On Exercise.

Sunny mornings make me think about tanning.

Tanning makes me think about bikinis.

Bikinis make me think about rock-hard abs.

Where do you go to tone abs? The gym.

When I awoke this morning, the sun shone brightly through those bothersome gaps where my window shade doesn’t quite meet my window frame. So, I quickly washed my face, threw my hair into a pony, ate a banana, drank my espresso like it was an actual shot, and headed to the gym. 

At 8:12 I swiped in and checked the class scheduled for 8:30. The schedule read: “On the Ball – This class incorporates traditional body sculpting exercises using the stability ball. You will burn, sculpt muscles and get a great comprehensive workout! (All levels)”

It sounded perfect. It always amazes me how upbeat class descriptions at a gym are. They skillfully mention the burn of fat, not the burn you feel after reps on reps on reps of exercises… that “great comprehensive workout” is great till you feel like roadkill and notice the class is only halfway through.

I will admit though, theres nothing like that feeling of fatigue the next morning that makes you remember that you did something the day before. No words are as inspiring as that pain you feel when you take the first step out of bed, having temporarily forgotten the great workout you had yesterday, or at some point in earlier in the week.

With words in the class description that optimistically indicated I would feel that great feeling after a good workout, I decided to take the class.

Okay. To be fair, what really made me take the class were my memories of exercise balls from when I was younger. My mom never purchased an exercise ball for her home use, because she always made time to start her day at the gym. My friends’ moms however did own exercise balls. Kids that were allowed to play with the ball were privileged: playdates were always at the house of the kid with the exercise ball. I mean, what’s more fun than rolling around on/with the ball, seeing who can stand longest on the ball, sitting crosslegged on it… etc, etc.

This class On the Ball wasn’t as much of a ball (excuse the pun, it was just too tempting) as those playdates were: I definitely got a comprehensive workout– one that fatigued me enough to make me too lazy to get up off my lawn chair from tanning. The thought of walking back inside to shower was less appealing than the escape from the 94 degree heat that going into the cool A/C posed.

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Early visiting hours

My grandma is the only person I know who is both up early and eager for guests before 10am.

So that Tuesday morning when I woke up and wanted to talk with  listen to the funniest / inspiring / tear wrenching / adorable / factual / downright crazy stories of my Italian grandmother, I drove over to her house. 

When I arrived she was still in her bathrobe, and was sitting in her chair near the window, a bowl of peaches on the table to her left. She turned her head to look at me as I entered the sitting room and smiled that genuine smile of gratitude and happiness that only grandmothers seem to have.

Did I ever mention how much I love genuinely nice, happy people? Maybe that’s why I choose to share my precious morning hours with my grandma of 92 years.

It was the first time I had visited her since returning from college and so there was much to talk about. Not necessarily in order of importance, below are the subjects of conversation that filled the room, my heart, and the morning.

  • the Italian cookbook in her bedroom that she wanted to give me (which I gladly took, of course)
  • my babysitting experience from the week before
  • her babysitting experience as a teen (she got paid with a fudge pop, not cash)
  • the time someone tried to pay her 34 cents to set a sleeve in a men’s jacket (a stingy compensation especially considering the context of the war)
  • the extra 6-pack of paper towels she accidentally ordered from Peapod and hence needed to give my mother since she had no use for them
  • the beauty of the Sicilian dialect, and the story (that I was hearing for the third fourth[?] time) of her conversation with a group of little Sicilian children and their surprise at her knowledge of the dialect despite her American appearance
  • her misunderstanding of the continued segregation of the South when she was there with her husband, and her mistake in sitting on the “black people’s” bus.
  • the things I needed to see in Florence before I left. 
  • that there was something wrong with her refrigerator: the milk was spoiling after a day of sitting on the shelf. (In reality, it was because she had too much food in the fridge…)

Leaving my grandmas, I felt hopeful that when I was her age, I would remember the experiences of my youth with the clarity in which she remembered her own, and still be able to take life’s challenges in stride and with a chuckle. Being in her company allowed me to imbibe some of her cheerful spirit, and put the bounce in my step that carried me with a smile through the rest of the day.

the sight of sunshine after another day of rain.

Q: What is the best way to spend a rainy Saturday morning?

A: The NY Times Crossword Puzzle.

Actually, I guess that would be my answer on any Saturday morning. I looveee me some crosswords. I’ll admit though, the Sunday Times puzzle is especially difficult — I usually start off with some educated guesses, wait for my parents to fill a large chunk in, and then re-attack it in the afternoon.

Keeping with the news trend, I also read some an Italian news article during my Saturday am hours of solace. I had plans to read a bunch, but the one I read took me long enough to get through that I called it quits after finishing. Oh Madonna mia! Guess I should start brushing up more on my Italian…

Q: What is the best way to celebrate much-missed rays of sunshine?

A: Sun salutations, of course!

Before Memorial Day company arrived on Sunday, I began my morning with some Yoga.

Later, I did laundry and put the finishing touches on a coconut-berry tart I had prepared the night before for dessert. Laundry definitely isn’t an activity that allowed me to enjoy the sun, but hey. I mean, it had to get done at some point.

A little more… rain

If you couldn’t tell by the heading, for the past two days, the view outside my window looked a little like this. And when I first woke up, this was background to my radio alarm. Yet the bleak atmosphere only perpetuated my plans for both mornings. 

thursday.

Up particularly early, I spent the morning doing Yoga. My routine of sun salutations and palm trees (ironic, eh?), downward facing dogs and warrior poses was even more relaxing since it was serenaded by the pitter-patter of the raindrops.

Out of the shower at nine, I had plans to cozy up in my favorite corner of the couch with my coffee and finish The Catcher in the Rye before my morning peace was disturbed. Checking my texts as I waited for the coffee pot to wake as well, I received an urgent one: could I please babysit… in half an hour?

Well, at least I got some Yoga in before the hustle-bustle that babysitting two boys promised to be.

friday.

Unlike thursday, friday I awoke knowing that I would babysit at 9am. 

Arriving at the same house at a similar hour in similar weather I felt a little deja vu. I again asked the boys what they would want for breakfast. However unlike the day before, when they answered,

we already ate,

today the older boy said,

Pancakes, but I wanna make them.

Pancakes. I could go for some of those. Easy peasy– or so I thought.

Muffins, and I’ll help make them,

his younger brother exclaimed soon after. He rapidly began “smell-testing” all his mother’s spices to decide how to best flavor his concoction.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for baking from scratch. But muffins and pancakes and two boys younger than 11 were impossible  a bit much to juggle.

Pancakes first, 

I said, hoping that by the time they were made, both boys would have had enough of the kitchen.

No such luck.

So my rainy friday morning was spent helping the boys make baking breakfast for two other jubilant morning people. Hey, I can’t complain. The pancakes were a delicious way to start my day.

 

Cleaning Hidden Clutter

I woke up this morning and my house still smelled of the chocolate cookies I had baked the night before. My sister (and her college friend) were still sleeping, and my mother had already embarked on her errand-running for the day.

It looked like the morning was all mine again.

I had planned to take my dog, Ruby, for a walk in the sunshine, but the sticky, humid “I-promise-I-will-pour-buckets-at-any-second” atmosphere out my bedroom window gently persuaded me not to do this.

What indoor activity then, could I do? Looking around my ostensibly tidy room, guilt rose in my chest. Inside those perfectly closed drawers was a behemoth of clothing that seemed to have a life of its own when I opened my drawers to get dressed. Seriously though, whenever I open my top drawer, socks tumble out jump out, begging for freedom. And the middle drawer… I feel like a authoritarian monarch oppressing his people when I jam my shirts in the drawer to close it. Or maybe I’ve just taken too many English classes at Brown and feel the need to write metaphors about events in my life.

Cleaning was a nostalgic undertaking: memories attacked my consciousness as I discovered the shirt I wore on my 16th birthday, the tee that was “good luck” for my SAT exams, the first pair of shorts I bought with my own money and a tank top I bought at a Neon Trees concert. I started thinking about my summers from my younger years, remembering my experiences at summer camp, later as a summer camp counselor, as later doing research at UMaine. I found old one piece bathing suits and reminisced on the 8 years I participated in my country club’s swim team. 

Finally I stumbled upon a shirt from Brown. Nostalgia pulled me back to my present role as a Brown student on summer vacation. Separating clothes to donate from clothes I’d wear, I put my drawers back together, and closed them without struggle.

As I closed them, I heard my sister walking to the bathroom: the ‘world’ woke up and my productive morning was complete.

 

Day 2: Breakfast and Books

So my sister came home from school last night. Or more accurately, my mom and I went to New Haven to pick her up. The whole Bridgeport train situation made the (what was supposed to be an) hour and a half drive to get her seem more reasonable than making her travel via bus, train, subway, bus (repeat?) to get home. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, the traffic was terrific terrible. Driving three hours there and two hours back, we finally arrived home at 8pm. But I’m not (really) complaining. When I woke up this morning, I shared the am hours with my sister 🙂

While drinking coffee and eating breakfast, together we compiled a list of books to tackle over the summer. From the minds of two nerds book-lovers arose an extensive list… probably one that is unrealistic for a month, but fun to look at anyway. I divided it into two sections: one of the classics that I wanted to read, and one of bestsellers and suggestions by friends, family, my go-to college blog, etc.

Classics

  1.  The Catcher in The Rye (seriously, how did I go through high school without reading this one?!)
  2. Treasure Island
  3. A Farewell to Arms
  4. The Importance of Being Earnest
  5. Animal Farm
  6. Of Mice and Men

Recommended:

  1. Looking for Alaska
  2. The Tenth of December
  3. Whiskey Beach
  4. Lolita
  5. A Prayer for Owen Meany
  6. The Best of Me
  7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Where to begin…

Early Mornings and Summer Goals.

I happen to be one of those rare college kids that actually enjoys getting up early. Yep, you heard me right: early. Like, before 9am. Sometimes before 8. I can’t really explain why the wee hours of the morning appeal to me — I think it has something to do with the sound of quiet that one doesn’t often hear in a college dorm. There’s something so peaceful about knowing I have the place to myself while my classmates are still in the unconscious states of snoozing. 

I think that to enjoy getting up early as a college student is a gift– I gain 3 hours of uninterrupted time to be productive before receiving texts to meet up for brunch (or for me, lunch) and kill time on the main green. Trust me: taking Orgo I needed those hours of productivity.

But now home, and without the need to be productive, how does one spend those two or three hours while the world — or I suppose to be fair, the world of college kids home on summer vacation — sleeps? This is the question I asked myself before bed last night: what could I do if I had nothing to do? I came up with a few options:

  1. Beach. Living on long island, I could easily drive to the shore in the morning, and eat my breakfast to the sound of the waves while reading a classic. But unfortunately, the forecast said rain. And not just rain for that morning, but for the rest of the week. 
  2. Go for a run. The neighborhood is beautiful, the season summer — why not? Well the whole rain thing did kinda pose an issue…
  3. Practice my italian. As I will be studying abroad in Italy starting July 30th, I figured that perhaps brushing up on my Italian every morning would be a productive use of the uninterrupted time the am hours present. But then I got to thinking about how lame I would feel waking up every morning on my summer vacation to study — better to leave that study time to an hour in the afternoon.
  4. Bake. Ahh, yes. Besides waking up early, I love to cook. Specialty: cookies. But to bake cookies in the morning seemed a great opportunity to set myself up to eat cookies for breakfast — slightly problematic. So, I decided that perhaps I would try to bake something new. Like, muffins… or bread…

So yes, the first morning of my summer vacation I spent making muffins. Apple-cinnamon to be exact. Here’s the recipe, if you’re interested. I garnished them with cinnamon, and substituted an equal amount of cinnamon applesauce for butter: they came out moist and delicious.

I was inspired by the aroma of cinnamon filling the kitchen that, to me, indicated I had made use of the morning. So, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in the time before I left for Italy:

  1. Read. Read classics, read beach books, read, read, read.
  2. Start working through my movie bucketlist.
  3. Work out 4 days a week
  4. Practice Italian once a day
  5. Get up to date with the world
  6. Decide my Concentration 

With a list of things to do to occupy my morning hours, I look forward to what — I hope — will be a productive month…