See for Yourself

Last week we combined family with travel in the most delightful way. For me that meant traveling across country to California and sightseeing some unexplored territory. I love noticing the variety in nature wherever I go. The mental shake up in the backdrop to my interactions turns the unnoticed to wow! in hurry.

Shifting yourself out of the reassuring monotone of daily routine into a level of complex uncertainty is healthy even if occasionally uncomfortable. In fact, it’s the discomfort that is so stimulating. In the past year I’ve struggled to change my relationship to pain by strength-building in the literal physical sense, and it’s working. Coming back from injury, whether its physical, emotional or spiritual deserves your mindful attention.

Whether it’s a new destination or a staycation, you can shift your perspective and up your game. Introduce a new backdrop to your day by seeing with new eyes.

On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz

#alwayslearning

 

 

 

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Lost Your Marbles?

If there is one thing I enjoy it’s cross training my brain. I love a good routine as much as the next person, but my brain on repeat goes a bit numb from time to time and then I crave a shift of perspective. It ends up to be time well spent when creative solutions to mental blocks come into view as a result.

On a recent Sunday I spent all day at fabric marbeling workshop with other like-minded students. And, wow, did my brain explode with the color options. A day at the studio, learning a new form of expression by manipulating charged water, surface tension and and tools both classic and inventive, left me replete with satisfaction.

Hand-eye coordination is greatly underrated, in fact we take it for granted as we sit at our screens. How wonderful to see so many possibilities unfold in a reflecting pool!

 

Cultural Education Outreach

#Always Learning

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http://www.laterbloomer.com/

 

Welcome Yule

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It’s no secret, the change of seasons influences us all profoundly. No matter how hard we work to maintain a constant environment with regulated temperatures, a ready light source and an abundant variety of food to suit every taste, stepping outside our chosen hives of activity we confront the day before us.

The Winter Solstice  arrives December 21 at 11:28 am. EST. Take a breath. Here in New England the air is crisp and dry. The sun has a different slant. The colors have begun leeching from the landscape, leaving only the evergreens. A flurry has left behind a tidal wash of snowy icing here and there.

There it is. Winter is here. This is the Shortest Day. The time for Revelling is at its peak!

Change, I’ve often written, is our only constant. Take comfort in this one sure thing. Some may despair while others celebrate. We cope and hope and look to the new day. May you praise the moments of light, embrace the warmth in the presence of caring individuals, feel all the way to your bones the music of the season and cherish the moments of stillness in the aftermath.

When the festivities fade let the curtain close, take the time to replenish your energies and gather the fuel to grow and renew your forward motion.

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Do No Harm  

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”  Voltaire

Compassion and kindness are not soft, they are strengths. We need them in our personal lives and in community. We need to show ourselves that same compassion. The internal critic can be a harsh taskmaster and deflecting it onto others to avoid its judgement does not relieve the pressure, it only tarnishes us further.

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Be Here Now

“I am a beginner on the path”  Ram Dass

After the big moments are ended, avoid the letdown by looking for the small moments. Cherish with gratitude the ordinary. We’re granted the reliability of a perpetually turning Planet Earth. There is a reason to celebrate this quiet victory: find it and savor it.

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Give the Gift of Time

“Hope springs eternal”  Alexander Pope

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac our winter will be very very cold but without much snow. We shall find out in due course. I may have to declare a few personal “snow days”  because I cherish the enforced time of stopping in winter. To be fallow is not idleness. We all need time to let the noise pass through us and allow deep knowledge to settle. Experience the simple beauty of nature to emerge refreshed and inspired.

I’m full of quotes today!`From the recesses of my brain I pull this out. It’s The Sound of Music.  “Nothing comes from, Nothing ever could”  Richard Rodgers

Do something good for someone. Make it a practice for the New Year.

Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays to all.

Welcome Yule!!

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With Love and Hope,

Claire

All Photos by Claire Mauro

P.S. May you experience a true Jolabokaflod –  a Book Flood of reading to light the winter darkness.

 

How to Fill Your Bucket

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Labor Day Weekend is almost here. Looking ahead to the turn of the season means most of us shake off the sand and fold up the beach towels. I’m not much of beach lounger myself but I do love walking along the surf’s edge. Fortunate am I to combine beach walking this summer with multiple reunions with dear friends and family. We visited 5 different beaches in 5 east coast states this summer! It is rare occurrence for us to have so much activity and one that coincided with the cosmic event of the solar eclipse. Believe me I cherish each and every memory, stored up to examine again and again in winter.

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One thing I observed about kids and the beach, the play is pretty similar today to when we were kids. Remember that sand pail and shovel you used on the beach as a child? How many different ways did you use that? Not just for sand that’s for sure. It can hold lots of beach flotsam and seawater, the precious bits and pieces to later spark shards of memory. In my mind’s eye I see the roll of the waves, hear the sounds of the surf and cries of gulls, and feel the sand between my toes, smell the briny shoreline. Remember when the shells and stones, mermaids purses, dried seaweed, and driftwood festooned your bedroom and littered the back porch?

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Maybe today you don’t use the bucket, maybe you should. We’re all familiar with the Bucket List, a popular term, made more ubiquitous by the 2007 film, for that list of things to do before you die. It’s no small thing to be made aware of your mortality in such a way. To “kick the bucket” is a bravado term for dying, one that invokes the image of cowboys expressing gallows humor, i.e., that detached coolness in the face of dire odds.

A bucket list is so much better if it motivates individuals beyond their fears and daily to-do lists, spurring them to positive action for their own well-being.

 

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Whether you see your glass half full or half empty right now, I recommend a different kind of bucket. Not the end-times container but one we can carry every day. It’s the container of our core beliefs, a reminder of what we value, and how to put those beliefs into action. Have you thought about yours lately? Why not cultivate a commitment to altruism, the selfless concern for the well-being of others?

Prosocial action is good for you, and good for all. This is how we grow resilience in the face of stress, by reaching out in our own small ways as best we can. We are all neighbors after all and recent events in Charlottesville and across Texas illustrate that in the most graphic and dire ways.

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Robert F. Kennedy  said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest  walls of oppression and resistance.”
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In the waning days of summer, ask yourself: What are my core beliefs? How can I bring actions for our common good into greater alignment with my daily life?

Close your eyes and listen to the waves, see if you can hear your answer.

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Be Well — Safe Holiday Weekend to ALL

Claire

 

 

All Photos Claire Mauro

It’s Summer time, do you know where your toes are?

 

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I love when the universe sends me a message, even when it comes with an ouch! I was assembling a shelf last weekend and dropped a heavy-duty wheel attachment that glanced off my middle toe—on my “good” foot. Even though my toe throbbed non-stop for 24 hours I had to laugh. I’d been thinking hard about my summer goals and juggling those expectations with the siren call of outdoor adventures. I’m well aware of how push-pull of demands from outside can derail my focus and I was determined to stay on task. But experience has taught me the body has a way of “talking over” the voices of others. Pay attention! Yes it’s the barefoot season, with the summer solstice arriving at 12:24 a.m. on Wednesday June 21. Temps are in the 90s after our prolonged cold spring rains. Summer in New England is heating up.

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

A dear friend once came to visit and taught me a powerful lesson about stillness. In the heat of the day, after she had traveled so far, why not just sit together?? With the fan lazily moving overhead and the windows open wide we sat in companionable silence on the porch and gradually, with no outside interruption, words poured forth. Keeping perfectly still was a release, a rescue of sorts. So maybe this summer, in the heat of the day, just stop with the busyness. Sit in stillness – not for 30 seconds- try 5 minutes. As you stretch your awareness, instead of your movements causing a breeze you’ll be able to detect the movement of air around you. Be still another 5 minutes and you will begin to feel cool. You will actually have greater clarity to then get up and continue if you must—you might even shift your awareness of what is truly important.

 

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WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

It’s Travel Time. Road trips restore us by putting the horizon just beyond our windshield. Our car becomes a magic chariot, decanting us into a new landscape. In summer an old growth forest becomes a sandy shoreline; suburban sprawl a charming historic wharf; city streets a mountain retreat. Such was the case for my husband and I this past week. After days of endless inland rain we emerged into a sunny Wellfleet afternoon on the Cape.

 

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THE MUNDANE BECOMES SUBLIME

The daily catch of seafood and locally grown produce led the day. Our outlook brightened with the sun, and I noticed how we see each other differently across a table of nature’s bounty, enjoying the moment without regard for the tasks and chores and nagging questions left behind at home. The simple pleasures unfolded with a meal well-prepared, with engaging and artful hosting and the vibrant setting where all guests were made to feel welcome.

 

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REMEMBER TO PLAY TOGETHER

Within the shared moments, across the sand or across a table, new possibilities emerge. Mingled on the fresh scent of the breeze off the ocean that day was a tantalizing suggestion of new opportunity and renewed promise. O, Spring does lead to Summer! — in relationships as well as the progress of the seasons.

STAY CURIOUS

Walking on the sand we test the icy water. And leave some footprints to wash away when we leave. Despite the impermanence of our day excursion we feel more grounded, finding a respite from events beyond our view. As the day winds down we’re filled with the hope that lingers in the slowly setting sun.

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FOLLOW THE CURRENT

The beauty of stillness is that you can take it with you anywhere. Whether you embrace every invitation or not, when you work hard and play hard too, the interval in between becomes an important component of a healthy balanced life.

 

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Book of the Month: Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

This is a gorgeous book for an imperfect time. There are lessons on the beauty and serenity inherent in the everyday, especially in the natural, slightly used and in need of repair. Charming collages combine with haiku creating a multidimensional experience for the reader. The text’s gentle prodding cultivates curiosity in both young and old.

A Bit of Movement:

Toes are in the spotlight in a summer weather, and I’m not talking about a fresh pedicure. How’s your toe alignment? Now that barefoot season is upon us, it’s the perfect time create an exercise habit for your toes. .A little Toe Yoga can set you up for a great day of fun in the sun.

Chris and I have teamed up for a sequence to start your day off on the right foot!

Stretches: Don’t just swing out of bed and start moving—take time to feel the surface beneath your feet. Notice the points of contact from toe to heel, then push off.

Stop at the kitchen counter while you prep your morning wake up drink- and  stretch your toes by lifting up from the heels.

Alignments: Sit and weave your fingers between your toes, shaking hands with your foot. Then hand-in-foot circle the ankle too.

Foot prints: Capitalize on this foot awareness by pressing your feet into your mat as you rise up into the warrior pose. Feel the power of your calves and thighs respond to this supportive grounding. You have enhanced the value of your workout by cultivating a strong and mindful base.

Something to Wear: Yoga Toes Sandals

Something for Fun: Foot Art – henna tattoos for the feet

Something Soothing: Foot Reflexology

Happy Summer Solstice to All!

Chris and Claire

Text Photos Claire Mauro

Yoga Photos Chris Primavera

Arancini,  Ceraldi

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Fresh Color for Dinner!

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Dad and Mom outside their Florida Home, 1970s

My Dad was right. During his adult years high blood pressure was a dangerous problem because he had a type of hypertension not well-managed with the existing medication. In an effort to help himself he turned to naturopathic medicine. Dad tirelessly promoted a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, at least that’s how it seemed to us sitting at the dinner table. He became the food explorer, trying new flavors and combinations and pressing his discoveries on the rest of the family.

There was no stopping Dad when he leaned over my dinner plate, squeezing fresh lemon on all the vegetables, meat and potatoes saying, “This will make you beautiful!” He often railed against our packaged snack foods of childhood. Mom was no help; she went along with all his ideas. I’m sure she hoped a cure was in reach and his strategy would keep his debilitating disease at bay.

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Carrot, hummus, and sunflower seed appetizer

It turns out Dad didn’t go far enough. Over the years I‘ve been inspired by his food adventurism myself. I cherish the memories of group meals and extended family dinners from my childhood and with our own family and friends today. Healthy fresh meals, full of fun preparations and festive gathering together, remain high spots on my life landscape. For a while though I lost sight of Dad’s full aim, his belief that through loving interaction we also can use food as medicine.

Today there are many voices hawking food cures, touted to us daily across the media. Popularizing a particular food may give it the mantle of fad or quick fix (really, an “it” veggie of the year?)  And ubiquitous food advice masks more serious issues of food access and quality control for large swathes of our population. Now it seems the media saturation, if effective to draw your attention, is increasingly important. A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows people all across the country are dying daily from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes due to poor diet. We are dying from lack of good food in our land of endless abundance and the all-you-can-eat buffet!

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Savory pancake with tomato and avocado-feta topping

Mainstream medicine is taking a life-changing step, to prescribe food and improved patient access to it through hospitals with a Fresh Food Pharmacy.

Not only that, teaching kitchens are springing up in primary care doctors’ offices, with the basic healthy food preparation skills deemed important to ensure compliance with food prescriptions. The loss of home economics in schools turns out to have endangered our entire national population. Good food practices are lacking across all economic strata. Ask your doctor about gaining food skills!

 

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Fresh strawberries are easily prepped with a knife or strawberry huller tool

Healthy choices are a mark of self-care, just as Dad advocated all those years ago. When we teach our children and ourselves the powerful connection between choosing fresh ingredients and our health and wellbeing, we aren’t denying joy, we are embracing a whole new more joyous adventure into living life fully.

It does take inner strength to do this and a big dose of self-parenting as well. For the past two weeks I’ve been attempting a sugar and gluten cleanse with guidance and group support from Donna at Better Off Well. It’s been eye-opening to discover the hidden sugar and gluten in everyday food encounters. I discovered my own behavioral pitfalls and made substitutions for my food indulgences. Every day is not perfect, but I’m more aware and that makes my choices more mindful. This is a potentially life changing moment, and I know my parents would be pleased to see the lessons they introduced still having an impact.

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Red cabbage and citrus slaw, sweet potato and kale-stuffed portobello mushroom

Here’s my latest Book Discovery—Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal. The South Indian cooking is light and fresh and full of color and flavor. Ingredients are widely available as are the spices. Take yourself on a food adventure in your kitchen!

And for the crime novel lovers, a dash of Indian food, history and culture is integral to the satirical murder mystery, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. As an admirer of Jane Eyre, Jane Steele must navigate the dangerous world of Victorian England to secure her lost inheritance. See my review on Goodreads for more.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and others who parent us along the way!

Photos and food prep, Claire Mauro