Monday, February 21, 2011

Beyond Western Civ 101

After watching Invictus recently, I was reminded of how little I know about the history and cultures of other countries. Growing up, history classes stuck to American interests - wars, politics, discoveries - and reached only far enough to beat into our tender young minds that the ancient Greeks and Romans rocked for inventing our way of government. To remedy that gaping hole in my education, I've been reading more books that don't have a 20-something white female protagonist. Here are a few I've recently enjoyed:

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung is a memoir of the author's childhood survival of the Cambodian Communist movement in the late 1970s.
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a fictional novel about family of missionaries from Georgia who move to the Belgian Congo during the instability during their post-colonial era in the 1960s.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy paints a dreamy, brilliant picture of the inequalities in India's caste system and the political climate in the 1960s.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a novel set in rural China in the mid to late 1800s. It touches on the Taiping Revolution, Southern China's civil war, that ranks as the 5th most deadly military conflict in world history.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is probably the most fictionalized work on my list but I thought it merited mention for opening the door to a very closed world. I heard Geisha, A Life, the autobiography of Golden's main source, Mineko Iwasaki, offers a very different account.

In addition to Iwasaki's memoir, I also have Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children on deck for future reading. I'm always looking for more books to add to my queue so recommendations are very welcome.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Now Watch as I Mangle a Cocktail Dress!

In preparation for next week's cruise, I dug my only semi-formal dress that is not a wedding gown out from the depths of my closet. Luckily, it still fits but an age old problem persists. The straps need to be shortened to avoid exposing too much cleavage.

Hello boobs! Welcome to daylight!

So, I'm planning to rip the seams out and attempt to alter it myself. Who thinks this is going to end well? At least it was a $15 clearance dress to start with.

Ima cut you so bad.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


This is day five of the sore throat that will not quit, so instead of writing about myself today, I'm going to curl up on the couch for an evening of Ghost Hunters International and Vietnamese noodle bowl with enough Sriracha to scorch this virus out of existence.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Winner Is...

No, don't be ridiculous. I don't watch the Grammys. I'm referring to the winners of a much more significant contest: my vacation wardrobe.

Most Valuable Hat

I loved the painfully-named Luxury Diva hat but the product pictures were so bad I couldn't gauge the actual size of it.

Sandal of the Summer

Sigh, I wish the Ralph Lauren espadrilles came in my size but sadly, Zappos is out of eights and I've got an impending deadline.

Best Party Dress

This one really didn't have any competition. The minute I saw it I was sure it was the right obnoxiously bright dress for me. Now I just need to get through two more weeks of cold, snow and rampant viruses. To help me do so, I'm imagining myself on deck seven of the Norwegian Spirit which features a club, casino, three other bars and a 23-hour cafe for midnight snacking. Despite the fact that I've been laid up all weekend with another nasty sore throat, winter suddenly doesn't seem as bad.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Body at Rest, Stays at Rest. Maybe.

I've always found it difficult to exercise. Not the act itself. The part where I put down the remote, lace up my sneakers and commit myself to half an hour of sweating. Despite sometimes even enjoying the sweating part, inertia is my main hurdle. At those times when standing up seems a physical impossibility, I pull out my bag of motivational tricks.

Cute Clothes: As little as five minutes of Sex and the City is usually enough to remind me how much I'd like to wear strapless dresses or high waisted jeans and that my fatty armpits and tummy pooch are the only things standing in my way.

Red Checks: Every night that I exercise, I put a red check on the calendar. The satisfaction I get from that is worth more than an endorphin buzz to me. Even though I didn't quite meet my goal at the end of January, seeing that army of little red checks helped me see how far I had come.

Variety: Most of the time, instead of putting on the same old Windsor Pilates video that I've had since college, I pick a new OnDemand exercise video. It keeps me from copping out on the basis of boredom or anticipating particularly painful moves (ya know, that ones that are actually good for you). As a fringe benefit, the range of moves keeps my muscles from getting used to a particular function. I'm an ab-crunchin', kick-boxin', disco-dancin' fiend.

Bad Photos: I may be one of the few women on earth with a mental body image that is actual skinnier than the one in the mirror. Sometimes my chubbiness even surprises me when I see my reflection because I would SWEAR I'm thinner than that. While that's all well and good for the psyche, it's not very helpful for motivation. A little vanity goes a long way here. When I'm really stuck in the doldrums, I refer to my absolute least favorite photos which turn the tables and make me look heavier than I actually am. The idea of another double-chin picture is enough to send me running… anywhere, so long as I'm running.

Self: I keep tabs on Self magazine to remind myself that exercising isn't just about looking less jiggly in a bathing suit. It's also about keeping my insidey bits in working condition. When I'm not picking up a copy, I poke around their website and follow a few of their blogs for a reminder that I owe it to my future self to take care of this. (You couldn't see it but I just did that up and down hand wiggle in front of my body).

Blogging: Publicly announcing that I actually have a goal has been immensely helpful as a last resort motivator. When none of the behind the scenes tools work, I think about how I don't want to admit that I didn't exercise as much as I said I would. The thought of broadcasting abject failure has gotten me moving more than once in the past month.

Of course, sometimes nothing is enough to get me moving. Mondays, for example, are miserable enough without adding another obligation so I've declared them my only devoted non-exercise day. The rest of the week is open season though. So, what motivates you?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Foozball Sunday

I woke up this morning prepared to be a good wife on Superbowl Sunday, albeit, a wife that has no understanding of it despite attending four years of high school football games. By 9 am I had done my best to prepare by putting my hair in a sloppy pony tail and donning a Red Sox t-shirt. While this may seem misguided to some, it is my firm belief that since the Patriots are not playing today, football is officially dead to New Englanders and we can now begin shouting "Jeter sucks" at will.

The errant enthusiasm continued as I greeted Ryan with a battle cry of "WHO'S READY FOR SOME FOOZBALL?!?!?!" nearly causing him to upend his morning coffee. Shortly after, he asked what I wanted for dinner and that I was ready for. I may not know the difference between a quarterback or a lineback or a hunchback, but I DID know the answer to that question. I informed him that we would be having appetizers while watching the game and, well, he misted just a little bit.

Then we spent the next four hours cooking a feast.

Mini meatballs with this BBQ sauce

We were already stuffed by kickoff, just moments after Christina Aguilera had finished butchering the National Anthem. I've recovered a bit now though and I think there are some pickles left so if you'll just excuse me a moment...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Goes Best with Vacation?

New England continues getting walloped by back to back storms. Today, I tuned out the sleet and focused on our upcoming vacation. Besides the promise of sun, beach and new ports, one of my favorite parts of cruising is that there's still a touch of the old-fashioned in it - playing shuffle board, strutting on the promenade deck, drinking a Tom Collins in the piano bar. Best of all, people still get dolled up. Granted, some show up to the formal dining room in sports jerseys but there's also the crowd that wears their pearls and cocktail dresses. I began my cruise wear shopping with the two most important accessories: a big floppy hat and little white heels. I've narrowed it down to two of each.

Karen from the block:
Echo vs Luxury Diva (shut up)

Labor Day Who?:

So, any thoughts?