Entering the Year of the Fire Monkey

year of the fire monkey

If you watched Superbowl 50 last night, you might have been weirdly intrigued by the “Puppy, monkey, baby” commercial. Honestly, I can’t remember what the commercial was actually selling, but the combination of the three very cute entities rolled up into one was disturbing, fascinating, and hilarious. However, that’s not my point.

year of fire monkeyToday, February 8, 2016 marks the Chinese Lunar New Year, moving from the year of the Sheep, a Yin and Wood year, to the year of the Monkey, which also happens to be a fire year. What does this all mean? Keep reading below and find out what all this “monkey business” is about!

 

Welcoming the Year of Fire

First, let’s get a little hold on what a “fire year” versus a “wood year” actually means. According to Chinese Astrologer and Doctor of Chinese Medicine Narrye Caldwell, a wood year focuses on growing your intuition, breaking through barriers, growing, and becoming enthused by new or old projects. We may have spent the past two years growing our vision, seeking our goals, but have been unable to move forward in an educated way. This is partly due to wood’s lack of wisdom and refinement, leading us to become unstable or reckless.

year of the fire monkey“Fire qi is the full expression of Wood’s vision. Fire brings forth the rose, lays the paint on the canvas, and gives voice to the song that’s been forming in the depths of your heart,” said Caldwell.

Feng Shui expert Karen Abler Carrasco also explains how wood is introspective, focusing on a vision that luckily for us, will now be put ablaze by the fire year!

Combined with the flaming intensity of fire and the foundation we set for our intention during the wood years, we will be able to manifest our dreams into reality. During this year, understand that fire, just like that in nature, is difficult to control, but when are able to allow the fire to burn bright while also keeping the flames from burning the edges, it will continue to burn brighter and brighter as the heat intensified.

year of fire monkey

The Explosive Energy of the Fire Monkey

year of fire monkeyNow what about the monkey? Known as being one of the most intelligent signs of the Chinese Zodiac, the monkey is clever, resourceful, and adventurous, but can also be selfish, unpredictable, and erratic. My favorite characteristic of the monkey is it’s magical qualities. It has a way of turning chaos into magic and transformation, testing your ability to stay calm during times of upheaval while you grab a hold of the possibilities that arise.

“But remember—on the other side of chaos is magic and transformation. Be brave and keep your sense of humor; never forget that there’s spiritual gold at the end of the tale,” said Shelly Wu.

During the year, make sure you engage your senses with creative energy both externally and internally. Nourish your body and mind with activities that both inspire you such as writing, drawing, dancing, singing, playing, and ground you such as practicing yoga, meditation, and gardening. It’s also important to balance your food, lowering the inflammation inducing ingredients because our fire energy is already strong. (Check out this recipe A Summer Grain Salad).

My Intentions For This Year

year of the fire monkeyNow that we understand a bit about what’s coming, it’s time to turn inward and see where we would like to go. This is the time to take charge, delve into your dreams and allow them to take shape. For me, I’m going to focus on what makes me happy: sharing my love and passion of yoga, meditation, healthy eating, nourishing the body and soul, and writing. One step in front of the other or as Dory in Finding Nemo said… “Just keep swimming.”

Use your intuition that you’ve nourished throughout 2014 and 2015 and allow them to take shape within the fire. We’ve come this far, we’ve created our vision, and now it’s time to take hold of it and move forward. Remember to use your intuition and knowledge and you step on the path towards illumination. It’s your time to shine and the best way to shine is when you’re being true to yourself while sharing it with others.

As always, “Bee” Well,

Melissa

Advertisements

5 Tips for Falling into Autumn… Gracefully

It’s officially fall, which means it’s time to take a look back at summer, embrace the memories, and then embrace the present – chilly nights, sweaters, root vegetables, and all. As much as I love summer’s hot nights, muggy days, and piercing sun, there’s something about fall’s crisp air that reinvigorates you after the lazy, hazy days of summer. The sun is still warm on your skin, but the autumn breeze keeps you moving instead of napping (which I didn’t get to do enough of this summer).

fallNo matter if you’re looking forward to the coming season or looking back upon summer with regret, it’s time to bring your focus into the present. Feel the transition from one season to the next and enjoy it in all its glory. Watch as the trees slowly turn from bright green to firey reds, deep oranges, and bright yellows. Enjoy the vegetables of the season including some of my favorites such as butternut squash and pumpkin. And of course, enjoy those days where shorts and flip-flops are still permissible, with a light sweater of course.

To get your fall started off on the right foot, let’s focus on the present moment right now. Here are a few tips that will keep your body and mind steady as the days get cooler.

1. Practice yogaEven if you can’t get to class everyday, try practicing for at least 10 minutes. Whether it’s just on the floor in between your favorite fall shows or in the kitchen while you’re cooking up my Knock Your Socks Off Flavorful Fall Soup with butternut squash – just practice! In Ayurveda belief, autumn is associated with the lungs and large intestines. Incorporating twists, side stretches, backbends, strong grounding poses like the warrior series, and sun salutations to warm up the body will help keep you at the top of your game no matter what Mother Earth throws your way weather wise.

fall2. Get moving: Since I’m asking you to incorporate yoga into your routine, it’s also a great time to mention that adding in some more exercise will also help regulate and rejuvenate you. Try hiking in the woods for an up close view of the fall foliage, take the dogs for a walk, or take a bike ride along the coast. Cooler temperatures are the perfect excuse to get outside and move!

3. Ground Down: Now that I’ve got you moving, I also would love for you to settle down and embrace the stillness with mediation. As the leaves start to fall, the wind starts to blow and the temperatures change, there’s a lot of moving and shifting going on in the universe, which gives you the chance to embrace the stillness inside. Sitting for just 5-10 minutes daily has been shown to increase the grey matter in your brain if done consistently. By bringing your awareness to your inner self, your inner stillness will help you feel calm and relaxed, even if the world feels hectic.

“The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

4. Enjoy your roots: Eat grounding root vegetables, warm soups, raw vegetables, and apples to help your digestive system and to help you continue to ground. As we move from the light and airy foods of summer, which have helped us stay cool during those hot summer months, we can now transition to foods that will help us stay warm, ground down, and embrace the fall season. Try using spaghetti squash in place of your normal pastas while incorporating other root vegetables including beets, brussel sprouts, and leafy vegetables.

fall5. Take some hints from Mother Nature: Finally, and most importantly, embrace the change of the seasons. Watch as Mother Nature moves from one minute to the next. She’s always evolving, always changing, so her natural flow as a reminder for how you travel through life. So often times we get stuck in our ways and then when we’re forced out of them (after denying several hints from the universe) we lose our stability and really, ourselves. I’m not an expert, but one thing that I continually try to remember (and it’s hard… believe me) is that the only thing that is static is constant change. So this fall, try to change as gracefully as Mother Earth has been doing for millions of years.

The final, final note for you… enjoy a hot apple fritter with warm apple cider. No, it’s not the healthiest thing for your body, but it’s embracing the seasons in one delicious bite!

What are you tips for transitioning from summer to fall? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time, “bee well,”
Melissa

 

Cooking With Love

I talk a lot about recipes and living a healthy life in this blog – very important parts of a healthy life, but not the full picture.

This past weekend, I lost a friend who lived life to the fullest. She  loved what she did and even more, she loved the people around her. She was a fixture in the community, always supporting others, however she could. Her passion for life was infectious. I remember being on the phone with her talking about an idea I had and after hanging up the phone, I was so so fired up  – her passion had ignited my passion.

Smiling!
Smiling!

This woman also happened to be the owner of  a well-known restaurant for over 20 years. A restaurant that brought Cajun food to the Jersey Shore in a way that only she could put together. Yes, the food is delicious, but I’m pretty sure the main reason people kept coming back because it was like walking into someone’s house as they greeted you with open arms, a warm smile, and a big pot of spicy jambalaya.

Not only was she an amazing cook, she was also a talented writer. Her words would captivate you as she told the stories of the countless characters that she had brought to life (check out some of her writing here.) I remember walking into the restaurant a few years back when she told me that one of her short stories was published. She was so excited and received such positive reviews. She also published her first cookbook “Sittin’Bayou Makes Me Hot” featuring stories and recipes that will warm your heart and your kitchen.

After hearing that she had left this world, I looked through past photos of us, most of them featuring big dorky smiles. (Most of the photos that others have shared share the same resemblance – she was always smiling!) I then sat down and read through her cookbook, eventually stopping on the cover where she had written:

photo 2-3

That was her. Always telling you to cook with love and live with laughter.

My point in this post is not to make you depressed, but to point out that living a healthy life is so much more than the food you put in your body and the time you spend exercising. I’m not an expert, but I know that when I’m eating well, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and being around loved ones, sharing joy and love, that’s when I’m at my best. That’s when life is at its fullest. We tend to get so caught up in the diet crazes and new exercise fads, and that’s all ok, as long as we remember that there’s so much more to our existence. We are social beings, beings that need to love, need to be loved, and need to share. Yes, we can be a little selfish sometimes, and that’s ok, it happens to everyone. We just have to remember that life is worth living and sharing and food is such a big part of that.

The thing is, when you’re living with laughter, cooking with love and spending time with loved ones, that’s when food becomes medicine. Yes, eating a healthy diet packed full of vegetables will keep you moving and grooving, but the love that you experience with others and the zest for life that comes with those experiences is what truly will keep you healthy in the long run. After all, how else can you explain how your Grandma’s chicken noodle soup made you feel better? It’s not just the ingredients that matter, it’s how you put them together too, just like in life. It’s not what you do to live, it’s how you live that makes the difference. 

Give your loved ones a hug today and remember to live life to the fullest. Tomorrow isn’t promised, yesterday is gone, we only have today. 

Love,

Melissa

 

Salmon – The Deliciously Fatty Fish

Raise your hand if you love salmon! I don’t know if it’s all the Omega 3s in salmon, but it’s one of my favorite dishes. Well, actually, it might be taking the top spot (along with scallops, but that’s not a fish.) Anyways, I digress.

seared-salmon-rawFirst, let me talk about how great salmon is for you! It contains a bunch of health benefits, supporting your heart with omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which slow down plaque build-up in the arteries. Those same Omega-3s boost your brain power while also helping your eyes by protecting the eye cells from sunlight and free radicals. It also contains my favorite Vitamin, Vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium among countless other benefits! It also contains astaxanthin, a super antioxidant that helps protect your skin from UV-radiation while supporting eye and heart health. Yea, this beautiful fatty fish is loaded to the gills (pun intended) with positive health benefits. So let’s talk about why people may not cook it at home…

Many people reserve fish for ordering at a restaurant. I’ve heard every excuse from I hate the way it smells up my house to I have no idea how to cook it, to it tastes so much better at the restaurant. Well, I’m here to help you out because seriously, I love salmon, but I hate spending $30 on it at a restaurant when I can buy a quality piece of wild caught Alaskan salmon for around $7-10. Here are a few tips for all you lovely fish eaters out there!

Grizzly Bears Love Salmon Too
Grizzly Bears Love Salmon Too

1. Every salmon needs a good sear (well at least I think so). I love the crispy crust when it’s complemented by the tender inside. It’s so good, my mouth is watering right now. My favorite way to get that crust to to cook my salmon in a skillet on the stove. First, I get the pan searing hot, add a little olive oil, and the salmon, skin side down (if you have a skinless piece of salmon, don’t worry about it). Turn the heat to medium low. Cover the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then flip, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes more. What comes out is a perfectly cooked salmon. Seriously. Anyone can do that! Yes, even you!

IMG_15662. Ok so now you know how to cook the salmon. It won’t be fishy tasting (that only happens when you overcook it), but your house may smell a little fishy after cooking. I understand. No one likes that smell in their house, only on the docks. So what do you do about it? First shut your doors to the rest of your house. Try and confine the smell as much as possible. The be sure to open a window, put a fan on, just do something to kick the smell out. Once you’re finished cooking, clean up, right away. If it still smells like a dock, simmer your some cinnamon sticks, cloves and citrus peels on the stove for an all natural air freshener. And if you just can’t get the smell out, leave a small bowl on the counter filled with white vinegar, baking soda, or coffee grounds which will help naturally dissipate any remaining smells come morning.

3. Think you can’t cook as good as some restaurants? Think again. You may not be able to rival a 5 star establishment, you can still wow your guests and yourself, by cooking up a delicious seafood meal. The key is to cook it properly (see number 1) and then add some jazz to it! I love making a light dill sauce to go along with my salmon. Take 1 cup Greek Yogurt, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 3 tablespoons freshly chopped dill, the juice and zest of one lemon, salt and pepper and BAM! – you’ve got yourself a fancy salmon sauce.

Are there any other hurdles that are stopping you from cooking up a seafood feast this evening? Let me know about them and I’ll see if I can help you!

Looking for healthy kitchen inspiration? Let me design a food plan that fits your budget, time constraints, and preferences while focusing on your health concerns! I’ll get you back on track for 2015 by eating delicious food that’s easy to make and good for your body and soul! Contact me at info@mbeewell.com for a free consultation!

Bee Well,

Melissa
info@mbeewell.com

 

Yes, You Can Eat Pasta…

pasta-pamaI am not Italian, but I do love pasta. I usually make it once a week to satisfy my craving for that perfect al dente bite. It just tastes so darn good! Being mindful of my health, I really do try and limit it to once per week, even though it can easily become a reliable standby for weeknight meals. BUT, that doesn’t mean you should.

Ok, so back to that one night a week meal (maybe two if it’s a special occasion). Whenever I make pasta, I try to balance out my bowl with 2/3 veggies and protein to 1/3 pasta. That way, I’m never feeling deprived from not eating pasta, but I’m also providing my body with all the fiber, nutrients, and protein that it needs to help slow down the breakdown of sugar in the pasta, keeping me fuller, longer! (Seriously, how many times have you eaten a big bowl of pasta with just pasta and sauce only to fall into a food coma and wake up 20 minutes later eating more? This is what I try to avoid!) I also try to load up on the veggie topping first and then just top it off with a little bit of pasta. (Think 2/3 of your bowl being vegetables and protein to 1/3 of your bowl being pasta).

So on an evening when you’re craving pasta, but not the guilt, try making this dish that will keep you full until morning! It’s a quick and easy supper that’s made with most ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Serve with a side salad or vegetable soup and you’re good to go!

IMG_1603Feel Good Pasta with Beans and Spinach

Serves 4

1/2 Box Pasta of your choice
1 bag frozen spinach (or 2 bunches fresh spinach)
1 can Cannellini Beans
1/2 cup Sundried Tomatoes
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Red Pepper Flakes
1 tablespoon butter
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt (to the salinity of the sea) and pasta. Cook to al dente (follow the directions on the box).

While the pasta is cooking, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to a pan on low heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, then cook till transleucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, pepper, beans, and sundried tomatoes. I chose to add the spinach without thawing it because I wanted a little liquid, however, you can microwave the spinach and drain in a colander and then add it as well. Cook for a few minutes until the spinach and beans have warmed through the the tomatoes have plumped up.

Add the pasta to the spinach mixture, the butter, and a little bit of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Enjoy!

 

Looking for healthy kitchen inspiration? Let me design a food plan that fits your budget, time constraints, preferences, and health! I’ll get you back on track for 2015 by eating delicious food that’s easy to make and good for your body and soul! Contact me at info@mbeewell.com for a free consultation!

Bee Well,

Melissa
info@mbeewell.com

Take the Leap

“The first step is a leap of faith, every leap after is one of knowing.”

I heard this today during yoga and felt the need to share. During that instant, it applied to the split I was attempting to do, but after class, it was the thought that I could continue to succeed, do what I love to do, and help others. It’s a saying that can really be applied to anything that you’re afraid of attempting, whether it’s applying for that job that you really want, telling someone you love them, or starting a new routine.

most+things+are+difficult+quoteThe steps and choices we make in life aren’t always easy. However, do we really want to be on our death bed and think of the “what ifs” or would we rather think of the “oh wells.” For me, I really would rather say oh well, I guess I really screwed up that time instead of asking myself what if I did that, what if I went there, WHAT IF?

Once you take the first (which is most of the time, absolutely frightening) step, you’re more comfortable moving forward because you’ve got “Mr. Momentum” on your side now. When we overcome our fears, we realize that there wasn’t that much to fear in the first place. The entire time that we were telling ourselves that we couldn’t do it, we can’t make it, we’re never going to succeed, was just our fear telling us that we couldn’t do it. It wasn’t reality. We had never tried it! How would we know if we could succeed? Even if we had tried it in the past… that was then, this is now. We’re different. The circumstances are different. The world is different.

Remember, Albert Edison made over 1,000 mistakes before he invented the light bulb.

Now that you’re following your dreams, it’s almost like a worn in pair of jeans that fit you so well. With every single step forward, you’re more comfortable in your actions, with who you are, what you do, and how you feel. It’s like you were meant to act this way and that’s because you were.

dont-give-upSince it’s the beginning of the New Year, I’m sure many of you are writing down resolutions to lose weight, eat well, and get healthy (and as we’ve seen from the past that many people often lose ground in February). The first act of getting healthy is difficult for many, but a lot of times it’s “staying on track” that becomes even more difficult for some people. You may know that you want to eat well, but those tray of french fries are just way too tempting. So maybe you did take a leap of faith in exercising and trying out new recipes, but was it for the right reason? We won’t be able to really realize our hopes and dreams if it doesn’t come from within instead of what we think others think.

A lot of the time, people tend to focus so much on how they want to change their look instead of thinking about how they want to FEEL. Looks are passing, how you feel on the inside is lasting. Do you want to feel vibrant, strong, energetic, smart, powerful, and full of life? Then think of that as your goal instead of losing 20 lbs which is far less satisfying in the long run.

Yoddler_297_LargeYou can do it. Write down how you want to FEEL in 2015 and make the leap of faith to get there. Once you start the journey towards following your heart, every step thereafter becomes one of knowing.

Bee Well,

Melissa

P.S. If you’re looking for someone to help you start your journey towards the REAL YOU, contact me below! I’d love to help you start (and end) the New Year in the best way possible – by following your heart!

 

A Healthy Holiday Detox

The holidays are great. It’s a time for baking your favorite cookie recipe that was passed down through generations. For me, I bake kozlocki – aka little bites of heaven – a Polish cookie filled with jam. It’s so good. And my holiday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make pierogis from scratch. I also go overboard cooking intricate dishes that I wouldn’t normally waste my time on. But, that’s what the holidays are for! Of course, there are also the libations – beer, wine, champagne toasts, and fancy cocktail drinks. But, now… as my friend said yesterday “if I look at another stuffed mushroom I’ll throw up.” My sentiments exactly.

IMG_1382
Cookies for days….

 

IMG_1384
I swear they’re my kryptonite

So now that your body has been thoroughly stuffed over the past week (ok month) and you’ve probably not been keeping track of your workouts, it’s time to give yourself (and your body) a break and hit that reset button!

In order to “reset,” we need to focus on the three main systems that play a crucial role in the elimination of wastes: circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic. Your circulatory system pumps blood and oxygen through your body, carrying waste products away from cells while your digestive system separates the nutrients from the waste and your lymphatic system collects fluid throughout the body where anything harmful such as bacteria or other contaminants are removed before being returned to the bloodstream. Our goal is to help all these systems function at their optimum levels so you can ditch that sluggish feeling you’ve been harboring since last week!

First things first – get “it” out of the house! Don’t tempt yourself by keeping a big pile of cookies on the counter or a delicious bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy in the fridge. It’s getting cold, you’re hungry, and it’s there, of course you’re going to go for it instead of the kale salad that you could make. So do yourself a favor and just get rid of all the “excess” lying around your house and by “excess,” I mean all the “food stuff” you would only have around this time of year.

Ok now that you’ve gotten rid of the goodies, drink some water. Every time you want a cookie, drink a glass of water. Every time you’re craving that delicious pierogi with sour cream, drink a glass of water. You get my drift. With all of the heavy and sugary laden foods that we’ve been consuming, our body is craving water, especially while we’re sitting in heated houses (the dreaded dry heat!)

Fresh Red Beets
Beets – Nature’s liver cleanser

So now that you’re running to the bathroom every 30 minutes, let’s get you eating some detoxifying foods. Try adding some beets to your diet, filled with magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium they help your liver stay in tip top shape. Ginger is another liver cleanser, spiking your metabolism while flushing out waste. You can also add some sweet pineapple to your morning smoothie, providing you with a good dose of bromelain, a digestive enzyme that clears out your colon. You can even add a dash of cinnamon to your yogurt that’s full of calcium, iron, and manganese which helps you process fatty acids while keeping your blood sugar stable.

You’re drinking your water, eating your veggies, and now you’re going to get your sweat on! Head to the gym, get outdoors, or take a yoga class! A body in motion stays in motion and a body that’s been lying on the couch eating cookies, will continue to lay on the couch and eat cookies. I know the first step is hard, but once you get back in your workout routine, you’ll look forward to it. Try and head to your favorite yoga studio or practice some detoxifying poses at home to help promote digestion. Here’s a little sample of a great detox yoga flow.

high-lunge-twist-400x400
Twists are great for stimulating the digestive system

At the end of the day, rest up in a mud, clay, or epsom salt bath instead of going for that cookie and glass of wine. These minerals will help draw out toxins from the body, helping your muscles rest (and your mind!) Add some arnica oil to help soothe your muscles even more.

Don’t wait until 2015 to get going, give 2014 everything you’ve got for a fresh start in the new year! And if you’re looking for someone to be accountable to, give me a call. I’ll help you stay on track so that your goals will become your priorities. Instead of “dieting,” I’ll help you live.

Bee Well,

Melissa