This Horse’s Hippie Happiness

I haven’t sat down to write in a while in part because in fall/winter I often turn inward, and in part because I haven’t felt there is much to say as of late. I have found myself trying to rebuild my foundation, get in touch with things that are important to me, and organizing. Lots of organizing, trying to make the place I spend most of my time nowadays one that feels like home. So, I suppose, in an effort to share some of my discoveries/rediscoveries, here are a few things I have been enjoying.


1. Paleo Comfort Food Cookbook Okay, I am not a person who diets to lose weight. I try to eat (or not eat) foods that best contribute to my well being. I don’t eat strictly “paleo”, and I’m not here to defend it. However, I have been dairy-and gluten-free for about 3 years or so, but my ability to cook delicious food that I can eat has been…lacking. The Paleo Comfort Food Cookbook is helping to change that. (I did notice when I went to their website that they have a new book out, one that probably addresses my tiny criticism of the original (that it’s geared more toward people with a more extensive knowledge of cooking than myself), a “quick and easy” book.) We have only scratched the surface, but so far the recipes we like the most are pot of chicken pie (I’m pretty sure Hubby would be happy if I made this every week), mashed cauliflower (the first time I made it, it was perfection, the second was a little lacking, but I am hopeful!), biscuits and gravy (this is definitely a “sometimes” food; your heart can’t take this too often, but SO good!), and strawberry short cake (we have made it with or without berries and have added Coconut Bliss or coconut milk when we have been craving whipped cream).

2. Qi Gong Meditation App I’m sure there are a myriad of meditation apps out there. I tried another one to begin with,  but have settled into a happy partnership with the Qi Gong Meditation app. I like this one the most because of its many and varied options–audios, videos, articles–and its simplicity. I engage in the 3 minute mindful breathing exercises the most often.The length (most around 10 minutes) and type of meditations (guided) also fall in line with what works for me. This year I have really wanted to focus on cultivating love and compassion for myself and others, as I see this as a pathway to being more in line with the accepting person I wish to be. Once I discovered that two of the meditations focus on this (the loving kindness and more advanced compassion meditations), my love solidified.


3. Gabrielle Roth’s Ecstatic Dance Collection My husband and I decided that we want to have two things in our lives: martial arts for him, and dance for me. Gabrielle Roth’s Ecstatic Dance Collection is one that I am happy to be getting reacquainted with. I bought the original DVD (oh, wait, VHS) when I was still in high school in the mid-’90s. Gabrielle Roth asks you to “sweat your prayers” through her 5 rhythms of ecstatic dance.  I acknowledge that this certainly isn’t for everyone, but I find that dance is really the moving meditation that I am most able to dissolve into, truly one of the only times that my mind is quiet. Side note: the collection I bought has three DVDs–the original, a high-energy version, and a more meditative version. If I could do it all over again, I would have eased back into this practice with the slower version, and worked my way up. I started off with the high-energy version and, no longer being used to dancing for thirty minutes straight, I was an immovable, nauseous mess, temporarily, anyway.

Thanks to a very patient cat for allowing me to prop this up on him!

Thanks to a very patient cat for allowing me to prop this up on him!

4. Tai Chi Last year, before we even declared out loud the basic things we wanted in our lives, my husband started looking around for a tai chi video. He came across this one by a local man who he sometimes watched on the university access channel. My favorite things about this video are that there is very detailed instruction if you want it, I can usually find twenty minutes to start my day with tai chi, and the effects of tai chi are so perfectly subtle–I am more flexible, calmer, and stronger.

5. Gingerbread I Can Eat! Once I decided that I wanted to make gingerbread this past Christmastime, I became almost instantly overwhelmed by the number of recipes. But I didn’t want just any gingerbread recipe; I wanted one that was dairy-and gluten-free, and, of course, tasted good! This one is a winner! My three favorite things about this recipe: it uses chia or flax to thicken it; the base is zucchini; and, of course, it tastes amazing! The only minor downfall is that it looks so much like conventional brownies, I feel the neurotic impulse to continuously announce what they are (in a party setting) so that no one would be disappointed that it wasn’t chocolate.

And today marks the Chinese New Year in my sign, the horse.


I find myself with high expectation for the Year of the Horse. But I am most hopeful that as I continue to build my foundation and rediscover who and what I love doing/being, my broader vision will have the space to be realized. May it be a year of growth, love, and travel for you!

(My 9-year-old son, AKA Monkey, very reluctantly took these pictures of me barely getting in to the ecstatic dance video. This all he had the patience for today! )

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Know Thyself: The Genographic Project Version

For my birthday this year I decided to give myself a present that I have wanted for quite a long time: send my DNA to National Geographic’s Genographic Project to learn more about my deep ancestry. (Go on and click on that link if you want to know more than I ramble about the project.)

So I bought the kit online and waited no-so patiently for it to arrive. And when it did, I geekily delighted in it, taking each detail in. Cheek-swabbing commenced, and I tried desperately to be patient. I knew I had 6-8 weeks to wait, and for me personally, one of the best ways I could wait was to register a log in, which allowed me to receive email updates. So that a few weeks later, I received this first exciting progress report:

Your DNA Analysis is Now Underway in the Genographic Project LabOver the next six to eight weeks, we will process and analyze your DNA samples in the Genographic Project lab. We will notify you by email each time your sample enters a new phase of testing. Photograph by David Evans, National Geographic
In the meantime, remember to visit the Genographic Project website regularly to find out more as Genographic scientists pull together connections, uncover new paths, and provide fresh insights into your ancestry. It’s like having a subscription to your very own genetic history—and to the history of all of us.The Genographic Project Team

Look! Graphs and science and links to wonder! And then a week or so later….

We Have Isolated Your DNA SampleOur Genographic Project lab has successfully isolated your DNA sample. This means that your full analysis is approximately 40 percent complete. To learn more about DNA isolation, read below. And to explore more, or if you have questions about the Genographic Project, visit theFAQs page.The Genographic Project Team Photograph courtesy Family Tree DNA

More science and progress and excitement!

We are now analyzing your isolated DNAWe are currently analyzing your isolated DNA in the Genographic Project lab. To learn about this important step in your DNA analysis, read below. Once this stage of analysis is complete, your sample will move into the quality-control stage, after which your results will be posted to the website for you to access.The Genographic Project Team The Genotyping Chip
Photograph by Becky Hale, National Geographic

And then a few weeks later…

We are in the final stage of your DNA analysisWe have completed your DNA analysis in the Genographic Project lab and are now performing an important quality-control review to ensure all your results are accurate.The Genographic Project Team Photograph courtesy IBM

And even though it was pretty much 8 weeks to the day, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I could log in to view my results!

Your results are ready for you to accessWe have completed all phases of your DNA analysis at our laboratory and uploaded your results to theGenographic Project website. From the home page, click “Check Your Results” to log in with your user name and password and start exploring your ancient ancestry.
Throughout the website, we have provided overview text and videos that explain the results you will see in each section. We encourage you to explore these resources to become familiar with the format and the science behind your results.Thank you again for your participation!

But before we get there, here’s me.


Well, with my boy. Dark-haired, light-eyed generally European-looking me. To the best of my knowledge I am English and German on my mom’s side and Italian and Polish on my dad’s. (Side note: Since I am female I am not able to get details about my paternal line, since that would be included on a Y chromosome, which makes me wish I was in touch with my dad for more than one reason.) So maybe I was a little too excited about uncovering something amazing and unexpected, like I am an aboriginal princess, or that I have African or Native American ancestry that would turn racial categories on their ear, that I guess I was a little disappointed when I first looked at this graphic. (It is basically a graphic you can share, which is not at all as detailed as the full report results.)


Can you hear the “wah-wah?” When I looked at the much more detailed map of the migration patterns of my maternal ancestors, I pretty much thought to myself, “Huh, Europeans just kinda stayed put after they left Africa. Way to innovate?” But then over the course of just one day I managed to really get into exploring all the information that was available to me, information would have been impossible to know not all that long ago. And then I started seeing how interesting it really is. Even if you just are a boring ol’ European.

After you explore the migration patterns of your ancestors, you can see what ethnic groups make up your DNA. My three groups are: Mediterranean, Northern European and Southwest Asian. (Oh, and NG makes note that not everyone’s percentages will add up to 100. Mine was 1% short, so I decided that the part of me who wanted to be special can take that 1% for aboriginal princess.) Each one was quite interesting to read about, but I was especially curious about the last group. Here’s how NG describes it:




This component of your ancestry is found at highest frequencies in India and neighboring populations, including Tajikistan and Iran in our reference dataset. It is also found at lower frequencies in Europe and North Africa. As with the Mediterranean component, it was likely spread during the Neolithic expansion, perhaps from the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent. Individuals with heavy European influence in their ancestry will show traces of this because all Europeans have mixed with people from Southwest Asia over tens of thousands of years.

I know that I wanted to be able to participate in this project and take away the sense that recent geographical and racial happenstance have little bearing on deep ancestry. The idea that me, and many other folks of European descent, are related to folks in India and Iran is exactly the kind of perspective I wanted to gain.

Also found in the “Who Am I?” section, you find the world populations you most closely match. Though the results are not surprising for me, the idea that science can “see” this is fascinating.


This reference population is based on samples collected from populations in the United Kingdom. The dominant 49% Northern European component likely reflects the earliest settlers in Europe, hunter-gatherers who arrived there more than 35,000 years ago.  The 33% Mediterranean and 17% Southwest Asian percentages arrived later, with the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, over the past 10,000 years.  As these early farmers moved into Europe, they spread their genetic patterns as well. Today, northern European populations retain their links to both the earliest Europeans and these later migrants from the Middle East.


This reference population is based on samples collected from Italians native to Tuscany. The 54% Mediterranean and 17% Southwest Asian percentages reflect the strong influence of agriculturalists from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, who arrived in Italy more than 7,000 years ago. The 28% Northern European component likely comes from the pre-agricultural population of Europe—the earliest settlers, who arrived in Europe more than 35,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic period—and was perhaps increased during the conquest of northern Italy by the Germanic Lombards in the 6th-8th centuries.  Today, the Northern European component predominates in northern European populations, while the Mediterranean component is more common in southern Europe.

Upon my fifth or so reading of this section, I was able to have a greater appreciation for the synthesis of sciences that went into it. Fascinating…

Oh, and if I still wanted to feel a little special, the “Your Map” section contained a few notable people:


Francesco Petrarca, the father of Humanism, and Richard III, King of England, were members of this lineage.

I’ll take ‘em!

There is truly so much information to absorb that I know that I will log on to look at my results over and over again, and share them with friends and family. I wanted to participate to know more about my ancestry and to help scientists learn more about human ancestry and migration, and I think I was able to  do both.

(PS For those with a more rich scientific background, under the “expert options” section, you can download your sequenced genetic information.)

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Early Family Fall:Harvest Moon, Equinox, Jerome and Sedona

Nature gives us some great things to marvel at come early Fall. My boys and I have done our best to get out enjoy all that we can, and my parents very graciously allowed us to use their Sedona timeshare for part of Monkey’s Fall break. And cue my attempt to widdle down hundreds of photos to the best that captured harvest moon, some fall leaves, and Jerome and Sedona adventures. First, we played with some perspective while taking our harvest moon pics. IMG_1110 IMG_1134 IMG_1118 IMG_1123 IMG_1126 IMG_1127 IMG_1128 IMG_1130 Next, I tried to snap some fun pics of Monkey in the leaves. (Ash leaves aren’t quite as impressive as larger leaves, but they are our first ones to change, so there you have it.) IMG_1145 IMG_1136 Since my parents have made Sedona a regular adventure we can count on, we have made it a habit to explore Jerome before we check in. The Mile High Grill has remained a favorite, with consistently great food and service. (Check out my favorite of their kitchy signs.) IMG_1157 IMG_1155 IMG_1154 IMG_1152 IMG_1147 IMG_1159   And then….Sedona! IMG_1275 IMG_1266 IMG_1278 IMG_1192 We generally engage in swimming, hot tubbing, duck feeding, lizard stalking, eating, mini golfing, and otherwise enjoying our surroundings. IMG_1197 IMG_1199 IMG_1202 IMG_1203 IMG_1205 IMG_1208 IMG_1209 IMG_1210 IMG_1212 IMG_1213 IMG_1214 IMG_1217 IMG_1218 IMG_1219 IMG_1221 OK, yes, there’s a bit of vanity in these next shots. While we were mini golfing, I looked over towards the creek and saw a gorgeous tree, with strong, gnarled roots, perfectly lit by the setting sun. And maybe for a few minutes my inner faerie got to play. IMG_1225 IMG_1230 IMG_1231 IMG_1239 IMG_1243 IMG_1245 IMG_1251 IMG_1254 IMG_1258   This picture does not do justice to the gluttonous delight. Monkey talked of nothing else; his excitement almost exclusively reserved for the “volcano” dessert–warm brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, an ice cream cone, and cherry. The delightfully surly German waitress has questioned our decision in the past, “Are you sure? That is a 6,000 calorie dessert!” IMG_1264 On our final full day we decided to check out Cathedral Rock. This decision started out wonderfully–it is very easy to get to the trailhead. Once we got there, we noticed that we had a choice of three different trails–Cathedral, Templeton, and Baldwin. We looked at the maps, weighed our options, and I over-enthusiastically declared that we should take the steepest trail, Cathedral. Yeah, there may have been a time that I mildly panicked and had to wait for the boys to come back down to me, as I was intimidated by the smooth rocks and steep drop. We still managed to see lots of great things (even a crushed scorpion), but I think I would opt for the more level Tempelton trail next time. IMG_1280 IMG_1282 IMG_1283 IMG_1284 IMG_1285 IMG_1288 IMG_1289 IMG_1291 IMG_1293 IMG_1297 IMG_1299 IMG_1303 IMG_1304 IMG_1305 IMG_1306 (PS I made a rather irreversible mistake yesterday, of which I am trying to make the best. I deleted all the photos from my media library. Sadly, this meant that I also deleted all those pictures from my posts. I figured I could either painstakingly replace hundreds of pictures to their proper places, or I could delete 101 posts and see this as an opportunity to let go of the past and start new today. I opted for the latter.)

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