The Women Who Wear Them

This past week was a big one for women in the United States. While I hope and pray in my lifetime I will see a woman President, until that time, I’m celebrating the fact I’m now getting to see a woman Vice President. I am celebrating that all the little girls in the United States are getting to see one and because of that, they might be empowered to become that future woman President I hope to see one day.

Photo from https://rb.gy/x7mhfq featuring Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Former First Lady Michelle Obama, & Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

It took our country over 230 years to elect a female Vice President. Over. Two. Hundred. And. Thirty. Years. It took us 100 years after finally getting the right to vote in this country as a women to elect a woman VP. One. Hundred. Years. This week I remembered what hope and promise felt like again. My body was so deeply moved the tears flowed freely while Kamala Harris was being sworn in. All four of the smart, courageous, diverse, and beautiful women leaders above give me hope…hope for a future where all little girls know they can lead.

*I created this Women Rule apple music playlist a while back, and I found myself listening to it over and over again this past week. Enjoy! https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/women-rule/pl.u-e98llD5hzWxA98

Top 5 Winter Nail Polishes

OPI Lincoln Park After Dark with a snowy background

If you know me, you know winter is not my favorite season of the year. It actually comes in dead last. I truly despise being cold, and I don’t enjoy putting on the gazillion of layers required to stay warm. However, I’ve learned this year I can almost actually appreciate winter as long as I don’t have to go outside! Being cozy at home while watching the snow fall is a rather relaxing experience. I also appreciate being able to hibernate, so to speak, as I have so far this winter.

If you know me, you also know at home manis are like a meditative experience for me. I usually give myself one twice a week. I thoroughly enjoy choosing nail colors and painting my nails. I also just love how having a nice manicure makes me feel. So, today I’ll be sharing my top 5 winter nail polish colors that I come back to over and over again. All five of these colors just happen to be OPI. ***I am not sponsored by OPI, but I wish I was–I just truly love these colors!***

OPI Lincoln Park After Dark

OPI Lincoln Part After Dark is definitely a favorite. I’ve worn this polish for many years and purchased multiple bottles of it. I love a short, squared, dark nailed mani in the winter. This one looks almost black, but not quite, and a little purple. It’s winter nail perfection. https://rb.gy/exvupm

OPI Black Cherry Chutney

OPI Black Cherry Chutney is another one that is almost black, but this one has a hint of dark red, cherry shimmer. It’s deep and rich and beautiful. https://rb.gy/653o5d

OPI Russian Navy

OPI Russian Navy is an easy choice for me. It’s another one I come back to every year. The beautiful, deep, rich, shimmery indigo–is it navy?, is it purple?, is it black?-color is fabulous. (The photo of the bottle doesn’t quite do it justice!) https://rb.gy/b0dstj

OPI Big Apple Red

OPI Big Apple Red is a classic red. I cannot use this color without thinking about my late Grandma Nana and her long, oval, red nails. As a child, I remember watching her paint her nails, and I was always in awe because she was able to leave the white moons of her nails not colored. As skilled as I am at manis, I am still not able to do a half moon manicure like my Grandma! https://rb.gy/w7bjnv

OPI Pompeii Purple

OPI Pompeii Purple may be a bit unexpected for winter, but here’s the thing: I desperately miss all the color during the winter months. Everything is so brown or gray or white. Sometimes, I just want a pop of bright color to look at, and this is it. Pompeii Purple is a gorgeous, shimmery hot pink with purple shifts. (Once again, the photo of the bottle doesn’t do it justice.) It is a must-have, in my opinion!https://rb.gy/i84f8e

Those are my top 5 winter manicure picks! Feel free to comment below and let me know which ones make your list!

(If you are wondering more about my manicure process and what remover/topcoat/nail dryer I use, check out this older blog post where I also featured my favorite fall colors for more info: https://lesliekershaliving.com/2020/10/17/favorite-fall-nail-colors-the-perfect-at-home-mani/)

Child of the 80s & 90s: Popculture Reflections & Playlist

I was a child of the 80s and 90s, and you can see from the photo above I had the shoulder pads and big hair to prove it! I’ve been rather nostalgic lately remembering what were seemingly simpler times: The days of the Swatch watch, after school specials, phones with cords, passing notes in class to communicate with friends, a caboodle to store make-up, trapper keepers to stay organized for school, boomboxes and walkmans to listen to music…

I remember all the time and effort it took to create a mixed tape of songs from different albums, and while I appreciate so much about that era, I do love how easy it is now to create a playlist of music I love. So, in honor of the 80s and 90s, I created a child of the 80s and 90s playlist of songs I loved from that time. The music in the 80s and 90s was the best, too, huh? You can check out the full playlist here: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/leslies-child-of-the-80s-and-90s-playlist/pl.u-aZb0gB6tPVBdgx

Enjoy!

The Ultimate Triumph of the Human Spirit

Today a former student of mine reached out to me to say hi, thank me for introducing him to Steinbeck, and tell me East of Eden is still one of his favorite books. Although it has been over 16 years since I’ve read and taught the book, that correspondence got me thinking about how relevant it is today as one of the main themes of the book is the conflict between good and evil: Light verses Dark.

The book exemplifies that there is darkness in everyone. EVERYONE. I remember reading this book and feeling the darkness within me. It was jarring to say the least. And yet, the book also elicits great hope because human beings have the freedom to overcome evil by their own choices. And, we can always choose differently.

In our coutnry, we’ve been exposed to some major human displays of evil in the past week. I will remind myself that just like everyone else, I have the potential to get sucked into darkness, and just like everyone else, I can also chose to align with light. Because of this, there will always be HOPE. This dichotomy and the ability to choose light is the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

So, the ultimate question is: What will you choose?

New Year Same You

While I love the process of self-reflection and inquiry, intention setting, self-development, and personal growth, I have also come to realize that contrary to all the messages we receive this time of year, a new year does not mean or need to mean a new YOU. It may mean a new and different expression of your personality, but the YOU you are is already whole, and well, nothing missing and nothing lacking. It’s when we forget or become disconnected from our Divine essence that we start to veer off our path. Truly, the only resolution or intention any of us need to make is to be committed to a consistent remembering of who we are: Spirit. Divine. Source energy.

When we embody that which we are, we live in truth and love.

It’s that simple.

And, so very hard.

There are many distractions and messages trying to make us forget.

Today, I want to share some of the tools that help me remember who I AM.

Listening to soul-filled music. I especially love listening to Beautiful Chorus. If you haven’t heard of them, they are a group worth checking out. I listen to them daily. Yesterday before teaching a yoga class with a theme of intention, I turned Beautiful Chorus on shuffle, and the song that came on was “I Am Everything” from their Wheels of Light album. I couldn’t have chosen a more relevant song. (You’ll have to listen to it.) A few other musicians that speak to my heart and soul are Donna De Lory, Jane Winther, Suzanne Sterling, Girish, and Ashana.

Embodiment Practices. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. It can be life changing. And, once again contrary to how it is portrayed in the west as a feat of physical acrobatics or simply a workout, it is a deeply spiritual practice: a moving meditation and body prayer. It’s never to late to begin or begin again. Meditation and mindfulness practices also help me stay present enough in my body to notice when the ego and thinking mind try to take the lead, so I can consciously return to remembering who I really AM.

Connecting to Nature. To me, nature doesn’t always have to mean going on a long hike (although sometimes it does.) Nature is always accessible to us: Look at the sky, the moon, the clouds, feel the grass underneath your feet, smell the flowers, notice the colors. If we open our eyes we can see and feel creation everywhere.

Reading Spiritual Inspiration. Poets such as Rumi & Hafiz. The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche. Books by Marianne Williamson, Echkart Tolle, Michael Singer, Pema Chodron, & Gary Zukav~to name a few. Reading this type of writing, helps me focus my attention on Spirit. It helps rewire my brain to that of spiritual matters rather than human ones.

This being human is quite the ride, huh? And, it’s easy to forget who we really are: Spiritual beings having a human experience. These are just a few ways I intentionally stay connected to Spirit. Divine energy is always with us, in us; however, we decide if our wifi (so to speak) is turned on. It takes focus, effort, intention, and work on our part to be plugged in. My biggest and most consistent prayer is that we all remember who we truly are, and play out our human roles from our higher Selves as often as possible. When we embody that which we truly are, we live in truth and love. So, here’s to a New Year, Same YOU. May you never forget who YOU are.

The whole universe is yours. Now SHINE.

Saying Goodbye to 2020 with a Burning Bowl Ceremony

I’m not yet to the point where I feel like 2020 has been a great favor; however, it does feel like it has been a year of shaking the nonsense out, huh? And, while I don’t believe all of the nonsense is gone just yet, 2020 has, at minimum, brought a lot of it to light. It’s provided an opportunity to re-evaluate what is truly important and of value in life. We were definitely given much to work with this year, weren’t we?–and some much more than others.

I have never been one to celebrate the New Year by going out or partying. To be honest, most years I am not awake at midnight because I highly value my sleep, and I want to feel good on New Year’s Day. With that being said, I appreciate that the New Year gives us an opportunity to be reminded of the fact that we can have a fresh start and can always begin again.

Contrary to how much of the west has portrayed the practice of yoga as only physical, it is actually a deeply spiritual practice with an emphasis on philosophy and self-inquiry. I want to share a New Year’s Burning Bowl Ritual I use with my yoga classes on the last yoga practice of the year that you could try (regardless of if you practice physical yoga or not) if you are looking for something new and different to do this year. It could be especially helpful if you feel like you have a lot you are carrying with you from 2020 that you’d like to let go of.

First, be intentional about taking some time to reflect on 2020. Light a candle, get a cup of tea, blanket, notepad or journal, and pen. Create an environment that is grounding and soothing for you. Maybe play some relaxing music. Remember, as you reflect, you can use tools such as grounding, orienting yourself to the room (by looking around at things), and deep breathing to help you stay present in your body in order to avoid any feelings of overwhelm. I also recommend after you complete the burning bowl ceremony, that you somehow physically move the energy out of your body as well: perhaps a dance party in your living room, some yoga, stretching, or taking a walk. If it feels safe and comfortable for you, perhaps even invite your family to join in on this ritual with you.

In your journal, respond to the following prompts:

What has 2020 taken from you?

What has 2020 given to you?

What did you learn about yourself?

What did you learn about life and the world we live in?

What do you want to remember about this unique year and take with you into the future?

After responding to the prompts above, get a separate piece of paper (that you will burn) and answer these questions with courageous honesty. Let. It. All. Out.

In order to honor your highest Self, what beliefs, thought patterns, and/or energy do you want to release? What behaviors do you want to change or let go of?

Take some time to write, and when you think you are finished, keep going: Allow your stream of consciousness to speak on the pages.

Once you have finished writing, go outside with it, a lighter, and either use a small fire pit (if you have one) or a bowl that is safe to burn in. Bless all that you wrote and acknowledge that it has in some way served you, and acknowledge that you NO LONGER NEED ANY OF IT: That you are committed to moving forward free. You can even state the following out loud:

“I release all thoughts, beliefs, energy, and behaviors that no longer serve me to make room for the abundant blessings that are ready to grace my life. And so it it.”

Then, light your writing on fire and watch it burn. Watch it and sense the fire of transformation happening within you.

And so it is.

Home for the Holidays

Christmas 2020 looked very different this year for many families. My mom and dad both have three siblings, so our family Christmas celebrations have always been large and so much fun: Christmas Eve with my Mom’s side and Christmas Day with my Dad’s. The sadness I felt over not being able to spend time with my extended family this year over the holidays was real~literally made my heart hurt. However, we made the best of it, and I know that the memories we created this year will be cherished. I also know that next year when we can celebrate together again it will be even more special than ever! I set an intention for myself this year to remember that and stay more connected to my HOPE than my sadness.

We kicked off our Christmas festivities by driving through Veterans United Home Loans light show. These photos do not even begin to do it justice. It was truly magical, and I am so grateful that the company shared this amazing and free experience with our community this year!

Jonathan built a fire pit during the summer months that I knew would come in handy this fall and winter, and it definitely has. It allowed us to have a unique socially distanced, outdoor Christmas celebration with my Mom and step-Dad. I took some of my indoor decorations outside, we ate Arris’ Pizza, opened gifts, and had a great time.

For some reason we chose the coldest and windiest night of the year to drive around and look at Christmas lights. There were definitely some impressive ones to see. However, I feel like my small hometown always had the best Christmas lights around. I have so many great memories of going to Christmas Eve communion at our church and then driving around town to look at lights. We finished our light viewing this year at a local church that has an amazing Magic Tree. Although, quite honestly, I didn’t really even have much of a chance to look at it up close this year because we were just trying to get a quick and decent photo in before I ran back to the car. The last thing I said to J before he snapped this pic is, “Please hurry. My teeth are cold.”

Our Christmas Eve celebration consisted of just the two of us and our pups. We ate lots of appetizers, played Score Four and Yahtzee, danced to Christmas music in the kitchen, and opened gifts. It was simple and full of love.

I decided this year would be a good time to begin a few new Christmas traditions since we would be missing some of our old ones. One of those traditions we chose to begin this year was filling our stockings. Christmas morning we woke up, had coffee, and opened our stocking gifts. We followed that with the new tradition of a cinnamon roll and sausage breakfast on Christmas morning. This recipe from Sugar-Free Mom was absolutely delicious! https://rb.gy/8cd0ly Really, I don’t think anyone would know it wasn’t loaded with sugar or carbs. Give it a try! I followed the original recipe exactly except I used a large muffin pan to cook them separately. I recommend doing it this way to keep them nice and soft. I also prepared them the day before, so I only had to make the cream cheese icing and put them in the oven to cook Christmas morning.

Christmas 2020 will definitely be one to remember. My biggest Christmas wish is that we all stay connected to our HOPE for the New Year.

Holiday Movies & Peaceful Holiday Playlist

Watching at least a few holiday movies each year has been a tradition for us. This year, with being home so often, we will probably end up watching more holiday movies than ever. I am not someone who usually enjoys watching the same movie more than once, so if I do, the movie is one I really love. love actually tops my list of all-time favorite movies-not just favorite holiday movies. It is one I can watch over and over again. The clever way the stories of the characters are intertwined, and the overall message of this movie always gives me hope. love actually is all around.

Closely following love actually on my favorites list is the Holiday. (Yes, I am a sucker for feel good, romance movies). And, who wouldn’t want to imagine spending the holidays in a Hollywood mansion or picture-perfect English cottage while also finding love? This is another one I can watch over and over and over again.

This year we watched The Christmas Chronicles 1 & 2 for the first time and enjoyed them both. I usually don’t love highly animated or fantasy type movies, but the fact that this one has people mixed with the animated magic of Christmas worked for me. As a believer, I highly enjoyed the heartfelt & comical Christmas ride.

Speaking of comical, you can’t have a favorite Christmas movie list without this one, can you? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is another one we watch almost every year, and it always elicits laugh out loud moments for us both . How can you not love Clark Griswold and his zest for the Christmas holiday?

What holiday movies make your list?

In addition to movies, we’ve been listening to a lot of holiday music as well. A few weeks ago, I shared my Joyful Holiday playlist. This week I have my Peaceful Holiday playlist to share. I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic lately, and so I included a few Christmas church songs I grew up singing and listening to as well as a variety of other Christmas songs that leave me feeling grounded and peaceful. If you have Apple Music, you can access the playlist here. https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/leslies-peaceful-holiday-playlist/pl.u-d2b0MmXTMB0RWJ If you don’t use Apple Music, I listed the songs and artists below:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Enya

White Christmas by Sarah McLachlan

Oh Light (Feat. Gungor & All Sons and Daughters) by The Liturgists

I Heard the Bells by The Brilliance

Gabriel’s Message by Sting

Come Thou Fount by Audrey Assad

Silent Night by Sarah McLachlan

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Jim Brickman

What Child Is This by The Piano Guys

Away in a Manger by Carrie Underwood

In the Bleak Mid-winter by SnowGlow

Christmas Time Is Here by Stephan Moccio

A Gaelic Blessing: Meditaiton by John Rutter

Mary Did You Know? by David Archuleta

Ave Maria by Celine Dion

Lullaby by William Byrd

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane–Jess Gillam

The Lord Bless You and Keep You: Meditation by John Rutter

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Stephan Moccio

The Twelve Days of Christmas by SnowGlow

Sacred Night by Secret Garden and Cathrine Iversen

A Child Is Born by Beegie Adair

Gloria in Excelsis Deo by Gregorian

My Favorite Things by Mary J. Blige

The First Noel by George Carlaw

Silver Bells by Michal Buble

Hallelujah by Pentaonix

The Christmas Song by Mel Torme & Robert Wells-Charlotte Church

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem/Oh Holy Night by Carolyn Barela

Child In a Manger by Gregorian

Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by Christmas Gregorian

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by George Carlaw

O Holy Night by Glee Cast

Light to the World by Lauren Daigle

May your Christmas holiday be filled with good movies, music, peace & love. The holidays may be different this year, but the magic of Christmas always exists.

Game Night

When I was a kid, I Ioved playing games. I have great memories playing all types of games with my grandparents, parents, brother, and friends. One friend who lived down the road from me had an entire wall full of board games in her basement, and I was always so envious. I grew up playing Battleship, Mastermind, Operation, Guess Who?, Hungry Hippo, Score Four, Trouble, Checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, & Pictionary to name a few. As I got older, I stopped playing games other than at the occasional family gathering. With the winter months ahead and staying at home all the time, I thought it would be a nice change of pace from Netflix watching for my husband and I to play some board games. We didn’t really own many games, so when I found the Game House above for $19.99 at Target, I decided this would be a good way for us to try a bunch of games out to see which ones we enjoyed the most. So far from this set, we have played Checkers, Chinese checkers, and Mancala. This is a great little starter game set that has so many options. The pieces are really tiny though, so if we find we are playing some of the games more than others, we will probably purchase full size versions of those games.

While looking for games, I saw this retro version of Mastermind available at Target for half price. The great price coupled with the nostalgia of remembering really enjoying this game as a kid resulted in me purchasing it as well. This one is a code-breaking game for two people and is a quite challenging reasoning game. Definitely not one to play after a long day of work; however, on the weekends or vacation days, it is a great one for the mind.

Yahtzee is probably the game we have enjoyed playing the most. This cool vintage bookshelf edition would make an excellent gift. I played this game a few times as a kid, but I had to watch some Youtube videos and consult a friend the first time J & I played it together because neither one of us remembered how to play. I find that I especially enjoy games that involve dice, and this one is my most recent favorite!

As I was nostalgically contemplating the games I played most as a kid, I could see one I played at my Grandparent’s house in my mind, but I couldn’t remember the name of it. After texting my dad and brother, who also couldn’t remember it, a day of thinking later, it popped into my head: Score Four. I remember loving this game. I don’t know why it is no longer made, but I was able to find a vintage set on ebay for $20. This beat the price of the $300 collectors one on Amazon, so the ebay one it was! This game is similar to Connect Four, but you have 4 rows to play on instead of just one. We are still waiting on this game to arrive in the mail, but I am looking forward to playing it again when it does!

Backgammon is on my list of games to learn to play next. I don’t have any childhood memories of it at all, but it was recommended by a friend. After watching some Youtube videos about it, I think it looks fun. It is one of the games in the Game House, so it will probably be the next one we try, and if we love it, I’ll order a bigger board like the one above.

Do you have any games for two players that you would recommend? I’d love to know!

2020 Holiday Decor & Joyful Holiday Playlist

When I was a kid, we had a flocked Christmas tree. Our living room was peach and baby blue (anyone remember the 1980s peach and blue country decor?), and our Christmas tree matched. I did not grow up having red and green Christmas decorations, and I still don’t use the traditional colors in my holiday decor. I will always and forever love a flocked Christmas tree. My Christmas decorating style, overall, is modern and minimal. When I realized this Christmas would look a little different, and we probably wouldn’t be spending a few nights at my Mom’s house for Christmas as usual, I decided I wanted to purchase a new flocked Christmas tree and go all out with ribbons and decorations to enjoy while staying home. I found the perfect tree at Hobby Lobby. The branches are a little different than most other Christmas trees. It is heavily flocked, and I was drawn to how unique it was. It reminds me of an actual snow covered tree in the wild. I was also grateful to find that there was minimal shedding from the flocking. https://rb.gy/0b0vxg

While my mom is gifted at all things decorating, I know what I like, but I’m not always able to create it myself. I have good decorating vision but little actual crafting skill. My talented mother made the bows for the top of this tree. There are two-one on the front and one on the back, but I decorated the rest of it myself. After finding an inspiration tree on pinterest and watching a few Youtube tutorials on how to put ribbon on a tree, I successfully finished decorating the tree. Ribbon is quite simple to add and can create a dramatic effect.

This year, more than ever, I’m finding a deeper appreciation for holiday decorations and the joy and cozy ambiance they can bring to a home. Here’s a look at some of the other decorations we have this year.

Along with the decor, we have been enjoying holiday music more this year as well. With the help of recommendations from friends on facebook, I created a 2020 Joyful Holiday playlist from Apple Music. If you are an Apple music user, you can click the link here for the playlist: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/leslies-joyful-holiday-playlist/pl.u-aZb0gB5uPVBdgx

If you don’t have access to Apple music, here is a list of all the songs:

All I want for Christmas by Maria Carey

Run, Rudolph, Run by Jane Krakowski

White Christmas (Duet with Shania Twain) Michael Buble’

Santa Baby by Calista Flockhart

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Jack Johnson

Here Comes Santa Claus by Elvis Presley

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jane Krakowski

Little Drummer Boy by Pink Martini

Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy by Pentatonix

O Tannenbaum by Vince Guaraldi Trio

Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Lea Michele

Frosty the Snowman by Brenda Lee

Jingle Bells by Gwen Stefani

My Favorite Things by Kelly Clarkson

O Holy Night by Celine Dion

Winter Wonderland by Leona Lewis

Silent Night (Feat. Reba mcEntire & Trisha Yearwood) by Kelly Clarkson

Feliz Navidad by Celine Dion

Jingle Bells (Glee Cast Version) by Glee Cast

Hallelujah by Pentatonix

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Dean Martin

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Michael Buble’

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Pentatonix

We Need a Little Christmas (Glee Cat Versino) by Glee Cast

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (feat. Frank Sanatra) by Kylie Minogue

Last Christmas by Arian Grande

Mistletow by Justin Bieber

Sleigh Ride by Idina Menzel

Merry, Merry Christmas by Koko Taylor

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays by NSYNC

Cozy Little Christmas by Katy Perry

Santa’s Coming For Us by Sia

Christmas Every Day by David Archuleta

Winter Things by Ariana Grande

This Christmas by Pink Sweat$ & Donny Hathaway

Deck the Rooftop (Glee Cast Version) by Glee Cast

Holly Jolly Christmas by Michael Buble’

Skating by Vince Guaraldi trio

It’s the Most Wonderful Tie of the Year by Harry Connick, Jr.

Have Yourself A merry Little Christmas by Meghan Trainor

All I Want for Christmas is You by Michael Buble’

Boogie Woogie Santa Claus by Charle Brown

Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes

Holidays (feat. Earth, Wind, & Fire) by Meghan Trainor

Baby, It’s Cold Outside (feat. Meghan Trainor)

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey

Donde Esta Santa Claus by Augie Rios

White Christmas (feat. Christina Perry) by Ingid Michaelson

Mary, Did You Know by Pentatonix

O Holy Night (A Cappella) by NSYNC

Dominick the Donkey by Lou Monte

May your holiday season be filled with peace, love, joy, music, and an appreciation of simple pleasures. The holidays may be different this year, but the magic of Christmas always exists.