Fresh almond milk is so easy to make and the taste will make you swoon. Well, maybe not swoon but you'll really enjoy it. ;)Read More
I Hate Hiking
Okay, so I don't hate hiking. I'm currently obsessed with it. I stopped hating it three days ago.
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)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
Quinoa (I used sprouted, pretty multi-colored variety)
Toasted Sesame Oil
Rice Wine Vinegar
Toasted sesame seeds
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.
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
The view from my living room window.Read More