Sunday, January 29, 2012

Monday Mantra: Ancora Imparo

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Ancora Imparo: I am still learning
Photo Credit:
"Learn like you will live forever." - Unknown

I'm slightly addicted to learning new things. Due to that I am constantly enrolled in school for one thing or another. This year so far I have a French class lined up in March and remember how I wanted to be a ninja? Yeah. That's right. I'm taking Karate again. Or I will be anyway, once I get a handle on my newest endeavour, Ceramics 101, aka The Hardest Class I Have Ever Taken. EVER.

My desire to take pottery all started with a book series I began reading a couple of years ago. The girl in it was always doing pottery and it seemed to be not only fun, but relaxing. Plus, Demi Moore made it look pretty cool in Ghost, so I thought I'd give it a try.


I think I'm going to lose my mind.

Class 1: We watch a video on how to knead your clay, throw it on a wheel, and make some fancy things with it. It looks easy. Kneading the clay? That requires practically no skill at all, from what I can tell. Centering the clay? Please, too easy. Making a vase? C'mon now, anyone can do that. All of it looks so simple that I have mentally already created a teacup set, a breathtaking vase, a bowl/plate one-of-a-kind thing, and a Louvre worthy sculpture. I'm all over this.

Piece. Of. Cake.

Class 2: It's time to actually use our clay. First, the kneading, which about breaks my wrists off due to the clay being ridiculous. I have to knead it approximately 120 times, per section of it that I use, based on instruction of the teacher who told me to get this stupid type of clay in the first place that "absolutely, positively has to be kneaded 120 times" every single time. Forever and a day later, when I'm finally done with that, it's time to throw the clay on the wheel and make a mug.

This is where I start to lose it.

Not only do I not get my clay centered on the wheel for the first hour of class, but I also do not make anything resembling a mug, or anything at all for that matter except a huge pile of messed up mug attempts. I start to get incredibly frustrated.

On top of that, there's this kid in my class who my classmate, Abby, and I have nicknamed Picasso. He  has already busted out an entire mug set and he's working on a vase by the hour and a half mark. I am mentally cursing him out in my head.

As I'm still attempting to make one damn mug, I slice my finger open pretty impressively, considering that I'm working with clay and mostly dull objects. Score one for the clay, zero for me. I give up and go home.

Class 3: Picasso is done with his entire mug set and is putting the finishing touches on his vase which now looks much more like a beautiful sculpture of some sort. Damn him and his fantastic pottery skills. Abby and I have decided that we are the worst students in the class. We make a pact that neither one of us is allowed to drop out and we change to a Pass/Fail grade, as is suggested by one of the other students. Clearly others are noticing our amazing pottery skills.

I need to get four mugs made by the end of class so that I can put handles on them in next week's class. The handles, by the way, also look incredibly easy to make, but I'm not falling for that movie magic trickery again! I know

After about ten failed attempts at mugs, the teacher ends up pitying me and making one mug for me. I end up making one "mug" as well. Please see below.

Guess which one of those in the picture is mine? I call it The If-An-Earthquake-Were-Happening-and-You-Were-Making-Pottery-Instead-of-Running-for-Your-Life Mug. It's so beautiful I almost cry.

Class 4: Picasso has moved on entirely to a new project. Whatever. Abby and I are stuck in mug making  hell. I silently pray that I get a guardian angel of pottery to come help me out and, low and behold, something magical happens. I end up making something, not a mug, but a small bowl thing. I am thrilled! Then I bust out a thing that might actually pass as a mug. Maybe. I keep going and I end up with a small vase (which could pass for a teacup in some culture...somewhere...probably...) and a weird looking something or the other. Apparently I can make things, just not mugs.

Oh well.

I now attempt to attach handles onto my "mugs". It does not go well. I fling clay all over everyone and end up making handles that only the Jolly Green Giant would be able to use. I give up and decide to log some extra pottery time over the weekend.

Saturday: I'm stretched on time so I mentally prepare myself the entire morning before I get there. I will make a handle. I will make a handle. I. Will. Make. A. Handle!

I end up making about 20 handles before I give up and just go with the few best ones. My poor little earthquake mug looks so lame that I give it a makeover into what I now call The Mustache Man Mug. Isn't he adorable? I think I love him.
I get one decent handle made for this teacup thing I accidentally made and give up. Oh well. That Pass/Fail grade is clearly going to pay off.

I think I'm going to start a whole line of Mustache Man Mugs. I see this being big. Like clearance at Wal-Mart big. Let me know if you want in on this amazing new product line.

Is there something new you've been wanting to learn?
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chili with Baked Sweet Potatoes

This may come as a surprise to you, but I didn't use to be big on cooking. Me and sharp objects don't really go together in normal every day life, let alone in the kitchen. I had to learn a lot of tricks and techniques by becoming a line cook for two years (because I was horrible at being a waitress, so they thought putting me with hot objects was a better idea) and taking 100 hours of whole foods cooking courses, which were much more helpful. Basically, if I can do it and still have all of my appendages, so can you.

I now find myself constantly trying to manufacture new recipes all in the name of curiosity and hunger. Here is a wonderfully delicious recipe for you to try it that is perfect for cold winter weather. I must admit, I make this all year round, even in the hot summer months. And maybe I even make it every other week because it's kind of amazing. And maybe, just maybe, it's so good that I have eaten it for breakfast. Maybe. I am neither confirming nor denying any of this.

Anyhoo, the ingredients have evolved over time into what you see now, which is basically a whole lot of deliciousness. I've tested it out with family and friends and not only does everyone get seconds, but it always gets two thumbs up. Give it a shot. Easy, healthy, warm, and wonderful.

Chili with Baked Sweet Potatoes
Add some green onions and sliced cheese, if you so desire.
1 Pound - Grass Fed Beef
2 Cans - Amy's Organic Chili - Medium with Vegetables or 1 can of that plus 1 can of Amy's Organic Chili - Medium (one can is green, one is orange...if that helps)
3 - Medium Sweet Potatoes
2 to 3 TBSP's  - Olive Oil
1 TBSP - Sea Salt
1 TSP - Cinnamon (optional)

1. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Cut your potatoes into rings about a half inch thick, then cut those into quarters. Throw them in a baking dish with the olive oil, sea salt, and cinnamon (optional). Coat the potatoes evenly and let them back for 45 minutes to an hour.

Note: The chili and beef don't take very long to make, so to ensure everything stays nice and hot don't start step two until the potatoes are about 20 minutes away from being done. While they bake, go do something fun, like take a power nap or dance to some 80's music and attempt to perfect your moonwalk.

2. When you've hit the almost done 20 minute mark, grab your beef and lightly coat a pan with some oil. Heat it up on medium and cook it, leaving it slightly pink, not all the way done.

3. Grab a fairly large pot, heat to medium, and pour the two cans of chili in. Let them warm up a little before adding the beef and then stir together, cooking both to completion.

4. At this point the potatoes should be ready. Pull them out, scoop some into a bowl, then put the chili on top. You can add any garnishings you like. I like to add more potatoes as seen above.

5. Now eat. You're done.


There's a lot of veggies already in this, but if you're a veggiaholic like me, more is better. (Or, if you're vegetarian, just leave the beef out and stick with the rest of the recipe)

Sweet Potatoes with Beets and Carrots
2 - Medium Sweet Potatoes
3 - Carrots, peeled and diced
3 - Beets, peeled and diced
2 to 3 TBSP's - Olive Oil
1 TBSP  - Sea Salt
1 TBSP - Pepper (I would not suggest cinnamon in this blend at all...too weird)

Same thing as above. Throw everything into a baking dish, add the salt, pepper, and olive oil and bake as instructed prior. This also makes an excellent side dish all by itself, but with the chili the beets and carrots make it pretty hearty and flavorful.

What's your favorite winter weather food?

Update---> If you got an email of this, the amount of cinnamon was a typo, which I have now corrected. It should be only 1 TSP, not 1 TBSP. Way too much! My bad. So sorry!

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Healing Benefits of Yoga

Recently there was a lot of talk about yoga and the downsides to it. I was a little...moved, shall we say, to defend it. What I didn't do, however, was tell you all the wonderful ways it heals your body. Let me start with my own personal experiences.
Photo Credit:
By the time I was 19 my body was pretty ticked off at me.

I had a fairly serious case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from my years of piano, sign language, and computer work at my job. Being so young and having to take Advil all the time for the pain was ridiculous and limiting in many ways. After every work day it felt like someone was trying to chop my hands off right where my wrists connected to my arms. It was horrible.

When I moved to the big ole city I signed up for this popular thing called yoga. I had no idea what to expect. After a few months of practicing not only was I hooked, but my wrists had stopped hurting entirely. Out of the blue one day it occurred to me that I hadn't had any pain for a while. It just kind of vanished. Even to this very day, I have no issues.

In addition to that, my right wrist was a little beat up from a fracture I had gotten when I was a kid. It didn't hurt, but it was weak. A month before my yoga teacher training program was to begin I tripped over some very stealthy air (aka nothing at all) and landed smack dab on my wrist, spraining it pretty tremendously. I was a disaster. I had no idea how I was going to get through six months of teacher training when I couldn't put any pressure on it. I went to my first night of class and talked to my teacher, Mary, who showed me exactly what I could do throughout the course to heal myself. And guess what? It worked. By the time my first module was done I had a bendable, yet durable, well healed wrist.

To top all of that off, I had some lingering back pain from my wild and crazy kid years. Back then I entertained myself by doing flips and stunts all over the house in some strange attempt at being a one person circus act. Along with that, I had been riding horses for years and my horse, a Paso Fino breed, had a very rough trot that left me a little rattled in the spine. By the time I was ten years old I had to go see a chiropractor to try and fix me up. My poor little body was just not strong enough for my daredevilish ways.

Now, all these years later, I don't have a single issue. My back is ridiculously strong, as are my wrists. I basically got a new, tougher body, all because of yoga. Which means you can too.

Yoga speeds the healing time of injuries, helps prevent former injuries from reoccurring, lengthens not only your spine, but your muscles, and helps you to regulate your breathing. It also acts as a detoxifier when certain poses are held, thus releasing toxins from your intestines. Additionally, it has been known to help tremendously with asthma as well as heart related issues.

Yoga is awesome, basically.

Next time you're thinking about trying something new, give yoga a chance. It's not as easy as it looks. You will definitely get a workout, but you'll also heal old injuries and prevent new ones from occurring. As I mentioned prior, all you need to do is make sure you have a really excellent teacher. The rest will take care of itself in your practice.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monday Mantra: Be Yourself

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Be yourself. Be exactly as you are. 

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars...

- Jack Kerouac

A long time friend of mine once told me this quote made her think of me, which was incredibly touching because sometimes my inner madness - the good kind, like this - gets a little...tame. Or tired. Or maybe just shy.

Or maybe it's just that sometimes I'm still trying to figure out who I am, which is a tricky thing indeed, as most of you probably understand.

A couple of months ago my sister and I were hanging out, talking about how we had changed over the last year. She was telling me the things she had been working on about herself and I was telling her that those things, the things she thought needed improvement, were my very favorite qualities about her. The ones I loved the most and that I wanted more of in me. Then I told her what I had been working on and, as it would be, those were her favorite traits of mine which she wanted more of in her. We talked about how much work it had been to try and improve those qualities and that we had ended up throwing ourselves out of balance because, basically, we were trying to be something we were not.

We were trying to be people we weren't just because we thought we lacked something that we never had in us in the first place, and that really, we weren't supposed to have.

That little experience taught me that it's one thing to try and make yourself a better person and add on to the qualities you already possess, but it's a whole other to try and change the core of who you are. One is attainable, one is not. One will make you more well rounded while the other will make you feel like you've gone a couple rounds in the ring. Avoid the latter.

One of my first blog posts was The Invitation. I love that poem because I believe in it. I genuinely want people to be themselves around me, and I to them. It's a constant work in progress, on my end, depending on how life is going. Sometimes it's easy for me to just kick back and be me. Sometimes it's not. It doesn't mean that at the core of who I am, or of who they are, that we collectively aren't trying to be that way. I'm certain that we all are. I also know that it can be hard. In my more brazen times I want to reach out to the other person and hold their hand or grab them by their shoulders and beg them to let down their guard. In my more shy moments I want to do that to myself. Like now, when lately I haven't been feeling quite like myself all the time. Which, as it would be with me just trying to be me, is completely fine.

Basically what I'm trying to say is- please just try and be yourself at all times possible and I will too. I know it's not always easy. Especially in this crazy world where we have rules and guidelines on everything from how to date to what colors we can and cannot wear after Labor Day. But really, it's all just about being true to who you are. Not to an invisible handbook on the Do's and Don'ts of life.

I dare you (and me) to be one of the mad ones. One of the people who lives for what they love, who marches to the beat of their own drummer (or maybe tambourine player...up to you), and who lives with a fire inside of them that constantly burns. Be everything that encompasses who you are, just always make sure to be yourself.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Mantra: Just Do It

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Just Do It

Photo Credit: Nike, obviously

Repeat after me: I can do this. I can do this. I. CAN. DO. THIS.

For whatever crazy reason, I like challenges. I like proving to myself that I'm capable of things I never would have even considered before or that I have no experience in at all. I like finding out what I'm made of, what I can accomplish.

One of those things is completing the P.F. Chang's Rock and Roll Half Marathon whenever I feel like it.

It all started a few years ago when I worked for a friend of mine who loved running.  He loved running and biking and Ironman-ing and basically everything that I didn't like. He had this wonderful idea that a bunch of us should enter the half marathon. I, being a non-runner, was not fully invested in this idea, but because my friends were doing it (and they promised to carry my lifeless body across the finish line, if it came down to it), I signed up.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, here is the important part of a challenge such as this- the training. When you don't like running and you sign up for 13.1 miles of what should involve at least some running, you should train, right? Well grab your pencil and paper because I'm about to tell you the secret to my incredible training regime.

Are you ready for this?

I don't train.


No training for this crazy girl. I mean, I tried for the first one, but I found training on a treadmill, where you go absolutely nowhere forever and ever, to be incredibly boring. So I decided that I would just see what I could do with nothing. What I could accomplish with me just being me. It was the ultimate test of not training at all.

The day of the big race was the coldest day in Phoenix in something like 20 years. I was certain I was doomed. As the buzzer sounded we all took off and I found myself actually enjoying the race. All of these complete strangers were out there, in the cold, cheering us on. Teams of cheerleaders, families, and people holding up handmade signs, were all rooting for those of us competing. There were also bands all over the track, playing as we passed. I found myself laughing, smiling, enjoying this weird marathon-ing thing.

My friends and I crossed the finish line three hours and forty-five minutes later. Not a record time by any means, but we had walked most of it, and survived, so I was pretty happy.

To my own bewilderment, I signed up for the race the following year. And the next, and, to not outdo myself, I kept to my non-training schedule of just showing up and winging it. I figured that if the apocalypse were ever to come I should know exactly what I could handle without a single bit of preparation and for me, the half marathon was a good measure of that. Luckily I am a very skilled walker and each year I would make it out mostly unscathed and with the exact same time of three hours and forty-five minutes-ish. I figured if the end of the world came, I would at least be able to walk long distances before the Hannibal Lecter's got me. I must admit though, every time I would see a set of grandmothers pass me on the course I had to start questioning whether or not I might actually survive after all.

A couple years ago I got bored and decided I was done with this half marathon business. I'd experienced it enough. Then, this last summer my friend, Becky, told me she wanted to do the race. Hmm. One more time?

One thing in particular I like about the races are the causes they support. This year the proceeds were going towards the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which is near and dear to my heart, so I was in. One more time.

Becky had made it clear from the start that I, under no circumstances, should leave her behind. I had to laugh because clearly she was giving me far more credit on my former marathon skills than what actually existed. I wasn't sure how up to par I was for it either, so I was even a little worried. As mentioned prior, Becky and I do four mile walks whenever I go home to visit, so we decided that I would try and get home more often so we would walk more. That would be our training. That's right friends, I was actually going to attempt to train for once.

It went well, as all adventures with Becky usually do. The first time we started training I stepped on a snake, screamed, jumped and flailed around like a fool until we realized it was dead. We upped our four miles to six (once) and scared ourselves thinking coyotes were after us...because it's happened before. We went out in the rain and sleet. We went out on a day when the temperature was freezing and we trekked through a wash with mud. We even attempted running (once) and then went back to walking. Since I had never trained before and always survived, I thought for sure this was going to backfire on us. Like the more effort we put in, the more messed up we would be the day of the half marathon.

I was wrong.

Yesterday we completed our half marathon.

I haven't gotten the official time, but I'm pretty sure I was fifteen minutes faster than any year I've completed prior. Yesterday it was easier than any other year, too. Get this- we even ran a few times! Amazing, right? And today I can walk like a normal person and nothing hurts. It's weird.

It was nice to feel the familiar excitement and nervousness of the annual event. It was nice to spend a whole day with one of my favorite people, tackling a pretty cool feat. It was nice, period. And we're doing it again next year. We'll probably even train for it again, which means I am going to be way more prepared for the end of the world.

So, friends and family, the next time you have something you want to do - but you're scared, or unsure, or think you might fail - just do it.

I mean it.

It doesn't matter what it is.

Maybe you want to go somewhere you've never been. Maybe you want to try for a new job, talk up the cutie at the bar, dye your hair orange with pink highlights. Whatever it is, just do it.

You'll be proving to yourself just how capable and courageous you really are. You'll find that the more things you do that you're unsure of, the easier it will be to actually face them. Everything will get easier. Everything.

You can do it. You just have to try.

Just do it. Because can.

You can do anything.

Want to get involved, have fun and get in shape? Check out all of the marathons near you, here. You'll feel good afterwards, I promise. Well, after the pain goes away, anyway.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fire and Ice

I've recently been sucked into the world of The Hunger Games. I'm only on book two but I'm hooked. The books, the song for the movie, the trailer for the movie. Loving it all. Anyway, this sort of just came to me yesterday when I was reading it.

Fire and Ice

I'll get the matches and you get the guns,
We'll both fight our way through the land that we love.

We'll stand for the young and we'll stand for the old,
We'll stand for the people who are freezing in the cold.

We'll part down the middle, going left, going right,
They won't see us coming through the fire and ice.

I'll warn the children, to stay safe, to go home.
You get the men who've been worked to the bone.

I'll fight for vengeance, you'll fight for love,
We'll meet in the middle with an understood trust.

We'll rest in the morning, take watch through the night,
They wont see us coming through the fire and ice.

You keep your wits about you, I'll keep my might.
You risk your safety, I'll risk my life.

We'll stand with the fallen, we'll do what should be done,
We'll burn and we'll melt, then we'll vanish in the sun.

And when the smoke is clearing in the dawning of the light,
They won't have seen us coming through the fire and ice.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

To Write Love on Her Arms

I was playing around on Smith the other day when I saw something called To Write Love on Her Arms. The sentence itself was so beautiful that I had to see what it was all about.

To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) was started by a small group of people who were trying to help a friend who was suffering from an addiction. From there it took off and has become a huge non-profit group supporting those in need of assistance with addiction, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

Everyone knows someone who's suffered through one of these things. You might know more than one person, maybe a few even. Sometimes they need help and don't know where to turn. Sometimes they can't afford the help they need. Sometimes they just need some information. This site is dedicated to all of those times.

There is a multitude of ways for you to get involved, from donating money to buying one of their very cool shirts. Check out all of your options here.

The blog in itself is also pretty interesting. I enjoyed the most recent post, Welcome to Midnight.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, please go to this site. It could make all the difference in the world.

Here is an excerpt from their site on what their vision is:

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The vision is that we actually believe these things…
You were created to love and be loved.  You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you're part of a bigger story.  You need to know that your life matters.
We live in a difficult world, a broken world.  My friend Byron is very smart - he says that life is hard for most people most of the time.  We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments.  You need to know that you're not alone in the places you feel stuck.

Want more info? Visit the FAQ section

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Monday Mantra: Anything Can Be

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Anything Can Be

Listen to the MUSTN'TS child, 
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child, 
ANYTHING can be.

 - Taken from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

I remember a very specific moment from high school that changed my life forever. I was with a group of friends studying in the library when we started to discuss the topic of our future selves. What we were going to be, what we were going to do with our lives, how we saw everything playing out.

When it was my turn to tell everyone what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had nothing. I had too many things, actually. I wanted to be an architect, a psychologist, a dog trainer. I had just seen Twister, so I was also very seriously considering being a tornado chaser. Mostly, I was unsure.

I was feeling pretty lame, not knowing what I was going to do with my life, when my friend, Tom, looked over at me and said, "Whatever you do, it will be great."

That moment - the way he said it to me, with such depth and truth in his voice, the way his eyes even said he believed it - made every difference in the world.

To this day I remember that long ago moment in the library every time I doubt myself. Every time I'm unsure of what I want to do or be or if I'm going to make it. And every time it makes me stop doubting.

I don't think Tom knew just how much of an impact he made on me that day, just by believing in me. How one little sentence has made me a stronger person through and through. He probably still doesn't even know, but I thank him, wherever he is, for that moment.

Everyone needs a moment like that, where they believe that anything they want, anything they want to become, can happen. Everyone needs someone to believe in them and in their dreams, their ideas, their hopes. I sincerely believe that believing in someone is one of the greatest things you can do.

I'm passing on the wise words of my friend...

Whatever you do, it will be great.

You risk absolutely nothing by believing in yourself. Take that risk.

Anything you want in life, anything can be.

Believe it.

Is there someone in your life that made a difference by believing in you? 
Twitter. Facebook.

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The Garden of Eating: Better BBQ Sauce

I love me some good BBQ sauce, but many of them out there in your grocery store aisles are full of junk and, well, more junk. That's where this wonderful little recipe comes in.

It's easy enough and makes plenty for leftovers. I use it with ribs, roasts, steak, everything pretty much. I love BBQ sauce. Just a little. Here's the way I make it using Rachel's recipe.

Better Barbecue Sauce
Taken from The Garden of Eating, by Rachel Albert-Matesz and Don Matesz.

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 cup minced fresh onion
1/2 TSP unrefined sea salt
3 cloves minced garlic
1 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP dry mustard
1/3 TSP ground chipotle
1 TSP dried, crumbled basil
1 TSP dried, crumbled oregano
1 (6 ounce) can of sugar free tomato paste
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 TBSP raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 TSP stevia extract powder (be careful not to use too much...powerful stuff, this stevia)
1 TBSP honey

I used this batch with a roast and some
yellow roasted zucchini for my veggie. 
1. Heat oil in a 1 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Bring to low boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer with lid ajar to reduce splattering, stirring periodically until mixture thickens, 20-30 minutes.
*Watch out for the splattering. Seriously. It looks like Dexter was in my kitchen. 

2. Pour into wide mouth glass jar; allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. Use within two weeks or freeze.

It's good people, really good. I promise.

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Feel It Out

You know what feels good? Feeling, in general. It feels good to feel.

I was pretty ticked off earlier this week. Just kind of mad and disgruntled. Then, to top it all off, I was mad at myself for getting mad. Yep. I got angrier because I was angry.

Silly, I know.

Sometimes I try too hard to be nice and polite when I really should just be me. When I really should just feel whatever it is that I'm feeling. It doesn't help that I went to school and studied how to be a better person and more aware and more yogini like and all of that beautiful enlightening junk. Yeah, it's good. It is. But sometimes it makes me forget that it's OK just to feel however it is that I feel. That it's OK just to feel, period.

Once I remembered that, everything got better immediately. It's good to just be sometimes, even if being mad is where you need to be. It's better than pretending and once you let the emotions hit you, they often leave swiftly, having done whatever job it was they needed to do. For me, it meant I got a lot of things accomplished with my new found angry energy. It also meant that I learned how to swear in French.

In my getting-things-done state, I found a book I had bought a long time ago in an airport, after having had quite the strenuous flight. The book: FU - A journal to destroy, rant and vent without the police getting involved.

Brilliant, and at an excellent selling location, might I add!

I decided to flip through it and this is what I found...
Not suitable for children who can read French.
Since I don't actually swear very often, or at all for the most part, I decided to get creative and learn a new language because, in my mind, swearing in a different language isn't really swearing at all. Especially since it usually sounds so pretty.

I'm going to be taking a French class this spring so I thought I should start there. You never know, there could be a bonus section on the tests for words we learned outside of class and this could help my grade one day. Maybe.

Anyway, I felt much better after I attacked my book with some profanity. I actually felt a gazillion times better. Plus, I learned some fun new words, that may or may not be spelled correctly. I tried.

Next time you have a hard day, or a sad day, or a whatever day, just let yourself feel it. The longer you hold off on that feeling, the more intensely it's going to hit you when you do open up to it. Let the feeling  come and it will go just as fast. Let yourself feel.

I now feel like I overcame a bad day and made the best out of it. You can do the same.

When you're temper is burning hot it's up to you to decide: Will you go down in flames or rise up out of them?

What do you do that makes you feel better when you're having a rough day?

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Is Yoga Bad For You?

A friend posted an article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, on Facebook the other day, causing me to want to read it immediately.

Yoga wrecking your body? What?! I was perplexed. I had to figure out what was going on.

The article is based off of Glenn Beck, a yoga teacher who has been teaching for almost 40 years and who has an impressive background, having studied yoga at the B.K.S. Iyengar institute in India. After his many years of teaching he believes that most people should give yoga up. Yep, just give it on up.

To explain his rational behind this he states, "Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people. You can't believe what's going on - teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling, saying, 'You should be able to do this by now.' It has to do with their egos."

The answer to this problem, he believes, is that most people should just stay away from yoga. That only those in need of healing or those in great condition should practice.


I've only got about a decade under my belt, but here's my take on it: Everyone should do yoga, but everyone needs to be careful with what they do, how, and who they study with.

Sure, yoga can hurt you. You can also blow out a knee cap if you run, pull a muscle weight lifting, and sprain your ankle in kickboxing. Those injuries all depend on how hard you push yourself. They depend on how well you know your body.

That is the key - Knowing your body. Knowing your limits. Knowing when enough is enough.

I've heard of yoga teachers giving adjustments and hurting students. I'm sure it happens. He's right when he says it's about ego for a lot of people, teachers and students alike. Those people, however, are wrong to act that way. The very core of yoga is about having no ego. Having no thoughts, really, just being. The actual practice of yoga is about preparing the body for meditation. For silence from your own thoughts. It's also incredibly therapeutic and healing, when done properly.

I studied with a brilliant woman, Mary Bruce. Not only did she encompass everything that yoga is meant to, she taught us the difference between giving an adjustment and pushing someone. Between the soft side of the edge, and the edge itself. In yoga, you don't want to be on the edge.

Yoga is about stretching, growing, shifting, shall we say, your perception of what your body can do and why and how. It's about flowing with your breath, paying attention to your thoughts, eventually freeing your mind from those thoughts.

Yoga is not a competition.

It is not about how low you can go, how high you can stretch, how cool your clothes are, or how far you push yourself. It is not about pain. It's just not.

I used to teach a class where I had students in various age ranges. Each person needed something different. Some could do the more advanced poses, some couldn't, and that was fine. I always wanted them to know that was perfectly fine, excellent even. Honoring yourself was the most important piece. Rarely would I give an actual physical adjustment. I mostly tried to adjust with my words. I tried to refrain what I had said in various ways so they would know how the alignment should look, should feel, for them. I did a lot of demonstrating so they could see it, the difference between too much and not enough. I did it this way because this is how I was taught. Alignment of the body, to ensure you didn't hurt the body, but strengthened it, was key.

I still can't get my heels to touch the ground in Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward-facing dog. Nope.  I'm better, but me and my hamstrings disagree on where they want to go and where I want them to go. So I let them decide. One day it'll happen. That's good enough for me.

Let your body decide what's good enough for it. Don't force anything. By forcing you are actually doing more damage than you would be if you let your body relax naturally into the pose.

If something hurts, stop. Ask the teacher if you're doing it right. Ask them to show you various ways to do it, if the one they were showing in class doesn't work for you.

Be sure to find a yoga teacher you like...and trust. Make sure they're there for the right reasons and that they have your best intentions at heart. A really excellent yoga teacher will ask you if they can adjust you before they do anything. They'll give various options for each asana, or pose. They will help you challenge yourself, but they will make sure you don't hurt yourself. They will remind you that yoga is a practice, a process, and that the the only perfection you should be striving for is to realize that you're already perfect.


What are your thoughts on the practice of yoga?

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Monday, January 2, 2012

This Just In: Monday Mantras

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

When you're having a hard moment, day, or week, and need something to pick you up or to remind you of the good things in life, it helps to have something positive, enlightening, maybe even something funny, to focus on. This is why I'm starting Monday Mantras.

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for that week. When you need a breather from life or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Mantra's are designed to be spoken out loud, therefore giving them more power, more oomph. You don't have to do that. You don't even have to chant it or meditate on it or anything, unless of course you want to. I see this simply as a weekly tool, a reminder, an idea to draw your attention to when it wants to go somewhere else, somewhere less helpful. It's something to keep us all tethered together during the more crazy moments in life.

For a very in-depth look into Mantras, click here.

To start the year out, here is your very first focus point for the week.

Monday Mantra: Be Human

It's never too late...

To be human.

Too often we seek perfection.
And despair when we don't find it.
There is glory in all facets of humanity.
In our struggles.
Our achievements.
Our failures.
Our imperfections.
Perfection can be an aim.
But it's not a pleasant state for a human.

 - Taken from It's Never Too Late by Patrick Lindsay

When I was a senior in high school I had 3.5 jobs. One was at Subway, one was at Safeway, one was at a golf club, and one was at a bank. I was crazy determined to grow up and get on with life, what can I say? During this time I was also much, much more shy than I am now and I had a tenacity for blushing the color of a vine ripened tomato at pretty much anything. People knew this. People loved this. It was no bueno for me.

At Safeway I was the deli girl. The best part of the job, aside from the amazing hair net? Having to get up at 4:30 in the morning for the opening shift. At this point in my life I didn't even know that time of day existed. 

One morning I was ridiculously sleepy. Normally the front door is open just enough for those of us with the early shift. I see the open door ahead of me, walk up to it and...WHAM! I do an entire body slam into it because on this particular day, it was not open. I was apparently hallucinating. Then, I stumble a few steps back, point at the door, and yell at it like it's the doors fault for not being open. I'm so mad/embarrassed that I refuse to go through that door and pick another one instead. Clearly it was the door's fault.

I didn't tell anyone at work that day, but I did mention it to my friend at the bank, whose husband just so happened to be the manager of Safeway. Word to the wise: Small town, talk travels fast normally, but when you work with the husband at one place and the wife at another, it's bound to get around even faster. Dummy. I know.

The next time I'm headed into work I get called in to the managers office. I freak out silently on the inside. Did I slice the turkey wrong? Is my hair net on backwards? Oh no, oh no, oh no.

My manager sits me down. He proceeds to tell me that he has something to show me and that he needs an explanation. I have no idea what it going on at this point. He turns on the TV in his office and there I am, staring at myself walking into the glass doors. I had totally forgotten about the security cameras catching our every move. He goes through the whole thing, rewinds it, pauses it, replays it, and laughs his head off. His favorite part? When I yelled at the door. To see myself point and flail my hands at it while cursing it out was a little overboard. Just a tad.

As I'm slowly dying of embarrassment, thinking it couldn't get worse, he tells me everyone else saw it.

Every single Safeway employee. At the meeting that I didn't attend. And that it's going to make a reappearance at the Christmas party.

To this day, when I go back home, I avoid Safeway as much as I possibly can. I just know that glass door remembers me and is waiting for round two.

Have you ever had a moment that was less than perfect, that brought you back to just being human?

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A Resolution Revelation

Photo Credit:
I was Googling the definition of "resolution" when I came upon this:

Resolution is the image created as a result of the number of pixels or dots used.

It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it was perfect in it's own way.

I've never been a New Year's Day resolution-making kind of a girl. I tried, twice, and gave up by the end of the same day that I made each one.

I never saw the point.

Just because the calendar flips over a day, and suddenly it's a new year, I see no purpose in going crazy and drastically changing my life. What I do see is a lot of perfectly sane people going insane just at the thought of what they're going to resolve to do or not to do. I see people worry over another year that has passed them by, a year where they didn't accomplish that which they intended to.

Instead, I suggest a change in our thought process.

To achieve the perfect photo resolution you need the right amount of pixels and dots. Too much and it will overpower your image. Too little and it will be blurry. This is true with your resolutions as well. Too  much stress over achieving your goal and you'll burn out. Too little and you'll never see the clear path to what you want.

Instead of taking one day to make a plan that will last you a year, slow it down. Take a breath. Take it one step at a time.

Every day is a new day that you haven't yet experienced. Every single day, minute, second - that you, and I, and everyone else lives in - is a brand new undiscovered day, minute, and second.

Live like that. Live for that. Just live.

I know people that make daily resolutions. They find them more manageable. They are often simple things that, in the long run, lead to more complex situations being worked out, just by taking it one day at a time. How nice it is, at the end of the day, to say you accomplished exactly what you set out for. And if you didn't, no worries. You have another 24 hours coming up to try again.

If having to come up with something daily is too much to have to even consider, how about weekly then? A weekly plan. And if it doesn't go exactly as you had hoped, adjust it. Make it fit for you.

Give it time to grow into that which you want it to be.

Give yourself time to grow with it.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself. It will happen.

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