Happy Yoga Stuff

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One of the great things about yoga as a beginner is you don’t need much stuff.  No expensive sneakers, no weather resistant fancy clothes, no million-dollar yoga mat.  If you are a beginner most studios have a supply of yoga mats so you can try it out before you commit.  Personally, I am a fan of bare feet, I like that feeling of the air between my toes and it gives a better grip especially for balance poses.

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Other essentials I enjoy now that I have been doing yoga for a while is a cute yoga bag (has to be cute…right?).  Mine has room for my mat and several pockets for all my stuff. 

Here is a list of my stuff:

  • Head band – hair in my face when I am doing yoga is soooo annoying and can detract from that blissed out feeling I am aspiring for at every class.
  • Eye pillow – I bought one of these on a whim wondering if I would like it and it quickly became my go to favorite, especially for Savasana.
  • Essential oils especially lemongrass. I sometimes put it on my mat or my eye pillow or a small smidge on my wrists.  It smells great, wakes me up for those early morning classes and enhances the yoga class.
  • High waisted yoga pants.  These are very helpful with all those up and downs and saves you from that muffin top peeking out (what a vision!).
  • Yoga top that is fitted and has a little bit of compression so it also does not rise up, again with all those ups and downs during class.
  • Mat of preference is Manduka.

Speaking of the Manduka mat, I have tried a few and this is the best by a long way.  It is a sticky mat which means your feet do not slide, which is very helpful in downward facing dog, warrior 1 and 2 and so many more.  When I began yoga, I invested in a couple of cheaper mats…big mistake.  They just did not do the job and wore out very quickly.  The Manduka mat is an investment but a very worthy one.  I have had mine a year and it still shows no sign of wearing out.

To find out more about yoga mats I have found this website to be more than helpful:

http://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mat/ 

This website is awesome because they have surveyed over 100 yoginis so you know their information is valid.  Easy to navigate with tons of information - I recommend a visit.

Hope this blog was helpful and will make your next yoga class even more fun!

This blog post was sponsored by http://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mat/.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way by BestYogaMat.

How To Make An American Quilt

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I have been quilting seriously since my early twenties.  I remember having a class in school the old traditional way, where you cut out paper piecing, wrapped your fabric around it and hand sewed all the pieces together Even though this was labor intensive I remember it being very soothing and I still like to hand sew the binding which is the final step of the quilt.

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Fast forward arriving in the States in 1994 to have the absolute glee at finding lots of quilt stores.  I discovered beautiful fabrics, still my weakness, if I see something gorgeous I will buy it even if I do not have a project in mind (yet!). Quilters are known for having a stash, this means a pile of fabrics by the yard …. just in case! These quilt stores also had lots and lots of lovely patterns but best of all they had classes.  At this stage, I still considered myself a rookie quilter but enrolling in classes taught me new skills and a whole new outlook on quilting.

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Then I discovered sewing machines.  I know this sounds a little crazy but before 1994 and the grand age of 28 I had never even considered owning a machine.  It opened my eyes to chain sewing and piecing without those labor intensive little pieces of paper.  Now I could (with classes and close supervision) make those wonderful quilts in days and weeks rather than in months.

This is my 3rd or 4th machine in 25 years because after miles and miles of sewing that sweet hard-working machine gives up the will to live and crosses the rainbow bridge to sewing machine heaven. Now you can buy sewing machines just for quilters, I love this one, lots of space to feed through large pieces of fabric, many many different stitch styles.

Here are the stages of a quilt that I am working on right now.


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You start off with fabric.  This is called a jelly roll (don’t ask me why!).  I love these because you get precut 2 ½ inch coordinated strips, because cutting and matching fabric can be the most fun but also the most challenging.


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Roll out your jelly roll and separate the darks from the light.

 

 

 


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Cut the strips into 2 ½ inch squares, organize a pattern and sew together.  I prefer to just go haphazard with no particular order, that way you get a really scrappy quilt which is kinda fun.


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Sew triangle on each corner then you can rotate the block into various ways to optimize the overall affect.


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Put on some borders and you are nearly done.


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Every part of the process is very soothing to me.  I usually have a person in mind when I start a quilt.  I think of them all the way through and stitch love hope and courage into the quilt or whatever they may need at that time in their life.

 


Here is one of my favorites, a throwback to where I came from!

 

 

 


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Here is one I just finished, I already have someone in mind for this one.

 

 

 


It’s about finding your joy in whatever way that may be.  For some, it's baking or reading or walking or climbing mountains or gardening. And for me, it’s all of these but nothing feeds my soul like making a quilt.

Be/Stay Happy!

Quotes & Other Musings

I am a collector of quotes, I find them inspiring and nurturing.  I have a file of them on my laptop which I go to every now and again for inspiration and comfort.  I am especially a fan of Winnie The Pooh quotes.  They transcend time, are classic and are still relevant today. As an aside, when we lived in Oxfordshire, England we were near A.A.Milne's home.  We would go to Whittenham Clumps when Joe was small and teach him to play pooh sticks. It was a special time. 

 

Here a few of my favorites Winnie the Pooh quotes.

  • Sometimes the smallest things take up the largest part in your heart.
  • As soon as I saw you I knew a great adventure was about to happen. 
  • Will we be friends for ever said Piglet, longer said Pooh.
  • How do you spell love?  You don’t spell it you feel it.
  • When all else fails- take a nap.
  • Yes Piglet?  Nothing said Piglet I just wanted to be sure of you. 
  • It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine.  
  • Could be worse, not sure how, but it could be. 
  • The nicest thing about rain is that it stops eventually. 

And my favorite:

You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

Ok now onto other stuff.  As a flawed individual I have many faults, they could be interpreted as vices or guilty pleasures.  I try and keep most of them under control, but heck it’s not that healthy to live a life pure as the driven snow.  Balance is an important aspect of life so I don’t beat myself up too much.

  • As a self-proclaimed vegan/vegetarian, I have a weakness for sausage.  Don’t judge me.
  • As a self-proclaimed vegan/vegetarian, I have a weakness for cheese.
  • I like to watch reruns of The Kardashians, I find it very entertaining.
  • I have an Amazon habit, it’s just too easy to push that buy button when your cart has something in it.
  • Books, I rarely deny myself from buying a book.  Every now and then I donate boxes of them.  Why?  So, I have room for more books!
  • When making cupcakes I always leave some batter in the bowl to sample.
  • I am addicted to Netflix, my favorite genre is crime series, animated movies and documentaries on nutrition.  It’s important to have diverse choices!
  • I am OCD about cleaning and tidying up. This irritates my family to no end when I put that item that they need right now in some drawer or closet I cannot remember - oops.
  • I love NFL football.  During the football season, it is not unusual on a Sunday afternoon to find me watching four games back to back while I grade papers and make a big Sunday dinner.  Favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, a throwback to when we lived in Wisconsin.

I am sure there are more, but really, that is enough to consider right now. Life is up and down with quotes and guilty pleasures but it is never boring. 

Have/be a good day,

Angie

Where the Heck Have I Been?

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Been MIA for a while from the blogging world - a combination of some serious writer’s block, finishing a semester with a lot of very intense children’s yoga lessons (can you imagine 20 kids doing the Very Hungry Caterpillar yoga!), and the beginning of summer where my mind and my body was begging me to breathe, be still and so, I did.

But I’m back. Life has been full and fulfilling in the meantime.

We went to New Hampshire to spend time with the lovely Joe and Chelsea and climb some mountains.  On this day the sky was so clear we could see Canada in one direction and Maine in the other.

 

We said goodbye to Elliot and Jenny, who had been home for 10 weeks (oh how I loved having them here).  They have embarked on their next adventure to Seville, Spain via Portugal. They are having a ball. We Facetime a lot.

We took lots of beautiful walks around the reservoir and because the spring and summer have been so wet (oh when will it ever stop raining?) everything is very lush and green.

We took some day trips.  This one is to Longwood Gardens - my happy place, acres and acres of gardens full of flowers and fountains. 

And the adventures continue, some wonderful things planned in September including a trip to Seville to see Elliot and Jenny.  A trip to New Hampshire to do more hiking and spend time with Joe and Chelsea and a fun visit from one of my special god-daughters, Ruth. (I have several and they are all special!)

Until the next time,

Angie 

Meet Toby

I was recently asked to write a blog post for the dog site: Mattie & Margot (www.mattieandmargot.com). I have written about Toby before, my trusty Vizsla with a huge personality.  But I thought it was worth putting him on the blog again. Enjoy meeting Toby (again!). 

Toby is our 4-year-old Vizsla who I am convinced is more boy than dog.  Toby arrived into our lives shortly after we lost our beloved Golden Retriever, Biggles.  I am convinced that Biggles chose Toby for us.  Biggles was my soul mate dog who stayed by my side through many dark times.  Four months after he died and I was still doing the ugly cry. My hubby threw me in the car one day and took me to a rescue.  Toby came home with us and has been one of the centers of my life ever since.

Here's Toby. Those eyes are deep and full of wisdom. 

He is a very active and playful dog.  He just loves the snow! 

We have a grown son who lives in New Hampshire and Toby’s favorite thing to do when we visit is to hike a mountain. When he gets to the top there is much celebrating. 

Toby loves, loves, loves to have an ice cream. God help anyone - man or dog who comes between him and his ice cream. He is famous for the silent snarl, but the show of teeth leaves no one in doubt about his intention, “You touch my ice cream, I'll get you!"

We are a British family living in the States, came here 24 years ago for Hubby’s job.  We love living state side, we have had so much fun living here and in many ways I feel much more America than I do British.  Except on July 4th, then my patriotism for the UK comes out strong.  Apparently, Toby feels the same way

My standard phrase on July 4th is: "We could have won you know, we only sent 10,000 soldiers." Apparently this does not go down very well, but the neighbors understand that the house and the dog will be all decked out with Union Jacks on Independence Day!

Toby also has a special relationship with my youngest son, Elliot. When they are together they are really stuck like glue.  Neither of them seem to mind this predicament.

Toby is such a sensitive dog who has a special relationship with his dog owners. This can cause some serious separation anxiety and he can be a little, let’s say, defensive if he feels an approaching dog may not be friendly. He does not really give them a chance…does that good ole silent snarl for good luck.  He is so sensitive I thought we would train together as a service dog and partner.  All was going well until he did his famous silent snarl to all the participating dogs and we were asked (very kindly) to leave.  Being expelled from class, not our proudest moment.

So, this is my Toby, he is my shadow, my Velcro dog with all his faults and nuances.  I cannot imagine life without him, he brings joy, love and many doggie messes, like sticks in the house, the odd dead squirrel (not kidding!) and an abundance of energy.

We would not have it any other way!

I Really Like Flowers

I am not much or a horticulturist. I consider myself a keen beginner because I rarely know the name of a plant. Instead, I know a plant based off its color, shape and its ability not to be eaten by deer. This is a big problem in my neighborhood and I swear those deer think there is a buffet waiting for them at our house!

We had a very, very rainy May but now we are in June and the sun is shining. I have been able to get outside and put the finishing touches on my pots and flower beds.

This is what my front door looks like - I am particularly pleased with it this year. Marigolds are always a great choice, they are relatively cheap and withstand the heat well.

I do have a decent number of star gazer lilies around and the deer love to munch on them, but if I spray them with something called Guard Off, which is the delightful mixture of coyote and cat urine (yum) they seem to survive.

There is a famous poem by A. A. Milne (of Winnie The Pooh fame) called Delphinium Blue and Geranium Red.

There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed
Of delphiniums blue and geraniums red,
And all the day long he'd a wonderful view.

So, I felt the need to replicate.

Could not find a dormouse but Gnorman the Gnome will be a good replacement for right now!

And last but not least, a pot of fragrant lavender is always a huge win. This is my sanctuary where I sit and reflect, meditate and enjoy tea.

I hope you all are blessed to have a special place of beauty, too. 

Until next time, 

Angie 

 

Food and Festivals

It’s been pretty quiet around here.  Hubby had a 3-week business adventure in Paris (I know, feel bad for him) and as a result, unintentionally, I stayed close to home.  But things have gotten a little more interesting since hubby got back stateside.

During the weekend, we decided to check out a Chinese Lantern Festival in Philly.  A couple of years ago we were in Seoul, Korea and their lantern festival was amazing so we were eager to get the experience again.

It was pretty cool, but a little small so I think we felt somewhat cheated for our $17 entrance fee, especially as the one in Korea was so much more elaborate. It was a nice night to be out and wander around China Town.

Shifting gears - Interesting fact, still doing the raw food thing and normally this time of year I am severely afflicted with Springtime allergies, but this year not so much as a moist eye.  The only difference I can think of is that I am eating so much raw local fruits and veggies, which is desensitizing my usual malady.

This time of year, there are so many yummy seasonal fruits and veggies it is not hard to get variety in my diet.

The rest of my life seems to be yoga, teaching yoga, teaching nurse education and if I have time, reading and cooking, not such a bad way to spend my time!

Until next time, 

Angie 

My Week of Yoga Classes

Every week I look at my schedule and my first priority is seeing where and when I can fit in a yoga class.  May had been crazy due to many preschool classes, sometimes up to 10 a week that left my own personal yoga practice…well lacking to say the least.

This week I feel like my summer vacation started early as my only commitment was teaching one preschool class.  Heaven!

Here is what my yoga week looked like:

Sunday:  Vinyasa flow class taught by a particularly gifted and experienced teacher.  I try hard to get to her Sunday morning class as she teaches alignment based yoga and I always come away feeling like I have been to an intense but very good workshop.

Monday:  Mixed Level Yoga with a really, really good yoga sister who has become my friend.  She was a theatre major at NYU and so the banter and elevated entertaining chatter makes this ambitious class (well for me it always is!) just much more fun. And that 75 minutes always speeds by!

Tuesday:  I recently found a 5.30pm Power Yoga Class that I would have thought a few months ago was beyond me. However, even though this class is a humbling experience. I love the pace, the challenging new poses, the art of breathing and positioning to reach the pose. I love how it makes me realize that yoga is not about achieving the perfect position, it’s about the breath and finding that space within yourself that was not there before.

Wednesday:  Teaching assistant for a Restorative Reiki Class.  If you ever have a chance to take a restorative class, I highly recommend it.  The prerequisites are if you can breathe and lie down!  As the title of the class suggests it is designed to restore your soul through several compassionate, non-impact poses and with the added energy of Reiki, this class is just a joy to take and to assist in.  This is when I get blissed out with my yoga.

Thursday:  Teaching a very challenging but ever so fun family yoga class.  This week there was a grand total of 3 kids! A 10-month-old, a 1 year old and a 3-year-old, and none of them had any intention of doing any yoga! So, I did Very Hungry Caterpillar to myself, sang I’m A Little Teapot to myself 5 times and read the yoga book Rachel In the Garden all to myself….out loud.  Sometimes you just have to roll and know that working with preschoolers is like herding cats.

Friday: A very lovely beginners class, which is not so much beginner in its pace but maybe in its poses.  It’s always good to go back to the basics and this is a class I look forward to and enjoy.

So that was my week.  Yoga every darn day!  How much better and grounded and peaceful I feel after a frenetic April and May.  Time to rest and restore and get back on my mat. 

Hope you're having a great week.

Life After Graduating as a Yoga Teacher

So, it’s been a few months since I graduated as a yoga teacher, starting to get in the flow.  I’ve had some awesome classes where I came out energized and really pumped. And I've had some other classes where I came out ready for the psychiatrist couch. But there are some key things I did in the process of becoming a teacher that may be useful to other new grads. 

Here's my list:

  • I got liability insurance.  The practice of yoga is very mindful, but it is a workout and as such, people have the potential of getting injured.  Therefore, you want to protect yourself in case a client screams blame.  Liability insurance is relatively cheap and I feel comforted by the fact that if the worst happened and I am sued, no one is going to get the house.
  • As soon as I started teaching, I started a 3-ring binder. In there I keep a copy of all my classes with comments on what worked and what did not. I also have the contact information of the different studios I work for.  Also, I am logging my teaching hours as when I get up to 1000 hours of teaching I can market myself as an Expert Yoga Teacher (EYRT).  This is also a place where I keep a record of all my expenses so I can do that dreaded spreadsheet every 3 months and pay my taxes like a good citizen (groan). 
  • Continue updating and creating new classes so they are on hand if I get that last-minute call.  YouTube is the champion of all resources for yoga sequences.  I have found this particularly useful for planning my kid’s classes.  In my future repertoire: Hungry Caterpillar Yoga, Harry Potter Yoga and Fairy Yoga.  It keeps the variety fresh and helps me not teach the same class over and over again, which can get quite monotonous.
  • Offer to be a teaching assistance.  I have done this several times now and it is invaluable for not only gaining my own confidence but watching how an experienced teacher creates that blissed out atmosphere in a yoga class and techniques and sequences they use for success.
  • Look ahead for future trainings to enhance your teaching.  I am already looking forward to a couple of trainings I would like to do, maybe yoga therapy, maybe a nutrition certificate which would help make me the complete health package.  This is a little in the future as for right now I am trying to get compensated for my teaching to recoup the cost of my teacher training before I commit any more money to more qualifications.
  • Maybe take some private classes with a yogi you respect and aspire to be.  I did this in April and it literally changed my practice.  To have a one on one to tell me put your foot here, your shoulders like this, your feet grounded etc. was beyond helpful in how I will develop my own practice and help others.

I see my initial qualification of Registered Yoga Teacher just the beginning of my journey, it’s fun, it's challenging, it's growth in progress and I think always will be.

Hope you found this helpful. Any other yogis out there who have some helpful hints?

 

No One Showed Up

My worst nightmare happened.  I was scheduled to teach an adult yoga class and no one showed up.  I felt like I was having my own personal birthday party and nobody showed. I may have cried a little on the inside!

I had been asked to run some classes for a corporate office in New Jersey, about 45 minutes away from home.  So, off I went with plenty of time to spare, with my mat, my class notes and my carefully put together playlist on my Bluetooth speaker.

Sat in the assigned spot (the office cafeteria), got my notes out, reviewed them and waited and waited and waited. 

When I finally came to terms with the fact that nobody was coming, my first thought was “wow they must have really hated me last week”.  But it happens, especially in corporate yoga when the employee is not paying for the class. There can be less motivation to attend.

So, I did a few sun salutations on my own and then made the trek back home.  A two-hour round trip, in traffic! Not bitter, really.

 

But I have to assure myself that as a newbie yoga teacher I may not captivate my students all (or none) of the time.  There is room for growth and humility.  My adult classes have been small numbers and in a way that is good, it’s not so intimidating and I can really read the room and teach to the level and enjoyment of each person.

So, what did I learn through this event?

  • Do not focus on the negative, it’s easy to have your own little pity party but just pull up your big girl pants and be there for the next class.  Fresh start, fresh faces!
  • Don’t give up, keep coming up with new sequences, throw out what does not work and enhance what makes you sing, evaluate evaluate evaluate!
  • Follow your intuition.  I happen to think that all those doing yoga are particularly intuitive, when I am putting a meditation together for the beginning of class it sounds and feels divine but then when I present it to a group I can feel a little self-conscious.  I assume, maybe incorrectly if I am blown away by it then everyone else will be too…. not an awful place to be but be brave and do it anyways.
  • Not everyone will like my style and presentation and that’s ok.  I need to remind myself to be myself for myself and then my authentic voice will come through.
  • Keep up my own practice. 

After my no-show class, all I wanted to do was go and do a yoga class for myself to feel more grounded and connected to myself and at peace.  It worked, I got my mojo back pretty quickly!