I love pumpkins

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Whether you call them winter squash or by a more specific name (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, kobucha or spaghetti), they are reliable, nutritious and tasty all year long.

The other day I suggested, ” We could have acorn squash for dinner, because it’s finally winter squash season.”

My friend replied, “With you it’s always the season for squash.”

And I realized she was right. I love to look at them, carve them, eat them, roast them and grow ’em when I can.

Here is one of my favorite recipes

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut your winter squash of choice in half, scoop out the seeds and set aside.

Pour olive oil, salt, pepper and a few cloves of garlic in the center.

OR

Place a few pats of butter, sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cook for 45 minutes, or until just mushy. Enjoy.

What is your favorite way to prepare a pumpkin or winter squash?

Monster Cookies

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Just like the squirrels are storing away their food for the winter, I wanted a portable yummy chock-full-nutrition snack. I think this is it and it has been a hit with everyone I shared it with– easily modified to be gluten free, gluten full or vegan at your desire. I modified the recipe from the Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour Bag.

Gluten Free Monster Cookies
1 1/2 cups gluten free oats
1 cup GF All Purpose baking Flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup Flaxseed Meal
1 1/2 tsp Xantham Gum
1 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 cup Coconut Oil or Canola Oil
6 tablespoons butter or applesause
2 Tablespoons Vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans & walnut mix

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prep your cookie sheets. Mix the dry ingredients, add in the wet, saving the chips, nuts and seeds for last. Cookie 12-15 minutes rotating the tray half way through.

Granola!

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I was amazed when a friend said she made her own granola from scratch– it seemed like a magical and mystical accomplishment. I tried it myself and it is SO easy, much less expensive and super satisfying.  I am very picky about extraneous sugar in my life, so I doctored the following recipe to make it high in seeds, nuts and yum, low in sugar/fat. After a couple tries I decided to “go big or go home” when it comes to granola so I can gift some when I make it. I encourage you to use this recipe as a reference, but experiment with your favorite tastes.

Deven’s “Go Big or Go Home” Granola 

All ingredients are local and organic when possible.

1 cup each raw pecans, almonds, walnuts, cashews
1/2 cup each sesame seeds, sunflower seeds,pumpkin seeds, flax seeds
2 lbs old-fashioned oats (naturally gluten free, but has to be processed in a gluten free facility if you are super sensitive/celiac)
1 stick butter (or equal amount sunflower oil)
1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey, I prefer maple syrup)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 cup raisins or dried blueberries
1/4 cup dried apples
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon & nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Spread the nuts on 1-2 baking sheet and roast for 10-12 minutes, just lightly browning them. Transfer to a board to cool and chop. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Pour the oats and seeds into a mound in the center of each baking sheet (2).  Melt the butter in a small pan and mix in maple syrup mixing constantly. Add the salt.  Drizzle this into the center of the oat/seed mounds. Stir well and spread in an even layer on each baking sheet. Bake the oat mixture for 30 minutes.  Let cool.
Combine the oats, dates, raisins/dried fruit, reserved nuts and spices in a huge bowl and mix. Eat, enjoy, repeat!

Wanderlust + Love + Vermont

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I spent this past weekend at Wanderlust Vermont—a veritable smorgasborg of music, art, yoga and fun. The weather was beyond perfect, there was just one afternoon of thunderstorming rain to remind us that we can get wet, we can be flexible about where exactly we practice and we are really at the whim of mother nature. When I arrived on Thursday, little did I know that the long weekend would keep coming back to love.  It was a simple and sweet through line—as if an inspirational memo had been passed between the presenters.
For my first class I joined Jenny Sauer-Klein for a much needed dose of self love & self care in her “Luminous Moon” woman’s only class. I can’t tell you too much (gasp a man might be reading), but it was such a delightful, non-linear exploration of movement. I walked away feeling more relaxed and grounded than I have in a long time—really truly breathing deeply.   
I have never seen Ani DiFranco perform live before, although many of her most angst ridden albums served as a soundtrack at the most trying times of my younger years. I had no idea the  inspiration and energy I was in store for as she took the stage.  I was enraptured, and surprised I sang along and rocked oldies but goodies.
 And boy has she changed her tune- with a husband, baby and happy home songs from her newer albums spoke of love love love, happiness and the road to get there.
I arrived at the most obscure, and possibly most beautiful tent in that it was almost entirely encompassed in the woods with a flawless breeze wafting through —“The Lair of the Conquering Lion”.  The teacher, Kelly Morris instructed us to smell the grass and try to embrace rather than squeam about the bugs.  I moved my mat to the side and sat down on the earth.  Then she asked us to, “Think of someone who is utterly bereft of the notion that we are totally interconnected, interdependent and supported.  Dedicate your practice to them, in that moment it shifts from being about you to being a sacred worthwhile practice.” Feeling so embraced by the earth beneath my sit bones I felt that expanding love with each earth/sun balancing breath during her guided pranayama. 
It has been a long wait for MC Yogis new album and it has been absolutely worth it!  The album rocks with great beats, inspiring words, again transporting ancient stories of Hanuman, Citta & Ram, Ganesha to the modern yogi.  Every single song and the flow of the album is what I always hope for from a favorite artist.  What an absolute delight to get to see him with his team of vj/dj’s turn it up live—particularly with AcroYoga performances erupting from the audience during “Born to Fly”. The energy was incredible and once again the message was One Love—woven through song,  stories and hip hop beats.
 
My final class was with Jenny Sauer-Klein & Adam Rinder, “love + light + flight: AcroYoga Therapeutics”. They opened with a chant and Adam telling the story of Citta and Ram the lovers.  It was a simple, relaxing class— super mellow meditative asana was followed by a relaxing Thai Massage and a short flight in Folded Leaf. Jenny & Adam kept it clear and inspiring with a class of over 200 people. It was the perfect ending to the perfect Festival weekend. I am that. I am love.

Eyes are the window to the soul

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—windows are two way.
I have been thinking a lot about sight or vision lately. Where do I see myself in the future? How do I feel about my day to day life? How can I make more time to practice? And how might these questions be related? I was regularly taking yoga classes for a year, or maybe three before I understood the connection between vision/sight and, the word drishti; a beautiful slightly awkward Sanskrit word that I feel means “sight” or “vision”. It sounds so simple, and this simplicity holds a profound, potent capacity for a conscious lifestyle. A drishti can be the literal place that you look during your sun salutations (on the tip of your nose, according to Mr.Iyengar), that un-moving spot on the wall when you try to hold a balancing pose like eagle and the perspective that you experience when you remember the past or think about the future.
If I ask, why do you practice (and it can be whatever you practice: yoga, writing, running)? What comes up? What are you looking to your practice for?
Do you arrive at your yoga mat to get a kick-butt workout, to foster calm in your mental state, both, or something in between? Identifying the drishti behind the why you practice can reveal a lot. I kept coming back to my mat and taking my practice as a yoga teacher, even though my left wrist was increasingly bothering me.  I was telling my students to listen to their bodies as I was ignoring mine.  I fought the injury and I struggled past the diagnosis—and when I looked closely at what I was doing to myself I realized my yoga practice was making me miserable.  I felt weak, disempowered and injured. A one degree shift in my drishti has meant the difference between exacerbating my issue and re-cultivating a nourishing practice.  This translates as practicing deep listening rather than flowing through someone else’s sun salutations—and often leaving down dog out. 
I practice to explore my edges of possibility, to throw my perspective upside down, crack open preconceived notions and leave them at the door—at the end I breathe more deeply and step off more fully grounded in myself. What keeps bringing you back to your practice? When I begin to look at why I practice I realize that it is an ever-changing, ever moving target.
Sometimes my drishti of life is very, very focused “eye on the prize”style.  When I was making a living as an actor in New York my personal life would drown in the dishes in the kitchen sink every time I was working on a show. I can accomplish a lot, achieving goals quickly—but this has also made it hard to see what is missing when I feel stuck, as if I couldn’t see amazing things that were right in front of my face.
I have spent the last couple years of my life trying to soften my “life goal drishti” so I can savor the journey while I am on it.  I sit longer with questions, quietly observing what serves me and what does not. What is apparent as you look back on the day or the past year? Sitting here right now in this moment what do you see in front of you? And as you look forward into the future what do you envision?

Picking up poop is not an option.

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Rather, not picking up poop is not an option.

My dad and the dogs

I recently spent some time on vacation with my parents and their two dogs, Tallie & Henry.  I often take the dogs running. It is a not-so quirky delight that they get so excited when they realize I am putting on my shorts and running shoes.  I put on their leashes and collars and before we leave a grab 2-3 plastic baggies to clean up any poops. It’s just what I do, I don’t think about picking it up or not picking it up– if they poop, I clean it up– no discussion.  Occasionally, I pick up theirs as well as stray poops left behind by not-so-considerate dog owners.

I have an uncle who loves the joke,”if aliens came down from space and saw a man and dog walking– the alien would see the man picking up the dog poop and ask the dog to “take them to their leader.”‘ This joke illuminates the odd power dynamic between a dog and their owner, which I found demoralizing when I was younger. Back in the days of middle school, one of my few chores was to take the family dogs on their daily walks.  I enjoyed the time and the freedom exploring my neighborhood with my very faithful companions. I despised being seen with a pooper-scooper. It was gross, uncool, embarrassing in my pre and tween perspective.

I went through phases– sometimes taking the 3 foot long pooper scooper (you don’t have to get too close, but jeez is it gaudy and totally noticeable to theoretical high school boys who might drive by), sometimes reverting to plastic bags (inconspicuous, but the proximity to the smell and heat of the freshly pooped poop is pretty gnarly) and sometimes I decided I was too cool to pick it up– it would compost anyway right?

Once or twice I was caught not picking up the poop– with a tail hung between my legs I would run home and grab a poop-picking up device and return to the scene of the crime. I grew out of the too-cool phase of life  and into the phase of taking responsibility for my own sh*#t– and that of my dogs. I bet I could get away with a less poop picking up in my life, but I enjoy holding myself accountable better than anyone else can.

The new green is no green

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I have been an environmental activist since I was nine years old.  I remember writing articles for the elementary school newspaper and letters to my senators and congresspeople about my passion for saving the world– inquiring about their future plans. Looking back I am surprised that I knew who my senators were.  I desperately wanted change everyone around me to save water, save the air, save the dolphins. As I grew older I grew disillusioned with these tactics, then I heard a story.  The gist was a man tried to change the world in every way he could think of and eventually on his death bed he realized he should have started with himself and his actions were really the only thing he could control.  As I look at how the “fad” of green as the new black is taking over the media and the Lorax is approving SUVs and diapers– there is no better time to closely look how I can more harmoniously live with the world around me. Here are some steps I have found helpful:

  • the new green is no green: pick one day a week to not spend any money
  • support local: at leasr once a week, consciously choose to spend money at local establishment 
  • compost!
  • be creative: reuse, reduce, recycle or give away
  • plant seeds: grow your own food! up until the 1950’s Americans grew 25% of everything they ate in their own backyards

What does being green mean to you?

I am addicted to water.

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I have been drinking at least eight glasses of water a day for the past month.  It has become a second job, an obsession of sorts.  It takes a lot of determination, thought and energy to actually accomplish this task every single day, but I am committed. 

I had always heard that drinking water was a good idea, but it seemed like an intuitive notion that would be good to do tomorrow. Then I got a spot of benign skin cancer removed. It was a scary diagnosis (though I admit hardly anything in comparison to what many people go through). I asked my my dermatologist what he recommended besides the whole sun block schpeel.  I was hoping for a classified medicinal, scientific secret.  He simply responded,”Drink a lot of water. I drink a lot of water.”  I was a little dumbfounded, yoga, fasting, meditation and sixteen years of organic vegetarianism hadn’t protected me from cancer.  Drinking water seems so much simpler, obvious, maybe even trite.  I didn’t realize until I the diagnosis, that the pursuit of many of my actions has been out of fear of disease and in an attempt to protect my body from the unknown.
I felt like I had tried “everything else”, so I committed to drinking eight to nine glasses a day. In the beginning, I had an App on my iPhone that helped me keep track. Now I “do water” before I do anything else- two glasses in the morning, a glass before a cup of tea, a glass before a meal, a glass before coffee.  If I am hungry = water time.  If I am tired = water. I don’t need coffee, the way I used to need it.  And rather than taking time every few months to detox with herbs and special yoga poses, I don’t feel clogged up or congested in a way to need that, I just keep drinking water.  I think I might be addicted.   But I also think I am ok with that because it is easy, feels really good (and yes, my skin is more clear and have more energy) and I am so grateful I live in a place where I can drink out of the tap.

Travel Savvy

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I have been urging many of my friends to blog about their journeys because their plans sounded so interesting (i.e. driving from Southern California to Alaska, or traveling to Asia to study massage); and consulting other yoga teachers about the benefits of blogging consistently.   I realized yesterday, I have not been taking my advice while traveling for the past six months.  It looks like I will be traveling for at least twelve more assisting at yoga conferences and events, visiting friends and family and exploring the country trying to figure where I will settle down; so I am committing to writing once a week this year and hope you enjoy the journey as much as I do!
Last week I landed at LAX, I was looking forward to getting out of the airport and directly onto Amtrak—the train station I had seen so many times on my voyages up and down the Southern California coast.  I got my hiking backpack (the perfect size for wilderness or urban trekking) and walked outside, right in front of me was a free shuttle, I asked if it was going to the train and the driver said, yes, this is going to the train.” In this simple exchange we both presumed that there would be only one train. I was thinking Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, the reality revealed itself to be much different. One and a half hours on the public transportation system through South Central LA, four metro changes, a few brushes with crazy and a $1.50 later—I finally found myself at Union Station where I could grab an Amtrak train to head north (on which I would pass the easily Amtrak accessible Bob Hope Burbank Airport).  
This week, to get back to LAX, I took the recommendation of a friend and tried the super cushy FLYAWAY bus.  The morale of this story is to ask for local advice if you really want to get somewhere the savvy way.
In my not-so-local (because I wouldn’t consider myself local anywhere right now) opinion, I highly recommend taking Amtrak anywhere you can in Southern California.  As long as you don’t mind a 30 minute delay which is not uncommon, the ride is filled with spectacular Pacific Coast views.  An upgrade to business class gets you a snack pack, wifi, a split of red wine and so much leg room I had trouble reaching the foot rest! It is one of my favorite ways to travel- relaxing, beautiful and comfortable.

Voluntary Simplicity

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The holiday season can be very difficult if you love it or hate it (as the music, aesthetic and mania can be pervasive).  I am one of the former, I enjoy communing with every friend and family member possible, decorating, pumping Christmas music, finding the right gifts for those I exchange with, baking cookies and sending cards.  As the world turns quieter and colder in the northern hemisphere, it could be a time to introvert and enjoy longer evenings, but the added items on my to do list seem to be distracting year after year.  A few years ago, in an attempt to slow down I tried a Voluntary Simplicity Experiment– an idea to gift experiences rather than things– and for everything that I received for a year, I would have to get rid of something else.  It felt really good and still does.  I hope you give it a try or figure out what your own Voluntary Simplicity Experiment might be.