Travelogue: Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend, I went to Chicago and had an unadulterated blast. We did so much in so little time and caught up on sleep. What I love so deeply about traveling is the way time seems to slow down and speed up and take on a life of its own all at once. That weird stretching and tightening of time was the making of a phenomenal mini-vacation. Here’s what we did:

Art Institute

I’ve been to Chicago before and knew that this time, I needed to go to the Art Institute. The spaciousness and quality of the museum represents what Chicago is all about: all the goodness cities have to offer without the cluttered feeling they often give off.

Bad Apple Brewery

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image via Pinterest

This place had an overall awesome vibe with an insanely lovely waitstaff. It made me really realize I wasn’t in New York anymore. The burger I had, too, was extremely satisfying (it was topped with fig puree and goat cheese!).

SoulCycle

The Hip Hop Saturday class we took at the Southport location (which is in such a cool part of town!) was absolutely phenomenal. Kirsten opened class with my fave track from the new Kendrick Lamar album, and it was at that moment that I knew I was in for a kickass ride.

Amazon Bookstore

I didn’t know that these existed before coming across this one! I love going to bookstores as a core way of exploring a new city, and this concept store (basically, it’s Amazon prime, but with physical books) was not a disappointment in the least! They also had a Stumptown Coffee Roasters inside (score!).

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Confession: I’m not a huge ice cream person, but the #basic in me is a major lover of frozen yogurt. Jeni’s, which is known to have the best ice cream in the midwest, has their own way of making froyo: with buttermilk! In case you can’t tell by the joy on my face, it was absolutely delish.

Violet Hour

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We went for before-dinner drinks at the chicest cocktail bar I have ever been to in my entire life: Violet Hour. I went there during my first trip to Chicago, and it was classy AF.

Big Star

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Image via Groupon

Right across the street from Violet Hour is Big Star, where we went for delicious tacos and an avocado-pumpkin seed salad that had me smacking my lips. It was an overall joy-filled time!

Intelligentsia

En route to the airport, we had to stop at Intelligentsia because a major way to know a city is through its coffee (in my humble opinion). When I walked in, I had a sudden desire to be a freelancer there.

Where’s your next weekend vacay? Care to share the fun places you go? 

Philadelphia in a Short Weekend

When we talk about weekend getaways, we often talk about them in terms of the “long weekend” (three to four days of pause + refuge from work). That whole notion changes for me come October when I start working six-day weeks. That said, I’m doing what I love while striving to practice self-care, which makes it more than okay. So, the weekends when I have a full two days off become my own version of a “long-short weekend” (happiness is inversely proportional to expectations, right?!).

The first weekend in October, my guy and I took a short weekend trip to Philadelphia. It. Was. So. Much. Fun. While I grew up on the East Coast (he didn’t), I have never spent any real time in Philly; I’ve only passed through the city. So much of it felt like Portland…this could have been because we were there on a rainy day and ate donuts – two very Portland-y things. It was an utterly chill way to spend 36 hours. Here’s what we did…I recommend all of it.

Food Tour: Michael Solomonov
Upon entering Philly, we needed food and knew that we wanted to check out Michael Solomonov’s amazing restaurants. Solomonov, most commonly known for Zahav (and the drop-dead gorgeous Zahav cookbook), has a network of restaurants with all different – and yet the same essential – vibes.
Dizzengoff

Our first stop was Dizzengoff, which is the name of a street in Tel Aviv. It has a basic menu of hummus plates with a small variety of toppings, as well as Sunday shakshuka brunch. In short, you can say we tried everything during the trip – that’s the beauty of short menus. That, and the fact that with a minimalist menu, they utterly master their offerings. Highlights included skillet shakshuka straight out of the oven and the pita made right in front of us.
Abe Fisher
Abe Fisher was the destination. I believe we made a reservation there before we made a reservation at a hotel. The entire time we ate this MIND-BLOWING meal there, we were also in shock that no one has come up with Jewish comfort food fusion cuisine to this scale before. It was so, so incredible. Each of our many courses, as well as the complimentary tasting bites they brought out along the way was a highlight, but here’s what I will likely always remember:
  • Matzo Ball Gratin
  • Latkes topped with Beef Tartare
  • Mini Rugelach with Bacon Date Filling
Federal Donuts
Unbeknownst to me until our car ride back into the city, Solomov is also responsible for the famed Federal Donuts. While we did not try the zaatar fried chicken, the donuts were excellent (and I am most definitely not usually a donut person). I brought back a box for the roommates and the churro and tres leches donuts seemed like the biggest hits.
Museums
Mutter
Right after we ate at Dizzengoff, we headed over to the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians. Overall, I’m really glad that we went, though to be honest I don’t think I was able to handle the bottom floor. The bottom floor contained all the reasons why I did not go into the medical profession. The gore, anomalies that could not get figured out, and cadavers creeped me out, even though I wish they didn’t. That said, the top floor was insanely cool. The Civil War exhibit contained a whole part of history – the medical component – that does not get told as often as it needs to. It made me realize how recent most of our medical technology is (Mutter, a doctor from Philly, was the first one to use general anaesthesia as we know it today in the United States). The top floor also had a special Brothers Grimm exhibit with models of what the fictionalized medical anomalies in many of the Brothers Grimm stories would look like in real life.
The Barnes Foundation
The premise of the Barnes Foundation musuem is incredible. From the website:
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast, old master paintings, African sculpture, American paintings and decorative arts, antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia, and Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles.
Because the foundation is a displacement of art from Barnes’ original home / house into a more museum-like setting, it felt crucial to keep in mind that the layout and pairing of the art work was all his individual intention. Albert Barnes was a prestigious doctor with, clearly, a sizeable amount of money, who arranged his art in peculiar ways. While I was on sensory overload, I was also reminded of my deep love of Renoir and Degas. Seeing them almost in concert with one another and the more Fauvist art of Matisse was, to say the least, inspiring.
Architecture
Beth Sholom Frank Lloyd Wright
We went on quite a lengthy tour of Beth Sholom, a synagogue designed by Frank Lloyd Wright located just outside Philadelphia. The exterior was, to say the least, bizarre. It legit looks like the synagogue from outer space. The inside was elegant and modern, yet imposing because of the architecture itself and Frank Lloyd Wright-ness of it all. I highly recommend taking this tour if you’re in the area. We got a lot of bang for our buck in terms of history, all that we were able to see, and context for it all. The coolest part was that the synagogue saved every single hilarious and meaningful correspondence between Frank Lloyd Wright and the rabbi who instigated this project, Mortimer Cohen.
Houses
Because I was traveling with an architect, we also stopped by some very interesting houses on our way out of town: the Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill and the Escherick House.

Recalibrating

That night, I was sad to have this short vacation be over. Upon returning, I realized how much I value – and on a deep level – mini vacations squeezed in amidst the busy-ness of everyday (school year) life. Within an hour of getting home and dropping off some donuts for the roommates, I was off to SoulCycle to get my sweat on. It felt necessary and cathartic to do something intentional after so much fun.
What are some weekend trips you’ve been on recently? Any you’re excited to embark on?
written from bed

London in Four Days

This post is part of my EuroTrip 2016 series on the blog.

Cheers from Edinburgh, where I actually have more time and less external stimulation to reflect on London, even when I experience a new place in the U.K. I thought that it would be nice, for the purposes of this blog, to take a categorical inventory of all the places I went to in London, with just a few words about each. That way, if any of you, readers, are planning a trip to the U.K. soon, this can be a quick + curated reference!

Without further adieu, here are the sights I saw, the art I experienced, the food I ate, and the libations I drank.

SIGHTS
Regents Park – I was impressed by the number of outdoor areas there are to experience in such a metropolitan city. Regents Park was an excellent first one and led us straight to downtown.
The Lloyds – N aptly described it as “what 1980s architects thought the future would look like.” The Lloyds are a series of banking buildings with cranes permanently lodged atop them. This architectural landmark literally looks like the guts and intestines of a building, with elevators and pipes on the exterior for all to see. 
St Paul’s Cathedral – Not too old, but exquisite to look at.


The Tower – Here began my tour of my beloved Philippa Gregory books. While the area around it was quite touristy, the sight itself was the pinnacle of well-preserved history.


The Thames – To exit the Tower, I proceeded to take a long, solo, contemplative walk along the River Thames. It was absolutely beautiful with grand bridges with even more historical significance.


Westminster Abbey – While I didn’t go inside Westminster, I did get a good vibe for its grandiosity and continued function to this day. The coolest part of seeing historical monuments in London is that they are living history; many of them are still in use! Seeing as it was a Sunday, I got to see the guard of Westminster lock the gate.

ART
British Museum – This is an ironic name for a museum because it is really a global museum of art from all around the world. I could go back ten more times and still not see everything.
National Portrait Gallery – I loved the small room Bronte exhibit that is going on until April, I believe. Located at a side entrance to the National Gallery, it is a very accessible and manageable museum to see a variety of focused art.
National Gallery – This museum was definitely on par with, if not larger, than the Met, if the Met had even older goods + art.
Victoria + Albert Museum – This was definitely our favorite because it was a museum of real, usable artifacts that spanned time periods. It all felt perfectly curated.

LIBATIONS
Fortnum + Mason – This unbelievable shop of tea, everything that could possibly be associated with tea, and beautiful stationery was actually the highlight of my whole London trip. Breathtaking + energizing = bliss. 
Foyles – While this was a five-story-tall bookshop, I spent most of my time there at the cafe, which was definitely the best bookstore cafe I’d ever been to! I had a delicious crushed ginger tea! Also, the cafe is right next to the bookstore’s art gallery. Very cool for book lovers, tea lovers, and art lovers alike!


Fifty-Five Bar – I got my first of two smoking cocktails there, called “The Zombie” (i.e. a flaming corpse reviver); this place is located in Camden Town.

FOOD
NOPI – One of Ottolenghi’s finest restaurants with unbelievable food. A highlight was getting to see the kitchen right from where we sat!


Hawksmoor – We ordered an insane full-on English breakfast for two there. When I say insane, I mean it was the fullest platter of breakfast meats (many of which I did not know actually existed) I’d ever seen! Like I said when I went to Cuba, I had to say it again…goodbye, vegetarianism.

A (Yoga) Room of My Own

When I decided to move back to New York City from Portland, OR, the last thing I expected was to find more space in my Manhattan apartment, compared to what I had in my Portland one. But Harlem was kind to me and my roommates, and we found (well, correction, they found it while I was still living in PDX) a fantastic four-bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms just happened to be a “railroad room,” meaning it has two medium-sized rooms attached to one another. It was a no-brainer; I decided to make one of those rooms my Yoga Room.

The friends of mine who showed up for our housewarming party joked and said it was my office. But really, they weren’t joking. When yoga is at least part of your line of work, a space to practice is also a space to prepare and study. My yoga room is all of three of those things. And I would love to give you a tour of this space I am so proud of on this blog!

Furniture

When you have a lot of space, you need a lot more furniture. I decided on a mini coffee table that I’m using as a sitting desk (i.e. it enables me to sit in lotus and get sh*t – read: blogging – done). I also got a bookshelf that I use to store all my yoga texts. Having these in a separate space is actually making these books, teacher training manuals and journals so much more accessible. (All the furniture, BTW, was brought to me by the lovely and stressful Ikea – my yoga practice after that shopping trip was on point!).

Books

I have developed quite the collection of texts over the years. More important, though, this summer I had the opportunity to practice the yama (“restraint”) called aparigraha, which, in English, translates to “non-hoarding.” When I moved out of my apartment in Portland, I had a slight problem: I forgot to ship half my books in advance, and I ran out of room in my suitcases. These were books I loved and annotated. They were about the chakras, the sutras, the Gita and more. But books – and especially yoga books – are meant to be shared, not hoarded. On my last afternoon in Portland, I took those books in my arms and walked down Division St until I arrived at unfold, the yoga studio I taught at all year. I left them on the desk for other students to peruse, use, annotate and learn from. Here are the books I am currently left with in my new yoga room:

  • Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij
  • Sacred Sound by Alanna Kaivalya
  • Love Poems from God translated by Daniel Ladinsky
  • The Red Book by Sera Beak
  • The Bhagavad Gita translated by Barbara Stoler-Miller
  • Yoga & Ayurveda (Frawley)
  • Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley Farrand
  • Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon & David Life
  • The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant
  • The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel
  • Narada’s Way of Divine Love by Swami Prabhavananda
  • be love now by ram dass
  • Tranquilista by Kimberly Wilson
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Babar’s Yoga for Elephants (De Brunhoff)
  • Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron
  • OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice by Cyndi Lee

Mat

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Now that I am an official “member” at Laughing Lotus, I store my big, heavy Manduka mat in a mat cubby at the studio. The one I choose to use in my yoga room is an Athleta mat that I was gifted upon completion of my 5k at the Wanderlust 108 Mindful Triathlon. I also have the tote bag that came with hanging on the wall of the room as a reminder that I DID IT, and to store my pink boxing gloves because hey, boxing is a yoga practice all its own.

Props

Next to my mat are two blocks, a balance ball, and a meditation pillow. I also have a strap and on my wish list is a bolster and blanket.

Office Supplies

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When yoga is my line of work, a lot more is involved than practice. I also have to promote what I am doing so I can better share it with the world. That is why I have a Blog Planner from Etsy (so cute!) and a Poppin’ to-do list.

Wall Decor

I have little hanging elephants (Ganeshas) hanging from a beaded string that an old roommate gave me, my bandana and number from Wanderlust 108, and what was probably the best gift I’ve ever received: my very own Laughing Lotus graffiti wall that my dear former roommate A made for me for my 23rd birthday.

Deities

Also adorning my walls are deities: Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards (Doreen Virtue) I’ve chosen and Sanjay Patel‘s big book of Hindu deities posters. Atop a storage bin, I have a mini Ganesha statue…because after last year, I need a remover of obstacles.

G.I. Yogis / Yoga Joes

When I left Portland, former roommate J gifted me the sweetest lil things she saw on This Is Collosal: yogi G.I. Joes. Different poses are hidden in nooks and crannies of this room and provide endless inspiration for the asana practice.

Bottom line, here’s what I’ve learned from creating a yoga room, after coming from being a bit…space-deprived. You don’t need a lot of space to create a room of your own, but compartmentalizing yoga can sometimes be an aid to focused practice. Take some time and carve out a room of your own.

“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Universality & Accessibility: Courage & Grace Day Two

Well, apparently I can be hella skeptical in my uttkatasana...

(apparently, I can be hella skeptical in my uttkatasana…)

Today, Jasmine talked a lot about “finding that one little nugget,” which sets off our internal fire and that the class revolves around. The “one little nugget” that sticks with me from the other leader of this training, Keith Borden, is the idea of being a great teacher via teaching through equivalents. This speaks to the beauty of using metaphor, rather than revealing what the concept itself is. It goes back to the idea of not alienating anyone or preaching and accessibility to all potential practitioners of yoga. This requires a lot more creativity on the part of the teacher (why yoga is an art, but also a science, which was emphasized a lot in training). 

It’s one thing to teach at Laughing Lotus and it is another thing entirely to teach to people who have never practiced yoga before at a dance room at a public school in Queens, NY (my previous Monday) or at a community school garden in Portland, OR (my future). Yet the teachings can be the same, just expressed differently; we never have to name the specificities of the teaching (be it chakras or the Gita or pranayama) because they are universal themes of life. And that is the first little nugget from this gorgeously inspiring training that blew my mind.

The Last Weekend of June

June has been an intense month. Transitioning out of graduating college…spontaneously surprising friends in Chicagotraveling to Italy with my family…beginning two teaching jobs…a romantic beach trip in Nantucket…

It seems only appropriate that it would end in an intense way. 

Yoga is, and has been for quite some time now, my buffer. My constant in a sea of change. In the transition out of school, out of relationships that have become my backbone, and my impending transition out of New York City, my need for this practice has only grown. I’ve had to find organic ways to comfort myself, newness in a practice I have gotten to know almost too well. Yoga and I, well, we’re like a couple that’s recently celebrated our 6-year anniversary. We started out dating slowly, then more intensely, and then the intensity became the norm. We have gone on honeymoons (yoga teacher training) and we have fought (about finances). We’ve met one another’s friends, loving some and disliking others. It’s as if we have almost gotten too comfortable.

So, as any good couples therapist would suggest for a relationship like ours, we’re mixing it up. Going on new dates. Trying new places. And all in a rapid succession before I start work full time and me and Yoga start seeing one another just a little bit less.

This weekend, we’ve gone on dates galore. They have been exhilarating, fun, and we’ve learned so many new things about one another. 

(And okay, now my yoga personification will terminate as I move into a description of our weekend-long revisiting of our honeymoon.)

Friday

Harlem Shakes

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I had, as per usual, a fantastic time subbing Harlem Yoga Shakes on Friday. But what made it even more fantastic was the emphasis on Pride and Love that the upcoming weekend allowed for. Being in NYC during Pride, while not as happy, joyous and free as it would be if I were in San Francisco…is still pretty freaking happy, joyous and free. The playlist emphasized that sense of unabashed love that this holiday brings about. The icing on the cake, however, was the Poetry. Picking up a book of translated poems by Rumi from the little HYS boutique in the lobby, I read two poems by one of the best Lovers I’ve read.

Kirtan

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Honestly, my plans for after teaching were to go home, eat Chinese takeout with my mom and watch OITNB. But as my class ended, the Kirtan artists introduced themselves to me at the HYS lobby and as the incense, candles, blankets, altar and drums got set up in the room I taught in 15 minutes prior, I simply could not bring myself to leave; I felt viscerally compelled to stay. That night, I did not need Chinese takeout. I needed divine human connection of voices and of souls. I have had experiences in Kirtans where I haven’t been able to stop smiling even if I tried and this Kirtan, where we chanted Interfaith melodies and words (including to Yemayá, reminding me of my spiritual experiences in Cuba!), was certainly no exception. 

Saturday

Vinyasa

In what seemed like a few hours later, I was back on 125th Street for a full day at HYS. I began by opening up the studio at 9am and taught another Pride-themed class. I was reminded yet again of the transformative power of teaching and the ways in which it is a Practice in and of itself. After I left Nantucket I felt sad, but I am oh-so-aware that the one true remedy for sadness is to GTFO my head and into Service. 

Yoga, Sewing + Creativity

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After a quick lunch and walk around Harlem, I returned to HYS for Tara’s fantastic workshop. We began with an introduction of ourselves, why and when we started yoga, and our creative practices other than yoga. I was reminded that so many of us come to yoga after we have been Awakened by something else as well. For me, that something else (that constant in a sea of change) was – and is still – writing. In high school, I was part of the most nourishing writing group: Girls Write Now. Yoga is most certainly not the be-all and end-all for me; it, rather, nourishes all else that I do. At this workshop, we channeled the Second Chakra (the theme of the weekend and I suppose of my life lately) and the Goddess Saraswati of Creativity and Learning. Tara led us through a gorgeous Second Chakra-themed yoga sequence and deep, deep guided meditation. These practices infused me with the patience I later needed in order to learn how to use a sewing machine for the first time and create my own yoga mat back (which is still a WIP). 

Sunday

Lotus Live at the Rubin Museum

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Image via http://rolfgross.dreamhosters.com/Thanka-Web/Thanka-Web.htm and the Rubin Museum

It is no secret that Sheri and Ali are two of my fave teachers at Laughing Lotus. I did FLY Skool with Sheri as my first 50-hours of my 500-hour training and Ayurveda Skool with Ali as my most recent. Their energy combined is grounding, healing, but most of all, CREATIVE. It also felt like coming full-circle: during my 200-hour teacher training with Three Sisters Yoga, we took a very memorable field trip to Chelsea’s Rubin Museum of Asian Art, which frequently features exhibits on the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern traditions. The class itself channeled the Goddess Tara. After the class, we went on a guided tour of the exhibit and saw three different sculptural iterations of Tara, the Goddess of Compassion.

(There are more yoga + museum tours at the Rubin during this exhibit – check them out here

While I ended the weekend feeling a bit exhausted, I also closed it by feeling yogically fulfilled, temporarily satiating my ever-present desire to learn more.