Friday, December 7, 2012


These will look like very unseasonable photos given the dark and dreary days this time of year in this part of the world, but I can't help but dream and think that this is where I will be a few weeks from now...

And I just need to get through this rough week. It's been quite the ordeal physically, mentally, emotionally. It's taking every ounce of willpower to focus and get my sh*t (choose your vowel) together** . I really need to concentrate on work for the next several days to be ready for this trip... and be ready to finally stop thinking of work. I've come to accept that I will need to work some while I'm away, but I'm looking forward to a few uninterrupted days to get off the grid (GASP) for a while, unwind, and re-connect with my family and childhood friends.

Soon I'll be home in this island paradise...  why have I been I away for so long again?

Image credit

Image credit
Image credit

**From one of my colleagues, a new professor at a university. She once joked that she wants to add the phrase "Get your sh*t together" to her email signature line. We all got a kick out of that idea. Only in theory, of course.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

taking a break

back to my fall/winter coffee habit

How is it the end of November already???

 If it isn't already obvious, I've really neglected this poor li'l old blog for a while now.

Between work, school, and 2 small side jobs, something's gotta give. And unfortunately, it was the blog. My somewhat frequent posting this past summer has now become a once weekly or bimonthly post. I do miss writing here, but I can only do what I can do.

And that's ok. 

I'm running around like a headless chicken again, in preparation for a big trip. So I'm making sure I have all my ducks in a row, trying to get as much work done as I can.

I counted, and I'll be going through 12 airports in 30 days.  AND around the world in 30 days (not making stops everywhere, but that's our flight path as we head to both our home countries and head back). Whew!

But nothing to complain about. I'm incredibly thankful for the things that keep my life full, and also thankful that given enough sleep, yoga, chocolate, and sunshine (at least the little bit we get this far above the Mason-Dixon line, this time of year), I am able to do them.

Meanwhile, blogging is on the back burner. But maybe I'll post pictures from my trip when the time comes...

Until then, I'll be dreaming of this to keep me going as I check things off my task list...

Boracay, Philippines | photo by my brother Carlo

Very soon, this tropical-blooded gal will be right at home.


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Thursday, November 22, 2012

happy thanksgiving!

Not having grown up in the US, I don't have a specific attachment to Thanksgiving as a holiday. I do however, love the idea of having a day to focus on gratitude.

mehndi (henna) on my 5-year-old niece-in-law, India | May 2012

I have to admit, I don't get excited about turkey and stuffing. So instead, I'll share what I'm reading and reflecting on today:
My Heart Brims with Affection and Expansion

I am committed to gratitude in my life. This choice opens my perceptions to receive the good. This choice shows me the inner doorway through which abundance comes to me. My heart is connected to universal love. Opening to my inner connection to Source, I receive an inflow of love and further gratitude. I give out an outflow of love and further gratitude. Gratitude for me is active. It is an inner decision to name and cherish what I love. It is a recognition of the many ways in which I myself am loved and cherished. In committed gratitude, I strive to touch all with the loving-kindness which touches me. I practice the principles of love in action. I am kind and compassionate first to myself and then to all others. I cherish our worth, our dignity, our shared path as co-creative beings shaping our shared world.

- Julia Cameron, Blessings: Prayers and Declarations for a Heartful Life

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Monday, November 19, 2012

on mindfulness, abundance, and gratitude

This time between Diwali and Thanksgiving has made me reflect on abundance and gratitude. I think they go hand-in-hand; as we recognize the abundance in our lives instead of focusing on all those "things" that we wish for, gratitude comes next.

Many times, I catch myself thinking, oh, I wish we had this piece of furniture or this or that or the other thing. We're only human, right? But nothing else jarred me back to my senses than the recent disaster that was Sandy. People suffered damage to their homes -- their shelter, for crying out loud, and here I am wishing for a new couch. 

I wish it wouldn't always come to that - for a tragic event as a reminder to be grateful. Why does that happen? A health emergency reminds us to be grateful for the health that we do have. An experience of loss or grief reminds us to be grateful for the people in our lives.

So I try to express gratitude as much as I can. For the abundance I have - love, friendship, health, work. And yes, even the challenges.

And for the little things. The stranger at the checkout line that lets me go ahead. The way my nerves, bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and every little part of my body work together so that I can enjoy my walk in the sunshine or a yoga pose. The little (but big) things that my husband does for me, like fill my gas tank the night before, when he knows I have a morning appointment.

I think it's mindfulness that connects the dots between abundance and gratitude. When I am mindful of the little things, it's much easier to recognize abundance and feel gratitude. If not for mindfulness, it's also easy to forget how important these "little" things are and how they enrich my life in so many ways. The extraordinary in the everyday.

To me, nothing else says it better than this poem...

By Mary Oliver

Every day
   I see or hear
         that more or less

kills me
   with delight,
      that leaves me
         like a needle

in the haystack
   of light.
      It was what I was born for—
         to look, to listen,

to lose myself
   inside this soft world—
      to instruct myself
         over and over

in joy,
   and acclamation.
      Nor am I talking
         about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
   the very extravagant—
      but of the ordinary,
         the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
   Oh, good scholar,
      I say to myself,
         how can you help

but grow wise
   with such teachings
      as these—
         the untrimmable light

of the world,
   the ocean’s shine,
      the prayers that are made
         out of grass?

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

sharing traditions

Last Tuesday, my husband and I celebrated Diwali. Diwali, also known as the "festival of lights", is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu tradition. One of the rituals is to workship Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth.

my husband's altar, with the lit "dia" (oil lamp)

As we are a half-Indian/half-Filipino household, my husband and I have been celebrating each other's traditions. I sit beside him as he says his prayers for blessings for ourselves, our families, and loved ones. And beside him, I pray in my own Catholic tradition for blessings as well.

As we have been married only... let's see, about 1 1/2 years / about 1 year and 2 months / 6 months--based on our legal, Catholic, and Hindu ceremonies, respectively (Confused yet? Yes, it sounds wedding-crazy but believe me we are sensible people!) -- we are figuring out our interfaith marriage as we go forward. Our individual spirituality is something important to both of us, and something each of us respected in the other. As I look back, getting married in each other's tradition perhaps has marked the beginning of something that will evolve into this shared spirituality.

We don't have it all figured out yet, especially when the time comes for us to start talking about having a family. I don't know what it will look like in the future, but this I know....

I am reminded, yet again, of what the poet Rumi wrote:

"There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

confessions of a yoga teacher

At 30+, I still get *slightly* giddy over pretty notebooks.

I will preface my "confessions" by saying that these are just personal preferences and tendencies, not judgments or evaluative statements about practices or preferences that are different from mine. It takes all kinds to make the yoga world go round.

Here goes...

~ I don't wake up at the butt-crack of dawn for a 2-hour asana and meditation practice. I stumble out of bed with my eyes half closed, head to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face, and then head to the kitchen because my stomach is grumbling.

~ I need my stimulants (i.e., espresso/cappuccino in the fall/winter, Earl Grey tea in the spring/summer) in the morning to get going.

~ I wish I could say I drink a freshly-made green juice every morning. But I'm more likely to have a chocolate croissant with said stimulants above. Or cake. But I do eat my greens at lunch and dinner.

~ Needless to say, I don't "salute the sun" with surya namaskara (sun salutations) in the morning. I will at sunset though. Or in the evening.

~ Sometimes, depending on what else is going on, my asana practice is just child's pose or a yin-style forward bend. That's it.

 ~ I don't chant OM in my practice. Or chant anything. Not to say I didn't try for a good long while. I understand the meaning behind OM, but I'd rather meditate on something that resonates more deeply and more personally with me (like a favorite prayer). I say it silently to myself. But if I am taking a class and the teacher leads the group through OM or a chant, I gladly listen.

~ On that note, I don't chant OM when I teach either. It's not that I'm "against" it. But if it's not in my own practice, how can I genuinely teach it?

~ I don't do crazy arm balances effortlessly like Kathryn Budig or Seane Corn. I've become more and more cautious over the years about the limitations of my physical body (and the fear of crashing on my face and losing a tooth). But I have done some crazy things like 108 sun salutations during the summer solstice.

~ I'm not crazy flexible. Gone are the childhood gymnastics days of straddle-split-chest-on-floor stretches. There are just certain things my body doesn't do, which I now have a deeper understanding of - thanks to the concepts of tension, compression, and proportion (with credit to Paul Grilley - his anatomy DVD changed my yoga world).

~ Related to the previous point above, I have never, and probably won't ever, sit in a full lotus. And that is ok, because my hips just won't seem to move that way and I love my knees too much to compromise them for what my hips can't do. And I want my hips and knees to carry me through old age 50+ years from now.

~ Although I know yoga is not really just about the physical poses - because the physical practice is just 1/8 of the entire yoga philosophy - sometimes, I really, really, really just want to "get it" while in a revolved triangle (not one of my faves). And I won't deny that I let out an excited squeal when I went up in a headstand for the first time during my yoga teacher training.

~ I never really liked the term "advanced" to describe someone who practices yoga. Someone once asked me if I were "advanced". I asked him, "what do you mean?" I truly believe in what my first teacher, Anna, said: "Always have a beginner's perspective." And I feel it in my muscles, my joints, and my mind every time I step onto the mat. The body doesn't lie.

~ And on that note, I would much rather use the term "committed" than "advanced" to describe someone who regularly practices yoga.

~ I hit a plateau in my yoga practice a few years ago. I just wasn't "feeling it" for some reason. But I definitely came back to it with a deeper appreciation the second time around. And it really drove the "beginner's perspective" home for me.

 ~ Sometimes I come in with a detailed plan (written down) for how I'm going to teach class. Sometimes I have a general plan in my head. It all depends - and it largely depends on who shows up.

~ I often get my right and left sides confused while teaching. Especially when I'm facing the group.

~ I've gone from omnivore to vegetarian (lacto-ovo) to "vegan" (" " used intentionally, because it lasted 2, maybe 3 weeks max - no matter what I do, I just do not get the same results when I bake with things like Earth Balance. I want the real-deal butter. I have Julia Child to thank.)... so I went back to vegetarian to most recently an occasional pescetarian. Dessert, however, is a mainstay. Always was, always will be. 

~ Though I'm pretty good at choosing what I eat and cooking things from scratch most of the time, I'm just as likely to make my own kimchi as I am to open a bag of Cape Cod salt + vinegar chips every now and then.

~ I don't remember all the Sanskrit names for the asanas (poses).

~ I'm not perfectly outfitted in color-coordinated Lululemon from head to toe. Target and Gap workout clothes work just fine for me (and my wallet).

~ I try my best to be a mindful and ethical consumer ("reduce-reuse-recycle"), but I am just as likely to reduce my use of plastic as I am to lust over a beautifully made, high-quality leather bag that will last for years.

~ I prefer not to have incense burning during yoga (whether I teach or attend a class). Especially if it's patchouli. But if it's already burning when I enter a yoga room, I'll just position myself far away from it.

~ I'm not a huge fan of "hot" yoga. I've tried it a few times, but I really just prefer regular room temperature. 

~ I don't plan my yoga music playlist ahead of time like I know some (or a lot of) teachers do.

~ I'm not relaxed and blissed-out 100% of the time which seems to be the general yoga teacher stereotype. I have anxiety and insomnia. And several years ago I suffered from depression too. There, I said it. But this experience deepened my yoga practice like no other.

~ And truth be told... you won't regularly find me in a cross-legged seated position, fingers in a mudra, and eyes closed, meditating. I try, I really do. It is a practice, after all. But I meditate better while swimming than I do while seated.

Yoga teachers or yogis/yoginis: 'fess up! I'd love to hear the quirks that make you "you".

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Monday, November 12, 2012


This is what has been going on:

image source

Not much to say today, so I'm not going to ramble. Over and out.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

sleep props

Ever since I was a teenager, sleep has been something that always evaded me. I think it all started when I discovered Sidney Sheldon novels that would keep me up at night.

And now, 15+ years later, it still haunts me. Not Sidney Sheldon, but the trouble falling asleep.

Working from home (most of the time) certainly has its advantages, including working in pajamas. Well, it could be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. But one clear disadvantage, for me at least, is that it's been very difficult for me to just leave work behind the way you would when you physically leave an office outside of your home.

I haven't been great at structuring my work hours, which is largely the problem.

But I try. 

I start with turning off my laptop at least 30 minutes before I going to bed - ideally an hour, but sometimes I end up turning it off before I accomplish what I needed to accomplish, and so I end up tossing and turning - and then I get up anyway to either get it done or put it on my list.

I also stopped bringing the iPad into the bedroom with me. This was tough, but it had to be done. I am doing everything in my power to NOT get addicted to Kindle. They say that screens from electronic devices stimulate your eyes the way sunshine does, which makes it even harder for the brain to recognize that it's time to rest.

Then I turn on my sleep playlist or the nature sounds app on my iPhone.

And then I take one 500-mcg dose of melatonin, the lowest available dose. I still don't know what to do about this long-term. I don't take it on the weekends to give my body a break - just so I don't start feeling dependent on it, physically and psychologically.

Then my bedtime routine begins...

My husband gets amused with all the props I use and surround myself with to help me drift off into sleep. Well, because normally I don't quite "drift off" into sleep effortlessly and blissfully.


 Clockwise from left:
Badger sleep balm, Indu aromatherapy lotion and spray, Origins "Bedtime Hug", and Blessings, a book of affirmations/meditations by Julia Cameron. Photos from each product's website.

The Badger sleep balm is scented with natural essential oils - lavender and bergamot - my favorite scents! I rub this on my temples, and sometimes the back of my neck and shoulders, giving myself a mini-massage. I love how the website says it's for "restless wanderers"!

The Indu aromatherapy lotion and spray is amazing. It's made by a local yoga teacher here in Cleveland. I just order it by email and pick it up at her house. It's also made with essential oils such as lavender, geranium, and other soothing scents. This hands-down the best lotion ever. I apply the lotion on my hands, and spray some of the aromatherapy spray on my pillow.

The Origins "Bedtime Hug" was a gift from a good friend of mine a few years ago, and it's holding up well. It's like a little pillow, scented with - yes, you guessed it - lavender essential oil - and you can dampen it then warm it slightly in the microwave. So comforting on my back or even on on my belly. It's got a little weight to it, and in the absence of sandbags to weigh myself down for calming purposes (don't judge - I've tried sandbags during a relaxation yoga class and it was amazing), this kind of does the trick.

Then I open up a book of meditations, just randomly, to any page - and on rotation is Julia Cameron's Blessings. Other books I have on my bedside table are 365 Yoga by Julie Rappaport, and The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi. This helps replace all my work-related thoughts, so I end the day on a positive note. It sets the tone for gratitude, loving-kindness, and prayer.


They say that "sleep hygiene" is all about creating a comforting routine that signals to your brain that it's time to rest. Very occasionally I might soak in the bath with (yes, lavender) Epsom salts - but I don't always have the luxury of doing this every night. Somehow, my mind still goes back to the time I experienced growing up, when water was rationed, and sometimes I can't bear to fill up a tub with that much water so regularly.

But perhaps my mindset will change if my bathroom looked like this:

floating modern bathtub | photo credit

Ok, went off on a tangent there.

Another routine that A. and I have gotten into is... I know, this will sound a bit strange.... reading our horoscope! I was never into reading my horoscope. But let me tell you that the Indian horoscope is WAY more fun. A. reads it from this Indian website -- in Hindi, no less, and he translates it for me of course. It's actually not a bad thing that I can't read Hindi, because then I don't have to look at the screen and stimulate my eyes and brain again after ALL the things I do to get blissed out and ready for sleep. Thankfully A. has no trouble whatsoever falling asleep - he's great at just leaving work behind. We tend to giggle our way through our nightly horoscope reading. Now I don't know if A. translates everything accurately or not (especially if there are not-so-good things in that day's reading), but hey, I'll take it.

At this point I close my eyes, then settle into deepening and slowing down my breathing.

And at the risk of lavender growing out of me (which is quite plausible at the rate I'm going - were you ever told that joke when you were a kid, that if you accidentally swallow a seed it will start to sprout inside you until a plant grows from your body? Anyone? Ok, maybe not...), I fall asleep within a half hour - on a good day. 

photo credit

It's been a good couple of weeks now (almost), except for maybe a day or two. Much better than when I was falling asleep at 3 or 4 am, which led to me being really grumpy, having no appetite (GASP!), and worst of all, taking it out on my poor husband who is nothing but the kindest, gentlest, most loving soul to me.

And for him, I'll take the risk of having lavender grow out of my body.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

indian summer

Indian summer day

The bluest skies, glowing yellow/orange leaves as though they are lit from within, and 70-degree weather? Yes, please.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

to sharon

I've been turning inward the past couple of days.

Last Sunday, I received an email from a dear friend, sharing some incredibly sad and painful news.

I'm at a complete loss for words. But since Sharon is a fellow lover of Mary Oliver's poetry, I thought I'd share these words here.

A Thousand Mornings

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing.

- Mary Oliver

To Sharon and Andy... May you feel the love of your family and friends, and all those lives you've touched, in your time of loss and healing. We are with you during this rough night, however long and dark it is, and we will be with you as the light deepens into morning. 

I'm a big believer in the power of the mind... so whether you know them or not, please send a positive thought their way. 

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Monday, October 15, 2012

the universe is funny sometimes.

So it's been some time since I've written on this blog.

This summer I took on a couple of different things, not quite knowing what this fall semester will hold.

Teaching 2 courses feels like a full-time job. Partly because I am aware that I am detail-oriented (and ok, perfectionist... ugh I hate saying that), so I tend to spend excessive amounts of time over little details.

I do miss writing here though, so I thought I'd share some random things that have been going on lately...

I was so excited to be teaching yoga again, and to be selling cookies - both of which I thought long and hard about (as my cautious self does) before jumping in. And just when I told myself, "YES", and got it started, an injury creeps up on me.

I talked to a childhood friend of mine, an occupational therapist who specializes in hand therapy, based in California. She "diagnosed" me via FaceTime. Don't you love technology? She suspected tendonitis. And another friend of mine, an MD in Kentucky, suspected the same. I'm doctor-less right now, so I had to find more creative ways of getting a "consultation".

So yes, just when I started teaching yoga (and doing more down dogs, chatturangas, etc) AND just when I started selling cookies (read: manual labor), I now feel really limited by my wrist issues. After thinking long and hard about whether to do it, then finally I did  it... why now, of all times, do I have to have this injury?

The universe is funny sometimes. 

Not that my so-called issues are earth-shattering, by any means. Far from it. Earth-shattering, no. Frustrating, yes.

So I finally got this monster of a mouse:

Logitech Trackball M570

Technically I don't think it's a mouse - you actually don't move the whole unit, just that nifty blue trackball with your thumb to navigate on your screen.

Funny thing is, this injury s-l-o-w-l-y started creeping up on me probably in... July? And I held off on buying this because I loved the "motion economy" (to quote my dad) of using my Macbook's trackpad. I loved the quick, efficient movements from keyboard to trackpad and trackpad to keyboard while working. Because I'm actually not the most patient person when it comes to my work - and I felt that using a mouse would slow me down. I realized many times before that I do not really like slowing down very much when I'm working. Especially when the sheer volume of work just sometimes seems... insurmountable, relative to the number of hours in a day.

But I realize my occupational hazards of working at a computer pretty much all day, and then practicing/teaching yoga, and then baking. I don't ever give my hands a break. No wonder they are protesting.

Lessons learned, for sure. 

And as I'm learning more about ergonomically designed workspaces, my workspace - both at home and on campus - are set up horribly. But that's another story.

What is it about this urgency to see results, and why is it hard to let it go? Funny how I've been talking about "incremental, yet meaningful change" (I think I got that from a Leeann Carey workshop) while teaching yoga. Perhaps I've been saying it a lot in class, because it's a reminder I need for myself as well.

So as I'm learning to use my new "trackball", I'm learning to give myself time for the movements to be stored in my muscle memory, and trying to be more patient in seeing results. Even if I don't have quite the same precision of movement yet with the trackball as I did with my built-in laptop trackpad. I'm getting there. I still get frustrated occasionally, but I think the trackball and I are slowly becoming friends.

I'm learning to sit still and be patient as I soak my hand and wrist in a big pot of warm water mixed with epsom salts, much to the amusement of my husband as he watches me try to sit still, knowing that in my mind, my thoughts are racing about needing to get X, Y, and Z done.

image source

I'm learning to own up to what I just can't do. Three times I've had to contact a few friends who ordered cookies, to say that I couldn't fulfill their cookie orders that week when I was in pain. And all of those times I learned how understanding other people are when you come forward with honesty (thank you, Misty, Anne Dean, and Lissa). I was so worried about what they would think, when really, all of them said in their own kind ways - it's all good, send the cookies whenever you can.

I'm learning to be more aware, more intentional with my movements - beyond my yoga mat - so that I don't further injure myself.

I'm learning to give my hands a break when I'm tired and just put everything on hold for a while, instead of rushing from one thing to the next to fulfill this need to be "productive".

Because it's certainly difficult to be productive while pushing through pain. Especially when even simple everyday things like pushing down on a soap pump with my hand or carrying some dishes can make me wince, like it did last night.

And I'm learning the hard way about being patient with myself.

Incremental, yet meaningful change.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

shift in seasons... and in life

Tonight I subbed for another yoga teacher and had one person show up to class. While there is a certain energy in large classes, I do like having small groups, and every now and then, when only one person shows up, it creates an opportunity to really get to know someone in your class and tailor the class to his or her needs. The sweet lady (I will refer to her as M in the rest of this post) who came to class had just retired and was getting more and more into yoga. Fantastic!

Fall is such a time of transition - in nature, in our own schedules. Gone are the long, idyllic days of summer; they have now been replaced with this seemingly constant state of busyness.

Not that I even really had many of those long, idyllic summer days. Somehow this fall - and this semester - just started with a bang and my work seems to have quadrupled. And I feel my lack of focus as I am pulled in many different directions. My energy level seemed to change with every change in direction of the wind. I felt like my energy was all over the place, and yet at the same time, I felt exhausted.

M was in a time of transition herself, having just retired. I can't imagine what a challenge it must be to let go of something that has been part of your identity for years, even decades.

So we did a lot of grounding in our yoga practice. And during our opening meditation, I read this excerpt from one of my favorite bedside books, Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life by Julia Cameron:

"The natural world teaches us the power of change. As seasons shift, I see the purpose and beauty of life's cyclicality. I see the promise of spring, the ripening of summer, the bounty of harvest and the mysterious containment of winter. All seasons work for the good. So it is, too, with the changing cycles of my life. As I surrender to the wisdom of a higher plan, I discover in all circumstances the opportunity for growth and expansion. There is no season in my life that is without worth. There is no season in my life that does not unfold my highest good. Challenged by difficult times, I choose to affirm the goodness of life's timing. 

Today I commit myself to actively seeking the benefit hidden in adversity, the wisdom inherent in all timing."

This is one of my many dog-eared pages from my book. I love the universality of Julia Cameron's words.

At the end of class, M said to me: "That sounded like it was written just for me."

Truth be told, I felt the exact same way.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

one year later...

...and I grow more and more thankful each day.

September 24th, 2011

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons, knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of the tree
But now you're here, brighten my northern sky

- Northern Sky by Nick Drake, 1948-1974
(the song for our first dance)

Every day I have with you as a gift.

Happy anniversary, A.
You brighten my sky.


All photos captured by a dear friend, Debra-Lynn Hook

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Monday, September 17, 2012

finding a yoga home

After nearly three years of living in Northeast Ohio, I have found a yoga home:

morning light at Agni Studio

Aaaaahhhhh. Don't you feel relaxed already?

chakra banner

And about half a year or so after I started taking classes there regularly, I am now officially teaching there - yay!

I like having the time to feel centered before teaching, so I usually arrive at least a half hour before class to practice here. 

It took me a while to get to this point. Conversations with Anna, my first yoga teacher, as well as Sharon, another yoga teacher. Conversations with my husband, who always gives me that extra push that I need. Conversations with yet another teacher who also gave me an extra nudge. And conversations with myself (sounds strange, I know) that don't involve talking myself out of it. 

I still get nervous from time to time before class starts. I remember the first time I taught the entire class, I had so much pent-up energy before class that I felt like I could run around the block. Oh wait, who am I kidding... I don't run.

I just try to prepare as much as I can, reading, practicing, breathing, maybe writing up a plan or some ideas for that day's sequence... while at the same time being in the moment while teaching so that I can respond to the needs of those who are in class.

I'm teaching twice a week now, slowly finding my voice as a teacher while also working to recall and apply all that I learned from those who have mentored and nurtured the teacher in me.

So thankful for this experience... I look forward to growing in this new role, and hopefully encouraging and honoring others in their respective yoga journeys as well.

Educate, support, inspire. This is the studio's "mantra", and what I try my very best to work towards in every class.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

permission to rest

So I've written about my so-called "issues" about rest before, like in this post.

It couldn't have been any clearer to me how I don't give myself full permission to rest when I realized I had been putting off a FREE massage for months.

On Valentine's Day this year, A. gifted me with a gift card for a 90-minute massage at a nearby massage place. Ninety minutes, friends. He even included a tip for the massage therapist in the gift card amount so I wouldn't have to worry about anything. I set it aside, thinking, "Oh, I'll save it for when I'm really tired." Really? What's up with that?

I had been putting off ninety blissful minutes. For nearly seven months. And for what?

Last week A. finally said to me, "I don't understand why you're saving it. First of all, on the day you find yourself really tired, you probably won't be able to get an appointment on the same day. Second of all, when you're really tired again, go get another massage!"

Forgive me for my writing about all these first world "problems". But I laugh as I realized the absurdity of my thinking sometimes.

It's interesting to me how much I've invested in my professional growth, whether for my day job or my other part-time job. I've invested in yoga training and workshops. Perhaps because it has to do with "work". But when it comes to my own well-being and rest so that I can then do the work better, I haven't invested as much.

To me, massages are like a luxury. But they are also an investment in wellness. (That's me trying to convince myself.) 

So after that conversation with A., I finally called the massage place and booked my appointment. Whatever my definition of "tired" was for that day.

And last Friday, I went. Spent ninety minutes of bliss on that massage table as the therapist worked the many kinks and knots out of my upper back and shoulders.
I just might get used to this.

Because sometimes, you just need to let it all go...

Like this cute little baby right here.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

when the going gets tough...

...the tough eat cake.

Cake for breakfast, that is.

So this happened over the weekend:

To be honest I'm not even quite sure how it happened. It was just a sudden pain that I felt and I couldn't recall where it even came from. I was completely fine teaching yoga the day before. I don't remember falling (and I would remember that, wouldn't I?).

My only suspicion is that I might have lifted something heavy and maybe held it the wrong way. Though I've always thought I had pretty strong wrists (thanks to yoga and daily cooking with heavy cast iron cookware), this is certainly a reminder for me to slow down.

Thankfully I can still type, because my day job requires lots of work on the computer. I can flex my wrist but not extend it or use it to apply pressure on things. Which means my cookie-selling is on hiatus for the next few days as I can't work a rolling pin (sorry Misty for the delay in your cookie order!). I also feel pain when doing any rotational type of movement like turning on a faucet or opening a jar. For someone who does a lot of "manual labor" (in the kitchen, at least), this is really slowing me down. But I'm definitely still thankful, because it could have been much worse.

I'm pretty sure it's just a muscular injury as I am not seeing any swelling. Just pain. I've done a few different remedies like slathering on arnica, and A. suggested soaking it in warm salt water and wrapping it with an adhesive bandage for extra support. And of course, as luck would have it, it's my right wrist that is injured, and I'm right-handed.

The good news is, I was able to do at least some weekend baking before all this wrist pain. Dessert is always the bright side of life in my book. I love starting the weekend with a slow and relaxed morning of baking while still in my pj's.

Olive Oil Vanilla Fig Cake

This is a really easy recipe that I adapted from Food and Wine's buttermilk cake. It's a pretty foolproof recipe. I love the simplicity of it, which allows the fruit to shine. I've actually made this buttermilk cake a few different times this past summer with different fruits - once with blackberries, another time with plums. This time I had figs that were on the verge of becoming too soft, so I thought it would be perfect for this cake.

I also thought some fruity olive oil might go well with figs, so I subbed olive oil in place of butter - and I've seen (and tried) quite a few Italian or Mediterranean-inspired cake recipes that used olive oil rather than butter, such as this one. And well, my main reason too is that I was short on butter, because I also made a big pan of brownies recently and I was reserving the remaining butter for the said cookie order. But I've made this cake before following the original butter-based recipe, and it produced a wonderful, light, and moist crumb. The simplicity of the recipe was also the perfect canvas for adding other flavors like fresh lemon zest (perfect when using blueberries!) and experimenting with different types of fruits.

For this particular fig cake, I wanted to do a few other things like maybe soak the figs in Grand Marnier but it turns out I didn't have any orange-flavored liqueur. Note to self: I really should re-stock my liqueur stash - for baking, that is (I don't drink, but I eat - and I'm pretty unapologetic about my dessert enjoyment. We all have our poison of choice, right?). Some fresh orange zest might have been nice in here too, but I didn't have that either. So I just kept things simple this time around. 

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or just use 1 cup all-purpose instead of my half-and-half combination)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda  
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar  
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 (scant) cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 12 fresh figs, chopped into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9" cake pan, or line with parchment paper.

Then, it can't get any simpler:

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in one bowl.
Mix all liquid ingredients in another bowl. Stir in the sugar.
Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients.
Pour into the pan and spread it out evenly. It will look like a small amount of batter, but it will rise in the oven. Scatter the figs over top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (some moist crumbs are ok).
Loosen the edges of the cake from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool enough to handle, turn it over onto a board or large plate, then place another serving plate on top and turn it over again. 

This is a really moist cake thanks to the olive oil and buttermilk. A dozen fresh figs went a long way in this cake - as you can see it is quite studded with lots of fig goodness. It was perfect with my morning tea.

I may or may not have eaten more cake after lunch. Or for lunch.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

tribute to summer food

It's been a hot and muggy week here, and the cool rain this morning was a blessing. As much as I wanted to stay curled up under the covers, I got up to teach my 10 am Slow Flow yoga class. I've been teaching on Saturday mornings for a few weeks now, and I've been loving it. It truly was a "Slow Flow" kind of day. I actually felt a little chill in the air. Fall is coming...

But we are still being blessed with the late summer harvest. Thought I'd post some Instagram snaps here.

I love summertime produce... it's nature at its fullest expression: sweet, juicy, and colorful.

one of many, many tomato salads: heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

yellow heirloom tomato with purple basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

more purple and yellow - color wheel contrast perfected by nature
a tabbouleh-inspired salad: Israeli couscous, cucumber, grape and yellow pear tomatoes, lentils, EVOO, lemon, parsley
shisito peppers, blistered in a searing-hot cast iron pan with olive oil and whole cloves of garlic, plus lime squeezed over top
green and purple basil - so pretty!
crunchy and peppery radishes, enjoyed simply with butter and coarse salt

And let's not forget the fruit, enjoyed in different ways...

Photo: Blackberry buttermilk cake about to go into the oven. Weekend baking no. 1
jewel-like blackberries in a simple cake, about to go into the oven

apricot jam - a hint of black pepper and lemon was just genius (recipe here)
the best thing about August: peaches!

can't get enough...

chilled canteloupe and basil soup

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Friday, August 31, 2012


What. A. Week. this has been.

The first week of the semester is always a frenzy, for me at least. I worked nonstop on Sunday and Monday to prepare for teaching 2 classes. Thank goodness it was a course I've taught before, but still there are always things to rethink and improve upon. Kaizen is a part of my manifesto, after all. So it was still tons of work. Note to self: Procratinate less!!! (But sometimes I think I do better under pressure too, so who knows...)

Now that it's Friday, this is where I want to be right now:

photo by cheeksandchubs - love this feeling of quiet and mystery...

So, unfortunately no new recipes or interesting stories to share this week.

I slept GREAT for 2 nights in a row this week - went to bed around midnight and got up at 7 am. A milestone for this gal who on most nights fall asleep at 3 am. Except last night I couldn't stop thinking again, and fell asleep around 2:30. Ugh.

Hope to do some fun cooking this weekend... a big pan of dense, fudgy brownies are in order. I sense a chocolate emergency coming up. Oh, but I also have some plums I want to bake into a buttermilk cake...half a canteloupe that I'd like to make into a granita or sorbet...

Decisions, decisions.

Happy Friday... And happy long weekend, for those of you on this side of the pond.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

a whole new meaning to "busy"

I recently read a couple of bloggers talk about this concept of "being busy" (here and here). How we tend to respond with "good, but busy" when asked how we are; how in this culture "being busy" equates to thriving, successful, fulfilled... and how we tend to wear our busyness as "badges of honor" - a "boast disguised as a complaint" (Kreider). And although on one hand, busyness is a natural part of living; we all need to take care of family, make a living, pay the bills, exercise, make time for ourselves, etc etc... And there are those who are really and truly, genuinely busy. But it also makes me wonder how I add things to my plate to perpetuate this constant busyness. When in reality, some things that keep me "busy" are self-imposed and unnecessary, and removing them from my life would create "sacred space" or downtime to let me linger over a cup of tea.

Last week a friend of mine asked me to babysit her 2-month old daughter, as she started at her job and had to be away all day for the first time. I was honored that they trusted me. I thought, oh, I can bring a boatload of work; she's just going to eat, poop, and sleep. I'm going to get tons of work done. No biggie.

WRONG. I think the only productive work (meaning my own work) I did in my 8 hours of babysitting was to add one page to my syllabus for teaching this fall.

Somehow, the hours seemed to fly by as I played with her (I couldn't get enough of her smiling and cooing), fed her, burped her, changed her diaper, soothed her when she fussed, and rocked and bounced her to sleep. Oh, and speaking of diaper changing... why is it that babies poop just minutes after you change a wet/soggy diaper? So I felt her diaper, thought it was time for a change, went over to change her then set her down on her boppy pillow. Minutes later, she pooped big-time, and gave me a big gummy smile. The joke was on me. :)

thought this was pretty funny (image source)

So yes, time just flew. Adding one page's worth of work and reading 2 (short) chapters was a milestone.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. It was fun, albeit tiring - though I didn't realize I was tired till that evening when I got home. I've always been humbled by mothers who do it all so well. Well, I'm humbled by mothers in general. I know this isn't revelatory, bu moms are busy, no doubt about that. How do you do it???

So I did squeeze in a bit of work. Sure I was busy taking care of little Beatrice. And sure I had tons of work left to do.  But the thing is, it was a different kind of busy. Time ceases to matter when a tiny infant falls asleep on your chest. It's an entirely different feeling. I thought, forget about work. Just be fully present with this tiny, precious human being who, at this moment, depends on me completely. There you have it - sacred space.

PS: Interestingly, I woke up with very sore arms the next morning. While I knew I wasn't in great shape, I didn't think I was in terrible shape either. But I'm discovering that the strength needed for multiple chaturangas (yoga version of a push-up) and bakasanas doesn't quite compare to the strength needed for caring for a growing baby all day. Like I said: how do you moms do it?

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

panzanella and warm marinated olives

We've been getting a lot of different tomatoes lately, including grape tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and beautiful heirloom tomatoes. It truly is one of the best things about summer. If I were really smart about this, I would have turned all these wonderful tomatoes into a marinara sauce to freeze and save for the winter ahead, but lately I just can't help myself. I can't stop eating them! Whether sliced and doused with olive oil and basil...

Or in a sandwich, with a schmear of mayonnaise, coarse sea salt, and lots of cracked black pepper...

Or in panzanella, which is an Italian bread and tomato salad. All this salad needs day-old crusty bread, and gorgeous tomatoes and fresh basil, and just a simple vinaigrette dressing. I made mine a little differently based on what I had in the kitchen; you can always play around with the ingredients. Maybe swap feta for the fresh mozzarella (it may not be traditional, but it's good!). Maybe add some shallots. Do what you like!


For the bread:
  • a little shy of half a loaf of day-old, crusty artisan bread
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the bread into cubes (about half an inch or so). I would estimate that I had about 4 cups of cubed bread (maybe!). Spread onto a baking sheet pan, then drizzle olive oil on top - not a lot, just a little bit to help the bread brown nicely. Season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together with your hands to distribute the olive oil, then bake for about 10-12 minutes until they are crunchy and golden brown around the edges.

This may seem like an unnecessary step; you might be thinking, why toast it and let it get crunchy only to soak it in dressing later? But I think letting it toast in the oven lets it dry out even further so that it can soak up all that flavorful dressing more.

For the rest of the salad:
  • lots of tomatoes - I used one very large heirloom tomato, one medium red tomato, and about 10 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water for 10 minutes, then chopped (sun-dried tomatoes aren't necessary here, but I like them)
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 small onion (shallots would have been better, but I didn't have any), chopped small; about 1/4 cup
  • about 1/2 cup of fresh mozzarella, in small cubes
  • about 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • about 1/4 cup of your best extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • lots of fresh basil

While the bread is in the oven, make the dressing. In a large bowl, mix the red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper (you can season generously as this makes a large salad!) Mince the garlic clove with a little salt - whenever I use garlic for a raw preparation, I like to do it this way because the salt helps break down the garlic a little bit. Chop the onion (or shallot). I didn't want raw onions in here as they might overpower the tomatoes, so I decided to roast the onion slightly in the oven as well (the oven was already hot anyway!) to sweeten them a bit and make them less pungent - probably not even 10 minutes. If I had shallots, I probably wouldn't have roasted them as they are more mellow than regular onions. Add the roasted onions (or shallots) to the dressing.

Chop the tomatoes and add them (including any tomato juice that collects on your cutting board) to the bowl. Add the crunchy bread as well, and toss everything together so that the bread soaks up the dressing. Toss in the fresh mozzarella, and simply tear the fresh basil leaves over the bowl.

Check for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Allow the salad to sit for about 10 minutes (it gets better!), if you can wait that long :)

The salad was a study of contrasting textures and flavors: croutons softened by a slightly tangy, fruity olive oil dressing, plump, juicy tomatoes at the peak of their sweetness, chewy sun-dried tomatoes, and mild, creamy mozzarella, and fresh, sweet basil. Yum. As I was eating it, I was already thinking about how much I would enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day. I know. I think ahead like that. 

This was an easy weeknight dinner, along with some warm marinated olives - simply a mix of a variety of olives from Whole Foods' antipasto bar, which I packed into a glass jar (with the olive oil it comes in), and set into a small pot of simmering water for about 20-30 minutes. This was inspired by a visit to Flour (a nearby Italian restaurant) last weekend. Warm marinated olives are a part of their appetizer list; and interestingly, we never ordered them before, thinking, oh, it's just olives - I can have them at home anytime, why would I order it at a restaurant? But we decided to get them on our last visit and it was a revelation. We were in olive heaven (a little dramatic, I know).  I've always loved olives. Little did I know that enjoying them warm takes them to a whole other level. (I'm not the last one to learn about this, am I?) Letting them sit in a hot water bath allows the flavors to bloom, and it's just worlds better than the usual cold olives in typical antipasto platters. I guess it's a similar concept as letting cheeses sit at room temperature for a little bit - not serving it straight out of the fridge - before enjoying it on a cheese platter. Believe me. Give it a try. You'll never go back to cold olives.

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