Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is - Trinity Episcopal Church, Southport, CT 

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is - Trinity Episcopal Church, Southport, CT 

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful that it just took your breath away? I'm an early riser naturally but was awakened even earlier when my youngest crawled in to snuggle with me long before it was light out. Unable to fall back asleep I made a cup of coffee and went into the living room to admire the tree and all of Santa's hard work. My house sits atop a big hill and I have the most amazing views of the sun as it rises. This morning a bright orange horizontal flare shone brightly against the black sky. I tossed on a dress and some flip flops, poured my coffee into a travel cup and headed out down to the water where I was witness to perhaps the most gorgeous sunrise I have ever seen. It was the first time, I think, my breath has ever been taken away. 

I'm not a religious person but I suppose, as I get older, I do get more spiritual. While I've always been one to slow down, stop and smell the roses - more by curiosity and from an artist's eye than any other reason, I suppose. I've never been one to take the beauty that surrounds us for granted, but I do think I have come to appreciate it more as I've gotten older.  Some say that sun rises and sun sets are religious experiences. To see the sun slowly rise behind Trinity Episcopal Church was as close to a religious experience I have ever come to. (Pictured above) Each day, they say, is a gift and yesterday I was witness to this amazing gift. It's one thing to watch the sun rise from inside, it's another thing altogether to see it up close and personal. For many this is not feasible, at least on a regular basis. But I urge you all to make an effort to go watch the sun rise from time to time. 

I am fortunate enough that my kids all sleep in a bit on Christmas morning and I was able to get out for about a half hour or so. That half hour completely shaped my day. As I stood on beach and stared into the bright citrus sky as the sky started its ascent above the water off in the horizon I became mesmerized by the beauty and brightness in front of me. How this happens every single day seemed absolutely miraculous. I stood, at that moment, on that particularly warm day in awe of all around me and completely grateful. Christmas is always bittersweet. I am reminded of what I have, what I don't have and what I had and lost. As any divorced parent it's easy to get lost in the sadness that the day can bring instead of reveling in the joy and happiness no matter how short it is. As the children grow the day loses a bit of the magic it once had. I wish I could bottle it up and make it last forever. But I can't. Our Christmas isn't as it was, for we, like so many, are a household divided - I refuse to say broken for broken we are not. We are just different from what we used to be. 

Instead of feeling sad that I would only have a few short hours to enjoy my children, I realized as the sun slowly rose, that those few precious hours were as much as a gift as the day dawning before me. From bright to pastel the hues on the horizon turned as the sun made her way up in the sky. And when all around me was bright and illuminated I headed home to my children and all the beautifully wrapped packages beneath the tree.

Weather permitting, I think this is how I would like to begin my New Year... 

I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions but I do believe in creating new goals for myself and I do vow to use my camera more and my phone less.... The quality, while good, cannot compare to a camera. I hope you enjoy the beauty and the magic of my Christmas Morning Sunrise despite this and that you too are inspired to get up early and watch the start of a brand new day while most are still fast asleep. 

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CTEarly Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CTEarly Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

Early Morning Sunrise :: Why waking early is the greatest gift there is. Southport, CT

20 things you should spray paint gold right now!

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

Those who know me know I've a bit of an addiction to spray paint. It's magic in a can that can give a tired object a new life or add some flair to your space. It all started out innocently enough - I had been looking to embellish some dried hydrangea and pinecones for an event that I was chairing years ago when my children were younger. Our budget was limited and we had to get creative. Ever since, a simple can of spray paint has helped to liven up seasonal decor and repurpose some tired objects in my own home, many of which come out this time of the year.

It started with the wreath (pictured above) a simple boxwood wreath, at the end of the season 2 Christmases ago. I decided to paint it to see if the leaves would stay preserved and intact. They did, and the wreath has been on front door during the holidays (and sometimes even longer) ever since. I may embellish the wreath this year... or I may not! 

Right before Thanksgiving I wanted to give my pumpkins a new look. A couple of coats of gold paint, and they were transformed completely. I've noticed many homes that are adorned by both fall and holiday decor... It's not too late to give those pumpkins a little sparkle! (Pictured below)

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

 

One summer we painted all the shells we collected. Below some simple oyster shells get a makeover and become functional as salt and pepper dishes. If you live in a coastal community - or even if you don't - they will be sure to brighten up your holiday table. 

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

 

Conch, whelk and similar shells take on an absolutely elegant appearance when dressed in gold. Our imperfect shells with barnacles and discolorations were magically transformed in an instant. Perfect for any mantel or table. Lighter shells can be strung and placed on a tree, added to your wrapping, or inverted to make a perfect place card holder. (Below)

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

 

My youngest child and I have fun with wish bones and I save those I don't manage to break. I wondered what a golden wishbone would look like. So once dried (and cleaned!) I decided to spray one - it required a couple of coats - and what resulted was something that was so pretty I almost hated to break it! And then I had an idea. What if I saved a few wishbones and painted them all? And what if I placed each painted wishbone on everyone's plate at Thanksgiving? I buy a lot of rotisserie chicken. It's great for so many things in a pinch - in sandwiches, pasta dishes, soups, casseroles or simply as a healthy snack. We go through almost one a week and so I began to collect, wash, dry and paint them. (Image below) And what a fun thing to bring to our Thanksgiving table. I imagine this will soon become a tradition! 

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

 

Something else we all have available to us are leaves, and although it's December, there are still quite a few ones floating around. Pick one up - pick up a handful. You must be sure that the leaves haven't already gone dry and brittle. You'll need freshly fallen leaves. Spray one side and let it dry completely before spraying the other side. Repeat 2 or three times. When the leaves have dried completely place each individually in between pieces of parchment or wax paper and then press them in a heavy book for a couple of days. This will help the leaves from curling and turning brittle. The leaves will remain soft and bendable. Use them on a cheese platter, on the table as a place card, or gift tag for a present.

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

 

I had boxes and boxes of unused wooden ornaments that I've had for years. Mostly likely passed down to me from my mother right after I got out of college. I was thisclose to donating them to Goodwill but had the crazy idea to try spray painting one of them gold... then one became two which then became three, and so on and so on and so on... They look wonderful on the tree!

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

 

My list would be incomplete if I didn't mention the simple pine cone that's found practically everywhere in all shapes and sizes. They look wonderful on the tree, on the mantel and haphazardly tossed into a pretty glass or ceramic bowl. Use them to adorn gifts, place settings or place cards.

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

20 things to spray paint gold via The Entertaining House

Some other ideas include:
Dried flowers such as hydrangea
Topiaries
Twigs/branches
Stones/river rocks
Coffee beans
Squash, gourds, pears, pomegranates
JarsVases
Wooden spoon handles
Picture frames
Office/desk items
Vases
Christmas tree lights  
Be sure to check out my Pinterest board too!
 

Holiday gifts :: What to give your favorite yogi foodie

Yoga Pose cookies/cookie cutters. Image via Food Network Magazine. 

Yoga Pose cookies/cookie cutters. Image via Food Network Magazine. 

I'm always looking for original ideas that won't break the bank for hostess and small tokens this time of year. When I can I'll bake or make something. When I can't I use the old standby - a nice bottle of wine, bubbly or candle. Lovely but certainly not original. I came across this image the other day while flipping through the December issue of Food Network Magazine. As I scanned through their collection of holiday gift ideas, my eyes immediately caught sight of these adorable yoga cookies! Fun and affordable, these are sure to be a hit with your favorite yogi foodie! 

Cookie cutters can be purchased through Yummi Yogi. And do be sure to visit their gallery of decorated cookies! 

Give a gift that gives back :: Shop DIFFA's Pop-Up Shop this Holiday Season

Candles by Jonathan Adler - available at the DIFFA Gift for Life Pop-up Shop

Candles by Jonathan Adler - available at the DIFFA Gift for Life Pop-up Shop

In recognition of World Aid's Day, which happens to be today, December 1st, it seems fitting that I share with you that the Retail Design Institute NY Chapter is hosting DIFFA’s Gift For life Pop-Up Shop Holiday Pop-Up Shop. The proceeds will benefit DIFFA New York, NY.

DIFFA’s Gift For Life Holiday Pop-Up Shop will be open December 2-6 in the Siegel-Stockman Showroom offering a variety of gift, accessories, décor and home good items.

Organized by the Retail Design Institute New York Chapter to benefit DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids (DIFFA) and Gift For Life, the shop will feature donated products by dozens of gift and décor designers, with all sales benefiting DIFFA’s mission to combat HIV/AIDS. More than 30 designers and manufacturers have donated their products.

The pop-up shop was a collaboration, designed by students from the Fashion Institute of Technology and LIM College. The shop will be hosted in Chelsea, just blocks away from the Retail Design Collective— a one-week showcase of the newest visual products and trends in New York City, and will feature donated home décor and gift items from top such top designers as: Arcadia Home, Areaware, Baccarat, Baggallini donated by Jenny Hammons, Christophe Pourny, Culver Glasses, Cynthia Gale New York, Design Ideas, Design Memorabilia, Diane O’Donnel Contemporary Designs, DIFFA, diptyque Columbus Circle, Donghia, Edelman Leather, Gallery 91, Global Protection Corp., Gumball Poodle, Harry Barker, HomArt, Jonathan Adler, Kata Golda, Kenneth Cole, Kravet, LAFCO NY, Lenny & Eva, Lenox, Maileg North America, Marc Blackwell New York, Michael Aram, Photos.com by Getty Images, Pico Design, Robert Allen, Scout by Bungalow, Semaki & Bird, Silver Peacock, Solid Red Square, Spin Ceramics, Tory Burch, Trinky Things, Umbra Ltd., West Elm and Zolo Inc.

In recognition of  World AIDS Day, there will be a private Opening Night Reception tonight from 6-9 PM.

The store will open December 2 from 10am-5pm, December 3 from 10am-7pm, December 4 from 10am-5pm and December 5 from 11am-4pm. For additional information, visit www.retaildesigninstitute.org, www.diffa.org and www.giftforlife.org.

ABOUT RETAIL DESIGN INSTITUTE OF NYC: The Retail Design Institute (RDI) is a collective of architects, interior designers, design students and educators, store planners, lighting designers, graphic designers, visual merchandisers, brand strategists and trade suppliers to the retail industry who promote the advance and collaborative practice of creating selling environments. www.retaildesigninstitute.org.

About DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS raises awareness and grants funds to organizations that fight HIV/AIDS by providing treatment and direct care services for people living with or impacted by the disease, offering preventative education programs targeted to populations at rick of infection, or supporting public policy initiatives. DIFFA is one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the United States, mobilizing the immense resources and creativity of the design community. Since its founding in 1984, DIFFA has emerged from a grassroots organization into a national foundation based in New York City with chapters and community partners across the country that, working together, have provided more than $41 million to hundreds of HIV/AIDS organizations nationwide. www.diffa.org. ABOUT GIFT FOR LIFE Gift for Life unites the gift and home industries against AIDS with more than $5 million raised since its inception in 1992. In 2008, Gift for Life selected DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the U.S., as its sole charity partner. www.giftforlife.or 

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House. Property of Patricia Van Essche/PVE

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House. Property of Patricia Van Essche/PVE

If you're hosting friends and family and cooking the big meal, chances are something could possibly go wrong. We've all heard those stories where ovens haven't fired up, frozen birds never thawed, or were cooked upside-down and other so-called disasters. The bird is supposed to be the star of the show, so the pressure to cook a perfect turkey may loom large, especially if you've not had that many Thanksgivings under your belt. But an imperfectly cooked turkey can, for a myriad of reasons, happen to the best of us. I try to get as much done before Thanksgiving so that I'm free to enjoy the morning with my family.

I prepare all my sides in advance, even the vegetables - and I highly recommend doing this as it will lessen your load on Thanksgiving. I love to start cooking the day or the night before and I ease into it gently, and depending on the time of day, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and some good music are all I need. I don't typically serve the same side dishes year after year. I like to try new things and change it up so that the meal has some of the expected and some of the unexpected. This year, for the first time, I'm brining my turkey. I expect all to go well, but there's always the possibility that something could possibly go wrong... and what if it does? What if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out quite as planned? How will you react? What will you do?

I've learned, in my 'old' age, not to take the little things too seriously. There's always something more important worth fretting about. A meal that doesn't turn out quite the way you want it to, is not worth crying over. It's up to you to set the tone and have a good laugh and encourage your guests to as well. While Thanksgiving is traditionally about the food and celebrating the bounty of the land, it's also about gathering together with friends and family. Easier said than done, I know. After all accidents and incidents happen to the best of us, even the most accomplished hosts and chefs. 

Whether we agree with it or not, most grocery stores are open on part or all of Thanksgiving Day. This can be a bit of an insurance policy as well as a saving grace. I happen to be in favor of this. Over the years we've had to cancel trips to family on several occasions due to sick children. When my daughter was not yet 1, she woke up with a raging fever. Knowing we couldn't travel our holiday was saved as we were able to have a last minute impromptu Thanksgiving at home. I found a small bird and all the other items needed for a small feast. By late afternoon our dinner was served. It was small but special. One year I cooked a turkey upside down. Some of them are so round it's hard to tell what's up and what's down! The cooked result, while ugly, was divine! I know many who swear that cooking the bird upside down is the only way to go!

I've heard so many stories of mishaps over the years that I've asked a few friends to share some of their tips and strategies on what to do should a problem arise.

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House via Flickr

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House via Flickr

Who better to ask than a trained and accomplished chef. Silvia Baldini is a chef and New Canaan-based caterer, and a recent winner of the Food Network's Chopped.  

Realizing at the 11th hour you have a vegetarian guest coming over for your Thanksgiving meal is almost as terrifying as competing on Chopped or discovering your oven doesn’t work and your precious bourbon red heritage turkey is still raw and will never be done on time. Take it from me. Don’t panic! Act quickly and keep calm. If you own a smoker your are golden. It takes about an hour and a half to smoke a 14 pound turkey. It comes out so full of flavor and juicy, you might never go back to roasting your bird again. If the smoker is not an option, fire up your BBQ. You can get some solid turkey grilling advice from Weber’s website. (http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/gearing-up-to-grill-your-holiday-meal)

If you are really last minute and the guests are starting to appear, you can always pan roast the breasts, after you detach them from the bone, in a heavy bottom skillet. Just sear the seasoned breasts in some butter, until they are golden brown all over, deglaze with some white wine or cooking sherry, add chopped onions, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme and some rosemary. Cook on low and add a half a cup of milk and one cup of stock. Cook covered for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the breasts, set aside to rest. With a hand blender puree all the juices, brown bits and herbs at the bottom of the pan. Add a half cup of wine, some chopped parsley and rosemary, one tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and cook down for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Your gravy is now done, serve it with the sliced turkey breasts. If you have a pomegranate handy scatter some of the seeds on the finished dish.

Enjoy your succulent turkey breast and pass around a shaved brussels sprout salad and a hefty cheese board for your vegetarian guest. Happy Thanksgiving.
— Chef Silvia Baldini,
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Popsugar

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Popsugar

Ronique Gibson is an architect and founder of Stagetecture a lifestyle website with many fabulous recipes. What would she do, I wonder?

The best way to handle a last minute Thanksgiving fiasco when you’re expecting dinner guests is to “Fake the Funk!” Visit your local gourmet grocer or hot bar restaurant and get a few meats, sides, rolls and dessert... and then come home and put it into your finest china dinnerware and serve with gorgeous silver or gold flatware.. as long as your dining room table is set beautifully.. no one will ever know. smile emoticon
— Ronique Gibson
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

Michelle Jaffee is the owner of Sweet & Simple Bakery in Fairfield, Connecticut. Not local? Don't fret - she ships nationally! Would she just say "Screw it!" and serve pie, I wonder?

Don’t let the turkey get you down! Pour another glass of wine, give thanks and toss that emergency frozen pizza in the oven. Not necessarily in that order!
XO
— Michelle Jaffee
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

Mindy Lockard is a lifestyle and etiquette expert and author of The Gracious Girl. Is there a 'proper' way to handle a mishap or fiasco?

With so much prep and pinterest pressure on us for a perfect holiday feast it’s easy to loose site of what’s most important. The people. An upside down turkey isn’t the end of the world. Even in that moment when you want to give the holiday the bird, of course I’m referring to the turkey... pour your guests another cocktail, turn on some music and pop that bird back in the oven. Sometimes it not the “perfect” holidays that we remember, but the ones that brought us together in an upside down sort of a way.
— Mindy Lockard
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. The Entertaining House. Image via Mcphee.com

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. The Entertaining House. Image via Mcphee.com

Bettie Bearden Pardee is a former magazine editor, lifestyle expert, seasoned lecturer and author of several books on entertaining. Her most recent is Private Newport. No doubt Bettie will have the answer!

Break out the champagne! and let those bubbles heighten the festivity - and levity - of the situation. (Also, another good reason to provide a varied selection of tasty and filling side dishes.)
Coincidentally, I just. bought a lifesize, inflatable turkey...just in case.
— Bettie Bearden Pardee
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Google images

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Google images

Patricia Van Essche, known to PVE as her friends, is a designer and illustrator whose works have graced Town & Country and the J. McLaughlin catalogues among others.  For more on her work and commissions do visit her website. Patricia is my grounded friend... I know I can count on her sage advice!

We have all had fiasco’s and I think “Improv” is the best way to handle - and to remember the real reason for gathering is friendship!

One year we flew to Monaco to have Thanksgiving and what could go wrong did. There was a leak above coming through the chandelier onto my Mother-in-law’s hand made linen table cloth from Portugal. The turkey did not fit in the oven.....but we still managed to somehow have a fun time with a bucket in the middle of the table....

I guess now with all the sadness in the world, in the end being with friends and family really what Thanksgiving is truly all about.
— Patricia Van Essche

I think my dear friend Coryanne sums it up the best... in the end, it's not really about the food. Have fun. The food is the least of it. Most likely, even in the case of a fiasco there'll be plenty to go around. She posted the following on her Facebook page early today and it touched me so that I wanted to share it with you all. Coryanne Etienne is a cooking and lifestyle expert soon to open her new shop, Etienne Market. 

 

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Huffington Post.

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Huffington Post.

Thanksgiving has held so many remarkable family memories for me, and I know I am not alone when I say that there is a special place in my heart for Thanksgiving. But this year, Thanksgiving is something all together different. This year my mother passed down the Thanksgiving torch to me, and it is an honor that is gifted in both sweetness and sorrow, but one that I will cherish always. When I think about Thanksgiving, I think of stained tablecloths, heirloom silver, treasured dishes, a mish-mash of chairs that assemble loved ones from across the globe, and that all important moment where fork takes to knife, and the carving commences. I think of my grandfather, and my father standing proud and tall at the faces looking back full of love.

I think of old jokes that are only shared at Thanksgiving, and new ones that appear without a moments notice. I think of empty seats where loved ones once sat, and babies that have grown to become teenagers. I think of elaborate hand made flashes of delight that make it personal, and strong cocktails that make us giddy. I think of love. I think of food. I think of family.
From my family to yours, wishing you a Thanksgiving where perfection comes in those moments we did not plan for, the old dishes laid before us, the knowing glances made across the table, those remembered and those introduced, and for the happiness that comes from knowing that being thankful for family, and the food we share is the essence of the season. Happy Thanksgiving.
— Coryanne Ettiene

From The Entertaining House to yours, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. XO

Monday Inspiration:: What happens when you don't get what you want?

Everything seems to be moving at warp speed these days. With so many moving parts it's a wonder that we can sit still at all. Sometimes wanting something isn't enough. Sometimes working hard for it isn't either. Sometimes you need to sit back and leave it up to fate. Sometimes it's best to lift the oar and not paddle against the tide. I believe this firmly. Let it be. 

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Namaste, Bitches :: My Yoga Adventure, Part II

Namaste, Bitches :: My Yoga Adventure, Part II - via The Entertaining House. Image, Tumblr

Namaste, Bitches :: My Yoga Adventure, Part II - via The Entertaining House. Image, Tumblr

What's right for one person isn't right for another. This can be said for absolutely everything in life. I may give advice and suggestions and share my opinions but they simply may not be applicable to you and your lifestyle. And that's okay. It's okay as long as you've given it a try - as long as you don't simply say no to something without knowing anything about it all. Then, that's not okay, because you could potentially be missing out on a great opportunity. Sometimes you have to try something new, take a chance, step outside your comfort zone.

I am a creature of habit. I like my safety net to be nearby at all times. Although many see me as a Type A, I need my downtime, my alone time. I'm happy at home on the couch with a great book or a good movie. I'm equally as happy traveling, wandering around unfamiliar streets and paths, aimlessly - with or without purpose. I love to see new sights, meet new people, hear new music and taste new food. I find nothing more satisfying or fulfilling. This is why I love my profession. I love being a writer because it takes me places and has me meeting new people and trying new things. It complements the social side of me. And I love to go home and write quietly in the solitude of my own home, it nurtures my independent, soulful side. Only recently have I started to travel alone. I personally think everyone should. But many people don't or won't. My guess is that most people are afraid to. I was. I was until I got divorced. And I started to go places by myself. I was never alone though, because on every journey that started alone, the most amazing connections and friendships were made.  And so traveling to the Cape was one such journey where traveling alone brought me close to others I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet. 

 A group of 11 women got together with their mats for morning and afternoon yoga sessions, and got together again for breakfast and dinner where many of us, complete strangers, bonded over stories of parenting and careers and life and a few of us shared dating stories. We ranged in age from late 30s to early 60s and our backgrounds were as diverse as our ages. Some of the women knew each other, but no one knew everyone. 

Friday afternoon we arrived as strangers and by Sunday morning there was a bond. The dinners we shared nurtured those connections. Saturday we got up early for a 7:30 yoga session then proceeded to have breakfast together afterwards. We had the day to spend to do whatever we wished. Some took off by bicycle, others hopped the ferry to Martha's Vineyard and a few of us decided to stroll around downtown Falmouth and Wood's Hole. We returned to the hotel for a wonderfully meditative walk on the beach. (I'm not to sure how meditative I was as I was constantly taking pictures!) We were to pay attention to how the sand felt beneath our feet, how the air felt, smelled and what we saw and heard... the bright sun casting a spell on the water, ocean breezes whipping through my hair. I walked to the water's edge and tested the ocean one toe at a time. It was remarkably warm. I rolled my pants up over my knees and waded in the warm October water. At that moment the world stood still and there was nothing but quiet and calm all around me. 15 minutes later we headed back to our makeshift studio in the grand ballroom where we stretched and meditated. Our breaths grew slower and deeper, our pulses slowed, as did our thoughts. Miraculous as it seemed for me, my thoughts didn't venture near anything remotely stressful. I was away on a yoga retreat and my thoughts stayed far away from home base. 

The mind is a powerful thing. I know this. But I learned first-hand how much control our minds can have over our thoughts, our bodies and pain. And when we focus on something - whether it's holding a pose or a stretch or even simply to stay quiet - it's truly formidable. And when we focus, truly focus, we have the power to eliminate our pain, to eliminate our stress and to eliminate all the white noise that circles around like an annoying fly at bedtime. And with this focus our mind becomes stronger and calmer and our bodies become stronger and calmer. And with all this calm comes a remarkable clarity - a clarity that can help solve issues or fix problems. A clarity that can help find answers. I don't think I've ever had that kind of clarity before.

According to WebMd yoga reduces stress, anxiety and depression. It's been used to treat PTSD and used to treat a multitude of physical injuries including those of the joints, neck and back. Many use yoga in their training and practices but don't refer to it as such. It's being recommended more and more by mainstream doctors and becoming as commonplace as acupuncture, massage and other alternative therapies. 

My weekend was life-changing. My personal experience with yoga was an intense one. I stepped outside of my own box and I liked it. I tried something new and I liked it. I learned something about myself. In fact, I learned a lot about myself.  I'm best when I push myself - though I don't always do it. I'm best when I try new things and like them. When you find that thing that clicks, that thing that might just be that missing piece you've been looking for all along, you'll get excited. It's natural. You'll want to sing its praises and shout from the rooftops and you'll want everyone to try it and to love it as you do. And that may or may not happen. In all likelihood some will like it and others will not. But if you can possibly share something that may improve or alter someone else's life, you will. And that's what I'm doing. 

I see my weekend away by the sea as a gift. A gift of hope and promise. A chance to try something new, something that I had wanted to. And more than learning that I was stronger than I had imagined or more flexible than I had ever imagined, but that I could stay focused in a way I have never been able to before. And most importantly I found within myself the ability to find calm - a mental, long-lasting, stress-free calm - a calm that I have never experienced before. Like everything else, finding this calm took a bit of work. After just a few days I can find it a bit more easily now, and I can stay focused longer and haven't felt this at ease or relaxed for as long as I can remember. I've learned how to meditate and to use it to my benefit. No, I don't sit on my mat crossed leg, sit up straight and chat OM, (though perhaps I should) instead I lie down flat, hands resting by my side or on my stomach and play one of the mediation apps that I've downloaded on my phone. I concentrate on clearing my thoughts and feeling the weight of my body on the bed, and the sounds of my own slow, deep breaths while the guided mediation gently plays on the phone. (There are many meditation apps from which to choose, and many of them are free.) 

Below are some links about yoga and it's benefits for mind and body"
How Yoga changes your body the day you begin    
Relaxing Yoga poses you can try at home   
5 types of Yoga and their benefits     
5 ways to balance your 5 elements   
23 Yoga styles every Yoga lover should know   
20 Reasons to do yoga    
Bedtime Yoga

Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.
— Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

And who doesn't want a quiet mind and a strong body?

 

Yoga isn't for Sissies :: A Newbie goes on a yoga retreat

Yoga isn't for Sissies :: A Newbie goes on a yoga retreat. Image via Flickr.

Yoga isn't for Sissies :: A Newbie goes on a yoga retreat. Image via Flickr.

Yoga ain't for sissies. It's hard, core and muscle-engaging and not to be looked down upon or taken lightly.

I'm on a yoga retreat at The SeaCrest Beach Hotel in Falmouth with Yoga Moves - Yoga + Wellness for a piece I'm writing for The Daily Basics. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a more personal part of this journey and document my three days here for the article as well as for myself. 

I've been wanting to try yoga for a while now, for many reasons - and a whole lot of excuses - I haven't gotten around to it. A few years ago I tried and became addicted to Pilates. The moves, many of them, are based on yoga. Both are about strengthening the core, lengthening limbs and not bulking them out. (I have enough bulk on me, thankyouverymuch.)

For those of you, who like me, don't know much about this form of exercise, it's not all about meditation. There are many of you out there who like myself can't slow down and we seem to use this as an excuse or as a reasoning... "Yoga isn't for me" Or "I'm more of a Pilates girl," which was pretty much my way of thinking. And for me, there's some truth to that. I can never settle down. I fidget. Nonstop. Even in my sleep. My mind never seems to be able to turn off either. Blame this on being a mother, blame this on being a divorced mother, blame this on ADHD. In fact, I can blame it on whatever I want or nothing at all. I've never been able to settle down. Never. It's part of my DNA. Yoga's not for me. I'm not a fan. I can't settle down enough. These were my thoughts. And then I tried yoga. And now I say those were just excuses.

I worried about looking the part - comparing myself to the other women. Those body-shaped insecurities we all have. And then I was reassured when I walked into the room and saw everything. Every body shape imaginable was in the room with me... tall, short, small, large and everything in between. And I was the only newbie in there. And as I followed along I saw that no matter how tall or short or large or small, these women were strong and the strength was beauty. And that's what mattered. I got over myself quickly knowing that if I focused on my every imperfection I would not come to that place of total relaxation.

I had my first very toned down yoga class. We stretched and balanced and used muscles I had forgotten I had. I was not so amazed by my strength - I'm very strong and work out regularly - but I was blown away by my flexibility. I bent in half - flat as a pancake. A few times. I had no idea how limber I was. I think, in order to be that limber one needs to be incredibly relaxed. I don't ever think I've ever been as relaxed as I was yesterday afternoon. I really should have asked what type of yoga we were doing because upon research there are many, many different kids, all slightly different from each other. After 45 minutes of strength and stretch and balance we moved on to a meditative type. From our Warrior poses we went to down on our backs.

We had blankets to place over our bodies or under them as needed. With my neck and back issues I rolled one and placed it under my neck and the other and placed it under my knees. I closed my eyes and relaxed. I was as still as could be but couldn't figure out what to do with my hands until they finally settled on my stomach.

Our instructor, Mary Ellen, spoke. Her voice was soothing. Soon I was off in an almost trans-like state. Completely relaxed. Completely. And if you'll remember that's not something I do often. Scratch that. Ever. It's not something I do ever.  Yet there I was, out there, lost in space. Out of mind. Out of body. I listened and hovered around this great grey area that was a state between consciousness and sleep. 

We had to start counting backward from 108 all the way to 0. I got stuck at 103. And then I started thinking. Instead of trying to figure out 102 I was stuck on Dunkin' Donuts coffee. There seem to be more Dunkin' Donuts on Cape Cod than people. I was thinking about my morning coffee. I should have been counting 100 or even 99. But I was stuck on the damned coffee. And worried about my morning coffee. Terribly worried about my morning coffee. 95. And there I was distracted by my thoughts and the goddamned coffee and I couldn't find my way to 75 or 50, nevermind 0. I was all about the coffee. The good news was that despite the fact my mind had gone from 0-120 in warp speed I couldn't move. My body was so relaxed it felt like a brick. But I couldn't get my mind back to that peaceful floating in Nowhereland. But one out of two ain't bad. I'll take it for a first timer. I'm excited for my class this morning which starts in about 45 minutes, at 7:30. Bright and early! I'm off to get dressed then hopefully to see the sun rise from the beach which is literally outside my doorstep!

Stay tuned for more later as I'll be participating in 2 yoga classes and a beach meditation today!

 

It's a self-manicure miracle!

One of these polishes is not like the other... 

One of these polishes is not like the other... 

Perhaps not as chic as Chanel, hip as Opi, or trendy as Essie... Perhaps you've even turned up your nose at it in the past, but Sally Hansen - yes, Sally Hansen! - has something that no other nail polish on the market has, and what that is is perhaps the greatest thing in the manicure world. At least for us who are self-manicure challenged. I discovered this quite by accident. Let's call it fate - yes, I will be so dramatic as to call it that. You see, for me this new discovery is a game changer. A game changer, I tell you! 

Painting my nails has never come easy, and all the practice in the world never helped me. As a result I would resort to applying a couple of coats of clear polish or heading over to my local nail salon which can be both time consuming and expensive over time.  Sometimes you just need to paint and dash or touch up and run. For those like me this was never possible. Until now.

Why you ask? What's this great big secret?

Well, it really isn't any secret. It just seems that I am always the last to discover the good things. But, just in case I'm not the last person on earth to know about it, and on the off-chance you're as lousy as I am with the self-manicure, this is something you simply have to know.

It will change your world too!

No, it won't find love. 
No, it won't get rid of those last 10 pounds. 
No, it won't help you figure out the ending to your Great American Novel. 
No, it won't get you the Pulitzer Prize. Or the Nobel Prize.
No, it won't create world peace.
But it will may your day. Maybe even your month. Or your year.

Here's why.
The secret is in the brush.
Look below and look closely. What do you see?
Don't try to look at brands or labels? 
Focus on the brush.

It's a manicure miracle!

It's a manicure miracle!

Look at the middle brush?
What do you see?
That brush, my friends, is what makes all the difference.
That brush will solve your self-manicure problems.

The solution is in the brush!

The solution is in the brush!

In the middle. The same brush.
This brush is the answer to your manicure prayers.

See how much wider it is than the rest? (Revlon is the thinnest, followed by Cover Girl, L'Oreal and Opi.) The wide brush means fewer applications. The polish glides on smoothly and evenly. Even on my nails that have pretty deep ridges. I needed only 2-3 brush strokes per coat. I didn't go outside the nail bed much, and the little bit that did washed right off with soap and water when the nails were dry. The second coat went on as easily. And the polish dried pretty quickly as well. 

Sally Hansen offers a wide variety of colors and types of polish and for those like me who sometimes don't often have the time to rush out and get a manicure, this really is a life-changer. Go see for yourself. 

For more visit the Sally Hansen website. (The match your nail color app is pretty fab as well!)

*The thoughts here are purely of my own. I was not given any product or endorsed in any way.

Monday Motivation

It's hard to blossom, sometimes, on Mondays. But think about that flower and how much she'd love the bee to come. Even the flower knows that bee won't come and feast on her sweet pollen into honey unless she offers up her petals. Just like the flower our dreams won't come true if we don't act on them. So instead of trudging through the day, let's get a move on, -  after all, the honeybees are waiting!