Now, I am not person who uses mixes out of a box. I believe I once used the word “abomination” to refer to the brownie mix Andreas bought and burned a few years ago. I pride myself on my baked goods made from scratch. But I have to yield to this one. Based on a recommendation from a yahoo article, I went and bought the Baker Josef’s Chocolate Cake Mix from Trader Joe’s. I baked it this weekend for Ann’s belated birthday celebration with some homemade milk chocolate frosting. I used virgin olive oil in the recipe, and what resulted was the most rich, moist chocolate cake I’ve ever had out of a box. I thought the layers would be too thin, but the cake rose remarkably well during baking. And fresh frosting is so much better than what you buy at the grocery store: unbelievably easy to make with so much more depth of flavor than your run-of-the mill Duncan Hines. Unless of course, you want your frostings to taste only like sugar. Mind you, I put six cups of powdered sugar into my frosting! Anyways, highly, highly recommend.
So, I have finally started taking yoga (yes! jumping on the bandwagon about five years late!). Admittedly, my entire understanding of yoga prior to this came from reading “Eat, Pray, Love” in which a young, pretty, white woman gets to take a year off work and travel in order to get over a divorce. I mean, a young woman travels to Italy, India, and Malaysia on a journey of healing and self-discovery. Whatever, I love that book. And the book actually does articulate well that yoga is much more than an exercise craze. Yoga is about attaining a spiritual state of omniscence and tranquility, and yoga practice is more about meditation than movement. And being the nerd that I am and not wanting to be one-upped knowledge-wise by some Washingtonian (DC folks have elevated the yoga fad into a cult), I did a little research. Ok, I did a Google search. In case anyone else was curious…
The word “yoga” actually dates back to before the 4th and 5th centuries BC in ancient India. It literally means “to yoke” or “to harness”, and before it truly became a meditative practice around the 2nd century BC, it was just like any other word. Ok, my word origin blurb is finished. The founder of modern Yoga philosophy is Patanjali whose yoga is known as Raja Yoga. “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-limbed Yoga”), which is derived from Raja Yoga, is the basis for virtually all yoga practiced today. The eight limbs are Yama (the five “abstentions”: non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness), Niyama (the five “observances”: purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god), Asana (the seated pose for meditation), Pranayama (“breath”), Pratyahara (“abstraction”), Dharana (“concentration”), Dhyana (“meditation”), and Samādhi (“liberation”). The Bhagavad Gita (the sacred Hindu text) describes three types of yoga: Karma yoga (the yoga of action), Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), and Jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge). So now we have four yogas: Karma, Bhakti, Jnana, and Raja (the yoga of meditation). All separate yet all intertwined: the sum total of all activities of the mind, the soul, and the body; I like that. With the 15th century came Hatha Yoga and the focus on the purification of the physical body as a means to the purification of the mind (“ha”) and the life force (“prana”). This multiplied over the centuries into the numerous modern modifications we know today, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in 1948, introduced by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his disciple K. Pattabhi Jois, and Dean Ornish, a follower of Swami Satchidananda, who taught yoga as a purely physical exercise for good health with no religious underpinings. And of course Bikram Yoga, developed by Bikram Choudury in the 1970’s, in which yoga is practiced in a room heated to over 105°F (really?), very popular with celebrities and famous athletes that a few people I know swear by.
As for my own personal experience, there seems to be two different types of yoga in my part of the world: city yoga and suburb yoga. In the city (either DC or Baltimore), you can find the purist, most traditional yoga practice but also the trendy and absurd. In the suburbs, classes are given silly names like “Gentle Prana Flow” and are generally tamer with an emphasis on exercise and stress relief. Right now I take classes at Synergy Yoga in Columbia and then I’m going to take classes at Yin Yang Yoga Center in Olney (yeah, I hate the name too). Alright, I confess: where I take yoga is dictated by Groupons. But I’m getting to take all kinds of different forms of yoga and experience new approaches and instructors. I’m glad that the yoga classes I’ve taken so far emphasize that spiritual component, and I’m really happy to have the opportunity to quiet my mind and gain clarity, hard as it is. And the movement has increased my strength and flexibility. I especially love focusing on my breath; it brings a balance to the whole exercise, and I feel like all my concentration and muscles are being completely utilized. There are no distractions, no opportunities to half-ass it. Quite frankly, I’m big fan.
The list of wineries that are able to ship directly to consumers in Maryland is growing quickly! And I just so happen to have the link: http://compnet.comp.state.md.us/Motor_Fuel__Alcohol_and_Tobacco_Tax/Alcohol_and_Tobacco_Tax/Static_Files/DWSApplicants.pdf. There are now 22 in-state and 268 out-of-state wineries who have approved or pending Direct Wine Shipper’s permits. These include Barboursville (home of the sacred Octagon) and Tarara Vineyards in Virginia, favorites of mine such as Bonny Doon and Frog’s Leap, Cakebread Cellars which I’m sure would be another favorite of mine if I could afford it, and more well-known brands like Turnbull and TwistedOak. “Wine Friday” at Lot18 is now a lot more exciting for me! To that end, I’ve just purchased the 2007 àMaurice Columbia Valley Syrah Duo from àMaurice Cellars in Walla Walla, Wasington for $11 per bottle! That’s the same price as the Barefoot Pinot Grigio I just bought the other day in the liquor store next door to the Bottom Dollar. I’ve never drank wine from a Pacific Northwest vineyard that I know of. It seems to be an emerging region for quality wine though.