This blog centers around healthy eating, pulling in information from various sources to form a nexus of applicable ideas for the home cook and entertainer alike. We all need food to survive, however, food does not only provide our bodies energy, it can also be used as an aid for common ailments as well as a preventative tool against maladies. In consuming natural foods that offer essential nutrients and fight off life's ills we set ourselves up for more flavors than can ever be reached in a box.
"You like to spread out," said my mother on a stint home from college. Indeed, as a person who didn't really pick up after herself and was prone to unfinished tasks, I often kept my textbooks in the dining room, my shoes and books for pleasure in the living room and a shit ton of clothes wherever. Somehow, it seemed like I was practicing a dog-like need to claim my space. But my mom didn't really pick up after us either or, more likely, I was a shitty kid who didn't notice if she did. "Do you think our house is clean?" she would ask and I would shrug my shoulders and say, "I guess so," not having any real clear points of comparison. Fast-forward twelve-hundred years, however, and we all know what others' homes look like from the inside out. While I was never one to feel like I needed to live up to the unrealistic physical expectations my media teacher claimed we were bombarded with, I do find myself getting a little butthurt when I see an impeccably clean home on Instagram. These expectations are unrealistic and I always have to calm myself and tell myself that each house was cleaned before the photo shoot or that the occupants of the castle-like compound in the magazine only reside there for a few months a year.
They say the state of your home or room says a lot about your mind state. And while my mom was a bit more laid-back (like I used to be), I've tried to channel my adult-onset anxiety into cleaning. It has to be done, it brings me pleasure and it's something I have control over... all things to be looked into by a licensed professional. But while my cleaning might be somewhat obsessive, I do it for me and I've always disliked those who clean or design their homes for others (or Instagram). Ergo, I can't stand some of that trendy shit they come out with that costs a lot but seems to have no function like decorative, weighted objects. In one extreme case, I read about how one Rockefeller spent a fortune on antique obelisks or something and just stared at the page like it was a math problem I couldn't solve. But one thing I have found that can make for less debris and clutter in the house is a bowl or tray to collect objects. Therefore, I leave you with some of my favorites. Enjoy!
When buying one of these things, there are a few things to consider. There's the price, as always, the color... do you want it to be clear glass or opaque, and the size. Below is one I want but likely not one I'll get as it only matches two of these three considerations (I'm sure you can guess which one).
Aerin: Sinatra Footed Bowl: While I'm somewhat wary of socialites who go on to found their own businesses, Aerin (Lauder) does seem to keep a shop that houses many quality goods which range from super-expensive in price to somewhat acceptable for mere mortals. And while I generally don't like the (super-expensive) clothes she sells, her home goods make for an occasional treat and a really beautiful addition to the home. While her large Sinatra footed bowl is a bit expensive, it's opaque, meaning you can't see all the crap that's in there and seems large enough to hold it all. In terms of price, however, I went with the large Gabriel Bowl which is clear but does a good job of corralling all that shit that ends up on our entryway table. Also, if you have kids, none of this applies to you.
Amy Berry: Rounded Corner Tray: I. Figgin'. Love. Trays. I think I acquired my love of them when I saw the ones sold on the Ralph Lauren website where I'd sometimes poke around in a voyeuristic sense. However, as the ones there were light years beyond my price range, I usually keep an eye out for cute ones more within my budget. Ergo, this rounded corner tray is a good find and, if I got it, I'd likely place unreasonably expensive whiskey glasses on them.
Chelsea Cereal Bowl: While I've often professed my hatred for Gwyneth Paltrow on this blog, the items that she and her well-coiffed team create for Crate and Barrel are "pretty" on point. This is the bowl I use to corral most things in the house and when it's finished holding the empty cartridges of e-cigarettes (like they do where I am) you can use it to eat Lucky Charms.
So there you have it, a few items in which you can put the other items in your home. They make things cleaner quickly. And while this particular genre of homeware is a real interest of mine as a woman well on her way to middle-age, I've included a few more below. And also, this.
When I was young, I loved to paint and draw. I would take painting classes where I would basically ogle at the works of more advanced students and I loved drawing in class back when it was a general part of the curriculum. However, as curricula advanced throughout each grade along with the art classes, I realized that copying objects on my Lisa Frank binder didn't cut it and my art teacher who loved Dali and emotional depth would often comment "that's haaaarrrrrrrible" when it came to my more trite pieces of artwork (luckily, I thought she was the coolest person in school and was just glad she was talking to me). But indeed, I could tell the work was a bit flat as I read the badass poetry of other girls, heard about their creative short stories and watched them bring in vibrant and nuanced paintings to class. In my drawing class, I would begin with a solid outline of a structure, then the piece basically devolved into a sense of "nothingness" when I couldn't bring myself to really shade in the object with any vigor. While this may seem like a trite statement in and of itself, I generally knew back then that, just like most art, my very passive and barely-there piece was an expression of myself.
When I was in second-grade, my voice became very soft. I think that to some extent, whether right or wrong, my voice became as low as I perceived myself in the social pecking order. And indeed, while being relatively introverted and soft-spoken to begin with, the phrase, "what???" was something I would hear constantly over the next eight billion years. And so while I knew my fear of being vocally heard extended back ages, I also knew that my hesitancy towards bold expression in art class was just an extension of that. Indeed, by the time I reached advanced art classes in high school, I had generally sent enough emotion to the lock box of my psyche that I couldn't access it for a quality piece of artwork if I wanted. However, as we all age and mature and realize our energy can be spent for fun instead of protecting our often ridiculous emotional fortifications, it was in later high school that I began to recover some of my voice and own my introversion. I'd go to the mall by myself and relish in the time alone and had fun dating someone almost as crazy as I was (leading to a life spent dating those who were crazy and Aaaa-mazing). And so it felt good when, in my senior year, I could chuckle to myself as I heard others laugh when the teacher asked if I was a rule-follower or rule-breaker. "Don't be surprised," she said... "still waters run deep."
As I would later read Jung and learn that indeed introversion was a personality trait rather than a word synonymous with "asshole," I found that, "still waters running deep" could truly be a frame of mind. While introverts such as myself may have unenviable Instagram accounts and find little has changed in the age of quarantine, we/they often have rich inner lives that are lived in and retreated to. But, just like any personality trait, every yin has its yang and while introverts often don't get bored or seem clam, I've found in my own experience that it's (sometimes literally) hard to speak up and, at the end of the day, that energy... be it frustration or pain or anything that goes unsaid does indeed go somewhere and I began to become a bit wary of this phenomenon as I spoke to my brother.
My brother was more into sports than art at a young age. However, as we age, art becomes a bit easier to engage in than soccer and my brother has thus taken up drawing and is quite good at it. And so, it was recently that he was telling me about his favorite artists and how he really likes the work of Michelangelo. It generally got me thinking of the artists I like and what I saw was (quite literally) not a pretty picture. When I thought of the paintings that truly speak to me I began to realize they were all pretty dark and gruesome. But that's what I like! And so, below, I've assembled a list of painters and musicians who really rock my socks and perhaps speak to some deeper need for balancing my projected softness with harder, more devious aspects. As anyone knows who's taken art, you can't have light without dark.
Painters Hieronymus Bosch: I start with Hieronymus Bosch because a) he's one of the earliest painters on the list and b) I suppose his last name would place him at the top alphabetically. I first learned of Bosch in college when we looked at the painting entitled The Garden of Earthy Delights. In the triptych (which I was ultimately surprised to be viewing in an academic institution) the Garden of Eden (or heaven), Earth (or purgatory) and hell are depicted in three separate sections. While the painting seems generally small (much smaller than the works of Bosch's later compatriot, Rembrandt) when we viewed on a large projector in class, you could see the sections quite clearly which were subsequently zoomed into. As an introvert, the view of heaven indeed seem quite heavenly. Being The Garden of Eden, there was only a man and a woman (and their creator) along with a bunch of animals and a lot of green grass. It seemed to me very peaceful and somewhere I'd like to hang out for eternity. And yet, admittedly, the vision of hell is why I come back to the painting as well as Bosch's other works. As claimed by Wikipedia, "[Bosch was] a hugely individualistic painter with deep insight into humanity's desires and deepest fears." As for myself, as someone predisposed to spend time in their own mind, one begins to wonder if others have the same cobwebs and creepers in overlooked parts of the "house" as you might. According to Bosch, it's a certainty.
Garden of Earthly Delights
Caravaggio: Up next in both the alphabetical and chronological sense is Caravaggio. Try as I did to enjoy the works of Monet and other effeminate masters, I really couldn't get behind lilies on the water. While I couldn't paint nearly as well as them, I never really feel in love with Van Gogh or even Munch (painter of The Scream). My tastes were almost exclusively medieval and morbid. So, when I found out about Caravaggio, I was a bit smitten. While maybe not as symbolic as Bosch, Caravaggio played with bold lights and dark (although equally as religious) subject matter. In reference to insane and amazing men, I once met a guy whose computer wallpaper featured Judith Beheading Holofernes. I still think of him.
Judith Beheading Holofernes
Francisco Goya: As there seems to be some order to this list, the (singular) work of Francisco Goya comes next. While I'm not necessarily a fan of Goya in general, his painting entitled Saturn Devouring His Son has always been a favorite of mine. After watching commentary on The Shining, Stanley Kubrick mentioned that, "terror always starts in the family." And while I've found those in the theatrical community to be a bit histrionic, I believe that the quote, when translated into layman's terms, means that our families tend to be where the roots of our neuroses lay. However, Greek myth tends to take this theme to the extreme which, as depicted in the aforementioned painting, means that parents devoured their children and, in general, a whole lot of killing was going on. Indeed, to refer back to Jung, whether believable or not, he claimed that early civilizations were more privy to the more primordial aspects of life just like a child might be more predisposed to their primal fears. However, as I look back on my own family, I've come to realize that, it's generally where my earliest lack of confidence begins to form... meaning that, like most people, I'm normal.
Saturn Devouring His Son
Beethoven's 7th Symphony: This story has a happy ending. I remember the face of Beethoven from when I was very young. While his face didn't scare me as much as the inside of the Sgt. Pepper Album, his odd scowl always made me feel wary and I never really liked that we had a statue of him in the house. On top of the piano, we had a bust of Beethoven which I originally thought was a bust of my father until my mother assured me it was not. But my father took to Beethoven because a) he loved music and b) I think he sympathized with the musician after living within the domain of a relatively strict father. When researching Saturn Devouring His Son, I learned that Goya painted it within the last years of his life along with thirteen other paintings collectively referred to as The Black Paintings. Towards the end of his years, Goya was going deaf and had seen the atrocities of war: a phenomenon which was much more apparent to previous generations than I had otherwise realized (if you have Netflix, look up Oliver Stone's The Untold History of the United States). Like Goya, my paternal grandfather was no different in having experienced war albeit in the twentieth-century. As such, he came home and was certainly different than he had been before he went over. And while PTSD was not necessarily a diagnosis given out post-WWII, it's general family lore that, it's probably what he suffered from atop an already heightened sense of Jewish neuroses. And, as stated before, all that energy is difficult to handle and has to go somewhere. For my grandfather, it's likely that most of his nervousness sublimated itself into his children's education... pushing my father into med. school and reportedly having some epic rows with my uncle when he refused to finish college. And, along the way, there were probably pressures to achieve in music or any other warranted pursuits. While this certainly doesn't account for any horror story of familial life, I think my father was affected by such a drive to achieve... my uncle recounting that he came home crying over a B+... in sixth-grade. And so my father said that he would often spend hours in his room listening to Beethoven's 7th, relating a bit to its somewhat foreboding mood ultimately taking solace in Beethoven's message to, "never give up." I like to workout to the song.
Beethoven's 7th, 2nd Movement
Requiem in D Minor: At this point, having shared a bit about my family, it's likely evident where we stand on the spectrum of neurotic behavior... and we've all found a way to help ourselves navigate this big and sometimes terrifying world. And, as such, I've come to rely on my uncle for advice when the going gets tough. In general, he's a little less intense than my father... leading me refer to him as, "my dad, version 2.0." And, of course, most kids are to 2.0 version of their parents to place things in horrifically banal context. If we're lucky, we find and stick with the people who help balance our personality traits or can shine the light on the darker parts of ourselves so they can eventually heal. For my dad, my mom was the great foil to his high strung personality and, as mixture of the two, my taste in music is not as intense. While my father loved Beethoven, I prefer Bach's baroque-ness if I'm even listening to classical music at all... which I'm generally not. But I do like Mozart's Requiem. It's basically a less-scary version of Beethoven's 7th. Enjoy!
In its greatest form, art can tell us something about ourselves. For myself, at first glance, my choice in art showed me something I didn't like and some things I likely need to work on. But as I analyzed the art, it showed me my interests in the mind and psychology and sometimes provides refuge for when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Because, when we think we might be different or odd, the greatest art shows us that we're not alone.
When I graduated college I was gifted Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. While I liked the book, I remember it being a bit wordy. There were words written by characters on scraps of paper and words that didn't need to be said. In general, I hate writers' emphasis on words in that many think words-as-art is the greatest thing ever. I remember an English teacher almost moaning with pleasure over an author's use of a single word. I remember an article by a girl whose writer-parents would debate for hours about the right word to use in a poem and I remember the stupidest (separate) poem ever devoted to the actual shape of letters involving some bullshit about how "b's" have a straight and delicate back. Being a minimalist in all aspects of living, I like everything streamlined from my choices in design, to my communication, to the way I eat. It's both a lifestyle preference and economic reality: focus on what's essential and forget what isn't. And so flowery language (and fabric) drives me up the wall. The point is: humans got on for a long time without written language. At a time when we were hell-bent on survival, one might say there was little time to develop a written language and apply it to large books dedicated to writers who liked to hear themselves speak (or think). In this sense, while there were probably stories told around the campfire, language served as more of a vehicle for practical communication which it generally still does today even if we're conversing about workflow. But in regards to Safran Foer's other work that I'm reading (entitled Eating Animals) it got me thinking that there is likely something to studying the way we lived before writing and (obviously) before written history... a time when we were the ultimate minimalists.
While I'm not super into Prehistory (I'm more of a medieval girl), I always found discussions of it interesting in my Introduction to Anthropology class. At a time when I was learning about sexism and institutional racism, it was interesting to find that hunter-gatherer societies of old were generally equitable. Men and women worked the same amount (about 20 hours a week: not bad) and generally held the same standing in society. It was interesting to learn about development of primitive (read: non-institutionalized) religion which seemed to correlate greatly with death and the hunt and, as I got older, it's been interesting to find that we were a bit healthier (at least in the realm of oral health) as "cavemen". But I took these classes (anthropology and Interdisciplinary Social Science) because I was indeed a Social Science major... because my parents thought a major in history alone was relatively useless. As such, we delved into all seven social sciences (psychology, anthropology, geography, sociology, political science, economics and, of course, history). While we scratched the surface of each topic, there was discussion that economics would likely leave the group as it was often associated with business and math and the left-side of the brain. But as I've gotten older, I've come to see that economics is what drives a lot of our choices as individuals (psychology), groups (sociology) and certainly as societies and cultures (history and anthropology). It has to do with the geography of where we live and it likely has to do with how were order our political structures (it certainly seems to drive political policy). So, in the end, it seems like these seven kingdoms are untied after all (which, ultimately, is what I think I was supposed to learn as an undergraduate).
As we learned in psychology, Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs around 1954. And while I should have probably been more critical in my thinking in college, I pretty much accepted the theory in that it seemed (and still seems) to be relatively intuitive. In economics, we learned that the subject was not so much about money in its physical form but, "the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services," (I had to look it back up on Wikipedia). As such, knowing that humans had a primal need for food and developing systems and policies as to how it might be distributed became a bit more interesting. But beyond the intertwining of how we get our needs met, there seems to be a bit more symbiosis between economics and the other social sciences than meets the eye.
After college (and probably after I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), I picked up Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. As a minimalist, I like to read the big tomes of a subject instead of getting five books on the nitty-gritty of a topic. And Mr. Smith seemed to be the ultimate pragmatist, writing in a clear and coherent form without getting too emotional or subjective. But Adam Smith published his magnum opus in 1776 at a time when the world hadn't fully passed through the wringer of industrialization, much less the Information Age. As such, economic realities were based in small towns where people generally knew each other and had to look each other in the eye/see them at church if they had provided a bad service or item to a customer. And so this combination of empathy and economics is what (finally) brings us to our main point about how we live through the surface-level and deeper changes in history.
While cooking is not found in the realm of social science, we do need food to survive (as shown by Maslow). It need not be five-star cooking but a five star chef is a person who got me thinking about the nature of eating animals before Safran Foer. For my twenty-seventh birthday, I was given The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. As I couldn't really make any of the recipes in the book (even if I had the ingredients), I took to reading the stories in between the instructions. In one, Keller told of how he developed a chagrin for food waste after having to kill rabbits for dinner. In his own words, Keller claims:
I don't know what I expected [killing rabbits], but there I was
out in the grass behind the restaurant, just me and eleven cute bunnies,
all of which were on the menu that week and had to find their way into the
braising pan. I clutched at the first rabbit. I had a hard time killing it.
It screamed. Rabbits scream and this one screamed loudly. Then it broke
its leg trying to get away. It was terrible. The next ten rabbits didn't
scream and I was quick with the kill but that first screaming rabbit not only gave
me a lesson in butchering, it also taught me something about waste.
Keller goes on to state that a primal connection to our food goes beyond what we might experience at the grocery store. It's not that we have to slaughter our own livestock but the trend is that the further we get away from our food, our customers or purveyor of goods or our political opponents, the less we're able to make a connection. While this may seem obvious, that primal interaction between the food we hunted as cavemen or the exchanges between community members in the time of Smith was underpinned by a social... something. In psychology, Antisocial Personality Disorder is defined by a lack of empathy or the ability to harm others without a sense of remorse. Indeed, some studies have shown that connections between areas of the brain associated with empathy and those associated with anxiety are a bit looser in those with the disorder. But the vast majority of us who feel sadness at the suffering of others or found it difficult to get through Don't F**k With Cats can begin to lose touch when we literally lose touch. Despite the great technological advances we've made over the years, life is still a sensory experience where information is somewhat gathered through sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. And while we may not rely on them for survival as much, their abilities to provide us with social information is still visceral as demonstrated by me telling you about a kitten with gray fur and viewing the picture below:
When we don't hear or see the reactions of others, it's easier to cyberbully, get a bailout and spend it on stock buybacks instead of taking employees off furlough (a la Ruth Chris) or run your company like United Airlines. So although we say it children around the holidays, it may be justified to remind adults that, "seeing is believing." And in this time of coronavirus, a silver lining may be that we see some of the unseen workers in our daily lives: the clerks in the grocery store or our mail carriers and, of course, our frontline medical workers. And when the time of coronavirus code-red drops down several shades on the electromagnetic spectrum, it may serve us well to know where our food is coming from. No one wants another outbreak, right?
A long time ago, I loved going with my mom to the grocery store and, of course, the mall. Obviously, the grocery store didn't provide a slew of goods I wanted to buy (I wasn't an avid emotional eater at that point) but I think I enjoyed looking at the colors which is why I didn't mind too much when she said we could go to the mall but only to window shop. While I always thought that she would cave and buy me something from The Limited, I generally didn't mind checking out things in the windows and in the stores as it was the 90's and color was everywhere. Fast forward a million years, I still don't mind window shopping however, often do it online in or out of quarantine because... who really wants to be around people and/or put on pants? Additionally, the online experience need not be practical, shopping only for what you need, or drab in color. If you have an Instagram account, you know that new brands are thrown in your face everyday and, as of late, I've been clicking through a few that look intriguing. Turns out some actually are. Below are a list of my new faves. Enjoy!
Farm Rio: If we're referring to color, Farm Rio is a brand that definitely delivers. Delicious maxi sundress, flamenco skirts and cute tops bring the outside indoors in the most fashionable (and somewhat affordable way). They also to a collab. with adidas which means (workout) shit is legit.
Hawkins New York: I generally hate precious hipster tableware in ice-pinks but I like realistic prices.
Verishop: For awhile, I've wanted to open a little shop online and, ideally, it would look like Verishop. A nexus of hip beauty products, clothing and home goods (a term which is decidedly un-hip), Verishop features brands such as Hawkins New York as well as other, more bold choices for those outside Brooklyn lofts.
So there you have it: a few ways to pass the time window shopping on your Windows (or Mac). It's fun to look and the thrill of the purchase is just as good. If you need me, I'll be in the Verishop space for awhile...
A long time ago, (obviously) Einstein claimed that, "everything is energy." Indeed, if everything is made up of atoms and atoms vibrate at a certain frequency... well, who's to question Einstein anyways? But quantum theory does state that particles are made up of energy and even the space between particles consists of energy and so who's not to say we're generally energy ourselves? And how does energy travel? Through waves, bebe. Colors are essentially waves as are sounds. So while my friend majored in art therapy (which I may have mistakenly thought of as viewing a color to change your mood), I began to think that music could help as well. And while I was a bit late to board this train, it turns out that sound waves can indeed help place us in a state of greater rest or tension.
When I was little, I really loved to look at colors. I can remember sitting on my father's lap, reading a picture book and staring intently at a beach ball... the colors somehow good enough to eat. Perhaps this is why babies chew the edges of books. And I still love colors, however, like any adult, I hide them in muted form (obviously gray and navy are colors and they're my favorites). But what I didn't pick up from my father was his love of music. I can remember him playing the piano and I remember his insistence we take piano lessons (ugh). But what I did pick up from my father was his overarching anxiety which affected all aspects of his life. So, as one might expect, I generally try many of the remedies out there for such an ailment. Lavender? Check. Exercise? Double check. But it's only as of late that I've come around to music as a calm-inducing agent. If we're to follow the theory that we're all energy and that energy travels through waves (whatever, it's a blog), then let's say that the frequencies at which we vibrate can be affected by external forces or frequencies. While I'm not sure if this theory is correct, some basic research yielded established findings when it comes to our bodies and music.
Indeed, our bodies produce brain waves which are associated with particular states of mind. There are delta waves which are associated with deep sleep or meditation. There are alpha waves which are associated with a general state of calm and there are beta waves which are associated with some distraction and anxiety (we won't go into theta waves). But what's interesting is that such waves are classified by their frequencies. Delta waves are defined as, "a high amplitude brain wave with a frequency of oscillation between 0.5 and 4 hertz," (at least according to Wikipedia). Alpha waves occur between eight and twelve Hz or wave cycles per second and beta waves between 12.5 and 30. So I was thinking that if we're putting out these waves, could they be interrupted (for better or worse) by sound waves. Apparently, the answer is "yes".
A few years ago, I was reading about sound baths and, more recently, have been looking at a site called TunedIn. Both are pretty new-agey and, ergo, neither are readily available even in a city like D.C. Either way, who wants relaxation if it can't really be experienced in the comfort of your own home (whether in or out of quarantine)? Ergo, I started looking to YouTube and the Internets for some answers.
Apparently there are some songs, pop or otherwise, that can help get our brains to that sweet alpha state which can foster a sense of creativity (according to Dr. Emma Gray). While there are songs which you might hear in the spa or others which are super new-agey (often entitled "Best Concentration Music for Studying" on YouTube), I decided to feature the pop variety in that it can actually identify who the good artists are out there and it's music you might not mind listening to in the car. Some songs are legitimately proven to get those alpha waves going and some are one's that generally put me in a relaxed mood. Songs that have been proven to relax yo' body have an asterisk next to them. Enjoy!
*Bruno Mars: The Lazy Song: I've never really thought much about Bruno Mars as an artist. I liked his collaboration with Eminem back in 2011 but from there, everything seemed to go downhill. Enter: The Lazy Song. I actually hadn't heard it until I saw it on the list of songs between 50 to 80 beats per minute which are supposed to calm one down and boost one's creativity. Now it's in heavy rotation on my playlist.
*Adele: Chasing Pavements: Unlike Bruno Mars, I've generally liked Adele for awhile. She's no Bone Thugs N Harmony but the woman's got a voice on her. While I really like Someone Like You (which I accidentally posted a song which makes you calm in my last post), it's hard not to sing along to the title above... no matter how bad your voice is.
*Buena Vista Social Club: El Carretero: I've always wanted to be a fan of Buena Vista Social Club simply due to their amazing name. However, for awhile, having lyric-less music in the background was (literally) not my jam. Yet, as an adult... it's just what I need.
*Jeff Buckley: I Want Someone Badly: Like many people, I'm familiar with Jeff Buckley through Hallelujah. But, for me, being introduced to Buckley's music through a dear friend provides the associations which makes his tunes give me all the feels. Not only does Buckley's music make me relaxed, it brings me back to a time and place when I was much younger and less terrified of what life had to offer.
I've been thinking about curation a lot lately. In a post that's yet to be published, I talk about how cleaner foods have helped to clean up my life whether it be clearing my mind, my skin or my car's interior what with my food not being transported in McDonald's to-go bags as of late. And with a pretty severe reduction in appetite (I think my body knows my budget better than my mind), the foods I do eat need to be packed with nutrition in order to maintain some form of equilibrium. However, while this state can become frustrating for someone whose pastime includes putting Parmesan cheese in a cup so she could essentially "drink" it, paring down my diet has yielded savings of both time (as I generally shop for and plan my meals around a few foods) and money (ironically, nutrition and price seem to be inversely proportional). Essentially, in the spring and summer, avocados and beans have become my jam... a significant departure from the fall and winter when broccoli and beans are my thang. But boiling my shopping list down to a few essential ingredients has not only enhanced my mental clarity by removing the sugar that made my mind feel like the mental equivalent of Guernica, the curation of my diet has also led me to greatly pare down other elements in my life.
"Time is money," they say, with the implication being that perhaps those with more money have more time. However, just like money, time is something we can make for ourselves (a bit more easily to boot.) In The Attention Economy, I poked a bit of fun at the new-agey idea particularly because it was purported by a young millennial name Trisan. However, when I was recently watching the news and heard Trump was commanding more of the attention economy based on his drawn-out news conferences, shit became increasingly real. What we devote our attention to matters, however, when it comes to social media (particularly Instagram), one might ask the perennial question of the Joker: "why so serious." Indeed, if you're like me, Instagram is a place where you can take a metal break and look at the world's beauty (even if it does make you a little jealous). But I find that when we "overstock" our feed, the platform can have the opposite effect: crowding our space with elements that are interesting but unneeded and distracting. So during quarantine, I've come to pare down my followings to a few essentials. Some of my favorites lie below. Enjoy!
Hint: You may want to log into Instagram on your device so the links will work. :)
Comedy: I begin with comedy because it has surprisingly become one of my favorite things on "the gram." While the platform burgeons with pictures of beautiful homes and people, there's nothing quite like something that can make you laugh.
Fuck Jerry: Obviously. Shows us that life is funnier than fiction.
The Onion: Seems to have become a "pump and dump" for content but every now and then, you come across a gem as seen below.
Beauty: A lot of content on Instagram seems to be beauty-related. Whether it's a beautiful garden or a makeup tutorial... the platform is generally where we go to see life elevated (or at least filtered). But rather than watching someone half my age inform me how to apply eyeliner I'll never wear, I tend to favor accounts that point me in the direction of beauty products I can't afford or showing ways in which to live a beautiful (if unaffordable) lifestyle.
CAP Beauty: Sells expensive products and dispenses free advice as to how to (legitimately) make your life more streamlined and healthy.
Into the Gloss: Beauty advice for the millennial that's the least annoying.
Art and Design: Pretty much why I'm on Instagram. While I love art and design, some accounts can be annoying by trying to engage with you (The Met, MFA Boston... I'm looking at you). No one needs to see dog-related paintings in your collection for National Puppy Day. The following accounts allow you to do your own thing and get lost in beauty (and sometimes rage... you'll see.)
NYT Cooking: You sometimes need a registered account to open their recipes but when you don't, it's well worth it.
Tasty: Love, love, love. Instructions I can see instead of read... what's not to like? In my experience, the videos seem to come on my feed at night which lulls me into a gentle, delicious sleep. Highly recommended.
Celebrity: Who are we kidding? Social media is big because it allow us to delve into the lives of the rich and famous. I guess it can be used for news too. While I'm not really big on personal accounts, there are a few below I don't mind.
When my father got into Buddhism... it was long before I could remember. But when he started talking to me about Buddhism (somewhat to my dismay), he mentioned that it was mostly based on breath. While Buddhism carries icons and rituals much like any other religion (I recommend the tea ceremony if you're feeling particularly stressed), the practice of meditation is generally centered on one's breath because, as I've read in some books, it's what stays with you through life. And indeed, many things come and go but as long as we're living, we're breathing. So while I eschewed talk about and references to Buddhism throughout my teenage years (kind of like I do now), I did find some meditation helpful. However, the idea of "nothingness" and quiet contemplation never sunk in as a JAP-Y, active girl. So when I came back around to the idea of breath, it was through athletics which I felt to be quite meditative in my adult years. Through running, yoga and general nasal cleanliness, I learned there were different forms of breath that one could use to generate energy and a sense of calm. So I decided to compile some of these breaths in order to find which ones work better for which exercises. Enjoy!
Ujayii Breath: I begin with ujayii breath because it's the first breath I learned about in any real capacity. While we can literally breathe without thinking about it, ujayii (otherwise known as the breath of victory) is a conscious pattern of breathing which, "[balances]... the cardiovascular system, releases feelings of irritation and frustration, and helps calm the mind and body." At least according to The Chopra Center. To preform said ujayii breath, simply...
Take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
On your second breath, take and even deeper breath in through your nose and let it out very slowly.
It sounds simple but what 's the harm in trying it if you're irritated or nervous (two instances in which The Chopra Center says you should use it)? While I've mentioned that Buddhism isn't really my thing, I have always loved their related phrase which can help reiterate why taking a breath in a moment of frustration is so important:
Shit is real.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: Per quarantine, I have been running a bit more. It's nice to get outside and breathe in the fresh air but I've noticed the breath that accompanies a pretty strong heart rate is different than the one employed for yoga. So on account of my renewed interest in aerobic exercise, I decided to do a little digging as to which breath is best.
Ironically, while exercise grew into my form of meditation as a way to induce calm and generally not pop off on people at a moment's notice, the practice has made me come full circle to focusing on my breath. While the practice of (hatha) yoga often employs ujayii breath as the best way to move between postures, I've noticed that running calls for a greater mindfulness on one's breath as there often isn't a teacher to coach you through the process (at least during quarantine). Additionally, when it comes to more cardio-based exercises (a category for which I don't think yoga necessarily qualifies), it seems that our main goal becomes spreading oxygen throughout our bodies as efficiently as possible. In this sense, diaphragmatic breathing takes precedence.
As stated before, breathing is generally innate. But, if you're like me, you're likely to be engaging in some shallow chest breathing which can bring about feelings of anxiety and stress (according to Self Magazine.) Diaphragmatic breathing, however, is a form of breath where you allow oxygen to bury all the way down to your diaphragm (the space between your, "chest and abdominal cavity") which can deliver more oxygen to your lungs. By performing such a technique, we're less likely to fall victim to abdominal cramps which can suck donkey balls for sure. In order to practice diaphragmatic breathing so that we're more prepared when we hit the road (or treadmill), strength coach Mark DiSalvo (via Self Magazine) tells us to:
1." [Lie] on the ground with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly."
2. "As you breathe in slowly through your nose, notice if you chest rises or your belly rises or both."
("Just the belly should rise and fall")
3. "Think about originating your breath deep within your belly, and stay mindful as you continue inhaling and exhaling."
Breath for Some Serious Relaxation:Several months ago, I looked up songs that could induce relaxation. The idea (whether right or wrong) was that our bodies could be vibrating at certain frequencies and could possibly be relaxed by others. As we all know, atoms vibrate at a certain frequency and I decided to take a huge leap of faith and see if sound waves could eff with said frequencies in order to make up more alert or calm. Of course, my research couldn't really find if this was the case but I did learn about different brain waves like delta (the most relaxed of waves that can be reached through deep meditation), alpha (waves that exist when we're generally relaxed) and beta (the waves which can be found in our minds when were out and about, a bit stressed in our daily lives). And while there weren't songs that seemed to get us to the delta level (you kind of have to dig there on your own), there were some songs that could help put us in the "alpha state" like "Strawberry Swing" by Coldplay or "Someone Like You" by Adele. More more (posts) on that later. Indeed our breathing methods can bring about a state of stress (as seen above with shallow breathing) or calm. In order to induce calm through breathing, Anxieties.com informs us to:
1. "Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs."
2." Hold your breath to the count of 'three'."
3. "Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach."
According to the website, if you do this ten times a day, you're in good shape. And while this may seem like a lot, something I've learned in quarantine is that things never take as long as we think they will.
So there you have it. A few breathing techniques to get you through the day whether you're running, doing yoga or in a state general stressed. At this stage in time, we should be doing all these things. Breathe easy, my friends.
Back around the time in which I read Vogue was not surprisingly the same time in which I could dick around and had a greater amount of discretionary funds (a.k.a. high school). And as my mom had always allowed me the liberty to make big fashion faux-pas when I was younger (big globes of sparkly earrings in third grade, shiny Vans in seventh), I finally found a stride in high school after "falling off the bike" numerous times. In this regard, I became a bit miffed when I saw "high-low fashion" was the next big thing (at least in '99) as it had been my game for awhile. And while I wasn't pairing Gap t-shirts with Armani skirts as they claimed was fashionable in Vogue, I generally played some variation of the hobo look from the waist up and the "I might care" look from the waist down before going full on "no-shits" in college. But as my fashion tastes have evolved and are even returning to something in the range of formality (gray hair has to care), I've found that it's always nice to have a small piece which tells the world, "I haven't fully fallen off the bike even though I'm in pajamas." And so, as summer rolls around and we (hopefully) all relax a bit more into our respective summer uniforms, I like throw on a small piece of jewelry in a general nod to being human. They don't add heat to your ensemble and can generally pair well with what's pared down. A few of my favorite pieces and designers lie below. Enjoy!
Alighieri: While I still don’t have time to read much (and generally don’t like to), when I do read in the summer, I've found I really enjoy the writings of female authors. While The Da Vinci Code will always go down as my favorite tome in a nod to my uncultured tastes in literature, I always liked how my favorite female writers seemed to speak in another "code" that could easily be translated by “nasty women” (a.k.a. those who fights their own battles). And as anyone who engages in battle knows: you’re gonna need some armor. The act of mining, in both its real and symbolic forms, is risky business. In either circumstance, traveling or digging deep below ground indicates a dive into the unknown where various dangers and challenges await. And while the actual practice of digging up rocks brings about many physical and economic hardships as we've seen through history, scratching the surface of one's life takes a bit of boldness as well. But it's only underground that we generally find these precious stones and/or rewards for our efforts. And so, in some symbolic and real sense, there are those who pay a great price to have stones mined for them and those who mine and find their own... and, in the process, may learn that the journey to find said jewels is more important than the stones themselves. In an ode to those who undertake their own journeys, Alighieri jewelry is inspired by stories from the Divine Comedy in which Dante takes an uphill journey from the Inferno to Paradiso. Artfully composed and unadorned with anything ostentatious, Alighieri jewelry reminds us that it's not so much prize but the journey towards it which matters. Temple St. Clair: In reference to The Da Vinci Code, protagonist Robert Langdon is often able to identify signs and symbols that have been passed down through
generations in an attempt to protect the “divine feminine”. And such symbols, once I learned about them, seemed to show up everywhere. So when I noticed that St. Clair (anglicized as Sinclair) was a
significant family that figured in this book, I started looking at some
of the jewelry in a different way and, indeed, some of it seems to
reference famous symbols (if only in my head).
Eggs, colors and amulets.
There are obviously many symbols in the symbolic diaspora but it seems the simplest ones are the most common or powerful and some of these symbols (colors, shapes, etc.) seem to be reflective of nature itself.
As most symbolism concerns itself with life and death, the egg is a big
one when it comes to fertility... and a significant shape in the St. Clair jewelry line as seen above. But while the St. Clair name in the book seemed to be synonymous with protecting a sacred bloodline (symbolized by the egg), their jewelry line also contains pieces entitled "amulets": one of the original purposes for jewelry to begin with. Long before jewelry became purely decorative, jewels were used in talismans and amulets as a way to ward off evil or bring good luck. Indeed, in Californian culture, we see a hearkening back to the use of crystals and whatnot to bring about a sense of powerful energy. And whether such ideas are woo-woo or real, the point is is that jewelry used to be a symbol that could protect rather than show one's status. It was something you brought into battle...
Harry Winston Styles
Circling back to Vogue and symbols, I remember coming across an ad for Harry Winston during my more fashion-focused days in high school. In the ad, a young woman stands smiling at the camera, her left hand heavy under the weight of an enormous diamond. Even as a high-schooler, it didn't take much worldly sense to recognize the message being conveyed. She was young, she had married well and it all seemed to fall in her lap as her child-like giddiness might convey. But, in my view, one could also see the lack of control that accompanies good fortune. The balance of work and reward is dismembered and one doesn't seem to have dominion over either end of the coin. In this regard, it would seem to me that women who "mine" for their diamonds and the jewelry designed for them eschew ostentation. One has to travel light for the journey...
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one
full of adventure. Full of discovery.
angry Poseidon - don't be afraid of them:
You'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare exciement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon - you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them out in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you've become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. ~C.P. Cavafy
I've always been somewhat fascinated with pantries, ever since I asked my mother what one was and why we didn't have one (and we really didn't: either in the real or spiritual sense of the word). Physically, "the pantry" can be defined as an actual space but I've come to enjoy the intangible elements of a pantry which I find to encompass the process of streamlining one's life... something I enjoy both in and outside of the kitchen. Indeed, beyond the physical space it occupies, the concept of the pantry seems to exist so that we have basic elements on hand in order to make cooking easier. As we grow and come to find what both we and our loved ones like, it's easy to build a small coalition of goods which can see us through our various and similar dishes (please don't tell me you're the type of person who cooks chicken thighs one night and pasta with clam sauce the next.) And as I've grown and begun cooking as opposed to hitting up Little Chopsticks (may it rest in peace) establishing a working pantry has helped me save both money and waste and if we're doing any thing in these strange days, it's saving. So while the list below is not a pantry to see us through the days of COVID-19, it's something I have time to plan for in the brighter days ahead. Enjoy!
Lemons (and/or limes): "I love lemon" was the name of the tea I loved as a child and an idea I've taken on as an adult. Lemons, in all their glory, pull double-duty as both a cleaning agent and flavor enhancer. As referenced in Spring Awakenings, lemons are a great source of acid which means they can add zing to a hummus or cut through grime on your tea kettle. I've even seen them added as a side to a pasta dishes. A few key "recipes" featuring their unique abilities lie below...
Copper Cleaner: I used to have a copper pot before I destroyed it in a fit of carelessness (short and uninteresting story). However, before it became unusable, it became dirty most often from the oil and grime it would accumulate on the stove top. Ergo, I looked for a cleaning solution that wouldn't be to chemical-ly (pre the days of Coronavirus) but get the job done. Enter lemon and salt, a mixture with the acidity to cut through grime and exfoliate till your desired object is immaculately clean. Such natural cleaning agents leave your pots clean and your hands cleaner. And as I've come to rely on Clorox wipes more and more in the days of quarantine, I've found that cleaning soap scum is actually made easier through a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice. It also saves on Clorox wipes.
Any sauce or dip: As stated before, I've become somewhat of a goop-ie after purchasing Paltrow's The Clean Platewhich has become one of my favorite cookbooks in or outside of quarantine. While the book's "pantry" section is quite small, she has a few recipes in the back which can be applied to numerous dishes and preferences alike. One of the recipes for aquafaba mayo (discussed more below) serves as the base for a myriad of dressings and sauces alike. However, whether you're making a garlic-y lemon sauce or homemade ranch, lemons will inevitably be involved.
Garlic: While not quite maintaining the bandwidth of lemons in their ability to extend from hummus to cleaning agents, garlic is a close second in its ability to enhance dishes ranging from pasta sauce, to guacamole, to salsa and (of course) hummus. Like lemons, they're pretty good in any sauce or dip and less expensive than their cousin, the onion.
Olives: I've become big on making a lot of my own panty staples. Ergo, I once googled ways of making your own oil on a bus trip from Connecticut to D.C. In many ways, it's very easy (if not a bit wasteful) to blend the ingredients for the oil you're making (whether it be sesame, peanut, olive, etc.) and strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. And while I'm opting for things a bit more shelf-stable these days, I'm thinking ahead to days when I have all this knowledge down pat and can apply it to my daily life. So, while in my limited experience, sesame seeds seem a bit prudish in their ability to emit liquid gold after a whirl in the blender, olives work quite nicely in producing a generous amount of liquid after being desiccated in the Vitamix. They're also pretty healthy according to Good Housekeeping.
Canned Chickpeas: I try to cook dried beans every once in awhile as I found a great recipe on The Kitchn. But at the end of the day, canned chickpeas take less time to prepare and are a little less money up-front. And both canned and dried chickpeas (once prepared) come with a unique ingredient called aquafaba or the liquid which remains in the can or Crock-pot. In her aforementioned book, Paltrow creates a mayo based on this prized ingredient (aquafaba mayo) which eliminates the use of eggs and makes use of an substance which would otherwise be tossed. And while the mayo is tasty enough, it serves as the base for the previously mentioned garlic-y lemon sauce and homemade ranch... two things which can be easily thrown over some greens or beans (see: Boiling A Calf In Its Mother's Milk) in order to make things a bit more interesting.
Canned Tomatoes: Once I began graduating from the ranks of hummus to that of a proper meal, I began to look for ways to combine my beans and greens in a way that would freeze a bit better. Enter: The New York Times. Back when we all had a bit more time to worry about what we were eating, the Times featured a multitude of recipes featuring beans and various ways in which to prepare them. And even now, as we enter the days of quarantine, various sites have been offering unique ways to cook up our canned friends. My favorite lies here. But whether we prepare a bean stew or a bowl of pasta, canned tomatoes help to enhance our veggies, beans and grains and even our meats dishes.
Almonds: In a perfect world, I'd buy pistachios and walnuts and almonds and even try my hand at farro and expensive coffee. But in a world where I keep on a budget, I generally try and whittle most things down to the essentials. And, luckily with food, it's relatively easy to find compromise at the center of the Venn diagram. As referred to in my statement about garlic and onions above, many of our foods are related (see: Food is Family) and so, in my experience unless you're hyper-sensitive to flavor, sticking with a few basics will give you the nutrients you need without filling your pantry space unnecessarily. In the case of nuts, almonds pack a nutritional punch with a somewhat benign flavor which can be used in almond milk or roasted with spices. And speaking of spices...
Cumin: A personal favorite. I pretty much am attracted to recipes based on their use of cumin.
Ginger: I didn't come around to ginger for a long time. But once I learned you could freeze it, all bets were off and I use it in my tea as well as dishes which call for cumin.
Jalapenos: I pretty much sub. these in for any pepper.
So there you have it. A seemingly small group of ingredients which can be expanded to make a shakshuka, harrisa or pasta sauce. Indeed, one must consider their own preferences in building an individual pantry but I find these ingredients to be relatively applicable to most diets and tastes. Buy some greens, buy some herbs... but do it in a few months. Until then, revel in the nostalgic goodness that is Chef Boyardee! Stay safe, my friends.