Archives for November 2010

A Quick Heads Up

I just wanted to let you guys know that I’ll be running an 8-day Hannukah sale starting this week, with a different offer each day.

My goal is to offer people services or products they otherwise would not be able to afford, and drum up a bit of holiday cheer.

I will still provide the same quality content you’ve come to expect and will keep the deal in the beginning or end of each post.

I totally understand if you’ve been overwhelmed with a bajillion sales over the past week. Please bear with me and stick around!

Paleo Flour and Other Sundry Substitutes

I really do love spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce, but there days when I find myself wondering whether I am not just kidding myself with my assorted Paleo substitutes. Spaghetti squash vaguely resembles spaghetti, but with substitutes you can only go so far. Paleo pizza and paleo pancakes may be delicious, but don’t really taste much like the real thing. I find myself wondering if those of us eating these substitutes are similar to vegans who miss the taste of meat so much that we concoct strange non-food items like tofu pups, tofurkey, garden burgers and not dogs. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair that certain flavors and types of food that we’ve become accustomed to over the course of our non-Paleo lives should be reserved for grain eaters. And so I have been experimenting with various recipes. I’d love to make crackers or toast, pizza crust, and yes, pancakes. I wanted to post links to some of the recipes I’ve tried, and get your feedback as well. What has worked well for you and what hasn’t?

The recipes I’ve tried for pizza crust have included almond flour, almond butter and egg whites. The biggest problem I’ve had with the crust is that it is sticky and I can’t get it as spread out on the pan as I would like.  It does not really taste anything like pizza crust. I’d like to experiment with cashew or macadamia butter, which I hear is a bit less sticky. I’ve also heard good things about chebe bread crusts. This is a Brazilian invention made of manioc (tapioca) flour.

The best Paleo pancake recipe I’ve made is Scotty’s Quick Paleo Pancakes. They are yum and have eggs, apple sauce and nut butter. I am always looking for more, though, so if you’ve got any please post them in the comments.

As far as flour substitutes, the first Paleo breads I tried to make were with almond flour, and from Karen Robinson’s website, Guide for Self-Healing. Check out the recipes here. Some do have cheese and honey, so not entirely Paleo, but close enough for many people. The ones I have made came out pretty well, but the cookies don’t seem to heat evenly (even when using a convection oven) so it is hard to have them  not be a little burnt on the edges and a little gooey in the middle. I am still trying to perfect them. The bread, however, is delicious and I love being able to spread almond butter on something from time to time.

I have yet to experiment with coconut flour, but now that I’ve moved I  managed to find some at my nifty local grocery store! Here are some recipes from Mark’s Daily Apple. If you have experimented with it, please do share your experiences in the comments. Eventually, I hope to have a resource to all different types of Paleo “flours”–what they work best for and what they should not be used for–but I need your help!

Audio Interview: Susan Wooldridge

I have a very special Thanksgiving treat for all of you!

Please enjoy the first of a two-part interview with Susan Wooldridge (pictured left), author of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words and Foolsgold: Making Something from Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process.

I had the pleasure of attending one of Susan’s amazing workshops several years ago. We discussed some techniques she uses, drawing on her experience teaching kids in juvenile hall, that help create a safe space for writing, allowing people to reconnect with the part of themselves that loves language.


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Thanks to Kelli Wise for editing and to Brett Bakshis for the music. Tune in next week for part two!

Yael’s Variety Hour

Welcome to my weekly variety hour, where I post bits and pieces of awesomeness I found around the interwebz.

First, some shameless self-promotion.

  • In the Twin Cities and looking to break into writing for magazines? Well, you’re in luck. I will be teaching a two-part workshop on just that. The workshop, From Query to Print: Magazine Writing Basics, will take place from 10-noon on December 4th and 11th at the Loft Literary Center. Low income discounts are available. I would love to see you! And if you have a writer or aspiring writer friend in Minneapolis or St. Paul, please spread the word!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and luckily we are driving rather than flying to our final destination.

  • Many people have posited that the new full-body scanners aren’t harmful. Here’s an article from the New Scientist that suggests otherwise, indicating that the scanners can actually damage human DNA.
  • I am appalled and disgusted that so many of us will not be able to fly without having to chose between potentially harmful scanners (which also have the ability to store naked photos) or invasive and humiliating patdowns. Seth Godin put it well in a recent post, Groping for a Marketing Solution: TSA and Security Theater.

The holidays are coming up, and my boyfriend and I are in the middle of moving. It’s going to be a crazy few weeks (or months).

  • I normally don’t endorse products, but Sankofa Song’s Don’t Lose Your Sh*t Kit just came out and I wanted to spread the word. The kit, which is under ten bucks, includes some delicious music as well as breathing and sound exercises that will help you not lose your shit (or get back into a good space if you’ve already lost your shit), as well as a shiny 21-page PDF e-book. Also, Fabeku is awesome and his music is magically delicious.

Here’s to an excellent Thanksgiving for everyone, and safe travels!

Poem of the Month: November 2010

I’ve been putting things in boxes all day, getting ready to move. Of course this is a daunting process, and it always makes me realize just how many things I own. I’ve been working hard on being more deliberate about what I keep around me, thanks in no small part to Jen Hofmann at Inspired Home Office. But there’s nothing that makes one more aware of just how much STUFF they own than moving. Each piece of paper or book has a story behind it, for better or worse, something I’ve been comtemplating. I ran across a beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda which seems appropriate and wanted to share it.

Ode to Things by Pablo Neruda

I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
and bowls –
not to speak, or course,
of hats.
I love
all things,
not just
the grandest,
small –
and flower vases.
Oh yes,
the planet
is sublime!
It’s full of pipes
through tobacco smoke,
and keys
and salt shakers –
I mean,
that is made
by the hand of man, every little thing:
shapely shoes,
and fabric,
and each new
bloodless birth
of gold,
carpenter’s nails,
clocks, compasses,
coins, and the so-soft
softness of chairs.
Mankind has
oh so many
Built them of wool
and of wood,
of glass and
of rope:
ships, and stairways.
I love
not because they are
or sweet-smelling
but because,
I don’t know,
this ocean is yours,
and mine;
these buttons
and wheels
and little
fans upon
whose feathers
love has scattered
its blossoms
glasses, knives and
scissors –
all bear
the trace
of someone’s fingers
on their handle or surface,
the trace of a distant hand
in the depths of forgetfulness.
I pause in houses,
streets and
touching things,
identifying objects
that I secretly covet;
this one because it rings,
that one because
it’s as soft
as the softness of a woman’s hip,
that one there for its deep-sea color,
and that one for its velvet feel.
O irrevocable
of things:
no one can say
that I loved
or the plants of the jungle and the field,
that I loved
those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.
It’s not true:
many things conspired
to tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
or my hand touched them:
they were
so close
that they were a part
of my being,
they were so alive with me
that they lived half my life
and will die half my death.

The Paleo Experiment: My 30 Day Summary

If you’re not an avid blog reader,  you may not know that I’ve been diligently documenting a whole month of Paleo eating. (Here are links to the posts: IntroWeek 1Week 2Week 3 and Week 4). After I finished the challenge,  I took some after photos, and noticed that even though I’d only lost three or four pounds on the diet, the difference was visible and actually quite striking for only 4 weeks–especially since I’d been slacking on my actual workout for the last week and a half or so.

In the past week, I’ve been working on trying to reintroduce foods back into my diet and have found, predictably, that the adjustment to anything more than the smallest amounts isn’t so smooth. I think I can pull it off every now and again, but the bloated feeling from grains and other foods is probably not worth the short-term high I get from the foods. I am a big fan of the 90% rule but am considering eliminating gluten altogether. I would like to experiment a bit with raw dairy at some point.

This is one of the down sides of eating clean. There is something very enjoyable for me about eating ice cream, good crackers, cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate with whipped cream, etc. Having to either limit it to very small amounts eaten infrequently or getting sick from them isn’t exactly a fun decision. Then there is social pressure of eating what everyone else is, which is easy to overcome but for me a good way to get lazy and indulgent.

Ideally, one would slowly ratchet up carbs in the form of extra food before any binge-fest, and find alternatives to food as pick-me-ups when necessary. For me this used to include acupuncture, riding my bike, sitting in a sauna or hot tub, etc. but of course healthy alternatives are always a good option–dark chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe’s, blended frozen cherries and coconut milk “ice cream,” almond flour pastries, etc.

I do think that my short-term highs from junk food will eventually fall to the wayside when considering the long-term effects of a Paleo diet. I’m interested in hearing your experiences. 1) Did you find that eating Paleo improved your mood and performance MORE after the first 30 days or so? Any experiences at, say, six months that you didn’t have at 1 month? 2) How do you deal with cravings and wanting to sometimes eat whatever is around at social gatherings or when spending time with family? (This question is primarily directed at people who don’t measure all their food and eat from containers.) 3) Any other thoughts or experiences?

Five Resources For Beginning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Players

Several times a week, people ask me for resources for beginning BJJ players, or those who are just getting started. I am still a beginner myself, working on strengthening my own fundamentals, but I did manage to narrow down the plethora of BJJ books, DVDs and blos out there to five. In no particular order, here are my personal tried-and-true favorites that are both accessible and detailed.

This list is by no means comprehensive, so if I missed your favorites feel free to add them in the comments.

Jiu Jitsu University is an excellent book written by six-time BJJ World Champion Saulo Ribeiro. The excellent thing about this book is that it’s divided by belt, with the earlier sections of the book focusing on merely survival. The book also illustrates common errors and remedies. It is accessible yet detailed, and will change the way you look at jiu jitsu. A classic.

Roy Dean’s Blue Belt Requirements DVD set. This is an excellent instructional DVD set focusing on fundamentals. Roy Dean, a black belt under Roy Harris, instructs with clarity and precision. He covers positional escapes from mount, escapes from sidemount, follow-up techniques and high percentage sweeps. He also delves into submissions, including many chokes and several armbar variations as well as follow-up strategies. Dean also covers guard passes, base and posture. The second DVD discusses ukemi (or falling/rolling), throws and takedowns–as well as some guidelines. The DVD ends with demonstrations from blue belt tests, competition footage and basic combinations.

Grapplearts is an incredible website, with tons of articles and interviews, a collection of step-by-step techniques, a blog and photos. It is run by Stephan Kesting, a BJJ black belt who’s been practicing martial arts for 25 years.

Beginning BJJ is Kesting’s other blog, in which he provides a free e-course and e-book to help understand the fundamentals of BJJ. Kesting also sells a variety of DVDs and kits (which include DVDs, audio CDs, e-books and more) for beginners or intermediate-level players who want strong basics.

The Gentle Art, by Cane Prevost, is an interesting and free blog focusing primarily on fundamental positions. Prevost is a BJJ coach who lives in Portland, Oregon and trains at Straight Blast Gym. He’s also a high school teacher and very interested in evolving as a coach as well as a student.

Especially for Writers and Aspiring Writers: A Resource List

How does one get started as a writer? This is a question I’m asked regularly, and I wanted to share some of my favorite resources. There are a million books and courses out there, so please forgive me if I left off your favorite–or write about it in the comments.

Creative Writing

  • poemcrazy: freeing your life with words by Susan Wooldridge is a wonderful, playful book that is fun and accessible guide for discovering poetry on nature walks, stealing words from books and generally creating a nurturing space where poetry grows. It makes creative writing fun and not painful, with joyful exercises to try if you wish. I was lucky enough to attend one of Wooldridge’s workshops and interviewed her for my podcast: stay tuned for that.
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg is a classic. It is all about writing as practice. Keep your hand moving, lose control, go for the jugular and don’t think.
  • Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World With Your Words and Stories and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually DO It by SARK is a supportive and practical book with inspiring ideas and exercises. You’ll know simply by picking it up whether or not you’ll love it.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is a humorous book with practical advice and an ample dosage of humor.

Freelance Writing

  • Writer’s Market by Robert Lee Brewer is a good start for figuring out which magazines cover topics you want to write about, how to craft a query letter and what you’re likely to get paid. There is an online version and two book versions (one which includes an annual on-line subscription).
  • The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell really cuts through a lot of misconceptions on freelance writing. The authors are incredibly savvy, strategic and smart. Formichelli also offers consultations, e-courses, query reviews, a sample packet of successful queries and an excellent blog. Highly recommended.
  • The Unconventional Guide to Freelancing is not a physical book specifically for freelance writers, but actually a PDF for freelancers of all kinds (artists, designers, etc. as well as writers) written by Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing fame. In addition to the PDF, you get 3-5 audio interviews and transcripts as well as some handy files on contracts, key lessons and recommended resources, depending on which version you choose to buy. The Guide is particularly useful for managing your time and energy, cash flow management, and the nuts and bolts of building your business.

For Intermediate/Advanced Writers

  • Freelance Success is an amazing online resource for established, professional non-fiction writers and editors. The cost is $99/year, and it’s worth it simply for the weekly newsletter, which includes market guides based on interviews with top editors. But FLX also has an amazing group of savvy writers who are extremely helpful. Being able to tap into a network of rock stars is extraordinarily helpful–and the search feature on the forum comes in handy. The site also provides access to various tools and databases with information on magazines and other markets. Although these are often outdated, they do provide a great starting point for research. There is also a query challenge twice a year where writers can get assigned to a team and try to send out a plethora of queries, ideally leading to a stream  of jobs. The site is an invaluable tool.
  • Erik Sherman teaches classes for established writers. I took an online marketing course from him, and found his approach refreshingly honest, interesting and accessible.

For Copywriting, Blogging and Marketing

One word: Copyblogger.

Want to Write a Book?

  • Janet Goldstein runs a boutique publishing and strategy firm based in New York City, and works regularly to help both fiction and nonfiction writers take their work to the next level (whether that’s self-publishing, traditional publishing, or one of several other options.) I’d recommend perusing her website, listening to all the free audio teleclasses, looking at her booklist (if you’re serious about publishing) and perhaps signing up for a class, if it feels right.

On My Desk

I recently purchased the World Changing Writing Workshop In A Box, which I’m sure I’ll have great things to say about once I finish listening to it since it was lovingly created by Pace and Kyeli, and they are awesome.

I also have a copy  of the 6-Figure Freelancer on my desk, and have been itching to buy a copy of the Well-Fed Writer.

This post is just the start of what will be a running list that I hope to update from time to time. I hope that it provides a good starting-off point and is helpful. Feel free to leave your own burning suggestions in the comments!

And if you just want someone to write something for you, or need a manuscript proofread or edited, take a look at my services!

Happy writing.

Yael’s Variety Hour

Greetings, and welcome to the variety hour, where I concoct a special blend of humorous, thought-provoking or inspiring links I’ve found while scouring the web each week.

How to Build Your Business By Walking Away From the Sale was my guest post for Copyblogger, in which I explain how not making a sale can (eventually) help you make more money. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Chris Guillebeau lights the way in an age of often-anonymous criticism on the internet (and elsewhere.) Who You Are and What They Say is a brilliant reminder that we don’t need to listen to the naysayers as much as we need to live our own truth. The timing for this was perfect for me; maybe it will be for you, as well.

I noticed at the bookstore yesterday that I don’t buy books the way I used to. I used to spend grocery money on books, but now I’m far more likely to buy them used on Amazon or wait for them to come out in paperback. However, I am anxiously awaiting the February release date for Margaret Roach’s dropout memoir, and i shall have some peace there. A former editorial director for Martha Stewart, Roach walked away from her successful career for a life of solitude, gardening and writing.

Quotes of the Week

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin

“I have learned silence from the talkative; I have learned tolerance from the intolerant; I have learned kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers!” -Kahlil Gibran

“Asking an artist to talk about his work is like asking a plant to discuss horticulture.” -Jean Cocteau

“Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

“Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them.” -Immanuel Kant

And Now for Some Punk Rock

Lest you think I’m losing my edge, here’s one of several songs I videotaped on my iPhone when I saw Screeching Weasel play in Minneapolis. (Not safe for work, unless swear words are permitted at your business.)

Your Turn

Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave your favorite posts from the past week in the comments.

Paleo Experiment: Week 4 Summary

Welcome back to the Paleo Experiment blog post series, where I’ve been documenting 30 days on the Paleo diet, addressing a series of 5 questions I’d pondered close to a month ago.

I did it! I made it through week 4! I’ll post a more complete summary next week, after I’ve finished all 30 days and tested the effects of some foods I’ll be reintroducing to see their effects and decide whether to keep them in my diet at all or get rid of them completely. I’ll also be determining just how much food I have left in my fridge (pictured left) after all for my analysis for question #1.

Here are my tentative answers to the questions I posited for the experiment.

1. Is it affordable?

Over the course of 4 weeks, I spent $483.62 on groceries. This is just a touch over $120 ($120.95 precisely) per week. Although I believe my grocery bills were around $100/week pre-Paleo, I’d also spend another 30+ making trips to the grocery store when running out of food, in addition to eating out about once a week. Plus, we still have a ton of leftover food in our fridge, so we’ll see how many days worth of meals that adds up to. So the answer is yes, the Paleo diet is certainly affordable. Although I haven’t made a science of it like Anne at Paleo on a Budget (who spends $200-225 A MONTH feeding her entire family of 3) I am pretty happy at the number. It looks like the average American spends a bit over $128.00 a month on groceries, so we’re well below that range, and spent virtually nothing on restaurants save for a rotisserie chicken and some sides of vegetables at Boston Market.

I will note that the grocery bill involved primarily organic produce when possible as well as grass-fed beef. I’m sure I could cut ti under $100/week if I decided to forego these luxuries, but I feel strongly about the health of the environment and supporting organic farmers, as well as ethics of eating animals who are not cooped up like prisoners and basically tortured.

2. Will it make me crazy?

Although transitioning to this diet included an adjustment period with some lethargy, this was temporary. My mood has been very steady on the Paleo diet. It seems that only wheat triggers insane mood swings for me, but the next few days will be interesting in analyzing things further.

3. Any cravings?

I’m not going to lie. Buttered popcorn at the movies. Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food. Whipped cream. Trail mix with milk chocolate. Reese’s peanut butter cups. Jelly beans. Perhaps some Thai food with rice. I did not crave wheat, dairy or sugary soft drinks, however, and feel that it was more about the habit of eating those foods than the actual foods themselves–and the head games of feeling like I wasn’t allowed.

I will also note that Paleo versions of foods such as pizza, pancakes, etc. made me crave the real thing, though. I like the idea of experiencing flavor combinations I’d otherwise not get the chance to taste, but I sometimes felt a bit like a vegan eating tofu pups when all I wanted was a real hot dog.

4. Will it support my workouts and sport?

This is a really hard question to answer, since I started a new workout program right when I started the diet and I’ve also been dealing with the transition to winter so I haven’t had quite the consistency and intensity I normally expect out of myself, especially this past week. There are so many variables involved, though, so it is hard to say.

5. Am I going to lose weight?

My weight has been fluctuating quite a bit lately, but I lost between 3 to 4 lbs.  on the diet. I’d like to have had a more dramatic response, but really a pound a week is decent since I don’t have all that much to lose. I will be taking some after photos to see if the change is visible or not.

6. Other lessons learned?

Although I didn’t really have health problems going into the diet, I definitely feel lighter on it and don’t have that heavy feeling after eating. My digestion is improved, and I believe I’m probably absorbing more nutrients.

I continue to be amazed by Scotty’s amazing recipes in the Paleo Solution, and by the very extensive variety. Just yesterday we had egg torte for breakfast, steak for lunch and scallops for dinner. This is a far cry from eating nothing but scrambled eggs, chicken and beef and salads. I did not feel as deprived as expected and was very excited about my meals.

I’ll be back next week with a more thorough analysis.