Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the white tiger, by Aravind Adiga



The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, is narrated by the charming but complex, Balram Halwai, a personal chaffeur, who is simultaneously traditional, religious and devoted, as well as rebellious, bitter and corrupt. The entire book is in the form of a long letter, written over seven nights, addressed to the Premier of China who happens to be planning a visit to India. The reader is left only to speculate why Balram feels the need to write along drawn out letter telling his life-story to the Premier of China, of all people. The letter is prefaced with the admission that Balram’s wealth and success is solely due to the fact that he cold-heartedly murdered his old Master. According to the cocky, yet charismatic Balram, the murder was an essential and necessary evil, the only way to climb out of the “darkness” and into the light.
Adiga gives a clear picture, not of the India in spiritually tranquil books describing yogis in lotus pose, but of the complex, often lost and sad India, plagued with a resurgent economy, and ridden with corruption, inequity and hardship. The White Tiger, won the 2008 (Man) Booker prize, despite critics claiming that it unevenly labelled India as a morally corrupt to the bone. Adiga, born in India, but raised and educated in Australia and America, gave a very grim portrayal of India today, claiming to have painted this picture based on his observations of Delhi’s slums and inner city streets. However, there is something to be said about the lack of humanity and morality in the novel, human qualities which are unrealistically, if not unconvincingly never observed in any of its characters.
Although the novel’s themes are serious in nature, they are riddled with a macabre sense of humour. It is easy to be charmed by the charismatic murderer who justifies his every act with the evidence of his shocking upbringing and past.
The White Tiger is certainly worth a read if you are interested in a modern day version of India completely opposite from colourful Bollywood sets or spiritually laden self-help books. It captures a nation that is struggling to find an identity separate from the West, and that is all at once traditional, spiritual and loyal, as well as modernized, corrupt and back-stabbing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the vegetarian child: part III

This is part three of a three part entry.
Part I: The vegetarian child: values and ethics
Part II: The vegetarian child: things to think about, who to talk to and how to explain to others
Part III: The vegetarian child: basic recipes for babies to toddlers

8 months and beyond

Minestrone Soup
Ingredients
any vegetable you have in the fridge, I usually use the following cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 zucchini
1/2 carrot
2 tbs frozen peas
1 sm potato
and/or depending what I have in the fridge- broccoli or sweet potato
1/4 can kidney beans
1 tsp salt reduced vegetable stock
1 tsp tomato paste
dash of tamari (**young babies should not have any added salt to their diet. Tamari is high in sodium. I only add a tiny dash of it for flavour, but you can opt this ingredient out)
4 tbs baby pasta (iron-fortified)
1 1/2 cups water

Directions
Dissolve vegetable stock and tomato paste the water in a small pot on medium high heat.
Add tamari, root vegetables (minus broccoli, zucchini and peas) and baby pasta.
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and let the vegetables soften for 10 minutes.
Add the beans and any softer vegetables you have for 5 more minutes until soft.
Let it cool and serve with a baby scone (see ‘snack and sides’ below). Teach you baby how to dip the scone into the soup. Your baby should be encouraged to pick the veggies up with her fingers if she’s having trouble with the spoon.

(make a larger batch with onions, a can of diced tomatoes, adult pasta and much more tamari for the whole family at the same time if you want to, but use mini pot for bubs so that you can make veggie chunks smaller and control the salt intake)

Baked Beans and Rice
Ingredients
1 mini can salt-reduced baked beans
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 carrot and 1/2 zuccini
1 olive oil or 1 tsp butter
1/2 ounce grated organic cheese

Directions
Boil or steam the veggies until soft (if you’re baby can’t handle soft finger sized pieces, you can grate them instead), then saute the briefly in olive oil or butter. Add beans to the pan of veggies until warm, then add in the rice and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Stir until cheese has melted.
This is a great fast, healthy, easy lunch.


Baked Omelette
Ingredients
diced veggies. I usually use:
zucchini, broccoli, carrot, red capsicum and shredded spinach
1 egg
3 tbs bread crumbs
1/2 ounce grated cheese
2 tbs whole milk

Directions
Saute the carrot and capsicum in a pan for 2-3 minutes so that they are soft
Crack the egg into a small bowl.
Add milk, diced veggies, bread crumbs and grated cheese and stir together.
Grease a mini casserole dish and pour mixture into it.
Put in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 180˚

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (see my entry in fork-worthy here)

Hearty Yang Casserole (without the red wine- see my entry in fork-worthy here)


Chewing Confidently (around 6-8 teeth)

Veggie Fajitas with Guacamole
Ingredients
left-over minestrone soup OR fried diced onion, diced tomatoes, diced zucchini and kidney beans
diced tomato
grated cheese
1/4 avocado
1 tortilla

Directions
Drain left-over minestrone soup so you are left with veggies and beans
Cut tortilla into little finger sized triangles
Place minestrone mix in triangle, sprinkle with cheese, put another triangle on top
Fry in greased pan until tortillas are golden and cheese has melted
Mash avocado and serve as a dip (Babies LOVE dipping- it makes their eating experience more fun and nutritious)

Baked Veggie Macaroni and Cheese
Ingredients
Baby Macaroni (I love spelt pasta by Bellamys)
1 ounce grated organic cheese
1/2 carrot
2 broccoli florets OR 2 cauliflower florets
1/4 zucchini or shredded spinach
1/4 cup milk
1 tbs corn flour
1 tbs butter
4 tbs breadcrumbs

Directions
Make a white sauce: put butter in a hot pan, once melted add milk and cornflour stirring continuously until the sauce is smooth and thick

Fry or boil hard veggies until they are soft

Mix together white sauce, veggies, grated cheese and breadcrumbs and Pour into a greased mini casserole dish
Cover and put in oven at 180˚ for 15-20 minutes

Tofu Fingers with steamed veggies and mashed potato
Ingredients
3 pieces of tofu sliced into rectangular finger strips
1 egg beaten
breadcrumbs
1 potato
veggies of your choice

Directions
Dip tofu into egg, then coat with breadcrumbs and fry or bake until golden on the outside
Boil potato and mash with butter (you could add boiled spinach to this to increase green intake)
Steam veggies and serve plain or with a dash of olive oil


Sweeter Snacks and Savory Side Dishes

Baby Banana muffins
Ingredients
1 banana
1/2 tsp vanilla (try to find non-alcoholic vanilla essence)
1 tbs butter
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup self-raising wholewheat flour

Directions
Combine milk, egg, butter, vanilla and banana until mushy and somewhat smooth
Add flour and sugar
Pour into mini muffin tin lined with mini cupcake papers and greased
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180˚

Mini Wholewheat Scones
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups self-raising wholewheat flour
dash of salt
1/2 tbs sugar
80 grams cubed butter
1/2 cup of milk

Directions
Combine dry ingredients and then add butter with your fingertips until the mixture has a breadcrumb like consistency
Add the milk to form a soft dough (you can add more flour if needed )
knead on a lightly floured surface
Flatten and make the mini rounds about 2cm thick
Place on greased baking tray and brush with milk
Bake for 10-12 minutes at 230˚

Special Occasion Desserts

Creamy Apricot and Tofu
Ingredients
1/4 block of tofu
4 blanched apricots
1/4 cup of milk

Directions
puree ingredients together and serve cooled

Banana Custard
Ingredients
1 egg yolk
1tbs corn flour
1 cup milk
1 tbs sugar
1/2 banana
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Directions
Whisk egg, corn flour and a bit of milk into a smooth paste
Bring remaining milk and sugar to a boil on stovetop
Add the paste and stir until smooth
Add mashed banana and whisk until thick
Add vanilla essence last

Sunday, September 27, 2009

simhasana- lion's breath

Simhasana (lion’s breath) invigorates you with more confidence, an increase in positive thoughts and emotions, and it releases stress, fatigue and negativity. It is a great pranayamic practice for those who don’t have a lot of time to spare. Repeat the breath at least 5 times as soon as you get out of bed in the morning (this takes about 2 minutes) to send a natural energy high through your whole body. Yogic texts claim that regular practice of lion’s roar keeps the tonsils and throat healthy, builds a strong voice and helps to combat disease.
Directions
Kneeling on the floor, sit back on your heels with your toes spread into the floor. Place the palm of your hands facing down on your knees or thighs. Feel your spine stretching long and tall. Inhale deeply through your nose, and hold your hands up like the claws of a lion. Then as you exhale, open your mouth as wide as you can, stick your tongue out, and pointing down (as if to lick your chin) as far as it can go, and roll your eyes upward. The exhale should be vocalized in a HA sound. Repeat between three and 10 times. The more repetitions, the stronger the benefits.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

buddha's belly burritos with homemade guac



First off, don’t forget to enter the give-away draw to win a new sigg bottle here.


Buddha’s Belly Burritos with Homemade Guacamole and Salsa

Filling
Ingredients
wraps of your choice
cooked brown rice (optional)
grated organic cheese
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 red thinly sliced capsicum
1 sm diced zucchini
1 brown onion
2 red chilli peppers diced
olive oil
1 tsp tabasco
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce chopped
one bunch coriander chopped

Directions
Place a large frying pan on medium heat
Brown the onion with generous amount of olive oil and add chilli pepper
Add the capsicum and zucchini until slightly soft
Add both kinds of beans and mix
Add tabasco and paprika
Cook for 8-10 minutes stirring often
Lower the heat and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes until thick

Serendipitous Salsa
Ingredients
3 medium sized fresh tomatoes
1 shallot
1 red chilli pepper
juice of one lime and 1/2 lemon
1 tsp tabasco
dash of cane sugar
3 tbs olive oil
coriander
salt and pepper

Directions
Dice the tomatoes
Dice the chillies and the shallot
Chop the coriander
Mix together the liquid ingredients in a small bowl with the sugar, salt and pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and drizzle with dressing

Best if chilled before served


Holy Guacamole
Ingredients
1 1/2 avocado
1 garlic clove
juice from 1 lemon
salt to taste

Directions
Puree all ingredients together in food processor

Final Product
Put the lettuce and the coriander into two separate bowls
Place guacamole and salsa in two separate bowls
Grate cheese and put in a separate bowl
Place cooked brown rice in a separate bowl
Put filling in a large bowl
Warm the wraps

Serve them in the make-your-own fashion

Friday, September 25, 2009

neverever, chocolate confessions and a giveaway



The neverever collection by Emma
is a range of beautiful and adorable handmade creations for babies and children “in an effort to make the children of the world look sweet, innocent and cute (though they rarely need much help with that)!” (from her Etsy profile)

Her clothing is simply designed using unique, often vintage fabrics and her toys are irresistibly cute and cuddly. I just bought a load of Christmas presents from this original and talented Sydney based designer. (Mother of JZ consult me before purchasing anything!) Check out Etsy for Emma’s gorgeous collection- This weekend, she will be taking part in Etsy's Weekend Deals. Starting 8am Saturday finishing 10pm Sunday, there will be 15% off everything!


My Chocolate Confession
I bought 12 bars of Green and Blacks Organic Maya Gold Fairtrade Chocolate at Safeway yesterday. Why? Because it was on sale for $1.99 a bar! I can’t believe I used to ignore sales- what a fool! Anyway, if you know me personally and notice I have put on a few kilos over the next month... now you know why.




A Story that Leads to a Give-away:
I attend this yoga class on Wednesday mornings, along side this beautiful, subtly eccentric woman who has clearly had a steady yoga practice for a long time. I have never really had a conversation with her, but we’ve smiled and said hello. I noticed that every week she carried with her the exact same re-filled plastic water bottle (not a gym one, just a mount franklin or other disposable like that). I couldn’t help but imagine the nasty chemicals that might be poisoning this beautiful woman’s water. But what could I do? Suggest that she bought a stainless steel one? I felt rude telling someone they needed to buy anything. Weeks went by with me silently fretting over this woman’s bottle. (I know, I am ridiculous). Every week I’d say to myself, ‘if she shows up again with that re-used plastic thing I am marching straight to the store to get her a sigg bottle’. (see my previous post on sigg) Well, weeks did go by and I finally bought her a plain blue sigg bottle (I still don’t even know her name). The next week, I brought it nervously to class for her, unsure of exactly what I was going to say and how she would react to my random act of kindness. Would she be offended? Would she be happy, excited, grateful? Well, sweet mother of irony, she never came! So, I brought that bottle back the next week. No show. And the next. No show. And the next? Nope.
And now, having given up all hope that I will ever even see her and her plastic water bottle again, I am deeming this brand new sigg bottle to be my very first ecoMILF give-away.


To enter the draw to win this bottle-desperately-seeking-a-home, just add a comment below and mention this give-away in one of your blog posts over the next week. Once I see you’ve passed the give-away love on (by mentioning it on your blog), I will add you to the draw. If you do not have your own blog or website, simply comment below and CC me (ecomilf@me.com) in on an email to ONE friend letting them know about www.ecomilf.com.au and the sigg bottle giveaway. Here’s a rough outline you can copy and paste for your email if you’re not in the mood for explanations:

Dear So and So,
Check out this website I like to peruse: www.ecomilf.com.au. To quote the creator, Meagan, ecoMILF (Mother Into Living Fair) is “daily insight from a mother taking steps towards a more sustainable, compassionate and conscious life. Because going eco is logical”. I have entered the ecoMILF give-away draw to win a stainless steel sigg bottle- you should too!
Lots of love,
Me!

I will draw names next Friday morning and the winner will be announced in that day’s blog entry.

International entries welcome.

Good Luck!

PS. Sigg has been under fire of late because their bottle lining pre 2008 had traces of BPA in it. I don't know precise details about the harmful effects of BPA, but it is controversial enough to spark anger and criticism from around the globe. Sigg switched to a completely BPA free plastic lining in 2008, so as long as you bought your bottle after that then yours is fine. If you have a bottle from before that date and reside in North America you can exchange yours for a new one. The bottle I bought, I am assured is brand new and BPA free. Sigg bottles are an amazing design and are a far better alternative to plastic bottles so I don't want to punish the company for coming out with it, changing their lining and doing everything they can to fix their mistake.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

one week spring menu and shopping list

Here is a shopping list and menu plan that works for a small family. Whether you want to just take some of the meal ideas and run or actually stick to the weekly menu, I’m sure everyone’s curious to see just what this pescatarian family lives off of the entire week. I’ll slowly add some of the recipes to fork-worthy so stay tuned, but I think most of them are fairly straightforward. Enjoy!


SUNDAY

lunch
left-over B’s homemade tomato sauce with pasta
dinner
whiting or flathead, chips or cous cous, salad

L’il B lunch
left-over quiche
L’il B dinner
fish fingers, roast potato or cous cous, avocado salad


MONDAY

lunch
apple, walnut, feta, salad with homemade bread
dinner
tofu veggie stir fry (make extra rice for tomorrow’s burritos)

L’il B lunch
macaroni and cheese with broccoli
L’il B dinner
tofu veggie stir fry with brown rice

TUEDAY
lunch
greek sandwich (pitted olives, feta, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, greens, hummus)
dinner
vegetarian burritos

L’il B lunch
L’il B and Mummy get sushi (usually edamame, cooked tuna roll, avocado roll and a miso soup)
L’il B dinner
veggie quesadillas with beans, onion, red pepper, tomato,

WEDNESDAY

lunch
left-over vegetarian burrito rice bowl
dinner
homemade veggie burgers on salad

L’il B lunch
cubed cheese, baked beans on toast, avocado salad
L’il B dinner
homemade veggie burgers with roast sweet potato

THURSDAY

lunch
left-over homemade veggie burgers on salad
dinner
minestrone soup, salad, scones

L’il B lunch
creamy tinned salmon pasta mornay
L’il B dinner
baby version veggie shepherd’s pie

FRIDAY

lunch
left-over minestrone, wholewheat scones
dinner
vegetarian quiche w/sundried tomatoes, olives, feta and spinach

L’il B lunch
left-over minestrone
L’il B dinner
vegetarian quiche with carrot, tomatoes, feta and spinach

SATURDAY

*you’ll have to buy the basil and red wine for sauce today so it doesn’t go bad/isn’t consumed beforehand

lunch
something out and about, or a late brekkie
dinner
B’s homemade tomato sauce with pasta

L’il B lunch
left-over vegetarian quiche
L’il B dinner
baby pasta with creamy rose sauce and veggies

SHOPPING LIST
SUNDAY SHOP

fresh fish
barley (or just use brown rice for veggie burger)
hummus
organic cheese
12 grain fed free range eggs
organic tofu
sundried tomatoes
organic feta
olives
onions and garlic
bag of organic potatoes
4-5 med tomatoes
2-3 avocados (varying ripeness)
1 cucumber
1 head of preferred lettuce for salads
bag of organic carrots
1 bag of baby spinach (put in freezer when your get home)
2 zucchini
1 sweet potato
broccoli
red pepper
wraps or burritos

ESSENTIALS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE:

wholewheat flour
baker’s flour, seeds and yeast for bread (or just a loaf of bread)
baking powder
bi-carb
organic milk
organic butter
cane sugar, brown sugar, cooking salt
soy milk
vegetable oil. olive oil
honey, vegemite, peanut butter, jams
tomato paste
various nuts
dry crackers for snacking
plain organic yogurt (for desserts and baking)
dark chocolate for desserts
teas and coffees
fruit for desserts
a couple lemons
a variety of pasta
cous cous
brown rice
tinned tuna and salmon
3 cans beans (I like 1 black 2 kidney)
2 cans chickpeas
2 cans lentils
low-salt baked beans
4 cans tomatoes (2 diced and 2 whole)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

a few of my favourite children's books



These books are (give and take) directed at 4 to 8 year olds, but I think they are just as valuable and impactful if read to your toddler, or even baby (where ever that grey line falls). They are all beautifully illustrated and contain powerful life lessons that your child will intuitively understand. If your local library doesn’t have them, request them! Or for a real treat- use this as a wish list for holiday gifts!

ON NATURE
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silvertein

ON RECYCLING
Where Does the Garbage Go, by Paul Showers
We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers, A Charlie and Lola Picture Book, by Lauren Child

ON ACTIVISM
George Save the World by Lunchtime, by Jo Readman and Ley Honor Roberts
Ten Things I can do to Help my World, by Melanie Walsh

ON SPIRITUALITY
The Mountains of Tibet, by Mordicai Gerstein
What Is God?, by Etan Boritzer

ON MOTHERLY LOVE/BREASTFEEDING
Love You Forever, by Robert N Munsch
The Best Gifts, by Marsha Skrypuch

ON A NEW BABY (FOR A NEW OLDER SIBLING)
What Baby Needs, by William and Martha Sears

ON VEGETARIANISM
That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, by Ruby Roth

Monday, September 21, 2009

surya namaskar - sun salutations

Surya Namaskar is a series of yoga asana (poses) that are done in sequence with the breath. They are called “sun” salutes because they were originally to be practiced as the sun was coming up as a form of worship to the Hindu deity Surya. A full round of Surya Namaskara is considered to be two sets of the sequence. Surya Namaskar strengthens a wide range of muscles, lubricates the joints, and aligns the skeletal system which in turn improves your posture and flexibility.
Because it is a cardiovascular exercise it oxygenates the blood and helps strengthen the heart. Mentally it is a wonderful way to start the day because you become in tune with your breath while performing the physical postures, which causes a union between body and mind. Set yourself an intention before you start your practice (such as, “I will perform my sun salutes with happiness in my heart” OR “I dedicate my efforts this morning to my Mother who needs strength right now”) and you will be connecting body, mind AND heart.

There are many slightly different variations of Surya Namaskar. I will give an outline and provide a video of the two I often teach. Neither of these incorporates a huge backbend as this is an advanced variation of Surya Namaskar that I am not sure my practice is even ready for (it is never good to push yourself and do the poses just for the sake of “doing”. Have patience with your yogic journey. It is never about how far you go, but how you get there. Because I practice yoga regularly the last thing I would want is to force myself into a backbend when I wasn’t ready on a regular basis and wake up one day with chronic back pain as a result. Listen to your body and go to a teacher if you have any questions or concerns.

BEGINNER’S VARIATION
Start by standing in Tadasana (mountain pose), feeling your feet rooted to the floor below you, hands at your sides but active
Inhale Raise you hands above your head, looking just beyond your fingertips
Exhale Swan dive down with a flat back, and strong tummy, to Uttanasana (standing forward bend), bending your knees as much as your need to so that your hands are touching the floor
Inhale Step your left foot back so that you are lunging
Exhale Step your right foot back into Adho Mukha Savasana (downward dog)
Inhale Bring your body forward to a high plank
Exhale Lower your knees, then your chest, then your chin to the floor
Inhale Use your back muscles to lift or scoop up into baby Bhujangasana (baby cobra)
Exhale bend your knees and then push back to Adho Mukha Savasana (downward dog)
Inhale Step your right foot forward into a lunge
Exhale Step your left foot forward into Uttanasana (standing forward bend), bending your knees as much as your need to so that your hands are touching the floor
Inhale Lift your torso up as your arms sweep up in the air, looking towards your fingertips
Exhale Lower your arms down to your sides and into Tadasana (mountain pose)



















Sorry this was clearly not taken when the sun was rising!

EXPERIENCED VARIATION
Start by standing in Tadasana (mountain pose), feeling your feet rooted to the floor below you, hands at your sides but active
Inhale Raise you hands above your head, looking just beyond your fingertips
Exhale Swan dive down with a flat back, and strong tummy, to Uttanasana (standing forward bend),
Inhale straighten and lift your back and come onto your fingertips
Exhale place your hands firmly to the floor and jump back into plank and then lower yourself down throughChaturanga Dandasana
Inhale Scoop your body through to Urdvha Mukha Savasana (upward facing dog)
Exhale Push back to Adho Mukha Savasana (downward dog)
Inhale Jump your feet back up between your hands
Exhale Bring your torso to your shins, Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
Inhale Lift your torso up as your arms sweep up in the air, looking towards your fingertips
Exhale Lower your arms down to your sides and into Tadasana (mountain pose)






















Sorry this was clearly not taken when the sun was rising!

If you were really paying attention, you’d have noticed that there are two less breaths in the experienced version. This is because you are letting out a long and full exhale from the jump back all the way through Chaturanga Dandasana. If this is too difficult for you, jump back to plank on an inhale and then exhale lowering yourself down through Chaturanga Dandasana. As you can see (and I saw clearly for the first time watching my home videos), my own Surya Namaskar is not even close to perfected yet. I still find my hamstrings are tight in forwardbends (as a result of a lot of past jogging), I still find it challenging to jump back without making a thudding noise, and I also have a tendency to slouch my shoulders and stick my ribs out. Yoga practice is a journey that never ends, don’t be discouraged because you cannot do everything immediately.
If you want to start a practice at home, take 20 minutes aside in the morning before the house it stirring and the daily chaos begins. Start in a sitting position and tune into your breath elongating and deepening you inhales and exhales. Do a basic seated twist on each side, perhaps get onto your hands and knees and do some cat cow pose to wake up the spine and then push into Downward Dog , warming the backs of your legs up and waking your whole body up. When you feel you’re ready, do a set of Surya Namaskar (two sequences) facing every direction (so basically what you saw in the video eight times). At the end stand in Tadasana with your eyes closed (or half closed if you find you’re losing your balance) and let your energy settle. If you have time, lie down on the mat and do a couple reclined twists. Then lie inSavasana for 5 - 10 minutes and let your body rest and revitalize. Start with just a few sun salutes a day or every few days and work your way up from there. You will slowly begin to feel the positive effects it can have on you.

Namaste.

PS. I ‘ve been following kootooyoo’s scavenger hunt of clues around the blogging world and I think the answer derived from clues is COMMUNITY.