Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy 2011, Yogery! As I write this, the new year has already brought sunshine and fresh made friends. I haven't made any resolutions this year, and I don't know if I will. Here's what I know: if you make one cake this year, I hope it's that one up there. Zen Muffin posted the recipe earlier--it's the cardamom cake with butter rum drizzle. Yes, it looks like a giant donut, but it tastes a million times better than anything you'll find at Krispy Kreme. My rum butter drizzle is on the bottom of this cake--it's more of a burnt caramel rum sauce, and it's delicious.

So no big resolutions for me, but lots to look forward to. Close friends are returning to Shanghai, bringing along their new baby daughter with them. A trip to Thailand in a few days--ahh! I am venturing into the sweet world of momma and baby yoga for the first time--a truly awesome experience.

I suppose I'd be lying if I didn't mention I do have one yoga specific goal this year: Eight Angle Pose. Casey's got me working on the prep, nice and easy, and I'll be damned if I can't get it by this time next year!

Happy new year! Tell me your plans and resolutions!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Homemade Oreos

At first I thought it necessary to post my own personal Christmas wish list. It's maybe too late for that. But here, friends, is my list of things you should buy because you want them. And because they are cute. And because you might need something new to brighten up your dreary January.

1. Listen, I know - not from firsthand experience - that Van Morrison can be a jag. But when he makes music as beautiful as this, I'm not going to hold it against him. My dad has this record and it is a blessed thing.

2. I'm a sucker for cutesy shit. Some samples: un stylo, durable vinyl for your cash, and this Bozo nose.

3. Yes please.

4. Who doesn't want some of this? I will take anything and everything, as long as it's on sale.

5. Put whatever you want in these. I don't care. Whatever. Just get them.

6. Wrap yourself up, put a bow on your head, and I'll probably go for it.

7. Go stay at someone else's house. They have beds, they have kitchens, they have hot tubs, and they have a view.

8. Buy stuff for your dog, because they love you more than anything. And if you can't buy them anything, love them more than anything. And if you don't have a dog, get one.

I have very little wisdom. But because this is an end-of-the-year post, and really is an end-of-the-decade sort of thing, I feel compelled to include a bit of what I've learned. I am always humbled by what I do not know, and that's a lot. Doing things because I feel the obligation is rarely the best thing for me. Sacrificing self and supporting others is sometimes - a lot of times - the best thing for me. It is important to know the difference. Be intentional about everything. My parents are only getting older and so am I; our relationship will change. It doesn't really matter how long it took me to apply, and get accepted, to graduate school. It OK that I'm still not convinced it's a good idea. I will give the most time, love, affection, and self to people who deserve and protect it. I will be a really good aunt.

Happiest New Year's, fireworks. Eat and be merry!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Elvis, on a Yoga Blog!

Inspiration comes from unexpected places sometimes.

I've been sharing from the Bhagavad Gita in class for a few weeks (thanks, Kira, for getting me to do that!). The line I've been sharing is, "He who finds happiness, light, and delight within himself is a true yogi." This is SO much harder than doing the most advanced poses!

All day I unsuccessfully looked for my inner happiness, light, and delight. I was actually itemizing yogic techniques in my brain, trying to come up with one that would directly put me in contact with my 'inner happiness.' Then my music shuffled to fellow Iowan Greg Brown covering the old gospel song, "I Shall Not Be Moved" and, well, I was moved. When the heart can feel, the thinking head can rest, and inner happiness is more available.

Here is the Elvis version. Greg's mellower version is not available on YouTube. That's ok because this version will knock your socks off with its bulk supplies of happiness, light, and delight.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bodies in Urban Spaces

These photos are from a public art installation called "Bodies in Urban Spaces" by a choreographer (Willi Dorner) and a photographer (Lisa Rastl). I recommend doing a google image search to see more, but I chose a few of my favorites to share below.

I love the democratic nature of the project. The artists use their bodies as a form of expression but we don't see them in any really hard poses, looking athletic or idealized, as so much art tends to do. Anyone could do this. A mere turning upside down in an everyday space (and we can't discount the charm of the bright colored clothing) creates instant playfulness, humor, and joy.

How much of our posture and carriage comes from socioeconomic and cultural factors? How do our cultural and political beliefs literally shape our bodies? More on this in a couple days when I finish reading Yoga Body by Mark Singleton, which puts yoga in a broad context of politics, colonization, morality, and a constantly changing societal relationship to the human body. I know your breath is bated.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Yogery's SECOND Annual Gift Guide! We followed up, oh yes we did!

Last year we posted the Yogery's First Annual Gift Guide. We suppose that implies we have to do a second list, doesn't it? So here goes...the Yogery's annual list of fabulous presents that mostly the authors would enjoy.

Merry Christmas from French Toast and Zen Muffin (in Shanghai and Ojai respectively!)

1. Infinite Itunes gift certificates. I wish itunes sold some sort of lifetime membership that entitled the holder to infinite downloads. Since that doesn't exist, a Really Large Gift Certificate should suffice. French Toast adds: Amazon! Do they make gift certificates? They should. Or any online book seller..who doesn't love picking out books online and then getting them in the mail?!

2. Yoga Passes! Come to Zen Muffin's very own Yoga classes at the endlessly charming Lulu Bandha's studio in Ojai, California.

3. Street Food of India: The 50 Greatest Indian Snacks by Sephi Bergerson. The food is the real reason many international yogis make a pilgrimage to India. That's why I want to go anyway. Not the yoga, but the samosas and lassis and chai oh my! This book has ridiculously amazing photos and will please anyone who is a food geek at all. French Toast turned me on to it and I bought it for someone who I'm pretty sure does not read the Yogery. If they do, surprise! Oops!

4. The Gro-Bot. SO cute. A Robot plant-holder almost as cute as Wall-e who holds onto your plant like it's his best friend. He will soon be YOUR best friend.

5. Shop local. This year I tried harder than usual to balance the desire to find the perfect gifts with the desire to support Ojai's small shops. So many of them are struggling and closing. And, well, I realized that I like them there even if I don't often shop at them. But if they're going to stay, someone has to give them money. Most importantly, I get to save my soul from the mall.

6. D.I.Y. I think people genuinely like receiving homemade gifts or food items. I can't reveal what I am going to do this year in case any of you readers are on the receiving end. Or in case it is a total bust.

7. This AMAZING vintage Mexican wool bag. I am in love with it. I love those Mexican blankets that are in every yoga studio. This bag is like that, only it's actual wool with no synthetic fibers. And hey, you could carry your yoga stuff in it and then use it as a prop if you wanted!

8. Yogi-specific gifts: Any decent book on yoga is always appreciated. New books are great inspiration for yoga teachers. Double points for cool vintage yoga books. And any yoga teacher or devoted student would be delighted to receive a yoga bolster for Christmas. They are so expensive yet so wonderful for practicing.

9. Leslie Kaminoff's Online Yoga Anatomy Course. Nine months of intensive online study with one of yoga's foremost educators. Yes, please!

10. Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking. I'm a regular visitor to her site 101 Cookbooks, and my mom owns this book--it's chock full of tips and tricks for eating super natural at home. Yum.

11. Celebrity Chekov. Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

12. Pretty much anything from Drawn and Quarterly is a winner, but this new graphic novel by Vanessa Davis looks pretty good. For the story lover in your life.

13. A food processor! These puppies are pretty hard to find in China, but if I had one, I'd be a hummus making machine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

cardamommmmm + rummmmm

Cardamom Bundt Cake with Rum Butter Drizzle.
The very word "cardamom" is such a delicious thing in mouth, starting out sharp and ending round and soft. Things like that make me happy. Come to think of it, from above, a bundt cake looks like a bunch of m's gathering in a circle with their feet in the center. Awww. I'm feeling very silly tonight apparently. Edward Espe Brown's got me thinking about sweet round teapots with dents, then that gets me onto my chickens because they are also ample and round and cheery. And once I start thinking about chickens I get all warm and fuzzy inside.

This was the most successful thing I made at this year's Thanksgiving feast. The recipe comes from Nadia Natali's Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook.

preheat to 325

In a large bowl mix together:

8 T butter melted (one stick)
1 C Raw sugar (i used regular)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add to wet ingredients:

2 C white flour
1 T ground cardamom
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 T orange rind grated
2 t Baking powder
1/4 t salt

Add 1 C sour cream or yogurt to batter and mix all together. I was forced to use low fat yogurt because on Thanksgiving it's all the store had left. I think a higher fat yogurt would be even moister.

Butter and dust with flour a 10 inch bundt pan. Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into cake comes out clean.

Meanwhile, pour some rum, lots of butter, and lots of brown sugar, into a saucepan and bring to a boil. I didn't measure really, we just kept tasting until we found the right balance. Pour this generously over the finished cake and serve.

Face the Potato

When I change, I am always surprised, almost alarmed. In this case, my attitudes towards food are releasing their old shapes and becoming something else entirely. My old rigidity is loosening and I'm not quite so tempted into believing that following rules will save me. Nutrition seems so scientific that I have never treated eating as an art. It is time for me to admit that I have to find my own way. Food is a huge area of my life where I can start literally feeding myself better.

Eating is not only an art, it is a way of participating in life, a key way of getting Fed rather than being devoured by the fast pace of things. I just watched the documentary "How to Cook Your Life" featuring Zen priest and chef Edward Espe Brown. Most of the film is about something I've been thinking a lot about lately--why cook? What is so special about food you cooked for yourself when you could just buy it across the street and save so much time? One of my favorite reasons Edward gives for cooking is "Let the hands be hands!" Hearing that, I suddenly felt fondness towards my hands and even a funny rising sense of obligation to let them be used to their fullest potential. While I couldn't cook tonight, I at least drove across town to where I know the food is loved, and bought myself the greenest possible salad at Farmer and the Cook. It tasted so good. My frequent eating out to save time and energy is perhaps a false simplicity, however organic and natural my choices are. Edward said, "We pay a lot of money to not have to face a potato."

I recommend watching at least this touching final scene from "How to Cook Your Life." (link below) Edward talks about how, in a low moment of deep frustration, even despair, cheery but dented teapots reminded him of the beauty of sincerity and presenting ourselves to the world with our dents and flaws unhidden.

Now let's go and sincerely face our potatoes.

The link to the clip is here:

Yoga on Ropes

Last night I took a class using ropes. Although my hip creases and butt cheeks are sporting some pretty serious bruises, the class was great. What we did:

Hanging sirasana.
Uttanasana while standing in the ropes and folding forward, then reaching arms forward to lengthen the spine. Action was in lifting the rib cage, dropping shoulders back, and lifting the thighs up against the ropes.
Downward dog with ropes still in the creases of hips
option for hanging uttanasana (this was extremely challenging, as not only do you have to fight gravity but also just feels super weird)
backbending with option for dropping back into wheel. This was a super intense feeling for me--as I dropped back, I felt like I blacked out for a moment. We practiced this for a while, and as a result, I was up for hours last night. Zing!

We might have done some other stuff, but I can't remember now. Using the ropes created space to notice real alignment issues and really feel the work of 'simple' postures.