Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year of the TIGER

The Chinese year of the Tiger, otherwise known as 2010 for some who follow the Western calender, is close to ending. Soon it will be New Year 2011 for some people as the Chinese year of the Tiger continues until February. I've always wondered about the meaning of the Chinese calender. As a child I remember eating in Chinese restaurants where they had the table covered with Chinese calenders for customers to read and learn, and I loved reading about the different animals that corresponds to our birth years. Anything different has been intriguing to me always I guess. But I never was able to keep up with the Chinese calender until I realized this year is the year of the Tiger. Tigers are one of the animals I am quite fond of, to me they represent beauty, power, grace, elegance and freedom all in one. So beautiful. I always wished I was born in the year of the Tiger, but nope I was born in the year of Sheep:) It's said that being born in the year of the Sheep makes me charming, elegant, artistic, a worrier who likes comfort, but with a tendency to complain about things and surprisingly it's true! I asked a friend who knows about the Chinese calender and he said the year of the Tiger represents wealth, power, and because of this most people who follow this calender hope their kids are born in the year of Tiger. Tigers are also said to be adventurous, charming, initiative, risk takers who make good bosses. So, check it out, and if you're born in the year of Tiger, you're quite lucky according to the Chinese calender. The Chinese New Year starts when it's the second New Moon after the winter solstice. In February 3, 2011 we enter the year of Rabbit. There are 12 animal names; so by this system, year names are repeated every 12 years. Traditionally, each new year, people will decorate their homes with many New Year Graphics; the best of which are from the small town called Yangliuqing. Yanliuqing paintings were first produced between 1573 and 1620.

As we enter new years and changes, new events or anything that gives us the feeling of transition, hope, positivity or even fear, it's helpful to take the time to reflect on what we've accomplished, learned, failed in, so that we can plan for some changes that help us come closer to our goals, whether it's personal or work related. The following tips can help you to stay calm and allow transitions, changes or stress of any kind to progress more smoothly while keeping you centered. Feel free to mix and match these exercises to adapt to anything that you encounter.

- Walking meditation: while wondering at the shopping mall, grocery store or streets going to work/school or back home or using a staircase, consider trying to focus on your steps and concentrate on the repetition (counting 1, 2, 1, 2 or left, right, left, right may also help). As you do this let your mind just be, and focus on being mindful of your steps. Try this even if you're walking only for 5 minutes.
- Breathing meditation: Meditation on the go. While waiting in a line, driving or sitting instead of wondering what a waste of time, consider the valuable opportunity to go within. Concentrate on your breath as you inhale and then exhale. Maybe try thinking, out goes negative energy as you exhale, and in comes positive energy as you inhale (this is my fave practice). Try to breathe out more than you inhale to empty the air fully. Each exhalation should aim to be about twice as long as the inhalation. This helps lower blood pressure and works quite instantly. Focus only on your breath and if you can, close your eyes for a bit. This is also a great practice to do at work, especially on a stressful day.
- Simple Meditation: For quick bursts of calmness and relaxation suitable for any situation. Close your eyes, or softly gaze down if you’re not comfortable closing your eyes where you are. Watch your thoughts go by without getting attached to any thought in particular. Let the sounds of the world fade away as you go within. Stay with this practice for a few moments; even just a moment is enough to centre you.
- Mindfulness: Bring your awareness to your actions. Remember we can't change other people and can't change most situations, but we can change our (re)actions to allow a mutual environment to develop. This is probably the most difficult practice to continue awareness in every moment, at least for me, but you can start with small steps. To start, try it while eating, bring your awareness to the food in front of you, notice the aroma, with each bite, notice the flavour and texture of the food. Consciously chew each piece of food on your plate. This easy exercise allows you to slow down as you savour the simple pleasures in life. Making your meals a ritual of awareness allows you stay grounded in preparation for whatever comes next in your day. Eating mindfully, without disturbances such as the TV, can help you lose weight as well.
- Guided Meditation: You have a chance to allow the energy of the universe to guide you to relax. This is best to practice to aid in falling asleep and relax fully. Similar toYogic Sleep (Yoga Nidra), a state of conscious deep sleep. When you’re ready to go to sleep, lay on your back. Find a comfortable position with your arms to your sides and your legs slightly apart as in Shavasana (corpse) pose. You may also try a butterfly pose with your knees bent, let your legs drop out like butterfly wings, keep the base of your feet touching, one hand on your belly, one on your heart. Close your eyes and slowly start to scan your body. Bring your awareness to the top of your head and breathe into that area relaxing that part of your body. Then bring your awareness to your eyes, breathe into that area as your eyes start to totally relax. Repeat this process with every part of your head such as nose, cheeks, mouth, chin, and ears. Continue moving down your body until you reach your toes. By then you’ll probably already be asleep and in bliss. If it's difficult to focus like this you may consider trying to listen to a Guided meditation CD where usually a person softly talks you through meditation and falling asleep. Or try listening to a meditation/chanting CD (my fave now Sanctuary) or only background nature sounds.
Note: In Meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake.

So, whether you follow the Western calender, or the Chinese or some other calender I hope as we enter a New Year, we all can think positively, see transitions, or transformations as an opportunity to see things differently, maybe change, flow in new directions, try new things or simply continue breathing and hoping to find the peace and happiness within ourselves.
I will be trying a totally new-to-me practice when entering 2011 in Istanbul. I'll be meditating and then chanting with the yoga community to enter 2011 relaxed, happy and in positive moods and will be spreading this energy around the whole world. I hope you'll be able to feel my energy and send me some positivity as well. Let me know if you've had such an experience before and how it was for you or if you're also trying something different to celebrate the new year. I hope as the new year of 2011 and the year of Rabbit enters our lives, some of you will have the courage to share more with me on my blog or in person.
Oh and isn't it so cool that I wrote all of this article while on a super luxurious (and cheap) bus from Ankara to Istanbul with the view of snowy mountains, cute peaceful villages passing by...:)

May the power of peace, beauty, and happiness be with you always...
Happy New Year:)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PINK Music

So I'm actually not into music videos or pop music that much anymore, but through some breastfeeding related research group I was informed that the singer PINK has a new music video ( in which around the mid point of the video you see several women sitting tied to breast pumps that are attached to some tubing that feeds a baby cow. Really interesting that a famous singer is so openly questioning how come humans are feeding cow milk (based formula) to their babies and why not the other way around.
Well actually, you would know if you read some of my posts that I am totally a promoter of organic food and sustainable living and so I'm also a promoter of breastfeeding (and of course that is party how I became a lactation counselor). So, feeding other foods when breast milk is the best and readily available food for babies doesn't seem to be ideal. Would you think of feeding cows your milk? Actually maybe humans haven't tried feeding cows human milk, but they have tried so hard to feed cows food that they normally don't eat, such as corn and soy which tend to be genetically engineered as well, which makes the cows sick and then the people who eat those cows get sick too. Cows are herbivors, and they eat grass and whatever else is mixed in the soil with grass, so should not be fed anything else.
Anyhow, I wanted to share this to spread the energy of women and especially breastfeeding women around for the sake of sustainable living. I would love to hear from you if you have ideas about this as well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grapefruit a Super Food

So I mentioned I'm loving organic grapefruits this month. Almost every week I get them fresh from the organic bazaar in Istanbul, Ferikoy (Note: to learn more about organic food in Turkey visit Bugday organization here). It's interesting that I didn't like the extreme tangy taste of grapefruits until I went to Kripalu (my fave yoga & wellness center so far), and a Dietitian there listed Grapefruits in his Super Food list, which helped me remember how nutritious they really are and the next morning and the others after that I started eating grapefruits, as most people in Kripalu were doing. Yes, it's really tangy, almost like a sharp bitter taste and some hidden sweetness in it, so it was difficult to get used to but I did it and now I love them. Organic tastes so much better and they have a sweet aroma. I eat the whole thing, including the pulp, except the thick outer skin. However, the skin and all can be used in marmalade making which I haven't tried yet, but thinking about it now...
It's funny that the latin name for grapefruits is citrus paradisi, meaning a citrus fruit that tastes like paradise. Maybe it did taste like paradise in the past with certainly less polluted soil and air, but I'm not sure it tastes like paradise nowadays, but it's certainly very healthy. These winter fruits were discovered in Barbados in the 18th century and are related to oranges, lemons and pomelo fruits, although some think they are a natural cross between an orange and a pomelo. Grapefruits come as pink/red inside or white (blond) inside and although there isn't a huge taste difference, there is a nutritional difference. The white ones are slightly higher in sugar, meaning they are slightly sweeter, and the pink ones are higher in Vitamin A and C, meaning they are much better for your eyes, skin and immune system. However, all kinds of grapefruits have at least some of it's nutritional qualities, so any grapefruit is better than eating none which you'll see why when you read the health benefits below. Also, try to eat the fruit rather than drinking just the juice because the juice will not give you the complete nutritional benefits. Grapefruit is a Super Food because of many goodies it provides for our bodies. Grapefruits:
- Help to fight against cold symptoms because of its high Vitamin C content.
- Help lower Cholesterol and may lower Triglycerides too. This seems to be because of the soluble fiber, pectin in grapefruit which helps the body to absorb less fat from foods.
- Help protect against some Cancers (especially, prostate, breast, lung, colon) because its ranked among the highest in antioxidants. Lycopene is one of the antioxidants found in grapefruits, also in tomatoes. It gives the fruit its pink/red color. Limonin is another one. These antioxidants/phytonutritients work against tumor formation in the body, helping to prevent cancer. Their antioxidant level also seem to stay active for 24 hours after consumption which is higher than some other foods with antioxidant activity. This means better protection against cancer.
- Also seem to help in detoxification of the liver which is the main organ that carries toxins in our body.
- They are low in calorie, high in fiber and nutritional value which means they are perfect snacks to add to a day that will keep you full and help you maintain a healthy weight.

However, I have to note that if you are using any type of medication for heart problems, or blood pressure issues DO NOT eat grapefruits or drink grapefruit juice until you consult your doctor or a Dietitian as some of these meds are affected by grapefruits.

To choose the one that tastes like paradise and has the most antioxidant activity: The fruits should be heavy for their size as this usually indicates that they feature thin skins and therefore a higher concentration of juicier flesh. Those that have overly rough or wrinkled skin or soft spots usually tend to be thick skinned and should be avoided. Choose the fully ripened ones.
Then for a creative tangy salsa, try mixing chopped grapefruit pieces with chopped avocado, chilli peppers and cilantro or parsley. Hey this is perfect for a Christmas theme inspired appetizer since it's green & red. So hope you go and choose some beautiful juicy grapefruits and join my Eat-A-Grapefruit-Every-Winter-Day Club:)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boston Memoirs...

It has been 2 months since I left Boston or in better words moved from Boston, as of today exactly 9 weeks and 1 day. As I am unpacking my 25 boxes that arrived 2 months later I realize that I am faced with so many memoirs that are tingling my nervous system and I find myself missing Boston and doubting my decision to leave Boston...I lived in the Boston area for a little more than 9 years, it's the most I've lived in one city actually, so it has some very important memoirs (not counting my moves around Boston area). I moved to Boston after college in Illinois to work in a lab and then made a career change and went to graduate school and then worked as a Dietitian and then somehow some mysterious force confinced me to move to Turkey. And why have I not written down my memoirs? These past 9 years, actually total 13 years spent in USA has been the time when I grew up and changed a lot pyschologically. So I decided to write down my memories, my faves, my wish I did this in Boston in a list that goes like this: (Please remember these are really important for me and my personal view of the Boston area that contributed to the person I am now, and because I have lived there for a long time it is a long list).
- Boston is where I had my first job as a newly graduate.
- Boston is where I worked with mice, both in the lab where I had to experiment on them and in both of the houses I lived there where we kinda were roommates for some time. Ahhhh! was not a great experience.
- I lived on High Street in Brookline for 7 years and River Street in Cambridge for 2 years. When I had found out that there is a street in Cambrigde named Garfield St, I really really wanted to live on that street but didn't happen. Luckily, all the streets I've lived on in US have had great names by chance.
- I once looked at a house to rent on Elm St. in Cambridge and it was a great house, but because of the name of the street I couldn't rent it (Elm Street Nightmares was in my head).
- The house on High St. used to be owned by some hippies I believe and I experienced squirrels building nests in the roof and squirrels, mice and bats living in the attic (not the part I lived in). Interesting?
- I've visited Lee Street in Cambridge and Prospect Ave. Somerville side for many many times as some friends know and had some of the best experiences, parties and friendships develop and thighten there.
- Other streets I've walked on and hanged out around the most are Massachusetts Ave., JFK St., Brattle St., Harvard St, Newbury St, Boylston St, and the Storrow Drive and Memorial Drive (but more on the walk way next to Charles River) and of course Harvard square, Central square, and Coolidge Corner.
- The studio I rented on High St. was the attic 3rd floor of a house and it was the most beautiful place I've ever lived in with huge windows and blue walls and always green garden view.
- First time I drove on the long American highways more than I could imagine and with lots of confidence.
- First time I had a car accident and first time someone hit my car at a Stop sign! (Hopefully these are first and last!)
- I drove from Boston to Montreal, Quebec (about 7 hours) and back once and alone and it was the longest time I spent driving and I got a speeding ticket in Vermont and this may be the last time I drive that much...
- First time I visited New York City and had lots and lots of fun as I visited many more times, but then I got tired of big cities.
- First time I shoveled snow that was higher than my height and my car.
- First time I did sailing and it was a tiny boat, we were 3 people on the Charles River.
- Boston is where I became a vegetarian and started experimenting in vegetarian cooking.
- Boston is where I first started baking and oh yes it was deliciousa as some know.
- I was introduced to Indian cuisine here for the first time and the very first restaurant my friends took me was spicy as hell but then I found out there are certain spices and dishes that are less spicy and realized that there are common ingredients in Indian and Turkish cuisine and eventually fell in love with this cuisine as well.
- Of course this is the city where my Nutrition knowledge was enlightened and where I became a Dietitian and then a Lactation Counselor.
- And I started practicing yoga for the first time here, the very first time was in a church with some odd old teacher which made me not like yoga at all but then I thought maybe I should try a yoga studio with normal looking teachers and it happened while I was living in Cambridge, my best friend and I started at Karma yoga every Sunday morning at 11am I think it was and we fell in love with our teacher, the studio and yoga which led me to 6 years of practicing in Karma Yoga Studio with various teachers and styles.
- First time where I started running for exercise and to deal with stress in the city and even realized the possibilitiy of running at a marathon.
- I already mentioned that I grew a lot here, but Boston is where I experienced my first transformation and changed the most pschycologically, changing my point of view on life and the world.
- This city and my growing interest in Nutrition made me realize the importance of organic and local foods and I started shopping only at Farmers Markets in the summer and stopped buying other stuff in order to afford it. Other times mostly I shopped at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods again limiting the money I spent on other stuff.
- I have to say Boston is where I fell in love, really fell in love for the first time and was so blinded by this that I missed my flight for the first time...
- First time I babysitted and fell in love with a baby...
- First time I worked in a chocolate shop but only lasted a few weeks because my classes needed more time and I ate too much chocolate there...hey they wanted me to try all the flavors in order to inform the customers and there were at least 40 flavors. But still its the best place I've ever worked so far.
- First time I worked at a cafe, Kookoo, tiny cute little place but with the best Middle Eastern food and best boss which was a great experience for me.
- First time I swam in a ocean and not a sea. But I still preferr the Mediterranean sea.
- Started painting in my studio in Boston through classes at the School of Museum of Fine Arts.
- Learned Spanish mostly by speaking, hearing and watching Spanish movies and shows because had to counsel clients in Spanish.
- First time I drove a UHaul truck (to carry my 25 boxes to the shipping office of course) and my feet hardly reached the gas or brake because the seat didn't move and did I say it was a huge truck, was a difficult thing to drive...
- This city and High St. studio is where I went through several life changing events and illnesses. (Can't say what is my first life changing event, is it when I moved to US alone at age 18 or when I was forced to move from one country to another growing up until then?)
- First time I ever went to a Temple which was a Hare Krishna Temple and fell in love with the Temple that also changed my life, but sadly it was only about 1 month before I left Boston.
*So, in the end, Turkey had been the country I grew up physically as a teenager, but USA has been the country I grew mentally, psychologically and spiritually. Now I'm in Turkey again, so wait and see what comes...

My fave spots in Boston area that you could have found me at are:
Harvard Square wondering on the streets or listening to street musicians or at Au Bon Pain or Crema Cafe or Dado Tea or wondering around at some summer festival or chatting with friends.
Dado Tea in Central Sq.
Coolidge Corner in Brookline.
Kendall Square Cinema (Independent movies)
Harvard Square Bookstore (the independent one)
Trident cafe and bookstore on Newbury St.
Brookline Booksmith on Harvard St. (also an independent one)
H&M store on Newbury St.
Urban Outfitters store on Newbury St and Harvard sq.
Anthropologie clothing Store on Boylston St.
Free People clothing Store in Prudential
Lululemon sports/yoga Store in Prudential
Ten Thousand Villages Store in Brookline
Berk's, Camper, and The Tannery Shoe stores.
A Peruvian Store in Harvard sq. Mass ave...don't know its name.
Miracle of Science cafe and bar
Casablanca Restaurant and bar.
GrassHopper Vegan Restaurant
All Indian restaurants in Cambridge
Algiers Cafe in Harvard Sq.
Central St. Cafe in JP (Jamaica Plain)
Dim Sum at China Pearl
Japonaise Bakery and cafe in Brookline
Paris Bakery in Brookline
Caffe Paradiso in Brookline, next to Boston University or on Newbury St. (This place which I found out is a small chain was also my fave cafe in Urbana at UIUC, IL where I drank coffee, chatted a lot and studied a lot).
Tealuxe and Teavana for tea...
Cuchi Cuchi and Oleana are my fave restaurants but I haven't been there that much because they are $$$$$$
Top of the Hub (Lounge on the top of Prudential with the best view of Boston and free jazz music every night).
Cambridge 1 Restaurant for the best pizza and beer right before a movie at Harvard Loews Cinema.
L.A. Burdick cafe for their hot chocolate
Finale Restaurant for their Chocolate Cake (go their during a Birthday and get a special!)
Farmers Markets at Copley and Brookline.
Cristina's Ice cream in Inman Sq. (try the Adzuki Bean ice cream and anything with ginger!)
Toscanini Ice Cream (I loved the one in Harvard sq the most until they closed and kept only the original store in Central Sq.)
Metropolis Cafe for their Belgian dark chocolate pancakes.
Ula Cafe in JP.
Cafe Pomplana in Harvard sq is cute but good for a quick coffee not to sit for hours.
Karma Yoga Studio in Harvard Sq. (also with a cafe)
Museum of Fine Arts, especially during the annual Turkish Film Festival
Boston Common Park, usually walking around the pond and staring at the beautiful trees, even in the winter...
Charles River walkway starting from Massachusetts Ave. on Boston side up to where it ends around Museum of Science.
Hatchshell during the summer for events and festivals on the Boston side of Charles River.
Charles River walkway starting from around JFK St on Cambride Side and walking towards Watertown...this is also where I ran with my best friend for some great Sunday mornings.
My fave Bridge is actually not the Harvard Brigde on Mass. Ave. but the small bridge that connects Cambridge to the Harvard business or law school...don't know its name..Ahhh!
Walking to and around Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain where I worked and where people ice skated many years ago.
Also the T (subway) especially Green D Line and the Red Line is where I spent a lot of time in but not my fave places really, especially the Green Lines.

Fave Trips from Boston:
Commuter Rail train to Rockport (my fave town and place where I dreamt of moving to instead of Turkey but didn't happen).
Train to Newburyport and then Salem (the witch town as they say).
Driving to Newport, RI or Provincetown in Cape Cod.
Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires (Western Mass.) - this place changed my life.
Trips with the cheap buses to NYC- my first trips were exciting, but I don't desire to be in huge and caotic cities like that anymore. Boston to NYC trips always made me think of Ankara to Istanbul trips although I never lived in Ankara, I thought I understood those people wanting to be in a bigger city until now.
New England States, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine great for skiing but also all sorts of activities that I didn't have time to do:(

Wish I also did...
Spend more time traveling to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and the Cape and its Islands.
Saved money to go to Kripalu Yoga Center many many more times.
Have the time to go to more yoga retreats.
Saved money to travel to the Caribbean and Central America and South America. (But I have seen most of USA and some of Canada).
Drive on Route 1 all the way to the North end in Maine visiting each little town on the way.
Have the courage to move to Rockport and start all over again.

So, yep I do miss Boston and friends who are still there and even the places I haven't had a chance to visit. Well, life goes on with more opportunities and I am optimistic about the future and open to changes...
Anything similar you've experienced, some big move perhaps or memories as a Bostonian? I'd love to hear about them...