Saturday, December 29, 2001
an excellent day on the yoga front!
had some time on this very cold day for some afternoon yoga. so i pulled on the black cashmere sweater mr. right gave me recently, and headed out the door to yoga mandali. this small, intimate studio two blocks from anusara yoga haven, devoted to the teachings of john friend.
and who should i find substitute teaching there this afternoon but my old friend jessa zinn, who i hadn't seen since the recent tragic events! she taught an excellent and inspiring vinyasa class, with a lot of focus on proper hip and leg alignment. it's all good. i highly recommend this studio -- but get there early, the space is minute! still there were only 5 people in the class so everyone got lots of beneficial personal attention and gentle adjustments. jessa is a fun teacher, but a great discourager of sloppy yoga.
she had some interesting alignment tips in trikonasana, a simple standing pose. usually this is taught so that you aim to keep the points of the hip bones level and your entire body in two parallel lines. sometimes this is expressed as "pretend you are between two panes of glass."
frankly, i always found this sort of "cut off" my legs from my torso so that all the weight of my torso would wind up in my back. and i felt annoyed that i could never manage to do even such an easy pose well. jessa's adjustment -- to move the femurs back and stick your rear out a little -- however solved that problem; while i might not have rotated as far around in the chest, my back didn't bother me and my legs felt light and connected. i also could get my hand to the floor for the first time.
as i said, it's all good! yoga mandali: go there.
Friday, December 28, 2001
today the viewing platform for ground zero -- the site of the tragic world trade center attack -- opened in a big way.
i'm working just 1-1/2 blocks from the platform, and when i arrived to work this morning at 9am, the sidewalks were already jammed with people waiting in line. the line extended from fulton street to park place, three people wide. i could scarcely get in the front door of the woolworth building.
while i'm very happy that so many people have come to new york to spend money and help us out, i do have mixed feelings about the crowds of tourists. what is it that they hope to experience standing on the plywood ramp, filming away? a sense of sympathy -- or the thrilling spectacle of shock, like riding a monster roller-coaster of grief? i have to hope the tourists mean well.
what seems most melancholy for me now is to walk by fulton street and see what was directly behind the twin towers -- the charred frame of the world financial center's once-sparkling winter garden, which then housed stately palm trees. the tall, elegant trees appear to have died.
i can so clearly remember going there, sitting below the trees, and listening to robert fripp play a quiet and understated ambient winter piece called soundscape. it was later broadcast on the public radio show new sounds. the haunting and delicate passages rose gently and brushed against the palm fronds before they spread out to coat the crystal panes of the garden's greenhouse roof. . .
Thursday, December 27, 2001
well, well, well -- as you may or may not know, the server i publish on was hacked yesterday, but i think those naughty monkeys left me largely alone. however, gentle readers, if you find any problems, do let me know.
let's talk about a small and amusing but very important espresso item: the tamper. for those not yet blessed with an espresso set up, after you grind you fresh espresso into the portafilter (machine handle), you've just got a pile of loose grounds heaping about. you must level these off and pack them tightly so that the water flows over and into the coffee evenly and somewhat slowly. otherwise, you won't get good crema or the best flavor. the packing is done with a tamper. a good tamper and correct tamping method can improve your espresso. i know it sounds like a little thing.
but we have to remember that to extract the maximum of the coffee oils and natural sugars requires the water to be contact with the coffee equally and for a set amount of time. unequal water distribution means you get flavorless, weak coffee; water in contact with the coffee too short a time means coffee that's not going to benefit from the full extraction of natural goodness; water in contact with the coffee too long a time means coffee that's too strong, too caffeinated, too bitter.
thus the quest for a good tamper. usually when you buy a machine, the manufacturer tosses in a plastic tamper, often with a convex bottom. the problem is that the plastic isn't very heavy. you have to push harder to get a good tamp. and since it's not flat, the coffee won't be of equal thickness, meaning the water will contact some parts of the coffee longer than others. so you almost always have to buy a better tamper when you get a machine.
the ne plus ultra of tampers is the famed hand-made reg barber. i don't have one, but they are said to be a joy to use, due to the rosewood handle. i've put off buying one because i'm not sure whether i'd want a short one or a tall one. and they're a little too pricey to make that mistake!
Wednesday, December 26, 2001
my back may be somewhat better. . . so i went to yoga today for the first time in a week. bliss!
and now's a great time to tell you about one of my favorite vinyasa variations:
awkward chair pose
down dog split (down dog with one leg high in air)
spring to down dog flip (see below)
flow back through down dog split (keep that foot off the floor!)
cartwheel your hand down to side plank
flow back to three-point high plank (plank with one foot hooked over the other heel)
flow to three point chatarunga (chatarunga with one foot hooked over the other heel)
flow to three point up dog (up dog with one foot hooked over the other heel)
flow back to down dog
what's down dog flip? it's where from down dog split you take the high leg (say it's your right), fold it back so the heel comes near your hip, and you spring or "flip" yourself over so that the right foot touches the floor, your left leg is straight along the floor, your left arm has stayed down but you pivot on it a bit, your right arm is straight in the air (or some teachers do it so your right arms bends at the elbow along your body) and your hips are just slightly above the floor (don't sit down!). instead of facing down and forward to the mat, you're now facing up and back of the mat.
maybe i'll actually feel well enough to do this tomorrow. . .
Tuesday, December 25, 2001
the gotham chocolate cake at the gotham bar and grill is not pastry. . .it is a pure atmosphere of valrhona.
as mr. right so charmingly put it, "this cake is so airy you could hold it to a drowning person's nose and revive them." it is that light and perfect.
as for the coffee there, it's -- you've guessed it -- illy! everywhere i go, i can't escape from illy! sadly, the cappucino seemed a tad weak. but the foam was perfect, forcing me to ask myself: why no latte art? again, this is something we almost never see here in new york city. i wonder why. . . and then soon my thoughts wander back to the cake, that cake, that cake. . .
today, although our fridge is filled with lobster and champagne for a fancy dinner, mr. right switches course and asks for -- you've guessed it -- pizza. so margherita it will be. thank goodness i have a scrap of mozzarella in the house!
Monday, December 24, 2001
today is mr. right's birthday. . .happy birthday, mr. right!
so we're going out to eat at the gotham bar & grill. while the executive chef, alfred portale, is widely hailed, naturally i'm going to be more interested in the valrhona wonders of the pastry chef, joseph murphy.
however, fancy desserts really don't take the place of the home-made type birthday cake. yet a whole cake can be overwhelming for just two people, so i instead made chocolate lava muffins (scene 8). so easy, so good.
i used callebaut callets, celles sur belle french butter (it does make a difference even in baked goods, although i usually save money by using plugra), and ultra-premium french vanilla frozen custard for the sauce. but lemme warn you: underbake 'em by a minute, pop 'em outta the pans right away, make the whole thing in your kitchen aid stand mixer (the only lift is from the eggs, so you need to seriously beat 'em here), and when the recipe says chill, they mean freeze for 20 mins. this is more likely to result in the molten centers of your dreams.
Sunday, December 23, 2001
oh my aching back. . .
is slowly improving. i might see myself in yoga again after new year's. certainly not being able to do yoga makes me feel a little restless. but i am spending some time reading, which is always good.
the book i've been flipping through today, half-heartedly, in distraction is touching peace:
mindfulness is something in which we can all believe. it is our capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. to believe in mindfulness is safe and not at all abstract. our mindfulness is right here with us all the time. . . .mindfulness gives birth to insight, awakening, compassion, and love.