January 2013 archive

Hot Like Fire

image via BleuOiseau

image via BleuOiseau

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, “It’s been too long since I’ve been nauseous to the point of dry heaves, sweating profusely in a room full of strangers, all while standing on one leg with the other leg held shakily against my forehead. I wonder if there’s anywhere in town where I could do that today.” As it turns out, I was in luck. Because last night I was trying to decide which yoga classes I could attend for my week of healthy additions, and none of them quite fit with my work schedule. Don’t forget, the point is to find balance, not to blow off work 4 days a week to bliss out in my favorite Ashtanga class. Refusing to give up on my goals, I started looking into my other options.

There are some fabulous small yoga studios here in Richmond, but I’m in an odd part of the city that requires a 15 minute drive to get pretty much anywhere but my corner of town. So my options are limited. Very limited. I only really had one option. The Bikram studio a mile down the road from my house.

I have heard of Bikram before and was mildly intrigued by the idea. You do a series of 26 poses over the course of 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees (with humidifiers on full blast, natch). I liked the idea of sweating out toxins while at the same time allowing the heat to deepen the stretches. Sounded fab. Then a few months ago I looked at the 26 poses, seen here: bikram_yoga_sequencePretty basic stuff. No inversions, no fast-paced sun salutations, no difficult balances… not even a simple downward dog. I immediately lost all interest in Bikram. Cut to last night. In desperation from lack of options, I bought ten sessions from the local studio’s website and shrugged it off as “well, at least it’s better than nothing, and the sweating will be good detox if nothing else”.

This morning I arrived bright and early, water bottle and face towel in hand. The lovely woman behind the counter smiled, “Is that the only towel you brought?”. Admitting that it was, she gently offered me a large white beach towel. “You’ll need one of these. Normally we charge, but since it’s your first visit it’s no trouble”.  I was led into the studio where I laid out my mat and my beach towel. It was hot, but no hotter than a summer day here in the South, and I relaxed on my mat to wait for class to begin.

People began arriving in various states of undress. Wearing a sports bra, thin tank and short yoga capris, I was soon the most heavily clothed person in the room. Now, bear in mind that nearly all these people had hard-earned physiques that warranted a little strutting. And bear in mind that, unlike me, this was not their first inferno. Class began with some breathing and stretching and I was enjoying the clear mind that yoga brings. Then the sweating began.

Poses that should have felt relaxing and elementary became labored and tortuous. Sweat ran into my eyes and I started to feel woozy and dizzy. They told me to expect this, but they also told me not to eat for several hours before a Bikram class. Since I chose a morning class, this meant skipping breakfast. My ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton and I could feel the blood drain from my face. Not knowing if it was hunger, or heat or exertion, I chose to come out of the pose and take a knee to get my head straight. We had not yet reached the point in the class when you’re allowed to drink water (Yes, there is a water bottle sitting next to me while I’m close to passing out. No, I may not drink it.), so I just took some deep breaths and with a reassuring smile from the teacher, got back to my feet and rejoined the class. It was then that the stir fry commenced. I do not know who, and I do not know why, but someone for some reason began to sweat out the scent of stir fried chicken. In retrospect I was lucky to have gone on an empty stomach, because as I balanced there on one foot, knee to my head, I was certain I was about to be sick.

The next pose was corpse pose, which in Bikram, basically consists of laying quietly on your back while your psyche fluctuates between self-pity and anguish. When the other students moved into the next posture, I just remained laying on the floor, trying to decide if anyone would notice if I removed all of my clothes. It was stressed to me, after all, that as a new student, the single most important thing to achieve is not to leave the room.

Then something beautiful happened. The teacher announced that it was Party Time. No, I was not hallucinating (though, as in Indian Sweat Lodges, it would not have surprised me). “Party Time” is Bikram-speak for “water break”. From there on, we were free to drink as needed. I finished my water bottle and was almost instantly back to a place of relaxation and contentment. Even the mysterious stir-fry smell seemed to dissipate. While it was nowhere near my beloved Ashtanga, I no longer alternated between nausea and unconsciousness, which was nice. When class was over, the teacher brought each of us a cold, wet towel that had been treated with lavender oil. We put our dripping towels in the hamper and I rolled up my now-melted yoga mat.

It was 44 degrees when I left class this morning. Getting into my car, I turned the air conditioning on full blast, aiming every vent at my face and made the short drive home that way. After a shower and a meal, I wonder if it was really as bad as I thought. Perhaps I just had faulty expectations and didn’t re-adjust properly due to lack of nourishment. I cannot express how much I hope this to be the case. Because there are no refunds and I have nine. classes. left.

New Years Resolutions, Week Two

50-clean-eating-superfoods-While last week I focused on removing toxic things from my life, this week I’m adding back the healthy things that I’ve been missing.

In my quest for balance, I’ve taken things very literally. Picture someone on a balance beam, with unsteady footing. First they might lean waaaay to one side, arms out like wings. Then they’ll lean waaaaay to the opposite side before eventually finding their center. Last week we gave up a long list of things, which has left us lighter and less cluttered. I’ll admit it- I couldn’t go more than one day without my morning coffee. But Ryan and I did really well with the rest of our list! This week we are leaning way to the opposite side, adding in key elements to a healthy happy lifestyle.

While we are no longer avoiding gluten, red wine and meat, we are retaining some of our practices from the last week and integrating them into our daily habits. For example, as disgusting as it tasted that first day, the apple cider vinegar and lemon morning drink was actually pleasant after a few days. I love the feeling I had getting rid of clutter, so much so that I am continuing with that throughout the month. And as it turns out, I actually like almond milk in my coffee, so I’ll continue to cut back on dairy. I have long flirted with vegetarianism, and though Ryan will be happy to see steak back on the menu, I found that I can go several days in a row without meat and not miss it. (Lest you think I have a holier than thou mentality about it, I should disclose that Saturday night I celebrated the end of elimination week with a half-dozen raw oysters and beef tartare.)

We took things to extremes to find out what we could really live without. And though many things will find their way back into our life, as it turns out, some of it wasn’t missed in the least. Which leads me to this week. Additions.

Food-wise, we decided to incorporate at least two “super-foods” into every dinner this week. We planned a weeks worth of meals and didn’t let ourselves fall back on the familiar foods in this category. I’ll be sure to share the recipes and how they turned out, including the all-important “would Nate and Lilly eat it without gagging”.

Life-wise, we are adding fitness back. Wait, let me rephrase that. I am adding fitness back. Ryan competes in triathlons and is up running before the sun rises whereas I am still a lifeless lump in the bed two hours later when he returns. It wasn’t always this way. Before I began work, I had a serious yoga practice, and was in the gym at least 4 or 5 times a week. This was then:
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And this is now:

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I’ve traded my flexibility for a flexi-shaft drill.

This week I will leave my pride at the door and head back into the gym, for at least 3 (hopefully 4) yoga sessions. I am not looking forward to how inept I will feel, or how sore I will be in the days that follow. But little by little it will come back to me, and hopefully by month’s end I can dash into the post office just before they close without getting winded.

This will also be a huge week of additions for the shop. I have been trying to restock all of my sold out items and get back up to speed from the Holiday Rush. From the moment the kids head to school, until I get them in the afternoon (and then again after they’ve settled into their homework), I’m in the studio hammering, sewing, photographing and listing. My sister bought me a beautiful handmade leather journal for Christmas and as new ideas for products come to mind, I jot them down and go right back to the task of restocking. Once the shop is full again, I can’t wait to dive into the pages of notes I’ve written and share my new ideas and creations with you. My first new line will be throw-pillows that I hand print with beautiful vintage designs. I broke my “no new products until I’m restocked” rule and made a few silk pieces a couple of days ago. I’m especially pleased with this pillow, and can’t wait to make many more in a huge variety of designs. Milk and Honey LuxuriesAnd because I think every lady should have a place for her Lady Things, I also made this little zippered pouch: IMG_3859Sometimes you need to add the big things back, like family time and life-direction. Sometimes, as with me at the moment, it’s the not so big things, like healthy food and exercise. And sometimes the only thing you need to add is a pretty little something that makes you smile when you see it. Hopefully that’s where Milk & Honey comes in. Feel free to email me if there is something you would like me to push to the top of my restocking list.

Out With The Old, Make Room For The New

Necklace by Aziza Jewelry, click the photo to visit their shop.

Necklace by Aziza Jewelry, click the photo to visit their shop.

I hope everyone woke up as happy as I did this morning. It was short-lived, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Ryan and I celebrated New Years Eve at our favorite restaurant, and since I knew today was the beginning of my quest for balance, I threw balance out the window last night. We feasted like there was no such thing as a calorie and drank Bordeaux with abandon (having already lined up a taxi service, of course). Beef carpaccio, blue point oysters, lobster, filets with a bacon Gorgonzola sauce, heaps of cheesy potatoes and mounds of lump crab. It was decadent and indulgent and maybe a little (lot) over the top. I wore my new gown which was custom-made for me by my favorite designer, Nelli Uzun. dress by nelli uzun

Her work is nothing short of amazing, so I decided to share this photo from last night. Click on it to go to a photo-stream of her creations on Facebook. Honestly I almost didn’t post it because she’s so fantastic it’s hard to share! I also have her backless gown and have my sights set on that black lace confection next. Seriously, click the photo and see her dresses, I’ll wait here.

Okay, so hopefully you just got back from finding your new favorite designer. Let’s flash forward to this morning.

Feeling a little worse for the wear, but surprisingly nowhere near as bad as I should have felt, I made my way to the kitchen ready to embrace 2013. There I found Ryan making our morning drink. And it wasn’t my usual four cups of coffee. Nope, this is day one of our New Years Resolutions and the first week is all about elimination. So many people go on “detox” diets, but I don’t buy into that. Our bodies are perfectly suited to detox themselves with those handy kidneys and livers we all have. No juice fasts or colonics necessary. But I do see the benefit in giving our systems a little break now and then. A filter does a great job of cleansing a swimming pool, but it would probably do it’s job even better if we didn’t stand at the side of the pool throwing in garbage and mud. So this week we are eliminating the garbage. On this list: caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, chemical additives, dairy and meat. Instead of our usual morning coffee, it’s water with fresh lemon squeezed into it. This is what I thought I would encounter in the kitchen:lemon waterBut as it turned out, while I was sleeping off the Bordeaux, Ryan was reading articles online and learned that apple cider vinegar is a surprisingly healthy addition to any elimination or “detox” type of diet. Cut to my happiness being short-lived. Instead of the fresh tasty beverage shown above, I was met with a murky, foul-smelling concoction that tasted even worse than it looked. We both took our first sip and started gagging and laughing. What on earth have we begun. “I think it probably won’t be as bad after a few days of getting used to it”, Ryan said, his eyes watering and face pursed. I’m not holding my breath.

This week we are eliminating the junk, in more than just our diet. I will be getting ruthless on our closets and spare rooms. We bought a huge box of contractor bags (super thick and over-sized) which, by the end of the week, will be filled to their brims and deposited at Goodwill. People worry about getting rid of something and then needing it later. My thought is, if you get rid of two thousand things from your home (in our home we could reach that number in matchbox cars alone), you might end up needing one of those things later. But I would rather live in an uncluttered, peaceful environment and have to re-buy a melon-baller than be surrounded by a million things I *might* need (but probably never will).

I’m also eliminating stress this week. Only I can decide what I allow to bother me. They say that ten small stresses have the same mental effect as one large trauma. So I’m starting with the little things. The light bulb that burned out but I have to get the ladder to change it so I’ve put it off. The piles of receipts that I need to sort for the accountant. The sweater that I’ve been meaning to mend for the past 2 months. These little nagging bothers that I’ve allowed to annoy me will finally be tended to.

So this week will see the riddance of many things, but it’s only to clear the space for next week. Next week is the time for additions, in all aspects of life. I’m excited to clear the path for better things to come. Which reminds me, when I’m stirring my organic green tea (and wishing it was coffee with Splenda and milk), I will be using this spoon: milk and honey flatware