First, my apologies for the blog hiatus: we spent most of last week up in Anchorage, where Phil was having minor eye surgery, and were offline pretty much the whole time. And we're going back up again tomorrow, just for an overnight.
I have all kinds of thoughts about what to look back on and what to look forward to as the calendar changes over, as well as some more delicious creations to share photo-wise. For today, however, I'm going to share the article that I wrote for this month's Eighty Percent Raw Magazine. The magazine isn't going to be continuing and I'm sad to be without that outlet and opportunity for sharing. However, my article was ready to go, and it's all about healthy ways to make resolutions and to be healthy in the winter.
After all that gorgeous, clear weather I was bragging about, and weeks of temperatures in the low 20's or less, we are in the midst of a warm front from the south and a huge windstorm. Here was the beach this morning--an ice rink!
Pretty tough hiking and we didn't last long.
A far cry from this snow-covered, crunchy, lovely hiking.
And whereas for the last few weeks our own property has been snow-clad...
...it's now in full and ugly 'breakup' mode--melting ice, like a luge run. The roads were that way too. Thank goodness for four-wheel drive!
I have to do all the heavy lifting at the moment, which is a very strange reversal, and have slammed my butt on the ice twice so far carrying or wheelbarrowing heavy things down to our cabin from the truck. Spare a thought for Phil: how hard must it be for the most physically capable and mighty man ever to be compelled to lift no more than 10lbs for the next couple of weeks? Especially when I skidded us into the ditch when we were 40 miles from home and he couldn't single-handedly dig us out...
I'm looking forward to catching up on others' blogs and getting back on track here: 2011 promises so much that is exciting, and it's very empowering to talk about that and be in the process of creating it. For now, though, I leave you with the article and much love.
New Year Resolutions for All the Year's 'New Years,' and Eating Fresh in the Wintertime
Happy New Year! I've mentioned before that January 1st is not the only possible time that can be viewed as 'New Year.' In the April edition of Eighty Percent Raw, I talked about ancient traditions of spring cleansing that viewed April as the year's start, and in the September edition, I pointed out that the Jewish new year and the Academic year beginning fall closer to the Fall equinox. As a little girl, I could never understand what was so special about New Year's Day. In terms of the Christmas festival, it fell right in the no-man's-land between Christmas and Epiphany. In terms of school holidays, it was an unwelcome harbinger of their end drawing near. No significance in terms of other religions to be found either (unless you count proximity to the winter solstice), and surely everyone's own 'New Year' is their birthday! I still relate to this childish perception of mine, but it's good to be pragmatic and recognize things as they are. Our arbitrary traditions will become traditions for our descendants simply because we did them!
New Year's on January 1st is traditionally a time that people choose to make decisions about how they want to become in the future, specifically in the coming year. Of course, the 'clean slate' offered by the prospect of a new year is muddied by the picture my little-girl-self saw, of it really being just another 'tomorrow' in a series of new days, and so the 'gorgeous new me' that many of us can create in imagination of a 'new year, new life' is often quite unrealistic and gets dragged down by the simple connectedness of the 'New Year' with 'yesterday.'
But let's keep on building those traditions, let's be pragmatic: let's accept that it's a good time to make resolutions, if only because there is a collective energy building in that direction. If you're reading this magazine, it shows that you are interested in doing your best and making the best you can out of your life. I would like to invite you to join in a collective energy toward making powerful, realistic resolutions that are actually achievable, that can effect a day-by-day transformation that recognizes you as the same, evolving, transforming person on January 1st that you were on December 31st, but that gives that evolution and transformation a gentle and inexorable nudge in the 'onward and upward' direction. I would also like to invite you to consider those other times of year that have also been considered as 'New Year' (and basically solstices and equinoxes generally) as 'waypoints' along the course of the year to check in and examine the progress of your evolution and transformation toward your best self. You could include your birthday, too: the most meaningfully personal 'New Year's day' you own. Rather than having the vast, monolithic expanse of a whole year stretching out ahead of you, have seasonal checkins with yourself and renew your resolutions. Otherwise, all the collective energy toward making resolutions, turning over a new leaf, reinventing yourself, dissipates quickly, because it has nothing to support it, no way to maintain the momentum. And this is precisely why many people get excited about resolutions but are not even surprised that they have forgotten about them by the time they remember to write '2011' instead of '2010' when writing the date (or sooner, since that can take months for some of us)!
Some Tips for How to Approach Making Resolutions
Notice that I've suggested seasonal checkins to help keep the resolutions on track. Much of the philosophy of developing healthy eating and lifestyle habits is closely related to keeping in closer touch with the seasons. This is one of the reasons why I think that seasonal checkins are a good strategy to reinforce your resolutions.
I also think that seasonal checkins are helpful in offering a structure for your choices of resolutions: if you tailor your intentions to each specific season, it will be easier to follow up on them. So, if one of your resolutions is to grow some of your own food, depending on the climate where you live, the 'winter' portion of your resolution could be researching, perusing seed catalogues, consulting local experts, starting some seeds. In the spring, when you check in on your resolutions, you could plan to get the ground ready and get more seeds started. Summertime checkin, you might be harvesting some greens already, starting more rotations of seeds for fast-growing crops, and planning and executing a weeding and pest-control schedule. Summertime checkin is also a good time to remind yourself that even with growing a garden, as far as resolutions go, it's never too late! Even if you haven't followed through with everything and are not going to be able to produce some of the slower-growing plants, you can still have lettuce in 3-4 weeks, or baby greens in much less time. And at the fall equinox checkin, you should be happily harvesting!
Keeping the seasons in mind may also help you to be realistic and detailed. If you have 'spending more time out in the sun' as a 'New Years' resolution and it's deep midwinter where you are, it's likely that it will be harder for you to keep to that. But if you plan to get out in the middle of the day in the winter sun, when it's out, and make more ambitious and specific resolutions during your sumer solstice checkin, you will remain motivated and interested in what you thought you wanted to do all the way back then.
And if it's something that you only want to do once in the course of the year, you get three opportunities to remind yourself to make it happen! Three opportunities not to consider yourself a failure for not having done it.
The truth is, when you make a resolution, you need to renew that commitment regularly, you need to be positive about it and you need to be very detailed about what it is that you are setting out to do.
A final tip: be realistic, but also be creative. I gave an example above of the resolution to grow some of your own food. If you live in a climate where it is midwinter on New Year's day, you could easily make this resolution and then let it slide, because the ground is frozen right now! Or, with seasonal checkins and step-by-step planning, you could make it something you're working toward even before you get your hands in the dirt, which will help to keep up your enthusiasm.
Keeping it Fresh in the Wintertime
I want to conclude this article by pointing out again that keeping in touch with the seasons is a good way to stay well-directed, including in terms of keeping resolutions, but that eating plenty of fresh food is another part of developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In my last article, I promised that this time I would talk a bit about fresh food in the wintertime. I feel well-qualified to talk about that, since I live up in Alaska! The first and most obvious thing that I would say is that if you live in a northern climate, or a place with harsh winters, it makes sense to accept that the proportion of your food that is very fresh will be lower during this season. When the ground is frozen, you won't be going out and picking your veggies right there and then, and the produce in the store has likely had to come from farther away too.
I love using the preserved bounty from our garden in the winter - fermented veggies are a great food, rich in probiotics and vitamins, and I find the nettles that we dried on bed-sheets by the bushel in the springtime delicious sprinkled in salads, included in smoothies or made into tea. These are nutritious and powerful foods, and they allow me to feel a connection with what the earth around here can produce even when it isn't producing. For truly 'fresh' foods, however, I love my sprouts! They are so easy to grow, even with no special equipment.
I've been growing sprouts in a quart-sized mason jar. I put around 3 tablespoons of seeds in the jar and soak for several hours (two-three hours will do it in most cases, but overnight is fine too). I then drain the water through a strainer. (You can buy special 'sprouting lids' that screw onto mason jars and have mesh of different sizes for different kinds of sprouts, but I don't have any and, although they're handy, they're not essential.) Then I leave the jar lying on its side, in a place out of strong, direct light, and rinse again morning and evening until done, which is usually two-three days. If there's any suspicion of mold growth, I rinse the sprouts with water with a good splash of hydrogen peroxide added. You can buy a sprouting mix, which typically contains a combination like lentil, clover, alfalfa and radish. Or you can sprout individual seeds. I love the mix, but also make a lot of lentil sprouts and fenugreek sprouts. They sprout so readily and quickly, which suggests that they're vibrant and bursting with life. I love the smell of fenugreek seeds, kind of a cross between curry and maple syrup: they are especially good in curry-type dishes. Fenugreek is good for blood sugar balance, as well as for stimulating milk flow in nursing mothers. Lentils, meanwhile, contain the most protein of any legume and are by far the most palatable of the commonly eaten legumes in sprouted form (fenugreek itself, of course, is a legume too, as is alfalfa). Other commonly eaten legumes can be harshly starchy and acrid if eaten just sprouted and not also steamed.
I confess, I haven't always been a big lover of sprouts. However, living in a place where nothing will grow outside for several months of the year has helped me to fall in love with them. It's very possible that the concept of having vibrantly, immediately fresh produce on my plate is what I fell in love with before the taste. But after a few massaged kale salads with fenugreek seeds and a curry sauce, or bean salads with sprouted and steamed aduki beans, chopped green beans, mixed sprouts and a tahini-lemon dressing, I definitely came to crave the crunch and delicate fresh taste of the sprouts themselves.
So, there's an example right there of my final tip about being creative as well as realistic in making resolutions: I accept that I can't have as much super-fresh food as at other times of year, but I am enjoying life-force-filled fresh foods even in the midst of an Alaskan winter! We live in a tiny cabin and have no extra space, but I am considering making my own resolution this winter to take it to another level, spread some dirt on some trays and try growing some 'microgreens' or wheatgrass! Although they're never quite as good when grown indoors, without the direct sun and contact with the ground, fresh baby lettuces and spinach greens in the deep of winter here would seem luxurious indeed.
Happy holidays to everyone and all the best of freshness and transformation in resolution-making!