Tuesday, October 25, 2011

After A Run

Stretch! It doesn't matter if the run was 1 mile or 22 miles, if you stretch after a run you will be less tight and recover faster. Your muscles will be so happy! I have put together a quick yoga sequence that is great for after a run and will take less than 5 minutes. My camera is currently taking a sabbatical so I am going to use pictures from Yoga Journal's website. The people look so much calmer anyway...which is probably because they are in that all white room. Except wouldn't that make you feel a little insane? I feel a little bad about hijacking their pictures so here is the link to their Pose Guide. Yoga journal pictures do tend to look like the people don't have bones in their bodies so I'll give my own descriptions, for the more realistic versions of the poses!

So you've just come inside or stepped off the treadmill. It's important to let your breath and heart rate slow a little bit so you don't pass out or vom when you start folding. Just walk it off or shake out the arms and legs for about a minute till you catch your breath.

 Quick Post-Run Yoga 

Forward Fold: Feet together or about 3 inches apart. Bend at the hips, keeping the legs straight. Let the arms and head hang heavy or place the hands on the thighs, shins, ankles or floor...whatever you can reach. Obviously Serena here is pretty flexible, don't worry about her. Just fold as far as you can. Hold this pose for 5 deep breaths then roll back up to standing. 

Wide Leg Forward Fold: Spread the feet wide, keeping them parallel to each other. Fold at the hips, again reaching the hands and head as far as you can. Mindy appears to have her head on the floor too. This is accomplished by simply removing the hamstrings, no problem OR practicing yoga for many years. Hold this pose for 5 deep breaths then pivot to the left, turning the feet. 

High Lunge: Both feet are pointing forward, the front knee is over the ankle. Extend the back foot and keep the leg straight with the knee lifted. Placing the hands on either side of the front foot, look forward  and try to lift the chest (to keep the core engaged, rather than just laying on the front leg). Hold this pose for 3 deep breaths then switch sides. Hold the other side for 3 deep breaths then stand up. 

Pyramid: With the right foot pointing forward, step the left foot back about two feet (a much shorter stance than the lunge). Turn the left toes out slightly to about a 45 degree angle. Keep both legs straight and the hips level as you bend over the front leg. If you are not quite as limber as Theresa here, you can rest your hands on your thigh, shin or the floor, again whatever you can reach. The point is to keep the legs straight so the stretch is in the front hamstring. Hold this pose for 3 deep breaths then switch sides. Hold the other side for 3 deep breaths then stand up. 

Wide Leg Prayer Squat: Standing up, spread the feet wider than the hips and turn the toes out slightly. Squat down as low as you can, with the goal being to bring the booty lower than the knees. Bring the hands together in front of your chest (like you're praying, hence the title) and use the elbow to slightly press the knees out. This does not have to be a hardcore, full body engaged squat even though it may appear that way. Once you get into the pose and find your balance, you can pretty much just hang out with the booty hovering over the ground. "Hanging" the booty like this stretches and releases tension in the lower back. Pressing the knees slightly helps to stretch the inner thighs. Hold this pose for 5 deep breaths then rock forward, place the hands on the floor and lay down on the belly. Laurel is so sassy here with her hair cut and that look on her face. Feel free to make your squat as sassy as you'd like. 

Bow Pose: The point of this pose is to stretch the quads- the front of the thighs. If you'd like to go with the standard standing on one leg, pulling the lifted foot into the butt while the knee points to the floor, go for it! That is a great stretch. Bow pose is just another option to mix it up. Laying on your belly, bend up both knees and reach the arms around to grab the outsides of the ankles. Pull the feet up to arch the back and stretch the front of the body. Lance has got this pose DOWN. But if you need a less intense option to start, try doing one side at a time. Rest the left forearm on the floor in front of your face, keep the left leg straight and laying on the floor, and just pull up the right ankle. Hold this pose for 3 deep breaths (if you are doing one side at a time, hold each side for 3 breaths). Release the ankles and lay flat on the belly. 

Child's Pose: From the belly, push back on the hands to bring the booty over the feet. Lay down over the thighs bringing the forehead to the floor. The arms can reach out long in front of you, fold in front of you to place the head on the hands or reach down the sides of the body like Theresa is demonstrating. If your body won't touch your thighs put a pillow or folded up blanket between your booty and feet. The lift should allow the chest to come lower. If your chest is laying on your thighs and you'd like a deeper stretch, scoot the knees apart and allow the chest to lay on the floor between the knees. Hold this pose until you fall asleep, get hungry or your Stout Boyz come jump on you! :) 

What do you think? Do you usually stretch after running? Is there anything you would add?

Obviously I made up all the names in this post and all the information about the models. I don't know them and they certainly do not know me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms

Let's be honest, that essay ain't happenin. I don't have time for that, there's too much Friday Night Lights to be watched. 

I love stuffed mushrooms. I love the way you can put whatever you want in them, I love how they are a well rounded meal with very little effort and I love that portabello mushrooms almost taste and feel like meat. However, I do not know how to spell portobello. Spell check is underlining both options so I'll just mix it up. For this round, I used wheat orzo as the grain because that's what I had. Any small grain works though; couscous or quinoa would both be delicious. 

Start by cooking the orzo and draining it. I was stuffing four big but weirdly shaped mushrooms so I made a cup and a half of wheat orzo.

Set that aside. In a large skillet saute a diced onion and garlic in some olive oil. 

Add in any other chopped veggies you like. I used tomatoes and watercress. I originally planned to use spinach but it looked gross at the store and watercress was surprisingly the same price. 

Once all the veggies look tender and wilted, plop on a big hunk of creamy goat cheese. I suppose this is optional if you are vegan or crazy, but it adds a nice creaminess. If you leave out the goat cheese, you could stir in some broth if you'd like. 

Once the goat cheese is stirred in, add the grain to the skillet and mix it all together. Season to taste with salt, pepper and basil. 

And the final step, stuffing the mushrooms to the brim. Pile it on there! I told you my mushrooms were weirdly shaped. They were the only pieces left in the bin at the store. I promise I didn't take bites out of them before photographing. 

Bake these puppies in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes and enjoy! To really put them over the top, crumble more goat cheese on top right before serving. I had leftover stuffing that could've filled another mushroom if I'd had it. 

The Recipe
  • 1.5 cups of cooked grain- orzo, couscous or quinoa
  • 1/2 of a large onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 small tomatoes diced
  • 1 bunch of spinach or watercress, tough stems removed
  • 2oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gross black stuff scooped out
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray the roasting pan with non-stick spray. Cook the grain according to package instructions and set aside. In a separate skillet, saute the diced onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil until translucent. Add in the tomatoes and watercress. Once the watercress has wilted, stir in the goat cheese. When desired creaminess is achieved, mix in the grain. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps and roast face up for 25-30 minutes. Crumble more goat cheese on top before serving.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yoga 101- Plank

Before we get into plank, I have to share the two "first time for everything" experiences I had yesterday. Two in one day! 

1) I had to be somewhere at 9:00am. I was running a little bit late because I went through the inevitable "do I need to shower" debate (always a no). As I turned off of our street it hit me, I FORGOT to eat breakfast! How did this happen? Will I make it to lunch without eating? Who am I? I spent too much time in disbelief to think fast. I should've taken it as a sign that Chick-Fil-A had an extra biscuit with my name on it. 

2) Lately I have been thinking a lot about a specific topic. It is undoubtedly because I've been doing more yoga and thinking about yoga so much. I feel like I am connecting some dots in my brain but still trying to find the words to explain. Yesterday evening I was in the shower and I had the thought, "maybe if I write an essay about this it'll help me to....WAIT A SECOND" Now, for those of you who do not know Kevin as well, this is exactly the type of thing he does. Write an essay for fun? When I'm not in school? Who will grade it? Why would I do that? I have no idea where the notion came from, other than 7 months of marriage to the most scholarly person I know. 

But on to plank:

Plank is very versatile. It is a wonderful shoulder and core-strengthening pose if it is held for a few breaths and it is also a transitional pose to get you to almost any other yoga pose. When holding plank, think strong and solid. The whole body should be engaged, from the shoulders to the toes. Get into plank either by laying on the floor and pushing up, folding forward from a standing position and walking the feet back or starting in downward dog and dropping the hips. Once in plank, hold it for 3-5 breaths or to the count of 30. 

The Hands- are directly below the shoulders. The arms are in a straight line from the shoulder to the wrist. Spread the fingers wide to distribute the weight throughout the hands. The hand position may feel more snug then the top of a push-up position, depending on your push-ups. 

The Head- is in a neutral position, reaching the crown of the head away from the feet. Looking between the hands or just in front of the hands helps keep the head in the right place. 

The Shoulders- push back away from the ears. Imagine you are trying to make the shoulder blades touch in the center of the back, just like in downward dog. This visual keeps the shoulders from hunching. 

The Back/Core- is straight and strong. All of the core muscles are engaged to hold the body stable and the hips up.  

The Legs- are straight with the knees lifted. The feet are about hip width apart, the toes press into the mat and the heels are lifted. 

Focus on: Creating a diagonal line from the head to the shoulders, hips and heels. Pull the crown of the head forward while pushing the heels back. 

NOT plank: 
hips are too high and the shoulders are behind the wrists
midsection is sagging and the shoulders are hunched
Still working on it? Drop the knees to the floor for a kneeling plank. Think girl push-ups, which is just a little bit offensive to girls. Keep the wrists directly below the shoulders, the whole body engaged and straight, with the diagonal line ending at the knees instead of the feet. 

There you have it, plank pose! Have you tried plank? Do you love it or hate it?

Alas, we shall see if Kevin has REALLY changed me or if he's just put new thoughts in my brain. Will I really write an essay for "fun"? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Twice as Many Tuesday

Tuesday is family dinner night with Kaitlyn and David so I have twice as many people to feed (catchy title too). Today I whipped out an oldie but a goodie that I originally learned from Liz about 3 years ago, who I think learned it from her mom. I can never remember all the things that Liz actually put in these enchiladas so I have adapted them over the years, likely switching them up every time I make them. My memory is that bad. But here's what I did today and I'm actually documenting it:

Creamy Chicken and Green Chili Enchiladas
What you'll need:
  • About 2lbs of chicken (boneless breasts, rotisserie pulled off the bones, whatever you like)- I used tenders this time
  • 8oz can of diced green chiles
  • 16oz tub of sour cream (I used light because I'm so healthy)
  • 16oz block of pepper jack cheese or any cheese you want (or be like me and use the last half of two different bags of shredded cheese that have collected in the fridge) 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 20 tortillas
To start out, boil the chicken if it is not already cooked. Then, using two forks, shred the chicken.

In a large bowl, combine green chiles, sour cream, half of the cheese, cumin, paprika and black pepper. Stir to combine. 

Remove about 1.5 cups of this mixture to a separate bowl. This will be the sauce on top of the enchiladas. Stir the shredded chicken into the sour cream mixture. Taste the mixture (in a sanitary way if your people care about such things...or are watching) to check the spiciness. It is not that spicy because of all the sour cream so if you'd like more of a kick, add in some jalapenos (pickled or fresh), hot sauce, or more green chiles. 

Now set up your assembly line. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. This recipe makes 20 enchiladas so it will need 2 pans. Fill each tortilla with sauce mixture and roll it up. Place in the pan seam side down.

Don't be shy, shove those enchis in there. I used the two smaller pans instead of another 9x13 because I want to freeze one small pan for a rainy day. 

I used wheat tortillas because the ones they make in the grocery store are just so good. Plus, if I wrap the creamy, cheesy goodness in a wheat tortilla then it's breaking even. Right? 

Once all the tortillas are filled and in the pan, smear on the un-chickened sauce that you saved. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until bubbly. 

This is pre-baking but after looked pretty much the same
These are perfect for making ahead of time and just popping in the oven when you get home. Leftovers are great AND they freeze well. What more could a girl want?!

What's your favorite make ahead meal? Do you have a go-to enchilada recipe?

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Weekend

We had the kind of weekend that leaves you exhausted and energized at the same time, overwhelmed by the greatness of your friends. Friday kicked it off with this: 

100 cupcakes for Kate's opening reception at the Croft Gallery! Applesauce spice cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting and champagne cupcakes with strawberry buttercream. Not to mention the homemade bread, hummus, prosciutto and goodness flatbreads and more that other friends made! Kate's paintings...wow. I don't even have the words to describe her gift. If you are in Waco before October 28 you MUST go see her show. The reception was from 6-9 and we all hung out, mingled, snacked and such until everyone else had left. Then, since the Sterchi parents and Kate's mom were in town we took the party to the pub for continued revelry.

Saturday was a wonderful Waco Saturday of shopping and lunching at Newk's (what the heck kind of name is that?!) with the ladies and Moms. Then surprise of all surprises, I go with Emily to get her haircut and they're giving away free chair massages! Best chair massage I've ever had, even before you consider the freeness. Saturday evening was the big birthday celebration at the Meddlesome Moth in Dallas. Lots of Waco people piled into cars to caravan to the Moth where we were joined by Kevin's parents and some Dallas friends.

Before we left. Funny to have a picture of us in the background of a picture of us.
Everyone who hasn't been, take a moment to google that restaurant. Such delicious food, family style, endless options some of which included mussels, risotto, tandoori lamb skewers, cheese and cured meat platters (I'm sold) and much more! After the four hour feast we rolled ourselves home to Waco.

Sunday was the day the Sterchi parents had to leave so we went to lunch after church before their flight. AND especially for Kevin's (real) birthday, we woke up to rain. Steady, pouring rain. What a day. FSIL (favorite sister-in-law) Kaitlyn and her friend Emily visiting from California came over to celebrate Kevin slash sleep on the couches for four hours in our sweatpants. It was Kevin's favorite kind of day. 

Sunday evening wrapped up with a pizza party and German chocolate birthday cake for all our friends! The original plan was to complement the pizza with the Rangers game but it got rained out so we settled for football and a little Beyonce YouTubing. 

Don't worry. He shared. I almost forgot! Sunday morning began with the pumpkin cinnamon rolls! I did use the recipe I originally mentioned as pull-apart bread but I decided to roll it up instead. Last time I made pull-apart bread it was mush on bottom and dry on top so I switched it up. Since there was so much leftover (and since I'm pretty sure they frown on rum in the morning before church) I used the brown sugar cream cheese frosting on the cinnamon rolls too. Delicious! 

Needless to say, Monday morning was an unwelcome event. Whatever happened to having Columbus Day off? 

For the cake I used this Southern Living recipe from the October issue. The frosting did not set up like I thought it should based on the picture, but I'll forgive them. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

You Know What I Love?

In an effort to keep my momentum up, but without the time to load pictures or try to take pictures of myself again, I'm going to post about some random things that have been making my days lately...

  • The commercials for the Lion King re-release. They make me feel so nostalgic and I almost tear up everytime. I picture teeny tiny Murn and Molly. I think of Chimney Hill. I can't even count how.many.times. we held up Trudy like Simba
  • Yesterday Kevin and I talked with the pastor of the church we've been going to because I want to help in the baby room. When it came up in the story of how Kevin and I met, he asked where I lived in Macedonia. For a second I thought he was crazy and had misunderstood but then he said he spent a week right down the road from where I lived! Jaw dropped. First person to respond with anything other than the "where's that" blank stare
  • Riesling. I "had to" buy some for a recipe I was making and what's a girl to do, let the rest go to waste? I forget about white wine because I never drink it and sometimes think I've outgrown it. Turns out, still delicious
  • Pictures of Haven covered in food. Videos of Haven crawling. Pictures of Haven being sassy. Pictures of Haven sleeping. Videos of Haven messing with Simon. I could go on and on
  • Anything having to do with baby goats
What makes your day? 

Coming soon...100 cupcakes for the art opening, Pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe, Kevin's birthday, Yoga 101-Plank, and a quick yoga sequence for runners (inspired by Lisa's no time to stretch)!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Post-Potter Depression

I think a lot of you know how this goes. You've been there. I held out reading the Harry Potter books for so long because 1) I get scared easily (haha) 2) they are so freaking long, who has time for that and 3) the first movie was the only one I saw in the theater (except for the eighth one at midnight) and while I didn't hate it, I didn't like it enough to read 7 epic-length books about that geeky kid.

Oh boy, was I wrong. I will say, I'm glad I wasn't living alone when I read them because I really do scare easier than the average human. But the books are SO much better than the movies! I want to see the movies again knowing all the back story and stuff they don't include! The thing about 7 books averaging about 650 pages each, they cling to your hands, glue your butt to the chair and push pause on the rest of your life so that you have nothing to do but read until they are all finished and your life is over. When I looked up, feeling nauseous from the emotional roller coaster of Dumbledore, Harry, Ginny, 19 years later, I literally did not know what to do with myself. Where is Kevin? Do I have friends? When was the last time I took a shower?

I haven't picked up another book since. It won't be as good. Ron won't be in that book saying hilarious things. It has been enough time that I'm starting to think Harry Potter may have ruined my reading life. I need to rip the band aid off. Admitting you have a problem is the first step...

What should I read next?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Meal Planning for the Week

I'm working on our meal plan today so thought I'd share. It's a good week because I just got Eating Well and Southern Living in the mail plus there are some special events happening so that means baking!

Breakfasts: Ever the same, kefir and eggs for Kevin. Yogurt with fruit or eggs for Caitlin. 

Lunches: Leftovers, salads, peanut butter sandwiches (major pb kick lately!)

French Onion Soup and Caesar Salad w/ Chicken (both homemade) on Tuesday
Beef and Broccoli- a loose interpretation of Eating Well's recipe on Wednesday (Loose interpretation because I'll use some steak we have in our freezer that's not flank. Plus I don't have all the special Asian sauces it calls for nor the desire to buy them.) 
Roasted veggies, whatever's cheap to take to life group on Thursday
Friday is the big opening reception for Kate's show! So we'll eat there. 

Champagne Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream for Kate's show
Frosting the Applesauce Spice Cupcakes for Kate's show with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese

And last but not least, next weekend is Kevin's BIRTHDAY! Kevin's not a huge dessert fan but in my house, it's not a birthday if there's no cake. So he requested a german chocolate cake. Well fancy that, there's a recipe in my new Southern Living! Plus, I'm going to make the pumpkin, cinnamony, sugary bread that he somehow stumbled upon and emailed me a link to (with the subject, "just a suggestion"). Subtlety has always been his strong suit. If there's one kind of sweet Kevin will go nuts over it is breakfast sweets. If it has cinnamon, sugar and a glaze, he's there. Cinnamon rolls in lieu of grooms' cake anyone? So after I recovered from the shock that Kevin apparently reads food blogs, I decided to oblige and whip this up for his birthday breakfast. I'll do my best to document the process when it happens!

So what are you making this week? Do you meal plan? Or are you feeling good if it's not cereal for dinner? :) 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brownie Coconut Bars

These bars originally made an appearance on the Georgas table for one of our "family dinners" in which my favorite sister-in-law, Kaitlyn, and long time family friend slash awesome guy, David, join us for dinner on Tuesday nights. I chose the recipe based on my very scientific method of pairing dinner and dessert: what sweet treat can I make with the ingredients I already have. They were delicious so I decided to whip them up again thinking some girlfriends were coming over tonight to hang out. I changed up the recipe just a little bit this time, again for empirically proven reasons: I was lacking some of the called-for coconut.

I think I figured it out. The thing that makes these so delicious. Brownies with some coconut mixed in? I mean I'd eat 'em. Coconutty blob things with a little chocolate mixed in? While they don't sound great, I hate to see food wasted. But the perfectly sized layer of brownie supporting the floofy, delicious cloud of coconut? Heavenly.

Start by getting out a 9x9 pan, or 8x8, whatever you have. I'm pretty sure mine is 8x8. Line it with foil, leaving a little extra foil hanging over the edges so you can pull it out in one piece later. Spray the foil with nonstick spray or butter it if you're less lazy than I.

Mixing up the brownie layer is really as easy as melting butter in the microwave and then stirring in sugar, salt, an egg, cocoa and flour. Pour this layer into the foiled and sprayed pan. Bake it in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sides start to pull away from the foil. 

While it's baking, mix up the coconut floofiness. Again, it's as easy as stirring 5 things together in one bowl with one fork or whisk. No mixer required! Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla and flour then when it's smooth mix in the coconut. Also, the coconut weight does not have to be exact. I realize maybe not everyone is as in love with the food scale as I am. 

When the brownie layer comes out, plop the coconut mixture over the top a little bit at a time. With the hot brownies and the thick coconut, spreading is no easy task so resist the temptation to dump all of the coconut on at once. I find that spreading with the fingers works best. Now it looks like this:

I forgot to take a picture after sprinkling the last little bit of coconut on top, my bad. Put the whole thing back in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it's browned on top and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out with moist crumbs. 

Once it is cool enough to touch simply grab the foil and lift the whole square out of the pan. 

The verdict is in. Kevin and I liked this batch better. Having less coconut made the whole bar more moist without sacrificing coconut flavor or floofiness. It really is up to you how much coconut you want to add! 

The Recipe
Brownie Layer:   
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 375. Foil and spray a 9x9 pan (or 8x8). Melt butter in the microwave then stir in sugar and salt. Stir in egg then cocoa and flour. Mix until smooth. Spread evenly in pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Coconut Layer:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut plus a little extra for the top
Stir together the first four ingredients until smooth then fold in coconut. Spoon little plops onto the brownie layer and spread gently with fingers. Sprinkle coconut on top, about 1/4 cup. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before removing from the pan by lifting the foil edges.

Recipe adapted from here

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yoga 101- A New Series

Since I started studying to be a teacher I have had multiple people mention to me that they are afraid or intimidated by yoga because they don't know how to tell if they're doing it right. Teachers often just name poses and students are expected to know how to get into them and how they should feel. I have taken this as my personal mission to make my classes accessible to someone who has never done any yoga at all. I thought it would also be fun to have a weekly (ish) series here going over the basics. My hope is to present a pose or concept that is sometimes assumed to be easy and break it down so a first-timer can master it! These posts can be used to help remind experienced yoga students of the basics, they can serve as an introduction to new students, or they can be used individually as a stretch after you do your jump squat throw-ups.

Before we get started, let's just establish that I'm not a photographer (you probably noticed this with my food pictures yesterday). My Nikon Coolpix on self-timer in the cleanest room of my house is the best I can do. To be honest, when I practice yoga alone it is usually in the living room. We have a pretty sweet backyard/courtyard area behind our house that would be perfect for yoga if this was like New Haven or something. But this is Texas. We're still in the 100s everyday. Ok so I don't know where New Haven is, maybe that was a bad example. Or maybe I made it up, I'm good at that.

So Yoga 101, day 1: Downward Facing Dog

If you've ever seen a dog do this, you know exactly where it got its name. Downward dog is an excellent pose for building strength in the arms and stretching the back of the legs. It also releases the weight and pressure out of the lower back. Our lower backs carry so much weight all day so it's nice to take the weight off for a little break.

The Hands- should be about shoulder width apart, flat on the floor and all the fingers spread out wide. Leaving a tiny space between the base of the palm/wrist and the floor relieves the pressure on the wrists that some feel in this pose.

The Head- should be between the arms. The ears are directly between the biceps but not touching them. If your biceps are even close to touching your ears it's because the shoulders are hunched up.

The Shoulders- are pulled away from the ears. Imagine that you are trying to touch the shoulder blades in the middle of the back. Teachers often call this "shoulders back and down."

The Back- is straight and flat!

The Legs- are extended and the heels are reaching to the floor. The feet are about hip width distance apart.

Focus on: The hips should be the definite highest point of the body. The back is straight and the shoulders are not hunched.

Still working on it? Bend the knees and lift the heels to slowly work towards straight legs. Especially if you are a runner, the hamstrings can be very tight so straight legs may not be possible at first or at all.

The most common misalignment in downward dog comes from thinking that it is crucial for the heels to touch the floor. This leads to hunched shoulders, rounding in the back and possibly some serious pain in the legs!

Now everyone on the mat! Have you tried Downward Dog? Do you love it or hate it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Applesauced on a Sunday

The painter extraordinaire and our dear friend Kate is having a solo show at the Croft Art Gallery in October (for us art-ignorant folk, that means the gallery will be displaying her work and her work only for a whole month with the hopes that people will buy it). On opening night there is a reception and I have been tasked with making cupcakes. I have some ideas for the different kinds I want to make but I am going to test the recipes ahead of time to avoid a day of catastrophe.

The first recipe to try is Applesauce Spice cupcakes. Allison and Mom raved about these cupcakes last fall and I thought it'd be nice to have a seasonal flavor. Now, you may or may not know that sometimes I like to think of myself as a pioneer/pilgrim/Laura Ingalls Wilder type. Yesterday was one of those days. So I decided to make the applesauce from scratch. Apples are super cheap right now and I had the time. I just realized the opening paragraph of this post may have been misleading because its actually going to be all about applesauce. The cupcakes will be a different story for a different day because they are not frosted yet.

Some quick googling told me that a pound of apples will make a cup of sauce. I cored and sliced 2 pounds of apples. Peeling them is optional but since this sauce was destined for cupcakes I wanted a smoother texture.

Throw the apples in a pot and put just enough water to cover the bottom so they don't scorch, about 1/4 cup should do it. Put the lid on and let them cook over medium heat until they are soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes. You really can't overcook the apples so make sure they are good and mushy. You should be able to mash them with a fork or potato masher. Mash the apples in the pot and if there's too much liquid for your liking, take the lid off and keep cooking for about 5 minutes.

Voila! You have homemade applesauce. If you feel so inclined you can add sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, honey...whatever you like to sweeten the sauce. I kept it plain because, once again, going in cupcakes.

As the applesauce simmered I was faced with a dilemma: can I really throw this big pile of apple peel away? Such a waste! I munched on a few pieces while brainstorming, texting Allison for ideas and eventually googling (of course).

Bam. Vinegar. I just put the peel in a jar, covered it with water and topped it with cheesecloth (held in place by a neon hair tie, classy). After sitting in a cool, dark-ish place for 3-4 days this will supposedly be apple vinegar. On a different note, let's pretend you didn't see the dirty window sill.

There was some applesauce leftover after making the cupcakes so this morning I enjoyed it blooped on top of some homemade yogurt with agave nectar (jury is still out on this stuff) and cinnamon. Delish!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Yoga Story

My love affair with yoga began while I was in Macedonia as a Peace Corps volunteer. I had taken a few classes in Fort Worth before I left but really found my groove in Macedonia. This can probably be attributed to the fact that I had so.much.free time. Nothing but free time. I began with the yoga DVD I had packed with me, then moved on to trading DVDs with other volunteers to learn new things. As the DVDs became routine I started researching online. I spent hours upon hours on Yoga Journal's website reading through their pose descriptions. I would read about a pose then practice in my living room. Having friends that enjoyed yoga too allowed it to become both a form of exercise and an entertainment for us (many Friday nights spent laughing hysterically as we tried to pull off crazy poses like side crow and scorpion). Some light yoga felt great after a long run or fast paced, intense yoga was awesome strength training in a country devoid of free weights. 

As I was falling more and more in love with yoga, my coworkers and I were trying to decide on the new schedule of classes/events/workshops to have at our "youth club" (basically the same idea as a Boys and Girls Club). The long and short of it is that a conversation about what we were all interested in, what would benefit our teenage clients and what would draw people in led to the decision that I, the out of place blonde American in a sea of tall, beautiful, dark haired Eastern Europeans, would teach a yoga class for teenage girls. Was I nervous? Very. Did it turn out to be the most awesome, enjoyable, rewarding experience I had in Macedonia? Yes. Exercise was a new concept in Macedonia and I was very upfront about the fact that I had completely taught myself and was not at all an expert so I didn't feel too bad about teaching the class. The girls and I had so much fun learning together, talking about trying to be healthy in the Macedonian society and sharing our thoughts as we tried to love our bodies. Every week after class I would find myself daydreaming about getting trained for real when I got back to the US. I thought a lot about if it was an isolated event that I was connecting with my students and enjoying every second of it. 

Fast forward 2 and a half years to newlywed Caitlin who has continued personal yoga practice, running half marathons and many different forms of exercise over the years. All this time I had yoga teacher training on the back burner of my mind. As life started to calm down after our wedding I couldn't get the thought out of my head. Kevin, always Mister Supportive and my best cheerleader, encouraged me to go to the first training, scope it out and then make an informed decision about if I wanted to pursue yoga teacher training. I went, I learned, I loved, I decided. I love helping people realize that yoga is not some crazy religion, yoga is not some sissy "workout" for athletes to scoff at and not all yoga is about chanting and omming and meditating. Yoga is a very versatile form of exercise with amazing benefits, both physical and mental. Yoga will work out muscles you didn't even know you had and doctors, scientists (I don't know, "They") have proven over and over that all the new ways the body moves in yoga help with anxiety, depression and a whole slew of other mental/emotional states. A power flow yoga class will leave you drenched in sweat, heart pounding and cursing the dozens of squats, lunges and push ups. A gentle flow class will make you feel more relaxed and de-stressed then the best pill out there*. Do some people get really into the ancient traditions of yoga and the spiritual side of it? Yes. Do we have to to gain all the health benefits? No. 

Moral of the story: Yes, yoga seems trendy, but it really doesn't require us to become Buddhist vegans or something crazy like that (life without cheese?!). I just gave all the reasons I love it, have you tried it? 

*Just to be clear, I'm not saying the "best pills out there" are not needed in some cases. Some bodies need the pills. Don't mistake me for a pill expert. You get the point.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Diving Right In

So I started a blog. I'm a blogger. I instantly feel pressure to be funny and quirky and to eat oatmeal for breakfast. While I'd like to think I'm funny sometimes, I'm not quirky and I only eat oatmeal when the fridge is literally empty. Otherwise I'd be fat. I bake a lot of delicious things, which is part of the reason I wanted to start a blog. But let's not get confused, if I don't exert a little self control around the baked goods, I get fat. I won't be one of those bloggers joking about how I made 3 dozen brownie sundae cupcakes with mile high frosting and then ate nothing but said cupcakes for four days straight. I would be so fat. And constipated.

My words to live by: workout hard enough to be able to eat dessert and do what it takes to stay regular.

Aren't you glad I started a blog?