Monday, March 25, 2013

So worth it

Mast Brothers Papua New Guinea Chocolate + Gasoline Alley Kombucha on *sparklingly []
{ Mast Bros Papua New Guinea Chocolate + Gasoline Alley Kombucha (enjoyed separately)  |  21 March 2013 }

NYC is the be all end all for many, the epicenter of disgust and loathing for others, and for me it's just the place I live. I'm used to its foolishness after all these years—the tourists clogging up the sidewalk, the never-ending cacophony and how the price of every single thing here is quadruple what it would be elsewhere (except for manicure/pedicure specials at Asian-run salons—bless their efficient ways and lovely massage chairs!).

But, sometimes even I can't believe how much I pay to live in a city that may be bad for me (see the comments here). I mean, it's accepted that we pay an absurd amount on rent, on drinks, to unwind and even to escape the city...but even for a blissful moment of escape at my desk I pay a lot—without even blinking an eye (which is the absurd part in this little scenario).

I'm willing to spend a little more when I can on good, clean food and products, but the fact that I didn't even notice I was handing over $9 for a bar of chocolate last week is a little crazy, no?

No! It's actually not (really that) crazy at all because this chocolate is FANTASTIC. I remember passing Mast Brothers on a walk in Brooklyn two years ago (which of course, is adorable), but for whatever reason, I didn't go in and have a taste. But when I headed to a local coffee shop for a kombucha last week and spied these gorgeously wrapped treats, I snapped one up.

Not only is it nice to have a truly locally-made treat, but I love that it only has two (pronounceable) ingredients! And, of course, the taste is amazing. I wish the descriptions were online so you could look at them all, but suffice to say this little Papua New Guinea Dark Chocolate had me at: "After harvest, these beans are uniquely smoked. This post-fermentation process imparts incredible flavor: think hickory smoked bacon and aged scotch."

And seriously, that is EXACTLY what it tastes like. Incredible.

I'll be going back for more, obviously—this is an addiction worth having!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mid-week treat at The Nomad Hotel Library
{ Nomad Hotel Cocktails via Kathy YL Chan }

Earlier this week R and I finally got around to meeting up at The Nomad Hotel's Library for that drink we tried to get a few weeks ago. It ended up being quite a pricey mid-week frisson-inducing treat, but, nothing wrong with an occasional splurge, especially in such a pretty place, no?

Even on a Tuesday, the restaurant, bar, parlor and library were jam-packed and we only got a table because R went over around 5:30 to try and snag one—and snag one he did! We got the coziest one snuggled along the bookshelves where we paged through some art books and tried to figure out which of the delicious looking cocktails to indulge in. Luckily for me, they had quite a few of the spiced, spicy, deep and bitter drinks that I favor. My top choices?

Fig & Thistle:
Highlands Blanco Tequila, Cardamaro Amaro, Fig, Lemon

The Brunswick:
Bourbon, Campari, Averna, Carpano Antica, Maraschino, Angostura Bitters, Sarsaparilla

Satan's Circus:
Rye Whiskey, Thai Bird Chili-Infused Aperol, Cherry Heering, Lemon

Five Families:
Rye, Barolo Chinato, Averna, Zucca, Maraschino

R ended up getting The Brunswick, while I took the Five Families—both were tasty, but I wish I had gotten Satan's Circus, since ours ended up being so similar. We also ordered a few nibblies: the Salmon Rilettes and Beef Tartare, both of which were yummy, but certainly not filling.

A problem we remedied by ordering a pizza as we walked home from the subway later that evening.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Banished from the bedroom

Homemade pizza on *sparklingly {}
{ The homemade pizza that fueled the change  |  10 March 2013 }

I've finally deemed all smartphones permanently verboten from entering our bedroom—something that should have been forbidden a long, long time ago—but, it took three things to finally prompt their exile now: my attempt to self-diagnose my (supposed) thyroid issue + common sense finally sinking in + my lil' ol' manifest project.

I always knew it wasn't a good idea to sleep with my phone so close. It just makes sense, right? A close phone means:

+ A constant source of radiation pulsing less than a foot from my head for 7'ish hours straight a night.

+ Saying "let me just check this one last thing" becomes entirely too easy. And, the more I check my phone, the more I see its harsh blue screen, which confuses our brains into thinking it's not nighty-night time, and that, plus frequent checks, means my bedtime is suddenly pushed back 30 minutes to an hour.

Knowing that, it still took reading that the electro magnetic frequency shooting out of our phones can affect my thyroid to get me to shift my habits around and wean myself off.

After gathering my strength from a delicious homemade pizza night, I got to poking around behind our TV stand to figure out the wire situation and make room for another surge protector that I could turn on at night to charge our phones. Fighting with the cables to make sure they all worked and nothing was visible from the other side (I loathe visible cables) was the easy part. The hard part turned out to be trusting I'd be able to wake up from an alarm clock in another room—the first night I tried this I woke up every hour or so to make sure I hadn't overslept!

One week later, know what I've realized?

+ I actually DO feel like I'm sleeping better with two less blinkety-blinking lights in our bedroom and no phone screen glare attacking my eyeballs in the minutes before bedtime.

+ Having to get out of bed to turn my alarm off is an effective balm to my snooze-ing habits.

+ I've now gotten into the routine of plugging my phone in on its little shelf when I get home and then not looking at it again until just before bedtime to check messages and set my alarm (which was a February intention, under the "Energy" category, oddly enough). It's so nice to not be staring at another screen after 8 hours of staring at one at work, not to mention completely freeing to not feel the need to "check-in" every few minutes (something I learned recently). Plus: more time for other more enjoyable things!

+ Speaking of: minimizing digital distractions in the bedroom maximizes a whole lot of other things.

It's too early to know if this will have any thyroid benefits, but the other four are reason enough for me to be glad I finally booted those bad boys out of our bedroom!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An extension

View of the Arch in Washington Square Park on *sparklingly {}
{ Washington Square Park: you're still mine for a bit longer  |  13 March 2013 }

After a pensive weekend, followed by a week of email negotiations, our apartment situation is finally settled: we agreed to a 6-month lease renewal at a slightly higher (but lower than market-price) rent.


Things were looking bleak / expensive for us when our building said they could only offer a 3-month renewal, which wouldn't help since the new lease-end date would coincide with my Italian consulate appointment. Our building reasoned that we could always renew again in three months, but of course we ran the risk that the price would rise. Again.

We put off responding to the three-months-only-option e-mail, and were in the process of very grudgingly resigning ourselves to another year in New York (since subletting isn't an option for us and we also wanted to avoid another price hike in three months) when we received another communiquè.

Our landlords had reconsidered given my history with the building (six years, people!) and offered us a 6-month extension at a locked-in price. Not sure what prompted them to change their mind—maybe giving them the cold shoulder made me more attractive, the way boys are way more into the girls that give them the brush off?

Regardless, I quite like the idea of one last summer and fall in NYC. Although that does mean if we are able to leave when the new lease ends, we'd wind up in Sweden just in time for winter...oops!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday meanders: 8

[Some tidbits from my online poking around...enjoy!]
{  More anti-winter orangey goodness!  |  11 March 2013  }

+ Traveling with kids: Even though I'm a little averse to super "kiddie" looking things for children (says the childless woman), I can't get over how adorable this "Skootcase" is. (via)

+ What do you call a group of X? A group of flamingos is called a "flamboyance" and a group of pugs is called a "grumble"...and other adorable/happy nubbins for you.

+ Living small while living large: This, THIS is one of my life goals. I already tend to live with less, but oooo, hoping an international move will help me cull even more. Great story of a man who went from normal to obscenely rich in money and belongings to rich in experiences:
"For me, it took 15 years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all the inessential things I had collected and live a bigger, better, richer life with less."

+ Balance: Another goodie from the NYT about balancing life and work. Loved reading a successful woman's perspective, including her regrets:
"Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I’ve done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NYSS art lectures—Matisse: In search of true painting

{ Still Life with Purro 1, 1940, Matisse }
{ Still Life with Purro 2, 1904-05, Matisse }

This little 2013 plan is working! If for no other reason than I'm a perfectionist and since my list is out there, I feel compelled to check things off (even though I haven't shared an update recently, oops!).

Anyway, under "Discovery" I included an intention to get back into art history—a subject I loved so much I was on track to minor in it in college. One of my favorite things about it wasn't so much wandering around museums, but hearing someone who devoted their life to periods and movements and artistes speak about the crazy connections between people, art and history. So back in January I started Googling for lecture series in the city and found NYSS (New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture) and their free evening events.

I added the February Matisse and March Courbet events to my calendar, but by the time the date of the first event rolled around I was thisclose to going "eh, I'm too tired" after work and just ignore it, but, but! knowing I would have to fess up and share my progress with y'all I woman-ed up and took myself to the school on a Wednesday evening at 6:30PM for the first lecture (it also helped that I invited a friend—someone I know who is always up for anything, the exact opposite of me, to join and go for dinner afterward).

The little room was packed when we got there—lots of students and lots of older people (for whom we could tell this was their thing, especially given their extremely in-depth, slightly whackadoo questions afterward), but what I didn't realize was that the woman speaking on Matisse had actually curated a "live" exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was there to talk about it.

As soon as the lights dimmed and I snuggled into my chair I remembered why I loved these kinds of lectures so much. The dark room, the flashes of canvases from far away and close up with arrows pointing to obscure details, the aged photographs, the maps, the tentative hypotheses backed up by debatable proof (art is always open for interpretation), it was just fascinating!

This lecture specifically was really interesting because the whole premise was that Matisse wasn’t born an artistic genius, in the way that Michelangelo or Beethoven were considered prodigies. He worked hard at it, only becoming a painter in middle age and after teaching himself by copying masters. Even when he became recognized for his work, he still wasn’t satisfied, often repainting, re-evaluating and even re-doing his work in an entirely different style, while keeping the subject matter the same.

Meaning, this exhibit was about comparing multiple versions of the same subject matter and showing how this one was influenced by Gaugin, and that one by Seurat. And the name "in search of true painting" was about his obsession with the process of creation, pushing deeper, further to get at something more "real".

As a cranky perfectionist, I understand him completely and am so glad I went.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Snowy deliberations

View of Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street in Manhattan { }
{ Snow falling...horizontally  |  Lower Manhattan  |  8 March 2013 }

As you can see, we've got a wintry-white weekend ahead of us.

Perfect for me, as I've got two days of taxes to look forward to, which will hopefully keep my mind off of fretting over (1) needing to decide within three weeks where we're going to live in NYC for the foreseeable future and (2) when we'll hear back from the US, Italian and Swedish consulates, which may make our need to prolong our time here null.

I think an Excel spreadsheet would call this a circular error.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beating the winter blues

Winter flowers on *sparklingly []
{ Fresh flowers  |  2 March 2013  }

Still winter.

And, yes, while I do like cold weather, I'm a bit tired of wearing boots and my skin misses sunlight! So, as usual,  I've been doing a few new'ish things in an attempt to beat-S.A.D. and attack-my-tiredness-(potentially-hypo-thyroidism?), like:

+ Color / Oxygen: Adding even more lush green plants to our windowsills AND more fresh,  saturated-tastic orange and yellow flowers in vases throughout the apartment.

+ Sleep: Aiming for 8 hours of actual sleep, instead of 8 hours in bed and only 7'ish of sleep, which means: getting into bed at 9:30PM and reading until 10PM'ish, instead of getting into bed at 10:30PM and reading until 11PM, AND getting out of bed at 6:30AM instead of 6AM. How funny would it be if my years of non-stop yawning was actually directly related to me only sleeping 7-7.5 hours a night? (Not that funny, actually).

+ Vitamins: Taking fish oil supplements with Vitamin D (see: "Still winter", above). I've still got some of my Pure Synergy Vit-Min-Herb supplements, but as I use them up, I'm phasing in some good oils. I've never taken fish oil supplements before, and after doing a little research, seems like a good thing to work in, especially since it's so hard to get good (as in: clean, humanely-raised, affordable) fish these days.

+ Turning back the clocks: Granted, this one isn't of my own doing, but am so glad that Daylight Saving's Time kicks back in this weekend. Whew.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Green smoothie + Thyroid issues on *sparklingly []
{ Pretty greens at breakfast  |  21 February 2013 }

A few years ago my mom began to have really odd health issues—she put on weight very quickly (without any lifestyle / diet changes), but it came on unevenly. It wasn't so much as getting "fatter", as it was that her face / neck / upper body got massively bloated. That was the biggest sign that something was happening (along with a few other more personal / TMI issues).

She finally went to the doctor and had a blood test which showed that her TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) indicator was at a 6.5, and at that time doctors agreed that a "normal" thyroid would return a result between 0.5 and 5.5, so she was definitely above even the "high-end", which lead to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, an issue with the endocrine system.

With hypothyroidism your thyroid doesn't make enough thyroid hormone, which regulates your metabolism, affects protein synthesis, regulates long bone growth, and affects how your cells use energetic compounds (protein, fats, carbohydrates)—some pretty major stuff. This isn't like that lazypants appendix that hangs around slothily. To combat the serious complications she was facing (and would face, if left untreated), my mom was put on prescription medicine and the situation is under control now.

+ + +

I didn't even think about any of that until I went to visit a Functional Medicine / Integrative Medicine doctor last month. Ever since making drastic changes to my diet / lifestyle a few years ago, I've been interested in an holistic approach to medicine, i.e., treating the root cause, addressing every aspect of your life to make positive physical / mental changes, and using food / environmental adjustments as the first line of defense, rather than drugs.

I had never seen one of these types of doctors before because insurance (of course) didn't cover it. But, my company switched plans in December and the first thing I did was to see if any of the Functional Medicine doctors in NYC were now covered and hoooboy, hit the jackpot. The Continuum Center for Health and Healing here in New York was mostly covered! I immediately made a few appointments for yearly check-ups.

When we showed up for our appointments (I dragged R along, too) they allowed us to be checked out together—I'm a firm believer in needing support to make big changes, so I wanted us both to hear what the doctor had to say to the other—so that was a good start. The questions about our medical history / life included "how do you like your job?", "what do you do to relax?", "are you religious / spiritual?". I loved the focus on our environment and the understanding and belief in how everything affects us.

My blood test results came in a few days later and here's where things get interesting.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"I am here" days

View of Brooklyn Bridge from IKEA ferry on *sparklingly []
{ Waiting for the IKEA ferry  |  Pier 11, Slip A, Manhattan  |  September 2012 }

This article about exploring New York "unplugged and on foot" from The New York Times described exactly the kind of "flaneurs" I want to take advantage of here...and anywhere. I love everything about the premise of this, the idea of going against the "reigning cults of productivity and connectivity" to:

+ Forage in the city: picking an area you don't know well and immersing yourself completely in it for the full day

+ "Give our gadgets a secular Sabbath"

+ "Revel in friendship and conversation"

+ "Be thickly in one place, not thinly everywhere."

+ "Nourish a single, rolling conversation among the group, not one-on-one side chats"

Rather than just admire the idea from afar, I decided to grab some like-minded urban adventurers to join in the fun and experience an "antidote to our frenetic, insatiable age" by spending a few hours rooting around Red Hook—a place in Brooklyn I've always wanted to putter about.

We met Saturday afternoon at the IKEA ferry boat terminal near the South Street Seaport for the (free! scenic!) East River crossing to Red Hook. Just like the article, we headed over to home/made bklyn down Van Brunt Street for brunch (highly recommend the kale salad topped with a warm bacon / mustard vinaigrette and poached egg), stopping to take photos (with an analog camera!) along the way. All through brunch, and a long walk that took us out of Red Hook and up through Columbia Street Waterfront District and Carroll Gardens, the four of us managed to keep our phones in our pockets AND stick to one conversation (okay...with a few minor slip-ups caused by walking two-by-two down a crowded sidewalk) for four and a half hours!

At the end of our afternoon I realized, not only did I NOT miss out by not checking my phone every few minutes, I was actually able to really enjoy my friends and the freedom of not having to keep clicking around. Red Hook ended up being as rough and tumble as I had heard, and I think had we not been on this mission I would have most certainly been scrolling around my phone while walking down abandoned streets, but instead, we noticed a million and one things and even though I didn't really fall in love with the neighborhood, at least I experienced it.

We are definitely doing this again—soon!

Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 in pictures: February

Click to catch up!
{ Monday meanders: 6  | Feb. 4, 2013 }
{ Hurraw!'s lush lip balms | Feb. 5, 2013 }
{ Tape, red or otherwise  | Feb. 7, 2013 }
{ The mean reds | Feb. 10, 2013 }
{ In between  | Feb. 13, 2013 }
{ These women | Feb. 15, 2013 }
{ Monday meanders: 7  | Feb. 18, 2013 }
{ Comings and goings | Feb. 19, 2013 }
{ Grays | Feb. 26, 2013 }
{ Sign on the dotted line  | Feb. 28, 2013 }