Currently Appreciating

Only three weeks left of 2015! I like to think that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at appreciating the ever-changing tempo and turbulence that a year brings. The sense of anticipation with which we start off January, the beauty of spring and excitement when we plan for summer vacations, relishing time outdoors & basking in the rare sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest, and then the whole Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas sequence and other holidays that fall in the autumn and winter months.

2015 was the year in which I actually started caring more about my health and fitness. It started from working out and I soon got hooked on how great I felt both physically and mentally after an easy sweat session. I went from someone who didn’t own a pair of sneakers and considered shopping my cardio to someone who is now an avid fan of outdoor running and yoga. While my fitness is still a work in progress as I’m only human and prone to the peaks and troughs that come with establishing any routine, fitness encouraged me to take a closer look at my nutrition. But of course even the best fitness routine & nutritional habits can’t eradicate dissatisfaction. I’m keenly self-aware that I’m more prone to finding areas of improvement than areas where I’ve improved. I’m attempting to change this by cataloguing life events and moments which I appreciate. As we approach the new year, I aspire to get better at that.

Here’s a look at some things I’ve been appreciating this week–

FOOD: Peruvian Alfajores

alfajores.jpg
Peruvian alfajores topped with confectioner’s sugar

I fell in love with cookies when I had them in Lima last month. I’ve recreated them at home with this recipe numerous times and they’ve been a hit as a simple & incredibly tasty holiday treat. I make dulce de leche from boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for several hours (I prefer 2.5-3 hrs) and the cookies are just a simple mix of creamed butter & sugar and flour. I’m not sure why but these cookies taste better at least several hours they’ve been assembled, so if you’re preparing them as dessert for a dinner party, I suggest you double or triple the recipe and cook ’em in the morning to be the best soft sandwich cookies by evening. I guarantee they will be a hit with your friends and loved ones!

FITNESS: At-home yoga

I’ve become hooked on practicing yoga in the morning and at night. The fact that I can do it in the convenience of my home without sweating buckets after is, I admit, what initially drew me to it. On days when I have just a little extra motivation, I try to do an hour-long yoga routine. The video posted above is my favorite as the instructor is very detailed on how your body should look & feel for each pose & flow; such details come in handy for a newbie like me. Furthermore I’ve become particularly proud at how much progress I’ve made on the “Lizard” pose, something I found to be a stretch (literally & figuratively) at first.

While I’ve never had much trouble falling asleep, the nighttime yoga routine videos I’ve found are just so soothing and relaxing that I’d rather spend 20-30 minutes gently moving & stretching my body rather than sitting on the couch watching TV! I particularly LOVE the music in the one below. It’s nice and easy for beginners and incredibly soothing as you stretch your body just before you climb into bed.

MUSIC: Bossa Nova

Anyone who has learned a musical instrument, studied music or just appreciates this wonderful art form in general may appreciate this BBC documentary I recently encountered regarding the development of music in Brazil. Something about bossa nova is so special to me – it’s soothing, relaxing and Portuguese can sound so melodic. Ultimately I think I appreciate it a lot as I found it particularly difficult to master syncopated, rhythmic music like this back in the days when I played piano competitively. Luckily, good music is timeless.

Some Other Favorite Bossa Nova Songs

Stan Getz & João Gilberto – Para Machuchar Meu Coração

Eliane Elias – Este Seu Olhar / Promessas

Photo credit (alfajores): http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/

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