Daddy’s Handstands

My dad was a competitive swimmer and diver until the early 1970s when he became a coach. This is known. What is not known, not even to him, is that he is the most influential yogi in my life. Unintentionally, he gave me the gift of the mind body connection.

Power yoga, particularly Baptiste power yoga, is full of arm balances and inversions, none of which are possible without sufficient arm and core strength. Hence, the handstand prep, which is designed to build said arm and core strength. If you haven’t seen it (and there are several by the way), it looks like this:

It may not look like much is happening, but that is because you aren’t doing one right now.

In 2010, at my first power yoga class, I did an “official” handstand prep. I say official because I had been doing them my entire life, not because of yoga, but because my dad did them constantly throughout my childhood and I inherited his “quirk”.

His handstand preps showed up in seemingly odd places; conversations in the kitchen with my mom, at the office, out on his job sites (after he retired from coaching he started a construction company).

But years later, looking back at that strange behavior, I finally saw it for what it was; a holdover from the diving platform, a release of negative energy, a clearing out, a centering. Somewhere in his swimming days, he had made the mind body connection. And, I was completely blown away. 

Now, as I exhale my hands to the floor and rock forward onto my toes with my weight in my hands, balancing with my fingertips, I see my dad’s hands, not mine. Tan, veiny, well used hands.

He is nearly 70 now and has a total spinal fusion, so handstand preps are a distant memory for him. I need to ask him if he misses them. He would likely be surprised to know that I consider them his trademark.

I think about this now, as I handstand prep my way through my day. I worry less about the frequent impulse I have always had to put my hands on the ground and get upside down. I understand it now as a completely acceptable need to get grounded and release excess energy rather than some weird compulsive behavior I shouldn’t tell people about.

And I see it in my daughter. She clearly feels better when she is moving and it is my job to make her feel okay with that need rather than bad about her lack of self control. I will not tell her to hold still. I will teach her to use her energy for good instead of evil–to channel it.

We will start with handstand preps.


This article originally published on

Is today too salty?

As I sit here, procrastinating the preparations required for the coming week, I think about a story I recently heard. It goes like this:

An old Hindu master had become tired of his apprentice complaining. So one day, he had the apprentice bring him some salt. The master instructed the apprentice to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” said the apprentice.

Satisfied, the master asked the young man to take a handful of salt and and stir it into the lake. As they strolled in silence near the lake, the apprentice did as instructed. 

“Now drink from the lake,” the master said.

After the apprentice had taken a drink from the lake, the master asked, “How does it taste?”.

“Fresh,” stated the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.

“No,” said the young man.

With this reply, the master sat beside his young apprentice and offered the following insight, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things . . .Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

I think about this now as I gear up for another week of the trials and tribulations of a working parent, pondering the state of our divided country, and trying to be something other than burned out and disgusted.

Tomorrow, I’ll get mystical and consider our collective situations in the context of infinite time and space rather than another week of school pick up and drop off and office and government politics.

Right now, things are very salty. But in the grand scheme of things, what does “right now” even account for in the continuum? It is merely a blip. In time, the kids will become more independent, things will level out at work, and our country will preserver.

And so, tomorrow, I will be a lake.

Just Chana Masala–No Politics

You might think that I am about to hand you a recipe for a bowl of black beans, but I’m not. I’m here to do a couple of things:

  1. try out some black chickpeas I got for Christmas (long story)
  2. hack the way we all cook beans (unless you are from India, then I’m pretty sure this is just how you cook beans, but anyway…)
  3. show you how we make chana masala at this house

I can’t properly credit this recipe because I have compiled ingredients and techniques from various places over the years and I’m way too lazy to list them all here; just know that it came from somewhere other than me.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas (we used black chickpeas for fun)
1 tsp baking soda
2 black tea bags
oil as needed
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp garlic
cardamom seeds
cinnamon stick
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup potatoes
1 green chili
1 1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
1-2 cups vegetable broth

Behold the black (desi) chickpea. These are similar to the lighter chickpeas, known as kabuli chickpeas common in the canned bean and bulk food area of the grocery store, but they are smaller, with a rough and tough outer skin, and obviously, they are black. Note: there seems to be a stray kabuli in the batch, but I let him stay  because I liked his attitude.
Before you can do anything with dried chickpeas of any color, you need to soak them for 8-10 hours. Use a large bowl because they will double in volume as they rehydrate.
When it was time to cook the beans, I put them in a pressure cooker and added just enough water to cover them along with some cardamom and cloves. I also added 1 tsp of baking soda and 2 black tea bags because I read that adjusting the PH levels of the water will better penetrate the skins of the beans and help them hydrate all the way through.
The bean science worked and these beans were firm but not dry. They also had a complex flavor because of the mix of spices and the black tea.
Now, sauté your onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes or until they just begin to brown.
Add your tomato and a teaspoon or so of salt and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes.
Then, add your turmeric and chili powder. Cook this all together for 2-3 minutes.
Remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
Blend it into a smooth paste in your food processor and set aside.
Now, back to the skillet. Add a tablespoon of oil, a cardamom seed, a few cloves, and a small cinnamon stick. Sauté for 1-2 minutes to wake them up.
Then, add your potatoes. Most recipes call for more chopped onions at this stage, and it doesn’t really matter too much what you use because we are just adding bulk to the sauce. I chose potatoes, because I just didn’t want to eat that much onion in one meal. But it is up to you.
It is now time to add the paste you made in the food processor. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined.
Add the garam masala and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Add your beans and 1-2 cups of vegetable broth. I used all 2 cups because I like my beans saucy. Stir until well combined and sauté until heated through.
Serve over white rice with sliced green chili and yogurt. The kids and I didn’t use the green chili because palates just can’t handle anything spicy but we add it for my husband, for whom nothing will ever be spicy enough.

This article originally published on

Quinoa Crusted Tilapia, Rainbow Chard, and the Stomach Flu

I started making this recipe last Saturday with the obvious intention of serving it for dinner. However, just as I was wrapping up the photoshoot for the rainbow chard, the stomach flu struck. It had already taken down 50% of the family, but for some reason, I thought I was safe (it’s called aspirational thinking).

So, here we are, a week later and I am just now coming around to the idea that I might want to eat again someday. And because I have a strong completion instinct, I’ll be trying to make it through this recipe review–again.

If you were one of those people who made a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier, then this is a recipe for you. If you were one of those people who did not make a resolution to eat healthier, this recipe is also for you.

Plucked from the very last page of Greens + Grains by Molly Watson, it looked like the ideal use for the absurd amount of greens I came home from the Davis Farmer’s Market with.

Overall, this is an excellent cookbook, but I have to mention that Molly gets a little carried away with the detail she provides in her instructions. She can turn a very simple recipe into a 3-page affair, which is probably great if you have literally NEVER been in a kitchen before but if that is the case, you aren’t working from this cookbook anyway.

So, I have saved you a ton of time by replacing words with pictures. Here is the recipe:

1 cup quinoa
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 egg
Four 4-oz tilapia fillets
3 tbsp butter
1 shallot, minced
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Freshly ground pepper

First, rinse the quinoa and then simmer it for approximately 15 minutes. Then spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet to dry for one hour. Or, if you don’t have an hour to spend watching quinoa dry, you can dry it on the baking sheet in the oven set to its lowest temperature for about 20 minutes. Note: we are using red quinoa for kicks, but any quinoa will work.
While the quinoa is drying, wash and chop your rainbow chard. Keep the stems separate from the leaves because they have different cooking times.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in your pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, chard stems, and a little salt. Note: I find any recipe that does not call for garlic highly suspect, so we added two cloves minced for good measure. Cook, stirring frequently until the stems soften, about 3 minutes. 
Beat 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of water together in a shallow dish. This will be the egg mixture used to bind your quinoa “breading” to the tilapia. Coat the fillets front and back.
Toss your coated fillets in the dried quinoa mixture to coat. Then set aside until they are ready for the frying pan. 
When you have sautéed the chard stems and shallot for 3-5 minutes, it is time to add the chard leaves. Toss them in and let them cook until wilted, approximately another 5 minutes. You can give them a few squirts of lemon and some salt along the way. 
Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the oil. Carefully, lay the fillets in the pan and cook, undisturbed, until the quinoa crisps and browns, 4 to 5 minutes. Gently flip the fillets and cook until the fish is cooked through and the second side is nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes more. 
When the leaves are wilted and the fish is finished, you are ready to plate it. 
Here you go. 

For our first real meal post-stomach flu, it was good, but I might not select fish for that next time. This meal could also benefit from another grain as a side dish, say a rice pilaf or couscous. Or roasted baby potatoes would be good too now that I think about it.

Our shrunken stomachs limited how much we could eat so we have leftover tilapia. We’ll be having fish tacos for dinner tonight; I think our stomachs can handle it.

This article originally published on