Monday, February 28, 2011

40 Days: Day 24

Today marks a new chapter in the 40 day yoga challenge: the Cleanse. That is Cleanse with a capital "C" used mostly to emphasize my feelings of both awe and fear toward the process. "C" might also refer to the loads of vitamins I'll be getting in the process, but for now it's all about the fear.

To begin, it is not the master cleanse nor is it a fasting cleanse. Honestly, I can't imagine doing either while having a 9-5 job. Our cleanse is geared towards removing toxins for our bodies in order to achieve balance and nourishment during our intensive yoga practice. As part of the cleanse, we give up sugar, caffeine, alcohol, meat, dairy and gluten. While moving away from those inhibitors, we nourish ourselves with vegetables, healthy fats and clean proteins. The cleanse should last no less than 3 days (I'm seeing if I can go for 5) and is structured and supported through meal plans featuring whole foods, essential nutrients, herbal remedies and, of course, lots and lots of water.

In preparation for Week Four of my personal transformation, my first step was to visit Rainbow Grocery for what turned out to be a food shopping spree. As I told the cashier that I was stocking up on food for a cleanse, we both laughed at the irony. However, like I said, this is not a fast. This is merely a method to strictly incorporate healthy foods into my system. Something's got to tell the toxins take a hike.

Here are the things I'm fearful of giving up:

-coffee (this is a big one)
-yummy bread
-the occasional sweet treat
-did I mention coffee??

Here are the things I'm excited to spend the week with:

-clean, fresh produce
-nutritional yeast
-spices (cumin, my new favorite)


In the center is white willow bark, an herbal remedy for headaches - which I will most likely be experiencing given my addiction to/love of coffee.

Learning about different grains, seeds and beans! Instead of brown rice, I'll explore millet. Instead of pumpkin seeds, I'll explore sunflower seeds. Instead of beans from a can, I'll spout them. Actually, just kidding. It's important to pick our battles and this week, with the coffee detox and work, etc, I just can't do it. It's okay, though, I'm proud of what I will do...

Salivating over herbs, like thyme and rosemary - which is a key ingredient to the Tuscan White Bean and Kale soup I will make.

Tea as a warming, comforting treat. During the half-marathon training (which also will go on hold for this week), I was craving a big glass of chocolate milk every night before bed. Well, that's not a very sustainable habit - so I've started enjoying a glass of licorice root tea. Lately, it's been reminding me of the homemade Chai we had every morning on my yoga retreat last July. I enjoy it now because it brings me back to that special time.

It's suggested that we take a supplement such as Triphala, a gentle formula designed to support the body during its cleanse. I need all the support I can get, so bring it on Trip!

Finally, no cleansing, vegan soup is complete without a homemade vegetable broth. Yesterday, I made 12 cups of this delicious recipe I found in an old soup cookbook. Now that I have my broth, I can make my soup!

One more order to handle our sweet cravings (hello chocolate milk, hello frozen yogurt), our nutrition coach encourages we seek the natural sweetness in life, those that come in non-food forms. Whether through friendships, a nice hike outdoors, a massage, or just some down time, we can nourish ourselves in many ways. I thought using my heart-shaped Le Creuset would add a little "sweetness" to my millet.

Voila! Homemade veggie broth. Ready, set, Cleanse! Next time you'll hear from me, I'll either be floating on air or crying from a headache. Hopefully, it's the first one :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

40 Days: Yosemite

***all photographs taken by Sarah Jessee ***

It's felt like a while since I've posted, but it's been such a busy week! It's Thursday now, and I'm attempting to re-cultivate the sweetness of last weekend's winter wonderland holiday jaunt to Yosemite with Sarah. More thoughts and reflections to come, but aren't Sarah's pictures amazing?! She really captured the essence of Yosemite:

of California.

Friday, February 18, 2011

40 Days: Day 14

I'm not going to lie - my legs are sore. The good sore, though. If I stand up, after I've been sitting for a while, my legs are talking to me. They're saying, "Hey, give us a break - we can barely hold you up." Then, I stand tall - grounding all the four corners of my feet into the earth. I give myself a nice long stretch, from the base to the crown. I tuck my tail bone. I ignite my legs, internally rotating my inner thighs to whatever world's behind me. My legs are back to being trees - confident, giving and reaching in the four directions. Then, they say, "We've woken up again." It's an all around gratitude fest.

And this is how it's been.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

40 Days: Day 12

If I knew a certain meal was going to be my last, I might head over to Zuni Cafe for it. Yes, I threw in the morbidness for dramatic effect, but let's get serious. Zuni really is a true San Francisco delight. Whether it's their signature Caesar or the Chicken for two (allow one hour for preparation), no meal at Zuni bleeds into the next.

Starting next week, as part of 40 days, I give up processed sugar. I barely know what this means, but I both anticipate and welcome the challenge with open arms. This meant, that when my parents came to town this past weekend, I wasn't shy in the restaurant business. Lucky for me, the 40 days have already changed my appetite, cravings and capacity for food (all in a good way) - so I couldn't (and had little desire to) go too crazy. But, when we went to brunch at Zuni, the gourmet food was my Valentine.

Zuni is full of woodsy tastes and smells. When I looked down from our table, I saw the wood pile and freshly baked bread (the best ever) below. I also saw the preparation of two Caesars. Yum.

This was my main course - eggs fried in breadcrumbs, yum, topped with jewels. So, yes, not very 40-days - but we talk less about choice of food and more about portion control and moderation.

Pizza with, yum, Brussel sprouts. An aromatic iced tea to cleanse the palate.

This, I'm sure, has processed sugar. Orange scones with huckleberry compote. Double yum.

Yum, yum, yum.

Friday, February 11, 2011

40 Days: Day 7

Wishing everyone a shiny, full and silly weekend!

In case you were wondering, I'm amidst a yoga transformation! Last Saturday I began a 40 day commitment to yoga through my studio - it follows the Baron Baptiste 40 Days to Personal Revolution method. Today, marks the end of Week 1. So far, it's been great. I feel happier, healthier and more awake. Obviously, it's kept me a lot busier than usual (and don't forget I'm training for a half-marathon, have a full-time job and am recently enrolled in a poetry workshop).

During this time, I'll be blogging every week as I always do, but my posts may be shorter or less frequent. There's a lot that goes into these 40 days, and I'll be sharing it with you all as well. This intensive practice involves yoga and meditation everyday, a new and balanced diet and, above all, a compassionate and committed dedication to personal awareness. Week 1 was intense, and it will only get more intense - so for now, I'd just like to wish you all a gorgeous weekend - wherever you are!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sissy, I love you

Some days are easier than others. Today was not one of those days. I'd rather focus on the positive though, because I am currently enamored with the power of one simple, loving act. Tons of crumby things can happen to drag you down, but sometimes it only takes one thing to lift you back up again. Today, that little thing was waiting for me on my doorstep when I got home from work. It was le Mini Sac. My sister, Heather, sent it to me. Sissy, I love you. See how much I love my Clare Vivier Mini Sac?

Yes, le mini sac and I are getting along just fine. Sissy, your timing could not have been better. I'm the luckiest girl in the world.

Love you!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finding the French

Recently, I reorganized my cookbooks. Among them, you will find "French Women Don't Get Fat" - one of my favorites. I couldn't believe it though! The spine had completely faded from sun damage after all these years. A good note-to-self: keep precious items in the home (same goes for our eyes, face, and skin) away from extended periods of sun exposure.

Okay, this has nothing to do with the theme of today's post. Let me get to the point! I glanced back at "French Women Don't Get Fat," and was reminded of the loveliness and chicness of France. I've been lucky enough to visit Paris, the South of France and the French countryside - and it feels as though my life has been enriched because of it. Being in France is a gift and it's something you miss when you return home.

Which got me thinking: why should I have to miss France when I can find elements of it in my life? All of a sudden, I've been obsessing over all things French - French food, French wine, French movies, French candles. My mind is in a whirl - take me there, I think to myself.

Well, that's not going to happen - for now at least. But there is a way to embody the joys of France right here in my own Californian life. Unfortunately, the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art closed a few days ago - so I missed that opportunity to get my French on. After perusing some of his work online, it's official: his candid photographs of French life really are remarkable. Featured above is "Martine's Legs," one of his photographs from 1967. Classic.

I missed the show, but all is not lost! With enough creativity and focus, there's still a way to be transported without leaving your timezone. I've been dreaming up ideas to cultivate that French essence. Some mere embellishments of daily life, some are simply outlandish fantasies - all are dreamy. All very French.

Reading the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, who wrote: A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing. Pas mal.

Enjoying the newest edition of "Madame Bovery," translated by Lydia Davis.

Revisiting Diptyque, where the senses are valued above all. Luxuriate in their bath line - in particular, Crème Riche Pour le Corps - rich butter for the body.

With Spring only a hop, skip and a jump away, maybe it's time for a fancy free haircut (seen here on Emmanuelle Seigner from "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" - easily one of my favorite French films).

Or Jean Seberg's classic crop in Godard's "Au Bout de Souffle." Too short for me, but breathless on most. Forget the haircut, watch the movie - one of the best ways to see Paris is through cinema.

You wouldn't be French without the stripped top (seen here on Audrey Tautou playing Coco Chanel in "Coco Before Chanel"). Top it off with a hat and a basket and you're ready for a stroll through the farmer's market.

Every so often, the Ferry building farmer's market has something like this: French lavender - edible, decorative and calming. Where would be without our scents?

Every city has those secret stairways and corridors - you just have to be curious enough to find them! Paris is a fantastic walking town - the Seine never leads you astray. San Francisco is up there as one of my favorite cities to walk - and bike. I'm not afraid to brave the hills, to get from one end to the other.

Biking or walking long distances, you'll want to ditch these - "Tres Francaise" Christian Louboutin platform pumps. Outlandish, maybe, but aren't these shoes so very classy? I'd say they're more for show (the decorative kind of lavender, as opposed to the edible kind). They would be perfect draped off the side of a chaise lounge, perhaps laced to Martine's feet?

Cultivating the French essence wouldn't be complete without some luxurious sweets.

Baking something French is always an option, especially when entry into your kitchen doesn't require a passport. When in doubt, take the Julia Child route. Or, better yet, the Barefoot Contessa route. Sunday night, Sarah and I had some culinary fun - mostly involving "French Chocolate Bark" from Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook. This elegantly festive recipe was so easy to make and even more enjoyable to eat, I made it again last night!

Feeling French? Here's the recipe:
  • 8 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger, 1/2-inch diced


Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.

So that was my French...can you find yours?