Monday, October 31, 2016

Life as a House

Awhile back, I, along with a guy I was dating, rented Kevin Kline's Life As a House. Of course, the movie was pretty much as bad as our relationship and I was relieved when both things came to an end. However, with my evolving views on food, I've come to view our bodies as houses in which foods serves as the decor.

Although I went to school awhile back, I remember learning in my education courses that students gain strong understanding through comparisons. While one may not learn all the details of the Magna Carta signing (according to Jon Stewart, American students are required by law to only know it was signed in 1215), students will generally understand the document's fundamental purpose by comparing it to a situation in which they've asked their "strict" parents for greater leniency at home. And, lately (for whatever reason) I've been comparing the foods we eat to the decoration of a house.

I love interior decorating. Unfortunately, I don't decorate much in the small room I rent in D.C. But I dream of the day I can do it. However, due to budgetary constraints, I'm big on accents over essentials. While I love to shop, the thought of looking for a couch makes my stomach turn. Looking for a lamp however, turns me on... partially for the sake of the pun. However, this emphasis on accouterments or decorative accents once traveled into my dietary habits as well, eating non-essential sugars before delving into any minerals or proteins my body needed. And, as such, my body was thrown into an unbalanced rage of hormones, food addictions and mood swings... all of which I thought were normal until I finally went "couch shopping."


I refer to the post Candid-dida a lot but, truly, many of my current thoughts on food derive from the practices cited within. Switching purely to a natural diet (replete with Soy Dream and Almond Breeze) woke me up to the nutrients my body truly craved as well as the way different foods made my body feel... for better or worse. What I truly learned was that my body was consistently hungry because it wasn't getting the nutrients it required, just as someone might be constantly uncomfortable if they never had a seat in a house to sit on. While one may spend time on the hard floor, in the above situation, they'd constantly be searching for a comfortable couch.

I remember shopping for couches with my parents at a young age... my brother and I dragged along to sterile warehouses because my parents couldn't find (or more likely wouldn't pay) for a sitter on a Saturday afternoon. Such was the mindset of the previous generation: they saved for essentials, bought them and made their kids behave while they did it (and when they didn't, they couldn't go to McDonald's). Fully including myself in the forthcoming group, the generation of today (with some exceptions) is of a new breed. We're either too poor, too impatient or, (in my case) too indifferent and delusional to save for something as utilitarian as a couch - how else would we pay for our free-range chicken? On the whole, we want different things and that's great. I remember reading in Bazaar that a particular socialite claimed to favor, "[having] the latest shirt on her back rather than a chair to sit on." But, perhaps, we as millennials are still maturing because, as I found with eating, there's a certain humility in sacrificing what's exciting (chocolate) for something less sexy (chicken) but helps keeps our bodies (and, by proxy, lives) on an even keel.

It's important to have a couch and a concept of its spelling.

Youth is an exciting time of life. By definition, there are less responsibilities and more time left over for pleasure-seeking. For me, this temptation came in the form of sweets. I'm not sure if growing up in a family where sugary cereal was shunned set me off but candy released my inner Catholic school-girl and because my vices were laced with sugar, I literally became hooked consuming cupcakes, cookies and (mostly) ice cream in lieu of broccoli, fish or anything healthy. Because to make up for the caloric density of the products I was consuming, I let go of those less tempting just as one might forgo the purchase a couch or table to hang a pretty picture on the wall. Indeed, akin to the interviewee from Bazaar, I filled my "house" with cute end tables and paintings before realizing I had no place to sit. One may say, empty calories led to an empty house. So below, I've made my own little comparisons from furniture to food - those which are for function and those which are "fancy". Enjoy!

From the Couch to the Kitchen Table: Even if you live in a studio, you'll usually have a small kitchen, bathroom and living room/bedroom. And while bathrooms often come equipped with related essentials, the smallest space to the largest will have a place to eat (table) a place to sit (futon) and a place to sleep (futon) - at least in my situation. A larger house is usually a play off  this simple structure, simply with more rooms to sleep and sit - often featuring nicer fabrics. And while humans live in similar structures, we often benefit most from the same foods.

There's a reason why kale is a super-food. It's generally healthy for all individuals (barring some conflict with thyroid issues). For the most part, a diet centered around dark, leafy greens, beans and meat is what will provide most humans with their core nutrients. If you're ever feeling low, try the recipes below.


Accouterments: Once our core pieces (or foods) are in place, we can make things a little more comfortable... or flavorful. This is where nightshades come in. Just as throw blankets, pillows and decorative lamps seem to make a room more cozy/habitable, sauces, broths and herbs can serve to "spice up" a particular dish. Tomato sauce over chicken, dipping cucumbers in baba ganoush and serving potatoes alongside a meat dish can add to the sense of comfort and flavor it delivers without often serving as the main feature.

Kitchen Utensils: I've written nuts up as a form of kitchen utensils because, while they're essentially essential, they often go unnoticed to guests in a home or someone new to healthy eating. As such, I've only begun adding nuts to my diet, mostly because you can buy them in bulk, controlling the size of your purchase and also because they last a long time and serve as a great source of protein, magnesium and selenium... the last two of which can help with a good night's rest.

And just as one has a unique preference about how they might decorate a house, individuals often prepare ingredients to suit their specific inclinations for temperature, texture and cooking style. As for me, I'm a lover of liquids. Soups, juices and even dips qualify as my favorite physical forms of food. And so, when it comes to nuts, my blender has become a proverbial trash can in which I throw my half-full boxes of coconut juice, quarter cups of coffee and half eaten chocolates alongside a handful of nuts to create my new favorite drink... adulterated nut milk. For a basic recipe (sans half-eaten chocolate) click here.

Art: While I like creating art, I'd really never think of buying it in its most formal sense. Aside from a few $35 pieces from Marshall's and maybe several drawings sold online, I can't wrap my head around why anyone would pay $20 million for a painting. It's not that I don't (and will never) have that kind of money... I can somehow see why a person of a certain tax bracket might drop 1 million on a ring, several million on a house or several homes for that matter. But a painting, something that doesn't even break into the third-dimension, should not add up to something which could feed an army, I think. So, unless you have a lot of disposable income and/or a body that can metabolize calories in the blink of an eye (which might just make you Melania Trump), most of us, financially and physically, are destined to watch what we eat (and spend), making sacrifices here and there... walking the tightrope wire of balance. And, that's not such a bad thing. 'Cause if things came easy, we might rely on such exciting sugars to fuel our days, playing fast and loose with our hormones as cited in the situation above.

$259 million at auction.

So, as I see my youth phase out in favor of a more solid entry to adulthood, it's no coincidence that I've had to make certain concessions as to what my reality is over what my idea of it may be. It's come with a realization of what I can spend (or more often can't) and what I want to spend things on. And yet, as I begin to eat more naturally my spending has gone down as I literally loosen my grip on lattes, alcohol and ice cream in favor of kale that's on sale. The ultimate irony is that, as I buy healthier items, my body is not constantly searching to spend on new ones which can deliver the nutrients it actually needs. Gone are the days of buying ice cream and wanting to buy more... either to satisfy sugar cravings or in an attempt to give my body the nutrients it needs. I've finally become comfortable on the couch.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Long and "Short" of It

In Health Before Beauty, I wrote about my flirtation with relaxing my frequency of leg shaving/waxing, particularly as Winter rounds the bend. The inspiration, ironically, has come from my yoga routine where I see men effortlessly dress in loose shorts while women don tiny shorts and a sports bra to remain comfortable in a 105 degree room. It's not so much about the clothing but the routines outside of class which accompany them. Wearing such garments means keeping up with your shaving/waxing routine on a religious basis and, frankly, I've grown tired (and a little broke) from it. However, I'm not trying to offend any eyes in the studio where the yoga practiced is strenuous enough. Rather, I'm planning to cash in on my long wait for baggy, 90's clothes to reemerge.

Loving sweatpants since 2014... and beyond.

Recently, Well + Good published and article featuring the latest trend of oversized sweatshirts... something I've been waiting on since 1995. Those were the days when you could listen to alt. rock or rap music and wear clothes that were equally baggy... just differently branded. And, within the article, I saw my dreams come to life (and then dashed) as I laid eyes on a Margiela sweatshirt. Baggy clothes are my happy place. I'm usually unfussy about my surroundings but clothes that surround your body in a tight fashion are literally too close for comfort. However, as I imagine making forays into unwaxed territory, I'm stocking up on reinforcements... "manely" baggy clothes that can get me through both yoga and work. I've also thrown in some leggings for good measure. Below are a few of my top picks. Enjoy!

Nike Temo Mesh-Panelled DRI-FIT Shell Shorts: While I dream about a day I don't have to shave, I've often encountered days where I haven't waxed. And while boy shorts are great for keeping one cool in the hot-room, the shorts above offer a cool fabric cut in a manner to provide better coverage for those days between the days.

The Upside: Printed Stretch Jersey Leggings: I'm usually not a huge fan of leggings but a cute pattern can sometimes push me over the edge. Known for their stylish yoga and swim apparel, The Upside delivers with a calming, sky-like pattern as well as full-length pant legs for those days (or weeks) when you have skipped shaving.

No Ka'Oi Kana Waffle Knit-Stretch Jersey Track Pants: Dreaming of days I don't have to shave is not enough. I also dream of days in sweatpants as well. Obviously, I'm a bit of a bum. But No Ka'Oi's pants make such a day seem accessible... and stylish. Plus, dropping a lot of money on them means you can wear them to work, right? Of course!

Oversized clothing is literally making headlines... or, at least, subject lines.

So there you have it, some shorts and pants to carry you through the days where we don't care to shave, wax, whatever. And, when all's said and done, the Nike Gym-Vintage Organic Cotton Track-Pants and the ASOS hoodie will probably find their way into my closet over the more pricey options above. Still, it's all not too shabby.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Health Before Beauty

Awhile back, I purchased a book by Slim Aarons which showed the rich and beautiful at play. It was a little odd. To some extent I felt I was looking at dolls arranged in a setting as opposed to glances of real-life in play. But one photo that made me particularly curious was of a woman in Italy who owned a health spa. What made me particularly curious about this photo, I suppose, was that health seemed to be indicative of the Italian lifestyle and that beauty was something one attended the spa for. Indeed, spas, or mineral springs were originally places indicative of health. However, today, you can get your haircut at a spa, get your nails done at a spa and have a happy ending to your day at the spa. Just kidding. But, as spa services stretch to provide more services to wealthy clients (or those who can afford $60 haircuts) the spa had become less of a hot spring and more of a hot spot for needless pampering.

We all need a little pampering but not all of us need rose petals as it plays out. Indeed, many advertisements for massages include a woman relaxed in a glossy filter surrounded by rose petals. What this woman doesn't know (or doesn't care about) is that said massage is going to cost her a pretty penny. Indeed when I usually book us massages once a year on vacation, my finance never fails to get a bit antsy at the register after seeing the final tally of services rendered. 

When I was in eleventh-grade, my history teacher told us that out Puritan roots run culturally deep, thanks to our European founders. In a way, he was right. When I worked part-time at Le Pain Quotidien, its ranks of international servers complained that there was no way they could get a decent massage in the city. One woman from Ethiopia claimed that in Addis Ababa, she could get a quick massage at the local spa, sit in the hot tub and get re-energized, all for the American equivalent of around 15 bucks. However, in America, there seems to be some guilt about feeling good. And when we do feel good, it's a big event. We schedule spa days replete with cucumber water and soft, trance-like music and we literally "pay for our sins." Unlike the quick and inexpensive massage experienced by my coworker, hour massages at a spa run around $120. A simple wax will set you back $35 and, as stated before, a haircut or trim can run up to $60... all before a tip is included. But massages and a few other services are not always the indulgent experiences we make them out to be. Indeed, as one of the million Americans who works out (another form of prostration not quite as extreme in other countries) I find it essential to have my muscles worked out every now and then. And, unfortunately, high prices can deter those who need the services most (read, the lady who cleans the mall bathrooms). So, as to assuage our collective guilt, I've tried to tease out some essential spa services which can help our bodies recover or deliver a unique sensory experience and those which are based more around beauty. As with all posts, you can disregard the information of you'd like... Enjoy!

Doing a little writing research...


Manicures: When I was young, manicures seemed like the ultimate (accessible) indulgence. In the 90's, when I was around 13 and likely the youngest kid in my class to have their eyebrows (and face) waxed, one generally had to go to the spa over the mall kiosk to get such things accomplished. So sometimes my mother (who was generally generous about such things) would let me get a manicure to both literally and figuratively take the sting out of the situation above. And, in general, I was surprised by how inexpensive they were compared to the other services on the menu. Indeed, there has been some controversy as of late regarding the health of nail "accoutrements" such as gel nails, paraffin waxes and polish. But a good, old-fashioned manicure sans any of the above ingredients is a great way to have some over-worked ligaments worked out and can even help circulation in the area when we get them buffed (see In the Buff). So, every now and then, I treat myself to a "dry manicure", without polish. And, if you live in the DC area, my new favorite spot is Coatroom in Ballston.

Pedicures: When I grew a bit older, the same salon I went to for a wax became the salon I would go to for a massage. They say adolescents are self-centered pricks and as such, I had no problem spending my parents' money on something I didn't need. However, during one session, I noticed my feet really start to relax as they were getting worked out by the masseuse. 

"Wow," I exclaimed, "that feels pretty good." 

"Well," he explained, "everything starts with our feet. It's where we spend most of our time."

As I've grown older and indeed spend more and more time on my feet, I can tell when they're begging for a pedicure. I generally wait a few weeks after they start aching since I no longer have my parents' cash on hand but, every six weeks or so, I march my tired toes into the salon for a pedicure... again, with no polish.

Massage: While some massages can be indulgent (who fucking needs a seaweed-wrap?) I've found that some can be practical. As I've grown older, my beauty (or health) routines have moved from the plush settings of salons and into mall kiosks where things are generally more efficient and less expensive. And just as my international "compatriots" at Le Pain experienced more low key and practical services abroad, I've found a small kiosk where massages based on Chinese medicine run from 15 minutes to an hour and cost about a dollar a minute. C'est magnifique!


There are a lot of services based solely around beauty (or our conception of it). Beyond getting our muscles worked out, whether they be on our hands, feet or back (see above) there's a lot of work done on an aspect of our body that are already dead... our hair. 

Haircuts: I've begun the "beauty" section with haircuts because, in general, haircuts are semi-essential. At some point, our tresses gets stressed and broken and fall out at a faster rate if we don't keep them a bit neat. But, beyond that, getting them colored with harsh chemicals, straightened (either chemically or by a straightener) or styled is something that falls squarely in the beauty category. Not that it's bad... just that it's costly and in the end, somewhat unnecessary to our routines. There is one exception I've found in blow drying, however. Several years ago, I struggled a bit with dandruff. At one point, my stylist asked, "do you wash your hair and then get into bed?" Indeed, having showered at night for as long as I can remember, I often washed my hair at the end of the day and hopped into bed. As such, having my scalp up against a head of wet hair for an entire evening led to oiliness, flakiness and a general grossness that could have been avoided with a little drying. And while I've lamented the high prices of spa services above, I have my eye on a T3 dryer for the holidays.

Waxing: When I was in college I wrote my senior thesis on the topic of female circumcision. Practiced mainly in East Africa, the tradition essentially helps women conform to a standard of beauty which, in the end, helps her secure a husband. During my presentation, a lot of faces showed discomfort and people squirmed in their seats (even though I didn't go into much detail). But, though not as extreme, waxing and shaving are small conformations to a standard of beauty that most people (myself included) might cringe at if not maintained. However, I've been thinking about it more and more. 

Recently, I've been having some trouble with my skin and have, at times, seriously considered dropping a lot of cash to have my hair follicles zapped with a laser so as to stop any growth and thereby eliminate one irritant from the derrrrrmis. And, yet, on the opposite end of the scale, I've also realized that simply letting it grow would probably produce the same result as longer hair can often be softer (I think). To some extent, age is really inversely proportional to caring what others think and so the thought of not shaving, not waxing my eyebrows, etc. has become more appealing as I've grown older... although the idea has coincided with a search for several long skirts. However, at the end of the day, beauty involves remaining true to yourself. It's not something you'll find in the spa but in your life. So do as you'd like... and stay healthy. 😉