Friday, August 29, 2008

Off the Grid.

One of the best ways to remove a splinter from your fingertip is to coat your hand in vaseline and cover it with a white cotton sock overnight. In the morning the splinter will have either worked itself out or can easily be coaxed out.

So I'm off to RI for the weekend - catching a cab at 4:30am tomorrow morning to Regan National. (Yay for e-savers)

Currently I'm planning on catching up with Bro, Fluellen, Lady Apollo, and of course the Mathematician and the Artist. Maybe catch a class at SPY and make it to Ashtanga Yoga RI for a led class Monday morning.

I've been off the grid for a bit - floating on the waves of emotion. Trying to figure out how to navigate these paths, I was reminded by Tova, a wonderful shalamate of mine (who knows the value of a luscious cupcake), that one of the things this practice does is to bring up emotion.

On a daily basis we work to honestly face ourselves. Processing our fears and desires - allowing it all to work its way to the surface - trying to find some balance and flow among everything going on in life.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mantra Monday: It's Good to be Good...but...

...Sometimes, It's Oh, So Good to be "Bad."

If you look in my fridge and pantry, there is very little that isn't that "healthy." I usually get 6.5-8 hours of sleep a night. I generally do a good job of taking care of myself, but sometimes...

I have been known to split a bottle (or two) of Cava with the Mathematician along with bagels and cream cheese, chased by 3 donuts each from DunkinDonuts - before 6 am. That's neither the Mathematician's nor my normal MO.

But, every once in a while, an occasion calls for a bit of indulgence.

* * *
Staying up late to connect with a friend or taking some time to lose myself in an epic cheesy girl movie marathon at night resulting me missing practice the next morning. And/Or indulging in GH's decadent homemade from scratch fudge brownies, topped with rich creamy vanilla ice cream resulting in a sluggish practice the following day.

I don't rebel, jumping to the opposite extreme from a brief stint of indulgence. Living on detox tea and some sort of green-super-juice, spending my week beating myself up in practice and countless hours on an erg, watching the calories from each drop of chocolate and cream slowly perspire from my body.

For me, it's about making conscious choices, and knowing that a treat is a treat for that very reason. I'm only human, I have desires and sometimes it's worth satiating those desires to take a little gluttonous pleasure or solace in life - as long as that doesn't become the standard practice.

Now, about that pint of Ben & Jerry's sitting in my fridge...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Class# 207; AYC DC Mysore Class # 56: Just Relax

This morning's practice I felt as though I was, to borrow from a southern friend of mine, moving through cotton.

I was stiff. Really stiff.

I could easily blame it on those divine bourbon and gingers on Friday night or the 6 minute mile I ran paced by the MetroBus on Friday morning, but I think blaming either of those would be nothing more than excuses.

Today's practice just generally happened - 5 Sun As, 5 Sun Bs and just moved through my practice with general resistance of both my shoulders and hips. I felt moderately strong, just couldn't translate strength into flexibility. As I moved into Kurmasana, I could feel D beginning to hover. "Great," I thought, "I'm stiff, there's no way I'm getting Supta Kurmasana today. D is going to push and stuff me into position like an overstuffed pillow, doomed to dramatically spill out of my seams." I could feel a cry of agony already welling up in my throat.

Then I found myself at SK. Normally D or K will push my left shoulder under my left leg, right shoulder under right leg and cross my ankles. Then my arms will be pulled so that my fingertips just graze each other, I'll take one breath and my ankles will uncross but my hands will be clasped. They will recross my ankles and my hands will spring apart. On multiple occasions D has expressed that he thinks I theoretically have the flexibility for this pose - I'm inclined to agree with him.

D calmly walked over, got my legs into position, put his hand on the middle of my back and told me, "Relax. Stop fighting the pose." Grasped my hand pulled them together and I clasped them. I started to feel every limb spring apart. He returned his hand to my back lightly pressed and rocked me back and forth, "Relax." I think there was a little bit of pleased laughter there.

And he walked away.
Leaving me, relaxed, bound, and stunned.

We all have our tar-babies, whether they are poses or something else, when you stop fighting and relax, the solution appears and it's fairly simple to get unstuck. (And more often than not, the result is quite surprising .)

Moral of this story. Just relax.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Food Friday: Dark-Chocolate-Ginger-Biscotti

Yesterday the Mathematician inquired as to the difference between a bog post and a blog post. Tuesday was a long day. I was tired. I was stressed out. Did I mention it was a long day? She also asked about this dark-chocolate-ginger-biscotti I keep on mentioning in my blog.

Of late, baking biscotti seems to have become my I've had a bad practice / day at work or I'm stressed out quick comfort remedy. Instead of just sitting in stewing in my day, I've found it's great to turn that energy into something positive. Baking anything that involves the use of my hands, ginger, and chocolate and some level of messiness - is pretty much guaranteed to lighten my mood. How can you not laugh at yourself when you go to get ready for bed and notice a large smear of chocolate on your forehead?

Besides being lots of fun to make, the smell of the dark chocolate and ginger permeate every corner of my apartment for at least two days. Waking up to the smell of dark chocolate and ginger is absolutely amazing. Almost as good as a hot and spicy rooibos chai latte. I've found these biscotti are great enjoyed with any black tea, CoffeeShop girl with her coffee, and actually they are quite good when soaked in (rice) milk.

Dark-Chocolate-Ginger Biscotti

  • 1/2-2/3 cup crystallized ginger coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup coco powder
  • 1 1/2 cup bread machine flour
  • 2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 cup safflour oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until well combined; set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. The volume should about double in size and then beat in vanilla and oil until well combined.

Slowly add dry ingredient mixture. It will become really thick, sticky and goopy. I'll scrape down the sides of the bowl and the mixer attachment with a rubber spatula multiple times. Then with the mixer on the lowest setting I'll add the ginger allow that to fully incorporate and then fully incorporate the chopped dark chocolate chips.

Once incorporated remove bowl from mixer, set next to baking sheet. Moisten hands under faucet with lukewarm water
and scoop out half of the mixture with your hands.* Form dough into 2 logs about 9' long by 2 - 2.5 inches wide and lightly smooth out top surface with water.**

Move to oven and bake until set on top, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and move logs to cooling rack for 10 minutes. (Here I switch out the parchment paper for my sili-mat which really helps crisp up the cookies in the final bakings). Once 10 minutes have passed, move logs to cutting board and cut them on a diagonal with a serrated knife (those electric knives are great for this providing quick clean cuts) about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick.

Place cookies back on baking sheet and return to oven for 8 - 10 minutes. Open oven and flip cookies over. Continue baking for 8 minutes. I've found that the cookies don't need to be cooked as long on the second side and are more likely to be bunt, so keeping an eye on them at this point is a good idea.

Remove from oven, move to wire rack and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

According to most recipes, they will last up to a week in an airtight container. In my experience they've been consumed within 4 I cannot report on shelf life.

* I
n my first biscotti baking attempt, I didn't take the recipes I looked at seriously about dampening your hand with water. But no - it is actually quite helpful when forming the dough. Unless you want to be licking biscotti dough off of you hands for the rest of the evening - this is very useful.

** I prefer making two logs instead of one. You can also make one log, about 3 1/2 inches wide, but in the later baking steps, it's easier for me to manage the two small logs and results in crisper biscotti. Also, because there is more surface area they cool / can be enjoyed sooner.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When the rough gets going on a Tuesday morning, this little ashtangi...

...wakes at 5:00am, rolls over and goes back to sleep, reluctantly waking at 7:30am.

...bakes double-dark-chocolate-ginger biscotti after a long day at the office.

...writes a bog post and promptly crashes into bed.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Food Friday: Not-Crab Crab Cakes

I grew up in RI and now live in DC, both areas are replete with a cornucopia of offerings from the sea. In RI it's quahogs and stuffies, here in DC it's the crab and the crab cakes.

My problem?

Severe allergies/anaphylactic reactions to nuts, shellfish, and mollusks.

Last summer, CoffeeShop Girl was kind enough to point me in the direction a recipe in the Washington Post that could fill the crab cake void within my DC existence and play to the abundance of zucchini this time of year. After experim
enting with the Post version, I tweaked it to where I'm more than pleased with the results. I can't say if they actually taste like crab cakes, but they certainly taste and have a similar texture to how I would imagine crab cakes to be.

Not-Crab Crab Cakes

  • 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup plain panko
  • 1/2 cup plain whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1.5 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
  • 1.5 tablespoon 2% Fage Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 julienned fresh basil leaves
  • safflower oil, for frying
  • lemon wedges for garnish

Place grated zucchini in a colander; sprinkle lightly with salt. Let zucchini sit for about 30 minutes, allowing it to drain. Squeeze and pat with a towel to remove additional liquid - zucchini should be fairly dry. (THIS IS REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. If the zucchini is still fairly watery, the result looks something like oily zucchini mush, which really isn't that appetizing. Trust me.)

Place zucchini, panko, and bread crumbs in a large bowl and mix together with hands. (One cup of either panko or bread crumbs could be used, I just really like the texture that results from mixing the two)

Place egg, Old Bay, Dijon, yogurt, lemon juice, parsley and basil in a large bowl, same size or larger than the bowl with the zucchini and bread crumbs. Mix well.

Add zucchini-bread crumb mixture to egg mixture, and gently incorporate and thoroughly. Form into 8 patties. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet, and cooking patties on both sides, browning well. Based on the size of my skillet, I've found that it's best if I bake two at a time. Moving them to a warmed oven once cooked.

This is not really a quick recipe and does involve some patience in the skillet cooking process. For the 8 cakes, from shredding the zucchini to finishing cooking the 8 cakes, it took me about 90 minutes. During the experimental phases, many a zucchini cake was burnt or fell apart. However, if any zucchini cakes fall apart in the cooking process, never fear, they are absolutely wonderful mixed in with some eggs, making a something along the lines of a scrambled egg-zucchini-frittata.

Now only to find a replacement for a stuffie*...

* A stuffie is defined by as:
Clam stuffing baked in a clam shell. Also known as a stuffed clam.
David Steinbrick, a producer at Cox Communications, sent us this tidbit: "Over the years, I have heard the best way to describe a 'stuffie' to an outsider. A stuffie is 'a clam meatloaf in an ashtray.' Succinct and to the point. Except the non-native may wonder why we cook food in ashtrays."

For those who have not studied Rhode-Islandeese, please see this valuable internet resource.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Of Asana, Knights, and Transparency

Well, I didn't make it to the shala this morning.
I woke around 6:30 this morning, 90 minutes behind schedule, quite surprised about being in my bedroom and not in California, but from a wonderful dream.

* * *

I was practicing by the the pool of Neutra's Desert House (1946), the sun was rising and illuminating the colors of the rock of the surrounding landscape. As I begun my practice, there was a light fall breeze gently fluttering the white linen thai fisherman pants I was wearing. I moved with ease though the transitions fully and gracefully binding Marichyasana-D and there was nothing but fluid movements from Bhuja Pindasana and into Supta Kirmasana. I didn't panic as I moved into UD and standing, only peace and a wonderful sense of calm. (These are all things I can only presently aspire to in waking life.)

As I rolled up my mat my college advisor and figure drawing professor walked out onto the patio with chai and fresh homemade dark-chocolate ginger biscotti. I leaned against a human scale knight chess piece as they began probing me about what I was doing with my life. They offered suggestions on my current artistic exploits/endeavors and extended nothing but encouragement for my idea of overhauling my portfolio and seeing where that takes me.

My dream came to a close as I was handed a letter with an Eames stamp on it, that was returned to me, address unknown.

* * *

At the Jivamukti workshop I went to back in July, at one point the teacher spoke about how we're all moving towards a collective consciousness and all connecting on higher planes. Let me say first and foremost, I'm not one to subscribe to the Timothy Leary "Turn on, tune in, drop out" idea in the least. However, I am starting to think, that simply, we're all more similar than we want to believe and it's cultivating an awareness of that which is truly important. Those around us act as mirrors of where we are within our present (or even where we might have seen ourselves in the past or in the future). That once we acknowledge our own True needs, "flaws", and "strengths," we gain a deeper understanding of those around us and effect a level of transparency and strength within ourselves.

Recently I've been noticing a lot of patterns amongst those in my shala, the cyber-shala, and really just in general. True that our species finds an amazing level of comfort in patterns, I'm starting to find comfort in discovery and stepping outside of my usual patterns (which is not such a bad pattern to have). Looking back on my dream I know where all of these pieces are coming from and it's really quite exciting and interesting to see how they fit together and create a beautifully collaged image. I commented on a shala-mate's blog with a mash-up of a bit of Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll with the underlying idea that the world is truly really nonsensical and the most random of elements can come together to provide clarity, to promote intrigue, and that everything that is meant to get done will and in the manner it is meant.

The end product isn't what's important at all.
It's that idea of the process, again, being the most important.

Maybe that's why I'm really not beating myself up about not making it to the shala this morning. After my dream I got a wonderful 30 minute meditation practice in, something that I haven't had the luxury of in a long time. And yes I've spent my day juggling file requests, writing motions and [proposed]orders, running between meetings, fully suited and wearing those georgeous BananaRepublic black pumps.

Quite the antithesis from my early morning waking...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Class# 200; AYC DC Mysore Class # 49: Lead with your heart (and hips); Not your head.

Ok, so that major break-through I had last week?
My eureka moment?
I've been getting stuck again.

My feet are parallel with the edges of my mat and heels are down. Palms flat on the ground arms straight. Shoulder blades spiraling down my back. But I'm not really going anywhere.

Now, between you and me, I know I get my left and right confused (most of us southpaws actually do). In my last couple practices, I've been finding myself getting confused between up and down, inhale and exhale, and back and forth. I've also learned how to "cheat" in standing from UD, bouncing my way up a wall from the bench, which is quite fun, but not in the true spirit of standing from UD.

As I'm about to throw in the towel from standing today, D walks over faces me, smiles, shakes his head walks out of the room and returns with a blanket. I blink a couple times and he brings me over to the rope wall. He places the blanket around my hips asks me to hold it there, face the wall and slips one of the ropes down over the blanket and asks me lean back. "Ok drop-back, hang, and come back up to stand."

I actually do this, with quite a bit of grace - multiple times.
And then I thought I was done. Nope. Back to the bench.

I prep my hands for UD, he places his hands on either side of my hips tells me to stand. I stand. Then drop back and I get stuck again. After wriggling my way up, he looks at me. And very matter of factly states: "You're trying to use your head. Lead with your hips then chest the your head will come up. Tomorrow."

And he walks away, leaving me standing in front of the bench, my hands at prayer.

* * *

Walking back to my apartment, I realize he's right. Sometimes, I think, I think too much. Literally and metaphorically I've been using my head too much. From practice to painting ...

Strange how this practice works as a metaphor for many aspects of life.
Am I starting to live my yoga? Or is my yoga starting to live through me?
Or am I just over-thinking things again?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mantra Monday: Walk to the Beat of My Own Drum

Hey everybody when you walk the walk
You gotta back it all up you gotta talk the talk
Hey everybody when I hear the knock
Don't wanna measure out my life to the tick of a clock

I'll be the first to admit, my days are fairly regimented and there's a high level of discipline (and can be somewhat daunting the outsider).

03:00 am: Wake and grab a quick hearty but light bite to eat, go back to sleep for two hours.
05:00 am: Wake, shower, get ready for practice.

05:30 am: iPod on and out door to walk to practice.*
05:45 am: Arrive Shala.
07:15 am: (approx) Finish practice.
07:30 am: Return to apartment, choose shoes, get ready for work.
08:00 am: Walk out apartment and on my way to Metro

09:00 am: Arrive work.
05:30 pm: Leave work.
06:15 pm: Return apartment.
06:45 pm: Dinner.
10:30 pm: Bed.

This is the skeleton of my weekdays, wash, rinse, dry and repeat. Sure, there is a little variation in how the days are dressed, but the base is still there.

Saturday night, sitting in my apartment with some Bach cello suites playing in the background, I called the Artist (who had another successful show this past weekend). We talked for a bit and he noted that I sounded a bit down. Yeah, I've been talking that talk for a bit too long now. I needed to paint something or do something Art related.

Sure. I started a painting at the beginning of July. It's now the beginning of August - had I touched it since that one glorious night?
No. Why?

Pure and simple.

I have been leading a left-brained existence. Six minutes by six minute intervals - it doesn't want to let go. I'm trying to get the right side of my brain functioning again - allowing the existence of a form of self-expression in a manner that I've always found ease, comfort, and solace.

I took action and placed my Dimitri of Paris cd** in my player, put on my scruffy jeans, an old thread-bare t-shirt and took off my shoes. The Artist had given me a bunch of canvas scraps from his work to play with. At the start of Saturday night I didn't even want to touch my painting for "fear of messing it up." Which in and of itself is crazy. Logically, I know that it's my first piece, there's not much hope that it will end up in the Tate or MOMA, let alone grace the walls of a struggling coffee house.

I pulled one strip of canvas from the roll and began to splash paint about. How hard could it be to splash paint about?** Apparently quite hard. But that's only because I can see 29 looming on the horizon and have been bombarded with the notion of what is "good" art and what is "bad" art.

In terms of ending up with something that catered to my clean-line-art-nouveau-modern-
sensual-architectural sensibilities, was I successful? Not in the least.

I did begin to learn how to load paintbrushes properly, how water thins acrylics, the speed at which I need to work, and gain a better understanding of how to mix colors. Result? Highly successful. Especially since I discovered how to mix a color that will prove to be useful in my still life.

I then found myself working on my still-life with out abandon - it still needs some work.
However, it's actually going somewhere.

Saturday night, before I knew it, it was 3:30 in the morning.
Saturday night, before I knew it, it was 3:30 in the morning.

Then suddenly you hear it it's the beat of your heart
And for the first time in your life you know your life is about to start

: Poe, Walk the Walk from Haunted, 2000.

* Keeping pace by the songs on my playlist. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me - U2; Supermassive Black Hole - Muse; Believe - The Bravery; and should be just finishing Mercy - Duffy by the time I'm at the Shala and taking off my shoes.

**One of the 3 cds I played on repeat the during the summer of 1999 during my switch from Bio-Chem to Architecture in college.

*** Aside: The next time you walk into a museum and see a painting and say, "Oh, I could do that!" Try it. I challenge you. It's *a lot* harder than you think. I would also venture that you'd be closer to the truth if you said, "Oh, I couldn't, but a 5 year old could do that!"

Friday, August 1, 2008

Food Friday: An Introduction, Cool Summer Quinoa Salad.

A few months ago I alluded to the fact that I restructured my diet.
This restructuring has been a process of moving towards more organic, whole and hearty foods - usually with more nutritional bang for the buck. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, at least within the law firm, I am not/nor have I become or ever been a vegan or vegetarian.

Due to severe food allergies, nutritionally it would be highly difficult and involve waaaaay too many laboratory manufactured powders, pills and tonics. I looked into it. It's just not what's best for my body. So, I am labeling myself a Conscious Omnivore - like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, it's important to choose, but choose wisely.

As any of the Cru will tell you, I love to cook and would almost always rather cook than go out for a meal. Some of my best times with Parson were pulling together meals for one another or for our friends who would descend upon Braveheart's manor on Fst. Fluellen solicited me for a couple recipes back in December of last year for our hometown magazine. When I'm in a funk or hitting the artist's block hard, the Mathematician and the Artist will goad me into trying to cook or bake something new - sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully - quite like my first attempt at cooking quinoa on Friday night last week (it was the "rinsing" that proved more of a difficulty than anything).

So, adding this feature only seemed natural.
Also, what better way to start the weekend?

So how do I cook?
Well, sure sometimes there's a recipe involved. Sometimes it's just what's on sale at WholeFoods or the results of scavenging in my kitchen. In my experience, the latter tends to produce more successful results - simplicity and austerity leading to creativity (not unlike the Niyama of Santosha, and this week's recipie).

Sometimes I'll take a couple of recipes and combine them together (sort of like either Jivamukti or Baptiste).
Sometimes I'll be ever faithful to a recipe that has stood the test of time (like Ashtanga or Iyengar).

For my first offering to the table and in honor of the heat of a late DC summer:

Cool Summer Quinoa Salad.
  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches of green asparagus
  • corn kernels from 4 ears of corn (~ 4 cups)
  • 1 small diced red onion
  • 2 thinly sliced average scallions, both white & green parts
  • good quality olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh French sheep feta
  • 1 cup julienned basil leaves

Quinoa: Preheat oven to 400F. Bring three cups of water (I used water but low sodium chicken broth or veggie stock could be substituted) to boil with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a teaspoon of red pepper flake. Add quinoa. Cover put with lid and place in oven 400F oven for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, pull quinoa from oven, fluff with a fork and recover to steam for another 5 - 10 minutes. Refrigerate.

Corn: Remove corn from the cob. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add 3 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot, add corn, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes (until no longer starchy, just at al dente). Move corn into a large bowl and stir in diced red onion, scallion, 2-3 tbsp champagne vinegar, and 2 more tbsp olive oil.

Reheat skillet with 2 tbsp of olive oil place washed and trimmed stalks of asparagus in skillet. Add hearty dash of salt and fresh ground pepper, searing the asparagus until all stalks are just al dente and bright green. Remove from heat and cut into 1" segments. Mix in with corn.

Refrigerate and allow to cool. Once cold, fold in cold quinoa.

Stir in fresh julienned basil and fresh sheep feta right before serving, adding salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Serve cold or at room temperature.
(Serves 6-8)


Notes: I cook the quinoa a day ahead, so I'm sure that it is cold when adding it to the corn and asparagus. For the feta, I use French b/c it tends to be a little creamier/less salty. Also, I'm sure it would be fantastic to use grilled asparagus and corn in this dish, however, my DC apartment doesn't afford that capability and the Egg is on the other side of town.