On one side it looks like a craggy rock. It takes someone with a trained eye to know that what lies inside is precious and gorgeous. On my run this morning, I got to thinking about how much of life is like this. Take any situation, any person, any span of time in your life, and you have the rock and the gem side. If you focus too much on the rock, you'll never see or appreciate the jewel that lies beneath. If you relentlessly cling to the gem, you're bound to be disappointed by the rough underside that is inevitably a part of the whole picture. So, what if instead of always circling around the drain of the negative, or being bound and determined to focus purely on the positive, there was instead a place of equanimity? A place where no one belonged on either a pedestal or on Your List, but rather could just be viewed as flawed but beautiful humans, with both scars and shiny pieces, each which must be accepted and appreciated in their own right. A place where a good and bad decisions weren't so... rather just steps taken with the best information you had at the time, steps which have surely led to both the sparkle of the gem and the unbearable roughness of the rock, all of which just belong in a state of being which can be left alone, unanalyzed and accepted, moved forward from and let go of, as part of the natural march of time. In the rush of life, it is so much easier to see things as black and white than to embrace the gray. But what I'm coming to realize is that gray is the new black, and is the key to finding an inner peace that I think many of us seek. No one is right or wrong, no one is good or bad, nothing is permanent or temporary, it all just Is. I can dissect the circumstances of or the people in my life down to the bone, chipping away at that uncut gemstone until it is nothing but dust, or I can take the whole damn rock, turn it in my hands, see the gem and the rough, accept it all, love it, and let it go.
I've got a couple of new products rocking my world that I must share. The first: Palmers Cocoa Butter Firming Butter with Shea Butter, Collagen, Elastin & Vitamin-E. I love to moisturize, and am always on a hunt for a perfect basic body lotion. Criteria include fragrance (must be yummy but not overpowering), price point (bazillion dollar designer body creams = don't think so), and effectiveness (lotion should absorb quickly and leave your skin silky and smooth, but not greasy). And since having the baby, I've definitely noticed a diminished skin elasticity (like that euphemism?), which I plan to fight tooth and nail. It is this last concern that lead me to grab the Firming Butter off the shelf on my last mission to Babies R Us, and, my friends, we have a keeper. I LOVE this stuff! It smells like a day at the beach, the $8 bottle is still going strong 6 weeks in, and my skin feels incredibly soft. The clincher, though? The firming part actually works. I can see a noticeable difference in my skin in the month and half I have been using the Palmers: my legs feel tighter, and even that stubborn post-baby tummy skin seems to be snapping back into place. I give this lotion 4 stars, and will continue to use it regardless of proximity to pregnancy and/or weight loss.
Now, let's talk deodorant. I can't and won't use a product with aluminum, which has proven links to Alzheimer's, brain disorders and, hello!, breast cancer (what is closer to your boobs than your pits?? scary!). Herein lies a conundrum: most brands of deodorant and anti-perspirant have a laundry list of toxic and synthetic ingredients, none of which I want on my bod. However, the all natural options tend to be totally worthless, to the point of why-even-bother. I feel like a natural deodorant that actually works is more or less the holy grail of natural beauty products. For years I have used, but not loved, Tom's of Maine, and felt reticent to give anyone a hug on a hot summer day. So, when at the drugstore last week, a new product by Tom's caught my eye: natural long-lasting care, which promises "12 hour long-lasting odor protection" in an aluminum-free deodorant stick. "I'll believe it when I see it," I thought. Well, I've been sporting this stuff in warm weather, doing my usual amount of running around, and I amazed and happy to report that it works. No stinkiness to report, even when chasing the little guy around in the sun, and I love the lavender scent, although it comes in many others. I urge you to check out the research on the harmful side-effects of aluminum in deodorant and to try a natural alternative. This one really works!
Loving products that do what they say they will do....
She's quite well-known in the blog world, but if you are not so blog-obsessed, you may not have seen her work. When I first stumbled upon her blog, Greek Tragedy, I felt certain that I must actually know this person, her life seemed so familar to me. Like me, she's Jewish but part of a multi-ethnic and religious family, she grew up outside of New York City, she loves herself a dirty martini, and she's a mom. And like me, she struggled with her weight as a child and young adolescent, and that struggle has defined her life and her perception of herself even to this day. Her second book, Moose, is about this struggle, and I'd like to declare it a perfect beach read.
Klein's writing style is blisteringly honest, a little racy, a tad crude, and completely relatable. If you ever faced a struggle with your body image or weight (and, let's face it, sadly most women have), you'll cringe and cackle with recognition at her tales of attending 'fat camp' as a 12-year-old. She gets that tender, adolescent voice down to a tee and puts you right back in those very awkward shoes. And if you're in your early 30s, as both she and I are, you'll love the late 80s pop-culture references as well... from those ridiculous slouchy socks we used to wear with boxers (why???) to the awful music we were all rocking out to at the time (although I still have a soft spot for Wham and A-ha). This was a book I literally couldn't put down... I finished it in 3 days flat, which is no small feat for me these days. And you have to love someone who is willing to put her "fat camp before picture" out there for the public to see.
Klein is brave, flawed and, above all, hilarious. If you're looking for some quality poolside reading, look no further.
As our moving date approaches, my head swims with possibilities for our new city life. I can't wait to make our big porch an outdoor oasis, get my hands on some legit Thai, Indian, Japanese, Cambodian and Cuban food (all available in our new neighborhood, all very hard to come by in Vermont), and to spend a lot less time in the car. In Vermont, my commute to work was nearly an hour each way, and we'd need to spend at least a half hour in the car to do any sort of serious shopping. Now, we'll be 2 blocks from public transportation, and in a very flat, walkable neighborhood. For the health of my wallet, bum and carbon footprint, I'm very excited. I'd love to be able to do most of my day to day errands on a bike. My current bike is a mountain bike from college that I don't see being all that practical for city errands. I've long had my eye on a cruiser bike, but can't really justify one when I do have a perfectly good cycle on my hands already. Until now. Target to the rescue! Check this out:
Hello, Schwinn Legacy Cruiser bike, on sale for $99 at the one and only Target. I love the saucy red and white colors, the whitewall tires and the stellar reviews it receives from all who have purchased it. Discount Target Cruiser, you will be mine. Now all I need to do is fashion it with a baby seat in the front, some baskets for my goodies in the back, and I will be a lean, green, city-errand-running machine, gleefully pedaling my haul of organic coffee and Pad Thai takeout all over town!
I admit I am gleaning my current bike inspiration from a Dutch friend of the husband's who is visiting us this week and has told us all about the far healthier lifestyle in his country, where most people commute by bike. Check out rush hour in his home city:
We're obviously without-garden this year, but many of my dear friends are either avid gardeners or badass farmers and on the hunt for new and exciting things to do with their boatloads of veggies this spring. So, today I have three simple and wonderful ideas for three seasonal favorites: artichokes, asparagus and arugula. Even if you don't have these veggies sprouting up outside your door, they may be what are freshest and most tasty at your market right now, so give these a try!
We looooove artichokes, and with a bit of prep work, they're a snap to make. Elise at Simply Recipes does a perfect job of explaining, step by step, how to properly trim and cook an artichoke. My suggestion is for a fabulous dipping sauce, and all credit must be given to my equally fabulous friend Brian for this one; every recipe I've ever stolen from him is to die for. To make Brian's famed dipping sauce (enough for about 4 artichokes), mix 2 finely-minced garlic cloves with a half-cup of mayonnaise and about 3 tablespoons of red wine. Add a bit of salt and pepper and adjust the wine and seasonings to taste. The resulting sauce is a gorgeous purple color thanks to the wine, and has just the right amount of bite from the raw garlic (just don't plan on doing any smoochin' after this dinner). This takes minutes to whip up, but tastes gourmet, and makes a stunning presentation with the violet-hued sauce next to the bright green steamed 'chokes. An instant classic. Love ya, Bri.
The best thing to do with seasonal vegetables is to just not mess with them too much. They are bursting with so much fresh, pure flavor, why not let that shine through? This is the case with our grilled asparagus. When you have the grill lit for dinner, throw on asparagus make a delicious and easy side dish. Trim the ends, and toss the stalks with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of garlic powder. Cook them for about 5 minutes on the grill, turning often to prevent burning. Finish them with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice when they come off the grill. We've been eating these at least twice a week, and no one is tired of them yet!
Finally, arugula. As I've mentioned before, our local pizza joint makes the most incredible prosciutto, balsamic fig jam, Great Hill Blue Cheese and fresh arugula pizza, but if that sounds too fussy for your weeknight, why not try a pared down version? Buy a pizza dough. Pre-heat your oven to 450. Roll out your dough, brush it with olive oil, layer on your favorite cheese (a soft gouda could be particularly dreamy) and bake for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add it to the top and bake for another 10 minutes. For extra points, you could add chopped prosciutto and/or chopped fresh tomatoes or carmelized onions when you add the arugula. Pop open a bottle of red, and enjoy.
Ingredients (recipe serves 5)
2.5 lb wild Alaskan salmon filet
Cedar plank (find these at gourmet shops or wherever grilling toys are sold)
Two tablespoons brown sugar
Two tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped Directions *Amended to add: the cedar plank needs to be soaked for at least an hour ahead of time. Major oversight! Thanks for the catch, "Stedman".*
1) Light your grill.
2) Rinse and pat dry the salmon filet. Place on cedar plank. 3) Combine spices well in a small bowl. Cover filet evenly and thoroughly with the spice rub.
4) Place cedar plank on grill rack and cover the grill. Remove the lid and check periodically for flare-ups and doneness. The fish should cook through in about 12 to 15 minutes.
This is a dish that is really simple, but really special. The smoke created by the burning wood gives an incredible depth of flavor to the fish and the brown sugar in the rub provides a sweet counterpoint to this smokiness. Packed with Omegas and healthy protein, this is a perfect dish to kick of my series of health related posts as well! We threw asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper on the grill after the salmon came off and the coals were a bit cooler, and roasted tiny new Yukon Gold potatoes to serve with low-fat sour cream, freshly snipped chives and salt and pepper. This was a well-balanced and delicious holiday meal... give it a try!
I have many disparate thoughts to share with you this morning. Grab a cup of coffee and take a gander at what's bouncing around in my head today...
For one, I had to share a couple lovely treats from my Mother's Day weekend. Is that a butter dish and a lip gloss, you ask? Why yes, it is. Two great gifts for this food and product loving mama. Let me explain... first about the buttah dish. One fun thing about the house-sitting we've been doing is seeing the inside of other people's homes and lives and getting great new ideas for our own. Case in point: do you leave your butter out on the counter? I never have, simply because that wasn't what was done in my childhood house, and it just never occurred to me. We also don't use enough butter to justify a whole stick hanging out on the counter for that long. The food safety-obsessed gal in me worries about freshness. However, in our last stint of house-sitting, we discovered that our friends kept just a smidge of their butter out in this adorable butter dish. Voila! Just enough perfectly softened butter for your toast or a bowl of noodles for the baby, stylishly contained on the counter. Loved it. So the hub, who knows that I am a sucker for things such as perfectly softened Vermont Butter and Cheese Company Cultured Butter (a life-changing product if ever there was one and worth it's own post), made this magically appear for Mother's Day. Thanks, B!
And as for the lip gloss, somewhere in our move, I lost my bag of lip products. Yes, I had a small bag of lip products. I love the story of when I got stopped in airport security with it and had a convo with the TSA guy that went a little something like this: "What's this? Lip Gloss. What's this? Lip Gloss. What's this? Lipstick. What's this? Lip shimmer," until I finally broke down laughing at myself (he didn't think it was so funny). It was probably just as well the Lip Bag went missing... I had been accumulating it's contents practically since college and that stuff has a shelf life, you know. However, this loss left me with nary a lip shine to my name, and being that I rarely get fully made up anymore, a little swipe of lip gloss is the kind of thing that can save me from feeling like a total shlub when I leave the house. So, my mama and I made a pilgrimage to one of the best stores ever, Making Faces, in Portsmouth, NH and a cute young thing in her early twenties helped me find just the go-to lip product. Say hello to Smashbox Lip Enhancing Gloss in the the aptly named shade of Baby Pout. It looks pink here, but just goes on light, sweet and shimmery. It isn't too sticky or shellack-y, and I love it. I am actually happy the Lip Bag is gone. I am all about simplifying life these days, and having just one perfect gloss in my bag hits the mark. I think this shade would be perfect with just about any skin tone if you are looking for a light, daily gloss. Check it out!
What else... let me introduce you to my newest internet girl crush/blog obsession, a photography blog called From Me To You.
I tell you, each post over there is better than the last. I love her photographic eye, and am smitten with the shot above. It makes me feel like part of a world-wide sorority of coffee-drinking beauties, each of us gathering information, by newspaper or laptop screen, as we push back the morning cobwebs and caffeinate. (Note her Lip Bag... makes me a little sentimental.)
I also adore her series called Food Diary of a Brocavore (which she defines as a "young urban male, interested in cooking and the local food movement. Attempts to eat seasonably, drinks craft beer, tap water and wine."), where she follows an adorable friend of her's (pictured above) as he shops the local farmer's market and prepares gorgeous, seasonal dishes. The recipes are delicious and easy to follow, the photography is stunning, and their local market just happens to be NYC's Union Square Greenmarket, where my sister and her honey do most of their shopping, so somehow spying on that world makes me feel a little closer to her as well. Hop on over to From Me to You and take a look... I promise you won't be disappointed.
Finally, I must update you on my half-marathon progress, or lack thereof. An extremely painful case of Achilles tendinitis and my sinus infection kept me off the roads for 3 weeks in April, giving me a serious setback in my training. Combine that with the fact that our move-in date for the new house is just days after the date of the race I picked out, and this whole June half-marathon thing no longer seems like a good plan. I don't want to hurt myself rushing to catch up with my training, and I must be able-bodied on our moving day... soreness or re-injury is a non-option. So, I've decided to just savor my 3 and 4 mile runs right now, and perhaps revisit the idea of a serious race, maybe in the fall, once the dust settles for us in Boston. Life is all about rolling with the punches, right?
This photo features some of my favorite mamas and aunties around + the best little blond baby girl. It was from an all-chick camping trip we took to Acadia National Park in the summer of 2008, when little did I know, I'd soon enough be in a family way myself. It reminds me of the amazing women in my life: moms, mom-in-laws, grandmas, and the ever present and loyal Auntie Brigade, who deserve a day just for them. To everyone who knows the selflessness, warrior-like strength and endurance, and undying love that are the hallmarks of motherhood, enjoy your day. Your mimosa is well-deserved!
In other news: ME you are the winner of the Lettuce Press giveaway!
Please e-mail me your address so I can send the print your way.
I couldn't be more excited to offer this giveaway from my tremendously talented cousin, Allison. She makes gorgeous paper goods, custom invitations, announcements, and social stationery for her business, Lettuce Press. Her Etsy shop features amazing creations which she cranks out at home on her vintage1907 Chandler & Price printing press, using 100% tree-free papers. I love her work, both the tongue in cheek:
And the inspirational:
We were lucky enough to have her create our wedding invitations and Baby J's birth announcements. Both pieces were so unique and special, and gained rave reviews from all who received them. Allison, you rock!
For an SMJ giveaway, Lettuce Press is offering this beautiful print:
I love the idea of framing this and hanging it in the kitchen... such a great meditation to focus on while you chop and stir! For a chance to win, visit the Lettuce Press Etsy Shop and leave a comment below! I'll pick a winner at random on Sunday.
Things that have happened in the last 5 days:
1) Baby J gets ear infection + cold + 4-day-long high fever, all of which are terribly unpleasant for all involved.
2) I get sinus infection + seasonal allergies, causing me to look and feel like death warmed over.
3) I get horrific case of food poisoning. Note to self + Boston-based SMJ readers: avoid the sushi counter at the Chestnut Hill Star Market (which is otherwise a delightful shopping experience) at all costs. Home alone with a toddler and food poisoning = hell on earth.
4) We sign a lease on a fantastic apartment in the oh-so-fabulous hipster 'hood of Jamaica Plain. So excited. Move in date is July 1. Very happy.
5) Baby J has one year doctor's appointment vaccine-palooza this morning, and I suspect any progress we've made in recuperating from the aforementioned cold is going to be dashed very quickly. Oy.
Poor little dude.
But, as always, with the trying times come good things and as such I'd like to give a shout out to:
1) My in-laws, who both work in pediatrics, and are so helpful and reassuring during times like this.
2) The husband, for his patience and good humor in our real estate search, and for being the kind of dad who gets up with the baby in the middle of the night and stays up trying to comfort him between 3 and 6am, despite a busy work day ahead.
3) Tylenol Cold and Sinus Severe, without which nothing this week would be possible.
4) My mom, for hightailing it home at the end of her work day yesterday to give me some relief from a day of crying baby + sinus headache (brutal combo).
5) My al fresco breakfast this morning, which fueled me for the day ahead, and brought me a little peace and sustenance.