Archive for ‘Yoga’

July 24, 2013

Bits 4

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I’ve done a Bits post.  It’s not as though I haven’t had random preoccupations worth noting recently; indeed I find that due to the abundance of scientific knowledge flooding into my brain the past eleven months, any other unrelated thoughts I may have are, by necessity, a bit discursive.  I cannot tell you how unsettling it is to know the word ‘Paracoccidioidomycosis‘ but struggle to find the word ‘necessity’…just now.  With that mind, I would like to segue awkwardly into an announcement that I am finished with my first year!  Which, technically, means nothing as there is no summer break in grad school; I got to take a whopping week off!  At any rate, I’m done with classes at least for several months and have been granted a partial reprieve to indulge in the other things I enjoy doing.  Namely, looking at stuff online.

Now, when you factor in my Facebook page, my blog, and let’s not forget all my online shopping, I have a pretty prolific internet presence.  That last one makes the most profound impact by far, which, given the amount of time I spend trawling Facebook and blogging about nothing, should frighten you.  To be clear, that is not to be confused with “trolling”, which, in regards to the internet, means “being a prick on the internet because you can” according to UrbanDictionary.com.

So, let’s get on with it, shall we?  This is a collection of a few things useful or beautiful that I’ve lately found online.  Much like Pinterest, only with more reading.  (Hint, hint: it’s basically all fashion…and décor; my life is one small, well-decorated sphere.)

This edition– Etsy finds: I must confess, I am an Etsy fan.  If you don’t know what Etsy is, then you’ve obviously never wondered aloud where one might get penny farthing earrings or a papier-mâché rabbit sculpture in my presence.  Because I surely would have told you about the charming online marketplace that is www.etsy.com.  Here are just a few of my favorite shops:

  • barberry & lace – The shop of a woman in Arizona who creates handmade vintage-inspired jewelry.  Um, what even is “handmade, vintage-inspired jewelry”?  Yeah, this is:

barberry and lace 2 barberry and lace 3 barberry and lace 4 barberry and lace 7 barberry and lace 5

barberry and lace barberry and lace 8

Gorgeous, no?

  • ethanollie– A shop with a brick-and-mortar counterpart in Portland, OR that sells vintage furniture and decor, mostly from the last century (i.e. simple, retro pieces)

ethanollie 1 ethanollie 3 ethanollie 2 ethanollie 5

ethanollie 4

liperla 2

liperla 3 liperla 1

Oh, and other random nuggets of loveliness that it is my strong recommendation you check out:

Classic and elegant eco-fashion from Amour Vert:

amour-vert-summer-01-01 amour-vert-summer-22 amour-vert-summer-25-01 amour vert claire emerald silk dress

This pretty little yoga meditation cushion from Relaxso: Because sometimes it is hard to attain a state of blissful transcendence and spiritual nirvana when one’s butt is sore

relaxso zafu meditation cushion

These delightful place mats from William-Sonoma…to match your paper mache rabbit head, naturally! (I adore kitschy tableware!):

w-s bunny placemat

April 27, 2012

My New Year’s resolution of frugality makes me want to talk about things I’m not buying

I don’t know about everybody else, but the recession in this country that began with the real estate bubble burst in 2007 and the stock market crash in 2008 impacted our little family pretty hard.  The Greek lost his job in 2008 and would not work steadily again until 2010.  During that time, my mother came to live with us for a while, and there was a harrowing five months where three people lived on a single (relatively modest) income.  My stellar credit score and powers of retail persuasion were most assuredly put to the test as well as the Greek’s improvisational skills and uncanny ability to push items far beyond their expected shelf life: I learned that some empty litter buckets, some electrical tape, and the old mop pole can make an extremely effective snow shovel and that there are myriad uses for duct tape.  But then the Greek went and found himself a wonderful, well-paying job and has been dutifully working himself to death to keep it.  One evening about a year afterward, he remarked to me that he just doesn’t understand how, with this substantial boost in income, we still seem to be just scraping by.  Naturally I told him, “You must understand, darling, there was such a tremendous backlog of things that needed to be fixed or replaced, things that were delayed or pushed back, and things that we had given up entirely and were just plain living without.  All these things add up, and we’re just going to take a while to get resettled.”  What I omitted was that his dear Lisa had also gone a little insane with the credit cards and taken herself on a little buying binge for the last several months, a frenzied release of all that pent up worry and deprivation.  An expensive exhalation.  Every experimental thought, every passing whimsy was tossed carelessly into the shopping cart.  Now don’t misunderstand me.  I wasn’t living beyond our means, and I’m not in the practice of collecting things I’ll never use (not counting shoes; wearing them once is using them, right?).  But if you can picture yourself on a daily basis; now imagine all the things you see in a day that you even remotely want, and imagine if you bought all those things.  Well that was me for a while.  You’d be surprised how many things you see in a day that you could and would use.  With the New Year, I vowed a renewal of my frugal ways.  But like any recovering addict, the urge is still there, and it must find its release.  This blog is to be my methadone.  And with this post (and likely many to follow) I will take the opportunity to talk about the various adorable things that I encounter instead of buying them.  Because I have learned a valuable lesson: there isn’t simply “want” or “need”.  Within “want”, there are sub-levels and degradations, and it is staggering how much larger this category is!  So, below are many simply marvelous items that are sadly not on a “want” tier high enough to justify a purchase under my new (and loathed) terms.  (Disclaimer: This post, which I actually began writing in February, comes on the cusp of a decidedly un-frugal spending spree following a pointedly failed attempt as an aspiring graduate student (You’re welcome, Coach Factory Outlet).  So, I’m ashamed to say, some things on this list had to be removed once they became no longer “things I’m not buying”).

1.) Oh, Joy   Like many women, I have a jewelry person: a person I turn to time and time again for jewelry and whose impeccable instincts I trust implicitly.  Some women have a few, but even so, we remain as devoted as a spouse to them.  For me, that person is Joy Opfer.  Through Joy O Designs and then Kyler by Joy O, she has been designing and handmaking dainty, delicate, and utterly exquisite sustainable eco jewelry from her online store based in San Francisco since 2006.  I bought my first piece of jewelry from her in 2008 and so the love affair began.  A bonus: the blossoming company now has its own blog, http://kylerdesigns.wordpress.com/, in which it talks about all things green and fashionable, two of my own personal raisons d’être!

        

2.)  Love you, BAGGU!   One thing I can never seem to get enough of is bags.  Perhaps it’s my obssessive-compulsive nature, but I enjoy (in that rip-your-hair -out-with-anxiety-if-it-doesn’t-work-out kind of way) having a place for everything.  A fortunate new discovery of mine is http://baggubag.com/#Shop…found, as it were, on the same divine blog I just mentioned.  BAGGU bags are durable and adorable bags that fulfill any need from reusable grocery totes

…to leather pouches that serve as simple, chic purses

 

…to canvas sleeves for laptops and everything bags in all shapes and sizes for pens and pencils, make-up brushes, sunglasses, or snacks (I am particularly fond of the one with the little elephants on it…so cute). 

 

I think my favorite item, for its versatility, is the duck bag; it has a shoulder strap and small, inner, zippered pocket, and the cotton canvas material makes it more rigid than your  regular old tote bag.  So it could just as easily be used as a work bag than a grocery bag.

3.)  Holey Bundt!   My rule of gift-giving is that one should buy items for people that they want, not that they need.  This is because, at least in my case, there are so many things that I want that I find are too much of an indulgence for me to buy for myself, as this post rather clearly illustrates.  Things I need are my responsibility to buy; things I want are a treat to receive.  And if that rule were a place, that place would have to be Williams-Sonoma.  For there is no other place on Earth with a higher concentration of things both fanciful and costly that you can’t reasonably buy for yourself (hmmmm…a $40 cookie sheet?) yet would looooove to have in your home.  And if you ever  make obligatory trips to Williams-Sonoma every time you’re at the mall, spend three hours there, and emerge with nothing but a $7 spatula because, damn it, you were leaving with something even if it wasn’t the copper bottomed pot and pan set…Well, then you probably agree with me.  And W-S baking pans that needlessly turn baked goods into different shapes would seem to fit neatly into this category of frivolous, expensive, and most definitely, definitely want.  Here are just a few of my favorites at the moment:

 

The Heritage Bundt Pan

The Nordic-Ware Mini Bundt Pan

The Williams-Sonoma Nonstick Madeleine Plaque Pan (with which I could, at long last, use my “Earl Grey Madeleines” recipe.  For those of you who say “Just make your recipe on a regular cookie sheet. Who cares whether the cookies are scallop-shaped!”.  To that I say, “Rubbish!”).  Oh, and in case you’re starting to think that perhaps I sound a little unbalanced, maybe a little unhealthily obssessed, I’d like to offer, as a point of reference, the comparitively more emphatic endorsement by the Facebook group “Help for BUNDT Pan Addicts”.  Yes, there exists a Facebook page for people who are really into bundt cake pans.  And yes, their favorite pans come from Williams-Sonoma.  And no, I am not a group member.  See…perfectly healthy.

4.)  Me Want Madewell   I’m really into green things.  For example, I’ve been known to blog frequently on being green.  People who can afford to buy the numerous things I can merely talk about make me green with envy.  And when it comes to clothes, I have an especial soft spot.  I find the dark and jewel-toned greens to be particularly eye-catching.  I can now add to that list the Slowdance Skirt from Madewell in Alpine.  One sees it and can most certainly picture a cool, spring breeze fluttering the skirt every so slightly as a couple slow dances in a garden, to music softly heard in the distance.  It is the embodiment of “romantic”.  Google it to your heart’s content; as far as I can tell, it is completely SOLD OUT!

5.)  Drinking the Kool-Aid   I recently bought a pair of yoga pants for $80, and it got me thinking.  Why have I chosen such an expensive hobby?  They’re pants.  Pants you sweat in.  Few other everyday forms of exercise have been so effectively morphed into an obligatory fashion show.  But that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.  DC-ers have turned yoga into a way of life and not in that yogic kind of way.  Actually the opposite of that: yoga boutiques with outlandish prices producing high end yoga clothes and accessories that extremely fit, fashionable, and well-off people wear on the streets seemingly round-the-clock (they can’t all be caught headed to yoga all the time); countless yoga studios with new, trendy types of yoga emerging at an alarming frequency, each deviating more from original yogic practice and intent than the last (yogalates comes to mind); the ever increasing amount of yoga-related trappings one must amass as all manner of unrelated items are now being associated with yoga (I feel like the 4th century yogis never used a yoga ball) (I’ll bet you’ve never heard of an eyebag).  But then I think what’s really the problem with all this?  Is it really so awful?  Well, yes.  Yet I still find myself staring longingly at all these beautiful yoga items that I can’t bring myself to shell out huge sums of money for (and sometimes buying them; for the record, the pants are awesome and, as they say, “don’t jiggle it when I wiggle it”).  I remain a yoga purist at heart, but I excuse myself the occasional sturdy, attractive, heftily priced yoga basic.  Case in point: the Manduka MatSak yoga bag (Large, in Graphite).  Manduka is arguably the granddaddy of overpriced yoga equipment, but damn, their stuff looks good.

6.)  Red Room   If it hasn’t already been made abundantly clear, I like vintage stuff.  While, for the most part, my tastes seem to me fairly streamlined, when it comes to my home, they diverge into two completely incongruous styles, 1950’s retro (if you’re picturing a diner, then you obviously don’t know me) and French country.  Throw into the mix the Greek’s affinity for rustic, heavy woods and industrial hardware and our rigid unwillingness to meet in the middle (is there a middle?), and you get a mish mash of a home in which purple walls and French lithographs meet large, unfinished wood furniture and dainty floral armchairs sit beside chunky leather recliners.  Similarly, it has also taken us an obscenely long time to accrue furnishings and make the rooms of our home “come together”.  We’ve come the farthest along in our kitchen (although MUCH remains to be done), and I’d long ago decided that the most ideal complement to my mint-colored walls, white cabinets, and modern bronze hardware would be several splashes of bright red in the form of vintage-looking kitchen utensils and appliances. 

   

The Le Creuset Stoneware butter dish in Red and old-fashioned salt crock in Cherry, the Staub 0.25-qt mini round cocottes in Grenadine, and of course the Kitchenaid Artisan Design stand mixer (with glass bowl!) in Candy Apple Red would be fabulous additions to my collection, which currently includes the Kirkland Signature Red Dutch Oven from Costco and…yeah, that’s pretty much it so far.

6.)  Passchal Passion   Made from the inner tubes of discarded tractor tires…yes, you heard me correctly, Passchal bags are not only cute, they’re clever.  The company has managed to repurpose something coarse and cheap and turn into something truly fashionable (according to their website, they’ve recycled 76 tons of inner tubes to date!).  That kind of ingenuity doesn’t come cheap, however, which is why, despite the charming bags pictured below, I only have a small clutch bought a while ago that the Greek doesn’t know (nor will he ever know) the cost of.  They also sell travel bags, really handsome wallets, and (coming soon and highly anticipated) a new line of bags made from recycled signs and banners.  All this from a former welder and an inventor, not the Stella McCartney-esque high-end fashion designers you’d expect.

 

Well, this concludes the first addition (of which, I’m sure, they’ll be many more) of my posts about gift ideas, wish lists, and just general lovely discoveries I find online that tickle my fancy. Woo, that felt good…although, and I suppose this is unsurprising, the urge to go out and ACTUALLY buy these things is now stronger.  Hélas!  This post has seemingly had the opposite effect than the one on which it was motivated.  But I shall endure.

November 15, 2011

Bits 2

I read an article a little while back celebrating the 60th anniversary of Ruth Orkin’s photograph, “An American Girl in Italy” on MSN.  They interviewed the photo’s subject, Ninalee Craig, who is now 83 and reflected back on the impact of the photo since it was taken in 1951.  And I just wanted to take a moment and share it with you because I find it to be so breathlessly romantic.  Within the article, they do discuss the sexist connotations that some people have derived from it, but I disagree.  I see a woman perfectly in control of herself, traveling abroad, an almost careless look on her face as she’s blissfully unaware of the effect she’s having on the men around her.  Probably on her way to some fabulous brunch, no doubt.  I suppose they could have called the image “An American Woman in Italy” but then it sounds less youthful and adventurous.

    • So, apparently Atlanta is not simply the town with the notoriously nightmarish airport that was nearly razed to the ground by General Sherman because the Confederacy refused to surrender it to Union troops (take that, Savannah!).  It is also the Zombie Capital Of The World!  The AMC series “The Walking Dead” is filmed there.  If anyone reading this isn’t watching it, you should at least give it a look.  And this is coming from an extreme hypochondriac whose nights are plagued by nightmares of zombie epidemics in the days after each week’s Sunday episode.  Worth it.  Anyways, it also boasts zombie film festivals, zombie parades, and zombie haunted houses.  The CDC headquarters in Atlanta even has a Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness section on their website (no, really): http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm.  In fact, all manner of paranormal creature has found a home in Atlanta as both “Teen Wolf” and “The Vampire Diaries” are filmed there.  Alright, admittedly, I can be caught watching “The Vampire Diaries” occasionally although that doesn’t prevent me from periodically bursting into laughter at unintentionally funny moments.  It took me about ten minutes into my first show to realize that the gruff voices and brooding expressions weren’t part of some sort of elaborate farce and that they were meant to be taken seriously.  That’s how overwrought it is; I mistook it for a parody of teen vampire shows.  Anyways (Wow, this is a distractable post!), check out this funny article about the throngs of Atlantans auditioning to be zombie extras for “The Walking Dead”.  My favorite part…when a zombie extra is receiving direction from one of the show’s executive producers: “That’s when we cut to you.  And you go ‘Munch, munch, munch, munch'”.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/us/zombie-apocalypse-in-atlanta.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&src=ig
    • In the news: Congratulations to the citizens of Mississippi and Maine for voting in line with my own personal belief system and winning!  And to the graceful losers: the fact that you got legislation so atrocious onto the ballot in the first place is astounding and a victory all by itself.  To Penn State students: is there something in the water that causes Pennsylvanians to riot everytime something sports-related ends unfavorably for them?  Ah, the willful ignornance of youth…

Ok, I do not normally get my news from the UK’s Daily Mail and, in fact, find it to be filled with the most mean-spirited smut.  British tabloids, ruining Britain’s reputation as the most civilized society in the world one illegal phone hack at a time.  But I did love this tale about a horse and his owner who do yoga together.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2034410/Lewis-Egyptian-Arabian-horse-Still-competing-old-age-beating-stiffness-joints–doing-YOGA.html

How cute is that?!?  Apparently, Linda, ertswhile equine yoga instructor, began doing yoga to overcome a chronic back injury, and Lewis, her Arabian horse of advanced age, began mimicking her poses.  Linda claims it has helped Lewis’ stiff joints, and he’s able to return to competitions because of it.  Now I don’t know about the therapeutic benefits of yoga to horses personally, but I still thought it was a charming story.

  • For those of you foolish few who have not done so already, you have until March 23, 2012 to read The Hunger Games before the movie is released.  “Good Morning America” showed the first trailer for the movie yesterday morning during the show.  The link to view that is here, courtesy of Lauren, who is getting me fiendishly excited about it against my will (if we get too wound up, we’ll spoil it for ourselves!): http://jezebel.com/5859211/finally-watch-the-official-tingle+inducing-hunger-games-trailer.  All you newbies have to do is read one piddling book before then, and you will not regret it.  In fact, I challenge you to just read the one and NOT finish the entire trilogy during one sleep-deprived, swollen-eyed weekend.
  • So, it’s no secret.  I want an iPhone.  I ABHOR my current phone and can’t wait to be part of the brainwashed masses who tolerate Apple’s frustrating quirks and pomposity so they can get their hands on technology smarter than they are.  The other day, I read this interesting article about one of the most tantalizing features of the newest iPhone 4S: the voice-activated virtual “assistant”, Siri.  It delves into the complexities and implications of why, in our society, robot voices are female when they are meant to be helpful or performing some service and male when they are meant to be commanding or menacing or even villanous, such as Stanley Kubrick’s homicidal HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey” [shudders running down spine].  I completely agree that women’s voices are more soothing (and sexy).  And I like the interpretation that the nurturing role of women accounts, at least biologically, for our preference for female voices.  Women as caretakers and nurturers are woefully undervalued in our society, and I don’t just mean in the home; these characteristics have tremendous value in the job world as well.  And I also agree that this stems from a learned behavior as well: that we’ve grown accustomed to female voices in the capacity of an “assistant”…secretaries, telephone operators, flight attendants, teachers.  But I think that while we should diminish the concept of assigning gender to jobs (what is men’s work and women’s work), we should also embrace the fact that, generally speaking, distinctly masculine and feminine characteristics do exist and that is the key to treating “male” and “female” jobs with equal worth.  In the meantime, I still want an iPhone.  Here’s the link: http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/21/tech/innovation/female-computer-voices/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn.  If you read only one article from this post, it should be this one; it’s a very intriguing discussion.  By the way, what’s the matter with Germans?  Their sentiments about not taking orders from a female GPS voice are not improving their global reputation.

I am madly in love.  I bought and have begun knitting with the Harmony Wood Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needle Set from Knitpicks.com.  I may never use a straight needle again.  They are so versatile and pretty!  Incidentally, anyone in need of a rag tag assortment of straight needles should let me know.

    

August 22, 2011

My thoughts on yoga

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.

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