What I did in 2013…

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It’s almost April. I’m way overdue for reflection on 2013.

Soooo, what DID I do last year?

1. Took yoga teacher training

I became a yoga instructor. In researching yoga therapist training, I found Ananda. (One of the senior Ananda teachers is part of the accreditation board for the International Association of Yoga Therapists and from her bio I found Ananda.)

So, I spent April in California. Winter shuffled along in Saskatchewan and Ron is sure YTT is just my latest ruse for escaping the weather in Canada. It was wonderful. The students were a warm and interesting group of souls. The teachers were fabulous – experienced, funny, inspiring. Ananda is beautiful and unique. Everyone I met there was incredible – the meditation teachers, the community members, the karma yogis, the guests. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to be there and to have made these new friends.

AYTT 2013-04

Fellow students at Ananda yoga teacher training. I love these guys.

A side note to self: Do not drive to California ever again. It was a VERY long way. Just take the damn plane even though you hate it.

2. Became Granny

I became step grandma to two little girls. I knew I would like this, but I really, really like this. I’m going with ‘Granny’ because that’s what my grandmother was to me.

3. Became an empty-nester

In September my son moved away to college. I really did not like this and most of the first month I was pretty unhappy about it. I’d rather have him close by where I can make sure he’s always happy, safe and well-fed. To give him the credit due, he picked a school that really suited him and he was immediately happy there. Really, I just want him to be happy and, now that I know he is, I feel way better. And, I’ve made his room into my office :)

4. Started yoga therapist training

In December I went back to Ananda for my first two yoga therapy classes: Yoga for Seniors and Osteoporosis and Restorative Yoga. Adri, Ann, Erin and Kate were all there too and it was wonderful to spend a few days with them again. It’s been almost a year since I finished teacher training, so I’ve had a year to dive into yoga therapy. My bookcase is filling up and I sometimes feel overwhelmed with how much I don’t know…On the other hand, I know a lot more than I did a year ago! I’ll be finished sometime in 2016–that’s two more years to learn something.

Am I exhausted, or just damn lazy?

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Crooked Sage

Crooked Sage

This past weekend I yoga’d with Ryan Leier. Now, Ryan is intense and the intenseness started on Saturday afternoon, ramped up Sunday morning and rolled into station late Sunday afternoon. He is a sliver of a man with a lot of laughs and the sinews of Conan the Barbarian–well, a very, very slim Conan.

I found myself struggling on Saturday afternoon. The class was challenging and I was finding it hard to keep up, but I wouldn’t let myself take any of the easier modifications. If Ryan said chatturanga (push up) I did the pushup, dammit, and not the downward dog. When I got home that evening I didn’t want to go back the next day.

I was having trouble reconciling two messages I heard in the class. One was “stay with the breath. The breath is the pose. If the breath is difficult you need to ease off.” The other was “I do this until sweat is dripping off my nose…there is no place in yoga for the lazy.”

That night I had a little heart to heart with myself. At first I thought I was feeling discouraged because I was comparing myself to other students. Then I realized I was making a judgement about myself that had nothing to do with comparison. My inner dialogue was something along the lines of “if you don’t do everything, if you don’t keep up, you’re lazy.”

I thought about why I was doing this– not just the class–but yoga in general. It’s not because I want to look like an Ashtangi. I do yoga because I like to get out of my head. I like to stop thinking, even for a little while. I like to sit-still-and-meditate and I also like to move-and-meditate. If I couldn’t match the breath to the movement  it wasn’t satisfying and that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to go back. When I figured that out I felt relieved.

In the Sunday morning class Ryan played some recordings of Pashant Iyengar (son of B.K.S.) talking about breath. Ryan talked about how B.K.S Iyengar is “all about the perfection of the body” but his son “is all about the breath.” Pashant said the breath was the only thing free of karma. The body and the mind come with karma, but the breath is free of karma. Pashant was in a serious traffic accident and his body won’t support a power practice, but for decades he has practiced every day, with his focus on breath. Ryan started the first vinyasa by encouraging people to take the modifications if they were struggling. So I did and it was good.

“For someone who is excessively body conscious like a model a pimple on the face is a great calamity. Unfortunately the same happens to the majority of you who are used to practice yoga always addressing the body. Doing doing doing doing until you are like dead ducks! When you are no longer in prime age and your body will no longer do what it used to your practice will invariably end in utter frustration  I can already see some of you always complaining: my back pains, my hip pains, my knee pains. If you practice asanas as an end that is not yoga. Make the asanas a means. Be breath conscious and mind conscious rather than body conscious.” Pashant Iyengar

I wrote this post almost exactly a month ago and when I just re-read it I realized that several things changed for me in that workshop. I did something I was scared of—handstand. Doing handstand made other poses (like headstand) suddenly seem easy.

What I Did in 2012

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Well, it IS December 31. Time for a re-cap. What happened in 2012?

1. I became a vegetarian and I like it. A lot.

I had two reasons for deciding to eat plants instead of animals. One was ‘ahimsa’–the path of yoga based on non-violence and kindness to all living things. The other was something I’ve learned from living with different animals–every animal has a unique personality. Every dog that’s lived with me, every cat that has hired me as staff, every cow and horse I’ve been around, has been an individual. They recognize you. They chat. They say “hi” when you show up. They like Friskas, but not boiled carrots. You know what I mean.

Some animals seem like they don’t have any personality–chickens, for instance–but I bet that’s just because I haven’t gotten to know any chickens personally. I find it hard to eat something when I know it would prefer not to be on the menu and would say that if it could speak.

I wonder now why I delayed this change until January 2012 and I think it was laziness and vanity. I knew exactly how to plan meals based around meat and I’m a good cook, so that’s what I did. The unexpected bonus of becoming a vegetarian has been learning to love vegetables I had always ignored. Brussell sprouts are delightful. I never knew.

2. I sold our house and moved to another city in 23 days.

I really can’t take full credit for this, because Ron did much of the work. I wrote the listing, made arrangements with ComFree to post the sale and showed the house. I treated every showing as if the photo team from Better Homes and Gardens was arriving, so I basically drove myself and everyone else batty with cleaning, decorating and styling the house and yard. But, damn, it looked good. And it sold…fast. So then I had to hire movers. Sadly, when you only have seven days to arrange a move, you have to hire whoever is available and pay whatever they want to charge. Groan.

3. I managed not to get a job.

I haven’t had a go-to-work job since 2010 and 2012 was my most successful year as a freelancer. I am basing that statement on having made an actual profit.

4. I made marshmallows and fruitcake for the first time.

I’ve always wanted to make marshmallows from scratch, so I finally did. They were OK, but not that great. The fruitcake on the other hand was sublime.

5. I gave away my cat.

We had a mean cat living with us. He bullied the other cats, beat them up, ate all their food (he was huge) and peed on our furniture and clothing. For six years we put up with this. We had to throw away a sofa, a futon, armchairs, carpeting, luggage and clothes because nothing was safe from him. Finally, as part of getting our house ready to sell, we were having new carpet installed in the basement and I gave him away before he had a chance to wreck it, or even see it. I still miss him. I was his favourite human.

6. I started blogging in an extremely unpredictable fashion.

I read a lot of blogs and I know that bloggers tend to follow a demanding and tidy schedule of near-daily blogging. I’m pretty sure I won’t ever achieve those standards. Point of fact–this is supposed to be a food blog and there’s only one recipe here. However, I do have a long list of tested recipes, partially written posts and a great new close-up camera lens, so 2013 could be the turning point…

Let’s insulate the crawlspace!

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Our old house has an enormous kitchen addition. It’s nice to have the space, but this time of year that room would freeze the tail off a brass monkey, as my Grandma would have said.

In our on-going investigations (i.e. why the heck is this room so cold and what the heck can we do about it?) we figured out that the crawlspace under the addition wasn’t completely insulated. There was insulation around the outside walls, but none in the floor. Hmmm. Maybe that would help. Well, it couldn’t hurt, right?

First step: don the appropriate outfit.
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Coveralls, sweatshirt with hood, safety glasses, particulate mask. I can tell this is going to be fun. I’m already hot and itchy. IMG_1878

Then I climbed up the ladder and through the hole into the crawlspace. We think this hole was once a window.

IMG_1871This is the west side of the crawlspace and there’s the same amount of space on the other side of that beam running down the left side of the photo. (There are also cobwebs..ewww…and a scary-looking-ghostly-dead plant/weed in the corner.)IMG_1881We bought bags of R12 insulation slightly wider than the floorboards which are 15 inches apart. Then we tucked it carefully between the floorboards, trying not to compress it. Friction holds it in place. We used smaller pieces to fill around ductwork and anywhere that a full piece wouldn’t fit. This blurry photo above shows a big bag of insulation and me using my foot to push a small piece into place in the corner. Some yoga moves were coming in handy here. IMG_1888And then it was time for a coffee break. I find that my projects tend to involve safety glasses and beer. All in all, it took about two and half hours to do the job.

I think the addition is about 250 square feet and I THINK the kitchen floor IS warmer since we did this.

It didn’t have the dramatic effect we were hoping for. <sigh> However, the kitchen has another problem I didn’t mention. It has five huge windows. Dual pane slider windows. We think whoever did the renovations was from a more temperate climate. Siberia maybe. Looks like this summer we will be buying some triple pane windows. Until then, we’ve got the market cornered on space heaters, cozy blankets and hot toddies.

I Love You Mr. Oreck. Or, wow, this house is dirty.

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Am I officially old if I’m genuinely interested in a new cleaning gadget? Yeah, likely. Oh well. I may be old, but my floors are finally clean.

I probably shouldn’t be telling you how dirty this house was when we bought it. You’ll never eat in the kitchen once you’ve seen the “before” photos. The previous owner was not exactly, um, fastidious. Really, this house was less like a home and more like a health violation with its own mortgage.

The day we moved in I knew the floors were dirty, but I didn’t know HOW dirty. One day I realized the tile in the third floor half-bath was the same tile as on the main floor. Only the grout on the third floor was a MUCH different colour. In fact, it was a very pale sandstone colour. The grout on the main floor was brown.

The ‘before’. See that grout? It’s not actually brown once it’s clean. Gross.

Ewww. That’s when I ordered the Oreck Steam-It.

I kind of love it. It did a fabulous job with no chemicals involved. It comes with a special attachment for cleaning grout that sends lovely hot blasts of steam right at the disgusting grout and it’s easy to fill using the little funnel that comes with it. It heats up in seconds and it’s light and easy to move around. I ordered mine from the online store and it shipped from Winnipeg. I forget how long it took to get here, ten days? Needless to say, Oreck has no idea who I am, or that I own an Oreck Steam-It, but if you’re looking for a good steam mop this is it.

Now that the floor is clean, I still use the Steam-It, but more like a normal person would. (i.e. I don’t spend six hours steaming and scrubbing on my hands and kneews.) I just put the little terry towel “mop” (it’s kind of like a shower cap) over the steam attachment and push it around the floor.

And here’s the grout after. It’s now a pale sandy colour.

Applesauce Raisin Spelt Muffins

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Raisin Applesauce Spelt MuffinsThis recipe has been a favourite for awhile. The muffins are lightly sweetened and low fat, but very moist. Soaking the raisins is the secret.

I originally made them with a mix of all-purpose and spelt flout, but when Super Keely asked if they could be all spelt, I thought, “why not?” And while I was at it, I re-worked the recipe so it could all be done in one bowl. Why have two bowls to wash when one will do? Now, I like the muffins made with 100% spelt flour the best. And this time I remembered to take a photo. Sure, they don’t have movie star good looks, but you can count on them.

Applesauce Raisin Spelt Muffins (PDF of recipe.)

  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2  1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly-grated (I’m not kidding. Freshly grated makes a big difference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2  1/4 cups applesauce (This is the entire contents of one Sun Rype jar of applesauce.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I use dark brown sugar.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle. Line 12 regular muffin tins.

1. Soak raisins in hot water for about 20 minutes then drain.

2.  In a bowl mix applesauce, eggs, oil and brown sugar.

3. Sprinkle on the baking powder and stir until well combined.

4. Stir in the spices and drained raisins.

5. Add the flour and stir only until moistened.

6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins–they will be pretty full, but that’s OK–and bake 25 minutes until light brown and firm to the touch.

Per muffin: 246 calories, 43 g carbs, 6 g fat, 5 g protein, 8 g iron, 1 g calcium.

Adapted from The Savvy Vegetarian. I use all spelt flour (instead of a mix of all-purpose flour and spelt flour) less oil and more applesauce. I also re-wrote the recipe to use only one bowl. I like to use Paper Chef Parchment Paper muffin liners because very low fat muffins like these will stick to regular paper liners.