Cranachan

One of my passions which I have not yet shared via this blog is cooking. I have always loved to create in the kitchen and often experiment with different recipes, tweaking them over time to make them just right for me.

Cranachan was something I first came across in a restaurant and fell in love with – it was yummy!

I tried to recreate it at home and searched the internet for a recipe but didn’t find one that was as nice as what I’d had. It is a Scottish dessert which might explain why I like it so as I have some Scottish heritage many generations back. In the traditional recipes I found the oats are soaked in whiskey but as I don’t like giving alcohol to my children I find them not really family friendly. In the recipe below it is easy to serve the kids dishes up then add whiskey to the grown ups mixture.

On a shopping tour last year I purchased Fresh & Tasty Puddings and Desserts from R&R Publications Marketing Pty Ltd and was overjoyed to find a cranachan recipe within its pages. I have tweaked it a little and the final result is the recipe below, if you try it out let me know what you think or any other changes you make to it.

Cranachan with Raspberries

30gm butter

40gm brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon (this is my addition, not in the original recipe but I find it adds that extra something)

125gm rolled oats (can make up part of this with quinoa flakes as well for added protein)

200gm ricotta cheese (or a mixture of half ricotta and half cream cheese at room temperature)

150 ml thick cream

2 tbsp honey

1-2 tbsp whiskey

250gm raspberries

Heat the oven up to 180c.

Put butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large saucepan and place over a low heat until butter has melted. Stir in the rolled outs then spread evenly over a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Beat the ricotta until smooth then stir through the cream and honey. At this point I serve up the kids bowls then add the whisky to the remaining mixture and place in the adults bowls. If you are not serving to children you can just add the whiskey to the mixture with the honey. I use individual glass bowls as it looks nice but you could make it in one big trifle bowl for a party as well.

Divide the oat mixture onto the top of the ricotta and place the raspberries on top of the oats.

When I first tried this in a restaurant it had more layers so you could make thinner layers of everything if you felt that way inclined. I have also come across suggestions of bringing the different mixtures to the table seperately and allowing everyone to help themselves to portions of each.

You can trickle extra honey on top but I don’t usually bother.

Our family love this dessert, my hubbie has requested it as a weekly menu item but I think he’d get sick of it over time if I did that. My eldest son went shopping with me on the weekend and requested that I buy the makings of cranachan again so it definitely went down well with him.

Enjoy.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

 

 

Tarzan time

Today I am going to share one of my favorite breathing practices – the Tarzan Breath. I have been teaching this quite a lot lately so it is on my mind and in my own practice and as it is great fun as well as having many benefits I thought I’d share it with my readers.

First I’ll cover some of the reasons you might like to try this one out:

1. It helps you to access your inner strength and courage so is great before stressful situations where you might be feeling nervous such as exams, job interviews and so on. (Though I will warn you that it is best to find a private place to practice this one!)

2. It is very beneficial for respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, chest infections or just a bad cough or cold.

3. It is very safe, stimulating, warming and energising.

4. I helps you to let go physically and mentally of any stuff you are carrying around unnecessarily.

5. It is great fun!

Now for the how to…

1. Make soft fists with your hands and keep your wrists loose and relaxed.

2. Breathe into the chest, feeling it expand in all directions.

3. Breathe out through the mouth making an “Aaaaaaaaaaaah” sound as you beat your chest with those loose fists moving them as you do so to cover the whole chest area.

It is that easy, repeat at least three times but you can keep going as many times as feels good. It shouldn’t hurt as your relaxed wrists make the chest beating stimulating rather than painful. Let the breath be as long as comfortable without any straining. When you are done take a few moments to close your eyes and feel the effects.

This practice is based on the chest beating that our close relatives, the gorillas, do when they need to confront someone. It is their way of shifting from a normally shy, laid back and retiring nature into a fiery, confident, don’t mess with me mode. We can use it in exactly the same way to find our inner strength and confidence. Once the event is over make sure you also take the time to relax as this gorilla is doing at Melbourne Zoo.I just love the blissed out look on her face.

Have fun with this.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Love grows…

Last night before class the discussion turned to gardening and it seemed that everyone had either been in the garden over the weekend or planned on doing so. I had planted some asparagus which takes two years  to settle in before you can harvest it but that is a great lesson in patience and I am sure the results will be worthwhile. Once the two years are up you get about twenty years of asparagus so the rewards for my patience will be great. Others in the class had begun a garden for the first time or were planning what they would plant next or had been doing some maintenance on their existing garden.

I feel seasonally that although winter is still very much present the days are lengthening and the sun is shining so we all must have felt the first stirrings of spring and the growth that comes with that season to have been inspired to get our hands dirty and connect with Mother Earth.

We talked about herbs which are an easy thing to grow yourself even if space is limited. I love my herbs from good old flat leafed parsley (much tastier then the curled variety) which self seeds throughout my veggie patch and is allowed free reign when it does so to sage with its lovely textured leaves and mint which runs wild and frequently needs taming. My favorite of all however is rosemary with it’s lovely scent and beautiful blue flowers which are gracing my garden right now as pictured.

I always think of the song about love growing where rosemary goes when I cook with my home grown rosemary, adding home grown love to every meal.

Happy gardening.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

Tennis anyone?

I have just returned from my Friday morning tennis lesson which I look forward to every week. I have never been a really sporty person but when my son started tennis lessons a few years ago and I saw that the coach offerred Ladies Classes  on Friday mornings I thought, why not? It would mean Mitch has someone to practice with and is a great way to meet new people and get some exercise. I haven’t looked back and really enjoy the casual, fun coaching and matches with friends as well as the game itself.

I think a lot of the reason I was never into sports is that I am not naturally competitive. I don’t really care if I win or lose as long as I enjoy myself and I have always been more drawn towards activities where direct competition is not a main part of the game such as gymnastics or circus which I did as a kid and, of course, yoga which I found as an adult. So why do I love tennis so much? Part of it is the relaxed atmosphere of the coach and ladies I play with, part of it is that I see it as a way of improving my game and skills more than beating other people (though to be honest a challenge to beat my husband has become a driving force as well) and part of it is that I get to move and feel and connect body and mind, much as I do with yoga. I confess to using my breathing practices to improve my game and coordination and stretching before and after tennis using some gentle yoga movements so the yoga and tennis combine well and complement eachother.

If you have a particular sport or activity you like to do it is great to think about how yoga can benefit your performance in that area. Yoga has become common practice among professional sportspeople now as the benefits for both physical recovery from injury and improved strength and flexibility and the calming of the mind and breathwork are being realised.

My pre/post tennis routine is here for you to try out. If you don’t play tennis it is still a good warm up or wind down after other physical activities. It is all done from standing as often you are outside where the ground is hard/wet/uneven when you are preparing for sports.

1. Standing lunges – Step one foot forward and bend the knee until it is directly above the ankle. It should be far enough forwards that you feel a stretch in the hamstring of that leg and the front on the opposite thigh. Come up and down  into the lunge with your breath a few times then repeat on the other side.

2. Shoulder  openers – reach one arm straight forwards from the shoulder then, keeping the arm straight bring the elbow towards the opposite shoulder across the chest. Use the opposite hand to support and guide your arm in without forcing until you get a nice opening at the back of the shoulder and through the upper arm. Hold for a few breaths then repeat on the opposite side.

3. Chest opening forward bend – take the feet about hip distance apart or a little wider. Interlock your fingers behind your back. With soft knees fold forwards on an exhalation raising your hands towards the sky as you do so. Relax the head and neck and feel the chest opening as the arms reach upwards. Stay for a few breaths then inhale as you lower the arms, connect with your core and push with the feet to come back to standing.

Hope you enjoy playing with these, if you are involved in a sporting activity it is always worthwhile to be aware of your breath as well.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Catching Up

I had a cup of coffee this morning with a dear friend of mine. We have been unable to sit down and chat for months, during this time we have seen each other briefly for a quick check in and hug but I really missed having a good long relaxed chat with her. How lovely it was to be able to do so this morning – you know when you are with a true friend and you just talk about nothing in particular but afterwards you feel lighter and happier? That is what I experienced this morning. A real sense of sharing our energies and in doing so supporting each other. The good news is that the conditions which were preventing us from catching up more often have resolved themselves so we can now make it a regular activity. Yay!

Sangha is the yogic term for community and it is recognised in yoga that we all need a sense of community and support on our journeys. Though many yoga practices are done solo and we hear about the sages of old sitting in caves and withdrawing from society it is neither healthy or practical in todays day and age to do so. A retreat or time alone can do wonders but coming home is always so grounding for me, I feel as though the benefitsd of leaving are in making me appreciate even more my family and friends.

One of my favorite sanghas is the Australian Breastfeeding Association, a support group I joined as a new mum twelve years ago and with whom I now work as a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor. I joined then, not having a clue what sangha meant, for the social aspect of their meetings, a great place to meet other mums and an outing that was baby friendly. Since then, through my training and volunteer work, I have made some of my dearest friends and received so much support myself in times of need as well as gaining skills and confidence without which I doubt I would be here writing this today.

At SunYoga some of our wonderful students have formed a social club so we can see each other and chat outside of our classes. This has been very successful so far, we’ve had a trip to the movies and some cafes brunches. It seems to have caught on and it a wonderful way to build on the existing friendships within the studio as well as make new ones as more people come along and get involved.

Hope this post inspires you to catch up with a friend or make a new one.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

Triangles

My Friday posts are usually focused on asana or another yoga practice and today I have chosen triangle pose, trikonasana, to explore and discuss. This has at times been one of my least favorite standing poses as there is lots going on with it and it has taken me years to even feel comfortable in the posture. I am still just beginning to feel the benefits of trikonasana and find my own true triangle pose. I am enjoying it now however and finding it has been worth the perseverance.

What I like about trikonasana is that it feels both grounding and uplifting and manages to extend and open my entire body. It gives me a sense of strength through my legs and core and openness through the chest and arms.

What I struggle with in trikonasana is staying present in my whole body, my awareness tends to go to one place or another and I have to really focus on keeping everything working together. This is a great challenge for me and I enjoy taking it up.

My first experiences of trikonasana I was simply making the shape of the pose without actually “getting it”. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a good place to start and over time I have begun to access the benefits the pose offers in increments it has moved more towards truly feeling myself in the pose.

If you are new to trikonasana I recommend going to a yoga class and getting some guidance as it is a strong pose and should not be practiced without warming up first. If you have your own home practice and would like to give it a try here are some hints I have found useful in my own trikonasana practice.

1. Don’t step the feet too wide apart, as a guideline I spread my arms wide and keep the feet narrower than the hands are when extended to the sides,

2. Point the left toes and find a good grounded placement for the right foot where you can comfortably face the long edge of your yoga mat without any discomfort or pressure on the knees or hips.

3. Lift your arms straight out to the sides, reaching with your fingers in opposite directions.

4. Let the torso move to the left while keeping the pelvis, spine and core stable and moving together (this is a bit like the childrens rhyme “I’m a little teapot” when you do the action for tipping the teapot over).

5. Let the left hand come down to rest where it does on the left leg while the right arm lifts and reaches for the sky. You might see pictures of people in trikonasana with their hand on the floor – that is an advanced version of the posture and for many of us putting the hand on the floor loses the stability in the core and spine. You can work towards that by using a block in front of the left foot and resting your hand on it but try not to be caught up in what the pose should look like, it is much better to feel it for yourself.

6. Hold for three to ten breaths then return to standing with an inhalation, rest the arms and repeat to the right side.

I have not included a photo of this pose as it  does tend to make people strive to look like the photo rather than explore the pose themselves. As I said earlier it is a great pose to explore in class with a qualified yoga teacher to guide you in the best variation for your body. As always, if you have any health issues or injuries it is also good to work with a teacher before attempting any practices, especially if they work with the affected area.

While in trikonasana I like to feel the strength in the posture, you have a broad and stable base with the energy moving up both legs into the core. There is a reason the pyramids of Egypt have stood for such a long time – triangles are strong and stable and those are the qualities I like to tune into in my trikonasana practice.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

 

My Great Eight Birthday Boy

Well Rhys’ birthday has come and gone and he is now happily eight years old. We had a lovely day spent with family, lots of smiles and joy and, of course, a birthday cake. I am an amateur cake decorator and in my house when birthday time draws near my children get to pick what they would like for their cake. Rhys requested a Trash Pack Noxious Bee cake, the latest craze in our schools early primary is Trash Packs and his personal favorite is Noxious Bee. I did my best, assisted by the ever helpful Kelsea and this was the result.

I love celebrating birthdays with my children, they are so excited about getting a year older and the changes and excitement that this brings. I don’t know at what stage as adults birthdays become something to dread and many people don’t like to admit how old they are, either to others or themselves, but I have so far not gone down that road myself. I am aware of getting older but prefer to focus on the advantages rather than the disadvantages. I have so much more wisdom now than I did five years ago, or twenty years ago. I am growing and evolving all of the time and I choose to embrace that process rather than deny it. I often wonder what I will know or be like in ten years, what I might come back and tell myself now if I could time travel. I certainly wish I could have done so and given my younger self some advice that I’ve learnt the hard way to avoid suffering but when I reconsider this I think that being told is not the same as learning through experience. Maybe the hard times are needed to bring the lessons home.

When looking at aging I like to embrace Santosha, sometimes translated as acceptance or contentment and one of the niyamas  written about by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. This is translated many ways but I like to think of it as being content with the present moment and recognising that it contains all you need. It might not be perfect, it might even be quite rough and difficult, but things can and will change and for now this is what you are working with.

So next time your birthday comes around think of all you have learnt in the previous year and celebrate with a smile like Rhys did (though you might want to clean the cake off your face first!).

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Viparita Karani

I am at the end of a week off teaching, although I love my job as a yoga teacher it is important for all of us to take a break to recharge and keep fresh and inspired. During my week off I have in no way been resting up. It is school holidays so we’ve been doing lots of family stuff, working on the renovation, sorting through the kids stuff in preparation for moving them into their new temporary bedroom, catching up with friends we don’t get to see as often as we’d like and having lots of fun.

Now I have the house to myself for the first time this week as the kids are all at a tennis tournament. What to do with my solitude? Well I have already done some housework and unfortunately there is much more to do but I am taking a break from that to write my post for today. After writing this I would like to give myself a recharge in energy levels, rest my whole body, release my tension and calm my mind. However there is still much to do in housework, some admin work for my business and preparations for Rhys’ birthday tomorrow. So what can I practice in 10 minutes to give me all of the above benefits?

The answer is viparita karani which translates as inverted process. This ever so simple yoga pose is the most restorative I have found. It is a pose of undoing rather than doing, all you need to do is get into it and let go completely. There is no effort involved in the letting go as this posture will automatically bring on the relaxation response so it just happens.

Viparita karani is also called legs-up-the-wall pose and that is pretty much all it is. To practice this at home all you need is a wall with some space, preferably in a warm room but if it isn’t warm put down a blanket to lie on, dress warmly and have another blanket nearby to cover yourself with. The trickiest part is to get into this pose, sit side on to the wall then roll over onto your back putting your legs up the wall as you do so. Spend some time getting comfy here, the distance from the wall is a personal comfort thing. If the back of your legs are comfortable with the hips right at the wall then go for it but if this creates discomfort in the back of the legs then wriggle back and soften the legs until they are comfortable. If getting into the pose with legs up the wall is difficult or the hamstrings are very tight the pose is also accessibile in a variation with a chair instead of a wall, knees bent so the calves rest on the seat of the chair. Preferably they are parallel to the floor so depending on the length of your thighs and the height of the chair you might need a cushion beneath the lower back to raise your pelvis or on the seat of the chair to lift the lower legs.

Once you are there just close your eyes, an eyebag is great if you have one, and let the pose do its work. If your mind wanders you can focus on the breath, not altering it but observing the gradual slowing and regulation that happens in viparita karani. I like to take a few big deep breaths and sigh them out at the beginning and again at the end of my viparita karani practice, it encourages letting go and is also a good way to get back into the space when it’s time to do so.

Hope you have ten minutes to try this out in, any time is a good time so give it a go and let me know what you experience…

Rest well.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

A juggling act

School holidays have arrived in our home and we are enjoying them immensely already. I try to get the  balance right between activities and chilling at home time and we have done well so far, one outing a day is our limit.

This morning our outing was to the library for a circus workshop school holiday activity they had on. The kids had a ball and I watched with interest as they balanced with partners then did some juggling. I used to be quite a good juggler but am out of practice but I did have a go today and would love to get back into it again. Not only is it a good party trick but it is great for left/right brain connections and coordination.

Juggling also reflects life very well. How many balls you have up in the air and how well you are keeping them there is reflected in your state of mind and stress levels. Sometimes you just need to let them all fall down or sort out which ones are the important ones and let the others go. It took me a long time to learn to do that and I still need to constantly remind myself to check in before I take up a new ball.

We got back from the library and I got stuck into our painting again. This ball is one that I am glad to have finished with this afternoon as it has been a time consuming project. Those TV shows where they do a whole house over a weekend are not realistic, the drying times of filler, undercoat, paint and so on are slower in the cold weather so we have been filling, sanding and painting for a week and that is only one room. Today was the final coat for now so I have washed up my paintbrush and am resting my arms and neck, painting ceilings is hard work for both of these.

So I put down the painting ball and pick up the “Move the kids into the room” and “Prepare for Rhys’ 8th birthday on Saturday” balls. Life is fun, happy juggling.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx