Friday, May 29, 2009

Words to Grow By.

The Summer Day

By: Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


{Photo Credit: *nina*}

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Long Distance Relationships.

It was a rough weekend.  

Don't get me wrong.  It DID involve seeing a movie ("Rudo y Cursi"--really good!), yoga, the gym, trying out Casa Oaxaca (very yummy!) with a friend, a manicure, catching up with another friend over lunch and making two new recipes.  

But it didn't involve spending time with my boyfriend, which I would have traded all those things in a second to be able to do.  

For at least the next year, J and I will have to live apart due to schooling stuff.  And I know, if we try hard enough, we can do it.  But I'd give just about anything to have him here with me.  

I miss being silly with him.  I miss cooking together.  I miss waking up next to him.  I miss going to museums or seeing movies with him.  I miss just having him around.  I know that right now we are both doing things to put us in a better place in the future and that it might just be from now until next May.  And I fully support his decision.  But I do wish he was here to laugh with me over something stupid.

Does it ever get easier?

{Photo credit: mohammadali}

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Delicious Dishes.

  • 2 medium eggplant
  • Salt
  • 2 cups of canned diced tomatoes in their juice
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • Olive oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
Peel eggplant.  Cut off the stem and cube.  Place in a large bowl of salt water for about 45 minutes to remove bitterness.  Rinse well.  Preheat oven to 400.

Saute eggplant with a few tablespoons of olive oil until cooked through.  Place into a pyrex or other oven-safe pan.  

Saute onion in a little olive oil until translucent.  Add in garlic and curry powder.  Mix well.  Let cook for about a minute.  Stir in tomatoes and peas.  Let cook just enough for the ice to come off of the peas.  Pour entire mixture over eggplant and mix thoroughly.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top has browned.

Serve over brown rice or with naan.  Serves about 4.  This is a variation on the recipe found here.

{Photo credit: PiccolinaPhotography}

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bikes!


I remembered how much I like bike riding in Florida this past weekend.  I really, really, really want this awesome pale yellow Trek cruiser.  Really, really.  It comes in a pink, which I would want if it were the bright pink I like and not icky baby shower pink.  So next in line is this cute yellow one.  Now if only I weren't so poor.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Criticism.

Yesterday was one of those days were everything I touched seemed to fall apart and I felt like every person I came into contact with had it out for me.  It seemed that I was utterly incapable of doing anything right.  I wanted to crawl up into my bed and hide away for a bit. That, combined with reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, got me thinking about criticism--in writing, at work, at home and in life in general.  

I am the kind of person that remembers, down to the tiniest detail, criticism I received 20 years ago as well as I remember criticism I received yesterday. Occasionally I will hear myself playing something someone said over and over again in my head.  I have been working hard to not take things as personally as I once did and to take criticism as a chance to grow, but sometimes it is very difficult.  In terms of writing, that's a risk you take every time you put words on paper and share them.  But the sharing part is powerful and the risk is usually worth it.

One of my goals is to learn how to better deal with criticism.  If you have any ideas for good resources on the subject, please share.

How do you all handle criticism, wherever it might come from?  It is learning opportunity or does it fill you with self-doubt like it does to me?  Is there a way to every fully overcome this?

{Photo credit: itzshanon}

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Words to Grow By.


Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job or a limb or a loved one, a graduation, bringing a new baby home: it's impossible to think at first how this will all be possible. Eventually, what moves it all forward is the subterranean ebb and flow of being alive among the living.

In my own worst seasons I've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a singular glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full , dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, i have taught myself joy , over and over again.

It is not such a wide gulf to cross, then, from survival to poetry. We hold fast to the old passions of endurance that buckle and creak beneath us, dovetailed, tight as a good wooden boat to carry us onward. And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. to be hopeful, to embrace on possibility after another -- that is surely the basic instinct. Baser even than hate, the thing with teeth, which can be stilled with a tone of voice or stunned by beauty. If the whole world of the living has to turn on the single point of remaining alive, that pointed endurance is the poetry of hope. The thing with feathers.

What a stroke of luck. What a singular brute feat of outrageous fortune: to be born citizenship in the animal kingdom. We love we lose, go back to the start and do it right over again. For every heavy forebrain solemnly cataloging the facts of a harsh landscape, there's a rush of intuition behind it crying out:

High Tide ! Time to move out the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.


~Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson

{Photo credit: ha!photography}

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Floridian Sojourn

This past weekend I traveled with my boyfriend to the Jacksonville, FL area to visit my newly relocated sister. I had never been to Florida. Given that the D.C. area has seen a slew of rainy days recently, any excuse for a trip to warmer weather, complete with the beach, sand and lots of sunshine, was good enough for me.



Our first full day there J and I got up and got a smoothie and checked out the fair trade gift shop. I got a ton of note cards with the artwork of Kelly Rae Roberts, who I love!!! Then we decided to take a walk on the beach, even though it was gray and overcast. I wanted to find the perfect seashell. We also got to see the adorable little sandpipers in action. After that it cleared up and we rode bikes for a bit. I hadn't ridden a bike in probably 10 years (unless you count the ones at the gym)! Two and a half hours in the sun and we both looked like lobsters. The Floridian sun did this Jersey girl in! Usually I go to the beach, burn a bit and by the next day it turns to tan. This happened on Friday and I am still a particularly horrid shade of fuschia.

Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. We got to visit St. Augustine for dinner at The Present Moment Cafe, which is an organic, raw, vegan restaurant (so surprisingly delicious!!!). We also walked around the little shops where I bought far too many greeting cards. I'm addicted. On Saturday we went to the Riverside Arts Market, which is cleverly housed under a giant bridge, thus providing much-needed shade, and the annual Dancin' in the Streets festival on Saturday night. Then J and I took a sunset walk on the beach and wrote our initials in the sand.

It was also very important for me to see where my little sister was living, working and building a new life. I am so glad that I got to see her, spend time with my wonderful boyfriend before we both start school this summer and explore a new place. Traveling with J only reaffirmed how much I value having him in my life. I fall more and more in love with him every day. This trip taught me that I need more regularly scheduled down-time and vacations so that I have the time and space to clear my head and come back to my real life recharged and ready to go. Being away from email, work, school, etc. did me some good. I rarely take the time to unplug and enjoy life without all those distractions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

10 Before 30.


It is a very depressing fact that I am 2.5 years away from turning 30. That being said, the other day I was thinking that if I can make turning 30 about celebrating something other than age, like accomplishments, then it won't be so bad. I was inspired by the 30 Before 30 List blog. Only, with just 2.5 years to go, plus work and graduate school, I wanted a more manageable list of 10.
They're big ones, but there are only 10.
Without further ado, I give you The List:
1. Complete the 200 hour yoga teacher training at Tranquil Space
2. Get to my goal weight (that fluctuates between needing to lose 25-40 more pounds)
3. Hike Macchu Picchu in Peru
4. Crochet an entire blanket that looks fairly decent
5. Run a 5k (and maybe even something longer? I want to start small.)
6. Secure a big girl job doing substantive work that makes me happy and proud
7. Take cooking classes
8. Get published somewhere, somehow
9. Plant a garden (even if it's a balcony garden!)
10. Establish a decent-sized savings
More on the Florida trip tomorrow!
{Photo credit: boopsie.daisy}

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vacation!


Off to Florida for a long weekend with J to visit my sister for some sun and sand.



{Photo Credit: Ron J. Carney}

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Revelry Review.

Thanks!:  How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D.

I was overly excited when I saw this book hit the bookshelves of stores a long time ago.  I waited and waited for it to come out in paperback until I couldn't wait anymore.  And I loved it.

In this book, Emmons tries to examine all aspects of gratitude: how it affects the psyche and the spirit, what it means to be grateful to God or a higher power, the danger of not being grateful, how gratitude is practiced, how it can make you happier, etc.  He looks at traditions, modern ways to express gratitude and the impact that it can have on the average person.  He concludes the book with ten ways he believes you can practice gratitude.  

While not overly scientific and not containing any sort of concrete results, I liked this book.  It might be that it was at a time in my life where I felt like being thankful was making an enormous difference, or it may just be because it was a good book.  Regardless, I know the affect it had on my own life and I read about all the ways gratitude (or ingratitude) has affected others.

I really liked this quote that Emmons included:

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."~GK Chesterton

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude.


What I am Thankful for Today:


-A Mom that encouraged us to pick strawberries, lick the beaters, paint with our hands, blow bubbles, keeps worms and fireflies as pets and draw with sidewalk chalk. I appreciate her more every day.

-That I am getting a 4 day trip to Florida with my wonderful boyfriend to visit my best friend, also known as my sister, starting on Thursday.

-The beautiful sunshine that finally decided to make an appearance.

-The benefits that I am already noticing from three consecutive days of writing morning pages.

{Photo credit: moonjuice}

Today's Pretties.



Silk Striped Maxi Dress at Banana Republic.com


The Market Bag by Moop in Provincial Blue


Monday, May 11, 2009

Words to Grow By.

"I believe that those of us who practice yoga have been sent to yoga by our pain.  We embarked on this path because we had a hunch that there must be a better way.  We have grown tired of our perfectionism, our unhappy relationships with our bodies, our inability to love completely or be loved completely, our endless resentments and sorrows, our sense that we could become greater than we are but that we are somehow blocked.  Many of us have had considerable good fortune.  We were blessed with the nice smile, the right education, the right opportunities. We may have loving partners, good work, healthy families.  Yet we've found that arranging our externals in just the right way doesn't bring us the happiness we hoped it would.  The resting place always seems to be just over the next hill.  And we have grown tired.  We come to yoga in the grip of avidya (spiritual ignorance).  We come to yoga having forgotten where we come from and who we are.  On our mats, we find the truth.  We are of God and there are no problems.  We are the solution."  

~Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga  (Page 149)

{Photo credit: jengae}

Jen Lancaster reading.

On Friday night I went to a reading/Q&A/book signing with the wildly funny Jen Lancaster. She is the author of four books, most recently being the just released Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch and a Wardrobe, or the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart Ass Phase. She also blogs pretty regularly, though she's on book tour right now so it's more sporadic and more book-focused. And she has a mild obsession with her dogs, which I personally think is an excellent quality to have.

There is a blurb on her website that describes her as "Carrie Bradshaw meets Barbara Ehrenreich". I would add David Sedaris somewhere in that recipe. It's laugh-out-loud funny stuff.

The new book is about her childhood, high school and college years. She read a part of the chapter in her new book about sorority rush. It was really, really funny. It made me glad that I didn't go to a school where that sort of thing was important at all. She also mentioned in the Q&A portion that she has sold her next two books. The first will be titled something to do with being lazy (can't quite remember the title). She's going to spend a year "getting cultured": going to concerts and the opera and reading classic literature. And then she'll write about it. In a funny way, of course. The other one is called Involuntary: A Year of Giving Dangerously, in which she will volunteer with different organizations and then write about her experience.

Barnes and Noble expected, according to the girl next to me, about 20-30 people to come. They told her that they have never had more than that at a reading at that location. Last night there were at least 150-200 people. They gave out wristbands for the signing that were numbered between 500 and 700. And that's just the people that wanted a book signed.

I have to say, though, my favorite book of hers is and probably will always be Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissists Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie is Not the Answer. It helped me to keep a sense of humor about the weight loss thing when I was ready to crack at any moment.

Check her books out!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I really want a puppy.

A Boston Terrier, to be exact. My heart gets all melty just looking at this little guy.

Now only if I had an apartment that allowed dogs, the extra time and money, and my boyfriend wasn't extremely allergic to them.

{Photo credit: All-Mighty Clothing}

¡Feliz Día de la Madre!

I saw an article earlier this week by Real Simple and posted on CNN.com called, "10 Questions to Ask Your Mother Right Now".

I thought I'd repost just the questions here because I thought they were interesting and they spark good conversation.

And to all the Moms.....Happy Mother's Day! Enjoy your special day.

1. What's the one thing you would've done differently as a Mom?
2. Why did you choose to be with my father?
3. In what ways do you think I'm like you?
4. Which one of us kids did you like the best?
5. Is there anything you've always wanted to tell me and never did?
6. Do you think it's easier or harder to be a mother than when you were raising our family?
7. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents?
8. What's the best thing I can do for you right now?
9. Is there anything you wish had been different between us--or that you would still like to change?
10. When did you realize you were no longer a child?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sunday's Lofty Goals.

Sleep in.
Morning Pages.
Extended gym session.
De-pollenize my apartment.
Hot shower.
Haircut.  If they have an appointment.
Edit final and send to my professor.
Clean the kitchen.
Finish reading Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster.
Lay out the week's goals, write a few blog posts and make a to-do list.
Get to bed early, early, early.

{Photo credit: Coron!ta}

Interesting food and diet related article.

Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, On Why We Can't Stop Eating

By: Louise McCready, The Huffington Post

Last week, Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, published The End of Overeating. During a seven-year investigation, Dr. Kessler met with scientists, physicians, and food industry insiders to learn why humans cannot resist food. For many of us—myself included—the Pringles slogan, "Once you pop, you can't stop," is true of a variety of foods, from M&M's and pretzels, to nachos and ice cream. Regardless of how hungry we are, the smell of freshly baked bagels or the sight of Girl Scout Cookies, starts a feeding frenzy that ends only when the plate or bag is empty.

In The End of Overeating, Dr. Kessler explains how humans, much like Pavlov's dogs, become hardwired to anticipate foods with fat, sugar, and salt. The food industry has learned what humans want, and is only too happy to give us what we crave. We quickly become trapped in a vicious cycle of dopamine-fueled urges when we want food, and opioid releases when we eat it. If dopamine and opioid sound familiar, it's because they play a major role in alcohol and drug addiction. Dr. Kessler draws a direct connection between food's power over people, and the pull of alcohol and drugs. It truly isn't a stretch to say, "I'm addicted to chocolate."

Today's overeating epidemic has yet to result in lawsuits or FDA warnings, but a change in public opinion towards highly salient foods is exactly what the doctor prescribes. Like other public campaigns, education is power, and the first step toward regaining control of our appetites is to read this book. On the day of his book's publication, Dr. Kessler took time from his busy schedule to speak with me about what inspired the book, what he learned, and how we can change the way we think about food.

LM: This book started while watching an Oprah episode. Prior to that, had you ever seriously considered why food has such a pull over people in general, or you in particular?

DK: We implemented and helped design the food label—the modern nutritional facts that appear on the back of most packaged foods—back in the 1990s. That label was about the ingredients and nutritional value including percentage of daily values, but I never looked at the question that way. After watching that episode and that woman who couldn't control her eating, I said to myself, "What's going on?" As a physician, I asked myself, "What's driving this?" I spent the next seven years trying to figure the answer to that out.

LM: In your book, you discuss the business of food, explain how the food industry tries to manipulate appetites, and go so far as to make comparisons to big tobacco by implying that food has a pull over people the same way drugs do. Do you think that these food industries will be vilified or held financially accountable for obesity related diseases in the future?

DK: Fifty years ago, the tobacco industry, confronted with the evidence that smoking causes cancer, decided to deny the science and deceive the American public. Now, we know that highly palatable foods—sugar, fat, salt—are highly reinforcing and can activate the reward center of the brain. For many people, that activation is sustained when they're cued. They have such a hard time controlling their eating because they're constantly being bombarded—their brain is constantly being activated.

For decades the food industry was able to argue, "We're just giving consumers what they want." Now we know that giving them highly salient stimuli is activating their brains. The question becomes what do they do now?

If a bear walked in here right now, you would stop listening to me and you'd focus on that bear. We're all wired to focus on the most highly salient stimuli. For a lot of people, that highly salient stimulus is food. It could be alcohol, it could be drugs, it could be gambling, but for many people, it's food. It's not just people who are obese, or overweight. Even for people that are healthy weight, food activates the neural circuits of their brains, and they have this conditioned and driven behavior we call conditioned hypereating.

LM: I admit I've noticed some of those same characteristics in myself.

DK: For one gentleman I spoke with, the hardest thing for him every day is to get home past the newsstand at the train station because of the Kit Kats. For him, it was Kit Kats, for someone else, it's chocolate chip cookies, but one of the key core features is sugar, fat, salt. Once your behavior becomes conditioned and driven, you get into this cycle and you get cued. When the neural circuits get activated, it focuses your attention. There's a bit of an arousal as you have increased attentional focus, and then the only way to get it out of working memory is to consume the product. The next time you're cued, you eat again, and you're in this cycle. Every time you do it you strengthen it.

Not only is there amplified neural activation in the anticipatory phase with people with conditioned hypereating, but as they're eating, the stimulation stays sustained
so it's very hard to stop. It isn't until the food's gone—considerably later—do you feel full because the reward circuits are overriding the homeostatic circuits.

LM: When you spoke with top executives at one of the world's largest global food companies, and you presented an overview of the information in this book, one executive rightly said, "Everything that has made us successful as a company is the problem."

DK: Putting sugar, fat and salt on every corner, that's been the business plan. You make it not only accessible, but you make it socially acceptable, you create the social norms, you add the advertising, the emotional gloss.

LM: You said the company began to rethink their strategies about labeling and portion size, but how realistic is it to think that companies will change their tactics if it's not financially lucrative? Do you think there will be some sort of government regulation?

DK: Government has a role to play, but if you look at the great public health successes, they come from changes in how we perceive the product. 
The success on tobacco wasn't done by regulation or legislation—it was done by changing how people perceived the product. From, "That's something I want, that's glamorous, that's sexy," to, "This is a deadly, disgusting product."

The real goal is to change how you view food. If you look at something and say, "That's going to make me feel good. I want that," your brain's going to get activated. If you look at it and say, "Ugh, that's disgusting. I'd rather have something else," your brain's not going to be activated. You have to take the power out of the food by changing how you view the stimulus. It's food rehab. It's new learning on top of old learning—you never get rid of that old learning, those old neural circuits.

LM: I understand that much depends on the individual but do you have any suggestions for President Obama or the government? Is there any way they can help?

DK: The woman on Oprah had no idea what was going on. No one told her what was going on. In some ways, it's not about will power and it's not her fault. That doesn't necessarily mean there's nothing she can do, but if she's constantly being cued, constantly being bombarded with these stimuli, and her brain is conditioned and driven to respond to those stimuli, we first have to educate.

Two, is full disclosure of what's in food. If your chicken is injected with sugar and fat, and your food is loaded and layered upon layer with fat on sugar on salt, there needs to be disclosure.

It also is how you look at advertising. If advertising was meant to just convey information to consumers and it was neutral, that's one thing. But if advertising is a cue, then it gives you greater reason to regulate it, especially to kids.

In the end, it has to come from what do we want? What do we view as desirable? What do we view as socially acceptable? A lot of this is social norms. If I can walk down the street and be eating sugar, fat, and salt at any time of the day, on every corner, and that's viewed as what we find rewarding rather than disgusting, then we're going to continue with this epidemic.

LM: That ties into what you were talking about with eatertainment as an aspect of this phenomenon.

DK: If I give you a pack of sugar, and I said, "Go have a good time," you're going to look at me and say, "What are you talking about?" Now I add to that fat, and temperature, and texture, and mouth feel, and color, and I'm going to put it on every corner, and I'm going to say you can do it with your friends, you can do it at the end of the day when you want to relax, and I add all the television monitors and the color, so it's a carnival sort of atmosphere, who wouldn't want to get on the ride?

LM: What was the most surprising thing you learned during your investigation?

DK: I didn't literally understand why that chocolate chip cookie has power over me. I didn't understand why my hand was reaching. Only when I understood how my brain gets activated, how my brain gets encoded, did I learn that the power of food comes from our ability to anticipate it. Have you ever been eating and all of a sudden, as you're eating food, you start thinking about what you're going to have next?

LM: (laughing) Yes.

DK: It's sort of bizarre, right? It's that power of anticipation that drives the behavior, even more than the consumption. When you're actually eating, it, you go ehh ehh.

LM: It's not that good.

DK: It's not that good, but it's that power of anticipation. Understanding that food has more power than we realize, was the most important thing.

LM: Do you consider hypereating an effect of more disposable income or a higher standard of living? Is this unique to our period of time?

DK: We always were wired to focus on the most salient stimuli. It's just that the food industry has been able to manufacture food that's so highly salient. We always had salient foods when I was growing up, but desserts occasionally or foods that were fats on fats occasionally. Now we have them 24/7, all the time, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and throughout the day. That's the difference.

LM: It's availability?

DK: It's availability as well as acceptability—put those things together. Hypereating starts with sugar, fat, and salt, and then you add the stimuli associated with that, the emotional gloss, the availability, and the accessibility.

LM: What percentage of Americans would you say suffer from hypereating?

DK: It's a continuum. For probably 15% of the population, and that's just a guess, food is not a very salient stimuli in their life. You ask them, and they say, "I can eat or not. I have to eat in order to sustain myself, but it's not a large part of my life." That's a minority of people. If you look at the rest, and you ask them whether they have a sense of loss of control in the face of highly palatable food, if they have a lack of satiation—a lack of feeling full—when eating highly palatable food, and a preoccupation of thinking about food in between meals, about 70 million people would score pretty high on all three characteristics.

LM: Is there anything else that you would like to add or say?

DK: There's a lot out there about the food industry, and who's the villain, and who's the victim, but what's important for me is to explain to people—to the woman on Oprah—what was going on with her. I wanted to figure out what was going on, and the book was written to help people who don't understand why they have such a hard time overeating. My family doctor said to me, "You're describing me. No one ever described me to myself. No one explained to me why I keep on eating."

Delicious dishes.

Pasta and Chickpeas with Plenty of Parsley and Garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to finish
1/2 large onion, diced
a few pinches of hot red pepper flakes
1 and 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 15-oz can, liquid reserved
1 big bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves stripped from stems
3 plump garlic cloves
small handful of sage leaves
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 lb whole wheat pasta shells
freshly grated parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet and add the onion and pepper flakes.  Cook for a few minutes, then add the chickpeas.  While they're warming, chop the parsley, garlic, and sage together, then toss a third of it into the pan.  Season well with salt and pepper, add a little water or chickpea broth into the pan, and cook slowly, adding more liquid as it cooks away.

3. Salt the pasta water and cook the pasta.  When done, drain and toss it with the chickpeas, the rest of the parsley mixture, and extra olive oil to taste.  Taste for salt and season with pepper.  Grate some cheese over top and serve with additional pepper flakes.

*Notes:  The first time I made this, I didn't have the pepper flakes and substituted cayenne.  Super spicy, but good that way too!  It would probably also be good with some balsamic vinaigrette.

{Photo credit: ruthhelen.  Recipe from Deborah Madison's wonderful cookbook,  Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen}

Friday, May 8, 2009

Journal Questions.



How often do you write in a paper journal? Is there a certain time of day or a certain place you prefer to write? Do you leave your journal at home or carry it with you? How many pages do you think you write per year? Do you have any other rituals surrounding writing in your journal?


{Picture credit: NG71}

A morning ritual.


"BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!"


The alarm goes off in the morning and I smack, smack, smack my hand along the nightstand in the dark, groggy and desperate to make the shrill noise go away. When it stops, I usually lay in bed for another 5....no, 10...okay, let's be honest, at least 15 more minutes before getting up. I rush around like a crazy lady to shower, get myself together, scarf down breakfast, check email and get out the door.

I cheat myself out of those precious waking minutes by fighting with my brain about actually putting my feet on the floor and getting out of bed.

Inspired by Julia Cameron, lately I have been contemplating starting a morning ritual. She advocates starting the day with Morning Pages: three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. She says it clears out the brain of things that worry, nag, and distract and leaves it prepared to do real writing or to simply face the day. Have any of you tried morning pages?

If I had a morning ritual, it would go something like this: Wake up. Slowly get out of bed. Make my bed and put away any clutter in my room from the day before.

Do a slow flow yoga practice, ending with some meditation. Make a mug of tea, preferably Yogi tea in green tea lemon ginger or green tea mint garden, Bentley's raspberry green tea or Republic of Tea's ginger peach. Sip it while writing my Morning Pages.

Take a hot shower using this yummy smelling shower gel. I'd get dressed in clothes I picked out the night before so I wouldn't have to rush to find something. Then I'd make a breakfast of hot oatmeal and fresh fruit and take my vitamins. I would read the early morning news to catch up on what happened while I was fast asleep. I would pack some clothes so I could hit the gym after work and then head off to start the day.

Do you have a morning ritual? What is it? If you don't, what would you want it to be? How could adding those things to your morning ritual change the rest of your day?

{Photo Credit: S.Britt}

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Today's pretties.



Damask Recipe Cards from LittlebeaneBoutique on Etsy.com


Satin minaudiere clutch in shocking pink from JCrew.com

Yoga Practice Playlist.


Here are some songs I like to listen to while partaking in my home yoga practice.  The exact songs and the tempo  varies according to the day, my mood and the length of my practice.

If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave me a comment!  I'm always up for new tunes.


-Jem//Yellow
-Ben Harper//Happily Ever After In Your Eyes
-Cat Power//Sea of Love
-Bob Marley//Redemption Song
-Madonna//I'll Remember
-Amos Lee//Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
-John Mayer//Heart of Life
-Deathcab for Cutie//Soul Meets Body
-Liz Phair//Extraordinary
-Matt Nathanson//Little Victories
-Michael Franti//I Know I'm Not Alone
-Jill Scott//Golden
-Juanes//Un Dia Normal
-Krishna Das//God is real/Hare Ram
-Moshav//Heart is Open
-Chantal Kreviazuk//Feels Like Home
-Coldplay//Clocks
-James Morrison//You Make It Real
-David Gray//The One I Love
-The Idan Raichel Project//Bo'ee (Come With Me)
-India Arie//Ready for Love
-Tracy Chapman//Talkin' About a Revolution
-Van Morrison//Days Like This
-Sarah McLachlan//Blackbird
-U2//One
-Sade//By Your Side
-Indigo Girls//Closer to Fine
-Israel Kamakawiwo'ole//Somewhere Over the Rainbow
-Dar Williams//Closer to Me
-Marta Gomez//Como un secreto
-Mary Chapin Carpenter//Almost Home
-Deva Premal//Om Namo Bhagavate
-The Postal Service//The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
-Eva Cassid//Fields of Gold
-Ben Folds//The Luckiest
-Jeffrey Gaines//In Your Eyes
-kd lang//Hallelujah


Amethyst Swarovski Crysal Studded DJ Headphones (!!) pic from Pricy-Spicy

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Words to Grow By.


"For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."~The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 

Revelry Review.


The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron


A few months ago, when I thought I might need a creative outlet that was different from what I work on/go to graduate school for (Latin America-related stuff), I started thinking about carving out time in my week to write and read about the writing process.  I was an English/Spanish literature major with a women's studies minor in undergrad.  Sometimes I really miss that part of myself.  I hope to find a way to mix all the parts of myself together through writing.  Since I am a big fan of The Artist's Way, I picked up this book the second I saw it.

Each chapter is on a different topic related to writing, the writing life or finding the courage and inspiration to start.  Each chapter ends with an initiation tool--essentially ideas from Cameron to get the creative juices flowing.  There is some overlap here with her other books, but this one, organized in chapters that are relatively unrelated, makes a great morning or bedtime read.  Get inspired and move your writing life forward chapter by chapter.

Overall, I found this book helpful for motivating myself.  There were many times when her writing exercises helped me to get over, as Cameron calls it, the mythology that surrounds writing and writers.  It made me put the pen to the page and get started.  That, in and of itself, made this book worth it.

It also had several beautiful quotes.   I will leave you with one that I wrote in my journal:

"We should write because it is human nature to write.  Writing claims our world.  It makes it directly and specifically our own.  We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well.  We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living.  Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding.  We should write because it is good for the soul.  We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.  We should write, above all, because we are writers whether we call ourselves writers or not."  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Journey So Far.

Two years ago I was extremely overweight and very unhappy for many, many reasons.

I've been overweight my whole life. Of all the genetic gifts I have received from my family, "naturally thin" is not one of them. I quit playing sports of any kind after middle school. And I like chocolate. A lot. Add that to mild depression and you've got a recipe for disaster.

The picture to the left is of me in Havana, Cuba in June 2007.

Oddly enough, even seeing pictures like this one wasn't enough for me to do something about it.

Months later, in the sticks-to-your-skin kind of heat of August in D.C., I put on the only pair of workout type pants I owned, which were reserved for use on laundry day, and some beat up sneakers and went for a "run". Running sounded like something thin people do. I don't know where the motivation came from to actually do it, but I do know that the running part lasted no longer than 30 seconds. I was totally out of breath and thought I might pass out. I spent the next 20 minutes meandering around the neighborhood while gasping for air before admitting defeat.

I was sweating. And embarrassed. And frustrated. And tired. Oh-so-very tired.

But the next day I bought a workout DVD and did it in the privacy of my apartment. I only made it half-way through a 45 minute DVD but it was a start.

The following week I started going with my roommate to the gym in the morning and did the Couch-to-5k program.I knew if I made a commitment to get up and go with her, I would do it. I thought my lungs might explode every. single. morning. But I did it anyway. I treated it like an early morning job. I put it in my planner. I had to be there or else.

A week after that I decided I couldn't do the food part by myself, so I went to Weight Watchers. With a friend. Just to make sure I really, really wasn't alone. I liked them because I could eat whatever I wanted if I portioned it right. I realized that I needed to be around other people who were struggling and living to tell the tale.

The courage I had built from those two things led to me signing up for a "Newbie Yoga" class series at Tranquil Space. I was probably double the size of the biggest person in the room (a guy, no less). I was sweating to death and I could not hold Down Dog for more than two breaths. In nearly every pose, my whole body shook. But it didn't matter. I felt like a new person after I left each of those classes. Energized and healthy and happy. The mindfulness I was learning on the mat was helping me to be more mindful off of the mat. The teacher talked about how she hadn't always been thin and that yoga was for every body type, which I appreciated. She offered many ways to modify the poses and mentioned that she offered a "Voluptuous Vinyasa Flow" class once a week. I honestly believe that class, which I took for several months before transitioning to Yoga 1, saved me from myself.

I also read anything and everything I could get my hands on about weight loss, nutrition, holistic health, strength training, running, body image, yoga, self-esteem, cooking, etc. I'm pretty sure I single-handedly kept the "health and weight loss" sections of Amazon.com in business for about a year there. I also did web searches ("What is agave nectar?", "Do I need padded butt shorts for spinning?") and read lots and lots of blogs and wrote fairly regularly in a journal.

Then came slightly more advanced yoga classes. And belly dance classes. And, most recently, spinning classes.

This is me so far:





Since August 2007, I have lost about 70 pounds. I try to eat mostly whole grains, lots of veggies and cook for myself. But I still love chocolate. And bread. And cupcakes. Just in moderation. I feel like I've been relearning how to take care of myself with food.

I put back on a few pounds within the past couple of months (that's what working full-time while going to graduate school part-time will do to a person). But it's a marathon, not a sprint. And I will lose the last 30 like I did the first 70. Pound by pound, day by day, meal by meal, thought by thought. I will battle this for the rest of my life but unlike before, I now know how to battle it.

This journey has become more about finding myself, getting inspired, and getting healthy, and not necessarily just about getting skinny. I'm a size 12 and if I never get any smaller than that, so be it. It's been about doing things I never, ever thought I'd do. It's about putting myself out there. It's about trusting myself and the universe.

Mostly, the journey so far has been about getting happy. I feel like I've gotten a second chance at life, as dramatic as that sounds, and I intend to take advantage of every single second of it.