Monday, July 21, 2014

the perfect summer weekend


this weekend was
  1. lazy
  2. slow
  3. cool(ish)
  4. not too humid
  5. free of obligation
  6. full of gifts from the earth
after saturday morning yoga, we took a beautiful drive to a peach orchard and picked a peck.





we shared a peach milkshake under the orchard canopy.  isn't this just lovely?  i wish i would have planned ahead and prepared a proper picnic.

but i suppose "no planning required" was another thing that made this weekend perfect.




our karma garden is giving us so much goodness this year.  the abundance of cucumbers and dill informed our choice for sunday supper:  cold cucumber soup.



cooking straight from the garden is something i'm getting better at as the summers roll by.


this is the perfect summer supper:  fresh, cooling, light.



c u c u m b e r  s o u p  with  h e r b s  and  p e t a l s

ingredients

  •  3 large cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt 
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of half the lemon
  • handful fresh dill
  • handful fresh parsley
  • sea salt
  • course ground black pepper
  • herbs and edible flowers for garnish (i used the dill blooms, oregano flowers, nasturtiums and calendula)
  • olive oil
preparation
  • if you prefer your soup smooth, peel all three cucumbers, scrape out the seeds and give a rough chop
  • *if you prefer your soup a bit rustic (as shown), leave one of the cucumbers unpeeled and add it to the soup after the soup has been processed
  • put cucumbers, yogurt, finely minced garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill and parsley in food processor and pulse to desired consistency
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • move soup to alternate glass container
  • *if you prefer the rustic version, process the third unpeeled cucumber to a rough consistency now and add to the soup
  • place in fridge and let it chill for at least one hour
  • when it's time to serve, garnish with more fresh herbs, flowers and more course ground black pepper; drizzle with olive oil
  • serve with toasted baguette or croutons



as an introvert, a perfect weekend for me always involves some quiet alone time.  i took a walk away from the crowd and stumbled upon this secret lotus pond.  there was one giant white bloom, a few perfect buds and a corps de ballet of electric blue and black dragonflies dancing about.

a serendipitous and magical prize for a solitary meander.


thank you weekend.  thank you summer.  thank you life.

Friday, July 18, 2014

happy friday


it's been a good week.

i dipped my toe into an amazing creative coworking space, toolry.  can you believe how beautiful it is?  i allowed myself several hours of uninterrupted time to just play with pencils, pens and my photographs.  and, in alignment with one of the visions of the collaborative workspace, had a lovely and inspiring conversation with one of the resident photographers.

i hope you find your space to create this weekend.  it might be a space like toolry.  or a workshop or retreat.  or it just might be your kitchen table.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

yoga body buddha mind


one of a million things i've discovered about myself during my 20-some-year yoga journey is that i need a big dose of spiritual with my asana.  while i experienced many benefits from hot yoga and love my bikram teachers, i needed more heart yoga.  the body-mind was all there and then some; for me, not so much the -spirit.  (ken loves doing bikram yoga and others have told me that the spiritual practice of bikram is the discipline and routine.  unfortunately, feeling spiritual in the hot room was as elusive to me as the endorphine rush that runners supposedly get that makes running feel good.)

i can't tell you how excited i was when i learned last summer that om yoga founder and teacher cyndi lee would be moving to our sweet town.  her partner is the president of randolph college where ken teaches (and me, once in a while).  she's been teaching yoga at a local studio between her numerous teaching gigs around the world.

i jumped at the opportunity to join cyndi's three-day workshop yoga body buddha mind.  i have collected bits of buddhist guidance here and there throughout my life, but the practice and my understanding of it felt a little fragmented and unknit to me.  i feel a pull toward buddhism and an intuitive knowledge that there is material and process there that i need in this life.



before the workshop began on friday, i felt some resistance (shocking, i know) and the options for excusing myself from the experience started rolling through my head.  since this summer (um, life) is all about examining and working through my resistance, i did some quick journaling and then made myself get in the car.  i pulled up to this sign.  it's a normal sign, but really felt powerful to me.

yoga participant.

yes, that's me.


once i entered the room there was no going back.  and i am so happy i entered.

cyndi has a teaching style that i really resonate with.  her level of expertise is mindblowing; she has so much knowledge and wisdom in both yoga and buddhism.  she is also very down-to-earth and direct in her teaching style, not afraid to ask tough questions that help students recognize and move through their resistance, while still being supportive and emotionally present for her students.  she brings stories, a great sense of humor and the willingness to play.


we worked hard.  you can always tell when i am especially focused and present because there are few photographs.

turns out, a big chunk of the workshop was looking at resistance from the perspective of this ancient practice.  which, by the way, is the actual beginning of looking at resistance.  hello attachment, aversion and ignorance (in buddhism, the three afflictions), you are foundation of modern social work and mental health practice.

while my memory card may be light, my mind, heart and notebook are overflowing with new wisdom, new practices, a new direction.


my view from savasana included the brilliant midsummer sky through 12-foot french windows, a tree that housed the bird who gently challenged my practice by chirping louder and louder and louder and louder and louder during mindfulness meditation, and this large ink-on-paper chinese calligraphy piece with the taoist characters wu wei: non-action or not-doing.


this is us (not me, i have the camera) post-workshop.  i really wish i would have thought to snap a group photo at the beginning of the weekend to see the changes in our faces and beings. by sunday afternoon we were completely blissed-out and full of new practices and new questions for life.


i am looking forward to doing more work with cyndi.  i am grateful that she is here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

sunday grace



where i'm from
by george ella lyon

i am from clothespins,
from clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
i am from the dirt under the back porch.
(black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
i am from the forsythia bush
the dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs i remember
as if they were my own.

i'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from imogene and alafair.
i'm from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up! and pipe down!
i'm from he restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.

i'm from artemus and billie's branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
from the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
i am from those moments--
snapped before i budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree.

___

last year at the creative joy retreat, jen louden read this poem to us and then instructed us to write our own "where i'm from".  this was such an amazing exercise.  even as the memories of those october retreat days grow hazy, the voices of women reading the words they strung together around this theme echo clearly in my mind and heart.  as each sixty second poem was read, i learned more about each of them than if we had spent hours or days or weeks becoming acquainted the regular old ways.

my own, which includes a daughter of apache warriors, pacific tidepools, backyard dinners (a tradition that continues), a roller-skating grandpa, avocado groves, flying dumbos and the smell of my eight-year-old summer skin (chlorine, heat, dove soap and watermelon paleta drips), is treated as a work in progress, a place i go when i need clarity.  and respite.

click here to read some other ideas on how to explore this personal history writing exercise on your own.

when we can gather up and dust off our childhoods and family histories and gaze upon them with the relative objectivity of distance, time and adult perspective; when we can hold them with curiosity, gratitude and possibly forgiveness; when we can claim, write about and share those things that made us and sit with who we are and where we come from, that is grace.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

a week in color {№10}



happy place:  the soul kitchen.




happy snack:  soft-serve with rainbow sprinkles.




happy time:  the morning cut at irvington spring farm.




happy guru:  luca




happy make:  chalkboard flower bucket.




happy juice:  gypsy hill sangria.




happy harvest:  squash blossoms, cucumber, heirloom tomatoes and dill.




happy meal:  tacos de flora (with aforementioned squash blossoms) on frida's birthday.




happy cupcake:  festooned with flowers and the lady of the day.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

sunday grace


“very little grows on jagged rock. 
be ground. 
be crumbled, 
so wildflowers will come up where you are.”
-rumi

grace keeps showing up as summer flowers, both wild and tamed, and endless opportunities to practice. 

some things i am practicing this summer:
  • being crumbled (reading pema chödrön helps)
  • being ground (ditto)
  • softening the edges
  • rest
  • wellness
  • using what i have
  • growing a garden
  • avoiding news 
  • allowing tenderness and accepting help
  • not always having to be right
  • and when i am, not always having to assert it

if you have been here before, you might notice that not one of these things is new.  i have to remind myself to practice each one.  over and over and over again.   this summer i'm exploring my pockets of resistance around these practices. it seems i've been given extra (not huge, but persistent) opportunities to practice some of the more challenging items on the list.  with each step of progress and every awkward gaffe on the journey, i reach a new level of understanding and integration, a fuller definition of how these things are true for my individual life.

grace is also showing up as opportunities to be curious and learn.  i'm not sure if i've mentioned it here before, but om yoga teacher cyndi lee relocated from nyc to our little burg last summer.  next weekend i'm so happy to participate in her yoga body, buddha mind workshop. 

and there are a few flower workshops, art classes and virtual gatherings on the horizon.  

and travel, for work and for fun, always a learning experience.

and nights out back, sitting under the stars with him, talking about beautiful things.

how are you experiencing grace this summer?



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

tastes like summer



did you see the recent humans of new york post where the daughter tells the story of her mom and the delicious pear?  if not, take three seconds and click here to read it.  i'll wait.

that's how i feel about the first perfect peaches of summer (...and sun-warmed blackberries eaten straight from the bush and the first time you smell smoke from a fireplace in october and when the mist comes off the street after a summer rain and when the bright yellow squash blossom turns into a zucchini overnight and the first night the fireflies come back....).

i brought home six perfect peaches from the farmers market on saturday knowing a few of them were going in ice cream.  cardamom peach ice cream to be specific.  i ate one of the peaches on my way home in the car and the other three will be paired with the first perfect tomatoes from our garden and some gooey burrata cheese and basil later this week.  sweet mother mary, all the goodness.





i'm using the same base recipe here that i used for the strawberry rose ice cream and the chocolate mole ice cream, but with this weeks' star ingredients, including honey, which partners nicely with the warm earthiness of the cardamom.

remember that peaches are on the dirty dozen list, so please buy and eat organic only.

c a r d a m o m  p e a c h  i c e  c r e a m

ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups organic peaches  
  • 3/4 cup whole organic milk
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups organic heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 10 cardamom pods, crushed

instructions

  1. whisk together milk, sugar and salt until sugar is dissolved
  2. stir in cream, honey and vanilla
  3. crush cardamom pods open, add to cream mix (you can substitute 2 tsp. ground cardamom here, or omit it if cardamom's not your thing)
  4. cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours up to 24 hours
  5. make sure you freeze your ice cream maker bowl
  6. right before you churn the ice cream, strain out the cardamom pods (you can leave the black seeds, just make sure you get all the green shells out)
  7. add the peaches (i did a small chop for this batch, but will do more of a smash/puree in future batches)
  8. pour into your machine and let it churn for 20 minutes
  9. when ready, pour your ice cream into another container
  10. top with sliced peaches (optional)
  11. freeze for at least one hour or to desired iciness



this one is my favorite so far.  it's so good, i daydreamed about having a little homemade ice cream stand (in front of my imaginary flower-slash-herb-slash-goat farm of course).


can you believe it's already july?  summer moves quickly friends.  enjoy its sweet perfect ordinary moments.  fully.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

sunday grace


everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into
the slow circles of nature...is an instrument of grace.
-may sarton

truer words were never written.  while my life is not normally what one would consider fast-paced, i practice keeping things slow on a pretty regular basis.  patience is my work in this life.  for so many years, i thought that slowing down meant giving up and being lazy and i allowed life to force me to slow down (or smack me down in some cases) through stress, critical setbacks or losses and sometimes being unwell.

i try to be better than that.  and i continue to work on building a life that supports and nurtures time and space and expansiveness and mindfulness.  practicing within these realms allows me to demonstrate patience and grace under other circumstances that are not as pleasant.

some things that help me practice slowing down:


  • yoga
  • nature
  • a safe home that reflects who we are




  • paying attention to details of life and the nuances of the human condition
  • making art (and making a mess a lot of the time)




  • listening
  • gardening





  • cooking




  • recognizing my shenpas
  • a giant pink bucket of flowers




  • practicing living in the current moment (hour, day, week, month, season, year, life) and not getting too wrapped up in what's to come (this one is tough for me)
  • the farmers' market





  • going to a real honest-to-goodness local bookshop that is not named barnes and noble and purchasing a real honest-to-goodness book (a book that i can touch and smell and whose paper can soak in a tear or two)
  • spending time with all the lives and love and history and mistakes and victories woven into those pages




  • allowing room for not always being right and being mindful of when i overgeneralize

this week, a friend from high school became one of the most powerful people in washington.  kevin mccarthy happens to represent the political party whose tactics i, ahem, pretty much despise.  but what i know about him is his kindness and his intelligence and incredible work ethic and that he is one of the most down-to-earth humans you can ever know.  from time to time i've worried about some of his alliances--he's one of the famed "young guns"--and that he mentored kevin spacey while spacey was preparing for his scary-ass machiavellian role in house of cards.  while i'm certain we disagree on many things, i trust that his authenticity and his kindness and his love of people that i witnessed on a regular basis so many years ago was genuine and true and remains to this day.

he offers me hope that my nation is not doomed to a slow death-by-divisiveness.  

that's a giant pink bucket of grace right there.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

sunday grace



grace showed up this week in quiet moments, good stories, sunshine, rain and lots of rest.  and a patch of land that is pretty much heaven on earth for me:  evergreen lavender farm.

under a perfectly brilliant sun, folks gathered at the little farm in evergreen to celebrate the blooms at the annual lavender festival.  this small farm in central virginia grows six varieties of lavender.  the air was scented with the flowers and barbeque cooking on the fire.  while that seems like an odd mix, it totally worked.



we were free to wander about the farm (it's beautiful!) and harvest fists or jars full of lavender for a small cost while children ran and played and tiny yellow butterflies and bees danced in the air.

bands played under a canopy of trees; a song list that ranged from roger miller to sister sledge.  again, it totally worked.


i love this farm.  it's the perfect size and you can tell that people really live here.  and love their life.

sometimes i feel like i'm too old to still be dreaming about having my own flower and herb farm, but it's spaces like this that remind me it can still happen.



there was the typical festival fare, like artists, great food and drink (hello lavender lemonade), workshops and music, but this event felt more like a summer family reunion on the homestead.  it was comfortable and warm and genuine and happy.




one of my favorite things:  vintage chandeliers hung from massive trees.


more grace:  a mason jar of lavender next to the bed led to a deep restorative sleep laced with dreams of old friends and magical time travel.

happy sunday friends.