Potted Notions!

I’ve always wanted to be a gardener. Or I guess more accurately, I considered myself a gardener already — just one that had yet to find her plot of land in the world. Somewhere I could kneel in the soil, use my hands to turn over the earth, and my nails to claw at the clay. I’ve always fantasized about being that person who when people reflect on who I am, they might muse in passing “that Lisa. She’s got quite the green thumb doesn’t she?! If anyone knows a perennial from peony, it’s her”. 

But alas this potted perfunctory notion is just that - a notion! One of those notions that in reality, couldn’t be farther from the truth! Like those visions, I have of myself learning Swedish one day, or taking swing lessons, or singing at an open mic night. 

Unfortunately, this vision was given time to seed recently when I had the opportunity to receive a hydroponic garden, something that I would ordinarily never allow myself to buy, but I thought, “this is it, Lisa. This is your time. This is the gateway that will lead you to the great and fantastical outdoors”.

When the kit finally arrived by Amazon to my front-door, I ripped open the brown box packaging, read the directions, followed them meticulously and am happy to report that 162 days later, I have 6 happy and healthy plants (okay 5 healthy and happy plants — the dill didn’t make it). I have snap-chatted my “harvests”, made many a pesto sauce, and some Thai green basil curries. I have proudly brought out mojitos with homemade mint for friends and presented vegetables with homegrown rosemary. Much of the time, however, I harvest the plants only to throw them down the garbage disposal because I’m traveling for work or don’t have time to cook. I try to freeze them to keep up with the over supply for my meager demands, but I know as I put them in the tubs to freeze that they’ll never be seen or heard from again. I share the spoils with family and friends, who I know find it more irritating than appetizing! But I’m trying any and every way I can think of to get rid of all of these nurtured creations.

I can tell you that throughout this little experiment, I’ve learned a little bit about myself. I’ve learned that I don’t particularly like dirt so I’m rather thankful that this is a water-based garden. I also don’t particularly like bugs so I’m rather thankful it’s an indoor garden!

The more I interacted with my little countertop eco-system, the more I realized that I might not be a gardener after all! I had just spent so many years convincing myself of this self-appointed vision of who I thought I wanted to be in the world that I completely forgot to take into consideration who I actually am as a person today. My likes dislikes, lifestyle, and preferences!! It makes me pause and wonder where else in life I’ve done this. And what could I achieve if I were more mindful of who I actually am and not who I think I’d like to be. Only time will tell I suppose! In the meantime, anyone want a join me for a mojito?!

Actively Engaged!

I've recently embraced a world that I completely, totally, utterly, wholeheartedly, and depths of soul defiantly stated I would never embrace. It’s been a hard transition process for me. I’m still talking myself slowly but surely through the unexpected transformation! The change came quickly and without warning. I told myself my entire life that I would stay strong and true to who I am, and yet somehow, I changed. Overnight. Or I suppose, more accurately, I changed after one visit to Kohls. I unwittingly became an "activewear” girl…!

I tried to resist the urges for many years. I'd limit my workout gear to times where I actually planned to go to the gym or out for a walk or cycle or some other such physical activity. I promised that I wouldn’t cave. I’d stay strong and keep activewear where it belonged - strenuous exercise scenarios only. I never expected this to change because at 34, I’d been able to last this long. I thought my proclivity to choose daily wear such as jeans, dresses, shorts and the like was a habit, nay, a way of life at this point. So deeply entrenched in my being that I didn’t even have to monitor it on my “reflection radar” anymore as something that could potentially crop up as a problem. And then, about 2 months ago, that fateful Kohls visit occurred. I was just looking to spruce up my activewear. I thought “sure I could use a new workout top or two and I even have all this Kohls cash to use!” Eight tops, 5 pairs of yoga leggings, a new “positive vibes” work out baseball cap, and a pair of neon multi-colored runners later, I was done for. The first morning I donned the first of the many new activewear outfits, I felt the shift happen. It was like it all just clicked into place. This was the clothing I was born to wear!! It. Just. Felt. So. Comfortable. I was hooked. Over the next week, I added a few more stretchy tops and pairs of spandex leggings to the arsenal and in the space of a week, I had a whole new closet. And it was ALL activewear. 

I know many of us struggle with this affliction. There have been countless parody videos about active-wearers, there are a zillion mommy bloggers poking fun at the phenomenon, and yes, there are scores of women the world over that have embraced the workout wear lifestyle. And now, ladies, I too see the light. It’s amazing. So easy to get dressed in the morning. And then not only do you feel comfortable and ready to take on the day, but you also carry with you an extra pep cushioned-runner step each and every day!

In all seriousness, as much as I poke fun at this change, I have to say I have noticed some unintended positive consequences from my recent shift in attire. 

  • I am always ready to work out! As obvious as that seems, it means that as someone who works from home, I can always find time to sneak out for a walk and I’m finding that being “dressed for the occasion” means I actually do more walking day-to-day. I’ve been averaging well above 10,000 steps each and every day since taking on my new wardrobe!
  • I feel comfortable. And this, in turn, leads me to stretch more throughout the day, take advantage of my sit / standing desk more in the office and in general, just feel like I have more energy and am more grounded.
  • I am wearing less makeup during the week, which is a time-saver, money-saver, and skin-saver! And hey, my husband says he prefers me with no makeup so it’s a win win!
  • There’s less laundry and dry cleaning since I’m only wearing business clothes out and about and less dry cleaning tops during the week. 
  • It’s a fun change of pace. I can’t say yet whether I’ll continue to be an “active wearer” 24/7, but this dressing interlude has refreshed my clothing creativity. I’m entering my closet in the morning feeling fun and flirty about the possibilities - neon yellow and purple Gaiam leggings or crisscross grey Fabletics today?

Let’s see where the spandex road takes us! I’m properly attired for the journey ahead!


Vision Board Workshop

Come and join us for our next Reflection Institute Event. Jenny and I were inspired to create Vision Boards of our own after attending an event last year with Dr. Sam Collins. We've decided to host our own Vision Boarding workshop to give others an opportunity to reflect and create their own vision of the future. 

In everything we do in life, there is a why. And knowing why we do what we do is important. Each of us strives to live with intention. With purpose. With vision… To spend some time honing your unique vision, join us for the Reflection Institute’s Vision Board Workshop on June 22 from 7.00 to 9.00 pm at the Barrington Area Library.

What is a Vision Board? A Vision Board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate, and maintain focus on a specific life goal. A Vision Board is any board on which you display images that represent whatever you want to be, do, or have in your life.

All you need to do is come ready to start carving out a vision for your future and what is important to you! We’ll do the rest. We’ll have magazines, scissors, poster board, glue, treats, tools to jumpstart your thinking and much more!

We are also proud to announce that local photographer, Susan McConnell, will share her unique visioning process and how her journey has inspired her to start a non-profit, an idea born from the desire to work on a project bigger than herself and one that could change the lives of so many.

Our goal for the evening is that you leave with a finished or almost finished final product that you can post somewhere in your home or office (on a wall, in a closet, wherever you will see it daily), so you can appreciate your remarkable creativity and your unique vision for YOUR future.

We all deserve to live our lives to the fullest and Vision Board'ing is a small, but powerful step, in that direction. 

TWOgather Inaugural Event

It is a beautiful Spring day, despite the fact that it is technically still Winter here in Chicago. I am sitting outside as I write this post in anticipation of the actual Spring days ahead. For Lisa and I, the Spring of 2017 will mark the implementation of our first official Reflection Institute event, and we could not be more excited to bring a group of interesting women together to learn, laugh, and mingle! I wanted to share a little more about Lisa and my's background and why we have decided to create the Reflection Institute and what we hope to accomplish with our first and future events.

Lisa is the creative force behind our business, she has a Bachelor of Arts in French and a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication from Ohio University. She has a Masters in Humanities with a sub-specialty in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and she is a professionally trained photographer on top of it all! Lisa has 9 years of experience working for a small, but mighty executive leadership development firm that works at the C-Suite level of Global 1000 companies. Lisa has traveled the world implementing leadership development programs and has earned praise for her very own iSight workshop where she captures a leader’s legacy via an ethnographic photo session. 

Jenny is the business and project management force behind the business, she has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology, a Master’s in Business Administration and a Masters in Project Management. Jenny is a 16-year higher education veteran with 8+ years of experience working in the corporate learning and development space. Her current role involves consulting on and project managing the implementation of tailored learning solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Jenny has 7 years of direct sales leadership experience and over 8 years experience influencing and indirectly managing cross-functional teams. She is currently responsible for strategic growth initiatives for her organization.

Jointly, we both have a passion for learning and have a strong bond to the point that we know we want to be in business together! We want to work on something we value, while striving to effectively manage work and life. Through a process of self-discovery, we have realized our area of focus will be self-awareness and thus the Reflection Institute was founded! We want to empower people to live a more self-aware life by connecting them with community, peers, and themselves. We want to create individual paths of learning by designing fun sensory-based experiences tied to coaching, reflection exercises, and meaningful interactions. Our goal is to continue to expand our offerings in order to enable people to create customized journeys of self-awareness that will help achieve greater success in work, life, relationships, and community engagement.

This brings me back to our first event, TWOgather, which will take place on March 24th at the War Chest Boutique in Naperville, IL. We will be catering some delicious food from Two Brothers (We figured an event run by Two Sisters run had to be catered by Two Brothers!!) and we will be conducting some interesting and reflective exercises. I don’t want to give everything away but here is a quick teaser:

1)      Each “pair” will have a chance to learn, both visually and through word of mouth, how they are seen through another’s eyes. It is often important and uplifting to take a step back and see how much of an impression you can make on someone else. 

2)      The entire group (we anticipate a max of 20) will get a chance to mingle and meet other women. We will be providing some specific direction for the mingling sessions that will allow the participants to think about a personal development goal they currently have, and to potentially elicit help from someone else in the room.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, we will be hearing a presentation from the War Chest Boutique. As mentioned above, the Reflection Institute’s goal is to make meaningful connections to self, others, and community. Our overarching goal is to draw attention to organizations that have an important mission and purpose and who are doing amazing things with regard to giving back. We believe that having a strong sense of self is very much tied to giving of yourself to others.  The WAR Chest Boutique is the retail arm of the non-profit organization Women At Risk, International, for which W.A.R. is an acronym. They provide gifts that are hand-crafted by or sold in support of at-risk women (and even some at-risk men) in their partnering programs in over 40 countries, including the United States. When you buy something at the store you receive a card with information about who crafted the item, it is so unique…and purposeful. The store in Naperville is a wonderful, quaint and cozy spot and we are honored that they are partnering with us to host the event.

The Reflection Institute’s mission is to create a movement of self-awareness. Our inaugural TWOgather event is the first exciting step in this direction and we are looking forward to a fun and engaging evening on March 24th. See some of you there!

New Year's Revelation!

Overwhelmed…. that is the most accurate word I can come up with to depict the kick-off to my 2017. Overwhelmed. I had a long laundry list of resolutions and goals, but after the 20 days of 2017 that I have had, I am thinking that surviving them is goal enough! Since the New Year rolled on through, I have dealt with finding black mold in our washing machine (as disgusting as it sounds); black mold in our rental unit (it’s already feeling eerily like the year of mold - a first time foe for us in any home!); a broken dryer that was apparently a huge fire hazard (important public service safety announcement: schedule your next dryer vent cleaning right now! Stop reading…go schedule. I’ll wait…..

Aaaand you’re back!); a duct work cleaning service that found mounds of drywall and metal shards in our pipes from a construction project (breathe in that clean ‘lead filled’ air); and most excitedly, a gas leak! We had two firetrucks with 12 strapping firemen beating down our door at around 4.30 am in the first week of the New Year to let us know that there’s a leak in the unit on the exterior of our home and our neighbors had called in the emergency. YIKES! Glad that got fixed before the New Year REALLY kicked-off with a bang! (Yes, the awful pun was intentional).

All of this coupled with work travel and programming stresses, international wedding planning, event planning and launching, and re-renting our condo has me a little….well… overwhelmed as I usher in the New Year!

“Pre-2017 me” would have been doing a nose dive into the closest tub of cookie dough right around now! I’ll admit it I was not the best at managing my stress and food always seemed to be my closest confidant in times of need, sometimes it still is! But newly-formed “2017 me” seems to know something that her former self missed out on. That little secret to stress success has been meditation. And when I say meditation, I don’t mean some guru-style, crossed-legged, posing hour-long trance, I mean meditation my way! Five minutes a day through an app I have downloaded on my phone and tried, with varying degrees of success, to make a habit. After many stops and starts in this learning journey, I have found the Buddify App to be particularly useful to my zen-lite approach to meditation! There are no awkward silences where I immediately start running down my grocery or to do lists; there are no slow waterfall sounds reminding me that I need to soak my delicates before attacking the mountains of laundry deposited throughout our little home; there is just someone speaking in a simple and direct tone asking me for a few minutes of my day to think about some tangible things in my everyday world. It’s easy. And honestly, I had myself convinced that I wasn’t getting anything out of it. How could I be? Something that quick and painless couldn’t at all be beneficial in the long run. But then 2017 happened and things surrounding my little world went all out of whack. And instead of reaching for the bread and cheese (I’m more of a savory foodie if I’m honest), I’m reaching for my little app. Just to give me a couple of minutes of deep breathing and to remind me how easy it is to push all the noise out of my mind and just be still for a little while. 

Try it and let us know how you feel! 

Cheers to you and bring on the New Year!


Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookie baking... whoever invented this holiday tradition was a genius! I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than elbow deep in butter, flour, and sugar. Of course, for Lisa and me, Christmas cookie baking is just an excuse to make our 5-year running rosemary shortbread. This particular recipe is the only recipe we have consistently repeated over the years, and all I can say is that if you tasted it, you would know why! It’s savory, it’s sweet, it’s buttery, it's everything...and cut into thin rectangles that dip perfectly into a cup of Irish tea. It’s our absolute favorite baked good. Hence the reason you can even find it as one of our homepage photos on our website! But I digress, it’s not all about the shortbread here I promise. 

Back to cookie baking. We started this annual tradition five years ago. I  know this will be something we do together, with our kids, for years to come. At the rate, we are improving each and every year, so much so that we could soon be entering ourselves into a holiday baking championship of some kind! Just kidding! In all honesty, we started out pretty pathetically five years ago with a pre-made package of sugar cookie mix and enough tubes of icing and sprinkles to make Betty Crocker proud! We tossed the round discs into the oven, and 10 minutes later, we had our miniature easels ready for the "artistry" to come - a stocking, Santa, and snowflake or two later and we were off! We had a lot of fun and we actually surprised ourselves with our creativity, finishing off with a full-blown fireplace scene and a pretty impressive Frosty the Snowman! We anonymously put a picture of each of our final plates of cookies up on Facebook and put it to the vote. Two hours later,  we had gone viral, and by this, I mean our Mom and Dad and upwards of 20 friends like our efforts!

The following year we upped our game and pulled out the Kitchen Aid, a contraption which I believe, to that point, had gone from wedding registry to the back of my cupboard! Peppermint Thumbprints, red velvet cream cheese-stuffed cookies, and caramel shortbread. We packed up bags and bags and shipped them off to offices, neighbors, and pretty much anyone that glanced our way. From that second year, it became a habit, one that we cherish and look forward to every December. 

In keeping with our Irish background, we like to do cooking baking in style, i.e., by opening a bottle of wine just as we are about to begin, even if that time happens to be 10 or 11 am! We have a good system now where Lisa handles the mise en place, I grab what I need and whip up the various doughs in the Kitchen Aid. I then scoop and dollop the cookies onto baking sheets while she washes up for the next round. 

Over the past couple of years we have hired a helper, one who perches himself on the counter, likes to ensure lots of shells get into the mixture while cracking eggs and is an expert spoon licker! We typically take a late lunch break and although we are ordinarily pretty full with all the required cookie tasting, we feel it’s very important to balance out the day with something savory - cheese, chips, dip, and appetizers do the trick!

It’s a wonderful day and one I look forward to this time of year. The mess in the kitchen, the smell of freshly baked cookies, Christmas music playing in the background, and invariably, we always have a laugh at whichever one of the cookies ends being a disaster - whether in taste, look, or complete lack of understanding of the recipe! We finish with a full display on the kitchen table with cookies adorning all my best dishes and perfectly positioned in a way that would make any food photographer proud. Lisa takes the snap and bam we are done for another year!

Christmas is about making memories and creating new traditions. Our yearly cookie baking extravaganza is one that we stumbled onto, but one that has become the mark of our Holiday season. We hope you all find and create similar traditions with your loved ones.

Merry Christmas….I’m off now to enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of rosemary shortbread!

Fantastic Fall Flowers

As many of us learned growing up, there are the five great senses through which we perceive and interpret the world around us-  sight sound, touch, taste, and smell. For some, there are nine senses (adding to the above the senses of thermoperception, nociception, equilibrioception, and proprioception), while still other neuroscientists now note up to 21 senses! 

No matter the number of actual sensory receptors we have available to us, I think that our so-called “sixth sense” or gut, intuition, third eye, whatever you might know it as, is one that does not often get the attention it deserves. 

Yesterday was a very emotionally draining day for me. I began the day with an engaging and big-picture life and business conversation with a mentor of mine in the UK who guided and challenged me in the morning. She stretched my thinking to painfully new levels of awareness and forced me into some deep reflection that I had been actively avoiding for a quite a long time! It was wonderful and exhausting all at once. From there, my day continued to gain momentum toward more and more emotionally heavy and thought-provoking activities. By the time 6 p.m. in the evening rolled around, I was fit for some couch time and little else. 

As I always do when a day tries to get the better of me, I took the time to sip some chamomile tea, light a warming candle - one of the ones that sound like they are a real fire burning...Those fantastic Wickwood candles, they are just the best for those of us who don’t have the real deal of a fireplace in our homes!  And I just snuggled up next to my fiancé reading my kindle as he listened to the latest round of PEOTUS tweet debacles on CNN. I didn’t say I had had a good day or a bad day. In fact, on this particular day, I didn’t say much at all in the way of a daily recap. I was a receptive partner, as best as I always try to be, I laughed, engaged, and generally interacted as I feel I normally would, not sharing the emotional undercurrent of the day I had had…

Today, my fiancé walked in the door from work as he always does, but this time with a bouquet of fall flowers that bowled me over completely. I was truly touched. I asked him why I should be so lucky and he just looked at me kindly and said “I don’t really know. I just had a gut feeling today that you needed some flowers in your life so I stopped on the way home. Random Monday flowers I guess!”. 

Isn’t it interesting how someone can be so in-tuned to your way of being that even your attempts to act and be “normal” don’t ring true? Someone’s ability to know something without conscious reasoning or analysis is a magnificent capability that contributes to each and every one of our most human and humane instincts. 

I plan to enjoy the sights and smells of my gut-feeling fall flowers for as long as they last!


Fall Birthday Celebration

I was recently asked via the Rungway mentoring app, “how do you get over the Summer blues now that the cold weather is approaching?” If I was asked that question this time last year, I would have probably joined in to complain, but, I now know that camaraderie via commiseration really doesn’t make either person any happier!

So….I was delighted to instead to respond about looking forward to Fall; the colorful leaves, the perfect weather for walking, pumpkin and apple picking, Halloween, Thanksgiving…so many opportunities to engage the senses, embrace the wonders of nature, spend time cozying up with family, and of course we can’t forget pumpkin spice lattes……KIDDING! (I think I will take this moment to tell you all how I despise anything with cinnamon in it so a pumpkin spice latte would be the absolute last thing that would get me motivated about the Fall, but…..I digress and to each their own!)

This interaction with a stranger across the other side of the world actually motivated me to think about the change of seasons myself and what could make me happy this time of year. I am a “Summer person” - I love the sun, the heat, the lack of snow, the lack of cold… you get it! But, I have been trying to turn any negative thinking around and embrace all aspects of life, which in Chicago includes a pretty severe change in seasons! I decided to reach out to my family and bring us all together for a Fall Birthday Celebration! We have three birthdays in our family in October, so this was a perfect opportunity to celebrate them all in one shot. I love to host and always have, but in the past that didn’t stop me from being a crazed, stressed lunatic shouting and directing my husband. This time, however, was different, not 100% perfect by any means….my husband still drove me insane by choosing to mop the floor at the exact time I had five pots going (and I only have a four-top stove so just think about that!). But overall, I chose to mindfully engage in the experience. I enjoyed the shopping and cooking and told myself to calm down and take it one step at a time. Following are the steps I took to create a Fall Birthday Celebration with enjoyment, mindfulness, and an intact head of hair!!

  • Step 1: (2 days prior to party) – Ok, I invited everyone to this event a couple of weeks prior, but work and life decided to be especially inconsiderate and managed to steal a little time from me without my even realizing! So yes, I officially began preparations two days before the event! I started with my table, the central place of gathering. I did a little Pinterest scouting for inspiration and pulled together a red, yellow, orange and green colored Fall table; a Fall colored table runner, some small gourds, and pumpkins, a few candles, large square vases filled in thirds with popcorn seeds, kidney beans and green split peas (might sound odd but it looked so pretty and unique). On my lunch break, I ran out to a spice shop and grabbed a box of 4 Fall spices (I will reveal why later!)
  • Step 2: (1 day prior, AM) – Create the menu. I knew I planned to keep it relatively simple so I wanted to have some olives, chips and some nice Cherry salsa we purchased the weekend before in MI along with a lemon sage cocktail (passed that baton to Alan quickly…he is the bar connoisseur). I then decided on butternut squash, pecan and ricotta bruschetta for appetizer, a roast chicken and potatoes entrée (all mashed together with garlic, lemon and thyme with the chicken wrapped in bacon for good measure!), and accompanied with sides of a pear, goat cheese and arugula salad, parsnip, carrot and fennel mash. Dessert was easy, and also picked up the week before at a cute bakery in MI, pecan pie and rhubarb tart with fluffy whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.
  • Step 3: (1 day prior, PM) – I made my shopping list in a jiffy over coffee and headed out with my youngest and a giant bag of cheerios and blueberries (the greatest of shopping companions for a 1-year old), and I swept through the grocery store with rapid speed! It’s amazing how quickly one can shop when you have a 1-year old as a potential break-down alarm clock that could go off any second! On any other day in the past, I would have completed this task under utter stress but today was different…I chose my mindset to be calm, and I had fun shopping while my little one giggled when I sped up and down the cart in the aisles!
  • Step 4: (1 day prior, later PM!) – Open wine. Start the mammoth of vegetable peeling with said wine. Direct husband to put kids to bed and then vacuum, mop and tidy. Ok yes, I have a great team partner in my husband. The only advice I can give here is either train them up or ship them out…ok kidding, you may have to add another day to your timeline as needed but I am a strong believer that women take on way too much of the burden for these types of hosting events, get your partners on board, I don’t actually feel I am lucky at all…I somewhat just expect help and don’t feel guilty for taking it! Try it!
  • Step 5: (Event Day, AM) – Open wine…..did I say wine? I meant have coffee of course! Again, this would be about the time I start losing my mind, running around like a lunatic, stressing and complaining but instead I got up early, read through my lists and just started the work while listening to some music…I prepped sauces, salads and completed the chopping. I pulled out dishes and whipped the cream. I prepared the appetizer and got the chicken ready for the oven. I focused on just the tasks I was working on (mindfulness) and enjoyed it so much more. I even had time to stop and take my son to piano all before the guests arrive at 1 pm.
  • Step 6: (The Event) -- I always say I love hosting and yet, I have realized lately that I get so caught up in my own head that I sail through the day worrying about everything being perfect and thinking ahead to the next thing that needs to be put in or out of the oven and only half listen to people’s conversations. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is first to realize that I tend to do this and to be able to make a conscious effort to engage in the moment instead. I focused on the conversations, our kids playing, people enjoying and complimenting the food and the house, the laughter, the smells, the gripping noise of family. It was a whole new day for me and even though there was a ton of clean-up, and my back genuinely was aching by the end of the day, I feel like it was the most relaxing and rewarding event I have hosted to date.

My sensory moment: I decided to do something a little playful for the party and created a sensory theme for everyone to embark on! Taste was pretty self-explanatory and even if I do say so myself the chicken was deliciously moist and the sides were scrummy! We played a fun spice smelling game where everyone had to guess the smell of a particular spice without seeing the spice. I gave a fun box of spices to the winner. For sight, my son was scheduled to take the whole family on a Fall nature walk but unfortunately the weather did not co-operate and nobody seemed interested in seeing the Fall in the lashing rain (ah well, next time). For sound, I noted the sound of family, cheer, music and maybe a few tunes performed by myself and my son who are taking piano lessons together. And finally, for touch I joked about a family hug but I think everyone just wants to snuggle the little babies in our family right now…I can’t think of a better touch experience than that!

Variety is the SPICE of Life!

As our readers know, Jenny and I have been embarking on a 21-day Whole Detox with @DrDeannaMinich #WholeDetox. This experience has provided each of us with the opportunity for many learnings and the space for many reflections. One of the greatest takeaways I will carry forward is the importance of a spice cupboard (or cabinet to our American readers!) I have always enjoyed cooking, but only really approached my spice cupboard when a recipe called for a bit of this or a pinch of that — often using a spice only once for any given recipe and never again! I didn’t truly see its value before this detox experience. 

Dr. Minich, among others, talks about the spice cupboard as the “medicine cabinet in the kitchen.” That notion struck a cord with me. I have always been a believer that health is controlled, in part, in the kitchen, but I had envisioned the powerful and tough stainless steel doors to my refrigerator as my quite literal “bodyguard”, shielding me from harm is it chilled the fresh organic produce within!!! We started to focus on spices throughout the detox that I had never before paid any mind to — spices such as: turmeric, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon…save for pumpkin carving season, I rarely incorporated any of these flavors into my cooking. I was shocked to find out that we would be adding turmeric to our morning shakes, ginger to our chicken breast strips, and cardamom to our kale! It was a new adventure for my plate and palate and the more I started playing around with the power of the powder; I was hooked! 

I began to notice that my intention and focus of cooking shifted from the steel-doored chilling beast to the cobwebbed, dark, and pokey little cupboard above the oven. I was going in and out of this cupboard several times a day, and I was loving the results it produced. Cooking became an almost Hogwarts like experience - a dash of this, a smidgen of that, stir it all up and wait for the magic! And, to top it all off, I started to feel better. Turmeric is known as the “queen of spices” and as anti-inflammatory properties; cinnamon helps reduce blood glucose and triglycerides; ginger helped soothe an upset stomach; and cardamom is known to help freshen breath! The list of benefits that can come from this often under-appreciated piece of kitchen real estate is astounding. 

As a result of our learnings, I decided to give my spice cabinet the make-over it so deserved! I went to my local Bed, Bath, and Beyond and found a nifty little spice rack - particularly useful to those who are tight on space in the kitchen. (Bed Bath and Beyond Stackable Spice Rack). It’s affordable, stackable, and reliable. I took the time to check all the expiration dates on my spices and got rid of those (unfortunately a good few) that were well past their prime. I invested in glass spice containers (also at BB&B) and took stock of what key spices I was missing. (Bed Bath and Beyond Spice Jar). Lastly, I made a date to meet up with a girlfriend of mine in a town where I knew there was a Spice House and I had a great time smelling and sampling their fantastic offering. For twenty five dollars, I came out of the Spice House with an entirely replenished inventory — everything from cayenne to cumin, cloves to chai, and I was delighted with myself. 

I urge anyone reading this to make the intention right here right now to invest some time in your spice cupboard. Check for sell by dates, replenish, organize… have fun with it! This sensory project will pay dividends for many months to come - both for your taste buds and your health and well-being.

Envision Your Vision Board!

Do you love scrapbooking? Do you love arts and crafts projects with your kids? Do you read magazines and often take out clippings? Yes? Great! No? No worries at all, you are JUST like me! I have a couple of scrapbooking friends and honestly it’s a concept I can’t get my head around. I barely have time to put the photos into an album nevermind add cutesy captions or stickers or whatever else goes into that particular hobby! And don’t get me wrong, I say that with a slight tinge of jealousy because I would love to be the person who has books of documented joyous occasions cleverly and appropriately captioned that makes it fun for current and future generations to enjoy…….but I’m not that person! There are a couple of things in my 36 years of life, that to this point; I have never done! You can probably guess number one: scrapbooking! I also rarely read magazines, apart from the required grabbing of People or Star at the airport, which happens now even less with the existence of two kiddos under the age of five. It doesn't tend to bode well for airplane gossip mag browsing! As for arts and crafts with my kids……hmm, I can’t say I have never done this, but interestingly, I am struggling as I type to think of one single project we have done together, oops! I tend to leave crafty type affairs to daycare and / or my husband. (I have gifts in other areas of mothering so I won’t feel too guilty here!) I tell you all of this to set the stage that the concept of a Vision Board could have been the last thing in the world I imagined I would enjoy and yet, read on!

First, what is a Vision Board? “A Vision Board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate, and maintain focus on a specific life goal. A Vision Board is any board on which you display images that represent whatever you want to be, do, or have in your life”, www.makeavisionboard.com. I recommend that you make your Vision Board without too much research about what it is or how to do it. I say this because that is what I did. I came across the site above after I had completed my Board and knowing me, I would have gone in an entirely different direction - focusing on whether or not it contained all the key elements and if I followed the right “process.” Instead, I had in my head what a Vision Board was, I purchased a whole bunch of magazines (who knew that magazines became so expensive?!) and started clipping and sticking! I wish I could articulate better how enjoyable the whole experience was and the final product is something with which I am beyond happy. I felt like my 5-year old coming home from school with a new creation he couldn’t wait to show his mom! However, the beauty of a Vision Board is that you don’t need to show anyone, this is something about you, and just FOR you. 
Before I share my personal findings I wanted to give you a few of my tips for Vision Boarding:

  1. Don’t over think it. Just get a big piece of card (or in my case just stick three giant pieces of good-quality paper together, stolen from my kids' art drawer) and purchase a bunch of magazines. I’d advise about five magazines of varying titles and topics. I chose the following: ‘House & Garden’, ‘Success,' ‘Psychologies,' ‘Parenting,' ‘Vogue,' and ‘People’! 
  2. Sit on the floor with a cup of tea (or beverage of choice) and some chocolate; this is essential. (Okay, it’s not essential, but it’s a good rule!)
  3. Start clipping (but don’t stick yet), cut out anything that appeals to you; a phrase, a word, an image, a picture…. anything that resonates with you. I did not have a focus for my Vision Board (such as career OR family etc.) but you certainly can. I just chose to concentrate on a mesh of it all, as is life!
  4. Once you have all your clippings ready, start sticking. I started by first sticking the larger images as the first layer and then I started sticking smaller images and phrases over these. You may want a more organized and simpler Vision Board; I went with the "get as much on there as possible strategy"!
  5. Post the final product somewhere (on a wall, in a closet, wherever you will see it daily), stand back, and admire your awesome creativity and vision for YOUR future.

In all its crazy glory, here is a copy of my final Vision Board:

As you can see, I cheated a little and started my Vision Board with my family; there is and never will be anything more important to me than those three people, so it just made sense they had to be center stage! From this process, here is what I was able to deduce:

  1. Career. My career is important to me. Working on my own time and my own terms with balance is critical, thus the picture of the active high-powered woman on the top right surrounded by home office pictures and phrases about strength and balance and sandwiched between pictures of a beach and family!
  2. Knowledge. Read, read, read and learn, learn, learn, I want to soak in as much knowledge as I can. My thirst for knowledge is depicted in the bottom left with a woman on the go, phrases about reading and writing. The ‘quit to win’ represents the leap of faith I need to take in moving from my safe, corporate job into the risky, unknown world of entrepreneurship, where no doubt ‘learning on steroids’ will occur!
  3. The beach. Clearly, this is important to me as I managed to squeeze in four beach images into the one Vision Board! I have always loved the beach; it’s just my happy place, so I know living near or on a beach needs to be in my future. Apologies in advance to my sister / business partner here who may choose to visit less often!
  4. Food! A strange future vision maybe? This doesn't surprise me. I know I am not cut out to be a chef, but honestly, I sometimes feel like I should have (or maybe still will someday) work in the food industry in some form or fashion. I love everything about enjoying a meal with friends and family, finding new places to experience, watching shows, movies, and documentaries about restaurants and chefs. It’s important to me that my kids have a healthy relationship with food and that is why I have a picture near the top referencing this. Eating and / or preparing good healthy fresh food (with the occasional chocolate cake thrown in) just makes me happy!
  5. Community. I have included some pictures of children and activities for kids. The community is partially representing the importance of my own children’s happiness, but it also represents my strong pull towards becoming a child advocate in my life. I am a member of a non-profit organization with a national cause for the prevention of child abuse, but I know I want to and will do more in this area. 
  6. Enjoyment and fulfillment. This is probably the central theme of my vision board. I want to have a balance of the key elements in my life (depicted in the middle by the YOU. FUN. HOME. images). I want to continue my journey of self-exploration so that I can work toward calming my mind and living happily in the present moment. I want to be fulfilled by a purposeful career that allows me to prioritize my time for myself, my family, my friends, and my community.

I encourage you all now to grab some magazines, scissors, and some glue and start carving out a vision for your future and what is important to you. We all deserve to live our lives to the fullest and Vision Board'ing is one small but powerful step in that direction.