Portfolio Envy: Melanie Daveid

Ooh where do I begin? From the awesome typography, simple yet bold colors, and sweet user-interface, I am drooling all over this page. And I squealed a bit when I noticed that her profile photo was a hexagon – one of my favorite shapes.

Definitely in my million projects folder to try to emulate. My favorite is when you click on her projects the way it loads is so cool. I’ll stop babbling – go see for yourself:

http://melaniedaveid.com/

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Sanda Anderlon

I told my boyfriend a couple weeks ago that I would love to never have to work. I think people fall into two categories regarding this situation: those who would get bored and those who would be delighted beyond imagination. I fall into the latter category. When asked why, I responded by saying that the plethora of projects I have tucked into the back of my mind could finally come to life. Most of these projects bring me personal creative satisfaction. I am also fantastic with managing my own free time, whereas I know others who fall into a TV-bingeing slump otherwise.

Anyways, why the ramble? I came across Sanda Anderlon, an amazing artist who does work from collages, cute animations, to deep visual presentations. Her collages (see here) are absolutely stunning, and have inspired me to want to collect many vintage magazines to create my own. Dramatic sigh here. I wish I had the time.

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Upwards

IMG_1653Urdhva Danurasana. Also known as the friendly, charming upward facing bow or wheel pose. It’s the pose which I secretly dread but also secretly hope to attempt each class.

My biggest issues coming into this pose are the tightness across my chest, tightness of my hip flexors, and as a result, my lower back compression. It takes several attempts for me to lengthen my spine. There are some times when my body isn’t sufficiently open enough to do the pose properly, so I usually surrender back to bridge pose.

The tricks of the trade? Subtle things like pressing the inner edges of the hands to rotate the triceps inward, activating the serratus anterior (our trapezius is usually over-developed and compensates for it), and rolling the outer thighs slightly inwards to narrow the hips.

Other things to note: move the back ribs and shoulder blades in while bringing the chest and arms forwards.

Variations:

Once you’re up there, in addition to an expansion of the chest and potential crying  (one of my teachers told me she’d cry every time she did upwards bow because it would stimulate certain points of her nervous system), you get a totally awesome view of the world. Kind of like this:

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I was in Chicago the past week doing job interviews (more on that in a later post) and took a stroll downtown (longer than I expected, as my phone clock did not automatically change timezones, so I showed up way early to my interview. Thank God it was East Coast not West Coast time.) Honestly, I got pretty bored of downtown. It was like SF downtown or NYC or HK downtown – after a while they all kind of look the same. My architectural expertise isn’t finely tuned enough in order for me to appreciate the structures. Sorry Dad, I failed.

But I did see The Bean at Millenium Park. I know it’s pretty touristy, but I was thrilled to unexpectedly come across it. It’s such a creative creature with an amazingly simple concept.

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Fine points of mind.

So here’s my little note scribble for the day, hopefully you can take a little something from this:

urdhvadanurasana

Daily Nutritional Facts:

Vegan Quinoa Chili: I came across this fast-food joint downtown called “Protein Bar”. It was a bizzare, intriguing concept. The mindset of the bar was obviously health-centric. Granted, I have a couple things to say regarding the over-proteinizing we have going on in our culture. But I’ll keep my mouth shut. The store featured a lot of the typical health-nut stuff: quinoa, greek yoghurt, kombucha, kale, avocado… stuff you would expect from a vegetarian or even vegan cafe. But then chicken was thrown in. For some reason chicken passed the healthy/non-healthy test and came out gloating.

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Not sure why, but was pretty taken aback with the additional animal product. It was like they were almost going for the home run with the vegetarian philosophy (a la Clover) but stopped short. I tried the vegan chili with quinoa, avocado, and the fake cheese (I feel weird about fake cheese. I tried many brands before and the only one I was down with was this mozzarella made from almonds. Other than that it’s a no go. Give me my brie back. No I don’t want Brittany back, bitch.)


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Calling it a day. Yoga from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR if you want to come hang out!

Today’s Playlist includes: Local Natives, checkit.

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Dancing Baklava

Okay I’m not proud of the title to this post. But I haven’t written since last semester so I’m just warming up. Speaking of things I haven’t done since last semester – I took a little hiatus from teaching as I was paranoid about my knee injury and now I’m teaching today for the first time from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR. It’ll be rough around the edges but I’m pumped to get back into it.

Today I’m hoping to explore Natarajasana, also known as dancer pose. Strangely enough, none of my yoga books talk about this pose so I’m a little skeptical about how traditional this pose is. The one thing I know is it’s challenging for beginners to accept is how they look in this pose. Usually we want to look like this:

When it’s great to look like this:

Preparatory-Lord-Shiva’s-pose-Saral-Natarajasana

But really, none of that is important. What’s important is the long lower back, open chest, and thigh stretch. If you feel those things working, then great. I definitely don’t look like the first picture, so you don’t have to either. Fears abated? It’s all about, santosha (contentment): enjoying here not there.

natarajasana

Meanwhile, I created one of my favorite dishes a couple weeks ago. The friendly, exotic, heartwarming pistachio baklava. I borrowed the recipe from this website with a few tweaks.

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Syrup:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

1/4 cup rosewater

1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Baklava:
12 ounces raw unsalted, untoasted pistachios
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, and cooled slightly
1 pound frozen phyllo, thawed

cardamom and cinnamon to taste

To prepare the sugar syrup, combine sugar, water, rosewater,  honey, lemon juice and cinnamon in small saucepan and bring to full boil over medium-high heat. After everything dissolves, move to a small glass bowl and set aside to cool while making the baklava. (Apparently you can do this 4 days ahead of time and just leave it).

For the nut filling, pulse the pistachios in the food processor until very finely chopped (coarse sand!). Add the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and pinch of salt and toss to combine or grind a little more. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the ground nuts to be used later as a garnish on the finished baklava.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Hopefully your phyllo dough will be 13″x9″, but if not, cut it so it fits your baking dish. TRUE FACT: Phyllo dough is insane to work with. It’s highly breakable so be wary of handling the phyllo dough. If it breaks, fear not, you can still make disjointed layers that look artisanal. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying and cracking. Brush a 13 by 9-inch glass baking pan with some of the melted butter.

For assembly of the layers, it’s important to note here that you should save the best-fitting, most intact sheets for the top and bottom layers of the baklava. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking pan, and brush the sheet until completely coated in melted butter. Repeat with 7 more well intact phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, until you have 8 phyllo sheets stacked on each other.

Evenly distribute about 1 cup of the nuts over the 8 phyllo layers. Cover the nut layer with a phyllo sheet, and dab butter all over it (if you try brushing it on, the phyllo will slip all over the place). Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, for a total of 6 phyllo sheets on top of the nut layer. Repeat the layering process with another 1 cup of the ground nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo and butter, and the last 1 cup of nuts. Finish off the layering with 8 to 10 sheets of good, intact phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter except for the final top sheet. Use the palm of your hands to press down on the layers, starting at the center and pressing outwards to remove any air bubbles. Then, drizzle 4 tablespoons of butter over the top layer and brush to cover completely. (so I actually didn’t have as many layers as this paragraph suggest, but just go by ear and figure out how you can evenly stack your phyllo dough layers and salvage the pistachio blend).

Using a good, sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds—I found it easiest to make one long cut from one corner of the pan to the other and then making parallel diagonal cuts every couple inches on either side. I then repeated this on the other side of the baklava, to make complete diamonds.

Bake in preheated oven until lightly golden, about 50 minutes to an hour. Once removed from the oven, immediately pour all of the reserved syrup over all of the cuts lines and then over the surface of the baklava. Garnish each piece of baklava with a sprinkling of the reserved ground pistachios. Cool to room temperature, for about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hours. (I didn’t actually end up doing the whole 8 hours because my friends mauled it, but it still tasted amazing. So I’m curious to see what happens after 8 hours). Apparently stores for a couple weeks!!

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Happy Sunday.

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ICreate Week Three: Connect

Strangely enough, I didn’t kill myself as much to prepare for these past two classes. I think it’s mainly due to my figuring out how to become more efficient. Two screens. Banana and organic peanut butter with a wink of cinnamon. Shelley’s book laid out in front of me at a 37.8 degree angle. Ganesha’s blessings. Boom. And the color yellow.

Week Three: Connect

I like to make my students feel uncomfortable by taking photos.

This class I began with a new type of brainstorm. Rather than writing/drawing in abundance with no limits, I tried a new tactic: establish a paradigm. This paradigm was still rather unrestrained, as all it required was the students to connect their ideas directly from each other by drawing a line and a bubble. It started from leaf and I think we ended up with things like Oscar the Grouch, video games, narcissism, and cavemen.


Then proceeded into the four ways I broke down the connect brainset: defocused attention, divergent thinking, connections/metaphors, and a dose of happiness. 

I’ve always loved teaching about divergent thinking because it’s so contradictory to the style of learning usually approached within schools. The fine arts usually tries to tackle the idea generation phenomenon moreso than other classes. And of course, it’s part of my neuroscience thesis. I first brushed upon the three types of problems: reasonable, unreasonable, and illogical. Reasonable – straightforward question and one straightforward, singular answer (i.e. SAT, school tests). Unreasonable – straightforward question with one answer as well, but one is required to “think outside the box” in order to solve it (i.e. brain teasers). The example I let them try was to draw 9 dots and  they had to connect all 9 of them with four straight lines. Don’t scroll down for the solution unless you really can’t be bothered. Okay sweet I know you already saw it.

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The last type of problem is illogical, which ties in with divergent thinking. It is a singular question that has many answers. The one I proposed to them was “What if you were about to give a speech on healthcare but your fly was unzipped and the zipper was broken?” Their responses ranged from: “Get a penguin to stand in front of you” to “Incorporate the metaphor of an unzipped fly into your speech” to “use a stamp”.

Then we jumped into actually practicing the figural portion of the TTCT. I provided these three symbols and asked them to draw whatever came to mind as long as they used these sketches. Here are responses I got (started on paper then some volunteered to draw on the board):

I felt that my section on connections and metaphors was too broad. There were so many beautiful things about metaphors and its interplay in our lives that I wanted to cover but 2 hours weren’t quite enough. So I ended up sprinting through the last third of the class (almost to no effect…).

But I did have them practice synesthesia thinking! Synesthesia – the condition of reading colors and hearing smells. Sometimes people are confused when asked to imagine what it may be like to dance textures or taste sounds, but it’s a lot more intuitive than most people imagine. We operate our lives through the function of metaphor – almost no communication would be valid without this concept. The main difference between a true synesthesiate and someone practicing synesthesia is the element of spontaneity (synesthesiates can’t inhibit this).

Anyways, I had them do the smelling-drawing activity I typically like to use. Then we experimented with listening to music, describing how being “courageous” felt in our bodies, what the word narcissism tastes like, and a few more.

Click here to see some random student responses to the DT questions and synesthesia questions.

Here is the powerpoint.

Week four will be up soon.

I promise we’ll be more productive soon.

Random thought:

I got to sit on Siri’s Art and Yoga class last week. One student’s response to my question “How’d you find the TTCT?” was “I did so bad on that test. I’m so uncreative.” I get that response from so many adults. It made me think – even just bringing up the challenge of being creative in a classroom setting can completely change someone’s mindset. Or maybe it doesn’t. Just something to chew on, like the color purple.

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Prithri Mudra

This week I’ve felt a little hectic what with interviews, deadlines, etc. Not that it’s new. Strangely enough, I’ve also found my hand making this mudra without any reason behind it, other than the fact I found it somewhat focusing and soothing for my stressed/irritated energy (more and more I also find that I have such a pitta makeup sometimes). It didn’t relax me in the way that a spa day would. 

So I checked out what mudra I was making and did a little doodle on it. Posting it before I dive into my essay on mobius strips and the Dao De Jing (ah, procrastination):

Image

 

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October 18, 2012 · 11:17 pm

I Create: Week 1 & 2

Anddddd it’s been a while. I realize that. Being overwhelmed with schoolwork (behind), TFA (behind), other teaching applications (behind), and extracurriculars doesn’t really help.

One of the major things that has been taking up my time is preparing for a two-hour seminar I teach on a weekly basis. My Fridays and Saturdays tend to be consumed in preparation for a delicious divulgence in creativity and neuroscience. The class is taught as part of the HCESP (which I had to email to find out what it stands for – Harvard College Education Studies Program), and so far I’ve been introducing middle school and high school kids to concepts that I’m pretty sure not many Harvard students know about (I assured them that this is one thing I hope that they take away from this class – they can boast about how their intelligence > Harvard kids > me to their parents and friends).

It’s been a challenging experience so far and I’m already doused in the dilemmas of classroom management. When I taught English to Chinese elders, they were all very respectful and polite, eager to learn the nuances of our language. In contrast, half of my students bounce off the walls, most likely encouraged by my casual attitude (no shoes pwease and doodling encouraged) and subject matter. Shocking at first, but still a lot of fun. I’ve noticed how I always wonder how boring some material is for students, but then realize that I came to the class to teach, not to be complaisant.

I started the class with a brainstorm on the board – I wrote the word “grass” and let the students write whatever they wanted. I tried to carry out part of a study where subjects were asked to brainstorm with an anonymous experimenter planted in the room. The experimenter yelled out an unrelated word such as “disgusting” or “french fries”, which then lead to a much deeper, broader, and creative brainstorm from the participants in comparison to control brainstorms without the experimenter (most likely due to a decrease in inhibitions and more relaxed atmosphere). So I threw up the word “disgusting”. Unfortunately, didn’t really work as a) half the students didn’t see it b) most students looked at the word and said “Huh?” – perhaps writing vs. speaking issues.

I finished the class off with a food neuron building session (shameless luring of the children for future classes? Yes?)

Neurotransmitters = M&Ms, cell body = pop chip, dendrites = gummy worms, axon = chocolate wafer stick, myelin sheath = outer part of the wafer stick

Okay some are wrong, I know 🙂

Not a neuron.

Check out here for the pre-class survey, the worksheet, and powerpoint for the first class.

For my second class, I had an even greater number of students which was even more overwhelming. It’s funny to see how differently students behave/attitudes and it brought me back to my first yoga class I taught at the Veterans Association – I was completely blown away by the diversity of bodies and wasn’t sure how to cater to everyone. I guess this goes back to learning how to stay true to your teaching style (while being flexible at the same time. Paradoxes a la Dao De Jing). Also, I know teachers probably deal with this a lot – the insecurities that cloud over as you watch your students not paying attention to you at all? Now I know how it feels.

Started with a brainstorm on how to link “french fries” and “lions”. Then proceeded to review more neuroscience and jumped into the “Absorb Brainset”.  I am basing my curriculum off of Shelley Carson’s 7 brainsets of creativity, but I’m leaving out reason and evaluate as those two are taught fairly well with our current education system. I highlighted four aspects of absorb: curiousity, open mind, internal and external awareness, and lack of judgment. I also tried to introduce the kids to ADD/ADHD, the 5-trait personality scale, meditation, and alcoholism. I’m not sure how much I’m compromising breadth for depth. I just hope the students have something to think/talk about. I even introduced them to the mesolimbic/dopaminergic/reward pathways in the brain which might have been a little much.

Here are the ppts etc.

Okay, so of course I was prepared for how difficult it would be to have middle schoolers do breath meditation and mindfulness meditation. Sort of.

I tried several times and half the kids messed around. It was totally fine as you only really meet them where they’re at. Instead, I just tried to have them be respectful of the other students who wanted to meditate by asking them to either doodle or text quietly, or even sleep. For the kids who did meditate, a lot of them had really awesome reflections on meditating – one said he felt like he was soaring, another had a trippy vision, others struggled to stay awake. Ultimately, even having one student appreciate how meditation can induce you to be in the absorb state is pretty awesome.

I also attempted a walking meditation in the end – again, same dilemma. And then I teased them (okay no I didn’t – I was really trying to get them to do mindful eating!) by giving them each a bit of chocolate. I was very impressed by their ability to hold off eating the food. I asked them to smell the chocolate carefully first, then take a small nibble – allowing the chocolate to melt on their tongue. By this point, I was getting a symphony of groans and pleads, so I let them finish it off 🙂

I think my favorite thing about teaching though is finding about what kids are passionate about – what they’ll spend hours doing because whatever it is becomes the most fascinating thing in the world. I was teaching about the “Absorb Brainset” and even though I couldn’t get everyone to meditate, it’s good knowing they have their own thing going on (i.e. Zarina’s obsession with symbols which she showed me at the end of class):

Daily Nutrition Facts

Made myself a nice little homemade chickpea soup, but ultimately failed in blending up the roasted peppers (halving the recipe didn’t help too much). Still, I get a kick out of my bay leaves.

OMNOMNOM Indian food night!!! Palak Paneer and “some mixed veg thing” as my friend likes to call it.

And if you were ever curious about the type of chocolate I tried to get the students to meditate on…milk chocolate bar infused with potato chips. You don’t have to ask me how I feel about salt and chocolate (=heaven). However, you can ask me how I feel about milk chocolate (=meh no).

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