“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
– Eckhart Tolle
Life with bipolar disorder combined with ADHD is an interesting adventure—but teaching kids yoga has made it a much more bearable one. I realized that I have a knack for teaching at my very first career as a computer programmer. Instead of enjoying writing and debugging code like most programmers, my favorite work time activities were writing and correcting documentation, and helping the new people understand our system. (Ask any programmer what they think about writing documentation. You rarely will hear enthusiasm at the prospect!)
Following that career, I took a 5-year vacation from working life to have my first child and to be introduced to my new life companion: bipolar disorder. After a month of getting to know it at a psychiatrist hospital in New York City, I decided I decided I didn’t much like my new companion. (They say it takes about ten years for bipolar patients to accept their diagnoses – and this rule held true for me.)
The next ten years were a huge emotional roller coaster. I was on and off my medications, and I was on and off believing that I must live my life with bipolar disorder. During those ten years, I was accumulating all sorts of fears and phobias. Many of them found their niche in my back, causing me to develop debilitating backaches.
The next four years seemed like an unending sequence of acceptance and letting goes as I began regularly practicing hot Bikram yoga. I accepted the bipolar disorder, and miraculously the back pain began to subside. During this time, I also let go of my former jobs. My past environments felt toxic – but the desire to teach was still strong within me. That’s when I discovered YogaKids.
The YogaKids program carried all he answers to my doubts. As I was discovering the principles of YogaKids during my six months of training, I became more and more thrilled. It incorporated many of the things that I believed in when I was helping children back in my academic jobs. I learned so many new techniques and almost a whole new way of teaching.
I feel the process of accepting and letting go is still just starting for me. For 37 years, I lived a life ruled by disorders. Now I’m on the path towards a new way of life ruled by me. And I attribute this major shift in my life to yoga…. both as a lifelong yoga student and as a newly certified YogaKids instructor.
Valentines Day falls on February 14 every year. The real history of Valentine’s Day is a little confusing. It began as two different pagan festivals that were later adopted by the Catholic Church as an entirely separate festival honoring two men ‘(both named Valentine, who were executed on Feb. 14 in two different years, by a Roman emperor) who were later declared Saints. So while the story of Valentine’s Day has some dark and unclear origins, today we exclusively celebrate the holiday to spread love and fond wishes (and little candy hearts).
The people of Earth speak a multitude of languages. What languages do you speak? How do you say “I love you” in your native language? Do you know how to say “I love you” in any other languages?
Here is how we say “I love you” in some of the world’s most widely spoken languages. You can look up videos online for instructions on how to pronounce these words. Can you match the languages to the countries whose people speak them? Can you find those countries on a world map?
Chinese:Wǒ ài nǐ
Spanish: Te amo.
French: Je t’aime
Japanese: Watashi wa, anata o aishiteimasu
Hindi: Main tumase pyaar karata hoon
Russian: Ya lyublyu tebya
Portuguese: Eu te amo
Bengali: Āmi tōmāẏa bhālōbāsi
Today, we are going to make a Valentine’s Day card in ASL – which is short for American Sign Language. ASL is the beautiful language that people who are hearing impaired “speak” with their hands.
Materials & Instructions
Colored paper – one sheet in your flesh color and one in the color you want for the card’s background.
Markers, crayons, pens, etc.
Glitter or other decorations (optional)
Trace your hand and a little bit of your wrist on a piece of paper the color of your skin.
Cut it out.
Fold the other colored piece of paper in half to make the card.
Glue just the palm of the hand and the wrist section to the card, leaving the fingers loose.
Now, place a tiny dot of glue on the tip of the pointer finger, pinkie, and thumb, and glue those fingers in place.
Fold (don’t crease) the middle two fingers down to the palm of the hand and, using a small drop of glue on the very tip of each of those fingers, attach them in place to look like the picture.
Now add your own message of love to the inside and outside of the card and give it to a person you love!
You’ll need a cookie sheet, a food processor or immersion blender (OR a good hand-masher and some patience), a soup pot, and an oven for this soup. You’ll also need an adult to help with cutting, baking, and cooking on the stove top!
2 cups veggie stock
2 pie pumpkins (2lb or less each)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons curry powder (you can substitute half or all curry powder with Seven Spice powder – I do half and half)
1 bunch scallions
1 cup coconut milk + 2T for garnish
Salt to taste
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Chopped parsley garnish optional
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Cut the tops off the pie pumpkins and scoop out the seeds and strings. Try not to scoop out solid flesh. Roast the pumpkins (top included) for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool, then carefully scoop soft meat out of pumpkin, taking care not to puncture the skin if you want to use the pumpkin as a bowl.
Add chopped scallions, spices, and olive oil to a saucepan or cooking pot and stir over medium heat until spices are fragrant, then add vegetable stock and ½ of the pumpkin flesh (all the flesh from one pumpkin).
Bring to a boil, then turn heat off. Allow to cool a little, then use immersion blender to puree. If you’re using a food processor, you need to let it cool down a lot before pureeing. You can also use a potato masher to squash all the squash, if you want your soup chunkier and more stew-like.
Add the rest of the pumpkin (cut into bite sized pieces), bring the soup to a boil again, turn down to simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat, add coconut milk. Garnish with parsley, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a dollop of coconut milk.
To make the pumpkin seeds: Take all the pumpkin meat and gooey strings away until the seeds are mostly clean. Put them in a colander and run water over them, stirring them with your hands until all the pumpkin flesh is rinsed away. Pat them with a paper towel and spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry completely, then toss in a little olive oil (about 1 Tablespoon) and season with 1 teaspoon salt and your choice of other seasonings. I like to use spicy seasoning, like smoked paprika and Aleppo hot chili, but you can use whatever you like! Spread the seeds out again on the cookie sheet so they are in a single layer, and bake at 250F while you’re making the soup. Bake until seeds start to turn golden and are as crispy as you want them.
This recipe sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually very easy. It’s a good teamwork exercise and looks fancy-pantsy for the holidays! If you’re not in a curry mood or don’t like spicy food, you could use nutmeg, sage, or other fragrant spices to season your soup.
While I was making this soup, I also cut my white fairtytale pumpkin (also called Ghost or Lumina) into slices and roasted it, too, so I can puree the roasted quash in a food processor and use it for my holiday breads and pies. Look at this beautiful pumpkin: white on the outside and pretty orange on the outside!
Squash is Awesome
Squash is used mostly by cooks as a vegetable because it goes well with savory spices – meaning, flavors that make up salty or spicy dishes, instead of sweet dishes. If you’ve ever had pumpkin pie or zucchini bread, you will know how sweet and tasty squash can be as a dessert, too! It is classified as a fruit because the seeds are inside. Vegetables are all the other parts of the plant, like stems, roots, and leaves.
Squashes include winter and summer squash, and gourds. Did you know that all the parts of the squash plant are edible? That’s awesome! Tender shoots and leaves can be cooked into soups and stir fry dishes, as well as the blossoms (which are delicious battered and deep fried, or tossed in a little oil and seasoning and pan fried).
Summer squash types include zucchini, yellow (or summer) squash, and pattypan squash. These types of squash have a very thin skin and don’t last for more than a week or so after you’ve removed them from the vine.
Winter squash types include pumpkin, butternut squash, Delicata squash, and lots more. You can tell a winter squash from a summer squash because winter squash has a very thick, tough, inedible rind (or shell) on the outside. Decorative gourds fall into this group, though they are not always edible – some calabash varieties are poisonous in high concentrations (meaning, if you eat a large amount). While you can technically eat most of the decorative gourds you see in the grocery store, their flesh is very bitter, so we usually use them for fall decorations or crafts that involve allowing the middle of the gourd to dry out and using the hollow shell for anything from shakers (like a maraca), to birdhouses, to bowls and carrying baskets. With gourds and many other plants, that bitter taste is often nature’s way of saying, “you should avoid eating me.”
The word “squash” comes from the Massachuset (a tribe of people indigenous to North America) word askutasquash. Most squash originated in South and Central America, where it was then spread by human and animal migration to other continents, including North America. Calabash gourds, which are sometimes hollow, originated in Africa, and scientists believe they spread not only through migration, but also by hollow gourds full of seeds floating across the ocean. That is a long journey! If you look on a map and find East Africa, then find your house, how many miles would a gourd have to travel to get from its original home to you?
Summer squash grow all summer long and are plucked from their vines as they ripen through the whole summer. Winter squash also grow in the spring and summer seasons, but the biggest harvest comes in the fall. The reason they are called winter squash is because their rinds are so durable that, if they are not damaged or punctured, you can keep them all winter long! Squash become more bitter the longer they sit, though, so if you’re cooking with them you’ll want to do it soon after you buy or harvest them.
I used folded note cards to label the winter squash I have — but not just because I needed something to write on. If you’re cooking with winter squash and want to save seeds for your garden, you can label them, use tape to enclose the dried seeds in the paper, and store them in a cool (not freezing) place until you’re ready to plant them. If you have a patch of dirt or a nice big pot that isn’t occupied, try growing some of these yourself, and experiment with all the fun and tastiness squash has to offer!
Chia seeds (chia hispanica) are amazing and nutritious. The originate in Mexico, where they have been cultivated for centuries. In fact, Aztec warriors used to carry chia seeds with them when they went into battle, and they were sometimes referred to as “runners food” because, it was said, eating just a small amount of these tiny, lightweight seeds could sustain the scout runners and warriors for an entire day. A chia seed can also hold up to TEN TIMES its weight in water! You’ll see how holding onto so much water gives the shell a slippery gel coating that allows us to make recipes like chia pudding. It also helps YOU stay hydrated (which means you have enough water in your body) because that gel coating of water and electrolytes is released slowly, as they make the journey through your digestive tract.
Today, scientists have discovered that chia is good for: balancing insulin levels and helping prevent diabetes, burning fat and providing loads of essential fatty acids, vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. They’re good for your guts, bones, skin, and brain!
Let’s do some warrior poses and eat some tasty chia treats!
In Mexico, chia fresca is made of fruit juices combined with chia to make a gelatinous, cooling drink for summer. It’s typically made with lemonade, but all kinds of juices can be used! Let’s make a pitcher of chia fresca. It’s both filling and light, which makes it a perfect drink-snack for hot summer days.
Chia con Limonada (chia with lemonade)
(Makes one pitcher, or four glasses)
48 oz cool water
4 large lemons
1/4 c of sugar (or sweetened to taste with your favorite sweetener)
2 Tablespoons of dry chia seed
(a single glass)
12 oz water
3 teaspoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 teaspoon dry chia seed
2 teaspoons sugar (or sweeten to taste with your favorite sweetener)
Note: If you’re using a type of juice that is already sweet or sweetened, you do not need to add any additional sugar
Stir all the ingredients together except the chia and make sure the sugar or sweetener is dissolved in the water. Add the chia seeds and allow the chia drink time to gel in the refrigerator. You will need to wait at least 4-6 hours for the chia to gel. You can make it before you go to bed and leave it to fully gel overnight. This lasts about five days in the fridge (but you’ll probably drink it all up before that!).
Chia pudding can be made into lots of flavors, using a variety of ingredients.
What you need, per serving of pudding:
1 cup of a creamy ingredient, like milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc.
3 Tablespoon of dry chia seeds
fruit juice, cocoa powder, or extract (like vanilla extract) for flavoring
Sweetener, as needed (Sugar, honey, agave syrup, stevia, etc.)
Optional: nuts and cut up, fresh (or frozen) fruit, shredded coconut, flax meal — for extra texture and flavor
You may also like this a little thicker, to make it extra pudding-like; or thinner, so you can drink it. You can add extra chia seeds to thicken it, and fewer chia seeds to make it thinner.
Mix all the ingredients well, and then add the chia seeds and shake or stir them in as much as you can. It’s helpful to put each serving, if possible, into a 1/2 pint jar with a lid so you can shake it up halfway through the gelling process. This keeps the chia seeds from settling to the bottom and clumping into a hard mass. Usually if you can shake it up a few times during the first hour and a half, it won’t clump, even if you leave it to fully gel overnight. I like to make this at bedtime so it’s ready for breakfast!
If you want to blend fresh fruit into your pudding so the whole pudding is flavored (versus using pieces of cut fruit), put all the ingredients into a blender – EXCEPT the chia seeds (this is important; they will not gel if the seed coating is broken) – and puree, adding the chia seeds to the blended mixture right before it gets sent to the fridge.
Follow these basic directions for all the recipes below. Lasts for about 4 days in the fridge.
Chocolate Chia Pudding
1 1/2 T cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
Horchata Chia Pudding
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Vanilla Chia Pudding
Any creamy base “milk”
A little sweetener
1/2 teaspoon extract
Fruity Chia Pudding
Use 1/3 cup of berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries), or 1/2 large banana, or 1/4 c fruit juice
Use only 3/4 cup of creamy base
Sweeten if needed
Use a blender to blend chunky fruits and base mixture together before adding chia and refrigerating.
Be creative! What delicious flavor combinations can you come up with?
Using the one-serving size as your starting point, how much of each of the ingredients would you need to make enough servings for your family? Or for each morning of your school week (five)?
Since chia fresca is a Mexican creation, can you learn to say all the ingredients of your chia treats in Spanish? Here are a few to get you started:
Milk – leche
Fruit – frutas
Lemon – limón
Strawberry – fresa
Vanilla – vainilla
What else are you using in your favorite chia recipe?
Chia is one of over 3500 species of plants belong to the mint family — called Lamiaceae. All members of this family of plants have simple leaves that are directly opposite of each other on square stems, with five-petaled flowers that are fused into what looks like a single upper petal and one lower petal. All members of the mint family may not be tasty, but they are all edible. Some other members of the mint family include peppermint, spearmint, basil, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, savory, and thyme. Different types of mint grow all over the world…can you identify any wild mint plants in your local wildlife area?
Springtime Yoga Poses! Spring is such a magical time… and here in the Magical Garden, we LOVE IT so much! The weather gets warmer and flowers begin to bloom. It’s a time for bunnies, butterflies, and flying kites. Join us in celebrating spring with some of our favorite YogaKids poses! Reach for the Sun Begin … Read more
St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17th of every year. St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday honoring Ireland’s patron saint. In Irish language, it is called Lá Fhéile Pádraig, or “the Day of the Festival of Patrick,” St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are a way to celebrate Irish culture, where it is a national holiday. In fact, it is observed (celebrated) in more countries around the world than any other national festival.
Ireland is a European country, but it’s not attached to the mainland. Rather, it is an island in the North Atlantic off the coast of Great Britain. It is sometimes called “The Emerald Isle.” The cool climate and lots of moisture from the ocean air is what keeps Ireland so green.
A leprechaun is one type of fairy from Irish folklore. They are usually portrayed as mischief-making little men with red hair, wearing green hats and coats. Legend says, if you catch a leprechaun, he will have to take you to his secret pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Let’s learn about rainbows while we make our own pot o’ gold!
POT O’ GOLD CRAFT
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple paint or markers
Six popsicle sticks
Black construction paper
White construction paper or cardstock
Shiny gold buttons, paper, or bells – anything that can be glued on to look like gold coins
Color one popsicle stick with each color.
Cut out a cauldron (pot) shape from the black construction paper about 4-5″ across.
Glue the popsicle sticks, color side up, to the back of the pot, so it looks like a rainbow is disappearing into it.
Cut a cloud shape out of the white paper
Glue cotton balls on top to make it look more like a cloud
Glue the cloud on top of the opposite end of the rainbow from the pot
Cut out and/or glue your gold pieces to the top of the pot
*Optional: only make the cloud and the rainbow, and stick the “pot end” of the rainbow into a bowl with gold-wrapped chocolate coins for a tasty party decoration.
Rainbows are made up of six colors in the visible spectrum of light. Some people use the acronym ROY G BIV to remember the colors: Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet. Rainbows form when white sunlight enters tiny droplets of water — called water vapor — suspended in the sky, and breaks apart into all the colors that make up what we call “white.”
The area around a rainbow is brighter than the dark sky behind it because the water droplets are both refracting (bending, breaking) and reflecting (bouncing off) the light. The reflection magnifies the white light, while the refraction makes a rainbow.
You can make your own rainbow by shining white light through a prism, which is a type of crystal that bends light and breaks it apart into its separate colors.
If you want to find a rainbow in nature, you should look toward a dark, cloudy, rainy sky with the sun at your back. You will then be at the right angle to see a rainbow if one forms.
Did you know?
A rainbow is actually a full circle of light, but because of where we are on the earth, we usually only see half of it — in a bridge shape. Can you do Bridge pose and be a rainbow?
There are even “moonbows,” which are rainbows that form in the halo of light around a bright moon!
Sometimes you can find rainbows on a perfectly sunny day in the mist that comes off of garden hose sprayers and sprinklers. And of course, with your prism, which you can leave in a sunny window so there are always rainbows when the sun is shining through the glass.
Unfortunately, you can’t touch a rainbow because it is just made of light, and because the light will only be visible from the right angle, there is no end to a rainbow. So if you catch a leprechaun, it might be better to apologize and offer him a chocolate coin before you let him go, because that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is just a myth; a trick of light.
We’re celebrating spring with a super easy and adorable daffodil craft.
What is Spring?
How do we know when spring begins? Spring falls around March 20 each year at the time of the spring equinox. An equinox happens when the duration of day and night are approximately the same length of time (12 hours day, 12 hours night) all over the world. So even though it might still be snowing where you live, the spring equinox will always happen at the same time of year, all over the world, because of the way the Earth tilts on its axis as it rotates around the sun.
Usually when we talk about spring, we are talking about the seasonal time when the browns and greys of winter begin to give way to colorful spring blooms, and new, green baby leaves and grass begin to unfurl on their branches and poke up from the ground. Even in places that do not reach freezing temperatures in the winter, and places that stay green all year ’round, spring brings big changes in weather.
Where I live now, in Southern California, it is green and cool most of the winter. It doesn’t rain in the summer here; instead, we have a monsoon season, in which most of our rain falls all at once during the winter, over just a couple months. It is mid-February here, and while some of my friends who live to the north of me are still getting snow, the fruit trees are already flowering here, and the weather is warm and balmy. Soon, there will be fields and fields of golden California poppies – the reason California is called The Golden State. Those poppies and many desert wildflowers are the spring flowers Californians enjoy, while you may see daffodils, tulips, crocuses, rhododendrons, or hellebore if you live further north. Do you know the names of the spring flowers where you live? The latitude of where you live affects what kind of winter you will have. Do you know how to find your latitude?
In the summer here, it is very dry; so much that all the dried up grass in the foothills and mountains turns gold and remains dead until the first rains at the beginning of winter. When I was a kid, I lived in places like Texas and Indiana, where it rained throughout the year, and experienced what we think of as “traditional” seasons: an explosion of flowers in the spring after a long, colorless winter; hot, green, muggy summers; crisp autumns with changing leaves; and cold, sometimes snowy winters.
Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere (North and Central America, Europe, most of Asia, and northern Africa) call March “spring,” and September “autumn.” Did you know that, in the Southern Hemisphere (Africa, South America, Australia, and some southern islands of Asia), it is completely opposite? Australians celebrate Christmas in the summer!
What is the weather like where you live? What time does spring come, and how do you know (meaning, do you know because you see specific flowers or animals that you do not see in the winter)?
Colorful Daffodil Decorations
What you need:
Yellow construction paper
Paper mini-cupcake holders
Scissors and adhesive
Wood craft sticks
Green paint or marker
Cut out the daffodil shape from the yellow paper.
Adhere a cupcake wrapper in the center, to look like a daffodil’s “trumpet.”
Color your craft stick green on one side and glue it to the back of the daffodil to make a stem. You may use more than one stick if you want longer stems.
Curl the edges of the petals forward slightly.
Put your daffodils all around to chase away the winter blues!
Daffodils come in many shapes and sizes. Can you figure out how to make some of the colors of daffodil, pictured at the top of this article?
Using big cookies, full-size chips and baby marshmallows
You will need:
Cookies (fully cooled)
Chocolate bar that’s divided into sections (if you need to cut the chocolate, dip the blade of a sharp knife in hot water for a few seconds so the chocolate doesn’t break)
Black gel icing
Regular chocolate or vanilla icing (homemade royal icing would work the best, but we just grabbed a tub of cake frosting off the shelf for this project)
For small president cookies, use mini-marshmallows (dehydrated, for hot cocoa — you can sometimes find these in shaker canisters in the baking aisle), mini-chocolate chips
For large president cookies, use mini-marshmallows, full-sized chocolate chips
Use the icing to attach the hats, chocolate chips, and marshmallows to the cookies, then draw on little faces with the black icing. You may need to let the icing set for about half an hour so Abe’s candy bar hat will stay on as you serve the cookies.
About Presidents’ Day
This year, Presidents Day falls on Monday, February 20, 2017. February 22 was George Washington’s birthday, and Presidents Day began as a day to honor our very first president. For what presidential actions were Abraham Lincoln and George Washington most well-known? Who is your favorite president, and why? Can you name the Presidents in order? Here is a list of the US Presidents, from the founding of this nation to the current day.
These cookies make a great base for decorating. If you go with the chilled dough method, you can use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes, but unlike a lot of recipes, this dough can be baked immediately, without chilling first.
Easy-Peasy Sugar Cookies
Optional: Add 1/2 tsp additional extract for flavor, like mint, almond, coconut, or lemon.
Optional: Use a few drops of food coloring to make brightly-colored cookies (separate into four parts with two drops color each and make rainbow cookies!)
Optional: use only vanilla extract in the dough and roll the cookie balls in a mixture of 2T sugar and 1tsp cinnamon before baking to make snicker-doodles.
Basic Sugar Cookie Glaze
1 c powdered sugar
3 T milk, almond milk, water, or juice
1 tsp extract of choice
food coloring – optional
*If you are using gluten-free flour without any binding agents, you will need 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum or 1 tsp guar gum.
Instructions – Cookies
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and flavor extracts once the butter and sugar mix is smooth and fluffy.
Blend in the dry ingredients a little at a time (in three parts).
If you want to cut the cookies perfectly round, you can roll the dough into a cylinder shape, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour before slicing with a sharp knife. You can alternately use the dough right away if you don’t mind imperfect edges. Use a teaspoon and to make rounded scoops of dough, then roll them into balls and place them 2″ apart directly onto no-stick cookie sheets or silicon liners.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
Leave on the cookie sheet two minutes before removing with a spatula to wire racks or a big plate where the cookies can stay flat until completely cool.
Mix everything together with a fork until all lumps are gone and mix is shiny. Glaze cookies only after they’re completely cool.