Friday, July 29, 2011

Random Friday Facts


1.  I'm going on vacation next week and still don't know where I'm headed.


2.  The closest things I've ever owned to "designer" handbags are the Vera Bradley purses my mother-in-law has given me.  (I think  have three of them.)


3.  I only recently started eating avocados... and I'm kind of in love.


4.  I love hosting parties, especially ones where I can use my formal china.


5.  I know all of the words to The Bloodhound Gang's "The Bad Touch" by heart.


6.  I almost never change my jewelry.  


7.  I'm generally really far behind on new music trends.


8.  I'm dying to eat at Jose Andres' "America Eats Tavern" and I'm really sad I never made it to The Bazaar while I was in L.A.


9.  Anthony Bourdain is playing a twitter game. 

 Anthony Bourdain 

Let's mash classic films with insults, evil reality programs!


I'm secretly hoping he re-tweets me.  C'mon, Apocalypse Idol?  Real Housewives of the Western Front?  Raging Bull of Love?  Hilarious!


10.  I generally don't change out of yoga clothes unless I absolutely have to.  




Have a great weekend, everyone!

Youth is not a time of life - it is a state of mind

alternately titled "I turned 30 yesterday!"


My celebration did not include cake.  Or presents.  I received 3 cards, 1 phone call, 1 tweet and 80+ (!) Facebook messages.


Social media for the win!  


(Oh, and before you give the hubs the side-eye regarding the presents, he gave my my birthday present early.  He gave me my new netbook before I went to L.A. so I didn't have to lug my 17" behemoth laptop with me.  Now, the cake on the otherhand...)


Anyway.  My birthday was still pretty great, despite the distinct lack of cake.


I've been working (curriculum writing) for most of the last two weeks), but took the day off.  I figure, the trade-off for all those years of not being able to bring cupcakes to school on my birthday when I was growing up is that I don't work on my birthday as an adult.  (Well, since I'm a teacher I don't at least.)


Instead, I slept in.  I took care of a few things around the house that I'd been meaning to get to this week.  One of my best girls called me to wish me a happy birthday and we chatted for a while.  Then I went and got a mani-pedi.  It was a restful and relaxing day.


Since I'm still working on my "31 days of yoga" challenge, my dear husband tagged along with me to my Core Focus class.  It was FABULOUS.  Lots of my favorite people were there, and my friend (and yoga instructor) Sarah started the class off with a fun "Happy Birthday To You!" song... while having us do some killer outer hip exercises.  I had a great time (even though I had to sport the faux-celebrity look by wearing my sunglasses the whole time... I was at the back of the studio and forgot my regular glasses in the car.) [UPDATE:  The song is called "Cut the Cake" by John McCutcheon.  It's a fun, upbeat change from the usual "Happy Birthday" song!]  


It was great spending my birthday in class with a bunch of my favorite people.  I smiled and laughed just about the whole time (and if you've ever been to Sarah's Core Focus class, you know that's not easy!)  On the way out, lots of people wished me well and made me smile even more.


After class, we walked across the street to Bangkok 54 for dinner.  It's a pretty restaurant, although the company has slowly been taking over all of the businesses on the block and each of the 4 storefronts has a different sign.  


Crispy Tofu.  Deep-fried goodness with a sweet peanut-chili dipping sauce.  WIN.

Thai dumplings.  Crabmeat, pork, and water chestnut in wonton skin with sweet-soy sauce.  Another favorite of mine!  

Shrimp & Crabmeat Fried Rice.  Beautiful presentation, but lacked some flavor.
Thai fried rice is often served with lime, and I think a little citrus would have gone a long way here.

54's Spicy Roasted Duck.  Crispy roasted duck with chili peppers, garlic, and crispy basil leaves.
Excellent, although some of the bigger pieces were a little dry.
The smaller, fattier pieces were my favorite--rich and spicy and crunchy!


Unfortunately, Bangkok 54 no longer serves my favorite dessert--sticky rice with coconut custard.  But have no fear!  There are a bunch of great Thai restaurants on Columbia Pike so we walked across the street to Rincome and I was able to get it there.  Crisis averted!  


What my birthday lacked in cake and candles, it made up for in well wishes from friends, and my general sense of happiness and contentment with my life right now.  


I'll leave you with this quote from the card my friend Katherine gave me.  


"Youth is not a time of life - it is a state of mind.  It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees.  It is a temper of will, a quality of imagination, a rigor of the emotions.  It is freshness of the deep springs of life.  Nobody grows old by living a number of years.  People grow old only by deserting their ideals.  Years wrinkle the skin but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."  -Swami Bua


With days like this, I can't foresee giving up my enthusiasm... ever.   


Thanks to everyone who made my birthday special!  I love you all!





Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Look into the Magical, Mystical World of... Spreadsheets!



I've had a hard time writing a blog post today to follow up on yesterday's heavy hitter.


So I'm going to tell you about my ridiculous love of spreadsheets.  (But if it gets too boring, at least skip to the end and help me figure out some goals!)


If you're reading this, you probably know me personally... and you probably know that I love post-its and clipboards and (most especially) plastic page protectors.  But I capital L-O-V-E, pink-puffy-heart, better than sliced bread, loooooove GoogleDocs.  


GoogleDocs is useful at work because multiple people can collaborate on the same document at the same time.  It also allows me to edit the same document from work and from home without having to email it back and forth to myself or deal with a USB or lug my laptop around.  


But the best thing is that GoogleDocs has been a great fitness motivator for me for the last few years.


That's right, folks.  I'm such a dweeb that I'm motivated by an Excel spreadsheet.


It all started back in 2006 when I decided that I wanted to start getting more active and start working out.  The gym at work has a bunch of ellipticals and an 1/8 mile indoor track (plus a 1/2 mile outdoor track.)  I started a GoogleDoc called "Get Fit" and documented my workouts.


See those hidden columns?  Sometimes I track my weight too.  You don't get to see that.


To me, the most important thing has always been THAT I get up and get out and do something.  (Did I just quote Macy Gray?)  


As an aside, you see that Hot Yoga class on 3/18/2008?  That was my first yoga class EVER.  I went to Hot Yoga with my friend Katie.  No joke, I thought I was going to die.  I was out of shape, it was HOT yoga, and on top of it there was a teacher trainee that kept pushing me into poses I wasn't ready for.  Not cool.


Anyway, back to the spreadsheet.  I've religiously documented every workout I've completed since 2006.  According to my spreadsheet, from 2006-2009 I worked out a grand total of (drum roll please....)


33 times.  


4 years.  33 workouts.   LAME.


Then, as you all read yesterday, on November 12, 2009 I took my first yoga class.  And once I started documenting in 2010, I realized around October or November that I could more than TRIPLE my previous 4 years and workout 100 times in 2010--so I did.  But since I was still working out in fits and spurts, I decided that my goal for 2011 was to be more consistent--and I want to work out at least 10 times per month, every month.


At the bottom of my spreadsheet, I keep a tally of a few numbers that are important to me.  It looks like this:



In June I realized that if I added a few extra classes and bike rides, I surpass my 2010 total in only 6 months.  So I did.  

Recently, there have been some days where I have multiple workouts in a single day.  I'm still trying to figure out how I want to count those--because I don't want to get in the habit of saying "well I did 2 yoga classes on 5 days, so that's my 10 workouts for the month."  I think I need to go back and edit July to follow the format I used in June--but I'm too lazy to go back and get new screen shots right now.


In case you're still reading this snoozefest of a post, there's one last thing that totally excited me--Google told me one day that I could create a pivot table!  Pivot tables are a pretty new thing in my world, but I thought I'd try it out.

Click to make it bigger.  You know you want to.  Everybody's doing it.


It was glorious.  SUPER easy to use--it tallies everything I need without me having to go back and create a bunch of "COUNTIF" codes.  


If you've stayed with me this long, I could use some help with my goals.


As I mentioned earlier, I set a long-term goal for the year of 10 workouts x 12 months.  That one seems pretty inevitable at this point, so I started setting sub-goals for the year.  


In June it was to hit 100 workouts by the end of the month.  Done!
In July, when I realized that I'd be taking yoga classes every day for the first 2 1/2 weeks, I decided that I would do yoga every day for the month--and I'm on track to meet that goal.


I'm having a hard time deciding what to do in August.  August is complicated because I'll have two weeks of band camp from 1pm-9pm, and then I'll have teacher planning week.  I might try to add some personal yoga practice in, or maybe some additional bike rides... but I'm not sold on anything yet.  


Do you have any yearly or monthly goals?  How about any goal suggestions for me?


Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse and How Yoga Saved My Life

I had another blog post planned for today.  As I've been organizing posts in my head, Mondays make sense for me to post about meal-planning since my Sundays are normally all about food.  But, it's summer and today was not a normal Sunday.  Also, Amy Winehouse died yesterday.


So instead of a post about food, you're getting me on a soapbox.  (Don't worry, I will talk PLENTY about food.  And soon!)  And before I get started for real, I'll admit, that I'm a touch reticent to write this as it requires baring a bit of my soul--and I'm not very good at facing real emotions.  You'll find out more about that soon.


So.  Back to Amy Winehouse.  I've seen any number of comments about her passing.  My initial thought was "Sad, but sadly not surprising."  What I have been shocked by is some of the reactions I've seen various friends and acquaintances.  Things like "I mean really, was it any surprise?" and "I just don't feel sorry for her..." and, the worst I've seen, "They tried to send her to rehab and she said... *thud*"


I've you're looking for the Cliff's Notes version, my Facebook status from earlier today probably states my position most concisely:



Allow me to take a long step back and then elaborate on that last sentence.  For a variety of reasons, my parents voluntarily sent me to live with my (maternal) grandparents when I was about 4 years old.  When I was in 7th grade, my mother had a freak accident in a beauty parlor after which she developed epilepsy and a host of other health problems.  (No, seriously, I couldn't make this up if I tried.)  As far as I am aware, my mother never drank a drop in her life because of the alcoholism that runs in our family.  (You should have seen the look on her face when someone offered her a bite of their Kahlua cake during a meal after my grandfather passed away.  Priceless.)  But she did carry a backpack full of pills with her wherever she went.

As smart as she was, she never considered that her doctor-prescribed medications might possibly be worse than self-medicating with booze.  So, less than a year after the grandfather with whom I grew up died of cancer, I got a call that my mother was found unconscious.  And even though they started her heart again, her brain function was gone.   The machines were turned off.  The death certificate specifies her cause of death as "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of methadone, hydrocodone [Vicodin], and zolpidem [Ambien]."  

My mother was 48 years old at the time of her death.

So maybe you can see why I have a real problem with people saying that they feel no compassion for Amy Winehouse's death because "Well, it could have been prevented..." and "She should have known better..." and "Yes, but did she ever COMPLETE a rehab program?"

Clearly, life isn't so black and white.  

And in addition to having lost my mother, I recognize that I could easily have met the same fate.

The grandfather died in June 2006.  My mother followed in March 2007.  My grandmother (who was primarily responsible for my upbringing) passed in December 2008.  

Needless to say, 2009 was not a good year.  I was an emotional wreck.  My best friend was also going through a traumatic time in her life and we enabled each other.  Addiction runs in my family.  I don't talk about emotions, not real ones at least.  So I struggled--a lot--and coped in unhealthy ways.  (Nothing illegal, mind you, but nothing healthy either.)

And then something happened in November of 2009.  One of the teachers on my team at school invited me to go to a yoga class.  She was a yoga teacher and owned a studio nearby.  Out of pure vanity, I decided that some physical fitness wouldn't hurt and I went to her Yoga I class on November 12, 2009.  

MAN did I hurt the next day.  (Which, in retrospect, is laughable.  I just go back from a yoga vacation last week and attended 22 yoga classes over 7 1/2 days.)   But I loved the feeling that I had after I shut my phone off and rest my workaholic mind to focus on myself for 75 minutes.  

So I went back twice more in December.  And once a week in January.  Then I added a core focus class on Wednesdays.  And then I added a Saturday class with another teacher.  And I got stronger--mentally, physically, and emotionally.  

Yoga allowed to realize that I wasn't just in a funk... I had been depressed.  And honestly, I should have been seeking treatment for that year--because planning 3 funerals and trying to hold my family together was just too much for even strong, stoic me to handle.  And the more I went to yoga, the lighter I felt.  

So, while I might be an addict now, my addiction is to yoga.  It is the only reason I will force myself to leave my classroom at a reasonable hour.  I am careful to listen to my body and practice mindfully--so that I can continue to practice regularly.  

Since that first class less than 2 years ago, I have taken another 238 classes.  (I keep a spreadsheet.  More on that later.)  At the studio, we joke that I'm a "frequent flyer"--I attend classes more than any other student.  (Okay, from January to May I was #2, but the "#1" woman didn't have a job and had a nice severance package from her previous employer...)  

I normally practice yoga 5 days per week, although I challenged myself to practice every day in July.  I have met and exceeded that challenge.  I am working on developing my home yoga practice and if it wasn't for marching band I would be training to become a yoga teacher this fall.

Yoga has returned me to health in numerous ways.  I truly believe it has saved my life.  I wish that Amy Winehouse and my mother had found a healthier way to cope with their circumstances before drugs led each of them to a tragic and premature demise.  And I wish that my friends and acquaintances, while perhaps not understanding why people turn to drug or alcohol abuse, learn to express compassion for those who struggle with it.

Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Random Friday Facts

I've debated how organized I want my blog to be and how often I want to post.  Some of my friends who blog have a pretty organized schedule of posts.  Others just post periodically.  I'm not sure that I can commit to posting 5 days a week once school is back in full swing.  (Have I mentioned that my husband doesn't see me that much as it is?)  The organized part of my brain (helloooooo ENTJ) really wanted to come up with a different theme or idea for each day of the week.  The realistic part of me recognizes that it might be difficult to keep up.  What to do, what to do...


Regardless, some of my favorite ladies have a segment they call "Random Friday Facts."  I think it's kind of fun and I'm a pretty random girl... so I'll go with it, at least for my first Friday blog post.  If you know me well, most of these won't be particularly groundbreaking.

  1. I have two dogs named Millie and Rowdy.  Yes, Rowdy was named after the taxidermied dog on Scrubs.
  2. I have played flute for 21 years.  I like it, but I can't say that I love it.
  3. My husband and I have been married for 6 years and have been together for nearly 12. He still doesn't know my middle name.
  4. I love to cook and eat exotic foods, but the only potatoes I eat are french fries that taste like "fried" and the only type of beans I eat are green beans and jelly beans.  I also don't like goat cheese, feta cheese, or bleu cheese.
  5. I competed in pageants for 8 years.  No, I won't post pictures.
  6. My zodiac sign, Chinese zodiac sign, and the meaning of my name all have the same characteristics.  For lack of a better word, I think I was destined to have a fiery personality--even if it took a while for me to grow into it.
  7. My birthday is always nice... but only just nice.   I don't ever remember having a real birthday party unless I asked for it, and even then it was only once.
  8. If I had my way, I would stay up until 3am and sleep until noon every single day.  
  9. I have never done a cartwheel (or even a round-off) in my life.
  10. I have a massive scar on my right knee from where I wiped out on my bike when I was 16.  The next time I rode a bike was when I bought one last year, nearly 13 years later.  
I think that's enough for today.  Have a great weekend!  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chipotle Shrimp & Bacon Chiles Rellenos

Introducing the first of (hopefully) many posts on one of my favorite subjects: food!


Allow me to preface this by stating that I realize this is NOT an authentic recipe for chiles rellenos.  That doesn't mean it's not going to be darn tasty.  And it's probably healthier than most other recipes, as it doesn't involve deep frying.  But have no fear, there is still BACON involved!  And while I'm busy prefacing things, I'll also add that I don't really like my point-and-shoot camera so most of the time I take photos with my phone--so please excuse the poor quality!


I started from a recipe for Shrimp in a Chipotle-Lime-Cilantro Remoulade from Tasty Kitchen.  I don't know why this recipe only has 3 stars--it's super easy and quite delicious.  I often make the shrimp and put it in the middle of a BLT sandwich.  Chipotle shrimp BLT?  Amazing.  


I used this recipe to make a shrimp salad by chopping up the shrimp and adding some crumbled thick-sliced bacon.  By some stroke of fate, I ended up with a bunch of leftover shrimp salad... and after I noticed the Anaheim peppers at the farmer's market, an idea was born.


Chipotle Shrimp & Bacon Chiles Rellenos with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa and Queso Fresco


"Isn't she lovely?  Isn't she wonderful?"


Ingredients


For the peppers:
  • 1/2 pound Large Shrimp (deveined, coked, and coarsely chopped)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Mayo 
  • 2-3 cloves Fresh Garlic 
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder OR 1/2 a dried chipotle pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • Thick-cut bacon, cooked and coarsely chopped.  
  • 4-6 mild green chile peppers.  (I used Anaheim peppers because they were available at the farmer's market, but Poblano are more traditional.  The number of chiles you will need will vary based on their size.)
  • Queso Fresco 
For the salsa:
  • 1-2 Red Bell Peppers
  • a handful of Cilantro
  • 1/2 medium Onion
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper (quartered with seeds and ribs removed)
  • Lime juice
I know this recipe seems like a lot of work, but it's really not too bad--especially if you have a food processor.


Preparation


Preheat your broiler to high.  Line a broiler pan with foil.  Lightly coat the Anaheim Peppers and the Red Bell Peppers in olive oil and place them on the broiler pan.  Broil them for 10-12 minutes, periodically turning them until the skin is blackened all the way around each pepper.  Once the peppers are blackened and blistered, take them out of the oven and put them in a zip top plastic bag to cool.  The bag will trap the steam and make peeling the skin off the peppers much easier.  


Preheat the oven to 375°F.


Meanwhile, combine the mayo, cilantro, garlic, chipotle, lime juice, and olive oil in the food processor.  (Note: If you're using dried chipotle peppers, you may want to give them a whir first to break them up before adding the other ingredients.)  Process for a few seconds until everything is chopped up.  Add salt & pepper and adjust any other seasonings to taste; don't be shy with the flavors here, as the flavor of the filling will be tempered by the pepper in which it's stuffed.  Mix the bacon, shrimp, and remoulade together and set aside.  Rinse out your food processor bowl.


Place the onion and jalapeno in the food process until finely chopped.  Peel the skin off of the red bell peppers, remove the stem and seeds and add to the food processor along with cilantro and lime juice and process until coarsely chopped.  Set the roasted red pepper salsa aside.


Take the chile peppers out of the bag and remove the skins.  Cut a slit in the side of the pepper and remove the ribs and seeds from the middle, leaving as much of the pepper intact as possible.  Fill the pepper with the shrimp-bacon-remoulade, fold the seam over to close, and place seam side up in a baking dish.  Repeat until all peppers are stuffed.  Top with roasted red pepper salsa and crumbled queso fresco.


Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the filling is hot.


Chipotle Shrimp & Bacon Chiles Rellenos with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Queso Fresco, and a side of Mexican Rice.


I served the peppers with a side of Mexican Rice.  Fortunately, my loving husband washed all of the dishes for me afterwards (like he always does.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rampant Narcissism



I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while now.  I mean, I already tweet, FB, and use any number of other social networking sites and forums--why not spread the verbal diarrhea a little bit more?  (That's right, folks, I used the word "diarrhea" in my first blog post.)  A friend has a FB album called "Rampant Narcissism" and I think that kind of sums up why I might blog.  Well, that and the fact that several people have asked me to start one at least for the purpose of posting recipes--because I do make some delicious food sometimes.


Enough about others, let's get back to me.  I teach music.  I love what I do, but it can be tiring and stressful.  I'm a workaholic and having a healthy work-life balance is very difficult for me.  I've been working on it, though.  I started practicing yoga in 2009 after experiencing several personal tragedies, and I credit yoga with helping me get back into a healthy place in life--physically and emotionally.  As an added bonus, yoga has become one of the few ways I will force myself to leave work at a reasonable hour.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me, even though he doesn't see as much of me as he would like--since I'm often working, yoga-ing, or staying up way past his bed time.  I've always been a bit of a night owl.


Oh, one last thing.  The blog name.  Funny, one of the reasons I didn't start writing sooner was that I couldn't figure out a name for this thing.  Ok, maybe that's only funny to me.  But honestly, how could I write about anything interesting if I couldn't even figure out what I'd call my blog?  Anyway, I settled on "Rooted Practice" because it could apply to music or yoga.  Or cooking, I suppose, if we're talking about practicing how to cook tubers.  


That said, I've stayed up too late (again) and should probably head to bed.  I promise to post more interesting things soon.