Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lazy Sunday: Spring Clean


lazy sunday: spring clean

It's that time of year again - time for decluttering, cleaning up and cleaning out, and generally shedding the detritus left over from the hibernating winter season.  The whole practice of cleansing one's space is incredibly energizing and liberating.  When we let go of excess stuff physically, it becomes that much easier to let go of the mental clutter too.  

Donating clothing that fits poorly or doesn't serve your lifestyle?  Toss out those negative thoughts about what your body "should" look like along with them.  Letting go of those single-function kitchen gadgets that have turned your drawers into a cluttered disaster (goodbye garlic peeler, gelato scooper, too-small wine stopper...)?  Embrace the knowledge that you can do without so many distractions in your life and focus your energy on fewer things that are truly worth your time and effort.  Discarding pantry items that have seen better days?  Just like that half-eaten package of raisins circa spring 2008 may be past its "best by" date, so too are habits and notions that are preventing you from moving forward in your life today. 

Don't forget, spring cleaning isn't just about making space for more stuff.  It's about letting go and finding satisfaction and abundance with less.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Memory and Time

"Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it.  You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one.  If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear.  That's why it's important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible to anchor our memories.  Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perceptions of our lives."
Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein

I just finished reading Joshua Foer's book, Moonwalking With Einstein - it's a fantastic read about Foer's experience as a journalist exploring the world of competitive memorizers and his own training for the US Memory Championships.  If you enjoy learning about the brain or groups of what some might call really eccentric people, I would highly recommend checking this one out.

One of the ideas that really stuck with me in the book is how memory influences our perception of time.  I've always hated the old cliche that the years go faster and faster as we get older - but now it actually makes sense to me.  When we're young we learn new things constantly.  We're exposed to new experiences all the time, and those experiences "anchor" our memories.  Our routines change regularly as well - from the time we go to bed at night to the activities we might participate in after school or on weekends, to the people we spend time with.  Psychologically, time moves slower because the novelty is endless.

But as we age, our routines solidify.  We do pretty much the same things from day to day.  We interact with the same people.  We take in the same types of information.  Without new "anchors" in place, the days blur together and before you know it we're saying annoying things like, "Can you believe it's already April!?" or "Each year just seems to go by faster than the last."

Thank goodness there's an antidote to this trite chit-chat.  Changing up our routines, trying new things, pushing ourselves to mix it up in our day-to-day lives is good for our brains and the key to feeling like the weekend just got that much longer.  Time might fly when we're having fun, but in retrospect it actually elongates. 

So what are some ways to put this principle into action?  It doesn't take an attempt on Everest or a month long retreat to Bali to drop an anchor in place.  Small changes can be equally as effective (and much better on your bank account).  Try making something totally different for your breakfast this week.  Visit a new place and do something fun and out of the ordinary for you - maybe an easy hike at a park you haven't been to before or checking out a museum that sounds interesting to you.  Go on an inexpensive adventure with a friend, like a trip to a rock climbing gym for an introductory course or a painting class at a fun spot like The Paint Bar.  Volunteer for a few hours somewhere new.

I have been playing with this principle a bit and it really does work.  For example, last weekend I headed out of the city (something I don't do very often) to spend my morning volunteering at a farm.  This experience changed my scenery, my usual Saturday routine, introduced me to new people, a new place, and even exercised my muscles in a totally different way than I'm used to.  The result?  The weekend felt way longer than normal.  I know it will be a day I'll remember for years to come, anchoring my memory in a sea of what would otherwise be regular daily work life and tepid weekend outings.

Hanging with the pigs, dropping an anchor.

I will definitely be pushing myself to try more new things and create more novel experiences for myself - if nothing else to stave off those tired old cliches about the speed of time - and I hope you'll join me!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dog-Off 2012

Today my boyfriend had a craving for a Chicago style hot dog. Since we didn't have veggie dogs in the fridge (and we're not into animal-based dogs made from health-compromising, cancer causing processed meat) we decided to do a vegan-dog taste test! Our dogs of choice? Yves Hot Dogs and Field Roast Frankfurters.

While the dogs started cooking, I got the toppings lined up - mustard, relish, hot peppers, celery salt, onions, tomato, and sauerkraut.

Once they were hot (we used the boiling method for each) it was time to drop those dogs into buns, load 'em up, and chow down. The lack of photos is a testament to how quickly we gobbled them up - but I did nab a couple quick shots before they disappeared.

The results? Delicious. Both veggie dogs were a hit in their own way.

According to the boyfriend, the Yves dog had the more "hot dog-like" consistency of the two brands. It had the more subtle flavor too, which he thought was a good thing as it let the flavors of the toppings really stand out. While I preferred the flavor of the Field Roast dog myself, the Yves brand was tasty and reminded me of a hot dog you'd get at the ball park. I think my boyfriend said it best, "It tastes like a cheap hot dog!". He really did mean it as a good thing.

The Field Roast franks were more flavorful, juicier, and the winning wiener in my book. Their more distinct flavor read "gourmet" to the boyfriend, and I have to agree. Higher in calories and fat, yes, and larger in size than Yves brand. But I like that these dogs have a super simple list of ingredients all of which I could identify, and they happen to be soy free too, a great choice if your soy sensitive or allergic.

So, dog-off 2012 was a success! Two tasty brands of veggie hot dogs were enjoyed and I became a total convert to the Chicago-style dressings. Of course, we have plenty of dogs left over... who's up for chili dogs?!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lazy Sunday: Walden Style


Today wasn't really so lazy - a yoga class and volunteering filled most of the sunlit hours - but I've been enjoy every lazy minute lately reading Walden. It has me ready to go into the woods and start building a cabin myself... well, once this freezing weather lets up anyways. Until then I'm enjoying the amazing and sexy scent of Archipelago Black Forest candles which have filled the apartment with a woodsy and wintry scent.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Life Curation

I made a trip over to Bed Bath and Beyond the other day, and since I was right across the street from the American Art Museum I popped over for an hour to view some of my favorite works. Living in a city filled with free museums has its perks - why not get a little culture with your shower curtain? I'm particularly fond of the emerald toned works of Thomas Wilmer Dewing, whose paintings feature women in the midst of activity - often writing or playing an instrument.

The little plaque in Dewing's corner of the gallery explained that he was quite an interesting fellow. A regular at the Cornish Art Colony in Cornish, New Hampshire, Dewing took his aestheticism seriously. Not only was he very particular about the way he dressed, framed his paintings, and lived his life, but when he had visitors he insisted on selecting their outfits for them too. He then planned beautiful picnics which, apparently, were so exquisite it was as if he'd brought one of his lush paintings to life.

While the whole dressing your guests thing may be a bit extreme, I can't help but admire Dewing's philosophy, and the idea of curating one's life is intriguing. If life is ours to curate, then life is really our own little collection of things and experiences. We get to choose what items and experiences to include in our collection, and and what to exclude. It's up to us how we choose to frame - both literally and figuratively - the things and experiences in our collection... what we will display to others... how we care for the things in our collection... I think there's a sense of power that comes from viewing life that way. Or, maybe I just like a good metaphor.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Enjoying Dining

Sadly, most of the dinners around our apartment are one-person affairs, either rushed through before heading out the door or scarfed down after a too-long day. The lack of dining decorum has become, unfortunately, a reality for not only these solo nosh-sessions but many of the meals my boyfriend and I do get to enjoy together. Luckily, there are a few simple tricks that can help extend the enjoyment (and duration) of meals at home, making them as stress-free and special as possible.

1. Prepare Courses

Don't worry - you don't have to go all out, slaving over the stove to create a 12 course gastronomic feat. But one thing my boyfriend's taught me is that having a couple different courses can really help to extend the enjoyment of a meal. Plus, it gives you the sense of going out to eat, making the whole meal feel like more of a treat.

Try starting with an appetizer; it doesn't need to be complicated. Having a Latin-inspired entree? Put a couple handfuls of oven-warmed tortilla chips in a basket and fill a couple small bowls with different types of salsa - voila! Instant apps! Whipping up an Italian meal? Toast some bakery bread and serve the warm slices with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil. Going Mediterranean? Slice up some cucumber, tomato, bell peppers and olives for a Greek salad - just top with olive oil and some dried oregano. Stir fry on the menu? Start your meal with some warming miso soup, or steamed edamame, generously sprinkled with sea salt.

The addition of dessert is always welcome too. Just remember, you don't have to spend a ton of time on the final course for it to perfectly round out a relaxing meal. Try serving small scoops of high quality frozen treats like Larry and Luna's coconut ice cream or a couple yummy cookies with some hot tea. Fresh fruit or sorbet can make an excellent light dessert, especially in the summer months. When the weather's cold, an easy cobbler made in single serving ramekins is a great choice too.

2. Lighting is Key

If you're taking in a day-time meal, open up the curtains and let in the natural light. There's no need for harsh or even very bright lights when you're ready to dine. In the evening, or on any dark or dreary day, go ahead and light a candle or two. They'll add a cozy glow to your table and cast a flattering light on your fellow diners. Just remember to go for an unscented variety, as you don't want the smell influencing the perceived flavor of your food. A clean-burning candle made from soy wax is a great choice.

3. Pick a Playlist

Set your meal to a soundtrack that enhances the ambiance and encourages lingering without distracting or annoying. Instrumental tunes can make excellent dining music since there are no lyrics to get wrapped up in - and songs in other languages can be a great choice for the same reason. Whatever playlist you put together, make sure to keep the volume in check. Think classy restaurant level, not obnoxious happy hour bar level.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorites (all of which can be found on youtube):

Paco de Lucia - Entre Dos Aguas
Yann Tiersen - Le Matin
Miles Davis - I Thought About You
Bill Evans and Jim Hall - Undercurrent (album)
Céu - Grains de Beaute
Céu - Sonhando

And a couple more photos for inspiration:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lazy Sunday: In The Tub

bath time

Taking a long, lazy bath on Sunday has become a bit of a habit. Best enjoyed with some aromatherapy mineral salts and post-dip flannel pajamas, I can't recommend this habit highly enough.