108 SUN SALUTATIONS: On the Road to Enlightenment


Am so excited that it is officially Spring!  It has been a very different winter for me this past season.  First of all, I traveled twice to warmer climes, which was really nice, but also odd to move from such extreme temperatures.  Secondly. I also sprained by ankle and have been unable to do my usual dance routines and classes.  I felt rather distraught and annoyed about this, especially having to stop salsa classes, but something deeper was happening.  It was as if I were mirroring internally the season of winter.  I felt the need to hibernate, yet needed to do something to stay fit and heal my ankle.


I remembered I had read an article about how models stay fit.  One model said she did 12 Sun Salutations every day no matter where she was in the world.  I thought this was super cool and after that I bought a travel yoga mat, which always goes with me in my suitcase.  It is very lightweight.  Meanwhile, I only ever made it once to 12 Sun Salutations, which was when I taught my class called Zen-2-Zumba, but I never sustained 12 on a daily basis.

The other day whilst online, I fleetingly saw something about 108 Sun Salutations.  I didn't have time to investigate, but the number stuck in my head.  I decided that it was a clue to get back into my daily yoga practice and thought I would work my way up to 108 without really knowing why.  I even booked them into my agenda, adding one every two weeks.  According to my plan I will be able to do 24 daily by Christmas.   Sometimes I add one per week.  You can go a lot faster, but I have been injured so, not operating at optimum norms.
Last summer at Stinson Beach

Curiously, shortly after this, I met an Indian woman whom I asked why 108 Sun Salutations?  She briefly explained to me about the 108 Avatars, the 108 prayer beads and the 108 transformations that we go through in order to reach enlightenment.  This made sense to me.  I thought, "I wanna be enlightened!"  So, I decided I had to get started right away and have became deeply committed to my new goal.  (For an impressive spectrum of the significance of the number 108 please see this post by Cora Wen.)

Yoga has cured me of many ailments, the most radical being after I was hit by a car while I was crossing the street on foot, resulting in a right shoulder injury.  Recovery took 2+ years.  I did Hatha Yoga every day, gradually working my way up to Power Yoga, until I could do both classes back to back followed by swimming and sauna.  I swear the plank healed my shoulder more than anything else.  Previous to the accident I had also indulged in Bikram Yoga for about 6 months, but found its militant energy a complete turn off.  Since then, I have gotten back into dance, studying Pilates & Zumba and I taught a class called Zen-2-Zumba for over 2 years.  Now, I am studying Salsa and Barre Method, a form of ballet fitness, but I still love yoga and its ability to ground, lengthen, stretch, center and HEAL the body like nothing else.  Yoga helps you come into alignment with yourself on many levels.  It also helped me become attuned with my singing voice, which has been an amazing experience.

Face East in the morning and West in the evening.


There are great printable charts for Sun Salutations on the web.  There are many variations, so find what works best for you.  I use the sequence above, but add a plank, which I hold for 8-16 counts.

If you want to take the challenge with me and work your way up to 12 per day, or even go all the way to 108, please make sure to photograph yourself before you start.  If you like, measure your chest, waist and hips because this is where you will first notice a difference, in the toning.  Don't get hung up on weighing yourself on the scale.  It will go the wrong way in the beginning as you build muscle and be discouraging, but with dedication, you will see that it will work in your favor and eventually, especially with cardio, you will trim up.  Give yourself the time to build up your strength, especially if you are recovering from an injury, and to learn how to stretch.  Suddenly your body will feel like one solid mass and you will feel stronger from the core outward. They say the plank is the best way to get flat abs, so I am going to see if I can achieve this by summer;)  If I do I will post a pic. (Omigod! I will be enlightened AND have flat abs. I'm gonna go out in style:)

I have worked my way up to 7 Sun Salutations per day so far, and am starting with 8 next Monday.  12 Sun Salutations per day is a great workout on its own or as a daily morning practice (my fave).  You can also do them as a warm up exercise before more intense yoga or other fitness routines.  This is how I structured my Zen-2-Zumba class.

Good luck! (or should I say Namaste?)

SPRING BREAK: SF Bay Area



Just back from a brief visit to my home in the SF Bay Area.  I love to be there at this time of year because spring has already sprung and because it's my birthday.  Yep, its my birthday today;)  Here I share with you some things I have seen and tasted recently:

Image above: Golden Gate Bridge, heading north.  Feb 2015

View of Alcatraz & Bay Bridge from HH

Harrison House (HH), Sausalito
First stop over the Golden Gate Bridge is my beloved little house on the hill where I met my husband.  You can stay here too, should you ever want to visit the Bay.  Welcome!

I love my hometown because it is in such close proximity to the city and yet so quiet and safe at night.  The views of the city from Sausalito are stunning on a daily basis and it doesn't matter the weather . . . SF is mesmerizing and a jewel in the night from across the bay with spooky Alcatraz hovering in the mist.


The Ferry Building

The Ferry Building Marketplace
If you are in the city, you can hop on the Ferry and pop over to Sausalito for the day, I think the last ferry is at 8pm.  Works the other way around too, if you don't feel like driving to SF, jump on the ferry from downtown Sausalito and you will arrive at The Ferry Building at the foot of Market street in the city.   There is a lovely Farmer's Market there on Saturday's from 8am-2pm, and on Tues & Thurs 10-2pm.
Paris Combo


SF Jazz Center
This new venue has been an instant hit.  I enjoyed the charming Paris Combo up close and personal in this intimate setting, only to learn later that there is actually another, even larger, stage where we can see performances.  Excellent sound and great seats all around.  They allow you to take your wine inside, which is lovely, albeit in plastic cups.


Hotel Vitale
Although it is easy and fun to drive back and forth over the Golden Gate Bridge to get into San Francisco's many delights, it is a big treat to stay in the city once in awhile.  Since I was in town to celebrate my Mom's birthday as well as mine, we felt that a hotel that could offer bay views, spa services and dinner would be just perfect.  We started our weekend with valet parking and went straight to the spa.   Service was great throughout our whole weekend.


Lavender Milk Bath
Vitale Spa    From the same people that bring you Kabuki Springs (my fave).  The spa treatments we had took place in a very small suite and began with a Relaxing Bath of Lavender Milk which, guess what? took place outside on the roof surrounded by bamboo.  Very sexy up there, but a bit breezy and you could hear everything from the waterfront, ferries, cars, birds . . . delivery trucks.

Americano Restaurant
Great food for dinner.  We especially enjoyed the Artichoke and Brussel Sprout Fritti.  Just crispy vegetables, cooked to perfection and highly addictive.  I could have been happy with just this dish and a glass of white wine, but I also indulged in a big fat steak, (instead of my usual roasted chicken,) which I gulped down with a fine bottle of Malbec from Argentina.  Dessert was a special chocolate mousse treat from the restaurant and on the house!  I love that.



SF Waterfront: There is a new super cool walkway where you can take selfies galore and admire the Bay Bridge and city skyline. 


Academy Awards
Ever since my Mom and I moved to Los Angeles when I was 7 years old, we have been diligently watching all of the movies that get nominated (and more of course) for the Oscars and then we watch the Academy Awards show and try to suss out who will win.  We loaded up on snacks and cocktails, printed ballots and enjoyed the show from the Red Carpet to the underpants moment to the Best Picture celebration to the after parties.  I guess I am an L.A. girl at heart.  I love all that Hollywood glamor.  I remember once getting off the couch and going to see the stars arrive on the red carpet.  I was so close to them all.  I think I must have been 18 or something.  Was so exciting.  I remember driving my little silver Datsun in between all the limousines, trying to see through the smoked glass.  LOL.


From the Vitale Spa looking towards Marin.


Presidio Social Club
I popped over the bridge one night to dine with my best friend at the classic Presidio Social Club.  We first had cocktails at the bar, which is a must.  They are famous for their cocktails.  I had a G&T the size of my head.  For dins, I predictably had the Roasted Chicken with a fantastic California Avocado Salad that was a a soft mound of mashed avocado mixed with crunchy fennel and cucumber in a citrus vinaigrette, that had a perky tangerine morsel once in awhile to keep things bright and interesting.  I loved it and was so full from it, I merely tasted the chicken.  Being that it is America, they wrap up the leftovers, always a big pile, and offer it up to you in easy to carry packages.  (This is considered tacky in Europe, by the way.)


Shopping
Presidio Social Club Entrance
You really can't go away without treating yourself to a little  memento.  After all, it is a birthday trip, I told myself.  Yeah, I headed right to the mall.  You know I am not fond of shopping, let alone malls, but in Marin County you must go to the mall if you want to go to the Apple Store.  Yep, I marched right in, straight up to the phones and got the new iPhone6 PLUS, which is now in my pocket, yes it actually fits in my pocket and my pocketbook.  Loving it.  I think it will replace my iPhone and iPad.  Great for working on the go, reviewing and sharing my photographs and the perfect tool for a traveling blogger.  Maybe now I will be able to post from wherever I am instead of waiting until I get home, which clearly delays things.


Sushi Ran
I had the pleasure and delight to eat with my foodie friends a grand meal of ridiculous goodness.  This is hands-down the best sushi in the Bay and everyone knows it.  Plus, it just so happens to be within walking distance of my house in Sausalito.  It just doesn't get better than that.  We gorged through 4 hours of non-stop sushi and sake and beer.  It was the perfect meal.  The next day I flew home and hardly needed to eat on the plane, which is really helpful for adjusting to the time difference.  Top food, Top service, Top friends;)

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Thank you everyone for all your good wishes!







THE DREAM IS THE PATH




Follow your dreams.  The Dream is the Path.  This is what came to me and I thought I should share it with you.  The Dream is the Path.  Follow your heart.  

Happy New Year!

Image above: 2015 Koh Phangan, Thailand

FLIPPED FOR GEFLIPT




Suddenly after a life long dry spell, burger places are popping up everywhere.  There is a food revolution going on in Amsterdam!  I didn't think I needed to eat burgers anywhere except The Butcher, but when I saw people in the windows of Geflipt gorging themselves on giant "it takes two hands to hold" kinda burgers, I knew it was time to do some tasting.

See NOS clip here
First of all, let me say that when I tasted my burger I also got interviewed by the owner, Gunnar Muller, who had a cameraman from NOS in my face.  Seriously.

I decided to tell the truth, naturally.  He asked me what I thought of my burger and I said, (as I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand) "Well, not sure why the lettuce is on the bottom of the burger, shouldn't it be on top?"  "Are you American? he says.  (I nod and roll my eyes at the same time, which isn't easy to do by the way.  I hope they didn't catch that bit on film.) "Well, we are trying to hold in the juices of the burger with the lettuce."  "Uh-huh, and what's the deal with the fried egg?"  "That is the way they do it in Argentina."  "Really? (raised eyebrows) Well, you can hold the egg and I like CRUNCHY lettuce, so other than that, it just may be the best burger I have had in Amsterdam."  Big smiles all around and the cameraman zooms in on me trying to hold this massive dripping mess in my hands.  For the record, that lettuce leaf didn't hold a candle to that quarter pounder.  Anyway, it was delicious and so were the fries and the groovy soft drinks in hip bottles or order up a beer to help guzzle it all down.  Coffee also available.

Overall good food and a nice atmosphere right on the edge of de Pijp across from the Albert Cuyp Market.  Easy stop on the way into town or back from it.  Check it.

 Geflipt
Van Woustraat 15
Amsterdam
+31 20 471 4590



DATE NIGHT in De Hallen


This week went a lot differently then I had thought it would.  I am glad it's over.  When I used to ride the 9-5 year in and year out, I remember looking forward to Friday for so many reasons, casual Friday back in Beverly Hills, cocktails right after work (and in L.A. we would go to Mexican places because the margs were giant & strong, plus the happy hour spread alone was enough for dins,) dancing at the clubs all night (my fave), sleeping sinfully all next day, and of course, the preparation for Saturday night, which we call DATE NIGHT in the States. 

(Isn't it in Goodfellas that Ray Liotta talks about Friday night as "mistress night" and Saturday night as date night (with the wives?)  I think so.  I'm a bit of both.  Yeah sure, I'm married, but I go to Salsa parties on Fridays and hang with Mr. Man the next night.  He plays footy on Fridays anyway, so its great to have Saturday night to look forward to, as well as the heavenly promise of Sunday.)


Inside de Hallen

Whether it's your wife or your girlfriend, or just a friend, head on over to De Hallen for dinner and a movie, the classic date night.  They also have all kinds of super cool studios and happenings over there.  If you wanna get fancy-schmancy, you know I can go either way, but I must admit I tried Meat West before my film.  It was a special occasion and you know how much I love to taste.  Every detail was perfect and they made all my wishes come true.  However, I think for an ordinary date night, I would definitely stay in the halls and grab some easy food because the vibe is super hip & definitely buzzing.  Can't wait to get back there and taste everything.

TGIF

Have a great weekend and be careful out there. 

Inside Meat West, with views of De Hallen all 'round

Feta Salad

Shrimp & Scallops


I just LOVE date night.

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WEEKEND RECIPE: Dutch "Boerenkool"



Look what I made! This is my first time ever making Boerenkool!  What is it?  It's GREEN MASH with a giant sausage on top.  That's it.  Actually, it is a Stamppot, which can be made from kale, endive, spinach, turnip greens, carrots, onions and potatoes, of course.  Basically, you boil the hell out everything in one pot, then you mash the whole thing up (stamp-pot) and serve everyone a large bowl of the mash with a piece of sausage or stewed meat w/gravy on top.  You can also add Lardons (spekjes) for extra flavor.  Easy Peasy

I decided to master some Dutch recipes this fall.  Many say that the Dutch do not really have a cuisine and, its true, we are not dealing with the same gastronomy gusto as say, the Italians, but being that the Dutch are generally healthy people and the tallest in the world, they must be doing something right.  Right?

So, if you feel like foraging into Dutch Cuisine, here is a very easy, delicious recipe that you can try this weekend.  Oh yeah, by the way, if you go to a Hema which has a market in it, like the one here in De Pijp, you will see a display case with all the things you need to make Boerenkool.  You know the Hema is famous for their smoked sausages (rookworst)?  That is why it smells like that in the all the stores.  Tip: Make sure to get the the lean sausage (magere) as it is a lot less fatty. 


Boerenkool

Ingredients: Kale, Potatoes, butter, salt & pepper, red chili flakes, parsley and 1 smoked sausage.

Wash the kale and chop finely, about 2-3 handfuls for what you see above, or more if you like your mash really, really green.

Meanwhile boil a small of water (1inch/2,54cm) in a large pot, add salt. 

When boiling, add the kale, cover and let simmer for about 10-12 mins.

Meanwhile, peel, rinse and cut potatoes into med size pieces.  Use about 10-12 med size potatoes.

*You can easily adjust the quantities of potatoes and vegetables.  The quantities above are for about 4 large servings.

Add potatoes, give the pot a stir, add a little bit more boiling water if necessary.  You don't want to cover the vegetables with water.  You want enough water to create steam.  Finally, add the smoked sausage on top and continue to boil/steam for another 12-15 mins+ as necessary.

Use a fork to check if the potatoes are cooked through.

Remove sausage.

Pour off excess water.

Add a chunk of butter, sea salt & freshly ground pepper, light sprinkling of red chili flake, parsley and mash the greens with the potatoes.  Keep mashing, tasting and correcting the seasonings.  I like it buttery and tasty.  Potatoes can be very bland, so the red chili flake gives the potatoes a lift without being spicy.

Optional: Fry up your lardons and add to the mash.

Optional: I made a little bit of beef jus and served it on the side.

Serve in a bowl with a piece of sausage on top.  Pair with a Pinot Noir and maybe a salad of greens, beets, feta and strawberries.

LEKKER!

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*Did you know that the Dutch used to live in tepee type dwellings?  They would have a fire in the center of the tepee and hang a pot from the roof.  This is why they made everything in one pot!  

Have a great weekend!








WEEKEND GETAWAY: Norway


Just back from a long weekend in Norway and I am still totally blown away by how beautiful it is there.  We landed and drove straight to our friends' generations old farmhouse replete with lake. I slept like a baby in a cradle bed in the living room while the boys went out exploring.  A delicious fish soup and hearty bread followed by a long night in front the fire with friends and nips & nibbles.  Purrrrfect.

Norwegian Fish Soup
The Farmhouse and guesthouse


Moose hunters





Next day the train ride to the city of Stavanger and more fish was to be had on the harbor at an ordinary, yet extraordinary, place that left me drooling.  Fisketorgot is a fishmonger and a restaurant with a seething aquarium full of lobster right on the harbor.  Seriously delicious.  The soup and the carrot cake are highly recommended.


Gorging at Fisketorget; crab, sashimi, salmon and carrot cake!


Looking over the Stavanger Harbor from the Tower
The Valberg tower was the former observation tower of Stavanger.

Loved the design and architecture, which just like in Holland, combines tradition with modern.

A night walk through Stavanger reminded me of SF's hills.


  
Finally a Sunday afternoon boat ride to the spectacular fjords, which are long inlets of water bordered by high mountains, originally formed by glaciers.  I honestly felt like I was in God's Country.  Absolutely breathtaking.  
****Must see








A hearty shrimp omelet at Solo Strand Hotel and a refreshing beach walk before going home.  This hotel has a spa and tennis courts, only 5 mins from the airport. 

Modern beach house with the view below. 


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