Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oh, Mexico


I recently returned from Tulum, Mexico. As I mentioned here, my husband and I started a tradition of celebrating my birthday in Tulum last winter. Prior to visiting Tulum in 2014, I never thought I'd choose one spot to return to again and again. I have a serious case of wanderlust and I love to explore new locations. But, I found myself so drawn to Tulum and its laid-back energy, warm locals and picturesque surroundings. I inadvertently found my home away from home in this special Mexico town. 

This year we went with one of our close couple friends and we had an amazing time. A typical day started by eating breakfast on the beach, accompanied by fresh juice or smoothies. In the late morning we'd read and take dips in the ocean. For lunch we walked along the soft sand to find fish tacos, fresh ceviche and Sol beers at neighboring boutique hotels. Sometimes there'd be live music. The afternoon was spent reading, swimming in the lukewarm, turquoise water and strolling the beach a bit more. In the evening we drank tequila cocktails and ventured to different restaurants for homemade pasta or super fresh catch of the day dishes. 

As I type this recap, sitting at my desk in my drafty NYC apartment, my wool socks rolled up over my ankles and my life-saving space heater beside me, it all seems so far away. I do, however, have some mementos to keep my memories fresh and accessible. 

While I deliberately unplugged during the trip and didn't post anything to social media, I did take tons of photos to enjoy after the vacation. See below for some pics.

Also, my friend Colleen and I purchased beautiful string bracelets from a sweet ten year old local selling her jewelry on the beach. The bracelets are brightly woven reminders of the casual vibe and technicolor natural beauty prevalent in Tulum.

Another keepsake I took from Tulum is a handmade ring I bought from designer Belen of De la Rosa Jewelry. Belen approached me on the beach just before dusk as I was lost in another world, reading. I wasn't interested in buying anything, but Belen was so warm and charismatic I decided to take a look at her work. She has beautiful pieces and I was drawn to a gold-plated ring with a circle design. The understated piece fit perfectly on my ring finger, and Belen explained that it symbolizes "new beginnings." I was sold on the ring. I was also enamored of Belen. She has the most gorgeous smile and the sweetest demeanor. We bonded and exchanged contact info. She's from Argentina and lives in Tulum for part of the year. She's planning a visit to NY to display her art, and I'll be at her show with open arms, and one specially accessorized finger. 

A






Monday, February 23, 2015

Modern Man


The February issue of Glamour inspired my girl crush on Allison Williams and it also opened my eyes to the sensitive side of Jimmy Kimmel. I know Kimmel as a long-time comedian and TV personality and I see clips of the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show when they go viral, especially the popular "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" bits. Kimmel has always seemed likable and funny, but after reading his interview in Glamour I've learned that he is also sensitive, self-deprecating and even domestic. Here are a few highlights from Kimmel's feature in Glamour:
Kimmel says that modern men need to be renaissance men: "Being a modern guy means we have to do a little bit of everything." Kimmel provides the example of men no longer sitting in waiting rooms, cigars dangling from their lips, while their wives give birth. He explains that he held his wife's leg and "said encouraging things" while his baby girl was being born. Bravo, Jimmy!
Kimmel cooks and cleans. He's especially drawn to doing laundry and vacuuming, activities he chalks up to OCD. In the kitchen Kimmel's specialties are pizzas and pastas. See below for his special sauce recipe.
Kimmel watches his weight. He says, "I am that pathetic man--I didn't even notice that I got fat." He doesn't like to exercise, so he relies on the two-five diet: "On Monday and Thursday I eat only 600 calories or less and am starving at my desk. But the rest of the week? I eat like I've been on an island and then got dropped off in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet in Las Vegas."
Kimmel admits that he's still figuring it all out. He's divorced and he feels guilty about having had to share custody of his two oldest kids. But, he also found that it made their time together more meaningful and comprised real communication, not just watching TV. 
Kimmel seems like a good guy. I'm officially a fan. 
A

P.S. See below for Kimmel's famous tomato sauce recipe:
1. Heat a few tablespoons of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil in a pan.
2. Slice some garlic into thin pieces, and fry them until they're golden but not brown. If the garlic turns brown, start over. Remove the garlic from the olive oil.
3. Add a whole can of tomatoes to the olive oil, but remember: Not all canned tomatoes are created equal. I like Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes the best. They're not easy to find, but you can buy them on Amazon. Add a little bit of sea salt and a few leaves of fresh basil.
4. Bring that to a boil for a minute, and then turn down the heat and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. It can do this for quite a while—up to a few hours will get you an even deeper flavor.
5. Once you're done, take a ladleful of pasta water and add it to the sauce.


[How to Love (& Live With) the 21st-Century Man, Glamour, February 2015]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

To Fall Out of Love, Do This


You know those "it" articles - the ones that are shared incessantly, paraphrased everywhere and plastered all over social media? Each it article has its 15 minutes of fame, and for good reason. The fashionable article is eye-opening, controversial or relatable. A New York Times article titled “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This” recently made the rounds. Below is a brief description: 

In Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” she refers to a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one. (The Times)

Personally, I was suffering a bout of self-diagnosed A.D.D. when I first started the Times article, and I didn't finish it. I did, however, devour The New Yorker's satire of the Times article, titled "To Fall Out of Love, Do This." This follow-up article is laugh out loud funny, relatable, and A.D.D.-repellent. You won't want to put it down. See below for the article's introduction, and click here to read the piece in full:

The following questions are part of a follow-up study to see whether the intimacy between two committed partners can be broken down by forcing them to ask each other thirty-six questions no one in a relationship should actually ask. (New Yorker)

Enjoy,
A


Image via A Cup of Jo

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ballsy Girl


I reluctantly picked up the February issue of Glamour at an airport Hudson News recently. I needed to satisfy my craving for a pre-flight magazine splurge, but nothing really tickled my fancy after judging the glossies by their covers -- Glamour included. As much as I admire cover star Allison Williams, I didn't anticipate her interview being all that interesting. Williams is a TV star who's earned "good girl" status in her personal life. She's the daughter of famous parents (her Glamour feature was well before the current Brian Williams scandal emerged) and she's in a committed romantic relationship. It all just seems so saccharine, so I assumed she wouldn't have much to offer in terms of entertaining interview content. But boy was I wrong.

Allison Williams is not a boring "surface person." She's the real deal. In her Glamour interview, Williams comes off as both intellectual and street-smart. She knows she's fortunate and she's quite perceptive. She's decidedly self-aware and she shares a real-life example:

Say I got an email about a friend from college having a birthday at a bar. I now know that simply walking into a bar gives me anxiety--for myriad reasons. So I don't go. Instead I send an email: "If we can get coffee soon, amazing." It's fully selfish, but it's just something I've learned about myself.

Williams then goes on to share a trick for dealing with anxiety triggers:

A good trick is to literally wiggle your toes in your shoes, just [to] ground yourself: "I am right here, and these are my toes in my shoes. This is where I am, and everything's OK." It's just sort of bringing yourself back to where you are, because inevitably, when I'm anxious, I retreat into my head. But the way out is through. 

Williams allows herself to be vulnerable, but at the same time she's setting her sights on an EGOT. She seems authentic and confident. She even refers to her "balls [getting] bigger" as she makes leaps towards achieving her dreams. I'm officially intrigued.

A

[Girl? Please., Logan Hill, Glamour, February 2015]

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Free Your Mind (And The Rest Will Follow)


I am indebted to O, The Oprah Magazine. I first found Martha Beck when I picked up O mag a few years back. I came across Beck's column in the glossy's section "May We Help You?" and I became an instant devotee. I went on to read two of Beck's books, which I dogeared to the umpteenth degree and which I keep stacked on my desk. I also receive Beck's daily inspiration emails and I write about her teachings often.

So I couldn't resist sharing Beck's "Don't Ask" article from the February 2015 issue of O Magazine. In this piece Beck lists 13 common questions that plague many of us, and she explains how we can stop harping on these queries that are just not worth our time. Beck explains:


"We're always running across lists of questions we should be asking our doctors, financial advisers, parole officers, and so on. And I like those lists. This is not one of those lists. Not every question in the world is useful, and in fact many of them can actually make our lives harder and more painful."

See below for my favorites:

When will my ship come in?
Happy expectation helps draw good things into your life. Compulsively asking when they'll arrive drives them away. Has anyone ever pestered you about getting something done? Remember how this made you want to slow down solely to annoy them? Don't choke good fortune by clutching at it. Identify what you want, do what you can to create it, and then distract yourself. I guarantee that your ship will speed up. 
Do I look fat in this?
Some clothes make you look slightly large, some slightly smaller, but here's the truth: Whatever you're wearing, you look approximately as fat as you are. Accepting that fact frees up a ton of energy, lightening you considerably.
What will people think?
This is an excellent question to ask continuously if you want to live in the emotional equivalent of a Turkish prison. What other people think is none of your business. Ask yourself what you'll think on your deathbed if you spend your whole life worrying about others' opinions.
How can I get more?
If you're hungry and you eat a square meal, you'll feel better. But you won't feel ten times better if you eat ten square meals. Our culture instills in us an unfettered lust for more, more, more. Like a cancer, that lust doesn't know when to stop. Consider asking, How can I make do with less? You'll find yourself headed for the even-keeled moderation that leads to real happiness.*
A

*Check out the full feature in the February 2015 O, The Oprah Magazine for more words of wisdom from Beck.
Photo via juliarobbs.com

[Don't Ask, O, The Oprah Magazine, February 2015]

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human


This article written by veterinarian Vint Virga struck a chord. Virga begins by relaying a personal story: 
Late one November evening in my fourth year out of veterinary school, while tending to the first wave of patients who had flocked to our clinic for emergency care, a single dog in an unconscious haze forever changed the course of my career: Pongo, a 2-year-old flat-coated retriever struck by a pickup speeding by his front door, lay before me on a blanket. He was no better for all that modern medicine and my training had offered him; his vital signs ebbed fatefully weaker than when he’d arrived several hours before. Worn from the onslaught of all the night’s cases, I surrendered to a wave of frustration and sank exhausted to the floor, with little else left to offer Pongo except for my arm draped across his chest, a soft word spoken, and a gentle touch. Yet, from this simple act of caring, in less than an hour, I watched him fully recover in body and spirit.
Virga became inspired to spend the next 20 years studying animals and the connections we share with them. See below for a list of 10 specific lessons Virga learned about being human in his study of animals:
1. Savor the moment.  
Animals, by their very nature, live focused on the moment, while we, as humans, far too often are distracted by thoughts about the past and future—a fight with a friend last night, the performance review with our boss tomorrow, or our growing to do list for the coming week. By taking our cue from animals and noticing more of each present moment, we can find a chance to more fully appreciate what is happening right now in our lives.
2. Heed your instincts. 
Alert and attentive to each of their senses, animals respond to cues about the world around them by trusting their instincts and acting on them. When we rationalize in our human minds what our instincts may tell us to take notice of—or ignore what our senses are conveying to us—we risk dismissing important signals about events, circumstances, and the people around us. As we attend to our senses and acknowledge our instincts, we open ourselves to new choices and opportunities.
3. Keep focused on what’s most important. 
On those days when it seems everything has gone wrong and we come home exhausted and spent, our animal companions devotedly greet us with unfailing offers of love and affection. Even those times we may speak harshly toward them or ignore them completely as we walk in the door, they wait in the wings for the moment to come when we, at last, turn our attention to them. And in their patient devotion, they serve as reminders of how much we value connecting with others and sharing our hearts.
4. Don’t get bogged down on words. 
As we communicate with family and friends, most often we think of relying on words. Yet we often neglect to consider the many other ways that we portray our inner world. The tone of our voice, our facial expressions, our posture, our movements, scents released by our skin to waft through the air communicate our thoughts, emotions, and intentions, often more reliably than the words we choose. 
5. Take time to rest. 
In the hurried pace of our daily routines, it’s all too easy to fill our days with a steady stream of activities—places to be, people to meet, tasks to accomplish before it’s too late. But, taking a cue from our dogs and cats, the lions at the zoo, a hawk perched in a tree overlooking the road that we glimpse from the car, we can take quiet moments to rest for a bit and give ourselves time to relax and reflect.
6. Remember to play. 
In the midst of our day, when we feel the pressures from work or at home, a well-deserved break—even just a few moments—from the task at hand can lighten our load and help ease our concerns. From Labradors to Bengals and timber wolves to leopards, the creatures around us routinely play to invent, discover, and bring joy to their day.
7. Don’t take yourself so seriously. 
Whether rolling in catnip or pouncing on strings, our cats jump to play fully absorbed in their game without worries about how they may appear to us or others watching them. Likewise our dogs while chasing a ball, sniffing at lampposts, or gnawing a bone relish their pastimes without concern for how they may look to passersby. Letting go of our inner critic and the judgments of others, we can more fully embrace those times we enjoy.
8. Let go of attachment to being right or wrong. 
Evolution favors those creatures that focus on what matters most—finding food, remaining healthy, resting, breeding, and caring for young. When we defer to our sense of pride and self-importance, we risk losing the outcomes and results we want most. Letting go of our attachment to being right or wrong frees us to align ourselves with what we value most.
9. Practice forgiveness. 
While animals, certainly, suffer grief, misfortune, and misery, they move past them with greater poise than we humans often do. The continuity of their lives takes precedence over reliving the past.  When words and deeds come back to play in our minds, like the creatures around us, we can give as before with grace and equanimity.
10. Love unconditionally. 
In the silent presence of the creatures around us—all alone on the sofa with our dog by our side or cat resting cozily curled in our lap—we sense their regard for our thoughts and feelings, and we respond in kind without reserve. If we choose, we can do so, as well, with each other.
These are all lessons we can apply to our lives now. Life Coach Martha Beck has been teaching similar ideas for years, specifically the notions of savoring the moment (or mindfulness), not getting bogged down by words, taking time to rest and remembering to play. Below are links to some of Beck's teachings, many of which were inspired by furry friends:

Martha can't live without this simple meditation practice called "Mindfulness."

Meet Your New Therapist. He's Wise, Compassionate...And Likes To Eat Hay

Play, not work, is the key to success. (#4)

Often complex problems are best solved by thinking like an animal. (#7) 

A


[10 Things Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human, Vint Virga, Psychology Today, 1/10/15]

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Big Little Lies


I picked up Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty at the Bookstore in the Grove. I wanted a fun beach read and, having read Moriarty's bestselling chick lit book The Husband's Secret, I thought her murder-mystery-meets-fun-and-flirty style would be a good choice. 

To paraphrase Maria Semple, I believe the best books are the ones that keep us up late into the night. Some are Pulitzer Prize winners, some are book club favorites. Big Little Lies is a page turner and a thriller without being heavy, despite incorporating some serious subject matter. 

Moriarty expertly leads the reader through some seemingly silly details that end up being key puzzle pieces in her storyline. The story's characters are all a bit flawed and, therefore, all the more human and endearing. Moreover, Moriarty deftly writes about domestic violence and paints a realistic picture of what goes on behind closed doors for one dysfunctional couple. In Big Little Lies Moriarty has nailed the ultimate writer's goal: show, don't tell. 

A

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Couples Retreat


I just returned from a couples weekend down the shore. (For all you non-Garden Staters: people from NJ "go down the shore" whereas people from everywhere else "go to the beach."). Being a Jersey girl myself, I went down the shore with seven other Jersey natives: my husband, three of his childhood friends and all of the guys' significant others. We stayed at our friend's family home in Sea Girt, New Jersey. (Her parents are snowbirds now, so the place was all ours.) We ate, drank and just hung out. There is something so special about all staying under one roof for a whole weekend. I feel fortunate to have a true bond with my hubby's home friends and their ladies. It reminded me of an article I'd re-read recently depicting the friendship, and falling out, between two couples. It's an oldie but goodie from Salon. 

The article recounts the story of two couples: Ann and her husband John, and Sara and Greg. The four forty-somethings hit it off and quickly become best couple friends. They become so close, they all feel like family. But alas, eventually their relationship fizzles, much to Ann's dismay. What went wrong? There wasn't one significant event, but in retrospect it boiled down to oversharing. Ann had made the big mistake of complaining to Sara and Greg about a fight with John. This led to taking sides, and ultimately to the demise of the foursome. 

Spolier alert: After things fall apart with Sara and Greg, Ann and John eventually find new best couple friends. This foursome is healthier though. Ann explains, "[W]e don’t get emotionally tangled in each other’s intimate lives or occupy each other’s homes." It turns out that's the key to an enduring best couples friends relationship. 

Here's to many more couples weekends, and just the right amount of sharing.
A


[Couple Seeks Other Couple, Ann Bauer, Salon, 5/1/12]
 

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