Yin Yoga

tulipYin yoga has the same goals as any other kind of yoga; however, it goes deeper than the superficial or muscular tissues (yang tissues). Yin yoga targets the connective stuff (ligaments, bones and joints) which don’t normally get a workout in the active styles of yoga practice.

Yin yoga is suitable for almost anyone because it complements the more dynamic and muscular (yang) styles of yoga that emphasise internal heat, and the lengthening and contracting of our muscles. I find that Yin Yoga generally targets the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine – my pain points from repeated damage through extreme exercise.

Initially, yin yoga can seem a little boring and passive, but if you’re doing it right, can be quite challenging due to the length of time one has to hold each pose. I’ve heard that some postures can last up to twenty minutes – I’ve never made it that long. But it’s definitely meditative. And self-accepting. You can only work with yourself and your own limitations. You have to listen to your body. You’re not competing with anyone else. Pretty magical!

It’s also therapeutic because you are working with your own blockages, and resistance. How I respond to each pose, or work through it, is quite evocative of how I deal with things in daily life, too. And it has enabled me to slowly assess and improve my reactions for the better.

 

Breathe Deep & Act Normal v2

panic anxiety stressIt’s been a while since I’ve had to breathe deep and act normal. I’ve had the usual worries, niggles, fears – but nothing that’s ground me to a halt. Until last week.

I received an email out of the blue a few weeks ago from the MIT Sloan School of Management, inviting me to an MBA event in London. Turns out, they think I’m a ‘stand-out’ woman. I’m sure they say that to a lot of women, but it still made me chuckle. I rarely talk about my day job on the blog, for fear of chasing away people with how truly nerdy I am. I get excited about automating process flows, for Pete’s sake! So for MIT to take notice of my nerd skills was entertaining, but not something I really wanted to explore if it involved networking. Otherwise known as talking to total strangers about myself. Eeeeek. And hyperventilate.

When I didn’t respond to the original email invite, I got a follow up. This event was going to be a face-to-face meet and greet with all the top global business schools, and a chance to ‘sell’ myself to them and their programs. Didn’t I want to invest in myself? (A bit of history here: I started an MBA the year before the global financial crisis, and when I took voluntary redundancy, I negotiated a lot, but not the ongoing funding for the MBA. It’s a crippling amount of money, and I just completed the first unit.) I was all set to RSVP ‘Hell No’, when Husband Dear urged me (strongly) to attend. So I did.

There were several points during the day when I nearly talked myself out of going. I had no idea what to expect which made it impossible to map out contingencies which set me firmly outside of my safe zone. Ergo spiralling discomfort and panic. I dropped DD to ballet and had a calming coffee. I read something trashy on my Kindle. And then it took 70 texts back and forth with Husband Dear to get me in the building. I was a mass of knots, which was strangely not evident in the very calm face I saw reflected in the elevator mirror. I had on a very pointed pair of shiny black shoes. The pain from my squeezed toes gave me something to focus on other than my spiralling panic. 

I took a small lap around the snack area – well, for stand-out women they offer canapés and other fancy finger foods – before I took a deep breath and walked into the networking area. Commence asphyxia. Focus on hobbled toes. Unclench jaw. I almost drew blood from curling my fingernails into my palms. Cue the fake smiles and the “Hiiiiiii, yeah, I’m exploring my options….”. I was almost dizzy with breathlessness, and a lack of food.

I finally hit my stride at the Copenhagen Business School, where I was sounding more like myself and less like a constipated chipmunk on helium. My heartbeat was almost back to normal. There was a really good alumnae panel after the networking section which also made me realise that what I lack in confidence, I make up for in age and experience. So I went back round again, a lot calmer, to check out a few more programs. And it turns out, the ones I really felt at home with, or synced the most with where I am and where I want to be, are the London programs. Who da thunk?

Now I just need to figure out if I really want to do this. We’re talking 18-24 months of some serious studying. Something tells me it’s going to put a huge crimp in my blogging time and my TV time and it might actually mean I have to get a responsible job at the end of it (no, running my own company doesn’t count as a responsible job). 

Any words of advice? An eight-ball I could borrow? A tarot reading? How do I know if I want to ‘invest’ in myself? Am I really cut out for this if terms like ‘investing in myself’ make me cringe and giggle in equal measure?

Wish List (or #FF yourself!)

People who achieve goals know what they want in the first place. They have a dream and they go for it. If you never craft your heart’s wish in clear detail, how can you expect to get it?

A lot of us, for a variety of reasons, have lost touch with our own rhythms and wishes. “You don’t always get what you want”, “I want doesn’t get”, and similar phrases have been trotted out by us and others every time we didn’t quite succeed. A lot of people, women especially, believe that putting themselves first, to find their own happiness, is incredibly selfish. Well, yes! If you won’t find your happiness, who will?

Be selfish.

I’m daring you to take back your wish list! Start honouring your preferences, no matter how small they seem. Look at the words below:

Curiosity, Passion, WondeR

Do they spark ideas? Memories? Run with them. Even if they don’t turn out the way you hope, you’ll know what doesn’t work for you. Prioritise learning yourself. Start simple by making a list of things you want to do, achieve and have in your life. 

Can you excavate your core preferences?

When I was drained, totally drained, after my last contract, I thought about what I loved to do with my time. I made endless lists of everything I loved, jobs I had done, and dream roles, and tried to figure out how I was going to switch careers into something more creative. Because at my core, I am a maker. My dream jobs included working at a magazine or a book publishing house. Six months later, I am the new Publishing & Editorial Assistant at Iceberg Press, focused on The Simple Things magazine. I also started this blog, got to grips with Twitter, and did other ad hoc bits in between, but I’m pretty darn sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t consciously written it down and worked towards it. Seeing it in black and white, and working on this blog, just cemented the desire to make it real.

All you have to do at this point is clarify your wish list to yourself.

I’m not asking you to share. Don’t worry about how it’s going to happen right now; the gods/angels/Universe/stars have a weird way of aligning and presenting opportunities once you are clear what you want. 

Sit down down tonight, sip a glass of wine, slurp a cup of tea, get out your coloured pens, and your paper, and start writing.

Dream big! No one else can dream for you!

wishlist

The Love-Hate Challenge

One of my favourite bloggers, Hollie de la MyBlogIsMyBoyfriend, tagged me to participate in the Love-Hate Challenge. I only know this because I get e-mail updates from my favourite blogs, rather than just relying on the randomly selective Reader. Boo, Reader! The rules are simple enough. List 10 things you love, 10 things you hate, and 10 nominees. Here goes…

10 things I love (in no particular order):

  1. A book which grips me!
  2. My best friend aka The Husband
  3. Our daughter
  4. My clean, white bedroom
  5. My really lovely white sheets – seriously!
  6. Soft, powdery sand beaches
  7. Laughing with husband and/or daughter
  8. The smell of the honeysuckle outside my bedroom window
  9. Lemon anything
  10. Cold, fizzy wine

Things I hate (again, in random order):

  1. Gluten
  2. Wasps & flies
  3. Tourists in central London during rush hour
  4. Warm wine
  5. Bad grammar
  6. The smell of salmon cooking
  7. Housework
  8. Filing documentation
  9. Grey, misty non-rain that makes you gloomy and your hair frizzy
  10. People with no sense of personal space

My nominees:

  1. Mother Mands
  2. Shy Little Pixie
  3. Fannie Frankfurter
  4. BrickHouseChick
  5. Fill Your Own Glass
  6. Shirley’s Heaven
  7. Rococo-a-gogo
  8. Waking the Wombat
  9. The Chymeera Diaries
  10. The Pickled Pastor

As always, those whom I nominated should not feel obligated to participate. Join in if you want, and if not, have a lovely weekend anyway!

Zydeco music

Today is International Jazz Day, and while sending a friend recommendations for her listening pleasure, I found my Z – Zydeco music! It’s the instantly recognisable sound of New Orleans, my home while I was studying architecture. It’s impossible to live in New Orleans and not be forever changed by the music, food & art. 

What is Zydeco music?

Zydeco is the music of Southwest Louisiana’s Black Creoles, a mixture of African, Afro-Caribbean, Native American and European descent. Sung traditionally in Creole French, English is becoming more popular these days. As of 2007, it even has its own category at the Grammys!

Listen to The Louisiana Two Step (New Orleans 1984)

Where does the word Zydeco come from?

One theory is it comes from a contraction of the phrase Les haricots ne sont pas salés, which sounds like “lehz-dee-co nuh sohn pah salay” in the Louisianan French Creole dialect, and means “The snap beans ain’t salty”. Seriously. Another theory is that in the languages of West African slaves, the phonemes za, re and go were frequently associated with dancing and playing music. A little more believable, perhaps?

When did Zydeco music become popular? Is there a ‘parent’ of Zydeco?

Clifton Chenier is widely regarded as the King of Zydeco. He created music in the 1950s which was bluesy, syncopated and very different to the sound of Cajun music. He blazed a trail and made it clear that Zydeco was unique, using piano accordions & modified washboard vests (frottoirs). He also wore a cape & crown during most of his performances! Zydeco music is continuously evolving, showing influences from R&B and even hip-hop, in this century.

WHERE CAN I HEAR MORE ZYDECO MUSIC?

Yellow

Curated from my personal photos and Pixabay

#yellow #minion #lemon #avocado #daffodil #pumpkin #ikea #hack

If you’re looking for instructions for the IKEA Rast hack, Pinterest is heaving with them. I just used glossy yellow paint, and leftover white plastic cord for the handles. 

Xhosa

South Africa has been in the news a lot recently, because of media coverage of the anti-immigrant unrest & violence. It followed reason that I would write about xenophobia. But I thought long and hard, and realised I wanted to show people the good part of South Africa, the part that tugs on the heartstrings and keeps me returning. It’s so easy to find the ugly and hateful, and I’d rather be the person that brings the ‘pretty’ to the table. My husband has wonderful memories of his life in South Africa. He sang with the Eastern Cape Children’s Choir. He got to meet Nelson Mandela (“a giant of a man”, in his words). Some of our best memories as a couple, and as a family, are set in South Africa. One of these memories is sitting down at the waterfront in Cape Town one Christmas, because our daughter was mesmerised by the choir singing on the open-air stage – “so many clicks, mama!

In honour of that memory, X today will bring you one of the eleven official languages of South Africa: Xhosa. Spoken by about 20% of the population, it is also known as the ‘click’ language, for its prominence of click consonants. Even the word Xhosa starts with a click! I just take the easy way out and pronounce it ‘Khosa’. My husband, however, is one with the clicks. He suggested the famous Click Song (Qongqothwane), sung by Miriam Makeba, to introduce new listeners to Xhosa.

Another song which showcases Xhosa is the merged national anthem of South Africa. Since 1997, the anthem is sung in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans & English, but the first segment is called Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) in Xhosa. Have a listen here: National Anthem of South Africa (with lyrics & translation).

Did you read the lyrics? Did you get a little teary? I did. It breaks my heart that a country that has fought so hard to get to where it is, that is more advanced than many developed nations, should be almost back to square one with the hatred and infighting. Listen to your anthem, people. It’s your land. Make it a better one.

xhosa

Grain-Free Tahini Waffles

Adapted from the original recipe which uses cashews: Grain-Free Waffles by Danielle Walker

If you tried my Tahini Cookie recipe, or are thinking about getting a jar of tahini and wondering what to do with the rest of it, look no further! As always, my recipes are tweaked, so use your judgement on the consistency of the batter; you may need a little more flour or non-dairy milk.

PREP TIME: 12 mins / COOK TIME: 10 mins / TOTAL TIME: 22 mins

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs for almond meal, 3 eggs for coconut flour (I used medium)
  • 1/3 cup (75g) tahini
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) almond milk 
  • 3 tablespoons honey, maple or date syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour (1/5 cup) or 1 cup (115g) almond meal
  • A pinch of cinnamon & nutmeg (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. Combine the eggs, tahini, non-dairy milk, honey/alternative and melted coconut oil in a blender. Pulse & blend until the batter is smooth & creamy. 
  3. Add the salt, baking soda, and chosen flour, then pulse & blend again for about a minute until the dry ingredients are mixed in.
  4. If the waffle iron requires oil, brush on a little coconut oil (both sides). Pour the batter into the waffle iron so it just covers the bottom portion of the iron. DON’T overfill as I did; these waffles rise nicely and you’ll waste valuable eating time doing clean-up!
  5. Cook the waffles for about a minute or so, depending on your waffle iron. If they lift easily with a fork when you open the lid, they are ready!
  6. Repeat until you run out of batter. 

Serve with date syrup, honey or maple syrup.

Vapid, fifty shades of…

That’s what it should have been called. Some of you know my friend A-S passed me the book a week ago. We swap books a lot, but she did warn me this one might be a challenge. You see, I LIKE words and I LOVE books. All kinds of books. Romance novels, graphic novels, textbooks, manuals (yes, I always read them). I even love books in languages I can’t read yet. And now blogs. If I’m following you and commenting, I like your style. I like your words. Your words make me happy.

SPOILER ALERT! Scathing Review of Fifty Shades of Grey to follow…

I do NOT like EL James’ words. She has taken perfectly good words and turned them to mush. Drivel. She has scaled the heights of vapidity and won. I tried, dear reader, I tried. But gave up halfway through, because I wasn’t convinced it was going to get any better. The characters are unbelievable. The settings are odd and two-dimensional. And what *bleeps* me off the MOST is the fact that I seriously doubt she has been to the good old US of A, let alone Washington State. Her syntax and language are all off. Perhaps it’s my curse, being an expat, that I am especially sensitive to cadence, rhythm and the unique oddities that differentiate English across the globe. A doona in Australia is a comforter in America is a duvet in the UK. See? So why couldn’t she master these little details? I can’t believe she wrote two more. And there are movies! Eek. I’ll stop here because I think I’ve made my point. 

For a book to be good, it has to be real. I have to believe the characters, to love them, hate them, want to engage with them. So here are my recommendations for great alternatives to Fifty Shades: if you’re looking for a good sex scene, might I recommend Rhonda Nelson or Maya Rodale? If you want to feel intellectual about it, get Lady Chatterley’s Lover. If you want to read something truly erotic, try Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s book, Venus in Furs, first published in 1870. It was a pioneering achievement – exposing the world to female domination and SM activities and giving us, via his name, the term ‘masochism’.

And now I’m off to finish The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide by Clara Wiggins, fellow blogger at ExpatPartnerSurvival.com, and one who knows what to do with words.