Why Commit?

Today is Day 7 of our July Sun Salutation Commitment. (For more info on what we're doing, read about it here.) It is our rest day. For those of us "all or nothing" types, today is actually not a relief but a break in routine that may just throw us off the program completely. Taking a day off can prove difficult to we who lack an attention span. We're motivated and acclimated and now you're giving us a break?! Go, go, go...stop...oh, look...ice cream! At least that's the gist of how my mind works. So within the program alone is a lesson. For those who have a hard time committing, it's obvious where the challenge lies. Either way, just upon deciding to participate presents you with a choice; am I going to follow through with this commitment within the parameters with which it has been created? Considering that I created it and am leading it, I guess I better say yes. That doesn't necessarily mean I want to. My suggestion (not a mandatory part of the practice) is to do a Yin style practice today just to stretch out the body and give those repetitively worked muscles a break. Even I want to be defiant against my own recommendation. Then I laugh at myself, get on my mat and stretch, realizing in that moment why we are taking a rest day today. My body thanks me for not being a surly asshole and actually listening for a change. Ahhhh, the things we learn from yoga far exceed anything physical. 

How was your first week? Please share your experiences.

The results of commitment and following protocol.

The results of commitment and following protocol.

 

 

The Sunset Salutation Commitment

If you study with me, you know that I hold "challenges" several times a year. These challenges are usually for one month and can be anything from meditating daily for a specific amount of time to getting your practice in everyday for a month. Sometimes dietary changes are added in and sometimes I'll actually do online videos where I am teaching the sequences. The point is always to motivate you to make a commitment to whatever it is we're doing and to be your cheerleader. This month I decided to do something based on a study that I recently read here. In the study, 79 participants performed 24 sun salutations 6 days of the week for a total of 24 weeks. The results proved that this simple sequence practiced on a regular basis improved overall strength in the body, along with general endurance. I, personally, love *Surya Namaskar. It's my favorite thing to do when I'm in a rush and need to move my body. I also love holding Malas at the change of every season. This is quite more challenging; 108 Sun Salutations. Unfortunately, I stopped teaching them last year because too many people were aching, sometimes for days after, because they would push themselves too hard and not take enough rests during the 108. I save these now for my own intention setting process a few times a year, as my body can handle 108 as long as I'm not doing it everyday. 

Anyway, I digress. Back to our challenge, or Commitment, this month. I thought this would be a great way to motivate people to get on their mats, even if it were for just a few minutes a day. I believe that with consistency, you will build strength and one sun salutation will become two and five sun salutations will become ten and then, maybe you'll even get to twenty-something. But just simply doing one is more than you not getting on your mat at all. So I welcome everyone to join in this month and if you're just finding out about it after we've started, join anyway. It's never too late to commit to your practice.

*If you don't have a foundation, my YouTube channel has every posture outlined in its own video and all brought together in the full Surya Namaska A (Basic Sun Salutation) explained. Just watch all of the Yoga 101 vidoes. For those that have a practice, but need a bit of guidance, here's a sample of four guided Sun Salutations that can help you to begin. We end in Mountain Pose, where you can keep going when the video has ended.

As part of our July Sun Salutation Commitment, Nina and I recorded 4 sun salutes to get you started. Nina is doing chaturanga on the knees and cobra and I'm doing the full chaturanga and updog. Keep going once the video ends!

 

 

One Insane Month - TIP Clinic

After the yoga retreat ladies departed for their ongoing adventures or to head back home, Louisa stayed in town another day and she casually and confidently went on her first tandem paragliding flight with Erica. She is definitely the chill cousin. Though the conditions weren't ideal, I got to be in the sky with her. Another huge blessing as Portugal kept offering me very special gifts. She left that evening for Lisbon and I had only two days to regroup and prepare for the seven days that were awaiting (and, of course, get some flying in). I had no idea how intense they were going to be. 

Erica was guiding the advanced ground handling; an element of the clinic that is the most obvious and necessary (considering the paragliding theme). The addition of mental training to any paragliding clinic immediately makes sense. We all experience fear and anxiety both on the ground and in the air. Katrin flew in from Switzerland to be our mind coach. The yoga segment of the clinic stood out and not exactly in a positive light. It left people questioning whether this was really necessary or just an addition of some fluff to be current. Naturally, I am a proponent of practicing for any reason possible, and when there is sport involved the practice can be tailored to that activity specifically. Paragliding is not considered to be the most athletic sport but there are many faces to it and ground handling, especially, can be very taxing on the body. Since this was the first clinic, we had no idea how it would all come together and if the results would be as positive as we projected in the planning stages. I don't think any of us were expecting the outcome that was ultimately achieved.

One important thing to note about this clinic is that it was for women only. All you have to do is go to any LZ to see the disproportionate number of men to women who fly. Having eight women together for seven days whose main goal was to grow together as pilots was not only empowering but something that simply doesn't happen. Most of my instructors have been men and I have wonderful friendships with so many of the guys, but when women are working solely with other women in a male dominated sport, something magical happens. There was a level of comfort that was inherent in the environment and an understanding that can only come when you are of the same sex. There are technical differences with many of us flying on smaller wings and having the strength in our bodies utilized differently and with less power. There's the sexual tension that no one ever wants to talk about but is prevalent and a very human thing. Many instructors school with a "tough love" hand and some even scream at their students, calling them stupid and berating them when things don't assimilate easily. We, as females, either deal with these things when we discover what we're up against or jump ship. So to have a week together, doing this thing that we're dangerously passionate about without having to explain ourselves or feeling misunderstood, made for a learning environment where everyone accelerated at lightening speed.

But back to the yoga. How did it fit into the program? None of the ladies were hard core yoginis. Some had practiced before and some not. I don't think they were expecting our first practice together to be nearly an hour focused on standing and breathing correctly. Tadasana, Samastitihi, Mountain Pose, standing at the top of your mat. However you want to reference it, it's the basis of the practice and really a priceless fundamental that can be utilized all the time. We started from this place and expanded on the practice as the days progressed. The ladies were more aware of how they were moving, how minor shifts to their movement would create more space and less stress and why a simple morning practice gave them hours more comfort on the ground and in the sky. The aching upper bodies and burning thighs (from running up those dunes!) each morning could easily find some relief by committing to a yoga practice.

We were blessed to have cooperative (and some days pretty stellar) conditions the entire week. The days began early and ended as the near summer sun went down in Portugal. Everyday after we parted with these incredible women, Erica, Katrin and I would go back to the beach house, debrief and plan the following day. We were all physically and mentally exhausted from the information overload and schedule that the clinic was demanding of us but high as kites from the progress and breakthroughs we were witnessing. It was very clear that we were collectively creating something very important in the paragliding world.

When the clinic came to a close, a few of the women stayed for the weekend and we got to go fly and do more ground handling without structure dictating our day. By the time everyone had left Portugal, I was looking back at three of the most intense, fulfilling, exhausting weeks I had seen in my life in a very long time. With Assal, we had created something very new in the yoga retreat world, bringing science into the practice. With Erica and Katrin, we developed a program that brought entirely new elements into a sport that wasn't even aware that it was needed. I see many more yoga retreats and TIP Clinics in the future and am so excited to see it grow.

I gave myself another week in Nazaré to decompress, get some more flying in and spend time with my sweet friend, Erica. Though I had been there for three weeks, there was so much I hadn't done yet. Finally, I made it to the lighthouse, the famous spot where Garrett McNamara rode that 100ft wave. I got to explore more of the South Beach, eat vegetarian Indian food and have a real Portuguese barbecue. When I left for Germany a month to the day after I arrived, my appetite for Portugal was sated. 

L to R: Open air market in South Beach, Nazaré, entrance to the lighthouse and overlook, statue in the surf museum

L to R: Open air market in South Beach, Nazaré, entrance to the lighthouse and overlook, statue in the surf museum

One Insane Month - The Yoga Retreat

I taught classes and workshops in Paris and Cologne in 2009/2010 but never held a retreat in Europe before. When Erica asked me to teach a segment of the first Tip Clinic in Portugal, it only made sense to offer a yoga retreat. Looking over my calendar, I realized there was one limitation; time. The clinic was in under three months. This meant a retreat program needed to happen before then and should have been ready to market yesterday. Hey, I don my superhero cape often. My Wonder Twin was about to time travel. Thinking it absurd, (but still making the attempt) I messaged Assal asking if she would be available to go to Portugal in six weeks to do her talk. I still had an email exchange with her, patiently awaiting some action, from a year and a half ago (my slight OCD makes me bonkers if my Inbox exceeds 20 emails, so this one clearly had purpose), discussing a yoga retreat incorporating brain research. Yes, I adopted a sister who is a genius, PhD in Neuroscience. You know, that osmosis thing...it's still pending. She later reminded me that this conversation actually started ten years ago. As they say, slow and steady wins the race. 

A yes was so unexpected that I actually said, "WOW" out loud when she responded. Within three weeks, we had enough women signed up and were booking our flights to Portugal. I knew all of the participants and most of them were some of my closest friends. Aware that the unfoldment happened so organically, we knew this journey was going to be very special. And that is was.

After our pre-yoga, debauchery in Lisbon, East Coast Alison arrived (yes, there are two Alisons, both spelled with one "l", known as East Coast and West Coast) and the nine of us trekked back to Nazaré to begin retreating. We settled everyone into their apartments and later walked down to the beach house to get a gentle evening practice in. There is a small shortcut through a forest on the way there. Just before we turned onto the road, I heard a rattle and just to the left of my feet saw the biggest rattlesnake I've ever seen in person. Just for the record, I've never actually seen a rattlesnake in person...so it was huge. The scream that came out of me scared the shit out of the snake and possibly paralyzed some of the local insect population. It was really fascinating because I could actually see the look of terror on its face before it turned around and slithered away through the brush. That was the last time we walked through the forest. 

It was finally time for yoga. Everyone was still jet lagged except for me and Nina (she only came from one time zone away), so the evening practice was focused on giving our travel-weary bodies a bit of TLC. There were two scheduled yoga sessions daily, one in the morning and one in the evening. Assal's two talks on how lying effects the brain and, in turn, our lives and the benefit of being present were given on the even days of the four. The daily practices began with gentle Hatha and increased to a rigorous vinyasa flow by the last day. In the evening, we stretched it out with a Yin practice and ended with guided Yoga Nidra. During the talks, we connected with synchronized breathing and opened up about times in our lives that we had lied. Assal's presentation showed us the activity in the brain when we lie, why we lie and how a mindfulness practice can assist in changing patterns to live from a more authentic place. We ended the last talk with a loving kindness meditation and follow-up on how we feel when lying. It's really too much to convey in a single paragraph, but that was the program and it went well. Next year, Greece!

Free time was plentiful to discover this quaint, charming village by the sea. You never know what you're going to get when you group people together in an intimate environment, some who know one another, some who have never met. There was an instant cohesiveness. Many of the personalities had horns; Taurus, Capricorn and Aries. (again with the astrology, Bunok!) Thankfully, this was buffered by the less feisty of the ten. Nina opted out of the day trip to Obidos since we had already gone the week prior. I was simply looking forward to my second round of Ginja. We drove in two cars to the castle with me leading the way. Yes, your directionally challenged, fearless leader who doesn't know her left from right was heading up the mini caravan in a foreign country where she couldn't read the street signs. We, somehow, made it without too much incident, though I did nearly run over East Coast Alison's foot when I didn't see her approach the car after I had pulled over, thinking I was lost. Sorry, Ali!

I imagine if you live in Europe or travel for leisure frequently, the walled city of Obidos wouldn't be so interesting. But for an American whose country doesn't have medieval anything because, really, it's the teenager on the world block, this history dense municipality is worthy of me being a tourist over and over again. I was excited to toast all of the girls with a chocolate shot of Ginja and do some more exploring, sans jet lag. We were there on a weekend, so the city was much more alive with street performance and activity. This time around, I shopped and bought some beautiful pieces to bring back to the States from local artist, Sónia Borga. I discovered that mediocre food in a pleasant setting actually does taste better, ice cream with the girls has no calories and keeping eight women together is impossible (the expression "herding cats" left my lips many times over the two weeks of retreat and clinic). Oh yes, and that chanting OM into an ancient tomb is quite soothing and could possibly raise the dead.

Olaria S Pedro and street performance

Olaria S Pedro and street performance

OM in Obidos

Over the four days, we practiced and had our minds blown by science in the morning, fell in love with Nazaré and its surroundings in the afternoon, meditated in the evening and finished the day eating far too late, drinking far too much and laughing abundantly until far after the sun set over the Atlantic. We were all having a love affair with Portugal and the experience that she generously offered to us.

Over the four days, we practiced and had our minds blown by science in the morning, fell in love with Nazaré and its surroundings in the afternoon, meditated in the evening and finished the day eating far too late, drinking far too much and laughing abundantly until far after the sun set over the Atlantic. We were all having a love affair with Portugal and the experience that she generously offered to us.

Paragliding is soon to begin!

One Insane Month - Part V

I had one more day before the girls would arrive and my body and mind were still trying to catch up to the nearly 6,000 miles I had traveled. Nina and I just relaxed in Nazare for the day and left first thing the following morning for Lisbon. I’ve been told that it takes one day of recovery for every hour of time difference. Whether there is science behind this, I am unaware, but it seems to be accurate for me. Portugal is eight hours ahead of Los Angeles. To my surprise, I was completely on Portugal time in three days. This has never happened before. Perhaps staying up for an inhumane amount of hours and sleeping local time the first night you arrive is the formula. It could also be that I knew I soon needed to work for the next two weeks with only the smallest break and my brain forced me to acclimate quickly. Whatever the case, I was ready to party in Lisbon with the girls!

Going from the calm of a seaside village to the spicy energy of a southern European city was a welcome shift. Lisbon is filled with life. The people are loud and friendly, speaking in what looks similar to Spanish on the page but sounds more like an Eastern European language; the polar opposite timbre of a romance language. Traffic rivals downtown LA during rush hour, one difference being that there aren’t real markers between the street and sidewalk in many places and driving close to pedestrians and cyclists (within a foot) seems to be the norm (eeeeek!!!). Porto is abound, being served at the local cafes and even some pastelería (pastry shop) early in the day. It's worth coming to Portugal for the port alone.

Our airbnb was right in the heart of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district. We were greeted at the apartment by the warmest smile and hugs from the loveliest woman, who was there to introduce us to the space. Being a hugger, I realized that this is my kind of country. Our hostess gave a thorough tour and breakdown of the local area and departed with more hugs and cheek kisses.

Four of the ladies had arrived in Lisbon the night before. Assal, our retreat expert neuroscientist (and the baby sister I never had), thankfully decided upon the restaurant for our first lunch together: Bairro do Avillez, owned by famed Portuguese, Michelin star chef, José Avillez. It did not disappoint. Nor did we if you were sitting at a table nearby. Our poor waiter had seven strong women to answer to…in English, no less. Every menu item had a question, punctuated with a flirtatious smile by some of the ladies (I’m not naming names!) that didn’t seem to be working considering the exhausted expression on this beautiful man’s face every time he came to our table.

Our first meal together in Lisbon. Bairro do Avillez Photo credits: Alison Bossert, Assal Habibi, Ida Ashoori

Our first meal together in Lisbon. Bairro do Avillez
Photo credits: Alison Bossert, Assal Habibi, Ida Ashoori

After lunch, Nina and I headed back to the apartment and waited for my cousin Louisa, who had just arrived from Boston. If you don’t know the story of my cousin, the short version is that we met through DNA testing and she is the only Korean relative I have ever met outside of my immediate family. From the moment we met, we knew we were family. And the family that you really like. There will likely be a blogpost about this incredible meeting one day. The three of us explored the beauty of Lisbon while trying to keep from sliding down the slippery cobblestone streets. Hours later, fatigue dictated our return and we rested before getting ready to meet up for dinner. 

Our lunchtime theme of "keep your waiter on his toes" continued into the night, with the addition of Jackie now, as we brought our effusive enthusiasm to tapas dinner. The evening waiter was more accommodating, grinning like the Cheshire cat to his captive audience of porto and wine drinkers. Several of us met up at a local Fado bar; the soulful, melancholic sounds bringing balance back to the frenetic energy that we left at the restaurant. I was blissed out being with these incredible women that I adore in one of the most magical places in the world. If this was a precursor to the coming five days, we were going to have a wonderful time.

And finally, the retreat is to begin.

One Insane Month - Part IV

Surprisingly, I slept through the night without waking once. No matter how wiped out I am, sleep has been an issue throughout my life. I was proud of my 7am wakeup. Had I finally battled jet lag?! This is what my delirious mind was pondering as I arose the next morning, ready to take on Portugal. My yoga retreat was not beginning for another four days, but most of the women were coming in early to celebrate several of their birthdays in Lisbon. So we only had two days to explore Nazaré and for me to fly before the real work began. 

I got a mini yoga practice in before Nina woke up, we had a quick breakfast, walked into the village through the forest by the beach (this still is hard for me to wrap my brain around) to explore and then made our plans with Erica to go flying. There's a dunes location about a half-hour south of Nazaré, right by Obidos Castle. As a pilot, I've never flown dunes before. This was going to be a first for me. Still jet lagged and high on the overall experience, I pulled out my wing when we got to the site and decided to run up the dune at takeoff never having done this before. 

Left: my first attempt at running up a dune and launching (i did make it to the top but it wasn't cute after.) Middle & right: I went lower on the dunes and actually made it this time. though it was all of 5 seconds, it was my first european flight!

Left: my first attempt at running up a dune and launching (i did make it to the top but it wasn't cute after.)
Middle & right: I went lower on the dunes and actually made it this time. though it was all of 5 seconds, it was my first european flight!

The first attempt nearly sent my poor friend into cardiac arrest as I tumbled down the side of the dune. Attempt two rendered the same results, me laughing at my clumsiness and lack of coordination and my friends turning shades of white. Erica made an executive decision and brought me closer to the beach. She schooled me on what I was doing wrong and how to correct it. Attempt 3 = SUCCESS! Yes, it may have been a bunny hop off of sand, but it was still a flight in Portugal. I was thrilled. After an hour of playing on the dunes, I gave into my exhaustion by calling it a day. There were still several weeks ahead of me to learn, grow as a pilot and FLY. Patience and pacing have never been my strong suits. Perhaps I'm learning something in Portugal. Besides, I was starving and I'm sure Nina was bored by this time.

Growing up in NYC, spending most of my adult life in Los Angeles and even with a short stint in Sedona, I've always lived in cities where tourism is rampant (yes, even in the middle of nowhere Sedona). Just the idea of being a tourist makes me cringe (I know. So judgmental...I'm working on it, people!) Since we needed food and I had never been to a walled city before, I moved past my limiting bias and became a tourist, pulling out my iPhone to take pictures and stopping mid-gait to stare at the beauty surrounding me. 

the walled city of obidos

the walled city of obidos

Erica had recommended trying "Ginja" when we got to the castle (sounds like "ginger" with a New York accent) because it is special to the region. Upon entering the city, we immediately came upon a Ginja stand. It's basically a Mon Chéri chocolate with alcohol, sans the cherry, but for some reason it is so good. They serve it in little dark or white chocolate cups and from what one vendor was telling his patrons, you're supposed to put the entire thing in your mouth and eat it. This is not alway easy, depending on how large or thick the chocolate cup is. We didn't know this on our first attempt at Ginja, so we toasted like it was a wine glass, sipped on the alcohol and then nibbled on the chocolate. Major fail! No worries, we did it again. (and again and again and again over the course of the month :). There is not shortage of Ginja stands at the Obidos Castle (or in Nazaré and Lisbon). 

After eating tourist Italian in Portugal, my jet lag had kicked in full force, so we headed back to Nazaré. Most of the yoga retreat ladies would be arriving to Lisbon the following evening and we were going to join them the day after. I had one more day to get grounded and prepared for my retreat, which at this point I had done nothing for outside of meeting the owner of the house they'd been staying. The next day I slept in, shopped for some snacks for the ladies and went over my program. Oh yes, and I had a dinner party for six people, all pilots outside of Nina. One Portuguese, two French, one German, one Canadian and one American. I forgot how much I loved Europe. So much for rest! 

I guess my Two Part post is going to go into double digits. More on Lisbon next!

One Insane Month - Part III

Driving in Europe has always intimidated me. If I have time to get to know the roads and signs as a passenger first, then it's not a problem (we all know how directionally challenged I am...). But just getting behind the wheel with no knowledge of what anything means when people are overtaking you on a country road at 160km/hr (okay, a bit of hyperbole there) can be a tad bit stressful. I was thankful that my German friend had no problem driving, especially since I had not slept for nearly twenty-seven hours. Another thing that I was grateful for was my Sprint service, which is not something I've ever said in the States. In Europe, I have free data (yes, it's only 2G but it works!) and free text messaging. Yes, there is no charge for this outside of my regular service. Google maps worked like a charm and after a few roundabout mishaps, we were on our way to Nazaré!

The first stop was to see Erica at a site around 15km south of Nazaré: Gralha. Erica is the reason I'm in Portugal and why this adventure began. She's my paragliding buddy who called me three months ago asking me if I wanted to come to be a part of a paragliding clinic that she had just conceptualized; mental and body training and advanced ground handling. I was to teach yoga specifically for paragliding pilots. In typical Aries fashion, I agreed without much thought. There were definitely bumps along the road and I'm sure I had to cash in karma points to get here but I somehow made it fairly unscathed, hugging my friend in Portugal whom I hadn't seen in three years. 

I hadn't paraglided in nearly a month and was craving to get in the sky. Unfortunately, I said to Nina on the drive there that I wasn't planning on actually flying because I was far too tired and jet lagged. When we arrived, all I wanted to do was get my glider out and fly! When your BFF is terrified that you fly to begin with and she's German, your comment about not flying comes back to haunt you. As you've already figured out, Nina was adamant about me not pulling my glider out and I abided. It was the wiser choice. One of the many reasons that friends are priceless. I did, however, get to see the site and realize that I was watching pilots fly the Portugal coastline. I was still stuck in the surreal, feeling like I had just tripped on mushrooms for three days and was only beginning to coming down.

We drove to the local market to grab some bread, wine and cheese (these were to become my staples for the entire month) and I debated about going to sleep when we made it to the beach house. I felt like a five-year old child that has just stepped foot into the Magic Kingdom for the first time after an anticipation-fueled sleepless night, paralyzed from the excitement. The fatigue was losing. I had gotten my second wind. After settling in with our things, we had our midday European meal, watching and listening to the fierceness of the Atlantic just an unobstructed 100m in front of us.

Praia do norte

Praia do norte

We later went for a beach walk and I discovered that these beaches are very much like the East Coast of the States, with coarse and pebbled sand and powerful waves. Sunset is at 9pm here. I stayed awake until nearly midnight local time, catching up with my dear friend. After nearly thirty-eight hours of no sleep, the ocean lulled me to sleep in my temporary home by the sea.

Left: A view from the deck of where I lived for one month Right: my first day in Nazaré, Nina & I took a beach walk just down the path from the house.

Left: A view from the deck of where I lived for one month
Right: my first day in Nazaré, Nina & I took a beach walk just down the path from the house.

Portugal stole my heart at first sight. The irony is that from leaving the airport in Lisbon, to the paragliding site at Gralha, to the beach house in Praia do Norte, it all reminded me of another place that I know so well and couldn't wait to leave: Lalaland. The Universe always gets the loudest and last laugh. I felt oddly at home in this foreign place where I didn't understand a word of the language. I learned "obrigada" immediately. Thank you is a necessity wherever you go. 

Next up...playing on the dunes in Portugal and the girls arrive in Lisbon!

 

One Insane Month - Part II

I was finally on the European leg of my trip. There was one glitch in the program, though. Well, two, but I'll explain that later. When I was booking my flight to Portugal, there was a connection in Miami that had a very short layover. This was too close for comfort for me. I could not risk getting to Europe without my glider and all of those cookies! So in a moment of self-proclaimed genius, I booked two separate flights with a longer layover: DC to Miami and then Miami to Lisbon. This meant that I had to fetch all of that checked luggage, wait around Miami International for a few hours and then recheck and go through security again. Yes, my moment of genius was squashed when I arrived in Miami, exhausted from a week of little sleep and a lot of traveling. I stood in the airport, castigating myself for booking travel during a Mercury retrograde (no comment from the astrology naysayers)! Since the counter wasn't open for TAP yet (remind me never to fly them again), I headed to Au Bon Pain for a pastry and some OJ. As I went to pay for the mostly nutrition-less breakfast of non-coffee drinking travelers, the cashier offered me a red rose and wished me a happy mother's day. I did not bear children in this lifetime but I do mother. Often. Daily, actually. So I accepted this rose with gratitude and found my smile again. This simple, kind action from a stranger gave me the energy to get my tired ass out of the US. Thank you kind stranger.

Hours later, I was given a pat on the back by the loudspeaker informing us that we were delayed because the flight that would have brought me in had I booked with the connecting flight was late. The passengers made it on but I doubt their luggage did. 

Glider, bags, yoga mat and a single red rose. 

Glider, bags, yoga mat and a single red rose. 

It hit me. I was sitting on my transatlantic flight to Portugal! The excitement waned as quickly as it came on. This was a rather uneventful, uncomfortable, eight hours of my life. Though we were flying through the night, I didn't really sleep. I arrived in Lisbon airport early. It was 5am. This is where the second caveat came in. Nina, my best friend from Germany was also flying into Lisbon. Like my family in DC, we had not seen each other in seven and a half years (Skype doesn't count.) She had booked her flight before mine and unless I wanted to spend 800 bucks more on my one way flight, I had to wait in the airport for seven hours. 

The immigration officer barely grunted at me. What would one expect at 5am? He literally looked at my passport, glanced up at me for a split second and stamped my book. Not a single word. Well, that was a cakewalk. My luggage took a bit longer, so I chatted with two American women who were traveling around Portugal for a couple of weeks. A note for travelers: the luggage carts are free in Lisbon International :) After grabbing my 100+lbs of luggage, I headed to the exit greeted by a crowd of onlookers, some with signs seeking passengers, some eagerly awaiting a loved one; not me. And so I waited for 7 more hours, pacing, sitting, posting pics on Instagram and barely staying awake. When Nina finally arrived, it was a homecoming filled with tears and deep hugs. We quickly retrieved our rental car and, finally, I was actually on my way to Nazaré. It was all too surreal.

Paragliding, birthdays and yoga...to be continued...

One Insane Month - Part I

On April 28th, I moved out of my apartment in San Diego and freed myself of almost all of my possessions. I spent the next week in LA, finishing up with clients, saying goodbye to friends and organizing the last of what I decided to keep: one box of books (that I didn't have time to distribute amongst friends), one box of paperwork (that the government tells us to have) and one box of items that were gifted to me (that I wasn't ready to part with yet). Whatever was left crawled into my suitcase and a little over a week later, I headed up the coast in the other supposed material necessity that I have yet to part with; my Subaru Crosstrek.

After a straight drive to Ashland, OR (my favorite stop when driving up and down the coast), I grabbed a room at the Best Western Bard's Inn (it is my beloved Shakespeare's festival town, after all) and, not realizing this at the time, had the last peaceful full day and night by myself that I would have for a month. I left first thing in the morning after having this epiphany: "When you put yourself under a microscope, you better be prepared for the scrutiny." I stopped to see a friend for a lovely lunch in Vancouver, OR, right across the river from Portland and then dove, head first, into a month of insanity that I was not prepared for.

Seattle can only be SO insane. Let's be real; it's Seattle. But considering I was visiting two of my oldest and dearest friends, Lisa from the Bronx and Ingrid, who grew up with me on Staten Island, you max out the month's insanity quotient for all of Washington State. We really didn't do very much but spend girl time together...and eat..and drink (oh, and boy time when my sweet friend and videographer, Roberto, joined us). Yes, this was the beginning of a month-long challenge to see how much bread, cheese and alcohol I could consume. As with my forgotten alone time, I was not aware of this at the time either. The plan was to have a "clean" diet beginning the next day. Everyday.

After four short days of celebrating life with my BFFs, I dropped my car off at Lisa's, hopped in an Uber for Seatac and got on a plane to Washington, DC to see family that I had not seen in seven and half years. Which reminds me, the trip has been highly emotional from the first exit: leaving my paragliding crew in San Diego, goodbyes to many dear friends and my yoga tribe in Los Angeles and yet another parting with two people that are family to me. So then, I was to see my niece, nephew and great niece for only a day and a half after a far too long separation. Bittersweet it was. It's an amazing blessing having people to love all over the world. And it sucks, too. My reunion with my eldest sister's kids was wonderful and poignant at the same time. I only have a few relatives that I know. I don't like being so far away from them. I'm usually impervious to these emotions. Not this time. 

The weekend was filled with girlie things to do and before I knew it, I was rising at 5am to get to the airport. Part 2 of the journey was about to begin.

My great niece, Asia, snuck a shot of me trying to figure out what was going on. Far too early to be leaving with all of this luggage for Europe. Especially when American Airlines had only ONE check-in open and it was outside for some reason.

My great niece, Asia, snuck a shot of me trying to figure out what was going on. Far too early to be leaving with all of this luggage for Europe. Especially when American Airlines had only ONE check-in open and it was outside for some reason.

Traveling with 100lbs of luggage is not recommended. Why in God's name was it that heavy, you ask? Well, my trip to Europe is to teach yoga and paraglide, and I have a tank for a glider and a massive harness that is way too heavy. I also had nearly 20lbs of cookies that were donated by Lenny and Larry's (the best vegan cookie on the planet guys) for our retreat and clinic. So at least now when I get on a plane, it will be only 80lbs of luggage...

Europe. To be continued...

Tale of The Three Sisters - misadventures

I Hate Hiking

Okay, so I don't hate hiking. I'm currently obsessed with it. I stopped hating it three days ago.

We should have read the signs before the hike, not after.

We should have read the signs before the hike, not after.

I was born and raised in NYC, then I moved to Los Angeles, then back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth...you get it. Somewhere in the middle of the ping pong match, I found myself living in Sedona, AZ. This is where I became very aware of my inability to be one with nature. I survived the massive white, glow-in-the-dark spiders crawling in from out of the cold and rattlesnake season and mountain lions hanging out in the back yard. And for a moment in time, I thought I could actually be a country girl. Then I moved back to LA and laughed really loudly for a long, long time. 

I'm a bona fide urbanite, coexisting quite well in seas of people, skyscrapers and rush hour traffic. Well...I used to. Then paragliding abducted my brain and life as I knew it did a 180. Give me Shakespeare, hailing a cab, and the best vegan restaurants on the Westside any day over micrometeorology, plant species and camping. Ewwwwww..."camping". It begins with a four-letter word. Anywho, I digress. It was paragliding that led me to rent a part-time apartment in San Diego, ten minutes away from the gliderport. Once I got here, I realized that I couldn't move half of my life for just one sport. Hey, so what if I'm fickle! So when my friend, Del, texted and asked if I wanted to go hike Iron Mountain Trail at 7am in 40º temps, I said SURE! :) Just like that, too. And, yes, I was aware that I still hate hiking. Boredom upstages hate sometimes.

On a Friday morning at 7 fucking am, I met Del and Casey, and we hiked to the top of Iron Mountain. To my surprise, it was easy and I LOVED it. As soon as I got in my car, I knew I needed a bigger challenge than the hike that I just came from and I needed it pronto. (are you starting to see the all or nothing here?) Damn! I was going to be in LA for the weekend. I texted the girls immediately, asking if we could hike the trail "with the waterfall" on Monday. I'm such a romantic. I offered to leave at 5:30am to meet them! 5 fucking 30am in 38º. I'm often susceptible to losing my mind.

The Three Sisters

Casey couldn't join us and I'm already saying, "You're welcome, girlfriend" for missing out on this one. It was just me and Del. Our excitement leading up to that morning was so ridiculous, you would have thought we were going for spa treatments at La Costa. Lots of text messages with exclamation points and emoticons. We met at 6am at the Iron Mountain parking lot to carpool together to The Three Sisters in Julian. Yes, the apple place. Apparently, everyone knows it. So as two fire signs do whenever they get together, the jabber, jabber, jabber began upon sight of one another. We discussed all of the "research" we did on the location we were about to conquer. Why "research" is in quotations will be explained. Keep reading. Don't let your attention span deficit win. 

Me: But you've done the hike before?
Del: No, I have never done this one. 
Me: Oh. Do you know where we're going? Let me look at the navigator. Says we take the 79 in one mile.
Del: Okay. (shakes head and switches lanes) So, that healer tried to kill you and you want to call her again?
Me: Oh GAWD, no! 
Jabber, jabber, jabber. 40 minutes later...
Me: We should be close. (looks at Maps) Oh, look it says to take the next exit! Yay!!! We're almost there.
Del: Oh, I thought it was exit 79, not 80. Okay, cool.
Me: Wait...wasn't it highway 79? (looks at Maps again with a bit more awareness this time) Oh shit, girl. We drove 40 exits past the 79. We're getting off to get back on heading West.

Though an hour and twenty minutes later than planned, we finally arrived at the trailhead, laughing at our mishap, ready to take on The Three Sisters. 

The Dogs (said dawgs)

Our guides, aka Angels (his brother is not pictured here).

Our guides, aka Angels (his brother is not pictured here).

We were on a schedule because we needed to be back in San Diego by 2. Since we did such extensive research, we both were in agreement that it would take 3 hours for us to finish the hike. We hurried out of the car and immediately headed along the trail. There was no time for selfies with the Stop sign. We were on a mission. 

Del: (stops walking) Are those dogs coming toward us? 
Me: (freezing at the sight of two rather large dogs walking towards us on the trail) I don't see an owner. Do you think they're...Fuck. They're running at us. Girl, get in the car. Get in the car!

We barely made it inside the car when two either extremely friendly or extremely angry dogs started jumping on our windows, staring dead at both of us. Their tails were wagging and they had sort of cute little faces that could have also been evil, and they looked like a German Shepherd mix. My fear of all things nature includes domesticated animals. I'm a wuss. What can I say? I was not about to open my door. However, my fearless friend had no problem opening hers and her friendly, big pup jumped on her and started licking her all over her face. She finally convinced me that they wouldn't eat me and I made my way back to the trail with these two brothers right by my side. I'm allergic to dogs and every last one of them knows it and tries desperately to be the one that breaks me of my allergies by rubbing their dander all over me. They were extremely sweet. 

We set off on the trail, CamelBaks and dogs coming along for the ride, finally ready for our adventure. Note: I do not advise trying to pee in the woods with two strange dogs jumping all over you. 

The Trail

Since we were hiking into the canyon to go to a waterfall (that was dry, btw), the path started to descend shortly after departing the trailhead. We were prepared for this since both of us had read every review of the trail on various websites and seen innumerable selfies and scenic shots; even a video of the entire hike. We knew what we were getting into because we saw it on Yelp. Mind you, neither of us had a GPS, knew the direction we were facing or had an actual map either downloaded or physical in case of emergency. The small No Service was blinding in the top corner of my phone when we could've used something from the aforementioned list; my compass app rendered useless. 

Yes, that dirt trail is how we had to go down and back up...

Yes, that dirt trail is how we had to go down and back up...

After sliding on our asses down one steep grade and using ropes to get down the other, we finally made it to the bottom of the canyon. Trail markers are lacking on this hike and they really are necessary. The terrain is confusing and with the riverbeds dry, the path is not very clear. There are, however, spray painted red and white arrows on rocks and boulders (may God bless and give many karma points to the kind soul who did this), hopefully keeping you on the trail. In our case and several other people on the trail, they weren't proving completely effective but, ultimately, did end up being our savior. Did I mention that I hated hiking just three short days ago? 

Caves and boulders. Nature's artwork and shelter.

Caves and boulders. Nature's artwork and shelter.

At the bottom of the canyon, we continued on in the direction of one of the graffitied arrows. Our dogs were leading the way up until then but suddenly disappeared. 

Me: Wow, this is way more rugged than I thought it was going to be. There doesn't seem to be an actual trail.
Del: It looks like we're on a dry riverbed.
Me: Oh...I think you're right. (silence) So if we're on a dry riverbed then we wouldn't actually be here if there were water running through it. Fuck, we're lost.
Del: Yeah, we're not on the trail.

Just at that moment, our two loyal guides came running through the woods several feet above us, on the actual trail where we should've been. They had not barked up until that moment, but this time stopped and started yelling at us. Then one of them came trotting down into the riverbed, ran around me, and then ran back up, showing us where to go. We were both floored and wondered if these two animals were really just a hallucination. Naturally, we followed. They clearly knew this trail better than most humans. We hiked for a bit, climbed up and over boulders and finally turned a corner to see the falls right in front of us. They were not flowing but the pools had some water in them. The dogs immediately took off for a drink. Leading humans is hard work. 

Del taking a pic of me, taking a pic of her when we finally reached The Three Sisters.

Del taking a pic of me, taking a pic of her when we finally reached The Three Sisters.

It's quite beautiful, even though the falls were dry. Sadly, there is graffiti on the rocks (with stupid shit like, "Save Water. Drink Beer") and trash strewn between the caves and the different levels of pools (you guessed it... beer cans, amongst lighter fluid and wrappers from things I can't imagine ingesting). I may be a dumb human for getting myself into something that I was not prepared for but I am certainly conscious when it comes to respecting my Mother. It angered me to see the ignorance and stupidity juxtaposed against this most magnificent backdrop. We stayed for a few minutes but knew we had to return because of time constraints. Next time, we will go after significant rains and spend more time at the falls.

PSA Clean your shit up, people and respect your environment. You are not that special. 

Magnificent

Magnificent

The Journey Back

Overconfidence is very dangerous. I made a comment about feeling accomplished before we headed back, even though I knew the journey was going to be more difficult. Little did I know that it would end up giving me an anxiety attack. We trekked back over the boulders and thought we were heading for the uphill challenge that awaited our return. Yeah...it didn't quite happen that way. Somehow, we missed the big red and white arrows and headed deeper into the woods. At one point, Del was walking ahead of me through some thick brush and as I was about to step down, I saw a little furry brown thing flipped over on its back flailing all eight of his legs. She had tipped a tarantula over and hadn't noticed it. I thought he was adorable but still opted to go around the other side of the tree. If you listen to nature, she speaks to you. I should have recognized that sign as it occurred. I have no idea how long it took us to realize that we had overshot the trail but when we finally did, we made a bad, baaaaaddddddd decision. I'll take the blame. I thought the trail wasn't that far above us, that we had just traveled too far down the riverbed and would be fine if we just climbed up the side of the mountain. Yes. Me. The one who hates hiking. The one who is not one with nature. I started climbing vertically to a supposed trail that didn't exist. What was even dumber was that every time I got to the place where I thought the trail would be, I climbed even higher thinking it was just a little further. At some point, we'd get to the summit and just walk across the top of the ridge, right? I was in a similar situation many years ago in Sedona, where I just scaled up the red rocks without even thinking about where I was going or how I was going to get back to where I started. I'm a bit of a lizard when it comes to doing this, as I have no fear of heights and I kind of enjoy climbing up the sides of cliffs without anything supporting me. When I reached the top and pulled myself up, I looked down to see my hiking partner clinging to the side of the rocks. I then realized that I may have just killed the person that I had recently vowed to spend my life with. He was frozen. Trusting that I knew what I was doing, he simply followed me, suddenly realizing that there was a huge drop and one false move could be tragic. Eventually, he made it up and I believe the trauma from that near miss kept me from pursuing my interest in climbing. Back at the Three Sisters, I must've had a flashback of this experience, because just shortly before I reached the top, I decided to go back down. I didn't want to kill my friend, who was below me, once again trusting that I knew what I was doing. I didn't have a fucking clue. 

A note from Del after reading the blog: "However I would add something like ....Del looked up at me while I was free climbing the side of the mountain, boulder dashing like a pro and said "no wonder you said you are like a lizard, although you say you hate hiking, you climb like a pro!!!!" < This is why she trusted me...

The White and Red Arrow

After finally coming down to more stable, level ground, we made our way back toward the falls. At least we knew what direction we had come from. Even that turned into an adventure where we hiked on the wrong side of the riverbed, climbing boulders that were too slippery to grip, with both of us falling on our asses at different points and coming across swarming bees that weren't there the first time we passed. Eventually, we reunited with the massive rock with the blaring white arrow pointing toward the falls and red arrow leading us back to the trailhead. I don't think either of us was really breathing up until that point. We knew we fucked up but fear was not going to win on this one. As we stood there for a moment taking the last few hours in, our two furry friends appeared out of nowhere and led us back up. I thought the uphill trek was going to be exceedingly more challenging than going down, but surprisingly, going up with the ropes was a cakewalk. Or perhaps it was just adrenaline doing its job. The rest of the journey was uneventful. I think we had our fill for the day. As I approached the car, I realized that every muscle in my body was fatigued. The 3-hour hike that we so thoroughly researched, took us nearly 5 hours. And for two non-hikers, there was quite a bit of climbing involved. We were both covered in dirt and starving. By the time I got home, my plans to shoot a yoga video and run some errands had all gone out the window. I soaked in a hot bath and thanked the Universe for looking out. I thought I only did dumb shit like this when I was younger (yes, I know I go running off of mountains with a piece of fabric over my head...). I woke up the next morning with what felt like a Grade 1 strain in both of my quadriceps and immediately made plans to hike Mt. Wilson in a few days. Apparently, I will always do dumb shit as long as it keeps life interesting. I'm determined to have a symbiotic relationship with nature even if my city girl conditioning is pissed about it.

Next time we will actually be prepared.  

There's a reason why these are posted BEFORE the hike. Next time we'll read them before proceeding.

There's a reason why these are posted BEFORE the hike. Next time we'll read them before proceeding.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Hash

It is the first day of the July Challenge, so I headed to the market and went crazy gluten-free, veggie shopping. I must admit that it was quite fun having to look at labels and question what I was ingesting. Those who know me are used to my peculiar interpretation of fun. Though I have been a vegetarian for 28 years, vegan on and off throughout that time and gluten-free on many occasions, I had forgotten how much garbage is in packaged food, even when it says "organic", "non-GMO" or "gluten-free". I remember being at the salad bar at Whole Foods in Venice years ago and overhearing two women conversing about the ingredients in one of the pre-made items. "For crying out loud, this is WHOLE FOODS! Nothing should have corn syrup in it!" Alas, even at the sacred WF, there is that pesky ingredient that you never thought would have been used in what you believe is whole food. Read labels. You'll be surprised what they're putting in your next meal. Anyway, I digress. Here's a recipe for you that's easy to make and you can be certain doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup; a savory dish, just mildly sweetened naturally by the ingredients. 

I hope you enjoy this simple, hearty meal. For those of you eating fish and meat, have this be your side dish. Dairy eaters can add a cheese of your choice. Everyone else, enjoy it as is. 

1 small butternut squash diced into 1/2" cubes (approximately 2 cups)
1 medium sized sweet potato diced into 1/2" cubes (approximately 1 cup)
2 cloves of garlic (use a press, otherwise chop finely)
4 large sage leaves (chiffonade)
2 small shallots (cut in half and sliced thinly)
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400º.

In a large baking dish, combine squash, potatoes, garlic, sage and salt and pepper. Pour 2 tbsp of olive oil over the mix and toss all ingredients, completely coating with oil. Place pan in center rack of the over and bake for 30 mins, tossing again halfway through. After 30 mins, increase the heat to 450º and bake for another 5 minutes or until the tops start to brown. 

While your dish is baking, place 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan, add the shallots and sauté on medium heat until they begin to brown. Turn heat to low and let cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove your dish from the oven when browned to your liking and stir in the shallots. Add another dash of salt, allow to cool for a few minutes and then serve. Enjoy!

OMG! Gluten-free, Vegan Chocolate Brownies

This upcoming month's challenge is about taking care of our physical bodies. Remember, it's all about mind/body/spirit integration and wellness. Hopefully, by now you are meditating more and practicing more yoga. To complete the balancing, we will come back to clean, whole foods and rid our bodies of things that may be causing inflammation, weight gain, fatigue, allergies and a number of other ailments associated with gluten sensitivities and sugar addiction. So The Yoga Bunny's July Challenge is to take gluten, corn products, refined sugar and alcohol (okay...you're allowed one day a week :) ) out of our diets and eat more vegetables! To find out more about the challenge, you can join the FB group here

Yummy!

1 c applesauce
1 overripe banana, mashed
1 medium sized zucchini, shredded
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp agave or 1 tsp Stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c dark chocolate chips sweetened with stevia (or unsweetened), melted
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 c coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350º.

Blend (any type of blender will work) the first 6 (wet) ingredients together until everything is incorporated. Combine cocoa powder, flour and baking soda (dry) together in a separate bowl and add to wet mix. Blend on medium until you get a crumbly texture.

Grease a 8x8 baking dish with coconut oil and add brownie mixture. The mixture will be fairly dry. Pat down and smooth out with the back of a spatula and bake in 350º oven for 25 minutes. 

Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. This is important because the brownie may crumble if cut when still warm.

Enjoy! 

On Meditation

Mindfulness. Yoga Nidra. Pranayama. TM. Kapalabhati. Kundalini. Vipassana. AUM. Chakras. Nadi Shodhana. Sat Nam...This list is endless. This is the language of yoga and meditation. For laymen, this speak can be intimidating, misunderstood and isolating. It's become a commodity in the Western world, especially in large cities, and the bigger it gets the more polarizing it can be. "Spiritual" has become a bad word to those who don't ascribe, and for those who wear the label, the hypocrisy of superiority and elitism exists.  At least this is my perspective. It is this perspective that jumpstarted my heart project: promulgate yoga and meditation in a voice that is inviting, comprehensible and, hopefully, communicated in a way that doesn't send you running for the hills. It is my belief that encouraging a society that meditates will aid in the paradigm shift in which we are currently existing. If the thought, "What the fuck is this woman talking about?" has popped into your head in any way, all I'm saying is that I hope to get everyone meditating because it will make your world and our world a better place to be on a daily basis; thus the paradigm shift. Simple.

I currently have a YouTube channel with some basics yoga videos and guided meditations. To keep with the theme of simplicity, all you have to do is sit down, listen and follow along. I suggest using the meditations in the order of the chakras:

1st Chakra - Grounding through the Root Chakra  

2nd Chakra - Allow More Pleasure Into Your Life

3rd Chakra - Reconnect With Your Own Power

4th Chakra - Heart Center

5th Chakra - Communicate Clearly and Speak Your Truth

6th Chakra - Third Eye

7th Chakra - Connect To Your Higher Self

All 7 Chakras - Intention Setting Guided Meditation (the most used meditation on the channel)

Once you've gotten acquainted with each Chakra, spend time working on areas that you feel need to be addressed in your life. Of course, you can always do any of the meditations whenever you feel. 

I am currently working on more of the aforementioned list at the beginning of this post. Please feel free to make requests, ask questions and share your own experiences in the comments below. There is no question that a meditation revolution is in the works. Let's make it available and accessible to everyone.

 

 

 

Defying Tradition or Cultural Evolution? (don't let the gravitas of the title fool you...this is a food post)

I recently came across one of those BuzzFeed videos that you can't avoid if you actually look at your FB feed. When they first made their appearance on the social media conveyor belt, I found them entertaining. Who doesn't love watching old Italian women trying Olive Garden for the first time? As with everything internet, the interest wanes after only a few incarnations, ultimately transforming the uncontrollable laughter into yawns and eye rolls. That is what happened to me when I came across the What It's Like To Be Ambiguously Ethnic video? Naturally, I had to click coming from a mixed race background. I sat through the entire thing thinking that they were reaching big time with this one. I didn't find it funny at all. I was, however, manipulated into an inner dialogue that was much more important than some vacuous cackling. Why is the heritage label so important? Why do we cling to identity and is identity self-defined or are we born into one? There is nothing pure about me. My parents created that paradigm shift. Ultimately, as is the case with most of my ponderation, the final thoughts were, "Why does this fucking matter?" 

So now for the food part. I was hungry (this is how it usually begins...) A chocolate croissant and latte breakfast was prodding me with guilt as I wandered through the market, shopping for tonight's dinner. My niece had posted a Korean meal on FaceCrack (my BFF turned me onto that gem) last night and it made my mouth water. A simple, traditional meal called Bibimbap popped off of the screen, conjuring the feeling of home (whatever that means). I suddenly was craving Korean food. Into my basket went scallions, garlic, spinach and quinoa. Woooooahhh! What do you mean "quinoa"? Do you think they were eating quinoa in post war 1953 Korea? Of course not! It's a cultural travesty. What is this quinoa? A phonetic nightmare that has more syllables and way more nutrients than rice. How dare I infringe on my peoples' pantry? 

Well, Koreans are only half my people, but that's not a legitimate argument because the other 50% didn't eat the stuff either. And that is what brings us to the catchy post title (before the parenthetical remark). Distortion is the new homogenization. I know. The paradox is deafening! If you are following any of this then please find me on social media and be my friend because we must be kindred spirits. Either way, stick around for the food part (finally...).

Vegan Quasi Korean Lettuce Wraps (always organic :)
*Gluten-free if you switch out the Soy Sauce with Tamari...


I never measure anything so be creative.

Rinsed Romaine lettuce leaves
Spinach
Acorn Squash
Asparagus
Quinoa (I used sprouted, pretty multi-colored variety)
Avocado
Garlic
Scallions
Soy Sauce
Toasted Sesame Oil
Rice Wine Vinegar
Raw Honey
Toasted sesame seeds
Black Pepper

Peel and remove seeds from acorn squash. Place in your favorite Le Creuset and add whole garlic cloves that have been smushed (this is the culinary word for taking the side of your knife and beating the garlic clove down), thickly slice scallions, sesame oil (around a tablespoon), soy sauce (a splash or two) and enough water to cover the bottom of the pain. Bring to a quick boil and then turn down to stew. Stir occasionally. 

Sauté spinach in sesame oil and minced garlic. Squeeze out excess water and place in a serving bowl.

Toss asparagus in minced garlic and lightly oil. Roast in 375º oven for 10 minutes. 

Cook your quinoa as directed. Lightly fluff with a fork after it has cooled a bit.

Dipping Sauce
Mince a few cloves of garlic and a whole scallion.
Add soy sauce (1/4c), rice wine vinegar (1/4c) and sesame oil (1/8c).
Whisk together while adding a tablespoon of raw honey. Add some black pepper and add more of whatever you feel you need to taste.

Slice the avocado, place each of your veggies in serving bowls, make sure your rinsed lettuce is dry, and grab some Gochujang from your local Sprouts (yup...you don't have to go to Mitsuwa or Ktown for the hardcore stuff anymore). I was out of sesame seeds today but try not to forget them. Sprinkle them generously on everything (except the lettuce).

Take a leaf, filled it with everything that is on display and eat it like a taco. You are most welcome. :) 

Your Hapa Bunny