Friday, 29 June 2012

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

This recipe was out of a community cookbook I got from and old friend’s mom.
A favourite of office birthdays.

Chocolate Chip Batter
1 (250 ml) cup shortening
1 (250 ml) cup brown sugar, packed
½ (125 ml) cup granulated sugar
1 (5 ml) teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 (500 ml) cups all-purpose flour
1 (5 ml) teaspoon baking soda
1 (5 ml) teaspoon salt
1 ½ (375 ml) cups chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Batter
2 (each 8oz/250g) packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 (50 ml) cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 (250 ml) cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven 50 350F.
Cream shortening.  Add sugars and vanilla..  Add eggs and beat well.
Sift dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.
Spread ½ of the batter into the bottom of a greased 9" x 13" pan.
Make cream batter by combining cream cheese, sugar, eggs and pecans.
Pour onto chocolate chip batter base.  Spoon remaining chocolate chip batter
on top of cream cheese layer.  Bake about 45 minutes.  Cool and cut.

I will sprinkle extra chocolate chips and chopped pecans on top before
it goes in the oven.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

B.K.S. Iyengar Quote

As a mountaineer needs ladders, ropes and crampons as well as physical fitness and discipline to climb the icy peaks of the Himalayas, so does the Yoga aspirant need the knowledge and discipline of the Hatha Yoga of Swatmarama to reach the heights of Raja Yoga dealt with by Patanjali."
~B.K.S. Iyengar -Light on Yoga, p. 23.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

I had the wonderful opportunity to be on a tour through western Turkey, May 2012.  One of the most unique experiences I had was an early morning balloon ride in Cappadocia (Kapadokya).
This area of Turkey has the most amazing eroded volcanic landscape.

The morning started before dawn with a bus ride to a large hall where a buffet breakfast was served to everyone going up that morning.  We were then split into groups of 14 and assigned to a mini-bus that took us out to our assigned balloon, pilot and crew.  Our pilot was Graham, originally from Oxfordshire UK.   Up we went!  It was a beautiful morning, still and slightly hazy.  We guessed there were 100 balloons in the sky that morning.  Graham took us for a one hour ride over the landscape of Cappadocia.  We landed safely and were served cake and sparkling wine.

If you ever have the opportunity for a hot air balloon ride, do it!  Enjoy the pictures below.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Downward-Facing Dog - Adho Muhka Svanasana

A yoga basic.  This pose works everything.  When I first started yoga, I could get into the pose but could not hold it for very long.  It is now easier for me to achieve the pose as I get lighter in weight, stronger in muscle, and more flexible in the joints.

You start on your hands and knees.  Tuck your toes under and push up.  Your body forms a 90 degree angle, more or less.  Ideally, you push on your hands to push your hips back so your heels will go to the floor.  It took me over three years to get my heels down to the floor. You are also working on length from arms through the torso to the waist.  The head is neutral with neck long and relaxed. In other words, a really good stretch for the whole body.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Power of Healing Through Yoga

Below is a YouTube video about U.S. Gulf War vet, Arthur Boorman.
Arthur's health had deteriorated to the point where he could barely walk and his weigh was nearly 300lbs.  No one could seem to help him until he came across Diamond Dallas Page and his DDP Yoga program.

The YouTube video, which has had more than 5,000,000 clicks, summarizes Arthur's journey.  It is an amazing story of perseverance and transformation.

Friday, 22 June 2012

West African Peanut Soup

Popular dish at Prairie Ink Restaurant at McNally Robinson Bookstore, Winnipeg MB
Courtesy of  “Ciao”  magazine

3/4 cup diced carrot
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced white onion
3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
11 cups water
2 cups smooth peanut butter
14 oz (398 ml) can whole tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper

In large pot saute carrot, celery and onion in about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil until soft.  Add sweet potatoes and cover with water.  Bring to boil and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Add remaining ingredients.  Puree soup until smooth.  Adjust seasoning to your own taste.  You may also add extra water if you prefer a thinner soup.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cracked and Flawed

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

SO, to all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Isle of Capri, Italy

Two years ago I had the good fortune of being on an Italian tour that went down the Amalfi Coast. Home base was the beautiful city of Sorrento.  From there our group travelled to several wonderful places including Capri.  We got to Capri after a 40 minute ferry ride.  There are ferry and hydrofoil services from Naples, Amalfi and Positano too.

It was a beautiful sunny day to visit a spot that has been a resort getaway since Roman Emperor Augustus had a villa built at the top of a hill.  When you arrive at the Grand Marina, there is a lot of hustle and bustle at port level but it is obvious, you need to go up.  Taxis, if you got the money, is the most convenient.  Most popular would be the funicular for a small charge.  If you are fit, there are a couple of paths up lengths of stairs that will get you to the top.  I suggest the funicular up and try the stairs down.  Signs say 10 minutes to port but it took us 30 minutes.  Parts were steeper that what we were use to.

Once at the top, the town of Capri is an elegant setting of cafes and shops.  Do walk to the ruins of Augustus' villa.  It is in a lovely park setting and there are wonderful views of the southside of the island where many yachts are moored.  It was a hot day and I needed a cold drink.  There was a vendor just a we approached the  park.  Best Lemon Slushy Ever!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Healthiest Meal EVER

Found an interesting news tidbit on Yahoo this morning.  Yahoo Trending gave the menu for the healthiest meal ever.  Scientists from Leatherhead Food Research in England conducted a study on superfoods and foods of great nutritional value.  They studied 4000 health claims used by supermarkets and food companies narrowing their list down to 222 foods based on scientific fact.  The following menu comes from that list.

Fresh and Smoked Salmon Terrine
Mixed Leaf Salad with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Dressing
Multigrain Bread Roll
Chicken Casserole with Lentils and Mixed Vegetables
Live Yogurt-based Blancmange with Walnuts and Sugar-free Caramel Sauce

Recipes were not given but I suspect items can be found in UK supermarkets.  If you like to cook, you can probably find a good salmon terrine recipe and figure out the chicken and lentil casserole.  I'd go with Greek yogurt with walnuts and a drizzle of honey for the dessert.  Mixed berries would be good too and are a recommended snack.

Article can be found at:
Daily Mail Healthiest Meal Ever

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sukhasana - Crossed Legs

Another basic yoga pose.  Many of us sat crossed legs on the floor as kids.  Fewer people attempt this as adults.  Chairs are just too convenient.  I’ve been lucky.  Sitting with crossed legs on the floor is something I’ve always been able to do even when my weight was at its heaviest.

A basic point about sitting crossed legs on the floor, your knees should not stick up above the top of your hips.  You need to sit on enough height so your knees are level with your hips.  Iyengar Yoga studios have firm foam blocks and cotton blankets for students to use.  I like to use two folded blankets at the studio but at home I  use folded beach towels.  Once you are comfortably seated on your perfect height, cross your legs at the calves/shins.  Some people cannot get to the floor due to bad knees or hips.  Sit on a chair and cross your ankles.

The next step is to sit up properly.  An easy tip is to take your hands to your knees and press gently.  This will straighten your back and lift your chest.  Remember to restrain your ribs so they don’t pop forward too much.  Relax your shoulders down and keep your head in a neutral position.  Release your hands and rest them on your thighs.  Close your eyes and allow your mind to stop chattering.  That can be work all on its own.

Sukhasana is a very common pose to start an Iyengar Yoga session.  With practice, it becomes easier to sit up straight and work on opening the hips.   It also gives you a chance to clear your mind so your will be ready for your practice.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake

This recipe is courtesy of Imperial Margarine

Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup margarine

Cream Cheese Layer:
½ lb. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp grated orange rind

Crumb Topping: Blend flour, sugar and margarine together and set aside

Cream Cheese Layer: Beat ingredients together until fluffy and set aside

Cake: In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt
Stir in juice, margarine, vanilla and egg
Fold in cranberries and orange zest
Pour batter into prepared 9"springform pan
Spread cream cheese over top of batter
Sprinkle with crumb topping
Bake at 350F for 65-75 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched in centre
Let cool on rack for 15 minutes
Remove outside ring of pan and let cake cool completely

Makes 12 servings

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Quote from B.K.S. Iyengar

"Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it." ~B.K.S.Iyengar

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Paris, France

I’ve come across several references to Paris in the last few days.  Is the Universe speaking to me?  I hope so!  I love Paris and the country of France.  Kind of funny because it was never my intention to travel there until my step-sister asked if I was interested.  Her daughter planned a nine week stay (mostly in Paris) to study French.  Sis spent one week with her daughter and I came for a three week car tour.  We picked up a car in Chartre, went up to St.Malo (the Channel coast) and drove down to Grasse (just inland from Cannes on the Mediterranean).  It was a heck of and adventure and I loved every part of France I saw.  Paris was particularly delightful.  Very friendly and very beautiful.  My first trip was in 2005 and I got to go back in 2009 as part of the 65th anniversary of D-Day (WW II).  There is so much more I want to see so here’s hoping for a return trip one day.  Yoga is Paris?  Yes, checkout Yogateau from my Blog List.

Parisien Memories

Opera de Paris Garnier
LaFayette department store
Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle
The Seine and the Batobus river taxi
the Tuileries Quarter - Musee du Louvre to Musee de l”Orangerie
Musee d’Orsay in St-Germain-Des-Pres
Champs-Elysees, Rue du Faubourg St-Honore
sitting outside at cafes and bistros, bakeries
The Eiffel Tower, day and night

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tadasana - Ta Da!

Tadasana (Mountain Pose) looks like you are standing at attention.  So, why is this a yoga pose? What you are working on is aligning your body so the bones line up from skull to the bottom of your feet. You are practicing good posture.  As you practice this seemingly simple pose, you will realize how many parts of your body are out of place, weak, and stiff.

Below is a picture of me (Yikes! What was I thinking.  Susan took some pictures of me after class so I am flushed and wearing pink.  Oh well, it is what it is) in Tadasana.  Classically, your feet are together and your weight is slightly focused on the heels.  Roll thighs in, gently tilt front of pelvis up.  Sternum up but restrain ribs so they don’t pop forward. Shoulders roll back, arms are by your side with fingers actively pointing down and your head is neutral.  There are a lot of instructions to work on.  When you get it right, it feels as though you are weightless and could stand for a long time.  One really good article is “Surreptitious Subway Yoga” , May 30, from “Daily Cup of Yoga”.  You can find that on my Blogroll in the right-hand column.

Tadasana is one of the most basic poses and is used as a neutral position in between a series of standing poses.  When in doubt, Tadasana!

Monday, 11 June 2012

St. Theresa's Prayer

It is a gray, rainy Monday and I was feeling low.  There was an e-mail from my cousin this afternoon.  I've received it many times over the years and it is one of my favourites.  Hope it inspires.

May there be peace within you. 
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. 
May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith. 
May you use those gifts that you have received, 
and pass on the love that has been given to you. 
May you be content you are a child of God. 
Let this knowledge settle into your bones, 
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Sweet Potato Cake

From Taste of Home - 2006 Best Holiday Recipes

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cups finely shredded sweet potato (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sliced almonds

½ cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 ½ cups flaked coconut, toasted
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake - In mixing bowl beat oil and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add sweet potato, water and vanilla.  Combine flour and cinnamon and add to potato mixture.  Stir in almonds.  Pour into greased 13"x9" pan.  Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting - Melt butter in saucepan.  Whisk in sugar, milk and egg yolks.  Bring to a boil and gently cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in coconut, almonds and vanilla.  Spread over warm cake.  Let cool.

Self Raising Flour note per cup - To substitute, place 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and  1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1 cup measure.  Add regular flour to complete the 1 cup measure.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Yoga and Injuries

I was reading Namaste from Duluth this morning.  There is a post on using yoga as therapy for physical injuries.  I understand that very well.  Many of us in my class have joint issues and injuries where certain yoga poses are most helpful.  She does have a funny comment at the end of the post; using yoga therapy for a yoga injury (Yay!)

I have experienced and injury from yoga too.  Many of us who practice yoga probably have. Some of my non-yoga friends get quite excited about an injury from yoga as though it were something unusual.  Guess no one has heard of running injuries, weights injuries, Pilates injuries, etc.  I've had one injury from yoga but two from Zumba.  Doesn't stop me from practicing either.

My yoga injury was simple; a pulled hamstring.  I let my ego get involved on a forward bend pose.  I was so close to my toes so I pushed it instead of accepting where I was that day.  The next day I was mighty sore and the pain did not go away completely for several months.  I continued with my practice and adjusted to my situation.  In time it healed.

So, I now take my time with my poses and accept my limitations.   I can now touch my toes and the floor.  That being accomplished, I now work gently on my other limitations.  One at a time they will improve.  I'm not in a race and my yoga teacher does not give out gold stars for completing a classic pose.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

New Blogger Fears

Well, I’ve been blogging for a month now.  I go through stages of “What was I thinking?!?!” to “This is fun!”.  I’ve been spending time this past week reading some of the other yoga blogs out there to see what other people’s views on yoga are.  I am amazed!

Many blogs are done by teachers.  There is great advice, upcoming seminars, personal views on yoga controversies, humour.

Others are like mine; ramblings from a yoga enthusiast.  People share their daily routines, poetry, great photos, their sorrows and joys.  It both intimidates and encourages me.

I’ve been getting some good ideas.  Pictures are always nice.  Recipes are always a good read.  I just need to keep plugging away and building up what I have started.  Thanks to those of you who read my blog regularly and irregularly.  If you have any requests, let me know.

(Food for Thought)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

London, UK

Today is the last day of four days of celebration honouring the Diamond Jubilee (that’s 60 years!) of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.  I’ve been watching some of the celebrations on TV and started thinking of some favourite things about London.

A boat cruise down the River Thames
The Thames River Walk
Marks and Spencer, Fortnum and Mason, Harrods
Pubs and pub grub
Walking the Mall from Admiralty Arch to Buckingham Palace
Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street
Little Venice
Hyde Park, Battersea Park
Albert Bridge, Tower Bridge
Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden
Millennium Bridge  
Cathedrals, castles, museums and galleries

Monday, 4 June 2012

Does Size Matter?

The vast majority of yoga imagery shows slender people doing seemingly impossible pretzel poses.  I know many people see these images and say to themselves “I could never do yoga.  I’m not flexible enough. I’m too heavy.”  This could not be further from the truth.  

I am a large, heavy woman.  Yes, poses became easier when I started to lose my excess weight but I was able to start a yoga practice pretty much at the same level as any other beginner.  Yoga poses are meant to condition the body; to make it stronger and more flexible.  The support from the props used in Iyengar Yoga made the process easier for me.  I have found, through the four years of studying yoga, there are people who do decide to try more challenging poses and classes and there are those content to stay at a level they are comfortable with and work at poses that are familiar.  Some people will never do inversions and some people will attack them with relish.  All of this is OK.  

You can be you.  Do not worry about what your size and ability is.  It is simply important to do the work.  Sometimes the biggest challenge you will face is to walk into the door of your first class.

Friday, 1 June 2012


My body conditioning had improved greatly after two years of Iynegar Yoga so it was time for me to investigate other exercise options.  I bought a ticket for a Zumba fundraiser one Saturday morning.  It was a Latin/Salsa inspired dance class led By Sharon Delbridge who I recognized as one of the Reh-Fit Centre's fitness instructors.  It was a great deal of fun and I was able to keep up with the group for the full 60 minutes.  Thus inspired, I started the Zumba Gold class with Sharon.  Sharon also teaches a really great Vinyasa Yoga flow class at Reh-Fit.  She uses yoga poses and breathing as a way to quiet the body after a cardio workout and let in the healing feelings for mind, body,  and spirit. 

Amazon has a great selection of Zumba DVDs, game systems, weights and clothing.

Scroll down on my blog and check out my Zumba Squidoo lens in the right hand column.  I've recently updated it with a new content including a YouTube video of our Zumba Tone class.  You get to see me in action!