Food + Health + Music

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Food

I have a confession to make: I can’t cook.  There has been much time spent on Pinterest drooling over the beautiful creations that people pin, and I have thought about attempting to make some of them, but then I just get discouraged because I actually barely know how to cook anything.  I went to a university where they provided food for us, and actually, we didn’t really have access to cooking appliances.  Anyway, I’ve got a little time off from work this week and next, and so my goal has been to actually cook using recipes.   I bought a Better Homes and Gardens healthy cooking magazine and wanted to try the Seven-Grain Salad with Roasted Pepper, Feta, and Mustard Dressing.  Because I live overseas and do not have access to specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, I had to try to stick to the recipe as best as I could.  It’s listed below:

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups seven-grain pilaf mix

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon coarse ground brown mustard (I did not use this because I couldn’t find it)

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I couldn’t find this, so I substituted with chipotle pepper)

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped cucumber

1/3 cup chopped roasted red sweet pepper (I used fresh sweet pepper)

1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1/4 cup snipped fresh herbs, such as dill, mint, and/or parsley

1/3 crumbled feta cheese

It turned out decent for the substitutions I made, considering this was my first attempt at actually following a recipe and having to create a sauce myself.

Health

So while not ready to go full-on Paleo Diet just yet, I am definitely trying to change what I eat.  I would really like to lose a few stubborn pounds that have been hanging on for a few years and tone up.  Pinterest really is my weakness–it makes finding different workout routines so easy!  I really like to do distance running, but I tend to just get in the habit of one or two routines and not really changing things up, which doesn’t help my speed-work too much.  Long, slow distance only trains the body up to a point and then you just plateau.  Hopefully by adding different calisthenics, weights, and interval cardio, I can improve my speed for my distance runs.

Music

I finally gave in and might be going down the path of Hipster tendencies (gasp) by branching out and expanding what I’m listening to.  I really like listening to all different types of music, with a few exceptions, but as of recent I’ve definitely been leaning in the Hipster musical directions.  A few albums I’ve downloaded recently of note are:

Wild Nothing/ Nocturne

To be quite honest, a lot of these groups sound very similar to me, but I really enjoy the Dream Pop sound.  It’s easy listening for mornings driving to work or just relaxing.  I’ve been listening to this album a lot as of recent; for anyone that likes easy listening I recommend this album.  And to read a much better review please check out BBC’s review of the album.

Foxes/ Echo, Warrior, Youth (EPs/singles)

I don’t know why, because even though British singer Foxes seems like initially “another female singer/songwriter,” her music is really interesting.  It is pop, but it just has a different sound.  Youth is almost like something that would be a dance song in a club, but it’s still different.  I hope she releases a full-length CD in the near future.  Really like her stuff!

Delta Rae/Carry the Fire

This is my FAVORITE new album I’ve downloaded.  I love blues-inspired, southern-rock-esque music.  Bottom of the River is a very powerful song, but my number one on the album is Morning Comes, the tale of an every-man and the obstacles he faces in his daily life.  Although different in sound, I think Mumford and Sons fans might like this one.

Hopefully this coming week I’ll have more dishes to share, and hopefully no disasters!

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Harajuku + Asakusa

Although it has been cold here, it was sunny all weekend, and so the perfect time to do a little sightseeing. To be quite honest, we’re running out of places to go in Kanagawa, so once work permits I think we’ll try and take some trips down to Western Japan.

Saturday I went up to Harajuku for a little shopping, but before that I made a stop at Meiji-Jingu. Built in 1915 to honor the Emperor Meiji and his wife, it is located in Yoyogi Park and is a pleasant break from the surrounding city.

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Just as I was about to leave the main complex a wedding procession entered:

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After leaving Meiji Jingu I headed into downtown Harajuku for some sightseeing and shopping. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Japan, Harajuku is a quite fashionable–yet highly eccentric–area in Tokyo. On Sundays (and I still have yet to go) many young men and women who are into the quirky fashions get together and hang out near the station, readily providing eager sightseers and onlookers photographs.

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clothes

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Today we headed up to Asakusa to visit Kappabashi-dori, aka “Kitchen Town.” It’s an area in Tokyo where one can buy restaurant items wholesale. From the famous plastic food items found in Japanese display cases to the hanging red lanterns outside ramen shops and izakaya, if it’s for the food business, chances are you can find it on Kappabashi-dori. All over Kappabashi-dori are images and figurines of Kappa, water nymphs of Japanese folklore. Kappa are creatures which can have natures ranging from innocently mischievous to outright cruel.

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Famous plastic food found in display windows:
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Taiyaki maker
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All the ketchup and mustard bottles you could ever need!
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dishes

With the Tokyo Skytree and Asahi Beer Hall behind me
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Until next time!

On the Importance of Being Brow-nest

So last year one of the later New Year’s resolutions I made was to stop plucking/waxing my eyebrows. I’ve been a long-time sufferer of broworexia, not to mention my trichtillomania-esque tendencies during times of stress (okay, so not actually pulling out my hair with my own fingers or anything like that), and I wanted to finally put an end to it when I saw a picture of myself and I looked like an entirely different person! I looked so much older than I actually was–here is essentially what my brows looked like prior to when I stopped plucking:

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My lovely friend S is there next to me, and although the above picture is NOT the one that finally pushed me over the brow-edge, it is clear that S looks much better with fuller brows than I do with the thin, shapeless lines above my eyes.

So I started looking online for brow advice, and I saw this picture of Adele from the 2012 Grammy Awards and absolutely fell in love with how fuller brows looked:

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Lauren Conrad has a really good post on her blog: Beauty 101. Click the picture below to go to Lauren’s post:

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To get fuller brows, you MUST resist the urge to over-pluck! This is hard in the first few months of eyebrows growing in because they tend to look awkward, but there are ways to disguise this with eyebrow pencils/eyeshadow/etc. I wanted SO, SO BADLY to pluck mine but I resisted and although it took about 5-6 months for the brows to really come in fuller, it was worth it. Currently I’m fairly sure I’m at full brow capacity; they’re still thin compared to some people’s, but like everything else, genetics DOES factor into brow shape/size:

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So much better! Ladies don’t be afraid of the full brow–it is definitely a youth-enhancer! If you find you are having a hard time growing in your brows you can use some hair growth enhancement aids for thinning hair and just massage them into your brows. I did this almost every night for a few months and it definitely helped me grow in mine.

Happy brow-ing!

The Lifeboat

So I’ve been back in Japan for almost a week now just getting back into the swing of things and have been quite busy.

I love going home to America because there are certain things you really begin to miss living in a foreign country. Walking into a bookstore with English books is one of them for me, and I can easily spend an hour or so perusing the aisles in Barnes & Noble. I recently purchased The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, which has so far been captivating.

The story is set in 1914, and the main character is crossing the Atlantic from England to the United States with her husband on a luxury liner. The ship is destroyed with a sudden, mysterious explosion and the main character is thrust into a lifeboat by her husband with almost 40 others. Although they believe an SOS message to have been sent and rescue imminent, the days begin to add up and the riders in the lifeboat begin to die from exhaustion, suffer psychosis, illness, dehydration, and the beginnings of starvation. All the while reading there is a terrifying undertone to it all: we are all animals underneath it all, and in times of absolute extremity, the decorum and the masks come down and we see ourselves for how brutish we all truly are (just as in Hobbes’ “State of Nature”). When survival is threatened, what we consider in proper society as “murder” becomes something else entirely–“survival of the fittest.” Perhaps in us all there lies the capability to commit certain acts normally deemed as atrocious. Also the concept of discerning meaning in chaos and the idea that there in the middle of the dark, unrelenting sea, undiscovered by any passing vessel, the little boat is pathetic and meaningless and completely at the mercy of nature. There may be no greater meaning, man may try too hard to believe that his existence has meaning when in all actuality it is completely void of any meaning with regard to the universe.

It is a beautiful and haunting metaphor for life, the “what-ifs” of the human condition. I have yet to finish the book, but so far it really is phenomenal and I recommend it to anyone looking for an unconventional thriller.

A little Art Nouveau for the New Year

One of my favorite artistic styles is Art Nouveau, popularized between the years of 1890-1910. It had various origins in Europe, and started as a resistance to Revival art (think of highly ornate, Gothic cathedrals). Art Nouveau has simpler features, although many designs feature intricacies of a different sort. A few of my favorite Art Nouveau artists are Alphonse Mucha and Gustave Klimt. If you’re looking for artwork with florals, gold, fantasy-like design, Art Nouveau might be something to look into:

Klimt
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Klimt
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Mucha
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Mucha
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