Wednesday, May 26, 2010

art + poetry

I don't usually frequent Starbucks. The price is just a luxury for a cup of coffee. But the few times I went to the Starbucks by our university campus, I have found something unexpected. Like the time I came across this photographer's work on display at this very same Starbucks, a "discovery" which has since led to an in-person meeting and a potential connection.

Anyway, this morning I met with a colleague there, and I was delighted to find poetry and art on the walls.

The collection was called "Peace Stanzas", which is a collaborative project between Kent State University's Wick Poetry Center and Glyphix design studio. This poem in particular caught my eye:

What I Want

I want to burn the pages of hate.
I want to feel a waterfall
run down my back.
I want to find a vaccine
for pain and suffering in the human soul.
I want the
He saids and She saids
to be,
We all said!
I want gossip to shrivel
up into a ball
so I can kick it around
with my cleats


Shauna Oldaker
7th Grade
Miller South School

See more about the Peace Stanzas here

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Monday, May 24, 2010

birthday yoga!

I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of "hot" yoga. I've tried it, but don't practice that way on a regular basis. And it has nothing to do with the yoga itself... it's just a matter of personal preference. I LOVE yoga outdoors, and if indoors, I usually prefer a room with comfortable, just-right HVAC.

But on this day, the day of my birth, I decided, why not do something different and go to a hot yoga class? And in perfect timing, I received an email from this studio, which entitled me to a free yoga class during my birthday week! The class description stated that the room would be warmed to 85 degrees. Ok, not bad... at least it wasn't a feverish temperature. So off I went, wearing the most sweat-absorbing, moisture-wicking workout top I own. Having been to this studio before,  I knew how hot it could be. So I also brought a sweat-absorbing towel and a big bottle of water to be as ready as I could for buckets of sweat.

It turned out to be a great class! The instructor led us through multiple vinyasa sequences and warrior poses/variations and balancing sequences, in a room that felt much warmer than 85 degrees (considering the full yoga room, body heat from what seemed like 30 people, each one practicing the ujjayi breath). The instructor made us work, stretch, and sweat, but also made us laugh.

There's something so primal, so cleansing, so life-affirming, about movement and breath and sweating from every single pore of my body. About getting out of my head and into my heart. I welcomed every sweaty vinyasa as a chance to celebrate life, to challenge myself while exercising patience and awareness of what my body needed and felt. Aaaahhhh... the joys of truly being in my body, moving, and feeling every movement. Each time I moved from a standing forward fold to sweep my arms up to the side and overhead to mountain pose, it was like scooping up all this wonderful energy. I couldn't help but smile in extended side angle, feeling the deliciousness of the stretch, and in dancer pose, feeling grounded yet light. I bowed into humble warrior pose with gratitude. Each lion's breath in upward dog and fish pose was so life-force-giving. Just as my mother and father gave their own life force to me on this very day years ago.

So on that note I say THANKS... for this day, for the gift of breath and movement, and to all those who gave meaning and life to my days.

Today's meditation: "May every breath I take be a prayer." (How very fitting for a birthday meditation!)

Thank you, A., for the pretty birthday flowers!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

celebrating life and friendship

Last night I had an early birthday celebration thanks to my fabulous friend, fellow crazy cook, and event-planner extraordinaire. It started off with a 9 am yoga class at this studio, followed by a trip to my beloved market to reunite with my favorite food places. Then I re-connected with this friend and kindred spirit over scones and refreshing iced jasmine green tea at my favorite tea place.

In the evening, our group of friends gathered for an awesome vegetarian-friendly Filipino dinner and an abundance of dessert. In our culture, we eat noodles on our birthdays for longevity. Traditionally, this is made with bits of pork and shrimp, but my friend made a veggie version for me! (and the other vegetarians in our group)

 Doesn't that look amazing?
(Thank you, my Cincinnati sister!)

My friend who hosted the party made a Filipino dessert called "halo-halo" which literally means "mix-mix" -- a mixture of native fruits (jackfruit and plantains) in syrup, jellied coconut, crushed ice, milk, and ice cream. Our non-Filipino friends have now named it "mix-mix". One friend nicknamed it the "ha-ha". In addition to that, a friend brought a homemade dark chocolate cake, this friend brought homemade tiramisu, and another friend brought assorted gelato from a local gelateria (did I not say an "abundance" of dessert?). 

We sampled and savored (ok, maybe "devoured and conquered" is more accurate, as the food was wiped out), and enjoyed each other's company long into the evening.

I was unable to take more photos of the other amazing dishes we had, as I wanted to catch up with all my Cincinnati friends whom I have not seen in months since I moved away. But I trust that my other photographer friend documented the evening. :)

 Photo by EyesOpenWide

Thank you everyone for being present and making my day! Much love and many hugs all around.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

homemade yoga mat spray cleaner

I came home after yoga class last night to find out that I had NO INTERNET CONNECTION.

It's funny how dependent I've become on this commodity. Things just did not feel.... right, without it. Which is a bit scary.

I tried the (very) few troubleshooting tips I know. Didn't work. Unfortunately the tech office was going to open the next day, at 9 am. So I had to wait.

There were other things that were not working in my favor last night, and I have to say it caused some stress, wreaking a little bit of havoc in my state of post-yoga-class-bliss. When I am under stress, I like working with my hands to calm me down. There's something very soothing about a tactile experience. It must be why I loved to make homemade play dough when I was teaching children.

What to make... hmmm. Muffins? No. Made those last week, and I wasn't in the mood for it. Homemade hand cream? No, didn't have the ingredients I needed.

So I decided to make another batch of homemade yoga mat spray. Although this is not a very tactile experience as I mentioned earlier, there's still something soothing about creating something. And, store-bought yoga mat sprays can cost you $10 or more for a tiny spray bottle.

Here's what I use:

  • 8 ounces/1 cup water
  • white vinegar - I just use a bit because I don't want it too vinegar-y (You can leave it out if you don't want it, but vinegar does help in cleaning things)
  • several drops (about 10) tea tree oil (antibacterial)
  • 6-10 drops peppermint essential oil OR
  • 6-10 drops lavender essential oil (or both)

Granted, essential oils can be expensive up front. But since you only use a few drops each time, a small bottle lasts you a long while. I bought my essential oils over 2 years ago and I still have plenty.

I can't remember how much of the essential oil I mixed in, I just wanted enough to cover up the vinegar-y smell.

Place in a spray bottle. Spray on your yoga mat, and wipe down with a towel or sponge. Let dry.

For a deeper clean, soak your mat in warm water and some mild detergent (or Dr. Bronner's soap) in the tub. To dry, lay your mat on a large towel and roll up together to squeeze out excess water. Hang to dry, and make sure your mat is very dry before you roll it up again. 

And there you have it... inexpensive, all-natural yoga mat spray.

 Don't you love the "ergonomic" spray bottles?
(found them at the dollar store)

Then I made one of my favorite pasta dishes for dinner: spaghettini with olive oil, lemon, toasted pine nuts, and wilted baby arugula. More on that later...

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"it's just yoga."

I went to a kick-butt yoga class at this studio today. It was challenging and sweaty, yet fun and lighthearted. There were moments of complete ease and stillness, and moments of seriously trembling limbs and muscles in some tough asanas. As I was trying to keep my focus through a creative balancing sequence (which is now my new favorite) of standing split to half moon to half moon with a bind to standing up to dancer pose and back to half moon with a bind (all while balancing on the same leg), I lost my balance. Then the teacher said, "It's OK. It's just yoga."

That's such a refreshing thing to hear. In the world of career and workaholism, it's easy to start taking myself too seriously. So hearing someone say, "It's OK. It's JUST yoga." is a refreshing change of pace; a reminder to lighten up, loosen up, and let go.

A dear friend wrote about "giving up the idea that things have to be so hard." This thought really makes me reflect on what I hold on to that makes things harder than they have to be, instead of letting go, trusting in my efforts, and going with the flow.

I think back at the times when I found answers or solutions when I least expected it. Like going into a challenging asana, thinking I couldn't do it, when all I needed was to come back to my breath so I could focus my mind. Or coming up with a great idea for my schoolwork during a walk, instead of while staring at a blank document on my computer screen. Or taking a short, much-needed break to remove myself from a stressful situation, and suddenly coming into clarity about what needs to be done.

I always find it amazing when that happens. There's a sense of relief in finding out the ease with which an answer comes our way when we unburden ourselves of internal pressures and judgments. This sense of "letting go" of that mindset or ideal of perfection is not an excuse to do things half-baked; it's a reminder to let go of what is weighing us down. Whether it's the idea that I HAVE TO be able to do this yoga pose, or the idea that who I am is tied to a grade I receive on a paper. IT'S OK. "It's just ____." I am not that important for the the world to stop turning if I don't achieve this pose, or if I miss a few points on a school paper (and seriously, there are MUCH bigger problems in the world.).

So I remind myself to lighten up, loosen up, and let go.

And in today's yoga class, when I tried that same sequence a second time, I let go of expectation and judgment, and instead focused on just breathing and being present. Then I felt light enough to soar in that balancing asana sequence.

It felt awesome.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

the simple pleasures in life

I realized that at the end of the day, my needs are not that complicated. A delicious healthy meal prepared with love and good karma, enjoyed with people I hold dear. A good stretch with some blissful yoga. And walks in the sunshine.

Well, a walk on the beach with a view of God-light wouldn't hurt.

Headlands Beach, Lake Erie

I love God-light.

Might as well throw in some yoga while I'm at it...

Hope you savored many moments of simple pleasures today, as I have...

Thank you, A., for the yoga action shots, and for the wonderful day of simple pleasures.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

the hand that rocks the cradle the hand that rules the world." (poem by William Ross Wallace)

I came across this website, Mothers Acting Up. It is an organization that works to mobilize mothers (mothers and any other persons who care for children) to advocate on behalf of the world's children. What a great way to channel the powerful yet nurturing maternal energy towards advocacy and activism!

"We realize that we live in a world that does not prioritize or protect our children's well-being and that this will not change without each of us finding the courage and commitment to speak out on their behalf. By mobilizing our gigantic political strength, we can ensure the health, education, and safety of every child, not just a privileged few. Let us: whisper this to each other; sing it out in the streets; yell it from our rooftops; declare it in our houses of government -- we will protect our children with our personal and political strength, wherever they live on earth!"

- Mothers Acting Up

Wow. That just gave me goosebumps.

Read more about MAU here.

To my mom, my best friend, who taught me to work towards my best self, and to do it with grace, compassion, faith, and generosity. Who taught me to dream, and to dream big... while still keeping family and loved ones front and center. To all my "adoptive" moms here in my second home: thank you for caring for me. For looking out for my safety. For letting me cry on your shoulder. For welcoming me into your homes as mothers do so well. For being my family while I am away from home. THANK YOU. And to all my beautiful mom-friends (you know who you are). You are all AMAZING.

Happy Mother's Day to all women who are mothers, or are acting in a maternal capacity towards children.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

lavender honey dark chocolate

I have to admit that when the going gets tough, I reach for chocolate.

To my disappointment, I was out of my usual chocolate bar and was unable to go to the store to get another one. Usually when I am towards the end of one chocolate bar, there's an extra one in my kitchen somewhere... or even in my purse. I think a square or two of chocolate a day is perfectly reasonable, and it's such a treat after lunch or dinner. But there was none to be had.

So I went into my kitchen to look for chocolate, and then I found chocolate tableas from the Philippines that my mother sent me last year (these things last a pretty long time, kept in a cool dark place).

These chocolate tableas are deep, rich, and best of all, heartwarming. It's the kind that takes me back home, to childhood memories of my mother making this hot chocolate for the holidays. She would make it in a HUGE pot, enough to feed our big family and more -- for the guests, both expected and unexpected, but welcomed all the same. The scents would fill the kitchen and waft into the living room as we waited in anticipation for the chocolate to be ready. Memories of my family gathering around a candlelit table, each with a cup of hot chocolate (and some sweet, buttery, brioche-style rolls we call ensaimada, for dunking).

So making this chocolate here, is like a taste of home in a cup. At 11 pm, I decided to make some. The enjoyment is in the process of making it, as much as it is in savoring it. I think part of it has to do with the "slow-food" feel of preparing it. No microwaving here.

Sometimes I make it in the more traditional way, the way my mom makes it. Just the chocolate, melting in a pot with some water, until it's simmering. Make sure you stir fairly constantly, so the chocolate melts evenly and no chocolate get scorched in the bottom of the pan, which would be a tragedy in my world. A little milk --  or a lot, depending on how dark or how milky you want it (I prefer the former). And turbinado sugar, depending on whether the tableas are sweetened or unsweetened.

Or sometimes I make it with a little twist - in the winter I might make it Mexican style with a little cinnamon and cayenne. But this spring, I wanted the flavors of lavender and honey.

I had this bottle of lavender honey which I bought in a cozy local store in Asheville last spring. I'm quite proud that I've been able to ration it. One year later, and I still haven't consumed the entire bottle. I have about a quarter of it left, and I wish I had gotten two bottles.

Lavender honey. There's just nothing like it. The subtle flowery lavender notes in sweet, fragrant honey. It's nature's magic.

So I melted 6 chocolate tableas (might as well make enough to last the week, right?) in a little water, in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan (or you could use a double boiler) over low heat. Once all the chocolate was melted and the mixture was simmering, I added some plain almond milk, about a cup or so. I let it cook until it was heated through, then added a few tablespoonfuls of this lavender honey.

I enjoyed it in a little cup, letting the heat of the cup warm my palms as I placed my hands around it. And believe me, this is rich, and a little teacup's worth of hot chocolate is probably enough. No supersized mugs here. It's something that's meant to be sipped and enjoyed slowly.

Hot chocolate from the Philippines, 
with lavender honey from North Carolina, 
served in a Turkish cup and saucer
enjoyed in Northern Ohio,
thinking of family and memories from half a world away. :)

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Monday, May 3, 2010

happy Monday

I just received an email this morning from this Filipino food blogger, telling me that I am the winner of his chocolate giveaway contest!

So I await 2 bars of chocolate (sourced from the Philippines... YEAH!) in the mail. One regular dark chocolate bar and one dark chocolate bar with fleur de sel. I love fleur de sel in chocolate... the sweet-salty combination just hits the spot.

The stars must have been aligned just right...

And another freebie... the yoga instructor at our student rec center gave us each a pass for ONE FREE WEEK OF YOGA at this studio! She actually gave it to us some weeks ago, and unfortunately I thought I misplaced it in between my stacks of books and papers... and then yesterday it turned up. What a perfect week for me to find it... because this week is crunch time in the semester.

Hopefully I'll breeze through the week with lots of stretches, deep breaths, and OM's.

It's a great Monday already... have a great week!

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

a real-life love story... and perhaps the best ever.

Happy Anniversary to my Mom and Dad!

my parents in Bohol, Philippines

November, 1970. My parents meet at a mutual friend's party. There was a power outage, but that didn't stop the sparks from flying... perhaps the darkness made the sparks even brighter.

February, 1971. My dad proposes to my mom. Mom accepts.

May 1, 1971. Wedding bells and I-do's.

May 1, 2010... 39 years and going strong... and honeymooning at every opportunity.
Through a daughter's eyes, your lives have been about giving. Of each other, and to teach other. To us, your children... and to others, family or not. And for that I am inspired, and of course, truly grateful. You truly have set the bar.

Much love to you, Mom and Dad.

(Photo shared by my Dad)

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