Dispatches from a Cleanse | Umami Girl

Despite my well documented, above-average coziness with juices, smoothies, and good, clean food, I’d never attempted a cleanse before now. Reason being, eating is awesome. I really like doing it. I really don’t like the idea of spending more than a few hours in a row not doing it. And I definitely don’t dislike myself enough — freak flag flying, late 30-something that I am — to do a cleanse as some sort of ascetic punishment or experiment in A-type control freakishness.

But I got to thinking as the new year rushed in. Maybe a cleanse didn’t have to be about dislike. Maybe it could be about liking myself enough to pour a little bit of obsessive, nurturing attention into my daily practice of nourishment. I’m already a pretty thoughtful eater. Some days this means I pay close attention to the source and quality of my food. Other days it just means I think about food all the time. But there’s something to be said for taking a pause, for resetting, for taking thoughtfulness to a more detailed level. There’s also something to be said for having spent the summer eating Europe, and for the enthusiastic reacquaintance I’ve made in the past few months with such health halo American junk foods as Annie’s Mac & Cheese and Whole Foods brand sour cream and onion potato chips. That particular something is best expressed in the form of a burgeoning hip-to-waist ratio, or as excessive difficulty finding one’s center of balance in crow pose.

All things considered, I was ready to slow it down a bit. And starting January 5, the yoga studio where I practice was hosting a three-week cleanse based on the Clean Program. Just to put it out there, I haven’t read the book by the creator of the program nor done any real independent research on it — I just paid a small fee to be led through the process by a local health-supportive chef.

I jumped in, and here we are on Day 13. After a three-day settling in period, each day is a liquid breakfast (usually a smoothie or juice); a “normal” lunch (for me, normal has meant gentle panic that I will never eat again, followed by mindful face stuffing with all sorts of delicious foods from the “approved” list); and a liquid dinner (usually a pureed soup). There’s no coffee, no alcohol, no anything that anyone in history has ever been allergic to (give or take), and a 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast.

Here are a few highlights from what I’ve learned so far.  View full post »

  • hahaha. I appreciate your total honesty! So refreshing to read. There’s so much non-science out there about juice cleanses, it is sometimes frightening. I do know it teaches you great discipline. I tried a juice fast for a few hours and I found out I wasn’t cut out for it :DReplyCancel

  • Carla

    Glad you’re back and with such a timely post. I could have written everything you wrote and am also on week 3 of my self imposed cleanse which isn’t nearly as strict at yours. Good luck and keep it up. ; pReplyCancel

Amsterdam Canal Bridge | Umami GirlWell hello again. It’s been a little longer than I’d planned since the last time I checked in. We’ve been busy settling back into our life in New Jersey — reconnecting with old friends in that day-to-day way that you miss when great distances are involved, reminding ourselves of the ways we do things in American schools (wait, what’s the difference between a journal entry and an essay draft?), and literally settling in. Placing things on shelves. Finding the right balance between Pottery Barn deliveries and antique finds on Craigslist. (Wait, is this rustic or hideous?) For a while my most profound interior design inspiration was the shit we had piled all over the floor. Now I’m back to being inspired by the unattainably chic Dutch and Scandinavian children’s bedrooms smattered across Pinterest like it’s nothing. I will not rest until I find an affordable Louis XV armoire like the one in that picture to use as a coat closet. Mine will look nothing like that one, but in my head I’ll always see the one in the picture, so we’re cool. Like when I used to bring my hairdresser a photo of Jennifer Aniston and then see her face superimposed over mine in the mirror for weeks afterward. Seems healthy.

Streets of Amsterdam | Umami GirlThere was a time not so long ago when Dutch things were quite a bit more attainable — namely, the week we spent living in Amsterdam back in July. It was our second visit there in three years, because the first time we just couldn’t get enough. I think Amsterdam may be my favorite European city to date. It’s so, so gorgeous in a slightly grey and moody way. It’s the exact right amount chic and genuinely doesn’t seem to be trying. It’s fun, but also incredibly industrious. It’s just the right size. I’ll stop before they issue a restraining order against me, because I’d really like to go back some day without having to be all paranoid like the guy from The Goldfinch while he was there. 

Dutch Baby and GloryOkay, just one more thing, though: did I mention the cheeky/chic thing they pull off so perfectly? What even is that baby bike trailer? Can you imagine what a poseur someone in Brooklyn would look like toting that thing? And yet. Amsterdam. Nailed it. Okay, I am seriously stopping now.  View full post »

  • Oooooh, gorgeous post. I’m off to Amsterdam at the beginning of November and your lovely photos have just made me even more excited. Eagerly adding your suggestions to my google map, especially Cora, which is just one block from my hotel. Thanks for the great tips!ReplyCancel

  • kamal
  • OMG thanks so much for this. We will visit for the first time this weekend and you photos make me so excited. Can’t wait to try the coffee shops – the ones with grate coffee not that other product that also makes people happy :)ReplyCancel

  • […] Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, 2013. I avoided reading this book for a year because it was so popular that I thought I’d hate it. Not the right move. (And yes, I do hear what I sound like with that attitude. Still, know thyself.) A deeply compelling story worth its Pulitzer and every one of its 775 pages. Plus, it’s partly set in Amsterdam, and we all know how I love Amsterdam. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] little like Amsterdam, for lack of a better comparison, Helsinki really understands how to do quirkiness correctly. The […]ReplyCancel

Fried Eggs and Creamy Spinach | Umami GirlWell hello there from Seville. It’s been 25 days since we left our flat in London and began — as Cope recently put it — “Tim Ferrissing” Europe, meandering our way back to New Jersey over the course of a month and a half. So far we’ve been to Amsterdam, Paris, Alicante, and Málaga. I’ll post some photos, recommendations and highlights from each city in the coming weeks, none of which will include a repeat usage of Tim Ferriss as a verb, I promise.

Seville wasn’t on the itinerary, mostly because it averages about 97 degrees Fahrenheit in August. But the beginning of our time in Málaga didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped. The town itself is cute, with pretty architecture in the old town and a nice international tourist vibe. Due to the first of our hotel snafus, we stayed in an airbnb for one night in the old town before heading to the hotel. (I feel morally and aesthetically compelled to pause here and register my objection to the shape of the airbnb logo, but otherwise we’ve really loved our experiences in the apartments we’ve carefully chosen through the site.) 

Relaxing in the apartment for an hour before we headed out to explore, Cope Google mapped how long it would take us to walk to our hotel the next afternoon. He was pretty sure it was about ten blocks away. As a point of pride, we usually don’t travel with much luggage. But since we’re in the middle of a protracted overseas move, we’re towing two large suitcases and three carry-on bags, one of which we have to hold our breath and wink seductively to get past check-in personnel. The difference between ten blocks and twenty is one for which we need some mental preparation, if not a taxi.

The girls were playing a game on an iPad. The room was fairly quiet. And then, “Huh,” said Cope. “Six hours and forty minutes.”

The Málaga we thought our hotel was in (namely, actual Málaga) was a six hour and forty minute walk — otherwise known as a one-hour bus ride — from the Málaga our hotel was in (namely, Torre del Mar, a tiny coastal town near Vélez-Málaga, technically still within the province of Málaga). Got it? Because we didn’t. This was a surprise, and not a particularly welcome one. Still, we were game. It’s all an adventure. So here we are, smiling on the bus to Vélez-Málaga.

Surprise Bus to Vélez-Málaga | Umami Girl

Oh, Vélez-Málaga. My Spanish is poor on the best of days, but when we disembarked from the bus and walked the few blocks to our hotel, I asked Cope whether he thought that Vélez might mean “The Newark, New Jersey of,” or simply “Not.”

There were plenty of young Spanish families and groups of elderly folks having what seemed like a happy vacation in Torre del Mar. I’m at least as happy for them as they were to see us there, and from the looks on many of their faces as they tried to figure out what we might be doing there, I’d say probably a little more so. I won’t belabor our reasons for leaving. I’ll just say that Cope is turning 40 in a few days, and the Newark of Málaga didn’t seem like the right place to do it. Also, the beach is almost definitely made of cat litter. View full post »

  • What a fabulous dish! This could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner!!!ReplyCancel

  • […] the first half of our summer trip, Cope was working, which made it feel a little more like our real life. Not too much, though. Check […]ReplyCancel

  • […] might remember when we left Málaga last summer. We belly-crawled like Navy SEALs out of our hotel in the middle of the night […]ReplyCancel

Tropical Green Smoothie on Serious Eats | Umami GirlI’m not complaining here, but as I write this post from my home for the week — a lovely little Parisian apartment on Boulevard Voltaire — it feels a tad incongruent to be talking green smoothies. Our recent breakfasts have trended closer to the world’s best pain au chocolat than to anything created in a Vitamix. Still, you all know I love a good green smoothie — and when this little European fantasy ends, I’ll be at the front of the line to buy a new American Vitamix. This will be one of the first breakfasts I make. It’s a fantasy in its own right, though less continental a whole lot more tropical. Get the story and the recipe here on Serious Eats.

Carolyn xx


Kale Smoothie Recipe

Golden Green Smoothie

Happy June! We spent Saturday afternoon at our college reunion. We did it family style this year — low-key,View full post »

PB&J Smoothie on Serious Eats

Here’s my latest on Serious Eats. It’s like a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass ofView full post »

Gateway Green Smoothie on Serious Eats

If you’re teetering on the edge of the green smoothie swimming pool, curious to dip a toe in but not yetView full post »

  • Yummy, it’s wonderful day for me now.Your Paradise Green Smoothie recipe is so good. It looks delicious and nutritious. All I can say, this is totally perfect and for sure my family love this. I cannot wait to prepare this healthy recipe for healthy eating . Feeling excited to serve this. Your other recipes are also great I love it.Thanks for sharing, nice post indeed, keep updating . :-)ReplyCancel

View of the Alps from Hotel Waldegg Engelberg Switzerland | Umami Girl

Fourth of July weekend as an expat can be pretty weird. No fireworks, no block parties, none of those red, white, and blue popsicles in the shape of a rocket. It’s strange, but it’s almost like the British don’t celebrate the anniversary of America’s independe…Ohhhhhhhh. Right. Well, this year I decided to up the ante on ways to spend the 4th in Europe, and if I do say so, I totally nailed it. Wedding crasher is a strong term, but let’s just say I loudly volunteered to be my sister Allison’s date at her friend’s wedding in the tiny town of Engelberg, Switzerland. The only fireworks were metaphorical, but there were 360-degree panoramic views, gondola rides up the mountain, yodeling duets, alphorns, my new favorite food raclette, a trilingual ceremony in a thousand-year-old monastery, new friends, and — not least of all — the winning of a whole bell-shaped cheese by yours truly. Rocket pops can wait til next year.

View II of the Alps from Hotel Waldegg Engelberg Switzerland | Umami Girl

Fool that I am, I talked myself out of bringing ye olde camera to the wedding day itself. Here’s a photo that Allison took as the 70 or so guests stood waiting with the bride and groom to release balloons into the mountain mist outside Restaurant Ristis, the site of post-ceremony aperitifs. We all counted down from 10 in whatever language we liked (I heard French, German, Swiss-German, Taiwanese, English, and Frogthroat from my own Ricola-slurping self). Then all of us except the adorable three-year-old flower girl let go and watched as the balloons swirled up and eventually disappeared into the distance. The flower girl cried a little at the horrifying reality of having had 99 balloons and then suddenly not having them anymore. “Adults — friggin’ idiots,” she struggled to conceal behind her sparkling, innocent eyes. 

Bride and Balloons in Switzerland | Umami Girl

Unlike lots of people who seem to think they can use photos on the internet for free without asking, I took the high road and kindly sent my sister a personal message requesting permission to publish her photo. I tried to word it like some of the requests I’ve received in the past. She thumbsed it up, so I think we’re good.

Photo Waiver | Umami Girl

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  • I visited the itty bitty hamlet in the mountains where my family is from in Switzerland last summer, and what a town. I loved it!ReplyCancel

  • Wowza on those mountain photos! Very beautiful.
    A fun point of fact, two of the most spectacular fireworks displays I have seen were in Geneva when I was an expat there. It was quite fun to celebrate independence (aka drink and watch fireworks) with friends from Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Turkey!ReplyCancel