Home is Where the Heart is…

It has been hard for me to come up with the Adventures column during these winter months. I must still be the same adventurous, life-loving, wanderer girl I am during the summer months, but somehow the winter really drains my physical resources and causes me to hibernate a bit. I end up staying home very often in the evenings, I read more, I watch more of my favorite Hindi films and basically dream of the spring, when the cherry trees will blossom and life will begin to take place outside again. So, with the bitter month of February ahead – and this year it even has one extra chilly day – I figured I would share some of my favorite indoor activities and health tips for winter survival. It would be ideal to spend a couple of days playing hookie from work and just finding an inner balance and warmth again. I think I might just do that soon. Nowhere to go, the house fully stocked with all kinds of great, rich foods – the body needs fats during this drying time of year – a few bottles of red wine, some chocolates, a good collection of Bollywood DVDs and books with stories that take place in warm, tropical climates. Follow me as I help you discover the hidden pleasures of winter.

KEEPING THE BODY HEALTHY

I usually run around the park for exercise, but during the winter months I find my body really tires and I need something more calming like yoga, to stretch the muscles and allow the nerves to be soothed. The whole purpose of this week’s entry is to enjoy staying home, so going to a yoga studio to practice just doesn’t make sense. Learn a few easy poses, like the Sun Salutation, the Warrior 1, 2 and 3, the balancing Tree, the Bridge – lying on the floor, a couple of the stretches to cool down and then meditate, either lying down in a comfortable pose, or even while sitting cross legged. There are easy, inexpensive books out there that simplify yoga, if you have never been in class environment to practice. Or try out this cool Santosha website with an extensive list of poses and levels of difficulty. Anyway, if you can do so, practice it in the morning, when the sun begins to rise, which, according to Ayurvedic principles, gets your internal clock to match the outside time. It is warming to do a Sun Salutation first, maybe repeating it a couple of times, increasing the depth of the breath and the speed. After your practice, I suggest drinking a full glass of room temperature water, with a packet of Emergen-C. This is again warming and does stimulate a lazy digestion, if you do suffer from that sometimes. I find that as good as my digestive system and overall health are in the summer, the winter just makes everything sluggish and difficult. Anyway, after your water, take a nice hot shower and if possible, exfoliate the body about three times a week, with either a salt or sugar scrub. Trader Joe’s offers both for just under $7 each, with all natural ingredients and great scents to boot. In the evenings, do indulge in some hot chocolate, but if you don’t feel like having the heaviness of milk, use Soy Milk instead. I prefer mine vanilla flavored as it adds to the taste of the cocoa. Of course, for good cocoa, refer to the Chocolate Corner section of this blog.

FUN ACTIVITIES

I grew up in Italy where taking a bath was a true luxury. I mean, dad would have to go and turn on the furnace, then put in the coal, and then we would all wait anxiously by the tap to check for the required water temperature to arrive, pouring through the shower spout. I am not exaggerating, taking a bath would be something we only did on Sundays, or on very special occasions. Then, I got a bad case of dry skin and my dermatologist prescribed daily baths with oatmeal, to calm the itching and the flakiness. That’s when I stopped looking forward to the luxury of bathing, as it just became too much of a good thing. But these days, with my gigantic 1930s tub, I have grown to love the activity once more and actually look forward to being home alone, on a cold, dark winter afternoon, and taking a fragrant bath. I start out with a good oatmeal soak – this helps my still somewhat dry skin – and end with a great moisturizer. But in between, I try anything from a true, extra foamy bubble bath, to ylang ylang or even rose otto essential oils. Adding a gallon of milk to the bath water is also really luxurious and helps with hydrating the skin. Or pour in some rose water for a true lady bath. Just be inventive and let your nose be your guide. If you feel stuffed up or congested, eucalyptus oil is great. You can even put on a face mask while soaking in the tub. And don’t forget some great music on your Ipod. For all the resources, click on The List to the top right.
Then, after your bath, stay warm by drinking your favorite tea, or even a nice glass of earthy red wine. Pick up your favorite book and relax under a blanket to allow the body to come back to its normal temperature and recoup from the indulgence. I enjoy reading books that take me far away from cold NYC during this time of year. I recently finished “The Inheritance of Loss” by the talented and heartwarming Kiran Desai, and I highly recommend it. But even “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Marquez works really well, with its Caribbean feel and passionately restrained character. Other choices would include anything and everything about India. I am nothing if not one-dimentional about my likes! Get the titles on Amazon.
Lets say you still have some energy left and wish to continue on with this fantastically fun evening, then pop in a Bollywood film. You can get them easily on Netflix and their selection should last you a long time. Start with the one film which started it all for me “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” but remember to keep tissues ready, if you have a heart. Then, move on to more intense films such as “Dil Chahta Hai” and “Dil Se…”, or even “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna”. You will be left wanting for more, I guarantee it. Now, if you still have any fire in you left, after this totally full afternoon of self-entertainment, then have a hot chocolate and watch useless TV. Something really dumb and ideally only half an hour long, which will put you sleep. So, I said to take a couple of days off from work to do this… Well… You could cram it all in one day, but it does get even more fun on day two, and three… You get the picture. Remember my credo, throughout all this, being alone does not mean being lonely. N-joy!

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