Smart Idea: Headspace App

headspace

It seems like everyone and their dog is into meditation these days, yes?  It got me thinking that maybe there’s something to it (given that it’s an ancient, 1,000s-year-old practice and all – not just because Oprah said to, I swear).  I actually signed up for one of Oprah & Deepak’s Mediation Challenges, but I could not get past the second day – 20-minutes of breathing and being still was too much for me as a beginner, I’ve learned.  In fact, I totally sabotaged myself before giving myself a chance because I tried to MULTI-TASK while meditating and tried listening to the recording while walking on the treadmill – clearly I missed the entire point of the exercise.

Weeks later, I tried once more after listening to a webinar given by Chris Brogan who touted the benefits of meditation; but this time I searched for  an app on my phone to see what goodies the Google Play Store had waiting for me.  One of the top-rated apps is Headspace created by TED speaker Andy Puddicombe. So I downloaded it and gave it a try.  I started with the free Take 10 program – a starter program that delivers 10 minutes of meditations per day for 10 days.  I liked the interface and that the mediations are broken down into 10-minute modules (much more realistic for a road runner like me).  Once you complete Take 10,  you can subscribe and select from the different categories depending on what area of your life you’d like to focus on and go through those tailored meditations.

I’m only on Day 2 of Take 10, but I’m feeling progress just by simply committing to a daily practice of mindfulness.

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What’s for Dinner: Mixed Grill, Scampi and Enchiladas

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We took time out of our Sunday to clean out the freezer which was completely overloaded and something fell out onto the floor each time someone opened the door.  It’s amazing what you can find when you actually face the freezer beast head on:  every ice cream and popsicle flavor under the sun; three different kinds of hash browns and even mussels!  So my next mission is to use as many of these items as possible before hitting the grocery store again.  The chicken tenders and shrimp from this week’s menus are part of those freezer finds.  And I’m trying to get back to one day a week when we go meatless for dinner – hence the cheesy enchiladas for Thursday.  Five bucks says my husband asks where the meat is.

What’s for Dinner This Week

Monday:
Mixed Grill (Salmon, Steak, Chicken leftovers) w. Tortellini Primavera

Tuesday:
Chicken Tenders w. Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Corn

Wednesday:
Shrimp Scampi w. Broccoli and Rice

Thursday:
Cheese Enchiladas w. Guacamole and Chips

Friday:
Beats Me!

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Must Watch Movie: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, very Bad Day


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It’s not often that I’m crying tears of laughter or welling up at a Disney movie (well, other than Frozen). But last week I took the family to a screening of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And it was great. I mean, really great.  The story of course is a classic and the film definitely took liberties to update it and make it relevant to us now, and the acting was spot on.  Steve Carrell was perfect as the sensitive, corny father (or “Fommy” aka “Father-Mommy” lol) and Jennifer Garner played the uptight, guilt-ridden, overwhelmed mom convincingly. I also enjoyed watching “the son” from Scandal and “the daughter” from Ray Donovan in their roles as the family teens.  And the kid who played Alexander was just right.

What made it so funny was that I could totally see myself in Jennifer Garner’s character: a stressed out, overworked mom who is struggling between feeling guilty at work and at home and just trying to keep it all together.  There’s one scene where she and the family are rushing to get her to work in the family car and she is so on edge that she can’t even put her seat belt on because she’s pulling it too hard. It was such a simple scene but OMG could I relate.

The kids loved the movie because it was funny and action-packed but my husband and I kept sharing glances over their little heads at the parts of the movie that mirrored our crazy, crazy lives.

Go see it.

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disclosure: my family was invited to screen the film free of charge. all opinions are my own.

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ISO: The Perfect Boots for Fall

I’m falling off my game. {see what I did there? FALL?} Aside from the fact that I spent today in my husband’s old Florida Gator football sweatpants and UGGs, I am thinking about my Fall wardrobe.  First up? The perfect pair of boots.  My husband will never understand the amount of thought and perusing that goes into finding the right pair of boots: heel height, shaft height, shaft width, color, material and, of course, price. It is a science ladies! Am I right? When I was practicing law, I generally got a new pair of boots each Fall – because I could afford it! – and also because I needed them to wear almost daily. But last year was the first year I skipped my annual purchase, mostly because I couldn’t settle on the perfect pair. But I shall not be so defeated this time around. I know that I definitely want a flat boot (gone is the need for a heel when the bulk of my day is spent in the carpool line), and I also know that I want the boots to be black.  I had a fleeting vision of myself in the thigh-high boots that are splattered across the pages of the magazines in my reading basket, but I would just look silly wearing those to volunteer at my daughter’s cafeteria lunch period.  The reality of my life is sobering folks.

Here are my top finds:

Boots 1 Boots 2

1. BCBGeneration ‘Konner’ Leather Riding Boot // 2.  Tahari ‘Rupert’ Riding Boot
3. Valentino ‘Ascot’ Boot // 4. Gucci ‘Maud’ Boot*

*note: these last two I can afford in my dreams. But as my girl Jazzy says: Manifest That Ish!

 

But assuming I did lead a luxurious and jet-setting life, check these muthas out:

legging boots

5. Tamara Mellon Legging Boots

 

Are you as obsessed with Fall boots as I am?

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What’s for Dinner: Burgers, Skirt Steak, Salmon and Fried Chicken

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Our bi-annual shipment of organic foods arrived last week, so we are back to eating simply.  I find that when I am grocery shopping for dinner items, I need to be more creative or forced to make “dishes” because the actual quality of the foods is lesser, if that makes any sense.  Now that we’re back in business with our home delivery service, we can go back to the basics – no real need for a ton of sauces or toppings or casseroles.  And not a moment too soon! Today marks 30 days until Blogalicious Weekend 2014 – “simple” is exactly what I need from here on out.

Monday

Cheddar-Bacon Burgers on the Grill

Tuesday

Skirt Steaks w. Cheesy Smashed Red Potatoes

Wednesday

Baked Salmon and Risotto

Thursday

Nashville Fried Chicken w. and Green Beans

Friday

Beats Me! It’s Our Anniversary Weekend!

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Smart Idea: Know Your Secret Energy Sources

SecretEnergySources

Last year at Altitude Summit, I attended a session on Work-Life Balance (because I’m a sucker for that topic), and heard a smart strategy that stuck with me:

Make a List of Your Secret Energy Sources

The rationale was that ‘work-life balance’ is elusive and there will always will be days when we feel stressed or overwhelmed; but if we know what things rejuvenate us, we can refer to that list to do one of those things in those chaotic moments.  I filed that tip away in my mental/digital rolodex and never really actively went through the exercise.  Over the past few months I’ve gone through one of the most stressful periods of my life and I’ve had to take inventory of what gives me anxiety and…what calms my spirit and lifts my mood – Aha! My Secret Energy Sources.  Here are my top 3:

Zumba

And not just any Zumba. The Monday and Friday night Zumba classes at my health club give me life! The instructor is great, the music is electric, the energy in the room is palpable and the workout itself is simultaneously challenging and invigorating.  It’s gotten so that if I miss it, I’m devastated, and I do everything I can to make sure that I make it there in time: dress in my workout clothes in the morning (even though it’s an evening class); ask the neighbor to drop my kids home after her son’s birthday party so I could be on time; leave home 45 minutes before the class to make sure that I get there on time and get a spot because it fills up so fast. So you see…I am addicted to my Zumba class. Fortunately, there are worse vices!

Girl Time

I’ve always been a social being and that personality trait is magnified when I’m going through a rough time.  Whereas some people might keep to themselves or turn inward when they are dealing with something, I tend to do the opposite.  It’s during times like these where I find myself calling all of my close girlfriends daily, or organizing Girls Nights Out, or deciding to host a get together.  Spending time with friends is an important part of my mental health and wellness mission.  Here is a perfect example of that.

Sunshine

I’m a Leo – are you surprised? If I’m in a cranky mood or feeling all “woe is me” you can guarantee the sun isn’t out.  My disposition changes drastically with the presence of sunshine and I love basking in it.  Maybe it’s from spending the better of 18 years living through Canadian winters, but I will never complain about being too hot! My husband teases me because I’m always on the hunt for a liver of sunshine so that I can park myself in it.  In fact, this past winter (it was a brutal one in the DC area) I broke down and purchased a light therapy lamp* to get me through the slew of dark and gloomy days.

So these are my top three energy sources – I have others, like cooking and trying out new recipes or reading magazines or reading books about entrepreneurship – but the ones that give me a burst of energy and natural high are the three I highlighted.  Now it’s your turn: make a list of your top 3 or 5 secret energy sources and keep them in your back pocket for that bad day. I’d love to hear what yours are.

*affiliate link

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How to Throw a Progressive Dinner Party

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Any kind of dinner party is my kind of dinner party; casual, formal, indoor, outdoor, in celebration of a special occasion or just because.  Two weekends ago, some neighbor friends and I co-hosted a progressive dinner party – where we moved from house to house for each course.  The idea came about one day when we were hanging out at our neighborhood pool and brainstorming ideas for getting our families together.  After casually talking about it for weeks and weeks, we finally got it together and did it!  And it was a totes fun.  When I shared what we were doing with some friends and family members, I was surprised to learn that many of them had no clue what a progressive dinner was and so I thought I’d share it here for the world to see.

How to Throw a Progressive Dinner Party

Step 1: Decide on the hosts.  For maximum good times, I’d recommend selecting at least 3, if not 5 families to participate.  90% of the fun is walking from house to house, so if you’re just a group of two families, then the ‘travel’ part of the evening is minimally exciting.  We had 5 families participating in the dinner but we decided to just have 4 families host the dinner that evening because everyone has small children and we didn’t want the evening to end too late.  I should mention that we opted to include kids this time around but, obviously, this works for adults-only too (if not better!).

Step 2: Select a Theme.  Things are always more interesting when there’s a theme! Plus it takes a lot of the guesswork out of planning and it lends a feeling of cohesiveness to the evening even through multiple changes in setting.  Because this was our fist attempt, we went with Mexican, because it’s a relatively easy cuisine to make and HELLO? Who doesn’t like Mexican food? Cheese + Carbs = YES.

Step 3: Select a Date.  This was probably the hardest part of the whole shebang.  Five families with eleven kids between us? Imagine the schedules going on.  Naturally, I double-booked myself and had a slight panic attack when I realized that I had agreed to participate on the exact same day as Oprah’s “The Life You Want” Weekend – I ended up having to miss the first course. We used Doodle to poll everyone for availability and that was super easy to use. Pro tip: check all three of your calendars before committing to a date. (Lesson learned).

Step 4: Assign the Courses.  There should be some strategy to this part of the planning because you want the flow of the meal to be in line with the location of your houses. For example, you don’t want to have appetizers at one house, the main course 3 blocks over and then back to the original street for dessert (especially if you have little feet to consider).  We started with the house furthest away from the street where the bulk of us lived for appetizers and cocktails, then we followed with the salad and kid dinner course, the main course, and then dessert, all on the same street.  Each house had an adult beverage and the kids had toys in each place to occupy themselves with (i.e. throw all over the place).  By the time we got to the last house for dessert, it was around 9pm so my neighbors put on a movie to get the kids to settle down.

We spent about an hour at each house and allotted 15 minutes in between each course for travel time.

BONUS! Step 5: Tell Your Husbands.  At least two of the 5 husbands claimed to have no idea what was going on and that they weren’t told about the dinner plans. It’s entirely possible. It’s also entirely possible that “they” ignored one of the 11,000 times we told them about it and the entries on “their” iCals.  Ahem.

By all accounts, it was a roaring success. In fact, we already have a date and theme for the this month’s: German in honor of Oktoberfest. (see also BEER!)

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What’s For Dinner

keep calm dinner

We’re battling a kid with strep throat over here. NO fun. It’s true what they say: “a parent can only every feel as happy as their unhappiest child.” And until my sweet Giggles is, well, giggling again, my heart is heavy. Fever, painful sore throat, trouble sleeping – the works. The biggest indicator that she is miserable is her lack of an appetite because she is my “eater.”  Making dinner this week won’t be nearly as fun without my biggest customer enjoying the meals – it’s all chicken noodle soup and soupy grits for her at the moment. Here’s hoping she’s up for her favorite Wegman’s pizza by Friday.

What’s For Dinner This Week

Monday: Sesame Oil Roast Chicken + Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese + Candied Carrots

Tuesday: Chicken Parmesan + Linguine

Wednesday: Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers w. Ground Beef and Wild Rice + Green Salad

Thursday: Homemade Pizzas w. Fresh Mozzarella + Veggies

Friday: Beats Me!

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At the Farmer’s Market

Farmers market collage This past Sunday was an unexpectedly gorgeous day and my eldest daughter and I wanted to figure out a way to seize it.  I suggested we hit the local farmer’s market and she was ALL IN given her recent (but not subsiding) obsession with cooking. Her brother and sister decided to tag along and we all piled into the car and headed to the Market.  It was lovely.  Fresh-cut flowers, baguettes, jams, beautiful peaches and more.  We racked up on $25 dollars worth of goodies without really trying – something for everyone.  Chatterbox chose a fresh-baked croissant, baguette and peaches; L’il Buddy chose a package of Snickerdoodles; Giggles held out for Sour Punch Straws from the CVS (eye roll); and we brought back a mini Apple-Caramel Pie for Hubby.  My treats for myself were a Hazelnut-Chocolate Croissant and a bouquet of blood-red dahlias. What a perfect way to usher in Fall. We might just have ourselves a weekly ritual.

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My Signature Drink for Fall

Do you feel that? It’s a crispness in the air that means that summer is actually over and it’s time for football, firepits and Fall shenanigans.  Once upon a time I had a friend whose mother-in-law had her house decorated to match each season. I used to aspire to one day be that homemaker but I’ve since let go of that aspiration and made peace with adding just a few signs of the season to our home.  We’ve already mounted our college football team’s flag to the front of the house (Go Gators!), planted an array of warm-colored mums along the front walkway, and re-painted the firepit in anticipation of cool evenings on the patio. Naturally, the only thing missing is a signature drink for the season.

In planning last year’s holiday menus, I stumbled across the recipe for The New England Express concocted by Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton.  I decided to give it a try and it was an instant hit! Best of all, it was a snap to make and easy to serve in ‘punch’ form.  And so, I present to you my signature drink for Fall.  Consider it my interpretation on decorating my home with Pinterest-worthy gems.

the-new-england-express

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Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

 

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