Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Omily Tarot: They Didn't Teach You This in English Class

Did you miss me? Sorry for the break between posts; things have just been a little hectic around here, especially now that we're fostering our first dog just in time for Thanksgiving.  I've been poking around looking into different tarot readings, and I stumbled upon one that really appealed to me.

You may or may not know, I'm really into grammar and other aspects of the English language. I write everything out longhand with proper punctuation when I text. Aside from showing respect to the person I'm communicating with, it also makes it easier to realize when I'm texting and should actually be calling to speak to the person, or maybe e-mailing. I've also been known to diagram sentences in boring magazines in waiting rooms and on airplanes...

So, when I found a three-card tarot spread in which the first card is the subject, the second card is the predicate, and the third card is the direct object, I couldn't wait to play with it! With Thanksgiving approaching, and us on the fence about whether to have an intimate feast for two, or join one of the many Friends-givings going on in our circle, asking how we should celebrate seemed like an appropriate question to start with.  Here's what I got:


A kitty (Leia loves to help with tarot readings, and also the Three of Staves, the Seven of Staves, and the Ace of Cups.  Feel free to take a moment and read my interpretations of those three cards from earlier in the blog by clicking the links. I'll wait.

The Three of Staves is our subject. What nouns do I associate with the Three of Staves? I'm always drawn to the metaphor of waiting for my ship to come in, and not knowing how things are going to turn out. That led me to think that this figure represents Skip and me, watching and waiting, and unsure how best to celebrate our first holiday without family coming up from Ohio to join us.

The Seven of Staves is the predicate, or verb, of the sentence, so what verbs come to mind when looking at this card? For me, this card is about cooperation, or the lack thereof. It's about wanting everything to be just right, and being unwilling to risk letting others participate since they might not do it the way you want them to. I associate it with feelings of defensiveness as well.  Thanksgiving is typically a stressful time for me (though I always have a wonderful time, too), because I love traditions, and I love making the same dishes and using the same recipes every year, but every year I have a choice: allow those recipes to be tweaked, or switched up completely when my family helps me make dinner, or take on a ridiculous amount of work and do it all myself so it's all done exactly right. Each year I get a little bit better at letting go of control, but perhaps this year is my chance to step away from tradition all together and do something completely different. "Step away from tradition" is a perfectly acceptable verb (and prepositional phrase), but I think there's more to this card: who is she pushing away, and should she be pushing them away, or is this card an admonishment to get out there and celebrate with others? Since it's reversed, I think perhaps the message is that it's not anti-social defensive to choose not to celebrate with others. It's actually a big challenge for me, since I'll be cooking up a roast pheasant with whiskey sauce with only my husband and I to enjoy it: no accolades from others. Perhaps the full sentence thus far would read, "Skip and I will step away from tradition and embrace celebrating for our own sake, instead of to impress others." That's already a complete sentence...and a long one, but that's no surprise since I'm such a wordy person.  What's the direct object? Well, we actually already have one: "celebrating for our own sake instead of to impress others", but perhaps the next card will back up, or change that object.

The direct object card is the Ace of Cups, which is one of my favourites! This card is about beautiful new beginnings, and all things associated with the element of water: dreams, emotions, matters close to the heart, intuitions, etc. This card seems to suggest that in walking away from tradition, it's important that we embrace the spirit of the season: being thankful for the wonderful relationship we have with each other, and the wonderful life we're building together.  I especially like the suggestion that this is only the beginning, and there are great things to come in the future.

I'd say our final sentence is:

"Skip and I will walk away from tradition and embrace a true celebration of all we have to be thankful for, including our love for each other, and the beautiful future we are working toward together."

I think that means we'll be staying in with our pheasant.  Do you think you'll try this kind of reading? Don't be intimidated; a completed sentence need only be three words long with this spead, and you could even do just a two card reading with one card being the subject and the other being the predicate to simplify even further.  Have fun!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chewing With Your Eyes Open

The debate about how we should and shouldn't treat animals has evolved quite a bit: I read a 10+ year-old copy of Yoga Journal recently, and there were several angry letters to the editor complaining about a past article that had dared to suggest that eating meat might be a legitimate personal decision that some yogis make for themselves, instead of something that should instantly excommunicate one from the yoga fold. Holy shit.

That same old narrow mindset is still pretty prevalent, though: whenever the Humane Society posts something about improving animal welfare laws to protect food animals from cruel treatment, it seems like the bulk of the responses are about how we should just all be vegan.

Our society offers two lenses through which to view the creatures we share this planet with at oppsite extremes of the same spectrum, and like many opposite extremes, they end up being the same in many ways.  On one hand, there are the many people who buy whatever meat their family will eat that is on sale, cook it up, and eat it without sparing a thought for the creature.  We're assured that professionals in animal husbandry are managing livestock, so why would we worry ourselves about it?  The animals are out of sight, out of mind.

On the other end are the members of PETA and those who agree with them: animals have no place in our daily lives.  No meat, no eggs, no yogurt, no leather, no wool, no honey, no lanolin, etc. etc. etc.  The animals these things come from are tormented horribly, so it is wrong to use these things. If you push them, they'll come out and say that they believe any use of an animal for our own gain is exploitation and morally wrong, so even the happy cows moving as a herd and eating grass, with protection from the elements available to them are miserable slaves. But they don't talk about this in their efforts to convert. They show the same horrible footage over and over, and the idea that we could do better, that in fact many ranchers and farmers are doing better, is simply not allowed to be part of the discussion. So animals are still being kept out of sight, and out of mind.

I'm proposing a third option.  Which is actually only the second option.  Stop keeping the animals out of sight, and out of mind.
Most of us can't visit farms on a regular basis, let alone CAFOs or feedlots, and slaughterhouses have a huge incentive to keep you out: they want you to keep eating the diseased, contaminated meat they produce.  But animals are everywhere.

Do you have pet?  Most of us think of our pets more like junior people than animals, but they are in fact non-human animals.  Sit back and observe your pet sometimes. Notice how sometimes your pet's motivation for her or his actions are easy to figure out, and other times, he or she seems to be operating according to some secret code you don't know at all.  Notice how clearly your pet can communicate with you sometimes, but how other times, your attempts seem to totally fail. If you can, look into your pet's eyes. You'll see it: something innately familiar, but at the same time, irretrievably alien. And cats and dogs have been bred to live with, communicate with, and be intelligent enough to learn from people for thousands of years, many many more in the case of dogs.
Watch squirrels in the park.  Read up on the impressive intelligence of pigs, and the legendary stupidity of turkeys, sheep, and cows. Keep in mind that just like cats and dogs, these animals have been bred for thousands of years to particular standards. Animals bred to live their lives in horrifically stressful conditions are better off being as stupid as possible. Intelligent animals are capable of psychological conditions that would interfere with their usefulness to humans. Stupid animals will keep on running the instinctive program encoded in their DNA no matter how miserable you make their lives.  If you don't know how badly animals are treated in modern CAFOs, or if you think it must be exaggerated, do your own research. Explore how the dairy and egg industries work. Look into those animals' eyes, too. We know suffering when we see it. Whether an animals's smart or stupid, how do you feel about it going through a lifetime of pain and misery so you can eat it?
Look further.  What are the environmental ramifications of raising so many animals in so small a place without the presence of the types of plants and animals that would provide balance in a natural ecosystem?  What are the environmental ramifications of texturized soy protein crumbles, and coconut yogurt substitute? What about people living in undeveloped countries?  Why did we start herding and raising animals in the first place? Read about Heifer International, and why they do the work they do.

Obviously, looking is about educating yourself. It's about seeing all sides of the issue, instead of oversimplifying things to make your life easier, but it's about more than that, too. Looking, seeing, is a form of honoring.

The other day I finally took the time to clean and condition my leather jacket, and that process, the slow application, rubbing in, and buffing of different pieces of leather carefully cut and stitched to make up a warm, durable garment, connected me not just to the cow the skin came from, but to the craftspeople who designed and made the jacket.  I saw the light reflecting off the smooth grain, the way that these funny triangular shapes leading up to the sleeves made the jacket more fitted to my body at the waist, saw that even with great care, the jacket wouldn't last forever, because once removed from the cow, cellular regeneration was no longer taking place. It was a meditative, even awe-inspiring experience, to see and comprehend all these things, and at the end of it, with the jacket hung up to air out, I wondered if I would buy another leather jacket one day.  Knowing that most leather is a by-product of the inhumane meat industry, I knew doing so would mean research, and a higher price even than a high quality Italian leather jacket already costs.  But I could see that it would be worth it for what I would be getting. I felt such gratitude for all the beings involved in the making of a jacket that most days I throw on if it's between 30 and 60 degrees and not raining without giving it another thought.

I try to see the meat I eat in the same way: the pig that was foraging for grubs in fields in upstate New York not that long ago is never far from my mind when I smell the bacon in our skillet. I relish the flavor of that bacon so much, and it's only more meaningful because I know of the sacrifice that went into it, not only the pig's, but the farmers who work so hard to make a living in an incredibly difficult industry.

And it is a sacrifice: being stunned, then having your throat slit does not sound like my idea of a good time.  No matter how carefully it is done, it involves some suffering for the animal.  I think that if you're living with integrity, fully exploring and comprehending the consequences of your actions, then you can make the decision for yourself if that suffering is warranted, and how far you're willing to go to reduce that suffering.

The people on the GO VEGAN side of the debate do want to remedy that lack of awareness...but only on their own terms.  Go to PETA's website.  They won't tell you about the small farms and ranches all over the country that work hard to preserve beautiful, unique heritage breeds of livestock by cultivating a market for them, allowing them to live an instinctive and low-stress lifestyle for the duration, and then slaughtering them in as quick and painless a way as possible.  They want everyone to know about the atrocities of factory farming, and I do, too, but once they've got those points across, seeking awareness or delving into our relationship with animals is replaced by platitudes:

"We have so much in common with animals. We all feel pain. How can we eat them?"

Those ideas don't reflect truthfully on our relationship with animals.  The first one is true enough. The second doesn't really mean anything.  If we're supposed to be acting based on how much in common we have with animals, then we'd definitely be eating them with no concern for their comfort or happiness, just like all other omnivorous and carnivorous species we share this planet with.  I believe we are called to do more, but I don't believe it's appropriate for us to act in a way not in line with the animals we are.

If you look for yourself, really look, I trust you to make up your own mind.

Live Omily,
~em

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Eating Omily: Pumpkin Spice Pudding, Please!

Ok guys, I know...this was due weeks ago, and you probably thought I would never get to it...but I did!  It just took some doing to get the recipe right, but lucky for you this one is fool-proof!  It even works if you leave it on the heat unattended till it burns all to hell on the bottom and you're still trying to scrub the pan clean a week later, and the resulting pudding tastes a bit like roasted marshmallows...NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT.

Ahem.

Here's how it goes:

Start by roasting a winter squash, whatever kind you like to work with best.  Puree the tender flesh, and set aside.

Then, gather up milk (from local pastured cows not given antibiotics, hormones, or homogenized as you value your health, come on guys), three eggs, sweetener (I used mostly maple syrup and a little granulated sugar to help dissolve the cornstarch), corn starch, butter (same conditions as above), vanilla extract, salt, and your favourite autumnal spices.

Whisk together 1/3 cup granulated sweetener (if using; I used a little white sugar just in case not using any would mess up the slurry I was making), 2 Tablespoons corn starch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan.

While whisking continuously, whisk in 1/4 cup of cold milk until the mixture is smooth, and all the cornstarch is incorporated. Be patient.  THEN, whisk in two more cups of milk, and any liquid sweeteners you're using.

Cook the mixture over medium heat until it's steaming hot, but not bubbling. Stir it the whole time.  Not every second, but close.  Meanwhile, separate your eggs. Put the whites away for another use, and put the yolks in a small bowl or cup. Whisking the egg yolks constantly, add a little of the hot milk mixture at a time until the bowl the eggs are in feels warm to the touch. This is called tempering the eggs.  Think of it like when you run a bath for yourself, and it's too hot, so you do that silly dance of lowering in just a bit at a time. If you don't do this, you'll have thickened sweet milk with scrambled eggs floating in it.  Not as good.
Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pot on the stove, whisk until incorporated, whisk in your spice choices (enough to make it smell amazing) and then, switch utensils to a spatula, or something with a flat edge so you can thoroughly scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as you stir.  As the mixture continues to heat up, it'll hit a magic temperature and start to...well, pud.  Once it starts pudding, keep stirring, but start checking for thickness.  You want to be able to dribble a ribbon of pudding off of the spoon back into the pot, and have it sit up on top of the pudding before dissolving back in.  Don't worry if that still seems thin; it'll set up much more as it cools.

Once this happens, turn off the heat, and whisk in 3 Tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. If you don't trust your egg tempering, you can strain the pudding to remove any scrambled egg bits.  Put it in a bowl, press plastic wrap down onto the surface (or just put a lid on if you like eating the pudding skin off the top of the bowl; I won't tell anyone. I wouldn't know anything about this either, by the way), and pop it in the fridge, NOT on a glass shelf if the bowl is still hot, and no, I WOULDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT, EITHER.
When the pudding is chilled and set, you have some options: I layered the squash puree with pudding on top, and added a sprinkling of home-made pumpkin spice granola (recipe from Candice Kumai's awesome book, Cook Yourself Sexy).  In subsequent servings, I stirred the puree into the pudding so the two flavors could meld instead of being layered.  You could layer it in parfait glasses with gingersnaps and whipped cream (shut up, I am so doing that next time), bake merengue cookies with your eggwhites, and top the pudding with those...all kinds of pretty presentations!


Nom nom nom...get your Pumpkin Spice on!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Inspiration from Unexpected Places

You probably have a mix of friends in terms of the tarot: some who are into it like you are, some who are curious, but not fascinated, some who are curious, but simultaneously spooked, and some who think the whole thing is nonsense. I love talking tarot with other tarot enthusiasts (see the Brooklyn Tarot Meet-Up group on Facebook), but on the other hand, some of the coolest tarot lessons I've ever learned have come from people at the other end of the spectrum. Surprised? Why? You know what the Buddhists say: "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's, there are few."  People who can look at the tarot with objectivity instead of awe, and questions instead of answers are inevitably going to see possibilities in it that you'll miss.

Here's an example:

The husband and I were in Korea visiting a couple of friends of ours teaching English there.  We were in a foreigner bar in Busan drinking beers and laughing about the differences between Korean and American culture, when I pulled out my tarot deck (because tarot readings done a couple of beers in at a bar are always the best ones.  Seriously).  Rose and Audrey (our friends) were asking questions about how it worked, how you did a reading, etc., so to keep it simple, I just laid out one card for each of us on the square table.  It made for a fun spread: four cards each facing a different direction. I was picking up all kinds of ideas from each card for each person, and not really listening to my husband explaining how he saw the tarot as a jumping off point: what was interesting about it was what the images provoked in you, 'cause whatevs, I know all about it, right?

And then he reached both hands over the cards, and rotated all of them 90 degrees around the center of the table, so now each of us was looking at a different card. I was pretty miffed. I had been in the middle of working out interpretations for each card, and I had been totally yanked out of my flow.  How was I supposed to remember what I had had in mind for each person now that the cards were all different?  But then, looking at the new arrangement, different ideas started jumping out at me.  I was tempted to point out that these weren't the cards that had been chosen for each person...but did I really believe it mattered?  If the Universe had a truth to tell, wouldn't it find its way out regardless? And wasn't the husband talking about something I had often said: that the cards function as inkblots, reflecting back to us whatever issues we're currently working with?

There are actually tons of possibilities for spreads that move the cards around on purpose, or tarot reading exercises where different people get the chance to interpret different cards in light of different positions, but I never would have considered the possibility without the husband's beginner mind getting all up in my spread.

Admit it: don't we all have a nasty habit of tuning out when someone who's a mere dabbler in a field we're crazy about starts to talk about it?  We assume we must know more than this person, so anything they have to say will just be a repeat, or something that will never work, but that's not always the case.  Next time you're talking about what you do with someone who doesn't do it, let me be an opportunity to mine that person for fresh perspective.  I'll bet you a drink at the next Tarot meet up that you'll come away with something awesome to ponder. ;-)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Going to a Yoga Class is Great! Listening While You're there is Better

I love teaching 'advanced' poses to my students.  They're just party tricks, really, but they give students confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and the drive to come back to class week after week...and they're party tricks that build core strength, and generally offer all the benefits of an inversion: that's a win win win!

On Tuesday, I specifically prefaced a few sets of dolphin dives (forearm down dog to forearm plank and back) by telling my students that when they finally get to a full headstand, they'll be surprised by how easy it is. Being upside down on your head is easy because you're just bone stacking: it's just like standing on your feet, but upside down.  The trouble is, the long bones of your legs are uniquely designed to bear the weight of your body, and your muscles have had years to learn how to safely support your weight in this position. When you flip it around, your muscles don't know how to lend their support, but they're needed more than ever, because your seven little neck bones are NOT designed to support the weight of your body. Proper shoulder alignment, and proper shoulder, arm, core, leg (everything, really), engagement is crucial for you to inhabit that space safely.
And yet...when we were playing with crow pose later, and a student asked me to demo the end-game: a transition to tripod headstand, they ALL responded with, "Oooooh, we can do THAT!  That look easy; why are we doing this crow pose?"
Um...weren't you here ten minutes ago?

Crow pose is all about using muscles that it's not immediately obvious you're depending upon to get you into the shape, and make it possible to stay there.  Once you have the strength to sustain that pose, and the control to lower the crown of your head slowly the floor, I know you're ready to safely attempt a headstand.
Kicking yourself up against the wall provides no such feedback.

Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall when I had to repeat instructions a few times before all the students in the room were clear on where their feet were going.  A couple of them were too busy predicting where I was going based on previous classes, or a previous flow from this class, or standard flows that pop up in most vinyasa classes...instead of listening to the instructions I was giving.

And this doesn't make them bad students, or unusual ones: I've gotten ahead of myself in many a yoga class, thinking I can see where the teacher is going with a shape only to find out she's making a transition I'd never seen before, or thinking I knew a pose so well I didn't need to listen to the verbal cues...only to find myself getting some heavy hands-on correction because I didn't pay attention to what aspect of the pose we were working on.

Not anticipating is a constant theme in my personal yoga practice, learning to tune in and heed every word, and when I do know what's coming up, because we just wrapped up the sequence on the first side, not letting my mind go there, where frustration, and resistance to muscular discomfort, or a pose I struggle with, are all I'll find.

The lessons of yoga about staying in the moment are applicable in your daily life, but, big surprise, they're also a big help in the classes themselves!

Listen to your teacher.  Really listen.  You'll stay safe, you'll get better, and you just might learn something!

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eating Omily: Local Eats and Delicious Cheats

Eating local offers some amazing benefits, and some life-changing flavors (no exaggeration: remember trying a local heirloom tomato for the first time? A strawberry in May? A grape in October? Mmmm...)

But, moments of supreme flavor ecstasy aside, eating local has it's bummers, too, especially if you're a cooking enthusiast, because so many amazing recipes, and whole cookbooks are written without a single thought to seasonality, let alone whether the reader happens to live in a tropical region.  Even the cookbooks that offer a token endorsement of seasonality will turn right around and suggest you make an arugula salad topped with grilled nectarines, or some other such seasonal impossibility.  Excuse me while I head desk.

And most of our preferences, and nostalgic connections to certain foods were formed in kitchens where the localness and seasonality of what we were eating wasn't even imagined, a scenario that can leave us close to tears when in the throws of a potent craving for banana bread, or pineapple upside down cake...

First of all, I feel your pain.  Second of all, I'm here to help.  Here's my list of substitutions for common non-local ingredients...and ways you can follow the spirit of the locavore for those times when your heart requires you to break the letter of the law.

Bananas: This is a big one!  These guys are delicious, sweet, high in potassium, and are a key ingredient in many succulent baked goods.  Here's how you get around it.

If you're after the nutrients in bananas, the answer is easy: potatoes have MORE potassium than bananas!  And, by cooking up those potatoes with plenty of salt, you'll have the perfect hangover helper on your hands: load of potassium AND sodium to rebalance your electrolytes and kick that headache in the pants!

If it's the flavor you crave, turn to other fruits.  Peaches and nectarines offer a similar soft texture in full Summer, and ripe pears can be downright buttery...just be patient and let them get soft before you sink your teeth in.

If you've got your heart set on the perfect pancakes, muffins, or quick bread, from mid-Summer, all the way through the darkest days of Winter, you can turn to Winter squash!  I keep roasted-till-tender butternut or acorn flesh around at all times this time of year.  You haven't lived till you've tried pumpkin spice pancakes, pumpkin bread, or, that magical recipe I hope to perfect today...pumpkin spike pudding!  Earlier in summer, you can turn to zuchinni bread, using whatever Summer squash you can get your hands on, and I've seen some awesome apple-spice bread recipes as well.

All that aside, if you just can't live without your banana fix, and trust me, I get it: for me it's avocados, do your research and find a source of Rain Forest Alliance Certified bananas.  These guys will be grown sustainably in a way that doesn't entail clearing rainforest, harvested by workers getting paid fair wages, and delightfully free of creepy pesticides and other not-so-fun stuff.  You can actually feel good about eating these bananas, in spite of the long flight they took!

Coffee: So...there are suggestions like, herbal teas from locally grown herbs, and um...grain coffees?  Which, if you're into that sort of thing...I mean, they say coffee is bad for you anyway...but yeah, just buy yourself some GOOD coffee, roasted within days of purchase, and bearing the trifecta of seals: organic, fair trade, AND, bird-friendly OR shade-grown.  Those last two are vital, assuring you that your coffee was grown the way it evolved to grow, as a shaded under-story crop in a thriving rainforest, instead of on a plantation where rainforest used to be.

Chocolate: There's no getting around the fact that cacao trees don't grow in these parts.  If you happen to live in the south west, you can get your hands on some local carob, perhaps...

If, on the other hand, you're fortunate enough to live in a major urban center, it shouldn't be too hard to find small, local chocolate companies.  Mast Brothers, whose factory I visit whenever possible just for the smell (ok, and the samples...), has their own schooner that they use to purchase and transport their cacao from small cacao farms not owned and operated by multinationals, but by the people who live there.  Now that's a journey I can feel good about my food taking!

Another thing to think about with chocolate is the number of ingredients.  The more ingredients are in a product, the more miles the product has logged in total.  Chocolate should be simple!

Of course, as with all things, you can weigh pros and cons.  Another local chocolate company I love is Buddha Chocolate.  Their chocolate is raw, which means more of its superfood nutrients make it into my body, and is sweetened with a (not even slightly local) low-glycemic sweetener.  That's a lot of extra travel for my chocolate bar to have logged, but on the other hand, it is organic, fair trade, and made by young entrepreneurs...and did I mention how absurdly delicious it is?  I'm content to go back and forth between Mast Brother's and Buddha...they each have their own delicate flavors, so I could never be content with just one or the other.

You may not have local chocolate artisans plying their trade in their hood, but you know what you do have?  The internet!  You can order chocolate from both of these companies, and the many others that are out there, and by paying the shipping, you're not outsourcing the cost of travel onto others in the form of low wages!

Spices: A lot of my favourite spices do not grow around here.  I can trade in my shaker of ground cayenne for drying and grinding up the local hot peppers farmers are growing, but other than that, it's non-local cloves, or no cloves.  On the bright side, spices have been transported across hundreds of miles for thousands of years.  Spices pack a flavor puch: you don't need fifty pounds in a year.  You don't need half a pound in a year even, unless you own a restaurant.  Choosing organic is important because many non-organic spices are irradiated, and you don't want to go there, but in general, when I need a new bottle of cinnamon sticks every two years or so, I don't fret about it too much.

Of course, anything that grows in a temperate climate can be yours: sage, rosemary, parsely, mint, basel, oregano, bay, the list goes on and on...don't get lazy!  Check your Farmer's Market first, and what you don't use before it starts to wilt can be hung up to dry and used all Winter long.

Nuts: This one drives me nuts (sorry) because so many nuts DO grow in this climate, they just AREN'T grown around here!  Tree nuts take quite a commitment to grow, so I can't be too hard on my farmer friends who are worried the market won't be there after they buy the land, plant the trees, water and compost, and prune for years before they start producing...but that doesn't make me miss pecans any less!

If you just want that hit of protein and fat, look for peanuts in the Summer (they're legumes, not tree nuts, so they can be planted every year, making them a much lower risk crop), and sun flower seeds.  These are so easy you really can grow your own if you have space for a pot of soil in a sunny window. Don't forget to save those seeds from your Winter squash escapades!  Roast them up (sprout them first for optimal nutrition), and you've got the perfect (free!) nut substitute!

In the Fall, keep an eye out for chestnuts.  They'll be a smaller, hybrid form most likely, but delicious just the same as the chestnuts of 'roasting on an open fire' fame.  Depending on your specific region, you may hit the jackpot: black walnuts!  Walnut trees thrive in much of the counry, and if someone living nearby has the wherewithal to harvest them, shell them, and get them to your market, you'd better not balk at the premium price.  They are not easy to shell.

Yet another good option is to buy fresh beans when (and if) you see them, give them a soak, then toast them up in a dry pan.  Nutty, high in protein and fiber...who needs almonds?

Raisins and Other Dried Fruits: Buy seedless grapes in October and November.  Blanch in boiling water.  Dry in your oven.  Can't find seedless grapes?  You may be able to find cranberries.  Can't find those either?  Slice, soak in an acidulated solution, and dry apples and/or pears. Easy!

Tomato Products (sauce, salsa, etc.): This is one I'm seeing at Farmer's Markets more and more because it's a value-added product: by doing the work for you, the farmers are able to charge a premium and make more money off of the same tomatoes!  It's what the giant food factories have been doing for fifty years, except delicious, and sustainable!  What's not to love?  This stuff is also not hard to make yourself.  Find a willing friend, buy a case or two of tomatoes (you'll probably get a great discount for buying in bulk), and make and can tomato sauce, salsa, or just whole tomatoes for greatest versatility. Canning is a bit of an enterprise, but if you're serious about eating local, it's a skill you'll need to acquire, and once you're comfortable with the process, you'll never look back!

Am I missing any of your favourite non-local foods?  Let me know in the comments and I'll include them in a Part II of this post!  Happy eating!

Nom nom nom...

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Omily Tarot: The Moon is a Better Symbol of Halloween than you Think!

Happy trotting! Will you draw any cards during the Witching Hour? I don't believe the tarot works because of mediating spirits, but on the other hand, having the portal between worlds a bit thinner than usual can only help, right?

A few years ago, I shared some of the things I love best about Halloween in my Halloween Dance Party Yoga Class at Bella Vita. We started off by doing a short guided meditation, as always.  In this one, I started by inviting them to consider the stuff they associated with Halloween.

I know my associations aren't all that unusual: candy, booze, costumes that leave little to the imagination...to a greater or lesser degree (and of course depending on your personal associations), all of these things are about excess: enjoying sensual pleasure to an extreme.  They sum up the sense of license that makes Halloween great: you can wear whatever you want, you can eat fistfuls of trans fats and processed sugars and for the most part people will keep their mouths shut, and of course, people will probably be surprised if you don't get hammered.

And suddenly I had segued from a perfectly appropriate breakdown of the third and fourth chakras to a not-very-yoga-centric monologue about the moon's pull on our psyche: the temptation to go a little wild and do things we didn't think we wanted to do...or at least, didn't want to admit we wanted to do.  Yoga has its own set of associations with the moon, and while a number of them do overlap with Tarot's associations thanks to the universal concepts of sun as masculine and moon as feminine, when it comes to the Moon, major arcanum #18, it's a shaky connection.

But how I could I help it?  It was Halloween!  Werewolves and young adults everywhere were prepared to howl at the moon, and celebrate it in all its lawless glory...
The Moon in the tarot is about the incredibly strong pull of our animal natures on our minds.  We think we have things under control: buttoning up that suit and getting to work on time every day...but the more we insist we're wholly rational beings, the worse the reckoning when, inevitably, the tide rises high enough to overtake our defenses. If you've been an adult for at least, oh, about six months, you've experience waking up with a sense of horror and the words, "What was I thinking??" close to the forefront of your thoughts.

You weren't!  And you weren't supposed to be!  The Moon needs its chance to run wild and take you along for the ride.  If you don't plan safe spaces for this side of yourself to be expressed, the Moon will break out when you least expect it, and it won't be pretty.

And that's what Halloween is: a societally sanctioned chance to follow the glow of the moon: your animal nature, your craziest impulses, instead of your heart. Of course, that doesn't give you license to forget about the feelings of the other beings you interact with.  That's all the more reason to let your animal out for pre-planned play sessions: you can be sure you're indulging yourself with a minimum of self destruction and collateral damage.

How will you howl at the moon on Halloween Night, literally or metaphorically speaking?  How are you planning to honor your inner werewolf in the future? Why not let November be Moon Month (a redundant phrase if I ever heard one, since our months are based on the 28-day lunar cycle, and the words come from the same root), or tomorrow be Moon Day?  Ask yourself when the Moon has made an unexpected appearance, and what damage it may have wrought in your life.  How might you have prevented it?  What impulses do you struggle to control, or associate with shame? Can you look at yourself in the beautiful, silvery light of the moon, and love every complicated, messy part of yourself?
Aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;-)