change, community, passion

Beautiful: Don’t Underestimate Your Power to Have an Impact on Others

photo-1We’ve got big problems in this world. Some of them are so big that they can make us feel small, but we have to fight that impulse. We are more powerful than we realize.

We are living in times when we can broadcast our message and our efforts cheaper and easier than ever before thanks to technology. Our ability to help others is now limitless and free. We can all do something, no matter where we are.

Take advantage of it. Be an advocate for the causes you care about. The world needs you now.

adventure, travel

Beautiful: You Don’t Always Need to Know Where You’re Going

photoWith our smartphones in-hand, we rarely get lost thanks to the advent of Google Maps. I have a horrible sense of direction and I remember the days of printing out Mapquest directions so I wouldn’t waste valuable time wandering around aimlessly. Many times they didn’t help. I spent a lot of time wandering around, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I get a little wistful for those days. I had some of the most extraordinary adventures when I was completely lost.

This summer when I’m in Santa Monica, I plan to spend some of that time sans map. I hope to get delightfully (and safely) lost, and then find my way back to the light. In the immortal words of J. R. R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

commitment, community, creativity, philanthropy, yoga

Beautiful: How Compass Yoga Can Spread the Love to People in Need After Natural Disasters

photoI’m doing a lot of thinking about Compass Yoga‘s direction these days. I’m proud of what we’ve built. I’m overjoyed that we help over 200 people every week thanks to a band of dedicated and loving teachers. However, I’m never satisfied. I always want to do more. I want to reach more people, provide more healing, and expand our capabilities.

I am deeply affected by the aftermath of the natural disasters our nation has faced in the past few years. I’ve daydreamed about a way for Compass Yoga to help. I’ve toyed with yoga fundraisers and donation-based classes to benefit victims, though that impact seems miniscule compared to the need that these disasters create. Additionally, there are so many other ways to give that are more efficient and have wider reach. The innovation to text a donation via our cell phones is brilliant, and I use it often.

When President Obama gave his remarks just after the Oklahoma tornado last week, a lightbulb went off. He said, “So the people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes. For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention.

His words reignited an idea I had when a deadly tornado hit Joplin, Missouri in 2011. I didn’t want to provide yoga to people in Joplin. That’s not what they immediately needed. They needed the love, care, compassion, and concern that shines in the heart of every yogi everywhere. What we need is a way to harness that love, distill it, and provide it as comfort for people who have lost so much in these disasters. I know that feeling and it is terrifying and isolating.

We have a lot of wonderful organizations that provide basic needs – food, shelter, healthcare. In addition to that work, they also need to be the emotional support for the people they help. This latter responsibility could use assistance from other groups, providing the compassion for these people, giving them someone to talk to, someone whose sole role is to stand with them until they can stand on their own again. Who could do that work? Who could own that mission?

And there it was in President Obama’s quote. We need to do it, to provide comfort to first responders, love, attention, and consolation to those who are frightened. With technology, Compass Yoga could do it. We could live up to our name and guide people along their personal paths to recovery. Yogis are everywhere, in every community. They want to help. Let’s give them a way to put their hearts where the need is. Let’s solve this. 

product, product development, yoga

Beautiful: Love Bath Products? Be a Tester for One Fine Yogi.

b8c4e85a4708be368aaa0bf88beefdd3Last week, I wrote a post about One Fine Yogi, a new line of yoga-inspired personal and home fashions and personal care products that I’m creating to generate a sustainable income stream for Compass Yoga. In my tiny New York City kitchen, I’m cooking up and testing the “recipes” for our sugar scrubs and bath salts. Now I need testers – people who will test the products and provide feedback on them. You’ll get complimentary samples and the feedback process will be painless and fun. Want to be a tester? Send me an email at or join the mailing list by clicking here. Anyone, anywhere can be a tester!


Beautiful: Remembering Our Fallen Veterans on Memorial Day


Enjoy your barbecues and picnics today. Celebrate this day off from work and surround yourself with the people and activities that you love. And then take a small quiet moment some time today and say a heartfelt thank you to the many brave people who made the ultimate sacrifice. We are the land of the free because of the brave.

books, technology

Book Reviews: Arduino Robots, The Modern Web, and How They’re Going to Change Your Life

Hanna-Barbera had it right all along – we really are moving into the age of The Jetsons. Flying cars may not be at a hovercraft lot near you just yet, but robots are on the rise and the modern web is about to change how and with whom you communicate, online and off.

Yesterday Fast Company ran a series of articles on robots and future tech trends. The articles included discussions about robots as teachers of collaboration, machines that are out to improve our lives in deeply emotional ways, and the creepy tech that wants to record our every word like an episode of Big Brother. I was particularly keen to hear their perspective because I have had my eyes fixed on two new books published by No Starch Press: Arduino Workshop: A Hands-on Introduction with 65 Projects and The Modern Web: Multi-device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript.

When I first enrolled at Penn as an undergraduate, I was in the engineering school. I switched to the College of Arts and Sciences as a sophomore because I spent my first year alone in an underground classroom full of people who had a hard time looking me, or anyone else for that matter, in the eye. Thankfully, undergraduate engineering classes have come a long way since then! Despite my exit from engineering, I’ve remained deeply interested in how technology drives society, and No Starch Press books are exactly for people like me.

Fun, informative, and gloriously off-beat, these two volumes in particular are for those looking to go beyond a surface knowledge of technology. They are for those of us to like to be down in the weeds building a solid foundation of technical knowledge so that we can rise up stronger and armed with the information to understand just how these platforms work. They’re for tinkerers, makers, and developers in the broadest sense of the terms.

The Modern Web
You’ve worked through your Codecademy lessons, taken a Coursera course on coding, hopped over to General Assembly for a meetup, and now you want to go further. The Modern Web is for you. Author Peter Gasston is very honest about his audience. You need a working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Javascript to make the most use of this book. Peter is taking you to the next level beyond the basics. His main goal is to get you out of the mindset of device class.  “Don’t think of building a site for web and mobile. Think of building a site that works everywhere.” The lines between screens are blurring at a fast and furious pace. Our thinking as developers has to morph in the same way and at an even fast rate so we can stay on top of the latest developments in our fields.

Now that we’re clear on Peter’s purpose and audience, the book is organized in layers that mimics the underpinning of web development itself. He starts off basic and powerful definitions of terms and then uses those terms to explain the structures of the web (HTML). Those structures pave the way to visual design and display (CSS) which naturally lead us to behaviors (Javascript). Now that we have structures, display, and behavior, we can actually work on the pipes that get our content to as wide an audience as possible (APIs). He then touches on multi-sensory aesthetics through an exploration of images, graphics, web apps, and multimedia content.

To wrap a bright shiny bow around this book, Peter lets down his development hair and goes into the future. From is perspective, we are still in the infancy of the web and it’s still very much a digital wild west where disruptors and innovations stand to shake everything up. His advice – developers, stay informed and be a part of the conversation wherever and however you can.

Arduino Workshop
Author Mary Shelley was so ahead of her time when she wrote Frankenstein. We are born loving robots. We’re intrigued by getting a machine to do what we want it to do. After all, remote control cars and model planes, the darlings of childhood play, are forms of robots. We tell them to do something, and they do it, no questions asked. This is exactly why kids, and adults, are addicted to their mobile devices. We click something, it opens, and then we tell the machine to do something that it willingly does (most of the time). It’s empowering to make technology work for us.

Not content to just buy a programmable machine, we’re now getting up to our elbows in parts to actually build robots. The Arduino board, a cute, convenient contraption is a gateway product to help us get under the hood of our favorite gadgets and gizmos, and then it helps us craft our own. It fits comfortably into the palm of your hand but don’t be deceived by its size. Download some free, complementary software and it packs a powerful punch in its small frame. Created in 2005, it’s moved beyond its robot hobbyist status and into the mainstream maker movement.

Now that you’ve got an Arduino board (cost ~ $30) and the free software, the book gives you a brief background on project design and electricity and then you’re off to the races with 65 projects to get this little computer to work for you. You’re going to learn how to code, make lights blink at your will, create digital displays of information and images, build simple robots, remote controls, and GPS-enabled applications. Each project has detailed instructions and illustrations so they’re approachable for beginners.

To get a sense of how others in the global Arudino community are using Arduino, take a look at the Instructables site where people have shared their creations. The sky’s the limit now has a whole new meaning!

change, time

Beautiful: Who I Was When the Cicadas Were Last Here

Today I’m grateful for cicadas. Yes, cicadas. I recently read an article that analyzed our political world the last time the cicadas were among us. (It’s sadly very similar.) That got me thinking about my own life 17 years ago. I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way, baby! And that happily some wonderful things in my life are still the same. 

17 years ago, I was 20 years old and had just finished my sophomore year of college. I had been thinking all year of transferring to a different college (Northwestern) and decided against it because I finally found my pack at Penn in the theatre community. I had just costume designed my first theatre production – 42nd Street. A year later, I would be elected as Chair of my theatre group – Quadramics Theatre Company. I made plans to move to Arts House Living Learning Program, another place where I would find my groove and make my home for the next two years. I began to turn my attention to my life post-Penn, and decided to pursue a career in theatre in some shape or form.

Personally, I had just left a 2-year relationship with my boyfriend at the time. There would be some hefty fall out from that but it also gave me a tremendous sense of freedom to be out of a relationship that began to feel burdensome and lacked authenticity. My adventures in love continued, and continue to this day, though I’ve never lost hope. He’s getting here as fast as he can, whoever “he” is. I believed that then and I believe that now.

I went home that summer and it would be the last time that I’d ever go to my childhood home for any reason other than to visit. I didn’t know that then, but it became clear to me by the end of the summer that my life was taking me elsewhere. I worked three jobs – as a cocktail waitress (I was a terrible waitress), a restaurant hostess at the Ground Round (I was good at greeting and seating), and an assistant to a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch (I was very good at research and I loved being able to help people be more financially secure.) I really needed the money to continue to self-fund my education at Penn and I was motivated to learn as much as I could about business as I sensed that my career, even in theatre, would require those skills.

It makes my head spin to think how different my life was then. I feel financially and personally secure now. That dream came true. It also amazes me how similar I am to that 20-year old woman. What I value most – people, service, and learning – is largely unchanged. Then, my greatest wish was to be useful, to do something that would be important for other people. 17 years later, I’m still hard at work on that mission, and I imagine that when the cicadas pay us a visit next time I’ll still be plugging away at it one day at a time.

books, cooking, food, learning

Beautiful: Life Lessons from Baking Bread

I’ve been in my kitchen exploring the recipes of Jim Lahey, Founder of the famous Sullivan Street Bakery. His no-knead bread recipes have turned many non-bakers into flour tossing evangelists of the hearth, this girl included. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post titled I Don’t Bake after making a disaster of a pumpkin pie and quickly began to assemble a collection of essays on other things I don’t do that are commonly considered to be in the wheelhouse of American women. Jim Lahey made a liar out of me and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m now churning out bakery-quality breads from my tiny little hovel of a kitchen.

In the midst of my bread-baking frenzy, I started to reflect on what I’ve learned in this 18-month journey from non-baker to baker. There are a lot of lessons in the process, and most of them have nothing to do with the task at hand.

Have patience
It is something I used to have in short supply. By nature I am one of those people who wants everything yesterday. In the process of baking bread the Lahey way, it takes roughly 24 hours and most of that time I’m not doing a damn thing except giving the concoction of flour, water, yeast, and salt a chance to meet, mingle, and coalesce under the proper circumstances. The bread requires more patience than skill to bake up to its potential.

Do less
Adding on to the bit about patience, Lahey’s recipes require restraint. I am someone who likes to do things, but with bread baking I have to let go of that impulse. The more you do with this dough, the harder it is to create a crusty, delicious loaf. The trick is to do less, far less, than you think you need to.

Have the right tools
This is one piece of Lahey’s method that requires focus. You need a very hot, reliably calibrated oven and a hefty cast iron dutch oven with a lid that can withstand the heat. There are no compromises here. You can’t make do with a faulty oven and a different kind of pan. The right tools make everything easier.

Try, try, and try again
Your first loaf might not come out perfectly. Your 10th loaf might not come out perfectly either. Lahey is very honest about his bread brick road, and there were many bricks along the way. He’s not shy about dumping bread that isn’t up to his standards but he never lets that deter him on his journey.

Spend your life doing what you love
In Lahey’s book, My Bread, I found his personal story to be even more riveting than his recipes. He put in countless hours of training and experimenting to get where he is, many of them in Rome as an apprentice baker. At the center of all of his efforts is his great love of bread. His motivation is pure and his passion unabiding. These two ingredient are essential to good bread and a good life. Find what you love and keep doing it.

Have you learned lessons in the kitchen that have pervaded other areas of your life? If so, I’d love to hear them!

community, courage, philanthropy

Beautiful: How to Help in Oklahoma

“So the people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes. For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention.” ~ President Obama speaking on the disaster in Oklahoma

It is painful to watch a tragedy from a distance. We don’t need to feel helpless nor hopeless watching the news coverage about the Oklahoma tornado that has leveled entire neighborhoods and claimed dozens of lives. CBS News has put together a list of resources that are on the ground offering much needed support, assistance, and guidance during this terrible time.

As the death toll rises for the massive tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma Monday afternoon, some well-known relief agencies are jumping into action. Here is a quick list of some of the agencies that are providing aid, and how you can help.
Here is the Donors Choose link to help teachers and students in Moore rebuild. Find them on Twitter: @DonorsChoose

The Salvation Army
Here is a link to donate for the Salvation Army’s tornado relief in Oklahoma

The Red Cross
Here is a link to donate to the Red Cross’ tornado relief in Oklahoma

Or use your cell phone to donate: Support #OKwx efforts – give online or text “STORM” to 80888 2 make $10 donation #tornado

Let others know you’re okay! Very critical in search & rescue efforts. #ok #okwx

OU Sooners @UofOklahoma
The University of Oklahoma is opening up spaces in Housing for the displaced families! Call 405-325-2511

Google Crisis Map

Home page for AmeriCares organization

Oklahoma Disaster Relief
Home page for Baptist Church’s disaster relief