Long ago, in a past life, I worked at Fitness Magazine, and spent time writing and editing articles that were meant to help women do such things as “achieve” bikini bodies.
As I am fast approaching a summer vacation and feeling an old body demon begin to sing her siren song, I am reminded that there is a 2-Step, Sure Fire Way to a Bikini Body:
1. Buy a bikini
2. Put it on
Yeah. Getting there…
If I have an outstanding talent, a single ability that consistently inspires sighs of wonder and promises of lifetime loyalty, it is this:
I make a damn good sandwich.
Ever since I was a little girl, everyone, without exception, has wanted to eat the sandwich I am making myself for lunch. This weekend, my husband, Brian, told me that he looks forward all week to “the Sunday sandwich” and it may be among the top five reasons he loves me.
I have always taken great pains with my sandwiches, lightly toasting chewy slices of carefully chosen bread, lovingly spreading mayonnaise, and stacking the ingredients just so. I like to elevate a sandwich with a twist of fresh ground pepper, a slice of good quality smoky cheese, a layer of sun-dried tomatoes. My interest is never to make a classic sandwich something it is not–you will never find me torturing a BLT by adding onions, for example (no BLOTs for me). But rather I want to nudge the ingredients a bit to make a classic really live up to its potential.
If I am making you a sandwich, I take care to layer cheeses, lettuces, hot pickled peppers, tomatoes, tart artichoke hearts and splashes of infused olive oils and balsamic in ways that protect breads from becoming soggy, cheeses from becoming slimy. A dash of tabasco can give an otherwise simple sandwich an aura of mystery. Consider tuna salad on brown bread toast with the slimmest bread and butter pickle slices spread on top…. or a simple warm teriyaki steak sandwich on lightly toasted baguette with mayonnaise and caramelized onions.
If I pack you a sandwich for lunch, it will be arranged in little modules in your lunchbox, a tiny ziplock bag filled with home-blended honey mustard will be all ready to slide between the smoked turkey and lacy swiss cheese on chewy, nutty, multi-grain. I’ll slice the crispiest inside parts of a head of iceberg into a confetti pile of sweet-tart ribbons and put that into a little tupperware perched on a cold pack. I want your sandwich to be deeply comforting–I want it to hit the spot. I want you to know how much you are loved.
And now, I’m going for lunch.
One of my favourite graduate school colleagues is a fabulous, sexy and smart woman named Jen. She and I were swapping stories about relationships and she told me that when she first married her husband he was a bit bewildered to discover that the marriage ceremony didn’t automatically transform her into a domestic goddess.
One morning, early on, he came out of the bedroom holding a wrinkled shirt and said, very matter-of-factly: “Why aren’t my shirts ironed?” He wasn’t mad, just… confused.
Jen said, “Well…um… could it be because you didn’t take them to the dry cleaner?” Then proceeded to explain that she didn’t iron. In fact, she didn’t even own an iron.
Brow furrowed, filled with concern, he replied: “But… you’re a wife…” whereby she asked one of my favourite questions of all time:
“Did my vagina come with an iron?”
In the post yesterday, I introduced our most recent honeymoon: Rome. It was a delicious (literally) three days of sipping frothy coffee, exploring, and oggling leather boots. We stayed in a gorgeous little boutique hotel just next to the Colosseum (made affordable by Jetsetter).
Every morning I was greeted by this complete and utter gorgeousness… (and the view of the Colosseum is nice too):
and a little of this…
In December, Brian took me on a honeymoon–a weekend in Rome. We didn’t have a traditional “honeymoon” after our wedding since we had five kids with us. So we’ve decided that we are going to sneak away every so often to fabulous locations and stay in fabulous hotels for a couple of stolen nights and call them all honeymoons. Rome was… delicious. That is the word. We meandered around holding hands, shopping, and eating. Sometimes we would stop and smooch. We grinned goofily. And we watched people–oh, did we watch people. This young man was in the metro. I love how he is unabashedly himself… The Badassador….
I am back. I am back from too many classes. Back from extreme stress and intense husband missing. Back from holiday gorging. I have spent the last two weeks without phone or internet on a windswept mountainside in Idaho loving and being loved by my extended family. I did not think about work. I did not think about school. I did not think about much of anything except how much I love Brian, my step-sons and my girls, and how cool it was to get to know the people who have played a part in making Brian the wonderful man that he is.
We accomplished very little in terms of checklists. For once, the important got pushed in front of the urgent. We did stuff like zoom down an icy sledding hill screaming our lungs out and laughing until we almost peed. Grill perfectly aged steaks. Light a huge bonfire with a mega blowtorch. Shoot guns. Play checkers. Roast marshmallows. Air box. Make decisions about Life and Family and Grad School pacing. None of it was urgent, but it was deeply important.
So I’m back. I am ready to wipe the proverbial white board clean, crack open a new calendar/budget/organizational system and go all probiotic and P90X on someone’s (my) 2012 ass.
I find that each year has a rhythm… an ebb and flow of motivation and energy. Somehow, even though the seasons in Kenya are measured in dust and rain, I feel the chrome-crisp energy of this new year stretching before me clean and cold. This year I resolve to let the important beat out the urgent–at least some of the time.
2012: Let’s do this thing!
Ever since Kenya and al Shabab have been in a bit of a skirmish, security in Nairobi has stepped up a notch. Going to the mall now involves a full check of the vehicle and beeping metal detector wands abound. I get patted down at least twice a week these days. It’s not sexy.
Thanksgiving weekend, as we entered the Air Kenya terminal at the charming little Wilson Airport, we were searched. We were headed to the Kenyan Coast to celebrate Thanksgiving as a family. This is the first break I have taken in weeks. I was so excited to float in a swimming pool with my ears underwater and my eyes gazing at the sky. The frangipani blossoms were floating on the water, their waxy architecture making their sweet perfume all the more surprising. Brian rented a little villa for us all to enjoy, and we dragged a cooler full of Thanksgiving Yum to cook a feast. How much I have to be thankful for this, and every, year. But this year in particular.
So the car was filled to the gills with luggage, and the guards dutifully made the rounds of our car with their mirror on wheels. We happened to be carrying a red Coleman cooler filled with frozen turkey and fixins held closed with great swaths of duct tape. They didn’t give it a second glance, and waved us through.
Our question is this: If THAT doesn’t raise a red flag with the bomb squad, then WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR EXACTLY? In any case, the weekend was totally The Bomb.
Last week I stayed at a lodge in the Masai Mara for work (hard to explain how this isn’t impossibly lavish, but off season conference rates are insanely cheap). One of the features of this camp is a watering hole filled with hippos, not 100 meters from my room. In fact, I was awakened each morning by a cacophony of rhythmic deep grunts and guttural sighs as they came in from their nocturnal graze and settled into the watering hole where they spend the day.
This kind of proximity to nature reminds me of a story I have been begging Brian to write up for SafariMama about a time he was at a hotel in Malawi, near the great Lake Malawi. The last day of his trip, he went out with the Malawi country office staff to a seedy bar and had a raucous time. (Brian used to drink too much – now he doesn’t drink at all.) After several hours of drinking he stumbled back to the room, crashed into bed was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by some noise outside and a knock on his door. Continue reading
Melissa and I were in South Africa early last week to do some administrative stuff. But while we were there we just had to go shopping at the “Biggest mall in the Southern Hemisphere” Menlyn Mall. The urgency of the errand was heightened by the fact that our luggage did not make it onto the flight, and the sweaters we were wearing to ward of the 4 a.m. Nairobi chill threatened to kill us when we got to 98-degree Pretoria. So we floated on a pool of sweat and a year of built up retail deprivation to Menlyn (pronounced Main-Lan with an Afrikaner accent) excited to heat up some plastic…
But when we walked in the doors and began traipse around the well-stocked pile of gilt-wrapped boutiques that awaited us like so many unopened Christmas packages, something very odd happened. We recognized the STUFF that belongs in malls (clothes, accessories, good-smelling fast foods) but we couldn’t recognize our SELVES in that stuff in that mall because… we didn’t know the brands.
Like Darwin’s beloved Galapagos island, an entirely unique biosphere of brands developed while South Africa was isolated from the global economy until it abandoned Apartheid (though there are still whiffs of it in the air in Pretoria, truth be told). Not only did we not know the brands we didn’t know who the brands were for. Am I a Queenspark or a Truworth’s girl? Can I get business clothes in a Pinky’s? Could I possibly find something to read in CUM Books? Who in the heck is Ginger Mary, and how many times can I wear one of her dresses before it falls apart? Is Spilhaus a home store or a sexually transmitted disease? Mr. Price seems pretty self-explanatory, but there’s also a Mr. Coq and the intriguing Soviet. Salvation sounds cool and Pandora too—could they possibly live up to the hype? Who would ever guess that Clicks is an awesome pharmacy!?
Even though this brand ignorance should have made me a better shopper able to focus only on the quality, style and fit of the garments without the baggage of million-dollar campaigns whispering in my ear, my ignorance was paralyzing. Continue reading
Guys, it is early days. Too early for a sabbatical, and too early for a vacation. I have barely gotten started here, but right now LIFE is a little overwhelming. You see, there are some people who really need me:
These people to be exact:
And these people:
And, oh yeah, these people too (these are my fellow MBA students at Thunderbird. I have about a year left in my Global Management program):
They need me for all kinds of stuff like pulling my weight in (a zillion) group projects, helping to tell their stories to people who can help, and chipping away at how to transform cash into better lives. My girls need my help on homework, and their hair. Melissa needs time to share and connect as she begins to traverse this delicate time that is t(w)eenagerhood. Ciella needs to read me books and do crafts together and snuggle. Brian needs me to be his friend and confidante and partner in crime (and he needs snuggles too).
When I started this blog in September, I was only taking two classes, and I thought I could load some more life onto the lorry. But truth is, the wheels are getting loose, and I’m afraid one is going to fall off. Speaking of falling off… is that the gym wagon I see departing without me? Is that the bulimia bitch peeking at me from around the corner? Right now, I’m finding that SafariMama is threatening to become a source of anxiety and guilt, instead of the luxurious revelling it deserves to be. Problem is, I’ve started really caring about it. So what to do?
But y’all are SafariMamas… and SafariMamas know better than anyone that life is precious and urgently deserves to be LIVED.
So… as of this week, I am hitting reset, and part of that means I will post less frequently. I will also be eating more veggies, less carbs, and working on loving a curvier version of myself, even as I recommit to healthy-ness. I don’t know how often I will be posting, but it will be less than every week day. That rhythm just isn’t sustainable right now. Please don’t stop visiting altogether… I’m not going to let this fertile ground go fallow. But I have some people who really need me right now.
It is an amazing honour to be needed. I cannot let them down.
Last week when I was staying at the coast, I got out of the shower and was messing around in the bathroom in bare feet. At one point I stepped backwards and my heel glanced off of something cold and rubbery. I thought it was a doorstop, but many years here have developed a healthy sensitivity to anything weird underfoot. Luckily I didn’t put my full weight on it because it was a TWELVE-INCH-LONG MILLEPEDE. How did it even get in? I do not know… it was too big to crawl under a crack in the door, too heavy to get itself vertical to go up a wall, and it definitely didn’t knock.
I am at the Coast for a conference and the hotel has a great spa. I came across a colleague tonight who had been scrubbed, scraped and rubbed into bliss and we got to talking about some of the epic massages we have had in our time.
Something you need to know about me before I go any further: I LOVE a good massage. I am not just a massage enthusiast, I am a massage gourmand. And like a true foodie who will always search to replicate that perfect plate of street noodles savored in the night market in Bangkok, I am constantly searching for the holy grail of masseuses that combines deep pressure and pleasure, intense attention to knots, and q-time with my feet and calves. And since a 90 minute massage in your own home costs $15 in these parts, it’s a guilty pleasure that is totally accessible, and easily justified.
However, just as my adventurous spirit has landed me in some culinary (and digestive) trouble, I have also had some troubling adventures in massage.
There was the beauty parlor in Cote d’Ivoire, which had me lie on a dentist’s chair—fine when you’re on your back, but awkward when you flip onto your stomach and find your spine flexed in some truly unnatural ways. Not to mention what one does with the arm rests.
There was the “physio” in the street side massage kiosk in Cote d’Ivoire that I’ll just refer to as “Edgar Vibrator-Hands” and leave the rest to your imaginations (Ew! Pervs.) Continue reading
I love snacks. If I could, I would eat everything in aesthetically pleasing, bite-sized form. However, whilst I am a pretty decent cook , I am also a profoundly lazy one. Cheson Bre is a bite-sized haute-snack with unparalleled range.
While to the uninitiated, it might look like simple cheese toast, this most tasty—and convenient–of snacks can easily be elevated to the sublime. And it is the act of elevation that brings cheese toast out of the dorm and earns it a faux-Francais name. To make your own Cheson Bre, follow the simple instructions, below.
Bread Cheese Topping
Sourdough Mozzerella Olives
Italian Cheddar Tomato slice
Whole grain Brie Sliced Pear/ Raspberry Jam
Farm loaf Gruyere Pan fried mushrooms
Bagel Swiss Pesto
Rye Cream Bacon
Baguette Brin de Bleu Whipped Honey
The possibilities are literally endless, and that most elegant (if ubiquitous) of kitchen appliances, Le Toaster Oven is all you need to pull off a thing of beauty.
One of our favorite weekend treats is going to the races at the Ngong race track. The track itself is an emerald loop of grass circling an impossibly fresh-smelling golf-course, and Kenyans from all walks of life mingle on the grandstands. The entire experience–including the hawkers–seems transported from another time…
Commitments are something I strongly believe in upholding, and although I haven’t made any explicit committments here on how often I will post, I have been trying to offer up something most every day. My goal is to either surprise/delight/challenge/humor you each week day and over time build a community of SafariMamas.
But today I’m struggling. I have a painful and persistent infection in my left pinky finger that keeps getting bigger, angrier, yuckier, no matter what kind of antibiotics I throw at it. Evidently I have bad manicure Karma to pay back–and am struggling to type (and stay upright, frankly). The ordeal (which is admittedly barely qualifies as an ordeal as of yet, but we’re monitoring carefully) has made me disproportionately weepy and worried about my mortality. My love is even going to come home this afternoon to set his computer up next to mine so that we can work in companionable silence, and so I feel I’m not ALONE in this pain, in this life. Plus he went to the dentist this morning, and might need a bit of the same.