odds & ends

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“Can’t you just be like the rest of us, normal and sad and fucked up and alive and remorseful?” ― Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows

I haven’t loved a book so hard since Lauren Groff’s Fates & Furies. I never thought a relentlessly dark tale of a prodigy pianist, who so desperately wants to end her life, could be funny. It’s easier to write binary and it’s downright difficult to create balance, and Toews manages to achieve this on a level that is awe-inspiring. The novel centers around sisters, one of whom is a gifted, yet tortured, musician (think: the poet in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway or Percival in The Waves), and the other the prodigal fuck-up, and how their private, unbinding love is challenged by suicide. In one scene you’re reading about Elf and her latest attempt to take her own life by slashing her wrists and downing bleach, and then you’re somehow laughing at the dark comedy that is this large, disruptive family plagued by a history of depression. As a writer, I often read books on two levels–one for pure enjoyment, entertainment or education and another as a devoted student. I deconstruct structure; I diagram character and tone. I’ll ask, how does he/she achieve what I’m trying to do, and how could I learn from them? While I’m tethered to the darker side of things, I’m feeling the need, especially now, to imbue my work with needed light.

If you don’t mind a book that’s a little heavy (balanced by light), I can’t recommend Toews’s novel enough. Buy it. Now.

I love science fiction. My favorite show of all time is The Twilight Zone, and I think Rod Serling a genius for the stories he imagined and brought to the small screen–most of which were provocative in the late 1950s conservative culture. I loved Stranger Things for the imaginative plot, as well as a feeling of nostalgia for the 1980s, and after I visited Guillermo Del Toro’s very magical and horrifying LACMA exhibit, I found The Strain and I’m addicted. The story is less sci-fi than apocalyptical and biblical — the world we know plagued by a virus, which we soon learn to be a sophisticated strain of vampirism. This isn’t your staid fangs and capes, rather, Del Toro’s modern day monsters are painstakingly conceived from an evolutionary and biological perspective. And while the story is smart and forward (the catastrophic battle between humans and monsters), the characters grapple with real issues of love and loss.

It’s also occurred to me that I’ve become enamored by artists who straddle and redefine form. The Leftovers isn’t just a cable drama about a day when millions of people suddenly disappeared–it’s drama, sci-fi, poetry, all meditating on all the ways in which we define and experience loss. This is why I admire writers like Maggie Nelson, Kelly Link, Lydia Millet and others of their ilk who refused to be confined in a box. A few weeks ago, I shared my new novel’s jacket copy with someone whom I was potentially interested in hiring as a freelance publicist but was disappointed when this person wrote back, oh, this is genre fiction. Let me pause and I say that this argument isn’t about whether I like or don’t like genre fiction (I do, and think genre fiction is hard to pull off, thus warranting so much respect–I wish I had the commitment to pacing and patience that a brilliant mystery novel requires), it’s about having myopic vision. I set out to toy with form–I wanted to write a story rooted in literary fiction (my comfort zone) but have elements of psychological thriller and suspense. I look to Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder as a perfect example of collapsing form. If you read her book jacket, you would say, oh, this is just true crime. While there’s nothing wrong with true crime (Ann Rule’s memoir of her working with Ted Bundy is one of my all-time favorites), that reductionist thinking would’ve ignored what Nelson set out achieve. Her slim book is parts true crime, memoir, poetry, and a private letter between her and her aunt, who died in the hands of a serial killer.

I get that we want to give everything an elevator, fit everything into a neat and tidy box because it’s quick, efficient and easy. However, I admire artists who break tradition, who say, this book, show, or song need not be only this. It could be this and that.

A brief aside: have you noticed that shows have literally gone dark? I already wear glasses. Please don’t make me reach for the flashlight.

In the vein of nodding to people who inspire you, I loved this take on success being defined as how you elevate others. Years ago, I read The Art of War, and now I find it a pile of shit. I’m not interested in Darwinian workplace warfare, rather, I know I win by how I treat others and how I help them rock out in whatever they’re doing. Another way in which you can view success is by how you redefine size. We naturally think that bigger and more is better, a sign of achievement. I have X amount of followers, thus I’m an “influencer”. My home is Y square footage, so that means I’ve “made it”. I don’t subscribe to a McMansion view of life, rather, I’m in step with Mike Birbiglia’s call to play small.

And if you’re not reading Bianca Bass’s wonderful blog, you’re not living your best life. She writes about success and creative work from the millennial perspective–namely, you don’t have to hustle 24/7, rest is a virtue, and her musings call for more meaningful connection beyond fan counts. I’ve grown really tired of being sold to ALL. THE. TIME., so it’s a respite to discover someone’s blog and their writing and not feel trapped by an affiliate link. There are people who still tell stories just to tell them.

Finally, one of the things I’ve learned this year is the need to nurture relationships and be patient. I admired this mother’s lament on how the challenges in her life prevent her from being the kind of friend she knows she can be. I’ve been there (with an unhealthy relationship to my work replacing children), and if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the past year, it’s this: Be kind. Be patient. Be thoughtful. Lean on your friends and help when you can.

 

book buff foodie finds freelance life + careers

odds & ends

los angeles

 

I’ve spent the past few weeks absorbed in domestic and international politics and it is exhausting. I’m genuinely frightened about the direction our country is headed, and I only hope that people vote en masse come November. I’ve made a point to try not to get too deep into politics over the weekend (I read/watch conservative & liberal publications/media, even though I am a staunch Democrat who will be voting for Hillary Clinton come November), because it only gives me anxiety. Let’s save that for the work week.

I’ve had a hard time coming to this space because I’m not sure what to make of it anymore. Everyone tells me that I have to be everywhere when my book comes out, and although I know this to be true logically, I really love living most of my private life offline. So we’ll see where this goes. I’m having some new friends over for dinner tonight so I’ll definitely share the healthy eats I’m making. Until then, this is what’s going on in my neck of the woods:

READING: For a while, I couldn’t read. I had trouble revising and finishing my third book–a link of connected short stories centered on women in various stages of unrest. The book is meant to be a very loose retelling of The Waves. I finished a draft of the book in two months, which is shocking because I usually have to fork over a pint of blood for every chapter I write. However, when I re-read it after a few months of being on anti-depressants and therapy, for the first time in my life I had to put what I wrote down because it was too dark. When editors told my agent that they love my work but it’s “relentlessly dark”, I laughed it off because I couldn’t see it for what it was without perspective. Dani Shapiro wisely wrote that the “self who finishes a book is not the same self who started it”, and this is true because the now self looks back at the former self and weeps for that version. Wants this version, this book, to be hopeful. I couldn’t read until I finished a new draft of the manuscript, and now that it’s sitting with my agent (fingers crossed), I’m on a tear. I loved, loved, loved, Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands, a story collection steeped in female friendships, self-discovery, infatuation, loss, and disillusionment. I also tore through Heather Havrilesky’s How to Be a Person in the World–a selection of unpublished Ask Polly columns. Heather’s writing is so whip-sharp, self-effacing, empathetic and downright funny. Although I couldn’t relate to some of the columns on mothering (a few I skipped over), I enjoyed how Heather invites us to self-reflect and take stock and accountability in the journey to being our better selves.

These two books were a lovely palate cleanser after I finished Emma Cline’s The Girls, which was good, but not great, and a book from I expected so much more. I was SO EXCITED for this book because I’ve studied cults extensively, read nearly everything on the Manson family (from which the story is very loosely based), and while the writing was stunning, the story fell flat. I’m in the minority on this one and I’m sure there are a million people who would disagree.

I just started Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, and I can’t wait to finish it.

Also, reading Bianca Bass’s interview with me (subscribe to her newsletter!), what burnout really means, when anxiety hovers over success, darkening it, taking on social platforms that harbor trolls, and how a self-taught hacker escaped a cult (riveting).  

WATCHING: If you asked me about my favorite movie genre, I will immediately counter with horror and suspense. And I’m not talking about the digital special effects from slasher movies or the ubiquitous, over-the-top gore that’s replaced suspense and nuance, I’m talking about what Hitchcock referred to be as being afraid of the jump. My favorite era was the 1960s-70s where films were created as an antecedent to McCarthyism–a masked being crippling small town America, endangering its citizens and usurping its values (think: Michael Meyers). In recent years, I’ve loved Asian horror because it’s rooted in traditional, mythology and quiet nuance, unlike the slasher bloody gore that’s replaced individuality and intellectualism. Now, all we have is what’s after the jump because we’ve come to know what to expect.

However, I’ve discovered a few films and series that are smart, suspenseful and unsettling. Southbound is what Rod Serling would have conceived had he been alive. It’s a string of five connected vignettes depicting what happens when our most extreme fears play out on a long stretch of endless highway. It also reminds me of the very brilliant House of the Devil.

winona ryder stranger things

If you haven’t watched the Netflix hit, Stranger Things, you need to think about your life choices. Yes, it brings me great joy to see Winona Ryder reinvented (she plays an excellent hysterical mom in a tightly-wound and deftly conceived 8-part miniseries that takes place in the 1980s. Again, we’re transported back to small town America, but, in this case, the plot centers on Ryder’s missing son, who was abducted, we think, by forces from the other side. Is the government harboring secrets (shocker) and conducting experiments that will alter mankind? Who is Eleven, the strange girl who manages to move things with her mind? I love how the thrilling sci-fi aspect of this is balanced by the relationship between three pre-teen boys that reminded me of Stand By Me. The stakes are always raised and the writing is so first-rate that I’m HOPING this gets renewed. An old favorite, Wayward Pines, had a disappointing second season so I pray this doesn’t follow suit.

Not a horror film, but completely worth watching, is Girlfriends, made in 1978. It was one of the rare and bold films at the time that meditated on female friendships and the strain that marriage (and wants) can inflict. I caught this randomly on TCM last night and I stayed up late to watch it. I was born in New York, and I felt nostalgic for a version of the city that wasn’t whitewashed. It was the New York I remember as a child in the 80s–gritty, exciting, and slightly dangerous.

Btw, Black Mirror is coming back in October. Brace yourselves.

DOWNLOADING: If you’re Type A like me and love Instagram (or use it for work), Planoly is an excellent app (there’s a desktop version), which allows you to plan out your feed, schedule posts and analyze the success of them. I’m pretty fixated on photo-editing apps, and I have about 10 on my phone including Color Story, Afterlight, Snapseed, and VSCO.

BUYING: I’m SO over spending a $ on labels. I want quality items that will last forever, and I want them at an affordable cost. This is why I’m shopping at Cuyana, M.Gemi & Armadio.

PLANNING: I am SO excited for my debut novel, Follow Me Into the Dark, which is coming out next year. I CANNOT WAIT. If you want to interview me for your blog, drop me a line. I’m going to New Zealand come November. Where should I go? I’m primarily hitting the North Island, but I want to check out Queenstown.

book buff foodie finds

what we talk about when we talk about good food: munchery

munchery meal delivery service

Years ago, I worshipped at the altar of Seamless Web. Back then I was an equity partner in an agency, working 12-16 hour days, and I’d spend most days in airless conference rooms, on a plane, or tethered to my desk. Weeks would go by and I wouldn’t see daylight, and it had become commonplace to order all of my meals online. When you’re in the midst of frenzy, the last thing you’re thinking about is nutrition. All you want is the comfort you’re not finding in your life. So I’d order an egg sandwich or pancakes for breakfast, pasta for lunch and noodles for dinner and there came a point when my doctor confronted me and told me that I was on the road to diabetes. My insulin levels were that high. My dentist was apoplectic–How did you get seven cavities in one year? WHAT ARE YOU EATING? I was forever exhausted, depleted and sluggish. Over the course of three years I’d gained 40 pounds, and it was only when I could no longer endure retching stomach pain, when I got fed up with my clothes tearing apart at the seams, and my doctors expressed true alarm over my health, did I make a change.

It’s been nearly a year since I first met with Dana James, who sincerely changed (and saved) my life. Words can’t express the magnitude of my gratitude, how she’s empowered me to see the connection between what I put in my body and how I feel physically, emotionally. I’d spent the greater part of my life at war with my body, starving it, hating it, shoveling garbage into it, and over the course of our work I started to recognize that health isn’t a size or a number on a scale. Health is about making conscious choices on how you manage your life. I’m a pragmatist so I realize the pile of cliches I’m feeding you, but it took me months to realize that my weight gain and sickness were a direct result of my inability to manage stress in my job and an overall dissatisfaction with my life. Take that, and add in a predilection for addiction (give me time and I’ll get hooked on ANYTHING), and there goes my health and wellbeing, crumbling before me.

Believe me when I say that I like my anaesthetics. I’m wired such that I deal with stressful situations by turning to things that dull and numb them. This has been my practice for most of my life (insert alcohol and drug addictions), and I had no idea that I’d replaced booze and blow with carbs and cheese. I’d seamlessly moved from one addiction to another without even recognizing it.

I’m grateful to Dana, who’s also a behavioral psychologist and addiction specialist, for teaching me how to rewire my behavior. Instead of reaching for that which soothes the pain, I now confront the source of the pain and make steps to avoid it, where possible. I draft contracts and take on clients in a way that works for me and my need to have complete solitude. I need that time for regeneration or I’ll get panicked and enter a stress cycle. I make sure that I stock my fridge and cabinets with healthy foods and that I skimp on other areas of my life to focus on healthy eating.

For most of the week, I prepare my meals at home, but there are a few days a week when I am in all-day meetings and conference calls. Come nightfall, I’m catatonic, and the only thing I want to do is watch a movie, play with my cat or scroll Twitter. No way do I want to be in the kitchen washing and chopping greens.

Way back when I read a post on Hitha’s blog on Munchery, an affordable, healthy meal delivery service in New York. At the time, Munchery* didn’t service Brooklyn, so I signed up for availability notifications. Recently, they sent me a note, offered me a free meal for signing up for their mailing list, and I’ve since purchased (and enjoyed!) two meals.

Each meal is prepared by a resident chef, and the ingredients are fresh, delicious and locally sourced. What I love about Munchery is the price (meals range from $9.99-$15), transparent nutritional information (each meal has a complete breakdown of ingredients, nutritional and allergen info), the convenience (I order for same-day delivery and I even get texts to let me know my meals are on their way), and the taste (my meals were flavorful, perfectly cooked and plated beautifully).

Part of me wishes I can smuggle this service to California because I can’t get over the quality of the food for the price. What a find!!

*As you know I don’t collaborate with brands for any reason, at any time. This blog is my hobby, not my business, and I only write about things I love and have paid for with my hard-earned money. The link above is part of their referral program (kind of like Gilt), where I get $ towards future meal purchases when people sign up. If that’s not your bag, simply go to Munchery.com and live your healthy life. 🙂

Yes, that's Felix stalking my meal. Luckily, I snatched my plate away before he could dive in, paws first. SIGH.
Yes, that’s Felix stalking my meal. Luckily, I snatched my plate away before he could dive in, paws first. SIGH.
foodie finds mindful health journey

that time I bought things + told you about them

all the beauty products you need

Beauty: You guys. I don’t purchase many beauty products because I can’t be bothered with the upkeep. Save for red lipstick, I don’t wear makeup because I can’t cope with a multi-step process. I’m serious about this. My beauty routine has to be simple, fast, and efficacious. I’ve always been into skin + body care. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with good genes and my skin is fairly unblemished and I’m only just starting to see small lines around my eyes. Unlike the rest of the free world, I’m not all that concerned about the aging process (if you set aside my crippling fear of death), however, I do want to look like I’m not digging my own grave. Nutrition, water, proper sleep and exercise play huge roles in my life as does my skin care regimen.

I haven’t been into serums until this year (because process), but I’ve been using Origins’ Original Skin serum for nearly two months and it is my JAM. I have noticed a demonstrable difference in the appearance of my pores (smaller) and people have remarked on my glowing skin (this could also be attributed to the fact that I’ve been eating greens like a fiend). I use the serum before my moisturizer, and these days I’m rocking either Jurlique’s Skin Balancing Face Oil (I have combination skin and I’m still shocked that my face doesn’t resemble an oil refinery) or Caudalie’s Premier Cru The Cream (it costs a MILLION DOLLARS but it’s worth it).

It should be said, out loud, that my friend Grace has all the knowledge. While many bloggers have devolved into the equivalent of the women who spray perfume in your face in department stores, Grace is one of the good ones. She tests all the products she uses and she’s genuinely excited by the hunt and discovery. I trust her implicitly, and she’s never steered me in the wrong direction. Last week, I found myself pawing her beauty products and she preached the gospel that is One Love Organics. When I wasn’t huffing her coconut scrub, she told about Skin Savior, a miraculous cleanser + moisturizer (dual purpose!) that doesn’t require you to wash your face! Apparently, the oils in the balm attach to the oils in your skin, making for a deeper, nourishing wash. I’ve only used this for a few days and I’m already in love. I’m still not used to washing my face without water, but I’m giving this a go.

After I finished pawing her beauty products, I sprayed Grace’s Coqui Coqui Coco Coco on my wrists, and I black-out shopped this perfume using her computer. The fragrance is fresh, not cloying and smells of Indonesia (coconut, sand and ocean). I plan on wearing this perfume to the grave.

Finally, the gross bit of the lot. If you suffer from allergies as much as I do (I’m on prescription meds, people), you will love this souped-up neti pot. I’ve been using this simple solution for a week, and while it sometimes feels like I’m drowning, I’ve noticed that my nasal passages are clearer, and I’m wheezing less. You won’t be too thrilled with what exits your nasal passages (I’m fascinated), but you will feel clean.

Books: Believe me when I say that a tower of unread books rests at my feet. From David Brooks’ The Road to Character to Maeve Brennan’s biography, and scores of unread fiction, it’s been hard to play favorites amongst the lot vying for attention. However, this past weekend I found myself cleaning out my bookcases and I’m stumbled upon a book a friend had given me as a gift–and would you believe it was Elena Ferrante? A full two years before I discovered her remarkable Neapolitan tetralogy, a friend inscribed The Days of Abandonment with: you must read this. Ironic that I wrote about being comfortable with not being married and then I go find a book about a woman coping with her husband’s untimely abandonment.

Another book that eclipsed the rest is one that arrived in the mail yesterday. You should know that I stood outside of my apartment building, ripped open the Amazon box and nearly squealed as I unwrapped Chloe Sevigny. I’ve been infatuated with Sevigny since her Sassy days and I obviously purchased the blue tee she wore in KIDS after I saw the movie in the theater. Although our styles couldn’t be more divergent, Chloe is just so cool. She gives zero fucks and this is precisely why she continues to inspire me even after all this time. The book is a compilation of private and public photos snapped over the course of two decades (snaps of scripts, Chloe’s room, traveling with friends), and it’s satisfying, inspiring, and captures everything I love (and didn’t) about the 90s. Within 24 hours I’ve shown this book to four people and we pored through the photographs like they were gold.

Naturally, the time I would meet Chloe would be the day I’m barrelling down the block with a huge bag of laundry. Yep, I ran smack into CHLOE SEVIGNY while carrying my laundry bag and wearing sweatpants.

And of course she looked the epitome of cool.

Travel: I went from being a woman who only carted around designer gear to a woman who reused Whole Foods and Sakara Life delivery bags for gym and travel. Until this year I haven’t owned a proper carry-on and I finally broke down and purchased Lo & Son’s Catalina bag. You can fit a small CHILD in this bag it’s so roomy. I love that I can toss the cotton canvas in the wash and it’s sturdy enough to fit a pile of clothes, shoes and accessories. I can’t wait to test-drive it when I head to Singapore + Bali in July, and it will obviously come in handy when I move to California come September!

foodie finds

love.life.eat.: what I'm loving right this second

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If you’ve seen me within the past two weeks, you’ve seen me wearing this sweater. I’ve written much about my shift to a more minimalist, functional wardrobe on this space–so much so that I’ve recently given away all my designer handbags to friends because I don’t want to form attachments to things I truly don’t love or need. Since we’re in the midst of monsoon season in New York, this lovely wool sweater has kept me warm on treks to the gym and lunches with friends. I still can’t get over the fact that Banana Republic is killing it right now. Murder in the first.

For the past three days I’ve locked myself in my apartment in an effort to revise my manuscript. I’ve received some exceptional and promising feedback from editors, and I’ve taken a step backed, cooled off, and, with a clear head, have been at work at a revise. And even though I’m an introvert, I get a bit loopy if I don’t at least hear people speaking for a few days. So on a lark I viewed the first two seasons of Black Mirror and I might as well have fallen into a black hole because I binge-watched this show, catatonic, all day yesterday. The UK import bills itself as the modern-day Twilight Zone (a bold statement since Rod Serling is THE standard), however, a show, which observes the many ways in which technology has and will change society, is remarkable. In “White Bear,” a woman wakes with amnesia. As the day unfolds she finds that she’s being hunted by various people while hoards stand back, silent, filming her with their cell phones. We later learn that her punishment for filming the death of a child is for her to relive the incident every day. Every night her memory is wiped clean while she watches the video she made in a loop, and the next day she wakes to the nightmare all over again. The story is rich in how it navigates participatory justice, celebrity in a cell-phone culture, regret and memory. In “Fifteen Million Merits,” a futuristic, ultra-virtual society where every transaction is intangible and everyone pedals a bike to stay alive, a talented singer is forced to choose between being an adult performer or a slave to a bike. Her choice is chilling, but the man who fell in love with her is changed and unchanged in ways that will surprise even the most jaded of viewers.

Suffice it to say if you want to think, if you want to question your relationship with your devices, watch Black Mirror (it’s on Netflix/Amazon, although I’ve found the full-length versions of the episodes I’ve mentioned online).

For two weeks I’ve acted like THAT ASSHOLE WRITER. When a very famous editor wrote that my work is serious, brilliant, but too difficult for an American audience, I wrote my agent that I can’t help that America is stupid, and no way in hell was I going to dumb down my manuscript. I suspect my agent has an endless reserve of patience (or he’s used to dealing with writers like me), and he told, quite kindly, that the intention is not to dumb-down my manuscript, but rather look for ways to make it tighter, stronger. And then I happened upon this article (my dear friend Amber has been telling me about Mark Manson’s writing since our trip to Thailand) on all the reasons why we fail. In short, I was arguing against advice instead of taking it. Manson writes,

Guaranteed express ticket to sucking: trying to be right instead of good. I don’t care what it is, if you’re more invested in arguing your point of view against people who are trying to help you than you are in improving yourself, then you’ve effectively given up. And for all of your brainiac debating, you’re still too stupid to see it.

I’ve learned a lot about humility over the past few months, and once I sat down to revise my manuscript (I’m halfway through the book), I was surprised and humbled over how much there was to edit. There’s not a page untouched by track changes.

Normally, I can’t read books that are similar to what I’m working on, however, I found re-reading Andre Dubus’ We Don’t Live Here Anymore to be of tremendous comfort. Re-reading his novellas on love and adultery makes me realize what’s lacking in my work. Yesterday (in-between episodes of Black Mirror), I revised scenes, stayed longer in them. It’s hard for me to detangle love from loss, and at one point I had to take a break.

Save for a workout with a friend and a lunch, I’m continuing my imposed novel-editing solitude this weekend. Know I will be eating copious amounts of this Coconut Peanut Butter. Another recommendation from my friend Amber, this butter puts all nut butters to shame. I actually tossed my peanut and almond butters after I sampled a spoonful of this stuff. It’s hard to explain why coconut oil and peanut butter work, but they do. OH, GLORIOUSLY SO. The delivery costs are a million dollars since the butter is shipped from Hawaii, but trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Finally, remember my long diatribe (I know, which one?!) on my Brooklyn BodyBurn challenge? My old workout gear isn’t holding up so I invested in some pants from Gap Body as well as these Zella leggings. You know you’re in deep when your workout gear exceeds your casual wear, becomes casual wear. GULP.

foodie finds

what we talk about when we talk about food in southeast asia

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It feels good to be here, halfway around the world. It’s winter in Bangkok, and during the day our shirts cling to our backs and all we want to do is crawl into the cool dark and settle there. In the morning we took a private car and toured a steamy city. We covered our shoulders in temples, took off our shoes and quietly prayed. Marveling at a buddha worth forty million dollars and built in 24-carat gold, we stood on a balcony overlooking the city and thought about how far we had to travel to shake home off our feet. Twelve hours separates us from them and it was comforting to know that we celebrated our best moments, traded stories and laughed so hard it hurt when everyone was asleep.

Normally, I travel alone because I like it that way; I prefer the company of solitude that comes with being itinerant. I like being a nameless stranger, one of the many in a car, in a train, swimming deep underwater. Yet this trip, one I’ve taken with two dear friends, has been wonderful. In the early evening I drank fresh watermelon juices with my friend Amber and talked about an old friend from an old life, and I hadn’t thought of this friend in a while, and it felt good to talk about the person I used to be, to be on good terms with her, even if the space between that woman then and this woman now is an incalculable figure.

I watch a movie in my hotel room and Thom Yorke’s “Analyse” comes on, You traveled far/What have you found/That there’s no time/There’s no time/To analyse/To think things through/To make sense. I want to be here longer because when I come home there’s so much to deal with. So many bandaids in need of ripping off. But I try not to think about that. I try not to let my mind go where it wants to go. I try to hold on to this time for as long as I can.

I’m traveling with two friend who light up when it comes to beauty and I go mad for food, and it’s good to know that the two loves have been harmonious. They waited as I raced to a corner to grab a plastic bag of juicy mango dusted with cane sugar and pink salt and watched as I poured water all over my hands outside of the temple because the sweet clung to my fingers. They marveled as my Korean lunch took up nearly our entire table. We’ve had spicy curries, fluffy seafood pancakes, slippery glass noodles and buttery beef. My friend Amber eats all of my kimchi because I can’t tolerate the sourness of it. I watch a man crush pomegranate seeds into a bottle and I drink the juice as it is, tart, a little sweet, completely what I needed in the hot sun.

Tomorrow we leave for a long holiday in Phuket, Ko Phi Phi and who knows where, and I can’t wait to tear into papayas, pineapples and have all of the greenery.

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foodie finds thailand + cambodia traveling girl

love.life.eat. of the week: we're not going to say the "G" word

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It’s been a while since I haven’t used the dreaded “G” word around these parts, but trust that I’ve been doing more than fretting over gluten, lamenting its loss, and subsequently espousing the joys of a gluten-free life, on a daily basis. Not only have I secured a few new clients, I’m planning two incredible trips–Barcelona/Granada/Seville, solo + Korea/Bangkok/Phuket, with friends–and editing my novel for editorial submission come fall.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been a little busy. However, that’s not to say that I haven’t been mindful, if not downright evangelical, about “me-time.” Every week I set aside an afternoon or a whole day devoted relaxing, creating, puttering–recharging the batteries as it were. Not only have I been reading up a storm, but I’ve been photographing my food like mad, and making some minor, virtuous discoveries!

After reading a slew of books on gut health (such is my life), I’m becomming more mindful of what I put in and on my body. As a result, I’m slowly replacing my chemical-rich beauty and home products with more virtuous choices. Case in point, I’ve recently discovered Simply Divine Botanicals by randomly wandering into a shop in the East Village, post-yoga (living the stereotype, friends!). All the products are made locally, are free from toxic chemicals, and theres is an ingredient list I can actually comprehend. I picked up this delicious Lemongrass Body Butter, and I feel as if I’ve been transported back to Thailand. I’ve also stocked up on Aura Cacia’s Tasmanian Lavender Oil, which I use during my brief evening meditation. Most of my beauty products have been replaced with locally-produced providers, and I feel good that I’m striving toward balance between the inward + outward.

Remember when I mentioned that I’ve been snapping up a storm? Some of my photos are for this space, but a lot of them are for my private food diary, of which I share with my nutritionist on a weekly basis. We dissect composition, content and portions — so I try to make the photos as clear and realistic as I possibly can. Granted, snapping evening shots has become murder, however, I took the below photo using Lowel EGO’s Digital Imaging Light. When it comes to digital photography, this is the BEST investment I’ve made, since my images come as close to natural light as possible. Note that the below photo was taken at NINE P.M., people.

Finally, I think I’m the only person who craves fall. I’m not built for summer, so I’ve been curling up in my home with books sporting this sweater. Fake it ’till you make it, I suppose. And while I’m finding my affection for J. Crew has waned (I haven’t shopped there in at least two years because of the acrylic and insane pricing infestations, and when I visited the USQ location recently, I found the on-floor service mediocre, at best), I really love the chunky weight of this blue open cardi.

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foodie finds

reframe your thinking: the art of the visual food journal

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Last night I practiced yoga in front of a setting sun, and my teacher talked about the Ayurvedic notion of Prajnaparadha. Loosely translated from sanskrit it means, “crimes against wisdom”–how we willfully ignore our intuition, the base wisdom which guides us in living a mindful life. I’ll be honest: I’m not an Ayurvedic practitioner nor am I an avid follower of one kind of belief system, however, I’m in tune with myself and my flaws–an ego, when unchecked, can supersede common sense, and a sometimes quiet yearning for anesthesia, for the world to pale down to a dull, sustained drone. The former leads to injury and the latter leads to lack of presence.

Years ago, I fancied myself an advanced yogi, and I remember a class where my teacher, Elena Brower, warned me against going into bound triangle. I wasn’t warm, I wasn’t ready, but I ignored her because, who was she to tell me what my body can and cannot do? And then a snap, a collapse to the ground, a hamstring torn, which would take years to heal. To this day I’m reminded of my ego because I’m still tight on that one leg, still. I don’t imagine that Elena knows the indelible mark she left on me (but do we ever know the marks we leave on people? How a single sentence has the ability to transform, build and bind?), but I remember her taking me aside and talking to me about ambition. How our desire to nail a pose, arrive at a marker, a perception of a life, can be dangerous if we don’t consider the larger scope of things, namely, the importance of the journey and what lies after. So many years later I’m reminded of the crime I committed against a body that wasn’t ready for this shape with its cold limbs, a foot that wasn’t committed to the mat, and a knee that wobbled–and more importantly, how I didn’t exercise common sense.

It’s interesting how I’ve returned to the mat while simultaneously making a commitment to be present with regard to the food I put in my body.

Today I had my first check-in with my remarkable nutritionist, Dana James, which starts with a full-blown analysis of my weight, body fat percentages (by limb–who knew that one leg was heavier than the other?) and dovetails into a detailed analysis of my food journal and the week. Not only was I floored by the fact that I’d lost FIVE POUNDS, but I was more excited about the fact that while this journey has been HARD (people, living without gluten and dairy requires a strategy, a plan and back-up plan, not to mention cravings that are CRUEL), I’m actually FEELING this journey. I’m forcing myself to listen to my body. Why do I want that particular piece of food? Is it because I’m bored, tired, stressed, ambivalent, or is it because I love the contents of this bowl and I seek nourishment?

Do I want to be nourished or numb?

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Today I met with a friend who asked me about this space. Will you still bake? Don’t you miss it? I told her that I’m trying to apply the same minimalist thinking I’ve managed to exercise in my home and wardrobe to this space and my body. Take in only the things I love and need. Bake the best croissants and savor one. Eat when my body tells me to. Fill my body with food that gives me pleasure (the juxtaposition of texture! the vibrant colors!). Write only in this space when I have something meaningful and thoughtful to say.

I never thought I would enjoy documenting every meal I make until I realized that the reason I loathed food journals was because I had to be accountable, present, for what I put in my body. To that end, I’ve reframed the notion of writing down what I’m eating into creating a weekly visual diary, most of which I share with my nutritionist because it keeps me honest. Because I’m not carrying measuring cups in my bag when I go to restaurants. Because I want every meal to be a celebration, a fist pump, a victory lap, because out of the most brutal year I’ve had something wonderful has emerged.

I’m present and I’m listening to my body and my heart.

Note: I’m sharing my food journal + experiences as a means to inspire, not as a way to emulate. My program has been designed specifically for me, but I want to remove the stigma of carb addiction and share everything I’m doing and all the lessons learned along the way. While this week’s diary isn’t completely visual, I plan on creating a private photo feed for Dana so she can explore alongside my written entries.

foodie finds mindful health journey

love.life.eat. of the week

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Last night I dreamed that seven editors vyed for my manuscript, and I was so excited I rolled over and fell off my bed. I fell OFF MY BED while I was sleeping, people. This is where I’m at this week in case you’re wondering. My manuscript is out with four discerning readers, and so far the feedback has been strong and overwhelmingly positive, although I’m white-knuckling, waiting for my agent’s read with bated breath. That, coupled with a busy week at work and preparations for my upcoming nutritionist appointment (and life change!!!), have me spent. I plan to keep things chill today before I toast my friend Hitha’s 30th birthday this evening.

This week I read this article on the psychology of clutter. An ardent minimalist, I don’t own anything that isn’t functional, useful, or devastatingly beautiful. However, parting with a few pieces in my closet has been difficult because they remind me of a smaller size and a markedly different version of myself. Admittedly, it’s easy to cleave to the image of who we used to be–we romanticize it and focus on the broad strokes (the drape of clothes and the exhilaration we felt in buying them) rather than the particulars (the unhealthy lifestyle, the absence of mindfulness). Over the past few weeks I’ve donated and given away 40% of my wardrobe, and have started the task of rebuilding. Purchasing key pieces for the life I lead now and for the body I have now. Granted, who knows what will happen after my three-month program with the nutritionist, but I’ve got to show up for myself and honor myself the best way I know how–not obsessing over a 25-year-old Felicia. To that end, I’ve made a few, deliberate purchases (slacks, dresses, layering tees and cardigans), and I’m really loving everything at LOFT’s Lou + Grey.

I’ll be candid: I don’t like LOFT. At all. The pieces remind me of a “full on Monet,” where the clothes are wonderful at first glance, but up-close, not so great. I’ve had many LOFT pieces which have not survived a year of wear, and I initially regarded the new collection with trepidation. However, after carefully inspecting the goods (seriously, I’m like a surgeon in the dressing room, turning sweaters inside out), I’ve picked up some of the lightweight cardigans and layering tees (on sale!), as well as this linen dress (it’s slightly sheer, so you’ll need a slip). The pieces are lightweight, perfect for the office, and super supple and soft.

When it comes to books, however, I’m a bit of a collector (read: polar opposite of minimalist). I love the feel of books, the crack of spines and the smell of paper. I WILL NEVER GET AN E-READER, EVER. I purchased two books this week: a delightful illustrated wide-range tale of Julia Child’s life–from her childhood upbringing to her being a WWII spy to her ascension as a cookbook and TV star. My friend + brilliant illustrator, Summer tweeted about this book, and when Summer speaks, I listen.

I’ve also scored Alessandro Baricco’s latest. It’s hard to describe his work, other than to say it reminds me of Borges with his dream-like prose, but Baricco always delivers a potent political or societal message. I’ve read all his books and have been mesmerized by the beauty in them, and I’m excited to dive into Mr. Gwyn.

Finally, after long days at work and brutal workouts, it’s nice to come home to a cool apartment, a sweet kitty, and a hot shower, where I can slather 80 Acres’ soothing lavender scrub–the perfect way to ease myself into slumber.

book buff foodie finds

love.life.eat. of the week

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While I’ve always been curvy, the size of my chest has oscillated wildly over the years. In my 20s, I was impossibly thin, and shirts fell the way they would when draped on a mannequin. Part of me misses those days without cleavage, not having to worry about the way tops and dresses fit–I simply wore what I wanted to without thinking about it. Now, that’s all I do. Think about ways in which I can dress around my boobs. And yes, I’ve heard the countless refrains of VIVA LA BOOBS! Celebrate the girls in their glory, and what not, however, that kind of style makes me squirm beyond measure. I’ve always been modest–glamour has never been part of my repertoire–and I much prefer classic cuts, effortless fits, and naturally, the color blue.

Believe me when I say that 90% of my wardrobe is BLUE.

A few weeks ago I tried on every dress in my wardrobe and sighed over the BOOB SITUATION–the fact that nothing fit right because of the size of my chest. So I donated and gave away 40% of my wardrobe, and replaced what was missing with fewer pieces of higher quality. I purchased this classic black dress because I love the fit, drape and back, and the fact that I can dress this down with a cardigan. Boobs secured. In the midst of a rage blackout over my father’s medical condition, I blacked-out and purchased this dress in this pattern from Meg Shops in Williamsburg. I’ve worn this linen dress four times in two weeks and I am in LOVE. I love this dress so much I even considered purchasing it in PINK. Guys, PINK. I have ZERO pink in my wardrobe.

Finally, I purchased this swing trench from Everlane because of the perfect cut, color, and price. It also replaces a less-than-flattering grey trench that I’ve been holding onto for longer than I want to admit.

While some look to their wardrobe as a means to tell a story, my clothes are purely functional. However, my home is a place filled with stories–the nesting dolls from Russia that were nearly confiscated at the airport, the prints from a wonderful photographer I met in Melbourne, the ceramic vase from Mexico, the cashmere scarves from India and linens from Cambodia–and I’ve become a collector of art and items that evoke memories. Although many items I own have been acquired as a result of my travels, I became obsessed with Sivana Skayo’s Intimacy Under the Wires series, specifically this photo. The image has already inspired another trip–one I plan to take this fall.

And finally, I’ve recently acquired an ice-cream maker and naturally I’ve booked two ice cream socials with close friends. Know that I will be making a ton of sweets from the Ample Hills Creamery book.

UPDATE: DO NOT PURCHASE FROM ARTFULLY WALLS. MY PRINT CAME IN HORRIBLE CONDITION, WAS OF CHEAP QUALITY, AND HAD THE WEBSITE BRANDING ALL OVER MY IMAGE. I’M ENRAGED THAT I SPENT $70 AND WAS RIPPED OFF.

foodie finds style