Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaching How Teacher Teach...

If you've fallen down the yoga rabbit hole far enough (and if you haven't, you will; give it time), you've internalized the understanding that it isn't about the asanas.  It isn't about mimicking the cover of Yoga Journal, or executing the perfect upward facing dog.

We teachers talk till we're blue in the face working to convince newbs not to worry about what the poses look like in their bodies, but what they feel like, and eventually, we push them even deeper: what does the mind feel like while we're doing these shapes?  What about the rest of the time?  We practice a little Pranayama, sneak a few minutes of seated meditation into long classes, invite students to close their eyes, all to tempt them away from the primrose path of pushing their bodies to be stronger, more flexible, (and probably thinner, too); more capable of assuming a certain school of shapes as the final goal, in favor of something deeper.  Something MORE.  Like, happiness.

But, most of us will never stop doing asana no matter how into the philosophy and meditation we get, because asana is freaking amazing.  And while it is part of your practice to work with the same old familiar shapes over and over and be present and find peace in a space that may be boring, you're going to continue to build your practice and attempt more challenging asanas. You just are.

And, knowing that that is so, we yoga teachers can't be so excited about the other eight limbs that we forget about the one limb that we are in fact teaching right this second.   Doing a yoga pose wrong means you won't look like the cover of Yoga Journal.  That doesn't matter in the slightest.  Doing a yoga pose wrong also means you could be putting your body at risk of injury.  That matters a whole lot.

It is a movement practice.  We are teaching you to move.  So we'd better do it right, right?

Most new yoga students are impressed by the teacher that can do the most advanced and challenging poses, who has been practicing the longest.  Those considerations are legitimate.  The trainings are great, but experience is what teaches you the most.  On the other hand, consider what happens when you get really good at a physical practice, basketball, aerial silks, anything:

You forget how you do it.  It shifts from being a highly cognitive activity that taxes your brain pretty hard to perform to something that happens automatically in your body.  Have you ever tried to explain to someone how you do something that you know how to do that well?  It generally doesn't go well.

Which is not to say that you should only take classes from teachers who haven't been doing yoga that long.  That's not a good idea.

What I am saying is that being really good at the fancy bodywork that is yoga is not at all the same thing as being good at teaching other people do that fancy bodywork, and the nuts and bolts bodywork safely.  The only way to get a feel for how good a teacher is at teaching is to take a few classes with the prospective teacher.  And during the first few classes, it's even more important than it always is to pay close attention to the feedback your body is giving you, and to not remain in any shape that doesn't feel right.

Personally I like, and am, a teacher who isn't afraid to say "I don't know," usually followed with, "But I can look that up and e-mail you!"  You don't want a teacher bluffing out of fear of not looking professional. No one teacher can be an expert on everything, so don't write a teacher off or knock her or him down a spot on your list if she or he doesn't have the answer to your question at the ready.  Of course, if a pattern develops, or your gut tells you this is something a competent teacher should have down...basically if your gut tells you this is not the teacher for you for any reason, move on.

Hopefully this has given you a little insight into what makes a good teacher a good teacher, and a teacher who needs more time to develop, just that. I know, the more you learn the more complicated it gets...just like doing Downward Dog! This is the part where I remind you about my Halloween Dance Party Yoga Class at Bella Vita this Thursday at 1:00!  Come play with us!  The first five sign-ups get yogi-approved Halloween treats!
Live Omily,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Eating Omily: Swap Sour Grapes for Sweet Ones

It's happening!  The tomatoes are down to a trickle, and the pumpkins are rolling in...and more telling still, we woke up the day before yesterday to the clanking of our radiators firing up for another year. Are you ready for Fall?  Maybe even excited??  Or are you, like far too many people of my acquaintance, already moaning about the cold and hoping it doesn't snow in the next five months?

Come on, guys!  Fall is a beautiful season, and Winter is, too!  Summer just wouldn't be Summer without it, let alone Spring.  What are some things you can enjoy especially in this special season?  Let me lay them out for you...

Mulled wine

Bean soup in roasted squash

Pumpkin Spice everything

Decorative Gords and Indian Corn

Celery and parsley root (with celery/parsley still attached to the top! Celery root is a different cultivar of celery than the type grown to be chopped up for soup bases or peanutbutter, though, so taste a bit before you decide what to do with those greens...)
Falling leaves
Cozy sweaters

And soon enough, all the things about the Holiday Season in NYC that make me fall in love with this city all over again...

Feeling better yet?  If not, you may need more serious help...it's time to break out my secret weapon:

This is not a test!  These sweet, and way-more-flavorful-than-your-sissy-seedless-variety lovelies are around right now, and you only have a few more weeks to snap them up!  I buy them by the flat. The husband inhales them. I like to freeze them for warm-weather snacking, but you can, of course, make yourself the best grape jelly you've ever tasted if you put your mind to it! Upstate New York provides awesome climate and soil for grapes (as evidenced by the Finger Lakes wine country), so these are some of the best grapes ever! And if you don't believe me, just ask the bees. You'll see them buzzing around, but don't worry: they're way more interested in the grapes than in you.  Choose the crate they're checking out, and you're sure of getting some of the best.  Just give it a gentle shake to discourage any stow-aways before you carry it off.

If that's not enough to get you into the spirit, might I suggest my Halloween Dance Party-themed yoga class at Bella Vita this Halloween, Thursday the 31st, at 1:00?  I'm bringing treats...

Nom nom nom...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Digging out of a Rut with a Deck of Cards

I've been having a rather slumpy week...perhaps you know the kind?  Too many demands on your time and not enough sleep leading to a horrifying lack of efficiency and a series of stupid mistakes that exacerbate both problems?  Yes, that.  I'm doing my best to rally, but then I had to drop off the world's cutest foster kitten because he has ringworm, which means a.) I'll never see him again, and b.) We probably all, cats and people, have ringworm.  Such funsies.

No doubt about it, I'm in a negative thought spiral that needs to be broken stat.  What can I do to turn things around?  Turn to the tarot, obviously!  That and the amethyst crystal my little sister gave me...

I'll be reading from my most beautiful, uplifting, and feminist decks (of course), and I'll keep it short and sweet.  Three cards: What can I do to improve my functionality and mood right now?  What patterns do I need to change to stay in that higher frequency permanently*? (as permanently as can be reasonably  expected seeing as I'm a flawed human) What's lucky for me right now?  That last one is such a wild card.  I've never asked a question like that, but my intuition tells me that's the right one, so we'll see what the tarot says!  I'll be using the Goddess Tarot, by Kris Waldherr.

Ermergerd, I love this resulting spread so much!  Two court cards, the immature male and female, facing each other!!  I'm having such a tarot geek-out...never mind that the last card is one of my old favourites from my early days with the tarot. So let's get to it! When I read with this deck, I like to take a peak at the LWB (little while book) that came with it, since it's a non-traditional deck with its own unique (feminine/ist) spin.
The book says that the Prince of Swords is courtly, but strong-willed.  He is a messenger who uses words to avoid confusion. Confusion is what I've got, but this prince is here to remind me to rescue myself with words: a thorough to-do list will keep me on track, and will help me be realistic about how much I can get done today, and when I may be able to do the rest.  With a manageable list of tasks to accomplish, I'm certain to feel capable, and once those tasks start to get accomplished, the feeling of accomplishment will be just the soothing tonic I need.

The book says that the Princess of Staves is a fiery young woman who inspires those around her to live passionately without compromise.  YES, that is who I'm supposed to be, even though it's easy to get bogged down by the fact the more awesome stuff I do, the more horrifyingly dirty the apartment gets...Energy.  Integrity.  Creativity.  Initiative.  Those are the words for me to live by if I want to live my life, instead of my life living me.  Love the Princess of Staves; she looks so introverted in the picture, but clearly she's a secret badass...

The Two of Cups is about merging masculine and feminine energies, and about enjoying attractions and relationships for what they are. Harmony, love, and enchantment are the things that pick me up and keep me going...if I follow the patterns the universe lays out for me, I never go wrong.

Ok, that's a prescription I can use...along with a piece of dark chocolate...There's definitely a lot more going on here than just that, especially since the Prince and the Princess are obviously dying to dialog...but it looks like it's time to go get some dishes done before heading to Om Factory early to work out on the silks before assisting the 6:00 class! Do you think this advice could be good for you, too?  How would you interpret these cards?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Niyamas in Korea

Last week, I talked about the Yamas using examples from my recent trip to Korea...or if you prefer, I talked about my recent trip to Korea as it relates to the Yamas.  It's the same blog post, guys.  Regardless, that leaves me with only one...well, two, things to do:

Talk about the Niyamas using examples from my recent trip to Korea, or talk about my recent trip to Korea as it relates to the Niyamas.  it's the same blog post, guys.

Just like Patanjali's Yamas, there are five Niyamas.  The first one is,

Saucha: This one means cleanliness, or purity.  Here is a hint on how well I do with this one: I remember the Sanskrit word for it with the phrase, "I'm saucha dirty hippie!"  Seriously, I lie like a rug when hairdressers ask when I last showered.  It's embarrassing.  But if Patanjali thinks it's important, then he must be onto something.  My new game is to throw my clothes in the wash the second they show even a hint of cruddiness, even if I'm just dying to wear it somewhere later in the week, and I'm pretty sure I can spot clean whatever it is I slopped on it.  If I can see something, or if it doesn't pass the sniff test, it goes in the hamper.  And, lo and behold, I find myself wearing a lot more of my clothes, and having a lot more fun experimenting with different outfits, because my old standbys are in the hamper kind of a lot.  BUT WHAT ABOUT THE KOREA?  If you guessed Saucha isn't just about not stinking up the yoga studio, you're right!  This word has to do with keeping different energies where they belong: cosmic organization, not just bodily cleanliness.  When you're operating in a foreign country, where you won't have an easy time explaining yourself if you violate a custom, you find yourself behaving much more by the book than you do at home, or at least I do.  I stayed to the right going down stairs, even if they weren't crowded, avoided walking between people and what they were taking a picture of, used 'please' and 'thank you' with considerably more hyper-vigilence than I do at home (which may have had to do with the fact that those were the only words I could say in Korean), and in all ways sought to respect and follow their way of doing things: their energetic categories.

Samtosha: This one feels like a bit of an onomatopoeia to me.  Just say it out loud: Samtoshaaaaa...doesn't it just make you heave a sigh and let go?  It means 'contentment', as in, everything's ok the way that it is.  This is an easy one to get under the right circumstances: you're home from work, dinner is taken care of, you're feeling comfortable, pain free, and thankul for the ease you're feeling.  Yeah.  Try cultivating it when things aren't so awesome.  Maybe you're running late for something important, or your back is really bothering you, or you're trying to get some information out of a company and they keep giving you the run around.  Not feeling that sigh and release feeling now, are you?  But this is when Samtosha comes into play.  Just remember: there's not a problem until you decide there's a problem.  Yes, sometimes there genuinely is a problem, and getting upset about it gives you the energy needed to solve that problem.  But, for most of us, the vast majority of the time, there is no solution, or at least not one that's worth the trouble, and if that's the case, where's the benefit in deciding there's a problem and getting all worked up? To put it another way, "If there is no solution, it is because there is no problem" (thanks, weird French cartoon).  There's just a situation that is.  Whether you accept the situation or fight it is up to you, but it's pretty indisputable that fighting it won't make you happy, but accepting it will.  Do I even have to explain how I was living this one in Korea?  I respected and appropriately expressed my negative feelings when I had them, but I also kept reminding myself that this was what was going on.  Whether it was how I imagined it, what I wanted, how I was told it would be, or not.  I could resist it if I wanted to...but why?

Tapas: Nope, sorry guys, this is not Patanjali endorsing restaurants that serve you tiny amounts of delicious food, but charge the same amount as normal restaurants charge for a big plate (Curse you, tapas restaurants!!!).  Tapas can be translated as heat, and one of it's meanings is that by working up a sweat doing asana, you can burn your less helpful tendencies right out of your body!  You don't have to buy that; Tapas also means dedication, diligence, determination...whatever it is you need to keep sticking to your practice consistently, no matter what.  Whether it's fun, or crappy, making a big different in your life, or zilch, tapas is the promise you make to yourself that you're going to power through.   This one came into play toward the end of the trip, when my eczema was flaring up along with my temper because of all the processed flour and white rice I was eating. I didn't have the option of ending my trip early, but I could have eaten all my meals at the Brooklyn Kitchen, a restaurant located in the basement of a department store a few blocks from where we were staying.  I did totally order onion rings there one time.  But, for the most part, I stuck it out and kept my mouth shut...except for one minor meltdown over salt...I tapped into the tapas I had built up over years of practicing yoga to see the saga through to the end.

Svadhyaya: This one is my favourite, and not only because it's so fun to say.  Svadhyaya means to draw near to yourself.  It's often translated as 'self-study.'  Svadhyaya, ironically, cultivates an attitude of taking a step back, and enjoying an objective viewpoint of your daily patterns, and reactions to stimuli.  That's because that stuff isn't really your 'self', at least not according to yoga.  That's your ego, and your samskaras (which means ruts, and refers to our mental habits, and how we react to one situation based on other situations we've experienced before).  Your self is the part of you that has no trouble at all with samtosha, because it's here, and its now, and it's just riding the waves of what is, without trying to row against them.  One of my favourite things about yoga is that it doesn't tell you to make all these crazy dramatic changes in your life so that you can be a better, happier person.  It tells you to just start observing your life.  Patterns will start to emerge, and just how much of your unhappiness is self-caused will become obvious.  Once it does, the changes will happen on their own.  You don't need to rush, or force anything.  Just start with Svadhyaya, and let the rest follow.  Which is why I was being so easy on myself when my ego started being a whiny ugly American on our trip.  I just sat back and watched.  I noticed how one thought along those lines quickly multiplied until my mood was in a tailspin, and worse, I watched my mood interfere with my friends having a good time.  That was all it took for me to find a balance between expressing myself when I needed to, and keeping my chin up and my attitude positive the rest of the time.  My trip went back to being a fun adventure in just a couple days!

Ishvara Pranidhana: This is a tough one.  It means to surrender to the divine, or if you prefer, to life.  It's a reminder that we can't control all factors, no matter how hard we try, and that means we can't control the affects or results of our efforts.  You can be the most patient, kind person in the world, and someone could still walk away from an interaction with you unhappy.  You can kick ass, and work your fingers to the bone for a client or boss, and still come up short.  You can stretch your legs every single day, and never manage a full split.  So don't worry about it.  Patanjali tells us we're entitled to our actions, but we're not entitled to the fruits of those actions.  Those we have to leave up to a higher power, or to chance.  On one hand, that's insanely frustrating.  No one likes to think they might be putting in lots of work for nothing.  On the other hand, it's liberating.  You don't have to worry about it.  The results are not your problem.  I repeat, the results are NOT YOUR PROBLEM.  You can do the best that you can, and then you can kick back and be proud of the work you did, regardless of the final outcome!  We're graded on effort, kids!  That's one hell of a curve on life!  This one came into play every time I tried to speak Korean or Japanese.  I did my best, but the results were laughable...literally, we got laughed at.  By ten year olds.  But that was ok.  The outcome didn't matter, because I tried.  Yippee!

What do you think?  Did this mini series clear up what the Namas and Niyamas are all about for you?  Are you confused on any in particular?  Let me know!

Live Omily,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eating Omily: Perfect Timing!

Eating Omily is delicious, soul-nourishing, rooting, satisfying, healthy, and fun...but it can also be challenging, and if you're trying to transition from a life of processed foods, and supermarket dependency, it can be really hard.

Lucky for you, my good friend, Laura Kauffmann, a yoga instructor, and acupuncturist, is running a Real Food Challenge this week, starting today via Facebook group!  This is your chance to get support, delicious recipes, and solid answers to that perennial question, 'but what can I eat??'.  If you want in on this, just send Laura a facebook message or friend request letting her know that I (Emily Hursh) invited you to participate in the challenge.  She'll send you a friend request/group invitation as needed.

This group is coming up with some delicious stuff, including a savory quinoa breakfast bowl that will keep you full no matter what your morning entails, and a blueberry peach crumble made with quinoa flour that will satisfy your sweet tooth without sapping your energy.  Awesomesauce.  And, there's a good chance my pumpkin spice pudding recipe will debut there before it makes it onto the blog...

Come share recipes and support with us as we kick off the colder months with a commitment to love ourselves better by feeding ourselves better!

See you there!

Live Omily,

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Get Your Halloween Game On

It's getting nice and cool outside, which is, of course, not making me shut the windows.  I'm just not taking off my sweatshirt when I get inside.  Fresh air, people.  It's how you screw the flu.  I'm copywriting that.  But the fun doesn't stop with outer wear indoors! I just picked up a foster kitten!  A disgustingly adorable, five-week-old, ball-of-fluff.   Thank goodness the windows are open, because the kitten is definitely not provoking any Halloween shivers.  Of course, NOTHING can compare to last year's October of Terror when a hurricane came along and, along with everything else awful it brought, cancelled Halloween.  Since we have to pack in double the spooky fun this year, I thought I'd help you out with some Halloween-celebratory tips. You may be wondering what that has to do with the tarot.  See tip #1.

1. Add a Tarot reader to your Halloween bash!  Or better yet, get your boss to hire one.  And by one, I mean me, of course!  I mean, who else are you going to call?  The Ghost Busters?  Halloween tarot readings are great because it gives the skeptics a chance to give it a shot without feeling silly or dropping the kind of cash they would for a private reading.  They're fun, creepy, and a great way to figure out whats going on with your more tight-lipped friends...they won't be able to resist telling you the stuff I was able to dig up.  Trust me!  Shoot me an e-mail at emily@emilyhursh.com and we'll set something up.  Do it now before I get all booked up!  Now that's a scary idea...

2. Are you as obsessed with the Halloween Parade as I am?  Were you all but moved to tears when you realized there wouldn't be one last year?  Well there IS going to be one this year, but just barely.  They're hanging on by a thread, and they need your help.  This one is easy: come out to THE FUNHOUSE Opening tonight, and make a donation, or participate in the Silent Auction to benefit the Halloween Parade!  The event is free, and there will be rad art there, so no excuse not to show up.  Look, I'll make this even sweeter.  Go to FUNHOUSE, then e-mail me and tell me you went, and made a donation, because you read it on my blog, and I'll read at your tarot party for tips.  That's right.  Tell your friends to bring one's.  Well...five's are better...but it won't cost you a thin dime!  Get it while it's hot!

3. If you haven't yet gotten your ass to the Merchant House, you need to make that happen.  This shit is creep-tastic.  It's widely regarded as the most haunted spot in NYC, with events like ghost sightings and possessions being commonplace, particularly among the volunteers that spend a lot of time there. They do it up right for Halloween, reenacting the funeral of Seabury Tredwell (a man who should be given some kind of posthumous award for most ambiguous name), complete with a horse-drawn hearse taking the coffin to New York City Marble Cemetery.  It's rarely open to the public, so this is your chance to explore.  There's lots of other awesome events every October, too.  Check it all out here.

4. I'm newly saddened every year by the fact that Greenwood Cemetery, pretty much the coolest thing in my 'hood, closes before sundown, but hey, you need something cool to do in the afternoon anyway, right?  Explore on your own, or take their guided Spirited Tour, guaranteed to include ghost stories and detail-filled accounts of murderers buried in the grounds...

5. And of course, it's not Halloween season, or a good ghost story for that matter, without a mug (or several) of mulled wine!

What's your favorite way to get into the Halloween spirit?  Think you'll check any of this stuff out?  Let me know!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Yamas in Korea

As you've probably noticed by now, I'm back from my sojourn to South Korea!  This is the blog post where I tell you all about it!  As you can imagine, I've been doing a lot of Telling All About It for the past week, so I thought, instead of just posting cute pictures from the Cat Cafe (ok, fine, I'll totally do that, too), it might be interesting to contemplate those Yoga Philosophy Guide Posts: the Yamas and the Niyamas, from the perspective of how I was challenged to exercise them while navigating a foreign land. Starting with...

Ahimsa.  Ahimsa means, 'non (A) harming (himsa)'. I struggle the most with ahimsa when I go to the post office...what is with NYC post office employees?  But ANYWAY, while staying in Korea, a culture that's very fond of meat, I often found myself bumping up against two potential Ahimsa violations: eating factory farmed meat, and expressing disdain or a distrustfulness of the food I was being served.  I didn't want to do either of these things, but I basically had to do one or the other.  The good news is that Korea doesn't import ANY meat from the United States.  Our meat is considered tainted and unsafe to them.  As it is to anyone who is familiar with how it is produced, and the laughable regulations (lack thereof) in place to maintain safety.  All their meat comes from Australia.  Which is a good deal closer to them than it is to us, but still, not very local.  And there was no way of knowing if it came from a happy free-range cow or not.  You can guess how this went most of the time: I hoped for the best and ate the meat.  If it wasn't meat, it was eggs, and laying hens don't fair any better when being raised conventionally.

Satya: Satya means honesty with yourself and others.  I already wrote a blogpost about this one.  Satya's an interesting one to work with while traveling abroad, because almost inevitable, you're having thoughts that if voiced aloud are a bit rude: you're over this unfamiliar food, you're lost and confused a lot of the time, you'd trade your iphone for someone to just speak ENGLISH to you...if you've traveled abroad, you know the feeling.  So, of course, you DON'T voice these feelings, at least not often or to locals that you meet.  But, also, you often don't want to voice them to yourself.  You went into this able to appreciate the grand adventure of it: being plunked down in an entirely new culture sounded exciting, the first thing on your list was trying all the different foods, you hoped to learn some of the language...so even as the culture shock sets in and it doesn't feel like an adventure anymore, you keep trying to tell yourself that it does, and that cognitive dissonance can really do you in.  It took me a while to figure this out, but once I did and started acknowledging when I was feeling overwhelmed instead of excited, I accepted that.  We went to an Italian restaurant for lunch one day.  It was awesome.

Asteya: Asteya means non-stealing, and no, I had no troubles avoiding putting things that weren't mine in my bag and running off with them (unlike when I lived in Ireland for five weeks and came home with ten pint glasses...), but that doesn't mean I was off the hook.  You can steal a lot of things: time, energy, thunder...which has been all too easy now that I'm back in the states.  I can put myself squarely in the center of any group conversation by mentioning my recent travels...but that's a shitty thing to do if someone else currently has the spotlight for good reason.  Any time you're visiting friends, it's way too easy to 'steya' their time, too.  They're not on vacation: they're living their normal lives!  Meanwhile you're inviting them to drop everything and explore every day, and potentially also eating their food.  Oops.  We made sure to buy some groceries and assure our friends we could navigate Seoul on our own whenever necessary.

Brahmacharya: Well, we were sleeping on the floor of our friend's studio so celibacy was no problem! Har har har.  But seriously, brahmacharya, which means to channel your energy (sexual and otherwise) in useful ways was an incredibly challenging one.  Looking back, we wasted so much time wandering around without an agenda!  To be fair, wandering around without an agenda is a great way to see how locals live, and explore cool stuff that's not on any touristy top-ten list, but in the last few days, as we contemplated all the stuff we'd hoped to see and been unable to fit in, we felt a little sheepish.

Aparagraha: This one means 'non-coveting', and I must confess, I was coveting fluency in Korean like mad.  Also my friend's cell phone plan that gave her access to google maps, and anyone she might wish to talk to, whenever she wanted...and of course, I couldn't just fail to practice Satya and tell myself I was enjoying my phone-free adventure...I was a good deal of the time, but I'd never been to Seoul!  Google maps would have been hell of useful! Working with this one meant having a lot of faith: faith that we'd find a cafe with wifi any minute, faith that we actually were walking in the right direction, faith that walking really far in the wrong direction wouldn't kill us...and lo and behold, we did, we were, and it didn't!

I think I'll save the Niyamas for next time.  This is plenty to digest for now.  Here are some pictures!
I was really excited about the cat cafes, ok?
Axed Diehard tagline?
This is a real  cat.  I petted it.  In the cat cafe.  Cat cafes are awesome. 
These tanks of fish, eels, and squid were all over the restaurant-rich area of Bucheon we were staying in with my friends.  I have a thing for cephalopods.  There are lots more pictures of these guys where this came from.  Videos, too.
We found this no-text-needed announcement at the entrance to the beach in Busan.
Apparently pushy sea life is a problem on Seoul's subways?
And it's totally worse when the sea life is loaded.
Took this one in Tokyo.  In a land where squatting toilets are still the norm, you need signs like this.  I  now know why there is so frequently pee on the seat when I use public restrooms after older Asian ladies. They're pretty spry for their age, apparently.
More to come next week!

Live Omily, always and everywhere,

Monday, October 7, 2013

Eating Omily: Harbingers of Fall

I've recently become aware that there is a small but fierce debate of sorts revolving around the commercially pushed flavor profile of the season.  I speak, of course, of pumpkin spice.  I had mistakenly thought that everyone loved pumpkin spice, but recognized that not every comestible in the universe could carry that flavor successfully, apparently there are, in addition to the people who are obsessed with it in any form, people who feel pumpkin spice is...overrated.  I know, I know.  They're crazy, clearly.

I am an unabashed fan of all things warm, sweet, and spicy a la winter squash and sweet, warming spices such as cinnamon and cloves.  Throw in some cardamom (and serve the latte on the side; I prefer my coffees sugarbomb-free), and I'm yours.

As my own homage to a special flavor profile for a special season, and as the game-set-match of this silly debate, and as a replacement for that non-local treat, banana pudding, I've decided to invent...pumpkin spice pudding.  I know it sounds too good to be true, and yes, we are still in the trial stages...but in the next couple weeks it will be a reality!

We've already achieved the perfect flavor profile, but in an effort to push it over the top, I whipped up a meringue topping, the browning of which took the consistency of the pudding from thick and creamy to...runny.  I ginger snap crust might be all that's needed to pull excess moisture out of the equation, but it seems worth trying the same recipe again and topping it with chilled whipped cream, to see if that does the trick.  Here are some progress shots.

Although I'd really rather use meringue because a perfectly browned meringue beats out whipped cream everytime.  Comeon, look at that baby!

Another reason I'm so excited about baking in general, and pumpkin spice in particular, is that I've been back in America for less than a week after my Korea+Japan jaunt, and I'm just so excited about American foods!  Why, you ask?  Because here's a normal, everyday snack for Japanese people.
Tiny crabs not your thing?  How about, tiny squid?
I rest my case...although I could go on.  All of this stuff was available for sampling.  That day at the Tsukiji Market was the most adventurous eating day of my life!  The tiny salt-dried fish we sampled next to the tiny baked whole crabs were actually delicious to my salt-deprived tongue.  Oh, hell, here's one more picture.  I took this one because I want to look up the Japanese and figure out what creature is in those tied plastic bags.  I suspect it's an octopus.
But seriously, the Korean barbecue, the bimbimbap, the funky pizza, the sausage surrounded by a spiral cut potato all fried together, the kimchee, the rice bowls, the soba, the sushi...all delicious.  Korea was amazing, and Japan was, too, though we had far less time there.

One of the things we saw in Seoul was the world's tallest art museum, which was doing a show on floral, stripe, and skull prints.  How seasonal!
Love it!

Speaking of seasonal, I was gone for a very pivitol two weeks in the seasonal year.  I left behind eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers, and came back to...
 But you already knew that, didn't you?  Or else how could I have been making pumpkin spice pudding??  Well, I was cheating and using butternut squash, because it roasts up much drier than pumpkin does, and I didn't want to make the pudding watery. As you can see, you can still grab the last of the peaches, corn is still going strong, and yes, the tomatoes won't give up till we get a hard frost, so enjoy them while you can!
And then I got handed this perfect little snack: kale salad!  Turns out this is what they're feeding kids in Brooklyn public schools!  I wanted to hug and kiss everyone involved in this...but I practiced admirable restraint, and just thanked them profusely.

Oh yes.  It's good to be home.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Now You See Me...and I'm Not Referring to September's Dearth of Posts

I've made it back from Korea, and am ready to resume blogging!  Who's excited? I know I am! I brought my tarot deck with me to Korea, but it didn't get a ton of use: so much info coming in from the outside, there wasn't much room left for quiet introspection...but we did have one fun impromptu bar tarot reading, which is one of my favourite kinds.

Perhaps feeling left out, the tarot popped up again on our very last night when we went to see the movie, Now You See Me: an action flick about four magicians pulling off impossible-seeming heists while the FBI try to catch them, and Morgan Freeman tries to reveal their tricks for his magician-debunking tv show.  Barring the last five minutes, it was fantastically entertaining.
But what does it have to do with the tarot?  Well, the movie begins with each of the four main characters performing their signature acts...and then discovering someone has left them a tarot card from the major arcana with an address written on it.  Each responds as though this is a signal they recognize, and the plot thickens from there...but of course, what I was interested in was, who got what card?  And why?  I had sort of hoped the choice of cards would come up later in the film...but it didn't. It's still an interesting exercise to contemplate how the cards relate to each character's personality and fate.

This movie has been around a while now: it was on offer on the plane ride home from Korea, so perhaps you've already seen it...but in case you haven't, I was careful not to include any spoilers.

J. Daniel Atlas the dick/ring leader of the group and second from the left in the picture, got the Lovers, Hinley, the only lady (too predictable; this movie fails the Bechdel test, btw) got the High Priestess, Merritt, the one in the hat, a wise-cracking jerk whose self-deprecation makes him lovable, got the Hermit, and Jack, the rookie of the group on the far right, got Death...already I can see some interesting parallels.

Atlas thinks he's hot stuff, but he clearly needs to work on relating to and working with other people as equals.

Henley is fighting hard to be successful in a male-dominated industry where women are treated like stage decorations, but required to fulfill the role of work horses, which requires her to internalize feelings of frustration and anger, and maintain an air of mystery: she needs to appear more professional and more talented than her peers to be perceived as their equal. The less of the High Priestess: to use your wisdom to benefit others, is a reminder to Henley that her struggles shouldn't make her bitter, or graspy.

Merritt is a good guy, but intentionally or unintentionally, he doesn't let anybody get too close, operating instead as an anonymous force for justice, and neutrality in the universe.  I feel like Justice would have better gotten to the heart of Merritt, but the Hermit is perhaps easier for non-tarot enthusiasts to get. It does also better show his struggle to stop trying to fix those around him, and direct that piercing gaze into his own shadowy interior.

Jack's card is perhaps about the massive changes he'll go through, as the youngest of the group, being reborn at the end as someone worthy of the other's respect. There is a moment in the film when Jack is forced to let go of something in order to continue forward with the group, which the Death card could have been referencing as well.

Truthfully, I have no idea if any tarot fans worked on this film.  The cards could have been chosen (mostly) at random, but, it's the Tarot!  So nothing is random, or everything is random depending on how you think of it...it still has meaning.  Have you seen Now You See Me?  Think you'll watch it now? If you do, keep an eye out for the tarot cards, and apply your own interpretations.  Try interpreting each card as a future reading for each character, and then watch the film to see how their stories pan out.  Were you close?  Way off target?  Tell me!