Friday, July 27, 2012

Are You Getting Enough Ah and Awe Moments?

Van Gogh's Starry Night
A recent study revealed the importance of awe, described in The Independant this way: "Awe is the emotion felt when encountering something so vast and overwhelming it alters one's mental perspective." Experiencing a sense of awe made people feel they had more time or that time had slowed or even stopped. Participants in the study also felt kinder and more patient. They also felt like spending money on experiences instead of things.

Read about the survey here.

Is it any wonder we feel stressed, rushed, unable to catch our breath? We spend our days in buildings of concrete and steel, often in small colorless cubicles. We send our children to school in cinder block buildings painted prison green with mean little playgrounds devoid of vegetation. We pollute the evening sky with neon signs from big box stores, the architecture of which is as ugly as the boxes that the items inside are packed in. This is the landscape of modern suburbia. Travel across the nation and you will see exactly the same collection of stores as the ones you shop at when you're at home.

Watch a great TED talk by James Howard Kunstler, about the ways in which ugly architecture demeans us and our communities here.  (One of my favorite TED talks of all time!)

I've long suspected that one of the problems with urban living is that, especially in the inner city, there is very little environmental beauty, natural or architectural. If we know that our emotions are affected by an ocean view or a starry night, how are they affected by the absence of those things? What are the consequences of this on children brought up in communities where the extent of access to nature are the weeds growing in cracks in the sidewalk? Certainly parts of our cities are dedicated to nature and there are museums of art and natural history but how many impoverished adults are visiting them? Students are lucky to get a field trip or two during the course of the year since awe cannot be measured on a standardized test.

Read a blog post about Eco-therapy here.

Today's assignment: Take a walk, view a lovely piece of art, or drive out of town tonight and look up. Turn off your phone and...breathe.

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Madame M Dishes Beauty: The Basics

Okay girls, we all know that men think our beauty obsession is somehow related to them. But we know better, don't we? Our clothes, our make-up, our hair, and even our prettiest lingerie is actually about how we feel about ourselves. (Not that they don't get to benefit!) Your friend is much more likely to notice that you got highlights or that your skin is glowing than a man. Especially a man that sees you every day. Married guys know they are expected to compliment you if it's obvious you've put in some effort and single men know it's in their best interest to make you feel confident and sexy. But when a girlfriend sees you and exclaims "Ohmigosh! What have you been doing? You look amazing!" then we think we really must be having a pretty good day.

Hooray for pretty and good ! And I'll take natural, if I can get it. So what's in 99% Housewife's bag of beauty tricks?

First things first. You cannot dress up your unhealthy ways with anything that comes in a jar. The first step to glowing skin is to stop doing things that damage it like smoking, not getting enough sleep, and not exercising. All of those things are free to do but we often don't do them and then head off to the cosmetic counter looking for a remedy.

We'll get to what to put on your face and body another time, but let's talk just plain healthy, first:
  • Exercise every day. Okay 5 days is good enough for most people, but I'm trying to stay ahead of my wretched gene pool. Cardio for at least 20 minutes. Weight training, yoga, and dance and walking are the things I do, but find what's fun for you. Remember not to work the same muscle group on successive days. The repairing days are what build muscle.
  • Drink water. Lots. Add lemon or cucumber as a reminder that you are being attentive to yourself. 
  • Wear sunscreen every day. EVERY DAY! 
  • Get outside. You need 20 minutes of sun exposure to keep your vitamin D levels up. You may also need a vitamin D supplement while the winter weather is dreary. Being outdoors is good for your mind and spirit. It's all related and that's important to remember.
  • Get plenty of sleep. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. 
It's a popular saying that nothing taste as good as skinny feels. But that's wrong. Think of all the skinny, yet unhealthy teen age girls you see. Skinny is not the goal. Thin is not the goal. HEALTHY is the goal. STRONG is the goal.

A theme among some of my friends right now is reinventing yourself. Your body doesn't care what the calendar says. Mid July is just as good a time as January 1st to start over.

Love and kisses. Now put on some sunscreen and get outside!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Practical Nerd Brain VS My Fashionista Brain in the Shoe Store

The two sides of my brain often give me problems...

All I wanted was a pair of shoes.

In about 6 weeks I'll be embarking on the trip of a lifetime (I call them all that until I start planning the next one). It will mean hours of walking on cobblestones in old world cities in unpredictable weather. Practical walking shoes will be in order.

I used the words "practical" and "shoes" in the same sentence. Feel free to make a sad face. :(

If you have shopped for a "walking shoe" you know one thing: they are ugly. And they are expensive. Okay, maybe you know two things.

Researching all of the available options online I read several reviews from customers about each brand. I know I should be inspired by phrases like "good arch support." My intellectual brain knows that this is what is going to be of primary importance after about 6 hours of walking shoe review ever said "These shoes make your legs look like a million bucks."

You can make your sad face again. :(

After doing all my online research I headed out to the brick and mortar stores.

Remember that 1960s show Lost In Space? Remember the robot that would frantically wave his arms and yell "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!"?

Yeah. It was kind of like that. Only it was in my head. And it was "Danger! Leopard print! Hot pink! Sexy heels!

Here are some samples of the shoes I NEEDED to be shopping for...

Here is what I kept trying on...

To make matters worse I haven't bought myself anything new to wear since Thanksgiving so the word SPLURGE kept popping into my head.

SPLURGE is a very dangerous word. Please note the name of this blog. I should also point out that SPLURGE is relative. For me it would mean spending as much as $85.00 on a pair of shoes. I know for some of you that isn't a big deal, but I recently wore a $5.00 dress from the Goodwill to a wedding. Coral cotton eyelet was perfect for an outdoor event in record breaking heat. Here's a pic of me with my daughter, who would not be caught dead in a five dollar dress:

On top of all of that the nerdy part of my brain kept saying "There is a bookstore right over there!" I couldn't help thinking how many books I could buy with the money I had budgeted for these shoes.

Stupid nerdy brain. Leave me alone when I'm shoe shopping! 

So hard to stay focused on a mission when temptations abound...

At Stein Mart early in the day I happened upon a pair of Privos by Clark. Good reviews online, extremely comfortable, and not hideous. Not hideous being the key selling point. I think they may even look okay with a short skirt for day trips.

After visiting a dozen other stores to see if I could beat the price or find something I liked better, I went back and picked them up. Black is so practical. They didn't come in pink.

Feel free to make that sad face again. :(

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Confessions of a Non-Conformist First Grader

I was a first grade rebel. Yeah, that's right you heard me. Let me explain.

The tabs in my newly redesigned blog are pink and yellow. I loved pink and yellow together in the first grade.  While coloring a picture of flowers I colored the stems pink and the flowers yellow. The directions said "Color the flowers red and the stems green."

Now I knew what that meant, and what I was supposed to do.

As I sat there I thought " Now I COULD do that but am I going to be influenced by the stifling conformity of a state run institution or am I going to take a stand for artistic freedom?" I passionately picked up my crayons and struck a blow for creativity.

Okay, actually I thought "Red and green are ugly, blech!"

The teacher (whose five-o'clock shadow was worse than Fred Flintstone's and must have had a terrible childhood) walked around the room holding up everyone else's workbooks showing me how they had all done it correctly. I couldn't help notice they were all the SAME. Luckily crayon cannot be erased so even though she gave me a zero I had the satisfaction of making something that made me happy somehow.

Some time later in the year at lunch they served tuna salad.
I didn't eat mine and the teacher (a slave to conformity apparently) pointed out to me that ALL the other children were eating theirs. She said she wasn't moving until I ate it.  I did. As she stood over me with a smug look of victory on her face I turned around and threw up on her shoes.

Freedom: 2   Coercion: 0

She didn't seem to like me much after that (some people can be so sensitive about a little vomit).

I eventually managed to escape from Helga's class by scaling the wall and carefully working my way around razor wire while the dog's nipped at my heels and the guards in the tower shined the spotlight on me.

Fine. The school year ended and I was promoted to the second grade.

This blog is so much cheaper than therapy.

Chat amongst yourselves, I have to look for my crayons.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How To Make the Most of Your Summer Cold

I sound like Mussolini, the downside of course is that being this ill means I can't make anything run on time. Instead I feel like I got hit by a train. An entire wasted week wasn't in my plans for July but here's how to make the most of it should it happen to you.

Catch up on your reading. This is easier said than done when your head is pounding and foggy. When you are feverish and your eyes ache it's time for a nap.

Catch up on your sleep: Take a lesson from the cat. There's no need to stay awake.

Catch up on your television watching: Since my illness coincided the 4th of July I opted for the HBO series John Adams. It felt less as if I was wasting my time than say, a James Bond movie marathon. Not that that would ever be a complete waste of time...

Catch up on your smoothie skills: A staple around here is a smoothie made from frozen bananas, vanilla, and coconut milk. It is what to do with those bananas that no one wants to eat because they look bad. Chop them up and freeze them. They take on the texture of ice cream when blended with the other ingredients. I also always keep other kinds of frozen fruit on hand to add. Add yogurt, whey protein, powdered vitamin C, flax seed oil, or coconut oil, to make it an even healthier substitute for food that is just too painful to swallow when your throat is really sore.

Other than that, there's not much you can do. If your symptoms go on too long however, it may be time to try something new in the form of health care.  Instead of the dreaded trip to my regular doctor which generally includes a two hour wait, I headed to my neighborhood Kroger to try out The Little Clinic. I waited about 5 minutes. The clinic operates on a first come, first serve basis. The nurse practitioner I saw was thorough and professional. I'd definitely return for any minor health care needs. If you get your prescriptions filled at the pharmacy it is even more convenient. An added bonus was that I was in the grocery store and able to pick up a few things I needed to get me through the next couple of days. The fewer stops when the temps are in triple digits, the better.

One other thing I'm catching up on is thankfulness for the wonder of air conditioning. How miserable would I have been all week without it! And antibiotics, since my cold turned out to something a bit worse. And the magic of refrigeration. And the delight of a little thing called ice cream.

Okay, and an excuse not to weed the garden. Shh...we'll keep that one just between us.

While I was posting this a nurse called from The Little Clinic to check on me and remind me to change my toothbrush in 2 days. When has my regular doctor's office done that?

Oh, yeah.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mediterranean Memphis: Petra Cafe

I have been all about the international cuisine lately. Moroccan and Mexican at Epcot, Indian with my girlfriends on movie day, Thai with my blog partner when he passed through town, and Columbian take-out from a little place my husband found. It's been a gastric whirlwind.

 Um...let me rephrase that...

A couple of weeks ago my friends and I decided to do something that is everyone's favorite for lunch: Mediterranean. I just never get tired of this kind of food.

The Petra Cafe, with several locations around the Memphis area, was just the ticket. This location at 1649 N. Germantown Parkway is small enough to be intimate and quiet enough for conversation. It's bright, clean, and conveniently located.

I had cheated a bit and studied the menu online, which meant nothing naturally, as I still wasn't quite sure what I wanted to order when our friendly server arrived. I frantically scanned the menu...

Having arrived first, our friend who is the mother of 6 month old twins ordered up some hummus, pita, and olives for us to snack on while we made our final choices and caught up on everyone's recent travels.

             Their hummus is incredible and fresh, the pita is warm and delicious.

Everything here is presented beautifully. This is the Greek salad with chicken.

Unable to make up my mind (I know you aren't surprised by that) I hastily opted for the chicken gyro. Only after it arrived did I realize how many carbs that was going to end up being after all the pita bread I'd eaten with hummus. I took a few bites then opened it up and finished it with my fork. The tzatziki sauce, which I had first tasted in Greece last year served as a dip, was the perfect cool compliment to the warm chicken. Onions and garden ripe tomatoes rounded out the flavor.

Another friend ordered the Greek gyros salad. There was a bit of discussion about what the "gyro meat" was made from. Our server informed us that it was a combination of lamb and beef. I had a slice and it was extremely delicious. We aren't red meat eaters at our house, so that was quite a culinary feat for me. I knew you'd be impressed. The lamb and beef are thinly sliced and layered on a spit, then seasoned, and slowly roasted to achieve both a unique flavor and texture. Delicious.

So if you are passing through Memphis and are confused by the myriad of barbecue choices, you can always opt for something else entirely. If you really want to confuse your friends with your Southern travel experience come in the spring to Greekfest. It is held at the largest Greek Orhodox church in the city where I took Greek a couple of years ago from the much revered Father Nicholas Vieron. We're keepin' it multicultural y'all! The new South is just full of surprises!

Petra Cafe on Urbanspoon