I blame my mother for my love of jewelry. At 18 months old she took me to have my ears pieced. She said I cried for about 10 seconds and then looked in the mirror, saw the shiny studs in my ears, and I was “all smiles.” I’ve loved jewelry ever since. Choosing what jewelry I will adorn myself with has become a sort of morning ritual. At home, throughout the pandemic, I have looked forward to deciding what jewelry I will wear for the day~with my lounge wear. There is just something about putting on jewelry that instantly lifts my mood.
A few years ago, I thought I was going to have to give up my love of large, statement earrings because my little baby earring holes had been so stretched over the many years of big earring wearing. However, a Missouri, woman-owned business I discovered, and now LOVE, brought my large earring groove back. The following is a little about the owner directly from the Nickel & Suede website: https://www.nickelandsuede.com/
Everything I have received from Nickel & Suede, down to the detail of packaging, has been perfection. The earrings are truly feather weight and beautiful! I follow Kilee on instragram and have learned that beyond her being a highly successful business woman who now owns three store fronts (K.C. Plaza, Liberty, MO, & Dallas, TX) in addition to her online business, she is also a mother of 5 boys. This is the type of woman and business I want to support! I have always ordered Nickel & Suede earrings online, but I plan to visit the KC Plaza store with a friend or two as soon as this darn pandemic is under control! Let me know if you’d like to join.
Today, I wanted to share about this woman-owned business and some of my favorite Nickel & Suede earrings:
The Silver Leaf Leather Earrings were the first pair of Nickel & Suede earrings I purchased years ago. I remember being SO excited to be able to wear big earrings again. And, while I love a big earring, I went for a size Medium in these, as they are quite the statement.
When I saw the same shape earrings in cork, I couldn’t resist those either. Size Medium, and oh so unique!
The Silver Leaf Nova Leather Earrings are some of my favorite to wear during the warmer months with a simple, summery, black dress. If you throw on these babies with some cute sandals and a bag, you are ready to go!
The Superstar Hoop Silver Leaf Leather earrings are probably one of my favorites, and they will always be remembered as my pandemic earrings. At the start of the stay at home order, I purchased these online and wore them almost daily. The sparked a little bit of joy each time I put them on!
These are the beauties I received in the mail last night, and they are what sparked my inspiration for this blog post. (I love to share what I love.) Are they not absolutely divine? For many years, I was a solely silver jewelry wearing girl; however, during the pandemic I found myself reaching for some old, gold jewelry, and I decided I now liked wearing it again, too. These are the perfect gold, statement earrings. You can bet I’ll be will be wearing them all weekend at home!
***I am not sponsored by or affiliated with Nickel & Suede, but I wish I was! You can find all these earrings and so many more on the website: https://www.nickelandsuede.com/ Adorn yourself.
Especially during the cold, winter months, Netflix is a favorite source of entertainment in our home. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching Netflix series as much as movies. Throughout the heaviness of living during this pandemic, the following series were welcomed escapes and fun to watch.
The first three recommendations are all ones my husband and I watched together and both enjoyed. We actually watched Schitt’s Creek years ago, and loved it so much, we recently started watching from the beginning again. This in and of itself says a lot about how much enjoyment we got watching this family because we usually do not watch a series more than one time. It’s just that good. Seriously. After starting from the beginning a second time it is even more apparent how much the characters grow and change throughout the series. This is an over-the-top family that you can’t help but love, and they provide plenty of laugh out loud moments. (If you finish watching Schitt’s Creek, and love it as much as we did, you will also want to check out the documentary on Netflix about the making of the series: Best Wishes, Warmest Wishes: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell.)
If someone told me I’d be interested in watching a series about chess, I would probably not have believed them. However, I was easily sucked in to this coming of age story of an orphaned chess prodigy. While The Queen’s Gambit isn’t as light hearted as some of the others I’m recommending, it is a rich drama filled with moments of hope and triumph. Whether you like chess or not, you should check it out. And, like Schitt’s Creek, there is also a documentary, Creating The Queen’s Gambit, currently on Netflix about the making of this series.
Kim’s Convenience is another comedy with a family that is easy to grow to love. The Kims own a Korean Canadian convenience store and have raised two children, now in their twenties. This family provides a great deal or humor as well as depth. If you like Schitt’s Creek, this is another one you will probably enjoy!
The next six recommendations are all series I watched on my own (no husband involved, and if we had children, they would not have been in the room while I was watching as all of them have some risque’ moments!) Grace & Frankie is probably one of my all-time favorite Netflix comedies. It highlights two women whose husbands leave them to purse a relationship together~which they had been hiding for 20 years. The women are vastly different but slowly become best friends. Grace & Frankie is a show about friendship, family, love, and growing older. It is one that I was truly sad to see come to an end.
Firefly Lane is the series I am currently watching. It’s another one about women friendships; however, on this one, the two main characters have been friends since their childhood. They come from vastly different families but grew up on the same road: Firefly Lane. This is another one that I know when I finish Season 1, it will feel like too long to wait for Season 2 to arrive in my Netflix queue.
Emily in Paris is a series I would consider a bit goofy and very lighthearted, but sometimes that feels like exactly the entertainment I am seeking. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sights of Paris and the fashion and style on this show as well.
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce reminds me of Sex in the City except it is set in L.A. instead of New York, and is about middle aged women going through divorce rather than 20-somethings looking for love. The main character is a writer who is going through a divorce. While divorce is no laughing matter, I found myself cracking up much of the time watching it. This series would easily be in my top five comedy series ever. I felt like I was hanging out with my own group of girlfriends while watching it. It’s so good!
Working’ Moms is hilarious. Even without having children of my own, I loved it. Just watch. You’ll see.
Dead to Me is a bit of a wild ride. I don’t want to say too much here, but it’s about two women who meet in a grief group and build a friendship. They are connected in a way one of the women knows about and the other doesn’t. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one. Like I said, it’s a wild ride.
The final recommendation isn’t a series, but a movie J and I watched last weekend, so it’s fresh in my mind. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a strange and quirky movie, and I highly recommend it! We have a local, small movie theater in town, Rag Tag Cinema, that shows creative and artsy movies, and I kept thinking the entire time we watched this flick that it reminds me of something we would have seen at Rag Tag. (Oh how I long for the days I will feel comfortable watching a movie again outside of my home!) Hunt for the Wilderpeople is described as a New Zealand adventure comedy drama about a boy and his foster father. If you don’t want to commit the time to watching an entire series, this movie is a fun, and shorter, yet adventurous, ride.
I’m curious: what Netflix shows make up some of your top ten favorites?
I am by no means a sleep expert, but I can sincerely tell you I have always loved my sleep. Even as far back as my teenage years, I have intuitively known I simply feel better when I’m well rested. And to this day, I highly value and prioritize my sleep. Sleep science is now starting to show us how important our sleep actually is: It is during this time that our brain and body are actively repairing. Sleep is central to good health. Years ago at the Women’s Wellness Conference in CoMO, the keynote speaker, Dr. Sara Gottfried shared about the importance of deep sleep and HRV balance for long-term health and wellness. She showed us her Oura ring she used to track her sleep data. I ended up buying an Oura ring shortly after that conference. (Quick tip: If you get on Youtube and look for reviews on products, you can often find discount codes. Another quick tip: If you buy one, make sure to order the sizer, so you know the correct size to order.)
I love my Oura ring. It is lightweight and easy to wear while sleeping. (I am not one who usually sleeps in jewelry, and I can’t imagine sleeping in my big, bulky Apple watch.) This little ring tracks all kinds of data, but I mainly use it for sleep information. It provides me with information about my total sleep, efficiency, restfulness, REM sleep, deep sleep (always shooting for over 2 hours according to Dr. Gottfried–which is a challenge for me), and latency. It also gives me an overall readiness score for the day which includes information about resting heart rate, HRV balance, body temperature, recovery index, and the previous night’s sleep score. Last night was a particularly good night sleep for me as you can see from the data below.
Prior to Dr. Gottfried’s talk, I had never heard about the importance of HRV balance and sleep. This morning, I got an email from Oura that shared the following information regarding HRV:
“HRV (heart rate variability) is a measure of the variation of time between your heartbeats. It’s a highly personal metric, and one of the key indicators of your recovery status, overall health, and fitness level.
In general, your HRV can range anywhere from below 20 to over 200 milliseconds. What’s important is finding your HRV baseline and identifying what activities or factors make it fluctuate.
Next time you check your Readiness score, keep a closer eye on your HRV. Being in touch with your daily score, and noting any habits that affect your HRV, can help you narrow things down, change things up, and discover which habits work best for your overall health.”
It’s been interesting to pay attention to my behaviors and habits and make connections between how they may be helping or hindering my sleep. I have definitely noticed how eating dinner too close to bed time or having a glass of wine usually negatively impacts my quality of sleep. I appreciate the information my Oura ring provides me; however, after having it for a few years and paying attention, these days I am generally in tune enough with my body, when I wake up in the morning, I have a good sense of what the data will indicate before even seeing it.
Having a day where you feel good in your body starts the night before. How are you sleeping these days? Prioritizing sleep is self-care. Does sleep need to be moved up on your priority list?
We are one month in to 2021, and I’m very much still processing 2020. Anyone with me? The year 2020 was a year of questions: What is true? What is real? What is the purpose of life? What will happen next? What does it mean to be safe? When will there be true equality? Why aren’t we there yet? What actually matters most? Who sincerely cares about me? Who and what do I really care about? This list could go on and on. So many questions. I’m still very much working on answers.
One of the lessons of 2020 for me was the big reminder of the importance of focusing on the simple pleasures in life. It is often focusing on the simple pleasures that get me through my day: clean sheets, sunshine on my face, a hot cup of coffee, a beautiful smelling candle, petting my pups, seeing a bright red cardinal out the window, taking a walk, savoring dark chocolate, deep breaths…my list could go on an on. I’ve become a simple pleasures master. Today, I thought I’d share a few of my simple pleasures with you that bring a bit of extra joy.
One of my favorite simple pleasures these days is taking a hot shower. Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed showers, but I wouldn’t say I looked forward to them. Now, I do. Sometimes they are the highlight of my day. I purchased a 12 inch rain shower head (which I would highly recommend), and there is truly little that compares to having that hot water shower over my entire body. Showering is an opportunity to get really present in the body–feel the sensations, smell the scents, and relax. One of my favorite parts of showering is savoring the smells of different soaps and oils. My current favorites are L’Occitane’s Almond Shower Oil https://rb.gy/rmvzbe, Zum Bar soap-I enjoy all the scents, but especially love Patchouli (I purchase this from Clover’s or Natural Grocers), and Harry’s Fig Body Wash https://rb.gy/dwna3z. All three are very different scents, but I love them all. I shave every day. I love the feeling of having smooth, shaven skin. Up until a few years ago, I used to purchase the cheapest razors I could find. Then, one time I tried out a 5 blade razor, and there was no going back. It is so much smoother and comfortable on my skin. I am currently using Billie razors because they are just that good, and I appreciate the convenience of them being delivered right to my door. https://rb.gy/yvhekb With my natural curly and somewhat unruly hair, (which BTW I’ve totally embraced my curly girl status during this pandemic) a good deep conditioner is a must. I have been using Matrix Biolage Hydrasource Conditioning Balm for probably over 20 years. It’s a must for my hair. https://rb.gy/kehmzc Nothing makes it softer and healthier. Lastly, after I shower, I always put on body lotion. One of my current favorites is Palmer’s Coconut Body Lotion with Vitamin E https://rb.gy/b7ulxy. If you like the smell of coconut, this lotion smells divine and is good for the budget as well! These are all my current shower loves that spark a little extra joy!
The next simple pleasure is one I discovered a few years ago. For me, living in Missouri during the winter months is hard. The lack of light, sunshine, warm weather, and color definitely takes it’s toll on my state of wellbeing. A few years ago an Aldi went in close to where we live, and I started purchasing small bouquets of flowers from there a few times a month during the wintertime. They are usually only around $4 and definitely worth it to me. I noticed that simply having that little pop of color and life in my home made a big difference in how I felt. During the months of January and February, especially, fresh flowers in my home are a simple pleasure I greatly appreciate.
You may have guessed from all my previous posts with playlists that listening to music is another simple pleasure. I appreciate many different types of music; however, most frequently, in my home, I’m trying to cultivate an ambiance of relaxation and peace, so relaxing music is my go-to. This playlist is one I created last winter (when I actually used playlists in my in person yoga classes). If you have Apple Music and you want a new chill & relax playlist to listen to, here you go: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/yoga-mix-26-winter-flow/pl.u-d2b00PYCMB0RWJ
Once again, it’s the simple pleasures these days that make all the difference. Be intentional about seeking them out, and you’ll find they are everywhere.
***I am not yet sponsored by any of the brands mentioned, but I wish I was!***
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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!
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This holiday gift guide includes all items my husband or I actually own, use, and would highly recommend! From inexpensive to more on the pricey side, I’m sure you’ll find something on this list for everyone in your life to enjoy!
Nothing feels more heavenly on the body than a little Barefoot Dreams. Barefoot Dreams should be listed after the definition of soft. While this brand falls more on the pricey side, I believe it is worth every penny. The fabric washes well and holds up over time. While we are all lounging more at home, this is an especially practical, yet still luxurious gift. It truly feels divine. Anything Barefoot Dreams is going to be an excellent gift, but these are my three top recommendations:
The Lampe Berger Paris oil burner is a must have for those in your life who love scenting their homes with candles. This little lamp is a safe and nontoxic way to purify the air as well as make your home smell amazing. It’s a pet-friendly option, as well, as there is no open flame. The history of Lampe Berger is really interesting, too. It was originally designed by Maurice Berger to disinfect hospitals in the late 1800s. In 1910 a store was opened, and it caught on in homes across Europe, and could be found in the residence of Kings and Queens and well-known people such as Picasso and Coco Chanel. (resource: https://lampebergerreview.com/history-of-lampe-berger/) There are many styles and prices of lamps. I’ve seen collectable ones on ebay for upwards of $1,000. One of the ones I own, the Serenity Grey Lamp, was just over $60. It’s well worth the price as it also serves as a beautiful piece of glass art in our bedroom. You can also buy a gift set that includes both a lamp and oil. The gift set linked includes, Festive Fir, one of my favorite winter scents!
Along with the Lampe Berger, this is another gift for the candle lovers in your life. This lighter charges with a USB cable! It’s kind of ridiculous how happy this little lighter makes me. It’s the little things, right? It’s a great, inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer!
A nice bottle of your person’s favorite drink always makes a great gift. We have a local distillery that makes this DogMaster Gin, and it is both of our favorite. If you have a distillery in your area that you know someone in your life likes, buy them a gift from there!
Since the start of the pandemic and spending so much time at home, I have developed a whole new appreciation of comfortable, soft, yet cute clothes. I own two EllandEmm sweatshirts, and I highly recommend them. They are SO soft. I have other sweatshirts in my closet, but I find I rarely reach for them because the way they feel cannot compare. EllandEmm has a wide variety of chic sweatshirts. I suggest you check them all out!
The jewelry lover and meaning maker in me LOVES these bracelets. The idea is that each of the 9 bracelets is meant to represent an intention for the day. As you slide each one on, you focus on the intention. What I also love about these bracelets is that they are made of flexible, polyvinyl carbonate, so they are light weight, don’t make noise, comfortable, and perfect for a night in, a night out, the beach, or a pool party. I’ve had my silver set for many, many years, and they still look as good as new. I asked for the gold set for our anniversary this year, and I love them, too!
If you are looking for an inexpensive gift that still looks and feels great, I recommend these earrings. I am picky about my jewelry, and I do not like anything that looks or feels flimsy or cheap. These earrings are a great deal and feel like quality. I have them both in the 30.0 millimeter and 50.0 millimeter size. The 50.0 millimeter ones are a statement-they are large and heavy. They look great with the Gold BuDhaGirl Bangles. For a more subtle look, I recommend the smaller, 30.0 millimeter ones.
I bought these slippers for J last year for Christmas. They have held up well. They are soft and warm, but don’t make his feet hot. Nice slippers always make a great gift, but especially this year when we are all spending so much more time at home!
We must not forget our furry friends when planning our holiday gifts! The two toys above are the ones that Briar has had the longest. Fluff & Tuff dog toys are the absolute best! He received Kate the Caterpillar from his grandparents last year for Christmas, and she is still going strong! The Starbarks drink is just too cute. This was a gift we got him when he was a small puppy. It did end up getting torn up, so we go him another one in a larger size. The Adidog hoodie is perfect for your sporty pup. I will say the white starts to come off after a few washings, but I still think it is adorable on him! Olivia’s pink & white heart sweater is no longer available, but if you live in cold weather and have a little, older pup, keeping her warm in a cute sweater is a must!
A gift guide isn’t complete without some pajamas. These moonlight pajamas from Nordstrom are the absolute best. They are light weight, soft, and incredibly comfortable. They come in a variety of colors. I highly, highly recommend!
This book is one I think every woman needs to read. If there is a woman in your life who enjoys a book that will challenger her, make her think, and get uncomfortable, and grow, then give her this book! I also wrote a short blogpost on it here: https://rb.gy/rx5hom If you have a local bookstore, pick it up there! If not, you can find it online.
Silk pillow cases are supposed to be better for hair and skin because they don’t tug and pull like other pillow cases do. I am a newbie to a silk pillow case, just purchasing my first one this year, so I cannot compare this one to other silk ones. What I can say, is that since getting this, I do notice my hair is less frizzy after sleeping on it than when I used cotton pillowcases. It also just feels like luxury. I think this would be a great gift for anyone who enjoys luxury sleep!
Along with the silk pillowcase, I am a big fan of the Pure Silk masks. They are beautiful, soft, functional, adjustable, and by far the most comfortable face masks I’ve worn. They come in a variety of colors and would be a great gift or stocking stuffer for someone you love!
As a long time yoga teacher, I often get asked what yoga mat I recommend. Without hesitation, I always respond Manduka Pro Yoga Mat. While it might be considered on the pricey side for a yoga mat, it is high quality. I have been practicing on mine for over 15 years now, and it’s still as good as new. I have actually saved money with this mat because I’ve only had to buy one. Prior to my Manduka, I was buying cheaper mats that needed to be replaced almost yearly. All Manduka mats are great, but I prefer the pro version because of the thickness and extra cushion. It is a heavier mat, but worth it for the comfort. There are a multitude of colors to choose from, as well. I got my husband the extra long version they make for taller folks. Whether you know someone who is just wanting to begin a yoga practice or is a long time yogi in need of a new mat, this is the one to get!
For all those who have the Apple iphone, watch, and Airpods, this wireless charger is a perfect gift! We actually own two~one for each of us. It is so nice to be able to charge all the things at once without the mess of all the chords. While this may not be a glamorous gift, it is one that the people who like their area tidy and organized will definitely appreciate!
This is the perfect gift for someone who would like to journal, but doesn’t feel like they have the time. It has a small amount of space to write about each day, and what I love about it, is you can compare your days from year to year. I just started mine this year, but it is simple to keep up with because I don’t have to write a lot. I keep it by my bed and when I wake up each morning, I write a few affirmations. Then when I go to bed each night, I write 3 things I’m grateful for and my favorite part of each day. I have a feeling I will love this even more over the next few years! It would make a very meaningful gift for anyone.
This shower oil feels heavenly on the skin and smells divine. I truly cannot recommend it highly enough! This set is also a great deal! If you want to give someone the gift of feeling pampered during a luxurious shower or bath, this is it.
These sheets are my absolute favorite. They would make an excellent gift for the person in your life who likes really crisp sheets. They have a good weight to them, and they also don’t make J hot. They are easy to put on the bed–the fitted sheet is large and never slips off. They come from Kohl’s, so wait for a sale! We have three sets we rotate, and I honestly don’t care to ever own a different set of sheets again because I like them that much!
I am someone who likes to have my lips hydrated at all times. Fresh Sugar Lip balms are THE best. There are clear ones and sheerly tinted ones, and they all feel like silk being smoothed on the lips. Especially now with mask life, I often don’t put on lipstick because of the potential mess, but I still want something on my lips to hydrate them. This is what I reach for now day and night. The Sugar Advanced Therapy is my favorite, but I would recommend them all. This gift set would be a great stocking stuffer!
Perfumes and colognes make great gifts as long as you have a sense of what sort of smells the receiver of the gift likes. I am a big fan of Maison Margiela Replica perfumes. I wrote an entire blog post on the brand, and the ones I own here: https://lesliekershaliving.com/2020/10/18/replica/ Since writing that post, I got Whispers in the Library, and I’m so glad I added it to my collection. This is a unisex perfume for someone who likes the scent of old, musky books, and the library. With notes of pepper, vanilla, and cedar, it’s warm, woody, and slightly spicy. If this one doesn’t sound like a good fit, definitely check out my blog post as there are many other beautiful smelling options in the Maison Margiela Replica line!
When I hear that someone is getting a new puppy, my response is always the same: “Puppyhood is hard, but they are so very worth it.” I cannot imagine having a home without the love & energy pups bring to it. With the upcoming holidays and people being at home, I realize many are considering getting a puppy, so I wanted to share my insight about puppyhood here. We have raised three dogs–two from the very young puppy stage and one from the age of one year old. When I say puppyhood is hard, I mean it: There is potty training, constant nipping, getting up in the middle of the night to let them out, crate training, exercising, socializing, hearing a lot of whining and barking, and things being torn up. Beyond that, they are a big financial investment: food and puppy insurance (I use Healthy Paws) and medications and vet visits and grooming adds up. My first words of wisdom before getting a puppy is to make sure you and your family are ready for the time, energy, and money that raising a puppy takes. It is a BIG and long commitment. Do your research. Make sure you are finding the right fit for your family. If you are SURE you are ready for the commitment and have decided to get a new puppy, here are my thoughts to share with you.
We got our first puppy, Ziggy, in 2006. He was a cock-a-poo. I had always loved cocker spaniels and also wanted a smart and hypoallergenic dog, so a cock-a-poo it was. We were told Ziggy would be 18-23 lbs full grown. He ended up being 45 lbs–and he wasn’t over weight, he was just a big dog for his litter. Be prepared for your dog to be a different size than you might have thought! When we got Ziggy, we knew very little about raising a puppy. We took him to puppy kindergarten to learn about training and to help socialize him; however, he was an energetic pup. I kept asking people when puppyhood was over and would get answers from 1 to 3 years old. For Ziggy, it wasn’t until around 3 years that he started to calm down. At less than year one, we decided Ziggy needed a friend to get some of his energy out. We were lucky enough to find the perfect companion pup in Olivia Sue from a local rescue. Olivia was around one year old when we got her, and they were instant friends. Since Olivia is a rescue, we are not sure exactly what kind of dog she is but we believe she is part schnauzer and poodle. She has been the absolute easiest and sweetest pup ever. Getting her at one year old verses a few months old made a huge difference. If the timing is right and everything aligns, I highly recommend the consideration of a rescue pup. Ziggy most definitely needed Oliva’s companionship. He lived a life full of zest. He was a bit spastic, but he was incredibly loyal and loving. We absolutely adored that dog. He ended up getting congestive heart failure, and when his quality of life took a turn for the worse, we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to put him down at age 11 in 2017. Olivia, thankfully, is still with us today.
Quickly after putting Ziggy down, we knew we wanted another companion dog for Olivia. We like having two pups. I had grown to love poodle mixes, but we didn’t want one that would remind us of Ziggy. He was one of a kind. I wanted a dog that was a different color and different breed. Jonathan wanted a goldendoodle. So, that is what we chose. I researched the different kinds of goldendoodles, and we decided we wanted a medium sized, F1B, apricot goldendoodle. F1B means that the dog is 3/4 poodle and 1/4 golden retriever–these pups are less likely to shed because they have more poodle in them. I did a lot of research finding the right dog at the right time from a reputable breeder that I trusted.I found exactly what we were looking for in Briar, who was born on my late Grandmother’s Birthday (it was a sign), located in a neighboring state more than 6 hours away. We got Briar over spring break and made a short vacation out of picking him up. We drove half way there and stayed in a cabin the night before his gotcha day. We also wanted to introduce Briar and Olivia on neutral territory, so that worked out well. If you have to drive to pick up your puppy, make sure to have either a sack, bowl, and puppy pads for the trip. We were driving through the curvy and hilly mountains in Arkansas on our way home, and Briar got car sick multiple times, so I was thankful we had brought the puppy pads.
You will need to be prepared to bring your puppy home. It will be important to have all the essentials: puppy food, toys (the kong filled with peanut butter, pumpkin, and treats became an essential favorite), a blanket, and a small crate. In my opinion, crate training is a must. It helps with potty training and insures that your puppy is safe when you are not around. None of my pups have ever loved their crates as I hear some dogs do; however, I still believe it’s important to use a crate at first. In addition, we’ve stayed at places when traveling with our pups that required they were in crates when we left them there. I was glad that they were used to the crate already. Now that they are older, we no longer use the crate, but at first, it is a must. You will need to slowly introduce the crate to your puppy. My go-to training resource with Briar has been Zak George YouTube videos. Training you puppy takes a lot of time, energy, and patience, but it very important! Zak George has SO many helpful training videos. I’ve watched and learned from almost all of them. Here is one on introducing your puppy to the crate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hesi8WxLWVE I also highly recommend getting a Snuggle Puppy for your new pup to help him with sleeping through the night in the crate: https://rb.gy/lhuzyr Briar transitioned well to sleeping through the night in his crate with his snuggle puppy.
Potty training is a full time job. Taking them outside hourly and positive reinforcement is key. Our first pup, Ziggy, caught on to potty training in less than a month. Briar took over three months. Just when I thought he would never get it, he finally (thank God) did! Watching the Zak George videos on potty training helped tremendously. We decided to bell train Briar. And, once again, he ignored the bell for months, and we had started to give up even using it, and then one day, out of no where he rang the bell. To this day, he lets us know he wants to go outside by ringing the bell by the back door: https://rb.gy/pzvrvj Beyond potty training, probably the most challenging time of puppyhood is the constant biting and nipping phase. Wearing the puppy out with play and having plenty of toys around to stuff in their mouths when they start nipping is essential. All you can do during this phase is BE PATIENT. Keep redirecting, and remember: It won’t last forever.
The photo above is Briar after he got groomed. Introducing grooming to your puppy early is important. It is also important to know what kind of grooming your puppy will require. While Briar doesn’t shed, he does require brushing and grooming regularly. He also needs exercise regularly. For us, having a fenced back yard with pups is a must. Being able to let them out into the back yard to go to the bathroom, explore, run, and play is a life-saver. We went a month with him as a new puppy and no fenced back yard, and it was pretty miserable. Once we got the fence put in, it also seemed to allow Briar and Olivia to bond more because she could run away from the annoying new little puppy (she was quick), and they would eventually learn to play together with the spaciousness of the back yard. It took a few months for Briar and Olivia to fully bond. She actually didn’t care for him at all for about a month, which was worrisome at the time, but eventually they became great friends.
Keep in mind: tiny puppies grow into dogs~another reason training is a must. Briar was projected to be 25-35 lbs full grown. He is close to 50 lbs full grown. Once again, be prepared for your dog to be a different size than projected. He is an absolute big love-bug. Briar dropped out of puppy kindergarten because honestly, I had already done so much training with him prior to going (thank you Zak George) he, and we, were very bored at the group training sessions. We ended up hiring a trainer to work with him for a few sessions one on one. He also attended puppy daycare one day a week for his first year of life in order to socialize and release some extra puppy energy.
As you can tell, raising a puppy is a big commitment in time, energy, and money. If you have any questions about puppyhood or my recommendations and insight, don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to share! Puppyhood requires great patience. It is a life decision that should not be made lightly. However, the love, companionship, and energy dogs bring into a home, in my opinion, is absolutely, without a doubt, worth it!
I really don’t consider myself a cook. I put things together in the kitchen and heat them up. I usually go for the recipes that sound delish, but also with the least ingredients and that look like the easiest to make. The crock pot is my best friend. With all this being said, there is nothing better than a yummy, hot soup during the chilly fall and winter seasons. I also love making soups for meal prepping. Simply double the recipe and put half in the freezer for an easy dinner at a later date. I am lucky enough to have a husband that cooks, and he doesn’t mind a recipe that takes a little more time and effort. Over the years, we have tested many soup recipes, and these are my tried and true. They are all very rich, so they can be satisfying as the entire meal (or maybe add a light salad or bread, if you choose). I cannot recommend them highly enough!
Soup number 1 is Winter Squash and Bacon soup. This is one my husband makes because it does take a bit of effort with the squash, but the extra effort is worth it. If you are lucky enough to have a partner who cooks, perhaps pass this recipe on to them. The recipe comes from a local chef, Brook Harlan. He and Inside Columbia Magazine collaborated, and he published a soups & salads cook book. We loved so many soups in this book that when my husband accidentally left it at the grocery store, Brook was kind enough to give me a second copy, even though I was willing to pay for it again. The winter squash and bacon soup has amazing flavors. Rich, savory, slightly sweet. It’s divine.
Soup number 2 is another Brook Harlan recipe: Tomato Bisque. This soup reminds me of my Grandma Nana even though it isn’t her recipe. I remember her cooking tomato soup often. I like to pair this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. There is something about a bowl of tomato bisque paired with a grilled cheese sandwich, isn’t there? It’s like they were made for each other. I’m pretty particular about my tomato bisque, however, and this one is THE BEST, in my opinion. It also has loads of veggies in it as well!
Soup number 3 is Hearty Beef & Mushroom Soup. This one was recommended to be by a friend years ago, and I’m so glad it was because I make it over and over and over again. It’s simple and SO very good. Don’t skip out on the rosemary. I’ve done that, and found out that the rosemary really adds amazing flavor. Last time I made it, I actually doubled the rosemary because we were growing it in our garden and needed to use it up. If you like the flavor of rosemary, go for doubling it. If not, stick with the recipe as is. I’ve already made this soup twice this fall we love it that much. Easy and delish!
When you are craving a bacon cheese burger or pizza but you don’t want to consume all the carbs, the next two soups are going to be perfect for you! The first one is Easy Bacon Cheeseburger Soup. I usually buy a big package of precooked bacon bits (that are real bacon) from Sam’s which makes this recipe even easier. Let me tell you: The pickles make this soup. Seriously! When I mention pickles and soup, I often get strange looks from folks; however, I assure you, my friends who have made this soup after I’ve recommended it, LOVE it. For real, give it a try!
The soup I made most recently is this Low Carb Crock Pot Pizza Soup. (It’s the soup in the photo at the beginning of this blog post).I followed the recipe besides adding an onion and red bell pepper. I like both on my pizza, so I figured, why not? When I make it again, I will use fresh mushrooms rather than canned. Other than that, this pizza soup was perfection. If you are a fan of pizza and soup, you can’t go wrong with this one! It is so very filling and absolutely delicious!
I have so many soup recipes I love and could share, but these five are definitely the ones I come back to over and over again each year (besides the pizza soup–it’s a new one for me). I can easily say these soups are my top five favorites. Let me know if you give any of them a try!
For as long as I can remember, I have loved books. As a child and teen, there was nothing better than starting a new fiction book and seeing where the adventure of reading would take me. In 1997 my own life adventure included moving to a much larger town for college. This was my first time living on my own and navigating a new and different place, school experience, and job. It was a lot of change all at once. That year, I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff. This book began my love of nonfiction, self-development & growth books. I have read dozens and dozens of these types of books since, but this one, changed my life because it started me on my nonfiction journey. I picked it up at the exact right time. As I think about all the nonfiction books I’ve read over the years, there are so many good ones I could share, but I’ve narrowed it down to the ones that have made a HUGE impact on me. They have all, in some way, changed my life for the better, and they could possible do the same for you!
Prior to reading this book, everything felt like a big deal to me. I was a Type A, gett-er done, often anxious person. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff taught me to relax a little. I discovered yoga around the time that I read this book, and the combination of the two definitely made a magical shift in how I approached life. This book includes 100 simple short writings on life lessons~essentially ways to keep little things from taking over your life. Among other things, this book taught me that the to-do list is NEVER done, so holding your breath or waiting to do other things until everything is crossed off your list of things to do is a really bad idea. There are many great little take-aways from this book!
The Four Agreements continued my shift in how I approached life. These agreements are simple, yet profound: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. This book is a quick read filled with so much wisdom!
In 2005, I was working on my graduate degreee in counseling, got married, bought a house, moved, and started a new job as a school counselor. While all of these experiences were incredibly positive life happenings, it was A LOT all at once. My stress and anxiety levels that year were very high. Radical Acceptance Embracing Your Life with the heart of A Buddha was the book that saved me.
I was introduced to the work of Cheryl Richardson through watching Oprah, and I have really enjoyed many of her books. I chose to highlightThe art of Extreme Self-Care here because it is the one that stayed with me. In this book, she offers practical and sound advice for the importance of taking care of yourself. It is a book I come back to and reference regularly!
While Brene’ Brown is perhaps most notably known for her book Daring Greatly, her earlier written book, The Gifts of Imperfection is the one that created the most change in me. Prior to reading this book, I would profess the title of perfectionist with a proud badge of honor. It wasn’t until I read this book that I started to understand how toxic perfectionism is and how often it has stifled me and held me back. I now proudly say, I’m a recovering perfectionist.
If you know me well, you know The life-changing magic of tidying up was absolutely life-changing. I read this book in 2015, and I totally overhauled my life. It is amazing how much spaciousness and freedom one can feel in life when we aren’t energetically bogged down with too many things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no where close to a minimalist; however, I can say that I am very aware of what I own and what I choose to bring into my home and life, and most everything is something I use regularly or something that sparks joy. If you actually follow Marie’s process in this book for decluttering, I can almost guarantee your life will change, too. I will forever be grateful to Marie Kondo for helping me shift my relationship to stuff.
The untethered soul is a book that helped me change my relationship to my mind and thoughts. It is one that I cannot recommend highly enough. It taught me that while the mind’s job is to essentially create problems to be solved, I do not need to believe all of its problematic thoughts. It deepened my understanding and work with mindfulness and presence. It is one I read many years ago, but I’ve been feeling the pull to come back to it in the midst of the pandemic and uncertainty.
I hope that you will check out any of these book recommendations that spoke to you. Finding the right book at the right time can truly be life changing!
As a child, I loved Halloween. My halloween costumes throughout the years were often home-made and quite frankly, looking back, the home-made ones are my favorite. (Were any other 80s children out there punk rockers multiple times?) On Halloween night, I used to love to join family friends and go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, getting home to dump out my big bag of candy to compare and organize. As I got older, I lost some of my enchantment with the holiday. I’m not sure why. However, when I met my husband, he reignited my appreciation for the day.
As adults without children, we have enjoyed the Halloween occasion by dressing up ourselves and going downtown for dinner and drinks. My two favorite adult costumes are a dead couple and a mermaid and old ship captain. I especially enjoyed doing the make-up to transform our looks. It took a lot of time and learning to do J’s mouth in the photos below; however, we were both very pleased at how it turned out. If you are unsure of how to do a fun Halloween make-up look, use YouTube. There are all kinds of Halloween makeup tutorials out there to help!
We now also like to decorate by creating small Halloween vignettes throughout our home. I personally really like decorative skulls, and each year we buy a few additional spooky pieces. Marshalls and HomeGoods are two of my favorite places to Halloween bargain shop. This year I actually found the black pumpkins, witch’s potion, and sand timer at Walgreens.
I am not a fan of horror movies, but I do occasionally enjoy watching creepy movies, especially this time of year. Here are some of my favorites throughout the years:
The Sixth Sense
Silence of the Lambs
A Quiet Place
Poltergeist (why did my parents let me watch this?!?)
Early in our relationship, prior to being married, J took me to some Haunted Houses in KC. They were super creepy. I remember at one point I grabbed his hand to hold it and when the lights flickered on and off, I saw that I was actually holding the hand of one of the very spooky looking Haunted House characters. Talk about frightening. This year we will not be going to any haunted houses, but we did go to a Haunted drive through experience called the Home of the Misfit Monsters in a small rural town about 30 minutes away from where we live. It was definitely creepy, and a werewolf ran up to our car from behind and got a full on scream out of me. I hope this provided a little inspiration & that your Halloween is as spooky as you would like it to be!
While I believe we should live our lives with authenticity and never aim to be any sort of copy, in the realm of perfumery, Maison Margiela’s Replica fragrances have proven that Replicas can be absolutely divine! I love fragrance. Once again, I always try to create sensory experiences in my life that help me be mindful and beautiful smells–whether from candles or cooking or nature or perfume–make me feel alive. The truth is: I don’t really wear perfume for others. I wear it for me. During the pandemic, while at home all the time, I find moments of joy choosing different fragrances to wear throughout the long days. Really, I LOVE a good perfume. And, different seasons call for different smells. Today, I am sharing my favorites from the French luxury fashion house, Maison Margiela. Maison Margiela’s Replica fragrances are “reproductions of familiar scents and moments of varying locations and periods.” We all know that the power of scent is strong and can carry us through time and evoke important memories and experiences. This line of fragrances does just that. The following scents are all ones I would recommend you check out, and depending on your fragrance preferences, there is definitely at least one for everyone that would make a perfect gift for a loved one (or for yourself) during this upcoming holiday season!
Jazz Club is the first fragrance from this line I purchased, and it was the beginning of my love affair. You should know I often find myself drawn to what would be considered male or unisex fragrances. The smoky, sexy, leathery scents are some of my favorite~especially during the colder months. This one is all of that: Smoky, sexy, & leathery with a spicy, boozy flair to it as well! According to frantica.com the top notes are pink pepper, lemon, and neroli; middle notes are rum, clary sage, and vetiver oil; base notes are tobacco leaf, vanilla bean, and styrax. Sephora.com says, “this perfume brims with sweet notes of opened cigar boxes, old leather bar stools, and fine aged liquor.” I would agree. If you are missing going to Jazz Clubs during the pandemic, pick up this perfume and it will immediately transport you. https://rb.gy/00cobh
By the Fireplace is another slightly smokey unisex scent, but imagine the sweet smell of roasting marshmallows while you sit by the crackling fireplace with your loved ones & that is the replica experience of this scent. Top notes are pink pepper, orange blossoms, & cloves; middle notes are chestnut, guaiac wood & juniper; base notes are vanilla, peru balsam and cashmeran. Sephora.com says, “the comfort of wood crackling in the fireplace while snow falls outside is evoked…” and I would agree. There is a definite sweetness to this one, though, that balances out the smoky, woodiness, and makes me crave s’mores. https://rb.gy/iazty1
If you want a total change of pace from the two perfumes above, Beach Walk just might be your choice. This one replicates all the smells of the beach~salty, aquatic air, and light citrus & florals. The perfume opens with bergamot & lemon, and develops with pink pepper, ylang ylang, coconut milk, musk, and heliotrope. Sephora.com says, “the scent of salt air, the perfume of sunscreen, the glow of sunkissed skin…Replica Beach Walk Women’s fragrance evokes the memory of endless summer days…” While there is a definite sunscreen smell to this perfume (which I actually appreciate), if Bobbi Brown’s iconic Beach perfume is way too much for your nose (think Coppertone sunscreen), this one is a much lighter, more florally option. It is truly beautiful and the next best thing to a beach vacay.
Music Festival is another unisex fragrance that one might say is much more like the real thing than the fyre music festival was. This one is a replica of Woodstock, 1969. While it may not be for everyone, on the right spring or summer day, when I want to smell an earthy, yet sweet forest party scent lingering around my body, I love reaching for it. Top notes are violet leaf, red apple, & cannibis ; middle notes are patchouli, incense & tobacco; base notes are cypress, leather, & cedar. The Maison Margiela website says this about the fragrance, “recall a hypnotic daydream, lulled by the musics vibrations.” We may not be going to music festivals anytime soon, so in the meantime, check out this fragrance. https://rb.gy/j5xlkn
My collection of these fragrances was started many, many years ago. My most recent purchase from the line was at the start of the lockdown for the pandemic this past spring. I do not consider myself a fan of scents with a lot of citrus; however, I received a sample of Under the Lemon Trees and was oddly drawn to it. It was obvious that life as I knew it was shifting greatly, and somehow, this very different scent than my normal go-to felt comforting. Top notes are lime, petitgrain, & cardamom; middle notes are coriander, mate, & green tea; and bottom notes are cedar, rock rose, and white musk. Sephora.com describes this one as evoking “la dolce vita with the signature scent of the Southern Italian countryside.” Through all the worry, disappointment, and sadness as a result of the pandemic, there is something about this perfume that is a comforting reminder to me that through it all life is still so very sweet .
Replica At the Barber’s is not a scent I wear~as a big fan of unisex fragrances and as someone who will even wear some fragrances that are marketed towards men, this is not one of those. I bought this scent for my husband for Christmas a few years ago. I generally pick out all of J’s scents, and this one was different than anything else he had. The only way I can describe this scent is the smell of a sexy man~a clean shaven, freshly groomed, sexy man. Top notes are bitter orange, basil, & black pepper; middle notes lavender, geranium, & rosemary; base notes are tonka bean, leather, moss, and white musk. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for the man in your life, check this one out. It is yummy! https://rb.gy/aeiumm
This wraps up my Maison Margiela Replica collection. I own a lot of perfumes and all of these are ones I reach for often. While these scents are not cheap, in this case, you definitely get what you pay for. The bottles are large and the longevity and sillage are top notch. I do not like paying for perfumes that I cannot smell shortly after applying them. Out of all the scents, I would say Under the Lemon Tree is the only one that I find I have to reapply during the day to continue smelling it. Other Replica scents I have smelled and chosen not to purchase are Lipstick On (takes me right back to playing in my great grandmother’s powder room and the smell of her lipstick), Coffee Break (thought I would love this one, but I actually wanted to smell more of a coffee scent) & Whispers in the Library (this one is on my wish list).
So, live authentically but if you’re in the market for a good perfume, don’t hesitate to check out Maison Margiela Replica.
***All the lists of notes for the fragrances came from Frantica.com. This is a favorite website of mine to check out when looking for fragrance reviews.***
***I am not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this post, but I wish I were!***
Fall colors in the midwest are beautiful and make fall one of my favorite seasons. Those who know me know I also love colors on my finger nails, and I enjoy specific colors with each season. I have been giving myself at-home manis for many, many years. I started painting my nails in middle school. In high school, which was the mid-90s, I would even do at home acrylic nails with a french manicure. To me, painting my nails is a meditative experience. I choose a color that sparks joy. I sit down, breath deeply, pay attention, and slowly paint each nail with a base coat, two coats of my color of choice, and a top coat. This process also requires me to sit and relax for at least 20-30 minutes after painting them in order for them to thoroughly dry. While this might seem like a lot of time to some, it is way faster than actually going into a nail salon to get them done and a great deal cheaper, as well!
Today I wanted to share some of my favorite fall nail color go-tos. These should still be available in stores; however, I often use ebay or Amazon if I’m having trouble finding a nail color I’m looking for.
Essie Angora Cardi is a beautiful dusty rose mauve. I love this color, and I love the name. Nothing like wrapping up in a warm, soft cardigan during crisp, cool fall weather. This color has been a long time favorite of mine. I find it is universally flattering and have gifted it to others as well. It will transition nicely into the winter and would make a great stocking stuffer!
Wet-n-Wild Bite the Bullet is a beautiful gray lilac shade. I often think of lilacs as more of a spring or summer color; however, this has just enough gray in it that I tend to reach for it in the fall. It is one I have received compliments on as well.
Lingering over coffee is another one of my favorite fall activities. Sitting outside with my husband on cool fall mornings with our fire pit burning and a hot cup of coffee in my hand definitely sparks joy. OPI’s Linger Over Coffee is what I would consider the perfect shade of brown. It has just enough pinky mauve in it that it looks rich and pretty rather than dirty or muddy. It is a newer polish of mine, but I am sure I will be using it for years to come!
This one is perhaps a little unconventional for fall, but there is something about the richness to the shade of green that makes it a fall go-to for me. Essie Off Tropic is beautiful. Green shades on nails can be tricky, but in my opinion, this one works!
And, sometimes when I can’t decide on one color, I decide I don’t have to and use them all! This fall mani includes the pinkie finger shade, Essie Topless & Barefoot (this is a must-have nude); ring finger shade, Essie Lady Like; middle finger, Essie Chinchilly; Pointer finger; Essie Cocktail Bling; and thumb color, Essie Maximillian Strass-her. Who says we need to limit ourselves to just one color at a time?
While I obviously really like Essie polishes, my other two favorite nail polish brands are OPI and Zoya. Zoya’s 3 in 1 nail polish remover, Remover+, is hands down, THE BEST. I do not use anything else. https://rb.gy/cobgtm
Throughout the years, I have used a variety of base coats, and although I don’t have a favorite, I do believe they are necessary for the length of the manicure and to help keep your nail beds from yellowing. If you have a favorite base coat, please share. I would love to know! My favorite top coat is Duri’s Rejuvecote1: https://cutt.ly/7ggHUbO It’s not a traditional topcoat, but it helps my polish last while also strengthening my nails. This was recommended to me years ago by my friend, Lisa, and I haven’t strayed from using it since! I put this on after two coats of my polish color and then drip on the OPI Drip Dry Drops. The following day I do another coat of the Duri Rejuvecote1 and the drip dry drops again, and my mani will usually last anywhere from 4-7 days. This is plenty of time for me as I enjoy changing my polish colors regularly.
As for the shape of my nails, you can see I vary from short and square to long and oval. As we transition into the winter months I love a short and square look with a rich, dark wintery nail polish color. However, I don’t want to talk about winter just yet~that post will come at a later time. Let’s enjoy fall. During this time of little activity and a lot of staying at home, I’m appreciating the simple pleasures in life even more than I ever have before. Fall is breathtakingly beautiful. Looking down at a freshly painted manicure with a fall color I love is a simple pleasure that sparks joy.
***This post is not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned above; however, I wish it were. 🙂
How often do you check-in with yourself? Do you allow yourself a few minutes regularly to take the time to pay attention and notice how you actually feel? Or, do you move through your life on autopilot ignoring your own feelings and needs until you crash? In this short meditation I will guide you to check in with all parts of yourself~mentally, physically, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually. Give yourself this gift. Honor all parts of yourself and ALL of your feelings.
Fall is a reminder to slow down, go inward, and shed that which is no longer serving you. To me, the practice of mindfulness is about creating sense experiences that help keep me present and in my body paying attention to each moment. Consciously creating an atmosphere filled with textures, sounds, smells, and sights all help me practice mindfulness. Feeling fall means really paying attention and creating a cozy & comfortable experience. These are some of my fall favorites that help me do just that:
I love our little backyard oasis: the trees, the ferns, the flowers, the chairs, and our new little addition gas fire pit that allows us to enjoy the outdoors even more this fall. I love a good firepit with wood and smoke and all, but it’s not realistic to build a fire each morning to be warm enough to have coffee outside on cool fall mornings, so a friend of mine told me about this really great and convenient option. The firepit attaches to a propane tank, and at the turn of a knob, voila, you have a fire. This fire pit came from Lowes and is already worth every penny we spent! https://tinyurl.com/yxenh882
Feeling the texture of a soft, warm, and cozy robe is a definite fall must. My all time favorite robe is the Cozy Chic robe from Barefoot Dreams. I challenge you to find a softer option. Seriously, everything Barefoot Dreams feels dreamy! I cannot wait to get out of the bed in the morning just to put on this robe. https://tinyurl.com/yxkdtzow
And, you know you have to have a cozy pair of slippers to go with your softest ever robe. Ugg slippers are the holy grail of slippers, IMO, but there are many dupes on Amazon. Last year, I chose a bright hot pink pair to bring a little more color into my life during the fall and winter months.
When you want to cozy up inside, a soft blanket is a must. This is another Barefoot Dreams option, and once again, I challenge you to find something softer. I usually keep a lookout on Nordstrom Rack website to get a good deal on them. Honestly, if you have a barefoot dreams blanket, you can get rid of all the rest of your blankets as this will be the only one you ever reach for!
I am living in loungewear these days. You will not find a softer and more comfortable pair of joggers than the Lou & Grey Signaturesoft Plush Upstate sweatpants. And, yes, they have pockets! They launder well and don’t pill. Keep an eye out on Loft’s website for their Lou & Grey 50% of sale that happens regularly and snag these then. They are the most comfortable pair of pants ever! https://tinyurl.com/y6zovzcr
A good fall candle is a must. I usually go to Marshall’s to stock up on my candle needs; however, when I want to splurge, not leave the house, and can find these on Nordstrom Rack’s website, I take the plunge. NEST candles are some of THE best. I can smell them when they aren’t even lit they are so strong! This particular one is a current favorite. The glass holder is beautiful and the smell is divine: pink champagne is infused with hints of creme de cassis, frosted cranberry, and wild fig. It isn’t the most traditional fall scent, but I’m loving it! https://tinyurl.com/y6ao62yn
These are some of my fall favorites for creating a cozy and warm atmosphere. I cannot recommend any of these items highly enough. I am so grateful to be able to practice presence and mindfulness with these feel good fall must haves! I’d love to hear from you, too. What are your favorites for feelin’ fall?
This is the second video in my series “Life Lessons with Leslie.” These videos are inspiration I share from authors and books I love. Words have energy. When words are spoken aloud they are even more powerful. Today I read to you from Rebekkah LaDyne’s book, The Mind-Body Stress Reset. I hope this sparks thoughtful reflection and is in some way meaningful to you.
I am a woman. A childless woman. Some might say I’m less of a woman because I’ve never birthed another human. Others might not say it out loud, but I’ve most definitely felt the energy of that judgment from more than one person throughout my life. And, while I have the absolute utmost respect for mothers, truly, I will never believe that being childless makes any woman less than, including me.
I am a woman. I am a woman who finally listened to her own intuition and inner knowing. And, thank goddess, I did.
I was a little girl.
As we grow up, it is not unusual to disconnect from our intuition: The noise and distractions of the world begin to drown out our intuitive selves. I lived this for many years. As a little girl, I grew up thinking I would have children—that is the cultural message little girls receive: you grow up, get married, have kids, and if you want it, a successful career, too. You do it all with a smile on your pretty little face~even if you are a little bit or a lot miserable in the meantime.
I distinctively remember at age 21 standing in my mother’s kitchen with the women in my family and telling my Aunt I couldn’t imagine having a child. Her response was to, “give it time.” As I got older, I thought I would eventually have a deep yearning to be a mom. Time was passing. I kept waiting for it to happen, but that deep yearning never arrived.
I married in my late 20s and at 30 was finished with graduate school, so I figured now was the time. Having a child is the next step to check off my life list of how to be a woman in the world. After a year of trying, I still wasn’t pregnant. I went to a doctor, found out I had PCOS, and was put on medication to try to help with fertility. The months that followed included taking pills and driving to the hospital regularly to get blood drawn to see if I had ovulated.
I remember distinctly one day on my way to the hospital hearing this internal voice say, “I don’t know why you are trying so hard when you don’t really even want to have a child anyway.”
At first, I wasn’t sure what to do with this message. However, I eventually realized MY body was not getting pregnant because ultimately I didn’t really want to be a Mom. I enjoy kids. I work with them every day. But the truth was: I didn’t want to birth a child or raise one. That was simply not my calling.
I am a woman.
Luckily, my husband and I were on the same page. We loved our life together and were both very content in finding our purpose and joy through living our lives rather than raising one.
It took me a long time to recognize my own intuition and insight about not becoming a mom and then to be completely at peace with my truth. Thankfully, I listened to my internal voice that day in the car.
It’s important to remember intuition is always there. The first step in accessing it is knowing and trusting it is there and finding moments to get still. Slow down. Begin to pay more attention. Notice your gut instincts and the ah-ha moments. ASK for inner guidance, pray, and LISTEN.
I am a woman. A woman who listened to her intuition and inner knowing finally instead of the outside world. I am a woman. A woman who believes all women have inherent worth. Inherent. Period. I am a woman. A woman who believes women deserve to be celebrated for exactly who they are. All women.