The graduate

After five years, four majors, three colleges in two time zones I am finally graduating from the University of Iowa.

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I have a lot of people to thank including my parents and boyfriend who supported and encouraged me and the chef at St. Joseph’s of  Maine who single handedly served me more consecutive meals of grilled cheese than should ever be allowed.

I’m in both disbelief and relief and although I can’t deny the uncertainty that is waiting for me after I walk off the stage tomorrow it all seems kind of exhilarating.

I’d be lying if I said my favorite part about graduating so far is picking where to go for dinner to celebrate.

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Under an apple tree

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Two weeks ago today our dog Ernie ruptured a disk in his back leaving him unable to walk. After visiting multiple vets the diagnosis went from grim to hopeful and we brought him home to rehab him back to health.

Over the next week we saw significant improvements and then a drastic decline in his health. After multiple fruitless treatments and visits with a chiropractor, one week after his injuries began we said goodbye to our first pet.

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Certainly there is a void in our lives, but we’re finding it easier to celebrate what we shared instead of dwelling on what we lost.

The four years we spent together we’re filled with laughs, walks, jars of peanut butter, vacations, cuddle fests, licks, howls, prairie dogs, and love.

We love him and we miss him. And slowly we are forming our lives around not having him.

And when we need to be with him we meet under an apple tree.

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Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

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I’m a Mark Bittman groupie. I love his recipes and have read Food Matters cover to cover at least half a dozen times. His Impromptu Fried Rice and Thai Beef Salad recipes are staples in our house, but until recently I hadn’t tried a single one of his dessert recipes.

Last week on our way to the grocery store I thumbed through Food Matters quickly to see if any of the recipes spoke to me, and I was immediately won over by simplicity of the rice pudding recipe. It looked easy, delicious, and all I need to pick up at the store was some coconut milk.

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As soon as the first bite passed my lips I immediately thought about all the other ingredients that would taste amazing swirled inside. For my next batch I’m thinking cocoa powder or vanilla bean. Or maybe a tropical spin?

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Vegan Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

2 cans coconut milk

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice

1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 300*. Gently pulse the dry rice in a food processor, to scratch up the grains hulls a bit. Combine rice, milk and brown sugar into a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot.

Stir ingredients together and cook uncovered, stirring every 20 minutes or so. The rice will begin to plump up and the milk will thicken and brown. Continue to allow the mixture to cook as it turns more into a pudding consistency than a pot with rice and milk in it.

I found that it needed much less time to cook than Bittman’s recipe, but I also have an unfaithful oven that has the tendency to overheat. This whole process could take over an hour, so be patient. Allow the pudding to thicken and serve hot, warm, cold, alone, with toppings, with friends. You get the picture!

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Love the earth

The fact that I don’t know a single person who doesn’t do at least one selfless thing a day to respect the Earth is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Earth day reminds us of our duty to act as guests on this gorgeous place we call home, and there are so many ways you can say thanks on this Earth Day, and eventually, maybe everyday.

Say no to plastic bags.

Walk, bike, or carpool somewhere.

Join a CSA.

Abstain from meat for a day, a week, a year.

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Make Earth Day Peanut Butter Cups.

Devote your yoga practice to something greater.

Make your own toiletries.

Grow some grub.

Turn of your electronics.

Carry around all of the trash you use today.

Talk to a stranger.

We are responsible for making this world a better place. Every single day.

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Sumac?

Sometimes I find myself in the kitchen, baffled, with a raised eyebrow and an inkling that the only thing that can save me is the Google search engine.

You know, the times when I’m trying to cut a papaya. Or make homemade buttermilk. And then there’s the spices that I haven’t ever heard of or know what to do with, but have found their way  onto my spice shelf.

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What stumps you in the kitchen? What is the craziest ingredient, spice, dish you’ve ever made? And what the hell do I do with all this Sumac?

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The Outdoor Yoga Mat

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Despite the bugs, humidity, and additional distractions I love to practice yoga outside. The fresh air, added challenge of uneven ground, and the sense of connecting with nature continue to outweigh the few cons when the weather warms up and my mat begs to be taken outside. And I regularly listen to the urge.

Luckily an outdoor yoga mat arrived at my doorstep just as the warm weather in Iowa arrived and the sun came out to play. The Kulae outdoor yoga mat is made from bamboo and has a full lining underneath that allows it to be used on grass, concrete, and on carpet. My mat and mat towel fit perfectly on top of the mat and I was able to enjoy a blissful outdoor flow.

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As much as I love the great outdoors, my regular practice takes place in our spare bedroom, and despite some assimilation I still haven’t completely gotten used to the carpet that plagues our home and consequently my practice. I’ve slowly accepted that until we move my at home practice will take place on our carpeted floor, which trust me is better than cramming myself into our shoebox sized kitchen. It never crossed my mind that there was another option, or that an outdoor yoga mat made of bamboo could solve all of my carpet ridden yogic problems.

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The Zuura mat is by far the best addition to my at home practice, and although I have been using it more inside than outside, it makes practice on a carpet feel like practice on a hardwood floor. Now if only I could conquer my concentration problem, my needy dogs pawing at the door problem, and of course the whole boyfriend who continually interrupts me even though I have declared it yoga time for the 38th time in a row. Progress people, progress.

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What products have revolutionized your yoga practice?

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Why is yoga so expensive?

Last night as I was unwinding and catching up with a few of my favorite bloggers, I stumbled upon a hot comment section in response to the question posed by Tina of Carrots N Cake: Why is yoga so expensive?

Prior to embarking on my journey to becoming a yoga teacher I was in the same wow, yoga is costly boat. But now I get it. Yoga classes aren’t cheap and they shouldn’t be.

It costs money to become a certified yoga teacher. Sure, some of the teachers who teach at a local gym didn’t spend thousands of dollars to become a teacher (although plenty have), but most of your instructors have shelled out big bucks to take on month and even year long teacher trainings.

There’s a lot of extra preparation and time that goes into each class. To deliver a truly transformative class teachers spend hours studying, reading, and reflecting in order to develop their skills as instructors. Not to mention the actual time we spend before class and after class interacting with our brilliant students and answering questions.

All of the money doesn’t go directly into our pocket. Studio owners have overhead costs and freelance instructors pay cuts of their class profits to use buildings and studio space. It isn’t cheap to run a small business and advertising, running websites, and promoting services ain’t easy or cheap.

Yoga isn’t just a workout or a “sport”, so it makes little sense to compare it to the cost of a Body Pump or Jazzercise class. The goal of yoga is to transform your life not just your physical body although it often finds itself being grouped into the same category as fitness classes.

It costs money to please you. Think about your favorite yoga studio for a second. Does it have a extensive book selection for your to browse? Are you able to use a $90 Manduka mat each time you practice? Is there a juicy orange wedge waiting for you after savasana? All of these things add to the experience that is yoga but they certainly don’t come for free.

At the end of the day you get what you pay for.

If yoga is a priority for you, you can financially make it work.

Oh, and Jillian Michaels isn’t a certified yoga instructor.

What do you think? What am I right about? What do you disagree with? Yoga for free? Yoga for a price? Share!

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