Thursday, 28 January 2010

Wellness in the Corte Inglés

This really is starting to sound like 'Nadya's health and happiness blog', I think I need to try and get back to more stuff on restaurants/design/anecdotes soon... but hey, I can do what I want as it's MY blog ;P... This post is a just quickie as I'm fighting some weird cold symptoms (there I go, health again) and I'm thinking of having a nap. Just wanted to say, don't make a special journey for it, but if you happen to be in the Corte Inglés in Callao (central Madrid) then do take a trip up to the 6th floor where they've created a new wellness space. It offers a range of treatment centres; spa, hairdresser's, tanning beds (yuck!) etc but also sells health foods and supplements, 'natural' scents and beauty products as well as every massage device under the sun, including massage chairs, massage eye-masks, foot massagers, neck massagers and a load of other battery operated vibrating machines designed to relieve your, ahem, 'stiff joints'... The space features chilled out muzak and is a welcome relief from the chaos of the rest of the store. It's also completely devoid of customers, maybe because they don't know about it, or more likely because it's so expensive. Still, I like it. Last time I was there I picked up some 'fresh washing' scented burning oil, very nice.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

How a mojito helped me get my mojo back

Let me state clearly here, that when I say mojo, I mean spark or vitality and not anything else!

This is all going to sound very sentimental and deep, but I feel I have to get it off my chest... 2 years ago I suddenly stopped smiling, and although the smile gradually came back, there was something else that didn't fully come back, and that was the spring in my step. That could have been partly due to what was a very truamatic time in my life, but I also put it down to the rehabilitation I have been undergoing. You see, part of 'facial retraining' is retraining your expressions to make them look more normal. And in my case that meant smiling more demurely in order to keep it nice and symmetrical. This was pretty tough for me, as I was someone whose characteristic facial expression was an enormous smile and the zany sense of humour that goes with that. On seeing my new and even 'Mona Lisa' smile people would say 'ooh, you've almost recovered' which in turn pushed me to replicate it further. The problem was that this somewhat fake expression required a great deal of conscious effort and a total inhibition of natural, spontaneous emotion. I'm sure any shrink could tell you that doing this would get you down over time. And it did. Well, a few weeks ago I decided to change all that, I would do the 'big' smile even if it was wonky. Every day I would allow myself to react and laugh spontaneously to the things that happened around me, rather than control myself. Just a couple of times a day though. Then a week ago at my residential work conference things went further; with the help of a few drinks (I don't normally drink, so I never quite let go) and some cheesy music I finally let go and started smiling whevever I felt like it and not thinking about how I looked. The emotional effect has been incredible, I feel soooo much happier. Of course I do still sometimes control my smile, that in itself has become a reflex over the past year, but I'm hoping that in time I can find a sort of balance between the two (with or without mojitos :-)).

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The cutest retro cafe ever

Thank you to my friends C and K for introducing me to Lolina, Vintage Café on c/Espíritu Santo (Nº9) in the Malasaña area of Madrid. This cute little cafe-bar is a shrine to vintage decor but in a clean, kitsch and gently shabby way rather than all out boho. The 2 floors of Lolina are decked with the coolest vintage wallapaper and lamps plus 'pleather' armchairs and those convex 'sunburst' mirrors that many of our grandparents had at home. We went there for breakfast this morning; 2.50e for tea/coffee (with the choice of soya milk) with either a croissant, plain or wholemal bread with jam or better still, pan payes with tomato and ham, but perhaps the best thing about this breakfast is that it was accompanied by the B52s and other hits of the era. We've also been in the evening and the nachos and hummus are quite good, though the main attraction here is really the aesthetic. The staff are pretty friendly too.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

New Year’s Resolution update

Ok, so here’s the official list. I’ve had a bit of time to think about worthwhile, realistic New Year’s resolutions and think I’ve come up with a few I’d really like to make a go of. Many of them centre around enjoying this shortish, wonderful (and sometimes shitty) experience that is life and have stemmed in part from health problems that make me want to enjoy the present more than ever. I warn you, this is going to get deep...

Cue drumroll.

1. As per the previous post. Think before acting. No decision is better than a bad one. No further explanation needed.

2. Keep fit. This sounds pretty lame as it’s eeeeveryone’s resolution but I think it’s so important that it’s worth persevering on this year after year. So far, I’ve managed to stick to this; woohoo, 2 weeks, give the girl a medal I hear you say ;-) Seriously though, I’ve realised that for me to keep fit I need to do it in a way that suits me and my lifestyle. I’ve worked out that the gym just doesn’t work for me. For something to become a routine in my life I ideally need to do it every day, and I just can’t face climbing the hill that is my road in the rain and snow on a daily basis just to go to a gym where I have to queue to get on an ugly machine, wear lycra, listen to cheesy music then change in a locker room that smells faintly of feet. So my solution is in fact a cheesy workout video (sorry, I'll stop talkign about cheese, feet etc). Ten minute target toning focuses on one part of the body every day for 10 minutes, and whilst it sounds impossible that you could do anything in 10 minutes, trust me, you can (my aching abs and butt are a testimony to that). I’m doing 20 minutes a day at the moment but have no qualms about dropping to 10 on lazy days. If I can’t do 10 minutes of exercise per day from the comfort of my home, then I’m truly ashamed of myself as a human being! When my current load of freelance work comes to an end in February, and I have my evenings to myself again, I am once and for all going to try out yoga properly. My body and mind are crying out for it I feel :-)

3. Keep doing rehab. I’ve re-started my rehab exercises in earnest again after a couple of months of lapse. An hour a day every day is a bit of a pain, but totally worth it, and I make it more bearable by listening to music. However, I still feel that I’m not doing enough. My face is looking a million times better than this time last year (people who didn’t know probably wouldn’t realise I had any kind of problem) but I just have this feeling that if I could dedicate my life to rehab and acupuncture for around 3-6 months I would see even better recovery. Of course this isn’t realistic with a normal job and schedule, but when you think of the lifetime of benefit that would follow, I think it’s not a high price to pay. I’ve had a nasty kidney scare recently, and that combined with the amount of time I feel I should dedicate to rehab and other personal factors have lead me to believe I need to re-assess the way I live and work to allow for greater time flexibility and health benefits. Update later.

4. Once and for all, just do something I enjoy. I’m not necessarily talking about a career change here, but for all my adult life I’ve always been wanting to ‘do something else’/‘something creative’. It’s not particularly that I like the idea of physically doing something creative (in fact the ‘idea’ of being someone successful in a suit sounds a lot nicer than the ‘starving artist’ archetype that springs to mind), it’s more that I need it in a weird way I can’t describe. Over the years I’ve always kept a (half-hearted) hand in painting, sewing and making stuff in general in order to fulfil this desire, but it’s not enough. I’ve always shied away from careers in these fields due to fears like ‘it’s too late to retrain’, ‘I can’t pay the mortgage by making pots’ or whatever. And these fears may well be justified. However my new response to them is that I don’t have to try to pay the mortgage by making pots, but I can definitely learn to make pots because I enjoy it. Ok, I’m not actually remotely interested in making pots (I once made a pot and it was hideous), but I would love to do a part time degree in something like product or jewellery design and just enjoy it for what it is. And if a career can be carved out of it too, then great.

5. Enjoy life. This sounds like a no-brainer but can be easier said than done. By enjoy life, I don’t mean being hell-bent on having fun or filling every moment with pleasing activities. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading lately and have really come to see and feel the benefits of ‘being present’ (something which I once knew how to do then forgot). I’m not talking about any crazed hippy stuff, just enjoying the small pleasures more; like while drinking my morning cup of tea, instead of frantically thinking about the stresses of the day ahead or switching off by listening to the news, I might just sit there in silence, really taste the tea, feel the warm cosiness/or slight chill of the living room, enjoy snuggling into a soft blanket. These seem like trivial actions, but we live so much of our lives on autopilot, our minds actually fast-forwarded to some future action or conversation that we plan to do or have that it can all go by in a bit of a blur. This would be more exusable if I had the kind of mega-stressful job and life I used to, but I don't. To me being mindful is about stopping and taking in the moment (be it good or bad) and I can honestly say this is helping on so many levels. I’m just starting out on this and hope to continue. I highly recommend the Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Wherever you go, There you are on mindfulness

So, wish me luck in keeping all of these promises to myself :-)

I like this word

(NERD.i.stan) n. An upscale and largely self-contained suburb or town with a large population of high-tech workers employed in nearby office parks that are dominated by high-tech industries; any large collection of nerds.

This word made me smile :-)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

2010 Resolutions

I can't really embark on this year's resolutions without reflecting back on last year's and seeing which, if any, I've achieved. Well, I feel I definitely kept my promise to myself to stick to my rehabilitation exercises for BP. I've seen real progress this year and it's been mainly down to the hour a day of work I've put in (less in the last couple of months). I think I've procrastinated less, but there's still room for PLENTY of improvement on that front. Being more careful with money... on the small-scale front I feel I've done ok, managing not to impulse buy, but on a large-scale front I've had one big financial failure involving signing up to some really dodgy mortgage deal with my bank, resulting in my payments being higher rather than lower than ever in these times of low interest rates :-( That said, I've learnt a serious lesson there; never trust the banks and never sign anything without having it checked out by someone in the know first and perhaps most importantly - never feel rushed into making quick decisions. I have definitely phoned my family more in 2009, so I can tick that box. As for keeping fit though, I've failed miserably (my feeble excuse is that I didn't have time to do an hour of rehab a day plus go to the gym). So, all in all, could've been better, but could've been worse.

And what about this year's resolutions? Well, I need some time to think about them before making any rash promises to myself, but one key resolution is definitely to be less impulsive. I've never though of myself as an impulsive person, partly because I find making decisions very hard, and it always seemed to me that the 2 qualities are somehow contradictory. However, recent events (including the aforementioned mortgage fiasco) have led me (and others) to see that sometimes in the face of indecision, I  never see 'not deciding anything' as an option and sometimes end up rushing rashly into things because I feel under pressure to do so. I can't say that being spontaneous has brought me nothing but ills, but I can't deny that certain key decisions I've made in life, e.g. buying a lousy apartment, or getting diddled on my mortgage have been a result of making decisions alone under pressure. Unfortunately I've lived far from my family for most of my adult life and have had to make some very difficult decisions earlier and in a more solitary fashion than many of my friends (meaning I couldn't really rely on them for experienced advice) and that combined with the fact that I can be a stubborn little miss and don't always taken people's tips on board, and that in British culture people tend to tell you what you want to hear rather than plain facts have lead to a couple of dodgy choices in recent years. Anway, no excuses. I have come to realise that making no decision is better than making the wrong one. So, this year I'm planning to be more measured and careful in my decision making, to sit back and take my time, and not be pressured by circumstances, people and most of all myself into deciding anything that could have a big or small impact on my future.

A little rant

I just need to have a little rant, get a couple of things off my chest and then I'll be positive for the rest of the month ;-) Today I was meant to be going back to Madrid from Istanbul, going with Easyjet via Gatwick. Well I got to the airport this morning and with no warning or explanation they had cancelled the flight, and their only offer of help was to refund the cost of the flight or put me on the next flight, 2 weeks from now! This is all very well, but as Easyjet flights are pretty cheap the refund money doesn't go very far towards covering the cost of an alternative flight... and whilst I'd love to be stranded here with S till the 17th, I'm sure my bosses would feel differently about the matter. Anwyay, after much waiting around and queing at the airport I managaged to get a flight with Alitalia for tomorrow at ridiculous o'clock in the morning and I made my way back to S's apartment. He left for Spain today for Reyes, so I had no key to get into the apartment and luckily his landlord who lives upstairs agreed to hang about and give me a spare key. I have an appalling sense of direction but I do know where S's flat is. Unfortunately the taxi driver didn't. And with my 0 Turkish and his 0 English he proceeded to take me on an 'accidental'(?) detour all the while ignoring my directions. All this ended with me demanding that he left me in the middle of nowhere, upon which I trundled back to the apartment dragging my enormous suitcase over cobbled pavements. Ok, ok, I know it hasn't been that bad a day, but the yuckiness of it all was exacerbated (Sp?) by the worst period cramps ever (sorry boys). The final straw was spilling chocolate custard all over S's new pale beige sofa. Thankfully it washed out. Ok, now I'm going to take a deep breath, a chill pill (metaphorically) and promise to start again with a more cheery outlook tomorrow (as cheery as a 3am start to get to the airport will allow).
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