Monday, February 28, 2011

what's in your bag blog

photo (of me) courtesy of Suzy Rivera
Life Yoga + Boutique is doing a new piece on their blog called "What's in your yoga bag?" and they asked ME to be the first person featured on it! I think it's a fun idea and was happy to do a little photo shoot and talk about what I pack in my yoga bag (lululemon athletica yoga bag, of course).

click right here to see the posting!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

let them eat king cake

This weekend Nola Eats had their 3rd annual king cake contest. All of best bakeries bring their king cakes to be tasted and the crowd votes on their favorite. $5 gets you all the king cake and coffee you could ever want in one night. It's a lot overwhelming. Obviously, I attempted to try every single one. By the end of the night I was filled to the brim with caffeine and sugar.

My three favorites were Domenica's bananas foster king cake. It had a creamy caramel sauce, bananas, and the actual cake was chewy with nuts in it. Ben wouldn't even try it because of the creamy sauce oozing everywhere. Silly boy. His favorite was Domenica's plain one that had chopped nuts on top.
I also liked Cake Cafe's goat cheese and apple cake. The top was drizzled with bright purple, green, and yellow lines. The inside had thin apple slices and a goat cheese that that perfectly complemented the sweetness
And I finally got to try Sucre's beautiful glittering king cake. It was in the non-traditional category because of the shimmery top but really it is a traditional plain king cake.
Ooh I also should note that I had La Divina Gelateria's nutella king cake. We had had the tiny version a few weeks ago and I was not impressed. But, this normal sized version was a lot better!

This was the first year that there was a homemade category. I decided to enter it pretty last minute. Instead of trying to make a king cake and going up against people who had been making it for their whole lives, I made mini king cakes.

I made a cinnamon roll bottom with chopped pecans.

Then i made a vanilla sugar glaze and sprinkled on purple, green, and gold sugar.

 I thought they came out pretty well! We didn't actually try them before I submitted them so at the party I took two and put them in the kitchen for us to have later (OH NO! I just realized I left them there!!). They looked so pretty!
a little king cake army
In the end the one savory king cake won. It was filled with meat and topped with the three colors in onion and other meaty savory items. Pooh. 
meat king cake
homemade category
Now that i've made mini king cake "cupcakes" I am going to have to move on to making my first ever real king cake for Mardi Gras.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

a sweet kind of bark

Until yesterday, I had never made my own chocolate bark.

my first time experimenting with chocolate bark
It's probably the easiest thing to throw together in a few minutes and it turns out nicely no matter what you do. Plus, it's fun to break it up into pieces at the end. I don't know why I hadn't tried it before.

The fun part is that you can throw into it anything you want.

First, you choose your chocolate. Semi-sweet, dark, white, whatever you'd like. Personally, I don't think white chocolate is even a chocolate. But that's besides the point.
Then you decide what you want to put in your chocolate. Yesterday I chose pretzels for their crunch and salt. Marshmallows for their gooey sweetness. And dried cranberries for some chewy tart flavor.
After you melt the chocolate (in a double broiler or in the microwave-carefully) you simply pour it out and then place the goodies on top, pushing them in slightly so they stick. Then, wait about an hour for them to harden. I ended up sticking mine in the freezer since it's hot in here and so that's why you can see the chocolate sweating a bit. No biggie.

Once it's hardened. Just break it into whatever size pieces you'd like.

After I made these I noticed graham crackers in my cupboard. Not just regular graham crackers- gingerbread ones! So, naturally, I laid those out. Poured melted chocolate over them. Then layered them up with different findings.

I ended up with one covered only in marshmallows; one in toffee bits; and two in toffee bits, peanut butter chips, and almond slices. I haven't tried these yet but they look absolutely ridiculous.

So, go crazy with chocolate bark. I'm sure that you cannot mess it up. My next flavor will be dark chocolate with peppermint candy pieces- but that's for another day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Krewe du Vieux

This past Saturday I went to my first ever Mardi Gras parade- Krewe du Vieux! They were celebrating its 25th year as it wound down Royal in the French Quarter (Vieux Carre). Each sub-krewe has its own theme but the overall theme this year was 25 years Wasted. Each sub-krewe also had its own satirical political message. There were multiple brass bands walking with the parade. In keeping with tradition the floats were pulled by mules (those poor things). While almost every single float had a large penis on it and there was a big crowd of sperms walking in it there were also some very young children watching. I met up with some Yelpers and one of them was with her mom- which was very cool because I got tons of hints and history about Mardi Gras. And, I knew someone walking in the Jewish sub-krewe! I ended up getting hugged and kissed by strangers, dancing in the streets, and catching some throws. I got a plastic Krewe du Vieux to-go cup, a kazoo in lip shape, a whistle, a plastic rose, a wooden dreidel, bath salts, a drink coozie, and a doubloon! My favorite "throw" (they weren't actually thrown just placed on my neck) were the glass beads a girl gave me and I've been wearing every day since.

Here's some photos:

It was so much fun. I think everyone should experience Mardi Gras at least once in their life. I can't wait for the rest of the parades! There's a TON more coming up this week!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

big decisions and some babbling

Wednesday! Half way through the work week..oh wait, I'm not working. Well then, half way through Ben's school week. Although I'm not working I am still trying to get stuff done. This week I cleaned my apartment top to bottom. It really needed it since we had both been so busy. Yesterday I ran errands, researched some possible adventures, and planned some new recipes. So far today I've slept in until 8, made coffee and plunked a big piece of chocolate in it, and added some pearls of wisdom to the yelp talk thread. But, it's early so I've got the whole day to plan something great. Staying at home not going out to work has already got me antsy so I'm taking up running again this week (at 70F it's more than warm enough here). I'm also going to sign up to volunteer at the LASPCA to walk the dogs around my neighborhood with "adopt me" signs on them!!

Yesterday I made a huge decision that involves taking a chance and doing something I love. It makes my tummy flutter to think of it. I'm excited and terrified and suddenly feel like an adult who is capable of creating a life wherever I find myself, taking risks, and balancing all this instability in my life while still having the most perfect relationship with the best man in the world <3 sigh... :) This time around being jobless i'm thinking positively.

But mostly, I'm still focused on Mardi Gras. This Saturday is my first parade - Krewe de Vieux!! I'm so excited. I even know someone riding in it- and he's throwing pink and black whips. I already know that I will not be getting one of those since you have to "earn" the big prizes :P

neighbors decorate with last years beads
Hopefully my next post will be a review of the splendor of my first mardi gras parade.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cupcakes are love

devil's food MINI cupcakes stuffed with chocolate, chocolate/mint, peanut butter chips or just plain.

Today is Valentines Day, the 51st Anniversary of my grandparent's engagement, and one of my best friend's birthdays!
On top of all that wonderfulness, today is the first day that I am jobless...again.
It is also the day after I completed Life yoga's 30 Day Yoga Challenge and a day when I will not be doing any chatarunga's!
So, there are obviously a lot of different topics I could write about.

But, I decided to show you some photos of what I did today. Besides super cleaning my house. I baked.
first i put hunks of solid chocolate in the middle
then i got kinda crazy and stuffed chocolate mint candies in them
then i found peanut butter chips (they're melted they just look solid)

Then, I decorated. I got out the strawberry icing, white fondant, and my pink food marker and went a little nuts. As you can see from the first photo, these are only about a third of what I made. Ben and I each ate more than a few of them and the rest are sitting here ready for the taking. 
I hope everyone is having a wonderful Valentines Day no matter how you choose to spend it. 
crazy fish eye lens shot

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

a good class

blackboard in Wild Lotus yoga shala in New Orleans
Day 26/30 of the yoga challenge! I have been to so many yoga classes this past month. It got me thinking...what makes a good (or not so good) yoga class?

I took my first yoga classes as a pre-teen with my bff on Greenwich Avenue in a heated room. After that, I cannot say I was hooked. But, sometime in college I began regularly practicing my MTV power yoga dvd. Over the years i've taken classes once in while, but definitely not regularly. I think it's been the cost of classes that stops me. But, the Life Yoga 30 day challenge only cost me $99 for all the yoga I could do in 30 days, so I gained a lot of experience in classes!

Sometimes a yoga class...just is not great. So i've put together a list of great things every yoga class should strive for:
- good atmosphere: I like the room to either smell good or like nothing. But definitely not bad. Also, I think that people should not be chatting as the class starts. I like a nice quiet serene atmosphere. Temperature is part of this as it's not fun to be shivering in savasana but i'm also not a 115f yoga class type person.
- OMs: It's important to me that every class begin and end with an AUUUMMMMM. please.
- themes: I love when teachers present us with a theme or story at the beginning of class. It's like a little teaching. At one place I study at there are yoga sutra readings!
- adjustments: Having a teacher adjust you is one of the great benefits of going to class. A home practice may lead you to incorrect or harmful alignment, but once you are in class the teacher is there to gently push you into the proper alignment.
- room to move: i hate a cramped yoga class where the person in front of you moves into 3-legged dog and kicks you in the face.
- music. i don't like silence. i don't care if it's yogi chanting, quiet ocean noises, or rock music. But i do like when it fits the class and flows instead of feeling random.
- a challenge: i want to feel pushed to try new things. or at least given the opportunity to try new things.
- length: an hour is great for a quick practice and people definitely need those classes but i prefer classes that are an hour and a half long because it gives you time for every aspect of the class.
- and finally, acceptance. no pressure. I find that the teachers who gently suggest that i try something new or who cheer me on instead of making me feel pressured are the ones who get me to challenge myself and leave feeling good about it.

I'm hoping to continue taking classes even after the challenge is done...which is in 4 days!

Monday, February 7, 2011

day 24/30

It is Day 24/30 of the Yoga Challenge.

I have completed 23 days of classes so far and tonight will be 24 with Alexis' 8pm candlelight flow. Just a few more days until Sunday when I can say that I successfully completed 30 days of yoga. I'm glad it's ending on Sunday because that is my 2 class day where I first take a vinyasa flow and then follow it up with a relax deeply/restorative class. I always feel ready for the week after those classes and since my job is ending on Friday I need to be ready to tackle whatever might happen next week.

So much has happened since day 1.

I began the process, you might remember, with a pulled rib muscle. It was one of the most annoying injuries as it made sharp pain shoot through my side in almost any asana. Eventually though, that faded away. These past two weeks I have had to deal with my bursitis in both hips and my shoulder blade. The hip pain is annoying, but honestly I'm pretty used to it by now. The back pain, however, feels like I'm being stabbed in the lungs every time I breath in. Throughout my day I can usually ignore it, but in yoga class when we focus on our breath it screams out for attention.

Injuries and pain aside, I am so ready to delve deeper in my fourth week. Each week it seems that something new has come up for me to explore. Something to think about, to meditate on. Last week, one of my teachers said that for her a challenge is to pull back and take it easy when her body is telling her to. That has always been one of my problems in yoga. When a teacher suggests that advanced students try an arm bind, I do an arm bind, regardless of how tired my arms are. Since the end of the first week every one of my muscles has been tight and achy. Without a rest it seems that I'm pushing them to their limits. The other day in an arm balance my arm shook uncontrollably and I was sure I was going to fall. Luckily, when the teacher said that in class the other day, I realized it has been true for me too. Therefore, throughout the 30 day yoga challenge I've tried to listen to my body and allow it to rest in downward facing dog or child's pose when I felt I needed to.

Child's pose (balasana) is the ultimate resting pose. While downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) is eventually a resting pose for people who practice often, child's is one that anyone can get into and feel comfortable right away.  All there is to do is to sit back on your heels, feet touching, separate the knees, and lower your torso down to the space in-between the knees. Arms may be stretched our in front of you or pulled back alongside the body with palms facing upward.

In my restoratives class with the lights off and candles lit we often stay in child's pose with a pillow or bolster under our torso for ten minutes.

balasana, arms back
balasana, with supportive pillows
Another great asana is to flip the pose. Put the bolster behind you, underneath your back, and leave the legs out, soles of the feet touching each other. That's probably my favorite. 

Try it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Carnival 2011

my new mask and some beads
I am sure everyone is already aware of this, but, it's already Carnival season!

I've been eating king cakes a few times a week- I tried with having a piece daily but couldn't keep up. The city is decorated in purple, gold, and green. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) this week falls on March 8th but the parades start pretty soon! The first one is Krewe de Vieux in the French Quarter on February 19th at 6:30.

Last night we went to Tulane Medical School prom, the Surgical Masquerade. I've been so busy that I didn't have time to plan. So, Ben went down to the Riverwalk and got us masks. He surprised me with mine and it is perfect. Then I pulled an old LBD out of my closet and it matched the mask perfectly- even had the same beads on it. Wearing masks all night got me really excited for the upcoming parades. I just hope the city gets back into the 70's and it stops hailing.

I can't wait to see all of the parades. I wonder what everyone's favorites are..and why!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

the world keeps on spinning

bird at Audubon Park last weekend
Ch-ch-ch-changes would probably be the theme of my life in 2010. Now it seems it's following me in to 2011.

This past Monday, after carrying around my formal written resignation for a month, I finally quit my job! Instead of feeling afraid that next month I won't be able to pay my bills or that the horrible feeling of being home every day alone is going to start up again I just felt relieved. I do not like to quit things so I made myself stick it out and gave my best every day for three months until I decided that I could not continue with that organization. Of course I would love to write about all of the ridiculous and even horrendous policies and daily problems going on at my job. But, I wouldn't do that to a company just to whine. I have given my two weeks in a very professional manner and I will leave there on good terms.

Which means, in two weeks I'm jobless! I have had some wonderfully exciting ideas about where I would like to see my career go next. Both ideas are very different from what I've been doing. Both are also very scary in that there is a huge possibility that I will spend a lot of time, effort, and money and fail.

Someone recently asked me, what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail. And I know I would definitely do these two things. So, I suppose I have to jump in and make some big changes! While I'm still terrified I hope that my excitement and passion will power me through to meet my new goals :)