Monday, March 31, 2014

Renovating a French Chateau

Awe-inspiring wanderlust blog Messy Nessy Chic featured a great piece today about a couple who bought an abandoned 18th-century neoclassical French chateau and are, little by little, renovating it.

You guys! It looks like Downton Abbey!

Looks like Australian couple Karina and Craig Waters snatched up this treasure in the French Midi-Pyrénées after it sat on the market for four years. They've been documenting the process of renovating it on their blog.

For someone like me, who daydreams about making it big one day, renovating a chateau in the French or Italian countryside, and inviting my friends to summer with us ("summer" becomes a verb when you're fancy and rich), this is an amazing peek into a dream world. Of course, the fantasy is probably much more fun when it's not your own money that you're spending on tearing down walls and excavating old staircases, and you're not wading through governmental red tape and waiting for months on end to get building permits from the French authorities.

The reno has also yielded some cool archeological discoveries... construction workers recently found a 3-meter wide space below the floorboards, which - surprise! - has a vaulted ceiling. A vaulted ceiling, you guys.

Could this be the ancient remains of a former emperor's palace? Or just some old wine cellar? We'll see...apparently the builders are excavating to see where it leads.

I can't wait to see the finished product, although it'll be a few years. Good thing Karina and Craig rescued it from the former owners, foreign investors who were planning to convert the chateau into seventeen luxury apartments. Can you imagine if this place was renovated to have a gym and a Starbucks on the ground floor? No thanks. In the meantime, I'm following the renovations on their Facebook page and on their blog, and I'm working on getting my own European chateau or villa. If you want to come summer with me in the future, you better be nice to me now. Thanks to Messy Nessy Chic for spreading the word about this amazing project.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting Clean, Inside and Out

I'm one of those people who just can't focus if my home is feeling dirty or messy. Call me OCD, but I feel restless and unhappy if there's clutter everywhere, or if balls of cat hair roll around the floor like sagebrush in a Western. Nothing makes me happier and more content than a clean home. When the apartment is clean, I feel light and carefree, and I actually get more work done. I can also actually relax and read a book on the couch, because I'm not too concerned about how much fur is getting stuck on my clothes or how I should be doing that giant pile of dishes.

Naturally, the same goes for my body. There's nothing like 5 weeks of post-HIMYM celebratory face-stuffing. Seriously, I've eaten more calories in the last month than I probably have all year, including multiple pizzas, pastas, cocktails, sushi, sandwiches, cookies, donuts, cakes...It was all delicious. I gots no regrets. But it's left me feeling pretty gross. My sleep has gotten progressively worse, my skin is breaking out and so dehydrated that I suddenly have forehead lines (!), I've been feeling slugging and slow, and my stomach has been hurting almost every other night. I've been suffering from stomach pain since my teens, and no gastroenterologist or drug has ever been able to cure what ails me. It's gotten better with some dietary changes, but it always comes rushing back every time I go on one of these junk food benders.

The most LA thing I do is probably the occasional detox cleanse. It's a habit I picked up when, a few years ago, I read the book Clean, by Dr. Alejandro Junger, on the recommendation of a few different friends.

I'm not one for homeopathic potions and elixirs, and I'm always a little skeptical about the logic behind your body having to "detoxify." After all, isn't that what the kidneys and liver and all your organs are made for? Why would we have to do something extra to get rid of "toxins" in our bodies? Aren't cleanses just fads designed to make money for companies cashing in on gullible, health-conscious folks?

Well, some are, for sure. Many are pricey and useless, capitalizing on people's desperation to get thin quick. But not all are like that. What got me on this book was that Dr. Junger, who's got an MD from NYU (one of the nation's top med schools) and did his fellowship in cardiology at Lenox Hill, is an actual practicing doctor with a background in Western medicine, as well as having studied Eastern medicine in India. He has a well-rounded grasp of both medicine and holistic health, and his research and conclusions are backed up with legit scientific studies and explanations.

Enter Clean. It's hard. It's not fun. It's 21 days of hard-core dietary restrictions -- no caffeine, no added sugars, no alcohol, no preservatives, no red meat, no eggs, no dairy -- only whole, organic fresh foods and tons of water. And you don't have to buy anything extra beyond the $12 book (although they do have powders and supplements if you want to). It makes me antisocial (I'd rather stay in than have to sit at a restaurant watching others devour their pasta) and cranky (when I'm deprived of sugar and pasta, I get pissed). But every time I've successfully completed the Clean Program (and not every time has been successful), good things happen in my life. Part of the program is also making time for your mental health -- meditation, rumination on why your body is reacting one way or another, on whether your hunger is emotional or actual hunger. And by the third week, I'm usually feeling much better. My skin glows, my energy levels are high, my sleep is deep, and my stomach...gasp! It stops hurting. And when I mean good things happen, I mean these things that I am doing are actually making me feel better about myself, and most likely, affecting how I deal with things in the world and how I present myself. I go into auditions feeling stressless and free. I feel good about myself. I've booked jobs, signed with new representation, relieved depression, enjoyed days without pain, gotten a new lease on life -- all in the wake of my previous times doing the Clean Program.

Of course, it could all be mental. But who cares is if it is? If eating better and naturally for a few weeks can help me approach life differently, more positively, then why not? It's not for everyone, but for me, taking the extra effort a few times a year to pay attention to my body and what I'm putting in it, and to remember to breathe, is worth it.

Today is Day 1. I started with a mango, kale, and almond milk smoothie, and since I was still buying necessary groceries today, I took a short cut for lunch and went to the awful Whole Foods prepared foods bar to make myself a salad of quinoa, black beans, guacamole, organic chicken, and beets. Morale is still high. Usually, Week 1 is the time when I feel like I gotta choke a bitch. But so far so good! Let's hope by the end of the week I'm not all Wayne Brady...*

*Mobile readers, the video won't pop up so you'll have to use the good old computer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Brighter Side of Los Angeles

Every time I hear myself getting down on LA and singing the praises of New York, talking about how LA is a cesspool of strip malls and shallow people while New York is the international epicenter of culture and cool, I just remind myself of the produce...

Say it to yourself in Helen Lovejoy's voice:

"Think of the produce! Oh, won't somebody please think of the produce?!"

And then all is well again.