Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bare Bones

An excerpt from my current read, Sophie's Choice:
"She was so chaotically in love with Nathan that it was like dementia, and it is more often than not the person one loves from whom one withholds the most searing truths about one's self, if only out of the very human motive to spare groundless pain."
I think one of the greatest challenges of adulthood is trusting that the people you love will still be with you when all your scares are laid out before them.

But, then again, I think that's what makes love so valuable, enjoyable and rewarding - that we are able to embrace the people we care for, regardless of their "searing truths."

It just requires faith, that those whom you care for want to know you as deeply as you want to know them.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What's to love about winter?

For the first time, I'm starting to find out!

This year, I've made the effort to switch my thinking about winter. And here's what I've learned I like about this time of year:

1. I don't feel guilty relaxing at home, in our apartment on the weekends.

2. I enjoy cooking more, since it isn't (1) 120 degrees in the kitchen and (2) still light outside while I'm preparing food.

3. Now that I've learned how to dress (i.e. hat, gloves, scarf, long johns), it isn't too bad once you start walking out.

4. Michael and I have enjoyed a lovely winter Saturday routine, including a matinee movie and some walking around the city.

5. I don't start sweating two seconds after stepping outside.

6. The sun still shines in the winter! In fact, sometimes it is stronger.

7. I don't feel like I'm missing out on life if I stay at work a little later than usual.

8. It's the perfect light to wake up to in the mornings.

Not the Right Direction

Good move, Republicans!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 10s: Books

2008 was not "The Year of the Book," that's for sure. I enjoyed about half the books I read this year, with the other half feeling much more like a chore than anything else. That said, here are the top 7 of the year - an odd number indeed (prime, in fact!), but the only ones worth highlighting.

7. Stoner by John Williams --- Of all the short books I made it through this year, "Stoner" was one of the few that really came to life. Brief, spare and beautiful.

6. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen --- My personal philosophy, articulated clearly, succinctly and engagingly.

5. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan --- Another stunning book by McEwan. Short, but still thought-provoking. McEwan's writing is masterful, and in this book he was able to discuss marriage, naivety, anger, love, passion and all of life's most profound emotions with great insight and skill.

4. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri --- Always a winner, Jhumpa's new book of short stories was worth the wait.

3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz --- Despite all I had heard about this book, I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The narrative voice was funny and compelling, the characters rich and relatable.

2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy --- Just for sheer length of time I remained committed to this book, it had to make my list. Tolstoy is definitely my favorite Russian author, and while "War & Peace" was no "Anna Karinnina," it was still amazing. I loved the arch of this book, the way we grow up with characters. When this book begins, we're with the main characters in their childhood. When it ends, they are in late adulthood. We see how they change, mature, grow. Not until I finished the book was I able to appreciate how much I had grown to love these characters, and that's what makes "War & Peace" worth the effort.

1. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver --- I feel somewhat ridiculous for calling this the best book of 2008 (especially considering the other award-winners I read this year), "The Post-Birthday World" was just that! This was a literary version of the Gweneth Paltrow movie "Sliding Doors." Early in the novel, the main character has to make a decision - whether or not to cheat on her long-term boyfriend and kiss another man. The book splinters into two parallel stories based on each outcome - in one universe she's kissed him, and in the other she hasn't. Shriver crafts two beautiful, if at times terribly painful, realities and her craftsmanship is absolutely stunning. Perhaps this was just the right book at the right time, but I found it utterly engaging and thought-provoking. The main character is a woman who almost always believes, "the grass is greener on the other side." But what the book highlights is how it isn't - that everyone struggles, that there is joy in every existence. I loved it.

Oh Chris!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Joy of Christmas

Napping on a Thursday at 4:30, after a busy day of eating and socializing, in preparation for another round of food, family and fun!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Saddened by the Script

I miss the pre-scripted version of The Hills... but I still love it!

13 Degrees

This morning we woke up in an icebox!

When I left for work, it was 13 degrees outside. In preparation, I blow dried my hair, wore long johns, put on snow boots, a hat, a scarf, and gloves. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful morning! The sun was shinning, the wind was under control, and after three days of snow, sleet and clouds it felt great to be outside in the bright, sparkling day.

On Friday, just before the snow began, I had the chance to walk through the botanical gardens in Central Park. In the spring and summer, this small snippet of the park is full of color and life. Walking through this barren space on Friday was still a wonderful experience! Winter is an important time of the year and I am learning to love it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top 10s: Photos

It's cliche, I know, but the period between Thanksgiving and New Years is a serious time of reflection for me.

This past year has been particularly dramatic, physically, emotionally, in my personal life and in my career, with almost all aspects of my life going through significant change. Michael and I returned to life as professions, departing the comforts of graduate school. Between the two of us, we've had four jobs in twelve months. We visited family and friends all over the world, from my mom in Armenia to my sister-in-law in South Carolina. I made new friends, fought for old ones, and did my best to do right by those I love. I worked hard to be a good wife, a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend - succeeding sometimes and failing others. Michael and I celebrated the marriages of our dear friends and the births of a host of beautiful children.

What's remarkable to me is that change as dramatic as this year has been the reality for the past several. For the last six Christmases, I've had a lot to reflect upon! And when I think about our future, about Michael and I as parents, I think about how our lives will no longer be marked by our own challenges and triumphs, but by those of our children (whenever they arrive)...

In any event, all of this reflection lead me to sorting through my pictures from 2008, to identify the highlights of the year. Here we go:

10. New York, NY. Obama! What joy!


9. Armenia! This picture is from a fabulous night with my mom, brother and husband. It isn't the most flattering shot for any of us, but it represents much of that trip - smiles, snow, cold, and walking uphill.


8. In Maryland at Mona & Ashesh's wedding. Laura & Michael, having fun and laughing together. Laura officiated the wedding, Michael and I cheered it by dancing all night. Very fun!


7. Naples, Florida. Enjoying sunshine and seafood in the middle of winter with Michael's lovely grandparents.


6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia. My husband in his adventure pants, Cambodian sun-protecting scarf, climbing, adventuring and getting tan.


5. Koh Tao, Thailand. Seeing Michael in his element, passionate about writing.


4. Koh Tao, Thailand. I've already talked about this night, but it was magical. I thought about how wonderful it is to be in love, to feel the sun, to share a life with someone. I thought about the children we might have some day, how I hoped that they would be lucky enough to know the joy I felt at that precise moment, how life can be perfect sometimes.


3. New York, NY. Celebrating Michael's birthday with fabulous friends, good drinks and some serious karaoke. Two people well matched for one another.


2. Sapa, Vietnam. Hot, sweaty and climbing a mountain.


1. New York, NY. Happy and home after the adventure of a lifetime. Tan, happy, my husband nice a scruffy. Happy to be together, happy to be by the water on a perfectly sunny, warm day in New York City. A feeling I won't soon forget.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow! Again!

video

Congratulations!

Check out this article on Betty!
Mr. Podesta, who was Mr. Clinton’s last White House chief of staff, said it was only natural to call Ms. Currie back to service once he took over Mr. Obama’s transition operation. “Of course I asked her because in the 30 years we have worked together, I have never known anyone with more grace, dedication and public spirit than Betty,” he said. “And she has one mean rolodex.”

Recommended

I think Eugene Robinson has it right in his op-ed piece today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Celebrations


A weekend in South Carolina celebrating another exciting and well-earned family milestone.
A helping hand, or 10, to transition from one life to another.
A deliciously exciting new life in a handsome bright apartment.

Congratulations, Kelsey!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Lucky Ones

It's cold. It's wet. And it's New York.

Some days, you're the person who successfully battles the rain. You're wearing rubber galoshes that protect your legs from knees to toes. You're holding an umbrella that actually keeps you dry. You're able to keep spirits up and smile as people struggle to keep themselves safe from the rain.

Other days, you're the people who resort to this:


Today, I was one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Morning Trauma

It's only 9:37 and the following things have happened today:

* Our alarm went off at 6:15 so that we could attend a weight training class (the one that used to be lead by our favorite, Arnold, but has been taken over by a sub-par instructor - last week we left the class having not broken a sweat). Turns out, Michael had already been lying awake for at least an hour! His back has been hurting him off and on for the past month, and last night it was definitely on. We decided to skip the gym. I pulled out the heating blanket, put him on top of it, and attempted to get another hour of sleep.

* For the next hour, I dozed off and on, waking every five or ten minutes to check on Michael. When he was asleep, I would close my eyes restfully. When he was awake, I would close my eyes guiltily.

* I got out of bed at 7:15, brewed my first cup of tea, and read my book for a solid 30 minutes. The highlight of the day so far.

* I got into the bathroom at 8 to learn that there was no hot water. So no shower. No heat. No fun.

Now I'm at work, feeling gross and not yet awake. I took a shower last night at 9, so I shouldn't feel so bad. But a morning shower is as crucial to a good day as a cup of tea... It's going to be a rough one, folks.

On the plus side, today is my father-in-law's birthday! Happy birthday, Marty!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Randomness

Saturday: lounging in bed, errands that included stops at Old Navy, the Gap, the farmers market and Chipotle, baking chocolate chip cookies, purchasing two needlepoint kits to make our stockings for next Christmas, a lovely night with John & Anna (including dinner and "Frost/Nixon"), and a coke and some cookies with SNL.

Sunday: waking quickly, a brief enjoyable chat with Mom, an exhausting sweaty workout at Equinox, "Australia" with Jordana, cooking dinner, wine with my husband.

This weekend was freezing! But it felt more and more like Christmas! Our neighborhood music school (doesn't everyone have one?), decorated for the holidays:


A Christmas-y dinner with John and Anna (and all the old people on the Upper West Side):


And finally, when I went to purchase brown sugar at the grocery store on Saturday, an adorable 3-year old was helping his father by pushing a mini-shopping cart around the store. It was too cute, so I attempted (but did not succeed in taking) a photo. Here he is, right in front of the butter and yogurt:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Comfort

Disclaimer: the things I am about to say make me sound about 30 years older than I am.

I love tea. It is an absolute consumable comfort - the heat, the sweetness, the milky, bold taste make it the perfect way to wake in the morning, relax in the afternoon, or unwind after a long, cold day. By necessity, I've become rather adept at filling my tea kettle and putting the heat on without really waking up. Within about fifteen minutes of climbing out of bed most days, I have a warm cup in my hand, my eyes slowly fluttering open.

At work, we recently uncovered an electric kettle that had been hiding in the depths of our rather dirty "kitchen" cabinets. It was a sensational find, because until then if were we to try to make a cup at the office, we had to heat water in the microwave. As any good black tea drinker will tell you, this method is simply acceptable. Instead, I was stopping at Starbucks each morning for my cup of Awake, because that water is PIPING HOT.

With the discovery of the electric kettle, a friend of mine and I have started afternoon tea. Around 3:30 we put water on for our second (or third, sometimes forth) cup of the day. We'll often have a sweet to go along with it - a cookie or piece of dark chocolate. Heaven.

Here's a recent piece from NPR about tea and all its goodness:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crash Into Me

On my way home from work today, I witnessed two car crashes! It was the strangest thing - one minute everything was hunky-dory, and the next there was broken glass and scratched metal all over the place. I paused for a minute to make sure everything was okay, then continued my way home.

As I walked past drivers and passengers left to clean up the mess made on a Thursday night, I said a quick thanks for my car-less existence. And I also marveled at my walking coma --- I've done this trip so many times now, in the rain and snow, sunshine and freezing winds, that I barely notice where I am or what's going on around me (except, of course, for the mornings when I walk by John Stewart's house - I'm always looking out for him!). It took two car accidents to snap me out of my haze today.

I hear a lot about meditation, about its mental and physical benefits. This evening, I began to see my walks as a form of meditation. Sure, I usually have my ipod on, listening to NPR or Taylor Swift, or I'm talking to someone on the phone. But it is a rhythmic experience - not only is my physical movement the same, but the path I take is repeated twice a day, five days a week. I pass the same markers, the same people, the same shops and the same traffic lights. I keep a steady pace as I walk, moving just ahead of the strollers in Tribeca. I like my route, which (despite tonight's experience) is fairly free from major streets and traffic.

The walk gives me time to reflect, relax, unwind or prepare for whatever lies ahead. It is soothing, comforting, and indeed meditative.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recommended

Taking organic a little too far? Or a bold and daring attempt at health? Check it out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recommended

How cool is this?!?

Lunch

In an effort to eat healthy and save money, Michael and I have been "brown bagging" our lunches for the past several years. The longer we do this, the larger our lunches seem to grow. At first we were taking a sandwich, coke and a piece of fruit. Then we added a yogurt. Now some more fruit. And often a cookie or two...

This, in and of itself, wouldn't be a big issue. But in combination with my environmental guilt, the results are insanely overwhelming. Since plastic bags are banned from our household (generally), the ever-expanding quantities of tuperware are rather cumbersome... Here's an example of how ridiculous its growing:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Country Expansion

I just heard this new Blake Shelton song, and I'm already hooked:

Recommended

The NY Times Notable Books is out!

Sunday


We left Virginia at 10 AM this morning and arrived in our apartment at 5 PM - a whole work day on the road! Here's something I composed along the way:
The bus, the bus...
It's the cheapest way.
But man, oh man,
What a price to pay!

Hours and hours in a small seat,
Getting back to the city is quite a feat.

The train is roomy and fast.
Maybe this bus will be our last?

A common refrain while waiting and riding,
But the savings is something we cannot keep fighting.

I'm sure we will ride the bus once more,
And it will continue in family lore.

Saturday

What a day! Coffee with Amber, a hike with Michael's parents, a visit with Michael's grandparents, and a rousing high school reunion...

The hike was a perfect example of what I miss in New York. Michael, his parents, his dog Belle and I slushed around in fallen leaves, up and down inclines. It was a beautiful day - warm enough for the walk to be enjoyable, but cool enough to keep the sweating to a minimum. The sun was strong and sky blue - it was refreshing after the heavy Thanksgiving eating we've been doing and just generally wonderful.




On Saturday night, Michael and I met up with our globe-trotting friend James for their 10-year high school reunion. The whole night felt an awful lot like prom - we all dressed up, ate dinner with a big group of people, stood around awkwardly for much of the night (well, that was mostly me), and went to a diner before taking the long drive home. It was so nice to hang out with Michael and James! Here are some (drunken) pictures from Bob & Edith's:



Friday Fun!

Friday was a ridiculously enjoyable day. It began at 6:45 in New York and ended around 12:30 AM in Virginia. Here are some highlights spots:

1. Michael and I rode a double-decker train out to New Jersey to meet my brother and my dad! It was bizarrely fun to be on the top level, watching the scenery zoom passed us.

2. We spent several hours traveling on I-95 with my dad and brother, talking about how freakin' cool our new iPhones are.

3. We had a blast with Michael's parents shopping for new jeans, watching the horrific "Four Christmases," and eating another delicious meal, this time at Coastal Flats (among other things).

Thursday

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and the official start to the holidays!

For the first time, Michael and I began the day at home, sleeping in and enjoying our usual Saturday morning practices. I made it to the gym and then we boarded the train to New Jersey to celebrate with my Aunt Jess, Uncle Arny, Aunt Ruth, Henry and Dad at my Aunt Jess's house. It was just delightful - delicious food (including a ridiculous turkey and cranberry sauce combo), fabulous company, a constant fire in the fireplace, and a long walk to help digest the meal. Here's a nice pic with my brother and dad from the festivities:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today I've Been Daydreaming...

... about the most beautiful place I've ever been - a bungalow overlooking the gulf of Thailand. And I was able to savor it with my love... The noise in the background is from waves crashing just below our hammock.


video

Say it ain't so, Heidi!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Faux Thanksgiving, Part III

At this stage in my life, "home" can be complicated word. Is Virginia, where Michael and I both grew up, home? We make trips there every couple of months, always referring to it that way when we explain where we were to friends in New York. Many of the most important people in our lives are still in Virginia and its surrounding areas. And in some ways it has an ease of existence that I associate with being at home (i.e. cars, shopping malls, parking lots).

Until Michael and I moved in together, in our tiny and adorable apartment, Virginia was, without question, home.

But these days, as we develop more ties to the neighborhood in which we live, share more milestones here, reaffirm deeper connections with the people in our lives, home is shifting, from Virginia to New York.

Three years ago, Michael and I decided that we wanted to expand our Thanksgiving celebrations to include our New York Family - John & Anna and Ashesh & Mona. This experience - where we all come together to drink wine and eat delicious food - happens fairly regularly. As members of our New York family, they are on speed dial, and share many of our Friday and Saturday nights out and about. But it means something different to me to share a Thanksgiving meal with them. The hours of preparation for and cleaning up after, of cooking and setting off smoke detectors, of thinking about the menu and making holiday favorites, is something you don't do for just anyone. You do it for family.

This past year has been a remarkable one for us all - John & Anna got married and are now expecting a baby, Mona & Ashesh got married and moved in together, Michael and I graduated and re-entered the working world. Faux Thanksgiving III was a special night, and a chance to reaffirm what home really means to me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's Workout


Carrying 5 bottles of wine, two pumpkins, a bag of potatoes, two onions, a week's worth of apples and tomatoes, and decorative gourds from Union Square back home. Up next: a Thanksgiving turkey, yams, carrots, pecans and other fixings. Here comes Faux-Thanksgiving 2008!

Solice

Yesterday I was feeling blue. In an effort to cheer me up, my husband instituted a policy for the evening: I was not to leave the couch.

Michael brought me red wine. He ordered, signed for, and brought to the couch the Domino's pizza we delightfully consumed for dinner. He brought leftover chocolate cake to our living room and served us both hefty portions. He managed the TV, so that we were able to watch the amazing Thursday line-up: Survivor, The Office, and 30 Rock. He did everything to ensure that I could remain perched on the couch.

It did wonders.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Morning Mix

The best way to spend a Tuesday morning? At Arnold's class at NYSC!


Of course, now I can barely lift my arms or move my legs, but what could be better?

Michael Pollan, Food Policy Tzar

Crazy New Yorkers have started a petition to nominate Michael Pollan for Agricultural Secretary. In this interview with NPR, he suggests an even better position: Food Policy Tzar:



In grad school, I took a class called the Ecology of Food. It was one of those life-altering experiences, taught by Professor Joan Gussow. It completely changed the way I think about food. In both the Omnivoure's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan thanked Gussow and called her his teacher. That did it for me. Michael Pollan for Food Policy Tzar!

And here's a great piece from the Times that Pollan wrote.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Urban President

Michael and I are happy urbanites. We love the walking, the activity, the vitality of New York. It's such a healthy existence - walking off dinner, moving ourselves to the gym, running errands powered by our own two feet. It's wonderful! And whenever we consider leaving this lovely city of ours, we grieve over the possibility of losing this lifestyle. We wish more towns, more cities in America offered the same quality of life as we experience here.

Barack Obama, the first urbanite president since Nixon, has put forth a comprehensive urban policy, that promotes the development of healthy cities (available here). I'm excited to see how his vision plays out...

In May, the City hosted a conference called Fit City: Active Living Through Design. It was, honestly, my dream. We talked all about how cities can be built to encourage physical activity, the development of community, a healthy life. Here's an interview talking about these ideas from my favorite NPR show:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pride


My stunningly handsome husband just passed the New York Bar Exam!! Shower him with congrats at his blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Feeling Blue?

Start here, with something to match your mood:



And then, go here for a sure-fire pick-me-up!

Recommended

Michael and I had this delicious Warm Potato Salad With Goat Cheese with dinner the other night. It was fantastic!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Outings

One of the greatest characteristics of the City is its walkability. During the summer, Michael and I will take strolls around our neighborhood almost every evening - sometimes to pick up a cupcake or a coke, other times to just get out and be among other people. Yesterday, after spending the morning at the gym and cleaning the apartment, I had to stretch my legs. During my walk to Union Square and back, the Empire State was in full form:


And one of the most pleasant realities of my job is that I often leave our building to attend meetings around town. Today I spent the entire day in meetings, but had the great pleasure to walk to one of them. It was a very relaxing and restful walk - I passed City Hall, walked underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and followed the waterfront down to Wall Street. It's such a pleasure to work in an office that allows for breathing room...


During these walks, I'm listening to the new Taylor Swift.

Callie

Visit Michael's most recent post

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I Love Tuesdays


Jillian & Bob
Trainers on The Biggest Loser

Veterans

Today is Veteran's Day. It's the first time in my adult life that I have the day off - no work, no school, just me and my free time. Bizarrely, given the fact that we are in the midst of two wars, it seems that observing Veteran's Day is rather optional. As a government employee, I will be at home. But Michael will be slaving away at the corporate firm. Most of my friends are at work, putting in their hours.

Obviously, having the day off doesn't necessarily demand recognizing the importance of - or thanking - our veterans. But I must admit that it did just that for me.

About three weeks ago, Michael had to spend five days in California on business. I really hated it. I consider myself quite independent, and Michael and I have a grown-up relationship. But having him gone for five days just seemed stupid.

I can't imagine the courage it must take for members of our military to say goodbye, to pack up homes and memories, to travel the world without the people they love most, to be a part of some of the most frightening and thrilling experiences known to man. I can't bear to think of what it must be like for the people they leave behind...

On this Veteran's Day, let me thank those men and women who are serving in war, who are away from family and friends, who are on the other side of the world and have no prospect of being home for the holidays. Specifically, let me say thanks to the veterans in my life - my cousin-in-law:


And my friend, Brett Gibson:


It's amazing to me how safe I've been from war, despite us currently waging two... but that's a story for another day.

Thanks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today

It was a beautiful, blustery morning in lower Manhattan. How is it that the sun knows just the right angle to shine in order to give your day the perfect pick-me-up?


And a mere two weeks after giving birth, a woman in our office brought her adorable baby boy in to visit. He slept happily, spreading baby fever to all who caught a glimpse of his gorgeous, sleeping face.


And it's just too breathtaking to ignore these trees...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Imminent Demise

After three and a half wonderful years together, my beautiful pink mini is failing me. She'll randomly decide her battery is dead, cut off mid-song or require a reboot after freezing in the middle of a song. Tomorrow Michael and I are taking a trip to the Apple store to find out more about my options. But I must admit I'm sad to see her go.

The other demise that is imminent? Fall. This weekend is rainy and dark (like much of this week). The leaves are falling more rapidly than they have been, and I'm gearing up for shorter days and colder weather.


And yet, even on a dreary day like today, the farmers' market was packed! The first picture is cool, despite the unfortunate look on this woman's face. The second is just to get a sense of how many New Yorkers braved the weather for some fresh produce.