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Monday, January 30, 2012

Living The Questions, Con't: Intention vs. Result

“The wise man lets go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone.  Yoga is skill in action.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

I'm still pretty pumped up from the workshop this weekend - even though I'm pretty sore I was actually planning on going to class tonight.  But...then I remembered that have to fast for 12 hours because I'm getting my cholesterol and blood sugar measured tomorrow at 7:30, and if I went to class I wouldn't be able to eat dinner until 8:30 or later.  So...the universe has spoken.  Instead I'm sitting at home writing a blog about Kant.

This was actually sort of the entry I'd been meaning to write yesterday but then I went off on a tangent about vasistasana and never returned.  I've been thinking a lot about the relationship (or not) between intention and result, and how this relates to life both on and off the mat.  This pretty much ties back to my chatturanga/cobra example from yesterday, and the relationship of the inner alignment to the outer form.

Whenever I think about intention vs. result I think about a thought experiment my professor ran by us while we were studying Kant.  Yep...Kantian philosophy.  Letting the freak flag fly today.  And as long as we're at it, senior year three of my friends and I organized a game of what was essentially Philosophy Taboo.  The ligntning round involved one of us reading a passage from either Edmund Burke or Thomas Paine, and you had to guess who wrote it. 

The coolest people alive, probably

I'm pretty sure the following anecdote is something Professor Langerak just pulled out of his brain for us to noodle on and not actually from Kant, but here goes:  ay a King has two servants, and he sends them both into town to look for...something very important to him.  I can't remember what it was.  Let's say his puppy ran away and they're looking for the King's lost puppy.

I'm so alone...
Servant 1 wants to do a good job, so he looks high and low for the puppy, tracking down all sorts of leads and doing some serious puppy-detective work, but try as he might he comes home at the end of the day empty-handed.  Servant 2 is a lazy bastard and doesn't really give a shit about puppies, so instead of looking he goes to the tavern for a drink.  When he leaves, he coincidentally sees the puppy sitting right outside the door!  Hooray!  Servant 2 returns home triumphantly with the puppy.

Who should be rewarded?  In my mind and in Kant's, the answer is pretty obvious - live with intention, don't worry about the result.  There are definitely arguments against this; for example, good intentions can sometimes lead to bad or harmful results and vice versa.  

I guess my counter-argument would be that the reason good intentions lead to bad results is that the situation was misunderstood or only partially understood.  If someone takes an action with the best of intentions but lacks a key piece of information, and something bad happens that was not intended, we can usually figure out what went wrong and decide to fix it in the future.  If someone does something that will result in harm, and they fully realize that something bad will happen and in fact want this to happen, that's a totally different situation.  No amount of education or evaluation will make that person change their mind.  They know, they just don't care.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine told me about a situation at her work that is a great example of this.  They had an opening for a high-ranking position within the organization, and one of the people on the search committee - we'll call them Pat - had their eye on the position.  Pat had in fact been led to believe that they were being groomed for the position and that they were basically entitled to it.  However, the procedures and ethics of the organization called for a formal search process.

The reality is, Pat was not a good fit for the position.  They had neither the expertise nor the experience - so instead of doing what was right for the organization, Pat used their position of power to manipulate the process in order to set themselves up for getting the job.  Having that job was more important to Pat than doing the right thing, either ethically or for the health of the organization. Luckily some colleagues figured out what was going on and put a stop to it - but the aftermath was almost worse because Pat felt so entitled, and ended up hurting a lot of people in their attempt to get what they wanted.

Going after form before action is like trying to build a flimsy house on a fault line - when the ground shakes, everything falls apart.

When we're misaligned in yoga, we don't necessarily hurt others but we can hurt ourselves, mentally and physically.  I am a pretty competetive person by nature, and I don't mean that in the sense that I'm always trying to be better than everyone (except in competetive charades - then I am in it to win it), but more that I have a tendency to look at myself in comparison to others and think: "Why can't I do that? What's wrong with me?"  When I first began my yoga practice in 2009, I would look at someone doing a perfect Urdhva Danuarasana and all I could see was how lame I looked in comparison.  I tried to muscle myself into poses I wasn't ready for, just because I didn't want to look like a complete loser.  In that mindset, it was hard to see the shri in someone else's practice, because they were a mirror of my own failure.

It's really easy to get injured practicing this way, and I think a lot of people probably do.  What Anusara taught me was that the building blocks of the pose are more important than the final form.  For example, in Trikonasana, keeping the front leg straight and the spine lengthened is much more important than getting your hand to the ground.  The hand will come to the ground eventually, but it should evolve organically out of proper alignment, rather than being an end in itself. 

I think this theory can be applied to just about everything in life.  If we let go of our attachment to the result - the final form - and focus on the alignment, it's much easier to find peace with where we are.  Our mistakes and shortcomings are not failings - they're just where we are on the path.  When I look at my friends who've been practicing for like, 10 years, their urdhva danuarasana looks totally different than mine.  My pose is different than theirs, and that is OK.  If I concentrate on the alignment the beauty of the full form will come eventually.  If I try to shove myself into the pose, I'll hurt myself and my practice will be set back. 

In life, we often have no control over the results of our actions - our job, our salary, our appearance, our physical condition, our relationships are often dependent on the decisions of others.  Instead of striving for a perfect result, maybe we should focus on putting 100% into our actions, and let that be a goal in itself, without expecting anything from it.  In yoga, the benefit of the pose comes from the alignment, not from the outer form.  It's great to have the outer form as a road map.  We need it, otherwise we would lose the goal of where we were trying to go.  But, we have to be OK with the fact that we might not always get there.

This can change your me.

Alright I've wasted enough of your time.  I just thought of a whole other idea I could tack on the end of this thing but I'll save it for another time.  If you started reading this blog because of adorable kitten photos and random pics of what I did over the weekend you're probably feeling pretty misled right now. Sorry for all the words!!
"Even if, by some especially unfortunate fate or by the provision of nature, this [good] will should be wholly lacking in the power to accomplish its purpose; if with the greatest effort it should yet achieve nothing, and only the good will should remain (not, to be sure, as a mere wish but as the summoning of all the means in our power), yet it would, like a jewel, shine by its own light as something that has full value in itself."  ~ Immanuel Kant

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Live the Questions

I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if their were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way to the answer.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

You guys... I am SO fired up right now.

I am also sitting cross-legged on the couch with a bag of chips in front of me and a jar of salsa balancing on my feet.  You didn't really need to know that, but in case you were wondering I realize it's a terrible idea and that disaster is imminent.  When Ben comes home and finds salsa all over the couch, I'll blame it on the pets and only you and I will know the truth.

Anywho....  I just came home from a two-and-a-half day workshop with international yoga teacher Christina Sell.  I recently finished reading her second book, and couldn't wait to study with her in person. Every workshop I've been to has been amazing, but honestly I haven't felt this inspired since the immersion.

For those of you not familiar with Anusara yoga, Anusara is a school of tantric-based hatha yoga founded in 1997 by John Friend.  John was an Iyengar student who found that his own practice was beginning to deviate from the Iyengar philosophy, and he decided to found his own method.

In terms of metaphysical philosophy, the key differences between classical yoga (Iyengar) and tantric (Anusara) is that in the classical tradition, the physical world is inherently inferior to the spiritual world, and by practicing yoga and meditation we can glimpse the divine.  In tantra, the physical world is a manifestation of the divine, and yoga is the means by which we remember our true nature.  In terms of the physical practice, classical styles of yoga often focus more on the outer form, where as John Friend, wanted to turn the focus back on the alignment and the action behind the creation of that form.

One of my favorite examples of this is in the chatturanga to bujangasana (cobra) transition - until I took an Aunsara class, I'd always been told to keep my elbows pinned close to my body.  I started to have all sorts of problems with my shoulders and couldn't figure out why.  Turns out that in order to keep your shoulder safe, the armbone needs to stay plugged into the socket, which in the case of the shoulder is quite shallow.  When students only try to keep their elbows in, the shoulders tend to round forward and come unplugged, which can cause injury after too much repetition.  If you bring your hands and elbows a bit wider it's easier to plug your armbones in, keeping your shoulder joint safe.  It also makes it easier to bring the shoulderblades onto the back, facilitating a safer backbend.  Eventually you can bring the elbows in, but the most important thing is to keep the shoulders in alignment, whatever that looks like on the outside.  This is just one example of the much bigger picture of how Anusara is different.

Nerdyness.  I geek out over this stuff.

Anyways, last fall Anusara had a bit of what was referred to as an exodus.  To me that sounds a bit dramatic, but basically what happened was that three key members of the Anusara teaching community - Christina Sell being one of them - resigned their certifications.  Just this week Amy Ippoliti, another key member, handed hers in as well.  This had a lot of implications for them and their students, the nuances of which I won't go into here, but needless to say this wasn't taken lightly and there has been a lot of talk on the internets around what the heck was going on in Anusara yoga.  I was curious to see how her decision to split from Anusara would affect her teaching.

Oddly, the session I loved the most was the one I almost didn't sign up for - the teachers' session on sequencing.  I'm not a teacher, so I questioned whether I belonged there but I am so glad I decided to attend.  A lot of what I learned can be applied to my own practice - plus it's the kind of yoga-nerd fodder that I go crazy for.  Christina's sequencing is masterful, and she does an amazing job of breaking a pose down into its components, studying a pose's related poses and shapes, and working all of this into her sequencing in a way that is pretty genius.

Christina describes her teaching style as "making the obvious, obvious."  I'm about to do the same, so bear with me.  So...take a pose like the full form of vasistasana:
(not a picture of me, btw)

This pose is a combination of being able to balance in vasisthasana combined with the key actions of utthita hasta padangustasana:

Hey girl, I love when you inner spiral that top leg

...and think about the shape of these poses in comparison to utthita trikonasana.  I KNOW.  I could geek out over this for hours - figuring out which poses to use in order to prepare the body for another pose, and how these are all related to each other in terms of components, shapes, and key actions is just about my cup of tea.

One of the many things that made me fall in love with yoga - and especially with anusara yoga - is how it's challenged me to live the questions and look for the beauty in everything.  I can absolutely see where a combination of these two aims would lead to a break from a school or style.  If I keep living the questions I start to wonder why I should practice only one style.  I see so many wonderful things about each, and am hesitant to say yes, we should just pick one and live (or practice) only this way.

Anusara teachers moving away from the style is really not that crazy - after all, Anusara itself was formed when John Friend felt himself moving away from his teacher.  Christina did an amazingly skillful job of paying homage to both Friend and Iyengar, while at the same time creating something that integrates on both styles and builds on them.  We have the Anusara Alignment principles, and we have the bhandas and classical form...why do we need to choose between them?  Why can't we have both?  Together they may be even stronger than they are apart.

Yoga, by its nature, almost necessitates evolution and division.  If we are to be discerning students - if we are to keep living the questions - we must challenge our teachers.  But at the same time, we are asked to look for sameness and harmony even in the most glaring contradictions and differences.  It's not easy...but it isn't really supposed to be.

ANYWAYS.  I learned a ton this weekend, and am just pumped about yoga and life in a major way.  The tapas are fully stoked.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

We're Almost Really Old

Hi friends - I know my blogging has been super inconsistent the last week or so, but I've just been really busy.  I decided to fly out to Montana at the last minute to see my grandmother over the weekend... like, ticket cost an arm and a leg, in and out of the state in less than 24 hours.  She's recovering really well, but last week was just a reminder that anything can happen, and I'm glad I went out to see her since I have no actual plans to travel to MT until August.

My trip was so short that I actually didn't bring any luggage - just the clothes I wore (jeans, t-shirt, comfy sweater) plus a giant purse with an extra t-shirt and underwear, pajama pants, toiletries, wallet, phone, and 3 books (priorities..).  Oh and I packed my lunch for the plane.  Because I'm a weirdo like that.

This is better than pretzels.

Who says girls can't travel light?
Ready to Rock & Roll

I'm always excited to pack my own lunches for plane travel, but for some reason when the time comes to actually eat my delicious concoction, I become overwhelmed by the irrational fear that my plane neighbors are silently judging me.  Like, who is this crazy girl that busts out a tupperware of salad on a 2 hour flight??? Um yeah.  That would be me.

This salad is called "what is sitting in my pantry" salad.  I'm actually quite proud of how this turned out considering I threw it together on the fly.  The dressing is the best part really... so good I think I want to share it.

But first... yesterday was  Ben's birthday!  He turned 29...and in about 2 weeks, I also turn 29 which means we are almost 30.  We're adults for real now.

for some reason, this doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would when I was younger.  In fact, it doesn't bother me at all.  When I was still struggling to figure my life out, I really resisted growing up because it made me feel inadequate.  How could I still be so lost when I was 23, 24, 25 years old?   And then, once I became more confident in who I was and where I was headed, that fear just went away.  I love the age that I am, and I'm pretty sure I always will, whether that age is 30, 50, or 85.

Ben's not huge on birthdays, but I thought it would be fun to have a mini celebration with some of his favorite things - pie, scotch and the Daily Show.  I picked up a frozen pie from the co-op on my way home from yoga, and as soon as I was out of the shower we sat down to pie and scotch, and watched John Stewart mercilessly mocking our political system.  It was grand.

Not homemade
Also not homemade

B-Day fist pound

Too much scotch for Sidney!
(...totally kidding, we are responsible pet owners...)
 Tonight is my sis's last night in town before she heads to Australia for a four-month internship, so I'll probably be hanging with her this evening.  Which reminds me I need to buy her some Reese's PB cups for the road.  Apparently these are not common down under, and who would want to go 4 months without a Reeses.  Not I.

And in other news:


Tahini-Lime Dressing- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 teaspoon almond butter
- 1/4-1/3 cup water (enough to make a dressing-like consistency without dampening the
   flavor too much.  Amount depends on the thickness of your tahini)
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (or leave out if you hate cilantro)
- salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, stir together.  You'll have some leftover dressing so make sure to have a small jar or tupperware handy where you can store the extra.

The salad itself is open to infinite variations.  I used chickpeas, wheatberries, kale and part of an onion.  I like having a mix of beans/protien, grains and greens/veggies but you can honestly use whatever you want.  Mix all salad ingredients together to make however much you feel is reasonable for 1 serving.  Add salad dressing and toss to coat, until you feel like you have enough dressing.  Again, totally your choice.  Some people love a ton of dressing, some like just a little.  I'm probably somewhere in the middle.

Have a lovely Thursday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Everything Old Becomes New Again

We often make the mistake of thinking that current fads are some brand new phenomenon.  Take our culture's obsession dieting and thin-ness for example.  While it's true that it is relatively recent when you consider the history of...the earth...extreme dieting is not actually as modern as many of us think.

Last week one of my colleagues came across this Wellness Timeline from the Hartman Group, and I couldn't resist sharing a few of the more entertaining nuggets.  Did you know that calorie counting goes back as far as 1917?  And that low-carb diets first appeared in 1825??? 

If you know me, you know I think fad diets are a) dangerous and b) useless and I feel like this pretty much proves my point.  If it didn't work in 1825, or again in 1863, it probably won't work now.  Wait until you see some of the crazy shit people have done in the name of 'dieting'... insanity.

1820 - Vinegar and Water diet made popular by Lord Byron
1825 - Low Carb diets first appear
1850 - Establishment of the Vegetarian Society
1853 - Potato chips are invented
1863- Banting's Low Carb diet
1887 - Ephiram Cutter publishes a book on cancer and the diet
1917 - "Calorie Counting Diet" by Lulu Hunt Peters is published
1925 - The Cigarette Diet (!!!) "Reach for a Lucky Instead!"
           ...because everyone knows that lung cancer is preferable to not losing weight...
1941 - First diet pills are marketed
1954 - The TAPE WORM diet (yes that is exactly what it sounds like)
1955 - The first McDonalds opens its doors
1961 - Weight Watchers holds its first meeting
1982 - Ketchup is declared a vegetable
1984 - 7-11 Introduces the 44-oz Super Big Gulp (ew)
2002 - Dr. Atkins "New Diet Revolution" is published
2005 - Atkins files for bankruptcy

So...that happened...

So, long story short, taking extreme measures to achieve ridiculous standards of beauty is not a new thing.  In China, women used to bind their own feet - literally breaking the bones - in order to have dainty feet.  In many countries in asia, people use creams to lighten their skin...or in more extreme cases, bleaching treatments that can permanently ruin their skin.  

You might copy Shah Rukh's skin, but he will never tell you the secrets of his hair.

I'm not sure I have a larger point here, other than that it makes me sad to realize just how far back our obsession with attaining physical perfection dates.  There's a big difference between wanting to be the best version of yourself, and wanting to be someone else.  So...yeah...really nothing other than that.  

If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember the tapeworm diet.
That is all.
Happy Monday.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vegetable and Bean Soup

So apparently, I am a total moron.  I realized just today that the mint-flavored tea I drink constantly at work and which I totally thought was an herbal tea, is actually a black tea.  Oops.  That might explain why I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep.  No more mint tea for me.

Soup is probably OK though
 In other news, winter has finally arrived in the Twin Cities - we had our first below-zero temps, and the first snow that has actually stayed on the ground. Considering that by this time last year we'd had so much snowfall that both St. Paul and Minneapolis had already blown through their Snow Emergency budgets (and that was just the beginning...), I'll take it.

Also, I realize the title of this recipe is ridiculously boring, but the soup isn't.  It is definitely familiar and comforting, but certainly not boring.  My mom always used to make a huge batch of vegetable soup in the winter, put it on the porch to freeze (which is what you do when you live in Minnesota and your soup pot os too big to fit in the freezer) and we'd eat vegetable soup for weeks.  Now that it is ridiculously cold, I want soup constantly - an IV of soup would be lovely.  But instead I'll just use a inefficient. 

Mama says, eat your vegetables!
 The largest pot I have is a seven-quart Staub so my batch is probably smaller than hers, and the recipe is definitely not quite the same, but the basic idea is there: warm, comforting, scads of vegetables.

- 1.5 cups dried cannellini beans (about 3/4 pound)
- 2 large (or 3 small) cloves garlic
- olive oil
- salt
- 1 yellow onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- 4 carrots, sliced crosswise into small circles (about 1/8-1/4 inch thick)
- 2 celery stalks, sliced into crescents (same thickness as carrots)
- 1 zucchini, sliced into half circles (same thickness as carrots & celery)
- 2.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 4-5 fresh sage leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1/2 bunch kale, torn into smallish pieces
- 2 cups chopped cabbage
- 1 14 oz can roasted crushed tomatoes
Soak the beans overnight.  Drain the beans and put them in a large pot with enough water to cover by about 2 inches.  Add 1 tsp of salt and the garlic cloves, and cook for 1 hour on medium/low heat.  Stir occasionally.

In a large soup pot or cast-iron pot, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the carrots, onion and celery and sautee for about 10 minutes.  Add the zucchini, broth and herbs and bring to a simmer; then add the tomatoes (whole can, including juices), cabbage and kale.  Cover and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes.  Add beans and their water, and cook for another 30 minutes or so (until beans are done).  Add salt to taste. 

I also topped mine with shredded parmasean and I highly recommend it.  Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions, mostly because I think they're kind of lame.  I'm more a fan of the idea that if you want to change your life, change it now - no need to put it off until Janary 1.  This year, though I did make one.  After three years without any TV at all (aside from Hulu and Netflix streaming), Ben and I decided to order cable when we moved into our new place. 

Even though our original purpose in setting up DirecTV was to make sure we could catch all the Twins games (and how fun was that this year...), we pretty quickly found ourselves turning on the TV and channel surfing whenever we were bored, just to "see what was on." Occasionally we would discover little nuggets like a documentary about Giant Squid, but more often than not we'd just watch a bazillion reruns of something we felt ambivalent about.  Well I've decided to put an end to that.  My New Years Resolution-ish thing is that when I am bored, I'll read instead of turning on the TV.

I LOVE reading - when I was in grade school I got in trouble all the time for reading during class, and my parents were scared I would get hit by a car and die because I often walked down our (busy) street with my nose in a book.
Reading doesn't just mean books - it can mean nerdy magazines, too!

I also realized recently that many of the books I count as my "favorites", I read between the ages of 16 and 20.  Considering how much I've changed in the last 8-10 years, I wondered whether I would still love these books as much now as I did then.  I resolved to re-read all of them, alternating new books with old until I had finished my all-time favorite novels and come to a conclusion as to whether they still belong on the list.  On my mental bedside table are:
- Les Miserables
- Crime and Punishment
- The entire Dealing with Dragons series
- The Poisonwood Bible
- Naked
- The Toilers of the Sea
- Treasure Island
...I'm sure I'll think of more as I continue along.  I didn't add Shalimar the Clown or any of the Harry Potter books because I've read those relatively recently.

I made it through The Toilers of the sea and Treasure Island on the honeymoon, and am in the middle of Crime and Punishment at the moment.  Verdict far, I love these books even more now than I did when I was younger.  I think the perspective of age and having lived in the real world a bit gives them more depth and flavor then they had when I was in college.  Don't get me wrong, I know I'm still young - but the distance from 18 to 28 feels like a million years.

For someone who loves a good novel, I have a lot of non-fiction on my bedside table right now...

Speaking of the Toilers of the Sea, my mom suggested sending my grandma a book for Christmas, I knew right away that this was the one I wanted to send her. My grandma, for better or worse, has always taken a lot of her reading suggestions from me...and by that I mean, she looks at the cover of whatever I'm reading, goes out and buys it for herself, and then calls me a week later to tell me what a weird book it was.  But for some reason she keeps buying books I like.  I can't figure it out.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, my grandma was in a car accident.  She passed out at the wheel which, it turned out, was because her heart was not pumping enough oxygen to her brain and she needed a pacemaker.  My mom flew out to Montana to see her for Thanksgiving, and grandma cancelled her plans to fly here for Christmas because she still wasn't well enough to travel.
Since she missed seeing us at Christmas, my parents decided to fly out for a visit last weekend.  They called on Saturday evening as Ben and I were heading out to dinner, and within five seconds of talking to my grandma on the phone I could tell something wasn't right.  Even after her accident and at Christmas she'd been mentally sharp, but now she sounded like she had no idea what was going on and wasn't really processing what I was saying.  My sister noticed a big difference too, and obviously so did my parents.

My mom was getting increasingly worried so she took her to the doctor on Monday to run a bunch of tests - and they did a CAT scan too, just in case.  Good thing, because the scan came back showing two subdural hematomas.
Luckily they were able to get her into the ICU right away for emergency surgery, but we're not really sure if she'll recover to her usual level of functioning.  Maybe the bleeding was the result of her car accident, maybe not - chronic hematomas can go undetected for weeks, but she also had a CAT scan shortly after her accident that showed nothing.  So really we have no idea.

Anyway, life got busy and I kept forgetting to send her the book. I wish I had, because she could have read it easily in the three weeks since Christmas - and now she might never read it.  My mom and I used to joke about how my grandma would probably live forever.  She beat cancer twice and seemed determined to keep living if for no other reason than to give a big old middle finger to the world.  My grandma is a complicated lady but that doesn't mean I don't love her.

We think we have all this time with people and then suddenly, we realize that maybe we don't.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quiz: Which Twin Cities grocery store should you shop at?

The other day as I was reading blogs during lunch, I was inspired by Eden's grocery-store quiz to come up with one of my own.  I realized while reading hers that many grocery-store behaviors may be regionally specific, or even specific to certain areas of town, and that my Trader Joe's shopper may be quite different from yours.  As such, this is a very Minneapolis-focused quiz.  Enjoy!

1) When do you usually do your grocery shopping?
    a. At 3pm on Saturday, or basically whenever the masses decide to venture to the store.
    b. Whenever.  I refuse to work for the man and have a non-traditional/artsy job or am
        a student, so I shop at random times.
    c. 2am on a Tuesday, cause I'm drunk and want pizza.
    d. One of two options:  1 - I don't, my nanny does that for me while I'm at work
        making 6 figures.  2 - Anytime, cause my significant other/spouse is at work making
        6 figures.

2) When I go grocery shopping, my mood is usually:
    a. I am stressed out and ready to kill some bitches.  In the parking lot, in line, in the
        frozen foods section, wherever.  If you come between me and my 10 boxes of cereal
        or the last parking spot, prepare to die.
    b. Kind of spacy.  I tend to wander aimlessly about the produce section, making sure to
        tell all the other customers that the grapes here are THE BOMB.
    c. Meh.
    d. I pretend I'm in no hurry, but really I'm pissed that you are walking so slowly. I am
        totally better than you anyways.

3) When I go to the store, I am usually wearing:
    a. Jeans and a sweater or sweatshirt
    b. Whatever the hipsters are wearing.  Most likely got it at a vintage store (or at Urban
        Outfitters, but I'll still say it's vintage if anyone asks)
    c. The same sweatpants I've been wearing all day and probably slept in last night
    d. Clothes that make me look like a hobo but actually cost $5,000.  Or hipster-ish
        clothes that an actual hipster could never afford.

4) I drive a:
    a. Modestly priced 4-door sedan or small SUV.
    b. Old beat-up VW
    c. Old beat-up anything
    d. Prius.  Or BMW.

5) In line, I:
    a. Don't care if you have to wait behind me while I make the only cashier in this line
        bag my 5,000 items.  I was here first bitch.  And now I will go home and feed my
        family of 5 and dog.
    b. Strike up a conversation about how AMAZING this local organic milk is.
    c.  Have no problem going through the self-checkout with an entire cart full of groceries,
        even if I have no clue how to use the machine.  If not using the self-checkout, I am
        probably old and will pay with a check.
    d. Talk on my cell phone.

Mostly A's - Apparently you have a massochistic streak because you love shopping at Trader Joe's!  You, brave soul, are willing to face poorly designed parking lots and murderous soccer moms just to score a good deal on some frozen Channa Masala, hummus, and $4 Chardonnay.  Good for you!  Just try not to go on a Saturday afternoon because you may not live to tell the tale.

These people have clearly learned their lesson.

Mostly B's - Congratulations, you shop at The Wedge!  You probably have a couple of tattoos, love yoga and 89.3 the current, and can mysteriously afford all kinds of organic and local produce even though you are a grad student living in a studio apartment.  And just FYI, it's OK that you shop at Urban Outfitters.  Just make sure to put on deodorant before you start trying on clothes.

Don't forget your bike!
Mostly C's - You, my friend, are a Rainbow Foods shopper.  You don't really care whether your produce is organic or your meat free range, because let's face it, you're pretty much here for the potato chips and hot pockets anyway.  You keep doing your thing, but please leave the self-checkout for those who are actually competent at using it.

Man and Woman Grocery Shopping; Full Grocery Cart
"Let's try that newfangled self check out line!"
stock image...hence the large X through it
Mostly D's - You shop at Whole Foods.  During the day you make billions of dollars getting your guilty clients off by finding loopholes in the legal system, or figuring out how to deny someone insurance coverage because of a "pre-existing condition" (being left-handed is a pre-existing condition right??) but it's cool because you give a ton of money to Save the Dolphins or some shit.  You are the epitome of Minnesota Nice, and will smile benevolently at me while secretly judging me for the contents of my grocery cart as you tell me about your life-changing journey to an Ashram in India.  Don't lie to me.  It was a resort on St. Lucia but whatever.

Obviously I am not one to judge.  I shop at the Wedge all the time and my stereotype of a Wedge shopper is pretty descriptive of me, except that a) I don't dress like a hipster or have any tattoos, and b) I am no longer a student and am drawing an actual salary that helps me to afford my organic produce.

My main experience with Rainbow Foods comes from the Lake and Emerson Rainbow.  And yes, I have been there for drunk hot pockets at 3am several times.  And I am seriously convinced that Trader Joe's (at least the ones in St. Louis Park and St. Paul) purposely design their parking lots just to mess with everyone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Um, no.

So I mentioned that Monday is my six month anniversary.  One thing you should know about the wedding industry is that once they have your contact info, they never, ever leave you alone.  Ever.

Sometimes this is fun, as when you are invited to a fashion gala (with free drinks and food) at your bridal shop.  Sometimes, this means you receive endless e-mails from wedding websites that you no longer want anything to do with.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from The Knot (  We signed up for The Knot solely for the purpose of creating a wedding website, where we could store all of the details of our registry, hotel details, times of various things etc.  The subject line of the e-mail read "It's Been 6 Months Since Your Wedding..."

"How nice," I thought.  "A congratulations e-mail."  But instead, I opened up the message to find....this.

"Get knocked up already, so we can send you more e-mails"

Because I've been married for about half a second, I obviously want nothing more than to pop a few midgets out of my uterus, so instead of "hey, congratulations you made it through the first six months of wedded bliss!" I get "Why the F&%$ aren't you making babies yet?"

Well, The Knot...I'll tell you why.  It's because we are in absolutely no hurry to have a baby anytime soon.  We love that we can go out to dinner, yoga, a movie or a concert without having to worry about finding a sitter.  Our list of places we want to travel is at least a mile long.  And honestly, right now we're having a great time just being married, and savoring being together after two years when our version of a "dinner date" was usually just eating at the same time while on skype. 

My parents waited eight years before they had me, and still say it was the best decision they ever made because it gave them time to establish their relationship and have fun together, and create a great space into which to bring a child.

I was thinking about this a lot while brushing my teeth last night - for whatever reason, I have a lot of deep and profound thoughts in front of the bathroom sink - and I started to wonder why our culture seems to have such a problem with just being happy where you are.  What is it that makes us feel like we need to be constantly moving towards the next bigger and better thing?

In my Anusara class, our teacher has been talking a lot about staying.  As hard as it is to move forward, sometimes it is harder to just stay - in the moment, on the mat, in your practice, in your relationship.

A few months ago in a hot vinyasa class at a different studio, we did a sequence moving from Figure Four, to a forward fold with the same leg position, and then to the arm balance Eka Pada Galavasana.  I was in the forward fold with my hands and the floor ready to move into the arm balance, when the teacher said: "Before you move into the arm balance, ask yourself why you are going there.  In this case, the arm balance might actually be the easier option."

Eka Pada is the more "advanced" pose, but that doesn't mean it was the most advanced thing to do in this situation.  I asked myself if I wanted to go into the arm balance because it was where my real work needed to happen, or whether I just wanted to get out of the forward fold. 

Instead of moving on, I decided to stay where I was.  As I hovered over my disgustingly sweaty mat, my focuse became more clear.  I began to notice where I needed to make small adjustments, and as I made these adjustments I felt how they would inform the arm balance, making me steadier there as well.

It is not an easy thing to stay, or to be steady.  Your endurance starts to give, and uncomfortable sensations build up that make you want to get out - but the real practice is to breathe and stay calm through the discomfort. It might feel like it will never end, but eventually it will.  And when it does, the way you commit to this moment will inform the way you live when it's over, and later when you do decide it's time to move on to the next big thing.

Yes, Ben and I definitely want to have children someday - that's always been part of the plan.  And I know that when we do, it will be because it's the right time for both of us, not because it's just the next logical step for married people.  I also know that our kids will be born on a solid, loving foundation that my husband and I build together, by learning to live deeply in our relationship and stay true when things are difficult.

Instead of always wanting something bigger and better, explore the place where you are more deeply.  You might find that there is more joy, more love, and more to learn.

Sorry that this went from snarking on the knot to cheesy and reflective rambling with basically no segue.

In summary: The Knot needs to settle the F down, and yoga is awesome.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thai Green Curry

I can hardly believe Ben and I have already been married for six months!... cause it feels like 50 YEARS!!!!

Totally kidding. 

Anyway, we're spending our six-month anniversary...working.  It's almost like our one-month anniversary when we were lying on a beach reading books and drinking beer all day.  Oh wait...that's not the same at all.

So honeymoon.  I never finished doing recaps, because as it turns out, life just keeps happening when you return from vacation and I kept coming up with other things I wanted to write about.  But I DO want to finish writing about the trip...but I also don't want to waste your time.


Instead of just boring photos and "on this day we blah blah blah," I will wrap up my last two honeymoon recap posts with two recipes!  This first one is an earnest attempt to replicate one of the most amazing meals I've ever had, and the second will be one of the three dishes Ben and I learned to cook at our Thai cooking class.

We begin pur adventure five months ago today....

Ben and I decided that as tempting as it was to spend every single day lying around reading, we should spend at least one day exploring Koh Pha Ngan.  One of our favorite spots to eat on the island also offered a taxi service, so on August 9 we asked our buddy Pu to take us to some of his favorite spots.

The first place we visited was a buddhist meditation center, with an amazing view of the island.

Buddhist Meditation Center on Koh Pha Ngan

Pu, our tour guide, really liked taking sneaky photos...

Our next stop was Thongsala, the main village on the island.  It's definitely more touristy than where we stayed - a lot of backpackers and travelers, tons of stores all selling the same kitsch memorabilia, and way more traffic.  One of my favorite parts about international travel is exploring the markets - the variety and freshness is just amazing.

Market at Thongsala - check out the baby sharks!
Are those baby sharks??!

Thongsala Market

We also hiked around the Phong Noi waterfall...which was highly disappointing in that there was no actual water.  I'm assuming this is not normal.

I thought waterfalls were supposed to have...water...


When we returned to the hotel, we washed up and got ready for our one fancy/splurge dinner at the hotel in celebration of our anniversary.  Santhiya really went all-out in making us feel special and welcome - they had a table set up in a private corner of the outdoor seating area, decorated with candles and flowers.

Anniversary dinner setup

Happy one-month anniversary!

The food was great, and the drinks were AMAZING.  I may have had one too many, and was suddenly in the mood to partay so we walked down the beach in hopes of hitting up one of the many bars we'd seen along the road, some of which seemed like they had fun dancing at night.

ON the stairs down to the pool
I don't look sunburned or sweaty at alll.....

Yeah little island village...get ready...

...'cause we are here to PARTAY

Sadly there was no party to be found.  Apparently we were the only people who wanted to get our dance on that night, so instead we walked to Rasta Baby, a bar with a chill reggae vibe and hilarious drink names.

...except, the rest of the village was not apparently so ready to partay

Intrigued by my drink

But the best food of the day by FAR was lunch!

We'd had some great meals already on Koh Pha Ngan.  The sandwiches at Handsome Sandwich really were as amazing as they claimed to be:

These sandwiches had better live up to their advertising...

Handsome Sandwich!

I am skeptical of this claim

...and the ambiance and drinks at Luna could not be beat...

Luna Restaurant

Luna Restaurant

Passionfruit Margarita at Luna

...but the meal that just blew my mind was an unassuming green curry eaten in a little restaurant at the top of a hill during our tour.

The best green curry EVER

It. Was. AMAZING.  The most fragrant, flavorful and perfectly spiced curry I have ever had.  I don't think any thai curry I ever have will top this one in awesomeness.  I've tried in vain several times to re-create the flavors by making my own fresh curry paste at home, playing around with various ratios of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves... but honestly the closest I've come was using a pre-made paste from our local Thai grocer.  Still not quite the same, because you could just tell the ingredients in the original were fresh as could be, but I think it's the closest I'll get outside of Thailand.

I made this recipe last week, and it took me right back to that hilltop, the peaceful feeling of having nothing to do but lie around in the sun all day, and the freedom of being without my laptop and work e-mail for two weeks.  I hope it can give you the same feeling...but if not, I at least hope it's delicious:

- 1-2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons green curry paste (I used Aroy-D brand)**
- 1 can light coconut milk*
- 1/3 -1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- a similar volume of cherry eggplants OR other vegetable of your choice, chopped fairly small**
- 6 - 8 thai eggplants, quartered**
- 1/2 block extra-firm tofu***
- 1/3 cup shredded thai basil**
- 5-6 kaffir lime leaves**
- cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a medium soup pot or cast iron pot, heat the oil.  Add the curry paste and sautee for about 2 minutes until quite fragrant.  Add the coconut milk and water and fish sauce, and stir to combine.  Add tofu, eggplants and cherry eggplants, basil and kaffir lime leaves and cook for approximately 12-15 minutes or until thai eggplants are cooked.

Serve over rice, garnish with cilantro

* I used light coconut milk for texture - the green curries I had in Thailand always had a more thin, brothy texture.  It's DEFINITELY not a fat/calories thing...for making Massaman or red curry I'd definitely use regular.

** You'll probably need to go to a thai or asian market for these ingredients.  There's a great one near me on Nicollet...but even they sometimes don't have cherry eggplant so you might have to sub another vegetable.  I used oyster mushrooms chopped into 1/2 inch pieces.  You can get Thai Kitchen brand green curry paste from a regular grocery store but it's WAY more expensive for a much smaller amount.  I picked up a fairly good-sized tub for $1.99.

*** The version I fell in love with had tofu, but if you want meat you could easily sub a similar volume of chicken or a light fish.  The flavors in this curry definitely call for a white meat rather than beef, I think.  You definitely could use beef but...meh, just my opinion :)

For more honeymoon fun:
Part I - Travel and Day 1 in Bangkok
Part II - "Wat's Up" aka more Bangkok
Part III - More Bangkok, more Travel
Part IV - Island Adventures (and illness...)
Part V - More Island Fun

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ridiculous Encounters with Bloggers

It is a well known fact that bloggers will often deem themselves experts in a field in which they hold no actual credentials.  Someone who posts photos of themselves wearing clothes every day is suddenly a fashion "expert."  Another person decides to go to the gym occasionally and now they are a fitness "expert."  You know how it goes.

Why I will never be a "Fashion Blogger"

But what happens when a man possessing a complete inability to read social cues and/or interact appropriately with others dubs themselves a dating expert and coach, and then hits on your friend at Chino Latino?  Let's examine.

A good friend of mine, let's call her "Sarah" was in Uptown the other night having dinner with her friend, who we'll call "Tina."  They were having a perfectly enjoyable evening when suddenly Tina goes: "uh oh... I was just staring off into space and accidentally made reeeeallly awkward eye contact with this guy at the bar, and now he won't stop looking over here."  "Just ignore him," Sarah suggested.  So they did.  Tina, who is married and has a 3-year-old, also made sure to "accidentally" flash her wedding ring in his direction multiple times.

They thought they had thwarted his intentions, but 10 minutes later....
Tina: Oh crap he's coming over.
Dude: (Walks up to table, staring at Tina) YOU... (pauses.  finally sees wedding ring.)...are married.
(turns to Sarah)  But YOU have beautiful eyes!
Sarah: You've been sitting behind me all night.
Dude: Well... I mean, just seeing them now! They are so beautiful!
(long awkward pause)
Dude: (looks at Tina's drink)  Your drink looks amazing.  (it is a super-girly martini with a flower in it).  You know, the bartender here, best bartender in the city.  I wrote an article about him (whips out his smartphone which happens to conveniently already have the article in its browser).  See, here's my article (shoves phone in Sarah's face)
Girls: Mmmmm.....
(another long awkward pause during which any normal human would realize the conversation is over)
Dude: (clearly staring at an area somewhere between Sarah's shoulders and the table)That is awesome, by the way.
Sarah: (Kind of shocked. Forgets she is wearing a necklace. Gestures to her boobs) mean this????
Dude: Well I actually meant your necklace, but I'm hoping to see those later too. (wink.  haha.  Looks back and forth between Sarah and Tina). Actually I wouldn't mind seeing either of you naked.
Dude: Well, you guys seem like really cool people, I'd love to hang out with you sometime, cause you know, you seem really cool.  Here, I'll give you my card.  (Hands card to Sarah)
Sarah: "Chief Coach"?  What are you, like, a life coach?
Dude: Well, sort coach actually.  I have a blog too (tells her name of blog)
Sarah: Huh.
Dude: I'm just going to put it on the line, you seem awesome and I would love to take you out on a date sometime.  Can I have your number?
Sarah: Well, I have your contact info now (holds up card).
Dude: you want me to call you, or...
Sarah: Um...well...I have your
Dude: Awesome.  Well, it was great meeting you both.

So there you have it.  For someone who is a self-proclaimed expert in the field of getting the ladies, he crashed and burned in a spectacular manner  Not only was he in no way smooth or sexy, his manner of approaching women (much like his blog, which I have now read most of and laughed until I cried) exhibits an intriguing combination of awkwardness and douchery.
Women love it when you make them feel awkward and objectified

So I guess all I'm trying to say is, before you declare yourself an expert in something just because you blog about it, first ask yourself the following questions:
1) Do people other than my mother tell me I am great at this?
       1) a. Do they do so without me fishing for compliments?  Be honest.
2) Are my efforts in this field usually successful?
3) Do I have enough experience in this to qualify as an "expert," or any credentials that give me actual expert status?

If the answer to the above questions is consistently "no," then you probably should not be dispensing advice to others.

So there you have it.  Encounters with a local dating blogger and expert, who should probably find another vocation.  Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

p.s. "Sarah" - if any of this is inaccurate or if I missed any essential/hilarious details PLEASE e-mail me so I can correct my errors.  I'm sure some things were lost in my re-telling of your re-telling.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

Why am I still sick??? 

On Monday I thought I was getting better, but then I sort of plateaued and have been in a steady-state of coughing up green gunk in the shower every morning, feeling tired all day, coming down with an incessant cough around 8:30, going to bed at 9:30, waking up and doing it all over again. 

On Wednesday I went to the convenience store at work to buy cough drops and a box of kleenex.  My conversation with the cashier went something like this:
Him: And how are you doing today?
Me: (in raspy smoker voice) Not too bad, yourself?
Him: (glancing at my purchases) ....better than you, apparently.

Uh, thanks dude.

The good news is, my appetite is back!  And, my appetite wants soup.  All soup, all the time.  Usually my soup preference is for something that is packed full of veggies and different textures, and that is more of a full meal in a bowl (see, Roasted Pumpkin Soup w/ Chickpeas and Curry) ...but this week all I've wanted is something warm and soothing.  And maybe a little spicy to clear my sinuses.


I made some pretty major modifications to my favorite Red Lentil Soup recipe, but ended up with a similar flavor palatte.  Think of this as the puree version of that recipe, with a bit of a tropical kick.  I fell in love with red lentil soup in Turkey, and also picked up the habit of adding citrus there... so I kind of fall back on it a lot.  Plus I always have red lentils in my pantry and they cook quickly, so it's easy to whip a soup together at the last minute with whatever else I have on hand.

p.s. if you make this, DO NOT skip the lime juice!  It kicks the whole thing up about a billion notches.  All the way to 11.
I need to stop watching movies and have a life.


- 1.5 tablespoons ghee or butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1-2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)
- Fresh squeezed lime juice (for garnish)
- plain yogurt (for garnish)

Melt the ghee or butter in a soup pot on the stove over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and sautee until just beginning to soften.  Add the sweet potato and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is fully soft and translucent.

Add the chicken broth and red lentils to the pot.  Cover and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are falling apart and sweet potato is cooked through.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender (or if you don't have one, transfer the whole mess to a blender or food processer, blend and return to the pot.  You can also puree in batches).  Stir in the curry powder, coconut milk, and salt.

Serve garnished with a few squeezes of fresh lime juice and a dollop of plain yogurt.  DO NOT SKIP THE GARNISHES THEY ARE VERY IMPORTANT.  Hem.

Hopefully this damn illness is on the upswing. I did manage to get to the yoga studio last night for the first time in a week, though.  I'm always nervous about getting back to class after a long break from practicing, but every time I'm surprised by how easily I fall back into my practice.  It almost feels like a few days off helps me wipe the slate clean and see poses with fresh eyes.  Handstand and cobra in particular felt brand new poses last night, in a good way.

Anyways, have a wonderful weekend!  I don't have a lot planned but I think that is probably for the best... can't wait to have a couple of days to sleep in.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Competitive Charades

At our last team meeting before the holidays, my manager asked everyone on the team what our favorite holiday traditions were.  My answer was no contest - the annual Gorder/Early charades game wins hands down.

My good friend Alex's family (Alex did double-duty as a bridesmaid/violinist at my wedding) and my family have been close for as long as I remember.  Jayne and Jim are basically my second parents.  I'm not sure exactly how this tradition got started but for as long as I can remember, whenever our two families would get together over the holidays we've always played charades...and it has always been kids vs. adults (or now, baby boomers vs. millenials).

Since its inception, however, our once harmless charades night has morphed into a brutal, anything goes showdown where the only goal is to give the hardest clues possible and basically make each other look ridiculous.  There is no score, and the only rule is... well there basically are no rules, except for one very important one: the clues have to be in English (except for names or proper nouns where necessary)

I honestly have no idea how things got so out of hand, but I vaguely remember the turning point as being maybe 10 years ago when Alex's dad had to act out "Orchestra Proficiency Unit Skills," and mimed killing his own daughter for the last word (kill rhymes with skill.  And also she came up with the clue).  Allow me to take you through a quick "Competitive Charades" retrospective.

~ Christmas 2008 ~

Like any good evening, this one begins by lighting a dessert on fire while the two moms fight over a bottle of rum.


Dramatic gesturing and hilarity ensues...

SO CLOSE!!! and yet, so far... well as silly faces...

responsible adults?

...and obviously one of my favorite charades clues of all time:
Jesus Christ


"...Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter??"
"Yeah, it's a movie."
"Have you seen it...?"

~ Christmas 2009 ~

2009 was glorious, although the photos were less so.  My camera was not cooperative and decided to produce only blurry images, but here they are anyway:

So serious!!

My face upon realizing I would have to act out
"The Lebesque Stiljes Integral: A Practical Introduction"
The winning team!
(FYI we have no scoring system - we just always decide we've won)

~ Thanksgiving 2010 ~

Unfortunately I have even fewer AND worse photos from this particular year...but I do have this lovely action shot of Jayne collapsing on the ground in what would appear to be either laughter or frustration:


This one of Alex and Karl looking contemplative:

Competitive Charades is no laughing matter...

And, yet another photo of the glorious winners!

Winners at charades.  Winners at life.

And finally...NEW YEARS 2012!  
Now with even more rum, and a better camera

Julianna made sure Mini got a front row seat!

Oh bring us some figgy pudding...

fire + alcohol = dessert?

...let the charades BEGIN!

I think this was a mole...?

The other team got rowdy and out of hand pretty quickly...

My own father blatantly trying to mock and distract me during my turn

I still rocked it
Mom was not amused by her 16 word song clue
Alex was not amused by "Corpus Jurus Secudem"

Still champions.  Now with a mascot.

Our brilliant use of "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" inspired the creation of a new rule: no clues over 10 words.  The parents got pretty belligerent and insisted that we had crossed the line with a 16 word clue.  HOWEVER... they somehow thought it was OK to use "Corpus Jurus Secudem," a clue which is clearly in Latin, thereby violating the original and sacred tenet that all clues must be in English.


Moving on.

I feel like the best holiday traditions are often the ones that just develop naturally over time, and are maybe not the most traditional.  I love our Christmas Eve dinner and service, and going downtown for lunch at Macy's, but in my heart competetive charades is always the winner.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions and memories??
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