Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dream catchers

One of my first dreamcatchers
Photo by Alexis Richey

A couple of months ago my grandmother moved and was getting rid of some old 45 vinyls. I grabbed them knowing I would come up with some kind of art project for them.

My first completed dreamcatcher
3 little birds

To make the dream catchers, I start by making holes in the vinyl. I do this by heating up a drill bit with a lighter until it's hot enough to push through the record. It's important to do this part in a well ventilated area because it smells awful and the fumes should not be inhaled.

I make one hole at the top, 5 to 7 holes at the bottom and 6 to 8 holes around the inside circle.

It took me a while to figure out how to get the actual dream catcher part right. I tie the string in one of the holes and thread it through the rest until I come back to my first knot.

Then I loop the string through each of the loops I just created. With the 45s I can usually go around 3 to 5 times.

I've added beads and experimented with different strings.

Now would be the point to add glitter or decorate the middle.

When I first started making these dreamcatchers, I cut out feathers and other shapes from felt.

Now I mostly use faux feathers I picked up from the craft store.

I hot glue string or hemp cord to the feathers or shapes. I add beads and tie the ends into the holes I made at the bottom of the vinyl.

I've had so much fun making these. I've given most of them out as gifts and gotten great feedback. I love being able to turn something that was headed for the trash into something beautiful that people can enjoy.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sun Salutation

A sun salutation is a series of poses in yoga that flow together in a cyclical manner. My yoga class usually starts with some form of sun salutation. I find it helpful as a morning routine to wake me up, find my focus, and feel more balanced throughout the day.

To start, I breathe in, looking
and reaching up in mountain pose

As I exhale I move my hands down to Anjali mudra

With my next breath in, I get into Plank or Phalakasana

Then I touch the mat with my knees chest and chin
for Caterpillar or Ashtanga Namaskara
I stretch out into Cobra or Bhujangasana

Breathing In, I form a crescent shape 
with my back for Cow pose or Bitilasana

Breathing Out, I flatten my feet and 
arch my back in Cat pose or Marjaryasana

I repeat Cat and Cow a few times, focusing on the flow of breath with the movements:

I enter into Child's pose or Balasana for a brief moment

Then into Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana

I usually do some leg stretches while in downward dog:

Lunge Forward
Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II

I take Peaceful Warrior or
Shanti Virabhadrasana into a stretch
I lunge again, twisting to open my shoulders into
Revolved Side Angle or Parivrtta Parsvakonasana

I tilt forward into Warrior  III or Virabhadrasana and hold it as long as I can
Then I repeat the process on the other side (for my right leg in this example)


Yoga Practice

I've really been working on Warrior III or Virabhadrasana III

Definitely still need some work. My standing leg should be straighter

To work up to this pose, I've spent alot of time practicing half moon This pose opens the hip and shoulder while focusing on balance and the uddiyana bandha which will all come in handy in Warrior III.

Some other balancing poses:

Sugarcane or Ardha Chandra Chapasana
Sugarcane or Ardha Chandra Chapasana

Shoulder opening moves:
Bound Triangle or Baddha Trikonasana

Forward bend stretch

Revolved Side Angle or Utthita Parsvakonasana

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I started taking Yoga at Queens College in February 2016. I've been learning alot and cant help but wonder why I never tried yoga sooner. Sun salutations have quickly become part of my daily routine.

Yoga is an anaerobic activity with many physical and emotional/spiritual benefits. Strength, flexibility and stamina improve with yoga practice. Generally all anaerobic activities build muscle and improve respiratory fitness, making them an important companion to aerobic activities. The breathing techniques utilized in yoga have been proven to help treat hypertension and diabetes. Yoga and meditation provide stress relief and relaxation.

Spaced out Tadasana samasthiti or Mountain Pose with Anjali mudra

Yoga dates back to ancient times (roughly 600 BC) and has many ties with ancient cultures and religious beliefs. The names for many yoga poses come from Sanskrit, one of the earliest written languages.

Yoga consists of Asanas or poses, Mudras or hand symbols, and Bandhas or body locks.

Janana mudra in Svastikasana

Mudras effect the energy flow of the body. Mudra in Sanskrit means "seal or closure" which makes sense since the mudras are like a seal on the asanas, an extension of attitude, a gesture that completes the pose. Personally, I wasn't sure what to make of them at first, but I've been surprised at how much of an effect they have on me. Sometimes they help strengthen a pose, like in warrior three where I use my hands to balance and visualize energy flowing straight through me. At other times they have more of a spiritual value, like when the anjali mudra is used to bow in Namaste or the janana mudra in svastikasana for meditation (pictured above). Some great examples include Anjali Mudra (Prayer, pictured at the top), Padma Mudra (Lotus) & Janana Mudra (Ok, pictured above).

Garudasana or Eagle Pose

The Three Major Bandhas:
Jalandhara Bandha or Throat Lock involves tucking the chin into the chest, making the throat tight
Uddiyana Bandha is a contraction  or firing up of the abdominal muscles
Mula Bandha involves the pelvic floor or perineum being engaged and tightened

The Bandhas are points to focus on, ways to strengthen the asanas and really hold in the pose building endurance and strength. There have been so many times in class where I've been wobbling trying to find my balance and the instructor will call out to tighten up the uddiyana bandha and in doing so I find that I can firmly hold the pose.

If I fire up my Uddiyanna bandha in half moon pose or Ardha Chandrasana,
I can hold it on just the one leg without support from a block or bottom arm.

As I've expanded my studies of yoga outside the classroom, I've found some helpful sites and joined a new community of yogis on social media. I love the reversible design, grip of the material and thickness of the mat I purchased from Gaiam.

Yoga Journal has helpful pictures of poses as well as videos
and more information about the benefits of yoga.
I've been listening to Here Comes The Sun for Sun Salutations
& Nahko And Medicine For The People for general practice.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homemade Granola Bars

Last year I made granola bars as Christmas gifts for most of my family and friends. Everyone loved them so I'm doing it again this year. Like most foods, making granola bars from scratch creates a healthier version than popular pre-made brands. This year I've slightly altered my recipe and created nutrient fact panels.

Here's the basic recipe I've been using:
8x8 pan
1½ cup Oats
½ cup Brown Rice Syrup
1 cup Crunchy (nuts, graham crackers etc.)
½ cup Sweet (chocolate, marshmallows, dried fruit etc.)
½ cup Other (pumpkin seeds, sesame sticks, cereal flakes, etc.)
Optional tablespoon of peanut butter, coconut oil, etc
Optional teaspoon vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa powder etc

Makes 8-10 bars
Bars stay fresh for two weeks.
1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Mix ingredients in a bowl
3. Lightly grease pan before pouring in the granola mix. Distribute evenly
4. Bake for 20-30 minutes
5. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting

For Christmas 2014, I made flavors like Cranberry-Walnut-Pumpkin Seed, Dark Chocolate-Walnut-Cranberry, Peanut butter-Chocolate chip, Smores (chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers), and Dark Chocolate-Coconut-Cashew. In my original post, I explained the health benefits of some of the ingredients I chose. 

For Christmas 2015, I mixed up the ingredients creating flavors like teddy-graham smores, cranberry-almond-pumpkin seed, double nut-chocolate chip, and dark chocolate-walnut-cranberry. This year I used the USDA super-tracker site to get nutrient information and a free label generator from onlinelabels.com to create nutrient fact panels for my bars.

Almond-Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Bars:

Double Nut-Chocolate Chip Bars:

Teddy Graham Smores Bars:

When comparing my bars to popular brands like Quakers, Nature Valley and Special K bars, I noticed that these brands seem to determine the bar size based on the amount that will equal 100 calories. My bars are much larger (about 1 inch by 4 inches) than Quaker or special k bars. They are closest to the size of a nature valley bar but a bit thicker.

While my bars contain more calories than these brands, they also contain more protein, dietary fiber, and minerals like calcium and iron. Except for my smores bars, I used all organic ingredients containing no soy or corn syrup. (I used teddy grahams and marshmallows in the smores that did contain these ingredients and were not organic.) 

My fruit, nut and seed bars are a healthy alternative to more processed products available today. Pumpkin seeds, cranberries, walnuts, almonds, cashews and peanut butter are healthy snack options that provide a variety of nutritional benefits.