Sunday, May 21, 2017

Establishing a Routine

There are two sides to the idea of routine:
1) Routine can get you stuck, be boring, offer no variety, lead to the same, an inevitable march to the end of your days, which didn't vary from one to the next.

Alternatively:
2) Routine can lend itself to comfort in knowing what is coming next, what has already passed, and ensure that you are prepared for the upcoming day.

I think both are true, to some extent. Routine can be boring and same-old same-old day after monotonous day but that all depends on what your routine happens to be. If your daily routine is waking up at 5:30a, walking the dog, preparing everything for your life for the day and your work, getting the kids off to school, heading to work yourself, sitting in your cube or your office, etc., then you may not see the glory of routine. However, on the other hand, if it's your routine to wake up in the morning, look out your windows and watch the sunrise or the ripple of wind on the water and go for a walk, come back home for some hot tea and a nice shower before you head into whatever you call your office, then that could be a totally different story. It all depends on your routine. 

I've found that, for me, it's when I lack a routine of any sort, I become sort of unhinged but, if the routine is too severe and has no room for spontaneity, I become resistant and sullen. None of these states of mind suits me well, as I'm sure you will agree (they probably don't suit you well either, unless you're emo and wear sullen as part of your daily emotional profile). Since I don't find my current routine to be particularly conducive to accomplishing everything I have on my list from day to day (sometimes it's a loooong freakin' list and I heap way too many things on myself but I digress), I'm doing my best to establish a new routine, one that will help me sleep better at night and feel more productive throughout the day. It's mostly at night, after a day at my very high stress, very high pressure, very fast-paced job, that I sort of fall into the routine that has, thus far, kept me sane and able to do it again, wake up the next day and start it all over but that generally means I don't get much other stuff done either. Other than the dishes. The dishes are always done. But let's not talk about the things that are currently growing legs and probably going to crawl out of my refrigerator and try to kill me in my (usually fitful) sleep. 

So, in my attempt to establish a new routine, one more suited for doing all the things on my list (which will, hopefully, allow me to sleep like the fresh bebe), I'm promised myself that I would be here, on this blog more often, writing it out, getting it out of my head and on to the page (you could print this out and then it would be on a page. Work with me here.). I'm not assigning myself any particular number of posts or words or days...just....more. Considering my current track record, I don't feel like I'm demanding too much of myself in that regard. I do feel like this is something I need to do to normalize myself and, hopefully, to delight you and to encourage you to share your vulnerabilities with someone or a lot of someones. Vulnerability is something that's been on my mind a lot lately but I'll save that for next time. Until then, enjoy your world and feel free to leave me a comment about something you enjoy (or don't enjoy) from your own personal routine!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vegan Chow Mien with Mushrooms and Napa Cabbage

Okay, so this is totally delicious:

I totes love Asian food and don't love not knowing exactly what's in it, especially considering that MSG plays a major role in most Asian cooking. I also wanted to make a vegan version of chow mien. So, after much research on Pinterest and otherwise, I came up with this recipe. I know my plating skills don't show through in the above photo but you can totally make it look amazing. 

Here's the details:
1/2 package of rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 head of napa cabbage, sliced into strips
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut aminos (instead of soy sauce or tamari)
1 tablespoon freshly peeled and chopped ginger (the best way to peel ginger is with a spoon. Scrape the spoon on the root and the skin peels right off. It's rad.)
1 - 2 tablespoons of freshly minced garlic (although the jar stuff is fine if you don't want to smell of garlic for days afterward)
3 - 4 spring onions (aka scallions), chopped
1 cup mushrooms of your choice (I used shiitakes), sliced


How to do it:
Chop up all the veggies first, because it's easier. Put a pot of water on to boil while you're doing it. When the water starts to boil, break up the rice vermicelli noodles and stir a few times so they don't stick together. Unlike Italian food, you don't need to add salt or oil to the water. After the noodles have boiled for a bit, take about 1/2 cup of the starchy water from the pot and set it aside. Boil the noodles until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, in a large frying pan, add the olive oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onions. Cook on medium heat until aromatic. Add in the mushroom and the napa cabbage, being cautious of crowding everything together too much. If you crowd mushrooms, they won't cook right and you'll end up with mushy mushrooms and that's just no fun to eat at all. Cook the whole lot of it until the napa cabbage leaves start to wilt. Add the vegetable stock and the coconut aminos. Stir until blended. Add the noodles and the 1/2 cup of noodle water and turn the heat down after a minute or two. Continue to stir until the noodles have absorbed the stock and the starchy water. It's time to serve!
Garnish with more spring onions or even some cilantro on top to make it look pretty.

Serves up to 4, depending upon the appetite.

I've made this several times now and you can tweak it here and there, adding whatever vegetables you have in your refrigerator or even chicken, minced pork, or egg, if you like. The coconut aminos and rice vermicelli noodles ensure that it's totes gluten-free and, if you go sans animal protein, it's also vegan. If you have any questions about the recipe or want to share your variations, please do!!

Guten Appetit!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Self-Love and Self-Care

It's been a rough ride these past few weeks and, if there is anything that can teach a person, it's that learning how to take care of yourself is vital to survival. So often, when we are taking care of the people around us and dealing with situations as they arise, we forget to take care of ourselves, rendering ourselves essentially useless to those around us. It doesn't take much to deplete your own energy, especially when you're expending huge amounts of it to everyone but yourself. Fortunately, it also doesn't take so much to attend to yourself and fill your own cup so that it can overflow for others. Here are a few things that work for me:

  • Roll around in bed and hit the snooze button once or twice. Even when I'm awake and ready to leap out of bed to tackle all the things running through my head, I find that taking a few extra minutes to savor the calm, quiet safety of my bed is enough to prepare me for my day ahead, no matter what I'm anticipating. And, at night, when my mind is reeling from the day or going over the list of things I have to do the next day, I rely on a simple mantra: "I'm grateful for the softness of the bed. I'm grateful for the coolness of the sheets. I'm grateful for the warmth of the blanket. I'm grateful for the coziness of my pillow. I'm grateful that I have a safe place to sleep and rest my mind." I repeat this to myself until my mind quiets itself and I fall to sleep.
  • Step away for five minutes here and there and say a prayer of thanks for what I have, no matter what it is. Sometimes I say a prayer of thanks for being employed or for having the opportunity to be a yoga servant or for being able to have a snack or having awesome cats who are always happy when I come home. No one really notices when I'm gone for five minutes. Sometimes I do this in the bathroom where I work so no one will bother me. Sometimes I step outside. Wherever, whenever, it helps.
  • Go outside. Again, even if it's only for a few minutes, go outside. I'm fortunate that I live in a place where the sun shines a lot so I can go out and experience that. If you're not in that sort of environment, go anyway. There is always something in nature that will bring you back to center...wind, the movement of clouds, creatures making their way in your environment...seek and you shall find.
  • Turn off the television (or stop paying attention to your phone, tablet, etc.). The light from these things sucks the life out of you. Read a real book, one with pages that you can turn and feel with your fingers. Cook something, even if it comes out of a box...stirring water and noodles can be incredibly meditative. Take ten increasingly deep breaths...it activates your para-sympathetic nervous system and can be calming. Dance around to a song you love and turn it up loud, whether it's piped in through speakers or headphones, it doesn't matter. 
When it seems like there is no time for you, remember that, without you, the rest of your life cannot and will not go on smoothly or easily. As long as you remind yourself that it's all good (even when it isn't), it's all easy (even when it doesn't seem like it), and you are the most important person in your life (even though it seems selfish...it isn't!), it is imperative that you take care of yourself, physically, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. Without your light, the people around you will fumble in the darkness. Shine on, you crazy diamond!!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Testing, Testing....Is this thing on?

Oh yes, my friends, it's ON. And here we go...
It's been a while since I've blogged and I decided to start it up again because all the cool kids are doing it and I don't want to be left out of the loop. Vlogging is coming up so stay tuned because I'm even funnier in person (or, at least, I think so in my own head). So, what manner of blog will this be, you might be asking yourself at this point? Well, I'm so glad you asked. It's all about ME! And here is a bullet-pointed list of things that I am all about so you get a better sense of that:
  • Yoga - It's kinda this thing I do a lot of. I've been a yoga servant for over eight years now and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. I tried one time and a fellow yoga servant kindly bitch-slapped me back into serving again because I need it to live and she knows that. I thank her for that every day. You can find me bopping around wherever I can to serve up some Yin/Yang Yoga (ala Master Paulie Zink style), Vedic Thai Yoga (ala Mukti Michael Buck), and any other type of yoga (with the notable exceptions of hot, ashtanga, and naked, or any combination thereof). Once in a while, on this blog, I will be dropping some yoga and/or yoga anatomy bombs, complete with photos!
  • Cooking (and sometimes eating) Healthy, Totes Delicious Foodstuffs - I battled against and won against an eating disorder for years until I finally found the root cause (more on this later, I'm sure). It had nothing to do with food (go figure!) so, after years of denying myself delicious, delicious food, I now cook. A lot. And I eat pretty much everything I cook, except chicken. I don't eat chicken but I can cook you up a whole mess of it, if that's your thing. I aim to please. This blog will be riddled with photos of phood and recipes of the stuff I'm making. It's mostly vegan or vegetarian (but it doesn't have to be) and/or gluten-free (mostly by chance) and sugar-free (that one is on purpose but, again, it doesn't have to be for you).
  • Drinking - I loves me a good cocktail, or three, or some lovely vino or bubbles or a nice frothy brew. My alcohol palate knows no bounds and I love to mix up crafty cocktails at home, with my friends or all by myself (that way, if the cocktails taste good or bad, it doesn't matter!). I make my own bitters in a variety of flavors (photos and recipes to follow at some point). I'm an occasional bartender when I'm living in a town with good bars and I know my way around a wine list. "Alcoholic" is such a harsh, judgy-pants word so let's go with "professional drinker," shall we?
  • Living - Okay, I know this is an ephemeral concept to just lay out there because what is living, really? What is being alive? Philosophers and stoners alike have pondered these questions for centuries and have not gotten much further than great one-liners to meme about. For me, living is the process and the essence of being alive, of being here on this planet, loving all of it, even when it really sucks and I'm unhappy about something or things don't seem to be going as planned or whatever. Winston Churchill said, "When you're going through hell, keep going," and I firmly believe that. Keep fuckin' going. Travel. Breathe. Change your situation. Quit your bitching. Have a beverage. Do a headstand (or don't, if you have any neck issues). Dance. Take a nap. Go swimming. Say a prayer. Sing a song. Listen to some '80s music. Make a choice. We always have choices. Sometimes they may suck but we always have them.
So, my friends, there is an encapsulated version of what you can expect on this here blog. Yoga, food, alcohol, being alive, and probably music, because I really, really love music and dancing. I'm learning how to play Kumbaya on the harmonium and you don't want to miss that (not really)!! I'll get up with doing pretty things with the blog like posting impossibly beautiful photos (or, hopefully, possibly beautiful photos), video bits that will be available on the Youtubes, and other fun stuff. I'm open to suggestions, possibilities, plane tickets to exotic places, invites to your house, and blog post topics, though I do reserve my right to accept or decline any of the aforementioned at will. I hope you'll join me on this journey because it's much more fun when we do things together, instead of trying to struggle on alone.

Much love,
E-Coop