Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wedding Cards Scrapbook

I have a box in our computer room into which I randomly stuff keepsakes and souvenirs that I want to put in a scrapbook at a later date. I know it's a little dorky, but I started it when I moved back from Europe. I had tons of ticket stubs, fliers and notes from friends that I glued into this big book with the Mona Lisa on the front. Now all those little mementos are reminders of the fun things I did while living in England. My 'scrapbook box' has been getting really full and heavy so I promised myself that I would do something about it when I got back home from Kelowna.

Well we've been back in Vancouver for a month and this weekend I finally had time to tackle the box because my husband is out of town. (He's writing a blog about practicing medicine in Uganda and if you want to read it, send me a message and I'll give you the link.) Most of the space in the box was being taken up by all these beautiful cards we had received for our engagement, shower and wedding.

So on Saturday I searched online for some ideas of what to do with the cards, I didn't want to just throw them out. I found some cute ideas but the best one was to make a scrapbook by cutting up the cards and pasting the images and messages in a notebook.

I went shopping for a pretty notebook, lots of glue and bought some gorgeous fall-orange flowers. When I got home I put on old movies, baked some pumpkin brownies and got started.

It took hours to go through all the cards and re-live such a wonderful day. It was a good chance to really read the cards, they were so thoughtful. On our wedding day there was a lot of excitement and so many well-wishes being extended our way that it was impossible to give each and every one the due attention it deserved. Instead, the warm sentiments behind each greeting added up, one on top of another, to create a glow and a high that left me wide awake at 5am, hoping the day would somehow never end.

It did end, but I still look back on that day and wouldn't change anything. Over a year later, reading each carefully selected card and individually written message I could see people's unique connections to us being expressed. I wish I could go back again and say an even more heartfelt thank you to all of our family and friends for giving us this book of love that will always keep the day alive.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Green Smoothies

Something weird has been happening in my yoga practice lately. You know how sometimes when you're stretching and bending and meditating.... suddenly your body tells you loud and clear that it is craving a certain food? Well lately mine has been screaming 'I WANT A GREEN SMOOTHIE'. I usually have a frozen fruit smoothie in the morning but now sometime between Standing Bow and Balancing Stick my muscles and cells seem to crave the energy they can only get from greens.

I tried searching online for recipes but couldn't find a simple one that used everyday ingredients. I just wanted to use the things I had in my fridge and try something 'safe'. I mean, I had no idea whether this was even going to taste good or not. I came up with a simple recipe that has a very mild green taste and gives my body the boost it needs.

This is a great smoothie for Bikram yogis, it only takes five minutes to make and the coconut water and spinach are good for hydration. The banana gives you potassium and also makes the smoothie taste creamy and light. Be sure to drink at least two hours before yoga because protein powder takes a long time to digest and will make you feel full in class.

Banana Spinach Protein Smoothie


- 1 Banana (frozen for a thicker smoothie)
- 2 cups Spinach
- 1 cup Coconut Water or Tap Water
- 1 scoop Whey Protein (I usually use Vanilla but was craving Chocolate today, both taste good)
- 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds or Other Supplements


1. Break Banana into smaller pieces and put into blender container.

2. Add in 1 cup of Spinach.

3. Add in Protein Powder and Chia Seeds or other supplements like Flax Seeds or Hemp Hearts.

4. Pour Coconut Water into the container, it should wilt some of the Spinach and push the mixture down, creating more space.

5. Add the other cup of Spinach to the container now that there is more room.

6. Blend all the ingredients together and drink at least 2 hours before yoga.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School

I am back in Vancouver now and happy to be here.

I loved the last two months in Kelowna. I learned so much from the teachers at the Bikram Yoga studio, I got to practice more than usual and the weather was phenomenal. I feel like I have had a good long summer and I'm ready for fall. This never happens because I'm not a big fan of the rain and it feels like the summer in Vancouver is never long enough.

But I'm happy to be back. Today was my first day teaching in Richmond again and it was wonderful. Both of my classes were relatively small and the students were working hard and listening closely. I had quite a few first-timers in my second class and a lot of people who had come back to yoga after taking the summer off. I can relate to them more easily after taking a bunch of time off at the beginning of the year to travel. I just tried to encourage them to realize how strong they were and to keep on trying.

One of the people just returning looked a little green at one point and another lady could only sit on her mat but they both made it through the whole class without leaving and their determination inspired me. If they could finish up class, I had no excuse not to myself! One of my favorite teachers was there too and it was a pleasure to see her practice and hear her feedback after class.

Then I took class, and I have to say I was the one being schooled. I haven't taught two classes in a row for almost four months so I was pretty tired after teaching. I noticed how exhausted I was when I took class. My breathing was heavier than normal and I struggled to get it under control during the standing series. That's ok though, it means I am working on my cardio and improving my lung capacity, it is all good.

I'm starting to find the beauty in struggle in class, the things that are hard are the things your body really needs and that's how you make change happen. I also noticed that I have let go of being 'perfect' in class. If I needed to go a bit easy in a posture I didn't stress out like usual. I've been focusing on the form of the posture and letting go of how far I can stretch into it and it's had an impact on my mental state when I'm in the room as well.

These are just some personal observations I have made about the differences between Kelowna and the Lower Mainland studios. The Kelowna studio is hot and dry. It was hard to get in and take class because I was already sweating when I got to the studio. In contrast, the air in Vancouver is much cooler but more moist. Taking a breath in here is like drinking water, it is so refreshing. It also means the classes are more humid, and seem hotter as well.

In Kelowna the teachers taught with a strong focus on dialogue and there were a good group of experienced students who practiced regularly. In Vancouver there are so many more beginning students that the teachers use less strict dialogue in an effort to explain the postures in a more accessible fashion. Both are good. Vancouver teachers make up for less dialogue by correcting more experienced students so I have gotten some good tips on my practice, Kelowna teachers have such wisdom in the things they say between the postures and I feel my teaching grew much stronger as a result of their motivational classes.

I'm stuck between missing Kelowna and looking forward to bringing everything I learned back home and putting it into practice in Vancouver, but I know it's going to be a great fall and winter!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Find the Stillness in Your Postures

Last summer I wore a pair of white Havianas almost every day. In August when the weather got nice we took long walks around Stanley Park and all over downtown. By the end of the summer I felt the damage my flip flops had done. My lower back was sore, my left hip ached and my ankles hurt too. Every time I put my shoes on all those familiar pains were there but I just kept wearing them, they were too easy to put on and toss off at the end of the day.

This summer I was in Germany and was reminded that I needed to update my footwear when I saw some Birkenstocks on sale. I had never considered wearing them but heard they were supposed to be really good for your posture and were kinder to your body than regular flip flops. I know they're not the most stylish of shoes so I tried on a bunch of different styles before settling on some shiny red ones. They didn't have my size at the time but somehow my parents found the correct size in another store and gave me a pair for my birthday!

I decided to test them out one day on my walk to the yoga studio. I walked across the street and at first they felt weird, my feet were not used to such stiff shoes and being held into proper alignment by a strap...

Then I walked by the park and I started to noticed the arch support felt pretty good on the soles of my feet...

By the time I was walking up Lawrence Street I could feel a difference in my whole body. My ankles were not sore and my hips felt more aligned. Even though my left hip always feels tight I was now able to walk normally instead of compromising my gait...

Suddenly I was hit with a thought - what if I did the same thing in yoga class? What if I just let my body feel the tightness it has in certain areas and don't do anything to overcompensate? I thought to myself, if my left hip wants to be tight all class it can just go ahead!

We started Hands-To-Feet Pose and I felt resistance in my hip as I tried to lock my knees. I realized that my normal habit is to shift my body weight to my right hip more so I could stretch around the tightness and get deeper. Today however when I got to the point in the posture where my body gave me feedback I stopped right there and just held the posture until the teacher said change.

I suddenly remembered the many times while taking class that I had heard the teacher talk about observing the stillness in your postures. I always took this to mean that it's important to make sure you hold the postures for the specified time and don't come out early. However, I realized it also applies to going into the posture the right way and then when you can't go any further, holding still without breaking the form. Practicing this way made me more aware of what was going on inside my body in yoga class.

Now that I am mindful of the stillness in my postures I am noticing all kinds of bad habits that I have in class. When I sit down in Awkward Pose I always sway to the right to work around my tight left hip. When I do Cobra Pose I don't squeeze my heels together enough and when I lift up my shoulders are crooked because I haven't stretched out and realigned my hips enough yet. These are just a couple of examples!

Stillness is part of Asana, it allows you to look inward and see how the pose is affecting your body. By holding the posture at your deepest point you will become aware of the tight areas in your body that need to be stretched into. Once you get to the part of the posture where your body can't go any further, just breathe. The stillness will allow your body to relax and instead of stretching around the tight spot, you will be able to stretch into that area and that's when the yoga really starts to work.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Call the Yoga Police!

Last week I really slacked off my yoga practice. My parents were visiting and they stayed across the lake in Westbank. Every day I went to their campsite and relaxed, went swimming, drank wine and ate junk food. Every day as the hours passed I had that little voice inside my head - panicking - telling me I was missing yoga class and I should be on my mat right now!!!

This can be a problem for us yogis. When we get into a routine of going to yoga class we feel so good practicing, we don't want to miss a single day. Bikram yoga infuses discipline into the practice and teaches us to gain control of our body in order to tame our 'monkey mind'. These are great things but what about when you start feeling guilty and anxious for missing a class? I once had a student tell me that if she misses a class she continuously looks at the clock, mentally going through which posture she would be doing if she were in class at that moment. How can you enjoy the time outside the room with your mind so distracted?

Yoga means union. In the hot room it is easy to see how we connect the mind and the body but what about practicing your yoga outside of the hot room... When you miss a few days and your mind is going crazy giving you a guilt trip, take a step back and breathe. Bikram says your mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Just like you breathe through and let go of the critical thoughts you might have about yourself in the hot room, see if you can let go of some of the guilt you might have about not going to class.

I find when I've been practicing three to five times a week regularly and miss a few days of yoga, I actually get mad at myself for every day that I don't go. Each day seems like a missed opportunity to take class and when I can't make it I get upset. Last week I pulled back and reminded myself that I actually don't go to yoga every single day, so it's ok to miss a few and make them up later. It helped me calm down and enjoy the time with my family.

After taking a few extra days (or weeks) off yoga we're confronted with another source of anxiety: returning to the hot room. I told a few of the teachers here at the Kelowna studio that I had only practiced a couple of times last week and instead of shaking their heads in dismay and disgust they were overwhelmingly sympathetic. They were not judging and telling me I should have tried to come in and taken a class. All of them told me that the reason we practice yoga in the first place is so our quality of life is improved and we can indulge ourselves sometimes without having to worry too much about the outcome.

When I went to class for the first time this week yes it was a little rough... tight muscles and joints, major dizziness and detoxing happening. But I kept thinking to myself that if I had done just one or two more classes last week I would be feeling fine. That's it. Not five more classes like I felt I had missed out on. I realized I need to not let my mind make a mountain out of a molehill, next time life gets busy just try to fit in one extra class and all will be good.

Remember that we practice yoga in the hot room to become better people outside of the hot room. All the lessons we learn about patience, determination and acceptance can be applied to everything we do. Don't beat yourself up about missing a few classes now and then, especially if it's for a good reason like enjoying time with your family and loved ones or indulging in an activity that is meaningful to you. These are precious times made even more special by the fact that your yoga practice has taught you to be present and savor the moment.

Then use your determination and get back in the hot room. Accept that you might have a tough one but at one point during class you will think "ahhhhh why didn't I come in here sooner? My body loves this!".

P.S. I love this video & it inspired this post!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sadsies in Yoga Class

During the past few yoga classes I have felt a little sad during certain postures, especially when I'm stretching into tight areas of my body. It hasn't been anything serious, more of a lingering sadness I feel that has been trapped in my muscles.

It is usually strongest in the spine strengthening series after I have stretched my neck and shoulders then turn my head to the side and just rest while taking deep breaths. These are typically the areas in my body that become tense when I'm feeling stressed out.

After recently re-visiting the place in the UK where I used to live, I needed to process some feelings of 'letting go' so I could make space to focus on all the great things happening in my life now. Four years ago I was living and working in Leeds when I flew back to Vancouver for Christmas... and then never returned to England!

(the flat I lived in)

My poor flatmate had to pack up my things and ship them all the way to Vancouver. For four years I felt like I never got to say goodbye to all the things I loved about England and I constantly wondered what my friends were up to and if they still thought of me too. During that time I completely changed career paths to become a Bikram Yoga Teacher and met the love of my life and got married.

(a good place to shop for fresh flowers & candy)

When I was in Leeds this past May I spent a whole day walking around the streets I used to shop on, the building I used to work in, the flat where I lived and the areas my friends and I would go out for dinner to and pubs we would frequent. At every corner I was overwhelmed with the sense that I was walking in the footsteps of my younger self, a little more naive, a little more silly then. I reflected on the changes my life has undergone and felt strong feelings of happiness and contentment, I knew I had made the right decisions to bring me to where I am now.

(inside Leeds Market)

At the end of the day I was supposed to take the 6pm train back to my friends' place but I couldn't tear myself away from the familiar view of the city at the door of the train station. Knowing I would never see these buildings, taxi cabs and fashionable people through the same eyes again was sad. I had to leave my younger self behind to linger in the essence of the city.

(one of the arcades filled with unique shops)

After the major life changes in the past four years there is no longer room for her but I will always look back at that time fondly. I went back to my friends' flat on the 6:45pm train and we had dinner and subdued drinks. We have all changed, grown up together at the same pace even though we are the world apart.

(a glass of champs at Harvey Nichols to finish the day)

Often we do not express negative thoughts or emotions we experience in our everyday life. Society doesn't allow us positive outlets for sad feelings; growing up kids are made fun of if they are seen crying. However, all experiences are valuable and should therefore be acknowledged and expressed appropriately.

When you bury emotions that you don't think are appropriate or you don't want to deal with it may seem like they disappear but they do linger and can actually have an impact on your body. Some people would say that the different areas of your body 'trap' different emotions and some people even believe that your thoughts and emotions play a large role in physical ailments we experience.

How many times have you felt stressed out to experience a tight neck or have stubbed your toe and kept re-injuring the same area multiple times? As unbelievable as it may sound, these can be indications of something unresolved inside of you. Bikram's own guru believed that the majority of illnesses people encounter are caused by stress.

Stretching deep into the places of my body makes me realize I have these thoughts and lets me experience a sweet sadness I wouldn't normally allow myself in everyday life. After class I feel meditative and content, and ready to open myself to enjoy the many happy things that are happening all around me right now .

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fresh Fruity Spa Water

I hear Vancouver is finally getting some heat! I feel like our summers never really get started before August anymore so hopefully we have a nice warm fall again. It's pretty hot up here in Kelowna, this week it has already been at 37 degrees which is almost the same temperature as inside the room in a Bikram Yoga class. We experienced similar conditions the first week in I was here and one day during the 5pm class the room was so stifling the teacher decided to let us practice with the windows open!

It's taken a lot of adjusting for my poor confused body and I'm still finding it challenging to keep myself hydrated. Today I taught the 12pm class and wanted to take the next class myself which was at 4pm. I quickly went to a cafe down the street and ate something so my food had time to digest. I had a nice Tiger Spice Chai Latte then went home to re-hydrate.

I had sweat out a lot when I taught the noon class and knew I had to put the moisture back into my body so I drank a liter of Gatorade-infused water before walking down to take class. I know Gatorade is not recommended by yogis because of its' high salt and sugar content but when I'm really feeling parched it seems to be the only thing that works for me. When I was at Teacher Training I had to drink a Gatorade every day just so I wouldn't feel weak and dizzy in class. I try to avoid it normally and drink Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator instead, which is a nice clean product. However I believe we're all a bit different and you need to find what works for you and when I'm desperate my body reacts well to Gatorade.

Lately I have been getting dehydrated at the stragest times. I usually drink a ton of water before yoga class so I don't need to have any when I'm in the hot room. I also drink a lot afterwards to replenish everything I sweat out during class. Yet in the morning I have been waking up feeling very dizzy and nauseous, sort of like you feel in the middle of a Bikram class when you know you didn't drink enough water beforehand. The first thing I have to do is run to the fridge and drink coconut water until I feel more energized and my head is clear. I finally realized the best thing to do is drink coconut water before I go to bed and today I woke up feeling better. (Thanks Elsa for the coconut water!)

I also have been making some chilled spa-like fruit water, hoping the vitamins and minerals from the fruit will help a little bit. I have been hearing about this everywhere and it's easy to make if you have a big container and a few different kinds of fresh fruit. You can combine different fruits to make new flavours, here's what I tried:

Cucumber and Kiwi


Lemon and Blueberries

Monday, August 6, 2012

Kelowna Farmer's Market

Saturday two of my students from Coquitlam, Elsa and her husband Steve, were traveling through Kelowna and we met at the yoga studio to take class together! I arrived at 8:45am and it was so nice to see their familiar faces. I'm used to going by myself which can be a little bit lonely and I was glad for their company. The teacher was bubbly and knew everyone's names, it was a lot of fun. The class moved together without effort, what a great way to start the weekend! Afterwards we felt relaxed and energized and my husband finished work right as we were done so the timing was perfect.

This weekend in Kelowna was the Centre of Gravity Concert and there were so many people from out of town it felt like the population had more than tripled with partiers. We wanted to eat brunch but I thought it would be wise to steer clear of the restaurants downtown because they would be filled with people nursing their hangovers. So we went to the Farmer's Market for snacks. The Kelowna Farmer's Market is the biggest in BC.

The day was already getting hot and we were thirsty after class so the first place we stopped was the smoothie stand. We all got fresh fruit smoothies, I tried the coconut and pineapple Pina Colada. It was the best thing ever to order after yoga. It was pure fruit with a little bit of cane sugar and was so hydrating and delicious. It was exactly what my body was craving and it helped keep us cool as we walked among the various stalls.

Then we all decided to try the crepes. My husband and Elsa couldn't resist the Nutella and banana crepes and I ate a buckwheat crepe with eggs, cheese and peppers. Steve also got a breakfast crepe and they were all delightful. I ate the best crepe in Paris in May so can't help comparing to that one but these were perfect, just as good as in Paris. Elsa and Steve had to leave then so we said goodbye and walked around looking for more snacks. We found an all-vegetarian foods place where my husband got some steamed veggie buns that were very nice, especially the pulled pork one.

After walking around some more and buying some fruit and cookies and more snacks for the week, we wanted something else to drink. There were fresh squeezed lemonade stands everywhere and it looked tasty but I couldn't get the thought of that wonderful smoothie out of my head. When he said we should almost get another smoothie instead of lemonade I jumped on it and we went back for more! This time I tried the Mango smoothie and although I liked the Coconut one better I could taste how fresh the smoothies were with this one - it was simply a whole cup of squeezed and diced mango.

I think the Farmer's Market was actually a great place to go for breakfast. It was so fun to walk around in the heat and look at what everyone was offering. We ate whatever we thought looked good and had lots of little snacks. The smoothies were a highlight and the people were friendly, I think we'll go again next weekend (or I'll sneak there myself on Wednesday)!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Eyes are the Windows to the Soul

The first time I took class in Kelowna, I had just returned from traveling through Europe. Although I did take class over there, I think all the wonderful food and wine I consumed didn’t help my practice. So there I was... full of toxins and out of shape, in a new studio with full dialogue classes.

By the time we got to Standing Bow I was doubled over, feeling nauseous and trying to catch my breath. It seemed to make me feel better but I noticed that every time I took a little break to clutch my stomach, it got harder and harder to talk myself into starting the posture again. My breaks became more frequent until we finally got to the floor and I could rest.
The next time I took class the teacher rather pointedly enouraged me to keep going and stop looking at the floor. She had me all figured out and the second I dropped my eyes she called out,
“Why are you looking at the floor? There’s nothing to see there!”
You can read about how much I enjoyed that class here:(
However I did notice that for the first time in a long time I was able to complete every posture without taking a break and I even had more energy as the postures progressed. Could it really be that looking in the mirror made such a difference to my class? It took me back to another time when an inspirational teacher reminded me to look in the mirror as I was struggling...
In 2008 I went to Teacher Training in Acapulco. Mexico in the fall, in rainy season, was unbearably humid. The yoga room was filled with more than 400 yogis and in the first few classes I found myself kneeling on my mat, just trying to breathe. It felt like someone was stepping on my chest.
The turning point for me happened when Ulises from Mexico was teaching. He was encouraging us to just keep going no matter how hard it seemed. He told us to use our Jedi mind strength and always look at our eyes in the mirror. He said,
“When you look in your eyes you will see things are not as bad as you think, because you will never make a horrible face at yourself”.
Besides making me laugh, I found his advice very useful and started completing stronger, more focused classes.  Over the years I forgot all about the lesson he taught me but was reminded recently when I took that class in Kelowna and was forced to stop looking at the floor.
I was almost scared to look in the mirror in case I looked exhausted. Yet when I raised my gaze to my eyes I experienced  shock, awe and inspiration. Instead of seeing a pathetic looking creature begging for a stop to this torture I saw strength, determination and passion radiating from my gaze.
Throughout the rest of the class I used the mirror as a way to directly tap into my inner strength. It was like sticking my finger into a socket, the energy inside me was crackling through the mirror and invigorating my postures. Now I noticed that when I let my eyes drop down to the floor, even for a couple of seconds, my energy went down as well. I would quickly look back into my eyes and before I knew it, I had completed a strong standing series.
I said a silent little thank you to the teacher for reminding me of this valuable lesson and promised myself I would not forget it again.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
I want to hold you close like a lute so we can cry out with loving.
You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones.
- Rumi

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cora Restaurant, Kelowna BC

There's nothing like weekend brunch when you live in downtown Vancouver. There are so many restaurants that serve variations of Eggs Benedict, Omeletes and French Toast and it's a Vancouver institution to take a walk downtown, sit on a patio and enjoy a fabulous breakfast late in the afternoon.

A couple weekends ago we wanted to keep up our Vancouver tradition of brunch on Saturday so we went to one of the big brunch places around here, Cora. It's a bright yellow building that you can't miss on Harvey Street (Hwy 97).

The interesting thing about Cora is that it is a Canadian-based business. Cora Tsouflidou opened a diner in Montreal twenty-five years ago in 1987. Over the years her breakfast business has expanded to now include more than 130 franchised restaurants (two in the Lower Mainland - Richmond and Coquitlam). Cora still  keeps the business family-based, with her family personally training new business partners and her son recently taking over as CEO.

Cora herself still tries out new menu items in her own kitchen before approving them to go on the menu. The restaurant's service model is based on the idea that customers should be wowed by the extra steps that staff take to leave them feeling at home and satisfied.

When we arrived the restaurant was packed and there was a lineup but because there are so many tables we only had to wait for about ten minutes. The hostesses were friendly and the inside of the restaurant matched the outside with cheerful yellow walls featuring cartoons of smiling suns and menu items written in bold lettering. Everything seems geared towards kids and families and the decor makes you feel at home and happy  in the morning, sort of like having breakfast in a kooky Aunt's farmhouse kitchen.

When we were seated our waitress was personable and told us the specials of the day. The menu has quite an extensive list of unique breakfast items as well as a few lunch meals as well. The nice thing about this menu is that with every meal you are guaranteed to get fresh fruit. It is a heavily fruit-based menu with several particularly french-inspired items including Crepes, Omelets and lots of Nutella. I chose the Strawberry Crepe with Vanilla Pudding and my husband chose the Crepomelette.


My husband's meal was delicious! It was a spinach and cheese omelet that had been rolled in a crepe and covered with hollandaise sauce. It came with a side of toast and of course a side of fresh fruit. The fruit included kiwis and strawberries and was not your typical canned fruit cocktail that many places serve. I tried a bite of his Crepomellette and the flavor of the spinach and cheese really came through and mixed well with the savory crepe and light hollandaise. If you can get over the hard-to-pronounce name this is a tasty item to order.

Strawberry Crepe

I ordered the strawberry crepe and as you can see from the picture, it was huge!!! The plate could not even contain it. When I first tasted the crepe I was delighted because it was light, fluffy and crispy all at the same time and had a pleasant vanilla flavour, delicious. The crepe was stuffed with sliced strawberries and I chose a vanilla custard filling rather than Nutella. There were three generous dollops of whipped cream on top and it was lightly dusted with icing sugar.

As I munched my way through I started realizing that this breakfast was an overload of sweetness! It was more of a dessert than a breakfast and the combination of the vanilla pudding and the whipped cream made me feel a little bit sick. I love sweet breakfast on the weekend and to be honest, I was out-sweetened by this one. A half portion would have been better because it was delicious at first, but just too much by the time I got more than halfway through. If you want to try it, I would recommend asking for it with no whipped cream.

As I mentioned before, sometimes I like to indulge with a sweet breakfast and cut it with the bitterness of a decaf coffee and I was craving this particular combination that morning. Our waitress brewed a decaf just for me and surprisingly, it was sooo tasty. Usually decaf coffee tastes like over-brewed watered-down dishwater but this was full flavoured and didn't have the metallic aftertaste that I hate in coffee. I also noticed they have an espresso machine and was delighted to have the option to order a latte or cappuccino.

To sum up, the staff did make the extra effort to be friendly and accommodating, the coffee was great and my husband's meal was outstanding. Although mine was too sweet, there are many other breakfast options to try so I think we will go back for another dose of early-morning cheer at Cora's.

Overall: 7/10

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Surprise Weekend

Growing up, every summer my family went camping in Osoyoos. We stayed at Shady Lagoon, a terrace-style campsite located on Osoyoos lake. The grassy levels were cut into the hillside to ensure that every campsite had a view of the lake. Campsites started up high in the orchard and ran all the way down to the beach. Every year we all took off work and brought up our significant others to spend time together and not only relive but also make new memories.

All that came to an end about three years ago when the owners suddenly decided to reduce the amount of campsites open to the public and even us long-standing visitors had to go. Since then we haven't gone camping together as a family and we all miss those fun summer times.

Last week my parents came to Kelowna to visit. A friend who grew up in Kelowna recommended Bear Creek Park as a nice campsite for them to stay at. Unfortunately all the 122 spots were fully booked. A few days before they were due to arrive some of the campsites had cancelled and they were happy to have a place to stay.

My parents drove up on Tuesday and surprise Number One happened when I opened the back door of their truck - my brother jumped out of the backseat! He had told me he wouldn't be able to come so it was a nice shock to see him there.

We drove across the Floating Bridge to Westbank and arrived at their campsite. It was surprisingly spacious and located right on the lake. There was a large grassy area in front that led to the water and the view was stunning. My brother and I were so excited to be camping again.

Surprise Number Two happened on Friday afternoon I was walking along the downtown strip. I saw a girl with her hat pulled down low who looked like my brother's girlfriend. I called her name as she walked by but she didn't answer. I kept looking back and could have sworn that it was her.

When the girl walked past us again I saw that her bag looked a lot like the one I had given my brother's girlfriend as a gift. I called her name again, loudly, but she still did not acknowledge me. I didn't want to go up and grab a stranger by her arm so I was forced to accept it wasn't her. She disappeared into an office building in front of us and as we walked by I turned to look in the doorway and out she jumped - it WAS her! My Mom had organized for both of us to have our nails done at the spa so we had a great time there.

Later in the afternoon I went to visit my family at their campsite and as I was talking to them two more brothers suddenly leaped out from behind a bush and surprised me again. They had both come up just for the weekend so we could all be together on my birthday! Later that night my best friend arrived from Vancouver and it was officially a party. We had a fabulous weekend and on Saturday night went out for an amazing dinner at Quails' Gate, the most beautiful winery I have ever been to.

Every night after spending the day in the sun and the city we went back to their campsite and had wine, ate smores and acted silly. Although they had to move around a couple more times over the weekend, every spot was spacious and private. Many of them had stunning views and lake access and there were no loud campers so it was very relaxing.

I recommend Bear Creek to anyone wanting to camp in the Kelowna area and I think we are going to make this our new spot to keep up our family tradition of summertime together.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cracked Cuticle Control

When I'm at home in Vancouver I teach eleven classes a week and take three to five classes myself so I'm in the hot room a lot. That means a lot of sweat, a lot of water and my nails suffer as a result.

I try to put nail polish on to protect my nails a little bit but I find that after just one or two days my manicure starts to crack and chip off. If I take class my manicure is usually ruined by the end of it because there are many posture where you have to step on your hands and use your arm strength to get a stretch. If you practice Bikram Yoga the best way to keep your nails looking nice is a shellac manicure that lasts for several weeks.

Yet I always get embarrassed when I go to have a manicure. Without fail, the esthetician tells me my nails are too short to do a nice manicure. They look at my poor dry nails and cuticles and start asking me what I am doing to them. I have tried out so much advice ranging from foods to eat and vitamins to take but recently one manicurist gave me a tip that really works. 

She looked at my cuticles and told me they were unusually high on the nails and she would have to cut them back. They were growing very thick to try to protect the nail bed from the heat, moisture and excess dryness that all the yoga was causing. She told me that ideally, healthy nails should not need to have the cuticles cut back every time you go in for a manicure.

The best way to prevent overgrowth is to moisturize your nails with oil. There are many products out there, I use Aveda Cuticle Control.

You just use a little dot in the centre of your cuticle, rub into your cuticle, nail and surrounding skin then let it sit for a couple of seconds before pushing the cuticle back. Once you have pushed the cuticle back, rub a little more oil into the exposed nail so that every time you use your hands the oil will be pushed further down into the nail bed to moisturize it.

When the esthetician told me how many times to do this I was shocked, apparently you have to do it at least once a day! She said if I take the moisture out... I have to put it back in. I can actually feel my nails are very dry after class and this feeling reminds me to apply the oil. I bought a second cuticle treatment from Bath & Body Works to keep in the car for after class. For the last couple of weeks I have been using the Aveda product every day and it is working because my cuticles have stayed down and my nails are starting to look healthier and stronger.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Devil Wears Shakti

Yesterday I went to the beach across the street. It is a beautiful grassy area on the waterfront that reminds me of English Bay.

It's not too crowded so there is lots of room to sit down under a tree to enjoy the mountains and the lake.

I spent most of the afternoon reading my book and just relaxing in the Okanagan heat.

But before you think life is too easy up here, you need to know that the Kelowna studio has one of the toughest yoga teachers around.

The first time I met her I was just dropping by the studio to check it out and pick up a schedule. My husband warned me she was sizing me up and I better watch out. I just laughed him off but secretly that made me nervous.

Then I went in last Wednesday and took her class for the first time. I was hot and nauseous, my standing series was weak and I even had to take a knee by the time we got to Tree Pose. When we were lying in savasana she started telling us how we should keep doing the postures even when we felt tired or like we couldn't do them and then we would be getting mentally as well as physically stronger.

I thought I DID push through it but couldn't really think much else as I lay in a deep savasana.  I pulled it together for the floor series and completed the rest of the **hot** class in fairly decent form. By the end of the class I felt wrung out, satisfied and like I couldn't wait to try again the next day.

I felt good after class but then I couldn't take class for two days afterwards!! All I could do was lie on the couch with a major case of yoga brain. I literally could not do anything, could not focus on anything. All I wanted to do was just sit in one spot and contemplate a leaf... or something. I was feeling so relaxed to the point of being lethargic that I was actually a bit worried. My husband came home and told me I was probably just dehydrated and I realized I would need to stock up on electrolytes now that I was in a warmer climate.

The next few classes were easy in comparison.

Yesterday I went to the 5pm class with the same teacher, feeling up for the challenge. The warm up went pretty well and although my breathing was challenged at times I still managed to keep it flowing steadily through Eagle. At party time I was feeling exhausted as I grabbed a quick drink of water. This is when we just start to get into the tough cardio part of class so I knew I was in trouble.

Sure enough I crashed at the same point that I did last time I took her class - Standing Bow. But this time she would not let me stop!!!! She kept telling me to pick up my foot.. try again... don't give up... she was on top of me every time I even tried to take a break. At one point I just dropped my head a bit to catch a quick breath and she caught me and said 'look in the mirror, there's nothing on the floor!'

I was exhausted and pushed pushed pushed to the point where I mentally thought I could not go... but then I pushed past it and kept going and even though every breath was a knife in my lungs and my legs were a little shaky, I found I could keep going. And this time when Tree Pose came along I somehow felt strong!!!!

We lay down in savasana and I realized that there are certain areas in my practice that I have gotten used to slacking off in and Standing Bow is one of them. This teacher challenged those patterns and would not let me wallow in my laziness, she would not even let me look at the ground! And I thought to myself - that is a real teacher. She cares about me and won't let me defeat myself. She was bossy and pushy but she never said a mean word or got frustrated or rude at all. She was always positive and encouraging and acknowledged the small victories we all had in our class.

Again I left class feeling happy, challenged and ready to keep working on my postures. I also was excited to connect with this teacher because I feel she can help take my practice to the next level. This is something I have been needing so the timing could not be better. 

But for today I think I'll swap in my yoga towel for a beach towel...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Reading

Yesterday I took the 12pm Bikram class, taught by a brand new teacher. It was only her third class and it was such a treat because she only said dialogue. She had a firm commanding voice and I was able to relax into the familiar words and meditate on my breath. I also met the owner of the studio who turned out to be incredibly warm and friendly and already has offered to let me teach one of her classes so I can get a feel for the studio. She then told me I can be on the schedule in August and I can't wait, the students here seem very focused and disciplined, I noticed they move only with the words.

After class I was determined to buy some beach reading so I walked across the street to a used bookstore I had seen before on my way to the studio. It was called High Browse Books and specialized in literature, history and the arts. I like to temper my reading with a variety of genres but let's face it, there is nothing like a good juicy read when you're on the beach. I'm currently reading two workbooks on grammar and writing which are dry and boring so wanted something a bit lighter for a little break from the heavy-handed stuff. Unfortunately it didn't look like this particular shop carried what I had in mind but as I was leaving I passed a treasure chest labelled $1 books and I thought 'this must be where the trash is!'. I pawed through the vampire romances and religious discards and came up with three books that I think are suitable for beach reading.

First is When in Rome by Gemma Townley, a true chick-lit book that caught my eye because I recently visited Rome and fell in love with the city. There were not too many girly books in the pile so I feel lucky to have grabbed this one especially as it is written by a British author because I think the Brits write the best girly novels. This one will give me a great reason to get out to the beach this week and enjoy being entertained in a lighthearted and whimsical manner.

Second is Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. I thought that a book which has been turned into a movie can't be so bad, right? Then I thought of all the so-so movies I have seen that were based on books hmmm... I was wary. However after reading the back and discovering it was set in the South I was interested. I find the southern US fascinating with its focus on manners and niceties that actually mask the society's true ills. One of our favorite TV shows is True Blood, set in the south and using the fictional world of vampires and supernaturals to explore modern gender and sexual issues. This book is a bit more substantial than the first book so will serve me as I get into more of a routine here and can read for longer periods of time.

And finally, Margaret Atwood's Wildnerness Tips. First of all, it's Margaret Atwood, a famous Canadian female writer and secondly I loved her book the Blind Assasin. I read it when I was younger and it's a novel that has stayed with me over the years as a standout so I look forward to experiencing more of her work. I also feel like I am in the wildnerness a little bit because I'm in the Okanagan, an area where I used to come camping when I was younger so thought it was fitting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lake Thai Restaurant, Kelowna BC

Last week we wanted to go out for dinner so I googled vegetarian restaurants in Kelowna, not expecting to find much. I was surprised to see a restaurant that was getting 90% positive reviews on and decided we needed to check out Lake Thai.

Lake Thai is about a ten minute car ride from the Kelowna downtown waterfront. After turning onto Kirschner Road we drove down a few blocks wondering if we had the right place. The area was fairly industrial with restaurants scattered on each side of the street. Not exactly the best place to promote a busy establishment but sure enough, we saw a parking lot filled with Prii and knew this was the place.

We were cheerfully greeted as soon as we entered the white walled restaurant and offered our choice of two tables so we picked the one near the window. I noticed that it was very quiet and peaceful inside, even though the tables were relatively closely spaced. Most people were quite busy enjoying the food. It was about halfway through our meal when a loud table of six sat near us but soon enough the tranquility of the white walls and assorted plants also had their effect on the group and the calm atmosphere was reestablished.

We ordered...

- Boiled Dumplings: light and tasty pot stickers crammed with well seasoned ingredients.

- Spring Rolls: three medium sized spring rolls cut in half were tasty and under $3.00 for the plate.

- BBQ Eel: vegetarian of course! A light smoky flavor paired with stringy bean curd strips resembling eel.

- Won Ton Soup: large won tons with small packs of meat-like filling and long flowering noodle tails. Lots of fresh veggies and a broth with again a uniquely savoury seasoning. One of my favorite dishes.

- Lemon Chicken: another favorite, very acidic lemony sauce on crunchy breaded veggie chicken slices, a huge portion for around $12.

- Bean Curd with Broccoli: my favorite dish! The bean curd was a bit crispy on the outside and was served with lots of tender broccolini and a light black bean sauce.

- a Spicy Tofu Dish: Soft chunks of tofu and cooked veggies in a spiced brown curry. I wasn't the biggest fan but my husband loved it and I liked it better when I tried some the next day.

- Fried Rice: again a well seasoned dish, we thought it was brown rice because every kernel had been tossed in the soya sauce dressing, light and fluffy with vegetables and veggie meats.

Our server was prompt and friendly and after we had placed our order she brought us a complimentary pickled cabbage appetizer which was a refreshing way to start the meal.

She was really on top of refilling our lemon water which was nice, especially here in Kelowna where you feel as if you are always covered in a light 'glow' and are constantly thirsty.

Our appetizers came pretty quickly and when our main dishes started coming out we speculated whether the rice would arrive at the end of the meal. Many times we have eaten at Hon's in Vancouver and have had to enjoy our veggies and main dishes with no rice and then when we're all done... the rice arrives! But luckily and amazingly the rice arrived after the second main dish so we could eat everything together.

About halfway through the meal our waitress checked how the food was tasting and noted that she hadn't seen us before. Obviously they get a lot of regulars here. She asked us how long we were staying in Kelowna and whether we were vegetarian.  At the end of the meal she brought us a complimentary pineapple donut for dessert. The donut had just been baked, was crispy and sweet on the outside but sitting on top of a warm chewy pineapple, it was delicious!

Our bill, including tip, was roughly $80. Many of the dishes were around $10 and we ordered a lot more than we needed with the intention to have leftovers the next day. At one point our server asked us if we realized we had a lot for two people so we did kind of go a bit nuts. The embarrassing thing though is that we get asked that pretty regularly...

Overall Rating: 9/10 my husband already asked when we can go back!

Lake Tai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yoga Lessons - Form Over Depth

My yoga practice has not been 'good' for a long time. The last time I can remember actually feeling proud of the way my postures looked was in October 2011 when I participated in a 30 day challenge. For 30 straight days of yoga I made it my goal to finally touch my forehead to knee in Standing Head to Knee.

Well I did manage to complete Standing Forehead to Knee... but then I went on vacation to Mexico for my brother's wedding... then Christmas came... and before I knew it a new year was here and I was struggling to find time to get into the yoga studio and as a matter of fact I was not practicing at the same intensity anymore either. Something inside of me felt like I had reached a peak in my yoga practice.

I imagine this is similar to what Michael Phelps went through after his amazing eight gold medal winning streak at the 2008 Olympics. He admitted to Details magazine that he wondered, "all right, where do I go from here?" That is the same sentiment I felt after being able to more or less perform every posture in the Bikram's Beginner's Series.

For years I dreamed of being able to do every posture. I listened closely to each word the teachers said in class, favoring the form and setup of the posture with the belief that one day my body would improve enough that I could enjoy the depth as well. Over time, my shoulders loosened up, my back become more flexible and my legs got stronger. I could not wait until I could push into the postures without a feeling of stiffness somewhere within my body. One day a student asked me after class, 'how long until it doesn't hurt anymore?' And I remember feeling a certain kinship with her understanding that one day it would get easier, but I had to tell her the truth, 'it could be a long time'.

After three years of regular practice as a teacher, I knew the time had come for me. During the 30 day challenge, for the first time ever, I was asked to demonstrate postures in class. I pushed myself further than I ever had before and I sweated and stretched deep into backbends, Standing Bows and of course was able to do the full Standing Forehead to Knee for the first time in my life. It felt good to practice that way and I got frustrated if I was having an off day or if I woke up stiff and couldn't go as deep as I wanted into the postures.

Yet since the beginning of this year I have been feeling unmotivated and at times loathe to get into the room to practice. Phelps went through a similar period of self-doubt, "I wasn't motivated. I did nothing, literally nothing, for a long time. I gained 25 pounds..."

I found I had to force myself to practice a minimum of 3 times a week and when I did practice, for the first time my mind was completely undisciplined and my thoughts were all over the place. I constantly compared the depth of my postures day to day and sometimes started the postures late or came out early. I always found myself leaving feeling stressed and burnt out by the end of the class. I had completely forgotten that yoga has two sides to its' coin - the form and the depth.

I took a five week vacation to Europe and had a chance to reconnect with old friends there. It was a life-changing trip that put a lot of things into perspective and somehow when I returned, I was looking forward to practicing yoga again. It didn't really matter any more how my postures looked or what depth I could achieve in them, all that mattered was that I realized how important yoga was to me - how much it enhanced the quality of my life.

With this new insight my practice has radically changed in the past couple of weeks. Although I still have good and bad classes, I am happy to be in the yoga room and feel re-invigorated to pay close attention to the form while simply enjoying the depth that occurs that day. I no longer feel the need to push deep into a posture just to see how far I can go. Rediscovering my focus on form has allowed me to build new strength in my body and sharpen my concentration as I commit to starting the postures on time, moving into them carefully and correctly and holding them for as long as the teacher specifies.

I agree with Phelps, who has started training again for the 2012 Olympics; "I'm fine-tuning the little things that add up to make a huge difference". Before, I was using my mind to gauge how flexible I could become in a certain posture. Now I use my mind to listen to each word the teacher says and set up the posture properly then simply use my breath to let my body relax and stretch into the depth. If my body is able to take me more deeply into a posture than usual I feel euphoric... but if I am feeling tight or stiff that day I also feel euphoric. I don't waste mental strength worrying about how far my body has opened up into the pose, I simply feel joyful that I am able to practice yoga and therefore make a difference in my life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles

Today I woke up early with my husband, made him breakfast and drove him to work just down the street. I read for a bit but then went back to sleep and was more tired than I thought because I slept in quite a bit.

I went for a long walk and hit up every dollar store around the area with the goal to find a beach blanket and a popsicle mold. It was 36 degrees out today so I wanted to make something for dessert that we could cool down with.

I did find a beautiful sandy beach about 5min away which I will visit tomorrow. I tried wading in the water which was cool and clear but it just felt wrong to jump right in, I prefer to lounge on the beach for awhile first before working up the courage to go swimming.

We bought some organic strawberries at Choices the first night we got here which I am excited to use. Organic fruit tastes the best but can go rotten more quickly than normal fruit so I have to use them up over the next few days. I found a very intriguing recipe for strawberry popsicles using balsamic vinegar but we did not bring any up with us so when I buy some will be able to try them out.

Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles

- 1 cup washed organic strawberries
- 1 cup organic nonfat vanilla yogurt

1. Use a straw to push the stems out of the strawberries.

2. Roughly chop strawberries and place in magic bullet or blender with yogurt.

3. Quickly pulse ingredients a few times until they are blended, but chunks of strawberries still remain.

4. Spoon strawberry chunks into the bottom of a popsicle mold and fill up the remainder of the mold with the blended liquid.

5. Wipe up any spills with a napkin so the popsicles can be easily removed when frozen.

6. Place the popsicle sticks in firmly and put in a level space in your freezer for at least 1hr.