Thursday, May 30, 2013

Me, then (again)

Me, then...again on *sparklingly [http://sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ NYC from across the Hudson this weekend }

And so as not to be too much of a downer, here's another few snippets of my (formerly?) snarky self:
Monday, May 29, 2006

95N is NOT the Place to Scrimp

Clearly I didn't learn anything the last time I purchased an inexpensive Greyhound ticket to NYC. Maybe next time I'll spring for Amtrak...or JetBlue, as I don't think I can take another trip with these characters:

International Princess:
Must be nice to be pampered and petted, and live the good life as a DC sorority girl slumming it up by taking the bus to NYC for the weekend. Did you really feel the need to spend the majority of the four hour bus trip discussing the merits and demerits of various celebrities' bone structures? Were my deathly glares and aggressive rustling of the NYT pages in your direction not enough to clue you in that you were REALLY PISSING ME OFF?!

Heroic Bus Driver:
He must have known I was in hell, so he kindly turned up the air conditioning ALL. THE. WAY. Not only were my ears bleeding, but my appendages were then frozen. Nice balance, no? But, luckily he got my heart racing again by having lengthy cell phone conversations with his buddies while driving a few tons of steel. Up 95. In. the. rain.
Sunday, June 27, 2006
Maintenance
Know what's a really big pain in the ass? Personal maintenance. I mean really, do you know how much time a day I spend doing the bare minimum? After getting out of bed I have to brush my teeth, rinse my face, put on deodorant, go to the gym...then, come home, shower, again with the deodorant, spend (too much) time slathering pretty cream all over my various appendages, swipe my ears with a q-tip, slap on some moisturizer....then, after breakfast, again with the teeth brushing and putting on of makeup, perfume, clothes, jewelry, etc.
It's like, enough already, right? And I'm not even someone high maintenance that's applying—I don't know, eyebrow gel—but even the minimalist approach is tiring!
Then, when I come home from work I have to spend time making a healthy, vegetable/whole grain laden dinner, wash my dishes, make my coffee, rinse out the appliance, pack lunch for the next day, reset the espresso machine, put out breakfast. Enough is enough. And to think, all this stemming from me realizing I have to schedule my 6-month teeth cleaning.

Sunday, June 29, 2006
Adventures in Indian Dining
Let me paint a little picture for you:

I sit at an outdoor table waiting for friends to join me for dinner. The nice waiter comes over to ask if I'd like to order a drink while I wait. I politely decline, motioning that the water is fine. While minding my own business the following happens.

Drunk Lecherous Man With Cigarette Dangling from Lips (while standing behind me): Are you Persian?

Me (barely turning around): No.

DLMWCDFL: Where are you from?

Me
: I'm Portuguese & Indian.

DLMWCDFL: Like, East Indian?

Me
: No, I'm from the western part of India.

DLMWCFDL: So not like Cowboys and Indians?

Me
: No, Indian as in from the country of India.

DLMWCFDL: And from Brazil?

Me
: No, Portuguese as in from the country of Portugal.

DLMWCFDL: Oh really? Like in that movie Moon River?
[Edited to note in 2013 that I still don't know what movie he meant...]

Me
: (to myself) "WTF?!", (to waiter) Sir? Actually, I think I'll have a drink.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

100

100 on *sparklingly [http://sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Buds & bubbles! }

And just like that, I'm at one hundred. After keeping my old, post-college blog alive for only 7 months and perhaps no more than 40 or so posts, I'm a little shocked that I made it this far.

Before deleting it I backed up the pages offline, and "flipping" through it now it's just as good as discovering one of those plastic, padlocked diaries little girls have. Some of my scribbling seems so  grownup, yet so incredibly naive. Like this, from almost exactly 7 years ago: 
Sunday, June 11, 2006
And you said, be still my love When I first heard Colin Hay's "Waiting For My Real Life to Begin" three years ago, I felt sure it was my song. Like most, when I get a whiff of certain scents, or hear the faint chords of a familiar song I'm instantly transported to a specific moment in time. But this song doesn't take me to a point in my life, rather it seems to define my life. My constant search for...something.

"Any minute now my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
And I'll stand on the bow
And feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down, down, down on me"
This morning I walked through my door at five o'clock as the sky began to lighten. I changed from my dress of high expectations and sat on my bed in my pajamas facing the glass door. I pulled the blinds and the door open and sat, thinking. Watching, as the night retreated and I was left alone to watch the day begin.
"And you said,"Be still, my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in"
Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin"
Why does it seem that nothing ever works out the way I thought it would? Leaving school one has so many dreams and ideas about what life will hold, and a year out, nothing has morphed into what I expected. Of course, I can't sit and uselessly blame the gods, I'm sure part of the problem is me, but how much? 
"When I awoke today suddenly nothing happened
But in my dreams I slew the dragon
And down this beaten path
And up this cobbled lane
I'm walking in my own footsteps once again"
How unfulfilled can one person be? How many times do I have to sit and quietly hold my jealousy in as I watch friends live their dreams? How often do I lose people close to me to their romantic partners?
"And you say,"Just be here now
Forget about the past
Your mask is wearing thin"
Let me throw one more dice
I know that I can win
I'm waiting for my real life to begin"
After a long night filled with too many introductions, too many dissapointments, and too many bouts of jealousy I realized I was too weak to subject myself to a morning of torment. I wiped my eyes and pulled the covers over me.
"And you say,"Be still, my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in"
Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin"

Funny how some things change, and some things really never do.

I wonder how it will be to look back at this place 7 years from now. Where I'll be, what I'll be doing, what I'll be thinking of...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blueprints

{ via }
I'm the first to say that I love apartment living—small, simple spaces that are easy to maintain, don't allow you to indulge in clutter and excess, and come with supers that will fix things for you. Sometimes I even love it, and cocooning myself within its walls, a little too much.

But as much as I love apartments, I can't stop day dreaming about a proper house. Not a McMansion-type deal, but something quaint and cozy—maybe a stone cottage or a brick colonial—with land (but not too much). Enough to grow a flowering garden and a vegetable garden, enough to have plenty of blades of grass to wiggle my toes in and lay a blanket down on top of to gulp in some fresh air and ground myself. Enough that it wouldn't be out-of-the-realm-of-possibility that I'd need to spend a Saturday morning weeding and pruning and transplanting cuttings. My mom had long, tapered nails when I was growing up and I remember her never missing a chance to burrow them into the soil of our flower beds, even though she attracted mosquitoes like honey and had a million other things to do. I'd like that to be me someday.

I loved the house I grew up in in Virginia, but I'd want a different style for myself. At that time the format-du-decade was to have very distinct living spaces, so I grew up with a den (informal), living room (formal, guests only, and lots of breakables!), a dining room, a breakfast nook, a kitchen, a pantry, a laundry room, a downstairs bathroom, a sunroom, a deck, an over-the-garage-gigantic-room (that became my brother's when he was a teenager), a walk-in-closet on the upstairs hallway for my dad's collection of fancy suits), my bedroom, my bathroom, my mom's crafting/sewing room (which was previously my brother's bedroom), and my parents' master bedroom (with another walk-in-closet for my mom and a double-vanity bathroom with jacuzzi and separate shower). All sitting on almost an acre of land, on a cul-de-sac, that stretched into the woods, which made running around like hooligans exceptionally fun (and very safe—no traffic!).

But for me some day? Much as I fantasize about the Walker compound, all I really want are a handful of comfortably-sized bedrooms upstairs (or at least separated by a few steps up or a hallway for a one-level house), a proper entryway (obsessed with this—so many apartments in NYC open up directly into the living room which freaks me out, luckily ours has a separate entrance, and most houses do, too), a kitchen that opens into a great room with a fireplace and lots of cozy seating options. Some windowboxes. A porch or a deck. At least two bathrooms. And that's it.

Definitely no need for a formal dining room or living room for us, though. But, hardwood floors, a fireplace or two and high ceilings are a must. And, maybe a terrazzo-lined outdoor space with a brick oven. I wouldn't mind that at all.

The problem is that with everything so "who-the-heck-knows" with our future plans, we have no idea where this home will be. Just off the extensive subway line of Stockholm proper? In the hills above R's Sicilian hometown? In, or near, a charming, American university town like Providence, RI or Charlottesville, VA? Somewhere I haven't even dreamed of yet?

To be determined.

{ Simple...[via] }
{ ...Or slightly less so [via] }

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Long weekend

{ Nooks and crannies }

And when I say long, I mean really long—our boss surprised us with Friday off (in addition to the Monday Memorial Day holiday coming up), so I have four days to loll about lazily (again! I totally blame the weather...and the fact that R is working and all my friends are out of town). I considered trying to quickly put together some day trips to make the most of my time off if the rain let up...

But, then I heard something that stuck in mind—the word "planet" comes from a Greek word meaning "to wander". I love that idea—when people first noticed otherworldly bodies spinning about in the Universe they called them "wandering stars". And then I thought about how we wander and while I love to wander about, sometimes it really is nice to accept that: yes, I am a complete and total introvert and I am totally happy futzing around at home for long periods and I shouldn't feel guilty about that.

So I am.

I took the prospect of another indulgent weekend to heart and totally regressed to my inner 12-year old, staying up super late on Thursday night watching silly things and eating chocolate. Friday morning started with some brewed cocoa (good!) and ripping out my cap-sleeve-sweater-top-to-be (not so good!). I realized that because of the heavier weight of the yarn and larger needles I was using that it was wider than I wanted it to be, so back to stitch one I go!

{ Brewed cacao! Edible grinds! }
{ My sad, fusilli-like remnants }

I also read a really entrancing book (The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton) that completely got into my head while in Mexico, so I picked up another of her works (The House at Riverton) and cuddled into a corner of my sofa for a nice long read, alternating with this week's Sunday Times (this article had my heart racing for another wander, well, actually a Wandering Walk).

There were bowls of cherries and grapes and choco-banana, coconut cream, yogurt concoctions in the morning, and later in the day: plates of farmhouse cheese and broccoli and glasses of cabernet.

How's your long weekend going?

{ Peonies  + cherries + grapes galore }
{ Throw-together-dinner }

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tonics and potions


As promised, a little peek at the nutritional extras I've been experimenting with lately:


Nordic Naturals
Ultimate Omega-D3
Natural Vitality Natural Calm
Bio-Kult
Probiotic
Bernard Jensen Bovine Gelatin

+ Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-D3  for reducing inflammation, a boost in building strong bones, and a little help regulating immune systems & mood / circadian rhythms.

I read good things about this company and the combination of Omega-3's + Vitamin D (necessary during our never-ending winter!) was a nice little dose of efficiency that I couldn't resist. While it's getting much easier to find good meat from local, sustainable, and gentle farms, fish still gives me problems. Either it's super expensive (which good meat can be, too), or, reports on the health of the fishery are conflicting. So while I am making more of an effort to scope out good fish, in the meantime, taking two of these a day cover me when I don't get enough. I mentioned before that I had noticed a little boost in energy when I first tried it, but as far as I can tell, no other clear effects (some women notice stronger hair and nails, which I haven't). Bonus: I was always afraid of taking fish oil because of the dreaded "fish burps" (eww!), but I haven't experienced any of that yuckiness with these at all!

+ Natural Vitality Natural Calm  for a direct boost of magnesium, which is an antidote to stress, improves sleep, promotes bowel movements, relaxes muscles, improves bone density, lowers risk of coronary heart diseases, regulates blood pressure and treats migraines/insomnia/depression.

Most people don’t get enough magnesium because the amount the body needs is greater than most think and many magnesium capsules and tablets are not completely absorbed. This powder, however, is pure, highly absorbable magnesium carbonate with citric acid—which creates ionic magnesium citrate, a nutrient that helps your muscles and nerves function properly, keeps your heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system and keeps your bones strong. All of which means, if you want to sleep better and be less crochety (hi!), this seems like a good supplement. I've noticed a slight change in my sleep (a little deeper) and maybe in my mood (although I'm also making a conscious effort to keep work stress and personal stress compartmentalized), so I can't say with 100% certainty that the latter is thanks to this powder. But, I definitely know that a few spoons of this powder in water twice a day helps keep things moving (awkward...).

+ Bio-Kult Probiotic  for 14 strains of beneficial bacteria that help reverse the effects of poor diet, antibiotics, foreign travel, stress, aging and digestion issues.

I decided to try probiotics to see if they'd help with tummy problems when some gluten or more sugar than usual creeps onto my plate. I haven't really seen any huge effects, although Mexico was the first time in as long as I can remember that I haven't had my digestion basically shut down while traveling, so that's an improvement.

+ Bernard Jensen Gelatin  to support skin, hair and nail growth, keep joints lubricated, tighten loose skin, improve digestion, boost protein intake and build muscle.

I've been making more and more soup lately, reserving meaty bones from our dinners to throw in for an extra boost of gelatin and collagen, but I figured taking some direct gelatin wouldn't hurt either. I especially liked the idea of better skin, hair, and nail growth (specifically the skin bit), better digestion and help building muscle. So far, haven't really noticed any changes, though. To be fair, I also don't take this daily.

+ + +

There hasn't been any spectacular life-changing differences as a result of these guys, but there have been a few small improvements. I've also only been on this little "regimen" of mine for about 6 weeks, so I'm not ready to write anything off just yet. Maybe in another month or so I'll be able to make a decision about continuing or not.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pitter-patter-y weekends

Pitter-patter-y weekends on *sparklingly [http://sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{  EEek! First big project!  |  May 2013  }

This weekend was one of those rare blocks of 48-hours that were entirely mine—all mine, mine, mine! With R working Saturday and Sunday, plus a nasty weather forecast, I gave myself permission to spend my weekend doting (almost) completely on myself.

On Saturday I cleaned the apartment, organized the fridge in anticipation of a huge grocery shop that I got to lovingly arrange the way I like (those first two might not seem very "dote-y", but I can't relax until everything is pretty and clean!), talked to my needy plants and fed them and arranged two huge new bouquets of fresh flowers (pink, lilac and white tulips in the living room and huge branches of stargazer lilies in our bedroom).

Then I spent a few hours of grumble-grumble-translating-grumble-grumble, followed by another few hours starting a new knitting project. This is my first "big" one (meaning, not a baby gift, winter accessory or home good), one that I had to measure myself for and poke at a calculator to figure out dimensions and gauge in order to not completely screw it up. I'm also finally starting to use the fancy yarn I bought back in March, but was too scared to use until now.

And that was basically the extent of Saturday.

Sunday I decided to completely give myself over to even more gluttony since I considered Saturday afternoon's annoying translating work to have infringed on my weekend of decadence, so I rolled out of bed and shuffled to the kitchen to concoct a ridiculous stack of almond flour + cacao pancakes, layered with alternating (so ridiculous) schmears of almond butter and cashew butter, with chunks of banana nestled in, too. A nice mug of coffee + cream completed the picture.

Pitter-patter-y weekends on *sparklingly [http://sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{  Almond flour, cashew butter, choco-banana pancakes + mug o'coffee  |  May 2013  }

Then, there was some reading of blogs, a little working out, talking with the family and more knitting (please note: the soundtrack to this entire weekend was nonstop episodes of an array of shows on Netflix + 1 movie). I also decided to make a nice dinner for R, which involved prepping a cute little chicken in the morning (I read that if you're roasting a chicken, you can get super crispy skin by salting the birdie and letting it rest uncovered in the fridge for as long as possible, up to 24 hours).

So I did that and set a proper table—baptizing the neutral-toned cotton napkins I knit for us after envying the fresh, nautical ones I made for my friend's birthday—and marinated some tomatoes and red onion for a burrata salad over mache.

When R came home I helped him out of his wet shoes and coat (totally unnecessary, but I figured he needed some decadence, too), shooed him into the candle-lit bathroom for a shower and then welcomed him to the couch for a cocktail (I had his whisky glass waiting) and chat before we sat down to dinner, and later, a movie.

Pitter-patter-y weekends on *sparklingly [http://sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Place setting w/my new handknit napkins! }
Pitter-patter-y weekends on *sparklingly [http://sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Roast chicken + burrata salad }
Most definitely a delicious weekend—in every sense of the word.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Welcome back

{ Rebel  |  May 2013  |  NYC }

Yes I had a lovely vacation, but the city of New York made me pay for it this week with an onslaught of annoyances (minor one by one, but nasty all together). How you ask?

Well, let's start with the weather. From balmy, tropical 80F degrees in Mexico to windy, shivery, 45F'ish in New York. I had no choice but to rebel against the tyranny of Mother Nature with some summery sandals. Luckily, my insurrection didn't lead to a cold (whew).

Then, more dealings with the paperwork-inducing headaches of the Italian citizenship process meant lots of early mornings this week hanging out at the NYC Supreme Court and NY Department of State to stand in line and hand over some cash just for a civil servant to stamp my paperwork (at least the settings were pretty). No checking of signatures, no affirming anything other than that yes, I'm a slave to the system. But, at least I'm making progress—this weekend I'll be translating records and just hoping that I get my last two ASAP, since our appointment is coming up!)

(Meanwhile, no movement on the US or Sweden front...)

{ NYC Supreme Court  |  May 2013 }
{ NYC Supreme Court  |  May 2013 }

And lastly, for another posy in my bouquet of overwhelming-ness, the vending machine at my subway station yanked my $20 bill away and spit back my subway card with a $0 balance. I stomped over to the station agent to explain and she rolled her eyes and said I shouldn't have put my cash in the machine. Oh really, lady? Then WHY is there an option to add value with cash!? I had to go to 4 other stations and make two phone calls to the MTA to get some straight answers (which involved me mailing a claim form, my receipt and my sad little card back to them in the hopes that in 3-4 months they'll send me back $20).

I get it, New York. You really, really missed me.

But, the week ended on a high note—I had the apartment to myself last night while R met up with some friends from Sicily that were in town, giving my full reign to do my thing. Which can only mean a night of homemade spinach pizza + a banana / chocolate / cashew butter dessert + a girly movie and a few hours knitting (starting my first non-accessory, non-home-goods, actually-requires-measuring-of-my-body-piece!).

That's more like it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Playing with pauses

Playing with pauses on *sparklingly [ http :// sparklingly.blogspot.com ]
{ A little Versace place-setting action at The Plaza Hotel  |  NYC  |  April 2013 }

I've been doing a little experimenting with Intermittent Fasting (IF) recently. May sound a bit nutso at first, but I did lots (and lots) of reading on the science behind it and the biologic and physical benefits that may come from it before I gave it a try. IF is the idea of giving your body a break from routine ("conformist") eating for a set period of time. The only "rule" you introduce into your daily life is choosing when to eat. If you already eat a clean diet, great, if not, well that's still okay—the only change you make is the times of day when you enjoy a meal.

[ This may seem faddish, but if you think about it, regular fasting is a way of life for many diverse religious groups (Catholics at Lent, Muslims during Ramadan, etc.), so it's not really a new idea. ]

There are tons of ways to do this, and naturally, many have created brands around their philosophies, e.g.,:

+ The Fast Diet / 5:2 Intermittent Fasting: Eating normally 5 days of the week and much less (i.e., 500 calories) 2 days of the week. This has taken off in the UK.

+ Eat Stop Eat: Eating normally apart from one or two 24-hour fasts each week. Doing this means you still eat every day, but the day you're fasting you don't have two meals, just one, i.e., you have dinner on Tuesday night at 7PM and then give your body a break until you have dinner on Wednesday at the same time. I like this premise because it means you don't go to bed on an empty stomach, which sounds like a whole lot of not-fun-at-all to me.

+ Leangains / 16:8: Geared toward athletic, muscle-building individuals and proposes 16-hour fasting windows and 8-hour eating windows every 24 hours. Followers also plan their workouts at the very end of their fasting window to break the fast with a feast right after intense physical exertion (the program also recommends specific ratios of macronutrients depending on your windows and workouts—it's a lot more involved than other "brands"!).  Most adherents eat their day's meals between 12PM and 8PM so this really just works out to not eating breakfast (or a different meal, depending on your "feasting" window).

+ Fast 5: Similar to Leangains, but they promote 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours of eating.

+ And then there are just people that listen to their bodies and eat intuitively, when they're hungry.

There are lots of reasons to minimize the times of day when your body is eating, digesting and metabolizing food, but for me, it all came down to wanting to: 

+ Break nonsensical food habits: Sometimes I make breakfast or have lunch just because it's "time" to eat, even though I'm not hungry. To be honest, I do love the ritual and pomp of proper meal times, but it seems silly to take the time to prepare a meal if I'm not really hungry and only because it's a certain time of day. I also tend to get "hungry" when I'm bored, and it's annoying to give in to that.

+ Increase energy levels: This is something I am still struggling with (and the main reason I began tweaking how I live, exercise, sleep and eat a few years ago). From all that I've read, it seems like most people feel more energetic and are often able to set personal records in their training when working out in a fasted state (i.e., being able to do more reps with weights, or being able to run faster), which seems counter-intuitive, but according to research it's true.

+ Promote greater secretion of growth hormone: Growth hormone stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration—more GH = more fat burning, cleansing of our systems, rejuvenation of our bodies and, ultimately, creating an environment that does not breed disease or suffer the effects of aging. Who wouldn't want to encourage their bodies to pump a little more of this (especially people like myself who are hitting a milestone birthday later this year...).

+ Increase productivity: If you're a fan of fresh, from-scratch dishes, it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare three good meals at home and carry one to work. While fasting you get that time back (which for me went directly to sleeping later or spending that time reading / knitting!) and because your systems aren't focused on breaking down food and funneling nutrients around, your mental cognition apparently goes way up (which is something that really intrigued me).

+ Build muscle: This is a big one. We've been told to never skip meals because your body will start attacking your muscles for energy. Tons of recent research disproves this. When your body needs energy it metabolizes your fat deposits first. I've seen lots of great results by changing how I work out and the way I eat, but I wouldn't mind becoming even stronger.

+ Lose weight (by losing fat, not lean muscle mass): By reducing your caloric intake, of course you'll lose weight—that's the point of dieting. But fasting, which is not dieting but a lifestyle switch, ensures you're not only consuming less over the course of a week, but you're giving your body long stretches of time to recover, clean itself out, and recalibrate. We've also been told that eating constantly (the often-touted "grazing" method of eating every few hours) keeps our metabolism up, but research has disproven that, as well. I'm currently in the best shape I've ever been in from a physical / visual standpoint, but I think that better balancing my muscle-fat composition may help with my energy levels and help me "age" a little more gracefully (and, of course, looking good / better in my clothes would be a nice perk, too).

+ Decrease insulin levels: The presence of insulin inhibits lipolysis, which is the process that releases stored body fat for energy. When you don't sleep well, your insulin levels go up. When you fast and eat and sleep well, your insulin levels go down and your body starts lipolysis to burn body fat for energy.

There's lots of other reasons someone else might do it, but if this is something you're interested in, do a little Googling and see if what you find makes sense to you. It did for me (and the reasons above were the most provocative), so I started playing around with 24-hour fasts 1 to 2 times a week and the other days enjoying my meals during a shortened period of time (usually 12:30PM - 8:30PM) a la the 16:8 routine.

Here's what the first few days were like:

Rather than mess with fasting and feeding windows, I decided to do one full day of fasting as a bit of a total reset to start. For my "last supper" I went to dinner with a friend after work and enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir, olives with labne and harissa to nibble on as we perused the menu, a calamari salad to start, followed by savory lamb chops with a Persian lime yogurt sauce, and then a tasty Kanafeh to round out our lovely meal. We were paying our bill a little after 8:30PM, so I used that as the start time for my fast.

Once home, I read and watched a little TV and then went to bed feeling nice and satiated.

The next morning I let myself sleep in until 1 hour before I had to be at work—without all the rigamarole that comes with one of my breakfasts, I didn't need to get up as early as I usually do. After I got situated at work I made a cup of black tea at 10AM and another at 11:30AM. I felt a little bit of a hunger pang before the second cup of tea, but no serious discomfort, and the tea helped.

Around 2PM I had a green tea. Feeling pretty hungry now, especially with everyone around me having lunch. But still manageable.

Around 3:30PM I was really super hungry. Reading my "foodie" list on Feedly (testing it out since Google Reader is going bye bye) did not help one bit. I was going to take a nice walk through the pretty sun-lit day to a nearby coffee shop for a proper cappuccino (many people who have studied the benefits of fasting have learned that having a little bit of milk/cream with your coffee or tea during a fast doesn't halt the clean-up processes happening within your system. Knowing that, and that this was my first time trying it, I thought a yummy, frothy cappuccino would be a good idea). But I got busy at work and just kept drinking water and straight-up tea until 5:30PM when I had a bottle of Harmless Harvest Coconut Water (which would have been equivalent to a cappuccino, in terms of tax to my system). Then, at 6:30PM I headed home on foot.

As soon as I arrived I started prepping dinner and sat down to break my fast just before 8:00PM.

It actually wasn't super difficult until the afternoon—perhaps because I had mentally prepared for it and knew it was coming, versus a situation when you're traveling or have back-to-back meetings and unintentionally skip meals.

Since that first day, I've incorporated IF regularly over the last few weeks (of course not while on vacation though!). What I've noticed is that after the first day it was really easy. Eating breakfast in the morning is "normal", but I'm not always hungry then. And sometimes I come home from work and I'm not hungry, so I either have something light or some tea, rather than forcing myself to have dinner because it's time. This is a big change for someone who used to believe she was "hungry" like clockwork every day at 8AM, 1PM and 7PM!

Other than realizing it makes lots more sense to eat when I'm hungry, I haven't noticed any drastic results on the energy front yet. But, I have noticed a slight change in how I sleep (a little better / deeper), a general "tightening" across my entire body and more regularity ( <---awkward! ). All of which are good starts, so I'm curious to see if I give this lifestyle a little more time any other improvements, particularly in my energy level, level of strength and general health / physique show up (and if any negatives start appearing!).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lullaby oil concoction

via http://littleferrarokitchen.com/2012/05/lavender-vanilla-panna-cotta-with-got-milk/
{ via }

Even though the weather is warming up, I'm still hanging on to my spicy-scented winter oil concoction, although recently I've been doing it up with equal parts of coconut oil and raw cacao butter, which makes for a soufflè-like spread that goes on like whipped goodness and smells like yeasty, freshly-baked bread. The smell is seriously intoxicating.

But, I did mix up a new blend that I keep on my nightstand and smooth on before climbing into bed to moisturize my arms and neck and, theoretically, lull me to sleep:

+ 1/2 cup of coconut oil (or your favorite carrier oil)
+    5 drops of orange oil for cleansing and freshness
+    8 drops of lavender oil for relaxation and calmness
+  12 drops of vanilla oil for warmth, comfort and coziness

Slather on a bit and slip between the sheets!

P.S. My Winter oil concoction!
P.P.S. My oils are all from Plant Therapy—love their quality and value!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Postcard from Mexico

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Cocktails on our terrace with a view  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

This trip down to the Mexican coast was truly, JUST what we needed. I mean, really, just LOOK at this technicolor splendor—what do you think, totally a good call, no? It's funny because this trip almost didn't happen...

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Poolside  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

First because we were really more interested in trying out a new-to-us Caribbean island (St. Lucia and Grenada were high on the list), but since we booked this 5 days before our plane took off, Mexico made the most sense. Because it's such a popular destination (for multiple types of travelers: couples, singles, families, etc.), it's really affordable. And there are TONS of non-stop flights. The smaller, boutique islands? Two - three times more expensive, less (if any) direct flight options and, to be honest, the islands without an Hispanic background are hit or miss when it comes to culture and food—at least the ones I've visited.

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Scrumptious, colorful breakfasts  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

But, Mexico? The land of white sands, turquoise water, tequila, mariachi, mezcal, mole, the Maya and lots and lots of spicy foods? It really was the perfect choice—and, I think it was a nice touch that we arrived in country on Cinco de Mayo. Plus, we were able to book at a brand-new, 5-star resort for a fraction of what a mainstream place on a small island would have cost, which of course made the spontaneous vacation that much more enjoyable.

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Such a sucker for palapas  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

So the decision to pop down to Mexico was made, but the second reason the trip almost didn't happen was maybe, just a teensy bit my fault.

I always book our travel arrangements—we both research of course, but I pull the trigger and then coordinate frequent flier numbers, booking car services, calling the credit card and cell phone companies, etc. Trust me, my detail-oriented, down-to-the-quarter-hour scheduling heart loves it and so I gladly hog all the planning duties and have yet to make a bad call.

But this time I made an executive decision that it would be ever so much more civilized to wake up at 4:45AM and take a 5:30AM car the 20 miles to the airport for our flight. Our international flight. Which was to take off at 7:10AM.

Yep—oops!

Now, my reasoning was that every time we go to the airport we always end up futzing around the airport for two hours, which seems like such a waste. And besides, there's never any traffic at that hour of the day. Except of course this time we hit traffic on the BQE, right before the Kosciuszko Bridge—meaning no way out. For a very tense little bit I was quietly freaking out, while trying not to freak R out so that he wouldn't have reason to say, "I told you so" (which of course he would have had every reason to say). Google Maps told me there was a three-car pile-up and I made up my mind that we were going to miss our flight and I began stealthily checking for the next flight out.

Luckily, after about 20 minutes we started moving and swooped up in front of JFK at 6:20AM—ran in, got berated by the check-in staff for arriving so late (note: we were already checked in and weren't checking any luggage), zoomed through security and screeched up to our gate only to see that they had just started boarding.

Whew.

The rest of our travel down was blessedly uneventful. R dozed and I got started on my pile-o-reading materials, which included 1 book, 3 e-books, and a backlog of NYT Magazines.

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Crystal clear waters  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

And then we walked into our hotel's lobby and that's when it happened.

Utter deliriousness hit.

I couldn't stop smiling, twirling around with my arms extended, beaming at everyone and everything. Our resort was so pretty and shiny and glam and lux and sunshiney! So very sunshiney! By noon local time we were sitting at a teak'esque table by the pool, under a gazebo, ordering ceviche and two tequilas to sip as we looked giddily about.

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Evening lull  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  Crashing surf  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

For the next few days the euphoria totally continued—although I wasn't quite so batty. We woke up when we woke up, dawdled down to the pool or the beach when we felt like it, enjoyed some crazy delicious food and drink, pampered ourselves with two hydrotherapy circuits at the spa (cool shower, sauna, steam room, plunge pool, jacuzzi, repeat) and a deep tissue massage for each of us.

I don't even mind that it was a repeat country for me (something I try to avoid because there's oh-so-much to see in this world). There's actually not one single thing I would have changed about our trip—well, except maybe I wouldn't have worn a stack of rings on my right hand the whole time. I came back with a pretty ridiculous tan line!

All this to say: that was a damn good trip.

Postcard from Mexico on *sparklingly  { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{  We're definitely doing this more often!  |  Cancun, Mexico  |  May 2013  }

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fleeing the foolishness

{ Riviera Maya via }

I said we were NYC hostages until we had some movement on the various citizenship process appointments, but the never-ending winter + mind-boggling, rage-inducing Italian news came together last week in a spark of combustive fed-up-ness that sent me right to Orbitz.com to book a mini-retreat on the Mayan peninsula.

{ Riviera Maya via }

So, we're here now. Laying in the sun. Ignoring the headaches of NYC. Banishing bureaucratic madness from our minds. Replenishing our Vitamin D reserves. Zooming through a figurative stack (thanks, Kindle!) of books. Drinking tequila. And just generally spoiling ourselves silly.

{ via }
{ via }

Be back soon.

Maybe.

Updated: Postcard from Mexico

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Smited by the Gods

Lavendar roses |  "Smited by the Gods  | *sparklingly { http://sparklingly.blogspot.com }
{ Not even a glass...or a bottle...of wine helps  |  April 2013 }

So that whole rigamarole I went through to obtain alllll the fingerprinting, background checks, notarizations and apostilles for my Italian Citizenship Request?

I might as well have just spent that time banging my head against a wall while watching all the checks I sent burn.

Even though my appointment date was moved up, there's another big hurdle: When R called the Italian consulate to find out the process for starting citizenship proceedings for me, they told him to get my documents in order first before making an appointment (note: making an appointment means paying $15 to dial a number and be given a random time). They now deny this, saying, but why would we tell him that when sometimes it can take a year to get an appointment and your documents are only valid for 3 months?

Precisely.

I now have to REDO every single document. Last time it took about two full days for me to run around getting photographs and fingerprints taken, fill out forms, go to the bank and the post office,  etc.—I'm not counting waiting time, of course. And, I paid about $200 for duplicative documents (people: doesn't it make sense that if you have a free-and-clear document from the FBI you'll also be free-and-clear in every state?).

How fun that I get to do it all over again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 in pictures: April

Click to catch up!
{ Easter Dinner 2013  | Apr. 3, 2013 }
{ A taste of spring | Apr. 4, 2013 }

{ Waking from a deep sleep  | Apr. 8, 2013 }
{ Mamela | Apr. 10, 2013 }

{ Fresh & springy knit napkins  | Apr. 12, 2013 }
{ Supposedly sweet Hudson Valley | Apr. 22, 2013 }

{ Fratelli d'Italia  | Apr. 26, 2013 }
{ Goings on | Apr. 28, 2013 }