Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rest.

So far my vacation has been blissful! Snuggling, a fire in the fireplace, hot bubble baths, freshly baked cookies, homemade meals, a Chanukah party with close friends, presents all around, outlet shopping, TONS of snow, sleeping in and a few movies.

I realized that blogging was becoming something I HAD TO DO RIGHT NOW OR ELSE during this vacation, so I need a small break until the New Year. At that time I will return with my New Year's goals and some retrospection on 2009.

I wish you and yours the best and the brightest that the holiday season has to offer! Can't wait to catch up again in 2010!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best of '09: Day 16

Best Tea

My favorite tea of the year (other than Yogi Tea in peppermint, which is my standby) was Teavana's Ayurvedic White Chai. I haven't ever tasted anything like it. So yummy! Here is the description from the website:

"A chai that stands apart! This energizing tea contains spicy bursts of cinnamon, cloves and black and red pepper tempered with sweet coconut and delicate lemongrass. These complex flavors enhance the Ayurvedic properties of this rare white tea. "

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Revelry Review

You. Must. Read. This. Book. Now.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer seeks to shed light on the factory farming industry, as well as gain a better understanding about the stories we create and tell (and retell) to and about each other and about what we eat. He starts by writing about his grandmother, who survived the Holocaust eating very little. Safran Foer wonders how he can turn down her chicken soup when he knows that it is an expression of love from her. When he becomes a father, he decides that he needs to find out exactly where meat comes from in order to feed it to his son without disturbing his conscience. Turns out he can't--they are all now vegetarians/vegans.

I've read quite a number of books on the farming industry, why we should all be vegetarians or vegans and how to eat a meatless diet. I've never read any quite like this. I learned some new things. For instance, did you know that such a thing existed as sea lice?! ICK! He talks to several farmers, including one that is a vegetarian, members of PETA, his own family, etc. Since Safran Foer usually writes fiction (Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) and the writing is really superb in this one too. I have never eaten red meat or pork and I stopped eating shellfish and chicken a few years back. This book made me so glad that I did. I am not sure that I will ever be able to eat fish after reading this either.

If you read it, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best of '09: Day 12

Best Food

I am clearly beyond a little late to the artichoke party, but I only discovered artichokes in 2009. Previously I would avoid them because they looked rather unappealing. I gave them a try at a Greek restaurant one day on a total whim and now I can't stop eating them! On pizzas, with lentils, in stews, with pasta, etc. I love artichokes!

Read more about the Best of '09 Blog Challenge here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best of '09: Day 11

Best Place

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."~Isak Dinesen

My favorite place has always been the beach, or really any body of water. I love seeing the bay from my Mom's balcony in New Jersey, walking along the beach with Jesse in Florida or reading by the lake in Maine. Some of my favorite moments from my childhood were spent at the beach. There is something about its ebb and flow and all the life it contains. It makes you feel so very small, in a good way.

Read more about the Best of '09 blog challenge here.

{Photo credit: Jesse.Millan}

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best of '09: Day 9

Best Album

Ray Lamontagne's "Gossip in the Grain" actually came out in 2008. I, however, did not discover it until this year. It's beautifully haunting and touching and just perfect. I love it. Go listen!

Read more about the Best of '09 Blog Challenge here.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Best of '09: Day 9

Challenges

In general, 2009 was a very challenging year for me. I balanced a full-time job with part-time graduate studies. I took some of the most difficult courses I have taken to date. I faced a few health challenges. Time seemed scarce and stress seemed to abound.

The biggest challenge I faced this year, however, was being in a long-distance relationship.

Due to a number of circumstances, my boyfriend and I don't live near each other. I live in the Washington, DC area. In the beginning of the year, he lived in New York City and now, due to school, lives in Pennsylvania. Since we both have pretty full plates, it doesn't leave all that much time to visit. Reading and studying and, in my case, work, take up so much of our time that short Gmail video chats is what we rely on to get by.

This year I have learned so much about myself through this experience. I've learned a lot about love, trust, patience, communication, the importance of scheduling, understanding, honesty and empathy. I think you learn about boundaries and about voicing what you need better than you might if you were together all the time. I also learned that after this year, I don't ever want to have to be long-distance ever again. The distance most certainly teaches you to appreciate the time you do get to spend together, but I would never trade that for being able to come home to him every night.

{Photo credit: Mykl Roventine}

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today's Pretties



Crystalline Globe Necklace from Anthropologie

artLAB's Super Soft, Super Chic PLUM Flannel Ruffle Scarf


Best of '09: Day 8

Moment of Peace

Without a doubt, my best moment of peace this year was, in reality, a week's worth of moments: my trip to Maine this summer. I spent a week enjoying life instead of constantly putting out fires and responding to whatever comes my way. I had very limited access to internet and t.v. I napped whenever I felt like it. I laughed. I read, if I remember correctly, five books. I swam. I played ping pong. I played Pictionary. I laid in a hammock. It was blissful. It was the first time all year that I felt like I was truly relaxing. Time felt like it was moving at a different pace. I remember thinking on more than one occasion, This is true happiness.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Revelry Review: Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

This morning I started and finished Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy. The book traces the history of birthing practices to explain how we ended up where we are today. She ultimately concludes that birthing practices have always, and will likely continue to, reflect the time period in which they are created.

Equal parts horror story (she discusses how, in certain times, women were literally ripped apart in order to make room for the baby to be born and stuck fetuses were torn out of women's bodies with hooks) and fascinating sociological history (when and why were men ultimately allowed into the delivery room?), this book is a great read for anyone interested in women's history, birth, pregnancy, etc.

This book made me SO grateful that I will have children in the 21st century, even with its birthing oddities, such as "too posh to push" scheduled c-sections.

Best of '09: Day 7

Today's "Best of '09" category is Best Blog Find of the Year. Many of the blogs that I currently read I also read prior to this year. However, there is one that always brings a smile to my face when I read it that I did come across in 2009: Naturally Nina.

Nina's posts are always authentic and engaging. She writes in such an honest way that I feel like I know her in real life! She recently got engaged and her posts about her fiancee, being engaged and weddings are absolutely adorable. She is also into yoga, coffee, blogs-of-the-week and appreciating the city where she lives. What's not to love?! Thanks, Nina, for being such a source of inspiration!

{Image credit: Naturally Nina}

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Best of '09: Day 6

Best Workshop/Conference

Well, this was really more of a one-day local retreat, but I am going to say Kimberly Wilson's "New Year's Gala" this past January anyway because it was that good. We set intentions and goals, learned about how to best take care of ourselves through nutrition, did slow-flow yoga, wrote in our journals and generally basked in both a sense of community and the glow of a beautiful setting. It was the perfect way to start the new year. If you will be in the Washington, DC area, Kimberly will be hosting the retreat again on January 9, 2010. To sign up, go to the Tranquil Space website under "workshops".

For more information on the "Best of '09 Blog Challenge", visit Gwen Bell's blog.

{Photo credit: Tranquility Du Jour}


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best of '09: Day 5

Best Night Out

Over the summer, a friend took me to see the musical "Spring Awakening" at the Kennedy Center. Before we went we had dinner at a great Thai restaurant in Georgetown. The musical itself was so powerful that it left me thinking about it for days.

There was also another fun night when I went to Dallas for 24 hours in early January, but that one I don't remember too much of. Oops!


For more on the "Best of '09 Blog Challenge", visit Gwen Bell's blog.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Days 1-4

I have quite the unnatural obsession with lists, favorites, memes, etc, so I was over-the-moon to discover Gwen Bell's Best of '09 blog challenge. Every day in December, bloggers will post their responses to her "Best of '09" categories. I may not do every day's category but I'm going to try to do as many as I can. Since it's already December 4th, I have some catching up to do!

December 1: Best Trip

This is the first year in five years that I did not travel abroad. While I would have loved to see other parts of the world, I am really thankful to have had the chance to get to see more of the good old US of A. I visited Florida, Missouri, Maine (three times!) and Massachusetts for the first time this year. Of those, my favorite was my first trip to Maine back in August. I got to know Jesse's family much better, see a beautiful part of the country and fell in love with New England. We spent our days recharging our batteries, swimming, reading, eating all things blueberry and sight-seeing. Even now, when I need to relax, I mentally picture our time spent at the lake.

December 2: Best Restaurant Moment

My birthday is four days before Valentine's Day. Last February Jesse came to visit and we went out to Me Jana, which serves Lebanese tapas, to celebrate both occasions. The food was scrumptious and the company was so very handsome. It was romantic and perfect.

December 3: Best Article

"Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch" by Michael Pollan was both interesting and engaging.

December 4: Best Book

I read roughly 80 books a year, so it is very hard to pick just one....so I'll pick four. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder both broke my heart and gave me hope. This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund steeled my resolve. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn , which I blogged about here, opened my eyes and motivated me to do more. And lastly, The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau inspired me to get into the kitchen and get creative.

{Photo credit: mysza831}

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Goals

I can't believe it is already December! My goals for this month include:

-Finish up my send-to-last semester (!) of graduate school with good grades and low-ish stress levels.

-Finish holiday shopping and wrapping everything by December 20th

-Take deep breaths and enjoy making new memories with my family, friends and boyfriend

-Catch up on blogging

-Start crocheting and cooking often

-Get to the gym regularly

-Research different ideas for career paths

-Rest and relax

My last day of work for the year is December 11th. I can't wait to have lots and lots of totally free time!

{Photo credit: Muffet}

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

I hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving! I went up to Portland, Maine to spend it with my boyfriend and his family. It rained the entire time I was there but even a lot of freezing rain couldn't ruin our great time. My vacation included:

-Hanging out with lots of friends and family. Tons of great conversation, laughter and fun.

-Darts, ping pong and pool

-A post-Thanksgiving dinner walk on the beach

-Dinner at The Green Elephant, easily the yummiest vegetarian restaurant I've ever been to. If you are ever in Portland, you must go!

-Shopping at the outlets in Freeport

-Buying a cute gray plaid fedora for Jesse. He looks adorable in it!

-Returning to The Happy Yogi for some shopping

What a great vacation. I love, love, love Maine. What did you do for the holiday?

{Photo credit: wheat_in_your_hair}

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Joy Diet: Feasting

I will be out of town for the holiday from Wednesday through the weekend, so I am posting my last Joy Diet book club post a little early. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It is the last week of The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. Appropriately enough with Thanksgiving a few days away, this week's menu item is "feasting". Beck suggests making a list of 20 things that you are grateful for, which is something I often do anyway.


Without further ado, I am grateful:


1. For my family. Good times and bad, thick and thin. Love you guys.

2. For my boyfriend, for holding my hand and my heart. Thank you for being you.

3. For my health. I had a major health scare a few years ago and I know how horrible it is to face those sorts of things. I'm grateful to be here every single day.

4. For having a great job in an uncertain economy. I know just how lucky I am.

5. For being a mere 5 credits shy of finishing my master's degree. This has been a very long and difficult three year journey but it's almost over.

6. For yoga, which has become a reliable source of both inspiration and perspiration.

7. For living in such a great city. The DC skyline never fails to take my breath away.

8. For my friends, who listen, laugh, learn and love right along with me.

9. For my planner pad and my journal, which help me accomplish and dream simultaneously.

10. For all the sadness, disappointments and frustration over the years. I truly believe that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

11. For the quiet moments, whether alone or with others, when tiny sparking truths make themselves known.

12. For great books. Good wordsmiths have the power to change lives.

13. For the stars and the moon, for providing me with some perspective.

14. For candles, chocolate, pedicures, bubble baths, tea and all the other little pleasures that may seem unnecessary but make life oh-so-worth living.

15. For change. It can be scary but it keeps us guessing and growing.

16. For puppies and babies.

17. For photographs, for preserving memories.

18. For travel. Seeing how other people live is a priceless gift. Thank you to Israel, Cuba, Venezuela, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Guatemala for helping me learn about others and myself.

19. For love.

20. For everyone who reads this blog. Your comments, support and questions mean more to me than you'll ever know.
{Photo credit: aussiegall}

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Favorite Yoga Pose

My favorite yoga pose is actually several: any and all with the word "pigeon" in them. Yes, I am that girl who quickly yells out "pigeon!" when the teacher asks if there are any pose requests. I realize these poses are torture for some people but I honestly love them. I look forward to them all class and leave feeling unfulfilled if we don't get to them at some point. Hip openers help with releasing emotion and are a great way for runners to cross-train.

I love one-legged pigeon, double pigeon, king pigeon. I love the way they really get into my hips and allow me to feel more open, alive, calm, relaxed and limber. I love that they do so much for my body while requiring very little work. I love that all three feel like such different poses but also reminiscent of each other. I love sinking into them and staying there, just being, for several minutes at a time.

Tell me, what's your favorite yoga pose?


{Photo credit: Gaiam}

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Joy Diet: Connection

This was my favorite chapter of The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. It spoke to me on so many levels that I am not really sure where to begin. Let's just say that recently several key relationships in my life have felt totally out of whack and her suggestions for connection seem like a wonderful way to begin to bring them back to where they used to be.

I really loved when she talked about "nothing doing" while in the presence of the person with whom you want to connect. "I have found that it is impossible to truly do nothing while interacting with another person and not fall in love with them," she writes. To be honest, it is in those quiet moments of togetherness, when we aren't doing anything and my mind isn't all over the place, that I fall even more in love with my boyfriend. I haven't tried this as much with other people in my life, but it feels like it could have endless potential for connection.

One section of this chapter is subtitled, "Master Doing Nothing, Telling Yourself the Truth, Identifying Your Heart's Desires, and Daring to Risk". That in and of itself sounds like a pretty good recipe for life.

{Photo credit: Ana_Cotta}

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Words to Grow By.

Don't fear your best friends, because a best friend would never try to do you wrong.
And don't fear your worst friends, because a worst friend is just a
best friend that's done you wrong.
And don't fear the night time, because the monsters know you're devine.
And don't fear the sunshine, because everything is better in the summertime.

But it's never too late to start the day over, it's never to late, to pick up the phone.
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders,
it's never too late to come on home.

Don't fear the water, because you can swim inside you within your skin.
And don't fear your father, because a father's just a boy without a friend.
And don't fear to walk slow, don't be a horserace, be a marathon.
And don't fear the long road, because on the long road you got a long time to sing a simple song.

But it's never too late to start the day over,
it's never too late, pick up the phone.
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders,
it's never too late just come on home.
Don't fear your teachers, because if you listen you can hear music in a school bell.
And don't fear your preacher, if you can't find heaven in a prison cell.
And don't fear your own self, paying money to justify your worth.
And don't fear your family, because you chose them along time before your birth.
But it's never too late to start the day over, it's never too late, pick up the phone.
You know it's never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders,
it's never too late just come on home.
Hold to your children, hold to your children, hold to your children, let them know.

~Michael Franti & Spearhead, "Never Too Late"

{Photo credit: Nick Merzetti}

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Mondo Beyondo List!

Ever since I took the Mondo Beyondo e-course, I've been constantly refining my "Mondo Beyondo" dream list. They encourage you to dream big and then dream bigger. I've hesitated to put it out there in the world but now feels like the right time. I'm looking forward to seeing how this list grows and changes over time, how I incorporate these things or accomplish them and hearing any input/advice/suggestions/comments from all of you!

-Get to my goal weight
-Run a 5 k
-Complete the 200-hour yoga teacher training
-Complete the holistic health counselor training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
-Live in New England (or at least spend summers there--soooooo beautiful!)
-Go to massage school
-Become a gourmet vegetarian cook
-See the world: Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, more parts of Mexico and Israel, Greece, Brazil, India, Germany, and lots more of the United States.
-Swim with dolphins
-Learn Hebrew and Portuguese
-Make my own tallit
-Own my own house with a huge kitchen and a wrap-around porch
-Publish a book
-Teach prenatal yoga
-Sponsor a child through a relief organization
-Sleep underneath the stars on the beach
-Work at an organization that helps women and children
-Become a journalist and/or a freelance writer
-Teach something
-Camp at the Grand Canyon
-Pick my own apples and make a pie with them
-Become a doula
-Pay off my student loans (because this would equal freedom)
-Bake bread
-Volunteer my time
-Have children and raise them to be amazing human beings
-Work to legalize gay marriage
-Open my own yoga studio
-Plant a garden and make dinner with my own vegetables
-Get a Boston Terrier puppy
-Take a painting class
-Have a gorgeous but simple wedding
-Own a new (and not just new-to-me) car
-Hear Salman Rushdie do a reading
-Take a few types of dance classes
-Host Thanksgiving (minus the turkey) for my family
-Take self-defense classes
-See a zebra up close in its natural habitat
-Slow dance somewhere totally inappropriate
-Learn to make my own pottery
-Design my own website
-Trace my family tree
-Own a pair of outrageous high heels
-Become a tea snob
-Fly first class (just once--I want to see what it's like!)
-Crochet a beautiful blanket (after I learn how to read a crochet pattern, that is!)
-Keep kosher and Shabbat
-Complete an adult bat mitzvah class
-Go on a meditation retreat
-Take a workshop at Kripalu

And, because this list can be a bit overwhelming, things I've already done that would have appeared here: Travel (to Israel, Venezuela, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Italy, Spain plus lots of US places), put a prayer in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, gave horse riding lessons to handicapped kids, got a BA with a double major and a minor, completed a Spanish immersion program, been kissed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, completed the first level of yoga teacher training as well as pre and post natal teacher training at Tranquil Space, waited tables (I firmly believe everyone should have to do this at least once in their life), worked in human rights, completed a wine course, visited the mikvah, read at least 70 books a year since I graduated college, interned at the Holocaust museum, received my boating license, lived in the nation's capital, interned at my Congressman's office, started a blog, lost 70 pounds, wrote a newsletter, worked in retail, met Margaret Atwood and Adam Duritz, heard Elie Wiesel speak, voted for change, survived a near-death experience, saw a show on Broadway, been to a ballet, had several pen pals, mailed "just because" packages and cards to friends and family, raised a puppy, took leaps of faith, read (many) books in a foreign language, counted stars, wrote a letter to my member of Congress, amassed a serious collection of books and loved someone with all my heart.

{Photo credit: jillallyn}

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Joy Diet: Laughter

This week's Joy Diet menu item was laughter.  I will be honest and say that I did not get around to reading this chapter until Thursday night, which turns out to be exactly when I needed to see it.

I had a stressful day last Thursday.  So stressful that I felt like all I could muster the strength to do was crawl into bed with this book.  Beck writes, "The more stressful, dangerous, baffling, or unpleasant your situation, the more important it is to laugh at it."  I immediately thought, "Yeah right, Martha.  I am in no mood to laugh!  I just want to be annoyed and sad".  I closed the book and went to bed.

The next day I had to leave work to go take my Spanish language exit exam for graduate school, which you have to do well on to get your degree.  On the way there, the sky opened up and it rained sideways, soaking me even with an umbrella.  I was drenched.  I thought I didn't do so well on the test, which was devastating (I have been studying Spanish for almost 15 years now).  I fumed my whole way back to the office, my sneakers making squishing noises the entire time.  Then, when I got back and realized how silly the entire thing was and how little the entire past two days mean in the grand scheme of things,  I began to laugh.  And laugh some more.  It was nearly uncontrollable.  That night, I curled up with some tea and watched "The Wedding Crashers" in my pajamas.  The dark clouds, both outside and in my head, started to go away.  Then I spent the weekend watching episodes of "Glee", which I loved.  It's hysterical.  I'm starting to feel back to normal.

Okay, fine, Martha, so you were right.

"Living your right life is a process that needs the smoothing and bonding effects of laughter."

{Photo credit: sarniebill1}

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Blissful Weekend

I had one of the best weekends I have had in a long while.  I feel relaxed and rejuvenated and like I might just be able to handle the end of the semester/year at work without a meltdown.  

The weekend included:

-A visit from my wonderful boyfriend.  We hadn't seen each other in nearly a month.  It was great to have him here for a few days.

-Two homemade dinners: spinach and mushroom quiche/sweet potatoes/salad and salmon/veggies/corn bread.  And rice krispie treats!

-Watching "Bridget Jones' Diary" while snuggling  (Can you tell that my movie pick won out?!)

-A walk through Georgetown

-Lush bath bombs.  I stocked up for winter!  I was sad to hear that they are discontinuing the Hot Milk bubble bar.  But I did get plenty of Creamy Candy and Ma Bar bubble bars, as well as some Butterball and Big Blue bath bombs.  

-Partner yoga workshop.  I felt so relaxed after it!  It's great that Jesse likes yoga as much as I do and that we are able to connect in that way.  I also picked up Kimberly Wilson's new yoga CD, Tranquility to Go.  Can't wait to try it out!

-Lots of episodes of "The Office".  I swear we could sit and watch it all day long and not get tired of it.

I'm such a lucky girl.  

{Photo credit: Linds:-)}

Friday, November 6, 2009

Words to Grow By.


"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places."

~Ernest Hemingway


{Photo credit: vial3tt3r}

The Joy Diet: Play

Sometimes things happen that just can't be coincidence.  This week, several of those happened.  One was reading this chapter in the exact moment that I needed it.

In the chapter on play, Beck first asks us to consider what your real career is.  She says that once you know this, you can keep adding more and more play in your life.  Considering I've spent the past three weeks or so utterly freaking out about finding a career/passion/calling and putting it into practice, this was much needed.    Beck talks about September 11th and asks what you did that night--or any other major crisis during which there was clearly a before and an after for you.  For me, that's been reading and writing, as well as doing yoga.  

She asks: When life is over, how do you want the world to be different-in large ways or small-because you have lived?  What experiences must you have to feel you've lived a completely satisfying life?

To be honest, I haven't gotten through much of the rest of the chapter because I've been writing, writing, writing on just those two questions alone.  They are so simple and yet they seem to have opened the flood gates for me.  I can't wait to see where they will take me.

To read more about the Next Chapter Book Club, go here.

{Photo credit: gaspi*yourguide}

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Margaret Atwood and The Year of the Flood Project

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending a night with Margaret Atwood that was held at the George Washington University's Lisner auditorium.  

The event was part of the The Year of the Flood Project to coincide with the release of her latest book.  The program included readings and acting, as well as some of the writing set to music.  Each event uses local talent.  They are given the readings and the music and told to interpret it in any way that they choose.  At the end, Atwood answered audience questions and signed copies of her books.  She said she isn't sure what type of material she will write next, discussed the importance of being aware of what we are doing to the environment and made a lot of jokes about being from Canada.  You can read Atwood's review of the event that she posted on her blog here.

The event itself was really interesting.  The actors and musicians (students and professors from GW) did a wonderful job with interpreting the pieces.  Atwood herself is a small, snarky, funny, inspiring and interesting woman.  I have waited over ten years to get the chance to hear her read and meet her.  

Atwood was on my short list of people I need to meet before I die.  (Now that I've knocked off Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows, Elie Wiesel and Atwood, I just need to track down Salman Rushdie.)  I left the event feeling inspired, thankful and really wanting to get back in touch with the English major/writing/editing side of myself that I have let go in recent years.  

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy November!

I can't believe it is already November!  October seemed to have flown by.  This month is incredibly busy for me.  It will include:  Writing four papers, putting together and giving a presentation, a Spanish language proficiency exam for my master's degree, my yearly performance evaluation at work, attending a few events and spending Thanksgiving in Maine with Jesse and his family.

My goals for this month include:

-Find time for me.  I want to get back to a regular yoga and gym routine, read at least a few things for fun, continue journaling and get enough sleep.

-Finish as much of the list above as possible before I leave for Maine.  I want to spend my time with Jesse and his family in as stress-free a manner as possible.

-Get as much accomplished at work as possible.

-Begin thinking about how I want to spend my winter break (no work or school from December 11 through January 4th!).

{Photo credit: lordog}

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Joy Diet: Risk and Treats

I will be very honest and say that the week of risk did not go so well.  There were a lot of things going on in my life and, as someone who is already fairly risk-averse, I just could not add that on top of it.  I did, however, begin to map out some plans for risk-taking in the near future.

Last week, the week of treats, was much more fun.  The mere act of listing my treats brought a smile to my face during a very difficult seven days.  Here is my list:

-I love the taste of: mint, mashed potatoes, chocolate, pineapple and hot chai tea.

-I love the sight of: my boyfriend, the view of the Washington, DC skyline at night, this Marc Chagall painting, babies and the ocean.

-I love the feel of: great hugs, my baby blanket, fleece, bubble baths and love.

-I love the smell of: puppies, warm vanilla, campfires, matzo ball soup and clean air.

-I love the sound of: the Counting Crows, Deva Premal's Om Namo Bhagavate, laughter, gentle rain and silence.

Read more about The Joy Diet and the Next Chapter Book Club.

{Photo credit: cybriks}

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food for Thought

I am loving this post by Kelly Rae Roberts on naming what you really want.

I am also loving this post by Kaileen Elise on defining success.

I am feeling like I need an entire day parked in an oversized chair with an oversized mug of tea and my journal. Right now there are so many thoughts to work through and so little time.

I am also behind on my post on risk for The Joy Diet book club. I'll get there, I promise!


{Photo credit: alicepopkorn}

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happiness.

A few things making me happy right this moment:

1. The Phillies are going to the World Series! Yay!!! They were totally awful at playing baseball during my entire childhood so it is great to see them do so well.

2. This post from wishstudio by Jen Lee on having many passions. I've been agonizing over how to fit so many interests into one lifetime and debating which ones would need to be sacrificed. It was such a relief to hear someone say that I don't have to sacrifice anything.

3. The fact that I have a ticket to the Margaret Atwood reading at Lisner Auditorium next Friday. I love, love, love her and have been waiting for years to see her in person. I also have a ticket to hear Al Gore speak at the same location in a few weeks.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy Diet: Creativity

I admit that when I saw that this week's menu item from The Joy Diet was creativity, I had thoughts of coloring, stickers, glue and modge podge.  I was a little disappointed when I saw what Martha Beck really had in mind.

I tried to think of at least ten innovative solutions to problems I had or decisions I had to make.  And then ten more after that.  The problem for indecisive people like myself is that the more options you think of, the harder it is to pick one.

Then I moved on to "perservate on your enemy", or, in human speak, thinking of things you dislike about your enemy and seeing if it might be a quality you either need or already have.  I have very few enemies but I sincerely hope I do not have the qualities of the people I dislike.  This exercise did not sit well with me, which I realize was precisely the point, but I kept moving along to the others.

Another interesting exercise was to "unify false dichotomies", or to think of things you believe you can't possibly do or be at the same time and see if there is a way to bring them together.  This was one of those things where I know it is useful but I think the results need more than a week to manifest.                

The odd thing is that the easiest one--to do one thing differently--was the one I did not attempt this week.  

My favorite part of this week?  When Beck said, "Uncomfortable truth #1: You are always responsible for creating your life, whether you like it or not."

I think this week taught me to be easy on myself and to let some of Beck's ideas simmer.  I can't expect answers in seven days.

{Photo credit: laffy4k}                                                                                                                        

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Revelry Review: Half the Sky

I just finished a book that I have to tell you all about: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sherly WuDunn.

The book takes a look at several issues affecting women and girls in developing nations: rape, maternal mortality, lack of an education, lack of nutrition and prostitution. Instead of burying the reader in statistics, of which there are admittedly a few, the authors use individual stories to show how these women are affected.

Never before have I felt such a call to arms as I did while reading this book. I was a women's studies minor in college and I still did not learn everything that there was to learn from this book. I was particularly disturbed by the issue of fistulas, or injuries that women sustain during the birthing process that can give them permanent incontinence (which can lead them to be ostracized from their communities), the inability to walk, or even death. This injury is particularly common in young women and girls due to the smaller size of their pelvis. Additionally, the number of young women being trafficked as prostitutes and their inability to get out of the vicious cycle surrounding it was heartbreaking.

But this is not a book that wants to mire you in tragedy. Instead, the authors want you to learn what you can do to make the difference in the lives of women and children in some of the poorest places in the world. And they want you to know that women are the key to economic and social progress.

Kristof and WuDunn write, "The tide of history is turning women from beasts of burden and sexual playthings into full-fledged human beings. The economic advantages of empowering women are so vast as to persuade nations to move in that direction. Before long, we will consider sex slavery, honor killings, and acid attacks as unfathomable as foot-binding. The question is now how long that transformation will take and how many girls will be kidnapped into brothers before it is complete--and whether each of us will be part of that historical movement, or a bystander."

You can read more about the Half the Sky Movement here. Nicholas Kristof has a twitter account here and a facebook page here. Oprah covered this book here.

And here are a few organizations that the authors suggest getting involved with or donating to if you would like to help women and girls worldwide:

-Kiva (full disclosure: I used to be a volunteer translator for them and I have supported 8 women-owned businesses in Latin America through microloans. I think they're wonderful and you will too!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Opting Out.

A friend of mine recently sent me the link to this blog post, titled "The Choice Myth", by Judith Warner of the New York Times.  In the post, Ms. Warner discusses the how the choice to either work or be a mother, or the choice to do both, is not a choice at all.  She aims to dispel "the opt-out myth", that the most educated and richest women are leaving the workforce to be mothers.  She argues that women respond to objective constraints of their families and the "all-or-nothing non-choices of our workplaces".

The post itself was a response to a Washington Post article on stay-at-home moms and the census, which says that stay-at-home moms are likely to be young, less educated and have less income than is conventionally believed.  They are also more likely to be Hispanic or foreign-born.  These women don't "opt-out".  They rarely have a choice.

My Mom stayed at home with us for the first five years of my life.  There were a wide variety of reasons for that decision and I am not entirely sure that the choice was all my mother's.  As I get closer to the age of having a family, I sometimes consider how I could handle it all.  I know I am who I am because I had involved parents that were around all the time.  I also know that in my line of work you cannot have a good career and not be traveling all the time.  As much as I would love to be home with my kids, I know I also need personal fulfillment in the form of work outside the home.  Additionally, in today's world it would be very difficult to raise a family on a single salary.  I am fortunate to come from a place where such decisions can even be pondered.  But how do you strike a balance? The sad truth is that I have yet to meet a woman that has done it successfully, though I am sure that they are out there somewhere.

Would or have you chosen to stay at home with your kids?  Why or why not?

As Warner writes, "When mothers can choose, they choose self-empowerment. Because they know that there is no true difference between their advancement and the advancement of their children. Why do we so enduringly deny them the dignity of choice?"


{Photo credit: rahego}

Monday, October 12, 2009

Long Weekend!

Hello lovelies...How was your weekend?  Mine was amazing!  It included:

-A trip to Maine and a road trip to Cape Cod
-The beautiful fall foliage of New England
-Attending a breathtaking wedding on the beach of that had lots of dancing, great food, good people, and ended with a bonfire, s'mores and mulled cider
-A fun Sunday night double date with Jesse and his parents:  Thai food and "Couples' Retreat"
-Getting reading done both for fun and for school in the airport and on the plane
-Catching up on the television I missed in the past two weeks: "The Office", "Grey's Anatomy" and "Biggest Loser"
-A little quality time with my Planner Pad to sort out all of the things that need to get done

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Joy Diet: Desire

It's week four of the Next Chapter Book Club's journey with The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. This week's focus is desire.

I'm going to just throw this out there: I hated this week. Hated, hated, hated it. And here's why: I don't know what I want. Beck suggests you ask yourself what you want and then ask, "And then what?" until you get into the thick of it. But what if you can't even answer it the first time? What if you keep asking and asking and nothing comes up? Or things come up that just aren't realistic?

I am really hoping that my Mondo Beyondo journey can help clarify things for me. I am still unsure if it is that I don't know what I want or that I don't want to allow myself to want it and get disappointed or that I feel like I don't deserve it. One thing from the book that I keep repeating to myself: "To put it briefly, false desires taste of fear; true desires taste of love."

Overall I am still glad I decided to join the Next Chapter Book Club's journey because reading only one chapter a week gives me time to think about it and try to implement it, even if it is sometimes frustrating.


{Photo credit: oddsock}

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude.

Things I am thankful for right now:

1. Feeling rested.  Things are hectic and busy right now but I feel the calm in the middle of the storm.

2. A beautiful giant bouquet of Peruvian lillies from my boyfriend.

3. New friends from Mondo Beyondo!

4. Going back to Maine this upcoming weekend.

5. Reminders this week that life is short, the amount of time you have here is not certain and every moment should be cherished.  

6. Stash Pumpkin Spice tea.  Really, pumpkin anything.

7. Learning that arguments don't have to automatically equal the end of a relationship and in fact can serve to make the relationship even stronger.

8.  Perfect scarf-wearing weather.

9.  A great grade on my first paper of the semester.

10. Being back in a place where I feel like I am taking care of myself and my body.

{Photo credit: (+~)Luis Barreto}

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mondo Beyondo!

This week I started an e-course, Mondo Beyondo. The course, in the words of its founders, Jen Lemen and Andrea Scher: "This five week online class complete with inspiring lessons, real life stories, secret missions, audio interviews and hands-on activities will help you take your dreams from the realm of wishing into everyday motion. Supported by Andrea and Jen as your able guides and exclusive access to a community of dreamers, you'll find yourself equipped with the perfect tools and the just right atmosphere to take the risks you've always dreamed of."

There are daily lessons that are posted to the Mondo Beyondo online forum. It has already become quite an amazing community. I have a feeling that this course will be amazing fodder for my journal. Additionally, many of you know that as of late I have felt like I need a new path. I want to shake it up a bit and live a life that makes me happy, proud and fulfilled. I am not sure where those feelings will take me but I have a sneaking suspicion that Mondo Beyondo will get me at least a little bit closer to finding out.
I cannot wait to dream big and explore risk-taking with my fellow Mondo Beyondo-ers!
{Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt}

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Decisions.

How do you make decisions?  The big, giant, life-changing scary ones?

Do you talk it out with others?

Journal?

Meditate?

I'm curious because for me, I usually either avoid the big decision altogether or let someone else steer me in the right direction.  I know--horrible habits I am trying to break.  I'm looking for ideas on how to listen to my intuition and develop the skill of following my own heart.

{Photo credit: Idontmakeartanymore}

Friday, October 2, 2009

Words to Grow By.

"Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos--the trees, the clouds, everything."
~Thich Nhat Hanh

{Photo credit: lululemon}

The Joy Diet: Week 2, Truth.

It's week two of reading The Joy Diet by Martha Beck with The Next Chapter Book Club.  This week's ingredient for a joyful life is truth.  There are so many juicy morsels in this week's ingredient that I hardly know where to start.  So I'll start with the truth.

The truth is that this week's ingredient challenged me in many ways, much more so than last week's "nothing".   And, if we are being honest, I didn't explore this chapter as fully as I might have liked, mostly due to a lack of time to get quiet and get introspective.  But here is what I know:  I've spent the past two years--in other ways, the past five--excavating my truth.  And it feels good.  Really good.  But it is a marathon and not a sprint and sometimes it is really challenging.

Beck includes a few useful questions for experiencing truth:  What am I feeling?  What hurts?  What is the painful story I am telling? Can I be sure that my painful story is true?  Is my painful story working? Can I think of another story that might work better?  And, my favorite of the questions and one that Beck labels an "action criterion", of the options available to me, which one brings the most love into the world?

Admittedly some days I got stuck at "what am I feeling?", which I think happens to everyone.  But on the days that I could work past that to the "Is my painful story working?" and "Which options bring the most love into the world?"  I tried these questions in relationship to questions and situations both big and small that I faced this week and found that it totally changed not only my perspective, but also how I reacted to what I was facing.  Turns out truth really is all it is cracked up to be and it brings a sense of peace with it.

And I leave you with a quote:

"Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor of the Nazi death camps, said, "There are two ways to go to the gas chamber: free or not free."  It is the truth that offers us this freedom, the freedom to test what we are taught, to accept what we feel in our hearts, to believe what we know in our bones, and to love ourselves--including the worst aspects of ourselves--until we see through enough of our illusions to discover who we were really meant to be."~Martha Beck, The Joy Diet, p. 44


{Photo credit: emdot}

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Adios, September....Hola, October!

Fall is my favorite season and as the weather here in the D.C.-area starts getting crisp, I can't help but get excited for all the things the next few months will bring!

But first, a check in with my September goals:

-Stay on top of my reading for class. Program "study time" into my Planner Pad.   Fail, at least on planning study time.  But I did get everything done!

-Work out or do yoga at least 5 days a week.  YES!

-Eat healthy and hopefully lose between 5 and 10 lbs YES!  Lost 11.4 to be exact.

-After a procedure I am having done on my legs on September 18th where I can't work out for a week, still get on the treadmill and do some doctor-approved walking. I took two days off and then went right back to working out at full speed.  Probably not what the doctor wanted but at least I didn't just lay around, right?

-Do a lot of journaling, especially as it gets closer to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, particularly around the topics of renewal and forgiveness. Got morning pages written at least three times a week but this one was a general fail.  I wish I had the time to write more often.

-Study up on advanced Spanish grammar so I can pass my oral exit exam for school.  Um, no.  Not even a little bit.  When I was writing out my September goals (before grad school started up again), I clearly thought I would have more free time than I actually do.  Asi es la vida.  

October goals!

-Lose 5 more pounds.
-Work out or do yoga 5 days a week.
-Continue to eat healthy.
-Really and truly stay in the moment and enjoy my trip to Maine and Cape Cod during Columbus Day weekend.
-Get an early start on all my papers so I have at least a bit of free time.
-Make a decision about whether or not to do yoga teacher training this Spring or wait until 2011.

Happy October, everyone!

{Photo credit: Muffet}

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learning to Cook

One of my life goals is to become a great vegetarian cook.  I don't have much free time but I do try out a new recipe every now and then.  An added bonus is that when you cook at home, you know exactly what goes into the food and can make your recipes a lot more healthy or diet-specific.   I own roughly a zillion cookbooks but, regardless of that, I recently acquired one more:  Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food.  

This one, along with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which are both one part recipes and one part technique, have only increased my desire to hone my skills.  I'm realizing that more than specific recipes, I want to learn specific techniques that I can then modify depending on what ingredients I have on hand.

Things I want to learn how to make:

-Fritattas
-Crepes
-Bread
-Paella
-Hummus
-Jam
-Empanadas
-A good basic vegetable soup and a good basic black bean soup
-Icing
-Pie
-Souffle
-Risotto
-Flan


Yum!  What would you like to be able to cook?

{Photo credit: foooooey}

Blog Award!

A big giant thank you to Allison from Life Unqualified who passed on this blog award to me!  It means that she thinks I show honestly and sincerity in blogging, which means a lot to me.  Check out her blog too!

Now I have to list 10 honest things about myself and pass on the award!

1.  While my favorite movies are dramas (Amores Perros, American History X, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Water), the movies I could watch on repeat all day long (and do, thanks to TBS, ha!) are Wedding Crashers, Bridget Jones' Diary, Knocked Up and Old School.  I can never get enough!

2.  I shut myself off from most of the world in order to work, go to school, do reading/papers and work out but I do wish very often that I had more friends and a wider social net.  I am hoping once school is done in May to get back to that.

3. That being said,  I need alone time like I need air and it is often hard for me to honor that without feeling guilty.

4.  I'm pretty superstitious even though I know it is silly.

5.  My least favorite thing to do ever is to unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher.  Maybe not least favorite thing ever, but pretty close.

6. I have a lot of trouble thinking of ideas for blog posts.

7.  I'm allergic to roses, jasmine and lavender, which makes perfume shopping and flower owning very difficult.

8.  I'd like to learn how to paint.

9.  Being in a long distance relationship is one of the hardest but most worthwhile thing I've ever done.

10.  I still sleep with my baby blanket.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Words to Grow By.

"We can always choose to perceive things differently.  You can focus on what's wrong in your life, or you can focus on what's right."
~Marianne Williamson

{Photo credit: abductit}

Revelry Review: DC Bread and Brew

On Friday I ate lunch at a place that opened up not all that long ago near my work called DC Bread and Brew. As most of you know, I am a mostly vegetarian/meat avoidant/pescatarian/flexitarian/plant-based diet person, as well as trying my hardest to stay healthy and lose weight, and as such I often have a challenging time eating in restaurants.

I was first drawn in by the cozy atmosphere (but that could've been the icky D.C. weather!). The menu changes daily, but there are always pizzas, sandwiches, salads, soups and quiche, as well as a few types of bigger main entrees. The choices that day ranged from a curried okra and coconut rice dish to a spinach and tomato pizza. There were many vegetarian and vegan options. There was also an assortment of baked goods, which I veered away from, but some readers might like to know that they included vegan options as well. The staff seemed friendly and the food was fresh. You can read more reviews here.

I ordered a half of a sandwich (hummus and roasted veggie on whole wheat) and a cup of soup (an amazing vegan creamy squash soup that had basil and coconut milk with a tiny bit of spice). The best part? This yummy meal won't break the bank ($8.25, which is a steal in this area) nor widen the waistline.