All I want is a cookie!

I’ve been eating sugar-free for a couple of weeks. It’s not as hard as I thought and also way more difficult than I imagined.

Let me explain.

When I’m at work, I bring a lunch and snacks, so I just eat what I have with me. When I pack my lunch, I’m super motivated, so it makes for a well balanced, no sugar-added day. Until the school day is done. Then, it’s a little harder. If I run errands, I have to use all my willpower not to buy a chocolate bar. If I go to the health food store to get some gluten free flour, I have to avoid the aisle with the power bars. Then there’s the kid who made me chocolates for Easter and the kid who brought cupcakes for his birthday. (So even at school, I’m not safe.) So much sugar, everywhere!

I’ve been craving something sweet this week. I knew I had to do something about it, or risk inhaling a kit kat bar. I looked up recipes for sugar free cookies, but most used artificial sweeteners. Then I found one for raw cookies and raw brownies using dates. I don’t like dates, but I figured I would give it a try.

I adapted to recipes because I didn’t have all of the ingredients.

First, get all your healthy sugar free ingredients together.

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Dates are not pretty.

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The brownies were pretty simple. Dates, cocoa powder, vanilla, ground almonds.

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The cookies, which I have named “raw apple pie” have a few more ingredients. One of them was raisins. I don’t like raisins, so I decided to use dried apples instead (I know I don’t like dates either, but they’re my cookies, and I can do whatever I want to.)

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Turns out, these cookies are amazing! And not just as a healthy, sugar free option. No, they’re good. I promise.

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I adapted this recipe. They’re vegan, gluten free and sugar free. Also delicious. They’re raw, meaning they’re not cooked, but I’m not sure if they would be raw-diet approved.

Enjoy!

Raw Brownies

1 1/2 cups ground almonds

3/4 cup dates

1/3 cup cocoa

1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend in food processor. Add a a teaspoon or two of water so the mixture sticks together. Roll into balls. Eat.

Raw apple pie

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup dates

1/2 cup dried apples

2 tbs cashew butter

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

Blend oats in food processor until finely ground. Add the rest and blend. Add a teaspoon or two of water. Roll into balls. Try not to eat all at once.

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Fallen angel

Earlier this week, I saw a picture of Amber, a teacher from my yoga studio (yes, I’m calling it mine) in an awesome inversion arm balance pose. Right away, I thought to myself “must try this pose now!” However, I decided to wait, because it’s not a good idea to throw yourself into a pose you don’t know.

When I went to the stuido later that day, Amber was there. I told her I just had to know how to get in to the amazing pose. She told me it’s called fallen angel, which is just perfect, because I fall all the time! Then she pulled out a mat and demonstrated how to get into in, right there in the lobby, because she’s awesome like that.

Today, since I have the day off, I figured it would be a great time to try it out. I stretched out my neck first, because there is a strange face-pressed-into-the-floor thing going on. And then, I did it! Sort of. It’s not perfect, but it was my first time, so I’m just happy I tried and managed to somewhat get into it.

First, I started off in side crow.

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Then, I placed the side of my face onto the floor. You don’t want to smush your face too much here. Also, here is a great view of my butt for you.

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After that came the tricky part. I had to lift my left leg straight up, leave my right knee on my elbow and point the toes up.

My first try looked like this. Notice the intense look of concentration on my face.

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I tried again (many, many times) and finally got it to this point. My right shoulder is only about a millimeter off the ground, and it should be level with the left shoulder, and my right leg is not pointing up enough, but come on, this is freakin amazing!

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You can come out of it gracefully, going back into side crow, then slowly coming up. Or, you can do what I did and tumble out in one big heap. Either way works well.

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You can check out Amber in fallen angel. How fabulous is she?

I think this might be my new favourite pose. If any of my teachers are reading this, can we please do this pose next time?

Sugar, sugar

Where I live, March is nutrition month in schools. We talk about the four food groups, portion sizes, basically, how to have healthy eating habits. Since my students spend three years with me, I don’t do the same activities each year.

This year, the focus is on sugar. Where it comes from, how it’s transformed, what kind of sugar your body needs, what foods contain sugar. My theory is, the more kids know about their food and what it does for their body, good or bad, the better equipped they’ll be to make healthy choices.

I wanted them to understand exactly how much sugar most people eat without even realizing it, so we read the nutritional labels from their snacks and wheighed it out. They were amazed at how much sugar is in such small snacks.

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I also included some images of high-sugar drinks and foods, like soda and chocolate, so they would understand why they’re told “you can’t eat that, it has too much sugar.”

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I did this activity for the kid’s benefit, but it got me thinking. I try to eat well. I’ve cut most gluten out of my diet, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (although not a huge variety), I drink plenty of water, I don’t drink coffee. But. I like sweet things. Cake, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, soda. I eat more than I should.

So I’ve decided to cut out sugar. I don’t know for how long, but for now, it needs to be done.

I did have a piece of birthday cake this weekend and that’s ok. Baby steps. However, I had an apple as a snack after school, instead of a pre-packaged caramel rice cake snack. When I went to Starbucks, I checked, and yes, my usual drink did indeed contain sugar! The barista suggested something similar, but without sugar, and it tasted delicious. I’m going to do my best, but ultimately, the goal is not necessarily to cut out sugar forever, just to reduce my intake to a healthy level.

I know some fruit contains a lot of natural sugar, but eating an orange is so much better than eating an entire bag of mini eggs (not that I do that kind of thing), so I’m not going to worry about that right now.

Does anyone have any tips? I’m open to anything that will keep me from reaching for the oreos…

A modified posture is a perfect posture

On Saturday morning, (I use the term morning very losely here. It was noon.) I went to a power flow class at my favourite studio. Sasha was teaching and it was the best class I’ve had in a while. It was my best class, because the teachers always lead an amazing practice, but some days, my energy is low, I’m tired or I’m just not quite as into it. Saturday, it felt like a perfect balance. I was well rested, energetic and motivated.

Something Sasha said really stayed with me. She was explaining how to jump back from crow pose into chaturanga, and then she said “Or just step back. Modified is perfect.”

She’s right. Modified is perfect. We modify postures because we are all at different levels in our practice. Sometimes, we let our ego get in the way and we convince ourselves we can do a posture we’re not ready for, or that our body just can’t do. It’s difficult to find the line between trying our best and pushing too hard. There are postures we can do one day, but not the next. Listening to our body is a major part of yoga.

We also did an awesome arm balance. If you haven’t been reading, you might not know that I love arm balances! We started off in a seated twist, then placed our hands down on the floor and kicked one leg back and the other to the side. I need to work on straightening my legs, but it was fairly easy to get into.

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Read me!

If you’re a book lover/bookworm like me, you buy books when you feel inspired. You might not have time to read it just then, or maybe you’ve already got a big pile of to read books. It doesn’t matter. You want it, you buy it. It’s a book, so it’s ok. It’s never a bad idea to buy a book.

But then, you end up with a nice pile of “I just had to buy this book but now it’s been sitting of the shelf for a while” books. It’s a nice problem to have, and it’s this week’s prompt for The Broke and the Bookish’s top ten Tuesday.

1. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

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Even before the Gilmore Girls episode where Rory tries to get Dean to read Anna Karenina, I’ve wanted to read it. It’s been called the best love story of all time. The thing is, I’ve tried to read this. I get lost in all the characters and their names. I mean, does Katherine really need to be Katie, Kitty, Ekaterina and Katherine? I’ll try again. I’m determined to read this even if I know how it ends.

2. Fall of Giants, Ken Follett

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I loved, loved, loved Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, so when Fall of Giants came out, I was super excited and bought it right away. I read a few chapters, but it’s about the first world war, and that’s not my favourite subject, so I put it aside and haven’t gotten back to it yet.

3. Shadow Princess, Indu Sundaresan

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I totally judge books by their cover and this one is a great example of what draws me in. I love stories set in India and this one seems to have some sort of sibling rivalry mystery.

4. 7 ans après, Guillaume Musso

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I’ve read several of Musso’s books, and I enjoyed them, so I didn’t hesitate to buy this one. I read about half, but then I lost interest. (Humm, maybe my top ten should be “Books I bought, then read a little and put away”.

5. Marie de la Mer, Annie Lavigne

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When I saw this book at the store, I snatched it up right away because I really liked the first one. When I realized it was a trilogy, I decided to wait for the third one to be published, so I wouldn’t have to wait between books two and three. Yes, I know that is a little strange.

6. The science of yoga, William J. Broad

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To be fair, I only bought this book a few days ago. I haven’t started it yet, but since it’s not a novel (which is what I normally read) I’ll probably read it in bits and pieces while I read other books.

7. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

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Also a book I bought last weekend (because obviously, I need more books). Ever since I heard the title, I’ve been wanting to read it.

8. The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory

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When I saw the movie The Other Boleyn girl, I decided to read the book. I bought this one instead and I can’t remember why I never read it. I bought it a few years ago.

9. Stones into schools, Greg Mortenson

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This book isn’t even mine. I got it for my mom after we read and loved Three cups of tea. As soon as she was done reading it, I grabbed it from her and, well, I haven’t read it yet. But you know that, because there’s a whole theme going on here.

10. Beautiful Darkness, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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I liked Beautiful Creatures, so I bought the second book in the series. I’ve actually started reading it, so it doesn’t really belong on this list, but I ran out of books. It’s not great litterature, but it’s entertaining.

Writing this post was actually a great idea! I feel like I have a bunch of new books to read. Have you read any of these books? Which one should I start with?

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One year of Bliss

The Bliss Project is one year old today! Time flies when you’re finding your bliss.

I looked back at my first post. I wanted to remember where I started. Have I lived up to my blog’s name? I think so. The Bliss Project is about trying new things. Recently, I felt as though I hadn’t been having a lot of new experiences. When I started this project, I was looking for something, I just didn’t know it. I thought I wanted to try everything out there, but one thing found me. If you’ve been reading for the past year, you’ve probably guessed it. It’s hot yoga. My practice, my bliss.

After reading the first post, I worked my way through my posts. I’d forgotten some of them! It was like looking through a yearbook. Here are a few of my favourite posts from the past year.

First day of my first 30 day yoga challenge! Who knew what joy would come from those 30 days and the days since.

My yoga pet peeves. Please keep your feet on your own mat!

Last day of my 30 day challenge. I learned so much about my practice and about myself!

Sharing positive motivation. Something has to cancel out all the negativity out there.

Trying to play volleyball. Tip: don’t duck.

I did a lot of these new and exciting things with my friend Julie. I was very sad when she moved away, but she’s coming home for the summer! One more reason to look forward to warmer weather.

My second 30 day yoga challenge. It was a different expericence from the first time, but just as amazing.

Turning 31. It didn’t kill me.

Wearing a dress every day in December. Twirling and feeling pretty for a whole month. Bliss.

Telling yoga how I really feel. It’s true love, and true love lasts forever.

Doing yoga in the snow. Cold but fun!

It’s been a great year. Blogging makes me happy. The fact that people take the time to read about my thoughts and my life is incredible. In one year, The Bliss Project has been viewed by people in 143 different countries. That makes me feel amazing.  I’ve connected with many wonderful people and learned so much. Thank you for reading, you’ve made this girl very, very happy!

find your bliss

The Red Garden

Sometimes, a book is just a book. Sometimes, a book is an adventure, an escape, a dream, an other world. Rarely is one book all of these things. So when, a few pages into a book, you realize it’s going to be one of those books, the magical kind that keeps you from sleeping because you just have to read more, you do a little happy dance and sometimes let out a squeal of joy.

The Red Garden is one of those books.

Written by Alice Hoffman, it’s no surprise that it’s a fantastic read.

I had a little moment of doubt when I first started reading. The story starts off with Hallie Brady, a young woman who comes to America and becomes the founder of a new town in the wilderness of Massachusetts. I was so into her story, but after a few pages, it was over. The next chapter was the story of a sad young woman and a man who plants apple trees. Then, a little girl who goes missing.

Soon, I realized that the book was not a person’s story, as a novel usually is. It’s the story of a place. The place is Bearsville, later renamed Blackwell. People come and go, love and cry, hope and dream, live and die. The town grows and some of the earlier stories become legend. Every person leaves their mark on the town, and shapes into a place where magic happens.

Through the stories, we meet an interesting cast of character, including Emily Dickinson and Johnny Appleseed. Some stories are happier than others. There’s a man who’s going blind, but is more of an adventurer than anyone the town has seen since Hallie Brady. There’s the young man who comes home from war broken, only to have his soul healed by a young widow. There’s a young woman who meets a man who lives in the woods, and it changes her forever. My favourite was the fisherman’s wife. Sad, lonely and beautiful, she longs to go back home to be with her one true love. Her home isn’t where you expect it to be.

One of the things I loved the most was how, when a story ended, you might not know what happend to the people later on, but tidbits about their lives would come up in the next chapters, where they were now the current character’s ancestors.

I also love that there is an actual red garden. People don’t know why the earth is red, but you, the reader, know. It like knowing a secret. It feels like being a part of something special, because you’ve been there since the begining.

I finished this book over a week ago, but I haven’t been able to read anything else yet. The collection of episodes, like pieces of a puzzle, are still floating around in my head. I need to read it again, to make even more connections between the people and their stories.

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Today is Alice Hoffman’s birthday, and two very awesome bloggers have put together a bloghop where all of her fans could share their love for her enchanting storytelling. Happy birthday, Alice Hoffman, and thank you for sharing your magic!

I’ve written post about Alice Hoffman’s books before, because she’s just so amazing! Check it out here , here, here and here!