Thursday, March 31, 2011

Palm Sissies

When Heather first went to Palm Springs for a weekend getaway, I thought: that's nice. When she started making a habit of it, I became intrigued. What is this magical place my sissy has discovered? Well, it was about time I found out!

As part of my trip down to L.A. last weekend to visit my family, Heather and I nestled a little mini-vacay into the mix and headed out to the desert for a 24-hour jaunt at the ACE Hotel. A little sunshine, a little poolside, a little lush greenery never hurt. I had no clue what I was in for!

It didn't take long before we were lounging by the pool with refreshing cocktails. This is the life, no?

We talked about the soothing nature of the mountains. The palms against the sky really worked for me. This landscape is no nonsense.

Who says the desert can't be colorful?

We roamed the grounds of the Parker, taking in all the scents around us. I couldn't believe how good everything smelled. I felt like I was everywhere.

Breakfast at the Parker. Yum and beautiful.

I love the ACE, I love Palm Springs. It felt like coming home. But when I'm with Heather, I'm always home - no matter where we are.

Thank you, sissy, for such an amazing trip. Love you!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Passion and Extravagance

What more could you want?

I can't wait to read An Extravagant Hunger - the new book about the passionate years of M.F.K. Fisher and written by my lovely friend Anne Zimmerman. At Anne's reading at Omnivore Books last Thursday night, I got a glimpse into the pages of this marvelous telling of M.F.K.'s life. Before this year, I'd never even heard of M.F.K. Fisher. Now, I'm excited to explore everything about her. Having just read this week's New Yorker cover to cover, it's time for me to launch into an actual book and I think the latest from Anne Zimmerman is the one.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jane Eyre

Reader, it was beautiful!

***all photo stills from the latest film version of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, adapted for the screen by Moira Buffini and directed by Cary Fukunaga***

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Equinox

At first glance, a 9-course dinner doesn't scream Cleanse. Having just come off of my 40-days, however, I've been seeing things in a different light and exploring the mysteries of food. At last night's pop-up dinner at Outerlands (prepared by chef Leif Hedendal), while I luxuriated in its decadence, I also felt nourished and enlivened by this creatively prepared meal. Each dish, made exclusively with veritable vegetables, was like a walk through a Redwood forest, a taste of good earth.

Henry's olives and Massa almonds

(Outerlands owner) Dave's levain toasts with Bellweather sheep ricotta, black trumpets, wild herbs and flowers

Andante Creamery 'Tomme Dolce' and 'Nocturne' with baby beets and Barhi dates

Dave's toast (again)

rhubarb fennel galette with honey, lemon thyme, and creme fraiche

Outerlands being Outerlands, we saw in the Springtime while a bread-maker went to town beside us.

Happy Spring is right!

More highlights from the over-the-top menu (not bad for a Monday night at 9 pm):

crispy artichoke with yuzu kosho and horseradish

soup of Knoll green garlic, English peas, stinging nettle, dulse, sencha, and matsutake dashi with Dave's levain

purple asparagus, golden chanterelle, roasted brocolli, saffron-
spring onion-brown butter sabayon, pistachio, green strawberry

roasted maitake, gobo-Tokyo turnip-ginger nishime, Bordeaux spinach with hiziki and gomasio, kumquat, mustard

Little City Gardens magic mesclun with icicle radishes, blood orange, and argan

Thursday, March 17, 2011

40 Days

Of Yoga

Tas Mai Shri Guru Vai Namaha

I offer it all away


Monday, March 14, 2011

40 Days: Day 37

In 40-days we talk a lot about rocks.

We carry quite a few with us: rocks from the past, rocks of sadness, rocks of insecurity and pain. All of them, weighing us down. It's like the metaphor: emotional baggage. Rocks are like clouds. On a gloomy day, it's as if there's no sun in sight. There is, however, a big bright sun hiding behind those clouds - it just needs to break out! Rocks are like clouds - they block, prevent and repress that sun shining within us. The worst part is that sometimes the clouds and rocks can get so heavy that we forget that there's a sun at all. Oh, but there is! Our light is always there, it's our genuine self - just waiting to breathe, extend and shine! Rocks are like clouds - they hold us down. It's about time we remove the clouds inside, don't you think? Even though you, my readers, didn't sign-up for 40-days with me, I think we're in this together.

Come on, let's remove the rocks - together.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

40 Days: Day 33

This is my second to last week of the 40 days of yoga. I've been tempted to feel sad that it's coming to an end, but I know better than that - mostly because it doesn't have to end at all. True, after next Saturday we won't have our weekly workshops. There won't actually be any specific person telling me to keep a daily yoga practice, to meditate twice a day (!!!) and to eat mindfully. Whatever will I do?

Well: 40-days seems more like a mind-set than a program. It's the anti-restraint, despite the fact that 40-days implies a set time period with a beginning and an end. However, the practice and the support have been so rich and intense - it has officially done what my teachers said it would: it has entered my nervous system. Amidst this transformation, I've experienced yoga classes differently than ever before.

For one, I barely think about the poses - I think about the breath. Second, I've been mixing in some yin/restorative flow - a practice which brings up a lot of emotional sensations. Rather than weep and wail (although this happens and I'm not ashamed to cry during Shavasana), I've been letting these feelings manifest in a healthy way. And finally, and this goes beyond the yoga studio, I feel a stillness within that keeps me calmer than usual. When something negative rises up within me, I give it a name, I accept it and then I breathe through it - focusing my attention toward the more positive elements of my life.

So, I'm thinking: at the end of my 40 days, I'll drop the 40 and replace it with the word "every." Every-days. Whether or not this means I'll be practicing yoga everyday for the rest of my life isn't the point. It's not a rulebook, it's more of a songbook. It's always there, with the notes and words written out - available for me to pick up and sing. Every song is different just like every yoga practice is different just like every day is different. It's my intention to make it my own.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

40 Days: Day 29

Clean. Reflections.

Let's see. Where to begin. My 3-day cleanse officially ended when I went to bed on Wednesday night. Eager to keep it up as long as possible, I kept it going for most of Thursday. That didn't last too long though! The cleanse "emotionally" came to a halt Thursday, when at 2 p.m. at Bette's Ocean View Diner in Berkeley, I had a chocolate milkshake and French toast with powdered sugar and fake maple syrup. I'm proud to say I carried my cleanse past the finish line and that the "break fast" was divine. For the record, and to my own amazement, I'm saving coffee for this weekend.

Here are the things I loved about the cleanse:

-waking up in the morning and feeling great, without needing coffee as my "fix"
-following a strict routine and completing my specific goals throughout each day
-enjoying avocado (like I knew I would) and fresh lemon juice (which seems to go with everything)
-using my blender to make green smoothies (banana, kale, apple juice, frozen berries, protein powder, coconut oil, and a few drips of honey)
-nourishing myself with non-food sweetness, like treating myself to a steam and sauna
-sleeping like a rock

Here are the things I didn't love about the cleanse:

-the horrific migraine I got on Day 1 that put me in bed at 7:45 p.m.
-overdoing it on the nutritional yeast (they should have a warning on the package)
-feeling bad about myself when I made instant miso soup (even though it was from Rainbow, I still felt bad that it was packaged and processed)
-depriving myself of eating at restaurants, fantasizing about the food that I wasn't having and generally avoiding the outside world to prevent temptation, all the live-long day
-not being able to run

Let's see. Where to begin. Here's what I've taken away from the cleanse:

Today, in this moment, I feel great. I'm so proud of myself to have accomplished something I didn't think I could. When it comes to food, I've always thought I have very little will power. If there's something delicious in front of me, I will probably eat it - even if I'm full. This has always bothered me because I know that if it wasn't there I wouldn't want it - because I probably don't need it. After completing the cleanse, I can now say, with confidence, that I have will power when it comes to food.

In our 40-days weekly workshops, we talk about how we're often filling ourselves with food products that we don't need because something else is missing in our lives. What is it that we are lacking in our lives that food is an easy replacement for?

Now, don't get me wrong. I think food is a beautiful thing - which is another reason this cleanse was so challenging. (side note: I almost wrote "this challenge was so cleansing" - that would be accurate too!) Anyway, food = nourishment. Whether it's my mom's home-cooked meals, a gourmet dinner in the tree house that is Chez Panisse or tacos in the Mission, food is necessary. However, it's takes two to tango.

I like to think of my relationship with food as if it's a relationship with another person. It can't be a one-way street. Food cannot give, give, give while I take, take, take. I'll never forget what one of my favorite grad professors told me about relationships: that the key to a good one is Mutuality. Two people on the same page, grounded in honesty and communication. Once this structure is put in place, there is room to explore, discover and create.

Anyway, I think I'm getting a little off topic. This isn't brain surgery, I'm just talking a little bit about food - which I am SO not an expert in. Basically, back to the relationship metaphor, we wouldn't intentionally surround ourselves with toxic people, so why would we make a habit of putting processed and un-loved food into our bodies? (it can be fun once in a while but not as a regular thing).

Additionally, and back to mutuality, food is not there to serve me. It's just as much my responsibility to know and care for my food as it's the food's responsibility to give me energy. Whether it's food I buy at the farmer's market, prepare at home or order in a restaurant - it's important to know the following: where did this food come from? how did it get here? why am I eating it? etc. Basically, who, what, where, why, when - applies to food.

I'm talking in circles, but you get the picture. When it comes to eating, we can connect to our food with a healthy approach or an unhealthy approach. From now on, I aim to chose the healthy approach and this approach, my friends, is called mindfulness. It's something we should practice everyday and always, toward everything and everyone we touch in our lives.

From now on, I think that practicing mindfulness in terms of food, will give me all the good feelings I had during my cleanse. I was more aware of my senses (I was smelling memories), I had clarity in terms of decisions I was making (the Libra in me was getting outwitted by the yogi in me), and I thought positively about the future and all that I have ahead of me. Not bad for a little cleanse.

So that's pretty much what I've taken away from the whole thing. Oh, and one more thing: don't keep your apple and your cumin in close proximity in your lunch bag. Cumin is not a good color on an apple.