Thursday, April 30

My Swine Flu Prevention Kit

Many of you know that I am a yoga instructor (RYT 200). Now, I'm not a hemp-wearing, dreadlock-growing, crunchy, Earth mama type... nothing wrong with those, I'm just not one of them.

However, I do subscribe to the somewhat strange-seeming (at first) yogic practice of using a neti pot. A neti pot is a small vessel that looks either like a tiny, plain tea pot or the most pitiful looking genie lamp that ever existed in the history of genie lamps, if they ever even did (your choice). You put a saline solution in it (premixed, or just regular table salt), mix in some warm water (NOT hot and NOT cold). You then insert the tip of the spout in one nostril while tipping your head. The warm saline water pours into one nostril and out the other.

Sounds gross. I know. But when you're desparate for relief from chronic congestion due to allergies, sinus infections, you'll try anything... and I obviously mean anything.

As it turns out, this ancient practice has been embraced by western medicine. As the nose is often considered the doorway to illness, regular use of the neti pot goes a long way to prevent illness and reduce severity of symptoms, without harmful side effects.

Pictured in this post are three different types of neti pots. Mine is exactly like the first one. It is made of plastic, however I would prefer one made of ceramic. But I can't imagine dropping it on the tile floor, and I already have this one, so I'm just stickin' to this. I used the saline packets that came with it at first, but when they ran out, I started using plain table salt with the same benefits. Since then, I've had my nine year old sone using the neti pot twice a day to help relieve his suffering with seasonal allergies... I think he's doing much better... But anyway.

When I started using the neti pot, I wanted a little instructional "how to." So I went to the ever informative and entertaining You Tube. As a friend of mine put it when I sent this video to him, "I've read about using a neti pot, but I've never seen it done by a cute blonde!"

Wednesday, April 29

Running on Empty

The magical wonders of Facebook have recently put me back in touch with so many old friends from my home town. I've had so much fun catching up with folks who I would likely never spoken to again. As it turns out, one of those friends is a fellow runner. He's a relative newcomer to the sport, while I now consider myself a well-seasoned junkie, having been running (on and off) for nearly half of my life now (don't even THINK of asking my age...).
This friend of mine suggested that I read this book about an ultramarathon runner named Dean Karnazes. The book is called Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner. Now, for your information, an ultramarathon is, technically, any distance longer than a Marathon (26.2 miles).

Now, just so you know, the Marathon got it's name waaaayyyy back in ancient Greece when Pheidippiedes, a Greek soldier, was sent from the town of Marathon, Greece, 26.2 miles away to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. Yay! However, Pheidippiedes croaked soon after he delivered his message. Booo!
Enter into the drama: all sorts of crazy folks from all over the world trying to accomplish Pheidippides feat, without dying at the end. I can say that I am one of those looney toons with a (yes, only one, so far) successful marathon finish to my name. I trained for and completed the Richmond Marathon (don't ask my time either... that's as bad as asking a lady's age, for goodness sake!) in 2004. I didn't think I ever wanted to run another Marathon again... but Karnazes' book got me to thinking.
Dean Karnazes is a man who takes himself to the very edges of human possibility, essentially, just to see how far he can go. Finishing a race, whether it is a 100-miler through the hottest dessert or a Marathon to the South Pole in conditions no human has ever successfully endured, is paramount over the mileage, the injuries, the delusions, the sacrifice or the prize. To quote him, he runs with his heart.
This book was a quick, easy read. Karnazes is not unusual in his quest to see just how far he can go. (I even have a personal friend who professionally races double and triple Ironman races... read about him here...) There are lots more (okay... some more) guys out there with just as much heart, guts and strength. But what I find remarkable about Dean Karnazes is that despite his accolades and triumphs (he often places close to the top of races he enters) the focus of the book isn't how great he is and how many times he finished in the top five. The focus is on the triumph of one individual over his own demons.
And that, my friends, stirs the demons in my own soul... perhaps there IS another Marathon in my future. (And thanks to Doug Elser for the great suggestion... let me know what your suggestion is!

Thursday, April 23

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

New photos have been posted! Click here to see what's beautiful!

{Like the roses above? Given to me by an admirer... and not even my hubby! ;)  }

Tuesday, April 21

*New Swestie-ism* - Coffee Cup

I like a coffee cup SO BIG that when I drink from it I feel like my whole world is COFFEE!

Monday, April 6

People Are Strange: The Selby

Perusing one of the most delightful blogs on my blogroll (Paris Breakfasts... you really should check it out... effortless watercolors and enough talk of Paris to leave you able to parler français... but I digress...) I discovered artist Todd Selby.

Todd Selby is a highly sought-after New York photographer, effortlessly juggling the fashion, advertising, and art worlds, as well as the blogosphere. The photographs I'm most interested in of his are his portraits of people in their personal environments - sometimes their homes or sometimes their offices. While the images of the people he photographs tell plenty and are full of life, it's their inclusion of their environments that captivates my inner voyeur. (Here's an interesting article about him...)

What began as a personal project, his portraits of pseudo-famous people (people known for being fabulously wonderful in their worldly professional venues, but not as instantly recognizable to Joe the plumber as say, Brad Pitt or Barack Obama), have taken on a life of their own on his blog The Selby – Photos in Your Space.

The blog features thorough portraits of creative types: stylists, architects, pastry chefs, etc. Each portrait includes a photo of the subject in their personal environment, and several shots of the brick-a-brack that makes one's house instantly a home... the highly personal items that really divulge the inner-Mensch... the things that make you feel better when nothing else does.

Each portrait also includes a charming, even if childishly rendered, watercolor sketch of the subject and short interview which is hand-written in what looks like paint. The entire effect shows a lot about them, and a lot about him.

So go on over. Check it out… let me know what you think!

I'm Walking on Sunshine: Top Ten Things I'm Loving Today

10) Pink dogwood trees, blooming on a street corner near you.

9) Dark flesh toned nail polishes... perfect for a dash of refinement without the hassle of fading color. Just touch up and go!

8) Espadrilles, in all shapes and colors. I didn't realize I had such a fetish for these classic shoes until I was pulling the spring things forward in my closet... I have about five pair, plus several others derrived from the classic French style (Read more abut the long history of the shoe here.)

7) Denim jackets are perfect for this weather that is freezing in the morning and nearly pleasant in the afternoon. My current favorite is one that is styled like a slightly trench coat: fitted, about mid-thigh lenghth with a belt and biggish collars... just be careful about mixing your denims!

6) Long, deep conversations by a warm and snapping fire in the cool of an early spring evening... throw in a few cosmos and we can just call it Heaven.

5) Ecstatic flowers blooming everywhere!

4) Augusta, Georgia, as it gears up for The Masters! Will Tiger pull off another win? Or will someone else break through?

3) Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes... boys with fresh haircuts, and long full eyelashes... okay... not so much the eyelashes, but, we're talking Easter clothes here people! Get out your Easter bonnets!

2) Stinky, er, I mean pungent cheeses and fresh loaves of bread to go with #6. Most recently infatuated with Humboldt Fog and nice generic white goat cheeses.

1) Walking barefoot in the grass (or at least the anticipation of it...)!

I Love Paris: Top 10 Things I Learned from My Latest Read

Top 10 Things I Learned from the Book Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Your Inner French Girl

10) This book about the enduring allure and mystery of the French woman was a delightful read. Providing one American woman's thoughtful, honest perspective about that je ne sais quoi modern French women seem to possess, the book was both entertaining and informative.

9) If a French woman's fashion sense can be described as, "Less is more," this book wasn't very French. The author's delightful prose is most insightful, carefully pointing out sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle differences between French and American femmes. But I felt irritated by the frequent distractions of small tidbits of information interspersed in small boxes and sidebars - ie: French women we love; wonderful French Films; delicious recipes. While the information contained in these snippets was good, the boxes they were in were visually distracting, and the information interrupted the reading, causing me to perpetually flip back and forth between pages and interrupting my train of thought.

8) Of all of the cultures I've encountered (which are admittedly very few...), I believe that the French take more pleasure in the day-to-day living of their lives via food than any other culture. Meal time is sacred and special, to be enjoyed with family or friends, and always sitting at a proper table, with dishes, actual silverware (not plastic-ware) and cloth napkins… never out of a paper bag riding down the street in a car, or sipped through a straw while hurrying down the sidewalk. I feel their incorporation of food as a vehicle of pleasure, at every single meal, is not only admirable, but enviable.

7) According to the author, French women are less risky than Americans with their personal styles, but more thoughtful. A French girl spends a lifetime honing her look, in both fashion and décor, slowly collecting only the best items of the finest quality that fit perfectly. When they find a hairstyle, suit cut or objet d’art that works for them they stick to it.

6) This takes us into the realm of the French woman’s “uniform.” After years of collecting only the best quality clothing that she absolutely adores, there will not often be surprises in the French girl's dress, but everything will be beautiful and tasteful and fit her like a glove – even the simple jeans and tee that she pulls on to browse the flea market on a Saturday morning. She will not necessarily have several different “looks,” because the look she wears is always thoughtfully put together and does much to flatter her. While I am personally ALWAYS changing my hair, this theory of dress is something I completely embrace. I have well-worn and -loved items in my closet that I pull out year after year, and I am religious about ONLY keeping the things at hand that fit – no too-small-jeans that I’m going to fit into one day… just the things that look great on me today – thus celebrating where I am, and also making my closet much less cluttered.

5) French women will not usually be overweight. Also, they will never compromise on the quality of food that they eat; however they will likely not ever step a beautifully pedicured toe into a gym. I know. This seems impossible. But, it is true that they always choose only the freshest, seasonal ingredients for their meals, and the naturally eat small portions, helping to keep their waistlines trim. If they DO notice clothing getting a bit too tight, they will not go purchase the newest diet book, torture themselves at the gym or buy new, (larger) clothing (all of which I’ve regretfully resorted to doing at one time or another…). However, they will quietly cut back on their eating until they are feeling back to themselves again.

This concept is one I’ve personally struggled with, but I’m learning to embrace. I have gained and lost weight entirely too many times. As I currently work on the journey back down the scale, I am doing my best to maintain some indulgences, eat delicious foods, including desserts, but just with smaller portions, just like the French girl. I am ridding myself of clothes that have grown too large, eliminating my safety net, and working to exercise daily. Hopefully, this balance will get me, and keep me, fit and trim without having to endure dreadful ingredients like low fat cheese, skim milk and Splenda… things the perpetually thin French woman would never even consider.

4) Despite her shape (thick, thin, curvy, willowy...) a French woman always feels at home in her own body. I don’t think this is just a French feeling, but I believe women all over Europe do not have the negative issues with their body images that American women do. They understand their shapes and they dress to flaunt their assets, period. They celebrate their bodies daily and refine them ritually.That is something we could ALL take a lesson in doing.

3) The French woman nurtures an extremely guarded sense of privacy, often taking years to develop a close frienship, and certainly never spilling her guts to someone she just met in the line at the grocery store. This is highlighted by the title of the book, Entre Nous, meaning, "just between us." This extreme privacy goes a long way toward the perpetuation of the "mystique" French women seemingly possess. One of these tight-lipped women will not even let you know where she bought her new dress, much less will she air her family's dirty laundry to anyone other than a confidant.

Such privacy I can barely fathom. For good or ill, I am an open book. I will tell anyone almost anything, anytime. However, most of American women could take a lesson from the fair Frenchies by not being so forthcoming with the 4-1-1 on where you got your fabulous shoes and just how great the sale was. So, you got that beautiful dress at Target... wouldn't you rather admirers of it to wonder if maybe you've been shopping coture instead of bargain basement? When you get the urge to spill those beans, just bite your tongue... and take a step toward increasing your own feminine mystique.

2) Authenticity goes a long way with the French woman. She might have to save her pennies for months or even years for a fabulous designer handbag, but she would never be caught dead with a knockoff. She does not want imitation (not imitation eggs, imitation leather, or imitation antiques), and she will wait until she can get her hands on the real thing. She doesn't buy things just to be spending money, and doesn't hop on board with the newest pop-star style that she saw on the boob tube (Heck it's likely that she doesn't even own a boob tube.)... I definitely agree with the French ab0ut this! I'm just dreaming of the day I can walk in to a Louis Vuitton store and pay full price for the classy bag I've desired for years...

1) While highly entertaining, this book in large part is highly generalized. Just as there are so many types of American women that volumes could be written about us in categories such as age group, ethnic heritage, region, profession etc, ad nauseum, I belive that French women are just as varied and interesting. A whole country of women who adore cooking, love flea markets and inherit their great grandmother’s antique linens and treasured faience would be boring and absurd. But then again, stereotypes are generally born for a reason…
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