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Retreat ahead

Laura during Prana yoga teacher training

Serious concentration or bad red eye correction? Me in my Prana t-shirt on our last day of teacher training

This time next week I’ll be at Sklenářka in the Czech Republic on a week-long retreat. Seven days of yoga, vegetarian meals (eaten in silence!), workshops, and meditation in the middle of nature (meaning an isolated villa 130km east of Prague) with Shakti and Pepe from Prana Yoga College.

Much like tidying up before the cleaning lady arrives, I’ve been practicing more regularly in anticipation of the retreat’s daily yoga classes. My yoga practice has been pretty sporadic since moving to Munich, so this preparatory kick in the pants has been very welcome.

I suspect the retreat will bring some discomfort (whether physical, social, spiritual, or all three!), but hopefully my time on the mat beforehand will ward off the worst of the aches.

Many days, my practice involved a class from the Prana YouTube channel. I spent five weeks with Shakti and Pepe three years ago for my initial yoga teacher training, so these online classes feel a bit like returning to my yoga home.

Shakti’s consistent instructions (lots of reminders to breathe!) and Pepe’s subtle accompaniment are reassuringly familiar. There are no jolting surprises in the flow of poses – I know what asanas to expect and understand the sequencing. The setting is familiar as I spent many hours there during teacher training and in the months afterwards. There’s even a barely-on-screen cameo from Milo, Shakti and Pepe’s little dog who was so much like Sofie!

While I’m a bit anxious about the retreat, I feel certain that the comfort I’ve felt following the online classes will continue in person. I may not know what to expect in terms of the facilities or other students, but I do know Shakti and Pepe! And I know what to expect from their teaching.

I’m hoping that sense of yogic home-coming continues through the retreat with its silent meals, unfamiliar location, and bug-filled wilderness. And that seven days with Shakti and Pepe energizes my yoga practice long after!

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Home cooked comfort

Homemade ham and cheese loafCooking is one of the things I miss most while travelling. Although we had a stovetop, fridge, and sink in the camper, space was very cramped and the ventilation system wasn’t great. Our most successful camper meals were pretty much bread, cheese, and paté.

I’m very much enjoying cooking in a real kitchen and have been making some old favourites. Relatively easy and very comforting meals like ravioli with mushrooms and sage, chili with baking powder biscuits, gnocchi with lemon and arugula, and this delicious ham & cheese loaf.

Most of these familiar recipes need a bit of adapting as German grocery stores stock different products than Canadian ones. We’re not always able to find exactly what the recipe calls for and sometimes that creativity pays off.

The original Ham & Cheese Loaf recipe (which I think my mum clipped from a newspaper about 20 years ago!) calls for chopped ham and grated Swiss cheese. My husband often made it with ham and cheddar cheese and we’ve also used leftover turkey in place of the ham before. I imagine a wide-range of cooked meats would work really well.

Cheddar cheese is hard to find in Germany and there are so many options for meat and sausage here that being limited to ham made no sense. I used gouda cheese and Schinken-Fleischwurst (a large, lightly spiced pork sausage) for the loaf in the picture.

The loaf (which is a rather unappetizing way to describe such a yummy combination of bread, meat, and cheese) is fantastic warm and even better cold the day after. A leftover slice makes an excellent snack and slices disappear from the fridge with astonishing speed.

Eating familiar food in a still-foreign culture makes me feel a little more at home, a little more comfortable, and a lot less hungry!

Ham & Cheese Loaf

Ingredients
  • 500g (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 packages rapid rise yeast (14g or 1/2oz in total)
  • 250mL (1 cup) water
  • 35mL (1/4 cup) Dijon mustard (or Senf mittelscharf if you’re shopping at a German grocery store)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups or 8oz) cooked meat, chopped
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups or 8oz) firm cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
Method
  • Set aside 125g (1 cup) flour; line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and lightly grease
  • In a large bowl, mix together remaining flour, sugar, salt, and yeast
  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat bring water, mustard, and butter to about 50°C (125-130°F )
    • it should be warm enough that you can’t comfortably dip your finger in for more than a few seconds
  • Stir warm liquid into flour mixture and add in enough reserved flour to make soft dough
    • in more humid climates you’ll need more of the flour
  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes
    • the dough should be smooth and bounce back when pressed with a finger
  • Roll dough into a rectangle – just over 1/2cm thick (1/4”) and roughly 35x30cm (14×12”); transfer to greased baking sheet
  • Sprinkle meat and cheese down centre third of dough length; make cuts from filling to dough edge at 2.5cm (1”) intervals
    • kitchen shears are an easy way to cut the dough
  • Bring strips from opposite sides of filling together, twisting and placing ends at an angle across meat and cheese
  • Rise the dough by covering loaf with a warm, damp towel and placing the baking sheet over a large shallow pan half-full of boiling water;  let sit for 15 minutes
  • While dough is rising, preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)
  • Brush loaf with beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown
  • Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serve warm or cold
  • Enjoy leftover slices for as long as they last!
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Home is…

Home is organized drawersNot having a permanent address has made me think a lot about ‘home’. Is it a single location? Is it a feeling? Is it a situation? What makes somewhere ‘home’?

I’ve realized that ‘home’ is a moving target. It can be my parents’ house (where I grew up), a rented flat, a hotel room, a friends’ apartment.

Our flat in Berlin has certainly been ‘home’ for the last few months; we unpacked, settled in, and got really comfortable. The clothes are neatly organized. The products in the bathroom cabinet are sorted by type. The mailbox bears our names. Even the kitchen cupboards are arranged so they make the most sense to us.

Unpacking goes a long way towards making me feel comfortable. Whenever we move, all the boxes and bags are unpacked within the first 24 hours. As long as there’s closet/drawer space available, I empty out my luggage – even if I’m only there for a couple nights.

We leave this flat in just a few days and my definition of ‘home’ will shift again. But some components of ‘home’ stay the same. Home is familiar and comfortable. Home is where my husband and dog are.  Home is settled and secure.

Home is where the drawers are organized.

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