Friday, September 26, 2014

right now

Editing photos like crazy. We got back from Iceland almost a week ago and I've been slowly wading through the hundreds of pictures I took. But I get to relive the trip with every photo, so it's basically a win-win ;)

Watching Project Runway. Does anyone still watch that show? Tim Gunn, I just can't quit you.

Taking on a little too much work this week. I'm juggling like three different large projects and the inbox appears to have a mind of it's own, but I finally managed to get a hair cut AND dye my hair, so it's not all bad.

Cramming like it's junior year all over. My book club meets in three hours and this month's book is A Tale of Two Cities. I never managed to finish it in high school, and I'm probably not going to finish it this time around. Cliffs Notes to the rescue (again)!

Hoping to see the Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney this weekend. I only have five more chances to see it (the show ends in a couple weeks and my days off are quickly disappearing), so I gotta get my butt to the museum - stat.

Dreaming of fall. This weekend is supposed to bring us warm and wonderful weather (thank you, Mother Nature!), but I'm also secretly looking forward to a possible upstate excursion for apple picking, warm cider, and tromping through the foliage.

Changing it up little by little. Sometimes when you feel like you're in a rut, one new little thing can make all the difference - so I got a new phone case. Nothing crazy, nothing special - just something different.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

weekend link love 07

I guess that these crisp September mornings mean that days of tanning on the balcony are over, but I for one am grasping on to every last remnant of summer that I can. I'll have my fill of pumpkin-spiced everything soon enough, but if you need me in the meantime, I'll be over here sipping the remainder of my Moscow mule.

*No but really - I was way late to the party, but this recipe for Moscow mules was the highlight of my Labor Day bbq.

*Is it weird that I already bought my 2015 wall calendar? It's probably weird. Whatever, I'm weird.

*I think (fingers crossed) that my bridesmaid days are over, but boy do I wish these reversible b-maid's dresses existed a couple years ago!

*This tomato and roasted garlic tart looks delicious, but what really resonated with me was the story that precedes the recipe.

*Loved this.

*If I had a bar, these minimalist cocktail posters from Nick Barclay would totally be hanging as decoration. Heck, I don't have a bar and I still might hang these up in my kitchen.

*I just bought this jacket for our trip to Iceland - so bring on the unpredictable rainstorms, because I'm about to become water-repellant!

*Also in the Iceland department (can you tell I'm excited?!?), we're staying in our first aribnb property while in Reykjavik. I'll write more about it when I get back, but I'm already in love with this company. Want to try it out for yourself? Click here and get $25 off your first stay!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wanderlust 108

Last weekend, I did something I honestly thought I'd never do - I ran a 5k. Without stopping. And then I sat in a park and meditated for 20 minutes with about 500 other people. And THEN I did some yoga. In the rain.

The yoga part was not all that personally surprising. I've spent many a happy (and sweaty) afternoon in my nearby yoga studio, and I've been known to join a friend for some impromptu yoga in a park on good-weather days. The meditation wasn't too much of a stretch for me either. Years of Catholic schooling have taught me to sit un-self-consciously with my eyes closed and think deep thoughts in the middle of a public place. And really, who doesn't want to sit quietly while listening to live cello music as a cool wind gently blows?

Photo by John Suhar
But the running? THAT was hard. For me, at least. I know a ton of people that can run three miles backwards up a hill with their eyes closed and not break a sweat, but as I've mentioned before, I am not a runner. But back in July, one interwebinal click led to another and then another and then ultimately landed me on the main website for Wanderlust, a company that specializes in and promotes yoga, meditation, and mindfulness by hosting teacher trainings, yoga classes, and multi-day festivals. It was that last one that caught my eye - beautiful pictures of beautiful yogis tree posing on mountain tops and rugged oceanic coasts were everywhere. I wanted to go to there. I knew myself well enough to realize that I'm too cheap uncoordinated busy to attend one of the three-day festivals, but when I discovered they were hosting a one-day mini festival in Brooklyn, I started to seriously consider going. I mentioned this thought to my friend Kristen, who said that another friend of hers had also expressed interest. A few frantic group texts later and we had ourselves three premium tickets, allowing us to participate in the first-ever Mindfulness Triathlon - a 5k run, seated meditation, and group yoga.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was really worried about the running part of the day. Sometimes I run a few blocks for exercise, and on a good day I can do a mile on a treadmill if I'm at a gym, but previous to this festival the farthest I had ever run was about two miles, and that was three years ago on a treadmill in Connecticut when I was having some serious boy troubles (angry running is still running). So I'm also not ashamed to admit that I trained for the 5k. Like, for reals trained. I first thought that I could just follow one of the popular Couch to 5k training programs, but quickly realized they were designed for people to work up to the full three miles over the course of a few months. I had less than a month to figure this out. So I created my own running schedule that increased my distance from 1 to 2.5 miles and then back down to 1 mile (tapering) over the course of three weeks.

And you know what? I stuck to my schedule. There were two or three days that I didn't run as intended, but by and large I kept to my program - and it absolutely one hundred per cent paid off. The actual 5k was hard - I was unfamiliar with the course, so all of my usual benchmarks weren't there to tell me how much farther I had, and the last mile was almost entirely uphill. But thanks to my Type A, competitive, determined, over-achieving Aries self, I did it. I ran the entire way, stoping only once for three deep breaths when I thought my chest was going to cave in (it didn't).

I'm not going to lie. I felt so good afterwards. Not in the physical sense (because in the physical sense, I kinda wanted to die. Or at least sit down and sleep for a very, very long time) but in the emotional sense. Or maybe even in the spiritual sense. Something to do with pride? I guess I don't often do things that are so challenging that I impress myself, but this one resonated with me. I think it's because running is very black and white - you either run, or you don't - and unlike my creative and professional lives that are almost always full of grey areas, it was easy to acknowledge my pure achievement. I set out to run an entire 5k, and I did.

The rest of the "triathalon" unfortunately kind of paled in comparison to the run. The meditation was good, but I wasn't in love with most of the keynote speakers, and it started to rain about five minutes into the yoga portion of the day. I might have been able to get behind what quickly turned into water-robics, but the instructor was a bit too preachy for my liking, and besides that, I was freezing. The three of us quietly packed up our mats and bags and slipped out during a sun (rain?) salutation, and headed toward the car. As shouts of "peace! peace! peace!" quietly faded into the background, all I could think was "hey! I did that!"

Photo by John Suhar

Friday, September 12, 2014

Handmade knit cowl

I'm not 100% sure when I became a knitter, but it was sometime in the past two months. I was bored, unemployed, and, looking for a hobby that would keep my hands occupied on some upcoming long car rides, stumbled upon kitting. Specifically, I wandered into Bryant Park Knits, a weekly knitting circle sponsored by Knitty City and held in New York's Bryant Park. Every Tuesday in the summer, employees of Knitty City gather in a corner of the park and provide free knitting lessons to any interested parties. For an hour and a half, they give people the use of their yarn, needles, and instructors - but the catch is that everyone works on small squares that are later sewn together and into large blankets that eventually get donated to homeless shelters. Free knitting lessons? Donating my time and talents to make blankets for homeless babies? I'm so there.

I got the hang of knitting pretty quickly (although pearling is a whole other beast that I'm going to try to tackle in my next project), and almost immediately headed to Michael's to buy my own needles and yarn. It wasn't too much longer until I had the beginnings of a cowl; a couple lengthy and dedicated knitting sessions soon created a rectangle of fabric that was of desirable dimensions. The near-finished cowl sat rolled up for a week or so while I hightailed it to Chicago for some friends, family, and hotdogs, but after sifting through my old button collection that is collecting dust in my parent's basement, I managed to procure some buttons that I knew would be the finishing touch to my scarf. One laborious button-sewing session later, et voilĂ ! I am now the proud owner of one very unique, handmaid, dark grey, two-buttoned cowl.

Just to be clear, this is NOT a how-to post about how to knit your own cowl. I'm almost positive I didn't follow all the rules of perfect knitting, I'm absolutely positive I didn't follow a pattern, and I don't actually know if I could repeat my process to make an identical second cowl. However, I couldn't have done this without the advent of YouTube and the following instructional videos: binding off, making button holes, and adding a button - so thank you interwebs, thank you Knitty City, and thank you blog readers (all three of you!) for letting me blab on about my silly knitting project ;)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

deep thoughts (6am)

When you live in New York City, nature is nowhere to be found - and yet it's all around you. It's in the rolling hills of a Brooklyn cemetery, it's in the massive green swaths of Central Park. It's in the majestic overlook at the center of the Queensboro Bridge, and it's in the haughty gait of a pigeon strutting down a crowded street. It's even even in the frenetic energy of the subway, as crowds surge and trains rush by. But for me, nature is most present from the urban garden that is my fire escape. From this perch, I am amongst the birds and the tree tops, high above the hot streets and lost tourists. It is from here that I am owner of my own private sliver of quiet sky, and from where I can watch the seasons rush by - rainy spring to sweltering swimmer, the crisp crunch of autumn to the icy chill of winter. This is my nature center, or rather, my center of nature. It's just me and the elements here. And before I have to head down and wage another battle with the city, I take a moment to breathe deeply and take in all that is my concrete jungle.

Monday, September 8, 2014

52 photos/weeks 33-36

33.) A weekend away in the Berkshires, complete with good food, great friends, and Adirondack chairs.
34.) Soooo I signed up for a 5k....
35.) A most perfect balcony garden tomato.
36.) M: I should go for a run. J: Let's take a bike ride instead. M: Sounds good.

52 photos is my personal challenge to take one awesome picture per week in 2014. All photos were taken by me on either my iPhone 5s or Cannon EOS Rebel T3i (my "big girl" camera). If edited, I use Snapseed, Instagram, or Adobe Lightroom. Follow me - @maspad - to see these and many more pics!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to water your plants while away on vacation

J and I spent much of August traveling around the country to see friends and family. While I love spending time with people we don't get too see anywhere nearly enough, I was worried about how I was going to keep my plants watered (if you've been reading my blog this summer, you'll remember that I've been rocking my first ever balcony garden, playing mama to chives, basil, oregano, two tomato plants, and one teeny-tiny eggplant). One of the trips we took was a short little jaunt, about 48 hours in total. I didn't stress too much that weekend - a healthy watering before we left the house on Friday morning held everyone over until I got home on Sunday afternoon. But there were two other trips that lasted four days each - just a little too long for the plants to go without water. So for those two trips, I created what I think is a crazy easy slow-watering system that releases a pre-determined amount of water over the course of a few days!

Two words: ice cubes. Two more words: really big ice cubes. The night before we departed for each vacation, I filled quart-sized Ziplock baggies with water and stuck them in the freezer. I also filled up an ice cube tray with water and stuck that in the freezer. Right before we left for the airport the next day, I poked four minuscule holes in the bottom of each bag and placed one inside each plant. The chives and oregano got one ice cube each, the basil got two. And that was it! I returned each time to empty baggies and plants that were still alive. In need of a watering, yes, but nowhere near as bad as they would have been without the vacation-watering-system.

To poke the holes, I used one of those pointy metal turkey trussing lacers that came with a turkey-tying kit from last Thanksgiving, but if you don't happen to have those on hand, any sharp pointy object will do. It's also good to keep in mind the shape of your plants and the size of your planter. The first time I tried this slow-watering system, I kind of plopped the baggies in the freezer and didn't think about what shape they'd take once frozen. I ended up with four really large and misshapen orbs of ice that I had to pretty much shove into my planters. For the subsequent trip though, I set the bags in the freezer so that they were pressed up against each other, and used a flat box of veggie burgers to anchor the whole thing - the resulting blocks of ice fit so much better into the planters. While I wouldn't push this entire endeavor beyond four days (any longer and you're probably going to want to get a friend to stop by and water the plants in your absence), it is such a quick and easy way to keep your beloved little plants and herbs alive and kicking while you're on vacation :)