Sunday, April 28, 2013

Goings on

I've decided to ignore the fact that it's the end of April but as cold as November, and have been busy focusing on what's good—lots more hours of (shivery) daylight! So while I haven't been checking in here much lately, I have been:

Casa La Femme Belly Dancer |  Goings on |  *sparklingly [http://www.sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Belly dancer at Casa La Femme  |  NYC  |  April 2013 }

+ Enjoying dinner at Casa La Femme, a ridiculously sensual Egyptian restaurant in the far West Village where R took me for a surprise mid-week date. Cleopatra would totally be at home here among the drippings of gold and silk. Note: the meal was just fine, but not nearly as delightful as the ambiance of this restaurant. It was a brisk 60 degrees with a breeze coming off of the Hudson when we dined here, but the restaurant had its floor-to-ceiling windows/doors thrown open to embrace the briskness of the evening.

+ Going to opening day of the Fulton Stall Market, even though there weren't many vendors and it was a little bleak, still felt nice to support the market!

+ Enjoying another meal at cozy Balaboosta, this time dinner. Just as lovely!

+ Spreading pastel blankets on sunny spots of grass in Hudson River Park, watching the boats go by and thumbing through the latest NYT Magazines.

+ Satisfying random cravings for bibimbap at Do Hwa.

+ Meeting R for an impromptu picnic (the first of the season!) after work on the East River Waterfront Esplanade. Gorgeous river / skyline views, lots of planes crisscrossing the puffy clouds above, and a splashy apricot sunset enjoyed while feasting on a salmon risotto

+ Pitter-pattering around the city on foot on the weekend, discovering sidewalk messages that make me smile:

Circle of Happiness | Goings on |  *sparklingly [http://www.sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ 10th Avenue Happiness Here Circle  |  NYC  |  April 2013 }

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fratelli d'Italia

Paradiso Beach Club in Letojanni  |  Fratelli d'Italia  |  *sparklingly [http://www.sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Letojanni, the Sicilian seaside town down the hill from Roberto's hometown  |  June 2008 }
 A little weekend happy news (for me)—we just heard that the Italian consulate had a cancellation and they've bumped our appointment up by two months! In just a few weeks I'll be strolling down Fifth Avenue with my myriad notarized and apostille'd documents to lay at their Gucci-clad feet.

PS. Fratelli d'Italia

Sicilian Folk Musicians  |  Fratelli d'Italia  |  *sparklingly [http://www.sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Sicilian musicians at our second wedding in Sicily  |  September 2010 }

{ Our patriotic speedboat off the coast of Lampedusa |  Honeymoon #2  |  September 2010}

Monday, April 22, 2013

Supposedly sweet Hudson Valley high

Supposedly sweet Hudson Valley High on afeathery*nest  | http://afeatherynest/com | Image via Did I Mention My Wedding https://didimentionmywedding.wordpress.com/tag/hudson-valley-weddings/
{ Aerial view of the Hudson River  |  via }
I love the Hudson Valley, I really do. It's pretty and bucolic and I love supporting the farmers and artisans that hark from Hudson, but, after 7 years of living back in New York and a few trips up and down the river (to Millbrook, Millerton, Hudson, Harmon-on-Hudson, and Cold Spring), I have to say—writers like these are either pulling the wool over our eyes or I'm doing something wrong.

Or, maybe it's just that the towns with train stations depositing visitors directly onto Main Street—the only ones we can easily visit via Metro North, given our lack-of-car—are the problem. Maybe if we could meander further and deeper to where the locals are without worrying about train tracks and schedules we'd find the quaint and charming Hudson Valley town of my dreams?

Either way, doesn't change the fact that the towns we have poked around in have been woefully despondent and unwelcoming. Think: closed storefronts, barren streets and buildings with lots and lots of peeling paint. Now combine that with $60 train tickets, and you've got one sullen J.

So, if you've heard of any adorable train/foot accessible towns along the Hudson, please share! We're stuck in the city while we wait to hear back from our applications, so until we can take a proper holiday any and all day trip suggestions welcome! We haven't left New York since the the very beginning of the year and our lack of Vitamin D (yep, still cold and overcast here) and abundance of concrete barriers are making us decidedly un-Springy and peppy.

Serious cases of city fever here, people.

Supposedly sweet Hudson Valley High on afeathery*nest | http://afeatherynest.com | Image via Fine Art America / June Marie Sobrito http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-hudson-river-valley-in-autumn-june-marie-sobrito.html
{The Hudson Valley  |  via }
Supposedly sweet Hudson Valley High on afeathery*nest | http://afeatherynest.com | Image via Wikimedia / James G. Howes http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hudson_River_Valley_in_autumn.jpg
{ Hudson Valley glory  |  via }

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fresh and springy knit napkins

Fresh and springy knit napkins on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Knit cotton dinner napkin, in situ  |  March 2013 }
I've been thinking about converting to knit linen or cotton napkins for our table—as much for the tactile pleasure as the good environmental citizen juju, but haven't gotten around to it for us just yet.

Fresh and springy knit napkins on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Getting ready to ship the full set of knit cotton dinner napkins from NYC  |  April 2013 }
But, I did make a set of 4 for a dear friend who recently had a birthday. I picked these colors because the nautical, preppy, chic, fresh thing is totally her deal. What do you think?

Fresh and springy knit napkins on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Knit goodies + card safe in SF  |  April 2013 }

PS. The last picture is from the birthday girl herself—she sent me a note and picture when the package arrived. I do this, too when I receive a gift and love love love having people do the same for me when I've sent something. Makes me happy to see them "at home"!

Next project: something similar for us in a natural palette. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mamela

via http://www.alcapones.com/wordpress/?p=4400
{ The Lion King Musical  |  via  }
One Easter some 20-odd years ago, I planned an elaborate Easter Egg Hunt for my family in our backyard and woods (benefit of growing up in Virginia: you can live at the end of a cul-de-sac on an acre of land). Before we headed outside to follow my Harriet-the-Spy-type-clues, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with a red top on and my hair half tied up with a white ribbon pulling goodies out of my Easter basket until I got to the VHS tape of The Lion King. Do you remember those thick, white-edged plastic cases from Disney? They always reminded me of baby chew toys.

+ + +

I watched The Lion King regularly, faithfully, taking photographs while the movie was paused so I could develop them and carry them around. I had all the lyrics and words memorized, the gestures, the glances, the dance moves. It was all stored in my mind, ready to reproduce, like a party trick. There was something mesmerizing to me about the heart of the story, the rhythms of the African-influenced songs, and of course, the animals.

+ + +

But, this two-decade cherishing of a movie about a lion cub's life in no way prepared me for the onslaught of emotions I felt when I finally (finally!) sat down at the Minskoff Theater in Times Square to see the Broadway Musical this past weekend. I kid you not, when the show began and these gorgeous dancers / actors recast as exotic and elegant savannah animals began prancing down the aisles with their puppet machinations, I lost it. Positively lost it. I began crying and could not stop (well, until I started laughing, because there are some very funny scenes).

The pageantry of colors, amazing staging (seriously: the stampede scene was ingenious!), Zulu chants and an almost Gospel-like chorus was just so breathtakingly beautiful. It made me feel like a child again—in the best possible way. Can you remember what it felt like the first time you beheld something we take for granted now (like, ice cream or a parrot or a skyscraper)? That's what I felt like the whole time.

I still have chills thinking about it.

New York—you were good to me this weekend. Seeing The Lion King was no doubt, one of the best, most wonderful experiences I've had in this perversely beautiful city (right up there with picnics under the Brooklyn bridge, cocktails on a rooftop with an expansive view of the city at sunset, sailboat trips around the NY Harbor, etc.). Let's do it again some time, okay?

PS. Mamela means "listen" in Zulu and is featured in one of my favorite numbers. Here's a clip:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Waking from a deep sleep

Waking from a deep sleep on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Our former Police HQ—Google the current one if you want to cry  |  1 April 2013 }

This winter seems to be dragging on a bit, despite the sporadic bouts of warmth, and with it, I've definitely been dragging a bit, too. My hibernation mode means I'm not feeling as sleek (cold air and high heaters wreck havoc on the skin!), strong (have been quite the lazybones when it comes to weights and things), or flexible (ditto on yoga) as I did just a few months ago.

The only thing that has been somewhat countering this yucky situation I find myself in are the loooooong walks I've been taking—and even those I had to stop for a while because they were too painful. Watery eyes from blustery winds + freezing temperatures = Frozen face. You may think this doesn't bode well for any future move to Sweden, but at least there I'll be expecting it and will be prepared. Here I'm still in denial about the meteorologic state of things.

Clearly I need a little seasonal freshening up, so recently I've been:

+ Drinking stovetop-heated water with liberal squeezes of juice from Meyer lemons first thing in the morning to boost my immune system, balance pH levels, gently push toxins out, keep my lymph system happy and get my digestive juices flowing (sometimes I add a capful of Apple Cider Vinegar to my potion if I've had a particularly heavy or spicy meal the night before).

+ Dry brushing my whole body before a shower and my face in the morning and evenings to get rid of dead skin, promote elasticity, cell renewal and blood flow, continue to keep my lymph system happy, get toxins on their way, and help with digestion. I found a natural, long-handled brush from the drugstore for my body and this wee, horsehair brush for my face from MUJI. In the mornings I use the face brush dry on my skin and in the evening I smear my winter oil concoction on my face first to take off makeup/dirt and then swirl the brush over my face and neck.

+ Reinvigorating how I exercise. I think one of the reasons I haven't made an effort lately to get up and move in the morning is because I was bored (and / or cold!). So last week I looked up some new ideas for strength / body-weight moves (Pinterest is great for this!), updated my routines (I put together Google Drive slideshows targeting different muscle groups or grouped by style of workout and then I just access them on my phone when I'm ready to go—they're easy enough to see while my phone is perched in its armband). I also downloaded some new Yoga Podcasts because I want to get back into it after a bit of a break. I liked how I felt and how my body aligned itself when I was practicing regularly. You could say that I'm a little unaligned at the moment.

Hopefully a little of this and a little of that will give me a little spring-appropriate rebirth / rejuvenation of sorts. So far I've noticed the most benefit from face brushing—my skin looked much brighter after just one day. And! Even though I didn't have the best luck with Pure Synergy (although I've been thinking of trying them again since I didn't take the full dosage the first time around and they're still the cleanest product I've seen), I HAVE had some luck with the Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3 capsules that I started taking a month ago. Given how hard it is to buy fish I feel good about, I wanted to get my Omega 3's from a supplement and I figured that while I was at it, a little Vitamin D was in order. While I haven't had the elusive burst of energy I'm looking for, I did at least notice a slight uptick in my energy level and way less of the endless yawning I usually do, so maybe there's something to it?

I've also been looking into a few other vitamins and supplements to augment things, but it'll be a while before I can share since I'm still awaiting my Amazon box of goodies to arrive and I want to incorporate them one at a time so I can pinpoint which ones actually have an effect.

And, I hope I don't sound like one of those slightly neurotic, pill-popping fanatics—the wacky type that makes everyone around them feel slightly uncomfortable (the odd thing is I don't really talk about this at all except for here). I've just become interested in these things over the last few months because even after eating and living fairly cleanly for a few years, I've never felt as good as I think I should feel by living that way. Plus, reading about how our produce today has less vitamins and minerals than a generation ago (thanks to soil depletion and pollution), I figured it might not hurt to give my system a little help...right?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A taste of spring

A taste of spring on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Brunch at Balaboosta  |  30 March 2013 }

This past Saturday, after checking in on and rotating the marinating lamb for our Easter dinner party, I headed out to enjoy some of my favorite things:

+ Sunshine
+ Homey brunches
+ City strolls
+ Girl talk over cocktails

After months and months of frigid temperatures, the sun shined its little heart out all over the city and the temperature eke'd above 50 in the morning and hovered juuust under 60 for the rest of the day. To celebrate I met some gals for brunch—something that I will most definitely miss if and when we leave NYC, as I've yet to have the great, quintessential brunch experience in any other city.

My friends let me choose the place, which worked out well since I'd had my eye on Balaboosta, a Yiddish word meaning "the perfect housewife, homemaker, wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess" for a while. How can you go wrong with that kind of philosophy, married to Israeli cuisine and a warm and cozy interior?

We snuggled three on the booth side and two on the chair side and ordered 2 Green Scrambled Eggs, 2 Shakshouksa's and the Braised Short Rib Hash (that was me), with frothy cappuccino's to start, Bloody Mary's to end and a chocolate mousse to share as the finale. With tasty dishes and great service, Balaboosta's definitely a keeper!

After we waddled out, we moseyed around Soho, ducking into shops here and there. There was a little shopping, a little manicure/pedicuring and just in time for cocktail hour we found ourselves in Gramercy, in front of this chic and classy little townhouse with a restaurant inside and seating outside—I haven't seen any sidewalk tables since lo back in September! We promptly set ourselves up next to a French Bulldog and had a plate of deviled eggs with jalapenos and lobster and a quartet of cocktails, two were springier (my Josephine Baker and my friend's Cucumber Martini), while the two gals feeling a little under the weather had The House's Spiked Cider for their scratchy throats.

Perfect Intro-to-Spring day, no?

A taste of spring on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Springy cocktails at The House  |  30 March 2013 }

Easter Dinner 2013

Easter Dinner 2013 on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Table set for 8  |  Easter Dinner  |  31 March 2013 }

Not to toot my own horn (tooot toot!), but I'm simultaneously relieved / shocked / proud that I pulled off an Easter dinner for 8 (including one vegan couple) that was gluten-free, sugar-free and apparently tasty, given the clean plates, this weekend.

Usually R cooks the main stuff when we have friends over for dinner, and I do the scheduling, grocery-shopping, music/candle/flower/table situation, and dessert, but with him working this weekend (and me secretly wishing for the chance to try my hand at the whole shebang), it worked out perfectly.

We had:

+ Hot roasted and salted almonds, a wheel of Paesanella cheese, and Gaeta olives to start
+ A gratin of cauliflower, olives, Pecorino and Parmesan cheese
+ Roasted asparagus with almonds, hard-boiled eggs and a smoky yogurt sauce
+ Lamb marinated for 48 hours in a garlic/parsley bath
+ Lemon, coconut and almond bars to finish

Then, R made the vegan dish for our friends (a pasta with mushroom sauce), plus they also had the asparagus, since I served the eggs and yogurt sauce apart.

The most exhausting part was prepping enough vegetables for everyone—so much washing, chopping and boiling/sauteing! Might need a break before our next dinner party. I was most scared about ruining the lamb—we don't have a meat thermometer (should probably invest in that) and I'm always nervous that I'm about to serve either hideously overdone meat or even-too-rare-for me, but the lamb ended up being the easiest thing.

And, to be honest, I think my most favorite part of the whole preparation was setting the table and arranging the flowers—I get such a Martha Stewart-It's-a-Good-Thing-vibe-o-happiness when everything is just so.

Just a few more pics from the weekend and table for you—sadly no actual shots of the food to share, though. Next time.

Easter Dinner 2013 on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{Good Friday Mass, OSP's Basilica |
29 March 2013 }
Easter Dinner 2013 on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Procession Prep, OSP's Basilica |
29 March 2013 }
Easter Dinner 2013 on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Close-up of the table, yes those are place cards!  |  Easter Dinner  |  31 March 2013 }
Easter Dinner 2013 on *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Post-dinner, pre-dessert  |  Easter Dinner  | 31 March 2013 }

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 in pictures: March

Click to catch up!
{ "I am here" days  | Mar. 3, 2013 }
{ Thyroidy | Mar. 5, 2013 }
{ Beating the winter blues  | Mar. 7, 2013 }
{ Snowy deliberations | Mar. 8, 2013 }
{ NYSS Art Lectures  | Mar. 12, 2013 }
{ Monday meanders: 8 | Mar. 18, 2013 }
{ An extension  | Mar. 19, 2013 }
{ Banished from the bedroom | Mar. 21, 2013 }
{ The Nomad Hotel Library  | Mar. 22, 2013 }
{ So worth it | Mar. 25, 2013 }