“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Escape into Chocolate

Joshua Needleman and me at Chocolate Springs Cafe - Joshua invites you all to "Escape into Chocolate"

One of my all-time favorite movies is Chocolat, with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. It’s about a woman and her daughter who move to a small French village, open a chocolate shop and stir up the rigid community, ultimately helping them to let their hair down, be human, and to love. Second to none in this move was the chocolate. The bonbons, the cakes and desserts, the hot chocolate–you name it, it was all beautiful.

Ahh, chocolate. It could possibly be the perfect food–or maybe the perfect drug. It is complex–much like wine and coffee–having over 500 chemical compounds, including theobromine, a cousin of caffeine, and phenylethylalanine, a substance that is released in the brain when we fall in love. But to reap the benefits of chocolate, it must be good quality and of course, consumed in moderation.

Well, after visiting the Chocolate Springs Café in Lenox, MA about a month ago, I decided that the chocolate there was among some of the best to be found in this area. Better yet, the café, which is a unique blend of European and Japanese design, is warm and inviting and a great place to sit on a comfy sofa with a cup of divine hot chocolate and a delicious desert that’s almost too pretty to eat!

And if you’re there, chances are you’ll meet the owner, Joshua Needleman. He’s a brilliant and passionate chocolatier who makes all the beautiful and mouth-watering creations found in the café. The last time I was there, Joshua was nice enough to let me do a video interview with him that you can watch below.

In part 1 of the interview, Joshua explains how the raw cacao bean is transformed into the melt-in-your-mouth final product and shows us the creamy ganache that goes into making his hot chocolate.

He tells a fascinating story in part 2 about the inspiration that allowed the Chocolate Springs Café to materialize and presents a unique and symbolic model, made from chocolate, that he submitted to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as an idea for a new World Trade Center! This blew me away!! I know you’ll enjoy seeing the model and hearing him tell the story. And if you’re ever in Lenox, MA, make it a point to stop in at the café for a treat for you or someone you love. You’ll be happy you did. Enjoy everyone!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Passion for Yoga

If you’ve been visiting my blog then you may already know that I’m a Bikram yoga enthusiast. I’m pretty dedicated to my practice and credit it with helping me to strengthen my body as well as to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m not alone in this regard. Many people tell that Bikram yoga helped them to recover from illness or injury or that it played a significant role in discovering their life’s passion. To understand how this happens, it would be best to see for yourself; however, I will say that what goes on in class is a microcosm of the rest of our lives. We’re encouraged to focus, work hard, choose form over depth (i.e., do a little bit right versus doing more, but incorrectly), dissolve any limits that we’ve imposed on ourselves, have patience, and never give up. And as we develop these skills in class, so can we apply them outside in the “real world”.

Last year, I competed for the first time in the New York Regional Yoga Asana Championship in NYC. This was a personal challenge for me because up to that point in my life, I had never competed in something like this. Just the idea of performing on stage alone, in front of an audience was challenging enough–never mind the actual yoga. In the end, I was so happy I faced my fears and did it, and it was a very happy and fulfilling day for me.

This year, I watched the competition, which was equally a treat because as a participant last year, I had missed all the beautiful performances. In addition, Connecticut participants competed at Patriot Place in Foxboro, MA in the New England Regional Championship. This was a fun (and beautiful!) venue and I was able to watch the show with some of my fellow yoga practitioners and instructors and meet some new people as well. You can watch some mind-blowing poses by several of the women competitors here:

Another benefit of watching the show was that I got to mingle with the audience and meet some of the very passionate sponsors who were there showcasing their products. In the video below, you can meet Troy and Ashley from Sambazon, Laura, a Bikram instructor who also sells Shakti activewear, and Juli from Zico. It was a joy to meet them all and to even learn some interesting things that I didn’t know! If you’re a Bikram enthusiast or work out frequently, you’ll appreciate some of the information here:

Yes, it was fun to watch the competition this year; yet seeing everyone work through their 3 minutes on stage had me thinking that it would also be fun to compete again. : )

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saving Grace

My companion at Chocolate Springs Cafe in Lenox, MA : )

Although I am thankful to say that I rarely have one of those days, I did one day last week. Without going into much detail, suffice it to say that it began very early and the overall mood was hectic and stressful. In addition, I had my 4-year-old grandson for the day so that I could bring him to an appointment. And later in the day, I received some unsettling news and was given a last minute change of plans for the next day–both of which caught me off balance and escalated the levels of stress I was already experiencing. In the end, it was a juggling act and a test of mental and emotional strength.

That night, while lying in bed, after my daughter had picked up my grandson, I thought about the day. I thought about the emails and the phone calls and the noise and the stress. And I thought about the moments when I was working on my computer and my grandson would run into the room to talk and ask me questions. I thought about his doctor’s appointment and how he got a little scared and needed a little comforting. I thought about the minutes when I would stop what I was doing to squat down and wrap my arms around him. I thought about how we played Cars on the computer while he sat on my lap, and how he ate two bowls of kale chips : ) I was amazed at this. I thought about how he laid next to me on the sofa and how his curiosity, innocence and pure, beautiful smile comforted me throughout the day. It could have turned out so very different and if he hadn’t been there, it sure would have. But because he was there, this wonderful bundle of energy saved my day. And for this, I am eternally grateful.