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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Assemble the Troops!

Last night my mom and Ben's mom came over to our place to finish up the table arrangements - my mom spent most of this week finishing the placecards (thanks mom!) and they turned out lovely. The font matches our invitations and (even though it's hard to tell from the photos) we used a semi-translucent vellum type paper that looks really light and elegant.

Having heard horror stories about all the drama surrounding table seating (fighting over who gets the larger tables, "this family member can't sit next to this family member but has to sit with this person" type arguments, keeping people who might get into physical altercations far away from each other, etc), I was a little nervous about this process but it turns out there was nothing to worry about! Everything was decided in less than an hour and it all worked out perfectly. We have really laid-back friends and family, so none of the normal politics/drama even came up.

All organized into neat stacks - just the way I like it!

The only thing that created some small decision-making dilemmas on my part was the ginormous conglomoration of Ben & my friends. We have a lot of friends from college, and that group has sort of melded with my high-school friends to form one big happy family, plus there are a couple of random friends who don't really know anyone else (two of Ben's colleagues from India, significant others of wedding party members, etc, some friends from church etc). So it took me a little while to figure out how to divide them up and still make everyone feel comfortable, but in the end I really like how it turned out.

When we lined up the stacks of place-cards we sort of felt like we were assembling our troops for battle. Good to keep in mind for when we decide to take over the world.

Total coincidence that everyone facing the camera starts with an 'E', did not plan it that way it just happened! P.S. if you look at the left-hand stack you can see my name... Kristina MacKenzie! In less than two weeks I will have a different name - crazyness.

Moms hard at work!

This morning Ben and I took a nice walk down to Patisserie 46 for breakfast - it was a little humid, but we went early enough that the heat hadn't really kicked in yet - it's supposed to get up in the mid 90's today and be super muggy - but it was still sticky enough that I wore shorts and a tank top, and ordered iced coffee instead of regular. Usually I like more robust, whole-grainy food in the morning, but sometimes flaky pastry is delicious too :)

Ben's danish with Lemon Curd and Strawberry-Rhubarb filling

My delicious anise, olive oil and candied orange peel-spiked creation. So flaky and delicious.

On the way back we ran into some people we knew, and it turns out they are neighbors! I had no idea they lived so close! We made plans to grab dinner soon, but they also have a brand new baby and we have the wedding coming up so it might be a little while, but it's still nice to find friends in the neighborhood. Stopping to chat made me a little late getting into work but the whole breakfast/walk excursion was totally worth it.

Tonight I'm dragging Ben with me to yoga - and then time to get to work on the bookmark project!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good thing we found each other...

The conversations that occur in our home on an almost daily basis:

Me (walks in the door): Hi honey!
Ben: Hi! (pause)... so I noticed sprinkles on the counter.
Me: yes...
Ben: Did you put sprinkles on your oatmeal this morning?

How does he know me so well?

Benjamin: You're my favorite!
1:16 PM me: what???????????
that's crazy talk!!!
you are my favorite too!!!!!!!!!!!
1:17 PM Benjamin: WHAAA?!?!?!?
Maybe let's get married!
1:18 PM me: ok!!! how does next Saturday look for you?
1:20 PM Benjamin: PERFECT!
Let's do it UP!!?!?

We've agreed to get married to each other probably 25 times now. I think that's a good sign.

Tonight both of our moms are coming over to (hopefully) finish the table arrangements - hopefully no dramz! I already have an idea how I want things to go - and I also need to make the bookmark guest favors... haven't even started yet... so that should be interesting.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Atha yoga anushasanam

What a crazy and amazing weekend!

In addition to the final installment of the Minneapolis Anusara Immersion, Ben and I were tasked with "house-sitting" for his aunt and uncle, aka watching their two dogs, Larry and Libby (short for Largo and Libretto... yay for music nerdery). Getting to hang out and play with two beautiful golden retrievers and getting free pizza to boot? Sign me up!

This is what Larry and Libby look like when they want Pizza...

They're quite convincing. But not quite convincing enough.

We watched Pan's Labryinth and finished off the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble from last weekend, and had a great relaxing Saturday night. The next morning we woke up bright and early and took the dogs for a walk down to the lake.

Libby decided it was her job to try to eat eat everything in sight that happened to be on the ground - grass, elderberries, fluffy cotton seeds, bird poop (ew), you name it. All that eating must have worn her out though...

Seriously how cute is that??

Me with my girl Libby after our walk

I know I haven't blogged about the immersion that much, but that's partly because it has been such an internal journey. I've learned so much about myself and have made some pretty big shifts in my life, but it's hard to put it into words. All I can say is - thank you to the beautiful friends I have had the honor to meet and learn from through this experience. I know we'll continue to see each other and stay connected but I'm really going to miss our monthly immersion weekends.

"Atha yoga anushasanam" is sutra 1.1 of the yoga sutras of Patanjali - it means, "Now we begin, together, the practice of yoga." I am trying not to think of this final immersion weekend as an end, but to look at it instead as a new beginning - the beginning of a new community, new friendships, and a new understanding of what yoga means in our lives. I think Kathy said it best when she told the group "I've finally found a group of people that speaks my language." I feel the exact same way. So many thanks to my fellow yogis, our amazing teachers Ali and Ronna, and (from a distance) to John Friend for building this fabulous community of Anusara.

The ubiquitous bathroom line - 21 yogis, lots of tea, one toilet

Our fun picnic/playtime

Kate and Scott, picnicing

Stephanie, me and Kate

Scott and Ali working it with Parsvokanasana

With my Shri buddy, Rhonda. Rhonda and I met at my first-ever Anusara class - the Noah Maze workshop last fall - and have stayed connected ever since. Love you girl!

We were also tasked with putting together a piece that says what Anusara means to us. One of the quotes from the immersion that really stuck with me was an old sanskrit idiom:
"This is perfect, that is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take the perfect from the perfect, only the perfect remains."
We are born perfect - we cannot become perfect, because we already are. I knew I wanted to do something with this quote, and that train of thought led me to another conversation we had about the goddesses Kali and Lakshmi. Kali is the goddess of death, and her name means "the black one." Lakshmi is the goddess of light, and embodies beauty and fullness. It is easy to see the beauty of Lakshmi, but without Kali and the cycle of dissolution and destruction, Lakshmi cannot be created.

You can see the fullness of life in a lotus flower - but the flower is nourished by the gross mucky roots and mud underneath, and it feeds off of mud and decomposing life. Lakshmi is in the flower, and Kali is in the roots, and both are beautiful. So, this was my artwork - I can't draw, but I can definitely paste together things that other people drew! Except the flower, that I did actually draw. With a little help from the gorgeous goods at Paper Source, the printer at work, and Ben's colored pencils, here is my artwork:

It reminds me to always look for the beautiful first, even when, and especially when, that beauty is hard to see.

Another week, another Monday... and less than two weeks from when I will be a married lady! So crazy... I cannot believe how fast the year has gone by. Peace and love to all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun Surprises!

Sorry I haven't been blogging quite as frequently - this week has been crazy! I've had some wedding-related appointment every day/evening (makeup trial, hair trial, cupcake-related things, final dress fittings etc).

Here are my super boring wedding updates:

- Dress is perfect! No further alterations needed, and I can't wait to wear it for real in just a little over two weeks! It really is my dream dress - understated but still detailed and intricate. I'm really excited to finally be able to post pictures of it but I'm keeping it a secret from Ben for now :)

- Final cupcake decisions are made! We're getting three flavors from Cup-Cake: Betty Crocker (vanilla with vanilla icing), Chocolate Buttercream (a deep rich dark chocolate), and Chai Tea. I've had a lot of cupcakes around the TC and I think Cup-Cake is still my fav. The cake itself is just awesome - dense and with a nice crumb, never dry... and sooo vanilla-y. Yum.

- We have a BOX for the Twins game on July 4th!!! If any of you have read my other blog (which has been a little neglected unfortunately, since Ben and I are both so busy right now), you know how obsessed both of us are with baseball and specifically the Twins. Ben's brother and best man, Simon, got us a suite/box for the game as a bachelor gift for Ben... what a great bro.

- Speaking of baseball, I am watching A League of their Own on AMC right now!

- Finally saw Bridesmaids! Loved it, especially the airplane scene. Hilarious.

- Music is ordered, musicians are up to speed... etc.

Oh and speaking of music... I google myself every once in a while just to see what comes up, and today I found this picture from Chatterbox three weeks ago (the last time I was there sadly... like I said it's been crazy):

Andy, one of the other c-box regulars, must have taken it while I wasn't paying attention. So sneaky. It looks like I'm kind of laughing here, which means this is probably when I dropped my pick on the floor in the middle of my second song and just finished without it. Luckily no one even noticed!

Anyways I think that's it for now... it might be a little less cooking-focused and a little more wedding-obsessed here on SitRW for the next couple of weeks... although I do want to do a final write-up on the Anusara Immersion and last week's workshop with Desiree Rumbaugh. Get ready peeps!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Few Things

#1 - New Bon Iver album!
Do you own it yet? You should it's awesome

(Also, I realize the lyrics on this thing might be totally wrong...but it was the only one I could find that was not a remix. There are two versions of the lyrics floating makes sense, one does not. Either could be the real ones. Whatever it's a beautiful track)

#2) Had my makeup trial on Sunday! I've never had my makeup professionally done before (except for a couple of times in department stores, both of which I hated) so I was a little nervous, but Nan Fletcher did a fantastic job - and what a sweetheart as well. My homework was to take pictures and give her feedback if I wanted to change anything, so I put Ben on camera duty.

For some reason he thought this face wouldn't be a very accurate representation...

I can't imagine why. But I sucked it up and smiled normally...

...and then this happened....

...and this....

...and then I drank two of these:

Life was good. But I really like my makeup and think I'll probably keep it the way it is. I wanted a pretty natural look and this fits the bill quite well. But now you know what I look like with fake eyelashes (I have really long eyelashes anyways so they don't make a huuuge difference, but they do make my eyes pop a little more).

#3)...and this cocktail was too delicious - I have to share with you. I just made it up on a whim but I think I love it

RASPBERRY ROSE PROSECCO COCKTAIL (I really need to think of a more creative name for this... let me know if you have suggestions)

1 box raspberries
1 T rose water
2 T granulated or turbinado sugar
1 bottle prosecco or other sparkling white wine

Wash the raspberries thoroughly and place in a bowl. Cover with sugar and rose water, let sit for a few minutes and then mash with a fork until only a few chunks are left. Divide between four wine glasses, pour chilled prosecco over the top. Drink. Pour another. Drink that one too. Maybe leave some for Ben and your sister (but only if you feel like it).

You can play around with the sugar/rosewater/raspberry ratio on this - I actually didn't measure at all, I just added until the fruit mixture tasted like I wanted it to, but this is my best approximation. Wheee drinking on a Tuesday...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Shenanigans

Oh hello there.

Don't worry, I won't keep you long. I just wanted to drop in and let you know how awesome my Saturday morning is right now.

Rhubarb-picked-fresh-from-Ben's-parents-garden awesome.
Fresh-summer-strawberries awesome.

Watching-TBS-Saturday-Morning-Movies awesome.

I've always firmly believed that fruit desserts for breakfast are totally acceptable. After all, pie and crumble bear a striking resemblance to turnovers - they're just put together differently. I hope you agree.

Piping hot Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, straight from the oven.
The Princess Diaries 2 on TV (Ben is a saint for putting up with my TV whims, by the way).
Yoga with Desiree Rumbaugh allll day.

Did I mention Saturday is my favorite day of the week?
Happy weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Five

Wow - it has been a while since I've done one of these! I think it was back before finals, and even before my computer crashed. I love "friday five" posts because they give me a chance to throw together a bunch of things I really like, without having to write an entire blog on any of them, and also without having to draw any coherent connections between them. Five things. There they are. Take it or leave it.

Fruit with rosewater

I came across this awesome but simple preparation in Deborah Madison's "Seasonal Fruit Desserts," and have been making/eating it almost constantly since then. Just throw some berries/fruit in a bowl, add some rosewater, sprinkle with brown/turbinado sugar, mix together, let them sit in the refrigerator for a while to allow the fruit to absorb the rosewater and sugar, and enjoy! Ms. Madison recommends using blackberries since they come from the same plant family as roses... but I've also enjoyed using a combination of berries/mangos and berries/peaches. The perfect summer dessert/snack/yogurt topping

Summer Wedges

This particular pair is from Banana Republic but I've seen a lot of great options around lately. Go snag some, wear them out, look fabulous.

Dessa's Spiral Bound collection

I have no idea how it took me until 2 weeks ago to realize that this existed. Dessa (if you aren't from MN you might not know her) is a local hip hop artist/musician/writer and member of Doomtree, and easily one of my top 3 favorite local artists. Spiral Bound contains poetry, autobiographical essays and fiction, all beautifully written and flavored with Dessa's penchant for somewhat dark themes and imagery. Her reflections on life are insightful and to the point, and, this might sound like a weird thing to say, but she has a talent for a final sentence. I've re-read all of the pieces probably 3 times now.

Homemade Yogurt

Ben's mom gave us a yogurt maker at the wedding shower and I couldn't have been more excited! I've been wanting one for a while, and we've made three batches from it already. Plus, this gives me an excuse to drink more milk, since we have to buy milk to make the yogurt and always have some left over.

My Thermos

My MPR Klean Kanteen thermos might be the best thing ever. I haul it around with me constantly - it carries tea/coffee in the morning, more tea throughout the day, cold water during my yoga classes, etc. I would probably die without it.

Today I have a bunch of wedding-related tasks to finish: picking up my veil from the bridal shop, hair trial, and I will probably bring my wedding bands to the bridal shop when I pick up the veil - I'm keeping all my wedding day accessories at the shop so I don't misplace them. Knowing me, that is something that could easily happen and I can't take any chances! Have a great weekend - I'll be around sporadically but mostly I'll be at the Desiree Rumbaugh Anusara workshop all day tomorrow, and my makeup trial is on Sunday. Crazyness. Have a great Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Heart Heidi Swanson

But first, a note to a random woman in my yoga class this morning:
Dear yoga lady,
Why do you feel the need to put on hairspray in the bathroom before class? You are aware that we are about to enter a 100 degree room where we will sweat all over ourselves for an hour? I'm sorry but your efforts are futile. And smelly. And confusing.

Oh hey did you notice that I really like this blog 101 Cookbooks? Probably, because it seems like every recipe I make is from, or inspired by Heidi's blog. So guess how excited I was when Heidi's new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, hit the shelves a couple of months ago?


And also, kittens.

But in all seriousness - Heidi's recipes are creative, deceptively simple, unfailingly delicious, and (my favorite part) economical as heck. First of all, there's this delicious egg salad - who would have thought of making an egg salad with yogurt?? Not I said the fly. But this stuff is delicious - light and tangy, not weighed down with mayo like most egg salads, and open to endless combinations of deliciousness. Basically all you need is 4 hard-boiled eggs (she is very clear with her instructions NOT to over-cook the eggs), 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, and a couple tablespoons of whatever fresh herbs you want. We used parsley and green onion because they were what we had... but anything would work really. Just toast some bread, smear some butter and garlic on the toast and spread the egg deliciousness over the top...the perfect breakfast for a pre-farmer's-market weekend morning.

Perfect with coffee...

Om nom nom

Moving on - when Ben and I received a pasta maker as a shower gift from my friend Emily and her mom, I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to test it on, especially since we had everything we needed to make this dish except summer squash, which was easily obtained from The Wedge. I also made my own addition to this recipe when I re-heated the leftovers, taking a couple slices of fresh farmer's market tomato, salting them and sauteeing them with about a teaspoon of butter, and then squishing the resulting cooked tomatoes over the re-heated pasta. AMAZING.

Sheets of pasta, ready for slicing...

How slick is that??


Squash and cheese, getting acquainted in a pan. Nice to meet you, cheese!

Super Natural ... and Super delicious, haha.

From Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

- 2 medium/large zucchini or yellow summer squash (about 16 oz total), coarsely grated
- Fine-grain sea salt
- 8 oz linguine or other thin-ish pasta
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 t red pepper flakes
- 1 T unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
- freshly ground black pepper

Put the grated zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with a few generous pinches of salt, and let sit in the sink or over a bowl for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the pasta - bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously, add the pasta and cook according to the directions or until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving a little cooking water.

Just before you are ready to eat, heat the olive oil, garlic and red pepper in a large skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant and the garlic just begins to brown. Squeeze the zucchini in your hands, over the sink, to eliminate any excess liquid and add to the skillet. Cook until tender, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the pan and add a little cooking water if the zucchini mixture seems on the dry side. Toss to distribute the zucchini throughout the pasta. Add the butter and cheese and toss again. Season with salt and black pepper and divide among bowls or plates. Top with extra cheese if you like.

Serves 2 to 4
(note - I would say this serves 3 comfortably as a main dish. We did get 4 servings out of it, but the last two were quite small and were probably more like 1 dinner-sized serving, and we're both pretty small eaters... so if we thought it was small, it was small).

Cookie of the Month 3: Orange-Macadamia Nut Cookies

I believe I promised you cookies - well, here they are! For June's Cookie of the Month, I took a cue from last week's 100-degree temps and incorporated some tropical flavors.

This is a recipe I've been making since high school, and they were probably the first cookie I made that was somewhat involved (aka, not a chocolate chip or drop-sugar cookie). When I started preparing the ingredients, my mom thought I was crazy - you might think you're losing it too, when you see the amount of cornstarch and powdered sugar in the DOUGH. Yep that's right, in the dough itself...but don't worry, the end result tastes like magic. Melt-in-your-mouth cookies with crunchy macadamias and an orange juice punch that always reminds me of spring vacations in Florida with my family.

I always try to use fresh-squeezed juice for these guys, usually from the same orange I use for the zest. Waste not, want not as they always say - one normal sized orange yields about 4 tablespoons of juice if you're measuring.

A word of warning about this dough - because it has so much powdered sugar and cornstarch, the amount of dry ingredients looks deceptively large. If it seems dry after following the recipe, use extreme caution in adding extra liquid, because you'll end up with a sticky dough much more quickly than you would with other cookie recipes.

... I am pretty sure that one of the best parts of baking is having an excuse to make a giant mess all over your kitchen counter.

Little dough nubbins, ready to get squashed and go into the oven! This was the part that I think struck my mom as a little labor intensive - you coat the dough balls with granulated sugar and then press them into circles with the bottom of a drinking glass. I think she just found it excessively nitpicky - but the tops are much more even that way.

I'm a stickler for detail...although I did take a bit of a shortcut from the original recipe, which said to dip the glass in the sugar and then press the cookie down with the sugar-coated glass. This is just a pain in the a$$ because sugar does not stick to glass and it gets everywhere except on the cookie - so I decided to roll the balls in sugar instead. Makes so much more sense. I digress. Look at the pretty cookies.

From Better Homes and Gardens

For the cookies:

- 4 c all purpose flour
- 2 c sifted powdered sugar
- 1 c cornstarch
- 2 c butter
- 1 c chopped macadamia nuts
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 T orange zest
- 4-6 T orange juice
- granulated sugar (for coating)

For the icing:
- 2 c sifted powdered sugar
- 3 T softened butter
- 1 T orange zest
- 2-3 T orange juice (enough to make the icing spreadable)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar and cornstarch. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 T orange zest and 4 T of the orange juice and add to flour mixture. Stir until moistened. If necessary, add a little more juice.

On a lightly floured surface (or in the bowl still... if you're me...) knead the dough until it forms a ball. Shape dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. Roll one side of each ball in the granulated sugar, and arrange the balls on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or a silpat. Flatten to 1/4 inch thickness by pressing with the bottom of a glass.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to a plate or wire rack to cool, and then frost with orange frosting.

Monday, June 13, 2011


....annnd, I am an idiot.

I found my wallet. It fell under the front seat of my car.

Responsible adulthood resumes now.

Thank you for your patience.

Epic Monday Fail

Sometimes I want to be one of those people who can bound energetically out of bed on a Monday morning, do my hair, effortlessly throw on the perfect outfit and stride into work, the epitome of maturity and organization. Like so:

Reality is actually more like this:

Obviously this is not an actual picture of me, but a picture of Anne Hathaway from The Devil Wears Prada. But I think it gets the point across pretty well.

It all started last night when I realized I couldn't find my wallet. Possibly I left it at the grocery store yesterday? I definitely had it then, because I paid for my groceries, but I didn't realize that it was missing until I was leaving my friend's house last night after Game of Thrones, so possibly I also left it in her kitchen. I also managed to misplace both Ben's headphones and the USB cord for my iPod in between grabbing them 20 seconds before leaving the house yesterday, and actually leaving the house. Clearly, I should not be allowed to be an adult.

The more immediate issue is, I need to buy lunch at work today. No problem though, because I have some cash in the pocket of those jeans I wore on Saturday.

Guess what I forgot to grab as I was leaving this morning?
(A: the pocket cash. And my cell phone)

Guess where my wallet is not?
(A: at the grocery store. Or anywhere in my car. Or in the bag I carried my groceries home in. No word yet on my friend's kitchen...but according to online banking the last person who used my credit card was me, at the grocery store, so that is positive)

Actually the only things I managed to do properly today were a) put clothes on, and b) remember to bring the Cookie of the Month batch I am delivering this afternoon (recipe and pictures forthcoming) ... and the only reason I remembered the cookies is that I put them right in front of the door, so that I literally could not walk out of my apartment without stepping on them. Risky, but ultimately rewarding.

Hopefully I will get all of this figured out soon, but until then...happy Monday?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Movie/Book Review: "Eat, Pray, Love" (or, how I became a crazy chanting hippie)

I know I am SO late to the party with this one, but it always amazes me when a book crosses my path at exactly the right time in my life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these are my favorite books of all time – just that somehow, my decision to read that particular work of literature lined up so perfectly with something major I was going through at the same time, that while the changes in my life opened my eyes to this book in a new way, the book in turn gave me a deeper understanding of my life.

This has only happened a few times – first, with Marcus Borg’s Reading the Bible Again for the First Time in college when I was struggling with where religion and faith fit into my life; second with The Time Traveler’s Wife right after Ben and I started dating, when for the first time ever I understood what it meant to have a love so deep and strong that you feel like your souls are permanently connected; and right now with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.

The fact that these are the books that have touched me so deeply just drives home the truth that keeping an open mind is imperative if you want to be really moved by something. Both The Time Traveler’s Wife and Eat, Pray, Love were books I didn’t really plan on or look forward to reading – it was the sort of thing I kind of regarded them as “popular” lit and not really worthy of my precious few fun-reading hours, but I kept hearing over and over again how good they were and finally threw up my hands and went “OK FINE I’LL READ IT GEEZ.” And then I did (reluctantly). And was surprised. They still aren’t my favorite works of literature – that particular honor goes to some combo of Hugo, Rushdie, Dostoevsky and J.K.Rowling – but they are and always will be special because, at the time I read them, I felt like they were speaking to me personally, trying to teach me something about myself.

I only read Eat, Pray, Love because of the movie. I’m almost ashamed to say that but it’s true. I can’t sleep on planes, so on the way back from Turkey I kept myself entertained by watching terrible plane movies – mostly bollywood comedies, but also the Eat Pray Love adaptation starring Julia Roberts. Unfortunately it was around that time on the flight that my headphones broke and I couldn’t understand half of what anyone was saying. I kind of forgot about it for a few months, until early May, right around the time I moved, when I saw my sister’s copy of the movie sitting on my parents’ coffee table and thought to myself, “hey, I would kind of like to know what was going on in that movie.” So I borrowed it – and was not too impressed. With the exception of the scene where Julia Roberts first arrives in India, which basically transported me back to Dehli because that is EXACTLY what it feels like to ride a taxi through an Indian city, I felt like the movie was kind of meh. I told my sister, who suggested that I read the book because, as she said, most of what is great about the book is in Liz Gilbert’s writing style and sense of humor, which really is not captured in the film. So I took her at her word and picked up a copy at my local used bookstore.

Eat, Pray, Love is not popular because it is (as I sort of expected it to be) a commercialized, overly cheesy, glorified self-help manual for disenchanted soccer moms. It is popular because it is a good book – funny, insightful, honest and thought-provoking. Ms. Gilbert does not presume, with this memoir, to instruct others on how to live their lives or to tell anyone how to walk down their own spiritual path. It is simply her (extremely well-written and engaging) personal account of how she found herself again after some very difficult life changes.

And also, I think her book is quite brave in its honesty. But isn’t it just a book about travel and yoga? Everyone practices yoga, there’s nothing ground-breaking here. Yeah, a lot of people practice yoga… but a lot of them are also really uncomfortable with the deep-diving, self-exploratory, chanting, meditating, spiritual side of yoga. Unfortunately, this spiritual meditation mumbo-jumbo is sort of the point.

I used to be skeptical, too – don’t get me wrong, I loved the centered, clear-minded feeling I had walking out of class, but all that stuff with Shiva and mantras and the subtle body and whatnot was just not for me, I thought. And then, I decided to do the Anusara Immersion. At first, my reaction was just what I expected - the tattvas totally confused me, the meditation and chanting were unnerving, and all of this talk about “flowing with grace” and “celebrating the heart” gave me the uncomfortable feeling that at any second we would all break into a never-ending rendition of Kumbayah. And then, something happened. I got it. I can’t really put what happened in my brain into words, but somehow, I just got it, and this whole philosophy and life suddenly seemed so beautiful and so right. And kumbayah didn't seem like such a bad thing anymore.

I realized how cheesy this all sounded, so I decided to not talk about it too much with my non-yoga friends, for fear that they’d have me locked up in a room with padded walls. One night though, it came up in conversation with my dad when I realized that a lot of his post-surgery hip-stretches were basically Yoga asanas, and I started teaching him some new poses, and brought up the whole thing about aligning with grace and your universal blue print.

“Yeah,” he said, “but just think of the physical benefits! It’s such great strength and flexibility training!” So I tried explaining how it’s about something way deeper than that, and he kept bringing it back to STRETCHING and GREAT WORKOUT and things that former college football players are generally more comfortable with. He smiled and kept his cool, but I could tell he was barely containing the fear that his Economist-reading, music-history-loving, business-conversation-having daughter was turning into some crazy chanting voodoo hippie. It’s funny, because I’m pretty sure that underneath his fiscally conservative, rational exterior, my dad is one of the most yogic people I know, he just doesn’t realize it (see my entry on his hip surgery for more info).

Back to the whole point – and I apologize that this is turning into more of an essay than a blog entry – Ms. Gilbert does not shy away from spirituality. She writes about her experience with dreams, meditation, kundalini shakti and spiritual revelation, in a very personal and honest way, and also in a way that makes it all seem totally normal. I think in retrospect, what bothered me about the movie was that it glossed over the more gritty, less-relatable parts of the book – the ones that deal with spirits and God and stuff. One of my favorite passages, that reminds me so much of Anusara, comes at the end of chapter 60:
“So I stood up and did a handstand on my Guru’s roof, to celebrate the notion of
liberation. I felt the dusty tiles under my hands. I felt my
strength and balance. I felt the easy night breeze on the palms of my
feet. This kind of thing – a spontaneous handstand – isn’t something a
disembodied cool blue soul can do, but a human being can do it. We have
hands; we can stand on them if we want to. That’s our privilege.
That’s the joy of a mortal body. And that’s why God needs us.
Because God loves feeling things through our hands.”
I have never been through a terrible, gut-wrenching divorce like Ms. Gilbert has… but this book speaks to me because I feel like we are discovering the power of all this hippie meditation stuff together. I understand that path, because I am walking it in my own way. I’m not saying this book is for everyone – but it is definitely for me, right now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Road Trip Recap 4: Chicaaaago!

I really like my early morning yoga... I went to a vinyasa class at 6am today, to sneak in some practice before work. Oh yeah, did I mention I started my new job? Well, I did. There it is. Woooo.

It feels so good to get all the kinks out of your muscles before you, um, spend your entire day sitting at a desk staring at your laptop, and I kind of like being up before most people. When I got up, Ben was sleeping. He continued sleeping as I sifted through clothes in a bleary-eyed haze trying to find something work appropriate to throw in my gym bag. He continued sleeping as I rummaged around for shoes and socks (which I almost forgot on my way out the door...yikes). And when I left...he was still sleeping... but the yoga studio wasn't!

I am so lucky to work at a company that serves healthy breakfasts in the cafeteria - so on days like today, when I'm go from yoga to work and don't have time to make my own breakfast, I know I can pick something up once I get there. Today I threw together a bowl of steel-cut oats topped with brown sugar, flax seed meal, dried cherries and PB....yum.

Ok back to the fun part - travel! On the way back we stopped in Kentucky outside of Louisville (not really worth mentioning except for the mexican restaurant we ate at that looked sketchy but ended up being fantastic), and then continued on to Chicago to visit friends and family. Two of my best friends - Kristin and Katie - live in Chicago, as well as Bens' brother and sister-in-law, and their beautiful baby girl Lillian...soon to be my NIECE!

Kristin was kind enough to host us for the night, so when we arrived in Chicago we went straight to her place and were greeted by her lovely dog Dexter. We hung out for a couple of hours at Kristin's place and chatted over tea, and then met up with Katie at a nearby Indian restaurant for dinner, where the four of us had some excellent conversations around education reform, old college/high school shenanigans, and traveling. After dinner, it had gone from cold and windy to cold, windy and raining, and we got completely drenched on the way home. Luckily we had the foresight to stop at Molly's Cupcakes for a few sweet treats - nothing cures the rain and cold quite like cupcakes and wine!

Me, Kristin and Katie at Kristin's condo

Our lovely hosts, Kristin and Dexter!

The next morning, Ben and I hopped on the bus to visit Matt, Julia and Lillian!

He didn't realize I was making silly faces. we are on the same page :)

Matt and Julia live right near the libary, which is a gorgeous building.

I know everyone thinks the babies in their family are the cutest babies ever....

... but I think Lillian might actually be the cutest baby ever.


Back at Kristin's, we packed up our stuff, said our goodbyes and hit the road back to Minneapolis. I miss my friend but I know I will see them soon at the WEDDING!

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