Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bistro Time

Today started off like a typical Wednesday. I woke up at 5:30am and headed to my yoga studio to work the morning shift. I took a 75-minute Power Yoga class, came home, made tea, went for a run (actually that isn't typical... more about THAT later), took a shower, meditated, made lunch, and did my homework. But then, at 3pm, Wednesday ceased to to be normal because I went..... to work!

No, not yoga job. Not motorcycle shop job either. I found a third job! I am overjoyed because now I can finally pay all my bills! YAY! You may be wondering just WHERE I will be working. Ohhh the suspense....

My new employer is a local French Bistro. Fine Dining, here I come! Now you may be thinking "a restaurant job?! what's so exciting about that!" So I will tell you why it's exciting:

1. We're in a recession so ANY job is a GOOD job.
2. tipstiptipstipstipstips. Apparently rich folks are still eating Fois Gras and buying $70 bottles of wine (shocking, right?!). Afterall, I do live in food and wine snob Mecca Wine Country.

My big travel plans are looking more and more affordable... ::sigh of relief::

Other perks: I get a FREE meal every time I work! I completely forgot that this was standard within the food service industry. Farewell cooking for myself, I'll be eating fine French cuisine 3 nights a week.

As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!

Also, I need to become familiar with the vast wine selection, which means... I drink wine during my shift! Oh glory. Well, off I go to memorize the menu (and learn French pronunciation)!

Van Gogh liked French fine dining as well! What are the odds?...

This post is hereby dedicated to Jessica F. for getting me this job. She is an extraordinary human being and if you met her, you'd want to be friends with her too! ::BigHugs::

Sunday, October 23, 2011

10 Reasons Why This Weekend Was Awesome

Nanny adventures are ALWAYS the most fun ever!
1. NANNY came to visit! 

2. Nanny and I ate Indian food and then went wine tasting! I LOVE being a tourist in my own city.

3. Went to Kohl's and Nanny bought me clothes :)

4. Sat lower in Utkatasana than I'd ever gone before.

5. Almost bought a man on an auction block.

6. Finished the Fruit Fast and could eat normal food again! yesssss.

7. Got to dress in costume.

8. Rediscovered my love for salsa dancing.

9. Bought cardamom for tea, which reminded me of Mancora.

10. Got a third job!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beans Beans the Magical....


Yes, I am in fact eating nothing but fruit for 3 WHOLE DAYS as part of the 40 Days to Personal Revolution program. And how is it going so far? welllll....

I'm at the middle of Day 2 and am not feeling so great. Yesterday wasn't super awesome either. About every 1-2 hours I would get really grumpy and cranky and then realize it's because I'M HUNGRY AGAIN!!! Now I have a persistent headache even though I just ate again! grrrrr.

Yesterday for breakfast I had a smoothie with mango juice, strawberries, apricot, blueberries and banana. Lunch was a smashed up avocado with tomato, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. And then I went grocery shopping. $42 worth of fruit later, I was ready to get my cooking on!

Luckily since I come from a plant background, I used to BOTANICAL definition of fruit rather than the CULINARY one! "In botany, a "fruit" is a part of a flowering plant that derives from specific tissues of the flower, mainly one or more ovaries".  

Fruit is a trickster. It is a master of disguise. Camouflage extraordinaire. MANY of the food items I've always grouped in the vegetable category are actually fruit! And here I always thought that fruit tasted juicy, sweet, and summery. Au contraire! Oh relief, maybe I won't starve after all!

For dinner and post dinner yesterday I stuffed bell peppers with beans, zucchini, and tomato, drizzled some olive oil (also a fruit!) and threw them in the oven. For evening snack I had grapes and an apple. Today for pre-breakfast I had a banana and grapes and for real-breakfast I had a smoothie. In a pan I threw together eggplant, red bell pepper, zucchini, and coconut with olive oil, cooked it and brought it to work for lunch, along with a crane melon. Tonight for dinner I will have butternut squash and probably more beans.

Apparently beans really ARE the magical fruit.

Also... notice anything different? Yep, I finally redesigned my blog! This has been something I've been planning on doing for awhile but I didn't really know how to design templates. I'm still not 100% satisfied so expect some changes in the coming days... :) And then go eat some fruit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

40 Days to Personal Revolution

This week I found out that more than 2 people read my blog! YAY!!! I know, I know this is supposed to be a travel blog, and it's named after my bike so I should write about cycling, but instead all I do is talk about YOGA. Well, this post is no exception! (Don't worry, I'll be traveling again in no time! Plans are in the works...)
I love Yoga.

This is from the Yoga Aid Challenge!

Anyway...back in January, I was depressed. SUPER depressed. My boyfriend had just left me, I had family drama, and I hated my job. Basically, I was running out of reasons to get out of bed in the morning. And then I heard about a program through my yoga studio called 40 DAYS TO PERSONAL REVOLUTION. Aghhh, self help. Well, I needed some self-help in my life so I enrolled!

The 40 Days program is based on a book written by Baron Baptiste that guides you to look deep within yourself and discover what isn't working in your life. You do yoga 6 days a week, meditate twice a day (which get incrementally longer each week), have weekly group meetings, shift your diet, answer in-depth self excavation questions, and oh yeah, read the book.

Not to be overly dramatic or super cliche, but the 40 Days program saved me. Not that I was near death or anything, but it saved me from a life of misery.

I already knew I was on the wrong path, but throughout the 40 Days I realized that I was the only person who had the power to change my path. And it was then that I found the courage to rid myself of the things that weren't serving me to become a happier, healthier person. I wanted to be free.

I found a new place to live, I distanced myself from caustic friendships, I tossed the clutter, and then I put in my notice at work and bought a ticket to Peru.

In February I remember saying, "I just want to wake up one day and be leading a completely different life". And now I am! Yoga hasn't changed my life. I've changed my life because of yoga.   

Nothing and nobody has the power to change your life besides you.

And now I am enrolled again in the 40 Days to Personal Revolution program! I have completed Week 3 and so far so good! I've managed to make it to yoga class 5-6 times per week. I'm meditating once a day (twice a day got to be overkill once each meditation session hit 20 minutes. baby steps...), I have rid meat and store-bought beer from my diet, and I am working on being more present and noticing my reactions.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up NOW is that tomorrow I start a 3-day Fruit Fast (cleanse?)~!  oh scariness... I opted out of the fruit cleanse last time because it was January and there was no fruit
I'm nervous/slightly paranoid that I'm going to starve to death. eeek!
I'll keep you updated!

Wow, yoga is hard.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Day I Pretended to be a Food Blogger

For me, cooking is a means to an end. I'm hungry, thus I must throw something on the stove and stir it around a bit so I can eat. I pretty much only know how to make 5 things well so I make them over and over and over and over and over again. Eating in restaurants isn't really an option because 1) it's expensive and 2) it's not very exciting to eat out alone. And since I prefer eating whole healthy fresh food, most affordable fast food type eateries aren't an option for me either.

I'm a little bit of a food snob... but I can't cook! Shameful...

The type of food I usually buy.

Anyway, lately I've been reading food blogs, well one actually. My friend Jenna actually makes a living from writing a blog! Can you BELIEVE it?!!! Amazingness. Since I'm not working much, and would rather than procrastinate than write my grad school application, I started reading her posts everyday, mostly to look at the pretty pictures of food and fantasize about eating such deliciousness.Yummmm.

And then yesterday after staring intently at her deep dish pizza recipe and wishing I create such a concoction, I had the epiphany that maybe, JUST MAYBE, I should actually tear my eyes from the photos and read the recipe, and (dare I say it) use the oven!

To me, the oven is a foreign object who's entire mission in life is to burn my food. So I've stopped using it altogether.

So last night after yoga I stopped by Trader Joes and picked up some dough-making supplies. And here I am, nearly 24 hours later, attempting to make a deep dish pizza!

Make dough... check!  Let dough rise.... check!  Slice toppings... check!

I put the pizza all together just like the recipe said. But I added basil because we have a ton growing in the garden.

I put it in the.... OVEN. eep!

And now it's ready to eat... but how will it taste? I'm afraid to find out. It took like 2 hours to make! Although during that time I brought my computer into the kitchen to listen to Pandora and I also washed ALL my dirty dishes of which there were a TON (I dislike washing dishes even more than using the oven and grocery shopping... wow I could NEVER be a food blogger!). Oh how I digress to avoid tasting my own pizza.




............ I'm still eating it. oh my god, it's sooo good.

I definitely consider this one a success! Does this mean I'm going to throw out my dreams for travel and become a food blogger? No way, Jose! But I may investigate more into these so-called "recipes".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

High School Reunions Are Weird

I came. I went. I conquered... my high school reunion that is. Which was just this past weekend. And let me tell you, it was STRANGE.

I had seen Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion enough times to know what to be prepared for. Not to mention, I also watched Grosse Point Blank and Peggy Sue Got Married to get me ready for this grand affair. So I knew what to expect: PROM - but 10 years later. It seems that in every reunion movie, the event takes place in a large ballroom or the high school gym. A group of bitchy girls hassle the protagonist. And a boy who was not hot in high school shows up looking completely gorgeous and sweeps you off your feet declaring his undying love for the high school version of yourself.

This did not happen.

First of all, the event was held in a fancy hotel, but not in a ballroom. Most of the action centered around the bar. And no one danced. The Mean Girls that terrorized my childhood didn't show up (except for one and we didn't even address each other). And many of the guys were alot cuter in high school than now - 10 years later.

But the part that surprised shocked me the most was the extent to which I got hit on! I'm not used to being hit on at all, let alone by the boys that ignored me back in high school. All through the night various males approached my friends asking if I were single and saying things like, "wow, Melanie got pretty". And guys bought me drinks all night, to the point that I had to ask them to stop buying me drinks!... This has never happened in my life.

I tried to make sense of it all... because I look EXACTLY THE SAME as I did in high school. Well, my hair is darker now and has layers. But other than that I look the same. So what changed? And then I realized, I didn't "get hot", what I got was self-esteem and confidence.

Before I went to college, I was timid and had low self-esteem. When a football player made a wisecrack comment I didn't know how to retort a witty comeback. I continually compared myself to other girls at my school and wished I could be like them... more athletic, more popular, more stylish, more outgoing, etc. But over the past 10 years I've gained a ton of confidence.
Rather than wishing I were like someone else, if I wanted something I'd jump through hoops in order to achieve it. For example, when I wished I was more athletic, I became a triathlete. When I wished I was more fashionable, I sketched the outfits of other women until I learned how to put an outfit together. When I wished I was more well-traveled, I bought plane tickets.

Now I walk with my head held high and there is no one I'd rather be... but me. And THAT is what those boys (men?) noticed. Confidence, not physical appearance, is what makes someone stand out in a crowd.

Friends :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So What Have You Been Up To?

Nothing strikes pain in the heart of a stagnant vagabond quite like the question, “so what have you been up to?” It forces one to address the stark reality of the situation: you are doing absolutely nothing.

best reunion movie ever
Okay, that's not true. I'm doing a ton. I work two part-time jobs. I take two college classes. I do yoga and ride my bike every day. And I play... Hard.

But the fact is, whenever I explain my lifestyle to someone, I am met with disapproving frowns. Heads shake from side to side, perplexed how a girl who once had once shown so much promise and ambition could be wasting away her potential. They say, "You quit your 'perfectly good job' during a recession for what? So you could go on vacation and do yoga?" I could scream!

I have absolutely no regrets about leaving my career. Yeah, money is more difficult to come by these days, but I'm a thousand times happier. I don't wake up every morning dreading the day. I show up to work each morning at 6am and greet each customer with a smile because I am genuinely glad to be there.

It is with this mentality that I will charge headfirst into my 10 year high school reunion, which is THIS SATURDAY! Holy moly, where has the time gone? And I am preparing myself to answer the age-old question, "so what have you been up to?" over and over and over again. Others say, "I am between jobs". I will say, "I am between travel".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Africa Yoga Project

On Sunday I participated in a fundraiser for the Africa Yoga Project, an AMAZING program based in Nairobi, Kenya. The goal of the project is to empower locals to become leaders in their communities through yoga. My  studio raised over $10,000 to help continue the program and facilitate even more teacher training courses in Africa!

The morning started with a skype-in meditation session led by Francis, one of the yoga teachers in Kenya who was trained through the project. Next we watched a documentary about Africa Yoga Project featuring Margret, one of the Kenyans whose life was changed by the program. And then, guess who was there to teach the class? Why it was Margret herself! And let me tell you... she was hardcore. I had just participated in a ridiculously long bike race the day before and was ill-prepared for bootcamp. But even though my limbs were about to fall off I had a blast! Energy was high in the room especially after Paige (the creator of Africa Yoga Project) stepped in and took over teaching. At one point the entire room erupted into dance! And I'm not talking about stomping to drum beats... we were DANCING. USA-style shake your booty dancing to Michael Franti/MC Yogi.


However the best part of the day was a conversation between my yogi friend Jenna and her boyfriend who had never done yoga before.
Boyfriend: Wow, everyone here is so.... happy.
Jenna: Yeah, that's what yoga DOES.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gran Fondo

Back in January, during a temporary lapse in sanity I registered for Levi’s Gran Fondo - a 100-mile bike ride through the most treacherous climbs of Sonoma County. The tickets were pricey, but hey, I had 10 months to train for this ride, right? WRONG. Lesson: never commit yourself to anything more than 2 months in advance because you don’t know what curve-balls life will throw your way.

Yeah I trained... until June. At which point I left for South America and didn’t sit on a bike saddle again for 3 months. When I returned home, Sheila the Wonder Bike was pretty beat up from her rough life in a dirty storage shed. I fully intended on fixing her up to start training, but then school started, then the odd jobs started, and suddenly I realized the event was in a mere two weeks! Frantically, I tried to sell my ticket but to no avail. So I started to train.... slowly.

SO MANY cyclists waiting for the race to begin.
 Well, Saturday was the event... and.... SUCCESS! My friend Kevin and I met up bright and early Saturday morning and biked to the start together. There were 7,500 people registered to ride which was evident. 5...4...3...2...1... and... nothing? It took about 15 minutes after the race started before we began to inch toward the start. But then we were riding strong amidst throngs of other ambitious cyclists excited to conquer to the Sonoma County hills and perhaps get a glimpse of THE Levi Leipheimer. We rode out of west Santa Rosa neighborhoods, through the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and through giant redwoods on Occidental Road toward Occidental. There was a bit of a climb on Occidental Road but nothing too terrible. As we descended down Occidental Road there was a nasty accident where I heard the paramedics say to the crash victim, "You don't remember anything?". Youch.

snacks --- yummmmy
 In Occidental we reached the first break station: toilets, bike mechanic, water bottle exchange, etc. And food. Ohhh the food. I've competed in a gazillion races but have never encountered a spread quite like this. PB&Js, m&ms, nuts, cliff bars, fig bars, bananas, grapes and STRAWBERRIES were only a few of the items available for consumption. Sheila was in great shape thanks to my friends at Breakaway Bikes and she was riding like a dream! But one of the brand new cables had stretched out a bit so I waited in line for the mechanic, a fine fellow from NorCal Bikes to fix her up. Feeling refreshed and thankful for the cloudy bike-friendly weather, Kevin, The Dark Knight (Kevin's bike), Sheila, and I made our way down Bohemian Highway towards Monte Rio. The road was pretty much downhill/flat and EMPTY. There were literally no other cyclists on the road with us. I'm not sure where they all went, but I guess we took so much time enjoying the break station that all the other riders took off.

In Monte Rio, a sign split the riders into two groups. Right for the "Gran" riders to continue north into Cazadero and up the dreaded King Ridge Road, an intensely brutal climb at the moment being plagued by thunderstorms and slick roads. OR left for the "Medio" riders to skip that hell and go straight to the coast. Given the two scenarios and checking in with our sanity (and remembering that we didn't train for this event) we chose to head left down Moscow road to the little town of Duncan Mills. After refreshing at another break area we continued west on highway 116 and up the road toward Goat Rock State Beach. Just past Sizzling Tandoor (a DELICIOUS Indian restaurant) was a sign guiding those who desired a steep off-road experience up Willow Creek Road. But since The Dark Knight and Sheila the Wonder Bike only had skinny road bike tires we opted to stay on Highway 1 and headed south along the coastline. The ride was beautiful! Rolling hills along a rugged rocky coastline. And then at the next break area at Schoolhouse Beach we ran into Levi.

 Feeling punchy, I asked him if he would take a photo with my bike Sheila. The converstation went as follows:
Me: Will you be in a photo with my bike Sheila? She's almost as famous as you are.
Levi: (looks confused) Don't YOU want to be in the photo?
Me: That's not necessary.
Levi: I really think you should be in the photo.

Levi checked out Sheila and seemed shocked that I would take a 1980s Nishiki on such a rough ride, but I reiterated my theory on bikes: it's not the bike, it's the rider. I don't need a better bike, I just need stronger legs. Then a few other people asked to take pictures of Sheila and inquired about her. I found the whole circumstance so hilarious that I laughed my way up Coleman Valley Road! Note: Coleman.Valley. Is. HARD. The first ascent is SUPER STEEP and occasionally when I put my foot down for a quick break I couldn't get back on the bike because the slope grade was too much! Nevertheless I pulled through the burn and made it to the top. Other cyclists cheered me on and several complimented Sheila. I was feeling great by the time I reached Ocean Song (an intentional community/another break area) at the top of the mountain. Kevin and I did some stretches and mentally prepared ourselves for the two more climbs ahead of us before the descent back home. Only 20 miles to go!

Kevin & The Dark Knight
 However, those last couple climbs, although not as hard as the initial ascent, killed our legs. His knee hurt. My wrist and hip hurt. I was about the start complaining about the pain until I realized how lucky I really am! My roommate works with developmentally disabled adults and she tells me stories about how many of them make up tales of adventures they will never be able to go on. They can't use the toilet by themselves, let alone ride a bike! And then it hit me. I am so lucky to have been given the body, mind, and lifestyle that I have! There are millions of people out there who would not be able to hop on a bike without training and ride up steep mountains for 70 miles, just because they felt like it. Realizing that I was truly blessed gave me the encouragement I needed to get to the finish line.

Although the roads from Sebastopol to Santa Rosa were pretty darn flat, I felt like my legs were going to fall off. Nevertheless, Kevin and I powered up and raced to the finish line. VICTORY! After parking our bikes we crawled over to the beer booth for our complimentary IPA (courtesy of New Belgium) and grabbed a free plate of paella. After resting awhile in the grass amidst the festival we summoned the energy to bike back home. Each press of the pedal felt like 1000 daggers and I could barely get upstairs to my apartment. But you know what? It was worth it! I was given the opportunity to go on a super fun bike ride through freshwater marsh, redwood forest, riverine valley, rocky coastline, and coastal grassland with spectacular views, with an awesome friend. Life.Is.Good. :)