Another poet that I was introducted to via American Life in Poetry
, Cristin O'Keefe Apotowicz
is a poet and nonfiction writer from my generation (yay!) who is celebrated for her work in the New York slam poetry scene and for her 5 successful books of poetry. She was recently awarded a 2011 National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and once you start reading her poems, you can see why. I love the poem below, because it speaks to the difficulty of fitting in--of feeling self-conscious at an event and inflicting self-judgment.
Similarly, I know what she's talking about when she mentions "a gaggle of models [that] come shrieking into the bar." This definitely happens a lot on a night out in New York, and can make any girl begin to feel self-conscious.
At the Office Holiday Party
I can now confirm that I am not just fatter
than everyone I work with, but I’m also fatter
than all their spouses. Even the heavily bearded
bear in accounting has a little otter-like boyfriend.
When my co-workers brightly introduce me
as “the funny one in the office,” their spouses
give them a look which translates to, Well, duh,
then they both wait for me to say something funny.
A gaggle of models comes shrieking into the bar
to further punctuate why I sometimes hate living
in this city. They glitter, a shiny gang of scissors.
I don’t know how to look like I’m not struggling.
Sometimes on the subway back to Queens,
I can tell who’s staying on past the Lexington stop
because I have bought their shoes before at Payless.
They are shoes that fool absolutely no one.
Everyone wore their special holiday party outfits.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the bar that I realized
my special holiday party outfit was exactly the same
as the outfits worn by the restaurant’s busboys.
While I’m standing in line for the bathroom,
another patron asks if I’m there to clean it.To read more of Cristin's poems, check out her site here. Have a wonderful weekend!Namaste,Mary Catherine
Welcome to the April 29th edition of my simple, sensory joys of the week! Can't believe it's almost May (!?!?!)...where has the month gone? Also, this means that I've now been blogging for almost 1.5 months, which is super-exciting to me :)
As always, read on to peruse what's been keeping me going over the past 7 days...
Florence, looking fabulous as always.
"Cosmic Love" by Florence And The MachineI've been loving this band for quite a while, and if you remember, their "Drumming Song" made my Top 10 Yoga Songs list last month. But, this song has been in my head this week and I just haven't been able to get enough Florence lately. I absolutely LOVE painting (and practicing) to
their "Between Two Lungs" album--it always pumps me up!Listen to "Cosmic Love" below. Florence has such a beautiful and haunting voice!
Taste: Green & Black Organic Chocolate-Dark 85%
If you're looking for a the "healthiest" chocolate that you can find, I'm convinced that this is your bar. Not only is it 85% cocoa content (less sugar and more natural flavors!), it's also delicious. Plus, when you eat chocolate that is this rich, all it takes is a little bit to appease your sweet tooth. A perfect after-dinner sweet that you don't need to feel guilty about. *Just be careful and don't eat it too close to bedtime...it definitely has caffeine in it and will keep you up! Trust me... ;)
See: Anthropologie's May 2010 Catalog
(India-inspired & set in India!)I received a promo email from Anthropologie today, and I was floored
when I saw the gorgeous India-inspired clothing in the email. I immediately clicked through to see the entire May catalog, and was definitely inspired. I find Anthropogie's catalogs to be a work of art, and I always look forward to leafing through them and finding inspiration in the magnificent colors and settings that they use in their photo shoots. Pure visual decadence! Plus, reminds me of my dear friend Amanda, who is currently living in India :) She gets to see these rich colors all the time! Thank you for the mid-week eye candy, Anthro.
Touch: Savasana Assists (mini-massage!)
Nothing beats a good savasana assist, and I received two in classes this week (thanks Melissa and Kimberly!)! If you've never had one, it's a mini neck/shoulders/face massage when you're in your final relaxation pose at the end of your yoga practice. You're completely relaxed and allowing the body to just melt into the earth, and then you get a relaxing and soothing massage...so wonderful! Ommmmmmmmmmm.
Smell: Paddywax Travel CandleI've had this candle forever, but decided to burn it again this week after a brief hiatus and was reminded why I love Paddywax candles so much--nothing smells better! Plus, their travel candles are adorable, small, and affordable and are perfect additions to gift/gift bags. The one I've been burning is Bergamot Cassis and it is divine. Plus, I love it that the company is owned by an Atlanta couple
--they got their start when the wife made a candle for a craft group that she was involved in right out of college--such a great entrepreneurial story!
What simple sensory pleasures have uplifted your spirit this week?
For those of you who don't already know, I am OBSESSED with pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana). My students probably know this, as I weave it into almost every class that I teach, and anyone who has ever seen me doing my own practice can probably tell how much joy it brings me by the way in which I smile and settle into it for the long haul each time it comes up in class. I don't feel like I've had a complete practice without it, and look forward to it each time that I come to my mat. I truly love all hip openers, but pigeon pose has always had a special place in my heart (or my hips). A couple of years ago, about 16 months or so after I suffered from a stress fracture in my pelvis (caused by running
), I found myself back in physical therapy because the pain had spread--I was no longer feeling pain just in the hip region, but also in the lower back and hamstrings, shooting down the leg. Although they still weren't sure exactly what was going on in my body, one of my "exercises" that I was given by my PT was pigeon pose. Imagine how happy I was to received this pose as a treatment for my pain! Although I had already discovered the pose through yoga, I was happy to have another reason to come into it on a daily basis, and it reiterated my feeling that this pose was good for my body. In my own life, I've found pigeon pose to help with my lower back pain (often, loosening my hips can help to the release the pull on my lower back), sciatica-type pain, IT band issues,
piriformis syndrome (which I am CONVINCED I have!) and psoas pain. Whenever I feel tightness or pain in any of these areas, which I often do due to my old injuries, I come into pigeon, and it is always a big sigh of relief for my body. I just can't get enough, and I know that there are a number of you out there who feel the same way, since it won in my pose poll
for most popular hip opener (80% of the votes!).
New to the pose and want to try it? For detailed directions on how to come into pigeon pose, see Yoga Journal's description of the pose, here
. A few of my favorite tips are below:
Photo via athleta.net
For beginners and those with especially tight hips, I recommend coming into this pose by propping up the hip with a blanket, block, or bolster (pillow)--see the picture to the left. You can stay lifted through the chest if it's super-intense here, or, begin to fold forward. Again, you can prop up the arms or upper body up using blocks (under each forearm) or a bolster if it's too much to come all the way to the ground.
Photo via kyannasutton @ flickr.com
For those who would like to take pigeon even deeper or add a variation, you can add a twist--again, see picture on the left. To find the twist, thread the arm that is on the same side as the extended leg underneath the shoulder of the opposite arm. Then reach around the back with the opposite arm for the big toe of the bent leg. Ahhhhhh, feels amazing.
Two things to be mindful of in pigeon: -Often, when we come into pigeon pose we send the tension from the hips into another part of the body. For instance, we'll clench the jaw or tighten the shoulders without realizing it
, since we're trying to breathe through the deep sensations in the hip. So, I recommend doing a quick scan of the body each time you come into this pose in order to release anywhere else in the body that you might be holding tension.-Typically, we hold a lot of emotions in our hips, so it's not uncommon when we start to open them to feel some sort of emotional release. Some people cry while in this pose, some laugh, some do nothing at all, but know that it's completely normal if you feel an emotional response to the pose. Letting go can be GREAT!
Benefits of pigeon pose (taken from Yoga Journal
Stretches the thighs, groins and psoas, abdomen, chest and shoulders, and neck-
Stimulates the abdominal organs-
Opens the shoulders and chest
Contraindications and Cautions (again, from Yoga Journal
Tight hips or thighs
Now, check out this gorgeous photo of pigeon (upright variation)!
Photo via rae-does-contiki.blogspot.com
I know, simply beautiful. And, since I could write about my love for pigeon pose all day long, I'm going to cut myself off right now. Do you, too, love pigeon? If so, share!!!
Ben's Kettlebell Kupcakes!
Yesterday was my dear boyfriend Ben's birthday. Because the weekend was totally busy and I was with him all day Sunday--and because he was home when I left early in the morning on Monday, and then home again when I returned late Monday night--I didn't have much time to prepare without him knowing. But, thanks to a quick cupcake idea and my own sneaky birthday surprise prowess, I was still able to bring some Kettlebell Kupcakes (came up with that name myself!) to CrossFit
last night in celebration of his birthday. Because it was SO easy (only took 20 minutes to do!), I thought I'd share my fantastic new cupcake idea--perfect for anyone who wants to bring a personalized, celebratory treat but doesn't have time to do all of the baking and icing...1. Pick up
a package or two of Whole Foods
Two-Bite Cupcakes. They come in vanilla and chocolate and are made with cage-free eggs and no hydrogendated oils, which I think is SO IMPORTANT. Also, they taste really good for store-bought cupcakes!
2. Pick up some icing in the color that you desire. I was lucky enough to score some Whole Foods icing...they don't sell icing in the aisles, but when I asked someone if they carried it, he went back into the bakery and brought me an entire cup of their healthy (haha!) icing. It was so nice!! Plus, he only charged me $2 for the entire cup :)
3. Grab an icing bag, which makes things so much easier. You can also just go the icing-in-a-tube route, but it's a lot more fun + you feel like a baker when you use the bag :) Plus, icing that's not in a tube tastes a LOT better and is a lot more fresh. Again, I was gifted my icing bag from Whole Foods (best quick shopping trip ever!), but you can buy them at the grocery store.
4. Decorate your cupcakes with a SIMPLE design! Although mine are no work of art (my bag didn't have a point so I struggled with making the shapes), they were fun, personalized, and yummy! And it's always the thought that counts, anyways :) PLUS, they took me only 20 minutes to decorate--that includes the time spent putting the icing in the bag, cleaning up, and packing up. Ben left for work at 7:40, I had to leave at 8, and I was able to do all this and get out the door in time for my meeting. Yay for easy creativity!
Kettlebells are a bit deformed, but you still get the idea!!!
Other ideas for quick, simple ways to decorate your mini cupcakes?
-Write a letter on each cupcake, spelling out a word or words that mean something to the person (or the event).
-Pick something simple or personalized that the person loves and just do a quick drawing/outline of that item. No problem if you're not at artist--look at my kettlebells! Totally rough but get the point across.
-Place the person's favorite candy (jelly bean, m & m, skittle) in the middle of each mini-cupcake for an even easier bit of decoration.
-For a yoga-inspired cupcake, draw the OM symbol on each cupcake :)
-For your workout enthusiasts, you can also draw dumbells or their ball of choice for their sport, etc.
For some fun ideas and examples of NOT simple but TOTALLY CREATIVE cupcakes, see below :) Click on a picture to enlarge and view slideshow...
Amazing, huh??? Almost as good-looking as my Kettlebells :)
Have a *sweet* day!
Photo via tommcgeephotography.com
At Tranquil Space
this month, our theme of the month is "seeing the world from a fresh perspective." As I've taught classes around this theme and thought about it in my own practice this past month, I have begun to see how broadening or shifting your perspective can create a great difference in your every day life, your happiness, and your overall sense of calm. Similarly, as the seasons change and the weather gets warmer, it's been easy to see this idea in action as people's moods change with the amount of sun shining and the temperature in the air. Just as a bit of sun can make everything appear brighter and happier, so can a small shift in perspective, or a change in how you perceive a situation or person...One of my favorite stories
about perspective, from Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater, is below:
One day a monk was walking by the banks of a lake and found an abandoned rowboat. He spent several months lovingly restoring it. Finally, the day came to launch it on the clear waters of the lake. As he began to row, he noticed that it was getting foggy, but he continued nonetheless. Suddenly, swiftly cutting through the fog came another rowboat, which rammed into his boat. All of his work—the new wood and the paint job—was damaged. The monk got angry and strained to see who had done this thoughtless thing to his boat. And then he saw that the other boat was empty. His anger collapsed in the moment.How many of the little things that you let affect you--change you mood, stress you out, upset you--are just empty rowboats? How can a small shift in the way that you think about something, or see something (or someone) change your daily life for the better?
I know that I let a lot of empty rowboats get me down throughout the week (often looking for someone to blame for something that an empty boat has done), so I have been trying to broaden or change the way that I perceive things in order to learn to stress a bit less...it's been hard, but has also been a very interesting and freeing practice.Another great
lesson from a wonderful yoga teacher (Ms. Lasater)!
Now off to row my boat :) And while we're on the subject, my absolute favorite type of boat is below:
Partner boat! How fun! (photo via chicagonow.com)
P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEN!!!!!!!
I know, I know, I've gotten a bit behind on my painting updates lately...but, sometimes it's hard for me to get the pictures up on the same day that I work on the paintings (Thursdays), and then the weekend rushes in and I never get them up...so, from now on my painting updates will come sporadically, whenever I get a chance to share :) Going along with this, here's the painting update from my last session--last Thursday,
April 21st. I've given a few of my recently-started yoga pose paintings
a break to work on a few new pieces, but will probably get back to them this week...
Paintings #1 & #2: Studio Tree Studies
I've been feeling like my paintings/brushstrokes have been getting very tight, so I wanted to loosen up a bit this past week. In order to do this, I decided to paint this tree inside the studio to work on creating more painterly, energetic strokes. I think that the exercise helped! Here are the two studies I worked on for a bit in order to relax my brushstroke...
So much fun to just paint loosely and without abandon! I think I'll continue with exercises like these to keep myself from becoming too detailed/regimented in my painting...
Painting #3: Pincha Mayurasana (learn about my own struggles with this pose here)
Start with this picture from my photoshoot with the lovely Laura...
Underpainting that I started on Thursday. This is the first layer of the painting. I will build up MANY layers on top of this one.
Painting #4: Urdhva Dhanurasana
Original picture from the shoot (look at that GORGEOUS pose!)
Again, the underpainting (kind of like a sketch or map of where I'm going) for this painting. This is the first layer of the painting...
Painting #5: Portrait of Ben (made of inanimate objects)
Where I left off last week...the painting had gotten a bit too bright in places...
Cooled it down a bit (background) and worked on the bandana. Next I'll tackle the details on the shoes and socks, and play a bit more with the background. Slow and steady wins the race on this one!
And there you have it! I'll get back to working on the paintings from my last update
this Thursday. Until the next painting update...Namaste!Mary Catherine
After our usual Sunday morning CrossFit
class, Ben and I decided to take a leisurely jaunt down to the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market so that he could buy some organic chocolate milk (one of his favorite treats after a tough workout!)...little did I know that this trip would be--in the words of Charlie Sheen--so winning!!!!
Now that it's spring, the market was bursting with fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers--and it was a beautiful
sight! Plus, it was a gorgeous, summery-feeling day in DC, so everyone was out in their Sunday (Easter) best, enjoying the sun, the flowers, and sampling all of the fresh treats. As we meandered through the market, I found the fresh produce so stunning that I had to take some pics. I mean, where else will you find a table full of lettuce??? It was my dream come true :) I hope these pics bring you as much simple joy as they did me! Oh, and checkout the sign at the front of the market (LOVE!):
If you can't read what it says in light blue, it says: "We heart dogs & cats, goats, penguins, tarantulas, etc." How cute is that?
Click on a photo below to view as a slideshow & read captions...
Now wouldn't you agree that the market was full of fresh eye-candy? I know, amazing. For a fresh-foods junkie there's just nothing better than a city street (or park) filled with produce from local farms...
And with that, I'd like to close this post with an Easter treat...a bunny doing yoga! Nice down dog (down bunny?)!!
Enjoy the rest of your sunny day!
So. Much. Fun. I love polls! Thanks to everyone who participated in my pose poll
this past week.
Here are the results!
Favorite Seated Hip Opener:
#1. Pigeon- 80%
#2. Frog- 12%
Woohooo!!!!! I totally agree. Pigeon is my favorite pose of all time.
Favorite Balancing Pose:
#1. Half Moon- 41.7%
#2. Dancer- 25%
Again, I agree with the consensus! When you find your balance in this pose, it feels like you're flying :)
Favorite Inversion:#1. Headstand- 41.7% (Asana of the month at Tranquil Space right now!)#2. Legs up the wall- 20.8% I'm not surprised by headstand in #1, but LOVE it that legs up the wall is #2. Yay for restorative poses and for allowing yourself to RELAX!
Favorite Standing Pose: closest race!
#1. Triangle- 38.5%
#2. Warrior 2- 34.6%
Both open-hipped poses...interesting. I wonder if this has something to do with the majority of my readers being women?
Favorite Arm Balance:
#1. Crow- 43.5%
#2. Side Crow- 17.4%
This makes sense, since crow is one of the most accessible arm balances (especially for female bodies).
*all photos via Yoga Journal
What do you think? Are you surprised by any of the results?
Thanks again for reading and for indulging me by participating! I'll try to weave some of these favorite poses into my upcoming classes soon... :)
Featured on American Life in Poetry
, a project by Ted Kooser (the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006), I think that this poem by Nancyrose Houston is a beautifully-written record of American life. There is both a sense of simplicity and complexity in her words, and when I read it I was immedietely struck by an overwhelming feeling of complete understanding; although it lists so many different aspects of daily life, it captures the beauty in the mundane and a bit of the small sense of wonder that can be found in daily activities (at the end of the poem). The last sentence is also perfect for spring :) Enjoy!
The Letter From Home
The dogs barked, the dogs scratched, the dogs got wet, the dogs shook, the dogs circled, the dogs slept, the dogs ate, the dogs barked; the rain fell down, the leaves fell down, the eggs fell down and cracked on the floor; the dust settled, the wood floors were scratched, the cabinets sat without doors, the trim without paint, the stuff piled up; I loaded the dishwasher, I unloaded the dishwasher, I raked the leaves, I did the laundry, I took out the garbage, I took out the recycling, I took out the yard waste. There was a bed, it was soft, there was a blanket, it was warm, there were dreams, they were good. The corn grew, the eggplant grew, the tomatoes grew, the lettuce grew, the strawberries grew, the blackberries grew; the tea kettle screamed, the computer keys clicked, the radio roared, the TV spoke. “Will they ever come home?” “Can’t I take a break?” “How do others keep their house clean?” “Will I remember this day in fifty years?” The sweet tea slipped down my throat, the brownies melted in my mouth. My mother cooked, the apple tree bloomed, the lilac bloomed, the mimosa bloomed, I bloomed.
Enjoy your Saturday! And even if you are filling your day with the mundane--chores, errands, and cleaning--take some time to bloom :)
It's that time again...and wow, do these weeks go by quickly or what? As always, you can peruse my simple sensory pleasures of the week below :)
Enjoy your Friday!
Hear: Avril Lavigne's "What the Hell?"I know, I know, this song is totally ridiculous. But, I think it is SO catchy and I just love it!
Every time I play it I have to get up and dance around...it's just so much fun! Plus, it's kind of a girl power song/rebellion song, and as my friends know, I've always loved girl power songs :) Also, as a sidenote, in high school I went to an Avril Lavigne concert with two of my BFFs, and although we were the oldest and tallest people there (by far!!!!), we had a lot of fun. I'm pretty sure we all wore camo pants and dressed up a bit punk (lots of eyeliner and black?) like Avril. Good times. Listen to the song below--
and get ready to jump around :)
Taste: Three Wishes Organic Wine
($2.99 bottle!) & CheeseThree Wishes is "Whole Foods' answer to Trader Joes' Two Buck Chuck
," and in my opinion, they did a great job with this wine. It's extremely tasty--especially for $2.99--and for a couple like Ben and I, it makes sense to drink cheap wine because then we don't feel bad if we don't finish the whole bottle before it goes bad (sadly, a very common occurrence in our household--we just can't hold our alcohol the way we used to!). Anyways, we've been having a lot of fun drinking a glass of their Cabernet Sauvignon along with a side of some yummy cheese while we make our big Sunday night dinner each week. Delish! P.S. I know, I just re-read this and realized that I made us sound really old and lame. But hey, that's a part of growing up, right...? Right???
See: Assorted Library Card Set by Knot & BowI saw these on Daily Candy this past week, and thought that they were ADORABLE. Plus, they're sold at Pink Olive, an amazing store in the East Village that is right around the corner from my old apartment (sigh), that I used to visit often for creative gifts. Aren't they great? Their ideas for how to use them are below:
• Giving books as gifts? Make it so much more charming with a library card gift tag!
• Create your very own home library collection by printing or stamping a book plate design onto library cards before placing them inside your books.
• Library card place cards work wonderfully for weddings! Perfect for all of you lovebird librarians :)
MassageSo, I'm actually booked for my massage
with Sogbe at the Tranquil Space Spa at 6pm today, but I already know that it's going to be AMAZING, so I'm listing it now :)
Sogbe, one of the massage therapists there, has the most amazingly strong hands, and her massages just can't be beat. I booked the massage weeks ago, so have been looking forward to it for quite a while now. Nothing like a bit of self care at the end of a busy week!
Smell: Morning Star Lavender IncenseWe burn
this incense at Tranquil Space
, and I have become completely addicted to it. It's a mild, simple incense, but it smells divine and one stick goes a long way--it's a perfect incense for people who don't like strong, "hippie" incense that completely invades a room. Also, has anyone ever stopped to realize how cheap incense is?? It's a lot cheaper than a candle and goes a long way in terms of scent...if you don't currently burn incense, I encourage you to give this brand a try. It just might make you a a convert!
What has brought you simple, sensory joy this week? Feel free to share :)
P.S. I know I said that I would announce the winners of my Pose Poll
on Friday (today), but because people are still voting (and because today is super-busy!), I'm going to hold off on announcing until tomorrow. Sorry for being so misleading! If you haven't voted yet, vote here now