Monday, August 3, 2009

Urban Farming

Success!!! Our first baby tomato is turning red!
To speak of urban farming would be preliminary, but our little 3 by 8 foot terrace has definitely awoken our green fingers. I come from a long line of Flemish farmers and my parents tried to continue that tradition by growing produce in our Knokke backyard. Varying from fruits (apples, berries...) to different vegetables and some seasons even a couple chickens to the frustration of some neighbors who didn't see a future trend and perhaps necessity of what we all call urban farming nowadays. As a child it was sometimes hard to understand why my parents would rather spend hours weeding a garden instead of just going to do something "fun", but growing up with the privilege of just walking to the backyard and picking the beautiful, fresh and super organic (bugs and insects are a sign of truly pure veggies my mama would say when I pulled one out of my salad) ingredients for dinner was a feeling that I treasure for ever.
So far living in New York has always stopped me from growing anything. Seeing our apartment with its tiny terrace got us both excited for the possibility of creating a little green oasis in the urban jungle. Our first thoughts were more esthetically oriented. A greener view from our living room window, soft for the eyes and relaxing for the mind. Trying to find a beautiful Japanese Maple tree at Sprout in Brooklyn, we saw a nicely created container with herbs and tomato plants. Was it possible? Can we grow food on a small terrace? So we arrived home with not only a gorgeous little tree, we had also bought the start of our first miniature urban "garden". Harvested so far: practically unlimited pesto ingredients - a pleasure to all senses: basil. Mint for mojitos, teas, salads... And then of course: delicious, flavor-exploding, sun ripened baby tomatoes.
For us this is just the beginning of many urban farming seasons with more experiments in growing our own greens on our own little terrace yet to come.
And, as many people are showing us the way, growing veggies in a city is becoming more natural again and soon enough maybe you will be eating your own true local and organic tomatoes. Good luck!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We're cyc-ed!

We found it! What could replace skiing as our outdoor activity of choice for the summer season? Biking! In many ways biking is very much like skiing for us. Biking takes you places. It gives you destinations. And journeys. When we hit the weekend we think in terms of where can we bike to. What's our goal? The goals give us a reason to ride through places and see things and breathe lots of air and use our muscles and our sense of balance.
Biking shares another attribute with with skiing that makes it very appealing to us. Training. We love how skiing kept us in shape all winter; gave us a reason and motivation to work out during the week. But here's the difference: we're not training for biking. Biking is training us. Our weekend joyrides are the longest and deepest workouts of our week. And we can see and feel the results (a welcome byproduct) week over week. We ride stronger. Tire after more miles. Go further on the same breakfast - if only automobiles could gain fuel efficiency the more miles you put on them!
So we've found our true summer action sport built for the city life. Biking! And we'll probably be talking about it. Cause we're cyc-ed!

Next Steps:
For Planning - NYC Bike Map
A Great Start - Governor's Island

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Out of the Box

We've been too busy soaking in the air and the warmth (between raindrops) to sit down and get seriously inspired at the keyboard. But here we are, and the inspiration is most definitely there. We have had a fantastic summer so far in the city, and we haven't taken a legitimate day of vacation yet! The word staycation is somewhat annoying, but the act of staying and vacationing at the same time is brilliant. And we have discovered that we don't have to think long and hard to do it. Here's step one: get some bikes. Step two: pick a destination near water or across a borough. Step three: Get on your bike and ride.
We've discovered Brooklyn. Canvassed Astoria. Boated out to Governors Island. Biked on a windswept dune trail... with Manhattan views! We've toured Early 20th century army houses. Sat on an officers front deck feeling very unmilitary and superbly relaxed. Picnicked in red chairs on the waterfront with front row views of the Statue of Liberty. (That was liberating!) We've found 10 outer-borough neighborhoods that we want to move to. This coming from a born and bred Manhattan boy and a girl from across the big pond in Belgium.
Who knew you can live on the beach with Manhattan within reach? We are seriously considering becoming surfers full time. (We'll probably keep our day jobs.)
New York can seem like a cage with no escape for adventure, but now the lions are out. We've discovered that very easily you can sit under a tree on a beautiful lawn or dive into the ocean with less than 1 hour of travel time or even within biking distance.
Here's some out of the box thinking for you: 1 Day vacations. Your hotel is your own home. Just put some fresh sheets on the bed, and go out and clear your head!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Summer Workouts on a Greek Island.

After finishing high school 3 girls from small town Knokke traveled to the Greek Islands for fun, culture and lots of adventure.
I fell in love with Greece and even more with the islands. The beautiful weather, the water, the food, the dancing...
We fantasized about living there like goddesses in Greece. I ate so many olives that my friends started calling me olijfje - little olive.
On those islands it's all about the easy life.
Discovering little beaches, sleeping in the sand, floating naked in the water, the sweet adventure of this is how life should be...
So what will we do this summer for sweet life adventure on our Greek Island in New York?
Bike to discover the water, parks and markets. Run for adventure, swim in the largest pool in the city and look at sunsets over another island called Manhattan...
We will not be sleeping on empty beaches and dream about sweet life to begin.
We are just enjoying this sweet life we live.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Feelin' Groovy (a sequel to Feeling Kinky)

It started last Tuesday night. Mieke and I planned to go for a run after work. We had missed a couple workouts due to some other constructive life-busyness, and Lion-in-a-Cage syndrome was setting in. I don't remember why, but we both ended up getting home later than expected that night. As darkness gained on us we struggled with to-run-or-not-to-run. Finally, fatigue and good sense prevailed and we decided to do a lighter workout in the apartment. (There is a lot you can do at home to make yourself feel good.)
After a few-minute yoga warm up of Sun-Salutations Mieke wanted to try some new exercises she had learned at a PT (physical therapy) course the previous weekend. Mieke was jazzed and excited about the new material, and I was too. There are these seven tests a PT can apply to an athlete or patient to assess muscle strength and balance throughout the body. (Imbalance and muscle weakness lead the cause list for sports-related injuries.)
Mieke had previously shown me a couple of the tests. Each one issued a challenge: Do me or have your weakness exposed! And let me tell you, some of them looked easy, but were frickin' hard. One of the moves is a kind of push-up variant, but instead of placing your hands at the level of your chest, you plant them up by your head. Now, I can do about 50-60 regular pushups in a row, but I could barely get off the ground in this new one, and it hurt like hell. (By the way, if it hurts, you fail.)
Humility gained.
Anyway, one exercise involved the lower abdomen and pelvis, and last Tuesday night we started with that. Mieke had me lie down on a yoga mat on my back and focus my attention on my two pelvic bones - the ones on the front - and my pubic bone. (Sorry to use the word pubic, but that's what its called.) The idea was to tilt my pelvis until the three points were in a horizontal plane, aka neutral spine position, and then contract the band of muscle between the two pelvic bones. I tried it, and it was not easy. There was no strain here, but the action required subtlety. My first attempt brought my back in to an arch with my chest out. In her amazing, gentle way Mieke placed a hand on my chest and instructed me to relax my torso back to the floor and try again. Eventually I felt what she was getting at. With chest at ease, I slowly tilted my pelvis to the horizontal. The forced muscle patterns of stress relinquished their grip, to be replaced by a soothing connectivity. The inward focus calmed my mind and kindled a deeper awareness. I do believe I began to glow. It was really nice. We then took this supported abdomen and we tried a balance exercise that involved being on your hands and knees and raising the hand and leg on the same side at the same time. This is really not easy. I lost my balance repeatedly, but the trying was good. It was an experience of my body that was not pushed or strained or exhausting. The funny failures surprised and tickled me. We finished with a few sets of raising the alternate arm and leg at the same time. Much easier, but by the end of a set you felt like you'd done something good.
So we finish this exercise and Mieke suggests we get on to cooking dinner (quinoa and refried black beans - super delish.) It hadn't seemed like much of a workout, but we both felt amazing. Clear headed, calm, balanced, relaxed and excited. That night we slept well. When I woke up the next day I noticed that I didn't have any particular aches or kinks anywhere. It was a little strange, and new. But it seems a shift has occurred and my body is back in line, back in its rhythm. The music has returned to the day. And I'm singing baby! Do do do do feelin' groovy.