Saturday, May 26, 2012

Here we go again!

I recently had a request from a friend to start blogging again. It's been almost a year since I was blogging regularly and I'm not sure I have space in my life to blog every week day again. Part of this year, for me, has been about balance. I feel like last year my life was slightly out of balance and I'm finally getting to a place that feels better, so perhaps I'm ready to try adding a few other things again.

Either way I've been feeling the pull to start writing again, but I can't put my finger on what I want to write about. I have a couple of things cooked up that might be coming your way soon, but no promises. Some old blogs I never finished, some pictures of vacations I've taken and haven't shared, some new ideas I've been wanting to share.

But first, I'm going on vacation, to Mexico, perhaps I'll tell you about it when I get back.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Aparagraha and Easter

I grew up in a faith tradition and family for which Easter is a big deal. The wake up at six AM to go to sunrise service kind of big deal.

For a variety of reasons, in the past several years I've grown away from my Christian practice. Not the values or beliefs so much as the act of going to church and participating in a Christian community intentionally. Mostly this has to do with a lack of fulfillment for me.

However, even though I don't go to church regularly, I've continued to hold on to several of the practices of the lenten and Easter season. I see it as an opportunity to reflect and start over.

About a month ago, around the start of lent (not intentionally so) I started attending a yoga class on Sunday mornings.

At the particular yoga center I started attending, they focus on a new topic each month. Right now they are focusing on the yamas or the yoga ethical code.

In March they focused on Brahmacharya, or moderation. Interestingly enough this topic coincided with Lent, when we give up certain things that are excesses in or regular life.
With the start of April, we moved on to Aparagraha, which focuses on non-possesiveness. It didn't sink in how appropriate these two topics were for this Christian season until today, Easter.

At Easter we celebrate the rising of Christ from the dead, by which he saved us from our sins and gives us eternal life. It's the time of year we celebrate new beginnings, and new life.

Aparagraha is about letting go of things you have been holding on to that are no longer serving a purpose. Today, I was reflecting on what these things may be for me: Control over situations I either can't or shoudn't control, guilt over things I've done wrong or not as well as I had hoped, trouble keeping myself from or letting go of possesions that I don't really need.

Then I realized that this is a good way to think about the celebration of Easter. Jesus died and rose to save us from holding on to things that serve no good purpose for us, from sinning. He did this to help us make room for those things that bring us life and joy.
When I was reflecting on Brahmacharya, my main take away was not the need for less in my life but the need to realize that what I have is enough, that I am enough.

When I put these two things together, I come away with the ability to let go of things; thoughts, feelings, possesions, that are taking up space that shouldn't and embrace the enoughness in my life.

Whether Easter and it's meaning is important to you or not, I felt like these thoughts were worth sharing. So with that, I have one thing to say: YOU ARE ENOUGH, for no other reason than because you are.

Happy Easter! Namaste!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Herding Big Horn Sheep

On the second day my husband and I were in Glacier, we got up early to take some pictures while the morning light was still clear. Afterwards we headed up to the Logan Pass Visitors center to use the restroom before our big hike for the day. When we arrived, there were several Big Horn Sheep grazing in a meadow beside the visitor's center. 

As we were parking, several of the sheep came into the parking lot and started licking the ground and running around. Thinking this was an excellent photo opportunity we both reached for our cameras, only to notice moments later, a ranger rushing through the parking lot and chasing the sheep back to the meadow. Bummed, we watched as she started honking and eventually got out of her truck to chase them away. 

My husband went over the meadow to get some close up photos and eventually the ranger pulled up next to him and explained that the sheep come into the parking lot to drink the antifreeze, which tastes sweet to them but is in fact poisonous. She asked that if they tried to come back to chase them out again by clapping and stomping your feet. 

When they did come back into the parking lot however, my husband interpreted this to mean that he should get in his car and chase them like the ranger did. So get in the car and chase them we did. It's not every day that you get to honk at a chase Big Horn Sheep out of a parking lot at 7:30 in the morning. 

I didn't get a great picture of us chasing them, but I think you'll get the idea. 

- Sara

Glacier National Park, Montana

The second stop on our trip was Glacier National Park. We entered through the east entrance (St. Mary) and camped right inside the park at the Rising Sun Campground. It was a pretty nice campground, even if we had to go to the little store and pay $2.50 to take showers. We learned on the last day that the West Entrance to the park has a lot more stores and restaurants, but I was happy we stayed in the less busy side of the park. 

Wild Goose Island at Dawn

While in Glacier we did a few short hikes and one very long 12.4 mile hike to Gunsight Lake via the Gunsight Pass trail. If we had planned ahead better and arrived a day earlier, we could have done a 15 mile one way hike and used the well organized shuttle system in the park to get back to our car. Oh well, maybe next time. 

View of Jackson Glacier from Gunsight Lake Trail

Gunsight Lake

I have to say this park boasts some of the most beautiful views I've seen anywhere. It could be the weather, or that I was on vacation, but I don't think I'm exaggerating. Driving around early in the morning we saw plenty of Big Horn Sheep and on our hike we caught a glimpse of a Moose drinking from the river (from a far enough distance that us that the Moose didn't feel threatened). 

Big Horn Sheep


Some of the hikes in the northern part of the hike were closed due to grizzly bear sightings, but we didn't come across any in our hikes.

I could easily see myself renting a cabin or setting up a tent for a week with some friends or family as a part of some future summer adventure. There was plenty to do and see that we didn't get to see while we were there and the shuttle system makes it easy for people to either stick together or do their own thing without depending on every person having a car. 

- Sara

Monday, September 12, 2011

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Many people don't know this, but Glacier National Park is part of an International Peace Park. The international side of it is Waterton Lakes in Canada. My husband and I camped at this park for the first two nights of our vacation. Unfortunately, due to a flat tire, we didn't see quite as much of the park as we had liked, but we did see enough to know we'd like to go back for a longer trip some day. 

The prairie comes right up to the outside of the park

Waterton Lake

Because of our last time, we only get in a few 2 mile hikes. But the views from the lake more than made up for it. Camping in this park was easy, the showers are free, there's hot water in the bathrooms and the campground is within walking distance of the little village complete with restaurants, shopping, a gas station and bars. If you're looking for a place to take you're family, I highly recommend this park. Be warned however, the park was very windy. I mean so windy that I had to sleep with head phones on one night because I was afraid we were going to blow away. 

Bertha Falls

Caldwell Lake

If camping isn't your thing, there were plenty of small cabins that looked like rentals, and there's always the historic Prince of Wales Chalet, one of the Chalet's built by the Great Northern Railroad as part of the "See America First" campaign in the early 1900's. 

Prince of Wale Chalet

It was a great first stop for our trip. 
- Sara

Why I've been silent

So I know I failed to post the week before I went on vacation, but if it makes it any better, I was planning to. That was, until my husband and I took on a massive canning project. In a weeks time we canned raspberry jam, peaches, applesauce and picked beets. All while getting ready for vacation. It was quite a challenge and caused us to have many late nights that we're not used it. Needless to say, we earned our vacation!

Apples we picked and peaches we bought

I just ate the blueberries, but those raspberries are jam

To make up for the mostly missed week, I'm going to try and post double this week. Partially because I have a lot of photos from our vacation I want to share with you. 

I turn my jam upside down to seal it,
sometimes it makes the jam stick to the top

- Sara

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cake Eight: Old Fashioned Crazy Cake

This cake is apparently a cake that has been around since World War II. When eggs were rationed. Today we can call it a Vegan cake, that is if you make a frosting without butter, milk or eggs. 

This was the easiest cake I've made by far and you'll see why in a moment, because for the first time I'm going to provide the recipe. That's right! I brought this cake to work and so many people have asked for it and there's so many variations of this traditional recipe that I thought I'd share this one and why it worked.  

You might see me make different kinds of cake in the next four months. I'm getting a little bored with the traditional round cakes I've been making. It might also be that I've been very busy and the idea of assembling a cake is just too much sometimes!

Here's the Recipe:

1 1/2 cups spooned and leveled unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder (not dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup cold water or weak coffee (I used cold water)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In an 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan (be sure to grease if not using nonstick), stir together to blend the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Poke 2 small holes and 1 large hole in the dry ingredients with the handle of a wooden spoon. Spoon the vinegar into one small hole, and the vanilla into the other small hole. Pour the oil into the large hole. If it overflows, it is okay. Pour the cold water over the top and stir well to blend all of the ingredients together until smooth. Don't hesitate to stir. You wan to develop some gluten to hold the cake together. 
3. Place the pan in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out moist, about 30 minutes. Place the cake on a rack to cool in the pan. You can garnish by sprinkling with confectioners' sugar, or ice with a simple frosting. Serve from the pan. 

So how does this cake work? My favorite cake book BakeWise tells me "when you add the water, the oil floats, which allows the water to get to the flour and form gluten when you stir. The acidity from the vinegar helps flour proteins to coagulate and set the cake nicely."

I used King Arthur Unbleached all-purpose flour, because I'm told that it has a high-protein content (giving the gluten a better chance of form). I used Hershey's natural cocoa powder and made a vegan coconut frosting using earth balance butter flavored spread, powdered sugar, coconut milk and coconut extract.