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In Preparation for 35

3 Jul

Something about turning 35 in the fall—and something about having a kid all my own (she’s also my husband’s, I suppose)—has compelled me to put a lot more thought into my well-being, which I’ve managed to neglect pretty much since I could think for myself. I’ve ingested disgusting amounts of fast food, copious amounts of sugar, excess caffeine, over-the-counter medicine, and slathered on toxic makeup since I was about 13 . . . the list of offenses is endless, really.

My dad, bless him, allowed me to repeatedly order and eat 20-piece boxes of Chicken McNuggets in my tween years—and I could inhale a box in about 10 minutes.

As far as wastefulness, well jeez. As a household, we’re working on the waste—but as long as you eat on the go or don’t prepare everything from scratch—and by “scratch,” I mean items that don’t come in any packaging whatsoever—there will be waste. Our main bin and recycling bin aren’t overflowing each week, but it would be wonderful to shop mostly at the farmers market and wean ourselves off of prepackaged food, even if it is Trader Joe’s.

Little by little, I’m trying to turn things around to look my best as I enter my forties and beyond, but more importantly, feel my best. I also yearn to set a good example for my little darling in hopes of making her a conscientious little citizen.

The revelation began with the documentary No Impact Man about New York writer Colin Beavan, his journalist wife Michelle Conlin, and their ridiculously cute daughter, Isabella. Seriously, if you’ve no interest in environmental discourse whatsoever, watch the film for Isabella.

To die for, right?

The documentary came out a couple years ago, but if you aren’t familiar with Colin Beavan’s project, his goal was to essentially reduce his family’s environmental footprint to nil over the course of a year. As the Beavans discuss in the documentary, the public’s reception to the mission was lukewarm. The documentary received loads of press aside equal parts, if not more, criticism. What about the fact that Michelle Conlin writes for Business Week, a periodical whose production kills forests full of trees? It’s unrealistic—who would ever be able to live without so much? It’s a publicity stunt . . . on and on. And you know what? All these people have points. Absolutely. But I understand what Conlin was attempting to do: (a) raise awareness of the things people could do to lessen their impact on the environment if they so desired (as well as raise awareness of himself as a writer, but hey, we all have to make a living—especially writers!) and (b) show the uneducated masses ways that a Fifth Avenue-dwelling family used to all the trappings of New York life managed to do with less. Most importantly, I enjoyed learning the ways that scaling back contributed to more quality time with their daughter, weight loss, overall better health, and greater peace of mind. I related most to Michelle, a self-professed shop- and crap-TV-aholic with a penchant for Starbucks. She survived. I could survive, too.

I’m so into trying to be okay with less right now. Some of it is forced, given the way the economic situation has affected our family, but I want to feel good about it in my heart of hearts.

Another source of inspiration has been Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet. My husband decided about a month-and-a-half ago that he was finished with meat, and hasn’t touched it since. We both were vegetarian years ago, but somehow filet mignon made its way back into our lives. I hadn’t felt swayed any which way as far as meat-eating was concerned, but given the almost-35 thing, I have been cognizant about my sugar, fat, sodium, and caffeine intake, and have been a little worried about it, to be honest. I haven’t had a physical in years, but I’m betting my cholesterol is getting up there, if it isn’t there already. Sensing that I needed to start eating in a more wholesome manner—and learn how to make my daughter enjoy eating things that are good for her—I put The Kind Diet on hold at the library and have been fixated on its content ever since. The idea that whole grains, beans, and vegetables will make me feel full, reverse bad things happening in my body, and perhaps correct my skin (yay!) appeals, obviously. And I don’t want to go on a Meat is Murder rant, but for the first time, I was moved toward vegetarianism for the sake of the animals.

Will it satisfy? I don’t know. While my husband attempts to master the whole vegan shebang, I will embrace the “Flirting” chapter and take baby steps. I hope I like it. I doubt I’ll evolve into a health nut (not that there’s anything wrong with it!), and I don’t need to start wearing hemp shoes or anything, but I’m fairly certain the inner workings of my body have been on a roller coaster ride, and I know my crappy diet is to blame.

Probably more in this vein to come.

Post-first-vegan-dinner edit: Fried udon noodles with cabbage, garlic, paprika, onions and some other stuff. We forgot to purchase broccoli and mushrooms to go in it like we intended! At any rate, it was tasty, with a lingering spiciness. Not exactly In ’n’ Out tasty, but seriously—even though I want tasty, I’m not willing to eat a burger for it at this point. If anyone has delectable veg/vegan dishes, send them on over!

Learn a Language Instead of Reading 140-Character Posts from 150 People You Don’t Know

18 Jun

Not that I don’t read Twitter updates, because I did succumb a couple months back. But I try to keep my viewing to no more than fifty folks; and if it starts becoming a whole lot of drivel, I have absolutely no problem not logging on for a few hours. I jest. I’m honestly not that into the Twitter thing. However, I do wish I could bypass it—and Facebook—and perhaps scale back my blog reading to learn a language with the sliver of time I have left after upholding my daily obligations.

I studied Spanish for years in high school and college, but didn’t continue on; so ninety percent of those verb conjugations I memorized exited my brain ages ago. I took a semester of conversational French once upon a time. My accent was amusing at best; and, needless to say, the end of the semester marked the death of my dream to recite Colette and Baudelaire in French to myself in the mirror every morning. Because that’s romantic . . . I do, however, feel an obligation to my world community to resume or learn anew at least one other language. When I found Livemocha, I thought for the first time that learning a language post-school days actually seemed feasible.

Before I go on, I want to mention how I ended up visiting Livemocha in the first place. A Facebook friend posted a link to Stumbleupon.com—“another excellent time-waster,” she wrote. And it so is, but I also was pointed to some very interesting and useful blogs after I entered my tastes and interests and whatnot into their little blog generator apparatus. I fear this is beginning to sound like an ad for the site, so blah, blah, blah . . . and then I ended up on this post, which lists a bunch of “semi-productive” things to do while avoiding real work. Thanks, Stumbleupon! I never mentioned suffering from terminal procrastination, but you’ve got my number, quite clearly. So that’s how I found the language-learning site.

The sad truth is that I haven’t had time to utilize the site. I’m so very anxious to, though. You simply note your native language; which language you’re eager to learn, and what skill level you’re shooting for; and then you’re hooked up with online tutorials and the opportunity to converse with native speakers of your desired language in real-time. Could be creepy; could be cool. I’m really hoping it’s cool. If anyone gets to this before I do, please let me know how it goes.

In conclusion, I leave you with a thought from the ever-cosmopolitan Eddie Izzard:

Photo © Dennis_Wong on Flickr

Charles Phoenix

7 Jun

Charles Phoenix is an American treasure in that he treasures Americana—the good, the kitschy, and the downright absurd. I haven’t read every last bit of his work, but it ranges from enjoyably easy-to-read historical non-fiction (Southern California in the ’50s: Fun, Sun and Fantasy [2001] is a fine example) to blogs about an old photo of a leopard print-wearing lady whooping it up with two monkeys (and no, not like that).

See? No monkey business here. Photo © CharlesPhoenix.com

What I really feel as though I’ve missed out on are his live shows. I mean, who better to take the masses back to the yesteryear of Disneyland than Mr. Phoenix? He’s doing just that this summer.

The Lost Mouseketeer

I know he probably doesn’t need plugs at this point in his career. He was on Martha Stewart, after all. But the care he takes in telling stories about found photographs and slides isn’t only hilarious—it’s helping keep the Wonder Years alive in this era in which everything is digitized, given a half-second’s attention, and deleted with a swift flick of the wrist. Sure, he’s usually making fun of the people in the photos, most of whom he never knew, but he’s giving them voices, showing  a glimpse of the life the way they lived it, and paying homage to simpler, less harried times.

Do check him out!

Spain . . . on the Road Again

5 Jun

I assure you that I won’t continually choose really very things that are two years old, but sometimes older is good. Just ask the Sex and the City gals about their success—two years ago. (Just kidding. I saw Sex and the City 2, and I thought it was a hoot. No one wants to talk about how a good portion of American women likely have a problem with their favorite ladies whooping it up in the Middle East. Or maybe they have, but I haven’t read it. Anyway, xenophobia, anyone?)

People don’t seem to take issue with their leading ladies going off to Europe for a whirlwind tour of the best eats and spirits a country has to offer, however. Spain . . . on the Road Again, the 2008 television series that aired on public television, finds the charming Gwyneth Paltrow, Spanish actor Claudia Bassols, renowned Chef Mario Batali, and food writer/cookbook author extraordinaire Mark Bittman traveling the roads of Spain in swanky Mercedes, engaging in witty repartee, and getting sloshed in each of the 13 episodes of this series.

When I asked a good friend—a foodie of sorts—if she’d seen any of the episodes, she replied that no, she hadn’t, and that she’d heard that everyone on the show came off as “insufferable.” “EH?” I said. I, for one, had no idea that Gwyneth Paltrow had such a wonderful disposition prior to watching Spain  . . .  on the Road Again. She is seriously hilarious—a guy’s girl, really. She’s down to earth, unpretentious, and seems to enjoy cutting loose when the opportunity strikes. And she’s so naturally stunning. I’m taken aback how she can look so regal without a trace of makeup. (I do realize I’m blathering on, but I never thought one way or the other about Ms. P before watching the show, and I certainly knew a fair share of folks who for somewhat unjustifiable reasons loathed her; so it was very nice to see her in this new light. The light of España!)

Mario Batali’s orange Crocs and fondness for dressing down for all occasions are a bit of a downer, but he has his comedic moments, as well—and he’ll randomly throw out proof that he’s pretty hip. I believe it was in an episode where he and “Gwynnie” are visiting a gallery, where he drops a Gang of Four reference. (If you aren’t into English post-punk, you don’t really care.) Mark Bittman is exactly how you’d imagine him, if you’re familiar with his New York Times column or blog: dry, a little crotchety, but lovable. “Bassols,” as she’s often referred to on the show, is glamorous and intelligent. She’s the least entertaining of the lot, but she’s most fluent in Spanish and serves as the tour guide on the show.

If you don’t think you’d grow bored watching people eat and drink, and discuss in both English and Spanish what they feel about what they’re eating and imbibing, this show is for you. The locally grown food, its preparation, and the enjoyment it brings are so impressive that you can’t really help but at least attempt to eat better after watching a few shows. Vegetables never looked so delectable—I promise you.

PS: Check for air dates on the Spain . . .  on the Road Again web site (above). Alternatively, the series is available on good old Netflix.

Christie Mellor is really very.

3 Jun

I very nearly made the first post about this miracle pore plug concoction that turns my super-slick skin a more tolerable matte, but I figured that wasn’t the best way to express to the masses (I mean you) that I have—and I quote the “About” section—“a wide range of interests.” I probably misquoted. Ho-hum! So, in place of the aforementioned miracle toxin, I want to pay tribute to the divine Christie Mellor. She is an author, illustrator, musician, actor, mother—a seemingly all-around good egg, and an inspiring one at that. True story: I tried to get on that PBS show, Road Trip Nation—the online version of the show, anyway. The mother of a toddler can’t just caravan to Australia, or wherever, interviewing neat people. This one can’t. But yes, I applied to go on a mini-road trip around my state, and one of the people I mentioned I would love to interview is Ms. Mellor. But I didn’t hear back. Damn the luck!

This is Christie Mellor fronting a band.

Do you know of whom I speak? You may not have picked up the book The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting if you aren’t the owner of kids, but you should. It’s hilarious. And if you’re somewhere in the realm of becoming a parent and are hanging out on the fence because the thought of playdates and parks and sippy cups makes you want to have a mid-life crisis early, Christie Mellor will tell you with great panache that parenting does not have to be as annoying as those women in ponytails and Juicy track suits make it seem. Well, it is inherently annoying, because it’s a trifle annoying when you realize your life is no longer yours, but that’s my issue, not yours . . .

Three-Martini Family Vacation: A Field Guide to Intrepid Parenting followed The Three-Martini Playdate, but I haven’t gotten the former yet, as I’m still terrified to travel as a family unit. I’m sure the book’s content is fabulous, though. Not a doubt in my mind, because Were You Raised by Wolves?: Clues to the Mysteries of Adulthood, which was published in 2008, left me in fits at points, and conjured too many familiar people and scenarios from my life—in a funny way. Were You Raised by Wolves is really geared toward twentysomethings who lack social graces, but if you’re past your twenties and still haven’t grown up completely, it’s ideal for you, too. Among the extensive Table of Contents are great Heloise-style household tips, pointers on how to throw a great cocktail party, some finance matter, and my personal favorite—movie suggestions that will improve your fashion sense, as well as your home décor. Hopefully, Ms. Mellor won’t mind if I provide a quick list, because I thought the section was really something special:

(The following is my paraphrasing.)

  • early James Bond films
  • Douglas Sirk films, especially All This and Heaven Too (note drapes)
  • Flower Drum Song: See Sammy Fong’s “swingin” bachelor pad.
  • What a Way to Go
  • A New Kind of Love for “cool room dividers,” “built-in prehistoric TV sets, the hanging lamps that threaten to decapitate, and the coolest rust-orange sofa ever. Bullet bras! Great Hats! Stunning 1960s fashion models!”
  • Attack of the Mushroom People for “Japanese western-style fashions”
  • A Shot in the Dark
  • A Clockwork Orange for the cat lady’s cool décor

There are a couple more, but you should definitely just get the book, or at least check it out from the library. My library didn’t have it, which I found utterly unacceptable.

Now, Mellor’s publisher, William Morrow, has released this book. From the synopsis, my best guess is that it’s about not packing it in and deciding to wear sweats every day after turning forty, or conversely, deciding to ask for the “Heidi Montag” in hopes of turning back time. Don’t have the tome yet, but I look forward to it.

One last thing about Christie Mellor.  If you go to her site, you can link to her band’s site. How amazing does this woman look? I find her fresh and gorgeous and the real deal—as far as I can tell. Maybe one day we’ll be bosom friends. That, or tomorrow, I’ll have a restraining order against me.

At any rate, check out her stuff. It’s REALLY VERY.