Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Plum Bistro

Every time I make a declaration or life pledge, the universe sweeps in to test me.  “What are you going to do now?  How are you going to fix this problem?” taunting me while flicking out the power in my entire neighborhood.  My friend was expecting a dinner of saffron and apricot quinoa, cheese with crackers, mint water and a strawberry dessert in an hour at my place.  Hmmmm.

I decided that my food culture needed to hit the road, as in walk up Broadway to Pike and find Plum Bistro, an organic and vegan oasis.  I had been wanting to try Plum for months, but it takes an open-minded foodie friend to dive into organic vegan food with as much enthusiasm as me.  Kristen is that person.  Embracing a raw food diet, CSA produce boxes and homemade coconut ice cream, I knew Kristen would be game.
Immediately I knew I would not be disappointed.  My eyes lingered over the long wood communal table, exposed concrete walls, thick wood beams and pink carnations in small ceramic vases. The tall ceilings and open garage style window created an airy, lofty feel.  This gorgeous environment plus a glass of crisp water (no ice) with lemon, orange and cucumber left me feeling pampered and content within minutes.  The menu detailed grilled seasonal pizzas, traditional raw plates and many dishes with a southern, Cajun or Jamaican influence.  These people share my food culture. 
Happy hour allowed us to try several small plates for affordable prices, another reason to love this place.  We shared everything and started with their famous spicy, chili mac and yease.  I didn’t even get a chance to ask how they made it because I was savoring every creamy bite.  It reminded me of El Gaucho’s burnt mac ‘n cheese with the crunchy top layer.  I loved the spicy kick.
Next we had quinoa nachos.  Eating decadent, rich foods has never felt so good because they were made with whole grains, veggies and sauces made from nuts.  What guilt?  More nachos, please!
Our third dish was a beet and citrus salad.  It was simple and clean.  However, I prefer my beets with a little goat or feta cheese and some greens.  This dish wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciate the creative combination of beets with oranges.
Finally we had the Breaded Portobello Steaks.  This felt like man-food.  The filling and hearty mushrooms had a crunchy and savory outer layer that felt meaty and substantial.  It came with roasted capers, grape sauce, fennel and smashed purple potatoes.  The effect was a colorful and satisfying entrĂ©e. 
The entire experience left me feeling satisfied and energized.  Amazing conversation, slow courses, the gentle hum of other patrons at our community table and great service turned my plan B into an A+.   Vegan cheesy, I know ;)

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Food Culture

Inspired by many friends and lunch time conversations, I decided to finally read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Like me, Barbara decided to live via experimentation and break out of her food comfort zone.  Her commitment is to eat foods grown locally and seasonally by real people, including her own family on her new farm in Virginia.

I’ve read a few chapters and already experienced some strong personal connections.  On page 17 she writes, “…we’re looking hard for a food culture of our own.  A profit-driven food industry has exploded and nutritionally bankrupted our caloric supply, and we long for a Food Leviticus to save us from the sinful roil of cheap fats and carbs.”  I relate to this perspective because I do feel like I’m yearning for a healthy food culture.  There are so many things I try to avoid (processed foods, fast food, simple sugars, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) that it takes work to cook real food that is wholesome and nutrient-rich.  She adds that fad diets have “helped us form powerfully negative associations with the very act of eating.”  My reaction is to declare my own personal food culture.  This culture I will create at home, offer to friends and family and value as an important part of my life, finances and energy.
Nicole’s Food Culture
● Food and eating are for pleasure, for nourishment and for building community.
● I eat a diet based on fresh and whole foods, mainly fruits and vegetables.
● I eat slowly to savor each bite and stimulate healthy digestion.
● I avoid highly processed foods, high fructose corn syrup and mystery ingredients.
● I use spices and herbs to enhance flavor and promote health.
● I value the time spent eating with family and friends over a beautiful table.

As I continue reading and learning about my country’s food industry and the challenges of farming, I feel my awareness expanding.  I'm looking at food labels, not at calories or carbs, but at ingredient lists and investigating where the product was produced.  I'm initiating conversations with friends and community members about these topics and developing my food culture.  I'm cooking dinner for a friend tonight.  It's the perfect opportunity to share my culture and enjoy it's delicious fruits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blog Under Construction

Pardon the dust... I am in the process of restructuring my blog.  The monthly experiments no longer inspire me, so I'm refreshing my focus.  Instead of a disjointed, short-term experiment, I'm now interested in diving deeply into the topics that most intrigue me, namely naturopathic medicine, yoga, meditation, kirtan, cooking and creating a balanced lifestyle.  My job as a teacher provides me enough free time to explore these areas and process my learning through writing.  For that I'm very thankful.

Last Friday I attended a campus tour and presentation at Bastyr University called "the Bastyr Experience."  As I drove through the entrance, surrounded by lush trees and fresh air, I knew I was on to something good.  That day I learned more about the Naturopath program.  They define naturopathic medicine (sometimes called "naturopathy") as a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) blend centuries-old knowledge and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health and human systems.

Effectively, I'm considering going to med school.  This possibility is blowing my mind.  The program, campus, doctors, philosophy and career possibilities speak to me.  In order to create a venue for my own learning and growth around this dream, I'm dedicating my blog to my many mini-steps that will lead me down this path.  Join me as I remove my own internal obstacles and doubts to consider this dream as a real possibility for my life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Swap

In my tiny condo, I fight a constant battle against the stuff that threatens to fill up every closet, shelf and counter top.  Donating clothes, books and furniture makes me feel free and light.  Even taking out the garbage is strangely satisfying.  I truly believe we have to clear out the crap from our lives to invite the fresh and new.  So today I walked my butt over to Half Price Books and sold some of the mediocre books that no longer need to live in my bookcase.  They only gave me 75 cents (waahhh wahhh), but that bought me almost an entire book in the clearance section (they sell for a dollar).  This green type of exchange intrigues me.  The cyclical nature of swapping merchandise definitely falls into the category of Finding Free.  Crossroads Trading Company also bought some of my clothes recently, which I transferred into store credit.  How can you not like free shopping?  I'm definitely not missing those clothes.  I can't even remember what they were now.  Obviously not staples in my wardrobe.  Today's mission of Finding Free was 75% successful.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Comfortable with the Space

This whole not-working thing is so foreign to me.  I've been working since I was 15 and have spent all of my summers working, traveling and/or studying.  This entire week I've been fighting the urge to work, setting up meetings and then canceling them, becoming that indecisive girl that drives me crazy.  I love the possibility of learning, meeting new people and of course making money, but I'm resisting schedules, responsibilities and feeling locked-in.  I want to be free and open and spontaneous, but it's such a dramatic contrast from my uber-planned, bell-to-bell packed school year life.  Just last week I was writing report cards, packing boxes, moving classrooms, working with students, hula hooping at Field Day and shaking 81 little hands at 5th Grade Graduation.  The lifestyle shift is undeniable.

I know this has been a transition week and all change takes a while to get used to.  I can't complain without eliciting eye rolls from my friends and even from myself.  I have a newfound respect for people that work from home and the time discipline they must create.  Living in the present moment becomes even more spiritually challenging when you have a lot of free moments.  So now my goal is to maximize rewarding summer experiences, organize my own time, get comfortable with the space and not spend all of my money.  Which brings me to today's Finding Free gift.

I hiked the Discovery Park loop in Magnolia with a girlfriend this morning.  The gorgeous views, hour-long walk and reflective conversation made it a satisfying way to start the day.  Getting outside, even on cloudy days, feels somehow productive and invigorating.  I loved the stairs, views of the Sound, wild flowers and mountain feel within the city.  We're making it a weekly thing.  My heart, body and wallet unanimously agree.  YES!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Free Movies and Live Music

Within walking distance from my place, TheFilmSchool presents free movies at Roy Street Coffee and Tea on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30-8:30pm.  I've attended these free films in the past and I love the way they convert part of the coffee shop into a dark, curtained projection area.  The comfy chairs and coffee aroma make it a unique and fun experience.  TheFilmSchool speaks to the core of storytelling.  Roy Street Coffee and Tea also offers free live music from time to time.  This may be one of my Mission Finding Free hangouts.

I refer to Roy Street Coffee and Tea and 15th Ave Coffee and Tea as the "secret Starbucks."  On the doors and websites, they claim that the shop is "inspired by Starbucks," but that means that it IS a Starbucks dressing up like a mom and pop coffee shop.  They definitely know how to target a new audience.  I must admit...I like the feel of the recycled furniture, wood beams and metal accessories.  You definitely don't feel like you're inside a suburban cookie-cutter Starbucks.  These shops have received mixed reviews from the community.  Check it out:

Free events build community and local culture.  I support the changes that Starbucks is making and will also support smaller coffee shops in my neighborhood.  I'll take a little of everything please.  And thank you.

Month Eleven: Finding Free

My eleventh Experiment with Truth is upon me.  I have decided to find all of the fun, free activities, concerts, performances and shows in my beautiful city of Seattle.  As an elementary school teacher, the decision to work or not during the summer is a tough one.  We all want extra money, but time off to recuperate is even more precious.  After 2 years of National Boards work, I am giving myself permission to rest.  Therefore, I have decided not to work this summer.  It's official.  My mission is to soak up our few sunny months, find free ways to stay entertained and write as much as possible.  Mission Finding Free has begun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


My extended month of Chi Running was a success. Injury-free running has become part of my regular life. I ran the St. Patty’s Day Dash with Stacy and finished the 3.5 miles at a strong pace. Not even the rain, constant people-dodging nor slight inclines could stop us. We were determined to finish, and I feel so grateful that I have such a supportive and motivating running buddy. Being able to talk and share this hobby with a friend makes a solitary activity more enjoyable and long-lasting.

Although I haven’t finished the Chi Running book, I know I’ll use it as a resource in the future. I am interested in attending a Chi Running workshop with an expert to further learn and correct the techniques. It turns out that there is a half day workshop (12-4) on April 17th, 2011 at Gasworks Park. Below is the class description.

Class Format: The Chi Running Essentials workshop includes four hours of instruction in a single 1/2 day course. The Instructor will be guiding you through many exercises and drills designed to leave you with a clear sense of what the Chi Running® technique feels like in your body. We will not be doing lots of running (contrary to what you might imagine), so no matter what condition you are in, have no fear. We will spend time alternating between demonstrations, fun exercises and technique drills...the nature of the day will be relaxed, full and inspiring.

As I move forward with my running and my experiments with truth, I know I will build on the knowledge and experience I established this month.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I can feel myself transforming. My world has been cracking open and allowing me to reconsider the possibilities of new adventures and dreams. A friend recommended a book and told me that I'd read it "when it was time." Apparently now is my time. This book is called the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you haven't read it, go out and get you some....when it's your time, of course. This is my new favorite book and within the first few pages I knew I'd be reading it multiple times throughout my life. It's the kind of book that makes you want to take notes, journal and post quotes on your fridge, which, like an inspired writer nerd, I did.

"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting....And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."

I'm envisioning travel, moves, try-outs, writing, risks, outside-my-comfort-zone activities while appreciating that lately I've been trying tons of new things. I'm transforming into a skier, a dancer, a writer, a National Board Certified teacher, a runner, an elected WEA council representative, a mentor. For the rest of my life I will be transforming. Someday I'd like to transform into a professional dancer, an Ayurvedic counselor, a wife, a mother, a racer, a professional writer.

The Alchemist describes each individual's Personal Legend, or calling. A few months ago, I had my tarot cards read, and she said that I'm entering into my true path, a transitional time for inner work, and that I will see lights or signs along the way, which the Alchemist describes as omens. She said that my immediate future is that of a shape-shifter, that I may not want things I used to want or when they come back they may look different. This all sounds mystic and cryptic, and that's why I love it. I absolutely love the idea that if sit back and watch, and listen, and ask questions, the answers will become obvious. This has happened to me recently in my love life, and I'm thankful. I was able to practice surrender and exit that situation gracefully. This is how I want to live, open and learning and growing.  I'm working hard and progressing forward, but letting go of everything else. For example, today I hit a wall with my National Boards. I felt like I had vomited up a million ideas and had no idea how they would mold together into anything comprehensible for Entry 4. My mentor even said, "Nicole, you look worried." I guess that's my look of concentration, followed by my look of determination (I am a Taurus, after all), followed by a long walk in the snow. Why? Because I wasn't going to push, force or demand anything else from myself today. The coffee shop is waiting for me tomorrow and Entry 4 will have a whole new light, accompanied with my organic shade-grown Mexican coffee on the clover.  I know, it's a thing of beauty.  Anyway, point is that change is happening.  I'm experiencing the transformation, one day at a time.  As I sit reading (or typing) in my cozy little condo, in my favorite area of town, in my single-girl free time, I know that I will miss these years of freedom when they're gone, so it's my job to soak them up and enjoy them now.  That's my Personal Legend.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'm Accessorizing

Sometimes a girl needs a few accessories.  This week I splurged on new running shoes and knee-high green socks for the St. Patty's Day Dash. 

These may not sound like extravagant luxuries, but the small things make a big difference.  The idea of sparkling, new shoes makes me want to rush home and break them in.  I can already imagine myself dashing down the streets of Capitol Hill, grinning as I catch a glimpse of my shoes in the storefront windows.  The restaurants and bars on Broadway can't tempt me when I'm wearing new shoes.  I smile at fellow runners as we cruise around Volunteer Park.  In my new shoes.  Yes, I can see it now...

That's the best motivation that money can buy.  If that's all it takes to keep me running, then I'll consider it an investment.  My comfy feet, splint-less shins and healthy knees will thank me.  In new shoes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Breaking My Own Rules

I'm changing the rules.  The one-month experiment feels restricting and rushed, so I'm extending it.  Sometimes I impose rules on myself that don't actually exist anywhere except in my own mind.  How to act, how to eat, what to say, what to wear, how to be a responsible teacher/daughter/friend... the list goes on and on.  It's so freeing to let go of the pressure I put on myself.  My blog is one small place where I can adjust the rules however I want, so here I go.

I'm still reading my Chi Running book and experimenting with new techniques and exercises.  I don't want to move on yet.  Stacy and I are running the St Patty's Day Dash on March 13th.  I just registered online and have this new challenge in my sights.  The website has a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, seconds until the race.  I have 38 days to get ready.  38 more days of the Chi Running experiment.  38 days to break in new running shoes, 38 days to try out tips from my book, and 38 days to find cute green legwarmers to go with our little shorts and shamrock necklaces.  This is a timeline that feels more like me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just Breathe

"It is impossible for us to break the law ourselves.  We can only break ourselves against the law."  This quote by Cecil B. DeMille is used in Chi Running to demonstrate our tendencies to flow with or fight against the laws of nature.  Obviously rolling (or running) with the laws of nature is a more comfortable, effortless and fun way to go.  I like the idea of getting swept away, utilizing the pull of gravity, and floating along in an invigorating run.  I've been trying to remember this concept in other areas of my life as well.  Whatever I resist or try to control usually doesn't work out as well, leaving me feeling frustrated and disappointed.  Lately I've been focusing on surrender, releasing my grip on my own life and watching what unfolds. 

I especially connected with the idea of tapping into my chi through correct breathing.  By utilizing belly breathing instead of shallow breathing, I can stimulate my body's parasympathetic system.  As a result, my body releases a beneficial cocktail of hormones (namely serotonin and beta-endorphin), lowers heart rate and blood pressure, improves circulation, and produces an overall calming effect and feeling of well-being.  Yes, please!  The book recommends running with my mouth closed as a way to determine my correct running pace.  If I'm unable to hold a conversation and breathe normally and/or breathe through my nose, then I should slow down my pace until I build up my aerobic capacity.  It sounds like an interesting homework assignment!  Building my awareness through experimentation is exactly what my blog is all about.  The experiment itself, not the result, is where my joy is found.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blister Blunders

My second Chi Running session with Stacy was punctuated with piercing pains in my left foot and a bloody sock decorated with foot skin.  Appetizing, I know.  This annoying blister has been making appearances in my left arch ever since I got my new orthodics.  My chiropractor claims that it's normal in the break-in process, but it's a major obstacle in my running.  As I continue to practice surrender and acceptance, I breathed in, remembered that even a short run counts and enjoyed the pink sunset with a good friend.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Muscle Recovery

Working the legs requires resting the legs.  I am in state of muscle recovery.  My Chi Running book promotes balance and listening to your body.  After a strong lap around Greenlake yesterday afternoon, my body told me to get into bed at 7:00pm.  I could barely keep my eyes open and my legs went on strike.  Perhaps I overdid it, but Chi Running with a fit partner motivated and inspired me.  I know this experiment is going to propel me towards running races again.  Stacy and I have the St. Patty's Day Dash in our sights for mid-March.

During the run, we focused on the idea of a needle in cotton.  This image helps me remember that my spine and my core muscles are like a gathered needle of energy from which all of my movements should originate.  My arms, shoulders, hands legs, hips, feet are the loose cotton that move easily and that are guided by the strong metal core.  We would occasionally shake out our arms and shoulders to release tension and let the core direct the show.

I also tried to envision the center point below my belly button and in front of my spine.  However, my heart felt like a more natural place to focus my attention.  Perhaps the yoga training and heart chakra work makes the heart my familiar meditative zone.  I could visualize being pulled forward through my chest and out of my heart.  It definitely helped to keep my head up and vision focused on a point in the distance.  I will keep experimenting with center points within my body.  Session number one of Chi Running is considered a success!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

mission Greenlake

I am on the look-out for Chi runners.  They will be leaning slightly forward with a look of zen enjoyment on their faces.  These mystical beings will be using a mid-foot strike and gliding effortlessly around Greenlake.  I've been reading about this exhilarating technique, but would like to see it in practice.  These Chi runners will have a straight spine and be moving from their center, a place below the belly button and in front of the spine.  In my fantasties, these creatures will have a center that glows and helps them float right out of their sneakers.  I'll keep you posted on my Greenlake discoveries this afternoon.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Month Ten: ChiRunning

This month I will be exploring a new way to run called the ChiRunning approach.  My good friend, Stacy, mentioned ChiRunning to me a few months ago and bought me the book for Christmas.  It's amazing how the things you need have a way of finding you.

ChiRunning is designed to build a healthy body, instead of breaking it down from misuse or overuse.  This technique claims to reduce or eliminate injury and knee pain.  My history of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and recent knee problems had me thinking that I could no longer run.  When I had my knee drained after months of pain and swelling in 2008, I thought running was a thing of my past.  Recently I decided to gently try running again and was amazed to feel the freedom and exhilaration I had missed for years.  I am perpetually on "knee watch" because my doctor said that further swelling could cause irreversible damage in my joint.  Claims of injury-free, meditative running definitely caught my attention.

As I delve into my new book and new experiment, the stars seem to be lining up.  My holistic chiropractor moved to Hawaii, selling her practice to a new doctor that specializes in Sports Medicine.  My previous doctor that discouraged running was replaced by an active and innovative chiropractor with zero effort on my part.  He seems to truly understand the biomechanics of sports-related movement.  Check out Functional Health Chiropractic and Massage in Madison Valley.  Medical and social support seem to make any endeavor more successful, so I'm considering Dr. Sasaki part of my ChiRunning support team.