Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bubbles, Berries and a Bit of Merry!

This time of year is always wonderful for seeking out new ways to celebrate the holidays. I'll be heading home soon for some celebrations with both family and friends, where I hope to share these wonderful little favors and nibbles.


Blackberry Kir Royale

4 blackberries, quartered
3 Tablespoons Creme de Cassis
1 bottle Champagne, Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine, chilled

In a small nonreactive bowl, combine the blackberries and Creme de Cassis and let stand for 15 minutes to let the fruit macerate. Spoon 4 pieces of marinated blackberry into each flute. Top with Champagne & serve immediately.
Serves 4.

[Image and Recipe Courtesy of The Food Channel]


Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

Sugared Cranberries

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup good maple syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.
Drain cranberries in a colander. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish. Add cranberries in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour.

16 crackers
8 oz Brie cheese
cranberry chutney or cranberry relish
fresh mint for garnish

Assemble crackers with one slice of brie, a light layer of cranberry chutney, and 4 or 5 sugared cranberries. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

[Images and Recipe Courtesy of Yummy Mummy Kitchen]


Crepe and Lace Party Crackers

Supplies:

Cardboard tube about 4-5 inches long (paper towel rolls and wrapping paper tubes are good sources)
Lace fabric
Crepe Paper
Scissors
Double stick tape
Very sturdy thread or twine

Optional: For added interest we added star shaped sequins (found at fabric stores) and stars punched from gold paper

Instructions:

1. Begin by cutting lace fabric and crepe paper into rectangles. The shortest side of the rectangle should be long enough to wrap around the tube - usually about 6-7 inches. The longest side should be the length of the cardboard tube plus an additional 6-8 inches. Once you've determined your dimensions write them down so all your favors will be uniform.

2. Wrap crepe paper and lace fabric around tube so that the lace fabric faces outward as shown. Secure with double stick tape. Then tie one end with twine. Fill with candy or other favor item and tie remaining edge closed.

3. Optional: Add stars or other adornments to all or a few of the favor crackers.

[Images and instructions courtesy of The Bride's Cafe]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Give a Joy Jar This Holiday Season!


Once in a while, you stumble upon something that just gives you the warm fuzzies all over. And so I introduce to you a little girl who is turning her struggle into triumph.

Jessica Joy Rees is a smart 12 year old girl with bright eyes, an infectious smile and a love of swimming. She was also diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor earlier this year, which she and her family are fighting to help her overcome. Through her treatment, she witnessed other children undergoing their own struggles, many too sick to be able to go home with their family like she could. She saw how hard it was on them and she wanted to encourage them to NEGU, Never, Ever Give Up. She spoke with her family and found a way to do just that.

They began her charity, the NEGU Foundation, to provide support for other children and their families who were fighting against cancer, and also created Joy Jars, a special gift full of presents for the children.

For this holiday season, and even beyond, you can purchase a Joy Jar for your friends, family and/or colleagues, and the NEGU Foundation will also give one to a child in need. This is such a wonderful organization from such a brave little girl. Consider skipping that default bottle of wine or basket of unhealthy cookies, and send a gift that goes beyond just your giving, and helps bring hope to someone who needs it.

I'm so impressed by Jessica and her family and will keep them in my thoughts and prayers. Their decision to turn hardship into an opportunity to help others is truly remarkable and inspiring.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Messenger by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.


~ Mary Oliver ~

Many thanks to Pink of Perfection for sharing this poem.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fuzzy Fig Cocktail courtesy of Party Dress Magazine

I just found this fabulous Fuzzy Fig Cocktail in Party Dress Magazine that has that hint of purple to enhance my Thanksgiving table setting. Add a little Jo Sno Fig Vanilla Black Pepper Syrup to your favorite glass of Prosecco, throw in a sliver of fig and voila, a tantalizing treat!

Thanksgiving Table Decorating Ideas

So in my future life, I will have an endless array of accent pieces, freshly starched dinner linens and will throw elaborate dinner parties where friends and family can gather round for a rousing night of culinary delights, laughter and merry making. Until then, I daydream and create inspiration boards for that someday dinner table...

While I love this time of year, I'm not entirely sold on the brown, orange, yellow and red color scheme that so many stores try to pigeonhole this holiday in. Instead, I decided to mix a little trendy (copper mugs used to serve Moscow Mules are everywhere at events, and the copper tone makes a fun pop color), a bit of classic (fine china, stemware and flatware), a dollop of natural (pine cones, white pumpkins and hydrangea) and a dash of girly (aubergine accents, napkins and menu cards) to give a very festive and unique twist to a Thanksgiving table.



If I get a wild hair and decide to play with these elements for our table, I will be sure to post pictures.

What are your plans for the holidays? How will you be decorating your home?

Many thanks to the following designers and fellow bloggers, whose work inspired this post: Jill Tran, The French Bouquet, The Party Dress, Laura Hooper Calligraphy, One Vanilla Bean and last, but not least, Carissa Jones of JL Designs

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are you a Princess or a Queen?


In our society, the role of the Princess has often been coveted through both media and fairy tales. The recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and endless Disney movies still show that we have an obsession with the persona of the princess, the beautiful maiden who is all song and loveliness, usually up against some odds, whether it be locked tower, evil stepmother or dragon, just waiting for her beauty to lure someone in to rescue her. It's a beautiful story, but is it something to really aspire to?

About a year ago, I had a discussion with one of my coworkers who had been in a relationship for a while, but found himself being pursued by a beautiful girl who came from money and seemed to offer a life of bliss, limited struggle and future financial stability. She was becoming quite vigilant in her pursuit of him, with little regard for his relationship, which she was well aware of. I looked at my coworker and told him, "She sounds like she's a Princess, but I think what you deserve, and will ultimately want, is a Queen." I am quite aware that the princesses of our world (Lady Di, Princess Grace of Monaco and now the Duchess of Cambridge) have had a more philanthropic impact and have done great things in our world, but I'm speaking here of an archetype.

I explained the difference to him like this: a Princess is lovely, but she needs to be forever rescued. She doesn't have control or power over anything, just the illusion of it. She will look for ways to put herself in peril so that you will spend your days acting as a Knight in Shining Armor, expending your strengths and abilities. Heck, most princesses are asleep while their "true love" is out slaying dragons, risking life and limb, to save her.

What you really want is a Queen. She has to rule her kingdom with a level-head, compassion and strength. She has to put her own self-interest to the side in order to protect the dignity of both her family and her people. She doesn't wake up in the morning ready to be beautifully dressed so that she can wander the garden and be admired. She wakes up ready to face the day and make decisions that won't endanger herself or others, and will promote the future of her kingdom so that others can thrive and prosper. She doesn't make decisions that will compromise her people's security, such as spending money or going in to battle, without much thought and counsel of those that she respects and admires. This is what you want in the woman in your life.

This co-worker still remembers this discussion and references it on occasion as to what he is looking for, and while I do believe what I said, living it is much harder than just sharing it with another. Who doesn't want to live a life of perpetual admiration with little expectation or pressure to make bold decisions? Some days I feel like life would be easier if I could be lifted from the cinders and swept away into a castle, but that's where the illusion of Happily Ever After begins. What then?

My hope is that I appreciate the princess, but that I live and act like a queen. I want to make the lives of those around me better. The princess can smell the roses, but the queen can command that the most exotic and lovely plants be brought in to make the kingdom more beautiful. The princess can be the belle of the ball, but the queen had the resources to make it happen. The princess can marry a prince and wait for the someday when she'll have the opportunity to make a lasting impact, but the queen is able to do this every day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

FALL-ing In Love With Flowers

Autumn is by far my most favorite of seasons. As a child, we used to rake a mountain of leaves from our family's Sycamore tree, then plop down in it while eating plate-sized homemade chocolate chip cookies that my mom had just pulled from the oven. The Fall meant loved ones that had moved away would be coming home soon, and traditions that had started long before I was born would be re-enacted while surrounded by family and friends. School had started and new friends were being made, math and writing skills acquired and new books being poured over at night when I was supposed to be sleeping (My favorites were John D. Fitzgerald's 'The Great Brain' Series and anything by Roald Dahl.) The cooler temperatures make way for cozy sweaters and the savory, comforting flavors of warm spices and Fall produce are abundant everywhere, even at Starbucks! While the Spring may be when everything is in bloom, I feel the momentum and excitement that this time of year creates is more palpable, more convivial, than any other time of year.

To celebrate the change in season and all the beauty and bounty it holds, I've compiled some beautiful pictures of stunning Fall arrangements from around the web along with color sorted flowers that are available at this time of year. I hope this provides inspiration for those table-scapes and hostess gifts that you will no doubt be needing during the busiest holiday and party season of the year. Happy Arranging!


Red – Anthuriums, Chrysanthumum, Dahlias, Gerbera Daisy, Gloriosa Lily, Hypericum Berries, Phlox, Ranunculus, Rose, Skimmia, Sunflower, Tulips


Pink – Dahlia, Gerbera Daisy, Ginger, Hellebore, Hydrangea, Japanese Anemone, Phlox, Sedum, Sweet Peas, Zinnia



Orange – Chinese Lanterns, Gloriosa Lily, Ornamental Peppers, Persimmons, Pin Cushion Protea, Roses, Rose Hips, Vanda Orchids, Zinnia


Yellow – Black Eyed Susan, Dahlia, Gerbera Daisy, Marigolds, Narcissus, Sunflower, Zinnia


Green – Berzelia, Eucalyptus, Hellebore, Hydrangea, Lamb’s Ear, Ornamental Kale, Sage

*A great way to incorporate some green tones with delicious aromas is using fall herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme.


Blue – Agapanthus, Cornflower, Hydrangea, Privet Berry, Scabiosa, Viburnum Berries


Purple/Lavender – Aster, Beauty Berry, Chrysanthumum, Cosmos, Dahlia, Delphinium, Hellebore, Hydrangea, Lilacs, Lisianthus, Monkshood, Oregano Blossoms, Ornamental Kale, Phlox, Pin Cushion, Russian Sage, Sweet Peas, Vanda Orchids, Verbena


White - Andromeda, Chrysanthumum, Coreopsis, Gerbera Daisy, Japanese Anemone, Lily of the Valley, Phlox, Roses, Viburnum


Brown - Browns require a bit of mixing and matching as there aren't a lot of pure brown flowers. Here are some suggestions: Chocolate Cosmos, Chocolate Dahlias, Chocolate Ti Leaves, Dried Yellow Lotus Pods, Tan Cybmidium Orchids (if available), Uluhe Fern (Monkey Tail), and late Northern Sea Oats

For some tips on how to put all of these beauties together into a stunning flower arrangement, check out Tips for Creating Your Own Flower Arrangements.











Photo Credits:

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Purple Arrangements by WeddingsbyMarthaStewart.com

Blue Arrangement by The Full Bouquet Blog

White Arrangement by Ruffled Blog

Brown Arrangement by Wedding Bee

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Interview with Laura Hooper, Calligrapher


In an era of evites and quickly dashed off emails, there is something so charming about receiving a note or invitation with beautiful penmanship on crisp, bright, high quality stationery. While my handwriting hasn't evolved much beyond the lessons of Ms. Dryden's 3rd grade class, there are those like Laura Hooper of Laura Hooper Calligraphy who can transform the written word into intricate and romantic pieces of art. With the holidays approaching and the season of wedding engagements about to begin, I felt it was a wonderful time to learn a bit more about the world of calligraphy from one of the foremost leaders in the field.

Laura Hooper's work has been featured numerous times in Town and Country Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Inside Weddings, Bride and Bloom Winter, Ceremony Magazines OC & SD and The Knot Magazine and has won numerous awards for her work including Best of the Knot in 2010 and 2011, MyFoxLA Hot List Winner for Best Invitations, Best of Project Wedding and many more accolades that can be found on her website lhcalligraphy.com. On top of all of this, she is incredibly passionate about her work and it shows in her stunning invitations and wedding pieces, custom hand drawn maps and elegant place cards (which we recently featured at a private luncheon with Dior.)

CME: What inspired you to get into calligraphy? What did you do before becoming a calligrapher?

LH: I took a job that required basic calligraphy and it blossomed from there. I’ve always been artistic, so making a career out of my art was a more comfortable fit for me than the insurance office job I had right out of college.


CME: Do you have any other creative outlets such as painting, drawing, etc.?

LH: Yes, I do like to paint, especially with watercolor. One of my grandmothers was a caricaturist and a painter as well, so I think it comes from her.

CME: How many unique writing styles do you offer?

LH: We have about 25 different styles, but we are known to “match” fonts if a client requests it. I do have to mention that it will not be exact however…I can’t write the same as what comes out of a computer!

CME: What are some cost-saving tips for those looking to use a calligrapher?

LH: Don’t even look at the higher priced styles. For our clients, we would encourage them to stick to Tier 1. Or if you really want a fancy style, use it on your invitation {pricing does not vary based on calligraphy style} and use a simpler, coordinating style on the envelopes.

CME: Do you offer classes for calligraphy or where would you recommend those that are interested in calligraphy learn more about it?

LH: I do not offer classes {especially since I’m fully self trained and wouldn’t know where to begin to teach it to others!}, but you can get more information at your local calligraphy guild which is listed at the website for the Association of Calligraphy Arts.

CME: What was your handwriting like when you were younger?

LH: Very neat! An eighth grade teacher once remarked in front of the class that my notes were the neatest she had ever seen. It has always been clean and easy to read ~ now I just get to be a bit more creative with it.


CME: Do you have a favorite font? What are you currently attempting to master?

LH: I don’t have a favorite font, but I do like the look of our Ella font. It’s simple but fun and works for nearly any project.

CME: What type of paper works best for calligraphy?

I like high quality papers made by Crane’s and Strathmore best.

CME: What’s inspiring you in the paper craft industry now?

LH: Textures. I love incorporating textures into our design suites and also using high quality envelopes that we can letterpress directly onto.

CME: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done calligraphy on?

LH: I’ve done calligraphy on many things; mirrors, wood, plexiglass lighting panels. If you send me something, it’s likely I can find out a way to write on it!


CME: How soon should a potential client contact you before a party or event?

LH: It depends on the size of the project and when the client wants to get their invitations mailed. But generally six weeks before you want your product returned to you is a good time to check-in, however I only need 2-3 weeks or less to get an order done. If you still have time to make decisions or changes, we will let you know.

CME: What is the sweetest message you’ve been a part of writing?

LH: I don’t do it often because there simply isn’t enough time, but I have written out vows for clients before. When someone puts their feelings of love and adoration onto paper, in a beautifully calligraphed form, there is nothing sweeter.

To see more of Laura's work, please visit her website Laura Hooper Calligraphy or check our her wonderful blog Lucky Orchid Wedding. Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to share your work and wisdom with us!

All Pictures Copyright © Laura Hooper Calligraphy 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Party Pretty...My Interview with Fashion and Beauty Editor Jennifer Chan

Hello dear readers!!

Another work blog... and this time it's all about how to look party pretty with fashion tips, hair dos and don'ts and make-up tricks, from Beauty and Fashion Editor Jennifer Chan (TypeF, InStyle, Elle, Daily Front Row, etc.) who knows the scoop on how celebrities look so pulled together, and shares her own experience having to party hop for work. What a job!

Please click over and let me know what you think.

Party Pretty...Interview with Fashion and Beauty Editor Jennifer Chan


I feel so blessed to have such a fashion savvy friend as Miss Jennifer Chan. As Fashion and Beauty Editor for fashionista.com, TypeF, JustLuxe.com and The Daily Front Row, along with contributing to magazines such as In Style, Elle and Real Simple Magazine, she is one of the first to know about new health trends (Piloxing anyone?), beauty products, fashion and more. She hosts a video series scouting unique styles by people just looking fabulous out and about in cities across America, appears on-camera for a myriad of events, products and promotions and attends events nightly both in Los Angeles, and other major cities, to investigate the trends being set by celebs and style moguls. All this, followed by rushing home to write one of her many articles before the New York publishing deadlines at 3 am LA time... and she looks amazing doing it!! Quelle vie!

Over dinner recently, I began to pick her brain about how to look polished and pretty when you're working and going from event to event. In my personal experience, I've found that after a few minutes in one of our kitchens, overseeing and assisting with set-up, bringing products from the car to the event site, and perhaps a few flights of stairs, I no longer feel chic and pulled together, and I really, really want to feel both of those things. Divulging some of her insider tips and experience, Jennifer shares some great make-up and styling advice to make sure we can all be a hot host or hostess, who can handle the heat and look amazing in the kitchen!

What is the best hairstyle for being on-the-go at a party? Any products (anti-humidity, certain types of hairspray, etc.?)

Half-up, half-down is a good go-to, with a few face-framing pieces and plenty of volume at the crown. Twists and braids are also right on trend right now, as well as top buns if you're feeling creative. I tend to wear my hair down and always strive for glam touseled curls. To achieve this, I rely on hot rollers, a ghd flat iron and the best hair sprays in the business: got2B's Glued spray and Voce hair spray. They both last for hours, retain hard-earned volume and maintain styles no matter the climate. I also like Living Proof Root Lifting Spray before I blow dry.

What would be your beauty suggestions for someone who's going to be in the kitchen and preparing to still look pretty when guests arrive?

Set your makeup with a veil of translucent powder (if it's on the oily side) or a spritz of finish spray (if it's on the drier side.) Bare Minerals Hydrating Mineral veil is fantastic, and Skindinavia makes the best spray (with formulas specifically for aging skin, dry skin, etc.) so nothing slides off and there's no creasing, cracking or smudging.

Are their any clothing styles that translate better from party planning mode to pretty party hostess?

I'm dress-obsessed. (Side-Note: This is true as I've never actually seen Jenn in pants, let alone jeans! I'm not even sure she owns them, but if she does, I'm sure they're incredible!) Literally, more than half of my closet is filled with dresses because they're versatile, flattering and always appropriate. You can get dressed in a flash, add heels and you're out the door! Find a silhouette that works for your body type and don't stray from it. Pencil skirts, belts and flirty blouses are also good options for a little variety. And it's a well-known fact that I live for nude heels. You can never have too many pairs, they go with everything and your legs will look fabulous for any event.

Any tips for keeping feet and legs happy as the night goes on?

Foot Petals makes a product called Haute Heels that are life savers! These adhesive little pads stick to the inside of your shoe and shifts your weight in heels, which in turn, creates magical comfort for nights out on the town. You can also take heels into a shoe repair and have them add a layer of cushion to the bottom for additional durability, which simultaneously can ease pain in the process. I love Arturo's Shoe Repair in Beverly Hills.


What makeup lines or products can survive through tastings, sippings and cheek kissings?

I love L'Oreal Infallible Lipstick...great wearability, wide selection of colors and affordable price point. Smashbox and MAC make great gel eyeliners that don't budge, LORAC and Stila have great liquid pen options, too. I set concealer with ColoreScience Corrector Palette, which is amazing and keeps skin from looking dull. I always spritz Skindinavia's finishing spray after I apply makeup to set it for the rest of the day. Keeps everything in place and skin stays fresh and hydrated--my fave!

What are the essentials to have on hand for last minute touch-ups?

A cheerful pink lip gloss (I like MAC's Pink Poodle or Clinique's long last glosswear SPF 15 for a sheer option)--one swipe and you look finished and upbeat. Pressed powder, a bronzer or brightening blush and eyeliner are always in my clutch for late nights on the town.

What's the best way to prepare skin prior to a night out?

Drink plenty of water, hydrate skin with serum and moisturizer and eye cream so the skin is smooth and supple before makeup application. Rohto eye drops also take the red out ASAP and make you look alive and well-rested.

If you'd like to read more about Jennifer's fabulous adventures and beauty and fashion tips, check out TheJenniferChan.com and The Fabulous File!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Romance at Short Notice...

When I was in second grade, we were experiencing one of our worst winters, making it impossible to go out for recess. As an alternative to all of us becoming completely stir-crazy and suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) our school chose to have Hawaiian Day. We were all allowed to wear our beach clothes (under our coats, of course), suntan lotion and sit on beach towels instead of at our desks. It was wonderful, and all these years later I still remember how much fun it was to listen to the Beach Boys in Mrs. Gaston's class while practicing Arithmetic.

So why the walk down memory lane? Well, I think we can all fall victim to BLAD, Busy Life Affective Disorder, (I just made that up) where we forget to inject a bit of fun into our lives in lieu of tackling deadlines, staying late at work or just not making time for it. It's hard to see the sun when dealing with tough commutes and overloaded schedules, and your weekends are spent tackling all the personal errands and tasks you've been putting off all week. Well, why not take a tip from my elementary school and invite the outdoors in? With a minimum amount of planning, you can turn an evening at home into a day at the park. Behold, the indoor picnic!

To set the scene, lay out a blanket that you don't mind getting crumbs on, along with some throw pillows for additional comfort. I like having a cutting board or two handy to create a more stable surface for cups, food, etc. as lumpy blankets aren't necessarily the most reliable places to set things. A little wine (don't forget the corkscrew) and some candles are a great touch, and a candle that smells like Macintosh Apples is a great way to enhance the feeling of being outdoors while in. Have lots of finger foods such as pre-cut fruit, assorted cheeses, crackers, veggies, anything that makes you think picnic. If you're with your honey, you might want to check out "Gayot's Top 10 Best Aphrodisiac Foods," to add a little more fun to the mix. Using disposable plates and cups means less clean up afterwards. I also recommend having paper towels and hand wipes handy, along with a bag to put any wrappers or trash in, so you don't have to keep getting up to go to the kitchen and disrupting the mini-vacation.

Quick note: I highly recommend putting on comfy clothes for this. Jeans can be awkward to sit in and shoes are forbidden! Also, shut down all phones, blackberries, computers, etc. You're not supposed to have cell service all the way out in the wilderness.

To enhance the ambiance, you could put on some nature sounds, like wind in the trees, a summer rain, or waves crashing on the beach, or find some of your favorite songs that invoke that sort of carefree spirit, remind you of the outdoors or just make you happy. Here's my top picks, and feel free to send me your ideas.

1. Ray LaMontagne - You Are The Best Thing (Great song and lyrics with Ray's soulful voice)
2. Bob Dylan - Lay Lady Lay (Across my big brass bed, or picnic blanket, whichever)
3. Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice (Just reminds me of that sweet early love when anything's possible)
4. Phil Phillips - Sea of Love (Perfect to imagine cozying up to your honey on a beach blanket)
5. Van Morrison - Sweet Thing (Such an easy song to listen to with romantic lyrics)
6. Joel Strummer and the Mescaleros - Mondo Bongo (If you saw Mr. and Mrs. Smith, this is the one they danced to in the rain when they first met. Swoon!)
7. Bob Schneider - Moon Song (Another great beach blanket song)
8. Van Morrison - Into the Mystic (The lyrics invoke the wind, the sea and rocking your gypsy soul)
9. Antonio Carlos Jobim - Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)
10. Norah Jones - I've Got To See You Again (Bossa Nova rhythms)

Happy In-Picnic-ing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Bittersweet Story... Make Way for Tomorrow


I was sidetracked tonight in my attempt to see Breakfast at Tiffany's at a Hollywood Cinespia Screening (the line to get in was incredible), so instead, I opted to watch a movie I've had on my queue and have been avoiding for a while because of its very serious and potentially sad tone. The movie is "Make Way for Tomorrow" a film from 1937 starring Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi as an elderly couple who have fallen on hard times, lost their home, and are now having to live apart in the different homes of their busy children, people that have no place in their lives for the struggles and presence of their lonely, ailing parents.

There are so many people that have fallen on hard times due to the economy, age, injuries, etc. and we tend to forget, in our healthy state, about the desperation people can feel as they try to hold tight to a sense of humanity and self-respect. I don't believe that most people would intend to be a burden on another, and this movie was a great example of how caught up we can get in being unfeeling towards those that perhaps slow us down or unintentionally encroach on our day to day lives, by no fault of their own. I was guilty of this behavior in my teen years, and regret it to this day.

There are some very powerful scenes when the couple portray the knowing of not belonging anywhere and feeling a burden, as well as the scenes of friendship, mutual respect and unconditional love that have gotten their characters through 50 years of marriage. I know it's just a movie, but stories like these serve as such a wonderful reminder of the type of love we should aspire to have, as well as how we should treat others and plan for our future (it covered a lot of ground!) I loved the dialogue between the elderly couple; the words they used with one another, their inside jokes, the way they spoke of one another when they were with others and the care and concern for the others well-being at the expense of their own happiness. It's romantic in a timeless, yet humble way, and I highly recommend it... but have your tissues ready.

Below is a poem Beulah Bondi recites in the film. I hope you will take the time to watch this movie. I haven't been held to watch a film without getting distracted by something in a long time, but this kept my attention rapt.

A man and a maid stood hand in hand;
bound by a tiny wedding band.
Before them lay the uncertain years
that promised joy and, maybe tears.
"Is she afraid?" thought the man of the maid.

"Darling," he said in a tender voice,
"Tell me. Do you regret your choice?
'We know not where the road may wind,
'or what strange byways we may find.
'Are you afraid?" said the man to the maid.

She raised her eyes and spoke at last.
"My dear," she said, "the die is cast.
'The vows have been spoken. The rice has been thrown.
'Into the future we’ll travel alone.
'With you," said the maid, "I’m not afraid."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Be an Event Planner (Dinner Party Edition)

Hello everyone!! As part of my fabulous job, I am writing informative posts on event planning on our company's blog CME Life (CME is short for Cory Martin Events) and my latest post is on getting behind the pretty napkins and decor of a dinner party to the steps it takes to run a smooth, guest-focused celebration. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts!

Be an Event Planner (Dinner Party Edition)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

One of the questions we're often asked at Cory Martin Events is what it takes to be an event planner. Prior to working for Cory Martin, I would dream about the lovely favors, the food, the color palettes and song lists that I would feature for different events, but having worked with a company with such a discerning clientele, I have realized that all of those elements are just icing on the cake. What makes the job wonderful but challenging, and gives you that moment of accomplishment at every event, is seeing the arrival of your guests into a party where you have carefully thought out each and every detail so that they can let go of the outside world and become fully immersed in the convivial atmosphere of your celebration.

Many people think of parties in terms of themes; a Halloween party, a bridal shower, an anniversary. While this is an important component, there are a multitude of details that are just as pertinent to the feel of your party. Event planning requires both right and left brain thinking, fusing logistical and critical thinking with creativity. You can't think in terms of just creating a pretty party, you must put yourself in the position of chef, server, bartender, DJ, lighting technician, rental company, venue coordinator, valet, and last but not least, guest. While you have been living and breathing this event, most of the vendors, sub-contractors and especially the guests, have not. It is your responsibility to envision every scenario that may come up, and find ways to make the experience an enjoyable one for those present. In some ways, this seems to me a bit like baby-proofing a home. You want them to enjoy themselves and yet you want to take measures to prevent your guests from encountering something that will deter from their enjoyment.

While you may be just starting on a career to event planning, or perhaps looking for insight for your next celebration, I think a great place to familiarize yourself with the inner workings of any event is to plan a dinner party. This micro-version of a bigger fête gives us a chance to really explore ways to make a celebration wonderful, and what things to look out for as your guest list grows.

Here are a few examples of things to think about for the main components of a dinner party. This list is not complete, but hopefully it will give you insight into thinking like an event planner, and help make your next event a glorious one.

Planning a Dinner Party

* What will they be eating? Are there any dietary restrictions? Do you have all of the necessary kitchen equipment, as well as the flatware, china, salt and pepper shakers, bread baskets, linens, glasses, etc. that your guests will require to enjoy the food being served?

* When will they be eating? If you've opted out of dinner and are just serving appetizers, but your party is near dinner time, should you move the time of the event or plan on having more food (crudités, assorted foreign and domestic cheese, meats and fruits, small plated appetizers, etc.)? How much time does each course take to prepare and when will each course need to be started to insure a smooth flow between courses (and if you're hosting, give you time to enjoy dinner with your guests?)

* What will they drink? Is there specific glassware that is expected with the types of drinks you're offering? Do they pair well with what you're serving? What temperature should the wines be served at, and do you need to decant the red wines? Have you created a fun drink to complement your event, perhaps one that is seasonal or a guest of honor's favorite? How much beverage product will you need to have on hand, and oh, did you pick up the ice and mixers?

* Where will used plates, glasses and garbage go? Do you have a designated area where items can be put so they're out of sight until after the party? Stacks of dishes on the kitchen counter where many guests like to congregate will be an eyesore and may cause some overly kind guests to start helping you clean up. Perhaps a table right outside around the side of the house where things can be set until later would be a better option.

* Is your home party-friendly? Is there parking for guests? Is the bathroom fully stocked? If you have pets, have you made sure they are safe and will not feel encroached upon, nor bother guests? Do you have a phone number for a taxi service for guests that over imbibe or do you have an extra pair of jammies in case someone needs to stay the night?

* What are your guests doing besides eating? Even among the most well-meaning crowds, it is still inevitable that guests will arrive at different times, so you need to have a way to entertain them prior to dinner. Light food and drink stations for those arriving with an appetite (and trust me, people like having something to hold in their hands such as a glass of wine) or a fun ice breaker activity. There are a multitude of options online, so find one that is tailored to your crowd and the type of celebration. When dinner's over, have something to keep the party going such as a playful game of charades or Pictionary, or transform your backyard into a make-shift late night venue such as a lounge with soft lighting and music or a drive-thru theater with a projector, cozy blankets and pillows, and popcorn.

My final words of advice are from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project which is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." You can get things as right as you could imagine, but there's a good chance something won't go as planned. If, and when, that crazy thing happens, take a deep breath and remember the spirit in which you decided to host this celebration. Your guests are grateful for your efforts, and you should be proud of yourself for taking on a task that most people find incredibly daunting. Learn from it, then let it go.

If you have any questions about your party, feel free to post them below, and I will reply as soon as I can. Happy planning!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

30 Life Lessons from 30 Years


My 30th Birthday is coming up, and it's definitely one of those milestone birthdays that makes you look back and reflect on the lessons you've learned, as well as to remind yourself of all the wonderful things you hope to experience in the future.

As fate would have it, I found this terrific article with 30 Life Lessons From 30 Years written by Joshua Milburn of The Minimalists. It has triggered me to begin compiling my own list, but in the meantime, I found this writer's words such a great reminder of what the trials and triumphs of being on this planet for 30 years have given to me in terms of insight, wisdom and revelations. While I'm still a work in progress, I am grateful for the experiences, good and bad, that have guided me to a better understanding of love, career, friendships, relationships and true success.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holes in my confidence, holes in the knees of my jeans

I had to share this wonderful video. It has so many moments of delight: boldness, compassion, generosity, living in the moment, the sheer joy on her face, dreams come true and the support of those present. I am so happy for this woman, Rayna, and Paul Simon's connection to his fans.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Not So Nice Side of Nice


While it is neither a male nor female issue, many people struggle with being too nice. We don't want to offend, we don't want to be scolded, we want to be liked by everyone, even if we don't actually like them.

I often struggle with this niceness thing, often finding myself acting in ways that go against my better judgment and treating strangers or people I don't particularly care for better than the people that I really, really do.

For example: I've often given ridiculously thought out gifts to people I barely knew when I've come to an agreement with my true friends that we don't really need to do gifts. Why? Because I wanted this new, untested, not really a friend yet person to like the really nice, incredibly thoughtful gift giving me. And once you're my friend, I won't have to give you gifts anymore. Yikes! This leads me to my first point about being nice...

Being nice can be manipulative. Whether it's to make oneself so meek to avoid being dealt with honestly or to "nicey-nice" someone into getting your way, nice is not so nice. Nice doesn't acknowledge boundaries, those of others, or those that should be understood about oneself. Nice does too much, but never feels like it has done enough. Nice is exhausting!

In the book, "The Nice Factor: The Art of Saying No," the authors describe the word nice as a "weak modifier." And it's true. Nice is not usually a way you want to be described. "That's nice," usually means it isn't. If someone says he's a nice guy, it usually means his other attributes aren't noteworthy. If someone says my dress looks nice, I usually change.

In describing a person, nice is now more commonly thought of as someone who is passive, submissive, mild, or as a past mentor put it "nice" is uptight and out of sight. Nice doesn't know how to say no. Nice doesn't have a voice, even when it comes to a cause that nice cares about because it might offend someone. When I imagine someone who is "nice," I tend to see a person with their feet side-by-side, sensible shoes on beige carpet, hands clasped, lips sealed and big eyes waiting for outside approval to say "Yes, congratulations. You're nice."

Say NO to NICE!!!

What's more important is for us to be kind. Kind is specific. It thinks of others and it is active. When I think of someone who is kind, I imagine them doing something to ease the suffering of another. I see them aware of their abilities and compassion and sharing that with the world. That kind person seems strong, capable, focused. There are accomplishments in their past, decisions they've made that have earned them this description. Kindness doesn't want for the acknowledgement of others. It just is.

Kind knows itself and doesn't need to keep proving itself again and again. Kindness pairs well with other traits like assertive, sexy, courageous, wacky, funny. Nice has to be constantly on guard, not letting down its facade, agreeing to everything to prove how nice it is. Nice doesn't want to impose, oppose or offend. Nice is self-serving, kind is selfless.

Kind is how you are, nice is how you think you have to be. If you're kind, you don't have to be nice. Instead, you can be a lot of other things, wonderful things, interesting things, strong things.

Above image from: inspiredtype.wordpress.com

Friday, June 3, 2011

Remember the First Kiss?

So sweet!! Wherever you are, I hope this inspires a good bit of kissy face with your honey this weekend to remember how fun it can be!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Remarkable Teacher Demonstrates Incredible Grace Under Pressure

The video below is of a kindergarten teacher in Monterrey, Mexico trying to calm and protect her very young students as a violent gun fight takes place right outside of their classroom. Using quick thinking to keep the children's heads near the ground, she begins singing the Raindrop Song from Barney, a song about imagining if raindrops suddenly became chocolate. She instructs the children to roll onto their backs to catch the chocolate raindrops in their mouth, thus keeping them as low to the ground and as far out of harm's way as possible. Instinctive, maternal and courageous. I'm so in awe of this woman, and to the teachers out there that do all they can to safeguard and teach our youth.

Friday, May 27, 2011

No, Non, 没有, Keine, нет

It doesn't matter how you say it, NO in any language can be difficult for graceful women who sometimes confuse being kind with also being a pushover. Perhaps it's an attempt to be perfect, we want to be everything to everyone, putting our needs or obligations on the back burner to tend to another's. I have many times been guilt-ridden by not having enough hours in the day to do whatever I could to ease someone else's burden, often forgetting that I had many tasks and many loved ones that were waiting patiently for some of my time as well. This desire to multi-task to the point of collapse is draining, can cause resentment, and tends to result in a lot of half-done ventures that can leave us scrambling to figure out how to begin putting our own lives back together again.

Much of this multi-tasking can be contributed to technology; the cell phones, blackberries, tablets, laptops, and constant access to non-face to face communication means that we often have to come up with reasons why we can't do something, or have to utter that dreaded word "No," whose cousins "I can't" and "I'm not available at that time" tend to leave just as bitter a taste on our tongues. Perhaps we think that if they could peak through our window at that very moment, they would see that we were up to our necks in other obligations, but they can't, we don't want to appear lazy or unaccommodating, so we drop everything to do for another what they could often do for themselves.

What?!?! Do it themselves?!?! But they need me, they wouldn't do it correctly, and/or no one else could do it as well as me.

Aha! This is point #1. You're amazing. No seriously you are. You organize a million schedules, have the ability to make a dish on the fly that would rival the main course at French Laundry, and you smell nice too. However, there are times when it's important to let people handle their problems themselves. Of course, you can help guide them, but you have to remember that keeping others from learning how to manage tasks such as budgeting for and paying their bills, cleaning up after themselves or how to get from Point A to Point B, is not really helping them, it's hindering them. There are those in our society that really truly need help with these tasks (children, senior citizens, those with certain medical conditions) but in general, most people have the resources, brainpower (but perhaps lack of will power) to find ways to make their lives run. If they get stuck at Point A because they really didn't find a way to get to Point B without you dragging them there, perhaps Point B wasn't really that important. Start lovingly giving others the opportunity to solve their own problems and see if you find that, lo and behold, they really could do it.

But won't they dislike me if I say no, or that I'm not available to do it?

Point #2. If that loved one who wants you to help them move apartments for the 6th time, or who needs to borrow your car again, or who needs a dog sitter while they go to the lake is going to stop loving and caring about you if you say "No, I can't absorb your obligation," that's not the kind of love you wanted in the first place. Love in its highest form is unconditional, and having people that will only be kind to you if you pick up their slack and stop what you're doing to help them with crisis #4,873, is not really the kind of person you want around anyway. If these types stop coming around because you aren't their butler/trust fund/catch-all drawer, you might be better off.

*Bonus* Again, this will lovingly give the favor-asker the chance to re-evaluate their choices. If they are making decisions that don't fit into their lives and is making them have to constantly rely on others to manage it, maybe having to miss out or do without will be inspiration enough to make some changes.

Point #3. But you really like helping out. Okay, I understand this. Just make sure you have a point in mind where "No" is okay. If you're too exhausted from handling your sister-in-law to be a good parent to your children, it's time to say no. If you have done too much overtime at work and have no love left for your honey, it's time to say no. If everyone else's lives are running smoothly thanks to you, but you are down to the "ugly panties" and only have condiments in your refrigerator, it's time to say NO!!

There are incredible charities that really do need people with the giving, generous spirit that you have. Find one that you're passionate about to share your kindness and let it serve as a reminder to yourself that you are a good person, but also not one who will get in the way of a learning moment for another. If you see that helping another will really not take away from your life, happiness or well-being, for example watching that niece that you adore anyway, or helping prune a friend's garden that results in some exercise and delicious home-grown tomatoes, then by all means, chip in!

But if it doesn't, I give you my blessing and encouragement to say gracefully, politely, but firmly, "No."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Petrichor

From wordsmith.org, a few years ago, the scent that is also now floating in through my window:

petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun

The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.

[From petro- (rock), from Greek petros (stone) + ichor (the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology). Coined by researchers I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas.]

"But, even in the other pieces, her prose breaks into passages of lyrical beauty that come as a sorely needed revivifying petrichor amid the pitiless glare of callousness and cruelty." Pradip Bhattacharya; Forest Interludes; Indianest.com; Jul 29, 2001.

Cycling Through The Vineyards

This past weekend, I finally got to enjoy two months of planning for my honey's birthday. I know many people speak of living in the present, but my love of coordinating and looking forward to those plans being played out for the recipient is just as much fun. I recently decided that I liked the idea of giving experiences rather than gifts, so I set about researching bike tours through vineyards, nice hotels and delicious restaurants to give my busy boy a nice relaxing mini-vacation in the quaint little town of Paso Robles. It's about a three hour drive, and neither of us had been there, so it seemed like a fun adventure.

We arrived at our hotel moments before our guide, and we were promptly shuttled over to the first vineyard, where we enjoyed a light lunch under a bright red market umbrella. The guide was sweet enough to even have a brownie with a candle in it for my man's birthday. We were anxious to go so we both barely ate, and soon we were peddling across the rolling hills of the East Side of Paso Robles, considered the valley part of the region and giving it a completely different flavor profile from the West Side which was more on the coastal ledge of the area, and with a completely different soil. We rode past beautiful old farmhouses, livestock with their new offspring basking in the sun, flowers and fields of every different kind and of course, row upon row of grapevines.

I have to admit, a part of me was a bit frightened. Having a bike accident when I was twelve that put me in the hospital for a week, I could feel tension and panic creeping up when we headed down some of the steeper hills. But I kept reminding myself that I was not a 12 year old anymore and rode cautiously on and by the end of the day, I was letting the exhilaration of the hills fill me with the euphoria of riding in fearless motion.

That night, we made up for all of the calories we'd burned and then some by diving into one delicious Italian dish after another at Il Cortile in downtown Paso Robles. I had wavered back and forth between this restaurant and another with a more "famous" reputation, but by the end of the meal, we were in heaven. Everything was cooked to perfection, innovative and beyond satisfying. My thanks to all those Yelpers! that posted about this place.

Upon returning to our room, we discovered that in addition to our turn-down service, they had put on some great jazz music to welcome us back. It reminded me of our first date, when a coffee meeting led to dinner, and we found ourselves at a jazz club, listening to the late show, not wanting that first day to end. And luckily, after three years, I still feel that same way.
With bike helmet hair in front of J. Lohr Vineyards.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"You will put the star in starting over..."

I started this blog because I wanted to seek out and help create better role models for our children, so naturally I was intrigued to hear Sarah Kay's "If I Should Have A Daughter." Her spoken word poem plays out the insecurities, the gentle nudge, the knowing wink of being at that threshold between knowing yourself as a daughter and becoming the mother of one; when the world is no longer just about your path but about looking outward at the future your child will face.

I bet we've all had those moments where that maternal advice from your past finally sunk in and you've realized, "So this is what she was trying to tell me," and "Wow, I really don't know a thing!!" As Austin Kleon said "All advice is autobiographical," and in hearing Sarah Kay, I felt that the words were directed to not only a progeny but a past version of the poet herself. Her poem spells out guidance to help a child who can't yet foresee the trials they will encounter: the heartache, the defeats, all the moments that will help shape them and mould them and hurt them. And in the same breath, she speaks as the proud and grateful daughter now comprehending the wisdom of the generations of mothers before her, adding the experience of another age for those to come.

To all the grandmothers, mothers and daughters out there (Because the mothers are the daughters of the grandmothers. Remember that word puzzle, Mom?) have a Wonderful Mother's Day!

Here's her presentation at TED:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tips for Creating Your Own Flower Arrangements


Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

Spring has been slow to really present itself this year, and the peonies I was hoping to have bursting in my home are still the size of golf balls and incredibly expensive. For now, calla lilies, ranunculus and hyacinths are taking center stage, and so I have a vase of gently curved stems sitting by my computer compelling me to talk them up a bit.

Through my work, I've been lucky to have come in contact with some incredible florists and purveyors of flowers. At 19, I worked for a remarkable woman named Krislyn Meyer now Krislyn Komarov who saw flowers more as art supplies to be molded and manipulated into art pieces, and the flowers she bought from Holland, New Zealand, various parts of Asia and South America seemed like other worldly species that had traversed into our solar system. I started to learn about their needs, their quirks, which were sturdy and which would falter and which would start growing roots and creating offspring if you left them in water long enough. It was a bit of a science lab and art studio and the appreciation for flowers and plants as more than clear vase fillers began.

Shopping for Flowers

There really is no simpler way to add a burst of color to your home than incorporating the vibrant blooms of spring flowers. With access to one of the largest flower districts in America, I'm fortunate to be able to go to the Los Angeles Flower Mart, where I can create arrangements with both aesthetic and aromatic appeal. When selecting flowers, allow its beauty to consist not only of its petals, but also of its stem and leaves. Although a bit of dew on a rose in the morning is lovely, getting the heads of cut roses wet will cause them to begin to rot and turn brown. This a good time to mention that when you are looking at purchasing flowers, be mindful of lifting them and allowing the wet stems to drip on the tops of other flowers. You could upset the seller and ruin someone else's arrangement.

Prepping Your Flowers

To insure the longevity of your flowers, remove all leaves that will fall below the waterline and insure that the vases are clean and free of debris. Cut the bottom inch off the stems at an angle under water, preventing an air bubble from rising up the stem, blocking water, and causing the flower head to fall over. Place immediately in water and away from heat and sunlight. Although cool temperatures preserve flowers, do not keep your arrangement in the refrigerator as the food, along with a very arid environment, will cause them to wilt. Flower Food will help your arrangement last longer and can be purchased wherever flowers are sold.

Creating a Flower Arrangement

There are a few items that you should have handy when you're creating an arrangement that will give you more ways to display your flowers than plunking them in a vase.

* Floral Foam which can be cut to fit in your vase or container, and should be fully immersed in water for at least an hour before arranging


* Floral tape (To create a visual grid and add security to vase arrangements or to secure floral foam onto containers)


* Floral shears or hand snips

* A stem stripper (Although, if you have the patience to cut off the leaves and thorns by hand, it's advisable as stem strippers can damage the cane and cause the flower to wilt sooner)

* Wired 3" wood picks to give un-insertable branches and twigs an insertable-ness and lengthen or strengthen weak stems and bundle items such as bows or ornaments together


* An array of vases from clear, ceramic, mint julep cups and wood (although you must line the bottom of porous vases with cellophane wrap)


* Banana leaves or flax to line the inner part of a clear vase for a unique look and to hide the stems. (Above is an arrangement I did for a luncheon using floral foam inside and a banana leaf to hide it.)

* Additional leaves, greenery, feathers, etc. to fill out the arrangement and add some personal touches

Play up the shape of the stem, molding them and allowing elements of form to enhance your arrangement. Let their shape tell a story. When cutting the flowers, it's best to cut them at an angle, underwater, if placing in floral foam or a vase as the angle allows for more water absorption and allows the flower to be inserted easier. Look at your arrangement from all angles (high, low, front, back) to make it three dimensional and eye-catching no matter where you are in the room. Experiment with different techniques such as bending branches around from one side of the arrangement to the other, creating clusters of similar textures and colors, monochromatic arrangements of all different flowers and have fun!

From a recent event, a monochromatic arrangement of white tulips, roses, hydrangeas and orchids created by Yvonne Van Pelt of Empty Vase.


Place flowers throughout your home, such as a small arrangement in the powder room, and another to set the tone for guests right in your entryway. Keep dining table arrangements low to allow the conversation to flow freely, or if you're having guests over, consider creating smaller arrangements before each guests’ place setting that they can take with them as a memento of their wonderful time with you.

You can also find great sources of information and courses at your art supply, your local gardens, nurseries and adult education courses which can show you some tricks of the trade and help you create beautiful floral creations in your own home. Get a group of friends together and have a floral arranging session with rose or jasmine infused tea and cupcakes with edible flowers on top. It's a great way to tap into your creativity and add beauty to your world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

To Blame or Not to Blame...

"If you make it a habit not to blame others, you will feel the growth of the ability to love in your soul, and you will see the growth of goodness in your life."
— Leo Tolstoy


I read this quote first thing in the morning and wanted to share it with you. There are two sides to this quote that I think are worth looking in to.

First, in regards to most blame, it is much like complaining and when we lend ourselves to that behavior, we find ourselves participating in negative talk and thought patterns that can lead us away from being the kind of women (and men) we want to be. In many ways, when we blame others, we give ourselves the option for inaction, because we declare that the circumstances are beyond our control and thus we have little or no impact on how things will turn out. This is a good time to look at issues in your relationships, job, living situation and determine whether blaming your partner, boss or whomever is keeping you from taking action and whether you could improve the situation for both yourself and others. If you want more romance, rather than blaming your partner, make plans that will give both of you a loving and memorable evening. If your home isn't as clean as you would like it, rather than thinking you need a bigger house, a maid or a tidier roommate, perhaps it's time to pare down your belongings so you have less to clean and more room to keep things. Opt out of blame and into solutions.

Conversely, many of us opt to be "kind" to others by taking all of the blame upon ourselves. This is no better. There is scientific backing that suggests that a bit of outward blame is good for our well-being in that it can help us see that bad circumstances are temporary and circumstantial, letting the space for improvement still exist. If you get laid off, for example, by feeling like you are a bad worker and that if this company didn't want you, no one will, you are telling yourself that these circumstances are permanent and will be true no matter where you work. This way of thinking is very hard to overcome if you don't let some, if not all, of the blame shift. Instead, you should consider that the opposite is just as true. Play the blame game: the company that laid you off is a bad fit, is perhaps suffering, and their decision will be another company's blessing when they hire you. Framing it this way makes the circumstances temporary and only true of the previous company, not all companies.

Think about what we say to children when they face hardships from classmates: "She just does that because she likes you," (turning bad into good) or "He just says that because he's jealous," (turning the negative description on to the bully.) And we say "You're going to be okay," when they scrape their knee. We let them know that things will get better.

Today, look at something in your life that is troubling you and ask yourself: Am I taking all the blame for this and making it impossible to grow and improve? Could it be true that I'm not wholly responsible for these circumstances and can move beyond them? Or, am I placing all the blame on others and negating my chance to personally improve the situation? When things are down, or you feel like the world is against you, re-frame the situation in a less self-deprecating manner to see if the opposite could be true, and thus reveal a place to grow from.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fate Favors The Bold


A dear friend of mine told me this short parable a while back, and I wanted to share it with you.

If everyone in the world could go to one place, and put all of their problems into a gigantic bowl, but they had to take another problem out, everyone would choose their own problems again, because they have the ability to handle that particular struggle.

In life, there are times when what we are facing seems bigger than who we are, and trying to muster the fortitude to deal with it seems impossible. While so much of what we perceive in grace is being demure, gentle and compassionate, it is also true that grace embodies strength, fearlessness and assertion. When you envision a dancer, she can not turn, leap, or hold such an elegant form without having an inner power that allows her to do so. It's the same for each of us.

A few years ago, I was at a job that was causing me constant stress. I was so unhappy, had little patience for anything and felt absolutely lost. I woke up dreading the day, and at night I was so tired that I had little left to give to my loved ones. The stress got to the point where, on brushing my hair one day, I found that a one inch section of hair had fallen out, leaving a bald spot on top of my head. For the stress to come outward like that, I can only imagine what it was doing internally!

With no more hours in the day than I had before, I began to take steps to change my circumstances, and called on my friends for insight and encouragement. I knew I wanted to be an event planner, that I would practically do it for free as I had whenever a little celebration was being planned. But the reality was, I had absolutely zero background in the industry aside from hosting or helping with parties for friends and family. I didn't have a hospitality degree or a resume full of successful events that I had single-handedly pulled together, but I knew that given the chance, I could do everything that the task required. The nay-sayers who proclaimed that having any job was better than no job came left and right, but feeling so miserable everyday was making me question such logic.

I turned to bloggers such as Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity and Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind for examples of others who were living and working on their own terms. I figured out a budget for myself and saved every nickel and dime so I could quit my job, giving myself $10 or less per day for all of my food, gas and expenses. I calculated that, without a job, I could stretch the little savings I had for nearly eight months if that's what I had to do. And again and again, I told myself "Fate favors the bold."

And so, in early September of 2009, in the middle of the financial crisis, with the highest paying job I'd had, health benefits, retirement, you name it, I printed the letter of resignation I had saved on my computer months before, and set it in front of my boss.

I immediately began checking out library books about event planning, catering, starting a business, anything I could get my hands on, and I sat at a coffee shop (my $10 dwindling with that first tea purchase) and took endless notes on what I would need to be successful. At my second interview (the first turned out to be a pyramid scheme, ha!!) I was taken on as an intern for a Luxury Event Planning, Design and Catering company. A week later, I was lugging 20 lb. bags of ice up to the front door of Versace on Rodeo Drive, waiting for the company's event coordinator to arrive to tell me what to do. She never showed. In fact, she quit to return to dental school and suddenly I was working (still unpaid as an intern) for what would become a job that no longer felt like a job. I worked 70 hours per week for free for those first two months, and was offered the full time position in December.

One and a half years later, I work longer hours, have more responsibility, and most likely more eustress than I have ever had. But my hair looks good!! Job is no longer a bad word, but something I take pride in. I still have tough days, but my goodness, they still beat the best days at that "other" place.

I believe each of us have talents, strengths and wisdom that we can tap into and that we should live boldly so as to see what we are truly made of. Where, in your life, are you doing OK rather than remarkable? Take steps today to prove to yourself that you have the CouRAGE to overcome those obstacles and put yourself on a path to living exuberantly.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Petra Nemcova, Grace Abounds

I've recently been watching Dancing With The Stars, and one of my favorite people is on it, exuding grace, beauty, charm, you name it. I'm speaking of Petra Němcová, the Czech model who was nearly killed and saw her fiance swept away by the powerful waves of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Over the years I've wondered about her. In her initial interviews she spoke with so much hope and resilience that I truly wished for her a beautiful life. In the last few years, she started the Happy Hearts Fund which helped to rebuild the communities destroyed by the tsunami and went on to assist with recovery efforts in Hurricane Katrina. She continues to return again and again to areas that are ravaged by natural disasters, such as Haiti and Peru, in an effort to ease the suffering of those that are in the midst of what she herself went through.

On top of all this, she's absolutely gorgeous!! In the latest performance on Dancing With The Stars, the contestants were asked to choose a song that had an emotional meaning to them. Petra chose "You Lift Me Up," a song she heard upon her first return to Thailand, and when she was overcome with how much there was to do, how many were still suffering, she heard the song, and knew she should keep her chin lifted and push forward to make a difference. Here is her performance from this week:



She makes me want to dance, smile, volunteer, moisturize and wear lavender. What a wonderful example of feminine grace!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Romance...

Warning!! This isn't as much a graceful post as a recommendation of an incredible life experience:

I think one of my favorite parts of being a woman is my bottomless capacity for romance. Perhaps it's wanting to live out some of the more romantic scenes from movies, but I'm always trying to turn my rather plebeian tasks into something a bit more whimsical, from walking in the rain, to listening to jazz standards on a flight so it feels like I'm going somewhere in a Classic film. Anything for that heightened sense of existence.

This past weekend was no exception. Celebrating our three year anniversary, I secretly planned an adventure to take place while out of town for my sister's awards banquet in San Diego. Not far away is the town of Temecula, a city covered in beautiful vineyards and sweeping farm lands that boast picturesque landscapes and the perfect location for... hot air ballooning!!


We started at sunrise at Monte de Oro Winery, enjoying a warm cup of coffee and pastries, slowly waking up and greeting the other passengers. Soon, we climbed into an SUV with six other passengers and headed to a nearby open field where three colorful balloons were slowly being set-up and filled.


When everything was ready, we climbed into the basket and away we went, floating over the lush green vineyards, above animal sanctuaries where startled horses and rabbits went prancing about, and residents emerged to wave at us. It was incredible until...


The gray fog came rolling in. What had looked to be a bright, clear morning suddenly had us enshrouded in a blanket of soupy clouds, making visibility nearly impossible. Our wonderful pilot tried to guide us up to see if we could get above it, but to no avail. We set gently down in a field, and took some last minute pictures before heading back to the winery.


And the good news is that we get to go back again for free. A re-do, and another day of romance with my honey.

I leave you with this, the Balloonist's Prayer. I hope you will have reason to say it soon too.

The winds have welcomed you with softness.
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God joined you in laughter
and set you gently back into
the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Art of Handling Criticism Gracefully by Leo Babauta

This is a great article from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. I will go into more on this in a later post but wanted to share this inspiring article with you.

The Art of Handling Criticism Gracefully by Leo Babauta

Even as we strive to become more graceful, compassionate, elegant, we will come up against criticism. There is no way to perfectly shield ourselves from the negativity of others, but learning how to respond to it will do us all well.