Saturday, July 30, 2011

My artwork

Untitled (2000)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peter Cetera, Peter Cetera, Peter Cetera

I don't know why I've been mildly obsessed with Peter Cetera's music lately. It's in my head and coming off my lips constantly. He's my Pandora radio station. One of my friends has even had to endure my poor rendition of "Next Time I Fall" one too many times over the last week. I guess that's just the kind of mood I've been in. It's a continuation of my affection for the 80s...and proof of my love of romance, of course. I mean come on, how is "Restless Heart" not one of the best songs ever?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York vs. Chicago

I would be a better writer of a post entitled "New York vs. Chicago" if I had actually lived in both places. However, even though I have not resided in Chicago, having visited there for five days recently, I did pick up on some differences between the two cities (mostly focusing on Manhattan and center city Chicago). I absolutely love New York, and I seriously fell in love with Chicago while I was there, too. Having lived in New York City for seven years now, I am grateful for having had the experience of it. However, I am at a point where slowing down and having a better quality of life is important to me. I have been exploring the idea of living in different cities and Chicago is one of my options. My initial (far from expert) thoughts on both cities are as follows:

Chicago is a much cleaner city. I did not see a single rat or roach on my visit, which I cannot say of New York. In New York, there is often bagged trash on the streets, whereas Chicago seems to keep their trash in dumpsters. There is also much more pollution in New York. There are less people in Chicago, and therefore far less crowding. Chicago is right on Lake Michigan (which is gorgeous), which means people can literally walk out of their downtown apartment and go swimming, whereas New York is surrounded by rivers so you either have to live way far out in an outer borough or travel a fair distance to get to the beach. Also, the lake water is a light greenish blue, whereas in New York it is a deep bluish gray.

In Chicago, I felt like I was in the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz because all of the buildings were so polished, architecturally impressive, and well-kept. In New York City, there are many beautiful and historic buildings, but there are also many areas that seem (the words that come to mind are) "less sparkly."

In Chicago, people seem to be more easygoing and friendly, whereas although there are friendly people in New York, most people seem to be moving at a much faster, more rushed pace, and there seems to be more general hostility in the air. In Chicago, people on the bus were quiet and I didn't hear horns honking, or people screaming or arguing on the street. In New York, occurrences like these seem quite common.

In New York, there is always something strange or unusual to be seen. People always put themselves out there in even the wildest of fashions. In addition, New York is highly diverse. On every corner you will find multiple ethnicities and people of varying socioeconomic status. In Chicago, I did not see a large amount of wildness or diversity. New York has anything you could want, and stores are jam-packed along the streets. If you are looking for Chinese food, there are a million places within a short distance. In Chicago, it seems that although they have a little bit of everything, there are not as many stores and they are not so packed together. You may find a little area of shops and restaurants here and there, but you may have to travel a bit to find what you are looking for. Also, the nightlife is more prominent in New York. There is more glamor, more chaos, longer hours, more clubs, more venues, more restaurants, more musical performances, more theater.....basically more of everything. However, both cities have deep historical roots in the arts.

New York is loaded with street performers and vendors whereas Chicago has much less of this. I only saw one street performer in an underground Pedway of Chicago and I think one cupcake truck the entire time I was there. I was told by a friend that they are not permitted to have vendors out on the streets. This is in stark contrast to New York where many vendors make a living selling items on streets throughout the city and performers are all over the place. Both cities had people begging on the street for money.

Both cities had amazing art museums, but Chicago took their art to another level by having multiple outdoor sculptures (some very large in size). Although New York has sculptures around the city, they do not seem as prominent as they are in Chicago. Chicago also has a huge outdoor auditorium in the center of the city in Millenium Park which is like a huge, beautiful sculpture in and of itself, whereas the stage in Central Park is just a regular stage. In general, the parks in both cities are very beautiful.

Both cities have wonderful zoos and aquariums and both have zoos located right in the middle of the city. However, in Chicago, the zoo is free. Also, in New York, you have to travel a fair distance to an outer borough to see the aquarium.

The cost of living in Chicago is less. It also seems much easier to get an apartment there. There are no broker's fees like there are in New York and you can get a much nicer place for your money. The public school systems in both cities are problematic and are known to not be the best, but both cities have a variety of private schools. The weather in Chicago is one of two extremes, hot and very cold. The city is known for its harsh winters. In New York, all four seasons are present. The summers are hot and humid, and the winters are cold, but a bit shorter than Chicago and not quite as bitter. In Chicago, people stay for the summer and love it. In New York, a lot of people go out to Long Island, or other beach destinations outside of the city.  Both cities have free concerts and events in the parks during the summer.

Chicago has Navy Pier, which offers amusements, boat rides, a museum, food vendors, etc. New York has Chelsea Piers which offer boat rides, and lots of opportunities to be athletic, with rock climbing, athletic fields, etc. If you want amusements in New York, you have to travel out to Coney Island which has more rides than Navy Pier, but is less clean, less safe, and further away. If you want to be athletic in Chicago, they have many groups that play intramural sports, such as the Chicago Sport and Social Club.

I think I could probably go on with my comparison of the two cities for quite a while. Overall, Chicago is a much cleaner, more laid-back city, with a more extreme climate and fewer happenings, but still enough going on to make it a hip place to be. New York is a less clean and more rowdy city. It is more expensive, but has more to do and much more diversity. The fact that Chicago is still a city, but has less pollution, people, and noise, while still being near the water sounds nice to me. My only concern is, could I handle such harsh winters? Hmmmm, I'm not sure about that! I would love to hear your take on both cities, or on any other city that you think is amazing.

 Chicago (July 2011)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Resilience and incredible talent

Watching clips of Britain's Got Talent is such a fun thing to do. Actually, I lied, it's quite emotional. For example, in this clip, young Shaheen Jafargholi auditions with the song, "Valerie." When Simon Cowell interrupts him, criticizes him, and asks him if he has anything else, Shaheen shows great resilience at a moment when I probably would have started crying at that age, and goes on to knock one out of the park with another song. And, it's so beautiful to see his mother there watching him, so supportive, and so proud. Rock on, Shaheen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peelu - the healthier chewing gum

Recently, I have become more conscious of what I put in my body. This means that, when possible, I try to avoid processed foods and those with chemicals or artificial ingredients. One item that I have been avoiding is gum. I have been wary of sugarless types because they are sweetened artificially. However, I did not want to buy regular gum with sugar even though some brands aren't too bad for you because I am conscious of getting cavities. Then, one day I was at my local organic grocery store and I saw Peelu Chewing Gum.

Fibers from the Peelu tree, or Salvadora Persica tree, have been used for many years, generally in the form of a teeth-cleaning twig known as a Miswak, as a way of maintaining oral hygiene. By chewing on the fibers, plaque is removed and bacteria is killed. If you'd like to read more about the use of Peelu fibers, definitely check out the article "What Is Miswak?"

Peelu, a United States company, has created a line of products that contain Peelu fibers. I decided to try their chewing gum and I think it's great. It is sweetened with Stevia extract (from the Stevia plant) and Xylitol (from the fibers of different fruits and vegetables), and contains the cavity fighting power of Peelu fibers. Because it is not traditional gum, laced with chemicals, it is not extremely soft and the flavor does not last a very long time. However, it does what it's supposed to do by freshening your breath and cleaning your teeth. It comes in multiple flavors such as peppermint blast and cinnamon sass, and is about eight dollars for a bottle with one hundred pieces, which isn't that bad compared to around two dollars for twenty pieces of regular gum. You may be able to find it at your local health food store, but if not, you can easily find it for order on So, chew away, but more naturally.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chicago bound!

I will be in Chicago for a week and may not post until my return. Enjoy this beautiful week and all the gifts the universe presents to you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quote of the day

"Sometimes we are forced in directions we ought to have found for ourselves." (The character Lionel Bloch in the movie Maid in Manhattan)

I seriously needed to relax tonight and so I decided to take a break and watch Maid in Manhattan. It was a touching, light-hearted, romantic comedy, and I loved it. One of my favorite parts was when the character Lionel Bloch, a butler, gives a speech to Marisa Ventura, a maid played by Jennifer Lopez, about life.

In my experience, like the quote states, sometimes life has forced me in a new direction. Although the push has, at times, been in the form of something uncomfortable or even painful, I have found that inevitably it was what I truly needed. Indeed, many times, the change was something that I actually wanted somewhere deep inside but was too afraid or uncertain to fulfill it on my own. As an example, think about someone you know who wanted to leave their job but never could, and who inevitably was laid off or fired. Sometimes - probably often, if not always - a perceived "negative" is actually a gift of some sort. Whether it is a gift to grow emotionally, to learn something, or to pursue an endeavor one has always wished to pursue, it is still a gift.

Therefore, if we can learn to trust the process of change more, knowing that inevitably we will be okay, then perhaps life wouldn't have to force us into new directions. Instead, maybe we could let go of the old and bring in the new with added grace and more faith in the direction of our intuition and in the ebb and flow of life.

If you haven't seen this movie and are in the mood for something fun and idealistic, check it out. (Just keep in mind that it is definitely a chick flick!)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bullying is horrible; Here's one boy's inspirational story

Bullying is a serious problem. Not only does the bully have very low self-esteem and other issues (often they are being bullied somewhere else in their life), the victim of the bullying also suffers awful side effects. These side effects can include extremely low self-esteem, thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, detrimental shifts in mind and personality, isolation, and many more. It is a highly serious matter and it can affect the rest of the victim's life. Immediate action needs to be taken when a case of bullying is discovered, and both the bully and the bullied need help overcoming the abuse.

As a teacher, I have seen some of the effects of bullying on children, and they are not pretty. Here is one boy's powerful story of how he was consistently bullied, but how his art - the very thing he was bullied for - led him on a journey that helped him have more strength to recover from the abuse. Watch Andrew Johnson's audition on Britain's Got Talent and clearly see how important it is that victims of bullying be supported and given the means to gain back their self-esteem. (This one always makes me cry!)

Also, if you or someone you know is being bullied, check out the website for advice on how to deal with it and get help. Remember, it will and can get better. Hang in there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Incredible, wondrous kale

Tonight when I arrived home from an outing in Manhattan, I was hungry. However, my hunger was specific. I was craving nutrients like you would not believe. After yesterday's lovely fireworks and fun festivities filled with chips, popcorn, hummus, carrots, and a few watermelon slices (that's what happens when you don't eat meat or cheese and have not adequately prepared for a picnic), I was feeling particularly lacking in appropriate sustenance and I couldn't decide what to eat for dinner that would fulfill the need. After some serious contemplation and searching of my kitchen, all I could think of that I wanted was steamed kale. Yes, you heard right, steamed kale alone. I've learned that if I am craving something that is decent for me, I need to fulfill that craving. So, I destemmed and rinsed half of a bunch of organic kale, steamed and lightly salted it, and then ate away. 

When I was finished, it was like something woke up in the blood coursing through my body and I wanted more. So, I gave my body what it wanted and prepared a second plateful. What pure deliciousness. I felt like I was naturally high and decided that I needed to figure out why kale had such a wondrous effect on me.

Here is what I found: According to Wikipedia (yes, I know it's not the best source, but let's face it, a lot of the information is good), "Kale is considered to be the most nutritious vegetable in the world with extremely powerful antioxidant properties." Let me repeat: The "most nutritious vegetable in the world." Awesome.

And if that's not enough to get you into this deep green leafy wonder-food, check out what the non-profit organization The World's Healthiest Foods has to say about it. According to their article, some of the many health benefits of eating kale on a regular basis (preferably 2-3 times a week) include:

1.  Lowers cholesterol and provides cardiovascular support.
2.  Lowers your cancer risk.
3.  Detoxifying.
4.  Contains over 45 different antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
5.  Contains omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.
6.  Good source of fiber.

Amazing, isn't it? If you are interested in trying out some dishes with kale, a simple search for "kale recipes" on google will reveal a ton of ways that you can incorporate it into your diet. Just remember, steaming the vegetable is said to be the best way to obtain the most nutrients. But, no matter how you cook it, one thing is clear: You can't go wrong by adding this vegetable to your diet.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Some advice on life

I remember first hearing this "song" entitled "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" performed by Baz Luhrmann when I was in high school. The pieces of advice contained within the lyrics which are taken from a 1997 essay written by columnist Mary Schmich were significant to me then and are even more so to me now.

Every so often, I reflect on how I am living my life, the attitudes I possess, and the experiences I've had as a check-in that I use to assess whether or not I am living it the way I want to. I also use these self-appraisals to ensure that I'm doing the best I can and will not regret how I have lived and the choices I've made. This video helps me to remember what is important and keeps me on track. I hope you get something similar out of it. Life is precious and we need to make the most of every moment.