Archive | Holidays

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Celebrating the 4th of July

With the long 4th of July weekend ahead, we are looking forward to celebrating our country’s birthday by taking in a town parade, attending a festival or two, having a backyard BBQ with friends, and of course it wouldn’t be the 4th of July without fireworks. Today, we have put together a perfect treat that everyone will enjoy, as well as a table centerpiece to make your home a little more festive.

Let’s face it, one treat that everyone loves is a dessert with chocolate chips. Instead of a classic cookie, May decided to make chocolate chip cookie bars for an upcoming BBQ. They are easy to make, (no mixer required) travel well, can take the backyard heat, plus you can dress them up with a few fun and festive sides.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

•2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour ( I love King Arthur’s brand)

•1 teaspoon baking soda

•1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tsp cinnamon

•1/2 teaspoon salt

•3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

•1 cup packed light brown sugar

•1/4 cup granulated sugar

•1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

•1 cup  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Optional toppings: M&M’s, whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides to easily lift the bars out of the pan when cool. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.

3 .In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Mix in the egg, then the egg yolk. Finally, mix in the vanilla extract. The mixture will be thick. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until combined. The dough will be very soft and thick. Fold in the chocolate chips. The chips may not stick to the dough because of the melted butter, but do your best to combine them.

4. Transfer dough to the prepared baking pan and smooth into an even layer. I usually add a few more chocolate chips on top of the dough before baking  so you can see the chocolate chips on top. Bake for 32-35 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. Use a toothpick to test for doneness; if it comes out clean from the center of the pan, the bars are done.

5. Allow the bars to cool in the pan set on a wire rack for at least an hour. Once they are cool, lift the foil out of the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

These cookie bars are delicious on their own, or if you want to get into the spirit of the holiday, you can add a little vanilla ice cream with red, white, and blue M&M’s sprinkled on top, or a little whipped cream with strawberries and blueberries.

And for our table centerpiece we went super patriotic.  This is the time of year to pull out all of the red, white and blue.  Once again we kept the centerpiece super easy so you can put it together quickly, especially if you are hosting a party and have lots of other things to do.

We took a five bud vase holder and added tiny 4th of July pinwheels.  June has loved pinwheels since she was a very little girl and this love has not waned.  So when she saw these pinwheels they brought a smile to her face.  The bud vase holder and the pinwheels were all found at Joann Fabrics.  Joann Fabrics is a great place to find supplies and accessories to make centerpieces and mantle displays.  They have cute seasonal items at reasonable prices and they always have coupons and sales.

We then added some sparkly dohookies (no idea what they are called) in red, white and blue.

A small chalkboard sign with a patriotic saying.  For this chalkboard we just did USA, but other fun sayings could be “the rockets red glare,” “boom,” or “sweet land of liberty.”

And then we put it all on a very patriotic table runner.

It is always fun to put together a festive table centerpiece for a holiday.  If you are hosting outside, this centerpiece would be particularly fun because the wind would twirl the pinwheels.

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!  May you enjoy the sweet summer weather, family and friends, barbecue and fireworks.  Most importantly remember to appreciate all that we are privileged to experience as Americans. –May and June

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know – All About May

This Sunday is May’s birthday.  So first everyone wish her a Happy Birthday!  Second, in our birthday months we always like to do something a little special.  So we thought it would be fun to interview each other.  I, June, interviewed May to find out everything you ever wanted to know about her.  Well, maybe not really but there are some interesting tidbits here.

The following is not an accurate and completely editorialized interview of my interview with May.  June’s comments are in pink italics.

So give me your stats – I am married to Bob.  I have two sons and two daughters and a labradoodle named Sawyer.  I am in the process of moving permanently to Charleston, South Carolina but right now have a home there and in the northwest suburbs of Chicago (If anyone is looking for a new home, May’s house is gorgeous and you should look at it).  I am a yoga teacher currently on sabbatical, an interior designer that is currently working on my new home, a blogger who is hoping to take over the blogosphere, a corporate and regular wife and a mom.

When and why did you become a yoga teacher?  I became a yoga teacher in 1998. I was going through a difficult time in my life (divorce) and a friend suggested that I try yoga.  After my first class I was hooked and a year later decided that I wanted to teach.  I completed a two year program that studied both the philosophy and the teaching of yoga. I know May had to do a residency for her yoga program and it was an all vegetarian diet at the yoga center which meant lots and lots of beans.  At the airport waiting for her flight home, May ate the best burger and drank the best beer she ever had in her whole life. 

What is your favorite yoga pose?  Child’s pose is my favorite because you can do it anywhere and anytime.  It releases tension in the body.  I also like headstand because it allows me to the look at the world from a different perspective. It really depends on my mood.

 

Everyone has a favorite holiday but what is your second favorite holiday?  Christmas is my second favorite holiday because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

What is your favorite season?  My favorite season is summer although I also really really like Fall (unlike June who hates Fall).

What do you look forward to in the summer?  I look forward to being in my garden and playing in the dirt and just being outside in general. This summer is a little different because I am selling a house, packing it up and moving to Charleston, South Carolina. (June now has her fingers in her ears singing La La La because she doesn’t want to hear about May moving.)

What is one thing that you are good at that no one else in your family is good at?  Organizing. (I’ve been subject to her organizing when she helped me clean my closet.  She is good but mean, very mean.)

What is one of your pet peeves?  When people don’t clean up after themselves. (Are you guys noticing a theme?  Just so everyone knows, May’s nickname is Monica after the Friends character who needs to clean and cleans even after other people have cleaned because it’s not clean enough.)

What is one thing that you are not good at that you wish you could do better?  Math.  I was terrible at geometry.  I had to have tutoring sessions with the teacher and took it pass/fail.  The teacher agreed to pass me if I promised never to have a career that involved anything with math. (I hear you Sister.)

What do you do for fun?  Biking ( Bob and I biked over 500 miles last summer), trying new restaurants (especially in my new city), reading and cooking.

What are some of your favorite childhood books?  Boxcar children, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and of course Little Women.

What are some favorite books as an adult?  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  A writer goes to Scotland to do research for her book and she begins to experience some of the parts of her research.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and the Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  Honestly, there are so many favorites!!

What are some of your favorite TV shows?  Outlander, The Crown, any Masterpiece series show, The Walking Dead and Younger (I agree with a lot of those but The Walking Dead.  Scary.)

What are some of your favorite movies?  Gone With The Wind (she and her mom often say to each other, “We’ll worry about it tomorrow, Scarlett”), Star Wars, Jaws, ET, any movie with Audrey Hepburn.  I also like foreign films.

What is one weird or unusual thing about you?  I have always enjoyed listening to classical music when I cook or bake.  I used to have a little radio in my kitchen and I would turn on the classical station while I was cooking.  The classical music relaxes and inspires me in the kitchen.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  I would like to know the future.  As a structured and organized person if I knew the future I could prepare for it. (Umm, May do you remember that we are all about living in the present moment? )  I also would like to be able to fly.

Thank you May for allowing me to interview you and ask you some crazy questions.  I wish you the happiest of birthdays and so many blessings in the upcoming year.  I am so going to miss you when you move away from me.  I have already missed you this winter.  It’s good thing we don’t get charged by the text because we would literally go broke.  I love you my dear friend. –June

Today you are you that is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.  -Dr. Seuss

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Celebrating Mother’s Day

Have you thought about how you are going to celebrate your mom this year? For a few weeks, we have noticed the sweet Mother’s Day commercials showering mothers everywhere with flowers, candy, and of course a Hallmark card. Last year, May and June posted a special tribute to their moms, and today we thought we would offer a few out of the box suggestions for celebrating those women who mean so much to us.

                           

 

Along with your mom’s favorite flowers, how about writing and sending a handwritten note on beautiful stationery? There is something so special and personal about a letter written from the heart that you find in your mailbox. We love the beautiful stationery at Papyrus. In addition, they offer beautiful cards and planners as well as gifts for any special occasion. 

Have you thought about planning a Mother’s Day outing? Sure, there is always going out for the traditional brunch, but sometimes it’s fun to make it a little more personal. Why not pack a special picnic with your mom’s favorite foods and enjoy the day at the beach, a beautiful garden, or a park?  You can also host a little dinner party at your home, especially if you live somewhere where spring weather in May is not always a given.

We also understand that sometimes, a celebration isn’t possible because a mom is no longer with us, and yet we still want to honor her. Getting together with siblings to reminisce and celebrate someone you all called “mom” is a wonderful way to keep her close to your heart.

Of course if you want to give your mom a gift, there is nothing like a book. May and June love, love, love books and think a great coffee table book about Paris, or your mom’s favorite city, or something inspirational that she can regularly go back to is a perfect gift. Don’t forget to write something personal inside the cover and date it.

Is your mom into yoga? We both firmly believe that everyone should be enjoying the benefits of this beautiful practice. A new yoga mat is a wonderful way to say I love you, and you can find them in beautiful colors, patterns, and thicknesses.

How will you celebrate your mom?

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” —Robert Browning

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Happy Easter! – Treats and Tablescapes

Are you hosting Easter this year? Perhaps you’re having a brunch or a dinner? It’s hard to believe spring is here and we’re about to celebrate Easter this weekend, but we are not complaining. We are loving the longer days along with the daffodils and colorful tulips popping out of the ground. Today we have an easy holiday treat and centerpiece to celebrate Easter.

May is not hosting Easter this year, but wanted to bring a festive treat for the dessert table. She preferred to keep it quick and simple and while looking at some favorite recipes, decided to put a twist on another holiday treat, peppermint bark. To make the Easter version of this classic sweet, just follow the directions for melting the chocolate, but instead of using crushed candy canes, you can add roughly chopped Cadbury Mini Eggs. Another option is to use M&M’s in their spring colors, and you don’t need to chop them up.

I left a few eggs whole and stuck them in the chocolate here and there before putting the pan in the fridge for the chocolate to harden.

You can put these on a plate, or if you have kiddos you can place them in a clear bag with a festive ribbon and put them in their Easter baskets.

June decorated her table for Easter.  You know she likes to keep it simple and inexpensive.

She used fresh tulips from the grocery store.  Always a fresh spring flower.  The bunny she got from Pier One (this one is similar).  She then took pink bunny Peeps candy and used them as a vase filler.  A bit controversial but that is the only thing she thinks those Peeps are good for.  There is a candle in that vase.  Because she has not lit it yet, she is not sure whether or not the Peeps will turn into a gooey mess.  The tray which makes a good corral for a multitude of centerpieces is from Target.

After Easter, you can simply replace the Easter theme with a spring gardening theme.  June just switched things out and added the gnome and the kid’s gardening tools from the dollar section at Target.

Happy Easter!

~May and June

“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” Janine de Giovanni

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Celebrating A Little Luck of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today everyone is Irish, whether by birth or by choice.  Both of us do have Irish in our heritage so we thought it would be fun to list all things Irish to help you celebrate.

The Shamrock. To impart an irishness on anything, shamrock is added to it. We have the McDonald’s shamrock shake. Foot races called the shamrock shuffle or the shamrock beer run.  The shamrock is the symbol of St. Patrick’s Day because of the patron saint of the day.  Shamrocks, a clover type of grass, grow plentiful in Ireland and were considered sacred by the Druids in ancient times.  St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain to the Druids of the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). His use of the shamrock plant, convinced the Druid priests to allow St. Patrick to contine his missionary work in Ireland and convert many to Christianity.

The Leprechaun. The leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as bearded little men who partake in mischief.  They spend their time making and mending shoes and have a pot of gold hidden at the end of a rainbow. If they are captured by a human, they will grant three wishes.

Irish Soda Bread.  One of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day treats.  We shared a great recipe for making your own here.

The University of Notre Dame. June’s alma mater, The University of Notre Dame loves all things Irish.  They are called the Fighting Irish and have a leprechaun as a mascot. While the official school colors are blue and gold, a lot of officially licensed merchandise comes in green and has shamrocks on it.

Lucky Charms.  The cereal is magically delicious. Yes it is super sweet.  And yes you can only eat two bites before your teeth hurt.  The marshmallows are so cute and make your cereal bowl look festive, and the marshmallows are the best part to eat.

Irish Coffee.  If you want to start celebrating early on St. Patrick’s Day, start with a cup of Irish Coffee.  A mix of coffee and Bailey’s Irish Creme with some whip cream, it is so delicious.  We made some last year for a little happy hour.

Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Corned beef and cabbage is the quintessential St. Patrick’s Day food.  You can make your own at home or go out to any number of restaurants tonight to enjoy the holiday meal.  For those of us who are Catholic and currently abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, the Cardinal in Chicago has granted us dispensation to eat corned beef today.  So enjoy without guilt!

There are so many ways to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.  Hope you find a way to celebrate. –May and June

May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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DIY Valentine’s Day

February is here, and not only is it the shortest month of the year, but it is also the month we celebrate all things LOVE!  It is the season of cards, chocolate in heart shaped boxes, giant teddy bears, roses, champagne, diamonds, and romantic dinners for two. Although we both enjoy celebrating this special day of cupid, we tend to keep the evening with our significant others a little more low key. May loves to bake, and June loves to craft, and together, we are embracing a Valentine’s Day that not only comes from our hearts, but also our hands!

May took a simple peanut butter cookie recipe that she uses at Christmas, and swapped out the chocolate Hershey’s Kiss (which you can still use since it is a “kiss”, after all) for a Dove chocolate heart. She found a large bag of Dove mixed chocolate hearts at Target. You can make the dough a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it until you are ready to bake. Put them in a pretty tin with red tissue, and you have a sweet, festive treat that your valentine will love.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Hearts

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Sugar (to coat)

Dove chocolate hearts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and peanut butter with electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup sugar and brown sugar, beaut until fluffy.

Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating well. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour for easier handling.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in additional sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate heart atop each cookie. With a spatula, lift cookies onto cooking rack and allow to cool until chocolate hearts are firm.  Makes about 60 cookies.

June created a simple Valentine’s Day table centerpiece.  You probably have a lot of the items at home to create this centerpiece, but if not they can easily be found at Target.

All you need are the following:

Clear candle holders

Pillar candles

Candy conversation hearts (2 bags)

A green plant

A table runner or placemat in Valentine’s Day colors (you could even reuse a red one you have from Christmas)

I simply put the pillar candles in the holders and poured the conversation hearts around the gap between the candle and the holder.

I treated myself to the maidenhair fern.  I was craving some more green in the house and as long as I keep it alive, it can continue to be decorative.

To give my centerpiece a bit of height, I put the fern on a small cake stand I had in the house.  I also added the paper arrow straws that I found in the dollar section at Target.

The centerpiece probably took me fifteen minutes to pull together.  And it gives my dining room table a nice pink cheer on these often grey days.

Have a good weekend. –May and June

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. Charles M. Schulz

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Classic Christmas Books

Christmas is just a day away,  and if you’re looking for a fun last minute gift, how about a classic Christmas story?  There are so many wonderful books that bring back such feelings of nostalgia for Christmases gone by, and among our favorites are How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a perennial favorite for both the book and the television special.  As with all Dr. Seuss books, the rhymes make it a fun read aloud book.  The Grinch is so evil and conniving in the beginning.  Making his little dog wear that big antler and haul the sled, stealing all of the Who’s presents and food.  But whose eyes don’t get a little misty when the Grinch’s small heart grows three sizes the day he discovers the true meaning of Christmas? This was a favorite of ours as children, and May enjoyed reading this one to her boys during the holidays.

Polar Express  This is a sweet and magical story about a little boy who takes a journey to the North Pole on a train called The Polar Express. He, along with other children all in their pajamas, visit Santa and his elves as Santa prepares to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.  The book has wonderful illustrations and will appeal to readers both young and old. “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Little Women is a book that all little girls should read and this is a beautiful edition.  The book tells the story of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, whose father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War.  The sisters have many sacrifices to make because of the war but find ways to entertain themselves through performing plays written by Jo, celebrating Christmas, doing charitable works and getting to know their neighbor Laurie.  The book is a true tearjerker.

This book holds a special place in our hearts.  In fact, June was named after the character Beth. May still keeps her original book she received as a young girl on her shelf.

We hope you have a joyous and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  We will see you in 2017! ~May and June

Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see. The Polar Express

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Christmas Table Centerpieces

Are you hosting the holidays this year? One way to make your Christmas dinner parties a little more festive, is to decorate your dining table with a centerpiece.  Your table is an easy surface to dress up with holiday cheer and it gives your guests something pretty to look at.  If you do not have a centerpiece yet (and Christmas Eve is only 4 days away), you can easily make one with items you probably already have at home.

I always change up my centerpiece from year to year.  I wouldn’t want my guests to get bored looking at the same thing every Christmas.  Because I like to change it up, I do not spend much money on a centerpiece and usually make one myself.  Also, because my dining room table is fairly small and when we have more than 6 for dinner we have to add a leaf, the centerpiece needs to be uncomplicated and moveable.  I also like to put a small centerpiece on my counter height table in the kitchen.  But, once again it needs to be moveable since the table often gets converted to a work space.

This year, I made two centerpieces with items I had around the house and in my boxes of Christmas decorations.  After the holidays, they can be quickly disassembled and used for another purpose next year.

For my dining room, I used a long wood bowl I had bought from Target last fall.  To the bowl I added glittered and frosted pinecones which I found at Joann’s.  Finally, I added some bottlebrush forest animal ornaments and bottlebrush trees to create a wintry magical forest scene.

For my kitchen, I used an old tarnished silver shrimp platter that I received as an “antique” from some family member.  On the larger part of the platter I placed a wreath that has paper feathers with a little bit of glitter.  Because there was a gap between the inner part of the wreath and the platter I placed some of those frosted pinecones in the center ring.  I then added a candle votive in the smaller attached bowl above the platter.

Together these centerpieces probably took me half an hour to make.  Plus, I spent no money because I had all of the supplies in my house.   After they were put together I thought they were a little weird and funky, but I like weird and funky.  What makes them unique is they are one of a kind and only temporary, so if I decide they are a little too strange, we never have to see them again.  So, if you are looking for a centerpiece, search around your house.  In the past I have used containers filled with ornaments, battery operated fairy lights, old christmas cards, my collection of miniature Christmas trees, candy canes, fresh greenery, lots of candles and various table runners.   Have fun! If you need inspiration you can check out Pinterest but don’t get too caught up in perfection.   It’s a wonderful opportunity to be creative and any imperfections make it unique and special.

I hope all of your Christmas preparations are almost done and that you get to relax and enjoy your decorations and the spirit of the holidays. And, if you are looking for more things to decorate, you can always decorate your dog.  -June

Christmas is too sparkly.  Said no one ever.

 

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Peppermint Bark

A Sweet Holiday Gift – Peppermint Bark

Since this is the time of year for gift giving, we thought it would be fun to give the gift of a sweet holiday treat. Homemade peppermint bark! May does a lot of baking during the holidays and has always given tins of homemade cookies as gifts to family and friends. However, if you’re not a baker, or don’t have the time to bake, we have a great DIY that is fun, festive, doesn’t take a lot of time, and most importantly-it’s delicious!  You can make this with your kids or with a friend. May and June spent a few hours in May’s kitchen last week making these great little gifts.

INGREDIENTS -PEPPERMINT BARK

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line a 9×12 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate (use the method you prefer, either double boiler, or microwave – cook 30 seconds in a heat-proof bowl, stir and repeat until you have a smooth consistency.
  3. Pour the melted dark chocolate on the parchment paper, spread the chocolate out until it is about 1/3″ thick. You can do this by hitting the pan on the countertop repeatedly, or maybe you could use a spatula to spread the chocolate.

4. Melt the white chocolate, using the steps above. After the chocolate is smooth, pour it on top of the dark chocolate – trying to make the layers the same thickness. (it’s best to do this step while the white chocolate is still very soft — I’ve had them separate when I broke them into pieces, I think the layers “stick” together better if the white chocolate has not hardened).

5. Unwrap the starlite mints, or peppermints of your choice and put them into a heavy duty ziplock bag. Using a hammer or meat tenderizer – crush the mints then, while the white chocolate is still melted sprinkle on top.

6. Let the chocolates harden in the refrigerator for 2 hours, then break the candy into pieces. This needs to be stored in the refrgerator if you live in a warm/humid climate.

Since the peppermint bark is so pretty and festive, we thought some simple clear packaging would look best. You can wrap the peppermint bark in cellophane and finish it off with a cute bow, or place it in a mason jar and decorate the lid. We also tied on some cute ornaments which can be hung on the gift recipient’s tree.

We hope you have a great weekend and if you’re in the Midwest, stay warm. ~ May and June

“Baking and love go hand in hand, for as one bakes a tasty treat and fills the room with its sweet aroma, the true joy is to take what has been made and share it with another.” 
― Heather Wolf

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Getting Everything Done

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” -Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

It is that time of year again.  The time where you feel like you can barely catch your breath as you hurry from one thing to another.  As of today, there is only about 10 days until the Christmas weekend.  I don’t know about you, but I am starting to get worried about getting everything done in time.

I have a million Christmas chores that still need to be finished.  I have a little bit of shopping, cookie baking, some decorating, meals to plan and cook, and gift wrapping.  And that does not include social events to attend and year-end work deadlines that are rapidly approaching.

While part of getting everything done is just sheer fortitude, I do have a few tips that I use to finish it all, without losing my mind in the meantime.

Make Lists.  I am a big believer in the power of a list.  Once you put it on the list you can save your brain energy for more important things other than remembering to buy Scotch tape the next time you go to Target.  I keep several different lists this time of year.  Also, my lists are always written on paper and not on my phone.  The physical act of writing it down helps me remember my shorthand notes and also helps me remember that I have a list.

I often will make a list of things I need to do like the one above, listing holiday baking, gift wrapping and decorating.  I always make a Christmas shopping list.  My Christmas shopping list is organized by the person I have to buy a gift for.  I simply write the person’s name down along with my gift idea for them.  If I know which online site I want to use or brick-and-mortar store I want to visit for that particular gift I write that down as well.   After the gift is purchased, I cross the person off of my list.  I can then easily figure out what gifts I have left to purchase.

Plan Meals.  Planning weekday meals is important this time of year, so you have something that you can throw together, especially if you get home late.  It also keeps you feeling good to tackle all of your to-do items and prevents some of the dreaded regret come January 1.

In addition to planning regular meals, there is the planning of the holiday meals that you are hosting or the item you need to bring to a party.  Because time is precious right now, you do not want to go to the grocery store multiple times and the list of unusual ingredients makes it very easy to forget one critical item for a recipe.  To stay organized, I write down my whole menu for a holiday meal that I am hosting, including the main course, sides, drinks, dessert and even any extra items such as festive napkins or plates.  I then get out my recipes for each of the dishes and read them carefully, writing down on my grocery list any items I need to buy.  If I am not sure whether I have an item, I write it on my grocery list with a little star next to it and check the pantry or refrigerator for those items before I go to the store.  If I have the item already I simply cross it off the list.

The day before the hosted meal, I once again look at my overall meal plan and figure out if there are any items I can make ahead of time.  For Christmas Eve, our meal is our family’s tradition of steaks on the grill with a few new additions.  So I almost always make Olive Cheese Bread by The Pioneer Woman (this is delicious but has probably a million calories so we only eat it maybe this one time of year).  The cheese topping for the Olive Cheese Bread can be made the day ahead and put in the refrigerator, so I will do that and then just place it on the counter a couple of hours before I want to spread it on the bread.

The day before,  you may want to put the leaf in the table and make sure someone is bringing extra chairs.  As a funny side, we host a lot of family parties but own no folding chairs so someone always has to bring some.  I guess we need to invest in some of those.  Some people like to set the table the day before.  I tend not to do that because it gives me the heebie jeebies of unclean dishes by the day of the party, but I do try to set it before my guests arrive.

Group Errands Together.  Let’s face it, traffic around stores is terrible this time of year.  If you can, try and do errands to several different stores in the same area at the same time.  When I do errands, I like to go out once and get them all done before I go home.  Sometimes, this is impossible to do especially if you are trying to do errands after work.  However, if you can group together as many as possible, you will save yourself the aggravation from having to be in the same traffic more than once.

Also, if you can do errands early in the morning or later at night and during the week the crowds will be smaller.  I try to go grocery shopping early on Friday mornings.  The lines are short (including at the deli where there is always a wait), there are less people running into you with their grocery carts, and you can breathe a little easier.

Make it Fun.  These Christmas chores are supposed to be fun.  This is a one-time-of-year thing and I look forward to a lot of it.  So figure out how to make it fun.  When I wrap gifts, I put them all in one place and get out all of the supplies (paper, tape, tags, scissors and ribbon).  I then put on a Christmas movie, like Elf or Fred Claus, and get wrapping.  Watching the movie makes the chore a little easier.

For Christmas baking, my mom comes over and we bake cookies together in my tiniest of kitchens.  We listen to Christmas music and as the day wanes, enjoy a glass of wine.  Even if we only have a couple of hours for baking, we have fun doing it.  And she helps me do my dishes so double win for me!

Take Time For Yourself.  It is so easy when your to-do-list gets long, to not put yourself on that list.  This is not the time to forget about your well being.  Make time to go to the gym.  Definitely do yoga.  Take a walk and look at Christmas lights.  Go to church.  Just sit and be in front of a crackling fire in your fireplace with the Christmas tree casting the only light in your living room.  Sip that glass of wine while you watch the snow fall.  And most importantly, be with the people that matter the most to you.  That is the joy and spirit of Christmas.

Good luck with your to-do-list!  And remember Christmas will be here even if some things are undone.  –June

Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

Lights please.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo the angel of the Lord came down upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. -Linus “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

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Holiday Baking

During the holiday season, you can almost always find me spending my free time in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies. As a child, I loved helping my mom and grandma bake cookies, and for several days, I was dusted in flour. I continued the tradition with my children as well, and smile at the memory of my flour coated boys standing on their step stool decorating snowmen and reindeer. It must be genetic. The warm aroma of cinnamon, molasses, butter, and sugar fills the house which is such a treat on cold winter evenings.  Although I occasionally toss in a new recipe here and there, my family has their favorites and for the most part, we stick to our familiar cookie playbook.

This year, however, I decided to add a new recipe to our repertoire. I love to watch cooking shows and recently, Giada De Laurentiis baked a pan of almond biscotti. Biscotti are an Italian almond biscuit which are twice baked, oblong, and with their crunchy texture, they are ideal for dunking into your favorite hot beverage. They are not overly sweet which makes them a perfect holiday treat if you’re having guests for tea, or just want a little afternoon pick me up. They are also a great cookie for gift giving. I have always loved them, but they are a little drier than most cookies, which can take a little getting used to.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds

18 ounces white or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat sugar and eggs with an electric mixture until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in flour and beat until just blended. The dough will be sticky. Stir in almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

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Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space dough evenly apart and form into 2 ( 9 by 3 inch) logs.

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Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise into 3/4 inch thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, 20- 25 minutes.

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Let cool completely. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in airtight container.

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These are such a pretty addition to your holiday cookie tray. Enjoy!

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~May

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.” Elf

 

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Our Favorite Target Stocking Stuffers

Does Santa fill stockings at your house?  At our homes, stockings are always a fun little treat after opening presents under the Christmas tree.  And since all good things come in small packages, you never know what fun surprise you may find.

Recently, we took a trip to Target to search for great stocking stuffers. When you are the Christmas shopper in the family,  you know that by the time you get to the stocking stuffers, you are exhausted and just want to to be done with the whole Christmas shopping experience, instead of being creative.  So, hopefully some of these items we picked out will be helpful to you too.

img_4881Let’s face it, every stocking needs a little candy. We also found  a cute winter hat, flannel pajama pants, a festive Star Wars t-shirt, a small book and a classic movie. These are all fun little items perfect for a child.

img_4884If you are shopping for a girl or woman, cosmetics like nail polish or tinted lip balm are always a good option.  How about a sparkly wristlet, necklace or a new phone case?  Hand sanitizer of course is a practical choice, especially during our current cold and flu season.  We also loved these cute little printed socks (in fact both May and June bought those pink sheep socks for themselves).

img_4880The dollar section at Target has a great selection of stocking stuffers that won’t break your budget.

img_4887img_4889Small toys for kids such as Hot Wheel cars or Star Wars figures fill out a stocking nicely.

img_4888And for those of you who remember playing Oregon trail on your school’s lone computer with terrible graphics such as little “v’s” for bullets, you can now buy a card game version of Oregon Trail for the whole family to play.

We hope you are finished, or nearing the end of your Christmas list.  Have a good weekend. –May and June

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there. -Clement Clarke Moore

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Holiday Sidewalks

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks Dressed in Holiday Style……

Now that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are behind us and the holiday season is in full swing, we encourage all of you to check out your local community and see what’s happening during this festive month.  Almost every town these days dresses up their trees, parks, and storefronts in celebration of the holidays. It’s a great opportunity to get together with family, friends, and neighbors to do a little Christmas shopping, enjoy the lights, and perhaps even sit on Santa’s lap. And while we all enjoy the festive Christmas light displays of the big city, sometimes in the hustle and bustle of December, it is difficult to take a whole day to visit.

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Beautifully lit streets.

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A festive storefront

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Beautifully decorated trees dressing a restaurant entrance

There is something so charming about strolling down the streets of a small town at Christmas time. You almost feel like you’re in a beloved holiday movie, such as It’s a Wonderful Life. Of course the evening isn’t complete without sharing a meal and toasting the upcoming holiday.

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June always gets talked into posing but she loved the alley of Christmas lights

This year May and June decided to stay close to home by visiting downtown Arlington Heights, Illinois to enjoy a holiday happy hour, and do a little Christmas shopping. The weather was cold and windy, so we bundled up and enjoyed walking down the beautifully lit streets and nearby park, and we even found a few gifts. We both are big supporters of local businesses. The stores are unique, friendly, and you can always find something for that special someone on your list. And by supporting your local businesses you keep your local community vibrant, and hopefully attract even more businesses you can enjoy.  Chances are, you’ll also probably run into someone you know. Some stores are keeping longer hours this month too, which is nice for those last minute gifts on your Christmas list.

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A streetscape that should be in the movies

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This is Santa’s tree farm

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Our town’s North School Park wishing everyone a wonderful season

We were able to get in the holiday spirit with all of the Christmas lights (and the glass of prosecco probably helped too) all without going too far from home.  And once we had enough Christmas spirit, we were both able to arrive home in ten minutes, and get tucked warmly in our pajamas.  Have a good weekend! –May and June

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful –Norman Vincent Peale

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Christmas Lights and My Aspiration to be Clark Griswold

The weekend after Thanksgiving is always our time to put up the outdoor Christmas lights.  I know some of you take advantage of the nicer weather and do it before Thanksgiving, however I do implore you not to turn them on until all of the turkey leftovers have been put away, and the last plate is washed and dried.  One holiday at a time please.  The week before Thanksgiving I act as the Christmas light police.  I yell at people (with my car windows rolled up, of course) to turn off their lights until after Thanksgiving dinner.  Next year I am threatening to hand out violations to those that break my imposed law.

Despite being a stickler for the rules, I love Christmas lights.  The warmth and cheery glow brightens up the darkest days of winter, giving every neighborhood a festive spirit.  Our neighborhood is particularly sparkly because each house places a small Christmas tree, decorated with those old-fashioned big bulb multi-colored light strings, on their front lawn near the road.  I love driving around the neighborhood viewing everyone’s creative displays of Christmas lights, and I especially love driving up to my house after work, and seeing it all lit up.  It is much more welcoming than a dark unlit house.  As a child of the late 1970s and early 1980s, we missed these glowing displays.  It was un-American and unpatriotic to hang outdoor Christmas lights.  We were in the midst of a so-called energy crisis resulting in the loss of this display of spirit.  With the development of LED lights and I guess the resolution of the energy crisis, Christmas lights are back in a big way.

My attitude toward Christmas lights is the more the merrier, but in a tasteful way (if that makes any sense).  Apparently my love of Christmas lights is genetic.  My grandma always loved the glitz, tinsel and glitter of Christmas.  However, for a long time she did not have outdoor Christmas lights, although I think she always wanted them.  When she was quite elderly, she cajoled my dad and brothers into hanging up outdoor lights for her.  You could tell by the way she asked that this was not a whim, but something she had been planning for a while and was just waiting for our visit at Thanksgiving.  The lights she picked were of course muti-colored and they may have even blinked as well.  She also wanted icicle lights, but they were out of  the budget she had set.  So, after a trip to Wal-Mart to buy the lights, my dad and brothers went out on ladders with staple guns in hand to outline the fascia of her front porch all the way to the roof peak, so that it formed a lit up triangle.  And because my grandma couldn’t get on the ladder, and it was a small town in the Ozarks where year-around Christmas lights seem acceptable, she just left them up.  Each year at Christmas she was able to enjoy them (and who knows, maybe she turned them on in July sometimes too).

The best scene in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is when Clark is decorating his house for Christmas.  Those were a lot of lights he put on the house, enough to blind the neighbors and make the electric company turn on the nuclear power reserves.  While my house does not look like the Griswold’s (I probably wouldn’t mind if it did but I am trying to stay tasteful), we do have our Clark Griswold moments with our Christmas lights.  Poor Clark did all that work and then could not figure out why the lights would not turn on for his big moment, until it was discovered that a light switch in the garage needed to be turned on.

  • Every year we have to wait until our fall yard cleanup is completed before we can start our light display.  One year we made the mistake of not waiting and put up our little Christmas tree in the front yard complete with lights.  Somehow the yard crew weed whacked our tree, cutting the string of Christmas lights, rendering them unusable.
  • We are pretty good about testing out all of our lights strings a week or two before we are going to put them up.  However, it does not matter.  We test and they work and then when we actually go to put them on the shrubs and trees, half of them do not work.  I think it is the work of some mischievous elves.  This means that we take at least one or more trips to the home improvement store during the process to buy more lights or an extension cord or a plug or some other necessity.  Inevitably, the project gets extended by at least an hour or more.
  • Last year we finished to find that on Sunday morning, some animal had eaten through the bottom of two of the light nets on the hedges.  I guess rather than simply pushing under the nets, the easier path was to eat through them.  I’m just happy that we did not find an electrocuted possum among the Christmas lights.
  • Despite staking the little lawn Christmas tree well into the ground, every year we have at least one storm that blows it over.  A few years ago a combination of a wet, warm, and windy December caused the tree to blow over several times.  We happened to see a neighbor sneaking over to fix our tree one morning.  It was nice he did that and even better, it did not blow over anymore that year.
  • We have one electric circuit that most of our kitchen appliances (the stove, the microwave, the coffee pot, the toaster, any other small electric appliance), all of the kitchen lights, the garage lights and conveniently the outlet where the Christmas lights plug in, all feed into.  This means that we blow that circuit several times during the month our lights are on.  Then my husband has to run out into the backyard, sometimes through the snow, to reset the Christmas lights after he has fixed the circuit.  This is especially inconvenient when you have guests for dinner and you have to turn off all of the kitchen lights and all the other appliances just so you can steam some broccoli and have the Christmas lights stay on.  We may have corrected the problem this year with a new outdoor outlet connected to a different circuit.
  • Finally, we always get rainy weather at the end of November and beginning of December, which I guess is better than snow.  The problem is a heavy rain storms trips our gfci outlet so that the lights will not turn on.  I guess it is a good safety feature so we don’t have to worry about electricity running in a wet yard, but it was disappointing when I came home last night, expecting to see my festive lit-up house, but instead just saw darkness because of the rain.

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(My house in a previous year.  The rain last night meant no lights and no picture opportunity)

Even though our house may not be as bright as the Griswold’s, it sure is pretty and we have our moments to talk about. –June

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev’ry store,
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.
Sure it’s Christmas, once a-more – Johnny Mathis
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Meditation

Giving Thanks. A Meditation

Here we are, it is the week of Thanksgiving and if you’re hosting like me, your menu is set, your shopping is done, with the food prepping about to begin. This is the first year my mom and I won’t be cooking together, now that she has moved south. Our family has gotten a little smaller, but we are still looking forward to spending time together.

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For years, I have taught a special yoga class the week of Thanksgiving, de-stressing with Yin Yoga, and ending class with a gratitude meditation. I would like to share that meditation with you today. Even though this is a week of food and family, we have to remember to take time for ourselves as well. This meditation takes just a few minutes, and it is a wonderful way to feel centered and grounded for the holiday weekend.

Find a quiet space where you can be alone for a few minutes. Sit comfortably with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. You don’t have to be cross legged on the floor if that is not comfortable. A simple straight back chair will work just fine. You can do this with a partner and take turns reading it, record it, or simply read it first, then close your eyes and allow yourself to be filled with gratitude and love.

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As you breathe, gently relax and allow all thoughts to slowly subside from your mind.  As you focus on your breathing, tell yourself that you are now open and ready to remove any blocks to your  understanding. You are now ready and willing to become aware of all the good that already exists in your life, all that you have, all that you possess. For a moment, think about how truly thankful you are for the people you love. Allow yourself to feel the emotion of gratitude deeply. Think about all of the things you love about them and take a moment to reflect upon how they express their love to you. Feel grateful for their presence in your life.

Now, shift your consciousness to your body. Allow your thoughts to focus on this wonderful machine and how well it serves you everyday. Thank your body for enabling you to live out this lifetime. If your body is in pain, be thankful for the lesson that pain is teaching you. Then release it and be pain free.

Shifting your consciousness once again, allow yourself to feel fully thankful for your mind. You have the wonderful gift of thought and reason. Remember how good it feels to figure out solutions to problems, or help someone else through theirs. Feel the joy for this amazing ability, and be grateful. 

Finally, if you so desire, shift your consciousness to your spiritual self by being grateful for your connection to the God within you. Ask to be reminded that we are magnificent beings that are living out this lifetime to learn, grow, and express love on Earth. Be grateful for this life and all that comes along with it. Be grateful for feeling unconditional love and allow this divine energy to be part of your consciousness, always. 

Now, take a deep breath or two, and slowly open your eyes.

June and I would like to share a few things we are grateful for this Thanksgiving.

June– I have a tendency to focus on the problems and deficiencies in life, rather than all of the good that I have.  So, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for me to consciously appreciate my life and all of its blessings.  This year I am very thankful for my husband who puts up with, at times, my crabbiness and unhappiness, who supports and cheers me on to work toward my dreams, who makes me laugh with his corny sense of humor, loves me without condition and who is my favorite friend and teammate as we move forward with an adventure we never planned, but are excited for the next chapter to come.  I am thankful for Gatsby who is always there with a cold nose and a warm heart, who will always accept pets and retrieve tennis balls, who steals my socks to entice me to chase him, who has me so well trained that I can read his mind and provides love, always unconditionally.  I am thankful for my mom and my brothers and all of the extra people they have brought into my life, for the fun times that we have shared and for the times we have leaned on each other.  I am thankful for my mother-in-law and all of those additional siblings I got who treat me as part of the family and not as an “in-law.”  I am thankful for all of those loved ones who are not able to join us for Thanksgiving, for whatever the reason, but especially my dad who taught me that family was the most important priority, championed all of my successes and was there always when things didn’t quite go as planned.   I am thankful for May who is my partner and fellow writer, who reads my texts in the early hours of the morning, who brainstorms with me, suffers through pilates and yoga alongside me and is the sister I always wanted.  I am thankful for my house that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, for a closet with clothes to pick from, plenty of books to read and a soft bed to sleep.  I am thankful for food to always fill my grocery cart, a reliable car and a safe neighborhood.  I am thankful for my health and the health of all of my loved ones.  And I am thankful that while life does not always go according to my plan, I know that there is a plan greater than myself and one that is usually better than I could ever imagine.

May– This has been a year of ups and downs, twists and turns, and even a few surprises. This is my first Thanksgiving without my dad, and though I miss him terribly, he is in my heart and I will always be grateful for the love and encouragement that he gave to my brother and me. I am so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful support our family was given during the difficult moments. There aren’t enough words to express how much it meant to all of us. I truly have the most wonderful friends. I am grateful for my husband, you are my best friend and my rock. Our journey together is about to go down a new and exciting road and there is no one I would rather share this adventure with….buckle up!! I am thankful for my kids who always keep life interesting, sometimes a little too interesting. All I can say is thank God we all have a good sense of humor!  My mom, there are no words. She amazes me everyday.  I am thankful for my brother and his family who will be with us on Thanksgiving. Of course I have to mention our dog Sawyer, who sneaks into bed with us every morning and wakes us up with wet kisses, always greets me when I come home, and patiently waits at the door for his morning walk.  I am so grateful for my blogging buddy, partner in crime, fellow book lover, shopping pal, friend, and true soul sister, June. Who would have thought a shared yoga class would lead to this? I love this ride that we are on and can’t wait to see where it leads. Everyday I am grateful to have the ability to start over, to appreciate the present moment, and to see the beauty that is all around us. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a deep breath, and letting it go.

We wish you all blessed Thanksgiving filled with family, food, gratitude, and love.

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~May and June

“What if, today, we were grateful for everything?” Charlie Brown

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Our Yogi Gift Guide

Our Yogi Gift Guide

One of the benefits of the beautiful practice of yoga, is you don’t need extensive equipment to participate.  A  yoga mat, comfortable clothes, and you’re set. You don’t even need shoes!  So, with that being said, what do you do if you have a yogi on your Christmas shopping list?  Well, as yogis ourselves, we’ve discovered a few items along the way that has enriched our practice, and we’d like to share them with you too.

Yoga Mat Bag

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If your yogi has her own mat, it is nice to have a bag to carry the mat to class.  There are many yoga mat bags out there, some of which are fairly basic.  However, if your yogi doesn’t want to be burdened with a mat bag and a purse, or walks or bikes to yoga class, then we have the bag for you.  Aurorae Yoga makes a sling yoga backpack that is fantastic.  Aurorae Yoga kindly provided us with one bag to try out and after we received it, May realized that she owns the same bag and uses it quite frequently.  June had never tried out the bag and was amazed at its usefulness. There is a spot for your yoga mat, your water bottle, a blanket or towel, personal items such as your phone, keys and even a hole to thread your earbuds.  June is now in love with this bag and plans to use it frequently (assuming she can remember to take her yoga mat to class even when she has to step right over it).  May received her backpack as a gift from her husband several years ago, and loves it. She’s biked and walked to her classes with it, plus it carries everything she needs.  It’s the perfect gift for your favorite yoga instructor!

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Yoga Mat

Every yogi loves a new yoga mat and there are many different styles out there.  Because a yogi develops an almost personal relationship with her mat, as it represents peace for at least an hour,  it’s important to select one that is her favorite color or has a pretty design.  Both May and June regularly use Gaiam mats.  They are reasonably priced,  have enough grip, and are light to carry.  Plus, many of them are quite beautiful.

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Yoga Socks

Gaiam also carries great yoga socks which are perfect for colder days. You can wear them at the beginning of your practice until your feet are warmed up, or wear them for your entire class. They have no-slip bottoms, increasing balance and stability and come in several fun colors.

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Yoga Mat Towel

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If your yogi practices a hot style of yoga, then a yoga mat towel may be the perfect gift.  During hot yoga, the yoga mat often gets slippery because your yogi is working up a sweat.  A yoga mat towel can help grip the yoga mat.  Even if your yogi does not practice hot yoga, sometimes summertime yoga gets pretty sweaty, and they may appreciate a mat towel.  Aurorae Yoga also sent us their yoga mat towel to try out.  The towel is soft and longer than the average yoga mat.  June thought this would be a great gift for a yogi who travels a lot.  If  your yogi has ever had to practice yoga in a hotel room with gosh-knows-what on the carpet, it is important to have a clean space to practice.  Hotel room towels are too short and schlepping a yoga mat on a plane is rather inconvenient, this towel would easily fit in a suitcase and is a long enough to keep your face or feet off of the carpet.

Flip Flops

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If you’re looking for cute and comfy footwear to get you to and from your yoga class, we suggest you try a pair of Aurorae Yoga flip flops. Made from recycled yoga mats, these flip flops come in a variety of colors and will fit easily into your yoga bag. Oh, and we discovered they are great for pedicures too!

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Yoga Leggings

We yogis can’t seem to have enough leggings and there are so many styles, patterns, and colors to chose from!  Zella Activewear from Nordstrom has a wonderful assortment of leggings and yoga pants for every body. They fit well, are comfortable, and if you’re a bit vertically challenged, the Zella midi works as a full length yoga pant. They tend to go on sale pretty regularly too.

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June is wearing the Zella “Live In”  midi legging in Green Balsam

 Yoga Poncho

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Another great gift for that special yogi in your life is the Breathe and Believe Poncho, by Lucy. It comes in grey and navy and is the perfect cover up for relaxation at the end of class and heading out on a fall day. This item is great for yoga, or running a few errands.

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Sacred Space

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If you know a yogi with a home practice, perhaps the perfect gift is a little statue, great for a desk, coffee table, or sacred space. We loved this Lucky Elephant from Viva Terra. Viva Terra has beautiful home inspired decor from around the world, and is eco-friendly. We noticed some early bird sales starting as well, so check them out. Both May and June have a Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp in their home, and love it. Probably the most well-known benefit – and why the majority of people use them – is due to their incredible power to remove dust, pollen, cigarette smoke, and other contaminants from the air. This is only one of the many benefits of these lamps.  Plus, they look beautiful on a desk or end table. Amazon has a nice variety of these unique little lights.

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Of course a gift that is always welcomed, is a gift certificate to a favorite yoga studio or maybe a private class or two with an instructor. You can check a studio near you for details.

We hope we made finding that perfect gift for the yogi in your life a little easier. Have a wonderful weekend.

~Namaste. May and June

Peace. Love. Yoga.

P.S.  Aurorae Yoga kindly provided us with some of the products included in our yogi gift guide, however, all of our opinions are our own.

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Early Holiday Gift Guide

Our Early Holiday Gift Guide

Wow, not to scare everyone but Christmas is a little over 6 weeks away!  That means that our lives will soon be even busier than they are now.  We thought it would be fun to put together a Holiday Gift Guide, for you early shoppers or even for you to refer to when you are out shopping at the eleventh hour.  The items on this list are goodies that we have received as gifts and love, or that we have given as gifts and are loved by the recipient, or they may appear on our own Christmas list this year.

Smeg Retro Electric Tea Kettle

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June got this electric teakettle in a pretty pastel green last year for Christmas. Don’t worry girls, the teakettle was on her Christmas list, so her husband was not in trouble for buying her an appliance as a gift.  The teakettle is really cute sitting on the kitchen counter, heats water quickly and at a good temperature for making tea or other hot drinks.  Plus, it turns itself off when the water is hot, so no annoying whistle that you have to quickly address before it hurts your ears and the ears of your dog.  May is coveting the teakettle and it is now appearing on her Christmas list this year.  So, think about it for yourself or a favorite tea lover.

Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss Set

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Bobbi Brown always has some great gift sets including this lip gloss set.  The colors are very wearable all year-round.  The lip gloss is not overly sticky or heavy and is pretty long-wearing.  June often buys herself this as a “Christmas” present.  This would be perfect for a best girlfriend who likes lip color options.

Bombas Socks

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We both love Bombas socks. We discovered them on GMA’s Deals and Steals and can’t say enough about them.  They are great with your athletic shoes for your morning walk or workout, plus they come in invisibles which we love to wear with a ballet flat or our favorite pair of shoes. The socks not only don’t show, but they won’t slip off your heel either. This is a great stocking stuffer for men, women, and kids.

Southern Firefly Candles

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This is a wonderful family owned company who set out to create a candle line that captures the elegant charm of the south. Their products are made from natural soy wax with double cotton wicks, and contain no dyes or additives. Their packaging is made from recyclable materials and their glass containers can be repurposed once the candle burns down. There are so many fragrances to choose from, and if you’re not sure you’re going to like a particular fragrance, they will send you a sample. June also discovered these on GMA Deals and Steals.  Her favorite fragrances are the Orange Clove, a nice warm scent perfect for fall and winter, and the Grapefruit Mangosteen, a lighter citrus scent.  She has reordered both, and has given them as gifts.  June is excited to try some of the other scents including some of the seasonal options, and has Holiday Cheer ready for burning after Thanksgiving.  May is definitely going to put these on her gift giving list this year, and may just buy one for herself.

North Face Fleece Pullover

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Now, we haven’t forgotten about the guys in your life. Does anyone find them exceptionally hard to buy for?  Both May and June purchased North Face fleece pullovers for their husbands a few years ago. It’s the perfect gift for cold winter nights inside, or as an extra layer on frosty days outside, or if your guy is hotblooded, he can wear it outside on really cold evenings.  May always knows winter isn’t far off, when her husband is wearing his on chilly weekend mornings. June bought one for her husband because he likes lighter outerwear, but then he left it in the gift box for over a year and a half.  He is weird about trying new clothing and likes to wear the same items, even replacing old items with identical new items.  However, now that he has tried it he wears it all the time.  It’s a good thing June likes it on him, because it will probably be one of the only coats she sees on him for the foreseeable future.  They come in an assortment of colors, plus Nordstrom gift wraps and ships for free.

Jo Malone Fragrance

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Jo Malone has a lovely little fragrance gift set perfect for that special friend, mother, or daughter. The set includes two fragrances and a hand wash. May has been wearing Jo Malone fragrances for years, and often gives this little sampler as a gift during the holidays. Don’t wait too long to purchase though, they can go quickly and once this sample sells out, it’s gone until next year.  Thanks to May, June also wears Jo Malone fragrances.  Because they are a bit of a splurge, she often puts a scent on her Christmas list.  This year she is considering the new scent Basil & Neroli.

Pipcorn

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Pipcorn was founded by a brother and sister team, Jeff and Jen Martin. Their popcorn is all natural, gluten free, non GMO, vegan, and made from whole grain. They are made in small batches, and hand seasoned in your choice of rosemary, kettle, truffle, and sea salt. You can purchase a gift pack for that special popcorn lover on your gift list. They are all delicious, but the truffle is amazing!

Kendra Scott

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Of course we couldn’t finish our Christmas gift list without a piece of jewelry. Lately, we’ve been loving the great pieces by Kendra Scott. This is a great success story about a woman who started her jewelry line with only $500 dollars, three months after her first son was born. Kendra custom designs natural stones into unique necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. Prices vary and you can often find discounts online. The company is based out of Austin, Texas but Chicago does have a store in the Bloomingdales building, on Michigan Avenue. Both May and June have some lovely pieces that we enjoy wearing.

We hope our gift guide was helpful if you’re looking for that special gift this holiday season.

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

One of the nice things about Christmas is that you can make people forget the past with a present.” ~ Author Unknown

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Are you ready for Halloween?

Is it just us, or does it feel like time keeps moving faster, and faster?  We can’t believe Halloween is just three days away! Are you ready?

Recently, May and June went to Target to check out some of their spooky and not so spooky Halloween items. As you know, we love Target and the store definitely knows how to get into any holiday spirit, at a great price. If you are attending a Halloween party this weekend and have nothing to wear, we found several aisles of costumes for young and old. There was also some great decor for your home or porch, in case you are looking for a few little decorations, adorable Halloween containers for carrying all your treats, and of course candy. Lots and lots of candy.

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June is going as a scary (or not so scary) witch this year!

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Even though we are both very health conscious, we do indulge a bit on this sweet and scary holiday. Everything in moderation, right? And M&Ms seem to be both May and June’s favorite candy treat.  Plus, do you really want to be that person that gives an apple, or a few pennies to your trick or treaters? So, if you find that you are running out of time, definitely go to your nearest Target store for all of your Halloween needs. Plus, with the holiday just days away, you may get lucky and find some items on sale, which is always a good thing.

Have a great weekend!

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Happy Halloween! 

~May and June

Trick or Treat!”

 

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Fall Home

Neighborhood Fallscapes

I’ve noticed in my neighborhood, that October is the month that everyone begins to decorate the outside of their homes for fall. The heat of summer has said its final goodbye, inviting the cool, crisp air to sweep in with the fall season. Of course, with that comes cold noses and hands, and I know I will soon be needing gloves. My doodle Sawyer and I have loved longer walks on these early brisk mornings, and I’m starting to savor the beautiful palate of color as the leaves begin to change from the green of summer, to shades of red, orange, and gold.

I have always enjoyed decorating both the inside and outside of my home for the changing seasons. I don’t do too much, just simple touches here and there to celebrate the beauty of the season we are experiencing at the moment. For me, it has been a busy fall and with an upcoming trip, a seventeen year old who is rarely home, and a husband who travels regularly for business, I find myself keeping things very simple this year.

I personally feel that the outside of your home deserves the same attention as the inside, and have tried to make the outside of my home beautiful with a natural landscape of trees, shrubs, flowers, and outdoor furniture.  As a creative person, I am always on the lookout for new decorating ideas and get so much inspiration when I am out walking. I recently found some great ideas for decorating the outside of your home for fall and Halloween- a festive pop for your curb appeal.

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The front porch is always a perfect place to decorate for the changing seasons. I really loved the simplicity of the porch below.

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Pumpkins aren’t just for carving anymore. These painted and stacked pumpkins can take you right up to Thanksgiving.

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For me, a few velvet pumpkins, fall scented candles, and cozy pillows and throws will be enjoyed inside.  Outside, I potted some mums and soon will place a pumpkin or two on the porch. I will be home from my trip just before Halloween, just in time to hang my witch on the door for the trick or treaters.

“Autumn is a second spring, where every leaf is a flower.” -Albert Camus

Have a great week! ~May

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