Yoga Class Delinquent


Much needed getaway from the daily routine? Check.

Yoga class delinquent? Check.

I skipped my beginner yoga class. Again. Before you start to scold me for being a bad yoga child, see below.

Totally worth missing two out of four weeks of my eight week beginner yoga series? Check.

Beautiful view of the Annapolis harbor? Almost as healing as yoga itself.

Miguel and I wandered around town to take in the sights while visiting his brother, sister-in-law and their brand new baby.

Just my luck, a farmers’ market…

…and a Starbucks in a historic building. So cool. Perfect on this overcast autumn day which was just crisp enough to be comfortable in a light jacket.

We then stumbled upon an arts and crafts show where Miguel purchased his favorite drink as of late (Thai iced tea) and I found my sister the perfect Christmas gift. It’s a shame Miguel broke it after smacking the bag against a parking meter. Thanks again for carrying my bags, babe :).

I may have to re-gift from last year. Or steal from Miguel’s wallet. I’ll sleep on it.

After perusing and purchasing, we walked back down Main St. and spent at least a half hour in a hilarious speciality store. I really would like to post pics of the items I bought, but each person I bought them for reads this blog. Darn them for supporting me and my ramblings! Post shopping, Migs and I stopped to try a goodie at Nostalgia Cupcakes. I am on a serious mission to find a better cupcake than I’ve had at what used to be a local bakery, Susie’s Mixing Bowl. The owner of Susie’s up and left us because her husband (Mr. Susie) relocated for work. I still curse the day her baked goods disappeared from our neighborhood. I wonder if she’d be willing to divorce and return to the east coast. Hmmmm… I’ll sleep on it.

Note: I swear I’m not a horrible person. I just really like good cake. Okay, frosting too.

Back to Nostalgia Cupcakes. Good cupcakes. Not great cupcakes. I’m spoiled.

This is Miguel telling me to take a picture of the cupcake and not him. He thinks my blog friends are sick of seeing his face. I think you all are willing to put up with pics of the Peruvian. He is a partner in my adventures after all!

Wow, I took a lot of pictures of cupcakes. Miguel ordered a key lime cupcake while I ordered the “vegan” cupcake. Apparently “vegan” is a flavor now. I suggest you all demand this flavor at your next bakery stop. Delish. And even the savage carnivore didn’t have a clue it wasn’t stuffed with animal products. Impressive. 

Any of my Philly, New York or East Coast friends have any cupcake recommendations? I’m eager to try some new fabulous cupcakeries that will live up to my ridiculously high standards. Boy, does that sound intimidating. Any brave souls? ;)

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Filed under Getaway, Yoga

It’s School Time!


I’ve grown to love Tuesdays. My Social Work Practice and Diversity & Oppression courses have officially earned my interest. I certainly didn’t think that I would be looking forward to my 12:05-8:45pm class day (commute time not included). So happy I’ve changed my tune :).

Though, one challenge I’m still attempting to master is the healthy snack balance. Boy can I appreciate all those healthy school lunches prepared for me while growing up (thanks Mom!). I have little time in my schedule now to plan meals and snacks, let alone cook/bake ahead, which is something I used to do on an almost daily basis. I’m looking forward to finding a healthy balance between school, work, my [brand new] internship, finding/applying/interviewing for new jobs, studying/homework, workouts (what are those?) and family and friends. Phew. Thank goodness I never wanted to have children young, or I’d have broken down and been institutionalized by my professors due to anxiety by now :).

Here’s a review of the snacks that have kept my belly full and my brain fueled to focus on learning about generalist practice, the quadrant model and white privilege. (There’s a test at the end…)

After a hearty breakfast, I get on the road around 11:00am to head to class. On my way to class last week, I snacked on roasted chickpeas and a locally made granola bar. By the time I got to school, it was 12:00ish, and I wasn’t done until close to 3:00pm.

Live in your car much, Nat?

After class I snacked on a fresh peach from a local farm on my way to the local mall where I do work while eating lunch. I hangout there until I leave to return to school to fight for a parking spot and hopefully make it to my evening class on time.

Hmmm. A little foreshadowing, perhaps?

Chipotle makes me happy. I typically order either the vegetarian bowl or vegetarian salad. Lately, I’ve been switching between the two. Below you will see the vegetarian bowl. Feast your eyes…

Made up of all kinds of goodness: romaine lettuce, black beans, mild salsa, grilled peppers and onions and guacamole. Y-U-M. After satisfying the hunger beast, I head to (you guessed it!) Starbucks to grab a coffee for class. One venti soy latte w/ one pump of pumpkin spice coming right up!

I needed that! This coffee is so filling; it lasts me through my 6:00-8:45pm class until I get home around 9:40pm. I then scrounge up a small snack (or finish my Chipotle if I’m famished) and head to bed to dream about what tomorrow will bring. Lately, I never know. Let’s hope it’s more blogging and less stressful changes that I’m attempting to take in stride.

Take in stride? You better believe my boyfriend and family just busted out laughing.

What are your healthy go-to snacks? I’d love to mix things up :).

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Beauty in the Bass


Remember that wonderful post when I offered you a very valuable piece of information? No, not the yoga posts. No, not the quinoa one. No, no, not the one about FARMiCiA.

The one when I strongly urged you to find a boyfriend (or partner of your liking) that cooks, and cooks well. At this time, I’d like to further defend that little piece of priceless advice.

While your boyfriend (or, again, partner of your choosing) cooks a creative, colorful, delicious meal and takes photos of each step, go sit in the living room and relax. By relax I mean read endless amounts of scholarly work around diversity and oppression for hours on end. Then take a break to devour a meal made entirely of fresh produce and Chilean sea bass. Oh, happiness ensues.

Take a break from work for homemade pomme frites tossed with rosemary and seal salt as an appetizer.

If you’re the chef for the night:

Freshly press an orange and then saute a diced yellow pepper in its juice.

Peel and slice potatoes and cook them in a little olive oil prior to placing them in the bottom layer a foil package. Layer another piece of foil over potatoes.

Slice a white onion, place on top layer of foil and add lemon slices.

Place Chilean sea bass atop onions and lemons and top with marinated yellow peppers. Close foil package and bake in the oven @ 400 degrees or so, for about 20 minutes. Feel free to broil the last few minutes.

Once baked, remove from oven and open with bare hands if you feel the need to prove your masculinity.

Boil fresh green beans somewhere in the mix of creating the package of Chilean goodness.

This was the type of meal that one would dress up for. It was almost as though dinner had been served at a fabulous restaurant. I should have looked like this:

At the very least, I should have presented myself with groomed hair and a little makeup. Instead I looked like this:

Which brings me to my next invaluable piece of advice.

You’re beautiful just the way you are. Even if you look like me in that photo.

And even if your sister actually says the word “ew” when looking at the above photo of you. Forget what your sister thinks… this isn’t about her.

Thank your boyfriend for a beautiful meal and for being a beautiful person.

Thank you Miguel!

Now what are you making me next? ;)

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Filed under Recipe

Simply Yoga: Week 2


I’m ashamed to say it. I skipped beginner yoga week 2. Gasp! I know, I know. What a hypocrite. But, before you start judging me, let me tell you why I missed yoga week 2.

A birthday night out in Philly for my sister! That’s a good excuse, right? Especially when my yoga studio is an hour and half away. Or, if I’m stuck in Philly traffic, which has the uncanny ability to bring out the ugly in me, three hours :).

Mad Mex for dinner and margaritas. Apple cider margarita? Yes please! Doesn’t the birthday girl look awesome?

Painful feet after a night out. Quite a quick picture recap. Mainly b/c we’ve got yoga to review!

Dedicated student that I am, I felt the need to make up for my absence in my beginner yoga workshop. What’s a better remedy to my lack of attendance, than to review last week’s session? Okay, enough justification — let’s get started. Beginner yoga fans, read on for your Sunday yoga lesson. The rest of you lovely readers, continue anyway ;).

simply fit. simply clean. simply yoga.

Week 2

Practice a three part breath: Breathe through your nose into your lower belly, then feel the breath move up to your lower chest followed by your low throat. Make sure to focus on the breath. This is a key component in furthering your practice. Use your hands for guidance. When you exhale, your breath will move from your throat to the chest, to your lower abdomen. Read once more and give it a try. So relaxing.

Friendly reminder! Don’t forget to use this breathing practice throughout the movements. Let’s move on.

Cat & Cow: Begin in a neutral, tabletop position, like my lovely model, Jess, below:

Try to align your neck with your spine, and don’t lock your elbows. Fingertips face forward and hands should be placed directly underneath your shoulders. Same with your knees: directly underneath your hips (and hipwidth apart). Now, move on to the cow pose by rounding your back, and, again – don’t forget to breathe through all of these movements.

While exhaling, move to the cat position by scooping your back. You’re on, Jess!:

Moving on to one of my favorite poses, the downward facing dog. Apparently this pose is quite difficult, and our instructor informed us that while in various yoga classes, we will likely be corrected by the instructors regarding our form. My form (which will likely be corrected when I’m actually in class next week):

Notice my hamstrings are tight and I cannot get my heels to the ground. Practice makes perfect :). Also, my arms hyperextend (thanks again, genetics!), so this is something the instructor told me to make note of — obviously the sticky was lost on that post-it. See my hyperextended arms above? Boo, Nat.

In the following picture, I’m doing a “prep” of the downward dog, by bending my knees a bit, to allow for assistance into the move.

Do not lean into your armpits, as reviewed in class. Please see example below:

That took some serious core strength.

Simple seated pose: Sit on a folded blanket if you prefer, to create a comfortable seat. Find your sit bones (or as less civilized people such as myself refer to them: “butt bones”) and your breath, and allow it to help you twist through the movement.

One hand on the belly, and twist towards that arm, while keeping your spine & neck aligned throughout the twist movement for as long as possible. Do not strain yourself. Rest for a few seconds at the end of the pose.

Good work ;). Bridge pose, anyone?

Bridge pose: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Tuck your arms underneath your shoulders.

Raise your hips a bit to understand the flow and structure of the movement.

If possible, raise your hips entirely, but do not allow them to extend above your knees.

The bridge pose is helpful in aiding digestion and with tired legs, among many other benefits.

Wall pose: This move is fairly easy and helps with backaches and stretching, while also aiding in relieving the body of wind. Yup, I said it. “Wind”. Pull yourself together. And then try this move. Sit against the wall as the birthday girl models below:

Use the leg closest to the wall to start climbing your legs up the wall. See picture below. She’s so graceful:

Tehehehe. It will likely be easier for you if you do not attempt this move with a mat, or a makeshift mat, as we used. The end result should look like this, with your booty flush to the wall:

Don’t make me say it again. Remember to…breathe! All together now. B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Allow yourself to relax into this pose for several breaths. Then laugh at yourself as you try to unplaster your legs and booty from the wall. While your back is on the floor, pull a leg to the chest to relieve some more wind. Ha.

I told Hil to “flex your foot” here. She thought I said “flex your butt”. I was wondering why her entire body kept moving up and down slightly, while her foot remained unflexed. So funny.

Poor Hilary. I swear I got you a really good birthday gift. Totally worth all this embarassment.

Lastly, and equally as important as the rest of the poses, is savasana. It’s meant to relax your mind and body. So simple, and really, so effective. As you lay on your back with your eyes closed, relax your mind, fingers, toes, tongue (yes, tongue), face and just be.

Some impressive yoga benefits, many of which are specific to certain poses:

  • Relaxing stretches
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Aids in preventing osteoporosis
  • Provides gentle massages
  • Beneficial in fighting asthma, high blood pressure and sinusitus
  • Relieves pain
  • Calms mind and body

I need to stop wearing see-through shirts for yoga. On that note, namaste :).

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Filed under Birthday, Philadelphia Eats, Simply, Yoga

Simply Celebrate


It’s that time of year. The Mama’s birthday!

For our birthdays, my mom makes whatever we desire for dinner. For her birthday we take her out to eat (unlike Janetha’s awesome birthday dinner for her madre). We’re lame. At least the restaurant was gorgeous:

Notice the death stares. The sisters are still acclimating to my incessant picture taking.

Check out this stunning family (and Miguel sporting his black eye – not so stunning):

Drumroll please! The star of the party:

This restaurant was beautiful, the food options were enticing and the meals were plated nicely. I must say, I was so excited for this dinner. We were patronizing a farm-to-table restaurant, which supports the environment through its own garden and purchasing locally grown food.

Stunning setting:

And these goofs:

Appetizers included outstanding kalamata olive bread and homemade herb crackers, as well a mix of salads and Miguel’s steak tartare. Told you he was steak-obsessed.

Moving on to dinner:

Sometimes pictures are simply better than words.

Gifts were opened:

A candle was extinguished:

And, you guessed it, dessert was devoured…

After the bill was paid and the valet was summoned (really… it’s that kind of place), we returned home for a little dog-on-dog action. Playtime, folks, playtime.

Riley, and Miguel’s pup, Chico:

 

Delicious food, beautiful views, a happy family and playful pups.

Now, that’s what I call a simple celebration.

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What a Treat


Generally, I’m a very happy person. I’m aware that I live a very pleasant life filled with supportive loved ones. What more could one ask for?

Maybe this…

…and this, prior to going to a workplace that has been a rather challenging environment as of late.

A smiling barista that remembers my favorite drink even though I haven’t visited for two months? I’ll take one of those too!

Soy latte w/ one pump of pumpkin spice? Twist my arm.

Since I’ve started following the clean eating philosophy a little closer, I’ve simultaneously cut a lot of dairy out of my diet, without even realizing. As a result, I opt for soy b/c dairy in large portions is no longer my friend (unless we’re talking ice cream). For many, soy is not a good option, unless it’s fermented, but I don’t find that it bothers me. Plus, I don’t know a coffee shop around me that carries almond milk!

For arguments against the use of soy, please view the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website. This article was fairly intriguing to me on various levels, as I work[ed] in a state women’s prison: Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Soy Diet for Illinois Prisoners. I find it very interesting and feel that I should be avoiding eating soy products, unless they’re fermented. Thoughts?

To decompress after a workday that will leave me contemplating my options in the near future, I will be visiting this lovely farm and market on the way home from work. Now, what to make for dinner with all the fresh produce?

Pumpkin spice latte, a trip to the farm market, crisp autumn air and fresh produce? Ahhh. A clean eater’s therapy (and a run wouldn’t hurt either).

What a treat.

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Simply Yoga: Week 1


It was a rainy, chilly Sunday morning. And I was thrilled! What better way to start an 8 week beginner yoga workshop than inside a cozy studio?

I’ve taken quite a few yoga classes in the past, including semi-private classes in someone’s home years ago as a remedy to help me deal with stress issues. At that time I had difficulty taking the concept of yoga seriously, but I did learn how to breathe into my stomach. You breathe into your lungs, you say? Well, I do too silly ;). In yoga there is a practice of distending the stomach through your breath in order to create further flow with the movement. This form of breathing is actually the way I breathe on a daily basis, as it helps tremendously in dealing with stress, which I happen to carry in my stomach. I have genetics to thank for that one. Gracias mamacita ;).

My friend Laura told me she was taking an 8 week beginner yoga workshop. While it sounded like an exciting opportunity, I felt that maybe yoga 102 would be a better option for me, but I decided to sign on with Laura anyway, in the spirit of simply fit. simply clean. simply experience. After reading a little more about the class, it was evident that this may be somewhat of a review for me, but a valuable learning experience as well. When going to group fitness classes at commercial gyms, the focus isn’t necessarily on the exact movement, but rather the muscle in the workout. After attending week 1 of beginner yoga, I already have a new, enlightened frame of mind and a deeper respect for the practice.

Highlights to share:

  • There are eight “limbs” of yoga. During this workshop, we will focus on two most heavily: asana (Sanskrit for “postures”) and pranayama (Sanskrit for breathing)
  • Yoga is exceedingly healthy for the body – it helps individuals with various issues pertaining to the mind and body
  • Your everyday breath is called your centering breath, which is about focusing on relaxation
  • Beginner asanas from which to build: cat, cow, downward dog and legs-up-the-wall pose

I encourage anyone who may think that yoga is not a challenging enough workout (cough, cough –> me) or too “out there”, to re-direct your focus and give this practice a try. After attending a few classes outlining the purpose, benefits and basic postures of yoga, feel free to send me a thank you comment ;).

While I still have just a basic knowledge of all that yoga can do for the mind and body, I’m so excited to thoroughly learn the beginnings of yoga, so I feel comfortable in building upon a solid foundation as I pursue further training.

Namaste.

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Filed under Yoga