Tuesday, September 28, 2010

elyssa: the dark and stormies

location: rainy toronto

midweek check-in:

this week brought the death of a loved one. rain and wind. a sense of uncertainty persists - and yet, the view from my window shows a twinge of yellow in the trees.

change is in the air. hope.

but most of the week - it's been looking like this.

and, apparently, i'm an herb killer.

feeling the start of a cold coming on. i'm taking it as an invitation to spend obscene amounts of time on the couch.

pile on as many plaid blankets as i can find.

never let the tea pot go empty.

..and eat lots of apples because i only like apples in the fall. and i only like apples sliced.

when life is dark and stormy, i feel like i am presented with a choice. let the storm wreak its havoc - return to old habits, indulge in self-pity, eat mindlessly. or settle in with a book - wait it out. i choose option b.

then the unexpected occurs: a postcard arrives from a far off corner of the world. a simple note reminds me that outside the dark place i've created for myself - the greater world goes on.

a postcard from nepal. a bag of lentils in the cupboard. time for nepali dal soup? i sense the return of fall soup frenzy. only good things can come of this. either the simple act of chopping and stirring, freezing and storing lifts my gloomy mood - or the blues linger on, and i can settle down a little longer on the couch, a cup of steaming soup in hand..

blog moment: a flash of inspiration from the front burner's vegan mushroom cream sauce

current obsessions: finding more workout clothes (ie anything class-friendly that doubles as gym gear). stirrup leggings (don't judge). the return of grey's anatomy. this vest.

Monday, September 27, 2010

hira: living a dream (albeit frustrating dream)

wow, what a week. a beautiful weekend spent in milano--i never, ever thought i would be able to say that. the day started early--like 5:00 am early. we wanted to ensure that we got the most out of our day, taking our time to hit all the sites, shopping, and leaving enough time for mindless wandering. essential.

a 1.5 hour train ride later (perfect nap-time with the ipod), and i'm suddenly staring at the milano centrale platforms with walls covered in ads by cristiano ronaldo. things are definitely starting off right ;). what started as a rainy day, quickly turned into a sunny afternoon and evening--we made our way to the Duomo, the Arc de Pace, the Castello Sforzesco, the Teatro alla Scala, and Santa Maria delle Grazie--housing the Last Supper. so much well-preserved history.

surrounded by fashion week milano--i can assure you that we took advantage of the fashion capital and strolled the shops and gallerias, stopping for a coffee or panino.

the day ends, and i find myself back in torino--home. its a good feeling. i can happily wander the streets because i am finally familiar with major streets, piazzas and bus routes. this week, i have been forgoing the bus during the day and instead walking to my destinations--it is never more than an hour away and i really enjoy the walk. i can never get bored of walking through the gardens of parco dello valentino, crossing the bridge over the river po, or standing in the middle of piazzas and admiring baroque architecture. it's not better or worse than our home in the states--just different. different is a good feeling.

i started a little tutoring project with two girls, meeting them each once a week to help them in their english lessons. i have to say, its a mutual learning experience--it's quite humbling to learn so much from a 9-year old. again, i'll choose to walk to their houses, even though it's a 35-40 minute walk. i find that i've been craving that lifestyle--we both know that we cannot do much walking to our destinations on the mountain. except maybe to the cornfields. it's easy to lead a healthy lifestyle here--i never feel deprived, i'm always eating bread and cheese and dolce--but in moderation and so fresh. my daily yoga on the balcony helps me stretch out my legs and realign my spine. my days end with dinner that we cook in our tiny apartment, followed by a walk for digestion and perhaps a nightcap.

goals accomplished:

- i cook at home approximately 6 days a week. it saves me so much money, and i can relish the time i spend on cooking for myself and my roommates. slowing down.
- walking everywhere, and exploring torino on foot, be it running or walking. things are kind of blurry behind autobus window panes anyway.

new goals:

- drink more water! last week, i started slacking in my water intake and can definitely notice an increase in 'hunger' (i.e. thirst). its essential to keep me moving.
- invert eating patterns so that i eat a bigger lunch and therefore, less in the evening.

currently obsessed with: the entire ZARA store. new season of gossip girl. navy slacks. new boots. uva fragola---a hybrid grape-strawberry fruit eaten in italy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

elyssa: my yoga teacher sat on me

location: toronto

..and i liked it. after morning class at the law school, i made my way to my favorite yoga class of the week - a particularly brisk ashtanga session. i bravely wore my yoga clothes to school - and despite some awkward looks - made it out unscathed. fyi, lawyers don't do casual.

you know when you're in downward dog and your heels are almost flat on the ground but not quite? well, the instructor decided to remedy the situation by sitting/laying on my inclined back. utterly priceless.

midweek check-in:

school is rough. i should know this after 6 years of university - but the beginning of fall term always takes some getting used to. i'm already swamped, stressed, and overwhelmed - but determined to get my sleep in, exercise daily, and eat healthy meals.

in many ways, life these days is all about uncertainty. uncertainty as to which class i'll be in tomorrow. uncertainty as to where i'll be living come june. my professional/academic life has never been so uncertain - and yet the certainty that i am loved and cared for has never been more present.

in these uncertain times, i gravitate toward comfort food.

kamut bread with sliced banana and chocolate 'pudding' (ie cocoa, avocado & agave)

i make fast and flavorful dinners.

chickpeas thrown into curried lentils (from fall soup frenzy I) nutritional yeast, cilantro

agave glazed tofu, soy sauce, frozen butternut squash, wilted spniach

i drink green monsters like my life depends on it.

spinach, almond milk, cocoa powder, 1/2 frozen banana, protein powder, chia seeds

and i continue to freeze and store, freeze and store batch after batch of soup.

the most incredible recipe. i left mine chunky (partially due to laziness, partially to a personal preference for chunk) - ohh so good.

i'm sure this last year as a full-time student will bring highs and lows, stresses and triumphs - but for now, i'll just keep making soup.

current obsessions:

roasted garlic. roasted anything. finding the perfect lorelai gilmore puffer vest. obsessively watching the leaves for signs of fall color.

Monday, September 20, 2010

hira: storia di un grande amore

while everyone else is frantically searching for cheap flights around europe, planning extravagant weekends in barcelona, madrid, paris, and munich (oktoberfest! too bad i hate beer...) i am seeking something else. you know why i'm here. to learn italian. to be in torino. to BE in torino. hopefully, by wisely investing my time and money, i will come out of these four months with some perspective. every day, i think about what you said to me just before i left: 'there is no way you can go to italy for four months and NOT be changed'. i see it every day.

throwing myself into learning. in the last two weeks, i have gone from knowing absolutely NO italian to writing short essays and compositions. miraculous. recently, i purchased a childhood favorite, written in italian. my goal is to read five chapters a week and learn pages and pages of new vocabulary. the inside pages are already covered in my notes.

another way to learn italian? go to a calcio (futbol/soccer) match. on thursday, i went to the Juventus match at the stadium--i had purchased my ticket earlier than my friends, and so i was seated in a different zone. turns out, i loved being surrounded by screaming italian fans and the energy was flowing. they taught me the words to the juventus song that was chanted at various times throughout the match---juve, storia di un grande amore...

i went into this weekend with no plans. turns out, thats the best way to live in torino, because plans will evolve. i promise. friday evening started with a trip to the Bicerin, a tiny cafe in the middle of torino that serves up torino's traditional signature drink, the bicerin. there are only five cafes like this one that still serve the drink; the one we visited is the second oldest. bicerin a warmed concoction made up of coffee, dark chocolate, and fresh cream. so delicious. i can imagine myself here quite frequently when it starts snowing, but this can certainly keep me happy year-round..

later that night, the torino nightlife at its finest---i guess everyone is back from august vacations (people in italia like to take the month of august off and usually, the entire family heads south for the month, returning in the beginning to mid-september). lets just say that the sunrise looked beautiful over the river Po...

after a late night out, the best remedy for fatigue is found outdoors. long walks on the weekend have been keeping me healthy and happy (the pedometer you gave me works SO well--i love the stats and use it on my runs and long walks). heading over to piazza castello and piazza carlo felice, we come to the city center--alive with music and festivities. another day in the piazza. normal. 150 years of a unified italia coming right up.

appreciating young talent.

books festivals, CHOCOLATE festivals. free samples everywhere--the best local chocolatiers. i'm a lucky girl.

girl, put down that map. lets just wander through the piazzas.

i love my life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

elyssa: a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils

location: on the commuter bus (toronto to hamilton)

week in review:

it was quite the week. school finally started rolling - and the boy and i happily celebrated our 3 year anniversary. having been prone to anniversary meltdowns in the past, this year went entirely unplanned, except for the meal. i planned that in meticulous detail. i had my heart set on butternut squash soup, bison burgers, and homemade creme caramel. i dragged my non-morning person self out of bed at 6 am for circuit training and a stop over at whole foods for the dinner ingredients. by 9 am, i was extremely proud of myself - but exhausted. ergo, why i don't do mornings. i lack the stamina. never again.

note: there are no pictures of the above mentioned meal because it didn't happen. fine by me. the bison went into the freezer, and the boy and i set out for a fancy soirée to which he had been invited. in the midst of toronto's rich and skinny (i won't say famous - because we're talking canada here) - i devoured skewer after skewer of caprese tomatoes, braised lamb, roasted eggplant, and fresh figs. picture me - sitting in the corner marveling over the quality of high society food (that nobody was eating!) - while the boy did his best to mingle and do his thing. hilarity ensued. we came home to a shared creme caramel from whole foods with a side of you've got mail (a timeless classic). greatest movie quote ever? 'if i knew your name and address, i would send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils'. all in all, the strangest, perfect day.

apart from our galavanting, this week saw more fall soup frenzy. this time -
chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage and bell pepper. paprika. mmm. frozen and stored for those busy december days.

also, with the return of school, i'm always in need of portable snacks. this prompted me to try my hand at angela's salt and vinegar roasted chickpeas (leftover from the huge batch i made for the soup).

boiled in vinegar. tossed with olive oil and sea salt. roast.

dinners have been fast and easy. quick chili being a new fave.

scrambled tofu. tomato. beans. cumin. paprika. cocoa.

spinach tossed in at the end.

and of course, orange pumpkin bread to take to the boy. i made up the recipe - so i won't tell you it, because i can't remember it.

another triumph for ad hoc baking.

new challenges:

the general theme of last week was exercise hard, eat moderately. it worked. the one time i forgot my gym shoes, i switched over to yoga - no guilt in sight. i worked hard, but not too hard - and that is key. i found myself pondering: why do i exercise? the answer came to me quickly: because i love it. it has been 4 years since i first embraced the gym - and i'm finally reaching the place where i go simply because it makes me feel good.

this past week, a gust of honesty seemed to sweep over the blog world. there were posts on budget problems, weight gain, and a whole variety of 'imperfections'. it is the awareness of the shared struggle for healthy living - more than the success stories - that helps me through my day. it's that feeling that i'm not alone when i spend $11.99 on chia seeds or wake up at 6 am to hit the gym.

i had a bit of a revelation on calorie counting. the absolute worst thing i can do to myself - and the reason for many of my downfalls - is count obsessively. natural moderation is clearly the goal here. however; because i am intensely physically active, i need to have some sort of ongoing count of my protein/carb/fat ratio and my overall intake. for this reason, my new goal is to eat without counting during the day to cultivate this natural sense. at night, i plan on adding up a quick tally (i remember what i ate anyways) in order to see how i did and to plan accordingly for the next day.

blog moment: the sprouted kitchen explains why we bother to eat well

current obsessions: peanut butter (more than ever).
raw organic food bar. my indoor herb garden. gossip girl!