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Self Love-5 Ways to Recover from the Holiday Season

The Holiday Season is all about excess. From Thanksgiving to New Years, celebration can take the form of a whirlwind, sweeping Americans into an exhausting funnel of food, alcohol and spending. Although it can be a joyous time, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Between trying to find and afford the perfect gifts, fighting through crowds of shoppers, and socializing at numerous holiday parties, finding time for your health and peace of mind are often last on the list. Unfortunately, stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet are some of the top enemies of the immune system. To stay centered, it is so important to take a little time for yourself. If you are finding yourself depleted, exhausted, or just a little off in the wake of celebration, read on. Here are some easy ways to boost your immune system, relax your mind and body, detox from too many treats, and find some of that “peace on earth”.

 

1.Yoga

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Though historians are unsure exactly when Yoga originated, they know that it started in India, at least 5,000 years ago. It is now considered a form of alternative medicine and consists of stretching, meditation, balanced poses, and breathing excersizes. The goal of Yoga is to bring peace to your mind and body, helping to manage  stress and anxiety. The practice is all about the link between mind and body, and how the state of one affects the other. The key is balance. Yoga varies in style and intensity. Certain Yoga practices facilitate extreme flexibility and physical strength. Beginners will likely benefit from Hatha Yoga, which is one of the most common forms. This form has a slower pace and gentler movements.

A study published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback found yoga helped relieve chronic insomnia
“A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.” From the Mayo Clinic.

Benefits
-Reduces depression
-Increases emotional positivity and enhances mood
-Increases ability to handle stress and unexpected problems
-Promotes mindfulness

 

 

2.Meditation-

meditating novice or trainee Buddhist monk by MattRavel on Flickr

There is a vast amount of research on the benefits of meditation when it comes to mental health. It is a common misinterpretation that meditation is simply relaxation. While mediation does involve ceasing to exert unnecessary effort, it is also about mindfulness.  The goal is to empty the mind, and by doing so, you let go of stress and become more aware of reality, truth, and your own existence.

“Mindfulness helps the stress-sufferer to recognize unhelpful patterns of thought that give rise to the stress response, and also involves the active cultivation of positive mental states such as kindness, compassion, patience, and energy.  “Wild Mind Buddhist Mediation

Benefits
-Reduces depression
-Reduces Insomnia
-Increases emotional positivity and enhances mood
-Increases ability to handle stress and unexpected problems
-Promotes mindfulness

 

 

3.Sleep

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Studies have shown that lack of sleep will affect your immune system. People are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus when they don’t get enough sleep. Recovering from sickness also takes longer.  Lack of sleep spikes your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisone, which can lead to weight gain. Another study found that moderate sleep deprivation impairs your cognitive performance to the same level as being intoxicated.

“During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep. ”  Mayo Clinic

 

 

4.Tea

Black and Green teas both contain L-theanine, an amino acid which strengthens gamma delta T cells and increases those cells ability to fight infection. L-theanine also promotes relaxation and well-being by increasing the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Tea also helps fight free radicals because it is high in ORAC ( oxygen absorbance capacity). Damage from free radicals can result in cancer, heart disease and neurological degeneration.

White Sage, Red Raspberry, Mugwort, Echinacea are all known for their healing properties and have been used for centuries to fight illness.

Here is an excellent recipe for an immune boosting tea you can make at home.  This drink is also great for alkalizing the body with lemon, and boosting metabolism with turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne.

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Benefits
-Tea can boost exercise endurance. antioxidants in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel.
-Fights free radicals and reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, parkinson’s disease
-Hydrates the body
-Strengthens the immune system

 

5.Green Smoothies

Green Smoothies are trendy, but their positive impact on health and easy, D.I.Y. nature have caused them to spread from the world of “hippie stuff” and into the focus of mainstream health, where they have stayed for well over a decade. Smoothies are a quick way to get in all your fruits and veggie servings at once, and they pack a powerful punch of nutrition. Regular consumption of green smoothies will make your body and mind feel better in no time.

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Benefits
-Clean, glowing skin
-Decreased inflammation (which can be  helpful in alleviating joint pain and stiffness
-Improved energy and mood
-A healthy immune system that will keep you from getting sick
-Increased Focus and mental clarity

 

Recipe:

  • 3 T Hemp Seeds
  • 2 cups mixed Greens (I’m using Swiss Chard and Green Leafy Kale)
  • 1 stalk Celery
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh peppermint
  • 1 apple
  • 1 kiwi
  • water – amount varies. Start with enough to go about halfway up your ingredients. Try blending it. Add more if it’s not smooth enough.

 

 

Helpful Hint

Immune Boosting Foods

Garlic
Yogurt
Fish
Oregano Oil
Japanese Mushrooms
Cruciferous vegetables-kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage
Avocado
Ginger
Oatmeal
Black Currents
pomegranate Juice
Pumpkin Seeds
Sage
Graviola
Larch Supplement

 

Feng Shui Decorating Steps for Beginners

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Feng Shui translates to “wind and water” which equals health, peace and prosperity in the Chinese philosophy. It is an ancient art form and science which is believed to balance both emotional and physical energy. The goal of Feng Shui within interior design is to balance the positive and negative energies within your space as well as within yourself. This will bring harmony of the senses, tranquility and well-being.

It is a common misconception that Feng Shui decorating means creating a completely “Zen” environment. Decorating with Feng Shui actually means that you are catering your decor to support the best energy for whatever activities are intended to occur in a specific room or area. Following basic Feng Shui principles will help you to achieve a desired energy.

Chi means energy. In order to have good energy or “Seng chi”, the energy needs to flow through the home freely without being blocked. If the energy is stagnant or blocked it is bad, or “Si& Sha Chi”.

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Feng Shui looks at a house as one, complete being. You may have some rooms that have great energy, but other rooms that are out of control, or just confused and stuck. Many people tend to ignore these disaster areas by shutting the door, or they purposefully put things in the messy room when they don’t know what else to do with it, in order to keep the nice rooms clean. These spaces are like when children are told to clean their rooms and instead of actually cleaning they just shove all their belongings under the bed or into a closet. From a Feng Shui perspective, the messy room being ignored is affecting the energy of the entire house, and therefore the energy of the good rooms.

Though the principles of Feng Shui are extensive and complex, there are simple ways beginners can approach living in a more Feng Shui environment. Start by identifying problem areas, and make a plan for your house. Figure out what needs to change, and define the steps necessary for those changes to happen. Then just be persistent.

6 Feng Shui Decorating Steps

Step 1.Clear Clutter

In order to create good chi, you first must get rid of the old energy.If an area of your home has stuck energy, an area of your life will eventually become stuck. Clean out your garage, reorganize your storage areas. You want the goal to always be free-flowing space.

Step 2. Good quality air and light

A clutter free space with tons of natural light and clean air is like the canvas on which you will paint your Feng Shui masterpiece. These basics are necessary and without them, Feng Shui will only go so far.Lighting can also be used to alter the mood of any space. Light is the strongest manifestation of energy and as humans it is our number one nutrient. The harmful effects of fluorescent lighting on human behavior and the deficiency of sunlight or “Malillumination” according to light researcher Dr. John Ott, are widely documented. Lack of quality light can decrease your overall health, ability to learn and effect your behavior. Try to have at least three separate sources of light in every room.

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Step 3. Define your Bagua

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The Bagua is the energy map of your space that determines which areas of your home are connected to specific areas of your life. Bagua translates to “8 areas” because in ancient times people deemed that there are 8 areas of  life that are important for well being and health. Each area of your home is connected to a specific area of your life. Therefore by changing your home you can change your life.

You can use the bagua as a guide to tell you everything from how to arrange furniture to how to choose colors.

There is the Classical or Traditional Feng Shui school Bagua, and there is the BTB Western school Bagua. It is best to not use both in the same home.

Step 4. Choose Colors

Every color fits into one of the 5 Feng Shui elements.

Fire-Passion and High Energy
Colors-Red, Orange, Purple, Pink, Strong Yellow
Fire is the strongest Feng Shui element in South Bagua of your home. It can also be used in Northeast and Southwest Feng Shui areas.

Earth–Nourishment and Stability
Colors- Light Yellow, Beige/taupe, Earthy/sandy colors
This element is needed to promote inner balance and health, as well as protection of relationships.

Water-Ease and Abundance
Colors-Blue, Black
Water is the ancient symbol for abundance and a Fung Shui cure for wealth. This element brings energy of freshness, purity, and calm.
The north, east and south east bagua areas benefit from a strong water element.

Wood-Vitality and Growth
Colors-Brown, Green
This element is healing and promotes vibrancy, strong growth, as well as abundance. Wood is the main element ion south and southeast Bagua areas.

Metal-Preciseness and Clarity
Colors Gray, White
Metal is the dominant Feng Shui element of west and northwest bagua areas, and the north bagua also benefits. This presence promotes calm, precise, light and focused energy.

Step 5. Choose items

Define specific items that will add to the  Chi of your home. Feng Shui holds to the belief that energy is improved when living things are present. An easy way to achieve this is by incorporating plants, bonsai trees, flowers, fish and of course pets. A fountain is a great way to add water, a symbol of abundance. Selecting natural materials such as wood, stone and metals is another way to stick to the organic nature of Feng Shui.

Some examples of classic Feng Shui items are:
Fountains, Mirrors, Lucky Bamboo as a health cure, Images or statues of Buddha for harmony and spiritual growth.

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Step 6.Positioning

Understand how and where to position your decorating items and furniture to create the best energy for the space. Focus on the big picture, but also be able to zoom in on each specific area.Match elements to your map, or Bagua. If you want to put a fountain in your home, which is a water element, you need to put it in the Bagua areas that benefit from water, such as North, East and Southeast areas of your home.

Fun Fact: Elephants are part of Feng Shui!

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The elephant is associated with Buddha and Ganesh, who is an Indian deity. The elephant symbolizes Power, wisdom, strength, protection of the home, fertility and good luck and because of this elephants are often used in Feng Shui. Here are some of the areas an elephant symbol can be useful in.

Protection– To prevent the loss of Chi from the home, place an elephant facing outward.

Bringing Good luck– Place an elephant facing inwards, to draw good luck and blessings into the home.

Love and Fidelity– Place a pair of elephants in the bedroom to promote love within a relationship.

Fertility-Place an elephant beside the bed, or one elephant on each side of the bed.

Mother and Child-Place a statue of a mother and baby elephant in your living area or children’s room to strengthen the bond with your children.

Work- Place an elephant near the front door to attract power and protect the office from bad energy.

Management– Place an elephant on your work desk facing out. This represents caution, poise and strong leadership.

Good thing we have so many elephants around here!

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Backyard Nirvana: Personalizing Your Outdoor Space

So, its officially time to be outside. What are you going to be doing while you’re out there? Gardening? Yoga? Hanging out with your dog? Hosting the most beautiful, ridiculous garden party of all time with perfect, vegan hors d’oeuvres, hanging lanterns and a live string quartet? How about lounging? I think it’s safe to say that everyones outdoor summer priority is relaxing in the sun, or the shade with a cold drink, a good book or just the pleasent buzzing of your own thoughts.

Where are all of these activities going to take place? Designing a personalized, outdoor haven is a really fun way to be creative while getting that Vitamin D. Whether you have a patio or front porch that just needs some sprucing up or you are looking to renovate your entire backyard, we have ideas for you. We’ve collected some inspiring outdoor displays and come up with our favorite pieces at Mohr & McPherson to fit each look.

Inspiration

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 It’s hard to go wrong with Mid Century Modern. When you blend these classic silhouettes with unexpected materials such as our patio chair below, the look becomes modern and edgy, while still rooted in classic appeal.

Our Version

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Iron Round Coffee Table, Patio Chair,Stone GaneshIron Tray Table


Inspiration

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This look conjurs thoughts of exotic birds, and you can almost hear them singing as you sip iced green tea. Teak wood is an excellent material for outdoor furniture because it has a high resistance to the elements but also has a sleek appearance. Add bursts of color and delicate, decorative detail to lighten up an arrangement of dark furniture.

Our Version 

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 lotus_frame

Teak Bench made from Camel CartMetal Basket LampIron and Teak Bench, Iron Chair, Lotus Plate, Folding Screen


Inspiration

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Everything Zen around here. This look promotes total tranquility, and a blissful escape from daily life. Key elements to include are Buddhas, lots of greenery, honey toned wood and twinkling lights.


Our Version

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Inspiration

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This look is based in simplicity. To add exotic or modern elements to a cottage vibe, look for geometric shapes in light colors like this amazing coffee table below. Blend statement pieces with rustic materials such as wicker and unfinished wood.

Our Version

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 wicker_lantern_frame

Dining ChairCoffee TableSteel & Glass Lantern, Antique Elm Door, Rattan 2 Seat Chair

Inspiration 

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If you get excited about lots of candles, lace, and delicate, shabby chic furniture, this romantic setting is for you. You can make this style Mohr & McPherson by adding eastern pieces, which can actually enhance the ethereal nature of this scene. Think delicate iron and whimsical shapes.

Our Version

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Dining Chair, Candle Stand, Iron DaybedIndian CarvingBanyan Vine Sculpture

Chinese New Year: Evolution of The Spring Festival and Ancient Traditions

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If you celebrate New Years Eve marked by the calendar used in America, you are probably just now getting back into your regular routine of eating, sleeping and exercise, or perhaps you have just begun a new routine. If you live in China or are Chinese American, you are just getting ready to throw routine away for the duration of the two week celebration for Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar is dependent on the lunar calendar. The darkest day of the month is always the first day of the month. New Years festivities also usually begin on the first day of the month, and last until the brightest day, which is the 15th, or the day of the full moon. Chinese New Year is also called The Spring Festival, and is symbolic of the ending of Winter. It is traditional to clean your house and get a haircut before Chinese New Year, so that bad Chi form the previous year does not follow you into the New Year.


Legend
“In ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality.” 2014 is the year of the horse.

Fireworks
In Chinese culture, it is believed that fire can ward against bad luck. Because of this, many New Years traditions involve the color red, which is symbolic of fire. People wear red and decorate by writing poems on red paper. Children are given red envelopes containing “lucky money”. There are large firework displays. These symbolize fire, as well as an ancient custom of lighting Bamboo stalks so that the flames would scare away evil spirits.

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Family Feast

One of the strongest aspects of the Chinese New Year celebrations is spending time with family. Similar to many holidays around the world, families reunite and gather in each other’s homes to eat, drink and be merry. In America, the Family aspect of this tradition evolved, and became whole neighborhoods celebrating together. This is because when the Chinese originally immigrated to America, many people came alone, or without their families. These people turned to their neighbors for a sense of community and formed neighborhood associations to keep traditions alive. In modern day America many Chinese neighborhood associations host New Year festivities.

Most families cook more than enough food for their family parties on the eve of the New Year. The left over food symbolizes the hope for abundance and wealth in the year to come. Another common tradition is Chinese Nian Gao, which is a special cake. After dinner is over, people gather and wait for the New Year, and usually do not sleep that night.

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Lanterns and Dragons
On the fifteenth night of the lunar month, which is the brightest night and the close of the New Year celebration, The Chinese have a lantern festival. Lanterns are hung in temples and people carry them to a nighttime parade. The lanterns are often exquisitely decorated, painted with scenes from histories, legends, zodiac signs, animals and birds. A well-known part of the lantern parade is the dragon dance. Silk paper and bamboo are used to make a dragon, often one hundred feet long. The dragon is held up over the arms and heads of young men who dance as they move the dragon through the parade.

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Culture
It is common for people in China to take weeks off from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. However the New Years celebrations are shortened in America, and the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend, regardless of the moon. Many Chinese American communities also incorporate elements of typical American culture parades such as Marching bands and floats.

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In Boston

This year, The Chinese New Year Parade will take place on Sunday, Feburary 9, 2014. It will start at 10am  and end at 5pm. The parade takes place on Chinatown Main Street. Here are some other celebrations taking place in the city throughtought the Chinese New Year.

FREE Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts
Feb 8-465 Huntington – special events including a Lion dance, martial arts, Korean bowling and guided tours of the Asian Galleries.

Boston Children’s Museum
February 9 from 11am to 4pm – $14 – cultural and performances celebrating the New Year.

Chinese New Year in Harvard Square
February 23 from 1-3pm. Starts in Winthrop Park with a lion dance followed by the dance,firecrackers, hanging red lantersn and parade through Harvard Square.

Tradition & Function: Living Bridges in India

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Long ago in North Eastern India, the War-Khasis tribe of Meghalaya were way ahead of the green movement. They realized they could grow their own bridges! Meghalaya is known as “the wettest place in the world”, and once received 25 meters of rain in one year, making the world record. The southern Khasi and Jaintia hills are intersected by numerous, rapidly flowing rivers. Nearly all the rainfall occurs during the monsoon of the summer months, and the gentle rivers can  quickly become wild, raging and dangerous to cross. The people still had to cross these waterways, and discovered they could utilize their natural resources to benefit their lives in a beautiful way, while remaining harmonious with nature.

The only material needed for the creation of these bridges is a tree, known as Ficus Elastica. This is a species of rubber tree,that can grow to a size of 30-40 meters. These trees have a secondary root system, which causes the roots to grow outwards. The roots grow upwards, towards the upper part of the tree and are incredibly strong. The Ficus can comfortably and sturdily grow from the edges of huge boulders, as well as within the river beds themselves.

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Although the trees grow all on their own, people must use tools and frames to guide the growth of the trees in the desired direction. The trunks of betel nut trees are slices down the middle and hollowed out, and used as a guidance frame for the roots of the Ficus. This causes the new and therefore tender and thin roots to grow straight out, across the river, instead of spreading in all different directions like they would without help. When the roots grow long enough to reach the soil of the other side of the river, they take root. Over time, the roots grow deep into the earth, and provide a sturdy structure that spans from one side of the river to the other. People also choose places a bridge is needed, and plant a tree there. Then they must wait for the tree to grow strong and tall before cultivating a bridge. In this aspect, there is significant planning involved in growing root bridges, and serious patience.

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Dilligent attention must be paid to this process and it typically takes from 10-15 years for the bridge to be completed. Some of these bridges can hold the weight of 50 people and reach a length of over 100 feet. The most amazing thing about these bridges, is they actually get stronger with age. Through time, the wood of the roots obtain a strength of what is compared  to steel cables. In fact, it is the “alive” aspect of these structures that allows them to be so strong. Their constant growth adds to their durability. It is estimated that some of the “ancient” root bridges used daily by the people in this region are well over 500 years old. Talk about sustainable development.

One of the most astonishing and unique root bridges is believed to be the only one like it in the world. It is two bridges, one growing about 14 feet over the other one.  It is known as the “Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge”.

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There is a lot of well deserved attention being paid to these wonders, because they were re-discovered by a man from the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort. Denis P Rayen wants to promote interest in the bridges. To prevent the  bridges from being destroyed or replaced with steel in favor of modernizing, the local people have been alerted to their value and potential. I think they were probably already aware. Currently, a new bridge is being grown, and should be finished within this decade.

In this video, a man teaches his daughter the knowledge and skills needed to complete the bridge he has been growing for over 30 years. He knows he will not live long enough to see it finished, and he wants to ensure his daughter will take his place and see it through. To me, this wisdom and knowledge being passed down from generation to generation is a striking parallel to the “living bridges” themselves. Each generation begins a bridge to the generations to come, by teaching their children these secrets. This a moving story of people living in humble awe of the miraculous earth around them, and the power of growing instead of cutting down.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oESC2iDZArI]

Lotus: The Sacred Flower of Peace and Love

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Your home is your haven. Why not fill it with signs of peace, harmony and healing? In Asia, the Lotus leaf is a symbol of exactly those things.

These beautifully unique wall panels are covered in real Lotus leaves from Thailand. The leaves have been covered by hand with acrylic resin and gilt in gold dust. The leaves vary in size, shape and color and no two are alike. Colored richly with gold, rust, crimson, and forest green, these panels add instant warmth to a room. The autumnal aesthetic of the colors conjures up the traditional festivity of the New England Holiday season, and blend seamlessly together with harmonic, Eastern imagery.

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In Thailand, a Buddhist country, the Lotus, or “Bua”, is a sacred flower to the people, because it is the traditional flower of Buddhism. There is a legend that the Lord Buddha was able to walk at birth, and that when he took his first seven steps, Lotus blooms opened up from underneath to support his feet. In murals around the globe, the Buddha is portrayed surrounded with Lotus blossoms.

BUDHA
The Lotus, being a water flower, is rooted in mud, and grows up above the dirty water, into a flower of great beauty. This is used as a metaphor for mans attempt to rise above his earthly existence to attain spiritual purity.

“He who is low-born may develop and improve himself like the lotus growing out of the mire. The followers of the Buddha shine above others through their wisdom like the lotus.” – Buddhist Doctrine

The Lotus is also shown surrounding many deities in the religion of Brahmanism, which is connected to Thai history. Brahman Goddesses are often holding Lotus blossoms in their hands.

LOTUS

In traditional herbal medicine, the Lotus leaf is used to aid in digestion, alleviate fever, heal bruises, reduce muscle spasms and stop bleeding. One of its most common uses is to ease dizziness and nausea. Nearly every part of the Lotus flower is edible. A popular Thai sweet is made up of dried Lotus seeds boiled in Syrup and added to crushed ice.

Here is a delicious and fairly simple recipe to try, Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf:

  • 3-4 cups sticky rice (uncooked)
  • 1 cup chinese sausage, cut up into bite size pieces
  • 3 dried black shiitake mushrooms, soak and cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh shrimp, cleaned
  • 3 salted egg yolks (optional), cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 dried lotus leaves
  1. Soak lotus leaves for 30 minutes, weighing down with a small bowl if necessary. Fry Chinese sausage. Set aside.
  2. Steam sticky rice using a little less water than usual for firm rice. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Put oil into pan and fry garlic until turning golden-yellow. Add rice, mushroom, shrimp, and soy sauce. Stir until all ingredients are cooked.
  4. Pat dry softened lotus leaf and brush back of the leaf lightly with oil. Cut leaf in half. Put half the rice mixture on one leaf and top with salted egg. Wrap rice in a rounded bundle. Repeat with the other half. Either cook immediately or store in fridge for later use.
  5. Steam 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cut salted egg yolk into half. Put Chinese sausage and egg yolk on top. Serve.

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