Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review - Thirsty Dragon

In her book, Thirsty Dragon, Suzanne Mustacich tells the overlapping stories of an interesting group of players as they join China on its 20 year journey into the world of wine. 

This well-documented saga of China's race to build the infrastructure needed to become one of the superpowers of the wine world collides with Bordeaux's need for buyers in 2009. China's willingness to speculate on wine as an investment combined with their gift giving culture leads to mini-skirted translators facilitating sales in Bordeaux and millions of dollars of classified growths sitting in Chinese warehouses. 

The tale continues with high level corruption in the Chinese government, counterfeiting and fraud. A brief lesson on the economy and the wine regions of China add more background to this story of the "largest government funded drinks tab in history." 

An interesting and well-researched read for any winelover that should be enjoyed with a generous pour of Bordeaux.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Experience at the Texas Yoga Conference

I thoroughly enjoyed attending a portion of the seventh annual Texas Yoga Conference held at the India House this weekend. Though it is a three day event, I was only able to go on the first day. I bought my Friday-only pass on line for $112.78 and set my schedule with their very handy online service. I wanted a balance of lectures, workshops and asana practices to fill my day. I also needed some continuing education hours for Yoga Alliance so I was happy to see the variety of options available to me. There were at least three choices during each time period.

I arrived early for the 8:15AM Design for Human Health lecture with Environmental
Psychologist, Dr. Dak Kopec. I am planning on remodeling my master bathroom this spring so I was very interested to hear his thoughts. He spoke about how humans are spending more time inside now than ever and the important role that interior architecture can play on a person's health. He discussed concepts of Feng shui, the ancient art and science of arranging one's environment to promote optimal energy flow. He gave a brief introduction to the fibonacci sequence and showed visual representations of the "golden spiral" that can be found throughout nature; Dak explained how humans are naturally drawn to these wave-like shapes. He recommended viewing one's environment from the micro to the macro to determine its effect. He suggested going through both home and office and working to "remove the roughness". He also wanted us to consider how color affects us when decorating our interiors and he recommended that we "bring back the fun".

Next up was Tibetan Yoga with Dr. Alejandro Chaoul, this was a Tsa lung Trul Khor meditation practice designed to bring awareness to the chakras by holding the breath through certain movements to release energy blocks and to subdue the "monkey mind" for greater mediative ease. We started in a seated position on the floor though we were told it was okay to move or change our posture if we had distracting discomfort or pain. For a personal practice at home, it was suggested that problem areas be prepped in advance. The goal of this meditation is to be become more comfortable and aware during your natural state. I particularly enjoyed the side archer stretch combined with the simple breathing pattern; it felt very cleansing.

I had a little break at this point so I purchased a plate of freshly made Indian food for lunch. I saw two options for this in the main hallway and a hot tea booth doling out free samples so I enjoyed a nice little snack and then shopped around a bit through the various booths in this area. Some items that caught my fancy included the fantastic array of yoga attire available as well as an awesome assortment of mala beads. Feeling refreshed, I headed to my next scheduled workshop.

Audi Gozlan came in from Montreal to teach Intro to Kaballah Yoga alternately titled Rasa,
the Essence Flow. In a combination lecture, meditation and asana practice, the familiar yet fleeting feeling of rasa was examined and how best to draw it in deeper through a regular yoga practice. He stated that the soul is the seed planted by the divine into the garden or earth that is our body. The sun brings forth the heartbeat and the wind gives it breath. He believes the goal is to have a spiritual existence in this body while here on planet Earth. As each light needs a vessel to carry it through this world we know, we must care for our physical body. Each person's body is a temple, it is their soul's sacred space. Without a body, a soul cannot exist, it cannot "taste the juice" or "the essence" that is life.

My final session was Pranyama and Cosmic Consciousness with Pam Johnson. This was a
lecture combined with some short pranayama exercises. Pam started with Sutra 247, "The effort of life is breath". She said our goal should be smooth, long effortless breaths. She discussed breath as a cosmic force meant to harness both body and mind. She called the space between each inhale and exhale "the state of grace" or a natural meditative moment. The practice of pranayama keeps an individual's energy field clean; she said to think of it as "blowing the dust off your nadis". We practiced both kapalbhati breathing for cleansing and ujjaya breathing for concentration.  I had fun wearing the headset during the pranayama exercises and having the group hear my own breath very loud and clear over the speakers.

There were two more sessions that I could have attended as part of my Friday pass but I had a prior commitment for which I needed to return home. I plan on blocking out more time for this event next year to not only enjoy more of the conference but to allow myself more time at the vender booths as well. Highly recommended for all yoga lovers.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Chamak is a Sweet New Shop in Sugar Land

Sarah Ali was working hard to get her new shop ready for the Grand Opening when I stopped by the new Moroccan themed establishment tucked away down Highway 6 in Sugar Land’s Highlands Square. In this small storefront I found an enthusiastic woman excited about her diverse interests and her store’s unique offerings.

Upon entering Chamak, you find custom blended organic mineral cosmetics on one side of the store and a glass case housing an array of confections on the other side. You aren’t sure whether you have entered the workspace of an artist or a mad scientist. After tasting the chocolates, you realize that she may be a bit of both.

Sarah’s chocolates feature the exotic Indian-Pakistani and South Korean flavors of her own mother’s cooking which originally inspired the love of the culinary arts in her. Her gourmet confections are handcrafted from high quality chocolate which she sources from multiple origins and then pairs with a variety of delectable south Asian and Mediterranean flavors. In addition to the custom cosmetics and the artisanal chocolates and confections, the shop also sells hot cocoa and tea and other traditional Indian sweets. 

Sarah’s services also include setting up chocolate tasting tables for private events and teaching classes from the beginner to the professional level in her chocolate school. Sarah is bubbly and energetic with a lot to offer to the community. She is proud to support the Fort Bend Women’s Center through her work at the Girlfriends Giggle fundraiser. Learn more at

(This was a preliminary draft for a feature for the third issue of Edible Houston)