Monday, August 6, 2007

Just Checking In...

Getting ready for vacation! What could be better than that? In some ways, the preparation for vacation is more exciting than the actual vacation! You have all the anticipation: imagining lying on the perfect beach with the warm sun beating down upon you. In actuality, the beach may be stinky with seaweed, or buggy, or muggy. You get to plan your snacks for the joyous family drive, which, somewhere in the back of your mind, you know will be anything BUT joyous. You imagine perfect weather, though you did buy that hurricane insurance, just in case. Optimistic, yes. Stupid, no.

Still, I'm folding the laundry and setting aside piles of stuff and making my lists, holding on to my vacation innocence for as long as possible. Looking forward to seeing Deb and Nancy and exploring the Asheville, NC area a bit. Excited about long, lazy days on the Outer Banks. Oh, and don't forget those frozen drinks!

Okay, stepping back into the here-and-now for just a few moments! I thought I was done with Sockotta sock #1. Honest, I did! I did the super stretchy knit bind-off around the cuff and, while I did have a brief, fleeting thought of "that leg looks a little short," I quickly shrugged it off. NO WAY! I always make my leg 7 inches long! I slipped my foot into the sock. The foot was an absolutely perfect fit! I pulled the sock up onto my...?ankle? It was way too short, and I immediately knew why. When I make cuff down socks, I always knit 7 inches +/-, THEN I knit the heel flap... which adds 2-1/2 inches or so. Oh. I just had that 7 inches in my mind, so I knit the leg of the toe-up sock 7 inches, INCLUDING the heel! Where did my brain go?

Okay, I did let myself think I was okay with a short-legged sock for a couple of hours, but that didn't last long. I knew I had to fix it. This required major surgery. I had worked the leg pattern, then 1 inch of ribbed cuff, then the stretchy, intricate, never-to-be-removed bind-off. I had to get out my scissors. I threaded my needles into the socks below the cuff and I CUT the yarn below the bind-off, until I found a spot where I could unravel the leg down to my needles. Sounds easy enough, except that I picked up some of the purl stitches in the row below the knit stitches, so I had to spend some time with the tiny crochet hook, picking up all those dropped stitches. Still, I fixed it, knit up to 9+ inches, bound off again, and began sock #2. Whew.

I am taking all my fall knitting magazines on vacation, to better plan and strategize my fall knitting. I'm not sure who I think I'm kidding: fall knitting will be the same as always; a few hats, mittens, scarves, and socks. I'll start a sweater. Maybe I'll finish LAST fall's sweater! Then, the spring knitting magazines will come out and I'll start dreaming of tank tops again.

Some of my most interesting cooking adventures this summer have been exploring the foods I have received from my CSA farmer, Jill. I have heard of all of these foods before, even tasted many of them cooked by someone else, but I haven't ventured there myself. Kohlrabi, pattypan squash, and okra have all been explored for the first time. (Well, I've dumped okra in gumbo or soup, but I've never addressed it on its own:-) I've learned that, for my family, cheese is the ultimate food saver. The kids will eat ANYthing, and I do mean anything, if it has cheese on it. Funky vegetable? Add cheese, they eat it. Personally, it's not my thing, but you gotta do what you gotta do. (The second ultimate food saver is ketchup, but we won't go there:-)

This is how I made my okra. It won't make you an okra lover if you hate the stuff, but it's NOT slimey and at least Kaitlin and I loved it! (no cheese, by the way!)

1 Tbs olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag of okra
1 large tomato, diced
salt and pepper and cayenne, to taste

In a large skillet, drizzle the olive oil, scatter the garlic, and spread the okra. Turn the heat on low and cook for 10 minutes, til things start heating up. Don't stir it. Scatter the diced tomato on top, cover with a lid, and cook over low heat for another 30 minutes or so. Don't stir, but you can sort of lift it around a bit to mix up the garlic. Salt and pepper to taste, a dash of cayenne if you wish, and that's it. Eat it up.

I think it's good to mix things up once in a while, don't you? Everyone didn't love the okra, but it was different. I made a corn and quinoa pilaf for the kids, not expecting much, but they LOVED it! You just never know.

I just have to throw in, this goes for yoga practice, too. I found myself in a rut and began doing things in a different order, holding some poses longer, trying new stuff, and it really rejuvenated my practice!

So, variety IS the spice of life. If all else fails, add cheese.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm Still Here....

It started out so innocently: I'll just check my email in the morning, and then get on with my day. Soon, it was about an hour on email/ lists/ blogs/ fantasy shopping. Quickly grew into two hours. Then I had to catch up several times a day. I joined the bloggers, joined cooking lists, knitting lists, you name it! Yes, it was fun, but I had to just face the facts: I was spending way too much time on the computer. In fact, I was spending more time reading about knitting than actually knitting. More time reading about cooking than actually cooking. I wasn't really doing anything, but I was learning so much!
As much as I love the www, something had to give. I couldn't go cold turkey, but I had to cut way back, and so I did. I unsubbed to some lists, went no-mail on others, and totally limited my screen time. And that's why I haven't been blogging. My plan is to carve out some time each weekend to blog about the week, just to keep in touch, so here I go. I may have to limit photos and such, because when my time's up, I gotta go and actually do something!
We have been caught up in a whirling dervish of cultural activity!! (Don't you just love that visual of a whirling dervish? What is a dervish, anyway??) At any rate, that's where we've been, in case you were wondering.
We started out by taking the kids to a live performance of "A Prairie Home Companion." I will admit it right now, I was not really very excited about going. Mike loves PHC, and the kids enjoy listening to it, too, but I am sort of on the fence. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I'm just not in the mood. Mike wanted "good" tickets, so I moaned and groaned and paid up and it was so, so worth it!! The show was wonderful and it was a night we will all remember.
Next came "Romeo and Juliet" at the local Shakespeare in the Park performance. The show was good, if a bit melodramatic, but the best part was the kids' Shakespeare dialogue. I could hardly keep up, which is good, because I hope my kids are smarter than I am!
We ventured out to the Impressionist Exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. If you haven't been, and you like Impressionism, GO!! We all loved it.
Mike and I went to see Oklahoma! at the dinner theater. Seriously, one of the best performances I've seen. (expert that I am) (just kidding, of course) (Okay, I DID count my high school's performance in my comparison, but this show was really good!!)
While we're talking cultural events... who went to the Harry Potter book parties last night? We were there. Kait was a death eater, Connor was Dumbledore, and Kyle was Dobby. It wasn't very well organized, the store was SO HOT, and we didn't get our book until 1:20am. Still, I wouldn't have missed it. The kids were so excited. They played the trivia games, entered the costume contest and just enjoyed themselves. I was about to pass out from the heat and the smell of all the people and the crushing mass of bodies, but it wasn't really about me, now was it? For the record, this has always been Mike's job, but he was out of town for this book release. That won't happen again.

Let's see... I did finish my lacy shawl, in the car, on the way to Oklahoma! I love it; it's perfect. I have not yet felted Amanda's Squatty Sidekick. No real reason, except that it's kind of hot to felt. (is that lame?) I finished one of the toe up socks I started using the ex-tennis sock yarn. This is the first time I have made a complete sock toe up. As of right now, I like cuff down better, but I reserve the right to change my mind:-) And, I did a short row heel, but I actually like the heel flap better! I'm getting ready to start sock #2.
I've also just started a scribble shawl, a la "Mason Dixon." I am using a ribbon yarn from Colinette which is so beautiful, and also Rowan kid silk haze. It should go fast on size 17 needles! Pics will follow.
And what have we been eating? Salads. Coleslaw with lemon dressing and raisins. Spinach salad with pecans, red onion, feta and dried cranberries. Green bean salad. Black bean salad with avocado. Green bean and potato salad. Corn salad. Oh, and corn bread. The best corn bread I've ever made. (okay, this is not counting that one time Mike talked me into making corn bread in bacon grease in a cast iron skillet when we first got married. Sound disgusting? Sorry, but it was "slap your grandma" delicious!!)
Here is the corn bread we all adore:
(adapted from "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hesperger)
note: I just make my own "buttermilk" by adding a tsp of white vinegar to a cup of soy milk and then just letting it set for a few minutes.
another note: You can use real butter, or Earth Balance, or even olive oil. They all work fine.
1 C flour
1 C cornmeal
1/4 C sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs (or egg substitute)
1 C buttermilk
4 Tbs butter, melted
1 C fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 and lightly oil a 9-inch baking dish or pie plate.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and butter.
Add wet ingredients to dry, adding the corn kernels if desired, and stir until JUST BLENDED.
Spoon into dish; bake 25 minutes, cool 10-15 minutes before cutting.
My time is up. Serve up some cornbread with a can of baked beans and bask in the glory:-) (Or, serve with pressure cooked black-eyed peas. Or Cuban black beans. Or any bean salad.)
(See what I mean? Is there a 12 step program for computer addicts???)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Lazy Days, Lazy Blogger

So there I was, running around at the beginning of June like a crazy woman. Dance recital, fencing camp, return Kaitlin's computer to school, tennis, haircut, classes, trainings... then, IT happened!! I woke up one morning and I looked at the calendar and it was... empty. That's right, one ENTIRE day, no obligations, no pick-ups or drop-offs, no library books due, no nothing. My heart started beating faster... can it be true? I checked the other calendar, by the computer, and the OTHER calendar in my briefcase... nothing! One day of total freedom! I laid down on the couch and stared at the ceiling fan for a few minutes, grinning gleefully. What would I do with this lovely, free day? I could catch up on cleaning and laundry. I could plant the plants languishing in the heat in the backyard. I could bake. I could knit. I could take a walk. Go shopping! Hit tennis balls! Write on my blog! The possibilities were endless.

You know exactly what I did, don't you? That's right: absolutely nothing. Not a thing. I lounged around. Caught up on all the blogs I read. Made a smoothie and drank it. Checked out the boys' computer game. Cleaned the crumbs out of the toaster. Shaved my legs. Watered some plants. Read the paper. Put my pj's on at 6pm. You get the idea. All day long I thought hard about what I could do with an entire free day, and then I proceeded NOT to do any of it. I have to say: it was the perfect day!

Isn't it the ultimate truth, though: the less you have to do, the less you actually do. Every once in a while, it's so delicious to just enjoy being.
Okay, here is my tennis sock before: And after:










Yes, I had to frog the entire thing. As usual, I tried to shrug it all off: Yes, the cuff around my ankle was too loose. Oh, well, better than too tight, right? Um, yes, and the heel flap was too short. Oh, well, you can't really see it, right? Okay... the combo of loose cuff and short heel flap, doesn't that mean that the sock will be likely to slip down into my tennis shoe? Yes, it does. I kept pretending that it would be fine, but it would NOT be fine. It didn't fit right. The lucky tennis socks weren't starting off very lucky if they didn't even fit right. I know how to fix them and make them fit better, so I might as well do it... right? (Please, agree with me! Nod your head! Let me know that you are with me on the trip to the frog pond! It was a painful trip!) So, the tennis socks went into the "starting over" pile.

I stared at the re-wound skein of sock yarn for a few days, and I realized that I had totally lost the urge to knit tennis socks. I like the ones I buy, with the thick, padded food. Why, this yarn simply didn't want to be tennis socks!! It was begging for some ribbing, not tiny ribbing, but chunky, 4x2 ribbing. So, I got back on that horse and started again:

Yes, I decided to try something new. I am trying some toe-up socks, using the Eastern cast-on. I really hope these fit!!

Here is my "Amanda's Squatty Sidekick." It's chunky yarn instead of worsted weight, and size 15 needles, and I really don't know how it will turn out, but it will be great! (Don't ask about the orange and purple. I think it will felt up beautifully and all sort of blend together into something lovely. Hey, it's the yarn I had when the mood struck!!) Okay, it does sort of look like a pumpkin, now, but just you wait!! :-)

Isn't it crazy that I'm knitting in this heat? I know.
So, it's hot, and getting hotter, no better time to fire up the pressure cooker! Delicious food quickly, no heating up the house. Here is a recipe for Red Lentil Dal, from the VegSource pressure cooker board: (note: it's not exactly like a "true" dal, the kind you get in an Indian restaurant, but it is cooked lentils with curry powder, and it is delicious, so give it a try!!)
Pressure Cooker Red Lentil Dal
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 tsp oil or water
1 Tbs. crushed garlic
1 quart of veggie broth + 2 C water
1-1/2 C red lentils
1/2 lb. chopped carrots
1-1/2 lb. chopped red potatoes
1 Tbs. curry powder +/- to taste
Saute onion and garlic in oil or water. Add remaining ingredients, bring to high pressure and cook 5 minutes. Quick release. Serve over brown rice, over raw spinach, or over salad. (or spinach on top of rice.) Trust me, this is great. The hot lentils sort of wilt the spinach and it's perfect! Definitely drizzle some tamari/ soy sauce on top!! Add some diced avocado if you wish.
You can also make this on top of the stove, but you will probably need to cook it for about 30-40 minutes. It will still taste fantastique!!
I'm going to go and make a smoothie and sit on my deck and stare at my toes for a while.


















Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pondering Karma...

I've been thinking a lot lately about karma. You don't have to call it "karma"; you can call it "you get what you deserve", or "what comes around, goes around"; or "you reap what you sow", or... you get the idea.

Sometimes, karma just slaps you in the face and calls you an idiot. Like the time I bought 2 small avocados and 1 large one, and the grocery clerk charged me for 3 smalls. I realized it as I was walking out of the store. The little voice inside my head said, "Just go over to customer service and pay for it." The louder, more obnoxious voice said, "Oh, it's only a dollar! No big deal! YOU didn't make the mistake! We're in a hurry! We have to get home!" The big mouth won. I went home and cut into my big, beautiful avocado and... it was totally rotten. I didn't have enough avocados to make guacamole. Still, I had to laugh. Instant karma.

Sometimes, karma gives you a chance to make it right. Like the time I came home from Whole Foods with a basket of blueberries I didn't select and didn't pay for. My kids asked, "What are you going to do, Mom?" I said, "Well, Whole Foods is a 25 minute drive. Next time I go in, I will talk to customer service and offer to pay for the blueberries." We were all satisfied with that, and began happily munching on our free blueberries. I went to Whole Foods and totally forgot about the blueberries. I went a second time, and forgot again. About 2 weeks later, I came home from the grocery store and the red new potatoes I bought for potato salad, (selected, bagged and PAID FOR), were not in my bag!! Damn! NOW I remember those blueberries. (I sent Mike back to the store for the potatoes:-) Still, score another one for karma!

Sometimes, however, things happen that have no rhyme or reason. Try as I might, I can't really find the karmic lesson. I am talking about my tennis league. I joined the TenCap Tournament, which is a little summer, outdoor league, strictly social/recreational, where tennis players from all over the Kansas City area meet up to play some matches. People are matched by their ability, and there are actually other players out there at my level:-) I am an excellent tennis player. (This is me, working on the power of positive thinking!!!) Okay, we all know about my tennis abilities, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I showed up for my first match and my partner never showed up. I called her (no answer); just a no-show, and I had to forfeit my match. It turned out that she had worked late the night before and overslept. I played my second match (with Marcia) and we lost, but it was a good match. I was scheduled for a week off last week, but someone needed a substitute to attend a funeral, so I volunteered. I was just trying to help someone out and I was available to play, so I did. Guess what? My partner never showed up! I called her, her husband said he had no idea where she was. This time, she said it was raining at her house, so she assumed the match would be canceled. (Do I even have to mention what happens when you ASSUME something??) The match was not canceled; it was warm and partly sunny and I had to forfeit. Again.

So, I've been pondering the lesson here. I've thought about reverse karma: maybe this happened to prevent me from embarrassing myself? Nah. It's only tennis; I can live with losing a few matches, even getting creamed. I've decided it's more about forgiveness. Both women apologized and I graciously accepted. I tried to look inside myself for the times I've made mistakes, or bad decisions... and I didn't have to look very far! I was reminded of one of the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi: "It is in the giving that we receive; it is in the pardoning that we are pardoned..." I hold on to the hope that, when I need it most, when I screw up badly, someone will find it in their heart to forgive me, too.

Hey, maybe it is karma, in a way, after all! Or, maybe it's only tennis.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Random 7

Okay, I was tagged by Vanessa to join in on this 7 Random Things thing. I am one of the least technically savvy people I know. My daughter had to set up my blog. I depend on my kids and my husband to keep all the technology in our home up and running. I had to email V and admit that I have no idea how to go about this! I did check her blog, and it was full of links and color and everything I do NOT have on my blog!!

Anyway, here are the instructions:

The rules: Each person tagged gives 7 random facts about themselves. Those who are tagged need to write on their own blog those 7 facts as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven other people and list their names on your blog. Then you leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and to read your blog.

HA!!! I just did a color change! I am really progressing, huh? Well, I don't personally know 7 people who have blogs, so if YOU have a blog and you are reading this, consider yourself tagged.

Here are my 7 Random Things About ME::

1. I have moved 23 times in my life. (Yeah, it's getting old.)

2. I am a book-aholic. It's truly a disease. I love books, I save them, I collect them, I hoard them, I sneak them into the house and shove them onto the bookshelf, pretending (to myself) that they've been there all along.

3. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. I let myself get talked out of it. Now, I homeschool my kids, teach yoga and teach knitting. I was a technical trainer for a while in the professional world. I guess you can't deny your true calling.

4. I long to be an artist, but I am a scientist, through and through. I love to cook... with a recipe. I love to knit... with a pattern. I think myself very daring if I make a small change in a recipe and it actually tastes good! My inner artist is begging to come out!!

5. I really don't like other people's feet. I even hated trimming my kids' toenails when they were babies! Feet are just sort of knobby and sweaty and bumpy and... gross. Fine words from a sock knitter, eh?

6. I'd prefer a nice bowl of tortilla chips and salsa to a dessert, any time. I love tortilla chips. I despise cheesecake. There are those days I NEED chocolate, but that doesn't really count as dessert... does it? I could survive on chips and salsa, I think. Toss me an avocado once in a while and I'd be a happy camper.

7. I enjoy washing dishes. That's right, I like it! I don't like to wash big pots and pans and baking dishes; Mike does those:-) I just like the warm water, the soap, the instant gratification of a pile of clean dishes. Seriously, we only run our dishwasher about once a week! Don't get me started on all the cleaning chores I DON'T like!!!

Okay, there's my 7, about as random as you can get.
Enjoy the rest of your week!!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

House of Champions!

May I brag about my kids, just this one time? Thank you. All 3 of my kids began fencing last fall. First, it was just the boys, but they made it sound so great that my daughter had to try, too! They all love it. It is a once weekly class and they won't miss it for the world.

Yesterday was the annual fencing tournament for recreational fencers! All 3 of my kids were nervous. Kaitlin was nervous because she had no idea what to expect; she suspected she would be one of very few girls, (she was correct!); and her age category was "open fencing," which was very...open. Connor wasn't too nervous; he was up for the competition, just uncertain of where he would end up... and that boy likes to WIN. Kyle was extremely nervous. He is the youngest kid in their fencing class and usually loses. He had never fenced anyone in his own age group and I think he just wanted to prove to himself that he is a good fencer.

I'll spare you the details. Kaitlin and Connor had to fence each other several times. They usually go back and forth winning in class, but yesterday, Kaitlin won. In the end, Kyle won a silver medal for the age 10 and under category! This was big for him; he had to defeat a lot of kids and I could see his confidence soaring. Connor won a tie for third place in the open fencing, and ended up with a gold medal for the age 12 and under category! It took the sting out of losing to his sister:-) A real confidence-booster for him, too. Kaitlin ended up winning the gold medal for the open fencing category! Her final bout was won by one point. She fenced a young man who is actually a competitive fencer, and a very good one, but he was fencing yesterday with his left hand in the recreational tournament. She was so proud; I don't think she thought she could actually win. I believe all of her dancing really helped her footwork, which was graceful and controlled. Mike and I are just bursting with pride!


Moving on. Thanks for your comments and suggestions and ideas about how to continue knitting despite my shoulder issues. I must confess: except for an initial slowdown, I have not cut back on my knitting! I have tried to be very conscious of my position, constantly adjusting my shoulders, taking more breaks, stretching out frequently. I am searching for shoulder stretches and reading a lot about shoulders. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on the shawl, which is coming along nicely. I wish it were finished already, as I've had many opportunities to wear it! All in good time, I guess. Also, working on the foot of my first tennis sock! I am using the Sockotta yarn, cotton/wool/nylon blend, and a plain "vanilla" sock pattern with the leg/cuff cut down. They are pretty and very soft, and I hope they will bring me luck on the tennis courts:-)
(That's Luka, checking out my sock)




Okay, I did say we are a "house of champions," but perhaps I should say the kids are fencing champions, and Mike is a golf champion, but Cheryl is NOT a tennis champion. Not by a longshot. I played in my first league on Friday. Marcia was my partner, luckily, because she is pretty good. We lost, 7-5, 6-1. Everything I have ever done wrong, I did wrong. I swung on the volleys (out of the court); I didn't follow through on my forehand (out of the court); I twisted my racket on my backhand volleys (out of the court); I did some dumb one-handed backhands... out of the court! Okay, room for improvement, right? It was still fun, believe it or not! The ladies we played against were super nice, we didn't get creamed, and now I know what I need to work on:-)

It's sort of a rainy day and I'm craving homemade baked macaroni and cheese. Here is a simple recipe for our favorite:

Baked Mac and Cheese

1 lb. elbow macaroni or other small pasta, cooked and drained
2 Tbs. butter or Earth Balance
2 Tbs. flour
2-1/2 C milk (lowfat, soy milk, or rice milk all work fine)
2 C grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
2 chopped green onions
breadcrumbs for topping

Melt butter in saucepan over med. heat. Whisk in flour, then add milk and cook about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in 1-1/2 C cheese and season with salt and pepper. Combine with noodles. Stir in green onions. Pour into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with oil. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, then sprinkle on some breadcrumbs. Bake 30-40 minutes, until the top begins to brown.
I'm off, for now. More soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Flip Side

I really wanted to share all the wonderful things I experienced at the yoga workshop last week. I wanted you all to realize how really great it was! I hope you did.

And now, for the flip side.
(I know some of you are too young to remember vinyl records, (Vanessa), but the flip side is the OTHER side of the record, the side that does NOT have the hit song on it!)
Here is the flip side of my yoga experience:

I talked with Max frequently throughout the week, adjusting my body to the postures, trying to figure out which things would work best for me. We worked at length with my shoulders, which are sort of tight and "crack" a lot, and have a somewhat limited range of motion. He kept assuring me that we could work with them and that they would get better.

On Thursday, I returned from the lunch break a little bit early. I decided to knit a few rounds on a sock I'm working on. I was chatting with another woman in the class who was also a knitter. Max came trotting over to me. Excitedly, he said, "Cheryl, how often do you do that?" I stared blankly. "Do what?" "THAT!" He pointed at my sock. "Oh, knitting? Every day, I guess. Why?" "How long do you knit for every day?" "I don't know." I faltered. I had a sneaking suspicion that something bad was about to happen. "Sometimes a few hours a day, I guess." I knit while the kids are taking piano lessons. During soccer practices. And games. During fencing. While watching American Idol. A lot.

Max was... ecstatic. "That's it!" he said. "That's what?" "That's what's causing your shoulder tightness. I sat right here and watched the movement of your shoulders and it's not good. You've got to stop!" "Stop what?" I stared blankly. I looked at the woman sitting next to me. She looked horrified. "Surely you don't mean... stop... knitting?" Now I was horrified. Max said, "Well, no, not stop, you don't have to stop knitting, you just have to cut back. Do it a lot less. Find something else that you want to accomplish so you don't have an empty feeling. I think your shoulders will feel a lot better!" He walked away, smiling, obviously pleased with himself.

I almost fell over. I was stunned. I stared at my knitting friend; she stared back at me. "I can't stop knitting," I said. "NO, you can't," she agreed. "You can't stop. You shouldn't stop. You don't have to stop." She was sputtering. I nodded in agreement. I don't have to stop! She said, "Sometimes I prop my elbows on pillows while I knit. I bet you could modify the way you hold your needles." I grabbed that one. "Yes! I'll modify! I'll adjust! I can still knit!" She nodded, and we smiled at each other, encouragingly. And then Max rang the bell (actually, the bowl), and class began.

Okay, I'm not going to stop knitting. But ever since Max mentioned it, all I can think about is my shoulders. I stop every few rounds and stretch them out. I do a few asana, just to make sure they aren't freezing into a knitting position. (Would that really be so bad?) And... I feel guilty. I don't want to fill my time with something else; I want to knit. I can't run, because of my ankles. My chiropractor told me that tennis is not the best thing for my back. And now my yoga teacher wants me to stop knitting?? I think we are all in agreement here: there is surely, most definitely, some sort of compromise... right?

Now you all know the flip side of my yoga experience. To tell you the truth, I almost didn't write about this. I didn't want to tell anyone! I thought about it a lot and decided if there IS a compromise, or a modification, my friends could help me find it. So, what are you waiting for? Help me! Any suggestions are welcome.

I wonder if I could actually knit while doing yoga??

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sorry I Left You Hanging!

Waiting with baited breath for the grand finale:-)

Okay, first, I must send out wishes for a happy mother's day to all the women in my life. You might not have children, but you have nurtured someone, or perhaps a furry "someone", and nurturing, loving, caring for anyone who needs it, that's what mothers do. I celebrate the Great Mother in all of us.

Back to yoga. The final session was very poignant. I know I wasn't the only one on the verge of tears for most of the day. As always, Max was the Master Teacher that he is, and he directed and handled our energy to perfection.

Most of the session was spent giving us final instructions in how to be the best teachers we can possibly be. We learned how to order our verbal instructions and how to speak so others can best understand us. We learned the best ways to sequence our classes to keep our students safe. Jamie gave us some final pointers in human anatomy and suggested points to reference in every posture.

The final pose we studied, practiced, learned and taught was handstand. This was planned to perfection. Max told us, at the beginning, that handstand is a very rajasic pose, meaning that it generates intensity and heat. He told us that handstand is a pose that is inspiring, exciting, confidence-building, and even life changing. We all got to experience handstand, several times. We all got to teach handstand to another person and to help them experience handstand. Max was right. The energy in the room exploded! We were all happy, excited, proud, accomplished. It was the loudest day of the workshop. Everyone was touched. We all left feeling capable of teaching yoga, capable of changing our own lives, capable of helping others.

Later last night, we all gathered at Jennifer's house to relax and connect with each other one final time. It was the perfect finale, filled with happiness and hope. I introduced Mike to Max. I have to add that Mike does not practice yoga and really, has no interest. I could tell that he definitely felt Max's presence. He really enjoyed everyone he met and had a great time. I don't know if he will turn into a yogi, ever. I'm still glad he was willing to share the experience with me and keep the possibility open.

So, I do have one more thing to add: I know some of you reading this have already experienced the wonderful things yoga can do for your body, your mind, and your spirit. Some of you have tried it, and are not convinced. And, some of you have yet to dip your toes into the vast ocean that is yoga. I urge you, all of you: try it, and try it again. You might not find the style that is right for you immediately. You might not find a teacher you connect with on the first try. Keep on trying; it is SO worth it.

I hope I get the opportunity to teach you, or to learn from you, or both.

Om, shanti-
Cheryl

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Gratitude

Well, I made it through an amazing week. What I feel right now is gratitude. I'm grateful for this fabulous opportunity to study with Max, to learn a fraction of Jamie's anatomy knowledge, to have met such wonderful people. Everyone should have a chance to spend a week like this.

I want to share all I learned today, all I felt, all I experienced, and I will... tomorrow. We had a little "wrap up" party this evening and it's 11:00 pm and I'm so ready for sleep. My heart is full.

Peace-
Cheryl

Friday, May 11, 2007

Day 5... Almost There....

Happy Friday! It's with mixed feelings that I end this week. First of all, the workshop is not over. We have a session tomorrow, Saturday, noon-4pm, so I still have another day of learning opportunities left! Still, I am 5/6 of the way done. I feel proud to have made it through this far, my body is tired, I have tons of information to sort through. I feel both excited about all I have learned, yet overwhelmed by everything I still don't know!

We started with morning asana with Max. Reviewed positions in postures and worked on sequencing as well as added a few new postures to the mix. Max talked about ahimsa and assigned us homework: to write about how we incorporate ahimsa into our lives and how we could do better. I think about this a lot. How can I write only one page? :-)

In the afternoon, Max talked with us about Presence, Gratitude, Forgiveness and Peace. One thing that really stuck with me: we talked about all the attributes that give someone Presence; what makes us want to be around some people? We mentioned awareness, calmness, happiness, vitality, a good listener, making eye contact, in the present moment. No one mentioned that you have to be good looking, or smart, or athletic, yet these are all the things we THINK we have to be. Why is that?

He talked about gratitude. You cannot feel gratitude and resentment or anger at the same time, so if you can find something to be grateful for, your anger and resentment will diminish. Humility builds balance and when you are humbled, you are able to forgive. Forgiveness allows for Peace.

As you might imagine, it has been a very emotional week. Doing a lot of bodywork and a lot of deep breathing brings a lot of emotions to the surface and we have all experienced it. I feel like I just need some quiet time. I feel vulnerable, very raw. Emotions are close to the surface; it takes very little to make my eyes well up with tears. Others have expressed feelings of anger, but I haven't felt that. People have shed tears in certain postures, or during sivasana. It has really drawn us close together as a group. It is an amazing dynamic.

Later, Patricia's husband, Bob came to our class. He lined up along with other class members to represent a "typical" yoga class, with flexible people and tight hamstring people and everyone in between. Max and Jamie "taught" the class, showed adjustments, how to make everyone feel comfortable yet challenged in the poses. The end of the day we spent working in some adaptations of more advanced poses, like ustrasana (camel), Natarajasana (king dancer), and Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel). They were supposed to be "easier." Let's just say my thighs are still burning!

Til tomorrow...
Namaste

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Yoga: Day 4

Another interesting and enlightening day!

Jamie started us out with asana practice this morning. The first hour or so was pretty vigorous and I was standing in a patch of sun shining in through one of the skylights. It was so HOT! I finally had to move my mat into a tiny corner that was not in the sun so I didn't pass out! Luckily, Jamie moved into some more "healing" poses. I don't mean that they were easy, because they weren't. However, we got to move our mats to the walls so I was able to get away from that sunny spot:-) We learned poses you can do to relieve or stretch injured hamstrings, sciatica, and other back imbalances.

After lunch, we sat in a circle and everyone shared their physical injuries. This was amazing! Out of 33 people, only 2 people had NO injuries in their bodies! Everyone else is currently dealing with something: shoulder injuries, knees, hamstrings, groin, back, neck, compressed discs, broken or sprained parts, and more. This opened my eyes to a few things: first, I am not alone in my injuries. I even met another woman who sustained a rather serious injury from a yoga class and we commiserated! Second, I need to dig deeper into my student's injuries. People really don't like to talk about them, or they forget about them, or they don't think the injuries will matter in yoga. They will matter, they do matter, yoga teachers and other body workers need to know about them.

After this, we practiced teaching shoulderstand and all variations, and adjusting people in shoulderstand. I had sort of mixed feelings about this part. First of all, some of the things we learned about some of the asana were very different from things I have learned in the past. I asked a lot of questions! Max and Jamie assured me that the things they were saying are correct. I felt confused until other students started coming up to me and saying that they ALSO learned things the way I learned them. I don't mean to be cryptic here, but I don't want to cause further confusion, either. At any rate, we all sort of decided that Max and Jamie are teaching the very safest ways to practice and teach the asana. I'll just add their information to my bag of tricks and use it as I need it.

During the practice session, I was told that I am "too nice" when I teach, and that I need to be more forceful with my directions. So, LOOK OUT yoga students!! Get ready for boot camp! That's an order!
Just kidding. I appreciate all the input and direction and I'll do my best to learn from all the things I'm being taught this week.

Today I met even more yoga teachers, so now I have an entire list of classes I am anxious to try. Feast or famine, huh? Also, I met a lady with fabulous curly hair! She lent me her curly hair book, gave me a list of curly hair products, and referred me to her curly hairdresser. I am dreaming of having beautiful curls, just like Megan's!!

Good night, now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Day 3: Noodle Arm Day

This morning, my arms hurt in every single direction. Out to the side, overhead, back, arms straight, arms bent, across the chest... yup, they all hurt. My legs feel like I've run many, many miles. Isn't yoga great?

Okay, I'm still popping up early in the morning, excited to see what's in store for us at yoga! Perhaps "popping up" is a bit of an exaggeration, considering the condition of my body, but I am still eager! This morning began with 2 hours of yoga asana with Max. We learned some new breathing exercises, reviewed the asana from yesterday, added new ones. We learned new tips and teaching techniques, ways to work smarter in each pose.

The best part of this workshop has been meeting the other students. I am surprised by the number of yoga teachers in the class! They teach all over the Kansas City metro area, and beyond. People teach in yoga studios, fitness centers, churches, homes, everywhere! The yoga community here is so diverse. I am getting a real sense of community and connectedness that I have been longing for. I am looking forward to sampling some of these classes around the area.

Yoga people are very genuine. Everyone has been friendly and open and very supportive. It is fun learning where people have trained, who they have studied with, who they like to work with, and about all of their experiences. I feel like I am on the right path in my yoga journey. Everyone has validated my experiences and hopes for the future.

The afternoon session was taught by Jamie, all about anatomy. It is so amazing that the human body is made up of so many different parts, and that we can all be put together just a little bit differently. There are many things that can go wrong, but nearly everything can be corrected or healed, partially or completely, if you are willing to put the time in doing the work. I now have some great references for all sorts of injuries or illnesses! I can't wait to put together a program for myself, working on my back and my hip, and my tight shoulders. I believe that once I see progress in myself, I will be able to help many other people, too. And that's what yoga is all about.

I'm off to bed now, for real!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Yoga Day 2: It Was a LONG Day...

We didn't finish today until 6:15 pm. The very last thing we worked on was chaturanga dandasana (the yoga push-ups). Note to self: do NOT save this pose until the end of class! My arms were like noodles and I could barely hold myself up! Other students seem to do fine, though, so maybe it's just me....

Okay, this morning's asana class focused on teaching basic poses. Max really likes you to teach something very basically, emphasizing only two or three points, then repeat it several times, adding something each time you repeat it. I did learn a few fine points about teaching some of the asana, including virabhadrasana I and II (warrior I and II), trikonasana (triangle), and sarvangasana (shoulderstand.) I also learned new ways to actually get into the poses. I really tried to focus on my breathwork this morning, knowing that if I do it, you will do it, too:-)

The afternoon session was the long one. Jamie Elmer arrived. She is a yoga instructor and a pilates instructor and assists Max and is, apparently, the anatomy/physiology expert. She certainly knows her stuff! Wow.

Max started out by telling us that in our lives and in our yoga practice, we need balance. There are three major centers: the physical, the mental, and the emotional. Most of us tend to feel most comfortable in one of these centers, and we need to make an effort to balance all three of them. Being more balanced leads to a feeling of "wholeness" or "completeness", which leads to more happiness! I had no trouble finding myself and figuring out what I need to work on.... how about you?

We had a bit more discussion about the bandhas, when and how to engage them, the benefits of each. (hint: especially in balancing poses!!)

We then moved into learning how to teach the poses and how to perform adjustments. We got into poses and deliberately (or not!) messed them up, and took turns trying to adjust each other. It was fun, but a lot of work. The best part was working on things I have actually seen in my classes and not really known how to correct them, even though I knew they were wrong. It was great to have the collective energy and knowledge of the class to work through these things. I know this will improve my teaching; I can't wait to give it a try!

As I mentioned, the final asana was chaturanga dandasana. Max and Jamie came around and adjusted each of us individually. By this time, I was... less than stellar. And I really needed some chocolate. I have a whole new level of sympathy for my students. Seriously. And maybe, that's the most important lesson of the day.

Til tomorrow....

Monday, May 7, 2007

Yoga Workshop: Day 1

The day just flew by. I can't believe the first day is over already!

The morning started with a few comments and introductions from Patricia Gray, owner of the Yoga Gallery, and Max Strom, our guest teacher for the week. Everyone got settled in for a week full of great information. The class is geared towards teaching yoga. The students seem divided equally between those who already teach yoga and those who wish to teach. Both men and women, a wide span of ages represented, all levels of ability. It's very comfortable.

The morning session consisted of a yoga asana session. It was not too vigorous, but perfect for allowing Max to assess our levels and us to sample his teaching style. One thing he showed us was how to easily alter a very basic class to make it more difficult for advanced students. He demonstrated how holding a pose for a long time or moving quickly through a vinyasana sequence will increase the difficulty level of the class. He also emphasized teaching every asana in every class to multiple levels. He reminded us that, no matter how hard we try, we will always have someone in the class who is at a different level. We must focus on giving everyone a workout that is appropriate for their level and also keep each student safe. This is information that will definitely be useful in my classes!

In the afternoon session, we spent a lot of time focusing on pranayama: teaching breathing, connecting the breath with the body, ALWAYS focusing on the breath. One thing I hadn't realized before: the order in which you teach a posture really affects the way the posture is learned. If we teach a posture with 8 or 10 points and the breath is the 9th or 10th thing we mention, if will probably be forgotten. The students are really trying to focus on the first two or three things you mention; the later things get lost. We need to mention the breath FIRST. This is something I'm definitely going to work on in the classes I teach.

We started learning the particulars of some of the asana, how subtle changes and rotations in your arms or legs can affect the asana, proper positioning of the pelvis, legs, arms, shoulders, etc. It was very powerful to actually experience how a minor change in body position can affect your breathing, your stability in a posture, or even cause injuries. (okay, I didn't actually experience that:-)

We closed the class with a demonstration of the power each of us holds in our own hands. We performed an "adjustment" on another student without actually touching them. We sent our energy through our hands to another person's heart center and were able to actually see a change in breathing or position, and feel the energy moving us. Totally awesome.

I'm tired. I know tomorrow will be even more intense, so I'm going to try to relax and go to bed early tonight! (famous last words.....)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Now You See Me...

Apparently, now you don't! I don't know what's going on or how I get so busy that the days just fly by! It gets harder when Mike has to travel and I have juggle the kids' activities and schedules and my own, and also cook meals, do laundry, and keep the furballs off the floors. So, let's catch up!

I must start with knitting. I finished the textured rib socks. You read correctly: they are DONE! I do love them. They fit like a dream and are beautiful, too. I'm not sure if I'll keep them or gift them. It's pretty warm for wool socks right now, so I guess I'll just wait and see. It was so inspiring to actually finish them that I immediately started knitting like crazy on my lace shawl, then started another project! I started working on the Lutea Lace-Shoulder Shell from the newest Interweave Knits magazine. I really like the pattern. I don't LOVE it, but it looked easy and I had some yarn I've been holding onto for about 2 years now and it just seemed like the right pattern and the right yarn. What yarn, you ask? Okay, don't laugh. I had 3 skeins of TLC CaraMia yarn that I bought on sale at least 2 years ago. The gauge was right on and the yarn is soft and easy to knit with. I love the fabric. I just hope the yarn holds up well, as it is...inexpensive.

Speaking of yarn... I drove over to KnitWit in Olathe yesterday to take advantage of their sale: 30% off all yarn! I bought all of this:

For: another Lucy bag, the Little Silk Shrug from Lace Style, the Ogee Lace Skirt from Interweave Knits,(that's for my daughter), and a pair of tennis socks for moi! Yes, I have decided to knit some tennis socks for myself. The hardest part was selecting a yarn. It couldn't be all wool, or too thick, or too thin and flimsy. I wanted some cotton, but not too much. I chose Sockotta. It is a cotton/wool/nylon blend that I think will hold up well and also produce a sock that stays up! I know, this will also depend on my ability to knit at the correct GAUGE, which is not my forte, but I'll figure it out, one way or another:-) More detailed info on the projects will follow, as I knit them, if and when I get to them. (I do have lots of yarn in my stash, all designated for projects, so we will see what mood strikes me next!)



Just a word here about a knitting book I love: Lace Style by Pam Allen and Ann Budd. It is part of the "style" series, along with Scarf Style and Wrap Style, and I love them all. Lace Style is filled with lace patterns, ranging from easy to difficult, fine yarns to heavier, small projects to a complete, full-length dress! The photographs are beautiful and inspiring and I'm sure you will enjoy browsing through this book.


Moving on to food, another favorite subject! I'm continuing to explore the raw foodstuffs. For the record, I don't have any intention of becoming a total raw foodist, or converting my family, or anyone else, for that matter. I am interested in eating healthier and also, anything that will help ease my digestive woes. So, on I go. I've tried a few new recipes: first, I made some "raw" hummus. You actually simply soak the chickpeas and then use soaked chickpeas instead of cooked ones to make hummus. Simply add the chickpeas, olive oil, water to thin, lemon juice, tahini, garlic and salt to your VitaMix and blend til it's smooth and creamy. The taste is delicious. It is a bit more bitter than traditional tahini, so you will need to use the lemon juice and salt to adjust it to your taste, but it's really, really good.

This morning I made almond milk. I soaked almonds overnight, then just blended them with water in the VitaMix. Okay, you are supposed to strain out the solids through a cheesecloth and I ran out of patience, so my milk has some almond bits floating around in it! I only wanted it for breakfast, on raw oats or raw granola, so I don't really mind. OH, it's really bland. I added some honey and some vanilla, which helped, but I'm now considering adding some maple syrup. (I do like it sweet:-)

I will give you two recipes today. The first one is called "Mediterranean Kale" from Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet. This book has a lot of very basic recipes if you are new to raw foods, like I am. This dish can be made with kale or swiss chard or spinach or whatever. Marinating the greens in the dressing makes them softer and tastier.
Mediterranean Kale (1 serving) (easy to double or quadruple)
4 kale leaves, stems removed, sliced into thin strips, then chopped
1-1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 Tbs pine nuts
3-4 sliced black olives (kalamata are good!)
black pepper to taste
Place the kale in a bowl with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Toss well with your hands, working the dressing into the greens. Add the red bell pepper, pine nuts and olives and toss gently. Marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving. Adjust salt, add pepper if desired.
The second recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. I've been looking for things I can prepare ahead of time and I suddenly remembered my crockpot! This is a dal recipe. Not exactly traditional, but easy and the whole family loved it. I served it on basmati rice and put out tamari, lemon juice and cilantro as optional garnishes.
What a Dal

2 Tbs olive oil
1 lg. onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger root
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1-1/2 C dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 C water
salt and pepper to taste

Pour oil into crockpot and set on high. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, cover and cook while you assemble the other ingredients. (just cook until it starts to soften, to take the raw onion taste out)
Stir in all the spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Turn setting to low.
Add lentils, kidney beans and water, cover, cook on low for 8 hours. Season with salt and pepper before serving to taste. If desired, you can puree 1-2 cups of the finished product and then return it to the crock pot, to make a smoother texture.
(I used a bit more water. It looked sort of dry to me, so I added even more at the very end. Maybe up to 4 C altogether.)
I plan on using a few more crockpot recipes this week, so I'll let you know how they turn out. Why, you ask?? Well, it is finally here: my week-long yoga intensive workshop with Max Strom!! It is right here in Kansas City, so I will be able to come home each evening (and often at lunchtime!), but my days will be spent at the Yoga Gallery, immersing myself in all things yogic. I am going to try to post during the week about my experiences and thoughts and feelings during the workshop, so please, check back, so you can share in what I am sure will be an awesome week.
I'm off to complete my pre-workshop reading. Have a beautiful week, and stay dry:-)
Namaste-
Cheryl


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Aged to Perfection

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about age and aging, don't I? Well, I think I've discovered the very best age: age 10. My youngest son, my baby, just turned 10! It was a thoroughly delightful and enjoyable day. He relished being "king for the day," yet he was constantly checking to make sure that everyone else was having as much fun as he was. And we were; watching him was a blast!

The highlight of our day had to be the Build-A-Dino workshop. It's one of those places, like Build-A-Bear, where you choose your dinosaur and they stuff it for you, and then you can spend all kinds of money buying clothing and accessories for your new friend. I've always stayed away from those sorts of places:-) However, little man recently renewed his interest in dinosaurs. We saw the movie "Dinosaurs in 3-D" at the IMAX theater and he decided he definitely wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up. Those of you with children know that the career choices change at approximately the same rate as the phases of the moon, so you have to grab the one closest to the birthday and encourage it and go with it, before the next phase moves in.

At any rate, the workshop was filled with young kids, ages 4-6 seemed to be most prevalent, and then there was my son, towering above them at 10 years old. He didn't care. He chose his dinosaur and thoughtfully made a wish on its heart before stuffing it inside. He carefully chose a pair of shorts and a paleontologist kit for his dinosaur, an ankylosaurus he named Ace. We printed up a birth certificate for Ace and I paid, trying not to wince.

So, we walked around the T-Rex Cafe store, and my son talked to Ace the whole time. Every once in a while he'd reach in and pet him, adjust him in his box a little, rub his tail. We went to dinner, and he thoughtfully opened Ace's box and "fed" him bits of lettuce. When we got ready to leave, Ace was ready to sleep.

These memories alone are worth the price of Ace, and then some. 10 year olds can play games with the big boys, play on the computer, read novels, paint dinosaurs, dive into the deep end, and fall asleep hugging their stuffed dinosaurs. What could be better than that??

So, how about some healthy recipes to keep you feeling like a 10 year old, even as time marches on? Okay, let's go.

First, Quinoa Tabbouli, a favorite modified from "Diet for a New World" by John Robbins. Don't forget to thoroughly rinse your quinoa under warm water, rubbing it through your fingers, to remove the natural bitter taste which serves as an effective pesticide, courtesy of Mother Nature!

1 C quinoa
1-1/2 C water
2 tomatoes, diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1/2 C finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4- 1/2 C chopped fresh mint, to taste

Dressing:
1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper, to taste

Rinse quinoa thoroughly. Bring water and quinoa to a boil; reduce heat, cover, simmer until tender and water is absorbed, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
Stir remaining salad ingredients into the quinoa.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients, then pour over salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Next, a recipe from Mollie Katzen's "Still Life With Menu Cookbook." This is always a big hit at potlucks!!

Jeweled Rice Salad

Dressing:
1/3 C olive oil
6-8 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. honey

Salad:
2 C uncooked short-grain brown rice
4 scallions, minced
1/4- 1/2 C minced fresh parsley
1 C chopped, toasted pecans
black pepper, to taste
2 C red or green seedless grapes
1 C cooked chickpeas, optional (canned is fine)
a handful toasted pecan halves for garnish, optional

Cook the brown rice. Then, spread it out on a large platter to cool.

In a large bowl, combine dressing ingredients. Add cooled rice and stir well. Add scallions, parsley, chopped pecans and pepper; mix well. Slice the grapes in half, saving a few whole for garnish if you wish. Gently stir the grapes into the salad, along with the optional chickpeas. Cover tightly and chill well. Garnish with whole grapes and pecan halves, if desired.

Both of these recipes are summery and delicious!! They are easily adapted to variations and very forgiving. Yes, my kids DO love the rice salad with grapes... who wouldn't?

Knitting.... still plugging away on the shawl and socks! Here is a picture of the shawl, which is maybe halfway completed:


Monday, April 16, 2007

(You Just Might Find) You Get What You Need

Yesterday, I drove out to Lawrence to attend a knitting workshop with Sally Melville. She is an absolute knitting guru; amazing, creative, brilliant. That said, the workshop was not at all what I had hoped for, not what I had envisioned when I signed up. It was a two-part workshop; part one was "Learning to Love Intarsia" and part two was "Emergency Measures." I thought I would leave there LOVING intarsia knitting and knowing everything I needed to know about fixing knitting mistakes.

The actual theme of the workshop was less about mechanics and more about the creative process... much, much more. How to choose a picture to knit. How to envision it. How to graph it. What elements to look for. How to make it work. How to bring your vision to reality. This was NOT Sally spoon-feeding us a pattern; it was Sally sharing her creative process. Hmmmm.

Emergency Measures emphasized using mistakes as learning tools. You would think I'd be familiar with this; I tell my kids all the time that "making mistakes is how we learn!" Somehow, my knitting mistakes seem to frustrate me, though. Sally showed many examples of her own mistakes and how they forced her to come up with creative solutions and think beyond the pattern. Again, she never said "if you mess this up, do this." She said, "if this happens, think about these things and then decide what you want to do."

I left feeling sort of unsettled. This wasn't a knitting class! I didn't drive home with a new hat in my bag and the feeling that I had "made something" in my heart! But, it got me thinking. I came home and got out a whole pile of knitting books. I started looking at the details. I looked at simple patterns and thought of ways to change them and embellish them and to make them my own. I thought about color and texture. I started thinking differently. I talked with a friend on the phone about what I had learned, and I realized: I had learned a lot. I learned a new way to think about things. So, as it turns out, I didn't get exactly what I wanted; however, I got exactly what I needed. Inspiration!

Now, for those of you who are tired of hearing about my same old knitting projects, I have actually finished something: a baby kimono!! Okay, the seams aren't sewn yet, and I must sew on the snaps, but the actual knitting is done!! Oh, it is so adorable. It is for a neighbor who is expecting in a week or two... can you believe I've finished it early?

I held my first yoga class at Beth's house last week. It was peaceful and relaxing and I'm looking forward to many more. Molly called me about possibly teaching a class at the Nature Center, and I've also been talking to some people about teaching "Yoga for Tennis." I don't know if any of these things will happen, but I know the possibilities are out there, and that's something.

I have to talk about tennis for a minute. Okay, most of you know that I am VERY much a beginning tennis player. I am not going to waste time putting myself down, but I am not the most athletic sort, so learning a new sport in my mid-40s has been challenging, to say the least. Last Thursday I took a private lesson with Lisa. Let me just say it: I was awesome! Amazing! Seriously, I was hitting everything, right where I was supposed to. Okay, not ready for the pro tour, but for ME, it was excellent. I was so excited and I felt great. That was Thursday. On Friday morning I woke up and I could barely move. Every muscle in my body was sore. Both arms. My back. My butt. (?) Everything. I was not deterred, though. On Saturday, I could hardly wait to play with my friend. I was so pumped. And guess what? I stunk. I could barely hit a ball over the net. My serves were all over the place. I was horrible.

I have been told that it takes time for your body to catch up when you learn new things in tennis, when you change things, or adjust your serve. I can only hope this is true! I hope, in the long run, I'll find, (once again!!) that I get what I need.

I've been seeing some of those beautiful, thin, spring green beans in the stores lately. Here is my favorite green bean recipe, from "Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home":

Not Your Mother's Green Beans

1/2 C pine nuts
1 pound green beans
1 shallot, minced, OR 1/4 C chopped scallions
1/4 C balsamic or raspberry vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or basil
salt and pepper to taste
Toast the pine nuts until golden brown; cool.
Trim the green beans. Lightly steam or boil until just tender. Drain.
Combine the shallot or scallions, vinegar, oil, and herb in a medium bowl. Add the beans and toss well. Stir in the pine nuts and salt and pepper. Serve warm, or chill for 20 minutes and then serve. This is delicious- I love it best served warm.
Enjoy the beautiful spring weather!!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Al Dente

I know I promised to age gracefully. I'm trying, really and truly. But may I please, just one time, digress? (Since it's my blog, I'll take that as a yes!)

Did anyone ever tell you that, as you age (gracefully), your teeth will fall apart? No? Me either. Now, those of you reading this wide-eyed, thinking, "What the heck is she talking about? My teeth are perfect and straight and pearly white and I've never had a cavity or a filling or a crown in my life!"-- you people can just scroll down for the recipe. For the rest of us, those who have 2 or 6 fillings, a crown or two, a chipped tooth here and there... get yourself a cup of tea and buckle your seat belts.

First of all, I just found out that fillings have shelf lives... who knew? They last 15 years, give or take, then they start cracking or "leaking" and the dentist has to dig them out and replace them. Of course, if the "hole" is too big, he will have to replace it with a crown! And, if you don't take care of it NOW, you will probably end up needing a root canal, which is dental-speak for unbelievable pain and suffering. I never knew this. Now, every time I go to the dentist, I hear, "Number 3, crack; number 4, leaking..." ad nauseum. Then I make the appointments and go back for an hour of shameless shaking while the fillings get re-done, with crossed fingers, hoping NOT to hear the words "root canal."

Sorry, but this is only part one of the bad news. You've heard the phrase "long in the tooth"? Me too. I just didn't think I was actually long in the tooth yet, but... I guess I am. You see, as we age, (gracefully), our gums start to recede. Yes, even perfectly pink and healthy gums. The 'when' actually depends a lot on genetics. (Again, the image of my grandma with the gray, curly hair and the long teeth.) As the gums recede, they start to expose the roots and nerves of the teeth, causing extreme sensitivity. So, the dentist "roughs them up" along the gum line, (yes, it involves the drill!), and then fills it in. Yes, your circular reasoning is correct. In about 15 years, give or take, I will have to have all of these replaced, too. SIGH. Yet another thing I took totally for granted in my youth. I am starting to see the logic of dentures!

Perhaps we should move on to happier subjects, like food!! I found this recipe online somewhere, many years ago, and it is a favorite. I'm still in my salad mood, even though the weather has reverted back to frigid. Hope springs eternal, I guess!

Tofu Rice Salad

salad:
1 C diced tofu
3-4 C cooked brown rice or quinoa
1/2 C pine nuts
3/4 C golden raisins, plumped and drained (Or use regular raisins, Or currants)
1/2 C chopped green onion

dressing:
1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C rice vinegar
2 Tbs tamari
1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste

optional:
paprika dusting or parsley for garnish

Whisk the dressing ingredients together, then gently toss with the salad. It's great!

On the knitting front... let's not talk about my knitting. No point in repeating the same things over and over again! Let's just say, I'll let you know when I finish something:-) However, exciting stuff: I am attending a workshop next weekend with Sally Melville!! (for you non-knitters, just think of knitting royalty!) The first part is called "Emergency Measures," which I assume is about fixing things you've messed up, and the second part is called "Learning to Love Intarsia," which I hope to learn to love. My homework swatches are all done; I'm such a good student, proud product of Guilderland Central High School. I just hope my knitting knowledge is sufficient to keep up with the rest of the class!

New yoga class starts this week... don't forget! Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shoes, and Other Random Thoughts

What is it about shoes? They can make or break my outfit, my mood, my day. I have become friends with people because I consistently liked their shoes. I have spent days with one of my friends shoe shopping (hi, Margs!). The perfect outfit is absolutely no good without the right shoes. I love them, I wear them, and I save them. My husband looks at my boxes of shoes and says, "How can you POSSIBLY not have any shoes to wear with that outfit? How can you possibly need another pair? How many pairs of shoes can you possibly own?"

He's right... and he's oh, so wrong. I have at least 10 pairs of classic, high-heeled pumps that I wore in my days as a medical rep. Black, navy, brown, tan, spikey-heeled, low-heeled, crocodile -textured, spectators, patent leather, suede. Most of them pinch my feet now, but they are all in good condition and... you just never know! Am I right here?? Then there are the clogs. Black, brown, red, green, closed back, open back, fleece-lined, suede, flat, high. And sandals, both casual and dressy. And sneakers, old ones for painting and new ones for tennis. The odd hiking boots. Flip flops, in rubber, leather and pleather. I know you are the same way. Unless they are totally trashed, I never throw them away. Do you? Luckily, I have a big closet:-)

So, as I sat in my big closet, musing over my shoes, I started thinking about the special events connected to them: the shoes I wore on a job interview. The ones I bought for a special new year's eve. The silver ones I wore to Mike's graduation. The ones I only wore once, because they hurt my feet, yet I love them too much to part with them! My mind continued to wander to the people connected with them. Oh, I bought those when Deb and Nancy were here. I wore those the first time I met Lynn. (She noticed them!) And so on. And really, aren't those shoes a lot like friends?

Sometimes, with friends, it's love at first sight. You know, when you meet that person and you just instantly know that you want to be friends with them! It often works out... sometimes, it doesn't. They looked great, but gave you blisters. Sometimes, they didn't strike you as being so great at first, but they were an absolutely perfect fit, and they grew on you. No matter what, unless they are truly worn out to nothing or absolutely hideous, you save them. Maybe you only see them once in a while, but they are there for you when you need them. Maybe you only wear them with your fat pants, but they fit perfectly and you love them.

So, this is the part where I thank you all for being my friends. I love you all, truly, I do. Thanks for putting up with me, even when I give you blisters or don't quite match your favorite sweater.

Speaking of sweaters... (am I smooth, or what?) Okay, the cabled sweater front is frogged. A big pile of wavy spaghetti looking yarn. I need to rewind it and start anew and I'm ready for it. Of course, I'm just a wee bit side-tracked on my knitting. I'm constantly drawn to the ever convenient-to-carry-around sock #2. I've become re-enamoured with the portofino shawl. It's knitting up so beautifully and it feels so soft. I'm picturing myself sitting on the beach, watching the sunset, the shawl wrapped around my shoulders like a warm hug. That picture in my mind, along with the fact that we really have rented a beach house for a week in August, have led me to believe that perhaps I can truly knit an entire summer wardrobe! Yes, beachwear. A couple of tank tops, easy. Maybe a big, loosely knit swimsuit cover up. (No, Mike, I am NOT knitting that bikini!! At least not for wearing in public!) (He has been begging me to knit that for years. Those of you who know me personally know that me, in any bikini, would send young children screaming for their mothers!) Anyway, I've been browsing my knitting books and magazines, mentally assembling my summer wardrobe.

Okay, let's get real here. Tomorrow is April 1st. I'm not a fast knitter. My neighbor is about to have a baby and NEEDS knitted baby things. (She doesn't know this yet, but she will.) I have to face the fact that I will be lucky to finish the portofino shawl in time for the beach... and maybe one tank top, too, okay??

I only have one piece of yoga news, but it's very exciting: My friend Beth has offered to host my yoga class in her basement! I'm back, baby! I'm so excited to start teaching again; I didn't realize how much I missed it. Let me know if you are interested. (Thank you, Beth!)

"The Raw Food Detox Diet" is going pretty well, thanks for asking. I haven't actually weighed myself, since I hate being depressed, but some of my pants are looser than they were, so I think and hope I'm heading in the right direction. I'm just trying to do fruit/fresh juice until noon, and start with salads, and eat reasonably. Yes, it could very well be that I'm only wearing pants that are stretched out from wearing them before :-) We'll see. In the meantime, I want to share my absolute favorite recipe, slightly modified. This is from "The Raw Food Detox Diet" by Natalia Rose:

Hearty Corn Salad

3 portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1 Tbs. maple syrup
3 C fresh corn, +/- (fresh is best, but I usually use thawed frozen corn)
2 scallions, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tomato, diced small
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, oil and maple syrup. Marinate the mushrooms in this mixture for about an hour. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour the mushroom mixture on top and mix well. That's it! Best eaten right away. Mike and I love this stuff. I can't wait for the summer corn to arrive, and tomatoes... it will be even better! I have added cucumbers, left out the tomatoes, added celery, it's all good.

I think that's it for now. I do have more to say, but I'll save it for another time. Sorry to go so long between posts! I'll try not to do that again. Leave me a comment! It's not much fun to write if no one reads it:-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Flirting With Summer

Today the temperature got up to nearly 80 degrees!! It was definitely a tease though; the temp is dropping already and the next few days are supposed to be considerably cooler. Isn't it amazing, though?? Just when you can't take ONE MORE DAY of stepping into your freezing closet, the temperature rises and all is right with the world again. By the same token, when you can't take another day of sweating in the closet by the end of August, the temperature drops. As though Mother Nature knows exactly how much you can take before you blow your stack. (note: Perhaps your closet is not located over the garage and against two outside walls, leaving it vulnerable to the whims of Ms. Nature. You get my drift :-)

Anyway, the warmer weather has most definitely whet my appetite for the foods of summer: salads, fruits, vegetables, grilled food. It all sounds great to me! Those gigantic zucchini, the ones I couldn't bear to look at by last September? Oh, I canNOT wait!! Spring is a time for new beginnings, for trying new things, for opening up your heart and mind to the possibilities. So, I will tell you about my latest journey into open-mindedness.

I received an email from my new friend, Marcia. (Hi, Marcia!) Okay, we've never actually met in person, but we've exchanged intimate info online, so we are now friends. Anyway, she invited me (and anyone else who was interested) to a class about raw foods. I responded that I would love to go, but couldn't make it to that particular class. I added that I just wanted to learn some more recipes; I am not actually interested in "going raw." I took a raw foods cooking class a couple of years ago in San Diego. It was fun, the food was great, it took the "experts" all day to cook an entire meal. They brought in laundry baskets full of greens which were quickly blended down into nothing. Seriously. There was just no way I would have the time, energy, money or refrigerator space to feed my family this way.

Marcia agreed, but asked me if I'd ever read a book called The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose? No, I had not. She told me to check it out, so I did. I borrowed the book from the library and it was endlessly fascinating to me. Natalia says that you don't have to eat a completely raw diet to gain the benefits of raw foods. She has tons of information about "detoxing" your body, adding a few raw foods at a time, food combining, easy recipes, and so much more. Okay, stop rolling your eyes at me!! I know, I know. BUT, I have to say, I have recently developed some digestive problems. Nothing is really "wrong" with me, but I just seem to be having bad juju in the digestive area. Okay, I was desperate to try something, anything. This was interesting, new, fun, and perfect for warmer weather food.

I bought a juicer and I started drinking the green lemonade in the morning. This is good stuff; almost addictive! You simply juice romaine lettuce leaves, kale leaves, a lemon, 1 or 2 apples, and a chunk of ginger root. Tastes yummy and feels healthy! Mike held his nose, but he likes it, too, and seems disappointed if he misses his opportunity and I drink it all. The other thing I do is just eat fruit/fruit smoothies until noon. It's not hard and I get to eat fruit!! Am I detoxing? I don't know, but it's fun! Everyone loves smoothies!

The snack the family LOVES: Take a romaine leaf. Spread about 1 tablespoon of almond butter on one end. Squirt a little honey on top. Roll it up, like a spring roll. Man, it is delicious! It's got to be better for you than a bag of chips! (Hey! I'm not dogging the chips! I'm just saying....)

The salad dressings are really, really good. You can make the lemon dressing and then put it on grated cabbage with a few raisins and have a delicious coleslaw. I could go on, but I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to share before I start breaking some laws!

Bottom line: check out the book. I ended up buying it online for about $10. I don't know about the science or the detox or the weight loss, but I do know you'll find some fun, different recipes, perfect for this time of year.

As a natural segue, we will move from summer eating on to sweater knitting. (Sorry, but it must be discussed!) I'm talking about the cabled sweater I have been knitting (or not knitting) since last August. Okay, I found the pattern, I had the yarn, I loved them both, I started knitting. I knit the back, got a bit bored, moved on to other projects. Back to the sweater, knit one front piece, started the other side, hit a major snag: when knitting in the buttonholes, some beautiful, one row buttonholes I learned from Candace Eisner Strick at a knitting workshop, I screwed up. I knit one buttonhole on a purl row of the buttonband, and one on a knit row. I was only thinking about perfectly spacing them, NOT about the mechanics. They ended up not lining up. Obviously not lining up. Well, I was frozen. Could I live with the crooked buttonholes? No. Could I bear to rip out all that work? No. So, I did nothing. I ziplocked the baggie and moved on to other projects.

The sweater has been haunting me! I love it, I want it, I want to wear it. I don't know what happened. They say time heals all wounds, and I guess it's true. I just made the decision to rip out the entire piece of the sweater with the buggery buttonholes and start it over. I haven't actually ripped it out yet, mind you, but I've made the decision, so that's a start.

Springtime, starting over, fresh starts, open mind, open heart. (I knew I could tie it all together in the end!)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Playing Catch Up

Okay, let's start with the phrase "playing catch up." This implies that you are behind, and you have work extra hard to catch up, right? Is there anything playful about that?

There is one thing that I rarely do: I rarely buy a bunch of yarn when I really don't have a project in mind for it. Oh, I might buy one or two skeins of something that catches my fancy. I know I can always come up with a hat, a pair of mittens, a scarf, or whatever. But eight balls? What was I thinking? I am talking about the Portofino yarn, of course. And let me confess right here and now: I bought it because it was a good buy. A good deal. A bargain, if you will. I liked the pale gray color, almost blue-ish gray. I liked the cotton blend. I liked the feel of the yarn, the texture and the drape. I liked the yarn; I just didn't love it. So... drop the price and I guess I'll buy anything.

So, I have a bunch of this yarn. Not enough for a sweater. Not enough for a big lace shawl. Not really the best yarn for a vest or a tank top; doesn't seem like it will hold it's shape very well. I'm starting to see why it was on clearance! I don't feel the need for a lightweight, cotton hat, or scarf, or mittens. Too flimsy for a bag. Not a good color for a baby. I think you get my drift.

So... I decided that it WILL be the perfect yarn for a shawl or a wrap of some sort. Yes, it WILL be. Some people wait for their yarn to tell them what it wants to be. I seem to be more of the wrestling type. First, I started with my knitting books. (I have a lot of them!) I thumbed through every single one but, alas, no suitable patterns. Next, I decided to browse my pattern collection. (Two notebooks full!) No dice. I turned to the magazines. This took a while. I frantically flipped through several years worth of several different knitting magazines. I was obsessed with this! Magazines in the kitchen, in the bathroom (duh!), in the laundry room, on the coffee table, on the dining room table. The worst part was when I found a pattern that was a "maybe," then I forgot which magazine it was in. I THOUGHT I'd remember, can you believe it? Oh, I'll remember, the one with striped sweater on the cover. Uh huh. After a few days of this, I had my "maybes."

I started swatching. Too open. Too tight! Too ugly. Very ugly. Ugly. Wrong gauge. Wrong.

Next, I whipped out good old Barbara Walker, volumes one and two. By this time, I had some sort of idea of what might work with my yarn. Believe it or not, I just couldn't envision it. Nothing in BW was floating my boat. I knew it was time to take a break, but I could not. A new magazine came in the mail. I frantically flipped through to see the picture of the ONE shawl. It was laceweight. It wasn't beautiful. I didn't covet it. I wanted something bigger. Still... I decided that it was the one. I didn't swatch or calculate my gauge or figure out how much yarn I had or how big it was going to be. I just cast on.

I knit a few pattern repeats and... the cast on edge was too tight. I ripped it out and started over. I knit a few pattern repeats (again) and... I liked it! It worked! It didn't look like the picture, thank goodness. The fabric felt soft, like a comfy sweatshirt. I roughly figured out how big it would be: perfect! I have the right amount of yarn. It's not too fancy, not too plain; it's just right.

With knitting, sometimes you have to plan and swatch and measure and calculate. Sometimes, you have to just do it. I cannot believe I've written an entire blog entry about this shawl. That's right, even MORE time spent lamenting the shawl!! It better be a good shawl. I'd better love it and carry it around with me all summer long and wear it out!! (Whether I love it or not, you will either see it on me or receive it as a gift!)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Answers to Some Questions

I've had some questions about some of my previous posts, so here are some answers:

Pressure Cookers
  • Buy stainless steel
  • Make sure it's large enough. You can only fill them 2/3 or 3/4 full, so even though they look large, you will need a decent-sized pot to make a decent-sized batch of chili, or whatever. I think mine is the 7 liter size.
  • You will have to replace the rubber gasket at some point, and you may have to replace other parts, so make sure you can get in touch with the manufacturer, or whoever sells replacement parts. I think I replaced my gasket after 2 years, but your mileage may vary. It's inexpensive and easy to do.
  • There is no maintenance; just keep it clean and maybe rub some oil on the gasket to keep it supple.
  • Yes, you can freeze cooked beans. Just put them in freezer baggies in 1-1/2 or 2 cup portions (similar to a can of beans) and freeze. Cheap and easy!
  • Potatoes? Yes, here is a recipe: Cut a bunch of potatoes into bite-sized chunks and throw them into the pressure cooker. Any amount of potatoes, 1 pound or 2 pounds or whatever you have. Any kind of potatoes will work, though the starchier potatoes will fall apart more. Add 1 cup vegetable broth. Now you can add any kind of herbs you want; my kids like a few cloves of garlic, or you can add rosemary or whatever you like. Put on the lid on and bring it to high pressure. Lower heat and cook under high pressure for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat, quick release and open the lid. I usually smash the potatoes around a bit with a spoon, add salt and pepper, you can add a drizzle of olive oil if you like, or minced fresh parsley. Eat. You will love these! I make them for lunch a lot; quick and easy and everybody's happy!
  • Yes, I did have a pressure cooker accident ONCE. The vent got clogged with chickpea skin. It wasn't a disaster and no one got hurt, just some spraying of chickpea juice. It was my fault. First, I filled the cooker too full, and I knew it; I just wanted to use up all my chickpeas. Second, I did NOT add a tablespoon of oil to prevent sticking to and clogging of the vent, as I knew I should. Third, I had fair warning. The cooker was making a funny sound. I heard it, I ignored it. It won't happen again :-)

Yoga

  • Yes, I do want to teach again. I'm looking for a place to teach and I'll keep you posted!
  • I have many, many yoga books that I love. I will try to review some of them on the blog, eventually. One of my favorites is definitely The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffman. It is suitable for all levels, beautifully written, and will teach you a lot about yoga and different philosophies. Right now, I am working with Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit by Donna Farhi. It is also suitable for everyone. The thing I am especially enjoying about this book is that the approach is different from what I learned and usually practice. Donna teaches you how to approach the pose through and with the breath, which is different from the structural way I usually practice. She also emphasizes learning how to feel the pose in your body. I like this, since many people want to see themselves in the mirror!
  • I do not regularly practice with yoga videos or dvds. I think they are great, but they just don't work for me. I don't like to constantly have to look up to see what's going on! On the other hand, I own several videos and have learned a lot from just watching them. I've gotten a lot of great ideas from videos. They are worth the investment, even if it's just for inspiration. My preference would be a video done by a "yoga person," as opposed to a "fitness person."

Knitting

  • You are right, I haven't been knitting that much lately! (Okay, no one asked me about that:-) The skin on my right thumb got so dry that it just split open. It stayed an open sore for a few days, which was very painful and uncomfortable and not conducive to knitting! It healed, but then I had the dry chunks of skin, which caught on the yarn constantly. I'm happy to report that it's healed now and I'm back to knitting!
  • Yes, I do have 2 of the Barbara Walker Treasuries, Volumes 1 and 2. I bought them online, used, and I love them. They are worth the price just for the sheer inspiration. In case you aren't familiar, the BW books were written...in the 70s I think. They are simply huge books filled with stitch patterns and black and white photos of each one. Barbara does comment on many of the patterns and offers suggestions, but it's basically just a springboard for your own patterns and imagination. Oh, FYI, there is now a website where people are posting color photos of stitch patterns from the BW books.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! I'm posting without photos because Mike is "ready to go!" More soon, with pictures, I promise :-)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Aging Gracefully

For as long as I can remember, I wondered why people dreaded getting older. Why was it so bad? Why did people dread it, fight it, avoid it? From a very young age, I remember thinking that I would be different. I would embrace aging. I was going to age gracefully.

My first sliver of reality occurred at the age of 19. I was brushing my hair and saw something glimmering in the bathroom light. I looked closer. Could it be? No. No way. I was only 19! No way did I have a gray hair! I carefully examined my entire scalp, using mirrors and positions I now only dream about. Well, that was it. Only one. It had to be some sort of fluke. I carefully plucked it out of my head and threw it into the garbage can. The kitchen garbage can. Underneath some other stuff.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I noticed a couple more gray hairs. Just a couple. They didn't really bother me. When I was 33 and pregnant with my son, my hairdresser said, "Whoa! After you have that kid, give me a call and I'll take care of those grays for you!" That's exactly what I did. It's okay, I reasoned. Curly hair that grays early runs in our family. No big deal.

I've been through years of coloring, highlighting, orange hair, chunky streaks, you name it. Every six months or so I think back to my promise to myself about aging gracefully. I decide to let my gray grow in. I usually last a couple of months or so; then I see my grandmother's face staring back at me from the mirror (the one with the curly gray hair), and it's back to the coloring. One time, a friend I hadn't seen for a while said, "What is up with your hair????" "Uhmmm, I'm trying to be more natural?" I whispered, hopefully. "Yeah, well, you look old. Here's the phone, call the salon or I will." And I folded, just like that.

And so it goes.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I gained 54 pounds. I lost 60 pounds fairly easily and was wearing a bikini the next summer. I silently wondered what all the fuss was about. Baby fat? No problem. Those were the days when I could eat an apple for dinner for two or three nights and drop 5 pounds.

Then I hit 40-ish. I don't remember the date, but I remember the jeans. (I might even still have them.) I'd spent the summer wearing stretchy shorts and loose-fitting skirts, and when the weather turned cooler, I pulled out my jeans. They were too tight and riding right up my butt. Huh. I must have put these in the dryer... for a really long time... and forgot about them. So, I pulled out the Gap khakis. Same story. Shrunk in the dryer? Suddenly it hit me: I had gained weight. I was shocked and appalled. Okay, I can deal with this. I spent the winter in stretchy elastic waisted pants from Costco. I tried every diet you can think of: low carb, low fat, cabbage soup, rice, grapefruit... did I forget any? I jogged, I aerobicised, I lifted weights. I never got back into those jeans. Now, at age 46, I am starting to slowly accept that this is my body, and it's as good as it's ever going to be.

I don't think I'll go into the sagging body parts. Let's just say that everything that was once pert and perky is no longer.

My latest aging woe has hit me hard. I injured my back about 4 years ago, and it was a bad one. The doctor said it was probably a pulled muscle. Then it moved into my hip and down my leg into sciatica. I went to a chiropractor. Oh, yes, I was all out of alignment. He adjusted me and it helped, for a while, but it never really totally healed. A sudden movement could send my back into spasms and cause pain for days. The acupuncturist helped, too, for a while.

For the past couple of months, the pain has been progressing. I resisted seeing anyone, thinking that it was going to heal. All by itself. Okay, I'd buy a new mattress, then it would be better. I'd find some magic supplement, I'd eat right, I'd exercise right, I'd lose weight, I'd meditate. Somehow, it was going to get better, I just knew it, I held on to that hope. Maybe even a miracle would occur! A miracle cure! Maybe I could cure myself?

Meanwhile, I was in pain. I broke down and made an appointment at the chiropractor everyone I know recommended to me. (Thank you, Kelly and Anne and Karen!) He was wonderful. The Derek Jeter of chiropractors. He listened to my story, then expertly ran his fingers down my spine. "Oh, there it is, " he said. Yes, that was the spot. "Yeah, it's the disc at L4. You have sort of twisted your spine in compensation, and you have tightened up right here." He touched below my left shoulder blade. Yes, more pain, he was right. "You know," he said, matter-of-factly, "once you have a disc injury, it never really totally heals. You will always have a weak spot there, for the rest of your life." I don't know why, but for just a moment, my world stopped. For the rest of my life?? So, I wasn't going to get better? I wasn't going to be able to practice all those yoga twists? I wasn't even going to be able to practice headstand variations? This was it? It was all over????

Okay, it wasn't just yoga. I have to be careful any time I bend over to pick something up. I even have to watch it when I step into my pants in the morning. Secretly, in my heart of hearts, I knew. I knew it was a disc, and I knew the injury would always be with me. Still, until I heard someone say it to me, I could deny it. Those days were over.

So, the good doc feels my cervical spine and moves my head around a little, and says, "Oh, you've also lost a little bit of rotation in your neck." "No I haven't!" He smiled, then demonstrated how my head moved easily in one direction and not so the other way. "I couldn't have lost rotation; I do YOGA!" I exclaimed. "That probably helped, and helped your shoulder, too. It could be a lot worse."

I got my adjustment. I bought the supplements and I'm taking them. I've made my next appointment. I came home, and I cried. Yes, you do gain wisdom and confidence, and the wrinkles aren't so bad. It's the loss of the dreams that hurts. And now, I get to put my resolution of aging gracefully to the test.