Monday, April 29, 2013

Style Summit '13...the Nutshell Report

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a blogging conference this weekend. Blog Better Boston held a Style Summit, primarily for style bloggers, but in actuality, it was a conference appropriate for all bloggers.



It was my first blogging conference. I had business cards. I had a notebook. And I had anxiety. Until I started chatting it up.

The Boston blogging community is made up of talented, friendly, helpful ladies who know how to put an outfit together like it's their job (and for some, it is). They understand their business and they're willing to share their best practices.

In a nutshell, here's the Top 5 Lessons I learned about blogging from Style Summit '13.



1. When it comes to design, keep it simple. Think about fonts, alignment, and graphics. If your site is too busy or takes too long to load, readers won't come back.

2. It's all about the content. Write good, high quality content and develop an editorial calendar. It will help you stay focused and give your readers some consistency in what to expect.

3. Know your camera settings, and when in doubt, use the flash.

4. When it comes to analytics, know your audience. Regardless of your platform, take the time to find out who is reading your work. What are their favorite topics?  Which posts get the most traffic? Content is everything.

5. When it comes to brands and sponsorship, dream big. Think about your readers and how you can deliver products that connect to your own mission and your readers' interests. Ask and (maybe) you shall receive.

And one more for good measure...

+1...Network. Chat with other bloggers. Learn from each other and pay it forward. Create a community that welcomes newbies and supports the veterans. Celebrate each other's successes and brainstorm solutions for others' challenges. We're all artists and writers and learners. Building community is a win-win.



Before I left Style Summit '13, I was eager for the next one, another chance to learn and improve my skills, and meet new people. Thank you, Blog Better Boston, for a fantastic introduction to blogging as a craft and all that it involves.

Until next time,
Un beso.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Want a great husband? Marry a great son.



Often I have spoken of what a wonderful man my husband is. But in as much as he is an amazing husband, he is an equally amazing son.

My 82 year old mother-in-law lives with us. For many newlyweds, this could present a challenge. But mi suegra is my second mother. I've known her almost as long as I have known my husband. In fact, we met before my husband took me on our second date.

Between us lies a language barrier, and at times, a cultural barrier, and at times, a generational barrier. But we're family. We cook together, watch tv together and on weekends, sometimes eat lunch together. She makes the world's best tortilla espaƱola and she has an amazing recipe for baked fish. She makes the greatest guiso and the tastiest caldo gallego.

Mi suegra left her home in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. This rural area of Spain wheres she lived had not even electricity before the 1950s. She emigrated with her family to South America, where she reconnected with a fellow Spaniard, the man who would become her husband of nearly fifty years. She raised three strong, healthy boys before emigrating yet again, this time, to the United States, where she established her home and cared for her family in the way she knew how.

Mi suegra is a hardworking woman. While she never took on the experiences of "modern" women, like driving or working outside the home, she ran her home with her husband like a captain in the Spanish Armada, but one overflowing with the values of hard work, love, laughter and faith.  

My husband's father (who, sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet) died unexpectedly nine years ago. As the oldest of three sons, and the only unmarried son, he moved his life into their home and cared for her as she grieved for her husband and carried on in the only life she knew, but this time, without him.

My husband became her primary caregiver, her interpreter, and her advocate. His other brothers, already married with children of their own, were less able to uproot their lives and step in at the level that was needed. They all remain close, but it was my husband who stepped up as his mother's lifeline, the one who would always put her needs first.

Seeing how he cares for his mother alerted me early on, that this man was a man of integrity and a man of love. And he has been, with me as well.



They say that a lot can be determined by the way a man treats his mother. I know for a fact that it's true.

My husband is a man of love, a man of honor, a man of integrity. He has the patience of a saint (with an elderly mother and peri-menopausal wife) and a wit that will keep you laughing for days. My husband has your back. Watching my husband care for mi suegra shows me the man that he is and how blessed I am that he is mine.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

3 Kick-A** Videos Worth Your Time

Good morning, friends. Today, it's all about the video. Here are three that have crossed my radar recently and they are all definitely worth a look.

1. How to Be Alone

 

This is a kick-a** video because it speaks to the beauty of "alonedom", something society fears, says poet Andrea Dorfman. It doesn't speak to a lack of connectedness, but rather peace within oneself. Be patient.
 
 
2.  Evolution of a Model
 
 
 
This kick-a** video is a keeper, especially if you have important young women in your life. Often, we take for granted the beauty of those showcased in magazines, on runways and in photos. Thank you, Dove, for demonstrating the "art" brought about through airbrushing and photo re-touching.
 
 
3. Dove Real Beauty Sketches...How would you describe yourself? Is it comparable to how others would describe you?
 
 
The folks at Dove hit another home run with their latest video about self perception. This kick-a** video has gone viral on Facebook, but it's worth a ponder...how would you describe yourself? Is it how others see you?
 
 
Happy Thursday, friends. Be gentle with yourself on your journey. Believe in your beauty and your goodness and your ability to accomplish great things.
 
Un beso.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Beaches of Spain...Cathedrals Beach

Playa de Las Catedrales, the 'Beach of the Cathedrals' is located in Ribadeo, in Lugo, Galicia on the coast of the Cantabrian Sea. It is in the area of Galicia called the Rias Altas, and it has been declared a Natural Monument by the Galician Ministry for the Environment.

The Cathedrals are a spectacular sight, known for their arches and caves, seen only at low tide. You can even see percebes, a delicacy in Spain because of the dangerous way in which they must be harvested. The tide comes in quickly. If you go, check the tide schedule and plan accordingly. 









Un beso

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston: The Day After



I am heartsick. As a Bostonian, an amateur runner and human being, my heart breaks for those affected by the attacks in our city. It is easy to surrender to the anger...to think of revenge and punishment to bring about some sense of justice. As for justice, I have to trust in the process...that those responsible will be found and that they will face the full extent of the law and consequences for their actions.

As for me, I won't give give in to the anger I feel. I will take that energy and find ways to make good.


If you want to help, but aren't sure how, here's a few suggestions:

1. Are you able to give blood? The Red Cross is always seeking donations. Give life through yours.

2. Think of an organization with whose mission you identify or support. Make a donation or call to volunteer your time. Make a difference in your community. A lot of people doing a little bit can accomplish big things.

3. If one thing is for certain, yesterday showed us that life can change on a dime. Don't wait. If you miss someone, call. If you're sorry, say it. If you want to do something, do it. Don't wait. Define your dreams and start today.


 

Life is so precious. And there is no way to make sense of what happened yesterday because it is senseless. I can't control what happened, but I can control my reaction. And I choose to make good.

Peace.

Un beso.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Date Weekend! 5 Tips for Planning Your Weekend Away

For those of us in Massachusetts, Monday is a holiday. Patriots Day commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord at the start of the American Revolution, and for running enthusiasts, it is also the day of the Boston Marathon.

Since my husband and I are both public employees, we are lucky to have this day off, making this weekend a long weekend. And what better way to celebrate than with an extended Date Night and making it a Date Weekend. We're playing tourist in a city we know fairly well...the Big Apple.

If you're looking to love up your own long weekend, here's five easy tips we use:

1. Check Priceline. The ability to bid on a hotel price may intimidate some, but you learn the game and come out a winner. $50 a night for a Marriott just outside the city is not a bad deal.  We've used this website many times and luckily, we have never been disappointed.

2. Check discount sites like groupon, living social, goldstar and whofish for things to do in town. Often, you can find deals for tours, restaurants, shows, and museum discounts that might be exactly what you're looking for.

3. Theme it up. We were engaged in Paris. As a result, it becomes fun to reminisce about our time there and sip coffee in Parisian-style bistros. Love Rome? Sip cappuccinos in a local coffee bar. Barcelona your thing? Find a tapas bar and bon provecho!

4. Culture Club. Find a local museum and see what's on exhibit. Attend the local philharmonic. See what's going on in town. New York has scores of options, and smaller cities have much to offer as well.

5. Second Honeymoon. Weekends away are a great time to break from the routine. Let romance rule the day and soak up the love. You'll have to go back to work soon enough. Enjoy the time together just being together.




Our tentative itinerary is set and we can't wait to get away. Spring has sprung and love is in the air (always). Enjoy the weekend and let everything you do come from a place of love and gratitude.

Un beso.

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday's Thoughts: Pablo Neruda

For today's Tuesday's Thoughts, I wanted to share an excerpt from Sonnet 17 by Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, one that we chose to have read at our wedding. Incredibly tender and romantic, it is one we both treasure.



The full text of the poem can be found here. And if you can read and understand Spanish, all the better.


Un beso.

Monday, April 8, 2013

When You Fight...3 Tips for Keeping it Fair

I am blessed that my husband and I really don't fight. We bicker, usually about current events or politics, but that's the easy stuff.

I am also blessed that my husband is a respectful man. In fact, he inspires me to be a better person simply by the example he sets when we disagree.

Fighting fair is an important lesson to learn, even when you don't fight. The rules of conflict resolution are vital to all relationships.

Here's what I have learned:

1. Share the road.

Understand that you may see things differently. Make space for his views and acknowledge that, while they may be different than yours, they're probably not wrong. In most matters, different does not equal wrong; only different. Practice empathy. Can you see why he thinks this way?  



2. Think.

Don't say something now that you'll regret later. Obviously, name calling is a no-no, but also, the middle of a fight is not the time to bring up a laundry list of past sins. Is your goal to make him feel badly, express your views, inspire action, or persuade him to your way of thinking? Some of these happen easier than others. Decide what you really want before you create something you don't.


3. If you were hurtful, own it.


Apologize. Acknowledge what you did that was wrong and hurtful and figure out how to make it right. Then, make it right with you. If your behavior is causing conflict in your relationship, actively or passively, own it and change it.

As Dr. Phil says, do you want to be right  or do you want to be happy? As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes, we're the problem. When we choose the behavior, we choose the outcome. If we want a different outcome, we have to change something. Start inward, because we all know, we cannot change someone else. And why would we want to? We chose this person for who he is, not because we want to change him.

And if the latter is the case, there's more going on in this story.

No one likes fighting with the one they love. But it's unrealistic to expect that everything will go perfectly all of the time.

When it doesn't, remember to fight fair, and avoid the fallout of unfair tactics once the original problem has long since faded, or adding on to a problem that continues to surface.

Good luck!

Un beso.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday 5: Food Movies to Challenge Your Thinking

These days, I'm very interested in food. As an American who has spent time as a resident in rural Europe, I am fascinated by the differences in food culture.

Here in the U.S. we spend a lot of time talking about food and watching cooking shows with celebrity chefs. We eat out a lot. We scour shelves for healthy ingredients that may be altered to enhance protein, lower fat, salt or sugar. Some of us garden, purchase shares in community supported agriculture, pledge to eat local and support our local farmers' markets. Some of us have transitioned to plant-based diets, tried Meatless Mondays and some of us eat organic. Some of us eat paleo, high-protein, low-fat or vegan. Yet, with all this interest in food, the United States is still alarmingly obese and riddled with food and lifestyle-related maladies.

From where I live part time in Europe, it's very different. People grow food, not lawns. They shop in the market for what they don't grow themselves. They know the local farmers and for the most part, they know exactly where their food comes from. They eat cheese and bread and sausages, but also kale and potatoes and figs. They love sardines and pastries and strong coffee. They use olive oil and salt. Primarily, they eat at home, reserving cafes and bars for a cup of coffee, a drink, a snack or dinner out for a special occasion. Food is important, but not over thought.

For now, I spend most of my year here in in the United States and it's important for me to make the best choices I can make about what I eat. I've watched a lot of documentaries about food lately, and here are five that challenged my thinking and the approach I take in choosing what I eat.

Forks Over Knives

Food Inc.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Ingredients

Food Fight


Today, food is a political issue. The fight over food covers topics from poverty  to the disappearance of bees, from aspartame in milk to pink slime, from fair trade to sustainability, from allergies and food intolerance to calories in versus calories out. When did this happen? How did this happen? When did food become more than how we fuel our bodies?

Whether we buy into the politics of food culture is our own choice, but nevertheless, making informed choices is key for health and peace of mind.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

I *Heart* Trader Joe's


Trader Joe's is one of those places where you can shop for only those specialty items that make you happy. Or, you can do all of your shopping here and it's still a win-win.

When I go, there are always go-to items that I never leave without. Here's my top ten Trader Joe's finds:

1. Goat Cheese Medallions


I buy two or three of these packages at a time. They are perfect in a salad or on crackers for an afternoon snack. With five grams of protein and only 80 calories, these creamy medallions offer nearly guilt-free indulgence. They also have mini-brie cheeses, if you prefer.


2. Baby Beets
Beets can be bothersome and messy to cook and peel, but TJ's does it for you. They are perfect on salad (with the goat cheese medallions) or heated for the dinner plate. And they're good for you too.


3. Pomegranate Seeds
Another cumbersome good-for-you item is the pomegranate. TJ's makes it effortless to add a bit of crunch to your yogurt, pancakes or salad with these pre-packaged pomegranate seeds.


4. Salad Dressing

This dressing is delicious and low fat. It is great as a dressing or as a marinade.


5. Persian Cucumbers

These tender cukes are perfect as rounds topped with goat cheese or in lieu of potato chips when you want something crunchy and salty.  6. Pumpkin Pancake Mix
 Nothing says New England fall like pumpkin. However, I love pumpkin all year round, so this mix is perfect for me for when I'm craving spicy pumpkin comfort.   7. Oatmeal 

This blended grain cereal (rye, barley, oats and wheat) is perfect for chilly mornings or for when you're craving warm, comfort food. It's also great mixed with egg whites for a protein packed pancake that you can top with berries, yogurt or syrup of your choice.

8. Pineapple Salsa

It's sweet and hot...perfect on salads or with nachos.


9. A great produce and prepared foods section for picnics on the go.


 
 
10. And of course, Two-Buck Chuck...
 
Given the price, you may expect to drink vinegar, but it's not bad. Really. It might be Three-Buck Chuck now, depending on your location, but nevertheless, it's a bargain.
 
Trader Joe's has so much more to offer. We don't do all of our shopping at there, and the closest one is more than a half hour away; but when we do, we get the items we love and always try one or two new ones as well. With good quality items and wide availability of specialty and gourmet items, Trader Joe's makes it a worthwhile trip.



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Making Social Connections

It can be difficult to maintain connections outside our inner circle as long work days turn into nights spent catching up on chores that never seem to get accomplished.

While it's important to connect daily to those we cherish most, it's also important to connect to others outside the inner circle who share similar goals and challenges, similar circumstances or choices or similar interests and curiosities.

I had the wonderful opportunity last weekend to connect to some like minded folks and it went so well, that we all expressed interest in doing it again next weekend. Sitting around the table, we are all different people joined by a common thread; and it's that common thread that rejuvenates us and allow us to connect with people who "get it." We shared stories and successes and brainstormed solutions to challenges we face. We all left feeling empowered and connected.

Think about where you are in your own life, what you like to do, what you want to do. How can you network within those parameters to create connections and expand your social circle?

Maybe there's a meetup group tailored to your interest? Maybe there's a book club you can join or start that's geared toward your own interests and goals. Maybe you start a monthly coffee klatch of people who like to x, y, or z, or an accountability group to help you stay focused on your goals. Maybe there is a networking group to help you create professional connections.

It doesn't have to be strangers. Maybe there's someone with whom you've lost contact and with whom you would like to reconnect. Maybe you're the bridge to bring others together and potentially create lifelong friendships.

Reach out. Build bridges. That human connection is a win-win.