Monday, December 31, 2012

Dolphin dives

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Monkey love | Honduras | December 2012 }

When we decided to go somewhere warm for the holidays we knew we wanted a mix of jungly and beachy, so we looked toward the coastlines of Central America. Our first choice was this gorgeous property in Nicaragua built on a lake in the middle of the country that seemed perfect: green in every sense of the word, intimate, lots of places to explore, yoga out on a dock everyday, my style of food and comforts, but sadly worked out to be too expensive for us, especially since we wanted to do a solid two weeks.

The place we ended up choosing in Honduras isn't exactly what I expected, but one thing it delivers in spades is the junglyness. We're on a nature preserve of sorts and there's a family of monkeys here that are adorable (until they try to swipe your things), these squirrel/gerbil-type critters that scamper around, stately peacocks, squawky geese, iguanas that look like mini-dinosaurs and therefore freak me out when they sidle up to our palapa on the beach, roosters that crow at random times of the day, pheasants that look completely out of place and humble cows. Quite the motley crew.
*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Shiver-inducing iguana | Honduras | December 2012 }

But of all these wild beasts, the most amazing are the dolphins (which aren't running wild on the property of course).

I was somewhere in the neighborhood of about ten years old when The Little Mermaid came out and I was obsessed (until The Lion King, which is now and forever will be my all-time-favorite Disney movie, despite feeling like I should like Aladdin more since it features a Disney princess I can identify with). Anyway, point is, I watched that movie verging on daily for quite a few months after we bought the VHS, so I knew all the lines, the characters' expressions and the words to all the songs. I felt like Ariel and I were the same and I even tried to perfect a little mermaid/dolphin dive in the pool during swim practice (which may be why I was never a good competitve swimmer, too much time wasted flipping my imaginary fins around).

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Sweet little guy saying hello | Honduras | December 2012 }

When R and I had the chance to actually swim with dolphins a few days ago it was completely surreal. They were these gorgeous, playful, cuddly (seriously!), laughing (again, seriously!) creatures that loved to impress and were crazy for our applause and cheers and whistles. It really was an incredible experience. They had this magnificent power, but turned to mush when they sensed we were happy. And their speed and grace! They'd zoom off, do back-to-back flips and then race back to us, stopping with a swift ninety-degree turn right in front of us. Then they'd loll over on their sides so we could scratch their silky smooth bellies. We were able to take some beautiful pics of us hugging our dolphins and us each getting a sweet little smooch from them.

One of the most amazing things for me was seeing my 6'4" husband become like a little boy again when the dolphins swam around him. I've seen him with babies and puppies, but he was absolutely enthralled by the dolphins and his giddiness was just as precious to me as the chance to flit around with dolphins and channel my inner Ariel.

If you've never done it before and ever have the chance, please promise me you'll take a swim with some dolphins. You won't regret it.

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Showing off for us | Honduras | December 2012 }

And with that—Happy New Year's! Here's to a fabulous (hopefullly dolphin-filled...or at least dolphin-adjacent) 2013 for all

Saturday, December 29, 2012

An unburdening

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Peacock roaming about | Honduras | December 2012 }
This holiday I'm trying so very hard to "turn off", which is harder said than done (clearly, since I'm typing on a gadget at the moment). But, in this case, letting my feelings go here is probably a good, cathartic thing (versus mindlessly checking social media or work emails which is usually not).

A lot has happened this year: family situations, work situations, life situations (Hi Sandy!)—but the last few months have been especially challenging.

I took on too much work.

I dealt with natural disasters (although to a much lesser degree than many, but to a higher degree than everyone in my circles here in NYC).

I've had my life shifted a bit as we've had a houseguest for three months (yep, that's not a typo). Even though our houseguest is extraordinarily respectful and helpful and we have fairly opposite schedules, it still jars the rhythm of daily life for me. I'm the opposite of my brother in that I'm extremely protective of my space, my sanctuary. Our apartment is small (~650 sq ft), and each inch is put together and arranged in a way that calms and soothes me. I don't necessarily want a big house ever (although I see the benefits when you have a long-term guest), I just want a space that's sacred to me. And, it's taken a much bigger toll on me than I thought it would to not have the space to myself (when I say "myself", I mean R & I, although he knows how precious my space and time is to me and he gives me lots of both). Even now, while we're away, our guest is still at our apartment PLUS two additional ones. Granted, these are people very, very close to me, but that doesn't change the fact that knowing our home is being fully inhabited by someone other than us two makes my eye twitch.

I know I need to let (it) go.

Part of this two-week hiatus from life in Honduras is a chance to breathe in and out. To ignore those nasty niggles that someone is sprawled across my bed at this very moment. To turn off everything around me and just focus on the elements that we get to experience here together: fire of the sun, water of the sea, wind through the palm trees and this beautiful earth below our feet.

So far it's working.

(Although, it did take some major unwinding, but I might go so far as to say that I'm actually completely relaxed right now).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Honduras!

{ R surveying the sea | Honduras | December 2012 }

Christmas Eve means more to both of us in our individual traditions (which is good for our joint!), but in this land of no clocks, no Christmas trees and no midnight mass, all the days are melding together and I missed wishing you all on Christmas Eve, but here I am on Christmas Day!

Since arriving on Saturday we've been in (mostly) blissful ignorance of everything else in the world but this turquoise sea, this white sand, and each other. We're filling our days with frequent dips in the water, jaunts around this little island in a pair of kayaks, rowdy card games and keeping our things out of grabby monkey hands (more on that later). Hope you all are having a nice wind-down of your year, too.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday meanders: 4


{ via }
I'm currently on holiday in Honduras with the hubby (oooo alliteration...although I despise the word 'hubby'), but put this together last week before taking off. Enjoy—and hope you're all having a good start to your week!

+ Strengthening sweetness and stimulating spiciness: Oh me oh my, I could smell the scent wafting through the air just from reading this goodness from Rachel in Rome (her lovely picture shown above).

+ Flitting and flanerie-ing: So much to love about this post from Sarah in Sydney (hmm, sensing a pattern here) on the French idea of taking a wander around the city just to absorb and soak it in. No goal in mind, other than to revel in your surroundings and maybe indulge in a local goodie or interaction with your neighbor. It's slightly akin to the Italian "dolce far niente", or the beauty of doing nothing, although the latter doesn't necessarily imply a stroll. I think this makes my daily and weekend walks much more special because now they have a spot-on name, no?

+ Instastealing? So apparently a lot of the Instagram hullabahoo last week was just a result of bad writing and they have no intention of stealing your photos for advertising campaigns, of which only they will profit in. Good to know (not that I use Instagram all that much, but still...).

+ Spidey sense: Have to agree. Best. Picture. Ever.

+ Waldorf Astoria: Sweet story of a couple returning to the grand hotel where they spent their wedding night in 1952 for a milestone anniversary—turns out, the WA honors your original room rate (if you have your receipt, of course). So instead of paying $3,450 for a night, this couple paid $21. Excellent for the brand, but in general, just a cleverly awesome thing to do.

+ Celestial Lights: Gorgeous, gorgeous video of the northern lights above Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Honduran holiday

{ via }

R and I are spending our end-of-the-year in the Caribbean this year. We'll be celebrating Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, our wedding anniversary, New Year's Eve, New Year's day AND R's birthday far, far away—the first time we're doing the whole shebang, just us two.

To say we're ecstatic is an understatement.

I'll try to check in every few days, but in case you don't hear from me for a few weeks—have a lovely holiday, everyone and Happy New Year!

{ via }

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A bout of the sniffles

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ A few weeks ago. Back when I felt as badass as my boots look. }

I've got this obnoxious bug and I'm pretty annoyed about it.

Mostly because I've been harping at someone close to me for months now to take better care of themselves: "maybe your day's meals shouldn't consist of just one cup of instant coffee and a sketchy hamburger", "maybe you shouldn't wear just a windbreaker when it's 38F outside", "maybe you should sleep more than 4 hours a night", etc. So when that person fell ill, I didn't say "I told you so", but I definitely thought it, especially when the cold lasted just over two weeks.

And then I came down with some scratchy-throated, stuffy-headed nonsense this weekend and felt slightly less vindicated. Although in my defense, I really think I've been struck because I've been:

+ Working way too much (day job + evenings/weekends on two side projects + citizenship applications)

+ Slightly overdoing it with holiday/family commitments (the last of which was on the eve of my downfall—but I don't regret one second or bite of my company's amazingly indulgent end-of-the-year dinner: 8 wine-paired courses of delight)

+ And, the weather did this ridiculous roller coaster last week with 60F one day and 30F the next and I didn't dress appropriately.

+ Plus, I should have been hibernating all weekend to recoup, but instead worked nonstop, which I'm sure didn't help.

I don't have a real fever, and apart from one minor sensation of nausea, I don't feel flu-y, so I've made the perhaps pig-headed decision to not take medicine. A course of Nyquil & Dayquil is always my go-to, but I'm wondering if I could just let this yuckiness run its course and not deal with medicine hangover.

But now that we're approaching Day 6, I'm feeling less tough and more silly about it.

I just went outside and propped myself up against a building on my office's chichi Soho corner to turn my face to the sky and soak in some bright sunlight and that was about the best I've felt over the last few days.

Just a few more hours to get through and then I can recuperate somewhere far, far away with nary a computer in sight but lots and lots of sunshine.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh, the places you'll go

Riserva dello Zingaro, Sicily
{ Riserva dello Zingaro | Sicily | September 2010 }
Sometime during a college break I wandered into my mom's craft room and grabbed a scrap of lavender cloth and used it to bind a notebook—it had beautiful paper but a horrific cover that needed to be hidden ASAP. On one of the first pages of the book I scrawled out a "life plan" (almost 0 of which has actually happened, so there's that) and a list of places to go (some of which has happened).

For inspiration, and to remind myself, here's that original list, along with some additions...and annotations (for the places that I think about often):

+ Scandinavia: specifically, the Aeroe Islands, the Åland Islands, Copehnagen, Lapland, Gotland, Malmo, Reykjavik, Kullaberg, Nordkapp and Skagen, to start. (ETA: North Cape of  Norway)

+ Egypt: I've been obsessed with Egypt for years, especially Ancient Egypt. I would have fit in so well—no one loves flitting about more in light-colored linen, gold/copper/bronze and gem stones, and lounging about on marble slabs in spas than I do. Not to mention: powerful women, hedonism and an ever-present emphasis on learning. I would do Ancient Egypt so well. Would love to do 10 days of intense travel through the interior and along the Nile, book-ended by a few days at a seaside resort.

+ Grecian Isles: I spent a few days in Athens and Santorini a few years ago, but I always thought it would be nice to rent a boat and a captain and sail through a portion of the country's maze of islands for a few days...or weeks.

+ France: I also wouldn't mind seeing the French countryside—I don't know if just seeing Paris/Versailles should really count as checking this country off of my list.

+ Turkey: There was a line in that movie "A Walk to Remember" about being in two places at once (and the guy makes the girl's dream come true by having her straddle the state line), but I'd like to do the same in Turkey—except, straddle two continents, crisscrossing between Europe and Asia and enjoying all that that means: the collision of food, culture, art, architecture, spices, attire, etc. 

+ Prince Edward Island: I do have a thing for Anne Shirley and Avonlea, you know.

+ Spain, specifically, Andalucia: On the fateful trip when I met R, I almost didn't. I had originally planned to spend that month after graduation in Spain, but I ended up in Italy. Almost 8 years later, I still haven't seen Spain.

+ Caribbean Cocoa trail: I've actually spent a bit of time in the Caribbean, but there's a smattering of more "exotic" islands that I'd love to trek through, especially after reading this NYT piece about the Cocoa Trail.

+ Ireland/Wales/Scotland: I like rolling hills, greenery, whiskey/scotch, dogs, horses, castles, foxes and tartan. Plus I don't mind gray/overcast weather, so really this trip should have happened by now. (Am a little worried on the food front, but, I'll manage).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday meanders: 3

{ via }

Very few tidbits to share from my online futzing around last week...since I mainly meandered from my sofa to my bed and back thanks to this bug that's taken me down.

+ Coconut snowballs: Kinda obsessed with these no-bake, gluten-free, nut-free and vegan goodies (pictured above). Maybe when I'm standing on two feet again I'll whip this goodness up.

+ Santa Lucia: Oddly enough, there's a specific cultural/religious tie between Sweden and Sicily. Sweden (a secular, mostly Lutheran country) has an annual festival of light on winter solstice to mark the beginning of daylight and warmth as the year progresses. Lucy comes from the latin lux or "light" and the festival in Sweden is named for Santa Lucia, a martyred Catholic saint from the fourth century. She's the patron saint of Syracuse in Sicily (about two hours down the coast from R's hometown by car) and the blind (she's usually pictured with her eyes on a platter—a little unsavory). The Swedes celebrate with little girls (or boys...) dressed up in white with a crown of candles and lots of processions and singing, saffron buns and mulled wine.

+ The story of Jim: An beautifully disorienting, touching post about contradictions and life and lessons learned from Sarah at The Yellow House.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Carafes, castles & clans

Gambino Vini vineyards Linguaglossa Sicily
{ A favorite Sicilian winery | Gambino Vini | Linguaglossa | September 2011 }


I've moved on from listening to Friends clips on my walks home and I've ventured into re-watching episodes of shows I've already seen via Netflix Mobile. Lately I've been going through Season 1 of Brothers & Sisters and you know what that means?

+ I always crave a glass of wine as soon as I get home (they are always drinking!)

+ I need a house like Nora's (this was decided a long time ago, but I'm reconfirming).

+ I may be reassessing my initial thoughts on a maximum of two children—who
   wouldn't want to create a lively tribe like that?

   (This is serious: I've always been in the two-kids camp, because I know myself
   and my patience levels and what I can handle, but lately, even without watching
   this show, I've been thinking it might be nice to create and nurture and mold the
   family that I've always dreamed of...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Joining the EU

NYC City Hall Archway
{ Looking up under the City Hall archway | NYC | December 2012 }

Let me tell you about last week—and why it involved getting fingerprinted more than once, writing a handful of checks, and filling out an obnoxious amount of paperwork.

We're about to hit the three-year mark on our marriage, which means: I can file for citizenship in Italy and Sweden! Well, Italy. Sweden requires you to actually live there first, but trust me, I'm working on that.

As part of the paperwork, I had to get an FBI criminal report and a police report for each of the three states I've lived in. Of course each individual body had their own specifications and costs and notary requirements, which made the whole process that much more interesting (sike).

I thought it'd be pretty simple after the legwork of getting fingerprinted was done—just wait for the FBI and all those states to send me a report, translate all our identification documents and get them authenticated and then call up the Italian Consulate to schedule an appointment and sweetly ask them to grant me citizenship, per favore.

Of course, it's never that simple with the Italians. They told us the next possible appointment will be in AUGUST 2013! I could have an Italian baby by that time! Not only did we have to pay $3/minute to hear that bad news over the phone, the $150 I spent on fingerprinting and record requests was for nothing, since by the time that appointment rolls around, they'll have expired. Annoyed doesn't even begin to describe my mood. I bet if they minimized their espresso breaks and lengthened their hours from about 2 hours a day to say...a normal work day of 7.5 hours we'd have an appointment next month!

(Note: we were instructed to only call once we had all the documents ready, if we had any idea they wouldn't give us an appointment for the time it takes me to grow a baby we'd have made the appointment first A YEAR AGO and then done all the run around to get our documents in order).

Meanwhile, we heard our marriage is thisclose to being formally registered in Sweden. I sent the paperwork back in October to register our marriage there, which would give me the right to receive their version of a SSN, which makes getting residency and benefits from Day 1 infinitely more easier, instead of waiting to do it once we arrive.

In the midst of all that foolishness, I finished R's citizenship paperwork for the US. After two rounds of fiancè visa applications for him to enter the country in 2009, plus applying for his 2-year green card in 2010, and then his 10-year green card in 2012, he can (finally) ask for US citizenship (like Italy, the US also requires you to be married for three years before making your request).

Am waiting for the day when I will no longer have to write a check to any country's homeland security/minister/etc. (I'm scared to even tally up how much we've spent in the last 4'ish years on this). If everything keeps moving forward R should have American citizenship next year and I will hopefully have Italian citizenship and Swedish residency within the next year...which would give me a break from dealing with immigration bureaucracy until 2016,  when I can ask for Swedish citizenship. And THEN I will no longer have to deal with this nonsense...well, until we have children and need to request citizenship in three different countries for them. Sigh.

I'm on my way to becoming Jason Bourne—except with legal passports.

And no Treadstone, of course.
{My trip to Goa | 2006 | Jason Bourne may have run down this exact same beach }

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday meanders: 2

{ via }

A few tidbits from my online futzing around last week for your afternoon distraction:

+ The epitome of Christmas may be in these cookies (above). Must figure out way to make them gluten-free immediately! No doubt these would put me in the mood.

+ Pets as diamonds: I'm all for sparkly jewels, and I've loved all the pets I've ever had, but this seems like an odd way to memorialize them once they've gone.

+ Cleopatra costume: On the way hand, I'm a little jealous, on the other, this seems like a bit much, even for a supermodel.

+ Pug birthday: I'd be wondering the same thing, dude.

+ Science of gifting: Be merry and regift!

+ What happens when we sleep? 16 things you didn't know, like every person that appears in a dream is someone you've seen in real life—we can only dream about people that appeared in our vision, even if we don't remember having ever seen them. Creepy! (Also, those sleep positions/personality things are spot on: I'm A, C and D).

+ Pop Danthology 2012 is a mashup of 50+ pop songs and it. is. amazing.

+ Culture fading back into nature in this ingenious forest library made of books! The comments are interesting—does using books as a structure mean we no longer need physical books because we've gone digital? Is it really okay to discard books like this, shouldn't they be donated? With all these microenvironments...does it smell (I'm particularly curious about this)? Is it depressing to see remnants of a discarded culture? Regardless, I think the photos and idea (at least initially) are beautiful.

+ Stunning photos of William and Kate. I never got into the royal wedding hype...until the morning of. I was late to work because I watched it on the news and I started crying! (Granted: I do tear up regularly while watching TV, but still). I think there was something about their elegance and commitment and stoicism under pressure that I really admired—and still do.

+ Stagnant love: This popped up in the NYT right after my post about keeping that marital spark alive—but it's not exactly new news. I remember my Psych 101 professor saying passionate love fizzles out after two years, and all you have left is companionship/friendship, so make sure you don't just lust your partner, you like them, too. These guys say you can rediscover each other and rekindle the flame if you can hang on until your kids leave home (but what if you don't have kids?) and that all is not doomed as long as you weave in a few surprises and variety while you wait for your kids to vamoose.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to embrace a gray Sunday

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Belgian hot chocolate from Le Pain Quotidien with jauntily placed pinecone }

+ Let yourself sleep in until 9:30AM, since you strolled in the door at the tardy hour of 1AM after a very, very fun dinner party uptown (how d'ya like them apples, NYT?).

+ Shuffle into the kitchen, fire up the moka.

+ Spend an hour over coffee and a spicy brunch at your table poking around online.

+ Do a few hours of work (for a project you enjoy).

+ Bundle up for a leisurely hour-long walk uptown to a coffee shop to meet your team.

+ Enjoy a pot of hot chocolate...with a pinecone propped against a candle for a dash of holiday cheer.

Friday, December 7, 2012

(Out of the) ordinary

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ A page from my newest (covered) library book }

Because I'm so particularly particular, there are certain things I do that some might find unusual, but I myself find regular (ha: channeling Chandler Bing). In no certain order, here are a few of my quirks:

+ I cover my library books with white paper from my office recycling bin because I like how clean and fresh they look...and also because I'm a major germophobe.

+ Toilet paper rolls must always roll up and over. If it doesn't, the world may end.

+ I can't drink cold water out of a mug (but tea from a teacup/coffee mug is fine).

+ The world will also end if the couch cushions are wonky/smushed.

+ While reading the newspaper there must be a neat—or at least artistically fanned out—pile of read and to-read.

+ If something I'm watching comes with subtitles, I make sure they're turned on...even when it's in English.

+ I cannot walk around with just socks on. Either barefoot or slippers/shoes. Socks on floors freak me out.

+ I cannot unwind/relax after work unless the entire apartment is straightened up. I also can't leave until the same is done...which makes the days that I'm the last to leave and first to return the best.

+ I will only use certain pens (for the last few years I've been stuck on Pilot G2's and Pilot Precise V5 Needle Rollerballs) when I write and shun all others (see: BICs).

+ Talking on the phone is stressful/annoying to me. Would much rather catch-up in person or via text/email/chat.

+ Everything everywhere in the apartment needs to be at perfect angles, in pretty rows, or stacked un-haphazardly.

(Yes, I recognize I may be a little insane.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Undecked halls

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Everyone else is feeling festive | Soho | December 2012 }

I am decidedly un-festive this year.

No decorations at home, no presents being bought/crafted. I'm not even listening to holiday music!

Thanksgiving really does set the tone for the holiday season for me and since we had a muted day this year, I don't think I've fully gotten into the holiday spirit. That plus knowing we'll be out of the city and sans family at the end of the year (so no tree, no Midnight Mass, no Glögg) and I'm feeling decidedly blue (or blah), instead of red and gold and plummy purple.

Not even this adorable series of Scandinavian holiday crafts appearing each day of December like the best advent calendar ever got me in the spirit.

I think I need to just admit to myself that this year is a wash in terms of Christmas festivities...but I can console myself knowing we'll be (mostly) offline and on a beach for two weeks soon.

That's a consolation prize I can get behind.
{ The table set and the apartment decorated for a holiday meal...last year }

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Some tweaks

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Admiring my anti-winter colors a few weeks ago }

So here's the thing, even with all the goodness I've been adding into my daily life, I haven't quite experienced all the results I wanted (namely: more energy and continuously clear skin). At the same time as I've been thinking about this, I've been spending my weekends working on a side project that has me reading/familiarizing myself with the wellness philosophies of Kris Carr/Crazy Sexy Wellness and Dr. Mark Hyman/Functional Medicine. (Randomly amazing that I—finally—get to read about things I'm interested in for work, no?).

With all these thoughts jumbled about in my head, I decided there are a few more small changes I can make that might up my energy, clear my skin, and help me take better care of myself. So here's what I'm thinking of doing:


Play with the balance of my diet:
My diet is almost entirely made up of: vegetables (organic when needed and affordable; local when possible),  whole milk/non-homogenized dairy products from happy cows, meat from humanely, non-toxically bred animals, eggs from pastured chickies, and lots of nuts/seeds/coconut oil/spices.

+ But, I'm thinking one thing that might be a good way to experiment would be to dial back the dairy products a teensy bit.

+ And, add in even more vegetables (which would in effect make me eat less meat).

My thinking here is: I'm still a little lethargic and I still get a few inflammations on my face now and then. These could be the product of stress, a dairy intolerance, or not enough vegetables, so perhaps weighing my diet more towards the vegetable side and a wee bit off the dairy/meat side might make a difference. (Definitely not removing anything, just playing with the balance).


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Latte pappas

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ A walk in Stockholm's Hagapark | December 2010 }

The primary thing people warn me about when I say I want to move to Sweden is: "but it's so cold/dark!". True. But, I'm hoping my obsession with coziness and candlelight, their obsession with "fika" (coffee/pastry breaks) and my newfound love of saunas, which exist on every street corner over there, will combat the overwhelming lack of sunlight and warmth in winter.

On a tangential note: here's a man's point of view on gender equality in Sweden (I promise I'll move on from this soon). Don't you love how the dad's are called "latte pappas"? Adorable.
"It has only taken a few weeks of this for me to know [that] when I thought I was being sympathetic to my wife during her child leave, I wasn't being nearly sympathetic enough. And when I thought I was being understanding, I didn't understand a thing...
...In Sweden, men's painful discovery of how exhausting it is to look after a baby is believed to aid parental harmony. 'You get a whole different understanding of how it is to take care of a child, because work is nothing in comparison'...
...Swedes tend to see generous shared parental leave as good for the economy, since it prevents the nation's investment in women's education and expertise from going to waste."
Granted we don't have children, nor are we anywhere close to being ready, but I think it might be nice to be in place that has this mindset when we finally decide to grow our own little family, no?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday meanders: 1

{ Of course this coffee shop has a bike hanging from its ceiling | Gasoline Alley | NYC }
A few tidbits from my online futzing around last week for your afternoon distraction:

+ 8tracks is probably old news to everyone, but I never used it until I saw a link to this homey, cozy playlist from Genevieve's archives, which also led me to this one. Both perfect moody music sources for this time of year.

+ Instagram: A friend that knows me oh-so-well told me to follow this goodness—if you love golden retrievers as much as I do, you HAVE to check out Snowbear's escapades.

+ Next Generation Foods: Shocking stats on the amount of food wasted in the US and the UK, e.g., 40% of all food produced in the US is thrown away (!!!).

+ Les Miserables: I pretty much start bawling when I see/hear any of the trailers for this film. The music is incredible and the cast live-sang EVERY single take! Amazing.

+ YouTube/White House: Adorable video of Bo, the Obama pooch, inspecting the White House's holiday decorations. Please note his too-cute white front paws and his confused expression when he sees the stuffed Bo.

+ Hurraw! I ordered some goat's milk lip balm from Amazon.com a few months ago, but am thinking that when I run out, I may look into Hurraw!'s, which is made from premium organic, vegan and raw ingredients. The goat milk one was nice, but I like the idea of some flavor/aromatherapy—perhaps the chai spice, mint and moon balm?

+ Edible Manhattan: While reading the new volume, I saw this article (see page 26) about Kitchen Surfing, a great new site that allows chefs (professional or amateur) to offer up their services in people's homes. I'm thinking about signing R up for it, since he's a ridiculously talented cook and when he first moved to the US (and before work authorization came through) he actually considered offering up Sicilian cooking lessons on the side.

+ Edible Manhattan: Another excellent read—how Kristin Gillibrand (the first NY senator in 41 years to be on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee) is fighting for better national food policies.

+ BuzzFeed: I think I'm okay with every single one of these "unexpected" flavor combos except...avocado+coffee. You?

Wistfulness

{ Pretty pretty snow-covered Swedish cafe via }

I saw this house posted on one of Sweden's tourism pages on Facebook last week and had an insane surge of happiness. Cozy little red house in the woods with a little tree out front bedecked with twinkly fairy lights and a dusting of snow over everything including the quaint stone fence? Oh, yes. That is perfection. All that's missing is a plume of smoke from the chimney and a golden retriever tromping and snuffling about in the white poufs outside.

It's funny, just having a tiny window, a teensy glimpse into a different reality and you assume it's all perfect and rosy. Walking past a fancy home goods store (or even unfancy: I get the Gimme's at IKEA!) or browsing about the blogosphere or checking out beautifully staged real estate listings in foreign countries, you think: if I lived in that house, or had that furniture, or had that for lunch, or lived that life I'd be happier.

Is it location that makes things better? The unfamiliarness and promise of the unknown? Will I be drastically happier and more fulfilled just by going to a country that I think fits me better? Probably not. Whatever ails me here will just trot along across an ocean and end up next to me, right where it's always been.

But, that won't stop me from wistfully imagining up all the potential loveliness that may or may not come to pass when I take a big jump next year. So I present to you above: the Scandinavian country cottage of my dreams.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Frissons

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Soho ceiling | NYC }
Today was one of those suprisingly comforting wintry gray days in the city—when the weather is a bit dreary but there's a certain electricity in the air that makes you feel all warm and cheery inside. The huge red and white-tented holiday fair I passed in Union Square before a worksession for a side project I'm dabbling in may have contributed to the cheer, but regardless, one of my favorite kinds of days, weather wise.

After I finished up I met R for an impromptu, late afternoon drink at Pipa, a low-key, yet sexy and shadowy winebar attached to ABC Home. There's something to be said for spontaneity. Especially with your spouse.

We hadn't planned to meet up, but I finished early and he was nearby and voilà, a chance glass of Pinot Noir with my husband. I arrived a few minutes before him and set myself up at a farmhouse table under a ceiling full of chandeliers with my book, phone, and a glass of wine tantalizingly nearby. I was completely absorbed and didn't realize R arrived until he was right next to me: tall, dark and handsome and for a moment I forgot he was all mine. 

+ + +  

We get so caught up in our day-to-day foolishness: work and bills and laundry and dishes and Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Google Reader and family obligations and visa/citizenship paperwork and finishing the damn newspaper before the weekend is over that we aren't nearly as good as we should be at making time for each other. 

We never really "dated" because our courtship spanned 4 years and this big thing called the Atlantic. Whenever we were together we were completely together because we reunited on vacation somewhere new (or with at least one of us taking vacation to visit the other), so making time to meet up for a drink or dinner or a weekend away in the course of our normal life before marriage only happened for a few days every 3 - 4 months. 

At home we're always tempted away by our phones or chores after a long day at work that the idea of grabbing the other for a kiss or focusing completely on what the other is saying without our eyes wandering to a flashing light doesn't happen nearly as much as it should, but when we're out and ourselves (and not the dish-washer or clothes-folder or floor-sweeper or dinner-maker) we get to be flirtatious and charming and completely engrossed in the other.  

We either need to get better at being ourselves at home or steal more moments away because those moments? They are thoroughly thrilling.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Farewell fall

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Nolita, NYC }

Even though fall is basically beyond its last leafy leg and already on its freezing feet, I had to share this glorious photo I took last week along with this most appropriate quote from The Great Gatsby, that you already know I agree with 100%:

“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

“Don’t be morbid,” Jordan said. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."

Hope you all had good post-holiday-weekend week!

Next up: a cozy, candlelit December (I hope!).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Talisman treasures

Look at this beauteousness!

I'm usually more a fan of straight-up metal + jewels, but something about these 24k-plated pendants hanging on silk cords makes me happy.  I'm not even generally a fan of personal/spiritual symbols and amulets for myself, but there's just something about these pieces from Tara Wolf in Australia.

  { via }
 
If I had to pick, I'd go with the:

+ Heart / "Anahata" chakra in green: Means "unstruck"/"unbeaten".
   Balancer of all opposites, the energy center for love and affection.

+ Root / "Muladhara" chakra in red: Means "root of support".
   Governs vigor, passion, money, job and home.
   Helps you be in the moment and be patient (*ahem).
   Contributes to zest for life and being grounded.

+ Solar Plexus / "Manipura" chakra in yellow: Means "city of jewels".
   Center of dynamism, energy, willpower and accomplishments.
   Associated with the sense of sight and action of movement.


+ And of course my own Virgo medallion.
   (it even comes on a lavender cord—must be a sign, no?)
{ Virgo Zodiac bracelet by Tara Wolf }

This description of Virgos is pretty spot on for me:
"Virgos have an eye for detail, are excellent teammates, although they freely express their opinions.
Lack spontaneity and more concerned with outcome than process. Devoted to their families, they aren't daydreamers nor do they wish on stars - they live in the “real world”.

Virgos are most critical of themselves and very punctual—they don't take lateness lightly. Time is of extreme importance. Virgos like honesty, savings, caution and vigilance."
Although, I take offense with the lack of spontaneity, since I found these by spontaneously clicking on a pretty picture I saw on Instagram.

See more of Tara Wolf's Chakra/Zodiac designs and her full portfolio or by following her on Instagram @tarawolfjewellery.

Which would you pick?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trekking in tights

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ This photo taken 6 seconds before I snagged myself on my desk drawer. }

Yesterday was one of those days.

Let me rephrase that: yesterday morning was one of those mornings.

Didn't sleep well at all. Rolled my eyes when the alarm went off and reset it for an hour and a half later. Checked the weather when I finally got out of bed and saw "wintry mix". Perfect, I thought, this means I have to pack a second pair of shoes to wear at work, since I learned last time around that shuffling around in clunky bad-weather-boots all day is a surefire way to be pissy thanks to a lethal combination of not feeling cute + feeling decidedly "steamy" in my shoes. I figured I could at least try out my new tights and heels (which I hadn't worn because I've been walking to work), so I packed those for the office.

I left the house with my new winter cream tights pulled on, snow parka buckled up, wool hat tugged low over my forehead, fur hood pulled close on top of my hat, my work bag (filled with more than usual, of course) heaved over my shoulder and gloves jammed onto my hands. Made it to the elevator only to realize my fool wallet was still sitting on the dresser—I had forgotten it there when I changed bags that morning.

Back to the house, cursing as I debated whether or not to remove my high, lace-up boots before hotfooting back across the apartment for my wallet (will let you decide what I ended up doing), back out the door, realizing one glove fell out of my hand when I took them off to open the door, so back INTO the apartment to retrieve escapee glove and back out yet again (letting the door slam behind me this time).

Then: the most swealtery, drippy-haired walk (no: TREK) to work ensued (those newscasters forgot to mention wintry mix + STIFLING HUMIDITY). As a bonus for Chinatown's viewing pleasure: my shoelaces came untied and I had to unbecomingly-bend-over to retie them and in the process my hulk-of-a-bag slipped off my shoulder and slammed me in the face. Lovely.

A most obnoxious start to an 8.5-hour stint in the office.

Also, I think I hate both these tights and these shoes. Ugh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Winter oil concoction

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ A tie and pocket square duo I knit for R, posing here with
an orange and sprig-o-pine — I'm artsy like that }

Here it is, my ultimate facial/body oil concoction for a gentler winter:

+   1 cup of coconut oil (or other carrier oil—almond would be divine, too. Mix in some cacao butter as well for a ridiculously aromatic jolt of chocolatey, fresh-baked bread doughy delight! )
+   8 drops of cinnamon bark oil for warmth and spice (be careful, people)
+ 10 drops of rosewood oil for a more delicate spicy woodsiness
+ 20 drops of orange oil for freshness and energy

I like to anoint myself with this goodness and pretend I'm Cleopatra (apparently this is something I actively do now).

On the practical, non-imaginary front: I use an empty L'Occitane glass jar (this one) because it's an adorable shape and I can heat it up to melt the oils together without worrying about nasty plastic chemicals seeping in.

I mostly added the essential oils for their sensory pleasure and an added cleansing, deodorizing, toning boost, but apparently there are other aromatherapy benefits, if you're into that:
cinnamon bark = "Also known as Ceylon cinnamon; gives a warm, floral-enhancing effect. It is a skin irritant and should be handled with care (learned this the hard way). Aromatherapy benefits: comforting, warming."

rosewood = "Rosewood is a tropical tree growing wild in the Amazon basin. Has a sweet-woody, floral-nutmeg aroma. Aromatherapy benefits: gently strengthening, calming"  

sweet orange = "Has a lively, fruity, sweet aroma. Aromatherapy benefits: cheering, refreshing, uplifting."

P.S. In case you missed it: why I use coconut oil and how I use it.

P.P.S. If you want to try your own concoction, I'm pretty happy with my Nutiva coconut oil and the essential oils I found from Plant Therapy.

P.P.P.S My Lullaby oil concoction!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fondue femmes

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ New batch of Fall'ish flowers at home }
Good: Forcing myself to break from my usual homebody/loner tendencies and accept an invitation to a "school-night" fondue party with girls I hadn't met before. Ended up having such a good time chatting with a bunch of other similarly mixed-background-mixed-couple-chickadees that I didn't walk in my door until after midnight (this from the girl who's sleeping by 10PM).

Topics of note included:
+ Volunteering in Hurricane Sandy-stricken areas

+ Judaism: how did it come to be a religion and an ethnicity?

+ Middle Eastern cultures and languages: Arab vs. Indo-European

+ Features of babies from mixed parents: do they really change drastically
   after the first few years?

+ Excess body hair: the plight of the non-white woman

+ Do gay men tend to make out with straight women?

+ Would inviting a notoriously shy guy into a hot tub full of women break
    him of his shyness or scar him for life? (A few girls headed out on a ski trip
    were strategizing)

(You see that we started off high-brow and slowly veered into the ridiculousness...I'm not saying it was the wine, but...it was the wine).

Facial (t)oils

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ The euphoria that comes over me when I smell roasting chestnuts is the same effect I
was going for with my initially-failed facial oil experiment}

Good: You know I'm big on the goodness of coconut oil, but I didn't tell you all the ways I use it as a beauty product. Not only is it the most silky, lush, and hydrating "lotion" I've ever tried, it also works as a:

  + moisturizer/night cream (which I use when I'm washing my face, but don't feel like padding to the kitchen for the vial of rosehip oil that I keep in the fridge)

  + face wash/eye make-up remover

  + sun screen (it naturally blocks the sun's harming rays)

  + and, believe it or not, thanks to its anti-fungal/microbial/bacterial properties, as a deodorant.

You know I'm a little...anxious when it comes to sweat, so the fact that I use something as simple as coconut oil should be proof it works. I found lots of recipes for homemade deodorant online, but they all seemed too fussy and I wasn't ready to make that big of a commitment when I first started paring down, but luckily I found out that coconut oil on its own works just fine.

See? I wasn't kidding when I said it's basically the duct tape of your medicine cabinet/makeup bag.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

A bit more on AIRE

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Pre-baths check-in — teak wood, silver teapots, amphorae and flickering candles everywhere? Yes, please. | AIRE Ancient Baths in NYC}

From water we came and to water we return.

(I'm not sure if this is actually a saying, or if I just said it for the first time, but anyway, the phrase popped into my head while I floated around the baths and an initial Google search didn't turn up anything so I'm going to go ahead and copyright that).

So.

I am still completely infatuated with AIRE Ancient Baths. So much so that we managed to sneak in a return trip booking jussst before the promotion expired last night. Not only was our trip there yesterday ridiculously relaxing, but it felt like a complete and utter escape from New York (and you know how when you get out of your daily grind you feel a little more wild? Well, mix that with a candlelit, steamy, completely sensual underground grotto and it's like, oh, hello husband, you come here to me).

Ahem, anyway. Back to the actual experience. You walk into a huge lofted lobby (which is what I took a picture of above) and drink some tea while filling out a form. Then through the changing room to leave everything but your bathing suit, the locker sensor that fits around your wrist, a robe and these soft slippers with rubber grippies on the bottom that you have to wear because it's so slippery.

Then (here comes the good part) you descend down an open staircase with lit votives into this otherworldly space filled with 6 pools (three are heated to 97ºF: one is a jacuzzi, one is saltwater, and one is sans bubbles; one is heated to 102ºF; and then there are the two cold hip baths—one a freezing, you've-got-to-be-kidding-me 50ºF while the other is a slightly toastier 57ºF).

All the pools are arranged around a glass-walled steam sauna with a marble slab in the center—upon which I reclined and channeled my inner-Cleopatra while my handmaiden (okay, R) gave me a pre-massage massage. Pure bliss.

Tension with the Times

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ The Sunday NYT + a pot-o-tea }
I think it's important you know that I tend to impart unnecessary levels of stress on myself—especially for things that aren't really stress-worthy. Like the Sunday New York Times. I thought paying $5 a week for the paper delivered right to our apartment door would not only be a nice way to start weekend mornings, but also right in line with my pursuit for all things nostalgic and of yore.

When I open the door and see the paper all nicely laid out on our doormat I feel lots and lots of happiness. And then I bring it in and realize I have to read the whole damn thing, and that's where the stress starts. In NYC, the Sunday Times comes in two parts, so we get half on Saturday and the other half on Sunday—which should make reading of said paper easier, but some weeks I don't finish and then it piles up. And up and up.

So, we had THREE weeks of papers stacked up on our little newspaper-holding-footstool (we've been backed up since Sandy), and I forced myself to sit down and go through the whole shebang today because I couldn't handle the papers looking mournfully at me anymore.

I feel so much better now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend 2012

{ Our Thanksgiving table | November 2012 }

Growing up, my parents worked six days a week and every holiday of the year, apart from Christmas Day, New Year's Day, July 4th and Thanksgiving—and yet, they managed to make every single special occasion festive, celebratory (always, always with gold-rimmed china, gold chargers and sparkly crystal) and full of good food. Like any family we had tense moments so the conversation wasn't always flowing, but our eyes and bellies were always satisfied, even if our hearts weren't. Sometimes I thought they were crazy to go through all the effort and wear themselves down, and sometimes I still think they did too much, but then other times I'm so very thankful they did everything they could to give us those bright moments during my childhood, even if it cost them their own sanity.

Which is why this year we thought we'd take it easy (especially after hosting a mini feast last year—I'm still tired thinking about it), but Wednesday night rolled around and I was really, really sad about nothing Thanksgiving-y planned for Thursday, especially when I saw everyone else's preparations going on in full force. I conferred with (whined to) R and decided to try and squeeze in a grocery order for some harvest-y type dishes. We had already planned to have another heritage chicken, but I decided there was no way I could get through the day without at least a hint of pumpkin and spice.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving traditions

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Our wee apartment decked for the holidays last year | November 2011 }

Last year we were local for the entire holiday season (which doesn't happen often for us), so we decided to go all out with every single tradition we hold sacred. First up? Procuring a tree, since I grew up decorating our tree with the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade on in the den and Thanksgiving dinner preparations going on in the kitchen. Last year was my first time ever having a Christmas tree in my own apartment. And, like all good New Yorkers, we found a deal at a Lowe's in Brooklyn and trekked across the river to procure our little (well, actually not so little as he was 6-feet tall) guy.

Of course we didn't take into account the rain or distance between said Lowe's and the nearest subway stop, but I saw it as an adventure! R didn't see it as such (at least not at first), since he was the one hefting our balsam fir along, while I was responsible for carting home our 20-ft. garland on my shoulders. But let me tell you, people are exceedingly kind and gracious when they see you propping up a Christmas Tree in a subway car.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Equal play

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Helin & Voltaire, one of my favorite places in Stockholm | December 2010 }
To me, this really is the epitome of cozy urban living (can't you see why I want to live in Stockholm?). Every time we're back in the city for the holidays, we always make a point to take a walk across the snow-covered meadow in front of the turreted Helin & Voltaire cafè in Djurgården and indulge in some ridiculously delicious, cinnamony, cardamomy goodness.

If the optimal mix of city and country wasn't enough for me to love about Sweden (plus the whole passion towards an open society, sustainability, minimalist beauty, etc.), there's also their take on women, which can be summed up in a word: amazing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A good thing

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ View over Sicily—otherwise known as birthplace of my R | September 2011 }
 ...is being able to (crankily) call R when I'm leaving work because I'm faint with hunger and have no idea what I feel like eating only to have him say he's already in the kitchen making risotto with cremini mushrooms and fluffy ricotta (the kind you drag straight from the container to your lips, stopping only for a quick grind of black pepper on the way)...which it turns out, is exactly what I wanted.

Being gentle with myself

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ I think the kids these days would call this a "selfie"  |  La Colombe Soho }

Here's a semi-covertly-snapped pic of me at my local coffee shop. I figure this kind of post deserves a personal picture because I'm about to get real (and hopefully not preachy) with y'all and share my attempt to be more gentle and good to myself with a couple of changes I've made in the last 18 months or so. These didn't produce the magic fix that I was naively hoping for, but I do think that my life has gotten better.

This is just how I try to live, what's working for me and what I believe in...not at all meant to be a list of "you should be doing this, too!".

+ + +

I think a lot about what it means to be healthy. Growing up in the US we're given a lot of things to do and not to do and oddly enough, the more the USDA, FDA, APHA, etc. inundate us with new rules, the less healthy we become as a nation. And, more often than not, the advice we're given is heavily paid for by industry organizations that want to pad their wallets (what does it mean that the daily nutrition guide is backed by the USDA?). Then there are all the side diets and exercise plans that are heaped on top of the government recommendations and no wonder we're all wandering around, lugging our guts and high blood pressure with us.*

Now, I don't have any significant health problems (not even insignificant ones, really, which I know is already a blessing in itself), but there is some history of cancer and heart disease in our family and that coupled with a pervasive lack of energy/obnoxious yawning all day and a persistent stomach ache got me thinking about what the heck I'm putting into my body and what I'm putting it through.

+ + +

The first thing that had to go was the nasty tummy aches that I used to get practically every week. I had no idea what caused it so about a year and a half ago I started taking things out of my diet for 10 days or so to see what changed. Luckily removing dairy had no effects whatsoever but removing flour? Oooo boy, it was like I was given a new stomach (and all the other things connected to it). When I do something, I go all in, so I cut out all gluten. My timing was perfect (ahem), since my little experiment was just before a month of international travel (a trip to India for work and then to Sicily to play). Going gluten-free in India wasn't actually that hard, but in Sicily? Not as easy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Milkman nostalgia

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{ Creamy milk from Ronnybrook Farm & Dairy —in a bottle! Mind = blown! }
After all the tumult recently (I'm looking at you, Sandy), it was such a treat to have a low-key weekend at home. R and I agreed we'd spend a good chunk of it together, with the rest of it spent making a trek to Brooklyn to visit a favorite pastry shop (him), working on a consulting project on the side (me) and evening outings for drinks/dinner with friends and family (us).

We rolled out of bed around 9AM on Saturday, and since our groceries weren't arriving until the afternoon, R, dear husband that he is, ran out to get the milk and eggs we needed to have a proper breakfast. Me being the list-maker that I am, handed him a slip of paper with two notes on it (and yes, he may have slightly rolled his eyes at me):

+ "Non-homogenized, organic, local whole milk"
+ "Pastured eggs (at least cage free if you can't find pastured)"

In the time it took  me to do a whirlwind cleaning of the apartment, he came back proudly bearing a Ronnybrook Creamline bottle of milk. A bottle! I was on a high all morning just because it was so adorable and old-timey.

Once breakfast was ready (a smorgasborg of kale, sausage and poached eggs) with a hefty mug of coffee (+ milk for me!), we sat down to a candle-lit table and put on a new documentary from Netflix about Alexandria, a topic I'm obsessed with (more on that another day).

Afterwards, a little knitting to finish a baby gift and lots of lazing about before doing a few hours of work and meeting friends in the East Village for a drink and dessert.

*sparklingly (http://sparklingly.blogspot.com)
{Still not sure who this is for, but at least it's done! | 17 November 2012}

Sunday began much the same way as Saturday, with candles lit, cinnamon and vanilla oil burning and fresh-ground espresso with a generous splash of Creamline milk. Except we traded in Netflix documentaries for the Sunday New York Times, and an outing to the East Village for the Lower East Side with dinner at Gentleman Farmer, a teensy, intimate, brick-walled restaurant that emphasizes exotic meats (like pheasant, ox, ostrich, etc.).

I could seriously do with a few more weekends like this one.