May 25, 2015 § 2 Comments
OK, that title is a bit of a stretch, as the topic is simply running (and meditation tossed in for some additional Personal Growth). But here is my story, so far…
Last fall, I finally owned up to the fact that while running and at other times, my shoulder was going numb, which would be followed by intense pain that could last for days. This was going on for at least six months…probably longer…but I finally was in enough pain to know that I needed to act. So I saw a somewhat unsympathetic (I think he was disappointed that I wasn’t a more interesting patient) but very good sports physician about the whole affair. Turns out, my neck is a bit of a mess and all that running I’ve been trying to do (I am still glacially slow) was making it far worse. There were painkillers, x-rays and the thing I dreaded most: physical therapy. What there wasn’t was running. I was benched before I even got good. But the Doctor’s hope was that I could get back to it in several months. And after another horrid winter and months of not feeling too much pain, it looked like this last Sunday:
How could I not give it a go? So I put on my running shoes — plus sunblock — and off I went in hopes of reaching the beach before sunset. (Note: This is only two miles, but I felt the need to calibrate.)
It wasn’t especially easy, but the lilacs were in full bloom and scented my way while I was busy keeping my shoulders down, neck relaxed and body upright (all things learned at PT…and all harder than you would think.) After what seemed like forever, I reached my destination:
And I could not have been happier. The beach was not at all busy, or too cold, or really anything but perfect. So I sat down for a spell and worked on another thing I’ve been avoiding, my LovingKindness* meditation — an exercise that I find even harder than running sometimes. As I write about it now, I do find it interesting that both running and this practice sort of require that you be gentle with yourself, but not at the expense of being persistent. So like me to try to improve both at once. Someday maybe I will give it a rest….but not at the moment, it seems.
ANYWAY…we arrived back at the beach for the holiday weekend on Wednesday night and after one rainy day, I was back at it — running and LovingKindness — on Friday, and then Saturday, and yesterday and today. My plan is to do it all week out here and see how it goes.
So far, so good. I am finding that doing this almost daily is making the lows less awful and the highs a touch more elevated. And then of course there are the little treats along the way…
It seems sometimes as if every bit of non-protected land out here is being overbuilt, but there are still places where other creatures rule. And the horse farms do make me happy.
And as we move from late spring to full-on summer, the honeysuckle blankets anything that will have it, making taking a good, deep breath even more rewarding. (And really, this all requires a lot of breathing…very glad not to be in the city during this experiment.)
I could look at the dunes forever. Aside from being beautiful, they are also rather fragile and in need of care and consideration. Which, as you are working on your LovingKindness and trying to heal your body, you start seeing in a new light. Not in a bad or needy on inconvenient way, which is a very easy place to find yourself when confronted with things that are delicate and in need of care. But for me at least, in a way that speaks to how it is best to treat yourself and others around you — with patience, understanding, persistence and love.
* Here is a link for more information, but my go-to guy is Jack Kornfield for these endeavors. http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/loving-kindness
(Photos: Spme Cozy Night)
January 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Heavens, it snowed last night! So this is looking like an Indoor Day. As such, it only makes sense to get my picks for the best records of 2014 down, with “pairings” should you decide to have a little something while you are listening:
D’Angelo and The Vanguard: Black Messiah
Released late last year, this was, I think, the best record I heard in 2014. Heavily influenced by Prince, Marvin Gaye and others, it has its own complex sound that requires multiple listens even though it sounds like record you’ve always had a few tracks in. When I worked in the music industry, D’Angelo was on a rapid rise, but I somehow had never listened to him and then he was on a ten-year hiatus. I was missing out. He is the real deal. And this is meant to be listed to as a piece. Get a glass of wine — make that a healthy pour of a juicy California red, this is an American artist, after all — sit down, and listen all the way through.
Lucinda Williams: Down there the Spirit Meets the Bone
Lucinda is loved by her serious fans (“Change the Locks”, people!), kind of known by many more for a few great songs that crossed over (“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”, which should be loved by many), and downright disliked by those who may find her music a bit, well…dark. But as a friend and I discussed after seeing her perform in November (fantastic!!), so much of what she is singing about feels “resolved”. So I don’t often feel sad or riled up after listening to her — it’s more like “I hear you, Lucinda”. And this record is no exception.
I first listened to it while doing a kind of rude thing at MoMA. I was tired of hearing everyone else’s chatter at the Matisse Cutouts show (which was really quite overwhelming, I think on account of the scale of everything), so I popped on my headphones, cranked up the volume a bit and moved through the exhibition. Matisse and Lucinda Williams seems like an odd combination, I’ll admit. But there was some kind of synergy going on…the music made you slow down and really take in the work on display. I kept the headphones on and listened again while visiting some of my favorite pieces in the other galleries. Wonderful.
This is a record where you can skip around or shuffle, but I find myself lingering on many, especially “Compassion”, which is an adaptation of her late father’s poem of the same name:
Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.
Best listened to when you are feeling fine but maybe a little introspective. And this is a smoky scotch — not wine — situation.
Kylie Minogue: Into the Blue
Everyone needs a Kylie song now and again — even if they don’t know it yet. Many of us need entire records because this is a woman who loves to entertain, works with great producers and collaborators, and has access to fantastically fun and well-written songs. It’s a party all of the time but with more musical substance that a non-fan would expect. (And if you ever get a chance to see her in concert, get your bootie to it, as you will both have a silly fun time.)
After her last record, Aphrodite, I was not sure how she could top it. Yet she did. If you are feeling tired or have a case of The Blahs, take two Kylies (really, any two except for the duet with Enrique Iglesias) and see if you don’t feel better. The whole record will get you though a painful workout, or trying to figure out what outfit is the Best You at a given time, or making dinner for some oddly large number of people when you’ve worked all week. Depending upon the time of day, Into the Blue is best paired with water, coffee or a glass of rose champagne.
(“Compassion” by Miller Williams, from The Ways We Touch: Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 1997.)
January 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
Honestly it is too long a story and not that interesting. But just in case you were wondering, I hope to begin posting again soon. (So many new skincare products, and flares are back, and I’ve been wearing flats a ton and I need to re-do all of my makeup choices…and try making that cauliflower “pizza” crust.) But I need to gear up…so please don’t go.
In the meantime, rest assured that Mr. H and I are well, as are A+O and life, while always a little nutty, is better than fine. Here are (way too many?) snaps from the past year…
Our annual New Year’s Eve dinner last year, always with good wine — and good friends.
As you may recall, the East Coast had a ridiculous amount of snow. So this year, we tried to get the dogs into booties. As you can see, they loved them.
But the booties were with us all winter long…and trust me, it was a l o n g winter.
Alas, there was hope before we knew it. (Actually, it seemed like forever before there was hope, but bitter is not good for my complexion.)
Just a gorgeous truck…these are becoming more and more rare. Note the lack of snow…I think this was in April.
We also went to George Nakashima’s studio in May — a birthday gift from Mr. H. People: If you can get there, go for the storage room of wood alone. Stunning. But I also rather loved the outdoor views.
The rains came as they always do, but this year, they created a darling bunch of mushrooms. Don’t they look like little umbrellas? Love.
And this year’s cutting garden was my personal candy store.
And while I was running one day in June, I just had to stop — not only because I thought I was going to die, but also to capture this fantastic lichen. Gotta’ love lichen…the colors are so complex that only nature can make it so.
Another lone mushroom of summer.
Have you heard that Farm Weddings are all the rage right now? Well, they are. And they are fabulous. This were just some of the gorgeous flowers from the best wedding I’ve attended in years. The whole affair — from the BBQ Rehearsal Dinner to the late-into-the-night Wedding celebration — was just full of love and all things lovely. Truly special.
And you know where to find me in July, August and whenever I can be there. This year was no exception.
And a final summer arrangement, that I managed to get a bee a out of without getting stung or the bee having left this world too soon.
Suddenly it was fall, which brings us our first apples. This one was from a friend’s tree.
And then is was the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Pumpkins were picked twice and included a visit to a (terrifying) play area that included a (very dangerous) real fire engine that my oldest nephew — we’ll call him “Original” from here on out — had to climb onto. There was NO WAY I was letting him on this vehicle of pointed, sharp metal, open areas large enough to get a small head stuck into and heavens knows what else, all by himself . So I did what apparently NO OTHER ADULT would do: I got on with him. At least it has this cool set of dials to geek out over, but really, I needed a cocktail after Original and I slid down off the thing.
No words. (And this doesn’t even begin to capture the true colors of the leaves.)
Fall also is my favorite time to cook hearty winter greens, but before I sauted these, I had to show them raw. Too pretty!
It rains a lot in New York. It just does. And for some reason, even though the boys have no issue running bootless through the snow, rain is a no go. Even if it has recently rained, as pictured here. You might be able to detect the wordless conversation they are having: “Hey, did it rain?”, “Yeah…it did…unacceptable! Back inside pronto!” And that is exactly what these buggers did — this has become Standard Operating Procedure. Dislike!
But then they do something adorable like this and I (almost) forget about their Rain Issues.
And suddenly it was the holidays again. The time of Pannetone for Breakfast and cozy bedside flowers. Two restful weeks later and we were back in town.
Which is fine by me. I love the beach, but the winter light is beautiful anywhere. Especially when there are new varieties of amaryllis to be enjoyed.
And nighttime in the city, where even an uninteresting block is transformed by the crisp (ok, horridly bitter) air and light. Seriously, this is the block my dentist’s office is on and I just popped out and had to take a picture.
But to be truthful, the cold here is downright maddening. (And it hasn’t even been that bad — yet.) Back at the beach, our florist seemed to understand that people need a little hope and had these stocked. A little bit of sunshine right on the table.
And a little bit of inspiration to make sure I am entering the new year with the right frame of mind, courtesy of the Dalai Lama. With all the nuttiness that is going on in the world, it is good to aspire to kindness. To paraphrase Lucinda Williams and her late father, Miller, you just don’t know what someone is going through at any given time, so I am trying to stop before I am anything less than kind and compassionate this year — every little bit helps.
(Photos: Some Cozy Night and Mr. H; “Kindness” from How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by the Dalai Lama, copyright 2003.)
November 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
Times flies quickly when you are having fun…and when you are non-fun busy to the point of insanity. That is why Thanksgiving can be a good pre-cursor to the inevitable New Year, New Me thing.
I’ve personally been feeling a little lousy and exhausted these last few weeks, but I am trying my best to Just Get On with It. And every day I try to remind myself of the good things in life that cannot be undone by something annoying or upsetting that will pass. And it will pass. Or you can change it, right? (To be clear, I also have my less-that-stellar moments, but thankfully, I have people who are there to listen.)
So, one goal of this Thanksgiving is to remember what I am truly thankful for: Mr. H, my friends and family, my health and the health and happiness of those around me. Oh, and that Micro-Glycolic Peel that I mentioned earlier this year. ;)
The other goal I have for this holiday is to Keep Going. Things cannot always be exactly how you want them, but I am not going to let it stop me from enjoying the good things of the season, from ice skating and dinners with friends to cocktail parties* with more friends and decorating ginger bread houses with my god daughter. And I refuse to not enjoy the twinkle lights, fresh pine and paperwhites that will be scattered about the house, or how lovely this year’s wrapping paper selection will be, or time spent by the fire with Mr. H and A+O just doing a lot of nothing.
Hmmm…I sound feisty. Well, I guess I am feeling that way a little today, but I don’t think it is a bad thing. In fact, I have decided that in addition to all the other things I am thankful for this year, renewed feisty-ness may very well top the list.
Have a wonderful stuffing and latke-filled holiday!
* One c/o Larder and Mr. H’s drink making abilities, the other c/o of my fantastic assistant who is planning a great one for the company.
(Photo of our amazing maple: Mr. H)
November 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
Just got to the beach for the holiday week and we were both too pooped to do a proper shop in time for dinner. We were also not especially motivated to leave the house for a meal, but we did need to eat.
I scanned the pantry and was pleased to find some plain breadcrumbs and felt especially fortunate that there were a few sprouts of parsley still alive outside. These items, along with some salt, pepper, olive oil and red pepper flakes will be dinner tonight. Oh, and some pasta, which I am never without. (I think it is a rule for Italian-Americans.)
So, Pasta with Garlic and Breadcrumbs: While your are getting your pasta ready, saute some garlic cloves — five or six — and red pepper flakes (to taste ) in one tablespoon of olive oil until the garlic begins to brown. Then add about 1/4 cup of plain breadcrumbs to the mixture until they are also nicely browned. Next add salt, pepper and parsley to taste. Once your pasta is al dente, strain but keep a few tablespoons of the pasta water on the side. Pop the cooked pasta into the breadcrumb mix and add a little of the reserved water to loosen it all up. And now you are ready to eat!
Super easy and super tasty, especially with a nice glass of wine and a fire.
(Photos: Some Cozy Night)
November 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
As you know, I am a big art lover, as is Mr. H. There is little that I enjoy more than being moved by a piece that is brand new to me, and I find it extremely comforting to visit the “old friends” that I never tire of seeing, even after two decades or more. But one of the most interesting experiences for an art nerd such as myself to have is seeing a piece in person for the first time after spending years seeing images of it in classes or other reading. Sometimes, it can be be a non-event but in the best of circumstances, it kind of blows you away.
This week the latter happened: Mr. H and I were at the New York Historical Society’s exhibit that was meant to recreate 1913’s famous Armory Show (actually called the “International Exhibition of Modern Art”) 100 years after it was first mounted.* The show was meant to promote modern paintings and sculpture to U.S. audiences, and while it had a profound impact on modern painting in this country, it was considered quite audacious at the time. Seeing parts of it today makes that last statement sound odd, but 100 years ago, it was simply not.
There were many terrific paintings by artists with whom I was not very familiar and several that I had seen before or knew a little about. And most of them were really very lovely. Alas the one piece that knocked me off my feet was one that I had seen countless times, and it is possibly one of the most debated paintings of the last century: Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, from 1912. In college, I had studied this painting in depth. I memorized its creation date, why it was important and all the other details that an art history student must remember. But I was never especially moved by it, although I like Duchamp’s work tremendously.
Ah…but to see it in person is another matter entirely. Sometimes when you get caught up in the academics of a thing, you lose the best part: its beauty. This, my friends, is a truly beautiful painting. And I was completely unprepared for that to be the case. I saw things in it that I’d never noticed before and was completely taken with its line and color and purpose — things I thought I’d “seen” before, but I hadn’t really experienced it. I was genuinely moved and delightfully surprised.
One could draw a line between this kind of moment and how important it is that we live as much of our lives “in person” as possible, but I’ll focus on something else instead…even if it is slightly related:
Last night, Mr. H and I were at a dinner party and the show itself came up in conversation with a friend we won’t see very often. He’d seen it as well, and I brought up the Duchamp. Our friend replied that he, too, found it rather amazing that in spite of it being such a familiar image — but one that he’d never seen in person — he was also surprised to find it to be so beautiful. “Yes…it it really a beautiful painting…” was how the conversation ended. But in a way, the end of that conversation was perhaps the beginning of our getting to know this person a little bit better. Maybe that is the final fantastic part of art: sharing with others and how it allows you to share more of yourself with them.
(Image of Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2: Via Fair use/Art; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Duchamp_-_Nude_Descending_a_Staircase.jpg#filelinks; Marchel Duchamp, 1887 – 1968; Painted in Paris, France; 1912, Oil on Canvas; 55 7/8″ H X 35 1/8″ W; part of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, United States.)
November 15, 2013 § 1 Comment
This isn’t what you think it is about. Unless you, like me, don’t wear fur (or feathers or exotic skins or calf hair) but sometimes find yourself confronted with a coat or other item that is “faux” but awfully convincing.* There have been such major advances in textiles these last few years that I find myself tempted to give it a try, but I never quite get there.
Why? Well, I sometimes feel as if these advancements are almost too convincing, and therefore someone may see me walking down the street wearing a really great faux item and think that I am wearing something that I am not. And confusing anyone regarding my feelings on this issue is not something I want to do. (Yes, I know this is a little nuts.) And so, I pass.
But this year folks have been doing amazing things with alpaca, which is wonderfully warm and based on my research, perfectly ok for me to wear. Still I can’t help but notice that lots of the alpaca garments are leaving the strands of the material longer…which starts to look a lot like skinned fur. In the words of Charlie Brown “ARGH!!!”. So do I or don’t I? Right now, I am replying on looped yarns for that texture I’ve been craving, but still, I just had to order this alpaca coat today that, upon closer inspection, may be one of those deceiving items. Or maybe it is totally ok. I guess I’ll know whether it is cheating or not when I slip it on. More in two to three business days.
* Alas, I do wear leather shoes and bags, and have a piece of leather furniture or two in my home. Oh, and I eat meat. But only from certain places. Ack. It is hard to draw the line. And I know that line is different for everyone, so no judgement here. It is just what I do…or don’t do. You get my drift.