SUNDAY BEST SPECIAL EDITION: OUR BRAND NEW PROJECT LITTLE GREEN KETTLE

Little Green Kettle - vegan blogHi everyone! I can’t believe I was able to hold my tongue until today regarding a very special announcement. I’ve mentioned here and there that something was in the works but now it’s finally up and running and I’m so excited to share it with you today.

I want you to meet Little Green Kettle, my new blog and something I’m really proud of. The unbelievable response it has had in only a few days continues to overwhelm me. The message and content that will fill its “walls” is so important to me that I’m squealing with excitement over announcing my brand new “baby blog”.Little Green Kettle - Health and wellness blog

Little Green Kettle is a site about healthy and sustainable eating, the power of activism and making a difference in this world, it’s a health and wellness blog covering topics such as yoga, meditation and wellbeing, it’s a delicious cooking blog that will hopefully inspire your time in the kitchen. That being said, we’ll be doing lots and lots of cooking, we’ll be sharing stories about activism and the incredible people making a difference all around us. We will practice lots of yoga and get immersed in a world of change, looking at how the small choices we make, impact the big things around us.

I’m keeping this post short so that you can head on out to the Little Green Kettle and do some reading there. Not sure where to start? I recommend the About page and the Welcome post first, here you can read a bit about what we’ll be up to at Little Green Kettle. Still have some time after that? We’ve already got some great posts on a Trip to the Farmer’s Market, Seane Corn and her amazing work around the world with her foundation Off the Mat into the World, a delicious spinach, kale and citrus salad, yummy vegan temakis and a post about Comfort Foods.

New posts are coming in every week and we’re going to have some incredible collaborators from the fields of psychology, medicine, health, physical fitness, yoga and so much more. You can subscribe to the blog via email on the website, join us on facebook and twitter (all of this can also be done through the buttons on the website). Once you’ve stopped by for a visit, if you like it and feel like spreading the word, please share in whatever way you can! We’re trying to reach as many kind hearted people as possible so that we can all start making changes together.

This is Little Green Kettle. Thank you so much for stopping by. I’ll see you in a couple of days with a funny story about creativity, two young boys and mischief.Little Green Kettle - healthy and sustainable eating, whole hearted living

WHILE TIME FLIES

sunset at the santa monica pierHappy 2013 everyone! I can’t believe how fast time is moving along. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that you’re prepared and full of energy for the new year. This feeling of time going by incredibly fast is something that I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m sure I’m not the only one that sometimes feels time is passing at warp speed and this often makes me wonder if I’m listening closely and feeling deeply while enjoying the ride. Perhaps it’s my return to yoga that has brought me closer to thinking these things, or perhaps my pursuit of yoga was a result of feeling I wasn’t always as present as I wanted to be. Either way, my wish for all of us in this new year that is starting is that we are able to be present, that for several moments a day we can forget about our endless lists and errands, and focus on the moment. The wise Bob Marley said it best when he shared with us his wonderful line in Redemption song “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery”. Not that thinking is bad at all, but overthinking takes us out of enjoying what is happening around us. I know that when I started to become more aware hundreds of wonderful things started changing and happening around me. Connecting yourself to your surroundings opens your heart to helping and understanding others, something that we need a lot of in these crazy times we live in.

One thing you probably know about me by now is that I love traditions. My friends laugh when I keep asking about their family’s traditions and which ones they continue to put into practice. For some reason, the carrying on of traditions is very important to me and I’m constantly stealing things I love from other people or other cultures. One tradition I’ve fallen in love with recently is the Ayurvedic tradition of Sadhanas. Sadhana is a word in Sanskrit that is used to talk about a means to accomplish something, and although it’s usually used in a spiritual sense, many followers of Ayurvedic tradition use it when talking about practices as simple as roasting spices or cooking and is seen as a meditative activity that connects you to your spiritual side. For me, it’s a very powerful and simple act that takes me right where I want to be, exactly in the present moment. Whether you’re spiritual or not, these small meditative actions can start to spark little creative fires and wonderful feelings inside of you. After reading about this, I suddenly put two and two together and remembered the wise words of my mother: “when you have a problem, have worries on your mind or feel stressed…make a loaf of bread”. People that grew up in farms probably did Sadhanas every morning while they milked the cows and fed the horses. They also probably started their day with a clearer mind and an open heart. Of course the idea is not to drown these activities with noises, TV or distractions. If you were one of the farmers, it’s all about you, the horses and the sound of the birds in the background.

So as a welcome to 2013 I hope that we can all be more present and live every second to the fullest, there’s no need to write about all the fringe benefits this will have because they will quickly start falling into place for you, trust me! I hope you have a year full of creativity and surprising beautiful moments. I leave you with one of my special places to just sit and be present, the Santa Monica Pier in California at sunset. Happy 2013!

A DAY IN THE LIFE

ChristmasFor some very strange reason, my students (especially the young ones) seem to be extremely curious about what my life is like. They are constantly asking me about my hobbies, my favorite bands, how old I am (this little guessing game gets hilarious with the young ones), what my husband is like, whether he plays play station games or football. My life is pretty simple nowadays which is what I’ve worked my entire life to finally be able to have, but to my students, these little bits of information are like little special treats. Perhaps it’s because we spend the entire class talking about what they’ve been doing, what their favorite movies are, the sports they play, and they love turning these back at me. The idea is to get them talking as much as possible, so I’m the least important person in the room while I’m teaching. However, it is slightly unfair that I get to ask all the questions and get all the scoop. So for my dear students who are always reading the blog (thanks! you guys rock!) and to any others that might be stopping by, here’s what my day looked like today.

At around 7 I made breakfast for my doggie and hubby and we all sat down to eat together (doggie on the floor but still…). A couple of hours of lesson planning followed, and then an early morning yoga class in what seemed to be the coldest day out ever! Then I ran some errands and continued with my lesson planning, and then after still having some of my yoga buzz left over I went into the kitchen to make a yummy vegetarian lunch. Roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa with almonds and goyi berries and my favorite ginger carrot sauce on the side, not to mention my new favorite side dish zucchini and leek “pasta-less pasta” with a rich tomato sauce. Amazing is all I have to say! Not because of any particular cooking skill of mine but because of the incredible and delicious food nature gives us! Then I had an afternoon of teaching, drove back home listening the the great Gary Jules and had dinner with hubby and doggie again. We’re about to curl up on the couch for some tv time, one of my favorite parts of the day!

Hope you had a great one too! Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!

PS: Another typical question is what our home is like, and whether I’ve put up my Christmas tree yet, so that’s what the photo above is about. Nala decided to model it for you. What do you think?!

SUNDAY BEST

Pile of leaves

Happy Sunday everyone! I was missing the warm weather of the Caribbean this week but then I took my dog to the park and remembered why this is my favorite season! I sat down in the stone steps at the park while Nala played in a pile of leaves and watched the leaves falling quietly. Now I remember the beauty of living in a city that has four seasons. I do have to say though that falling back into a routine after days of sun and swimming in the ocean is not as easy as I thought it would be! The jet lag which I thought I had escaped this time around finally caught up with me.

Autumn in Spain

Anyway, it’s that time of the week again, here are my favorites:

A wonderful teaching site with great creative ideas The Classroom Collective has provided me with some very original ideas for lessons.

For photographers, travelling enthusiasts and lovers of beautiful images from around the world, Best Travel Photos is like a little feast for the eyes. It makes you want to go fishing for your passport and bags asap!

For foodies, cooks and wannabe chefs, I’m absolutely loving Eat Live Run. I can’t wait to try their hummus toasts with avocado and roasted tomatoes. They have wonderful veggie packed recipes and beautiful photography.

Last but not least, I found Carrots n’ Cake when I was looking for a recipe, and it turns out the creator of this blog has us covered with everything from food, travel, home decor, to fitness and well being. Take a stroll through her multiple pages and find what might be up your alley. I can’t wait to spend some time in her recipe section and especially to make her edamame guacamole!

That’s about it for this edition of Sunday Best, they’re showing Deathproof on tv so I’m about to curl up on the couch with hubby  and doggie and watch it yet again. Have a great Sunday everyone!

ON AN ISLAND IN THE SUN

Weezer said it best, “on an island in the sun we’ll be playing and having fun”. That’s precisely where and what I was doing during my days of absence in the blog. Yes, for a whole week I was in the beautiful Dominican Republic for a much needed vacation. However, this wasn’t the main reason for our trip. I was going to the wedding of two of my dearest and closest friends who made the awesome decision of getting married in a tropical island paradise and giving everyone an amazing week in the process.

I have the very strange habit of waking up really early when I’m on vacation. I try and I try but my internal alarm clock usually goes off before 6 am. This time however I made lemonade out of lemons and while everyone was asleep I went for a run on the beach and watched the sunrise. The top photo is of the first sunrise and my first glimpse of the beach during our holiday. I felt so free running next to the ocean while I listened to some music and felt the waves splashing on the shore. This was one of the highlights of my week, next to some precious time with my hubby and our friends and family, not to mention the incredible and emotional wedding. One of the most wonderful events I’ve ever been to. The photo below says it all right? It was a magical day, an incredible ceremony at sunset and an amazing party at the beach. It was so wonderful and emotional for me. Same goes for my hubby,  you can see him smiling in the background in the photo below after completing his best man duties.

Did I mention the fantastic food and how kind and wonderful the Dominican people are? Top this with warm weather all day long and a beautiful warm blue ocean… if you hadn’t noticed already, I was in heaven. Of course I brought some photos and stories to share with you so enjoy some today with lots more to come. Thanks to my dear students for giving me the week off to go running on the shore and spend an unbelievably special day with friends! And thanks to two very special friends who are starting their life together for giving us these incredible memories. It couldn’t have been better!

Enjoy the slideshow below!

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CLOUDY SKIES AND MITIK

children´s drawings

 

It’s a cloudy and rainy day here in Madrid. I’m sitting down to write my student’s progress reports for this week and I’m listening to The Decemberists (a must on rainy days). I love the changing of the seasons and days like these. They seem to make me want to work in the studio or plan some really creative lessons, brainstorm ideas, etc. Change seems to be in the air today since this morning I jumped in the car and went to get my long locks chopped off. It felt like time for a change (I’ll post a photo soon) and it was so exciting!

While I’m taking a break from work to write this post, let me leave you with one of my favorite things to look at: children’s drawings. A few weeks ago a baby Walrus named Mitik was rescued in Alaska and taken to the New York aquarium where they are taking care of it. The New York Times has been covering the rescue and asked children across America to send drawings of this huge adventure this tiny walrus was on. Here’s the selection of drawings, including the one closest to my heart since it was done by my super creative 8 year old cousin Sophie. It’s her rendition of Mitik the walrus on his trainer’s lap after a day of cuddles and play. Take a look at the drawings that made the New York Times’ cut and get an amazing glimpse into the minds and hearts of these little kids. I’ve always felt that drawings and games are the biggest windows into the lives of children and you’ll definitely get a sense of who these kids are by looking at their drawings here. Sophie’s heart drawing is just like hers is in real life, big, pink, creative, caring and sweet all rolled into one. I hope you like them! They certainly made me smile today.

READERS

Graded readers ESLHere’s what I’m doing on my Saturday night. Ok, ok, I’m almost finished and about to watch a movie, but yes, this is usually what life as a teacher is like nowadays. I’m starting with graded readers with my young students with this action and adventure book called Orca. It’s about a group of adventurous sailors and the things that can happen in the big blue sea. We’re starting the actual reading this week but we’ve been slowly working on vocabulary, games, listenings and video to get their interest before reading. So far they’ve loved it and my dear childhood film “Free Willy” has come to the rescue yet again. Two of my students were actually able to do a listening activity with a CNN news segment on killer whales working together to hunt a seal (I’m still looking for a polite way to squeal with excitement when my students have a little breakthrough like this in class. Did I mention these two students are 9 and 11?!). So last week while we were playing some flashcard games and going through some vocabulary, these two little guys asked if they could photocopy the flashcards to get the answers extra perfect next time (translation: they want to be the first to answer). I told them I would of course give them something for their notebooks so that they could review the new words when I wasn’t there. So these little vocabulary sheets are what I’m up to tonight, the big blank space is for them to write a sentence using the new words.

Vocabulary ESL

Did I tell you I felt incredibly old when my 9 year old student explained how to make videos bigger in my iPad last week? (Sigh…).

POP UP

Shops in Madrid SpainHi everyone! A long weekend plus an important errand on Monday and several days of being sick kind of threw me off the teaching/bloggging arena for a few days. After some much needed rest I’m finally back to show you some photos I’ve been taking with my phone and which I just realized have one thing in common: pop up books. The photos aren’t exactly of books so lets call them pop up moments. Remember those wonderful children’s books that had a new surprise in every page and it seemed to jump at you and fill you with giddy laughter as a kid? It turns out that Spain is full of those moments if you pay attention.  I seem to be obsessed with the image of something unexpected popping up as if out of nowhere. Madrid and many other Spanish cities are filled with these beautiful sights since the old seems to be fighting with the new for central stage, and the small streets usually have a hidden agenda if you look close enough. I wasn’t doing this intentionally, but today while I was browsing through my photos I noticed a pattern. Take a look…

Here’s a beautiful park in San Lorenzo del Escorial where we went to last week for the day, and its “pop up book” cathedral.

San Lorenzo del Escorial

Two blocks away behind a huge wall you think has nothing beyond it, you walk through a very tiny alley and find this little beauty below as you look to your left.

Fall trees in Spain

In the same town, right behind the famous El Escorial Monastery lies this beautiful mountain that seems to be leaning in to take a peek. I had always stood there looking straight at the incredible building but this time I found myself wondering what life in the houses on the hill was like.El EscorialAfter years of searching for the famous prince gardens in Madrid, I found them when I wasn’t looking. The garden was a lot smaller than I thought, but beyond the beautiful and really old trees was the sight of the roofs that peeked through. It was incredible to see that terracotta orange behind those bright greens and you know how I’m obsessed with contrasts right? The photo doesn’t do it justice because there was so much light there that day, but you get the idea…Prince garden in Madrid

Below you’ll find my second obsession in photography, tunnels and bridges and alleys oh my! The quintessential pop up moment, the first peak at what lies behind the passing of a bridge. Another view of El Escorial featuring my hubby and our friend Daniel strolling the stone path.

Let’s not forget the little surprise I got a few weeks ago as I turned a corner and saw the beautiful floating stationary in a shop in the center of town (top photo).

I’m still obsessed with pop up books and can’t help myself whenever I’m in a bookstore, but if you look closely, you’ll start seeing little surprises catching your eye. I’m going to start collecting some of these and maybe it will make me even more aware of those contrasts I love.

GETTING BACK UP

autumn changeMany of you probably read my last post about election day and then saw no posts for several days. This happened to me and many friends and fellow bloggers. I think we were just so busy reading about the elections online and getting back up, that we weren’t sure what to say or how to continue with a normal post after that day. That was true for me at least, that is until yesterday. Yesterday was Thursday, and on this day I go to the CEPI center where I’m a volunteer English teacher (you might remember my post called “A Special Anniversary”). We started a new course yesterday which meant a bunch of new students. To say they are lovely and motivated is a complete understatement! They are one of the best groups I’ve had at the center so far. Not because of their level of English but because of how much they participate and how much they want to learn. A funny thing happened, Carmen, one of my new students approached me before class and said she was terribly sorry but she needed to ask me something before coming inside. As soon as I looked at her I saw this little furry white head pop out of her bag. Her dog had just had surgery and she couldn’t leave him alone but she didn’t want to miss her English class.She asked me if “Bichin” (which roughly translated means ‘little critter’) could possibly join us for the class. I’m sure she had no idea that she was asking the perfect person for that favor, and a few seconds later they were both sitting in a desk next to her classmates.

There I was, teaching 11 and a half students, and my heart was slowly recovering and warming up. My new group has students from Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Honduras and Spain to name a few, and we all made a very special bond yesterday. Perhaps it was the doggie in the room that made everything so relaxed and special, or maybe it was just one of those lucky days. It was one of the most special classes I have ever taught and my students felt so at ease they stayed during their break chatting with me about their previous learning experiences and how lost they’ve felt in classes in which the teachers rush through the class and leave them frowning. This is something for a different post because I think it’s very important, but for now, the point is that in that classroom I remembered that everything goes on and that I’m so blessed to have a job where I get to share my time with people. Last night I taught another group of new students and again left smiling realizing the beauty of English teaching. You teach a language by talking about life and interests, movies and hobbies, politics and new discoveries, world news and personal experiences. This is probably one of the few subjects in which your students share this much of their lives and their opinions with you and you with them. When I was driving back home after a long day of teaching blasting The Decemberists on my stereo, I was smiling.

In regards to the election process, I wish everyone that felt really down that day a fast recovery and especially to all my friends and family that are still in Venezuela. You can always count on my vote no matter how many times we feel it makes no difference. A lot is being said about the election process, all I know for sure is that I will vote, EVERY SINGLE time as I have before. It’s just what my mamma taught me.

The photo above is of my first spotting of the changing of the leaves and I also leave you with “Bichín”, my first canine English student. Hope he puts a smile on your face as he did on mine.doggie

OCTOBER

La Central CallaoWe’re six days into October and the season is already showing its little surprises. Three little pumpkins are beginning to grow in my little terrace veggie patch. If you can’t see them yet, they are those three little pear like bulbs right below the flowers (photo below). I always love the changing of the seasons and the little chills that come with fall. Not to mention the colors! It’s my favorite season to design for, when I’m spending some time in the studio. This week was all about lesson planning and teaching, but today I got to explore the city with my friend Carla and it was a treat to check out the new “La Central” bookstore right in the center of town. The bookstore is amazing, three floors of very unique books, a little bistro, a wonderful children’s section and an amazing quirky shop where you can spend hours (and all your money!) looking at all the crazy grown up toys. It was packed today and everyone seemed to be having an amazing time looking around. I was in love with two things but bought only one, an amazing appointment book that apparently won in 2011 for best design. It’s simplicity, light weight and practicality won me over as soon as my friend showed it to me. The second thing, for which I decided this afternoon I’m going to go back for, was a shadow puppet theatre. Yes, you heard me, late nights under the covers making crocodiles and jumping bunnies anyone? The theater came with a white sheet with illustrations of a beautiful stage and audience, and little boxes were sold with the actual puppets on wooden sticks. I think it will be great for my students to put on some great performances and make up their own story lines. On top of that, it’s something that I’ve never ever seen before and my young students are always the first to notice when something is unique and special. I see an extra trip to “La Central” in my immediate future.La Central

La Central bookstoreThe building was spectacular. Large wooden staircases made out of those really thick New York style panels. and the amazing murals of what apparently used to be a church. All surrounded by books, puppets, toys and Madrileños. I was in heaven.

Behold my three little pumpkins! I’ll see you tomorrow for our Sunday Best!

October and pumpkins