Tuesday, December 20, 2011

strike anywhere.

I can't help but smile watching this... and believe me, after you do, you'll just want to turn on some music and dance - in your living room, your office, wherever. 

"Taking yourself too seriously is the first sign of a boring life." - Garance Dore

Now I want to learn to dance the Madison...

Have a great week!

*Side note: I personally cringe and find it inappropriate when the word "retard" is used as slang in conversation. But in French, as in the words in the video, "retard" means "late" - so the sentence above translates to "It is late." (The very little I remember from one year of French in college.)

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Monday, December 19, 2011

obsessive joy

A friend of mine, who is a parent of a child with an exceptionality, shared this article on "The Obsessive Joy of Autism." It was written by teenager with autism.

I read it and couldn't stop crying.

What a great reminder for us to acknowledge that joy is expressed in many diverse ways, as diverse as the people expressing it.

As an educator, I am aware of the differing opinions on "stimming," the behavior that tends to accompany the diagnosis of autism - whether to let it be or discourage it and modify the behavior toward "more appropriate" (quotation marks are intentional) behavior. Whether the stimming is significant enough that it interferes with social interactions or quality of life. Whether it is self-injurious, etc etc etc.

But reading this just seemed to naturally pull my questioning researcher's lens off - and I read the article with the most "feeling" part of me. And I realized yet again that doing that is not a bad thing. It makes me a better educator.

I won't say anymore about it, as the article itself is just so eloquently and insightfully written.

Read it here.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

stop and smell the roses... or, listen to the violin

In 2007 the Washington Post had an article about a professional classical violinist who played in one of the metro stations in D.C. during the morning rush hour, as an experiment of sorts. This musician who can command upwards of $100 for a decent seat at a concert made about $32 for 45 minutes of playing 6 classical pieces, including Bach's Chaconne. Very few people stopped to listen. Nearby, people were lining up to buy lottery tickets instead. Some people did throw pennies and loose change into his violin case. Finally, a passerby who recognized the classical pieces threw in a $5 bill.

The article brought up some interesting perspectives of beauty. What is beauty, anyway? What is art? What kind of context do we need to truly appreciate art and beauty? Do the surroundings matter - i.e., a chaotic metro station vs a plush concert hall? What would it take for us the recognize the diamond in the rough? And I also thought, what would I have done? Would I have stopped to listen? What if I were on my way to a job interview that morning?

It reminds me of a scene in one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption (I know, this is the second time I've written about it in just a few weeks, but I just watched it again for the nth time recently). The protagonist, Andy, was working in the prison warden's office, and seized the opportunity to play a record of a soprano and transmit it over the speaker system - making it loud and clear throughout the whole prison and grounds. All the prisoners - hardened by their own crimes, their incarceration experience - stopped in their tracks to listen to the music, looking up at the speakers as though it were a voice coming from heaven. It made me cry the first time I watched it, thinking about the emotions running through the characters' souls during this scene - perhaps, feelings of hope... but if nothing else, wonder.

Anyway, an interesting read. Click here.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

slowing down...

I used to be a get-up-and-go person. In my old life. When I was living back home and blessed with tropical sunshine almost every day, I would wake up to glorious morning sunlight streaming into my bedroom from my east-facing window. I would wake up early even on a Saturday to swim laps for almost 2 hours. Or do cartwheels every chance I had.

California, 2006
Those were the days...Where was the boundless energy I used to have in my twenties? I'm not that old!

Sometimes I feel like a different person now - dragging myself to get out of bed when it's so gray and dreary outside. I don't know what it is, but sunshine just has a tremendous influence on my mood and energy. It's always such a challenge during the winter season.

My yoga practice has changed quite a bit, as well. My beginning yoga practice during my twenty-something years were filled with a very active and dynamic practice 5x a week. And that's in addition to running and Pilates. Now, it's been a real challenge to "salute the sun" in vigorous sun salutations/Surya Namaskara when I can't see the sun in the morning. And on those days, all I want to do is this:

Seated Twist/Ardha Matsyendrasana/Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
photo from yogajournal.com

Sometimes, this pose is the most active pose of my day:

Low Lunge/Crescent Pose/Anjaneyasana
photo from yogajournal.com

I haven't been practicing headstand for a while. Lately this is all the energy I can muster for an inversion:

Legs-up-the-wall pose/Viparita Karani
photo from yogajournal.com

And this one below is probably my all-time favorite on days like this:

restorative forward bend
photo from yinyoga.com
All of these are great poses though - the seated twist is a really good spine and hip stretch. Crescent pose always feels incredible in the hip flexors after extended periods of sitting (which I tend to do for work). With legs-up-the-wall we reverse the flow of gravity in an inversion - just like you would in a headstand but in a more supported way. And the restorative forward bend is so great for decompressing the lower back.

I hope to get out of this low-energy phase soon... but in the meantime, I'll enjoy my restorative poses.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It's December! The time of the year which always makes me nostalgic and long for home and the comforting memories of leisurely days with family, spent sitting around a large dinner table, sharing and enjoying a meal, exchanging stories. There was always an abundance of food and an abundance of laughter - especially with my brother who could imitate and impersonate just about anyone... plus a great-aunt who was also wacky, unconventional, and just delightful. Between the two of them, we would be practically falling off our seat laughing, our bellies aching not just from food but from the uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Every year I debate with myself whether to decorate my home for Christmas or not. Although I know that Christmas isn't about the lights and the ornaments, there's a comfort in going through traditions. Ever since I left home and lived on my own, I always decided not to decorate - as I tend to go out of town and visit family that time of year. But this year though, I decided to put together a few simple things.

A DIY wreath - which cost all of $4!!! Made from materials from the dollar store - $1 for the plain wreath and $1 per pair for 3 pairs of gold accent pieces.

A pillar candle for $1 per pair, on a red saucer. Surrounded by sparkly snowflake ornaments from C&B

Pinecones in a clear glass bowl... always nice to have some natural elements. It's not clear from the photo, but I love this asymmetrical glass bowl. Its free-form shape adds an organic touch.

I love the texture natural materials add to a space.

And last, but not the least...

Spanish-style hot chocolate

Spanish-style hot chocolate...one of my most favorite childhood memories of Christmas. My family and I grew up drinking this chocolate, which my mom made frequently during the holidays, but also throughout the year -- to celebrate a birthday, to welcome friends our houseguests, or to enjoy with Spanish-Filipino style pastries for an afternoon snack. Each time my mom made it, it was always in a big pot for the whole family as well as friends dropping by - expected or not. The smell of chocolate would waft through the whole house, inviting everyone to gather around the table for a leisurely cup of chocolate. Now I've brought the tradition over here and shared it with friends as well.

This chocolate is not for the faint of heart -- it is made with pure unsweetened cocoa.

Here's what you'll need:
A small saucepan, preferably with a thick/heavy bottom, and ideally with a pouring spout.
A heatproof rubber spatula (or anything you can use for stirring)

This recipe makes hot chocolate for 2:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (the one we always used back home comes in round tablets, about an ounce each)
¼ cup water
3 teaspoons sugar (turbinado or raw sugar is good, but regular sugar is fine as well)
A tiny pinch of sea salt
A tiny pinch of instant coffee or instant espresso
3 tablespoons milk, or to taste

Start by melting the chocolate tablets with water over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir so that it melts evenly – the rubber spatula helps with scraping any chocolate on the bottom of the saucepan so it doesn’t burn.

Once the chocolate is melted, add sugar. Start with 3 teaspoons of sugar to make a bittersweet chocolate drink (my personal preference), or add more to make a sweeter drink. Add sea salt – it sounds unusual, but a little salt brings out all the flavors. Then add the coffee, because a little coffee makes chocolate taste even better.

Add 3 tablespoons of milk, or half-and-half if you want a richer flavor. This makes a dark hot chocolate, but you can always add more milk to lighten it up.

Pour into espresso or demitasse cups. Enjoy by itself, or with churros, biscotti, or shortbread cookies.

thick, bittersweet hot chocolate in demitasse cups

I've also been reading about this "twelve dates of Christmas" in the blogosphere. Might be something for A and I to consider. Unhurried, quality time together to focus on what's important amidst the often frenzied holiday state.

Hope you're doing something special with your loved ones this season!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

take flight

Cleveland Botanical Garden

"Some birds can't be caged. Their feathers are too bright."  

{The above quote is in my opinion one of the most memorable lines in one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption. It was stated by Red, the character played by Morgan Freeman, to describe his fellow prison inmate Andy, played by Tim Robbins.}

I love this plant - I *think* it could be related to the "birds of paradise" flower, but I'm not sure. Whatever the case, I am just amazed by its form and beauty. Nature is truly is amazing in how it expresses itself most fully. 

It reminds me to take flight, towards the fullest expression of myself.

Whoever you are, whatever you do - I hope you, too, are taking flight.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

be thankful for your troubles

Big thanks to Sharon for this lovely notebook

Below was a Thanksgiving message from my advisor:

"Be thankful if you don't feel like you are living the dream today and don't already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don't know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times your advisors generously provide you. During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful when you're tired, because it means you've actually done something.

It's easy to be thankful for the good things.

Take the time this week to spend time with family and find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings."

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 14, 2011

tribute to fall 2011

I say it every year: "There will never be another Fall [insert year]."

So here we go: There will never be another Fall 2011.

Year after year, the fall season is different. The timing in which the leaves turn. The transitions I go through in my own life as nature goes through its own transition. The stage I am in at that point in my life. The sights, the events, the flavors, the emotions I experience as I soak in the season. It's unique, every year.

 my parents, at the Cleveland Botanical Garden

my parents... such lovebirds!

A visit to Auburn Twin Oaks Winery, Chagrin Falls - a special place for A. and me
(I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol of any kind, but I absolutely LOVE this place - it's where A. and I got married, very quietly, with only 8 witnesses present.)

 The most amazing fennel and broccoli soup at Moxie, where we took my parents for dinner. 
I promptly tried to replicate this soup that same week.

Some thoughts to ponder on...

One of our favorite restaurants in Cleveland, where we also took my parents for dinner

 with my mom, outside Greenhouse Tavern
 picture of A. and me, taken by my dad as we were walking on East 4th in downtown Cleveland
(that's me walking ON the sidewalk so I can be as tall as A. is... just a joke between us)

 funny carvings on a tree trunk, found during one of our walks in North Chagrin Metropark

Thank you, A., for grounding me.
I can't do what I do without you.
 light. color. shadows.

 beautiful blue skies - always appreciated during the long season of gray days in Cleveland

 North Chagrin Metropark - we are blessed to have this wonderful gem less than 10 minutes from our home.

Product of a cozy day of baking at home: buttery, flaky biscuits thanks to our very own Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio. I'm not one to collect cookbooks, but in my (humble) opinion this is one of the best food-related books out there. In a nutshell, it's based on the premise that you're better off knowing a ratio than a recipe. If you know a ratio, you know exponentially more recipes.
Check out the flaky layers in the biscuit above - thanks to his technique of a few rounds of chilling the dough, then folding into thirds and rolling (for a total of 6x which, including chilling time, took a few hours). There are just no shortcuts to some of the finer things in life. :)
Biscuits were enjoyed fresh out of the oven, with my favorite Bonne Maman jam.
 vanilla bean ice cream churning in the ice cream maker
It may be getting cold, but I'll take good quality ice cream any day.
Check out those specks of vanilla!
There's just nothing like it.
(Pardon my poor kitchen lighting... it was nighttime)
 A fiery orange tree against the most unbelievably blue sky.
How lucky am I to have this tree outside our balcony?

Some grounding words as we live through the transitions and changes that are characteristic of this "vata" season. These tips, based on principles of Ayurveda, are especially helpful for someone like me with a predominant vata dosha, but can also be helpful to anyone.
("breathe in life" frame gifted by my uber-cool aunt, a proprietor of a B&B  and a yoga instructor; the gift tag was from a present given by this friend. I hung it over the side of the frame because it reminds me of a mandala. I have this displayed in my home office.)

As I mentioned earlier... there will never be another Fall 2011. Breathe it in...

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

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