Tension Is the Enemy of a Singer, Part 1: Jaw Tension

Originally published on Backstage.com on By Arden Kaywin

Tension Is the Enemy of a Singer, Part 1 Jaw Tension

One very important concept for any singer to remember is that your body is your instrument, not your vocal cords. Anything that negatively impacts the open flow of energy and sound through your body will negatively effect the quality of your singing. Chief among these is physical tension. Tension is the enemy of the singer because it blocks the free flow of energy, breath, and sound throughout the body, necessary for communication.

When a new singer comes to work with me, one of the very first things I do is to help them become aware of any physical tensions they have that are getting in the way of their most efficient production of sound. Mother Nature gave humans an incredibly efficient mechanism for producing sound, but singers often do not trust it. Instead, they develop habits which they believe help control their

create all sorts of tensions that negatively impact the sound they are trying to improve.

The most common tensions I see singers dealing with are jaw tension, neck tension and tongue tension. In my next three articles, I will explore each of these tensions, how and why they creep in, and I’ll give you some simple tips and exercises you can do to release them. Let’s start with jaw tension.

If you have trouble with your higher register, one of the culprits might be that you are trying to grab and control the notes with your jaw. If the jaw is not free, then your ability to stretch your soft palate is compromised, as soft palate stretch is necessary to access your upper register successfully. The more locked and controlling your jaw is, the less you can expand into your soft palate for those higher notes. We need to have a free and fluid jaw while singing. Most singers do not even realize they have been locking or holding, because they have never felt it any other way. Here is an exercise to access more freedom in the jaw and let go of tension.

Find a soft, easy smile and let the jaw hang in that smile. Remember that when we talk about the jaw, we’re really just talking about the two hinges on either side of your head in front of your ears (don’t mistake the jaw for the chin). From this easy smile, allow the jaw hinges to soften and open. The feeling will be one of the jaw hanging down and back as you smile. Do not hold your jaw in this position; it should feel free and softly hanging. Keep the energy of the easy smile by feeling your ears widening away from each other. Then, alternate between chanting “ya-ya-ya” and “la-la-la” on a single pitch as you go down a five-note scale. You want the tongue to be doing the work of moving to change the vowels and consonants, not the jaw. We need the tongue and jaw to be able to move independently of one another. If you find your jaw locking, closing, or moving up and down in tandem with the tongue as you change consonants, then close your mouth, swallow, take a nose breath into a smile, feel your ears widening, then let the jaw drop again and resume. Doing this exercise in front of a mirror can be helpful as well.

Arden Kaywin

Arden Kaywin is voice teacher, vocal coach, and vocal producer in Los Angeles with over 10 years experience working with developing singers and nearly 20 years as a professional singer herself. She holds a master’s degree in music and vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music in NYC, where she studied classical voice and opera.

Vegan Chocolate Cake (Vegan Desserts)

Originally published on cookingjourneyblog.com on Last Updated on April 13, 2019 By Cooking Journeyer Alina and Dmitry

Vegan Chocolate Cake Vegan Desserts

Vegan chocolate cake is just perfect for Birthday, Easter or Christmas celebration. It is indulgent, moist and delicious. A beautiful treat for chocolate lover!

This is one of the best vegan chocolate cake recipe and it is so easy that you will absolutely love it! It has layers of moist chocolate sponge, chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries.

Vegan Chocolate Cake Vegan Desserts_1

Moreover, it is a healthier version of vegan chocolate cake, because I used less sugar and more spice and vanilla for flavor. One of the best vegan desserts to have!

Simple vegan cake. But so heavenly good that you need to pin this recipe!

Chocolate cake and strawberries in vegan desserts

I think it is an ideal flavor and color combination, isn’t it? Chocolate is so dominant in this cake, it needs something refreshing. So when you bite – you get chocolate, then strawberry, chocolate then strawberry…

This chocolate cake is to die for! It is like chocolate covered strawberries on the opposite..more like strawberry covered chocolate, haha.

You can use other seasonal berries for chocolate cake such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries etc. I don’t recommend using jams or preserves for layers, as they will not give needed freshness. If you can’t find fresh berries, you can use defrosted and well drained packed produce.

How to make vegan chocolate cake
Dry ingredients:

To make this chocolate cake you will need all-purpose flour, cacao powder, vegan chai powder, Muscovado sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Yes, I used cacao, not cocoa powder.

Vegan chai is optional, it is used to add more spicy flavor to the chocolate. And there are so many options of adding chai in vegan desserts!

It is usually a combination of ground spices cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, pepper, black tea and sugar (or substitutes). I used store bought vegan chai latte (refined sugar-free), but if you can’t find it, you can make your own. Combine 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp of icing sugar (or substitute), 1 tsp of each: ground tea, sugar and other spices that I mentioned. Add just a pinch of ground pepper, salt and cloves. Mix everything with cacao. Make sure the total weight of spice and cacao is 165 grams. If less than that, add more cacao. And yes, to be more precise, it is better to use scales!

Muscovado or khandsari sugar is a dark brown sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor. To my mind, it gives the depth and umami flavor during the baking process. It is partially refined cane sugar that is a little bit healthier than regular sugar, because of higher content of minerals. If you can’t find Muscovado, you can use good quality brown sugar.

It is very important to sieve all dry ingredients twice (except the sugar). It will help you to get rid of any lumps or big pieces of spice. The batter will be smoother, too.

Wet ingredients:

You will need 675 ml of vegan milk of your choice. I used low-calorie coconut-rice milk, because I love the combination of coconut, chocolate and strawberries. You can also use coconut or almond milk for this vegan chocolate cake recipe.

I used a combination of melted and cooled coconut oil and sunflower oil. For more flavor, I added vanilla extract and to make soda “work” – a little bit of grape vinegar.

Combine all the wet ingredients in big bowl, then sieve in dry ingredients, mixing in batches. Finally add sugar and mix just until combined.

You don’t need any electric mixer, just use a hand whisk.

Divide the batter in 3 pans or use 3 parts to bake vegan sponges in batches.

By the way, this batter has no eggs, so you can safely taste it before baking! Delicious? Let’s bake it!

Vegan Chocolate Cake Vegan Desserts_2

How to bake vegan chocolate cake

To bake chocolate sponges, layer the baking paper in a pan (I used 8 inch 20 cm spring form pan). Pour 1/3 of batter and bake this cake for 20-25 minutes in oven, preheated to 325 F / 160 C. It should be ready, when inserted wooden skewer comes out with few crumbs on it. Let the chocolate cake cool a little, then run the knife around the edges. And let it cool completely at room temperature on a wire rack.

It is ok if the sponges are slightly cracked in the center. Chocolate sponges will be a little bit oily if you touch them, but it means they are super moist and tasty. I think this could be a great base for other vegan desserts, such as trifle.

You can also make this easy vegan chocolate cake a bit smaller -with two sponges and one layer of strawberries and ganache. Just calculate 2/3 of the recipe for sponges and ganache.

When all the chocolate sponges are baked and cooled, you can start assembling the cake.

How to make vegan chocolate ganache

Melt vegan dark chocolate with coconut-rice milk on a Bain-Marie or water bath. Just roughly chop 270 g of chocolate (or use vegan chocolate chips) and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Add 150 ml of vegan milk (0,6 cup). Place a small pot with a little bit of water on a small heat. Put a bowl with chocolate and milk on top, make sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water. Melt the chocolate, mixing with a spatula.

You can microwave milk with chocolate for 20 seconds 3 times, mixing with a spatula just until melted.

Set aside chocolate ganache to cool for 30-40 minutes, but don’t refrigerate. It will thicken, and it will be easier to spread on the vegan cake.

Save this easy vegan chocolate frosting recipe for your favorite vegan desserts.

Assembling

This is always a fun part! Carefully remove the baking paper from the chocolate sponge and place it on the cake stand or serving plate. Spread 1/3 of chocolate ganache on top. Cut strawberries and place them around the cake in one layer.

Repeat with another sponge and layer of ganache and strawberries. Put the 3rd chocolate sponge on top. Spread the ganache and let some of it drop around the edges. Make sure your cake is even from different corners. If not, you can insert more pieces of strawberries between the layers.

How to decorate chocolate cake

I’ve made simple raw decoration, using fresh strawberries. Moreover, I’ve added baby arugula leaves. They have savory peppery taste that I love in combination with sweet strawberries and chocolate. But green leaves are more for decoration than taste, so if you can definitely use some fresh mint or lemon balm leaves!

I also sprinkled some dried strawberries on top (and in between the layers, too). It is optional, but it gives more concentrated strawberry flavor and lovely color.

By the way, if you decide to make this cake for Easter, you can top it with colorful chocolate eggs!

How long does vegan chocolate cake last

Consume this chocolate cake for 5 days. You can eat every morning a piece of vegan cake. Just kidding. But it is really filling and energizing. Who doesn’t want to start the day with a healthier chocolate cake?

I’m sure you can also keep it in freezer for a month. However, I’m not sure about the texture of the cake after defrosting. Let me know, if you decide to freeze it!

Hope you will enjoy this easy vegan chocolate cake recipe! This is definitely one of the best chocolate cakes (and vegan desserts) to try. Moist, delicious and indulgent dessert.

Please share this chocolate cake with your vegan friends!

Vegan chocolate cake is just perfect for any Birthday, Easter or Christmas celebration. It is indulgent, moist and delicious. A beautiful treat for chocolate lover!

Author: Cooking Journey
Ingredients
For 3 vegan chocolate sponges:

415 g flour all-purpose
110 g cacao powder
50 g chai latte vegan
2, 5 tsp baking soda
1, 5 tsp baking powder
150 g Muscovado sugar
675 ml coconut-rice milk
240 g coconut oil melted
170 g sunflower oil
3 tsp vanilla extract
2,5 tsp grape vinegar

Vegan chocolate ganache:

270 g vegan dark chocolate
150 ml coconut milk
1 tsp coconut oil

For decoration:

500 g fresh strawberries
1 tbsp dried strawberry pieced optional
1 tbsp leaves mint, arugula or lemon balm

Instructions
Chocolate sponges:

Preheat oven to 325 F / 160 C. Layer 3 cake pans with parchment paper*
Sift flour, cacao, baking powder, soda and chai in a small bowl. Mix together.
In a big bowl add milk, oils, vanilla and vinegar. Whisk until combined. Sift in mixed dried ingredients in 2-3 batches. Combine well.
Add sugar and mix until combined.
Divide batter in three. Distribute batter to the prepared baking pans.
Bake each sponge for 20-25 minutes until inserted wooden skewer comes out with few crumbs on it.
Let the chocolate cake cool a little, then run the knife around the edges. And let it cool completely at room temperature on a wire rack.

Chocolate ganache:

Prepare Bain- Marie or water bath. Place a small pot with a little bit of water on a small heat.
Roughly chop dark chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Add vegan milk. Put a bowl with chocolate and milk on top of small pot with simmering water. Make sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water. Melt the chocolate, mixing with a spatula.
You can microwave milk with chocolate for 20 seconds 3 times, mixing with a spatula just until melted.
Let the chocolate ganache cool for 30-40 minutes, but don’t refrigerate.

Assembling

Carefully remove the baking paper from the chocolate sponge and place it on the cake stand or serving plate. Spread 1/3 of chocolate ganache on top. Cut strawberries and place them around the cake in one layer.
Repeat with another sponge and layer of ganache and strawberries. Put the 3rd chocolate sponge on top.
Spread the ganache and let some of it drop around the edges. Make sure your cake is even from different corners. If not, you can insert more pieces of strawberries between the layers.
Decorate with fresh strawberries, micro leaves and sprinkle dried strawberries.

Grandma B’s Cucumber Salad

Originally Published on Sweetlittlebluebird.com By Mary Neumann
Grandma B’s Cucumber Salad

Today I am sharing another childhood favorite, a summer tradition at my grandparents’ for each and every barbecue – Cucumber Salad! Crisp summer cucumbers and onions thinly sliced, marinated in a simple yummy vinegar, sugar and water dressing. A summertime favorite side dish.

Cucumber Salad – A traditional, old-school classic recipe. Refreshing, cool and crisp, perfect on hot summer days. This is the perfect side dish for any family gathering, picnic, BBQ or potluck – even better, it’s budget friendly! 

Every time my grandpa grilled steaks, burgers or hot dogs in the summer, this was always one of the side dishes. My great-grandma, (Grandma B), loved this salad, hence the name.

Over the years I have changed the recipe a smidgen, adding tomatoes and dill for another layer of flavor. I also like mixing in a little red onion along with a white or Vidalia onion.

Grandma B’s Cucumber Salad_2

Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best ones. This salad allows the garden fresh cucumbers and onions (and tomatoes) to shine.
I love lots and lots of dill in the salad (optional). Fresh dill weed is best, but dry dill weed works well too.

 

Ingredients
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin (use your favorite onion – Vidalia is great, sweet onion or white). I like to mix in a little red onion for color, I also love the taste.
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (use less or more to your liking)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional

  • toss in fresh tomatoes (use your favorite – cherry, plum, fresh from the garden)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried dill or 3 teaspoons fresh dill weed
  • English cucumbers are great for this salad
Directions
Place sliced cucumbers and onions (tomatoes if you are using them) in a medium size bowl.
In a separate medium size bowl (or large 4 cup measuring cup), mix vinegar, water and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over veggies. If adding dill, toss in dill and mix well. Cover and place in fridge for two to three hours before serving.  Serve chilled. Salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

 

 

meet-maryAbout Me

 

Hi, I’m Mary, the face behind the food blog Sweet Little Bluebird. I am married to a great guy from Northern California and we have two sweet girls. On my blog you will find my favorite recipes along with tried and trues from cherished cookbooks and admired sites and magazines. Each Friday, stop by for the Weekend Potluck party, a place where top food bloggers come to link up their best recipes.

 

The Answer For Plastic

This is the solution for all the trash that is filling up our oceans, landfills and the fact that nobody wants to take it anymore. This Company out of Oregon is really tackling this problem head on. They can break down the plastic to a molecular level. So it doesn’t matter if it’s oily, greasy, has veggies on it, it will break it down.

Ajilax is the Corporation doing this

Agilyx is really tackling the huge plastic problem. I think we need these in every city in the USA. So just wanted to let you know there is a solution but people have to try to see about collaboration and see if you can get one of these in your hood.

Is this a good idea?