Our secret mission began on a cloudy summer morning. My daughter carried the package under her arm, hoping not to attract attention. I whispered, try to look normal. Zooey surveyed the coffee shop…a dark cozy table with summer flowers in a green vase. Looks good. Casually, she wandered to the table and laid the package (Judy Blume’s Blubber) on the window sill by the flowers. When you’re a book fairy, you can’t attract attention. Zooey would have turned bright read if she heard…Hey, kid, you forgot your copy of Blubber.
“Remind me again, is that a lemon or a lime tree,” my husband asked? My parents gave us a beautiful lemon tree in the spring. It’s finally looking like it will be ready to harvest soon.
I’ve learned that lemon trees are grateful sun worshipers…ours looks like it’s trying to hug the sun. Thankfully, lemon trees are happy in a container and have been protected from our lemon loving dogs.
My daughter and I made a batch last week and have savored every sip.
The kitchen is a swirl of purple, green and blue. Twelve-year-old girls are squealing. Flash back to 1988 and I’m feeling twelve again…wearing acid-washed jeans, making friendship bracelets and listening to 10,000 Maniacs. This feeling is just as I remember it, but better because it’s for my daughter Zooey. It was a full evening. We had pizza, made bath bombs (with glitter), dance skits were performed and there was swimming like mermaids. This is twelve.
My friend Angela and I met in yoga teacher training. I remember going around in a circle and introducing ourselves. Angela said that she was a certified aromatherapist from Switzerland and my inner twelve-year-old wanted to say, “let’s be friends!” She is my friend and fellow mermaid and Zooey and I adore her bath bombs. We gave them as party favors at her last birthday and this year, we wanted Angela to show us how to make them.
Angela’s products are part of who she is…a Swiss/American aromatherapist using essential oils for mother and child. Oh, and she uses them in her yoga classes too! Yep, she’s the real bomb!! Follow Angela on instagram to see more of her creations.
July feels to me like the pinnacle of summer, days well spent dining with friends and restful moments lounging poolside with a book…always with something fruity within reach. Specifically, a cocktail like this one that is as bright and beautiful as it is light and refreshing, a lovely way to bask in the season.
Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party makes the viewer feel like sipping something fruity and refreshing while dining alfresco. Look at the peachy colors in this Paris cafe overlooking the Seine, the painting captures a happy afternoon among friends. Doesn’t it make you want a Peach Bellini? Create your own European cafe with a few ingredients…it’s the bubbly parts during the day that are the best to just take a sip, and sit back.
The Peach Bellini is a famous bubbly cocktail that was created by Giuseppe Cipriani from Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Cipriani named his drink after Giovanni Bellini, his favorite Italian painter, because the peach color of the champagne cocktail matched the color Bellini used in one of his paintings for a saint’s toga. The Peach Bellini has become one of the most famous and popular of all wine cocktails or champagne cocktails. It’s also difficult to make because of the scarcity of pureed peaches.
When my friend Julie told me about the Women’s Watermen SUP, I laughed and thought “I don’t know if I can do it but I’ll try.” My motto for my forties has been Tina Fey’s saying, “Just say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.”
The day before the race was stressful… I had all these big events going on but if I could look forward to getting out on the water, I’d made it! It was a HUGE release that made me proud and a happy beginning to summer. Time can be like a secret weapon in handling whatever life throws at you that day and knowing that you’ll feel amazing after the event makes it worth the effort of getting out there.
I’ve practiced SUP yoga many times and love the zen quality of outside yoga practice…the feel of the sun warming your body, the smell of sunscreen and the relaxation of the water. The paddle board 5K was more challenging because you keep moving…it’s still relaxing but I think more difficult to keep going. My toes started to feel tingly like they were falling asleep and I desperately wanted to dangle them in the water.
Paddle boarding is a lot like bike racing…you can draft your friend and stick together. Julie and stuck it out the whole time. I can’t wait to do it again.
This was an all women waterboard race. There were some pretty serious athletes up at the front that were shouting encouraging words and coaching as they passed us by… “Put your paddles deeper in the water.” Julie and I were more about having fun. We listened to Bob Marley blare on the speaker, enjoyed the wind in our hair and were relaxed enough to still make conversation. A paddle board 5K is probably the most relaxing race you will ever experience.
Lingering candy canes still remain from the holidays and I can’t find it in me to toss them. A wintry rainy Sunday calls for peppermint brownies. My eleven-year-old gladly volunteered to smash the candy canes as long as she could occasionally sample several pieces.
Chocolate and mint together are an amazing duo…really one of the most perfect dessert pairings. The freshness of the mint mixes so well with the sweet richness of the chocolate. We used two types of candy canes and two types of chocolate…really it’s about what you have left over from the holidays.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
- 1 1/2 lb of chocolate (we used Hershey’s dark chocolate and left over Hershey’s candy cane kisses)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 4 candy canes (crushed)
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter your favorite brownie pan.
- In a double boiler, combine chocolate with the butter. Stir until melted. If you’re eleven-years-old, you’ll want to use your Gryffindor spatula to do this!
- Scrape the chocolate into another bowl and let cool slightly.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar until combined. Whisk in the chocolate-butter mixture until glossy and thick.
- Add flour and salt into the bowl and stir until mixed.
- Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan.
- Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and bake for 30 minutes.
The crunchy bits of candy canes and the gooey chocolate can’t be beat!
Have you read The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz? It should be on everyone’s bookshelf. It’s a perfect read to start off the new year.
Reading The Four Agreements helps us to understand how to distinguish between a tale and the truth. Ruiz writes about letting go of the attachments and beliefs that are in the way to a direct route to a happy and meaningful life.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
‘Nothing others do is because of you. What others say is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.’
Don’t sweat the small stuff…It’s easier said than done but helpful to know that when someone is unkind and yells, gossips or harms you that it’s not about you! It’s based on what that person believes in their personal fantasy. Once we agree with what others have said, we take things personally. If we didn’t agree, the things that others say would not affect us heartily. If a decision can be consciously made to not take it personally then, words or behavior no longer affect the heart.
Always Do Your Best
‘Under any circumstance, always do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.’
Give great effort in all that you do and enjoying that effort without expecting a reward. The pleasure comes from finding the fun in the effort and enjoying the moment…not expecting anything in return. When making the choice to “always do your best” this allows us to be fully alive in the moment and not worrying about the past or present. Transformation happens when we are taking action and living without regret.
Don’t Make Assumptions
‘Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.’
It is so easy to get lost in our imagination and dream up what people are thinking, saying about us, doing… When we imagine these assumptions, we sometimes believe that they are true. This whole story that we’ve imagined may only be true to us but the mind believes it and one assumption leads to another…just like band, The Fixx sang:
Do what they say, say what you mean, and baby
One thing leads to another
You told me something wrong, I know I listen too long but then
One thing leads to another
Instead of making assumptions, ask questions and say what you want. Communication solves the problem of assuming people know what’s in your head.
Be Impeccable With Your Word
‘Speak only with integrity. Say only what you mean.’
When love and gratitude goes out, those closest to you feel it and will return the same positive energy. If we tell someone, “I’ll be there” but we don’t mean it, your words have less value. Say only what you mean even if you have to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it.”
To be impeccable is to use your word in the direction of love and truth. When applying the practice “always do your best,” and “being impeccable with your word,” it has incredible rewards…allowing you to create your life as a magnum opus.
This is a spiritual self-help book that can shift your life in the most positive way. I read The Four Agreements for my yoga teacher training and found it to be truly meaningful and it falls right into place with my yoga practice.
A well written thank you note does not have to be complicated. It’s one of the warmest ways to show our appreciation to our friends and loved ones. Our grandmothers told us that it was necessary but once we write it, we know it’s the right thing to do and it makes the writer feel warm and cozy inside. A well written thank you note is just a small kindness, but they’re meaningful to those who receive them.
- For notes to family and friends, strike through any formal part of the name at the top of the letter to keep things casual. This is what Princess Diana did because she didn’t want her notes to seem stuffy. Striking through name on formal stationery is a quick and easy way to make it a little more informal and a sign that you are a closer friend of that person.
- Always write out the date in the far right corner, opposite the salutation and begin the body of the note directly under the “r” in “Dear.”
- Use real stationary…it doesn’t have to be fancy but something neutral so that it can be used for many occasions and sturdy enough to be sent in the mail.
- A handwritten note is ALWAYS better than any electronic substitute. A handwritten note takes more time and effort than an email but it can become a keepsake. Some of my favorite notes become my bookmarks in my recipe books so I look at them often.
- A punchy envelope liner acts as wrapping paper for your note. Make it even more personal by adding a picture…maybe include a picture from Christmas day opening the gift.
All that said, don’t get too bogged down in the details. Any thoughtful note is a good one. Send a hug in the mailbox.
“Handstands are NOT yoga…we just put them in yoga. It’s acrobatics.” When Kerri Verna came to Dallas to teach a handstand workshop, I jumped at the chance to learn from her. Verna says, “If you want a handstand, you have to be on your hands everyday.” She recommends twenty minutes a day of handstand practice…it’s better than two hours on Saturday.
When I’m vacationing at the beach, I always feel the need to do a handstand in the sand. After Kerri’s workshop, I find myself practicing handstands even in the winter.
She suggests to keep your hands flat…no spider fingers and to prep yourself by holding Bakasana with STRAIGHT arms before going into your handstand. If you come up and don’t have balance, simply come back down. “Balance in the ball of the hand.” She says that this is key…”Don’t balance with your body, balance in the ball of the heel of the hand and keep your posterior tilt.” Try placing the tongue to the roof of your mouth so you don’t strain the neck and also point the feet because it engages more muscles.
Every time you practice handstands, aim to do it in the middle of the room. The body is building a neurological pathway in the brain and if you set up this pathway on the wall, you won’t find it in the center of the room. Kerri says, “Don’t depend on the wall for balance.”
It was refreshing to see that she is authentic and easy to relate too. I noticed her tanktop right away…”No perfect people allowed.” She’s a mom in her forties, has ADD, lives with fibromyalgia, holds multiple teaching certifications: spinning, personal training, stand-up paddle board yoga, kickboxing, tai chi, Pilates, and yoga. She’s now offering a spirit led yoga 200 hour teacher training in Delray Beach, Florida. Kerri’s instagram account shows off her photography skills…with 1.1 million followers, she’s obviously hugely talented.
Kerri Verna’s yoga sequencing goes something like this:
- breath work
- sun salutations (surya A)
- standing postures (do the legs first…biggest muscle group)
- balance postures
- hip openers
- core work-then twisting
- forward bends (always at the end)
- inversion (blood is full of oxygen at the end…better for you)
- heart opener
Kerri Verna is an inspirational yoga teacher and I’m so thrilled that I had the chance to learn from her. Look to see when she’s in your area.
My daughter made me promise, “Mommy, pinky promise that we can make ebelskivers in the morning?” It’s after the holidays, I still have leftover egg nog and it’s 24 degrees outside…the weather couldn’t be better for ebelskivers! I’ve had my ebelskiver pan for a while now and I use them to make these Danish pancakes but it’s also great for meatballs! Ebelskivers have a light, airy batter, and a sweet jam filling goes nicely in the middle. My son prefers Nutella in his. Serve them hot with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top. Turning them over can be tricky…try using chopsticks or shish kabob skewers.
- 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup milk (or egg nog if you make them during the holidays)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup jam or Nutella
- confectioners sugar, for serving
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons melted butter until combined. Stir in dry ingredients. Do not overmix.
- In a small bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff but not dry peaks form, about 3 minutes. This is my daughter’s favorite part…who doesn’t love using an electric mixer! Fold egg whites into batter.
- Put ebelskiver pan over medium high heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon butter to each well of the mold (sometimes I cheat and use Pam for baking), add 1 tablespoon of batter. Top each well with 1 teaspoon of jam or Nutella, then top with another 1 tablespoon batter. Let ebelskivers cook until bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until tops are also golden, 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Repeat with rest of batter, then serve immediately with powdered sugar on top.