Archive | January, 2016

CoqdOrBar2

Enjoying The Drake Hotel

TGIF!!! This week, May and June decided it was time to visit another great hotel in our beautiful city. Although cold, it was bright and sunny so we decided to walk 1.5 miles to The Drake Hotel, for a mid-week “business meeting”.  And because May is the fastest power walker on the planet, we did not get too cold (although we may have had a little warm-up stop to check out the spring fashions and sales at Anthropologie).

The Drake

The Drake is a landmark hotel that was founded in 1920 by Tracy and John Drake, who acquired it from Potter Palmer in 1916. The hotel was built in the Italian Renaissance style overlooking Lake Michigan, and was a longtime rival of the Palmer House, another landmark establishment ( both of which are now operated by Hilton Hotels). Notable visitors to the Drake Hotel have included several Presidents, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney, and Queen Elizabeth II.  The Drake Hotel is located on the north end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

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(A beautiful bouquet greets visitors in the lobby)

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(One of the many grand and gorgeous crystal chandeliers)

After doing a little tour of the lobby, we decided to check out the historical Coq d’Or (French for golden cockerel), the hotel’s piano bar/restaurant which is known for being the second establishment to serve alcohol after prohibition, opening December 6, 1933. We felt like we were going back in time as we enjoyed our drinks and appetizers, relaxing in red leather chairs. The menu items are a little retro.  We only really perused the appetizers but it was old-school food like shrimp cocktail, crab cakes and a cheese board.  It is fun to visit some of these old school restaurants and bars where everything on the menu lends itself to being comfortable and unpretentious.  On weekends, patrons can come for a drink or dinner, while listening to the sounds of jazz piano. You can also go for afternoon tea in the Palm Court, between 1-5pm.

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(The golden cockerel must have worn a pirate hat?)

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(The bar complete with a red leather bumper, big red leather bar chairs and dark wood)

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(A vintage scene)

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(A business meeting with champagne refreshment and a cheese plate)

We hope you get a chance to stop in at the Drake Hotel, the next time you’re in the city. Have a wonderful weekend.

~May and June

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Pink Reflex 2

Life is Too Long to Wear Bad Yoga Pants

Unless you have been living at an ashram in India the last few years, I am sure that you have figured out that wearing yoga pants is a trend that seems to be here to stay.  There is a whole segment of the fashion industry called “atheleisure” which is basically just a fancy way of saying you wear fashionable gym clothes out in public whether your idea of a workout is a 60 minute cardio class, or walking to the end of the driveway to pick up the newspaper.  But whether you wear yoga pants to wear to yoga class, or lounging around the house or as a part of an outfit, it is imperative that you wear yoga pants that fit you well.  No matter what your size you can find yoga pants that are flattering and do not show all your business to the world.

There are many stores that sell yoga pants.  A high price does not necessarily indicate good quality (as devotees of one well-known high-priced yoga manufacturer have discovered when unfortunately their downward dog, was showing a bit more “dog” then they had planned), I find that spending a bit more on yoga pants generally results in a more substantial fabric.  For example, I have a pair of leggings that were inexpensive and while you could possibly wear them as yoga pants because they are stretchy, no one needs to see all of that so I wear them under tunics and dresses.

I love Lucy for yoga pants, but I am also curious to try out Zella brand which is sold at Nordstrom, and a more bargain brand called Reflex sold on Amazon.  I am not being compensated for any of the following but they are just things I have found that I love.  I am sticking to long pants right now since it is January.  In the warm weather, I do switch over to cropped pants but a run from the car to a warm studio risks frostbitten ankles at the moment.

If you are not familiar with Lucy, it is a specialty store that only carries athletic wear.  Many of their styles can be worn outside of the house as your outfit. I regularly wear coats, jackets and wraps from them as every day wear.  The thing I love about Lucy is that their clothes fit real women (unlike the store mentioned earlier that shall not be named, who cater only to the size 00s of the world). Their size chart shows that the pants range in size from an XS which is a 0 to an XL which is up to a size 18.  The Lucy basic pants come in lengths too, so for us shrimpies they have short lengths, and for those of you that were blessed with long legs and height, they have tall lengths (as well as average lengths).  I have heard that you can shorten yoga pants, but really who has time for that?  I am fortunate because I have a brick and mortar store close to my house where I can try things on, but they do offer free shipping if you want to order online.  Finally, you may think after checking out the pants below that they are really expensive, but Lucy runs some great sales and they have a rewards program.  A couple times a year, Lucy will run specials on just their pants, in November or December they usually celebrate Lucy’s birthday with a percentage off the entire store/website, and as they rotate through the seasons they put the prior season’s stock on sale and if you hold on long enough, the sale usually goes on sale.  I also will tell you that my pants last and last.  No pilling.  I just wash in cold and hang to dry.

So here are some of my favorite pants from Lucy:

 

Vital Pant

Vital Pant

These are a nice basic boot cut yoga pant.  If you ever watched Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on TLC’s What Not To Wear, they emphasized that if you have hips your pants should be a straight line with a little flare at the bottom to even out your hips.  These will do that.  The weight of the pants is good.  They provide some support but don’t squeeze you so that you cannot breathe (which you need to be able to do).

Lotus Pant

Lotus Pant

The Lotus Pant is a really straight legged pant.  I have a pair which I do not wear for yoga or to work out (it is just my personal preference), but I do wear them as pants under tunics or dresses.  However, my mom just discovered these and she loves to wear them for yoga.  She bought one pair and wanted to wear them to yoga class every time (which is 3-4 times a week) and also just as pants, so she went back for a second pair.

Studio Hatha Legging

 

Black Hatha Legging

I recently decided to give yoga leggings a try and have found that I really, really like them.  I feel like my muscles are more compressed in the pant which feels good during long yoga classes or a high intensity class.  And as any one who knows me knows, I can be a bit of a klutz (in the last year and a half I have sprained an ankle which required 12 weeks of physical therapy and then 6 months later broke my toe, both happened while I was just walking, and tripped).  So while the boot cut pant is flattering, I tend to trip on the bottom of the pant.  I also found that with the extra material my tree pose would slide down my leg unless I pulled my pant leg up.  To avoid looking like an upside down ice cream cone, I pair my leggings with a blousy yoga top or a looser, longer tshirt.  These leggings do come in lengths for some of the colors.  However, I found the rise in the short length a bit uncomfortable, so I just wear the regular length and the bottoms are a little bunchy around my ankle.

Patterned Pants

Patterned Yoga Pant

Another Pattern

A trend lately are patterned yoga pants.  I was hesitant to try these on me because I do not like to accentuate my lower half.  I have a pair similar to the top pair and I get complimented every time I wear them (I think I may have to get the top pair so I don’t wear the same patterned ones every time).  These are the same Studio Hatha Leggings as above but just in a pattern.  I recommend that you try them on to see how you like the pattern.  You may be surprised how flattering they look.  And I can guarantee you will feel like you look very hip.

Zella Brand

I personally have not tried these Zella brand pants but they look super cute and they have great reviews online.  And if you do not have a Nordstrom by you (or it is a super huge mall and sometimes the thought of going there exhausts you), Nordstrom offers free delivery and free returns.  Also, I noticed that this brand has plus size so if you need a little more room in your pants while you work hard to stay healthy, you can still be super cute.

Zella Live-In Legging

Black Pattern ZellaPink Pattern Zella

These are the Zella Live-In Legging.  I think I may have to try these on the next time I am at Nordstrom just for a little variety.  The reviews do say that the material is thick so there are no revelations going on, but some complain that they are long (although I expect that on me).

Live-In Spectrum Leggings

Sexy Black Leggings

I think these are kind of sexy black yoga pant leggings.  I don’t know if I would try them but they do put an interesting spin on the plain black pant.

Reflex Brand

So I cannot get the images of these pants to be bigger than microscopic, but check on the link to check these out.  A woman in my yoga class had the Burgundy Snowflake Space Dye the other day and they were adorable.  And they are only $25 on Amazon but they didn’t look it.  Because they were new for her, time will tell how well they wear but if you want to try the patterned trend or you are just looking for some inexpensive yoga pants these may be ones to try.

Whether you are planning to take a 3 hour yoga class like I did this past weekend (my body is still talking to me today), hitting a strength class, walking the dog, going to the grocery store or just sitting on the couch binge-watching TV, remember you can look cute and feel good.  No one feels good when they are self-conscious about lumpy bumpy pants.  So treat yourself to some stunning and fun yoga pants.  –June

 

 

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Black Bean Brownies (Gluten Free)

Yes, you read the title correctly. Black bean brownies. Please stay with me because they are actually quite good! In fact, as I’m writing this, they are in the oven baking, and the house smells like brownie heaven. I know, I know. It’s the beginning of the new year and we’re all watching our weight, but are we really not going to enjoy a little treat every now and then? With that said, I have always been a very healthy eater, and that will continue, but the fact remains that I love to bake. So, when my mom came across this “healthier” brownie recipe in our local paper, we had to give it a try. This recipe comes from Chef Sigy Rafalovitz, aka “Chef Sigy”, a chef at a private learning academy in the area. There, she prepares two meals and snacks to the students. She introduces them to healthy eating and there’s even an organic garden on the property, where the children of the academy take part in maintaining the garden and harvesting vegetables! This recipe is super easy and I feel it’s a healthier alternative when you just need to have something a little sweet and fudgy (and it’s gluten free!).
Black Bean Brownies
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Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or 1 15.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 eggs
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup carob chips or chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 pan; cover with parchment paper. Put all ingredients in food processor, and mix until smooth.
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Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle carob chips/chocolate chips on top.
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Bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not over bake. Store in a covered container.
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These are yummy when they are warm out of the oven with a little vanilla ice cream, or on their own. Enjoy and have a wonderful week.
~May
 
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Gatsby Tired

Gatsby Is a Poet and He Don’t Even Know It

Gatsby sat outside in the snow and got all contemplative this week.

Gatsby Contemplative

And he started thinking about being creative.  So he wrote you all a poem:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Tennis balls are cool

And so are you.

 

Gatsby Tired

And now Gatsby is spent (and obviously he needs some practice writing poetry).  Happy Friday.  Have a good weekend. –June

 

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Making Murderer

Making a Murderer

My husband and I jumped on the bandwagon and watched the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer over the weekend.  If you have not heard about it (and I would be surprised if you had not) it is a documentary broken into 10 episodes, that follows the trial of Steven Avery and his nephew for the murder of Teresa Halbach.  We got completely sucked into the story to the point that on a subzero day our thermostat thought we had left the house and put itself into auto-away mode, which meant it got cold in the house.

Making Murderer

I am going to try not to give away any spoilers in case you have not watched it yet, but I do have a few observations.  First, it may just be my personality but I am a skeptical viewer.  The filmmakers have a bias because there is a story they want to tell.  Therefore, the things they choose to present in the film are edited to keep the storyline moving and to tell they story they wanted to tell.  I think there was a lot left out of the series (and Google confirms my theory) which may have swayed the sympathies of the viewer differently.

Second, it is apparent in the series and I think true in real life that if a defendant has money they get a different defense then a defendant that does not.  I believe that attorneys that take on cases with their fees being paid by the State are doing noble work.  I certainly could not do it.  However, I also am intimately familiar with law firm economics.  The only thing commodity that lawyers have to sell is their time and expertise.  And that time and expertise does not come free.  Law firms have to pay the salaries of support staff, technology, utilities and in a case such as this expert witness.  And if a lawyer is being compensated by the State, the billing rate the State is willing to pay is usually much less than that lawyer’s usual rate. In the series, this is shown by the difference in representation Steven Avery was able to obtain and the representation that his nephew, especially his first lawyer, was able to obtain.

Third, if someone is accused of a crime, even though there is supposed to be a presumption of innocence, most people assume that they are guilty.  Before the murder of Teresa Halbach, Steven Avery spent 18 years in prison for a crime that was later proven by DNA evidence that he did not commit.  I think that incident marred his name and reputation going into the investigation and trial.  If you watch the whole thing through pay close attention to what the judge says after the trial is over.  Even the judge, who is supposed to be above this bias, carries this bias.  I think it is human nature because I know often I assume that if the police are investigating, you must have done something to bring attention to yourself.

Fourth, people who are poor tend to have more experience with the judicial system.  I have seen it when I go over to court (which fortunately is rarely) that people who have less means tend to have more experience with the intricacies of the judicial system.  I am not sure exactly why that is and it may just be because someone like me would not try to navigate the system by myself and would hire a lawyer.

Finally, on a lighter note, I never realized that people who lived in Manitowoc, Wisconsin had that thick Wisconsin/Minnesota accent.  I looked up Manitowoc on a map and it is north of Sheboygan, Wisconsin but south of Green Bay, Wisconsin, along Lake Michigan.  For some reason, their accents really struck me.

Let me know if you have watched Making a Murderer and what you thought. –June

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The North Face

Fashionable Winter Boots

Winter has hit Chicago with a fury.  We were fortunate that December was unusually mild, but once the holidays were over the cold came causing me to pull out all of my winter gear.  And this morning I have woken up to temperatures of -6 degrees with windchills too cold to even mention.  I hate being cold so it is important for me to find outerwear that does its job, but most of the winter gear is you start feeling like a stuffed turkey, all puffy and unable to move.  One thing that is hard to find that is functional yet fashionable are winter boots.

I have at least two pairs of boots that are workhorses that can be worn when we have a ton of snow, it is particularly sloppy and cold.  I have a pair of Bogs that I like but they weigh what feels like 10 pounds.  They do a great job of keeping my feet warm and dry and I can tuck my pants in so I don’t get that nasty salt splatter and I also get a great leg workout while I walk in them.  However, they are ugly and as soon as I get inside they need to come off which means that I have to carry another pair of shoes with me to change into.

Fortunately we do not have that kind of weather every winter day in Chicago, so I went on a search for winter boots that would keep my feet warm and look fashionable enough that I could wear inside with an outfit.  I scoured Zappos so that you don’t have to and I found a few choices.  I avoided looking at all of the workhorse boots like Sorels and I did not pick an Uggs (let’s face it they are a little ugly and they are worthless if it is wet out) I ordered one of these and kept them because they are super cute and comfortable.  Here are some of the choices I considered.

Cole Haan Oak Waterproof Shearling BootieCole Haan Boots

I thought these were a little cute.  Fairly nondescript black booties with a small heel and they are lined with shearling so they’ll keep your tootsies warm and they are waterproof.

Cole Haan Callie Slip On Shearling Waterproof

Slip On

Sometimes, especially when I go to yoga, I just like to be able to slip on a pair of winter boots.  We spend a lot of time in the winter getting dressed so it is nice when a pair of boots is easy.  I thought these could be cute for just a pair of shoes to slip on.

La Canadienne Passion

Tall Boots

These boots are expensive, but I had a pair of booties from this company a few years ago that I wore to death.  The boots were warm and waterproof.  So if you are looking for a tall pair of boots that fit that bill and look good, this looks like a good pair to check out.

The North Face Bridgeton Wedge Bootie

 

The North Face

This is the pair I ordered and kept.  I can say that they are pretty comfortable.  The leather is nice and soft.  They have a wedge heel so I get some height but still feel stable if I walk on some ice.  So far they have kept my feet warm and I like that the color is something different than the usual black.

So I hope I have given you some ideas about fashionable boots that you can wear during the winter.  Because winter is too long to have to wear ugly boots every day.  –June

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Night Circus

January Book Club

It’s time for our monthly book selections.  Once again we have three reads this month, namely,  Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

 

Great Kitchens of the Midwest

From Amazon:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer’s most hotly-anticipated debut and already a New York Times bestseller.
 
When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
 
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life–its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.

May’s Review: This novel centered around the life of a quirky girl named Eva Thorvald. It begins with her birth, and we are taken on a journey of her life into adulthood. I’ve written before that I love novels that are centered around food and its preparation, and this was one of those reads.  This book read a little differently in that each chapter felt like a short story, always centered around a time period in Eva’s life. Although I liked some chapters more than others, overall I really enjoyed this book.

June’s Review:  This book reminded me of several short stories all tied together by the character of Eva.  The writing in this book is lovely and the descriptions of the food make your mouth water.  I love books where food is almost a character unto itself.  Food plays such an important role in our life as nourishment, entertainment and community and the story in the book shows all of that.  This was one of my favorite reads lately.

 

Little Paris Bookshop

From Amazon:

Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?
 
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

May’s Review: I first came across this book last fall, at the little book shop in the State Street Macy’s. For me, the book held a lot of promise and I had such high hopes.  I loved the premise of the story-a bookseller recommending books based on his customers ailments. Honestly, I got about halfway through and was ready to give up. I literally skimmed the rest of the book to the end, relieved when it was finished. I wanted to like it, but found it lacked any kind of depth, I couldn’t connect with the characters, and I found the story extremely boring.  Sorry, I can’t recommend this one.

June’s Review:  I wanted to love this book because the description spoke to my heart.  Who wouldn’t want the ability to prescribe books to people to ail what fixes them?  However, this book disappointed me.  I never really got invested in any of the characters.  I felt like they were kept at an arm’s distance.  I believe the book was translated from German and that may be part of the issue.  The writing style was somewhat cold.  The whole time I read the book I kept thinking I wish I could take the premise of this book and write the story differently.  Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book.

 

Night Circus

 

From Amazon:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

May’s Review: What can I say, other than I loved this book. I found myself getting lost in the magic of Le Cirque des Reves, The Night Circus. I loved that it was set during the Victorian era, and it was so easy to get pulled into the duel/love story between Celia and Marco. I loved the depth of the characters, and Erin Morgenstern’s beautiful descriptions made it easy for me to visualize the details of the mysterious tents and circus performers. This was a beautifully written novel and I definitely recommend it.

June’s Review:  I remember this book was on the best sellers list for a long time and I did not pick it up.  The description of the book with a magician duel and a magic circus did not seem like a story I would enjoy.  I typically do not gravitate towards fantasy novels.  However, this book does not fall in that genre and I found that I really loved it.  The book is extremely well written and the magical circus is completely believable.  The duel turns out not to be a duel how one might imagine it and ends up enhancing so much of the circus.  The love story between Celia and Marco is like many love stories where two people, due to circumstances, have no business being together.  The ending of their story is both sad and lovely.  I highly recommend this book.

Enjoy reading this weekend.  If you have read these and have some thoughts or if you have some book recommendations for us we would love to hear them.  And if you live anywhere in the Midwest stay warm this weekend.  We have heard the temperatures are going to be downright frigid.  –May and June

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Younger

Thoughts on the TV Show Younger

I “discovered” the TV show, Younger over the holidays.  The first season was on demand and the second season actually starts today.  The show is broadcast on TV Land.  Have you seen it? I fell in love with it.  In the TV show, Younger, the main character, Liza, is a 40 year old woman who is going through a divorce.  Because of that she needs to re-enter the workforce she left years ago, to stay home with her daughter.  Her prior profession was in publishing so she decides that is where she wants to go back to, but no one will hire her because of the gap in her experience, and her age.  So, Liza decides to pretend that she is 26 years old and is just starting out her profession.  She lands a job as an assistant to the head of marketing for a publishing house, as well as a very attractive 20-something year old boyfriend.

Younger

Younger is funny and sweet.  I love Liza’s clothes and I want to steal some of them (although she does not look 26.  I look young for my age and often get carded but know it it is not really because the clerk thinks I am too young to buy wine but because the store’s policy is to card anyone who looks under the age of 40).  Liza’s boss comes across as this hard hitting crazy tough business woman but she really is a bit insecure and has a good heart (and she wears the biggest jewelry I have ever seen, I don’t know how her earlobes don’t stretch and she doesn’t regularly have to see a chiropractor for a neck adjustment).  Liza’s boyfriend, Josh, is that sexy little bad boy that all girls think they want to date in their 20s, but he thinks a date is to sit around and play video games with his roommates, has mushrooms growing in his shower and thinks it is funny when someone forgets to flush the toilet.  And then there is George, the older editor that Liza really belongs with.  The show is also thought-provoking.  As someone well past my 20s, would I really go back to that time in my life if I could?

There were some great things about my 20s and my early 30s and in many ways, my life was simpler.  I was a few years behind my peers because of law school, so I think a lot of my single days were  in my very late 20s and early 30s, a few years past where Liza is pretending to be. At that time, I had no one to be responsible for other then myself.  I had an apartment and then later a condo that was all mine.  I regularly met up with friends after work to just hang out.  I lived in the city where there was always something to do and new friends to make.  I do miss those things.  Now it is so hard to get together with girlfriends because everyone has jobs, husbands and children.  It is hard to make new friends for the same reasons.  And let’s face it, most of us would probably love to have our faces and bodies that we had in our 20s.  Youthful skin, if we colored our hair it was just for fun and not to cover up those stubborn greys, and a body that was toned, firm and blemish free.

Despite that, I also remember being full of insecurity and lacking confidence.  I felt like an imposter at work.  I was sure someone was going to tell me that I did not belong there.  I also worked a lot because there was such an emphasis on getting ahead and being the best.  I wondered if I was ever going to meet the right person to share my life.  I had one relationship that I look back on and think “Thank goodness that didn’t work out” as I am sure do most people.  It was a lot of work to meet people, make small talk and if you did meet someone what did it mean, was he going to call, was it going to go anywhere?  And as an introvert, all of that going out and going to parties was  exhausting, and sometimes I really just wanted to stay home and not go out to yet another noisy bar.  I really was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life (not that I have all of that figured out still).

In the show,  Liza is a much more interesting person then her so-called peers because she has had experiences and she is confident.  I think that is what we need to appreciate about ourselves.  All of the life experiences that we have had up until this point makes us interesting people.  I have had a life up to now filled with some amazing successes and also some crushing failures.  I have had my heart broken, but have also fallen in love and built a life with someone.  I have suffered several terrible losses.  I am more confident today then I was in my 20s.  I have a degree of professional competence.  I do not feel the need to have everyone like me all of the time.  I know what styles flatter me and I wear clothes that have given me my own sense of style.  I have made some amazing friends.  I have a professional and personal network.  I am not as afraid to say no to things now if I do not think they are good for me.  I take care of my body through diet and exercise.  I like my “new” hair color.  I have gained wisdom and judgment that only comes with living life.  So, the next time I miss some of those simpler times, I am going to celebrate the person I am today.

Have you watched Younger?  And if you are watching it have you had any of these thoughts?  And if you are not watching it, check it out.  –June

 

 

 

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Natural Products for our Pets

I always love sharing great finds, especially when they benefit small businesses. I’d like to tell you about some wonderful items our doodle, Sawyer, received from Santa. Of course, if he could talk, Sawyer would probably tell you that these were his least favorite gifts, since they involve bathing. I however, love them because they are handmade with pure and natural ingredients.

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Lux Natures Company sells all natural soaps and skin care products for our four legged family members, as well as us humans. Some of the products include a great dog balm for the pads on the bottoms of your dog’s paws, and it’s also great for dry noses. Sawyer and I walk mostly everyday, and in all kinds of weather. Even though it’s been a relatively mild winter (except for today….Brrrrrr!), I’ve been using this regularly to keep his pads from becoming dry and cracked. We also received a bottle of Clean Pup Dry Dog Shampoo which is great between grooming, and a bar of oatmeal shampoo for dry skin. We used this over the weekend and it’s easy to use, mild, and smells wonderful. Sawyer’s fur is soft and shiny too.

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                                       Isn’t he just the cutest???

There is also a complete doggie grooming bathing kit that you can order.  I love that the products contain pure natural ingredients such as oatmeal, ac vinegar, almond oil, coconut oil, mango butter, and essential oils.

You can find these products at www.LuxNatures.etsy.com

~May

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January Happy Hour – Champagne Cocktails

So, on the day before New Year’s Eve, we had a regularly scheduled blog meeting that evolved into Happy Hour.  We decided that celebrating the upcoming new year required champagne and chambord cocktails.  These cocktails are pink, sparkly, and oh so good.

Champagne and Chambord Cocktail

Ingredients

1 oz of Chambord

Chilled Champagne

Fresh Blackberries or Raspberries

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Pour 1 oz of the Chambord in a champagne flute.  Top with champagne.  Drop in a blackberry or raspberry (or 2) for garnish.

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And because this was a spontaneous Happy Hour, we did not plan ahead for appetizers. Fortunately, June was prepared and had some appetizers in her freezer courtesy of Trader Joe’s. So, we popped these stuffed mushrooms in the oven, and had ourselves a little cocktail happy hour/business meeting.

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Here’s to 2016!  And we have decided that every business meeting this year should end with champagne.  –May and June

 

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New Year’s Intention

Happy 2016!  Where did the year go?  It seems like we were just ringing in 2015 and now here we are in another brand new year.  I personally hate New Year’s Eve.  I always get melancholy and sad to say goodbye to the year.  But this year I am going to embrace the clean slate of the pristine calendar.

I know May already shared on Monday about her New Year’s philosophy, but I thought I would put my two cents in.  The New Year seems like a big deal and there is something about it that causes people to want to make changes to their life.  Everyone wakes up on January 1 (or the 2nd or the 3rd) resolving to eat healthier, go to the gym regularly and make this year they lose 20 pounds.  However, most of these resolutions are a reaction to the overindulgences of the last 6 weeks.  Raise your hand if you drank too much wine and ate too much cheese and cookies (my hand is raised high).  And while getting back to my healthy eating habits and exercise routine is definitely on my schedule for January, it is not my resolution for the year.  Because let’s face it resolutions are broken almost as quickly as they are made.  This week my classes at the gym will be packed with newbies along with the regulars and by February most of those newbies will disappear from class and we will once again have room to breathe.

So instead of setting a list of resolutions for the year, I am going to set an intention.  Often a yoga class will begin with the teacher asking the students to set an intention for class.  Sometimes my intention is a single word such as “breathe,” or “calm,” or “trust,” or even “sweat.”  Sometimes my intention is a phrase such as “be present,” “I am strong,” or “stay on my island.”  I am going to have an intention for the whole year.

For Christmas,  my mom gave me this sign:

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She designed a life she loved. (thanks Lucky Junk)

I have decided that this is going to be my intention for the year 2016.  I like this because I don’t have to set a specific goal to meet by the end of the calendar year.  Instead I just have to strive to have a life that I love.  I am not entirely sure what that will look like, but I have some ideas.  I am blessed in so many ways and I want to continue to appreciate those but I know that I want to get rid of that sick pit I have in my stomach every Sunday morning knowing that the upcoming week is spending time at a job that is stressful and I do not particularly enjoy.  I know that I want to increase my time and skills being creative, including writing here and other places.  I know I want to continue working on having the family that we picture and to have strong personal and professional relationships.  This intention also allows me to pursue opportunities and adventures that I cannot anticipate now, but will make my life richer and happier.  We will see what shape the year takes, but if I can take actions during the upcoming year with this intention in mind, I know that by the time I say goodbye to 2016 my life will be all that much the better.

Happy New Year!!!  –June

 

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Thoughts on the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! The holidays have officially come to a close, and it’s the start of a fresh new year.  Have you ever thought about where New Year’s resolutions started? I did a little research and found that resolutions date back to pre-Christian times, and most of these resolutions focused on moral values and being kind to one another.

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Antique New Year’s Postcard

There is something about the New Year that always makes us want to start over. I’ve found that most resolutions today are focused on self-improvement, the external self that is. One day it’s Santa commercials, and the next we can’t turn on the T.V. without being bombarded with Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Nutri-System. (Ha! I just heard a Nutri-System commercial in the other room!) Today’s resolutions are all about losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, and did I mention losing weight? Don’t get me wrong, I think goals are great, they give our life purpose and direction. But, it’s how we get there that counts.IMG_3369

For me, it’s about keeping it simple. Every New Year’s Day, I wake up before the rest of my family, have a cup of tea and take a little time to reminisce about the past year – goals that were met and those that fell short. I take the experiences of the past year and apply them to the year ahead. I also try to keep my expectations real and work hard to stay true to myself. Resolutions are wonderful, but I feel that so many times they fall by the wayside because we’re not operating from our authentic selves, rather we’re clinging to the surface of how we think our lives should look. I’ve learned that when I take care of myself, my whole self, my goals are more attainable. This can be challenging during stressful times. My yoga and meditation practice are vital in keeping me grounded and, unfortunately, are the first to go when difficulties arise. I’m really going to work on that this year because if I’m not taking proper care of me, how can I deal with life in a healthy way when things become difficult?  My new year is more about a mantra,  and less a resolution, and that mantra changes with the ebb and flow of my life. I’m going to start this new year with the mantra of trust. There are some challenges that I know I need to face in the coming months, challenges that I can’t control, and I have to trust that it is all going to be ok. We’ll see how my mantra changes, as life changes in the coming months.

I’d also like to share another New Year’s ritual of mine. Every January 1st, I read a lovely little book called The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a wonderful and inspiring little guide to living your life to its fullest, and it always brings me to a place of peace and centeredness.IMG_3370

So, that’s it. As I write this it’s New Year’s morning. I’ve reflected and written down my goals for 2016, and as soon as Nicole wakes up, we are going to attempt to do 108 sun salutations, a yoga tradition to welcome in the new year.

The New Year stands before us like a fresh chapter in a book. How will yours read?

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016.

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~May

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