Thursday, January 31, 2013

Manifest month 1: January 2013

{ The hydrangeas I mentioned here | January 2013 }

So month 1 of my little manifest project is wrapping up. According to my plan, I was supposed to be working on these bits this month:  

  • Kindness: Make mornings and evenings more sacred
  • Possessions: Go shelf by shelf
  • Energy: Cull my online life

I did okay with my mornings and evenings...I could have been better about sticking to it, but at least I got into a somewhat-regular-routine.

As for cleaning up shelf-by-shelf (or space-by-space), well, I told you about my letters, but I also whipped the "go-bag" that I carry in my work bag into shape and dealt with the bathroom cabinet. What I didn't get around to was sifting through the decorative-but-functional storage boxes in our living room wall cubbies, selling/donating our haven't-used-in-two-years kitchen appliances and shredding documents we don't need any more. Will try to tackle those this weekend.

Probably the best (and most cathartic) progress was against my online life. Hooooboy, I weeded out a ton of RSS feeds that were either extinct or that I only click through now, instead of actually reading. I also tamed the things I follow on Facebook for a much calmer newsfeed. Felt really good.

As for next month? Here's what's on tap—some big ones. Eek!

  • Kindness: Don't assume the worst
  • Energy: Resist the pull
  • Possessions: Buy things that will improve my life
  • Discovery: Devote two hours a weekend to language

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sybaritic weekend

*sparklingly []
{ Broccoli bouquet | January 2013 }

In the spirit of trying new things (that sometimes don't work), when I received a free day pass to a nearby Equinox I thought I should give it a whirl.

Since I've had a gym in my apartment building ever since I left university—and I like to do my own workouts at home—I haven't been a member of an actual gym with a juice bar and classes and whatnot in almost a decade. NYC gyms are pricey, and I could never justify the cost since I have machines and weights downstairs, BUT, the idea of mixing things up with classes seemed interesting, so away I went Saturday morning in the snow to 3SUM (I actually didn't even get the play on words at first—sad).

The class is supposed to be 90 minutes of cycling, strength work and yoga, but I only stayed for about 45 minutes. There was this weird, high school clique-y feeling that was the opposite of fun. The instructor never asked if anyone was new and spewed out instructions that didn't make sense. When we got into the weight room it was mass pandemonium with people reserving spots for themselves and delineating "no-fly" zones which meant I was smushed in by the door. I had  zero view of the instructor and she called out rapid-fire instructions that only the regulars got so I was flailing around like a fool.  And, I don't like looking foolish, so I sneaked out and decided to at least make use of the sauna and steam room before heading home.

Now, Equinox talks up their plush amenities (Kiehls! Orchids! Etc.!), was just okay. I only spent a few minutes in the sauna, because it was co-ed and there were some definite "bros" talking it up. It also wasn't that hot and it had fluorescent lights that wrecked the ambiance. The women-only steam room was a bit nicer, except that every 3-4 minutes the system pumped in more steam with these horrifically loud machines that sounded like 45 hand dryers all turning on at the same time.

So, me and Equinox? Not so much.

The next afternoon R and I both had a session booked at AIRE—which we have tried and loved—and slipping back in to enjoy a massage, the baths, the steam and the flamenco music was, just as we remembered, wonderful.

Two sybarites and a steamy, thermal-bath Sunday, followed by raw cacao-coconut-maca hot chocolates at home, was so much better than the less-than-equalizing Equinox.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pioneering in a chilly city

{ Whatever it takes to stay warm  |  January 2013 }

There are some books that make you feel like supremely cozy and safe, like you're sitting in a plush chair in front of a roaring fire with your feet clad in wool-y socks and propped up on an ottoman. Perhaps a golden retriever snoozing nearby, and definitely a pot of spicy tea (or tumbler of whiskey) and some little vanilla-spiced nibblie on a tray next to you. Surrounded by good spirits with all the darkness and ghosties banished outside. Any one of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books does it for me, as do Laura Ingall Wilders'. When I lived alone and had a spooky night, I'd always grab one of my Anne Shirley books to settle my nerves. 

I've been thinking about coziness and cold and fireplaces (mainly how I don't have one) since the temperature in NYC has been hovering somewhere between 7 and 15 degrees F with a windchill below 0. Despite my potentially impending move to Sweden, I don't have a winter coat that can stand up to that kind of cold, but I cobbled together something else to combat the frigidness:

One morning last week, I thought there was nothing proper to take with me to the office for lunch, since all we had in the fridge before groceries arrived was a sweet potato and yogurt, but with about an hour before I had to leave for work I popped it in the toaster oven for a bake and prepared a yogurt-parsley sauce to top it off with. Rather than snuggle the potato in with the sauce for the trip in, I wrapped it in foil and stuck it in my pocket for the walk to the subway. Do you remember that scene from Little House in the Big Woods? I think seeing Laura at the library last week reminded me of it. It all felt very prairie and quaint and lovely...although I wished I had a few for my boots, or, that I didn't have to leave the house at all.

From the Big Woods to the Big Apple, all thanks to a hot potato.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My one-day juice cleanse with Juice Press

{ Juice Press juices for my 1-day "cleanse" | January 2013 }

So here's the thing: I don't like the idea of juice cleanses (too restrictive! no chewing?! so boring!).

But here's the other thing: I'm always up for trying something new.

Which is how I ended up stopping by an outpost of Juice Press before heading into work two weeks ago to purchase the 5 juices + 2 nut milks above. One of the reasons I never did this before (besides being somewhat anti-juice cleanse) is because juice places in NYC are super expensive and a lot of them, like BluePrint and Cooler Cleanse are chock full of sugar (which made me shy away even when there was a great Gilt City deal available).

I had been to Juice Press before to buy one-off juices or one of their raw/gluten-free dishes and was pretty familiar with them and their products. So when I thought about trying drinking juice for a day just to see what would happen, I checked out their suggested one-day cleanse. While it was significantly better (both price and sugar-wise) than others, it was still too sugary for me. The good thing is they had enough variety of mostly-vegetable juices for me to put together my own one-day plan and cut the sugar down from more than a cup to about 10 teaspoons (still much more than I'd like, but manageable). I also wanted to put together my own little plan because their suggested one had ZERO nut milk (I don't know how any one could get through a day of just swilling vegetables). Craziness.

Here's my haul and the order I had them in:
  • Cardamom Coconut Milk: coconut water, coconut meat, ginger juice, spices, sea salt
  • Mother Earth: celery, cucumber, parsley, kale, dandelion, swiss chard, lemon, ginger
  • Spanish Fly: cucumber, olive oil, lime, red peppers, parsley, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, amino acids, onion, chipotle, black pepper
  • H2 Gravity: cucumber, celery, kale, lemon, aloe e3 live
  • Drink Your Salad: carrot, celery, tomato, beet, lemon, spinach, kale, parsley, sea salt, garlic, onion, cayenne 
  • Almond Milk: almonds, filtered water, coconut oil, vanilla, sea salt
My favorite blends were the Cardamom Coconut Milk (insanely good) and Spanish Fly (a feisty, slurpable gazpacho!).

How did it go?
Well, turns out there's a reason I don't like the idea of juice cleanses. They aren't fun.

The juices were tasty and the first few were fine, but around 3PM I was dying to chew on something, anything! I couldn't even stomach the last vegetable juice because I'd had enough, so I saved it for the next day. And...I'm not going to lie. When I got home I had a piece of dark chocolate and a few spoons of cashew butter.

I also didn't notice any difference in my energy or sleep or...bodily functions (sorry—just trying to give the whole picture!). I suppose one day isn't enough time to see any difference...or that my intake wasn't that different from how I normally eat, so maybe no major results? Even though I didn't really get anything out of it, I'm still glad I tried it.

But, I was more than ready to tuck in to my plate of sauteed kale, poached pastured egg and feta cheese the morning after.

I'll stick to my usual routine of only-one-a-day green smoothies (not juice) made at home, but will definitely still stop by Juice Press for a fix of raw and gluten-free treats or when I want some variety in the green juice/smoothie department (I have a 1,000 watt blender, but even that's not good enough to pulverize tough greens completely).

Have you done a juice cleanse before? How'd it go?

Friday, January 25, 2013

All Good Things Market in Tribeca

*sparklingly (
{ All Good Things Market in Tribeca | January 2013 }

There's no end to the markets in New York, be they farmer's, stock or specialty foods, but you'll find that New Yorkers (myself included) are always up for poking around a new one (although I prefer the foodie, non-financial-exchange type).

I first heard about All Good Things Market in an Edible Manhattan article in the fall, but we hadn't had a chance to wander around it until last weekend when we took a walk along the waterfront on Sunday to see for ourselves.

And...I might have been okay not making the trip.

It just didn't have the same feel as Chelsea Market and Eataly uptown or New Amsterdam Market and Fulton Market further downtown—it seemed a little worn (maybe because they tried to keep the building intact?) and sad (not nearly as bustling and warm as the article made it sound).

Perhaps there was just a Sunday lull, but the sparse little market (as sparse as its website!) didn't have a lot of offerings on display so we only grabbed a quick coffee. We had wanted to get our bi-weekly'ish flowers there, as well as a few items for a small dinner party we were hosting that night, but ended up going a few blocks away to Whole Foods instead.

And, surprisingly, we had a really good (read: not Whole Paycheck-y at all!) experience. Would you believe I found a bunch of hydrangea for $10? There were 5 blooms and usually they're $3-$4 a stalk elsewhere! Turned my afternoon right around.

Having our friends bring their adorable 3-year old beagle over for dinner helped, too. So, disappointing market experience aside, it was a satisfying Sunday evening after all.

Here's to a lovely weekend ahead for y'all!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Libraries: both literary and libationary

{ via }
Have I told y'all about my fascination with and love for libraries? Plop me in a library and you can leave me there for hours.  My small, fold-y wallet (the kind that if you put cash in and flap it open and closed it "locks" the bills in behind an elastic band) only has room for 4 cards to be shown and 8 cards to fit, and my NYPL card with the beautiful lion is right on top.

While I tend to read e-books more than physical now, only for ease of travel and to indulge in bedtime reading after R has gone to sleep, I still check out real books from my local branch every few weeks and cover them religiously, of course. But the other day I realized I had been admiring my library from afar—it's on a charming side street in SoHo and was just recently built and added to the network, so it's gorgeous inside: all gleaming steel and warm glossy wood and light streaming in everywhere. The architect did this crazy beautiful staircase that cuts through the floors and filters light to almost every corner—and I know almost all of that from "following" the Mulberry Street Branch Library on Facebook, despite being in the neighborhood and walking through their front doors pretty regularly.  I usually just zip up to the brick building, through the front door, grab my books from the hold desk right by the checkout counter and scooch back out.

I'd never actually descended into its literary depths, which seemed ridiculous. So I made sure to change all that last week. I bypassed the hold shelf when I walked in and skipped down the broad steps to the floors beneath, the first being the children's room. How is it that the kid's area has the same scent in every library? When I spotted one of Laura Ingall Wilders' books on a nearby shelf, I wondered how much I'd be missed from the office if I sank into a pouf for a few hours with Ma and Pa and Laura and Mary.

+ + +

When I was younger I would ride my bike out of our neighborhood after swim practice and past the 7-11 to the library. I had a white metal basket attached to the front of my shiny turquoise bike that I'd fill to the brim with books for the week. I wouldn't even take the basket into the house when I rode home, I'd plop myself under "my" tree on our side yard for a few hours first.

+ + +

In college my friends knew I'd disappear to the slightly musty "stacks" of the oldest library on campus to study—no modern, cold library for me. I wanted to be near the books in my little wooden cubby with brittle maps and portfolios and scrolls at my fingertips, even if I had no need of them. I just liked knowing I could look if I wanted.

All through college I even worked for the Office of the University Librarian. Her role was to curate the University's collections, handle donations and acquisitions, and host shiny events with donors and esteemed guests—I loved it. I was being paid to putter around books and work on their behalf (plus those events with the fancy cheese and delicacies were part of the deal).

+ + +

Even as an adult with my e-books and salary from a non-libary job and not a racerback swimsuit in sight, I seek out libraries.

I had heard about the Nomad Hotel just north of Madison Square Park and its amazing dining rooms and bars. I mean seriously, just click here and look at its rooftop restaurant. Doesn't that look like Neal Caffrey's apartment on White Collar?

Anway, beautiful as that is, what I was obsessed with was the Library. A place with real books (I think the Ace Hotel has a similar set up but its books are fake—!) and a spiral staircase and elegantly-plied libations is basically my happy place.

I arranged to meet R after work last Friday, but the place is so amazingly fabulous that there was a wait for the bar which led to a wait for the Library! The bar is set up against a back wall behind the restaurant, and buffered on one side by the kitchen and the other by the Library. But, you can't reserve the Library—you have to put your name down at the bar. But the bar itself was already so packed that we had to wait in the hotel lobby! We lasted 20 minutes before we decided to come back during the week (bonus though: Michael J. Fox was waiting next to us! Well, he waited for a second in the lobby and then of course he was escorted right in).

Don't worry, cozy couches and weathered books and brandy snifters. I'll be back.
{ The Library at the Nomad Hotel via }

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A sheaf of the past

*sparklingly (
{ Newest kitchen scrubbie using bits of leftover yarn  |  January 2013 }
Last Saturday I lit a few thick, white pillar candles in the apartment, powered up a Brothers & Sisters marathon on Netflix and settled myself on the couch with two huge leather containers of handwritten mail from the last 10 years. I've long wanted to tackle a whittling down, but having a little plan was exactly the push I needed to actually do it.

+ + +

It's little surreal to have such a tangible piece of your past—someone's words to you for your birthday, graduation, holidays, or just a thinking-of-you note all there in curlicues and elegantly-looped addresses and doodles in the margin and pretty stationery and smooth ink and abbreviations from a secret language I forgot I spoke.

Some envelopes stayed closed.  Memories locked within the folds of letters from family. Words I wasn't ready to read again or photos that made me think of too many things. Stepping back into who I was and the circles that contained me was as painful as it was beautiful because I realized some aren't as strong any more, but they're still there.

+ + +

Thomas Jefferson kept copies of the correspondence he wrote, which gave me the idea to photocopy the envelopes and contents of all the letters and cards I used to send. I don't do it anymore (I also don't send very many handwritten notes), but seeing my own words ricochet back to me from across the years made me realize I shouldn't have ever stopped doing it either.

+ + +

After a few hours I finally finished paring down my collection and tied one last bow around one last bundle for safekeeping. The discarded letters and cards were hauled in a metal basked to the recycling chute. Then I padded into the kitchen to blend another batch of my winter oil concoction. A perfectly homey and comforting end to a day spent looking over my shoulder.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013: The year that will be—a plan

[Last little bit! This is a continuation of two previous posts about what I want to do in 2013—my manifest year. I shared my idea and formula earlier, now here's my plan to make it happen!]

*sparklingly (
{ Colors I love (and food group/flowers, too!) | January 2013 }

Once I had a very official-sounding formula worked out for what I wanted to do in 2013 (and beyond, I suppose),  I bucketed and edited and came up with these intentions for the year:

Kindness—Be nice.
  • Don't assume the worst: I have a habit of assuming someone is trying to annoy me or that someone didn't do what I asked/what they should have. All that does is make me angry (before even knowing the real deal), poised to overreact and automatically having a frown on my face. Enough of that.
  • Make mornings and evenings more sacred: R and I have different schedules and tend to run off with our days or to bed without ever connecting. It's pitiful. I'd love if we could spend a few minutes (or more!) actively together with coffee or just talking about our days before we race out of bed and out the door or a few minutes with a glass of wine or a walk around the block before bogging ourselves down with iPads, smartphones, TV, knitting and books at the end of the day. And of course, each should be punctuated with a proper hello/goodbye/goodmorning/goodnight.
  • Jot down one good thing about each day: It's too easy to let days go by without giving thanks. And, I think a grateful person would be a kind person, no?

Possessions—Simplify the things that get in the way and highlight the things that inspire.
  • Go shelf by shelf: Our home is pretty organized, but there are trouble spots that give me endless eye twitches whenever I see them, like the cabinet above our stove, the cabinet below the bathroom sink, our catch-all boxes in our living room nook (that have odd linens, odd electronics, etc.), our document drawer (which can be cleaned out of the oldest documents) and my leather boxes of correspondence (I save way too much).
  • Document our travels: Ever since I stopped printing photos 3-4 years ago, I haven't made any scrapbooks (something I used to do a lot of) and I'd love to change that by creating a few "yearbooks" for us as well as print and frame some pictures from our travels for a gallery wall.
  • Buy things that will improve my life: We need a new home laptop, desperately. We waste time trying to jerryrig it (frustrating) and waiting for it (annoying) to do what we want. It's time to buy a new one. And, time to get over my fear of spending money and invest in things that will make our lives better.

Beliefs—I believe in something, but what?
  • Go to mass every Sunday: At least for a bit, and then try to go more frequently afterwards.
  • Find a spiritual/artistic mentor: I'd like to lose myself in the story of someone else's life-well-lived for inspiration.

Energy—Subtract to add.
  • Cull my online life: Do I really read all those blogs in my reader? Do I really need to be friends with/follow all those people/businesses on Facebook? On Instagram? Do I read all the "deals" emails I get? No. It's time to unfollow/unsubscribe.
  • Ease away from negative nancies: This goes two ways—not only would I like to avoid the people that bring me down, but I need to treat the people that I can't get away from (that do bring me down) more positively.
  • A little bit of suffering: Spending a few minutes in the evening doing something that I don't want to do (like watering our 19 plans) will free up a lot of time on the weekends to indulge in the things I do want to do.
  • Resist the pull: It's so easy to "check one thing" and then stay glued to my phone for the next 42 minutes. What about if in the morning, evening and weekends I only checked my phone at specific intervals? Like, in the morning no active phone time until I'm sitting down with my breakfast. In the evening, one check of my phone after dinner, and then not again for the rest of the night. On the weekends: only after a meal (or if I'm actively making plans with someone). And, let's limit the Netflix (unless I'm also doing something else, like cleaning, knitting, organizing photos, etc.), shall we?

Discovery—I've always loved school, so why have I stopped actively learning?
  • Devote two hours a weekend to language: Sign up for an online course—starting with Italian and if those two hours stretch out, all the better!
  • Devote an hour a week to design tools: Sign up for an online course on how to use Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. First up: Photoshop.
  • Attend a lecture: I live in NYC—not only an always-on city, but studded with universities and museums. Why have I never attended an art history lecture? I've done this exactly ONCE since college (in DC), and never in NYC, even though I love it. Time to rectify this sad state of affairs.

At first I thought to focus on one topic a month, but there were some I couldn't wait until April or May to get started with, so perhaps a little mixing and matching?

And, my idea is to focus on specific actions each month, but when the month is over, I'll keep those going while adding on new ones. I actually began working on these a few weeks ago, and so far, I've noticed an actual difference! And, it's possible some intentions from future months might creep up into the present, which could only be a good sign. Here's what I'm thinking:

  • Kindness: Make mornings and evenings more sacred
  • Possessions: Go shelf by shelf
  • Energy: Cull my online life

  • Kindness: Don't assume the worst
  • Energy: Resist the pull
  • Possessions: Buy things that will improve my life
  • Discovery: Devote two hours a weekend to language

[Purposely coincides with Easter]
  • Kindness: Jot down one good thing about each day
  • Beliefs: Go to mass every Sunday
  • Energy: Endure a little bit of suffering
  • Possessions: Document our travels  

  • Beliefs: Find a spiritual/artistic mentor
  • Discovery: Attend a lecture

  • Energy: Ease away from negative nancies
  • Discovery: Devote an hour a week to design tools

Can't wait to share more with y'all about how this is going and my experience so far. And if you made it all the way through this extended bout of navel gazing, thank you!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday meanders: 5

[A few new tidbits to share from my online poking around after a lengthy holiday hiatus...enjoy!]
{ Table Mountain in South Africa via Sydney Blogger }

+ Table Mountain: Major wanderlust has struck again—look at this gorgeous landscape in South Africa (pictured above)!

+ Owning up: Well, well, well, Coca-Cola admits that it "makes Americans fat" in a new ad, although it's heavily caveated. The ad acknowledges that soda contributes to weight gain, but also points out that obesity is the result of too many calories of anything. The bigger thing for me with soda is the sugar, which isn't mentioned, but at least it's some sort of start.

+ 100-year old cartoon predicting how completely texting would ruin the world, from a 1906 issue of the humor magazine Punch.

+ Otter wax not only has an adorable name, but would have come in handy when I wanted to keep my new shoes looking spanking new.

+ New favorite work tunes. Good rhythms for creating PowerPoint slides.

+ Ingenious way to live comfortably in NYC with very little space...and lots of good organization (and cash for crazy cool tech investments and well-designed furniture/objects).

+ And, PS I'm a huge Angelina Jolie fan for a number of reasons. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013: The year that will be—a formula

[Continuing my earlier scribbles about 2013—my manifest year. I told you my idea on Tuesday and here's my formula to help make it happen (with one more post soon!)]

*sparklingly (
{ Something worth internalizing | via }

After coming to a startling realization, and deciding that 2013 shall be my year of making things manifest, I came up with a formula for making it happen:

(A+B) - C = A better manifested me!
(No, I did not mean to make that rhyme).

Confused? Here's what I mean:

A. I started by making a list of things that make me happy—the types of things I would fill my days with if not for normal obligations and work:
  • "Getting" something on my own (like, learning a knitting stitch, figuring out what something abstract means, putting together some little organizational system—yes, yes, I'm a nerd, untangling code to make this blog look the way I want it to, how a bunch of seemingly unconnected events fit together and create a huge repercussion—which is what I loved about my art history classes in university)
  • A good happy/dramatic cry (from reading a book or watching something—I'm looking at you: West Wing, Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, etc.)
  • Time alone
  • Watching babies and/or dogs play
  • Crafty sessions
  • Music
  • Candlelight
  • Long walks/flaneurs
  • Good wine in cozy wine bars
  • Day trips
  • Weekend trips
  • Creating organizational systems (worthy of a second mention)
  • Making plans
  • Putting something together (trip docs, citizenship papers, scrapbooks)
  • Surprising other people
  • When I make R laugh or shock him when I know something (a word in Italian, random geography since I'm generally bad at it, etc.)
  • Academic lectures (in art history, literature, nutrition, nature and related subjects)
  • Reading uninterrupted for hours
  • Reading "children's" literature: Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, etc.
  • Keeping lists (quotes, places, books, goals)

B. And then I thought about the things I want to make a priority—either to learn/do/have, but haven't made any effort recently, despite being really interested:
  • Italian: I've passively learned, but as I'm a perfectionist, I don't speak nearly as well as I should after almost 8 years with R
  • Swedish: I haven't made any attempt because I know I can go to school for free in Sweden...but why shouldn't I spend some time with the basics now?
  • Figuring out the perfect blend of things I'm good at and things I like doing to forge the most fulfilling career: I like organizing, planning, crafting communications, creating an experience based on an idea, editing, critiquing, branding...if I put all that in a magic hat, what career would I pull out?
  • Until I figure that out, I'd like to find meaningful projects to take on as my normal work schedule allows to help me continue to prepare for a new (future) career by learning new skills (like graphic design), shoring up ones I already have and creating connections with interesting people that might lead to interesting projects
  • Better relationships
  • Stronger faith

C. And then, I thought about the things that get in the way of that, like:
  • Wasting time reading blogs I'm not interested in anymore or trailing cookie crumbs all over the Internets from one random thing to the next
  • The Netflix black hole (damn you, automatically-play-next-episode, feature!)
  • Being tired
  • Foul mood because I am one of those people that definitely sweats the small stuff (family angst, work angst, friendship angst, irritatingness of silly things I have to do but don't want to—like, rolling over a 401-K account, dealing with customer service, etc.)
  • Using a rickety 6-year old laptop at home

If I could get rid of C (the time wasters/energy zappers/laziness/etc.), I'd have more time to focus on A (the things I already love to do) and B (the things I want to be better at), all so that I can manifest the life I want...which I might describe as living abroad, being multi-lingual, having relationships that delight me and life work that fulfills me.

[To spare you a lengthy read—my plan for doing something about this is coming up next!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013: The year that will be—an idea

[Apologies if you saw this last week—was tinkering with my draft and accidentally hit publish!]
*sparklingly (
{ Soho office  |  14 January 2013 }

I've hinted a little bit about the things I've been thinking about recently—but it took me a while to turn them into words.

The gist of it is, I want to make some changes—and I'm not talking the physical/wellness ones, which you know I've got a pretty good handle on already, but bigger life changes. This isn't just about New Year's resolutions, but anytime resolutions. There are things I want to achieve, to do, to experience, to see, to be...but I let the mundane get in the way. I don't make time for the things I should, and then I wonder why I don't feel fulfilled.

Do you know of the practice of choosing one word to be your "theme" of the year? I've seen it floating around online every January, but never thought about doing it for myself, but this year? This year I shall.

The first word that popped into my mind when I considered what I wanted to inspire and influence my year has been floating around for two weeks, and it still feels right, so I share it with you:

adjective: Clear or obvious to the eye or mind
verb: Display or show by one's acts or appearance; demonstrate

It feels right for so many reasons. I know there's something deeper, better, more meaningful in me, and this year, the year that may be one of many transitions for me, I want to dig down and see something that should be manifest to me already,but I've been too blockheaded or lazy to see it. And, I want to manifest feelings and emotions that will help me to be better. A better person living a better life and treating others better.

All this was on my mind at the end of last year and then I read Gretchen Rubin's Happiness books and something clicked: only I can be in control of how I feel and how happy I am. If I'm not happy, guess whose fault that is?

Reading them another super simple thing clicked: I LIVE for to-do lists, for charts and graphs and things I can check off. So why hadn't I written down the things I want to do and then the things I need to do to make them happen? Gretchen does monthly resolutions, but not something as airy as "be nicer", instead actual actions she can take like, "Don't expect praise", "Don't make my husband my dumping ground", "Leave things unsaid", "Sing in the morning", etc.

And to further pet my hyper-organized self, she clumped all of her resolutions into big buckets for things she could work on each month like: Energy, Marriage, Career & Leisure, Parenthood, etc. 

My first thought was, a woman who gets me! My second was: how come I'm not doing this?

[This is getting long, so my "formula" & plan for doing something about this are coming up next!]

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012: The year that was

*sparklingly (
{ Copacabana | Rio de Janeiro | March 2012 }
I love things tied up neatly with a perky bow. Beginnings, middles and ends. A coda, if you will.

And, I love reading personal roundups on blogs of things done, seen, tasted, lived and accomplished in a year. I think that's one of the main reasons I began reading blogs oh...10 years ago. For that peek inside someone's notebook, inside their calendars, their lists, their bags (I really can't get enough of those "what's in my bag" or "a day in the life" posts!). And, it's something I think about when it comes to my scribbles here, because I started this for two main reasons:
  1. To remember the small things—especially when I think back to the old blog I had. I wish I had never stopped writing in these 7 intervening years because I'm sure it would have been amazing to read back through (especially since I'm "paging" through the offline archives now and remembering things I had forgotten).
  2. To try and make myself more positive, which also leads to maybe being too "perfect" here, but I think anyone who does this for more than one post knows that it's always a little tricky to know how much to share (especially if you're like me and would rather stay anonymous for now). On the one hand, what fun is it to read someone's writing if they don't share enough for you to relate to, on the other, I don't want to share everything and on the other (third hand now?) it depends on who/what you're writing for. 
So, even though I didn't pluck away on my keyboard over here for all of last year, I'm going to do a little share-fest summary of 2012 anyway to remind myself of this past year and give more meaning to the 365 days that just passed. And, I'm going to borrow a bit from Holly's format, because, well, why not?
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{ Buenos Aires | March 2012 }

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before? 
  • Took on freelance projects (three!). 
  • Had a grown-up, couples sleepover with friends that left the city for NJ (and an apartment three times the size of their NYC one for 2/3 the rent. Sigh.).  
  • Spent a week alone while R took a trip to the Caribbean with family (obviously I've been alone before, but it was the first time he'd gone off without me). 
  • Went to South America, the Mexican coast and Honduras.
  • Saw the space shuttle Enterprise fly over NYC. 
  • Went to the end of Long Island (after 5.5 years living in NYC as an adult!). Also, made a day trip to Coney Island (finally!).
  • Went on a post-college vacation with just my mom (to Mexico). 
  • Surivived without water, electricity or heat for 8 days during 30-degree weather.  
  • Hosted long-term houseguests...twice. 
  • Adjusted how I eat even more, completely rethought how I exercise and drastically changed the products I use
  • Traversed the entire length of Manhattan on a bike. 
  • Did a two-hour boat tour of the NY Harbor. 
  • Drove a convertible. 
  • Saw a blues show. 
  • Swam with dolphins!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make any for next year?
Nope, and oh yes. Stay tuned.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My college roommate, whom I haven't seen in years, but still stay close to thanks to Facebook, her blog and the random texts we send each other quoting Friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Counting myself lucky to claim another year with everyone I care about still here.

5. What countries did you visit? Cities?
Countries: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and Honduras.

  • Sanibel/Captiva, FL
  • New Orleans, LA (which I hated)
  • Atlanta, GA (for work)
  • Montauk, NY
  • Hudson, NY
  • Tom's River, NJ
  • And, a couple of towns in NJ that are visible from NYC (not sure if that counts)
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{ Riviera Maya | Mexico | July 2012 }

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
More time for things that I want to do, not just that I have to do.
Also: a dog. (Would not mind a washer/dryer, either).

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

Hmmm. Nothing really comes to mind. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Perhaps taking better care of myself physically and mentally (although there's room for improvement on the latter).

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not feeling like I was the best daughter, sister, wife, friend that I could have been.
Vague yes, but what grates on my mind the most.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
One weird bug at the end of the year, but nothing else that I can remember.
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{View of Sugar Loaf | Rio de Janeiro | March 2012 }

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A ticket to South America in March. R and I spent 10 days between Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Colonia di Sacramento. It was amazing.

Also: a slew of passes to Aire.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. Rent. Savings.   

13. What did you get really excited about?
Making progress on the moving-abroad front.
Finding a good stash of creamy local milk from happy cows

14. What were your favorite songs of 2012?
Sadly, I had to actually look up a list of 2012 Top Hits because I couldn't remember anything specific, so this is probably not even accurate, but:
  • Adele, Set fire to the rain
  • Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
  • Fun, We are young
  • The Wanted, Glad you came
  • One Direction, What makes you beautiful
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, Call me maybe (seriously)
  • David Guetta, Titanium
  • Chris Brown, Don't wake me up
  • Mumford & Sons, Babel (I pretty much liked the whole album)

15. Are you happier or sadder than last year? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
Neither happier nor sadder. A little thinner. A smidgen richer.
(Interesting: I'm "thinner"/richer", but not happier. All those happiness platitudes are right!)
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{ Captiva sunset | Florida | August 2012 }
16. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Spent more time with my family—willingly.
Learnt new things.

17. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Complaining. Worrying. Stressing.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Two weeks with R on an island off the coast of Honduras.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
I tend to watch shows after they've popped up on Netflix, so I'm a bit behind but:
  • White Collar (love the bromance, love Mozzie, love the implausible plots)
  • Mad Men (finally got on board)
  • Private Practice (took me a while to start watching this, too)

20. What were your favorite books of the year? 
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{ New Orleans | September 2012 }

    21. What were your favorite films of the year?
    Like TV, I don't see a lot of movies when they're out, but of the ones I have seen that actually came out in 2012 were The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Skyfall. Sad, huh? Any suggestions for others?

    22. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
    Turned 29 on my first (and last) trip to New Orleans. Thought I'd love it. Instead I hated it. Was not the feisty, mystical, bayou, cracker-jack-of-a-place that I thought it would be.

    23. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    A job I was completely and wholeheartedly passionate about—the kind that you go to bed thinking about and wake up thinking about. Do those exist? 

    24. What kept you sane?
    • Being able to walk to and from work when I switched jobs—those pops of time outside alone made the days better. 
    • Time to read 47 books and finish 8 knitting projects.
    • Lazy weekends at home with R,  a pretty breakfast spread, pots of coffee, music, candles and the NYT.
    • Adding a few new orchids to my collection.
    • The newly-built dog park on the waterfront near our apartment—which makes for very amusing weekend walk breaks.

    25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
    Not everything will be like you imagined—and that's okay.
    (Some things may be even better).

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    1 month of Pure Synergy vitamins & superfood powder

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    { Mmm, green! | January 2013 }
    Remember how I was going to do a little tweak to my daily routine and start taking a vitamin and nutritional supplement? Well, I ended up purchasing the Women's Wellness Pack A (daily vitamin/herb supplement in tablet form + superfood powder) from The Synergy Company because I liked that none of their ingredients were synthetic, everything was organic, the company is a small business in Utah and their business and wellness philosophy were inspiring.

    { Pure Synergy Vitamin Supplement }
    { Pure Synergy Superfood Powder }
    Here's how it went:

    Day 1: Took 1 vitamin (recommended dosage is 6 daily) and made a green smoothie with a teaspoon of the superfood powder for breakfast (recommended dosage is 1 tablespoon). I eat a LOT of vegetables, but that initial whiff of the powder was tough even for me to take. Yawned all day, no change in digestion, energy, etc. Feeling majorly bummed and wondering if I just wasted $100.

    Day 3: Still suspect about the amount of money I spent on this stuff. No change in energy level/digestion/etc. Sigh.

    Day 5: Status quo.

    Day 7: Coming down with a cold—think it's a mixture of non-stop work and wonky weather (a 30-degree day followed by a 60-degree day and I had the wrong outerwear)—and I'm averse to taking NyQuil/DayQuil or any of its ilk, so when I woke up all funky Saturday morning I made a larger-than-usual glass of superfood drink and took 3 pills.

    Day 9: I followed the same sick-girl routine as Day 7 and I feel the cold/flu whatever it is going away. So, maybe there's something to this stuff? Don't know yet.

    Day 20-something: Faithfully taking my dosages, but don't feel any different.

    Day 30-something:  Well, I'm sad to say that perhaps this wasn't the best investment. I really haven't noticed any major difference after about a month. I'll finish up my supply, but I wouldn't buy it again.

    Of course if something changes (like maybe it's not built up in my system enough and I'll soon feel burst of energy/clear skin/better digestion/stronger hair and nails, although that seems unlikely), I'll come back to update you, but I'm a bit disappointed.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    The Liebster Award

    Well this is a first!

    Just before the holidays Sparklingly was nominated by the very sweet Amanda at Pickles & Honey (thank you!) for The Liebster Award! To "accept" I have to:
    1. Write 11 random facts about yourself (whoa that's a lot)
    2. Answer the 11 questions given by the blogger who nominated you (with pleasure)
    3. Create 11 new questions (harder than I thought it'd be!)
    4. Nominate 11 bloggers and mention them in the post (um, we'll see)
    5. Thank the blogger who nominated you and tell the bloggers you’ve nominated (thank you again!)
    I don't know much about how this award got started, but I do love the chance to take a quiz! (I'm the person that loves filling out forms...well, not bureaucratic ones).

    Here we go!

    A few random facts about me (11 is requested, let's see how far I get):
    1. I used to always paint my toes red and my fingers clear/white. Then I got more "adventurous" and did shades of coral/pink/nudes on both, but stopped a few months ago (part of my series of tweaks)...the natural look is starting to grow on me. But I'm always worried my nails look unkempt and therefore I look slovenly.

    2. When I was younger I used to draw up elaborate plans for the farm and orchards and gardens I would one day have. I'd even pull down the encyclopedias and look up species of chicken and hens and goats and scribble them into the various pens and pastures I laid out.

    3. I spent an incredible amount of time outdoors as a little girl—when we moved from NYC to VA we suddenly had a huge yard at the end of a cul-de-sac (which meant a ginormous forest beyond our house) and I spent almost all my time outside. Even when we went to our parents' store (when we couldn't stay home alone), it was a shopping area between a horse farm and a ravine-like area. Every weekend (until we were old enough to work) we'd muck around in the woods.

    4. I learned to read at a really young age and get zero motion sickness (thank goodness), so I am always with a book in hand (or on my device). This made car trips between NYC and VA zoom by. I even walk down NYC streets reading now.

    5. Some of the foods I love now (eggplants, mushrooms, brussell sprouts, meat) are things I didn't enjoy very much when young.

    6. Whenever I doodle, it's always nouns that I like: names of people, places, streets, towns, etc. I threw a fit when the best apartment I found after university was on a street whose name I didn't like. I actually don't like my street name now, but, it's not bad (how great would it be to live in NYC and be on...Pearl Lane or Maiden Lane or Waverly Place? Sadly, I don't live on any of those).

    7. I have wide feet, which makes shoe shopping immensely annoying...although they were the means through which I met my Sicilian Swede, so at least they've got that going for them. 

    8. I'm still holding onto the belief that a town like Star's Hollow exists. 

    9. Fun fact related to the previous point, I've also thought I'd open an inn or B & B some day. I could be Lorelai.

    Amanda's questions answered:

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    Postcard from Honduras

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    { Strolling down the beach | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
    I'm back! Happy New Year!

    I'd gotten used to falling asleep to waves lapping at the beach below our balcony, but last night I fell asleep to the lullaby of the city, which is a melody in itself. It's nice to be home—although, I'm not exactly looking forward to sitting at a desk tomorrow instead of on a chaise, staring at a laptop and monitor instead of the horizon, but, I have lots of photos and memories to remind me of our lovely vacation.

    Lots to share with you, too, because I spent lots and lots of time thinking (when not reading, although some thinking prompted by what I was reading), but before I get into all that, a last look at Honduras:
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    { Morning light | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { Beachfront | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { Looking up | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { Palms and pines | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { View from our balcony | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { From my chaise to R's | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { We got quite tan | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }
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    { Leaving a mark | Roatan, Honduras | Dec 2012-Jan 2013 }