Cor(e) blimey!

yoga2

I recently went to 4 yoga classes in one week. Partly because I needed the zen. Mainly because my 10-class pass was due to expire and I don’t like wastage.

Yoga feels like an indulgence. It is time wholly dedicated to consciousness – exactly what I need when I find that I have fallen into a sea of unconscious daily tasks. It forces me (in a collaborative, non-aggressive way, of course) to choose awareness over automatic responses, mindful breathing over mindless scrolling, observation over obsession.

In those 60/75/90 minutes (depending on how deep the sea has been), I only very occasionally wonder what time it is or how much longer I need to channel my inner yogi and work my outer thighs. Mostly I relish the luxury of uninterrupted time to myself, shared with 30 other sweaty, contorting bods in a heated room.

In class #1, I admit to thinking about the ultimate question: Is it time for the Shavasana? This is the yoga pose that signals the end of the class, when you lie on your back, close your eyes and do nothing except breathe. It is the victory pose, the ‘Yes, I made it!’ pose. It is the prize at the peak of the mountain you have just conquered. Your body melts into the floor, along with all effort (and probably a fair bit of sweat). It is the only time when it is acceptable to be in active wear and be completely inactive. You surrender to the silence. You think about how delicious your body feels after all that stretching and flowing. You think about how delicious your dinner will taste now that you’ve earned it.

Towards the end of class #2, just as the instructor utters those beautiful words And now…coming into Shavasana, I come into a coughing fit so intense that I have to leave the room. I feel cheated. I worked hard in that class. My perspiration had been dripping on those mats together with the best of them. My dog had been facing downward just like everybody else’s.  My core had been in overdrive from that very first Child’s pose. And there they all are, Shavasana-ing away in bliss while I splutter in the hallway. I remind myself that I am here to gain inner peace and to learn how to let go.

So for class #3 I make sure I have a big bottle of water to quash any bouts of coughing, and a Fisherman’s Friend lozenge tucked into the previously useless iPod pocket of my yoga pants. The Shavasana is sweet and I stay a little longer to make up for the injustice of the previous class.

Class #4 is Yin Yoga. Ingredients = mat, giant bolster, cushions, dark room, hypnotic music. A recipe for relaxation if ever there was one. This class is like a self-executed massage. But with clothes on. And in public. (Perhaps not the best analogy but I’ll stick with it.) We hold each pose for 5 minutes, which is a long time if your hips are tight and your Pigeon is wonky. But in those 5 minutes there is a subtle but distinct switch from effort to ease. Go as far as you think you can go, then push a little harder because sometimes the only blocker is your mind. And then when the blocker is unquestionably not your mind because your body is screaming out in agony, ease off for goodness’ sake.

And this is the common thread that ran through my week: yoga, like life, is about finding the balance between effort and ease. When you stop trying to attain perfection and instead recognise that you are here, in this moment, at this level. Acceptance is liberating. This is as far as you take it today, and it makes no difference how long you stare at Bendy Wendy or Side Crow Simon next to you. The only comparison to make is with the former you. On or off the yoga mat.

 “You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” – Edwin Louis Cole

Those 4 classes were a lifeboat that pulled me out of my sea of unconsciousness. I’ll be back on that mat before you can say Chaturanga!

©2017 Seetha Dodd

What would MacGyver do?

dinner

There is a perpetually hungry 7 year old in my house. His favourite question is What can I eat? If I had a dollar for every time he uttered these words, I would be able to hire a personal chef.

His hobby is raiding the fridge and/or the snack cupboard. With each visit, he lowers his standards and therefore increases his options.  Much like a visit to Tinder in the dating world, I imagine.

What can I eat?  Yes he’s a growing boy. But he’s not, presumably, growing into a giant. Or a beanstalk. If you saw him eat, though, you would have your doubts.

I am also amused (in an eye-rolling kind of way, not ROFL – that’s ‘Rolling On the Floor Laughing’ for the non-texters amongst us) at this recurring situation:

He is happily creating a Lego masterpiece worthy of an architecture accolade/ watching educational and age appropriate television programs playing Score Hero on his iPad (let’s keep it real). The minute he sees me, even if I have just cleaned the house from top to bottom/ completed a 10km run cleared the dishes from lunch (still keeping it real) I hear those words:

What can I eat? It’s as if the sight of me triggers in him some kind of brain-stomach-brain message. I’ll assume it does not mean that I look like I’ve just eaten a heavy meal or that I must have easy and constant access to food, but instead understand that he sees me as his nurturer, provider of nutrition, maker of Milo, creator of school lunches. So I resist the urge to respond with Well, what can you make? and instead, make him his 42nd snack of the day.

You know the 80s American TV show where the guy with the mullet gets out of tricky situations using only what he finds around him plus a Swiss Army Knife and duct tape? Yes, MacGyver! How did you…oh, oops, post title. Anyway, I try to apply that kind of skill to my meal preparation. Without the duct tape, of course.  Unless too many people under 5 feet start asking me when dinner will be ready.

The challenge is greater if a grocery shop is due. But the formula is tried and tested.

  1. Survey the surroundings – fridge, pantry, kitchen counter, random items conveniently lying around
  2. Plan the strategy (recipe)
  3. Execute the MacGyver Meal under pressured conditions.

The Japanese have a word for allowing the chef to decide your menu: omakase, or ‘I’ll leave it up to you.’ Unbeknown to us all, this custom is practised every day in my kitchen. Being neither Japanese nor a real chef, the power of omakase may have unwittingly gone to my head. So If I am asked What are the choices? I very firmly say ‘Your choices are Take it or Leave it.’

But back to my 7 year old Very Hungry Beanstalk. A week before his birthday this year I asked him what he would like as his birthday meal. ‘I’ll make you anything you like,’ I said boldly, confident that he would not ask for stuffed zucchini flowers or anything that required a sous vide machine. I imagined having to Google ‘how to make sous vide chicken without a sous vide machine’ before I snapped myself out of that culinary horror. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said:

Fish fingers.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked, a little disappointed that none of my Big Gun meals were his favourite, and also because my flamenco apron would not be required for fish finger ‘cooking’.

Yes.

Two days later I asked him again. “You know I said I would make you anything you wanted. How come you said ‘fish fingers’?’

He looked up from his Pokemon cards to say: Because it’s easy to make.

And then I knew. He is growing at an alarming rate. Into a kind and considerate human being. I had no choice but to make the best damn fish fingers the boy had ever tasted.

©2017 Seetha Dodd

The moment

A moment of s  t  i  l  l                                                                                                                                      In the madness around us

 A moment of bliss                                                                                                                                          In the sadness within us

A moment of weakness                                                                                                                                    Against the strength expected of us

A moment of clΔrity                                                                                                                                         Through the clouds above us

A moment of h 🙂 p e                                                                                                                                       In the DESPAIR that torments us

A moment of c♥mf♥rt                                                                                                                                       To heal the w⊕und inside us.

 

©2017 Seetha Dodd

The >seven-year dish

This banana bread is ‘the one’

Seven years of living in Australia have uncovered the following observations:

  1. It is common to start sentences with “Look…” but it is not meant to sound angry or confrontational. It’s just another form of saying “Well…” or “I think…” I used to get taken aback at the seeming harshness but I learnt to filter the word somewhere along its journey from ear to brain to heart. (No they’re not trying to start a fight, it’s just a drumroll announcing the arrival of their next statement.)
  2. You will never be more than 5 minutes away from a Thai restaurant, and some of them warrant a visit just for the name alone: I present Thai Me Up and Thaitanic as two opposite extremes of the pun.
  3. When turning left or right at an intersection and the light is green for you, note that pedestrians also have a green light allowing them to cross the exact road you are entering. Most confusing at first, and in fact is No.2 on the Top 10 misunderstood road rules in NSW, second only to Roundabouts.
  4. Paying $4.50 for a slice of banana bread is considered perfectly acceptable on the Lower North Shore.

We didn’t have banana bread in Glasgow. We had cake, pastries, buns, pies, regular bread and deep-fried Mars bars. But this strange and delightful bread-cake hybrid was something completely new. When I saw that almost every café in the area had banana bread on its menu, I realised this was some kind of Sydney staple and I did what anyone who was temporarily unemployed and permanently frugal would do: I asked the internet to provide me with a recipe so I could attempt to make it myself.

Now, I’m a decent cook and I’ll say so myself, but I’m not much of a baker. So I must have Googled ‘Easy banana bread recipe’. Or perhaps (because I had an impatient 2 year old assistant and was also 7 months pregnant): ‘Quick and easy banana bread recipe with minimal washing up’.

From the numerous results, I picked this one partly because I liked the name of the website (Fig & Cherry) and partly because my senses were drawn to the words ‘dense’ and ‘moist’. But mostly because it hit the minimal washing up requirement in the very first two lines:

“You know the best thing about this recipe? Actually, there’s two things; you don’t need an electric mixer and you only need one bowl.” – Fig & Cherry’s Dense & Moist Banana Bread

Bingo! I didn’t bother reading any of the other recipes. After the 50 minutes of baking time, my dubious assistant and I peered into the oven and yelped with glee at the beautiful, golden brown, buttery exquisiteness with the toasted walnuts on the top that looked almost like the picture in the recipe! Safe to say, no wire-rack cooling took place. We got stuck right in. I never had to Google another banana bread recipe ever again. This one’s a keeper.

I’ve made this over and over for seven years with different variations and it has always turned out delicious. Every single time. I could attribute this to the Fairy spell we chant as we place anything into the oven: ‘Wisha wisha wish-a/ Make this deli-cious!’ but I’ve shared the recipe with friends and family who also agree it is truly banana bread heaven and they don’t (didn’t) know our Fairy spell.

I love it because you can add whatever you have lying around – shredded coconut, different types of nuts, pumpkin seeds, cocoa powder, some cheeky chocolate chips, sultanas….the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Oh, and basic food science. And I suppose a wee bit of common sense. But really, the loaf tin is your oyster. We made some recently and I didn’t have enough flour, so we (my now 9 year old assistant and I) decided to use a half flour – half rolled oats combo and yet again, the result was the most requested morning tea item that week.

Look, just trust me on this one. Try the recipe. It will make you yelp again and again. You will not be disappointed.

#7yearsandcounting

©2017 Seetha Dodd

All the time…

3yrold

Parenting is about balancing the #winning with the #notwinning. My three year old social butterfly had two birthday parties to attend in one weekend. At the first party, he sat down with his little friends to have a piece of birthday cake and as everyone else tucked in with their fingers, my child asked for a fork, much to the amusement of all the other parents who complimented his lovely table manners. This is a boy who, in his regular habitat, picks his nose, wipes it on your clothes and then calls you a ‘Boogerhead’. More social Ninja Turtle than social butterfly, really.

Whatever pedestal I put him and his cake-eating etiquette on came crashing down however, when at the second birthday party – a beautiful ‘English high tea’ in the park on a glorious Spring day – he asked the birthday boy’s mum (before I could stop him because I saw there weren’t any) for his party bag. You win some, you lose some.

But he is very winsome, and I suppose that helps. Instead of ‘I love you, Mummy’, this boy says ‘I love you ALL THE TIME, Mummy’, perhaps to remind me that his love is unconditional and so should mine be regardless of unfortunate barefoot Lego or Sudocrem-on-sofa incidents.

Lessons from a three-year-old can make you stop in your high-speed tracks quicker than any mindfulness guru ever could. As we walk home from daycare, he asks to have a play date with one of his daycare buds. Before I can answer, he looks at me with an expression much too supportive and considerate for a three year old and says ‘Another time, Mummy?’

Another time. Do I say it so often that he knows and expects the phrase as a given? Requests for play dates, to blow bubbles in the ‘park with the horsies’, to watch Boss Baby (again), to have a lightsaber battle just before bedtime, to have French toast for breakfast on a weekday……are these activities all held by him in the realm of future fun?

I realised that all the rushing from one task to another meant I was forgetting that the time is now. Time to stop and embrace the sweet delight of a child who knows how to live in the moment. Time to say ‘yes’. ‘You mean later, Mummy??’ He is earnest and wide-eyed at the glorious prospect of spontaneity. No, right now. Get your bubble mixture, let’s do it. Those horsies are waiting.

#allthetime

©2017 Seetha Dodd

 

Drops of Jupiter at the State Theatre

Train

A (not-at-all star struck) fan’s review of Train’s Play That Song tour in Sydney this August.                                                                                                     

Train appeared on stage to the background noise of…….a train chugging and whistling. And for me, that set the tone for the night: this is a band that has fun. With lyrics, with their audience and with their performance.

The setting was the State Theatre. Stunning as it was, it seemed to warrant an air of restraint in the audience. With his tongue in his cheek, Pat Monahan thanked us for sitting down, as it ‘took the pressure off’. The beauty of this band, however, is the very real connection that its frontman made with his audience. A slow and steady surrender to his energy, wit and general likeability meant that by the end of the night the entire main floor was on its feet. And not just for the free t-shirts.

They opened with Drink Up, a seize the moment song from the new album to get the party started. And from then on, they barely stopped to take a breath. Bruises, a duet, was sung as a solo, so we tried to join in to ‘pick up the slack’. Pat Monahan and his incredible voice didn’t need any help.

And then some of the favourites: Hey Soul Sister, Drive By, Save Me San Francisco. Also some older ones like Meet Virginia, and the very cute Get to Me, about the many ways you can travel to get to someone who is waiting: “hitch a ride on the back of a butterfly,” echoed – in quirky Train fashion – an older Brenda Russell song, Get Here: “You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon.”

The question on everyone lips: Will they Play That Song? They sure did. But only when Sydney was standing up and ready for it. If nothing else, to be worthy of those smooth dance moves from the music video.

My wait for Drops of Jupiter was not in vain and I found myself ‘tracing my way through the constellation (hey hey)’ with the best of them. This was the song that first captured my interest in this American band because it spoke to me just like the poetry I dissected for fun. I loved the imagery of freeze-dried romance and the bizarre connections in a world where love, pride and deep-fried chicken could hang out in the same line.

I only found out later that the song was written after Pat’s mother passed away and the song came to him in a dream: his mother came back after traveling the universe to tell him that heaven was overrated and to love this life. I didn’t think I could love this song more.

Whilst you can enjoy a Train song without going too deep, some of their lyrics are so clever that you don’t have a choice: “I stopped believin’/ Although Journey told me don’t..” See??! So clever.

The themes – love lost, unrequited love, true love, old loves, broken hearts, seizing the day, friendship, moments that matter – may be common ones but their songs are anything but. The lyrics combine the deep and meaningful (“You are the greatest thing about me”) with the whimsical and flippant (“I wanna buy you everything except cologne/ ’Cause it’s poison”) so that what you get in the end are words that touch your soul as well as your funny bone.

To break up the set, we were treated to a couple of guitar solos and a medley of popular songs, old and new, including Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. Then a performance of Queen’s Under Pressure that presented the frontman’s vocal range in all its amazing glory.

But the stand-out moment of the night was when Pat Monahan put down his microphone and sang, only with his heart, the beautiful Always Midnight. A song I’d never heard before tonight and now want to hear forever. The words, about someone that is always just out of reach, something that is just not meant to be, about disappointment: “The sound of a train that I should have been on/ Reminding me that the last one’s gone/ With you it’s always midnight.”

After that, they could have played chugga-choo-choo noises all night, I don’t think anyone would have complained.

A lively yet soulful performance by a charismatic, funny guy and his very cool band.

©2017 Seetha Dodd