Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Keep the Light On

How odd to interrupt this blog break with an obit... There I was, minding my own business, answering the phone and typing emails, when I got a notice in my inbox that BKS Iyengar has died.

It's not much of a surprise. In truth, I've wondered for a while when I'd hear this news. The man was 95. It's also not much of a surprise that he lived practically all of those years (after a terribly sickly childhood) as hardy as an oak tree. Guruji was tough.

I came to understand this toughness first-hand, early in my yoga days, when I was in my late teens and I attended a three-day retreat at which he taught. Lord, that event was a trip. And not exactly a fun one. I remember falling out of sirsasana (headstand) in the middle of the room and being yelled at for my idiocy. He wasn't what I'd call a gentle master.

But I digress...

As a person who has been immersed in the Iyengar method for most of her life. As a person who's taught it and done it and thought about it and read about it and meditated on it for a quarter of a century (egad), you can believe me when I tell you that the man was a genius who changed the world. Of course, don't take it from me, take it from his New York Times obituary (a good read that might nonetheless have misidentified the cause of death - I'm hearing from every other source that it was renal, not heart, failure).

In his 80-year career, through his work, he transformed the minds and bodies of millions of yoga-doers. Practically everything you know from your yoga class down the block/at the studio/in the gym owes a good debt to the Iyengar method, regardless of whether your teacher recognizes it. Every time you've felt your sacrum soften to the touch of a bolster or blanket, every time your standing pose practice has been enlivened (or made possible) by a block and strap, you can thank Mr. Iyengar.

He was a phenomenal technician, an innovator, a doctor, a soulful artist whose muse was the skeleton. He was also very sharp, playful and a big-time egotist. Let's just say, he owned the room. And the room was yoga.

So, fellow yoga friends, tonight when you do your practice, may I recommend you turn your consciousness to a man who, directly or otherwise, has likely influenced your perspective, devised your restorative therapy, supported you through major illness or contributed to the physical confidence that guides you like a shining star. You've gotta love a guy who suggested that you need to able to find your big toe before bringing God into the equation.

Namaste, Guruji. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

In Which I Mimic The Colour Palette of the Great Outdoors

Hey y'all - it's quiet times here cuz things are just so busy everywhere else. And really, a girl needs a blog break every once in a while.

Just want to say a quick hello - and to let you know that normal programming should be back in a week or so.

In the meanwhile, here's a photo to show you a) my finished Aisance cardigan and b) my (soon to be blogged about) skinny sweat pants from Roots.

(I really am making an effort to show my face here even when I'm not feeling gorgeous...)

Mega thanks to Andrea for taking lots o' pics and for so excellently hosting me and Sara at her new home in the County last weekend.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


For someone who swore she wouldn't bother you with info about her fitness, I sure am interpreting that promise broadly. See, I've been up to this for 3 weeks and it strikes me I should tell you how it's entirely different than I thought it would be. This really is Solipsism 101, however, so do feel free to click back tomorrow for something less painfully "all about me".

What I'm Doing: You can see this post for a review of what I aimed to do before I began the New Regime.

As it happens, I have been going to the gym 3 times per week (@60 min each). Why? Well, it's not actually as horrible as I thought it would be. Sure, it's summer and the living is easy, but it strikes me I should habituate to the best of my ability before the bad weather sets in. Also, the classes I've opted to do aren't overly crowded (but they are well-attended).

I'm also practicing active yoga at home twice a week (@45-60 min each). Those practices have been more active than restorative because I'm trying to re-establish my muscle strength (while maintaining flexibility) to build on the work at the gym. If I'm feeling mentally lazy I do a couple of online yoga classes back-to-back (free ones from Yoga Journal).

At the gym, instead of doing cardio machines (which I've used a few times), instead I've gravitated towards the classes. I like their interactivity and the fact that they're in a separate, more quiet space. My goal is to try them all (and there are like 60 variations on a bunch of styles). So far, I've done yoga for one of those gym sessions each week. Why? Well, if I'm going to try them all, I might as well start with the ones that don't scare me. Also, I'm very intrigued to see how gym yoga has evolved in the last 20 years. (Natch, I have a post-worth of info on that which I'll bore you with another time.)

In addition to yoga, I've also been taking the classes that focus on core strength and muscle fitness. I just don't love jumping as much as using my body as leverage. However, I'm pleased to tell you that those muscle-based classes are VERY cardiovascular. I leave with rubbery muscles and covered in sweat (ugh, but I tolerate it).

You might be thinking: Kristin, you still seem to be doing more yoga than anything else. Yeah, well what of it? I'm also doing all the walking I used to do (nothing new there) but I'm systematically adding in some new stuff, approached in a style I can manage. It's a start. Point is, I'm doing much more active fitness than I was a month ago.

What It's Doing For Me: 

Let me start by assuring you that, if you're a person struggling to manage your regular life and all of its bits and pieces, you can add the gym, or some other kind of regular fitness you enjoy, without it sucking up every last bit of energy you have. (Time, well that's another matter entirely, I'm afraid...)

The reason for this, as near as I've been able to determine for myself, is that you use a different pool of energy for fitness than for other pursuits. As an analogy: Imagine that you "pay" for your regular life in cash (let's not suggest we're using credit, people!). The energy for the gym is "paid" by, let's say, an energetic debit card (still energy you own, but of a different format). You replenish the funds available by engaging in your activities of choice. Then you live off the proceeds while you're going about your day-to-day.

I'm amazed to say that I don't feel more tired doing all of this activity, though I am freakin' sore. But it does cut into the time I have to do other things and I'm still coming to terms with that.

But never mind the preamble, what differences can I see or feel?
  • I am stronger, more aligned and more flexible, which is very enjoyable. I've been so weak and exhausted since I had pertussis. This enlivens me.
  • I have a bit of observable, improved tone in my upper abdomen and backs of legs/lower derriere. I assure you, it's not going to get me my own reality show, but a couple of people have commented.
  • However, the main difference - and it's pretty notable - is in how it's undercut the symptoms of my, ahem, menopausal journey. Mercifully, my headaches are being well-managed by a couple of hormonal precursors (prescribed by my naturopath). But the epic that is PMS is playing at a lower volume in the last few weeks. I am far less bloated (it's almost all worth it for this reason alone), less prone to night-sweats and hot flashes. It's too soon to say, but it might actually have some impact, eventually, on the hemorrhagic aspect of my cycles. Of course, so will full-on menopause :-)
So there you go, three weeks in and worth doing.

I should say one other thing, since you'll note I haven't discussed whether I've "lost any weight". I deliberately didn't step on the scale before I started this exercise and I have no intention of doing so at any time going forward. IMO, scales are reductive and I don't understand the obsession with them. They don't tell you if you've lost fat (unless you have a fancy one and even then, the jury's out), they don't explain how you've gained muscle. They cannot advise you (like a simple tape measure), whether your waist is an inch less large.

I have eyes and clothing to tell me whether this regimen is having the intended external impact. And so do we all...

Today's questions: Have you recently begun to exercise hard? How are you feeling? At the gym, do you prefer the cardio or the muscle-tone classes? Are you one of those scale-watchers? Is there some hidden benefit to the scale, in your opinion, that I just don't get? I wanna know.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Kid Stuff

This day has been relentless. It started with gardening (which is slightly less "ugh" when every muscle isn't screaming from some day-before muscular workout). Then it segued into school shopping for my (rather entitled) teenager. Usually I resist her "needs", but she's about to start high school, so I gave in. With a proviso.

She got Nikes and Uggs and Lulu Lemons and Roots. (Until I became a parent, I never understood how anyone could spend so much fucking money on someone - other than herself...)

See, my kid is a hoarder from way back. She gets it from her father. Over the summer, however, she's put a ton of effort into remodeling her bedroom. She's fixed the plaster walls and painted. She drew and then painted a mural (of the Versace Medusa) - yes, I allowed this in the name of artistic expression. She's chosen all new furniture from IKEA (which we'll visit soon). The theme is 80s black and white.

But that child has clothing from grade 6 pushed into the back of her wardrobe. Who are we kidding - grade 4. She has every American Girl product that was ever made. She has never thrown out one piece of plastic jewelry she's ever been given. Did I mention that we could build a viable suspension bridge with her hair ties?

Y'all know I am as opposite to this as a human being could be. My every piece of clothing is folded perfectly and stored by weight and colour. I abhor clutter. I can barely stand my house right now, truth be told, between the basement (the fire hazard that is my husband's zone of hoarding) and all of the things that have fallen apart over the winter. I realize this is a terribly first-world problem, but I cannot understand how I work my ass off to ensure that I am not beholden to things and my family members thwart me at every turn. And they touch the walls with their grimy hands.

But back to the bargain. Today I agreed to spend a paycheck on teenage-style luxury goods in return for a true purge of the child's room. It was almost easy to gain her acquiescence, really, because she cannot stand what her room has become. She's spent 14 years digging in to avoid doing what I want and it's resulted in a prison for her.

So, today, after gardening and spending and negotiating, M and I came home and we cleaned. Oh, we cleaned for hours. We threw out so much stuff that most of it is still in bags in her closet (which we haven't even scratched the surface of, Lord help me) because we couldn't fit it into our outside bin.

Usually, I parse out everything and prepare stuff for the lawn and put stuff in batches for my sister's kids. I couldn't even bring myself to go there. It was all we could do to throw shit away (even as my eco-self was horrified). Much of it was in terrible shape or totally cheap and hideous (as is the way when your kid starts shopping for herself). Some of it has been left in the closet (for the next purge, next weekend) so I'll have to consider how to clean and repurpose that stuff.

What amazes me - and likely what would amaze my friends - is that her room was a pit of detritus but it didn't impact any part of the rest of the house. I backed off a couple of years ago, resigned to wait until she leaves home in adulthood before reclaiming and clearing the space. I couldn't stand the fighting. That child and I have fought over just about everything, it seems. I no longer have the will. I'm a hormonal mess, for fuck's sake.

At any rate, sometimes we join forces. And today, as we struggled in tandem, I realized I was doing the yeoman's work - the mother's work. We would never have been there, soaked in sweat, overwhelmed, if M had agreed to let go of things little by little. But even though it's an azure-skied Saturday in August, even though I would have thought I'd have been compelled to say "I told you so", I worked and cajoled. I calmed and problem-solved. And we got somewhere.

Then the wine opener broke as I was half way through uncorking a (well-deserved) 40-dollar Amarone. Needless to say, don't talk to me about letting go.

Friday, August 8, 2014

By the Numbers (Take Two)

I've no time to do much of anything here, but work and the administrative "life" stuff so, in the interests of a) avoiding my commitment to show you my latest Lady Skater dress (photos take effort) and b) reminding myself of the awesomeness that was my European vacation, please see my latest Best of / Worst of list (You can view the last one here):

Best Single Moment: For Scott, this was when he ordered a G&T at an awesome market-meets-restaurant and the server brought a glass of such proportions that I could not pick it up with one hand. To wit:

The glass arrived empty. The server then added ice and proceeded to advise Scott to "say when" as he poured what seemed like half a bottle of gin into the glass. We've never been anywhere that the strength of the drink was the patron's call - especially when the glass was like a tumbler on steroids. It cost 11 euros (amazingly the MOST money we spent on a drink the entire time we were away), but that's what it costs to have a watered down G&T in TO. 

For me, the best moment was probably when we walked into the apartment in Barcelona. I was enthralled by its elegance, by its authenticity. It was beautiful, functional, perfectly-appointed and the location could not have been better. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot and that my risk (not staying in hotels) had paid off in spades. 

Worst Moment: Well that deserves it's own post... To our credit, we bounced back within 12 hours (though the bouncing was harder for the guy who'd puked his guts up all night...)

Best Meal: It's a toss up between the (not gorgeous but life-altering) hole-in-the-wall pizza in Monpellier (sacrilege, I realize) or the paella at another hole-in-the-wall in Barcelona:

Best Dining Experience: The first meal at Garriga (we ate there a few times since it was 2 doors from our apartment). The service was awesome. We had potato omelets with the best local wine. The cortado after the meal was the most sublime coffee I've ever had in Europe. Sorry peeps, but I think coffee in France is almost as bad as coffee in NYC.

Worst Resto / Worst Food: Gotta say this place in Arles with lots of attitude and nothing to back it up. An American couple sitting a few tables over had a (reserved) melt-down over the woman's meal (which she felt was raw though she'd ordered it medium). The servers couldn't communicate adequately (or perhaps chose not to) and kept her waiting another 30 minutes for a new steak. We got off lucky (and Scott ate the largest duck breast either of us have ever seen), but they were out of everything I tried to order (at 7:30???) and there was very little flow to go with the ambiance. Also, the mosquitoes were out. 

Natch, the open-air market chicken was technically the worst food...

Oddest Occurrence: We spent NO time in a hotel of any sort - not even to drink or dine.

Best Surprise: The weather was the best I've ever experienced in my life, and I'm not exaggerating. Southern France / northern Spain were having a cool spell so temps were a mere 25C (aka nature's perfect temp) with NO humidity of any sort and constant sun. Like not a cloud in the sky weather. It was a salve for my very winter-beaten soul. It wasn't only the perfection of the weather that thrilled me (did I mention the Mediterranean breeze?) - but the duration of that perfection. The weather was unceasingly beautiful.

Second Best Surprise: Other than mosquitoes (the after effects of which are still visible), I didn't see one bug the entire time I was away.

Scariest Moment: It's a toss up between the cable car and the tower of the Sagrada Familia. I'm going with the tower... At least the cable car experience had a view that was (almost) worth dying for.

Most Surprising Things:
  • I was unaware of the deleterious impacts of poverty of southern France until I came upon them. The culture was palpably weary. The graffiti was out of control (though sometimes interesting).
  • The light in southern France, similarly weary, was nonetheless spectacular. It's inexplicable (though many paintings and books try to do it justice).
  • Arles was more like Spain than Spain.
  • Barcelona is one of the most friendly places I've ever visited. And one of the most beautiful.
  • Coming upon Camarguaise bull-fighting, like, on a little walk...
  • Staying in people's homes (while they aren't there, and if those homes are chic) is WAY more fun than staying in a hotel.
  • Montpellier is a university town. I mean, I knew there was a prominent university there. I just didn't think it was the only industry.
  • Swallows are seriously loud and very stealthy little birds. But they eat bugs so they can have at it.
Best Place: Barcelona, hands down.

Place To Skip: Montpellier. When your (tax-funded) Botanical Gardens are looking more unkempt than my backyard after a 3 week vacation, you need to up your game.

Best Pastry: Arles. That flan was spectacular...

Best Shopping: Barcelona must win because of its size and scope. (Furthermore, its offerings are suitable to my shape.) But Montpellier is nothing to shake a stick at. The shoe options were extensive.

But now to open up those lines fellow-travelers: Have you been to Arles? Montpellier? Barcelona? What was your best and/or worst? Let's talk!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Working It Working Out

I say, if you've got to go to the gym, you should at least enjoy buying cute things to wear to the gym. (Really, I'm so glass half full.)

I get that everyone is all free-to-be grungy at the gym (that one is rather politically incorrect to suggest it should be otherwise), but honestly - it's a public place. Would it kill everyone to put on something other than the wide-cut Hanes tshirt and a pair of crap biking shorts?

I for one do two things to prepare myself for the Y (and, as I've recently discovered it's a good thing too because one meets everyone she knows and doesn't while working out: Sarah Polley, check. My former Deputy Minister, check three times. Mums of M's friends from junior school. Yup.): I wear lipstick and a chic outfit.

Before you suggest that said outfit might be chic now because I just went out and bought it and, in 6 months it'll look like shit, allow me to refute this claim: When it looks like shit, I'll throw it out and start again.

As you may know, my persona has a bit of a performance artist bent. I dress to liberate my imagination, which is vivid. Who am I, in any given circumstance? When I go into fancy work meetings, I wear a power suit (but a delicate one). When I'm out for dinner at some hipster joint, I ensure to be dressed utterly opposite. At the gym, I'm channeling the midtown yogini meets the 80s aerobic princess. Sure, I was there the first time (in both instances), but it gives an air of authenticity.

Peeps, if I could wear some crazy, striped bodysuit with a pair of magenta leggings and some legwarmers, I would be all over it. (Don't worry, my goal is to blend in - with a little twist of personality.)

In truth, I'm subtle. My go-to items include:
  • Outfits you can walk to the gym in (cuz I try to avoid the change room when I can)
  • Things with a bit of colour, but not too much...
  • Fitted items (that only highlight the bits I want to show off)
Let me say that you do not have to spend a zillion dollars on active wear, as I'm sure you already know, but it sure is fun to do so... One day I'll tell you about how I went to Lulu Lemon's first trunk show at the home of a venerable fashion entrepreneur at the Creed Lofts. For me, Lulu is so 1998. And yet, it still makes some of the best shorts, yoga pants debacle aside. (All of the tops are too long, btw, if you're short or your torso is. You can do better elsewhere.)

On that topic, have you heard of the Lab? Whenever I think of this I imagine beady-eyed engineers slaving underground (at an undisclosed location) to make the worlds most functional activewear evah. Gotta love the concept store.

At any rate, I bought these shorts for a stupid amount of money (75ish CDN) but, seriously, I could wear them out all day:

Lulu Lemon Lab: Noir Shorts (Could these people make their site a little bit less douchey??)

They're super flattering even if your lower abdomen isn't like board. The sides roll up and held with a tab and button (sort of visible by the model's hand in the second photo).

But, when you're not looking to spend a ton and you want to blend in, Gap Fit really does some very functional pieces. Sure, they're mostly knock-offs of everything you've seen elsewhere, but the fabrics are great and they stock colour. Hilariously, I went in the other day (40% off sale) but my phone was dead so I couldn't show them my e-coupon. But, because they had my email address (associated with my credit card), they simply gave me the discount?!?! Honestly, I bet if you go into that store on any given day and ask for a discount, just cuz, they'll give it to you. It's no wonder they can't turn a profit.

Today's questions: What do you wear to the gym? Are you one of those peeps in the over-sized T? (Feel free to explain why that's the way to go!) Do you channel a persona at the gym/yoga studio/when you run etc.? Have you tried Lab? Do you loathe Lulu Lemon (it's sort of hard not to)? Let's talk!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

This Makes Me Want To Take Up Skating

Yesterday, I lost some. Today, I won... In 2.5 hours (from cutting to hemming), I made a Lady Skater in my Liberty jersey.

Lest you think that the process was quick because I've done it so many times before - this is but my second version. And it's as fucking awesome as the first.

In some ways, this one is better than the first one because today I was on my game, I'd made it once before and my workmanship (what with stars aligning) was stellar.

I love this dress. It's so intuitive to create, so simple (but elegant), a whole outfit in the time it would take to make a T shirt. And really, it looks so good on me, people at work have emailed to tell me that they saw me in the hallway and my dress is awesome (plus where did I get it?). I make a lot of things, and many of them are well-complimented (to my great pride), but this one is in a class of its own. It just works.

How do I feel about the Liberty Fabric, having used it for the first time?

It's beautiful to work with, no question (though this seems non-optional to me what with it costing 40 bucks a yard). It sews easily, it feels great. The drape is perfect. If money were no object, and the offerings were plentiful, I could see myself using this stuff most of the time. I can say that it fades slightly (almost imperceptibly) over the bust (where it stretches the most). I wouldn't want to make the dress any larger - it fits really well and I really like the amount of negative ease in the bust - but this doesn't happen with my striped version. I wonder if it has something to do with the way the fabric was dyed or the extent to which it has been dyed (it's VERY saturated). Don't get me wrong, this fading is almost unobservable and it will likely disappear altogether as the fabric stretches over a wearing or two, but I find it odd. Before my next purchase, I will stretch my Liberty jersey very taut to see how the fabric changes with stretching.

In terms of the look of the fabric, it is mesmerizing. I'm not into prints, as you know, and I'm really not into busy, colour-rich prints, but this fabric channels the sea and the sun. It's a portrait of nature but is simultaneously geometric. It's an optimistic, rich print and it's quite unusual.

My goal is to take a photo later today (on the dress form, if it'll fit over the shoulders), if not on me (looking too weekend grungy). I'll upload it later tonight or tomorrow.

Today's questions: What's your most flattering pattern? Which one do you like sewing most? And when you merge those variables, which pattern comes out on top? Let's talk...