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 Urbanspoon.com 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.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Welcome to Kelowna!

We arrived in Kelowna last night, went shopping, made dinner and went to sleep.

This morning I was still pretty exhausted from a fun weekend we just had in Whistler, not to mention the long drive up to Kelowna. I slept in a bit then watched TV, ate breakfast and slowly unpacked.

Finally around 1pm I put on my shorts and went for a walk outside. We are located right near the cultural district of Kelowna so I decided to stroll around and check it out. My aim was to make it to the Bikram yoga studio to pick up a schedule and hopefully even meet the owner.

As soon as I walked out the door I was stunned at how warm it was! I passed a sign that said it's 32 degrees out. I don't think it will get that warm in Vancouver until mid-August... if at all this summer. As I crossed the street I was greeted with a gorgeous park and the beautiful waterfront, something similar to English Bay but with the warm Okanagan mountains in the background.

I was surprised at how close the yoga studio is to where we are staying, less than a fifteen minute walk. I grabbed a schedule and unfortunately the owner was not there but I talked to another teacher who I had met before.

I walked around the shops and restaurants and I kept thinking of the fun things I can do with friends who come visit. I saw there is a restaurant where you can get your tarot cards read. I also saw a place I will definitely visit called the Rotten Grape. From 5-7pm they serve Apertivo, just like in Italy! You get cheap wine and they specified complimentary snacks. I can't wait to have a glass on their patio.

I went to the grassy area near the beach and sat down under a tree, reading all about Kelowna and things to do. Here are my top things to do in Kelowna this summer:

- Kelowna Farmer's Market
- Cherry Festival
- Rent a boat
- Swimming every day
- Goat Cheese Farm
- Outdoor Movie Nights
- Play at the dinner theatre
- Cafes
- Used book store

I'm really looking forward to summer in this beautiful place where we can enjoy the hot weather, relax and live the Okanagan lifestyle.

As I was walking home I realized the clouds were slowly blowing in and collecting on the mountains. My husband told me there are supposed to be thunderstorms tonight and I can't wait to get all cozy and hear about his day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Strawberry Poppyseed Muffins

makes 1 dozen
1/2 c stevia or agave
3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c applesauce
1/2 c low fat ricotta
1 t vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c chopped fresh strawberries, excess juice drained
1 T poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a muffin tin, and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flours, salt and baking soda. In a small bowl, mix together butter (allow to cool), ricotta, vanilla and eggs. Stir into flour bowl, mixing well. Gently fold in strawberries and poppy seeds, until just mixed.
Divide batter evenly among muffin tin, and transfer to the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.