Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Inspiration

How do you shake-off and rebound from perceived failure?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Paris. 

Wising you all a wonderful day filled with love and laughter. 

Bon appétit!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Packing for Paris

Good morning! Happy Tuesday. 

It's fly day for us. We are packed and off for a mini-vacation in Paris. 

Packing for a vacation is a true exercise in want versus need. And when you travel in colder weather, it gets even trickier.

We're only taking carry-on luggage, so every item counts. 

For me, here is what is making the cut. 

The Bag
When it comes to carry-on luggage, it has to be soft sided spinner. I like having pockets for putting in last minute items and because it's always with me, I don't have to worry about it getting tossed. And it makes for a faster airport exit. 

What I Packed
Because I am frequently cold, staying warm is a concern. But I also want to be able to move. No one wants to be this kid...

Luckily, I think I have found the perfect coat. It's a Land's End lightweight packable down 3/4 length coat. It has a hood and, even better, it has a belt to avoid the sleeping bag look of a normal puffer.  I have had it for about a month now and so far, so good. It's warm and roomy, allowing for thicker layers underneath.

Because Paris in November can be rainy, I am also bringing my Totes Bubble, thanks to a tip from Steph at Life According to Steph. I have had this for a few weeks as well, and it works great! And yes, you can bring it on-board the cabin. 

When it comes to the actual packing, I opted to try out packing cubes. I read about others who had used them, so I decided to give e-bags a try, and I'm glad I did. They made a huge difference. Everything is organized and I still have room in my carry-on. My husband was skeptical, but I am definitely going to get him a set as well. 

As for clothes, I am bringing anchor pieces that work together in neutral colors, like dark jeans, black trousers, neutral blouses, a black wrap dress, a black cardigan, a neutral scarf, tall black boots, and a pair of walking shoes. 

Because of the restriction limiting liquids to three ounces and a one-quart bag, I am a minimalist with my cosmetics...wait...who am I kidding? I am a minimalist with cosmetics anyway. Nevertheless, mascara, concealer, eye liner and a lip gloss  share space with my moisturizer, eye drops, and deodorant.

Throw in our camera, my vitamins, my iPad and assorted chargers and that's about it, minus the obvious delicates.  

My cross-body purse holds my passport, my wallet with my ID and Euros, my phone in its charging case and a protein bar...just in case. 

I like options, but I also know that it's silly to over-pack. 

No one wants this...

I am so excited to be heading back to Paris. It is one of my favorite places on earth. And what's better is that this week is about meandering hand-in-hand...there is no need to run around a sight see, since we've been there before. Paris is our forever city of love

How do you pack for a cold winter getaway when you have limited space available? What are your non-negotiables?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Top 10 New England Winter Date Night Ideas

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Old Man Winter knocking at our door, it's the perfect time for hearty New Englanders to start thinking about romantic ways to keep warm long after the snowflakes fly. 

If you live here in the Northeast, or anywhere that "does winter" you understand that cabin fever can be overwhelming. But with a little creativity, a little activity, and a daily dose of vitamin D, winter can be bearable...and even enjoyable.

If you live in Massachusetts, this list is for you. 

But, even if you don't, use this list as a springboard for your own winter fun. 

1. Ice skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond. Lace up, hold hands and skate for the gold in the heart of Boston Common. Afterwards, cuddle up with a hot chocolate or a cognac. 

2. Feeling adventurous? Try dog sledding! Based out of Central Mass, New England Outfitters will give you and your partner-in-crime the experience of a lifetime, mushing behind a team of dogs that run for the pure joy of it. Or if dog sledding sounds too intense, how about a romantic sleigh ride?  

3. Channel your inner Julia Child and Jacques Pépin. Culinary Underground, on Route 9 in Southborough, offers special Couples Classes, like American Steakhouse, Cocktail Party and Feast of the Seven Fishes, designed to help you and your honey cook up some romance in the kitchen and out. Your local Sur La Table also offers date night cooking classes. 

4. Cursed Blessed with wanderlust? Learn a new language at the Boston Language Institute, where you can pick up that high school French again and plan a romantic Parisian getaway. Or brush up on your Italian . . .Tuscany awaits. If Boston is too far of a commute, check out free online language learning options

5. Get close and dance the night away. The Salsa Loft offers classes in salsa, bachata, merengue and cha cha, as well as monthly socials and weekly Latin nights at some of the hottest venues in central Mass, like Bocado's Tapas Bar.

6. Run away. At least for a while. Check out New England's hottest hotels and bed and breakfasts and plan a romantic weekend getaway for twoOr see if you can score a deal on an online bidding site, like Priceline.

Thank you, Boston Park Plaza!

7. Get outside and play. If you haven't gone snow tubing, you're in for a treat. At places like Ski Nashoba, you will be pulled up a giant hill by a rope tow and fly down the slopes with a giant inner tube. This brings out the kid in us all. 

And if you're skiers, New England has plenty of resorts to ski and stay.

8. Pancakes . . .what's not to love? And if you're from New England, only the real maple syrup will do. When brunch calls, check out Parker's Maple Barn for the most amazing pancakes on the planet. There is always a pancake of the month and if you or your love is more of a meat and potatoes kind of eater, they even have maple glazed ribs. 

9. Planning a warm tropical escape? Want to swim with the fishes? Just kidding. Nothing says romance like buddy breathing. Learn to scuba dive. Do your pool work locally and then do your check-out dives in the Caribbean. Central Mass Scuba does it all . . .certification and check-out dives both locally and in the tropics. 

10. Stay in and do whatever your hearts desire. Create the perfect staycation night at your own casa de amor. Build a romantic playlist, assemble a charcuterie like this one below, make a homemade pizza, open a bottle of wine.

What are some of your favorite winter date night ideas?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Transitions...Winter's Call to Slow Down

I bought an ice scraper today. 

We haven't had any measurable snow. 


But the recent snowmaggedon in upstate New York has me thinking that Old Man Winter is on his way. And I want to be prepared.

As I see the leaves that need raking and the storm windows that need lowering, I can't help but think about nature's gradual reminder for us to slow down.

In nature, many animals use winter as a time of hibernation. The days grow short and the nights grow long. The cold, snow, and ice provide opportunities for hunkering down, and for slowing the pulse of our hectic lives, for just a bit. 

Winter allows us time to slow down, to spiritually rejuvenate, to be wrapped around the warmth of family and friends, to quiet our souls, and to reflect.

Sadly, this transition to a slower pace may be lost in the "busyness" of the fall and winter holidays, of ski seasons, hockey games and basketball tournaments. There is shopping to do, cookies to bake, presents to wrap and parties to plan and attend.

We are busy. That is a fact. 

Instead of cultivating a lifestyle of constant movement and pressure to perform on one level or another, can't we take our cue from nature's hibernators and slow down, take the time to breathe, look around, and do the things that bring us comfort and joy?

That is my challenge this winter, even if I capture only one hour per week. 

Life passes so quickly. 

I want to savor every moment that I can; not squander it in the glorification of busy.

Winter is for cuddling and conversation with my husband, for comfort food, over-sized sweaters and tall boots; for favorite movies, for walks in the snow, thick socks, hot soup, and red wine. It's for baking, and books, and blankets, and whatever else makes you smile.

In waiting for the first flakes to fly, I promise myself to slow down, to breathe consciously, to act with intent, and to use winter's slow down to make quiet, loving memories that last long after the snow melts away. When spring calls us out of hibernation, I will be ready to greet the new season with a sense of rebirth and a rejuvenated soul.

Do you find time to slow down during the winter? How do you slow your pace and stay in the moment?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Decluttering 101

Sadly, as soon as the last trick or treater rings the last doorbell, retailers ring their own dinner bell: out come the Christmas carols and holiday decor, and so begins the annual saturation of commercials touting the latest gadget we all, seemingly, cannot live without. 

We're drowning in stuff. Look around. Look at the walls, on the counter tops, in the drawers. 

Look in the junk drawer, in the cabinets and under the bed. 

Look in the spare room, in the mudroom and in the garage. 

Look in the spaces that are secret catch-alls, if only to you. 

Look at all of it. 

Now, think about the amazing experiences you've had over the past year. The past six months. The last few weeks. 

Are your experiences as plentiful as the stuff you've accumulated in the last year? 
The past six months? The last few weeks? 

Are you swimming in memories of laughter? Of joy? Of tender moments with those you hold dearest? 

If not, why? 

Sometimes work gets in the way. 

Or schedules. 

Or time . . .there's that busy thing again. 

Or, especially in these times, money gets in the way. 

But look around again. 

How much of this stuff do you really need? Really . . .

How much of it sounded like a good idea at the time, only to be used once or twice, only to find its final resting place under the sink or in the junk drawer or buried in the closet?

What if the time you spent looking for the perfect stuff, for you, or for others, was spent planning the moments and memories that would last you long after the stuff you've accumulated has lost its value?

If you only had limited space, say a backpack or a small car, in which to store all of your most prized possessions in order to, let's say, travel for an extended period of time, what would you take? What would you sell? What would you throw away?

I'm not saying that stuff is worthless. We all have the gadgets that make our lives easier and much more entertaining. But at what point does our stuff begin to weigh us down? 

We need not be hoarders to feel like we're drowning in clutter. And in as much as we have, many of us still feel like something is missing, and so we buy more. 

But the emptiness remains.

But the good news is, there is a way out. 

As a teacher, I teach my students to chunk tasks. It works and it's less daunting than tackling a project in its entirety. 

Here's how to chunk your way out of stuff:

1. One room at a time, and only one room per day. Consecutive days are not necessary.

2. Make four piles: save, sell, donate, discard. 

3. Find your camera or use your phone. Take pictures of the stuff to sell and upload it to eBay or another website on which you can sell your stuff (unfortunately to others looking to add more stuff--it never ends). Don't wait, or you will never do it.

4. Bag up your donations and drop it off to the local charity to which you will donate. Don't wait, or it will never go.

5. Bag up the trash and get rid of it. Don't wait, or it will never go. 

Take comfort in what you have saved, feel relieved of the burden of clutter that you have released, and celebrate with a walk outside with someone you love. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

5-Minute Bad Day Fix

Hi everyone! Happy Monday! Today, I am happy to be blogging over at Northeast Bloggers' Network. 

Stop by and see how I turn a bad day around in under five minutes. 

Are you a northeast blogger? Join us. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Winter Nesting Survival Guide

A scene from last winter, from a walk in our neighborhood.

We woke up yesterday morning to the first snow of the season. I was thankful that it was not enough to have to clean off my car, but I couldn't help but think about what would inevitably come my way.

The cold is here to stay, I think. And so begins my season of nesting.

Winter is a time when I happily nest. While I am not as bad as this guy...

...there are things that make my winter a bit more bearable (loving husband and a strong vitamin D supplement aside).

With winter on our doorstep, here are my nesting must-haves. 

1. Something hot to drink. Whether it's vanilla chai, hot cocoa or a hot cup of joe, wrapping my cold hands around a warm mug makes me smile. 

2. A warm blanket. No doubt, the perfect remedy for when the house has a chill or for when I am ready to snuggle in with a good book or favorite movie.

3. My Roku. After the end of daylight savings time, it begins to get dark here around 4:30. And at this time any time of the year, my Roku gets a workout. I am a sucker for Christmas-themed movies, like The Holiday or Love Actually, and then there is something special about Bing Crosby (tabloid stories aside). 

4. Steaming hot soup. Whether it's a Rachel Ray clam "chowda" recipe or this vegetable soup, a steaming pot of soup on the stove is the perfect meal for any cold winter night. 

5. Thick socks and warm boots or slippers. Cold feet? Cold everything. 

6. Oversized wool sweaters that are big enough to layer as many long sleeves and thermals as you want underneath.

7. Wifi. When I don't have to, or don't want to go out, wifi provides streaming music, movies, television, my favorite blogs, and social media feeds. Am I plugged in? Yes. Can I unplug? Faster than you can say, "nap."

8. Baking. Whether it's cookies or pizza or or these, the best popover recipe ever, baking not only sends an amazing aroma through the house, it can also quell the most ravenous carb cravings. 

9. Reading material. Books, magazines and my favorite blogs. The makings of a perfect day.

10. Someplace to go. For those of us in the Northeast, winter can seem like a never-ending season. The remedy to cabin fever can be as simple as a weekend getaway or a vacation to someplace warm and tropical. 

Or it can be tickets to a holiday concert or a sleigh ride at a nearby country farm. 

Winter can have its own magic, even if your idea of magic is a frosty beverage, sipped least, indoor poolside. 


If winter is not your favorite season, there are still plenty of ways to make it work out in your favor. 

Are you a winter nester? What are your favorites? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Muxia...Exploring the Death Coast of Galicia, Spain

I first saw Muxia featured in the movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen, about a man who does the Camino de Santiago in memory of his son. When my husband and I were talking about places in Galicia that we wanted to explore, I knew that Muxia had to be one. 

Muxia is a coastal fishing town, in the province of A Coruña, along Spain's Death Coast, Costa de la Muerte. 

Known for its rocky coast, it has seen its fair share of shipwrecks. 

In 2002, the Prestige, a Greek oil tanker, sank and polluted thousands of miles of coastline and more than one thousand beaches in Spain, Portugal, and France, as well as damaging the fishing industry that is critical to the area. 

The sinking released more than 70,000 million gallons of oil, causing the greatest environmental disaster in the history of both Spain and Portugal, and offshore fishing was suspended for six months. While the cleanup has been extensive, environmentalists warn against the long term effects of such as disaster.
Monument to the Prestige disaster of 2002.

The name Muxia refers to the monks who built a nearby Benedictine monastery, the Church of San Julián de Moraime. Along the water's edge is another church, Santuario da Virxe da Barca, which sustained significant damage in a lightening strike on Christmas Day, 2013. 

In fact, the legend is that the Virgin Mary arrived in Muxia in a stone boat, in order to encourage Saint James, who was not having any luck preaching and converting residents in the area.

A popular spot along the coast of Muxia is the pedra de abalar, or rocking stone, the pedra de barca. 

These large stones are balanced on a point and wiggle in the wind. Once used as an indicator of guilt, they are now known for good luck, if you crawl underneath and emerge on the other side. 

Muxia, like Finisterre, is also a popular spot among pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago. 

After arriving in Santiago de Compostela, some choose to continue on to Muxia, 74.2 kilometers from Santiago.

There is a stone walkway that connects the coast with the town of Muxia, dotted with parcels of land and small farms.

Muxia does not disappoint. The coast is spectacular, and you will often find huge waves crashing along the huge rocks that line the shore. 

If you are blessed to visit Galicia, make Muxia one of your must-see destinations.