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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Songs for Savasana - My Five Favorites

Wow that is a very alliterative title - and I didn't even plan it that way!

When I was younger, one of my favorite ways to escape the world was to turn on my favorite music and lie on the floor of my bedroom, clearing my mind and letting the music wash over me. Sometimes it was a Beethoven symphony; sometimes it was Chopin; other times it was Fiona Apple or Tori Amos, or when I'd had a really rough day, punk rock. I called it "lying on the floor listening to music."

Now, one of my favorite ways to escape the world is to turn on my favorite music and lie on the floor of my apartment, clearing my mind and letting the music wash over me - only now it usually follows a yoga practice, and I call it "Savasana."

Victor Hugo once wrote: "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and on which it is impossible to remain silent." One of the reasons I love music so much - and have studied it for so long - is the profound way it cuts right to my soul - it really does speak in a way that is beyond words alone. Yoga, too, is a way of speaking - a celebration without words... I think a lot of what I love about yoga are the same things I love about music, and the two often come together in a very special way. They help me to remember what is deep inside of me, and to express what I sometimes cannot say.

Although it's easy to think of savasana as "just lying on the ground," it is considered the most important yoga asana, and is actually the final pose in the Anusara syllabus, meaning it is the most difficult. B.K.S. Iyengar said that savasana is "like a snake shedding its skin to emerge glossy and resplendent in its renewed colors" - in other words, it is about letting go. Letting go is not easy. Deep relaxation and meditation are not easy.

It's easy to want to skip savasana - you have to get to class, work, so many other obligations are pulling you off of your mat and out the door. But, being able to let go of those attachments is the whole point of practicing. Even just to spend a minute or two in savasana is better than none at all - and is that one extra minute at work or school really going to make a difference? Enjoy your savasana - let it soak in, and you'll find that your whole life feels less urgent and hectic.

Here are five of my favorite songs for savasana - they all have a sort of floating, suspended quality to them - like time doesn't exist. I love when a song does that.

1) The Cinematic Orchestra "To Build a Home"
My anusara teacher, Ali, played this in class one night and I immediately went home and downloaded it. It is a beautiful song that uses silence as effectively as it uses sound. Never underestimate the power of silence and pauses in music.

2) Arvo Part "Alina"
I discovered Estonian composer Arvo Part in a music history class during my sophomore year of college, and he has stuck with me ever since. All of his music is very minimalist and this piece is no exception - another great example of how silence can be a note. This piece feels endless to me, in a good way.

3) S. Carey "In the Stream"
S. Carey (who works with Bon Iver) has a deep passion for minimalist composers like Part, as well as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, and you can really tell in his music - lovely, moving and contemplative.

4) Jonsi "Hengilas"
Jonsi is the lead singer for Sigur Ros, who I also love - this song has a very expansive quality that just carries me away the second I hear it.

5) Eric Whitacre "The Seal Lullabye"
I would say without hesitation that Eric Whitacre is my favorite living choral composer. We sang his "A Boy and a Girl" my senior year in the St. Olaf Choir and it broke my heart every time. This is one of his newer works and I love it to pieces.

Do you practice yoga at home? What is your favorite music to relax to? To practice to? Let me know, I am always looking to expand my musical library :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thailand Honeymoon Recap Part II: "Wat's Up?" aka Day 2 in Bangkok

The second day in Bangkok was our big, touristy sight-seeing day so get ready for lots of temples and amazing photos! Unfortunately, this was also the day it rained all day. August is the front-end of rainy season in Thailand, so we had cloud cover and drizzle on and off the whole time we were in Bangkok, but this day was by far the rainiest.

For our sight-seeing adventure, we decided to hit up public transportation again, since many of the gorgeous temples and palaces are right along the ferry line. Our first stop was the King's Palace - the King's Palace was built in the 1700's by King Rama I when he decided to move the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok, and it is basically a giant complex of buildings and temples that are intricately decorated and full of gorgeous details.

King's Palace, Bangkok

King's Palace, Bangkok

King's Palace

King's Palace

King's Palace

King's Palace

I wore pants under my dress for the very purpose of avoiding offending people and having to wear this skirt-thing... apparently Lulu Wunder Unders do not count as pants. Still had to wear the skirt.

King's Palace

Many-headed dragon!

King's Palace

The colors were just amazing

King's Palce Guards

Guards at the King's Palace

That is honestly just a small sample of the pictures I took at the King's palace - there were so many beautiful details it was hard to even know where to look next! After the King's Palace we were hungry so we ducked into a little noodle stall for lunch. There were a bunch of locals eating there so we figured it must be a good bet! This soup might not look like anything special but it was quite excellent :) I love that we always got a selection of different chiles and spices, so you can flavor your soup however you want - it is a very individualized eating experience.


Next we went to Wat Pho - also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (you'll see why), is one of the oldest and largets wats in Bangkok. Prior to building the temple, the site functioned as a center of education for traditional Thai medecine, and the statues were built to show yoga positions - my kind of place! The Wat was built in the 1700's (arond the same time as the King's Palace) and contains over 1,000 buddha images.

Pretty pleased with myself after ringing the gong near the entrance of Wat Pho

...pretty pleased with my gong ringing skillz

The huge reclining buddha statue - one of the largest buddha images in Bangkok

Huge Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Big buddha's feet are inlaid with mother of pearl designs

Wat Pho Reclining Buddha

...smaller buddha near big buddha's left leg

Wat Pho

When we walked out of Wat Pho was when it really started coming down - literally pouring. We had planned on going to one more Wat (Wat Arun) right afterwards, so we decided to just wait out the rain.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho was very wet.

Wat Pho

We sought refuge in a smaller section of the temple where we found this large seated buddha. Out of respect, you are never supposed to sit with your feet facing the buddha - but a lot of tourists didn't know this and were very confused by security guards constantly telling them to "sit politely!"

On our way to catch the ferry to Wat Arun...

The rain didn't really let up, but we decided to ferry over to Wat Arun anyways, and grabbed some grilled bananas at the stand pictured above on our way over. The grilled bananas were one of my favorite things in Bangkok (I know I say that about...basically every food I ate in Bangkok...but it's always true) - tiny bananas grilled for a crispy outside and soft inside, and very slightly salted.

Wat Arun is another buddhist temple, and was built shortly after Wat Pho and the King's Palace. Apparently it was named the "Temple of Dawn" because of the way the light reflects off of the central tower...but with all the rain we kind of missed that effect.

Wat Arun

No sass allowed at Wat Arun!

No sass allowed at Wat Arun!... or maybe it's no shorts allowed. Possibly both.

Wat Arun

From far away the whole wat looks very grey, but up close you can see there is actually a multitude of subtle colors

Wat Arun

... and then I spotted these stairs to the top of the tower. Because I'm never one to turn down a challenge, even if it is an imaginary challenge in my head posed by an inanimate object, I immediately decided I must climb them. In the pouring rain with no umbrella. But clearly I was not alone:

climbed it.

...and the view was pretty great, even though a lot of it was blocked by cloud cover

Oh...maybe that's why.

...yet somehow, I had failed to think through the fact that once I climbed up the ridiculously steep, wet and slippery stairs, I would then have to climb down them. The steps were probably 4x as tall as they were wide, making for a very slow, backwards descent.

...why we decided to climb these stairs in the pouring rain is beyond me

Completely drenched, contemplating the wisdom of my decision


For dinner we hit up a favorite restaurant of Ben's - Cabbages and Condoms! Don't let the slightly offensive name fool you - this restaurant is fantastic and (mostly) totally appropriate. Cabbages and Condoms is actually founded by the Population and Community Development Association, an NGO that is active in promoting family planning and preventing the spread of AIDS in Thailand.

What is the name of this place again...?

...wait what is this place called??!

... thumbs up for safety!

Thumbs up for safety!

Cabbages and Condoms

Ben enjoys a very manly looking beverage

Penang Curry!

Partially consumed Penang Curry... mmmmm....

On the way home I stopped to pick up dessert!....

Moon Cake

...a Moon Cake!

Moon Cakes are served in Asia during the mid-autumn festival, which is one of the most important Chinese festivals. They come in a variety of flavors but are usually very sweet and dense, and often have an egg yolk in the center to symbolize the full moon (yes, sounds weird I know...). I tried moon cakes for the first time in Singapore four years ago, and I actually quite like them - they are kind of similar to Japanese mochi, which I also enjoy, but they are really dense and rich so it's best to just eat them in small pieces. This cake was flavored with lotus seed and it was maybe my favorite mooncake ever. Very delicate and sweet.

...that's all for Bangkok day 2! Stay tuned!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

They say time flies...

...when it is the WEEKEND! Saturday and Sunday flew by far too quickly, and now I'm back to the daily grind. Ben started work last week too - his students don't actually show up until after labor day, but the teachers have all started and are in the thick of curriculum planning.

Anyways, I kicked off the weekend by helping my little sister get tatted up! Julianna has been wanting a tattoo for a years and on Friday she finally went to St. Sabrina's for her appointment - I met her there and we got ice cream afterwards, and then went home to say hi to Ben and watch part of the Twins game.


Handing out Thank-You cards in person = saving on stamps!


The tattooed foot - all bandaged up

We also had time after the tattoo appointment to shop at one of my favorite stores - Patina on Lyndale. Every once in a while I come across a product that makes me think, "I have no idea who ever decided to make this or why - but I'm SO glad they did!"


Kali Mints!

Seriously. Who sat down and thought I know what will be a GREAT gift idea - curry-flavored mints based on the hindu goddess of death and destruction. EVERYONE WILL WANT THEM.

Well...everyone may not want them. Which is probably why they were on the 50% off sale shelf. But I want them...and that's what matters, right??


On Saturday we spent the whole day at the MN Renaissance Festival, which is pretty much a yearly event for me and my close friends. When my friend Tessa and I were little, we were totally obsessed with dragons - not much has changed! We went to a free beer tasting hosted by Schell's, a local brewery out of New Ulm, and wandered around enjoying the festivities.

Yesterday Ben and I hit up the Kingfield Farmer's market. The Kingfield market is the only one within walking distance of our place, but it's only open on Sundays and choir starts up again the week after next so we've been trying to get there as much as possible.



The Chef Shack - a local food truck favorite


Fresh local raspberries in an adorable carton


Melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookie from Bramblewood Cottage Bakery

On our way home, we stopped at a playground - I can't get enough of playgrounds.


I am a huge nerd...but you already knew that


Ben really likes candid shots...


For dinner, I chopped up some potatoes and summer squash from last week's farmer's market bounty. I wanted an indian-inspired preparation, so I tossed them with coconut oil, salt and curry powder before roasting.


We served them alongside farmer's market salmon (also baked in the oven) and some fresh fruit for dessert - I love late summer fruits and will be so sad when they are gone :(

Hope you all had a great weekend, too!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thailand Honeymoon Recap Part I: Travel and Day 1 in Bangkok!

FINALLY. Now that we've been back for two weeks, I'll start splicing in some honeymoon recaps :)

As usual, I procrastinated packing until the bitter end and was up frantically throwing things into my suitcase until almost midnight - somehow this did not deter my efforts to make a video blog and prepare several peanut butter pitas.


I was, though, pretty proud of myself for successfuly packing everything I needed for two weeks in a carry-on and giant purse...and I'm a girl! A girl who really likes clothes. This was a serious victory

All packed and ready!

We met Ben's mom at 5:30 (we were storing his car in their garage as we only have one garage space) and took off for the airport! I had my usual airport breakfast Starbucks coffee + oatmeal, and by the late morning we were in Chicago!

At the Chicago airport

Unfortunately this was really only the very beginning of our travels.... we still had a 14-hour flight to Seoul Incheon, a 4 hour layover in Seoul, and a 5.5 hour flight to Bangkok.

No big deal right?

Luckily I was well-equipped with entertainment and reading material.

Reading material - crucial for a 14 hour flight

As weird as it sounds, I love exploring new airports. I had never been to Seoul Incheon before and it was beautiful - very open and spacious and pristine feeling, and they had planters full of orchids near all of the gates - perfectly spaced out of course. Very Korean.

Seoul Incheon airport

Flowers at Seoul Incheon

I actually managed to sleep on the flight from Seoul to Bangkok...which never happens (I have a lot of trouble sleeping on planes... give me a bed or couch and I'm out like a light, but anything else and...tough luck) but at least I was sort of refreshed when we arrived!

To balance the cost of the resort we were staying at later on, we booked a room at a $20/night hostel in Bangkok - Ben had stayed there before and assured me that it was a really cool place. Honestly, the point of traveling to Bangkok is to experience Bangkok, and you can do that just as well (if not better) from a hostel as you can from a luxury hotel. The Suk 11 was adorable - tons of charm, and full of a diverse array of travelers. The place had a very laid-back, bohemian vibe with wooden walls and crafty/snarky decorations. Two of my favorite things about the hostel were 1) the writing and drawings all over the walls from people who've stayed there and b) the hallways that are designed to look like little wooden walkways through the jungle.

Finally - at the hostel in Bangkok!

Suk 11 Hostel in Bangkok

The hallway at Suk 11, designed to look like an old wooden walkway

I was so glad to see a bed!

Thumbs up for sleeping in a bed

...but Ben was even more glad.

...Ben is all over this sleeping thing

...and obviously since we'd just been traveling for 3o hours or so, we decided to go out for a drink! No matter how tired I am from travelling, when I get to my destination I'm always too excited to go to sleep. We hit up this place: a bar inside of a bus that plays reggae music! I don't remember what the drink I got was called, but it was delicious.

IMG_3290 - Copy

The next morning, we were up bright and early to explore the city. Breakfast at the hostel was simple but good - a variety of fresh fruit, bread with jam and a delicious spread made out of coconut and iced tea. They also had a selection of Thai pudding-type-dishes: I tried one with banana and coconut milk that was quite excellent. After breakfast: exploring!

first day exploring Bangkok

One of the coolest things about Bangkok is the street food. It is amazing...and ridiculously cheap! Fried and grilled fish of every kind, fresh fruit like you wouldn't believe, and my personal favorite - I have no idea what they are actually called but I call them "noodle bags" - just a clear plastic bag that you fill with noodles, whatever veggies and spices you want, and broth. Yum.

Bangkok Street Food

For lunch we stopped at an organic green-market near Suk11 and tried their noodle soup - it was loaded with fresh veggies and perfectly spiced...maybe one of my favorite meals from the whole trip.


After lunch we caught the train to the ferry station and took the ferry to the amulet market - the ferries are basically part of public transportation in Bangkok, because often it's much faster to go down the canal than to try to drive through traffic. The elevated trains are fantastic, but they don't go everywhere so eventually you have to find another means of transit.

The amulet market is one of Ben's favorite places in Bangkok and I can see why. The name refers to the small buddhist statues and tokens that are the main shopping attraction in that area, but they sell tons of other things there, too - flowers, clothes, random trinkets - and of course delicious and amazing street food.

Scenes from the Amulet Market

Scenes from the Amulet Market

A bite of totally-bad-for-you street food was tempting me...after all, how many times in my life am I going to be in Bangkok right? It smelled so amazing I couldn't resist, so I got a giant fried shrimp ball (basically, little shrimp mixed with batter and some spices, then fried like a donut and served with spicy sauce) and split it with Ben. Totally worth it.

Street food at the Amulet Market

After the amulet market we shlepped back to the hotel for dinner at their outdoor restaurant. I had a fantastic yellow curry, and we somehow ended up having post-dinner drinks with a random Norwegian guy named John we met at the restaurant. We met him because he overheard us speaking English from several tables away:

John: You are speaking english!! Are you American?
Me: We are!
John: Where are you from in America?
Me: Minnesota
John: Ah! I wonder if maybe I am related to you!
Me: (confused) Where are you from?
John: I am from Norway
Me: (Ben and I pause and look at each other)...yeah that's actually entirely possible

(we're both half-Norwegian)

John had just retired from the Norwegian secret service, as crazy as that sounds, and was moving to Thailand permanently to be with the woman he adorable :) After dinner we were pretty beat, so we went to bed to rest up for another day of trekking around Bangkok.

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