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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Planning your trip

I find planning vacations to be a therapeutic process, spiritual almost, but I know that most people find it hectic, stressful, and daunting. Planning a trip can be just as messy as traveling and we’ve all had our fair share of trips we’d rather not revisit, but the baby steps of the vacation of your dreams can be just as fun as feeling your feet in the sand, saying Bonjour to a hunky Parisian, and reliving each glorious detail years later through photographs.

Below are my favorite tips for the early stages of planning any trip. They don’t include budgeting, food concerns, or suggestions on how to pick up said hunky Frenchman, but they surely will get you warmed up in a different kind of way.

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Consult your life list.

Picking a destination can seem like the hardest task in the world. There have been a million times you have said I’d love to do this and see that but so often those thoughts slip our mind when we finally start to entertain the idea of a trip. Keep track of your worldly desires and when the opportunity arises revisit it and let it be the guiding light for your next vacation.

Tell everyone you know.

I don’t mean proclaiming in the annoying, high-pitched “I’m going on vacation”, instead I’m encouraging you to reach out to people you know, ask questions, and get familiar with other peoples travel experience. You undoubtedly know someone who studied abroad in Prague, vacationed in Spain, or went on a safari back in 2007.

Connect.

Reach out to people, the places, and the suggestions that flood in once you tell every single person that you know about your impending trip. You would be surprised by how many people have photos to share, cousins working abroad, and highlighted travel books lying around. These tips and connections are your lifeline to an unconventional trip.

Research the shit out of it.

I’m talking pouring over travel books in the aisles of Barnes and Noble, crunching numbers and plotting points on maps, and cross referencing all of the off the beaten path activities. You aren’t looking for 90% of the information you will come across, but that 10% is worth the work, plus it’s plain fun.

Become a map maven.

Ah maps. I’ve become quite fond of maps over the years and they are definitely a huge tool in my travel tool box. How else do you think you figure out what cities boarder France, and approximately how long it takes to get to each?

Track down every festival, must-see, and off the beaten path location.

I am not a tourist. In fact, I despise being identified as one (unless I’m dressing up for Halloween). In my opinion the best way to see the world is to be immersed in it and by looking for off the beaten path activities, authentic festivals, and a few must-see attractions you’ll find yourself living where you are visiting. 

Fellow vagabonds what am I missing? What are your tried and true pre-planning tips?

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You have permission to…

Want to use sour cream instead of Greek yogurt.

Only work so you can afford to play.

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Fear open water swims. And all that lives in water.

Think French fries with cheese are a real meal.

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Attend weekend sleepovers even when you’re a grown up.

Give yourself permission to do something crazy this weekend!

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Green Drinks

One of the best parts about blogging is that at any given time you can look back on what you were doing a week, a month, a year ago. And if you have a food blog you can instantly be reminded of what you ate for breakfast on that particular day. Although my blog is now more of a celebration of the things I love instead of the things on my plate, I still am able to look back and relish in memories of food, photos, and friends.

Last March 17th I was enjoying unseasonably warm weather with one of my best friends from home. We practiced yoga outside, danced with my dogs, ate hot dogs in Chicago, and drank green beer all night long.

 

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This Saint Patrick’s Day I’ll be spending quality time with my mom in the city of Omaha and although I’m not sure they’ll have green wine, I know we will have a blast.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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My Dream Yoga Studio

Lately I’ve been spending more time reading yoga blogs than breathing and it wasn’t even ten minutes into stalking the Spoiled Yogi when I ran into a post that I loved: If I Owned A Yoga Studio.

My dream yoga studio.

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Would have fresh sliced oranges waiting after class.

And coconut water running from a tap.

There would be a gong.

And gorgeous shelves stacked with books, dvds, and CDs a la yoga.

We would have a monthly yoga book club.

And monthly events like couples yoga, chocolate & yoga, and of course the occasional yoga in the park class.

We would emphasis community.

And awareness.

And there would be beautiful hardwood floors.

But not a single mirror in the studio.

There would be workshops and meditations.

And self-guided Mysore practices.

A constant breeze of fresh air.

There would be big comfy chairs and ottomans galore.

And you would always leave with a goofy smile on your face.

 

What must your yoga studio have?

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Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

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Matt loves to snack. And I tend to be constantly on the go. So to say that we’ve needed to create a grab and go bar for a while is an understatement. Luckily the other day I stumbled upon a great new website called YogaEarth and immediately was taken by a recipe for Good Morning Sunshine Bars.

When I was still thinking about them the next day, I knew it was time to put down my computer and put a WKA spin on the heavenly bars. And my first order of business was squeezing some fresh oranges.

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Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

Adapted from Good Morning Sunshine Bars

4-6 oranges squeezed or 1 cup orange juice

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 bananas

1 1/2 cup oatmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/6 cup chia seeds

1/6 cup flax seeds

Splash of vanilla

Pour orange juice in a sauce pan with raisins and cranberries. Once liquid has come to a rolling boil, remove pan from heat and allow dried fruit to plump. After a few minutes add juice and fruit mixture along with 2 bananas to a food processor; pulse until mixed.

Add all remaining ingredients to a bowl and thoroughly mix. Flatten mixture into a non-stick baking pan and bake for 15-30 minutes at 320*. The longer bars bake the more they will dry out. If you prefer a wetter, denser bar continue to check bars after the 15 minute mark.

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Winter Citrus Salad

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Winter is a time for us to forget about the beauty of food. Once the holidays have died down and our New Years Resolutions are in full swing, when the farmer’s markets have retired until the spring, and everyone’s garden is virtually dead, we stop relenting over fresh herbs and the flavors of juicy melons and we let food take a backburner. We fill our bellies bright and early with packaged oatmeal, forget to eat lunch, and make the same soup each week for night time leftovers.

I’ve been revolting the winter blues for a long time. Instead I rejoice as the grounds begin to freeze because it means that my seasonal favorites are starting to fill the produce section. I line my cookie sheets with bit size pieces of kale to make salty, crunchy kale chips. I spend hours at the squash farm sorting through the locally grown varieties and then several more  flipping through my cookbooks concocting a weeks worth of recipes. Our fruit bowl becomes a place where citrus can gather and glow. And I explore the world of grains, trying my hand at a new one each chance I get.

One thing that doesn’t seem to change in the winter is the amount of time I get to spend in my kitchen. If it were up to me my days would revolve around chopping and dicing, preparing and photographing, and loving and eating food. But unfortunately, like most, I live a life that demands attention in many areas. Sometimes I’m looking for something that reminds me of the beauty of food without taking up my entire afternoon. A girl has to eat after all.

This salad is simple, flavorful, and bright. And I’m sure it’ll give you reason to celebrate food again.

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Winter Citrus Salad

1 grapefruit

2 oranges

1 avocado

1 bulb fennel

reserved juice from citrus fruits

juice of one lime (about two tablespoons)

2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey

salt and pepper to taste

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