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September 11, 2010

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Vegan Fried Green Tomatoes

September 10, 2010

So, I’ll admit that I’ve done more battering and frying this summer than is a good idea.  But, it’s so tasty!   Fried eggplant and fried green tomatoes were the biggest hits, so I’m going to post recipes for both in the next while.  First, the tomatoes!


3-4 green tomatoes (medium to large), sliced thinly
1 sleeve of saltines, blended to a fine powder (don’t have saltines? pretzels or corn chips will work)
1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground pepper
2 cups soy milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
1/4 cup white vinegar
olive oil (NOT EVO – it smokes too fast)


Place soymilk in a shallow bowl and add vinegar.  Whisk until the milk thickens.

Place dry ingredients in larger shallow bowl and mix well.

Individually, dip slices of tomato in the milk mix (both sides) and then press into the dry mix (both sides)

Cooking can be done in a pan on the stove (coat with olive oil, fry on a medium-high temp) or in the oven (oil a bar pan or cookie sheet, bake at 425*).  Flip tomatoes when bottom is browned and cook on second side.

Pat dry if needed with paper towels before serving.


Lessons Learned from a Furry Friend

September 8, 2010

This past week, we lost a long-time friend, our male cat, Rudy.  Of course, we are all feeling sad about not being able to see his furry face every day, but we are also very grateful to have had him in our lives for 7 years.  I’ve posted before about my cats being yogis, and I was only barely kidding.  In Rudy’s short lifetime, he taught me a number of important lessons, and I will always appreciate that teaching and remember him when I think about these things.

Rudy taught me about the joy of really resting.  Many cats, when they rest, will lay on their stomachs, all limbs tucked in and head erect – not Rudy.  Rudy rarely ever slept this way.  When he rested, he RESTED!  He would plop right over onto his side, stretch out as far as he could, snuggle deeply into whatever (usually soft) surface he had chosen, and sleep deeply.  He could, and would, sleep through significant noise, and even being moved from one location to another.

In a similar vein, Rudy showed us the importance of picking your battles.  While our other cat will fuss or squirm if you pick her up (and she might rip off your face if you try to trim her nails), Rudy was very mellow about almost everything.  Frequently, Emmeline would pick him up and carry him, like a baby, around the house.  I don’t know if he liked it, but he never really fought it.  If the dogs hassled him, he would just move out of their reach onto a high surface and ignore them.  When we would take him to the vet (another event that can earn you a scratch from Charlie), he would relax calmly on the table, letting the vet examine, poke, prod, and manipulate at will.  Rudy was truly a “cool” cat and his mellow mood was catching.

While Rudy picked his battles, he also reminded me that once you decide an issue is worth fighting for you must pursue it with all persistence.  Rudy liked to stay up at night.  And he liked company.  So, if someone was asleep that he wanted to be awake, he worked to his utmost to make that happen.   He would begin with some meows.  If that didn’t work, he would move on to climbing on the head of his intended companion.  If the result still wasn’t pleasing him, he would begin “patting” whatever skin on the head area he could reach (and he patted with claws).  His last resort would be to proceed to any table/desk/nightstand in the room and methodically begin throwing items onto the floor, checking between each to see if his friend had awoken.  If locked out of the room his buddy was in, he would open doors with his paws or climb furniture to leap through the transoms and get to the person he wanted.  Tenacity?  You betcha!

Rudy was also a fan of those little ritualized moments that happen between beings that care for each other, but that we can begin to take for granted.  It was obvious that he found them important and wanted to be sure they were maintained.  In the mornings, if someone wasn’t up by the time Rudy was accustomed to the feeding ritual, he would let us know, loudly and repetitively, that it was time for this family interaction to begin.  In the evenings, about 10 p.m. – as if  he could tell time – he would appear in the office, look at Derek, and quietly announce, “meow.”  This would be followed by an intense stare.  The meow and the stare were the start of a process involving the procurement of 5-6 pounce treats from the pantry in the kitchen, and he observed this ritual on a very regular basis.

Finally, Rudy taught me that it is possible to get your message across, if you keep trying, even when the  other being doesn’t understand how you think or what you want, and even if you don’t speak the same language.  When Rudy was a few years old, he began urinating in unusual places, including the sunroom and Jacob’s laundry basket.  We took the measures we could think of (scooping the cat box more often, reminding Jacob to wash his clothes, checking Rudy for bladder infections, installing cat calming plug-ins), but the messes continued.  Rudy kept upping the stakes, peeing on more surfaces, and making them places that were even harder to clean (like INSIDE of Derek’s briefcase, in Emmeline’s doll cradle, and all over the top bunk in Jacob’s room).  He even escalated to leaving excrement messages in these places.  Finally, after literally years of cleaning up, it occurred to me  that maybe he didn’t like running the dog gauntlet to get to the liter box.  So, we added another one upstairs and voila! – problem instantly solved.  We were rather dense about it, but Rudy kept trying to communicate his issue in more and more obvious ways until we finally were able to see what he was trying to tell us.

These are just a few of the highlights of what Rudy brought to my life (along with many nuzzles and purrs and catrobatics).  I know that I will continue to miss him, but I also know that he will never really be gone.  He is part of me and part of us.  Though I’m sad, I’m happy to have learned and loved with our fuzzy friend Rudy.

Competition is nature?

August 27, 2010

When we are in competition with ourselves, and match our todays against our yesterdays, we derive encouragement from past misfortunes and blemishes. Moreover, the competition with ourselves leaves unimpaired our benevolence toward our fellow [human].
~ Eric Hoffer

I’m competitive.  I’ve admitted it before here and now I’ll do it again.  I can talk about the problems inherent in competition and how  much more competitive it makes us when we live in an individualistic culture.  But, even so, I’m competitive.  Whatever I do, I want to be good at it.  Actually, I often want to be better than others.  I don’t always want to be the best (but sometimes I do).  And I feel bad about that.

Photo by Roger Hooper

But, at the same time, isn’t competition somewhat a part of our animal nature?  Every animal that lives in a pack, herd, swarm, flock, murder, clutch, or hive competes for position within the group, and competes with other groups for power or resources.  So, it’s reasonable to expect that humans will do so as well.  I mean, sure we try to get beyond our animal natures, but at the end of the day, as my daughter used to say, we are all meat.

In yoga, there seems to be a general feeling among many practitioners that competition isn’t good.  It’s interesting, because even the Buddha sometimes used competition between his Bikkhus to encourage them in their practice and learning/teaching of the dharma.  So, why should we not be competitive in yoga?  Part of it, I would say, is because competition between self and others can encourage one to pay more attention to what others are doing than to your own behaviors.  As my yoga instructor today, Micki, noted, you should literally “mind your own business,” as in devote your mind to what you are doing, and not to what others are doing.  Additionally, to think about yoga as a competition with others tends to put the focus on what we can do with the body, some of which is a factor of our physical body features – not of our effort or practice, and reduces attention to what the physical practice does for the mind.

And yet, competition can also inspire our practice.  Competition with the self (can I go a little further today than I did yesterday?) can encourage us to try a bit harder or stretch a bit deeper.  It’s easy enough to stop pushing against the edge when we get into a position in a way we find acceptable if we don’t maintain a bit of self-competitive spirit.  Even comparison with others can be beneficial.  Now and then, a yoga teacher will instruct the class I’m in into a pose that I first think is pretty much impossible for anyone who is not that teacher.  But, when I take a quick glance around the room and see that others are making their way into some degree of the pose, I get comforted in the realization that it isn’t impossible and inspired to try.

I guess the bottom line may be the middle path (or would that be the middle line?).  As with so many other things, perhaps too much competition isn’t so good and too little competition isn’t so helpful, but a middle amount of competitive spirit can be “just right.”  Maybe we can call it the Goldilocks of Competition?

And now, back to the bears.



Lessons in Yoga from the Cats

August 10, 2010
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You just never know where your next yoga inspiration will come from.  Beings you never expect can turn out to be impressive yogis with much to teach.  Let me introduce you to two:  Charlie and Rudy

I’ve learned many things about the practice of yoga from Charlie and Rudy, and I would like to share a few of them with you.

Focus – Charlie and Rudy have an amazing ability to focus, both in terms of the visual and their goals. They have their drishti DOWN!  Rudy can stare at a leaf in the yard for hours on end.  He never looks away and is not distracted by others entering or leaving the room.  He gazes, and breathes.  Do not try to play stare down with him. You will not win.  They can also focus on a goal with complete persistence.  Charlie will spend a full afternoon following a bug.  Whither the bug goes, she will go – regardless of difficulty (for self or others).  If Rudy wants someone to get out of bed and pet him, he will pursue that goal with the focus and drive of a world class athlete, meowing for hours on end if necessary.  All that is important in that time is that focus; they are fully able to…

Be in the moment – While they both can certainly work toward a goal, even so, they remain in the moment.  They do not let the past constrain their present.  They do not let worry or fear of the future impact the now.  If Charlie wants to stand on top of my work bag, does she fear, based on the past, that I will become annoyed?  No, she does not.  If Rudy would like to chew some baby’s breath in a flower arrangement, does he fret that it will make him vomit as it has approximately 43 times before?  I assure you that he doesn’t.  Worrying about the past or the future is not useful to them, and therefore they do not do it, which leads us to…

Let go of that which does not serve you – Charlie and Rudy are fully able to release what is not useful for them.  Rules about where to sit, or lay, or what to eat do not serve them, so they let go.  Hairballs do not serve them, so they let go.  Sometimes going to another room, or even another floor of the house, to pee does not serve them, so they let it go.  Their letting go even extends to their willingness to give of themselves…

Give a little of yourself to everyone you encounter – Yes, indeed, my cats are experts in this arena.  In each encounter, they hope to leave a little piece of themselves.  They do it so willingly, and so generously, that most everyone who comes into contact with them will walk away able to spread that little bit of them to other encounters.  Sometimes it’s a scratch; sometimes it’s drool;  but, most often it is the very hair of their bodies that they give with such abandon.  They make every effort to go beyond their physical limits with their selves…

Expand your reach and your flexibility – The asanas of yoga allow us to develop our reach and our flexibility, and my cats are truly inspirational in their devotion to the practice.  Stretching can occur at any moment of the day, in any location.  Charlie can often be found stretching over my keyboard or on top of the arm I am trying to write with.  Rudy stretches out across a bed, on the cat tree, over a window ledge.  Sometimes it’s a long and slow stretch, and sometimes it’s a quick stretch as they prepare for more movement.  They do not let little things like people’s legs get in the way of their stretching. Nor do they worry about the new furniture when they feel the urge to stretch up, up toward the sky, with legs and paws and claws fully extended, for a deep, luxurious, pleather destroying stretch.  And talk about flexible!  Can you see what you are doing when you clean your tail?  I think not.  Enough said.  While they certainly stretch and move, they are also not afraid to slow down…

Take rest – Charlie and Rudy understand that rest should be taken when the body and mind need it.  If rest is needed while you are in the kitchen, take it.  If rest is needed while you are in the bathroom, go right ahead.  If rest is needed while you are stepping over a loaf of bread laying on the counter, you should lay right down.  Middle of the doorway to the stairs?  Right on.  It doesn’t matter when or how long, either.  If you get up and still feel tired, lay back down.  If a day passes and you’ve done little but rest, Charlie and Rudy want you to know that it is perfectly ok.  There is no shame in resting.  In fact, be proud of your resting ability!

Yes, it is true.  My cats are yogis and I suspect that most others are too.  They are wise and experienced in the ways of the middle path and much can be learned from simply being in their lives.  We should all be honored that they grace us with their presence.



Eating Like a Yogi

July 21, 2010

On a recent trip to Indiana, I ate some yummy things, but they probably weren’t the best things for me.   The trip, and the aftermath (stomach problems, a few extra pounds) has me thinking about food – and trying to think about thinking about it (meta-thinking?) in a more healthy way.

As many people who know me well know, I do not have a history of a healthy relationship with food.  At 44 now, I would say that I have been “eating disordered” for three decades plus.  The extent, type, and severity of the issue has changed over time.  There have been times when the label of anorexia fit; there have been times when it was probably more bulimia.  And, there have been times when it’s been more like your garden variety I-am-a-woman-and-have-to-be-size-X obsession.  There have been times when I’ve been overweight and times when I’ve been underweight.  I’m not proud of this history, but I’m not ashamed of it either (good thing, since I’m blogging about it).  It is what it is.  There isn’t any point in feeling bad about the past or in worrying about the causes, or fretting over how it will impact me in the future.  The task is to figure out a better relationship with food in each and every day.

I’ve also been a practicing vegetarian for going on 15 years, and a vegan for several (5? 6?).  While being vegan or vegetarian often correlates with a healthier way of eating, it’s not the dietary label or restrictions that produce the healthy eating.  In fact, a person can be a vegan and eat nothing but potato chips and popsicles.  Rather, I suspect that often people who elect to become vegetarian or vegan are also people who cultivate a more healthy relationship toward food.

In thinking about that healthy relationship to food, I have been considering the relationship of yoga, and the yogic way of life, to eating.  What does this mean?  Well, to me, the practice of yoga is much about doing what serves the body and mind (and through that, the larger universal).  Yoga teachers can often be heard to tell yoga students to focus their energy or their selection of poses on “that which serves you.”  So, I am trying to think about what serves me in my eating and relationship to food.

In an example of how this unfolds in my life, today I wanted a handful of potato chips.  I really did.  But, I reminded myself to think about how eating that food does (or does not) serve me.  Would it serve me in the joy of the taste for that moment?  Possibly, yes.  But, probably not for a whole handful.  Would it serve me in the calories needed to provide fuel for the body and mind to function?  Yes.  Would it serve me in nutrients that keep the body healthy and mind sound?  No.  Would it serve me in healthy fats that are needed for the functioning of the brain, and regulation of hormones?  No.  Would it serve me in the fiber that the body requires to maintain a healthy digestive system?  Would it serve me in avoiding artery clogging cholesterol?  No.  Really, there are few ways that potato chips would serve me.  And sometimes, the fact that they bring joy in the the moment is enough.  Today, however, it wasn’t.  After considering what the taste was that I wanted/needed, I concluded that it was probably salt.  So, I had 1 chip and then with dinner, I had an ear of corn with sea salt.  It was delicious and serves my body in more ways.

I don’t always manage this type of reflective and mindful eating.  In fact, I probably manage it only a little more frequently than I don’t.  But, in each day it is my goal for eating right now.  And summer is an excellent time to work on this way of relating to food, because of the abundance of colorful (eye serving), tasty (mouth serving), and nutritious (health serving) fruits and vegetables that are readily available.

Maybe sometimes a popsicle will be what serves me (or a frozen fruit bar at least).  Perhaps other times, it will be a pretzel.  Now and then, it might even be a deep fried Oreo (ok, not really, those make me gag).  But, if I can mindfully approach food, and eat that which serves me, I hope that I can create for myself a healthier body/mind and a healthier relationship with eating.



Inspiration for the day…

July 20, 2010

On the Seashore

by Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby’s cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.