Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oh, hey there, Saturday; 9/29/12

Today is the first day in almost two weeks that I don't feel like a sick person! I'm celebrating.

Things that make me smile today:

Chocolate pudding

Homemade sourdough rising in the kitchen

The look on a 3-year-old's face when she saw the birthday cake I made her.

Going shopping with my bestie for her bday

It's a "leave the windows open because its so nice out" day

My husband can and does pick me up and carry me into the other room... just

This puppy. She's amazing. She was a rockstar and amazing listener this morning.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ego Yoga

One of the first places I went to on my quest to find the perfect yoga studio for me was a heated studio a little further away from home than I'd like to drive.

As I lay peacefully on my mat waiting for class to start, the entire front row of the room was actively engaged in challenging balance postures and inversions - everything from crane to handstand to some poses I've never seen before...
... before class had started, before any kind of warm up, before the instructor was even in the room. People are up on their arms and their heads with their legs wrapped around and folded into complicated whatchamacallits.

I was confused for a couple of reasons. First, don't you want to kind of warm up your body before you do something like that? Yes, the room is warm but that doesn't mean your leg is ready to be extended up over your shoulder like that, right?

And second, how much are these people practicing yoga and how much are they just showing off? Does the third girl from the left feel like she has to do side-crane pose to compete with the dude in handstand on the other side of the room?
It made me feel out of place - unwelcome in this hyper-advanced yogi-sphere. Sure, I can manage a few simple arm balances and inversions, and I am all about constant self improvement, but when I am balanced in crane pose, I am a) trying to meditate, b) focused on myself and not whether or not anyone else in class is more advanced than I am, and c) listening to my body. When you bust out a complicated balance pose before class has started, who are you balancing for?

When I chose my current yoga studio I felt it was a perfect balance for me - bringing the right kind and quantity of calmness of mind while still challenging me physically - but I can see how some might be discouraged by the environment. Some yogis may doubt that individuals in these classes are truly there to find peace and feel the meditation.

Is it on the instructors that these people flip themselves into scorpion or balance their legs over their shoulders like wings? We are encouraged throughout class to only take ourselves as far as the breath with let us - challenged to listen to all parts of our bodies. Just because your hamstrings allow you to stretch that far, doesn't mean your breath will. Simultaneously, we're encouraged to focus and challenge ourselves. We're given the opportunity to push our bodies to their limits, but I keep coming back to the question; how much listening to your body can you do if you're constantly pushing yourself to the next level? Are we asking "can I" instead of "should I"?

I don't know how many of my fellow yogis read this blog, but I am interested to know what y'all think. Is there an inherent contradiction between yoga and learning/mastering advanced balance postures? Or can we channel calmness of mind and body into scorpion pose?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Everyday Essentials + GIVEAWAY!

Try as I might, I am not a fashionista by any means. I have trouble justifying wearing nice outfits because A) so few people will be able to see or appreciate them or B) I'm afraid the people that do see me will think I'm dressed up for something special. This is something I need to work on.

I do, however, have a handful of beauty essentials that I need to get me through the everyday. 

1. Sephora Microsmooth Face Foundation - This is a relatively recent discovery for me. I ran out of foundation while on vacation earlier this summer and found this gem at the train station - of all places. Amazing. It's just sheer enough that I don't feel like I'm piling cake onto my face, but provides a good amount of coverage and keeps me from getting too shiny.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No Thinking, Just Brownies

My mom made brownies this weekend and sent me a text about it. I was jealous. I made brownies too.

She tweaked them to make them freaking amazing turtle brownies. I tweaked them to make a cafe caramel. Which turned out better?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Recap Summer 2012!

I didn't realize how much I've done/accomplished this summer until I started looking through pictures. It's actually pretty amazing.

According to the interwebs, the first day of summer was June 20th, but if my summer started there, then I went on a Spring Vacation to Northern Italy? No.

My summer was June through September. Let's get this going, yo...

We went on an amazing vacation to Northern Italy.
Tim and I nabbed the room with the private patio.

We went wine tasting in Verona.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

1st Anniversary Adventures

First time seeing these in person. WHAT KIND OF ANGELINO AM I??? The embarrassed kind.
Our first anniversary fell on a Monday, which was kind of a bummer. Why couldn't we have a Sunday like everybody else? I'll tell ya why! Leap year!

So, we extended our anniversary to span across two weekends and make up for the lack of having one day to celebrate our awesomeness. Here is a mini recap of our adventures, and a lot of pictures to go along with it.

It started on Saturday, September 15th. We had a leisurely morning before heading to LACMA in the afternoon.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Oh, hey there, Saturday; 9/22/12

I am sick as a dog today. Ugh, I don't like that expression. My dog is not sick. In fact, she is one of the reasons I'm smiling today.

Here we go.

Reasons I'm smiling today...

My zucchini plant seems to be doing surprisingly well, despite my inability to care for it

Hubs trip out to Target last night to get the Alyssa Feel Better essentials, including Gatorade and Zebra Cakes

One of Panda Bear's favorite games is trying to bite the hose water while I'm watering the plants.

And finally, I am actually happy that we're not in San Francisco today. I am still too sick to be able to enjoy it. And tonight hubs is gonna make us some delicious food to enjoy as we watch the Giants game from the living room.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Sourdough Bread

Round 1 - with the in-laws
My husband grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. His mom sometimes had a lot of free time, so she made a lot of food. One of the things she made was fresh bread. Upon finding out that I, having lived within mere minutes of civilization my entire life, was not regularly fed fresh baked bread while growing up, he decided to share some of his childhood with me. 

A while back, Tim started making his own fresh pizza dough. Of course, it was amazing. Kind of a no-brainer there. Fresh baked goods are always better.

Then we registered (and received) a bread machine when we got married last year. We used the heck out of it right off the bat. Ingredients in, push start, and walk away. Amazing. 

But there is something to be said about doing it yourself. Yes, I have a magic robot to make bread for me, but how gratifying is it to get your hands a little sticky and then brag that that fresh baked bread on the counter was made by you. No bakery, no machine - just flour, water, yeast and your hands. 

On our last trip down to see the in-laws, we started talking about baking - this happens pretty frequently.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

AG; Year One

Today is our first anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

What an incredible year it has been.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Oh hey there, Saturday; 9/15/12

This morning I am smiling because...

... I have a yummy cup of coffee

... These little elephant s&p shakers are finally sitting on a clean kitchen table

... I remembered to mail my renewal for Cooks Country

... I got a mani/pedi yesterday. Fall colors.

... We're going to LACMA today.

by the way, this is a thing I am starting now - a moment of things that made me happy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Coconut Cake with Berries

Have you guys read this blog? Not like she needs me to push for more followers, but may be my very favorite blog on the planet right now. Seriously.

And then she shared this cake recipe...

... and I may or may not have been dying to make it for weeks... I don't know. No one does.

Thursday night I got home from sunset yoga and hubs was playing video games. I sat down with him for a bit, but eventually got antsy and decided to bake something. I had bought all the ingredients for this cake days earlier, but was hesitant to make it - our first anniversary is on Monday and we've got our cake topper in the freezer ready to be eaten. It seemed like cake overkill.

Random thought on that: when should we move the cake top out of the freezer into the fridge for thawing? The day before we plan to eat it?

I decided "F it. He's playing video games. I'm gonna bake." ... healthy decision, right? It was something like 9:45pm at this point, which actually worked out well because this cake needs to sit in the fridge for hours on end before you can eat it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Testing Out This Gluten Free Thing (and Muffins!)

Hubs and I are skeptics of this whole everyone is allergic to gluten phenomenon.

One of my amazing professors in grad school had/has Celiac Disease - legit, full on gluten allergy. He was sick for years. They thought he might have cancer. They cut gluten out of his diet and he was magically well. Amazing. LEGIT. I was/am happy for him that he is now a healthy person after purging gluten from his diet.

So, I know that this gluten allergy is real. I know that some people really suffer. I am not one of them. Apparently, I love gluten.

BUT I've heard a lot about cutting it out and how less/no gluten can make you feel better about life - like a healthier, more energetic person with a peaceful stomach.

So, we thought, "what could it hurt?" and I started doing research into what EXACTLY contains gluten.

My base knowledge of gluten consisted of this:
Flour contains gluten and you can add additional gluten to breads and things to give them more crunch and rise. 
So then, how can hubs and I continue to eat what we like without giving up baked goods. The answer is flour substitutes. I walked into our local Sprouts, which is my absolute favorite place to grocery shop, and was stunned by the variety of gluten free alternative flours they had - oat flour, almond flour, rice flour, brown rice flour.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoga; Choosing a YTT Program

I talked about this a little while ago - my decision to JUST DO IT. Sign up for teacher training, become a certified yoga instructor and share one of the things that keeps me sane with the world.

Tree Pose
I started my research about a month ago and found a few great options for teacher training. Here are some of the factors that went into my decision making (not in order of importance):

1) Schedule - a lot of programs have intense schedules. Some are 4 weeks straight, all day, 5 days a week. Some are 6 months long, Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday. Some are one midweek night, Sat & Sun. Some are 10 months long, one weekend a month. You get the idea. This was pretty discouraging for me. Weeknights are time to "get sh*t done" - laundry, dishes, organizing, etc - so weekends are the only real relaxing time I get to spend with family. One weekend a month programs appealed to me, but would also take a lot longer to complete than I hoped.

Another key factor here is that I knew I wanted to get started as soon as possible. A lot of smaller studios offer only one or two trainings each year - many of which start in January. Something I needed to consider here was, if I waited until January - depending on the length of the program - when would I complete my certification? March? June? November 2013? I was able to find a few programs that started in October (as in next month) and really honed in on those studios. Would their program work with my needs...

2) Studio Vibe - This is both easier and more difficult to describe. I knew right off the bat, I needed to find a studio I meshed with - a place I didn't feel judged or like I was judging, with open-minded, and open-hearted faculty and students who made me feel warm and welcome and comfortable. I talked to some amazingly talented and educated yoga personalities in my research. I also found that some studios I was so excited about because they fit some of my other needs/criteria so well, were not necessarily the right vibe for me.

3) Corporate V. Small Studio - This is kind of a continuation of point #2. Corporate studios are going to have very different vibes than small privately owned studios. A big thing to consider for me when choosing between the two was "which will allow me the opportunity to teach as soon as possible?" Time is of the essence for me - if we haven't established this already. The bigger corporate studios, like YogaWorks and Core Power offer great programs with phenomenal instructors, but one thing I learned was that in order to teach at these studios post-200 hr certification, you need additional certification. Core Power requires you to take an additional CPY teacher certification and apply for an internship, where you will be paid as an intern to teach classes at their studio. In order to teach at YogaWorks, you do not need to complete a YogaWorks certification, but you do need to have completed an additional 300 hr advanced teacher certification.

On the other hand, some small studios don't offer you the opportunity to teach either. Some studios will have you "tag team teaching" - you and a few other soon-to-be teachers take turns teaching a single class. So, its important to find a studio that fits your future teaching needs.
Yogi Bear Yoga

4) Cost - Ok, lets just open this up with some honesty. Becoming a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor is expensive. You want to think, "I've been taking yoga for a thousand years. Can't I just take a test and start teaching? Why does that cost so much money?" Lets instead think about it like this, you're becoming a teacher. Getting a degree of any kind aint cheap. People spend tens of thousands of dollars becoming "certified" in their chosen field.

Now that I've justified myself to you totally unnecessarily, lets talk some numbers. The lowest price I found for YTT in my area was $2,200 and the highest was $3,800, but as I did more research I found that these studios prices are actually a lot closer to each other than some of the lower priced folks would like you to think. These less expensive programs usually also made you buy your own source material, and require you to pay for classes at their studio. The more expensive programs usually included books and unlimited classes.

The most common price I was running into at these studios was $2,750 (if you sign up X amount of days prior to program start), then they increased in increments of approx. $250. If you pay in full by the start date, $3,000, if you pay in full by the end of the program, $3,250.

We're all money conscious - though some more than others - so these are things we have to think about. Doing a payment plan and allotting $X/month to YTT works best for some people. Others, like me, would rather save the money beforehand, hand it all over at once, and save some dough in the long run.

5) Location - I don't know why I left this one to the end. Maybe because it's kind of a no-brainer? It was important for me to pick a program that I didn't have to drive very far to get to. I found some AMAZING programs I probably would have loved in Santa Monica and Burbank, but that meant spending extra hours in the car however many days every week.  So, on top of my limited home/relax/family time, I would also be spending more time in the car. If you have more free time than I do, distance may not matter as much, and you may have the freedom to pick a program simply because you liked it the best, but for me location mattered a lot. Luckily, I didn't have to sacrifice an amazing program to stay close to home.

Luckily for me, I found a program that fit all of my needs. It meets one weeknight a week and one full weekend day, plus two full weekends, runs 14 weeks, has amazing instructors who are warm and relateable,   affords you the opportunity to teach beginning as a substitute based on preparedness, is reasonably priced & allows me to take classes with the senior instructors for free and all other instructors at a hugely discounted rate, books/source materials are provided by the studio, and its 5 minutes from my house.

I lucked out. I signed up last Wednesday. We start October 3rd.

Have I mentioned I'm excited?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Mixed Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Last week my very good friend, Kim, blogged about making this cake.

I knew right then that I had to make it too...and take lots of pictures while I was at it - because sometimes that's the fun part.

First get all ingredients out - butter first so it is nice and soft.

Cut softened butter into chunks.

Using a mixer of some kind (I felt like using a handmixer this day), cream butter & sugar

Add one egg at a time... 1...



Zest lemon straight into bowl.

Add: Flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour... GO! (don't forget the vanilla and baking powder. This is when they go in)

Two Tbsp of flour into berries, toss to coat.

Gently fold berries into batter

Locate greased bundt pan (which was bought at Target yesterday)

Scoop batter into bundt pan and flatten out a little.

Set timer for 60 minutes.

Bake... at tree fitty.

Let it cool on wire rack for a little while (at least an hour) before turning pan over. Cake *should* pop right out.

Stare at it longingly, but let it cool a while longer.

Mix powdered sugar with lemon juice and a little very soft butter for glaze. Mine was a little too thin. Next time less juice.

When you've waited long enough, pour glaze all over cake, and try not to get it all over your counter.

Then you can let it hang out for a while longer so the glaze sets, OR you can dig in.

Actual recipe can be found at Smitten Kitchen. It calls for salt, but I don't believe in putting salt in a cake. I don't care what culinary artists say. I don't want my cake to taste like salt. Pbbbttththhhh.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fitness Things; I Ran a 10K!

If I run one 10K, does that mean I'm a runner now? or do I have to, like, run a marathon or something before I'm a "runner"?

Meh, I still don't think I'm a runner. I'm a yogi who likes to challenge herself, which isn't very "yogic" of me, but I think that my acceptance of that brings me full circle. Right?

Ok, so!

A while back I signed up for this 10K. I had a couple of friends who thought it looked like fun and wanted to do it with me.

Let's cut right to the chase here though. I'm standing in that picture alone. Everybody bailed, which made me pretty sad if we're all being honest here.

Monday before the race I get an email that it has sold out. I was the only one from my crew who'd registered. That was that. I asked my hubs to come support me so I didn't have to go by myself.

He agreed and begrudgingly got up at 6am to get Panda in the car so that they could cheer for me as I finished my first lap and later crossed the finish line. :)

I stole this from the Awesome 80s Run facebook page
Have I mentioned yet that I'm not a runner?

I started "jogging" a few years ago. I had a lot of free time when Tim and I were living on opposite ends of the state. I would jog about a mile and a half down a beautiful and dangerous canyon road by my parents' house and then jog back while listening to audiobooks - mostly Sookie Stackhouse. Don't knock it til you try it.

Once Tim moved down to LA and we moved closer to the malls and further from the trails, I ran much much less. I think I managed to get out and run a total of twice during the year we lived in our first apartment. There's a big apartment complex across the street from our current place. They have a jogging trail running around the approx. 1 sq mile property that we've used a few times. On Panda and my most recent trip, we almost got hit by a woman in an Acura who didn't look in the crosswalk before starting her right turn. I screamed my head off at her. I had never before in my life yelled at a stranger so much as when I saw my puppy's life flash before my eyes. The experience has put a bit of a damper on my desire to jog outside near my house.

I did manage to do some "training" on the treadmill at our gym in the weeks week leading up to the 10K - ran five miles one time, which really helped me feel less scared and more prepared, which was really nice.

On the day of the race, we got up at 6:30 and hit the road about 7:15am for a race that wouldn't start until 9. We had a lot of spare time, so I ended up with some pictures like this.

There was a guy dressed like Michael Jackson getting the crowd pumped for the run.

Panda wanted to play.

I started my run with the second wave. It went a little something like this...

Lap 1

I picked out a woman who was going roughly the same pace I was. She was going a little faster, but I made it my goal not to let myself fall too far behind her. She was a skinny blond woman in her 40s or 50s. I had to at least keep up.  When we got to the water station, she stopped running, I went on ahead of her and I never saw her again. Had to find someone else to challenge me, so I could push myself to keep up, to not stop running. I grabbed a cup of water and didn't stop running - ended up splashing water all over myself. A pair of girls in tutus up ahead were keeping a pretty steady pace. New challengers, and I didn't have to worry about losing them - they were in flippin' tutus. Halfway between the water station and the start of the second lap, one of the tutu girls stopped running. The other kept it up for another half a mile, but eventually gave up too. I was so disappointed. I wanted to stop -  to tell her she had to keep going, she had to keep pushing me to keep going... but after I thought that for long enough, I could see the finish line off in the distance. I just had to get through there and around the Rose Bowl loop one more time. That pushed me to the halfway point.

Lap 2

As I crossed the halfway mark, I didn't see Tim and Panda anywhere. I wondered if they'd gone for a walk or if I'd already passed them. Then I saw them under the shade of a big tree as I made my turn around the Rose Bowl. I was tired, but I kept telling myself I was halfway there. I just had to do it one more time. And I was thirsty, but I'd be back at the water station in no time, right? Tim yelled that they'd be waiting for me right there when I finished the race, and they would have plenty of hydration. Relief. I would have water. 

I wasn't keeping  up with myself. My brain wanted to run faster than my legs. My brain wanted to run as fast as all of the people that were passing me. So many people passed me. It felt like the entire race was passing me and I was passing no one... until the people that passed me started stopping to walk, and I started passing walkers... because I refused to walk, even if I couldn't run very quickly, I wouldn't walk. 

I rounded the corner of the golf course, looking forward to the water station, but when I get there all the water was gone. Did this mean that I was the slowest or that they were poor planners and didn't get enough?  I'm going with B.

The last 2 miles seemed to go by pretty quickly - even though I wasn't moving very quickly. They may have run out of water cups, but a quarter mile down the road there was a drinking fountain, which promptly sprayed me in the face...a lot. It was kinda shaddy, but also kinda nice. 
I was a little bummed to have lost my momentum, but I pushed right along to the end - was stopped again when parking lot attendants deemed the space in front of me big enough to let a few cars through. 

And then I rounded into the final straightaway towards the finish line. Hooray for people who cheer for people on their way to the finish. They make it better. And as I did my best to leap over the finish line, the photographer snapped a couple shots I am too cheap to pay for, but here are the watermarked versions...

These are the faces you make when you run a 10K alone. 

The clock at the finish read 58:23. I could live with that. :)

edit: my actual time was 1:06 and change. I guess I started before I was supposed to??

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Chocolate Cake Donuts

From the moment Shutterbean (should I call her Tracy? Is that okay if I read her blog but we're not BFFs) posted this recipe, I knew I had to make it. I saw her post and, for the next week, was craving chocolate donuts. 

I just needed a donut pan. So, I dragged my husband out to BBB to get one last week. My plan was to make them Friday night and then gorge myself Saturday morning when I got home from my 10K - this totally happened, btw. :)

First there was batter mixing. I didn't have dark chocolate cocoa - just the regular kind - but it worked perfectly. 

Then I scraped all the batter into a very large ziplock bag. This was actually tough. I wish I'd had an assistant to hold the bag open while I scraped. Oh well, next time...

Then I cut a hole in the corner of the bag to pipe them into my cooking-sprayed donut pan. The hole I cut was a leeeeetle too big, so I ended up with slightly over full donut "cavities" (That's what they're called?)

So when I baked them, they turned out like this...

They look kinda like chocolate bagels/cupcakes. Its very confusing... until you flip them over... then they make more sense. 

And, since most of them don't actually have hole in the middle, you get a nice little pool of glaze that collects in there after you dip them.

While its still sticky, I dipped them in some toasted coconut shavings - which I bought at the store in a bag and then put in the oven to toast for a while. I should pay attention to how long I do these things for. Oops. 

And then eat... or save them for tomorrow when you know you're running your first 10K and will have earned the calories. :)