Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pregnant with New Ideas

Lately I've been reading books that I'm embarrassed for other people to see.  I don't want anyone, even strangers on the subway, getting the wrong impression.

No, no, it's not that!  It's...prenatal yoga books.

And NO, I'm NOT pregnant!!  That's exactly why I didn't want to tell anybody!  I'm studying prenatal yoga texts to expand my toolbox for working with pregnant yogis and teaching prenatal classes.

It's odd reading books to prepare you to work with students when the books are all adressed to 'you.'  'You' will have a harder time maintaining proper posture now that the weight of the baby is growing.  'You' may have many mixed emotions when you find out you are pregnant.  'You' will need to surrender to the powerful waves of contractions, allowing the base of your body to open up, so your baby can come out in to the world..
No, actually, I won't

I find pregnancy and childbirth absolutely fascinating, though. I just learned yesterday that the placenta and the baby each produce hormones that cause changes to happen in the woman's body.  The baby actually releases a hormone that starts labor when his or her lungs are ready to breathe air.  Crazy, right?  Makes the idea of inducing labor seem kind of barbaric, right?  Labor doesn't start when you know, your body gets around to it.  It happens when your baby is ready for it to happen.  Why would you rush it?

Taking childbirth and pregnancy from something that happened to women, that women had control over, to something that happens in a hospital, via largely male doctors, is a feminist issue.  Making new humans is an incredible thing, and all over the world, cultures have revered women for their ability to do it.  In a surprisingly few number of generations, we've managed to turn it into something

A.) disgusting and weird that 'ruins' your body

B.) that a woman can't handle on her own.  She had NO IDEA how to go about having a healthy pregnancy, let alone following the same instincts present in every other mammal that manages without pitocin or forceps to send the baby out into the world. 

A woman in labor at your average American hospital is strapped down (well, practically), drugged (literally), and taken completely out of control of her own body and the natural processes its going through.

The World Health Organization has stated that lying down to give birth is the WORST birthing position, and that it always makes for a more difficult experience for both mother and child.  Yet we lie down to give birth routinely.

You guys, this is messed up.  Not everyone's up for a homebirth in a whirlpool tub, and that's ok.  There are pregnancies where the risk is higher and such a situation wouldn't be recommended anyway.  Medical intervention is a blessing when it's necessary.  But we should ALL be informed, and make conscious choices about our birth experience, right?  We shouldn't all assume this is something we can't do, right?  You can learn a lot about this issue just by watching documentaries on netflix.  Check it out!

It's something to think about.  If you or someone you know is expecting a new addition, Sangha Yoga Shala in Williamsburg offers a full schedule of prenatal classes, and if you're lucky, I might just be subbing.

Live Omily,
~em

Friday, April 26, 2013

Eating Omily: Hot Bread Kitchen

When our bread machine broke something like two years ago, we immediately started scouring rummage sales and the internet for an affordable replacement, but we didn't have much luck.

In the meantime, I started exploring the delicious breads available at the Farmer's Market from Bread Alone Bakery, Hot Bread Kitchen, and others.  There was no shortage of delicious, handmade, whole grain breads to choose from, and it was nice to have some variety, instead of our standard whole wheat molasses loaf (albeit a delicious standard).

On an Autumn walk around our 'hood last year, we finally lucked out: a bread machine at a stoop sale, for only a couple bucks!!  We were so excited as we carried our prize home, but since then, it's been gathering dust in the closet!  We can't seem to talk ourselves out of buying the delicious ready-made breads waiting for us in Union Square.  Sooner or later I'll get back into the swing of things, and I look forward to experimenting with some of the bread types we've been tasting in the meantime, but it's hard to get motivated when you can do so much good by buying bread!

All the bakeries at Union Square are local, and most go above and beyond good stewardship of the earth principles, but one takes it even farther:

Hot Bread Kitchen.

This company hires women who have recently immigrated to the area, and then bakes breads based on the delicious cultures these women came from! From tortillas made the old-fashioned way: from fresh corn soaked with lime, to irresistible whole wheat challah, they're baking treats you won't want to live without, while providing crucial economic opportunities to women in need that utilize their existing skill set.  How cool is that??   Read about their mission, and their amazing breads on their website, hotbreadkitchen.org!
 And, because they're awesome, they take it even further with HBK Incubates. This service helps entrepreneurs (with a focus on women, minorities, or low-income entrepreneurs) formalize their food-based businesses with advice both in the kitchen and for the business, and industrial kitchens in which to work. This service is tailored to people who have already been working out of their kitchens, and are ready to formalize their business and grow and navigate that tricky gap, and anyone can apply!  Read all about it here!

You can help them with this important work by making yourself some stellar French toast this weekend!  Get to Union Square, and grab a loaf of that challah!
Trust me, you won't be sorry.
What else is going on at the Farmers' Market these days?  Well, if someone special likes a certain plant, you may be able to luck into a bargain!
Maybe say a prayer for the Holy Father, as a little way to say thank you. ;-)

~em

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Haters Gonna Hate-Here's How to Handle It

Stop me if you've heard this one: you're home visiting your family, and someone happens to notice the tarot deck in your bag (or pocket).  Maybe it's a shit storm of accusations (and near exorcisms), maybe it's just a slant-eyed glance you have no trouble interpreting:

Your family is not a fan of the Tarot.  If you're lucky, it's just a couple old school die-hards who are giving you trouble.  It's not such a big deal to stick to less controversial topics when hanging out with Grannie, right?  I'm not above a white lie when necessary: "Oh, you know, I think it's sort of interesting.  I don't really do it anymore..."

But maybe you are.  Maybe you're tired of being ashamed of the things that hold meaning for you.  I don't blame you!  Or maybe it's not just Grannie who's ready to give you an earfull.  Maybe you find yourself facing multiple detractors.

Every situation is different, and how much explanation versus diplomatic downplaying you want to go into is completely up to you, but here are some concrete things you can say that will not only potentially get you out of hot water, but will spread information and dispel myths as well!

First off (assuming you don't believe this), make it clear that you aren't channeling spirits or powers through the cards to tell the future, and that you aren't telling the future much at all.  This isn't witch craft (if you're practicing witch craft you have a much harder battle than I'll ever fight! Good luck, and God speed!), it isn't voodoo, it isn't devil worship, or any of that other stuff people may think it is.

I explain that it's more like ink blots.  Everyone's familiar with those ink blot tests that used to be such a thing: how does your mind interpret an abstract shape?  The cards are less abstract, though.  They depict archetypes that are already familiar to us.  Depending on who I'm talking to, I'll just say that we've encountered them before, but if the person is a little open-minded, I'll talk about collective consciousness, and how we all contain all of these archetypes already.  It's easy to give examples from history or literature of a few, to show what I mean: the Empress is Mother Nature, Death and the Devil are self-explanatory (ironically enough...), Justice is the symbol we use for our court system.

I talk about archetypal psychology in general (which is beyond fascinating, and something you should totally research if you're into Tarot).  Name drop Carl Jung (wet your whistle on the subject here), and reference some texts on the subject.  Frame your tarot tastes as more academic (if this is true, or if you don't mind misleading the person hassling you), and you're likely to encounter less resistance.
I'll talk about how by defining an issue that you're concerned about and not sure how to handle, and then laying out the cards, we can explore how we react to these archetypes to help us figure out which ones are active in the situation, and how best we can handle them.

Again, if the person is more open-minded, I'll talk about synchronicity, about how my subconscious knows the order of the deck already and makes choices about which cards come out, and other fun things like that.  If the person is not, I'll keep my mouth shut.

I found this advice on a tarot forum, and I think it's pretty solid, too:

"When people are squirrely about tarot, I talk to them about their psychological benefits. They are an EXCELLENT tool for introspection, for working through issues, for finding out about our truest selves. I am also an artist. Depending on who I'm talking about, I'll explain that its an inexpensive way to collect 78 pieces of artwork. That they are simply works of art, printed on paper, often published by either the artists themselves or GAME companies."

Often when people disapprove, we assume we're dealing with Christians.  Actually, lots of people can take issues with the cards: atheists, Jews, Muslims, even Spiritualists.  If a believer in a benevolent divine force is giving me trouble, I assure him or her that I take the time to pray before readings that God[dess] protect me from any unfriendly spirits or energies, and that I not be given any knowledge or wisdom I, or the person I'm reading for, is not meant to have at this time (which is true; it helps me to center myself, and I also ask for God[dess]'s help to be a clear conduit for the wisdom this person needs).

If the person still gives you that ominous look and talks about slippery slopes, or going down the wrong path, resist the urge to roll your eyes.  Smile, thank him or her for his or her concern, let him or her know you welcome prayers for your well-being on all fronts, but you feel confident that you're on the correct path right now, so there's really nothing else to say on the subject.  At that point, it's your responsibility to not bring it up again, or provoke this person.  It's not unreasonable that you refrain from bringing the tarot, physically, or through conversation, where it is not wanted.  It can be frustrating when you're really excited about something and your family or friends don't want to hear it, but odds are the tarot isn't the only thing you're into.  Just focus on your other interests, be patient, and make a phone call to someone who's happy to talk tarot with you as soon as you can get away.

I hope this helps, if only by reminding you that you aren't alone when you struggle for understanding and acceptance from your loved ones.  We can't make anyone believe or be comfortable with anything.  But we can always choose to live and let live, even if they won't.  Doesn't the moral high ground make you feel better? ;-)

~em

Monday, April 22, 2013

Flexible Body, Flexible Mind, Flexible Yoga?

Last week I talked about my new stretching regimen, and how changing my body is forcing me to rethink my perceptions of self, and to be more aware of how others are perceiving me.  This week I want to talk about...yoga.  Specifically, last Spring, shortly after I started doing a five-minute nightly stretch routine, I was at a friend's birthday party, filling her in on what I was up to, including the new stretching routine, she interrupted to ask,

"Wait, stretching?  Why aren't you calling it yoga?"  I quickly explained that my stretching regimen was in addition to my regular yoga practice, but I think I missed the point.  What I really meant was,

"Yoga is not always stretching, and stretching is not always yoga."  You can easily do one and not the other.  I was not under the illusion that five minutes spent tugging at rock hard hamstrings qualified as stilling the vacillations of my mind.

But, yoga isn't just what you define as "Yoga". Yoga seeps into every part of your life, which is why this yoga blog is about so many different things!

So, I may not call it 'yoga', anymore than I call wondering through the park and taking pictures of the Spring flowers 'yoga', but sometimes, it IS yoga, and in fact, the goal is FOR it to be yoga.  As Christians say, we should pray without ceasing, not cease everything and pray.
What does it look like when I'm doing yoga AND stretching?

Well, usually it looks like me in a straddle forward fold, breathing super deeply and loudly so as to stay present and calm in the face of significant discomfort.

It looks like me micro-adjusting my janu sirsasana every second, to square my chest more fully over the extended leg, and lengthen my spine even more, instead of just sinking in and letting my mind get absorbed into the current episode of Eureka.
It looks like me taking a deep breath and refocusing on the sensation I'm creating, instead of trying to measure if my back thigh is any closer to the floor in my splits yet.

It looks like choosing to be a part of the process, instead of getting distracted by potential results.  It looks like choosing to be present, whether the present is comfortable or pleasant or not so much.

Yoga is a lot of self discipline, a lot of impulse control.  Perhaps not surprisingly, impulse control was found to be greatest indicator of future success among school age children.  Even if you can't make it to a yoga studio a couple times a week, even if you can't reliably download yoga podcasts to do in your living room, you can still do yoga.

By consciously relaxing your jaw and observing your present moment the next time you get stuck in traffic.

By carefully assessing the way you clean the house, and asking yourself if there are different methods you could use to make you more efficient, instead of mindlessly living out the same old patterns.

By dedicating yourself to each day at your job, instead of constantly looking ahead and planning on how much fun you'll have when you finally get that promotion or raise.

Give it a try.  Keep trying even when it's really hard.  And in a few months, let me know how you're feeling.

Live Omily,
~em

Friday, April 19, 2013

Eating Omily: Beat for Several Minutes Holding Pleasant Thoughts in Mind...

Happy Friday, guys!  Today I'm going to share with you a recipe that may strike you as sort of...fresh from Wonderland.  We tend to treat this item like an ingredient, instead of like a prepared product, but it is a prepared product, with an ingredient list, and everything!  And, of course, it tastes a million times better (and is a million times better for you) when you make it yourself.

It's...Mayonnaise.  Yep.  Put down the miracle whip and listen up: real mayonnaise made in your home kitchen is full of nutrients, has a truly decadent texture, can have just about any flavor you like, and has a million uses.

And no, the title of the blog is not what you should do to me for suggesting you're deficient in any way for buying store-bought mayonnaise!  It's actually a loosely remembered line from a French mayonnaise recipe featured in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Just give this a try ONCE, and we'll see if you go back to the jar anytime soon.

So, start with an egg (from pastured hens from your Farmer's Market, of course), some good-for-you oil, salt, and any flavorings you may want.  Like what?  Well, first of all, if you use a fruity, delicious olive oil, your mayonnaise will taste like a fruity, delicious olive oil.  This can be a very good thing, unless you're using, say, juices from cooked crab to flavor your mayonnaise and don't want the olive oil to overpower that subtle crabby sweetness.  In that, opt for a milder oil, like grapeseed, or just about any cold-pressed vegetable oil that wasn't made from GMOs.  So, the olive oil is your primary flavorant.  My favourite addition is a garlic clove.  Some people use a teaspoon or two of a favorite vinegar.  Soy sauce might be nice.  It's totally up to you!

Start by separating your egg.  Put the yolk in a smallish mixing bowl, and save the white for a scramble later.  Add salt, grated garlic clove, vinegar, or whatever flavoring you like to the egg yolk, and beat it together.  Now, if your oil isn't in a container with a very small pour spout, you may want to remedy this situation, and you may want to obtain a partner...or an electric mixer...or both, at least for your first couple attempts.

When you make mayonnaise, you're making an emulsion, and that can be tricky.  See, we all know oil and water don't mix.  An egg yolk has lots of water in it, as does vinegar, crab juices, etc.  But, egg yolks also have special molecules that just happen to have the right hookups to hold one water molecule, and one fat molecule together.  When you link up each molecule, you end up with a beautiful, creamy, fat and water being friendly, sandwich spread.

But, these special emulsifying molecules need a little coaxing.  The fat easily overwhelms them.  You have to add the oil very very slowly, just dribbles at a time, while beating the egg yolk continuously, until the emulsion forms.  At that point, you can add the oil a little faster, but it's still possible to go too fast, overwhelm the emulsifiers, and break the emulsion.  Once that's done, there's no putting Humpty Dumpty back together.  Throw it out, or beat a fresh egg yolk, and slowly add the broken emulsion to that one.

Hence, it's nice at first to have one person focusing on beating the emulsion, and one person focusing on adding the oil super slowly.  After a few times, you'll get the hang of it.  The electric mixer just saves your arms, and since the mixer is constantly moving at the same speed, it does improve your odds of success.

So, you start to dribble in the oil, mixing away.  How do you know when you have an emulsion?  Oh, trust me, you won't miss it.  The mixture will suddenly become thicker, and creamier than either of its two components, in a form of kitchen alchemy you will be amazed by every time.
So we're mixing....we're mixing...we're mixing...and...Whoa!!!!

Yes, you do it right, and that will happen, every time!  All that's in there is really good olive oil, one egg yolk, salt, and one grated garlic clove.  You can add up to one cup of oil per egg yolk, though the more oil you add, the less stable your emulsion, so I don't add more than half a cup, generally.  This stuff is amazing on toast with eggs (it's Hollandaise made with olive oil instead of butter, literally).  It's creamy, thick, rich, and just amazing.  Stir in chopped pickles for homemade tartar sauce, make potato or egg salads, which are fabulous for spring picnics, by the way.  The flavor of a salad made with this stuff instead of store-bought mayonnaise will absolutely blow your mind.

What do you think?  Are you up for the challenge??  Let me know how it goes; we'll trouble-shoot!

Nom nom nom...
~em

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Omily Tarot: It Will Be Signficant

So last week I did a reading and we discussed it, and along the way the term, 'significator' came up.  I realized, as I typed it, that I hadn't ever discussed the use of significators in readings before (because I frequently don't use one), and that this is something that's going to come up quite a bit for anybody who's studying the tarot.

A signficator is a card chosen as the first step to a tarot reading that represents the querent in the reading. Traditionally, this card is chosen from either the Major Arcanum, or the court cards of the Minor Arcanum.  If you're choosing a Major Arcanum card, dialogue with your querent, and  figure out what the situation at hand is, and what the question asked of the tarot will be, and choose your card accordingly.  A few easy examples: a reading about relationships would suggest The Lovers.  A reading about a pregnancy could be represented by The Empress, and a reading about how to deal with somebody who has wronged you could be represented by Justice.

In choosing a court card, you can select the suit based on the situation at hand: emotional matters represented by cups, spiritual matters represented by staves, intellectual matters represented by swords, and practical patters represented by pentacles.

If the reading is a general one, or the question doesn't neatly fit one of the categories available, you can also choose the court card based on the appearance of the querent: traditionally, the continuum of lighter to darker features goes wands, cups, coins, swords, though the last two are sometimes switched. You can also pick a court card based on perceived or self-identified temperament: fiery, dreamy, intellectual, or down to earth. You choose which court card within a suit by the gender, and age of the querent: children are pages, young adults are knights, mature adults and the elderly are kings if they self-identify as male, and queens if they self-identify as female.

When I use a significator, I'm likely to open my self up to the whole deck, and just move through the cards slowly until I feel one kind of stand up and start waving.  Sometimes this can take awhile, and sometimes I don't have a while, so I go with one of the other methods.  A well-chosen significator does provide a useful focal point for focusing your energies, so be mindful when you choose one: don't choose a court card based on appearances, or personality for that matter, if doing so is going to ignite stereotypes in your mind.  You need to be a clear channel for the messages from your and your querent's subconscious.

Sometimes it's best to skip the significator all together, to help prevent you from putting your querent into a gender/age group/personality/appearance box.  It's good to practice with one and without one, so you're comfortable either way and can go with what is best for the given situation.

I hope this answers your basic significator questions, and sets you up to start working with them so you can ask, and answer, some of your own.  I'm still up in the air about what to write about next week, so if you have suggestion or questions, definitely let me know in the comments!

Happy taroting!
~em

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flexible Body, Flexible Mind

After an incredibly inspiring meeting the Creative Director, Tim Smith, of Totem, the Cirque du Soleil show running through mid May at Citi Field (pawn your belongings and go, go!!), I've started stretching for thirty minutes to an hour every day.  In audition tapes, Cirque wants to see a full split, all three ways, as well as a high degree in flexibility of the back and shoulders.  I have exactly one of those things (Hooray, unusually bendy thoracic spine!).  The good news is, while I can't  realistically swing more than two aerial classes a week, I possess everything I need for a thorough stretching routine already: muscles, and a floor.

So there you have it; post-dinner netflix time is stretching time, and after the no-sugar Lent of 2013, if that means skipping dessert, I'm ok with that.  If I'm really craving some chocolate icecream, I take it with me in my forward fold.

Between going on eight years of consistent yoga practice, one year of a five-minute nightly stretching routine, and one week of the new 30-60 minute stretching routine, my body is changing: If it's not first thing in the morning and I'm a little warm, I can not only bend down and touch me toes, but press my palms into the floor.  Depending on your body type, you're either giving me a great big, "So what?" or are in awe.  I'm far more inclined to sympathize with the latter group because it was only in my second year of yoga that I touched my toes with straight legs for the first time I could remember.  Ever.  I was twenty.  Every additional  inch I eek out of my hamstrings is a miracle, as far as I'm concerned.  While my shoulders are still so unflexible as to be outside the realm of possibility in most yoga teacher's minds, my hamstrings and hips are moving, I'm slowly realizing, past average and toward, well, bendy.  Holy shit.

This is a big deal, obviously, and the area in which I'm having the hardest time adjusting is in my practice as a yoga teacher.  I put my students into hamstring-heavy poses, and then I say, "Now, if you're not flexible, like me, this pose may look more like this:" and move into what my brain still assumes is a very generous variation...except it's not such a generous variation anymore.  I can't exactly pretend my hands can't connect to my feet when they can. Oops.

Being able to relate to the less flexible crowd was always something that I loved about my yoga classes, because it gave me sort of an instant in: I was the yoga teacher whose body was like theirs. I actually understood how downright embarrassing it could be to move into your body's version of a seated wide-legged forward fold in front of other people before you've had months to remind yourself that, really, it doesn't matter how you look.  That's just meaningless ego chatter.

And I STILL know how that feels, because I still strike that pose in my aerial classes, where most of the other students are border line contortionists with beautiful straddles far closer to 180 degrees than 90, who can often lay their chests right down on the floor.  Suddenly all that hard-won progress looks pretty paltry.

So, yes, I CAN still relate, and I CAN still teach from that experience, but my forward fold no longer resembles my newb students, and when I try to teach from that experience, they look at my body, and I can see the incredulity on their faces.  I am hurting my creditability.

In this situation, I have a major responsibility as a teacher to stay up to date with where my body is and what it can do, to keep a real-life perspective on where my muscles fall on the continuum from super-restricted to contortionist so that I can speak honestly about where my body is (and was), and offer variations and modifications that will allow all the bodies in my room to achieve a meaningful, integrated, healthy stretch.  If my mind stays static as my body grows more flexible, I'm inevitably going to become out of touch with my own body, and from that perspective, communicating meaningfully with other people about their bodies is all but impossible.  A changing body calls for  an observant, unattached, even flexible, mind. (Here's the takeaway, guys: all of us have changing bodies.  Maybe slow, maybe fast, but all changing.)

I hope to use my body as an example of how a committed yoga practice can affect real change, but I also have to beware of false advertising: A one-minute pigeon pose a couple times a week didn't enable me to put my palms on the floor; dedicated time each day to the cause of lengthening my muscles did.

In case you haven't noticed, this new stretching practice is giving me a lot to chew on in terms of yoga philosophy.  Next week we'll dive in again, looking at the question of what qualifies as yoga through the lens of this same practice.

Live Omily,
~em

Friday, April 12, 2013

Eating Omily: Biscotti and Other Adventures

After seven weeks and change of going without sugar, I knew I wanted to celebrate breaking the fast with something fabulous on Easter Sunday, but I also knew I didn't want to dive back into a sugar coma, and the accompanying sugar addiction.  What's a girl to do?  Easy: anise-almond biscotti dipped in dark chocolate.  Home-made from scratch.  Hell yeah.  The Easter treat of champions, with local whole wheat flour, lots of almonds, three eggs, no butter, and only a cup of sugar in the whole batch!  Not exactly low-sugar, but pretty solid for a cookie recipe!  I toasted the almonds myself a day ahead, and woke up early to chop them by hand.  I love baking.  Watching the ingredients transform into a subtly sweet, aromaticly flavored dough is a beautiful proccess to observe.
Here's one loaf of biscotti fresh from the oven.  My loaves usually meld together in the middle, but it's easy enough to carefully separate them.  But wait, I know: 'Loaf??  Biscotti??? Are these not the things you dip in your coffee??' Don't panic, guys.  You clearly don't speak Italian.  Biscotti can be translated to, 'twice cooked' or 'baked.'  You make the dough, shape it into loaves, bake it till light  golden-brown and set, and then let it cool for a bit while you turn down the oven.
Then you carefully slice the biscotti (on a bias for longer, more elegant cookies), lay them cut-side down on the cookie sheet, and bake them for ten minutes, then turn over, and bake for another ten minutes.  I guess technically these sort of get baked three times.  Oh well.
Are they starting to look a bit familiar?  Those rounded-triangle-shaped pieces on the end are a special treat reserved for the baker.  I don't put those back into the oven, and they have a soft, almost cakey texture on the inside, and are perfectly perfumed with lemon zest, toasted almonds, and anise seed.  So yummy!!
Here they are after the twenty-minute second bake, and after a dip in melted extra dark Belgian chocolate.  Yum.  When dipped in coffee, the crunchiness softens, and the chocolate melts for a perfectly decadent treat, and of course, by the end of the cookie, your coffee is subtley perfumed with the flavors of the biscotti, too.  Perfecto!  I use the recipe from Alice Water's, The Art of Simple Food, though the dark chocolate dip is my own genius addition.  Even if you don't like licorice, and are hesitant to add the anise, try it!  It's subtle, and perfect, and I hate licorice!

On a side note, I was at the Farmer's Market and saw this perfect addition to your locavore brunch table.  Can't wait to try it!!
Might be leaving this one for the next food adventurer, though...
I also picked up a thank you note for my favourite vendor at the Manager's tent.  How fun!
Did you celelbrate Easter with special treats?  Are you familar with scrapple, that special southern delicacy?  If you like crafting more than baking, why not make your own thank you cards for local farmers!

Nom.
~em

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Real Life Reading

Sorry for the delay, guys, I had quite the weekend, and a busy Monday.  In thanks for your patience, I thought I would do a full tarot reading for today's tarot blog post, and as luck would have it, I have something worth doing a reading for.  Any details I could give would only feel like bragging, and possibly jinxing myself, so I'm going to just say that I have an important meeting coming up on Friday that could prove very very helpful for me.  Wanting to be prepared as possible, I did a simple three-card spread asking what energies I should bring with me to ensure I would achieve my goals, what energies I should leave behind to ensure I would achieve my goals, and what else I should know about the person or meeting to ensure I would achieve my goals.  Here's how it went down.

First of all, I pulled my significator off the top: Major Arcanum VII: Movement (known at the Chariot in more traditional decks).  You may recall that Movement is my 2013 Card of the Year, and since this meeting is definitely what I had hoped for when I drew that card, it was a very appropriate card to focus on during the reading. I don't often use significators, so you may not be familiar with the concept.  I'll address it in my next tarot card blog post.

Then, I shuffled to clear the deck, took some deep breaths, and guided my attention from previous events of the day to the question at hand. I asked the question, and continued shuffling, then cut the deck into a couple of piles, and put it back together using my right (non-dominant) hand. I pulled the first card off the top, and laid it, face down partially covering the significator, being careful not to turn it upside down in the process.
And then I flipped it over.
 Feel free to go read my interpretation of the King of Swords.  I'll wait. Back?  Good.  So, the Swords are about air, and thoughts, and words, and ideas, and truths, and the King is the master of the masculine aspects of this element.  So, the King tells the truth, and acts on truths.  He's the opposite of the shady salesman who makes products sound better than they are.  He can even be kind of harsh, and may for that reason not be the best choice for a spokesperson.  This card seems to be telling me that I can't pull off pretending to be more advanced than I am, and it's important that I'm upfront about where I'm at.  This person may be impressed by my integrity, and the courage it takes to admit I'm not in the best place to take advantage of an opportunity yet.
 The next card was confusing at first, because it presented sort of a double negative: I was asking which energies I should leave behind for this meeting, and the card I drew was reversed.  Of course, as we discussed earlier, reversals can mean lots of different things (and you can read about that in my Reversals blog post), so I took my time interpreting this one.   Feel free to go back and explore my Nine of Coins interpretation to give yourself a better idea of what I was looking at. I decided this card was telling me that in my focus on being honest, it was crucial that I not be self-deprecating.  I had to know my strengths and be comfortable sharing them, instead of just going into a long "I'm not worthy" speech. The fact that this is a Coins card also emphasize the former card by sending the message that I need to be 'down to earth' in this meeting, staying realistic and practical.
I shuffled and laid out my last card.  Here's a better view of it.
First off, it's a second Coin card, which makes the emphasis on practicality, and staying grounded pretty hard to ignore.  Maybe there are subtler messages here, too: my feet will be staying on the ground, literally, during this meeting; my injury-free track record will be worth mentioning during the meeting.  Here's my interpretation of the Six of Coins. So an important message here seems to be that this opportunity is purely a gift.  I didn't earn it through my skills, and I need to be cognizant of that.  Appreciative yes, groveling, no.  If I'm honest about my strengths and weaknesses, and ask nicely, who knows what else I might be freely given.

Who knows indeed.  I just hope I can keep my current attitude of calmly embracing this opportunity and making the most of it without getting attached to specific results when Friday evening gets here!!

I hope comparing my interpretations with how I intrepreted these cards in the context of a specific reading with specific questions was helpful.  Happy Taroting!

~em

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Just Food Conference: Because It's Not Just Food

Ok!  I know it's been a while, but I do have some cool stuff to share!  I was very very lucky to win some tickets to the SOLD OUT Just Food Conference this past weekend (Thanks, Red Jacket Farm!) I wasn't able to attend Friday, between fasting, Outdoor Stations of the Cross, the Good Friday church service, and work study that night, but we were up bright and early Saturday to check out the amazing offerings.
The first work shop the husband and I attended was "Milk Not Jails", which was an overview of a non-profit organization by the same name who discovered the connection between how challenging it is to reform the justice system in New York state, and our shrinking family-owned dairy industry.  Turns out, when small dairy farmers were forced out of business by laws that favored the industrial dairy giants, the economies of upstate small towns were dealt a massive blow.  To try and fix the damage, politicians opened new prisons in or near these small, rural towns.  This did bring new jobs to the area for prison guards and such, but, no big surprise, a lot of people were less than thrilled to be living in a prison town, and these small town economies continued to grow more depressed, instead of bouncing back. Now, when we in urban areas see how incarcerating people for, say, having some weed on them, is hurting our communities, and we try to push for reform in the state laws, these upstate communities push back because they don't want to lose the jobs the prisons provide.  Instead of feeling stuck and helpless, which is totally what I would have done, these clever people went straight to the dairy producers and started making deals: you support our justice system reform, we'll build urban markets for your sustainable, family-farmed dairy products.  By partnering with CSAs, and hopefully forming a local cooperative over the next few years, Milk Not Jails is keeping farmers on their land, and building an economy on dairy, instead of the wrongfully imprisoned.  How awesome is that??  Go to www.milknotjails.com to check out what policy reforms they support, and how you can get your hands on some upstate dairy goodness.
Another awesome workshop we attended (along with surely a quarter of the people at the conference!) was, "Curd Nerds: Introduction to Milk Chemistry and Cheesemaking", which was offered by Murray's Cheese.  Not only did we get tons of tasty samples, but we learned the science and process behind how milk turns into cheese.  We got a printed copy of the powerpoint with room for notes, and I took plenty! I can't wait to break out my cheesemaking book and give mozzarella a try!  We also learned that a mini wine fridge makes a great beginner's cheese cave!  If only we had a slightly bigger kitchen...someday I'll ripen my own brie...other interesting tidbits? The protiens in milk look a bit like koosh balls, and the chemical composition of milk varies widely depending on when in the lactation cycle you're obtaining it: closer to when the baby was born, or closer to when the baby is ready to be weaned.  Don't worry: I'll be sure to take pictures of my attempts!!

The last event of the day was a panel discussion with four beginning farmers.  Ben Shute spent years apprenticing at other farms before starting his own, which now boasts a 550-member CSA!  Cara Fraver started a small organic farm upstate with her husband.  Rafael Aponte is a Bronx native who started out with one pot in a patch of sun in his apartment, and is now joining with others to start a farming venture in Ithica after working with Just Foods for seven years. Gudelio Garcia is an immigrant from Mexico who spoke to us with the aid of a translator, who spent a few years commuting to farms in the area as a day laborer, but who now runs El Poblano Farm on Staten Island. The first three presentors all agreed that finding, and obtaining the land for their farms was the toughest part.  Cara spoke of how difficult it is to pour money and labor into land that can't yet give any value back: Food has to be grown on an organic farm with only organic methods for three years before it can be sold as organic.  Gudelio talked about how hard it was to be so far away from his family, but also how grateful he is to be working outside in the sunshine, and getting paid a fair wage to do so. 

I think the most powerful thing we heard came from Rafael: he talked about how when he spoke to people in his community about going back to the land and farming, they asked him if he was going back to sharecropping.  It was a powerful reminder that growing food comes with baggage for communities of color.  The initial image for them is not an empowering one.  I'm glad Rafael is able to serve as an advocate for agriculture work, and as an advocate for his community when working with people like me: heavily privileged, and able to dream of someday owning land and raising veggies and chickens as a luxury because of that privilege. He said people were often surprised when he told them he was a farmer, because a person of color with a Bronx accent is not the first image that pops into the average person's head when he or she thinks of a farmer! He told us,

"I'm not a unicorn, I'm a farmer. I'm a person of color; I exist."

We gave them a standing ovation.

So, want to come next year??  I'll be there!  This year's tickets were $45 for each day, with a discount if you bought both days.  Breakfast and lunch are provided both days, and the samples at the expo on Saturday means you basically also get dinner with drinks.  If you're interested in the movement for justice in the food system, if you believe in helping the planet with agriculture instead of hurting it, if you believe in supporting your local community and keeping farmers on their land, if you just love good food, you are going to have an incredible time and learn so much!  You can get iscounted tickets by joining Just Food as a contributing member.  Go to www.justfood.org, make a donation of $40 or greater, $75 for a family membership, and while you're there, check out their awesome clothes.  I'm obsessed with the "Yes We Can!" t-shirt!

Live Omily,
~em