesMoody Cow Meditates is about a very frustrated little cow who's having a bad day.  He learns how to get a handle on his anger when grandfather cow teaches him how manage his feelings through meditation.  It's an empowering book for kids that provides a tool for dealing with difficult situations and the emotions they bring out. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Manduka: Beautiful, Sexy, Eco Friendly.

Manduka has the most wonderful yoga gear I know of--it's sexy, uber functional and eco friendly.  It's not only very aesthetically pleasing, it's beautifully functional. Look at this gorgeous CLASSIC PRO PACKAGE.  I wasn't sure there would be that big of a difference between the regular eco friendly yoga mats I've been using (including Manduka's) and this Black Mat Pro, but boy is there.  You feel like you have a solid foundation under you.  It gives you extra comfort and it's just the right size.  This mat is guaranteed for life, so you don't have to worry about your investment. 

The MatSak is also beautiful, fitting the Pro mat perfectly and easily, there's no struggling at all.  The color is a deep soothing sexy charcoal and the hardware is gunmetal and it has a convenient  handle on either end as well as the longer strap.  It has ventilation grommets and extra pockets for towels, cell phones, snacks, or whatever you want to put in there and the bag is so well made I seriously doubt you would ever need another one.  It's by far the nicest mat bag I've ever seen in terms of both function and looks. 

This package also comes with the eQua Mat Towel which provides a slip resistant surface when placed over your mat.  It's super absorbent, butter soft and good looking with its contrast border stitching. 

Bolsters don't come with this particular set, but I love their rectangular airCORE Bolster.  It's made from recycled content and cotton and has a removable machine washable cover.  There's a handle on the end and this bolster is designed to be considerably more lightweight than other bolsters of its size. 

There is still time to get Manduka gear for a Christmas present through Amazon, or, treat yourself.  It's perfect timing to get you inspired for a new year filled with gratifying yoga practice.  Manduka is one of those rare companies on a mission to make the world healthier and more beautiful.  Free shipping through December on Manduka's website.  Go ahead and do it, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eco Calendars for the New Year

I love to start the year with a fresh new calendar.  I have two fabulous finds to get you going. Pomegranate's ECOlogical Engagement Calendar, designed by Chris Hardman is brilliant.  This calendar helps to keep us more in the moment and in tune with the natural world around us. There is so much more to life and time than the work week and this calendar really highlights that.  Lunar cycles, habits of animals during the year, seasonal changes, it's all here and it's gorgeous.  Comes in a wall version as well.

The Charley Harper 2011 Calendar features 12 of Harper's fabulous nature images.  I especially love the manatee and the otter and almost want to rip them out and frame them.    I enjoy Charlie Harper's graphic take on the animal kingdom.  The images are whimsical and almost seem like affectionate portrayals.  Both calendars are printed on recycled paper with soy ink.