Saturday Inspiration: A Problem Worth Having

Yesterday was a much-needed time for solitude and introspection. After many consecutive days of appointments and obligations, I cleared my schedule as a day-long retreat from the world. A day that included many cups of tea, many pages written in my journal, and a leisurely solo grocery trip taken at a relaxed pace that allowed me to savor the process of choosing nourishing and wholesome foods for the weekend. Aside from my interactions with the grocery store clerk, I did not speak to another human soul (the dog doesn't count) until greeting my husband upon his return from work. The space and time I created to turn my focus toward my own heart - to hear my own voice amidst the chaos of the outside world - was so restorative. As with yin yang yoga (a stye that tempers active, warming yang poses with passive, cooling yin poses), I felt so beautifully balanced by the yin-paced day at the end of a decidedly yang week.

Today. Waking early, but staying in bed for some doggie and husband cuddling time. Freshly made coffee with coconut milk, scrambled eggs with arugula and herbs. Smiling at the memory of last night's phone call with a best friend across the country, a conversation filled with laughter and plans for the future, spoken in that special shared language of a friendship that has withstood many years and miles. Feeling my energy revived and creativity renewed by yesterday's inner journey. Pulling up my new MacBook Air to engage in some delicious new projects, chief among them a business plan that speaks to a newly discovered career goal.

Perhaps it's the second cup of coffee (a weekend indulgence) or the crispness in the air, but I am feeling so alive and alert. Every fiber of my being is so eager to soak in new possibilities for doing and being.

I have been meditating a lot on something I heard said recently. I'm sure I'm not quoting verbatim, but it was along the lines of this:

"For most of us, the problem is not that we have problems. It's that our problems aren't big enough or worthy enough of our time and energy. If your problems in life are things like an ornery boss or a forgotten utility bill that's now doubled in size or the number of emails in your inbox, look carefully at what you're devoting your life to fixing. Are these the problems worth your life? No. Get a problem that's worth your life. Get a bigger problem."

The idea of getting a bigger problem - one devoting your life to - is sort of an interesting proposition, isn't it? What would be worth devoting your life to? This is the question I'm inspired by as I create new possibilities and new directions for myself this morning. The resistance is there of course. The voice that questions where I would find the time, the money, the resources, and the knowledge, to accomplish such lofty goals. Those, however, are small problems compared to, say, the problem of making the world a healthier, happier place to live. Or teaching people the power of goal-setting to change their lives. Or enabling a more sustainable and innovative private sector.

Take a second and ask yourself. What would be a problem worth having? Worth devoting your life to? What's the bigger purpose you're unable to see or hear through the noise and dust of the smaller problems in your life?


Image via Valorie


December Intentions

I'm keeping my intentions for this month pretty simple.

1. Drink a glass of fresh green veggie juice every day.

2. Practice hot yoga 2-3 times per week.

3. Give and spend mindfully, buying handmade (or making gifts myself) wherever possible.

4. Write and send holiday cards to family and friends, near and far. I picked up these and these the other day, the former by one of my favorite artists Charley Harper and the latter as a nod to our dachshund, Basil.

5. Carve out 30 minutes of time myself every single day (regardless of how packed my schedule is) to sit and read with a cup of tea, watch the sunset, or simply sit and be with the flickering light of my favorite vanilla & peppermint holiday candle.

What are your intentions for this month? I'd love to hear.


Thanksgiving + Tree Trimming Rituals

Happy Monday all! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The past year was not without its challenges, but on the whole, there was much to be grateful for : family, friends near and far, my husband, an exciting career path, great co-workers, good food, comfy dwellings, yoga, books, almond milk lattes, doggie snuggles, my health, art, and everything else good in this world. 

After indulging in some yummy food, football, and family time, Jason and I spent a lovely evening trimming our tree. In the three years we've lived together, it has become our tradition to decorate our tree while enjoying some appetizers and a glass of wine (or two).

This year, we sipped a bubbly rosé and enjoyed slices of smoked gouda and fresh mozzarella, followed by a Caesar salad with homemade dressing and some delicious crab cakes. We listened to some of our favorite Christmas music as we unpacked our favorite ornaments from their storage containers and unwound lines of twinkling white lights. The ritual of our yearly tree-trimming is such a simple pleasure, and one I look forward to all year. I love the subtle glow the lit-up tree adds to our living room.

Have you begun decorating for Christmas yet? Do you put your tree up right after Thanksgiving (like I do) or do you wait till later in the month?


Mondo Beyondo Dreams Revisited

Sunday mornings are the perfect time for dreaming and scheming. This morning I sat down with my favorite coffee mug and spent a few minutes reflecting on the Mondo Beyondo list (essentially a "bucket list") I created in early 2010. It was amazing to see how many of my dreams I'd accomplished since the time I first wrote my list. I adopted a rescue dog. Traveled Italy. Grew an herb and vegetable garden. Went white-water rafting. Began a journey toward my healthiest self that revealed a passion for holistic health and wellness.

It was also interesting to see how my list has changed and evolved. Certain dreams remain the same. (Be a mom. Buy a bungalow. Play piano daily. Get certified to teach yoga. Begin a non-profit yoga & wellness center.) Certain others have been edited or taken on different forms, and some have been deleted altogether.

As 2011 winds down, it feels like the right time to update my list. To start fresh with a set of goals & dreams that ring true for me right now, at this moment in time. I'm sure the list will continue to evolve, as I grow and learn more about myself.

Updated Mondo Beyondo Dreams

Travel & Adventure

Personal & Health
  • Get a tattoo
  • Earn my 200-hr yoga teacher certification
  • Eat dinner on on organic farm
  • Eat at The French Laundry
  • Celebrate my 30th birthday at a quiet and romantic restaurant with my husband, sipping wine and dining on oysters and Caesar salad
  • Have a family
  • Cook an entire menu from Chez Panisse, from scratch
  • Take hip-hop dance classes (<--took my first one last week!)
  • Spend a week at a wellness spa
  • Buy a bungalow in a metropolitan city in the Pacific Northwest
  • Set aside money for monthly deep tissue massage and acupuncture treatments
  • Learn to speak Italian
  • Ride my bike to work
  • Purchase a piano and play daily
Career & Community
  • Start a non-profit wellness center that provides complimentary yoga classes, health counseling, and other holistic health services, housed in renovated townhouse with an adjoining tea room and café
  • Give a TED talk on the power of possibility and goal-setting
  • Donate 10% of my income to charitable causes
  • Host a community-wide charitable event with proceeds benefiting local farmers and access to local foods
  • Write a column for Whole Living
  • Become lululemon's Head of People Development and/or Director of Possibility
  • Serve on the board of The Awesome Food Foundation
It feels a little scary to put all this out there, but really good and exciting at the same time. 

Have you updated your bucket list lately? I'd love to read yours, if you'd like to share. Have a lovely rest of your weekend, and happy dreaming.


An Update

Why, hello there. It's been quite a while since I've posted here on Tulips & Tea. Perhaps you've been following my adventures in health and wellness at Green Plate Studios, or perhaps not (which is okay too).

To be really honest, I've found myself missing this space. When I launched Green Plate Studios, I did so with a craving for a fresh start. A clean slate on which to sketch my new life's path. It was a transitional moment in my life in many ways, and I felt the urge to renew my online presence alongside my evolving vision and goals.

Right now in my life, I feel myself drawn back toward the things I grew to love about Tulips & Tea, which began as a way to express myself, and grew into a channel for reflecting upon life's simple pleasures and the quest to infuse joy, creativity, and mindfulness into my everyday experience. In many ways, I think the self-discovery prompted by Tulips & Tea enabled me to create a new possibility for myself within the world of health and wellness. And while I remain firm in my commitment to the holistic lifestyle that inspired Green Plate Studios, I feel myself coming full circle in my journey toward balance. A balance that includes a love of life's colorful details, and a willingness to be in a state of wonder about the whole self.

I suppose all of this is a long way of saying that I'm itching for a return to the coziness of the community we created here on Tulips & Tea. You can continue to follow along with my health and wellness pursuits at Green Plate Studios if you'd like, but you can also expect more frequent snippets of life's loveliness here on Tulips & Tea. I will welcome your voice into the dialogue wherever you choose to join in.

Thank you for being you.


Introducing Green Plate Studios!

What a whirlwind of a week! A few days ago, I launched the website for my new health coaching business, Green Plate Studios. I'll be blogging there about eating for wellness, mindful living, and lots more. If you haven't already, I hope you'll stop by and check it out!

What does this mean for the future of Tulips & Tea? I'll be honest...I don't know for sure. I'm going to be focusing my time and energy on Green Plate Studios for the time being, but I'm sure I will re-visit this space from time to time.

Thank you again for all of the support and encouragement you've given me throughout this career transition. I honestly feel like it was the momentum from the community I found here that helped spark my passion for living my juiciest, most vibrant life - and helping others do the same!


Things that are good for the soul

Yin yoga.
Doggie kisses.
Orchids in bloom.
Talks with kindred spirits.
Homemade vegan apple ginger crisp.
Freshly squeezed organic orange juice.
Hummus made with caramelized onions and red wine.
A piping hot bowl of butternut squash and collards soup.
Driving with the windows down and good music on the radio.
A rosewood and cedar-scented candle burning slowly on the table.
Little and big synchronicities that make me feel like the universe is reading my mind.


A Non-Cheesy Valentine's Day Playlist

For Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share some of my favorite love songs. 

Arms of a Woman - Amos Lee
Maybe You Can Owe Me - Architecture in Helsinki
For Emma - Bon Iver
Sea of Love - Cat Power
I Will Follow You Into the Dark - Death Cab for Cutie
The Way I Am - Ingrid Michaelson
Love and Some Verses - Iron & Wine
Both Hands - Jay Brannan
Helium Hearts - Jason Reeves
I'd Rather Dance With You - Kings of Convenience
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Always Love - Nada Surf
Slow Show - The National
Such Great Heights - The Postal Service
Loving You - Paolo Nutini
Samson - Regina Spektor
To Be Alone With You - Sufjan Stevens


All links lead to iTunes.

This weekend

A challenging hot yoga class. 
Day trip to Patapsco State Park for a hike along the river.
Side trip to Conscious Corner (so-named for its cluster of green and socially conscious businesses ), where we collected organic produce from Roots Market, browsed eco-friendly home goods at Nest, and savored a divine meal at the vegan bistro, Great Sage. (Jason, a devout omnivore, raved about his green chili enchiladas and chocolate lava cake.)
Freshly pressed green juice from my new juicer: kale, romaine, cucumber, celery, apple, carrot, and ginger.
A bath infused with Epsom salts and lavender essential oil where I enjoyed the latest issue of a favorite publication.
A single perfect mini phalaenopsis orchid plant, my Valentine's Day gift from Jason. 

Speaking of which...Happy Valentine's Day! I'll be back soon to share a playlist of my favorite non-cheesy love songs.


This week

This week has been about: 

Slowly easing back into yoga (I took a week off while sick with the flu) and enjoying the sensation of re-inhabiting a strong and healthy body

Apple cinnamon oatmeal with blueberries and almond milk 

Writing content for my new website, to be launched next month (more on this soon!)

Pondering an incredible IIN class on the tenets of Ayurveda by Dr. John Douillard

Enjoying chewy sesame cookies and peppermint green tea via a sweet care package from my mom

Anticipating the changing of seasons, as days grow longer and the teeniest, tiniest suggestion of spring seems to hover in the air (I can't stop looking at pictures of flowers, like the one above)

Conversations with Jason about our goals and dreams, exploring the possibilities of the various directions life might take us in the coming years

Swooning over a sample of raw vegan triple-layer coconut cake from Whole Foods (oh.my.god.so.good.)

Reading and re-reading Mark Bittman's A Food Manifesto for the Future 

Catching up on my blog reading

What's new in your world this week?


On speeding up, slowing down, and what the flu has to do with it

Isn't it funny how, when life's moving full-speed ahead and we're struggling to keep up, our bodies will force us to slow down?

This past month, I've been struggling to balance work, school, preparation for the launch of my health coaching business, and spending time with family and friends. Add to that mix: attempting to cook healthy meals from scratch nearly every night and maintaining my near-daily regimen of yoga and/or running.

I hope this doesn't sound like a complaint, because the fact is...I love it all. I love working at lululemon, surrounded by amazing co-workers and a vibrant company culture. I eagerly soak up the knowledge of food and nutrition in my IIN studies. I am ecstatic about my budding health coaching career, and am over-the-moon excited to launch my practice. Spending time with Jason (and Basil) is, without fail, the highlight of my day. And, of course, preparing nutritious homemade meals and moving my body fuels my energy for all of the above.

I recognize how lucky I am to be overwhelmed by these many passions. (In fact, sometimes I've overwhelmed by that fact alone.)

And yet, the body knows when it needs a break.

I woke up yesterday with a fever, muscle aches, chills, and a sore throat. Forgive me the overused hyperbole, but my first coherent thought was I feel like I've been hit by a truck, closely followed by that other cliché, I CANNOT afford to get sick right now.

Have you ever noticed how it's always those times that we "can't afford" to get sick that we do? This is not just some unfortunate coincidence. When we're stressed, our bodies respond, first by polite request. Perhaps some mild fatigue, a headache, or other not-too-serious symptoms, many of which we either ignore or suppress with a pill, at which point our bodies become more insistent. It's then that we're forced to rest, by, for example, waking up with the flu as I did yesterday.

I used to feel terribly guilty about taking a sick day, always wondering if I should chug some Dayquil and "power through." I now wonder: What could possibly be shameful about recognizing my body's need for rest?

In that spirit, I'm honoring my need for rest today. You'll find me on the couch, huddled beneath a pile of blankets, a dachshund on my lap, a Nook in one hand and mug of tea in the other. 

Thank goodness for the body's wisdom. 


Book Review: Poser

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Part memoir, part meditation, Poser is the witty and moving tale of one woman's journey through marriage and motherhood, distilled through the prism of yoga. Faced with the hyper-political correctness of her ultra-hip late-90's "liberal enclave" neighborhood in North Seattle (a place where "people don't have BEWARE OF DOG signs...they have PLEASE BE MINDFUL OF DOG" signs), Claire Dederer pursues yuppie virtue with a vengeance: breast-feeding, cooking organic meals from scratch, eschewing plastic toys, volunteering at the childcare co-op, working full-time, and arranging date nights with her husband. Physically and emotionally burnt out, Claire turns to the practice of yoga, a practice she begins with vague notions about stress relief, but which becomes increasingly a therapeutic refuge from that idealized version of womanhood to which she had so desperately aspired. 

Each chapter of the book is anchored by a yoga pose, the asana providing a metaphor for her musings on a particular aspect of her life (Child's Pose for recalling salient pieces of her own childhood and so on). Through yoga, Claire eventually comes to better understand both her own neuroses and the sub-cultural forces that had whipped her and an entire generation of her peers into the frenzied pursuit of perfection.

Some critics have compared Poser to Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, but aside from the obvious parallels of being female autobiographies that employ yoga-as-metaphor-for-life to varying degrees, the two are, in fact, very different stories. While Gilbert finds salve in the external--her travels illuminating key revelations about herself and her failed marriage--Claire ultimately rejects the trappings of the external world, instead turning inward to discover that the "reality" she'd unquestioningly accepted her whole life is, in fact, an illusion.

Yogis especially will appreciate Claire's encounters with the various styles of yoga (vinyasa, restorative, etc.), with humorously observed descriptions of each, but non-yogis will just as strongly relate to the universality of Claire's journey. In fact, a large part of the book's appeal was in recognizing pieces of myself in Claire and the ensuring catharsis of commiserating with her anxieties (many of which mirror my own) and then laughing with her (and by extension, at myself) as she so aptly dissects those same worries and fears.

Bottom line? Poser is an engaging reminder of the counterintuitive beauty that happens when we stop trying to be good--at yoga or in life--and instead allow ourselves to just be.

Have any of you read it?  If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Why food doesn't fill us up: an update on my IIN classes

A couple months into my IIN program, I am even more excited about my new chosen career path than when I first began.  I have been learning so much about food and nutrition, and the more I learn, the more knowledge I crave.  The guest lectures on the various dietary theories fascinate me.  David Wolfe on the benefits of raw foods.  Andrea Beaman and Lawrence Kushi on macrobiotics.  Joshua Rosenthal (IIN's founder) on all the varying modes of vegetarianism.  Walter Willett on the (many) shortcomings of the USDA food pyramid and Marion Nestle on the politics that enable the perpetuation of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  I absorb their words eagerly, mentally weaving threads from each viewpoint into my own philosophy toward food and my approach toward counseling.  

While I'm enthralled by the nutrition facts and dietary theories, I'm especially affected by the program's emphasis, at every step, that food is, in fact, not our primary food.  What actually feeds us is the quality of our relationships.  Our level of spiritual fulfillment.  Our level of satisfaction with our career.  Our physical activity.  The strength of our connection to our community. 

These are the things that truly fulfill and sustain us, and part of the reason our culture is so screwed up about food is that we believe, mistakenly, that it has the power to fill that deeper void we might feel in other areas of our life.  

True wellness is not only about adopting a healthier diet and hitting the gym more often (though these things are good and would undoubtedly yield benefits for much of the population).  Rather, it's recognizing that every aspect of our lives - relationships, spirituality, career, physical activity, community, etc. - has the potential to fill us up or to starve us to death.  

The quality of our diets is hugely important to our physical health, but the food itself is only part of the equation, and to change our relationship with food, we must first examine any imbalances we're experiencing in other parts of our life.

I love being a student again.  I especially love being a student of wellness, which, as I'm learning, is really about improving the quality of our lives, and the potential we have in doing so, to change the way we experience the world.

Image via IIN.


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