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For stressed-out city dwellers, Eoin Finn has a relaxing remedy.
After years as a yoga teacher, Eoin Finn still hadn't reached enlightenment—a serene state of appreciation for the present moment. Then, on a retreat in Costa Rica in 2006, he lay in a hammock. "I thought, 'If everyone did this for 10 minutes a day, we'd be calmer and more productive.'" He's right: Studies show that even short periods of relaxation can lower blood pressure and improve concentration. Finn gathered some hammocks and set up a "spontaneous relaxation" zone in Vancouver (his home), inviting hurried passersby to have a swing. "There's some bewilderment, then they melt right in," he says.
Now Finn hosts events across North America (see Blissology.com for details). "We're not selling anything," he says. "We're just helping people sit down and enjoy the simple splendors of life."
"Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible." — George Bernard Shaw
An O reader asks: "I'm traveling a lot this season. Can you suggest the ideal weekender and beach bag?" Adam Glassman's Answer: I love bags that are both attractive and utilitarian, but a good one can be hard to find. So I was thrilled to come across this Deux Lux duffel ($119; DeuxLux.com) (in fact, I bought one in every color combination to give to my frequent-traveler friends). The bags combine sequins with rugged washed canvas and a comfortable shoulder strap. Bonus: They make great carry-ons.
And for the beach, this Saltwater Canvas tote ($36; SaltwaterCanvas.com) has everything you could ask for: eight outer pockets, room inside for up to six towels and a mesh construction that strains out sand. It stands upright by itself and flattens down for packing. Happy trails!
I feel like I need a support group for a psychological condition: PBGS, also known as Plastic Bag Guilt Syndrome. Like everybody else in the world, I bought some mesh bags for groceries. But sometimes, I forget them at home. Other times, I buy too many groceries and have to take a few plastic bags from the store. I keep those in order to recycle or reuse them. But if I, say, scoop up dog poop with the bag, is that really reusing? I’m only reusing it once.
And what about the little baggies for sandwiches? After I use those, I wash them out with soap and water, but it’s hard to dry them. I worry about bacteria and mould, not to mention the smell of onions. This is horrible... but a few times, in secret, I have thrown out a plastic bag—just not to have to look at it anymore.
My PBGS is related to a larger problem: GPGS or General Plastic Guilt Syndrome, which strikes every night as I walk through my living room, picking up plastic trucks and Legos, not to mention scattered abandoned plastic cups and plates. Am I destroying the planet? Am I poisoning my family?
Hence my call to Susan Freinkel, author of the new book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. “Look,” she said. “The problem isn’t plastic in general. Plastic goes in vital things like MRI machines and car seats. The problem is is single use items, stuff you used once and throw out. In 1960, the average American consumed 30 pounds of plastic a year. Now, we each consume about 300 pounds a year.”
Which is the problem. I should feel bad! I’m like a plastic Pac Man. After the jump, Freinkel’s 5 Strategies for Feeling Less Guilty—or even a little ecologically smug.
It’s not just the soufflé that falls—you could swear you followed the directions perfectly when you were making that chocolate cake, yet it cracked and fell apart when you finally managed to wrestle it out of the pan. Pastry chef and cookbook author Emily Luchetti understands that the science and precision of baking intimidates some people. So she wrote The Fearless Baker: Scrumptious Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, Cookies, and Quickbreads That You Can Make to Impress Your Friends and Yourself (Little, Brown) with food writer Lisa Weiss. Take a look at Luchetti’s list of common baking pitfalls:
1. Not using a timer when doing something simple, like toasting nuts. “I’ve burned more nuts than I care to admit. That’s why timers were invented.”
2. Screwing up the ingredients. Don’t crack an egg on the side of a bowl; “the egg shell can shatter, and you’re more likely to get little pieces of shell into the white. Crack the egg on the counter in one or two decisive taps.” And when measuring flour, put your cup into the canister first to loosen the flour. Then, “scoop up an overflowing measure,” and use your finger to level it off. Finally: “Always read over the list of ingredients. You don’t want to say later, ‘Oh shoot, I forgot the cream.’”
After the jump: three more to avoid.
An Estimated 150 Million People Will Be Stung by Jellyfish This Year. Read Dr. Oz's Advice on What to Do If--or When--You're One of Them
Bad news for beachgoers: Jellyfish exist in every ocean on earth (some are as big as refrigerators), and all of them sting. This we learned from the National Science Foundation’s cheekily-titled report, “Jellyfish Gone Wild.” Fortunately, the vast majority of stings aren’t harmful—and some are barely noticeable. If you or your travel companion does feel the sting of a tentacle, Dr. Oz suggests two fast-relief remedies that can be found at a beach snack bar or in your bungalow’s kitchen. “When a jellyfish attacks, it implants thousands of tiny darts, called nematocysts, into your skin,” he writes in the May issue of O. “If you’re stung, fill a bucket with vinegar and soak the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes; the acetic acid in the vinegar stops the nematocysts from releasing more venom (if you don't have vinegar, Coca-Cola is a slightly less effective substitute by virtue of its phosphoric acid). Next, scrape the area with a credit card or knife edge to remove any clinging nematocysts.” Dr. Oz says that some people are allergic to jellyfish, so those experiencing hives or wheezing should seek emergency help ASAP.
Find more surprising first-aid fixes—for sunburns, bug bites, cuts, and prickly heat—here.
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” — Rabbi Abraham Heschel
Writer Annie Murphy Paul discusses her article for the May issue of O, 10 Ways You Get Smarter As You Get Older, on WSHU Public Radio in New Haven, Connecticut. Go read how the mind improves as we age, then listen to the radio interview and find out the most surprising fact Paul learned while researching this story.
If Only Gayle Had This List at Yosemite: 5 Campfire Foods That Give Marshmallows a Run for Their Money
I'd be the first to agree that when it comes to cooking over an open fire, it's hard to beat the humble campfire standby. But two new cookbooks give some fun ideas for broadening my horizons. One, by reluctant camp cook Annie Bell, is practical (it's covered in clear plastic) but still offers sophisticated recipes, such as grilled pork chops with aioli. Another, by Brooklynites Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young, rethinks the typical hot dogs and burgers, with contenders for new classics, including pine-smoked and maple-glazed salmon. Here, the authors of both books give their advice for thinking beyond s'mores.
Hesser's version of a hacked dinner involved olives, cheese, salumi, bread and roasted asparagus. "Preparing dinner involved laying the foods out on a platter—this was our Sunday dinner," she said. "Interactive. Fun. My kids and I talked about where salumi comes from and what cheese rind is. It was a total 'hacky' dinner but still good."
Here are some of my go-to hacked meals. No cooking involved, but no opening a box and microwaving the contents either. What are some of yours?
1. Tuna packed in olive oil, black olives, jarred sun-dried tomatoes, slices of baguette
2. Brie, crackers (Almondina Brantreats are perfect), figs, prosciutto
3. Rotisserie chicken, boiled new potatoes, asparagus microwaved (both vegetables drizzled in olive oil and salt)
4. Hard salami, jarred roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, semolina bread
5. Slices of avocado on crackers, hunks of sharp Cheddar, canned black beans, chorizo