Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Dinner with a Side of Emotions, 2012

The toast I meant to give last night, for Christmas dinner: 

"Life can be hard.
Life can be challenging.
Life is also precarious.
And ultimately fleeting.

Life is also be full of beauty, and wonder, and grace, and love. And it is up to us to witness it... or not.

So as we sit down to this meal together again - after a year of ups and downs (like most years, I'd say),
I simply ask that you make the choice to be here, now. To be present to each bite, each laugh, each moment. To try just for a short while to let go of everything else - stress, anxiety, worry - and to be here, and experience this meal and the joy of each others company. The beauty is here- right here, right now. The least we can do is try to be here, too.

Cheers to right NOW! To good food, great wine, and family! Let's eat!"

This is the toast I gave last night, for Christmas dinner:

Life can be....oh my fucking GOD, I'm going to cry! Shit. Shit. I'm crying. Okay, okay, okay (my 3-year old niece, Lily, is having a meltdown stage left and screaming) -oh, come here Lily, give this toast with me... (picking Lily up, now holding Lily AND a glass of champagne)....
Okay, so life can be hard. But life is also full of.... (cry, clear throat, sniff, sniff)... so you guys know life is hard, duh, okay - I'm sorry, am I being too emotional? Oh my GOD.. okay, so I wanted to quote Annie Dillard - to paraphrase her - that beauty and grace are performed whether we will or sense them - the least we can do is try to be there - (sniff...) I just really love you guys, so here's to being here, you I love you all.... (tears....Now I sit down awkwardly with Lily in my lap, who proceeds to have another meltdown, weeping "where MY dinner....")

Geez. Christmas making me all nostalgic and grateful and emotional and shit. Whoa. =)

2012 Menu 
Sunday, December 23, 4pm

Cocktail hour (4-6pm)
  • Candy cane cocktail (vanilla vodka, white chocolate liquor, peppermint schnapps) 
  • Cheese board
  • Olives
  • Linda McCartney's Green Herb dip with crudités

Appetizer (6pm)
  • Confit of pork belly (form Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home)
  • Broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes (Ad Hoc at Home)
  • Champagne
Impromptu Cocktail hour to buy time because Hilary the POTATOES messes up the timing (7-8pm) 
  • Scotch or bourbon over smoked ice (Bruce made the ice from Bon Appetit you can read about here!)

Main Course (8pm)
The roast BEFORE going in the oven...
  • Standing rib roast (4 ribs/10 pounds). *Salted, left uncovered in refrigerator overnight. Brought to room temperature for two hours, cooked low and slow at 200 degrees for about 4.5 hours to a perfect medium rare - about 125 degrees. Rested 1.5 hours. Blasted at 500 degrees for 10 minutes before carving for perfect golden, salty crispy crust. I don't feel like I can take credit for how well this roast turned out. It was the best I think we've ever had, and I think it was because the meat from Fresh Market was really high quality.
  • Horseradish cream (Ad Hoc at Home) *This was SO much better than the sour cream version I usually make. It's so worth it to seek out the Sherry vinegar and whip it up yourself. Best new addition (other than pork belly, of course!)
  • Yorkshire pudding *This was my first year making it gluten free and even the non-gluten free folks liked it better than last year!
  • Mashed potatoes (Pioneer Woman) *If you make these the night before just note that they take longer to heat through than she says,even if you do bring them to room temperature for 3 hours - word to the wise! This threw my timing off big time. We were supposed to eat at 7pm. Luckily the combination of the pork belly to start and Bruce distracting everyone with his magical smoked ice saved the day!
  • Brussels sprouts two ways: whole roasted (Ina Garten) and shredded sauteed with pecans and cranberries (Alton Brown)
  • Caramelized creamed pearl onions (Tyler Florence)
  • Sweet potato biscuits with marshmallows (Smitten Kitchen) *Also gluten free, and also an enormous hit with the non-gluten free folks!
  • Carrots
  • Wine (I chose a cabernet sauvignon to pair with the meat) or beer (my dad is allergic to wine!).
After Dinner Drink (10pm)
  • Glogg with almonds and raisins *a gift from Christi's mom, Tina, who was with us last year! We missed you!
Dessert (11pm)

  • Flourless chocolate cake with ice cream and raspberries
  • Coffee

Yes, this was an EVENT, to be sure. Exhausting. Thrilling. Relatively successful. I think my mom would have been proud. =)


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Color is GREEN!

In my continual online perusal of all things yoga related, I happened across something on Yogaanonymous the other day that has me lusting for backbends, excitedly making plans to make all those juicy (terrifying) heart-openers the focus of my practice again.

I went through a big backbending revolution at the beginning of 2011 and even took a workshop with the iconic Kathryn Budig in early April. I was determined to open myself up to life, to love, to connection, to other people... and then I started to feel too open, too vulnerable, and that fall I quickly retreated to the safety of my beloved forward-folds. The place I'm most comfortable: with myself.

Can you be an extroverted introvert? Or like...a closet introvert? I think I am both. I'm vivacious in social situations - bubbly, overly-enthusiastic, loud (LOUD!!! I'm REALLY loud. Seriously. It's embarrassing) and full of energy, but I actually feel the most comfortable and the most safe when I'm ALL. BY. MYSELF. Answering only to me. Completely alone. If I wasn't such a wuss about nature (I know, I KNOW), and if I didn't have such an aversion to camping, I think I could go into the woods for a weekend alone, no problem. In fact, right now, I think it would be heaven to check into one of those lake lodge rooms and spend the weekend outside. (Avoiding all ticks, bugs, snakes, etc. of course). I'd take a yoga mat, a journal, a few bottles of wine and a good bottle of scotch, comfortable clothes and LOTS of blankets. Turn my phone off. Leave the computer at home. Disappear for a bit. Oy, that sounds FABULOUS.

BUT RIGHT. The point is I need to open my heart again - be more open to the world and the people in it - so I'm TRYING. I joined an online book club my friend Emily invited to me and I even sent an EMAIL with some thoughts about the book and tried not to worry too much if the people on the other end of the email would think I was TOTALLY NOT SMART AT ALL!!! (This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. I LOVVVVED it). And I'm reaching out to friends and trying to say yes more than I say no. (I resent Josh Radnor a little bit for putting cutie-yet-smoldering-Zac Efron in my brain telling me "Fortune never smiles on those who say no" all god damned day, every day. JESUS, little Zac Efron, LEAVE ME ALONE! He also tells me to "BE LOVE!" too, but that one I don't resent as much).

Oh! So the thing from Yoganonymous was in an article is called "Yoga Research: Five Proven Facts That Make Yoga Awesome" by Ashley Josephine:

This may be the biggest breakthrough of all for practical application and yoga language. There are 12 pairs of nerves in the brain that control motor and sensory function, but one of those nerve pairs is extra special—it takes on double duty and controls both at the same time. It starts from the brain and moves down either side of the neck connecting first at the heart.
Called the vagus nerve, or wandering nerve, this little guy connects with every major organ in the body. The nervous system works by being stimulated through chemical and electrochemical stimulation, but also responds to mechanical stimulation. Thus, when you do a heart opening posture, you’re mechanically stimulating the vagus nerve. When you take a deep breath into the kidneys, you’re mechanically stimulating the vagus nerve. And when you pull your leg into your chest, you’re mechanically stimulating that wondrous nerve.
When this nerve is stimulated, signals are sent to the organs to control function. For example, research now proves that yoga can increase your variable heart rate, which leads to overall greater health. Rather than expecting your heart rate to beat at exactly the same intervals, it is optimal for some variability to occur between each beat (we’re talking thousandths of a second here).
It makes sense when you think about it. If your heart beats with the same amount of time in between each pump, you’ve conditioned your body to perform in a very specific state all the time. What happens when you enter into a new state? You freak out. But, if there is some variability, you’ve actually conditioned your body to respond to a variety of different situations. In other words, you’re able to deal with whatever comes at you. That is why when we backbend and breathe deeply, we stimulate the vagus nerve, which sends signals to the heart to increase variability (motor function).
Okee DOKEE. Got it. For someone who has been having weird bouts of hypochondria and anxiety and even had a few panic attacks this calendar year, finding out that I can condition my body to NOT FREAK OUT in a variety of different situations and deal with whatever comes at me is really compelling. Where do I sign up? Oh, right. That YOGA THING I signed up for, unknowingly, when I was 18 and bought Patricia Walden's Yoga for Beginngers VHS (yes, children - VHS) tape.

So my sadhana this week is going to focused on backbending, the heart chakra, and the color GREEN. Wait, who remembers the seed sound for the heart chakra and can tell me! (Oh, how I can reminisce about Devarshi's amazing circle sadhana during YTT with all of that chanting!!! Sooooo amazing! I wish my students wouldn't freak out if I started om-ing up a storm every single class).

And if you take class with me this week, you'll probably see a little more backbending than I normally teach. I got a message in a yoga nidra cloud* a few weeks ago that told me to "do something different" (luckily I hadn't seen Liberal Arts at this point, or my cloud would have been a he's-too-damn-young-to-be-so-strangely-attractive Zac Efron telling me "fortune never smiles on those who say no" - seriously. IT WON'T STOP!) and I've been trying:
  • I got my nose pierced. WHAT A REBEL.
  • I've made some dietary changes; namely cutting all grains out of my diet except for a little bit of quinoa. For me this basically means exchanging gluten-free bread and pasta for starchy veg like sweet potatoes and squash. I've also cut out cow's dairy and only occasionally have goat's or sheep's milk dairy. It's sort of a paleo-ish-but-OBVIOUSLY-I'm-not-giving-up-wine-and-chocolate/gluten-free hybrid sorta thing. And once a week I cheat, like - FRENCH FRIES cheat).
  • I've made exercise changes by increasing the intensity of my intervals and adding back non-yoga strength training.
So the next change: backbends. Practice and teach more of them. I do think that I skimp on the backbends in my classes for selfish reasons and I need to challenge myself there. One of my most regular students (she literally comes to a minimum of seven of my classes a week) asked me to teach yoga mudra because she hates yoga mudra. I ALSO HATE YOGA MUDRA. My shoulders don't like to cooperate with yoga mudra. I feel slightly embarrassed that I'm the teacher and I prefer to use a strap. I know that should be a good thing - reality yogi and all of that - but...BLARGH. It's sort of the same with backbends. So yeah - this week. Backbends and Yoga Mudra. Totes awesome. (I'm glad I ordered myself a sampler pack of Nikki's Coconut Butter the other day. I'll use it as a reward for going out of my comfort zone this week. Someone call Geneen Roth about my use of food as reward. Yes, I've read all of her books. No, I'm not changing my mind about the coconut butter, thankyouverymuch).

Who wants to open their heart with me this week? The only requirement is one dance party to Open Your Heart by Madonna, and then you're in the Hilary's Heart-Opening Club. Send me a video of your dance party and you get a PRIZE! I'm going to try to remember to post some links to practices that will help people open their heart at home, and also document a few of the classes that I teach to be used as home practices. I have no idea if anyone has ever done the sequences I post on my blog (see above: Reality Yogi Sequences) but just in case. =)


*I had a friend once get really excited about my zodiac situation (triple-Pisces) and then apologize by saying "sorry I got all woo-woo on you." I had never heard that term, but I liked it. And four years later, I am apparently the "woo-woo" one, because I just typed something about a message from a yoga nidra cloud with complete sincerity. ;)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Food: Eating to Live, Living a Life that FEELS GOOD.

I haven't ever talked about going gluten-free on my blog. I felt almost ashamed, like I was jumping on board one more ridiculous fad diet (no, really, let's have coffee and talk about my 20s. I've done them ALL). But now that I've been wheat/gluten free for almost seven months, with no real intention of ever going back, I'm ready to talk about it. Just in case you were on the market for ramblings from your favorite reality-yogi. :) To be continued- for now a placeholder to upload some photos!
seared tuna steak with white and black sesame seeds.
lunch at my desk: salad of massaged kale dressed with lemon and olive oil, leftover asparagus, zucchini, squash and filet mignon, raw almonds. some people add mayo to anything and call it a salad - i think a salad is anything i can mix up in bowl all together and eat with a spoon. ;)
google the health benefits of coconut oil. i guarantee you'll soon buy some.
my morning smoothies make me feel confident that if nothing else, i'm getting a huge hit of nutrients and plenty of fruits and leafy green veg at least once a day. i usually throw between six and eight fruits and veges (always starting with kale and/or collards and blending with coconut water) into my friend the ninja and drink it up.
roasted pork loin (high quality meat) with roasted apples in a mustard glaze, carrots roasted in coconut oil, kale and collards sauteed in grapeseed oil with garlic. this is a plate of leftovers. you should have seen in the night of. YUM.
you can't beat the wine flight at the crowded house. three four-ounce pours for seven dollars and change. i kid you not.
Add caption
this is the new machine at the gym. i'm fairly certain that it is an accident waiting to happen for me. i have visions of tripping down the stairs and face planting. i think i'll stick with the machines closer to the ground. =)
my girl, christi.
multi-tasking! kale and collards- some for the smoothie, some for making braised greens ahead of time for dinner that night.
you have to have fun. girl's night.
you are not going to BELEIVE THIS CAKE. rhian gets all of the credit for finding the recipe. it's grain free, soy free, dairy/casein free, gluten free....and it is probably the best flourless chocolate cake i've EVER HAD. you won't believe it.
i actually took this pic to show my girl, molly, that i still wear the scarf she gave to me almost three years ago when i was visiting her in southern california. that trip was where my dream of becoming a yoga teacher took shape. as a side-note, i got my nose pierced a week ago and only one person in my day to day life, outside of my immediate family, noticed. Huh??? It just looks that natural? Or is it so horrifying everyone is ignoring it?? ;)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stressed? Overwhelmed? What REALLY Works.

  • Supta Baddha Konasana in divine heart opener on a folded blanket.
  • Red wine.
  • An authentic connection with a dear, dear friend; feeling truly seen, loved and accepted. Admired, even.
  • Did I mention red wine?
  • A good book. Preferably fiction. 
  • FoodTV.
  • Getting the house really, REALLY clean. 
  • Cooking Network.
  • Imagining running a healthy food truck that serves all gluten free, whole foods.
  • Perfect pan-roasted chicken breasts. Two-nights in a row.
  • Did I mention red wine?
  • Sukasana. Deep, full breathes.
  • A tried and true bedtime playlist.
  • Throwing yourself completely into something you are passionate about - so if you're me: teaching a yoga class, and being truly present for that hour, for my role as teacher, even when everything outside of that hour is truly shitty and overwhelming. 
  • Laughter. 
  • A wee-dram of scotch before bed.
  • And, as my dear friend Molly knows: sometimes you just need potato chips. ;)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Morning. I have a crick in my neck.

I fell asleep on the couch last night watching Bravo. Gallery Girls, specifically. Which I actually loathe, really, except my disgust with the show is exactly why I can't stop watching it. Rich, anorexic 20somethings judging each other for living in the wrong hip NYC neighborhood and openly explaining that their "daddy" has "a ridiculous amount of money" and set up a trust so that they could "go out, party, and be part of the art world" - which apparently means showing up two hours late, approximately once a week, for an "internship" at a gallery run by someone just like them but 30 years older.

There has been very little ART in Gallery Girls thus far. But a lot of very red lipstick and collar bones.

In any event, I fell asleep on the couch watching this bullshit, and it's a reasonable punishment, I think, that I slept in an odd position on an odd shaped pile of couch pillows and now the right side of my neck hurts to the touch. I woke up at 5am and managed to get to my bed to sleep for a few more hours, but the damage had been done. I have a headache, my brain feels fuzzy and I want a do-over on my day.

But it's only noon, so there is still time to fix my day, right? (MY day? Yes, everyone, I OWN Thursday, August 30, 2012. It is MINE). This latte will be a cure-all. I'm sure of it. I would take a picture of my latte but my phone is in the other room and the latte is almost gone and it seems like a lot of work for a boring photo.

Also, I didn't blog yesterday like I said I would. Oops.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Morning. I would rather be reading.

I have an on again, off again relationship with my Kindle.

And right now we are pretty hot and heavy.

I've actually referred to my Kindle as my boyfriend for years. I dated a guy once who, on our third date, told me that he wanted to "replace" my Kindle.

His word choice alone - and the implication therein - should have saved me the disaster of a relationship that followed, but c'est la vie, right?

I go back and forth between thinking a LOT about the past and trying to be as totally and completely PRESENT as I possibly can. I read Ekhart Tolle's books, A New Earth and The Power of Now, in July and was really compelled to be more aware of my ego and how it was actually interacting with people FOR me, to be more connected to the present moment and being okay in it, and to seeing the sheer nature of my consciousness and being as something divine and ENOUGH. (Okay, okay - full disclosure - A New Earth was riveting and actually SORT OF sometimes made sense to me, in an obtuse and esoteric kind of way. The Power of Now is kind of choppy and I haven't ACTUALLY finished yet).

The thing is, and maybe this is one of my proverbial crosses to bear, I've always been overly sensitive and aware of TIME PASSING. The story continuing on and on and on and on. Staying content in the present without bringing the past with me is so damn difficult. I was 18 years old finishing my freshman year of college, (and I got to go to my DREAM COLLEGE and I loved, loved, loved it SO much), and I remember thinking, as I walked out of Gund 212 to take a box down to the minivan, "I'm 25% done with college. Oh NO!"

That's not really living in the moment. That's creating anxiety about time passing.

Lemon water. First thing. Every morning.
But I've always had this underlying anxiety about time passing. And I can look back on anything and everything - EVEN YESTERDAY FOR CHRIST'S SAKE - through rose-colored glasses and I start to MOURN it. I mourn the passage of time in some small way every single day. And I sort of hate living like this. It all but paralyzes me sometimes.

But I see life like this big, interwoven, fascinating STORY, and it's why I love to read so much, or maybe my love of reading from such a young age is WHY I see life like this big, interwoven, fascinating story. And I get frustrated that the only part of the story I can really hold on to, or READ, is the past, and I can't quite seem to make the present or my future into what I want it to be yet.

So I try to be really present and aware in the now, this now, AND THIS NOW, and this now (and I teach it day in and day out in yoga classes) and present to the reality of my consciousness - my spirit - that is the same divine spark of awareness that is the essence of ALL beings. And it makes sense for a split second here and a split second there, and I guess that should be a good place to start.

But mostly I just want to read, read, read - to devourer books that tell the stories that I would sort of like to tell with none of the apologies I feel like I have to offer in regards to how I see and feel and experience the world. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Morning. It feels like fall.

I adore autumn. For me, this is the true New Year. (I also despise New Year's Eve and the month of January, generally, so this just works out better for me, anyway). I realize it's August 27, and therefore not ACTUALLY autumn at all, but the weather has been a bit gray and rainy and it just feels like the seasons are shifting. I think the insane heat of July, during which I got accustomed to a heat index of 120 degrees for WEEKS on end, has made the 80s feels downright chilly. When I make it back north it's going to take me some time to readjust, but I don't think it will be difficult. I was the 6-year old who decided, while laying in a huge snow drift in Cleveland Hts., Ohio, that I must be some kind of snow fairy, because I wasn't cold. I was angry that my mom made me get out of the snow drift and come inside. "Of COURSE I won't freeze to death, mom! I'm a SNOW FAIRY! Don't you KNOW?!?"

Last week I spent all of my time fending off a cold. My friend Cleo introduced me to the most amazing supplement EVER, called Ultimate Immunity. I have never seen such dramatic results from a supplement in my entire life. I was feeling AWFUL. I started taking them on Wednesday night - on the intensive schedule per the bottle - and by Friday morning I knew I was on the other side of this monster of a cold. Thank you, Cleo. This week I want to focus on getting even healthier, and maybe more regimented. With my eating. Exercising. My yoga and meditation practices. Keeping my house clean. Taking baby steps toward goals I have. Etc. After months away, I'm considering turning back to the blog for accountability and consistency. But I'm bad at long term goals - they tend to overwhelm me and I shut down. So instead, a five day goal. I'm going to write every morning for the next five days. It doesn't have to be long, remotely creative or even a bit eloquent. But I'll write. Something.

For today I will write this: if you want a hit of greens in the morning, throw collard greens into the Ninja with a cup of coconut water. Blend, blend, blend. Add a banana and 4-5 ice cubes. Blend, blend, blend. It ends up tasting like banana deliciousness, and you don't have to chew the little pieces of greens like you do when using kale. Life lesson: collard greens work WAY better in smoothies than kale. And according to this big sign I saw at Whole Foods many a month ago, they are actually rated higher than kale in some arbitrary nutrition rating thing that Whole Foods makes seem very important.

Fret not, Cassie. I still love kale. I love kale the very best. More than collards. But I like eating kale sauteed with garlic and grapeseed oil, then simmered in vegetable stock for 20 minutes , or crisped up as kale chips, or in soup. In smoothies it never quite blends up enough.

Today I had collards in my breakfast, I'm having spinach as part of my lunch, and kale as part of my dinner. Three different greens in one day!! I'm a huge dork for being excited about this. I know.

Also, two years ago today I graduated from yoga school at Kripalu, which is how I first began eating copious amounts of kale on a weekly basis. Thank you, Kripalu.

The End. =)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Summer of Food Porn

Baked salmon, black quinoa, mixed greens, avocado cups with goat cheese and tomatoes.
Watermelon cocktail and guacahummus.
Healthy Hippie Hash and a mimosa.
10 Veg Dinner: quinoa pasta with fresh pesto, various types of squash, tomatoes and four types of greens.
Blackberry Gin Fizz.
Mixed veggie salad, gluten-free flatbread.
Healthy Hippie Hash.
Eggs in avocados.
Sardines on toast with avocado, local tomatoes, spinach salad with walnuts.
Salad with roasted beets, goat cheese and avocado; seared tuna.
Marinated and grilled fish for tacos.
Portobello burger with pea shoots and roasted carrots.
Sashimi night with an upside down heart. GIVE LOVE.
Tanqueray martini with hand-stuffed blue cheese olives.
Blue cheese stuffed olives.
Quinoa pasta with pesto, roasted eggpalnt, tomatoes and kale.
Late night snack: broiled tomatoes with goat cheese, garlic and basil.
Beet burger with wilted spinach.
Broiled tomatoes and Merlot.
Gluten free pizza night love.
Farmers Market bounty.
Tanqueray martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives.
Spicy black bean soup with lots of fixings and margaritas.
Farmers Market Happiness.
Fish tacos on corn tortillas with sriracha cream, homemade white and sweet potato fries, coleslaw.
Farmers Market Bounty in baskets.