Find Your Moment Today

Today, Katie at Health for the Whole Self encouraged her readers to Find Your Pause by “just stopping, even for a few seconds, to notice the brief, still pause at the end of each inhale-exhale cycle.”

She wrote in her post: “I got this idea from Thomas Roberts, author of The Mindfulness Workbook. In it he writes a very compelling description of watching his newborn daughter as she slept in her crib. As he observed her breathing, so simply and peacefully, he noticed that after each exhale there was a pause before the next inhale began. And it occurred to him that – through our natural, relaxed breathing – we actually have built-in pauses or rest periods.

It’s funny that Katie wrote this post today and shared Mr. Roberts story about his child taking breaks. I noticed something similar with my “baby” last night:

Grady was the proud recipient of a new toy yesterday. He happily snagged it and took it straight outside to our fenced in backyard. In usual fuzz fashion, he ran circles around  the yard, just loving on life and his new item of pride and joy.

Once fully tuckered out, he plopped himself down in a shaded area with the toy between his front paws. He wasn’t biting or playing with it – just enjoyed being with it. He looked around the yard. He watch cars and trucks pass by on the main road. He saw a bird on the fence and looked up with big dog ears to better hear its chirps. He sat in the grass, completely content to just be his happy, pup-self for that moment in time.

Watching Grady last night as he romped around the backyard really inspired me. Seeing the smile on my dog’s face told me how purely happy he was in that exact moment while he was doing absolutely nothing. We’re constantly searching for ways to calm down, but my pup showed me there is no need to look any further than your current surroundings.

All we really have to do is just stop for a moment…

…take a deep breathe…

…look around at what’s happening around you…

…let your mind wander for an instant.

…and embrace it for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

There’s no need for any fifteen minute mediation program or an hour long hot yoga session.  All you need is your breathe and a moment.

Remember: it’s the little things in life –  those toys, those pups, those moments of calm serenity – that will make the difference and get you through your day.

ten things this tuesday: my favorite yoga poses

In my recent list of The Big 2-7 To Dos, I included “start attending yoga class at Nishkama Yoga at least once a week:. (I’m working on it!) While I hadn’t made it back to the studio to date, I have been incorporating more yoga poses into my stretching routine. So in true Tuesday fashion…

ten things this tuesday: my favorite yoga poses

Each pose is linked to its yogajournal.com page where you can find a plethora of information on each. Let’s get our downward dog on!

1. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

Ahhh, there’s nothing quite like a good hip opener.  Actually, I wouldn’t recommend this pose at the start of your yoga session as I find it’s a much more effective at the end.  You succeed in this pose when you focus on the breath and not your hip region that is screaming at you. Bend forward, placing your head on the ground in front of you, for even more fun.

2. Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III)

c/o yogajournal.com

Once I get fully set in a Warrior 3, I am flying.  To get there, I do need a solid focal point to stay balanced. I suggest not focusing on the wobbly girl in front of you in class. Hone in on the corner of her mat or her water bottle instead.

3. Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

Another fun standing pose, dancer pose is great to open up the muscles your torso. I love using a strap in this pose to get an even deeper stretch. With your foot near to the floor, position the strap around the foot that you plan to “fly” and lift yourself up into the full position holding your leg up via the strap.

4. Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

I want to be better at this pose, but I think my arms are too short or my legs are too long. Yogajournal.com suggest holding this for 30 seconds. I consider ten seconds a victory in this pose.  Before today, I didn’t know its therapeutic applications include relief for Osteoporosis.

5. Plow Pose (Halasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

This is another position that you better be well warmed up for – don’t just throw your legs over your head people!!! Also, don’t be afraid to grab a prop to assist you into making the experience more enjoyable. (And yes, I realize SOME OF YOU might be thinking over OTHER pleasurable experiences upon reading my description!!!)

6. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

You can’t help but feel silly in this position. While you are laughing at yourself, you are also calming yourself and relieveing stress. Count me in.

7. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

Sure it takes a moment to get comfy in it, but Eagle pose is highly rewarding once you are in it. I love the amount of concentration it requires.  There’s no room in your head for extra thoughts – you’re too busy trying to not fall over!

I also love this variation suggestion from the website: Here’s a challenging variation of Garudasana. From the pose as described above, exhale and lean your torso into a forward bend, pressing the forearms against the top-leg thigh. Hold for a few breaths, then come up with an inhalation. Repeat on the second side.

8. Crane Pose (Crane Pose)

c/o www.yogajournal.com

Alright, so I can’t actually do this one yet, but it’s on my list of ones to master.  I’m lacking in arm strength,  so I’m going to have to do some bicep curls to get there. Perhaps I need to take the Beginner’s Tip from yogajournal.com:

Beginners tend to move into this pose by lifting their buttocks high away from their heels. In Bakasana try to keep yourself tucked tight, with the heels and buttocks close together. When you are ready to take the feet off the floor, push the upper arms against the shins and draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis to help you with the lift.

9. Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

I’ve written several times on my love for this pose, but I really like yogajournal.com’s Beginner’s Tip for Wheel:

The knees and feet tend to splay as you lift into this pose, which compresses the lower back. In the beginning position, loop and secure a strap around your thighs, just above the knees, to hold the thighs at hip width and parallel to each other. To keep the feet from turning out, place a block between them, with the bases of the big toes pressing the ends of the block. As you go up, press the feet into the block.

10. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

c/o yogajournal.com

As I added this last pose to my list, my mom said, “isn’t that just laying there?” Well Michele, I’ll have you know that according to yogajournal.com, Corpse pose:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Relaxes the body
  • Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
  • Helps to lower blood pressure

If that’s all you’re doing in that pose, sign me up for a day long Savasana marathon.

Have you tried yoga? If so, what’s your favorite pose? Clevelanders: what’s your favorite studio? Haven’t tried yoga: why not?

las vegas restaurant review: FIREFLY* Tapas Kitchen & Bar

On our Vegas Vacation, we stayed with my Aunt Linda and Uncle Chris. Not only were they gracious enough to put us up in their fantastic home, but they insisted on taking us out for dinner for my birthday.  Who am I to tell them no? They were very excited to share one of their Vegas favorites with this foodie: FIREFLY* Tapas Kitchen & Bar Downtown @ the Plaza.

c/o fireflylv.com/

From their opentable.com listing: Firefly* is a 5 time “Best of Las Vegas” award winner, specializing in “tapas”. We feature an eclectic list of 50 plus tapas, small plates and appetizers meant to be passed and shared or assembled to build your own customized multi-course feast! The menu includes mango ribs, lamb chops, filet sliders, steaks, salads, soups, chicken beef, pork, shrimp and fish dishes. NONE priced over 10 bucks. We are also famous for our house brewed sangrias and flavored mojitos by the glass or pitcher.

I’m sure you know what tapas are, but just in case, I present the Wikipedia definition: Tapas is the name of a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine… The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.

We arrived on time for a 6:00PM reservation, which the hostesses seemed to have serious issues finding. Considering it was early, there were plenty of booths and tables available, and we were sat immediately.

Aunt Linda & Uncle Chris: aren't they the cutest?

Our server was a peppy twenty-four year old guy (it was his birthday that day, and yet was super excited to be working). He was ready to answer any questions we had. Of course, there was bread to start:

So in the spirit of traditional Spanish tapas cuisine, there was quite the assortment of items ordered:

Stuffed dates [bacon-wrapped, smoked almond, red wine reduction, blue cheese]

Veggie empanada [spinach, mushroom, artichoke, herbed cream cheese in pastry, red pepper aioli]

Thai beef salad [seared beef, thai dressing, romaine, tomato, cucumber, ginger]

Stuffed Peppers [Spanish piquillo red peppers, fresh mozzarella, garlic cream cheese, tomato sauce]

Manchego mac ‘n’ cheese [baked w/baby shells]

Terra y Mare skewers [grilled shrimp, filet mignon, chorizo sausage, salsa verde]

Chicken and chorizo stuffed mushrooms [yum!]

Lamb skewers [marinated leg of lamb, tomato, red wine sauce]

Filet mignon sliders [mini burgers w/Serrano ham, cabrales cheese, caramelized onions]

Crispy duck rolls [cherry hoisin sauce]

Camarones a la diabla [shrimp, spicy chile sauce, grilled bread]

Here’s what I didn’t taste:

The bread: I knew what was on the way and I wanted plenty of room for it.

Chicken and chorizo stuffed mushrooms: A suggestion from Mike at Tasting Las Vegas, Aunt Linda and Uncle Chris enjoyed these. Since they came out in our first round, they didn’t finish them as they were saving room for more goodies.

Filet mignon sliders: I was busy enjoying the empanada at this time, but Hans rocked that mini burger in no time flat. I’m surprised he offered anyone a bite. I don’t even think he noticed the caramelized onions – and he HATES onions! He was lovin’ on this one.

Here’s what I wouldn’t order again:

Stuffed dates: I was excited to order the dates, which were another suggestion from Mike at TLV. I mean, really: how do you go wrong with the combination of bacon and blue cheese? You overcook them, that’s how. It was unfortunate, but the bacon was burned and it completely ruined the datey goodness. I was bummed but turned my attention to one of the other many plates on the table.

Crispy duck rolls: In theory, this should have been another no brainer, but the dish was ruined by the frying oil heavy “roll” wrapper. I was expecting more of an egg roll consistency (thin and crispy). This was much thicker and way over fried. Not my favorite. The cherry hoisin sauce and duck filling saved the dish. I scooped out the filling and enjoyed that portion.

Here’s what I liked:

Manchego mac ‘n’ cheese: Mike at TLV suggested this dish – for obvious reasons. You can’t go wrong with a well balanced mac ‘n’ cheese. I really liked the choices of Manchego and baby pasta shells to mix it up a bit.

Terra y Mare skewers: I saw these and had to order them. Hello, a grilled kabob of shrimp, filet and chorizo? You can’t go wrong with that.  The shrimp and chorizo were fine, but somehow, filet was overcooked – a sin, in my opinion. I ended up giving my piece of filet to Hans, whom seemed to not have any issue with it.

Lamb skewers: Surprise, surprise – Hans ordered a lamb dish! Cooked to medium (a bit over for me), these skewers were still yummy with the tomato and red wine marinade. I’m still not sure what was under the kabobs, but I only took one bite of it. One bite was enough.  The server said they were capers, but I’m pretty sure they were lentils.

Stuffed Peppers: We (and I think our waiter) forgot that we ordered this. It came out as the last tapas for the evening and I could only manage a bite.  I missed the mozzarella, but the piquillos, cream cheese and tomato sauce were an obvious solid combo.

Here’s what I LOVED:

Thai beef salad: Uncle Chris and I were on the same wavelength when we both suggested this salad during our first round of ordering.  We all tried a piece of the seared beef, which was a bit on the medium-well side. The Thai dressing and ginger were a great pairing with the meat – they really made the dish. If Firefly offered this as an entrée salad, I’d be ordering every single time.

Camarones a la diabla: Another suggestion from Mike at TLV, he was right one with this one. I could have eaten four servings of these by myself for my meal.  Since I ordered it early on, I actually considered ordering a second round.  The shrimp dish was nice and spicy, but not at burn your mouth off level.  I’m not going to lie: I was secretly happy that my aunt is severely allergic to seafood. More for me!

Veggie empanada:  This came out late in our meal, but I’m glad I managed to find the room in my stomach for this one.  While Hans rocked that slider, I snagged one empanada for myself and enjoyed the spinach, mushroom, artichoke and cream cheese filling. The empanada was flaky and not over-fried like the duck rolls. The red pepper aioli was a nice addition without over-powering everything on the plate. Another fine tapas selection by Uncle Chris.

…and this chocolate “tres leches” cake:

Alright, it was on the house because we mentioned we were celebrating my birthday. So, really, I just love free bday desserts. Happy Birthday to me!

We were so stuffed from all the other dishes that we only made it through about half of the cake. It was interesting: like taking a chocolate cake and steeping it in one percent milk. Not soggy, but not solid either. The cake was confused, poor thing. The consistency distracted me from its decent flavor. The strawberries helped.  It was definitely better that it was free. In all actuality, I wouldn’t be in a rush to order it again.

LONG STORY SHORT: I thought Firefly did a nice job of giving their diners a variety of tapas to try.  Overall, we had a great assortment of nicely prepared dishes. Other than our check-in with the hostess, the service staff was polite and helpful. They got bonus points for the celebratory dessert!  Aunt Linda and Uncle Chris made a fine selection for my birthday dinner and I’m very grateful for their hospitality! If you are in Vegas, do yourself a favor and head downtown to FIREFLY* Tapas Kitchen & Bar for a nice getaway from the Strip.

Firefly Tapas Kitchen (Plaza) on Urbanspoon

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