Sunday, April 29, 2012

tiny devotions mala bead giveaway

I am thrilled to start this sunny Sunday with one of the most exciting giveaways yet here on Barefoot and Frolicking. May I present to you a gorgeous mala bead giveaway courtesy of Tiny Devotions

Tiny Devotions is a London, Ontario based company who specialize in designer mala beads, malas, and prayer beads for yoga and meditation enthusiasts. Their mission is "to inspire by sharing our love of mala beads." These gorgeous hand-made creations are quickly becoming part of every yogini's wardrobe and yoga practice, and I often see many a mala bead adorned around the necks of my fellow yoga enthusiasts.

Their cute marketing campaigns are also inspiring; the Tiny Devotions girl is described as "free spirited and connected but is also driven to leave her mark on the world while turning heads as she does it [...] she creates her own path, sets daring goals, always follows her intuition and does not sweat the small things (she sees the bigger picture at all times)."

Words to live by (I bet she also is barefoot and frolicking through life too!):

For this giveaway, one lucky winner will receive an exquisite Sand and Ocean Mala which is crafted with turquoise and authentic sandalwood and represents communication, healing, balance (retail price: $127.00). 

To enter, describe the ways in which these mala beads will compliment your yoga and/or meditation practice, or why you are a "Tiny Devotions" girl.

Post your entry in the comments section of this blog post. For additional entries, you can choose from the following (these additional entries are optional but increase your chances of winning):

1. Follow Barefoot and Frolicking with Google Friend Connect (see sidebar)
2. Like Barefoot and Frolicking on Facebook
3. Like Tiny Devotions on Facebook
4. Follow Barefoot and Frolicking on Twitter
5. Follow Tiny Devotions on Twitter.

Remember to mention each of the additional entries you choose in a separate entry in the comment section of this blog post.

The giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only and runs from Sunday, April 29th until Saturday, May 5th at 12pm (EST). The winner will be selected at random using a number generator.

For more information on Tiny Devotions and their beautiful mala bead creations, visit their website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Happy Giveaway - I look forward to reading your entries!

Friday, April 27, 2012

frolicking friday inspiration: change

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance."
- Alan Watts

Thursday, April 26, 2012

yoga graduation dinner at rise above

Thank you for all of your congratulations about our yoga teacher training on Facebook and Twitter! I highly recommend anyone embark on a yoga teacher training program, not only if they have a passion to teach yoga, but also if they want to deepen their own practice and understanding of the tradition and cultivate inner stillness and self-awareness. I assure you it will be a life-changing experience.

Our graduation ceremony was a vibrant celebration complete with family, friends, music, love, and flowers. Above are the fantastic teachers in the Yoga By Sarah teacher training program; Amanda, Allison, Tony Murdock, Sarah, and Angela.

After the ceremony, we headed to Rise Above for our graduation dinner. I have written about Rise Above (the only vegan restaurant in Niagara) here on the blog before; since my last post, they have changed locations and expanded from a bakery to a larger restaurant.

We were in for quite the dining experience; Kyle and his staff went above and beyond what we could have desired for our celebration dinner - a five course, fine dining vegan experience (completely allergen free and with three raw options).

For our first course, we started with a Vanilla Pear and Berry Puree. This was an interesting starter; a raw and chilled berry soup with the perfect balance of sweetness and vanilla.

Our second course was a fantastic Potato Ravioli with Onion and Smoked Pepper on Cashew Cream. These 'ravioli' were made out of pan-fried, thinly sliced potato, and I marveled in the unique creativity behind this dish.The cashew cream was a perfect compliment to the steamed greens and ravioli filling.

The third course was a raw Beet and Strawberries with Coriander and Lemon Maple Dressing; I had never thought to combine beets and berries in a salad like this before - a winning combination if you ask me (I love beets and berries!). The coriander was also a nice compliment to the subtle flavours in the lemon maple dressing.

The fourth course was a Spring Vegetable Ragout with White Bean Cassoulet and Parsley Salad; a hearty warmed dish that won everybody over. I was very impressed with the flavours and texture of the ragout and cassoulet together.

And finally, dessert. Here, we were treated to a Fig and Date Tart with Custard and Coconut Cream. This was a very tasty treat, but I had hoped for a little more creativity in the presentation. I really enjoyed the crust (interesting preparation - it was quite thin, almost like dried fruit leather) and coconut cream, but felt the banana filling and garnish could have been complimented better with a drizzle of chocolate sauce or sifted cacao powder on the plate - my only slight comment on an otherwise phenomenal meal.

Overall, this was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had, and our gathering at Rise Above was a beautiful way to end an already beautiful day. Some of us were sad to say goodbye, but were reminded of Sarah's quote from earlier in the day:

"Everything that has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with that, and all will be well" - Buddha.  

Thank you again to everyone who enriched my life during the past few months in our teacher training program - I will never forget the time and transformations we shared together. Namaste my friends.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

yoga teacher training - the power of community

Now, this post may come as as bit of a surprise to some of you, while others were with me every step of the way; for the past eight months, I embarked on a powerful experience of personal development and self-awareness in the form of a 200-hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program.

The 2012 Yogi and Yogini Graduates from Yoga By Sarah
Photo by Mike Cheliak.

Why do I 'yoga'? Well, my connection to yoga is long withstanding: I was initially drawn to the tradition through my Beatle fandom in my teens (their association with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and transcendental meditation in the late 1960s helped to further introduce yoga and meditation to Western culture).

From my very first Iyengar class at the tender age of 16, I instantly knew that yoga was for me. By practicing asanas, I soon learned that yoga was a safe space for me to develop personal awareness and transformation. In different asanas, I was able to learn more about my physical and mental limitations and how they efffected not only my yoga practice but daily life. I find that yoga has helped me tremendously when dealing with stress and anxiety, and I feel truly 'home', centred, and focused when I am practicing on my mat. I also find that yoga is an amazing compliment to a plant-based, high raw lifestyle and diet.

Throughout my teens, I would spend hours reading up on the history and philosophy of yoga to gain a deeper understanding of this ancient Indian practice. But it wasn't until the past year or so that I become more interested in yoga through hot Vinyasa Flow classes (my favourite) and committed to deepening my practice through a teacher training program. My intention with the program was to gain more perspective on how I can share my passion for yoga through teaching, and also learn the different ways in which yoga can be used as a healing and transformative tool for social change and awareness.

The curriculum for the yoga teacher training (which is recognized by the Yoga Alliance) was an intense eight-month program that involved, amongst other components, reading and written assignments related to the philosophy and history of yoga; different types of breathing and meditation; Sanskrit; Vinyasa Flow (hot and non hot) and Hatha yoga, how to sequence and teach classes; personal development and leadership skills; instruction in asana poses and adjustments; and human anatomy instruction.

Laughing and smiling during one of our lunch breaks

While there are so many memories and moments I treasure, here are some of the main experiences that helped to deepen my understanding of yoga throughout the teacher training program:

1. The power of community: throughout the past eight months, my fellow YTT's (fourteen in total) and teachers showed me the supporting, loving power of community. I am indebted to the compassion, strength, connection, kindness, fun, and love we all shared, and am so grateful to have spent the past eight transformative months with new lifelong friends. Our graduation from the program a little over a week ago was bittersweet, but we are all looking forward to the next phase of our yoga journeys.

2. Leave your ego at the door: yoga is much more than mastering certain asanas; rather than basing the practice on ego achievements, ones perspective should be geared more towards yoga as union, life, meditation, spiritual connection, service to others, community, spirituality, and yoga as the essence of life.

3. "Feel the fear and do it anyway": this quote by Susan Jeffers was a little 'in' joke in our program. Not only did we feel the fear with certain yoga poses, but we also extended this as a metaphor for life; simply feel the fear but move past it to embrace what you truly seek to accomplish in life. By feeling the fear in my yoga practice, I was able to accomplish wheel, handstands, forearm handstands, and even side crow for the very first time, a feat I never thought I would acheive. Now, I love practicing wheel and forearm handstands - they are some of my favourite poses!

4. We are brought to yoga for many different reasons: above all else, yoga is a powerful tool for healing. However, we all come to yoga for many different reasons, be it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. This is important to keep in mind when teaching yoga as well.

5. The human body is a complex and fascinating creation: by practicing asanas, you quickly realize your own physical possibilities and limitations. While these can certainly be improved upon through practice, everyone is unique with their own physical build and differences. For some, arm balances are a simple feat, while others are simply not built to balance that way. Sometimes certain poses are just not possible, and accepting this is just as perfect as practicing them.

You've come a long way, baby: practicing and embracing the art of 'wheel' pose

Committing to this yoga teacher training program is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. I can't imagine being the person I am now, let alone a Certified Yoga Teacher, without having gone through this incredible life changing experience. For more information on the fantastic yoga teacher training program I enrolled in, please visit Yoga By Sarah.

Stay tuned for my next blog post: a review of our celebration dinner, a five course fine dining vegan experience at Rise Above. You won't want to miss it!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

smoothie saturday: my goodness, green goddess smoothie

Lately, I've been experimenting with different flavour combinations and ingredients in my trusted green smoothies. In fact, I've become quite taken with grapefruit, romaine, and cucumber as my go-to green smoothie base - not the most traditional smoothie ingredients, but as they say, don't knock it til you try it!

These hydrating ingredients tend to make my smoothies more like liquid nutrition powerhouses rather than a thicker smoothie consistency. Superfoods also take the detoxifying level up a notch; my favourites are spirulina, he shou wu (a traditional Chinese herb with incredible health benefits), and maca. A little vanilla or regular flavoured stevia goes a long way to taking the bitter edge away from the grapefruit.

This smoothie is for all of the green smoothie goddesses out there who sip on their green smoothie creations in the early hours of the morning like I do, whiling away those first few hours of the day with some green gorgeousness:

My Goodness, Green Goddess Smoothie
Serves 1-2

1 large pink or red grapefruit, peeled
1/2 head romaine
1/2 large cucumber
1 - 1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp spirulina
1 tbsp barley greens powder (optional)
1 tsp he shou wu (optional)
1/2 tsp maca
10 drops vanilla stevia (increase or decrease as desired)
1/2 tsp cinnamon + dash on top

Blend ingredients together in a high speed blender (I use a Vitamix) until smooth. Top with cinnamon and your choice of superfoods (goji berries and bee pollen are always fabulous!).

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

product review - dandy blend

Spring is certainly in bloom: the weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming, especially dandelions. What better time of year to delight in the beautifying health benefits of dandelion. The fine folks at Dandy Blend recently sent me some samples of their caffeine-free, gluten-free, non-gmo coffee substitute product.

Dandy Blend is an instant herbal beverage made from dandelion, roasted chicory and beetroot, barley and rye, all of which are health promoting ingredients. An excellent coffee substitute, Dandy Blend can help to curve caffeine cravings brought on by coffee consumption.

The taste is similar to coffee, but less acidic and the consistency is 'thinner' than regular coffee. I would gladly sip on some Dandy Blend over a cup of coffee any day. In fact, I've been sipping on mugs of this delightful dandelion drink all week long!

You can even get creative with your coffee alternative: try blending your next detoxifying dandelion elixir with some almond mylk for an inventive and frothy Dandy latte.

Dandy Latte
Serves 1

1 cup boiling water
1 tsp Dandy Blend
1/2 cup homemade almond mylk
5-8 drops stevia (optional)

Blend brewed Dandy Blend mixture in a high-speed blender (I use a Vitamix) until froth appears from the blended almond mylk. Serve in your most delightful mug and sip while watching the dandelions grow outside.

For more information on Dandy Blend, visit their Facebook page or website. For Canadian distributors of Dandy Blend, check out Organic Garage, Upaya Naturals, and Meghan Telpner.

"blow away dandelion..."

Friday, April 13, 2012

frolicking friday inspiration: adventure

 “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness to limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind - and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you.”

- Mark Jenkins.

Where has adventure taken you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

banana cacao-mint soft serve

It's Tuesday and something sweet is just calling my name. What is a girl to do? Desperate times call for desperate measures - enter banana soft serve, that old, faithful, and easy to prepare raw dessert. Perfect for breakfast, a snack, or dessert, banana soft serve is one of the easiest raw desserts to prepare with a few simple ingredients.

In the past, I've made different variations of banana soft serve for friends, family, and in my cooking classes, and everyone is surprised at how creamy and decadent processed, frozen bananas and some simple superfoods and spices can be. Another healthy dessert option brought to you by Mother Nature.

Freezing bananas ahead of time will keep you well-stocked for those soft-serve cravings that might just strike at all hours of the day and night. This recipe uses bananas, cacao powder, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla, and some fresh mint to create a luscious palette of cooling flavours that will kick those taste buds into simple dessert heaven.

Banana Cacao-Mint Soft Serve
Serves 1-2

2-3 large, frozen bananas, chopped
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1-2 tbsp fresh, chopped mint
a few mint sprigs for garnish

Place the ingredients in your food processor. Using the 's' blade, process the mixture until it starts to resemble an ice cream, or soft serve, consistency. Scoop out the desired amount and serve in a dish of your choice, topped with a sprig of mint, sprinkle of cacao or cinnamon, or even some cacao nibs. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your healthy dessert, my friends.

For more soft-serve stylings, you can check out my other post on banana ice cream here. Go bananas for banana soft-serve!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

raw food, mala beads, and psychic readings at the Toronto Yoga Conference

This past weekend, I attended the 2012 Yoga Conference, held this year in Toronto, with my yoga friends Nancy and Sarah. The Yoga Conference is an annual event that offers a combination of yoga workshops and classes with highly specialized and internationally recognized yoga instructors, along with a trade show component made up of vendors selling yoga-related wares.

It was here that many a mala bead could be found, crystals could be adorned around ones neck, and meditation guides could be purchased around ever corner. The show also featured the "Yoga Garden," a space in the middle of the Convention Centre where rotating instructors taught 'free' classes that didn't require pre-registration. 

While we didn't take part in the classes, we couldn't help but be inspired by the many different sequences and classes that were going on around us (I also had a small celebrity moment when I spotted Seane Corn walking amongst the throngs of eventgoers). 

I was also pleased to see that there was a raw food component to the conference. Different raw food vendors, such as GiddyYoyo and Girlnola were there, as were some delicious raw vegan food options.

For lunch, I purchased a delicious House Salad with Avocado Lemon Vinaigrette and a Green Juice (parsley, lemon, celery, cucumber) with chlorella from a raw food vendor whose name escapes me (but I remembered them from a David Wolfe event hosted by Toronto Sprouts in December 2009). Their food and service was phenomenal; a little bit of love and kindness was present in each.

A close-up of the salad below: so many sumptuous sprouts (broccoli, sunflower, you name it) atop a bed of greens, sprinkled with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, walnuts, and dried cranberries.

If you can believe it, we spent the majority of our time (and money) having a psychic reading from a psychic who did our Tarot cards, read our palms, and gave a general reading. I have to admit, my reading was very accurate and I was quite impressed and enthralled. Our little psychic excursion was a definite highlight for me (who would have thought this would happen at a yoga show - everything is interconnected!).

To round off the evening, we headed to Fresh on Spadina for an evening meal, complete with candleight (the lights were turned off for Earth Hour - a special gesture for Mama Earth).

Sarah and I both ordered the Tangled Thai, which was phenomenal; a combination of spiralized carrots, shredded beets, jicama, napa cabbage, chopped peanuts, cilantro, and cucumber.

The dish was topped with their signature Fresh Salad Topper (puffed quinoa, goji berries, currants, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds and sea salt). I added some grilled tempeh (on a bit of a tempeh kick lately - will have a recipe to share soon) and sunflower sprouts to round out the meal.

Nancy ordered the Raw Zucchini Noodles with Sundried Tomatoes, Basil Pesto, and Kale Chips. This dish was divine; I think it is a new addition to the menu, as I'm sure I would have ordered it during one of my many trips to Fresh in the past. Just look at that presentation. Oh, and the flavours were out of this world.

More Pad Thai perfection:

Good food, great friends, and fun, positive vibes at the yoga conference - a superb weekend if you ask me. Next year, I will have to remember to sign up for some yoga workshops! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

product review: nunaturals + a chia seed pudding recipe

A few months ago, Nunaturals sent me some samples of their stevia products to review. Suffice to say, I didn't get around to posting my review until now (naughty blogger indeed), but the delay has provided me with a great opportunity to test out some of the products in different recipes.

Based in Portland, Oregon, Nunaturals offers a wide variety of products including stevia sweetener alternatives, baking products, and different supplements. From the many different samples they sent me, I was drawn to the Vanilla flavoured alcohol-free Stevia , the Regular alcohol-free Stevia, and the Cocoa Extract. 

Before Nunaturals contacted me, I had yet to use stevia on a consistent basis, but was aware that stevia was a great low-glycemic, low-calorie sweetener alternative to agave and maple syrup, and also that a little stevia certainly goes a long way (it is a highly concentrated sweetener). There are two different forms that stevia can take when processed: green or white. The latter is the more concentrated, or processed of the two, and as far as I can tell, the products I received are derived from the white processing method.

I've also heard through the health grapevine that stevia can be an acquired taste and that there is sometimes a slight aftertaste depending on the brand. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the stevia from Nunaturals; I found there was little to no aftertaste, and that the stevia tasted great in different recipes.

The Vanilla Stevia is a delightful blend of sweetness and vanilla (one of my favourite scents and flavours). I found this product easy to use for a hint of extra sweetness in my morning green smoothies, raw desserts and chocolates, and also this simple chia seed pudding. Chia seeds are an amazing source of easily digested protein, as well as an excellent calcium source. Combined with the sweetness of vanilla stevia, this is a healthy and satisfying sweet snack or per-workout fuel.

Basic Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 4

1/4-13 cup organic chia seeds
1 cup water (depending on preferred thickness)
1/2 - 1 cup almond mylk (homemade)
10 drops Nunaturals Vanilla or regular Alcohol free flavoured stevia
handful of goji berries (optional)
1 tbsp bee pollen (optional)
dash of cinnamon

Place chia seeds in a jar or small bowl. Combine with water and almond mylk. If using a jar, shake the mixture (with the lid securely fastened of course). Add in the optional goji berries, cinnamon, and bee pollen. Otherwise, cover the mixture and stir, leaving to 'set' in the fridge for at least an hour (note: I find the pudding turns out best when left in the fridge overnight). The pudding should have a thick consistency, as the seeds and liquid will bind together to form a 'gel.' The chia seed pudding will last for at least 1-2 days in the fridge.

So far, I have used the Regular flavoured stevia in similar ways to the vanilla flavoured product; in green smoothies, chia seed puddings, and raw desserts. Same great taste minus the vanilla-flavour. The droppers for these products makes it easy to measure out the amount of stevia desired.

The Cocao Extract is a concentrated cocao extract coupled with stevia; this has made a nice addition to any raw chocolate recipes I might whip up in my kitchen.

Overall, I really enjoyed these products and since testing them out, I have found that I use stevia on a more consistent basis in different recipes that call for a little bit of sweetness and light. For more information on Nunaturals, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.