The Perfect Cup of Coffee

There is not much better than slow Sunday mornings with my pups, husband, and a good cup of coffee in hand. My love of coffee started in college. I found it easier to study in coffee shops than at home or libraries, so when I wasn’t in classes or working at Gold’s Gym, I was at a local coffee shop, Lakota Coffee Co., studying. It was here that my love of dark, rich, and smooth coffee began. About 10 years ago, I did a week long cleanse and got off caffeine. After going through the withdraws and two day lack of caffeine headache, when I was finished with the cleanse, I decided not to go back to drinking caffeine. I was not, however, willing to give up my daily cup of coffee–so decaf it was! For me, coffee drinking is a whole experience that sparks joy–the smell, the sound of making it, the taste, the feel of the cup in my hand, the warmth as it travels through my body. Today, I’m going to share some of my favorites for making the perfect cup of coffee~both hot and cold brew!

My husband and I haven’t owned a coffee maker in over a decade. If you want a smooth cup of rich coffee a french press is the way to go. Seriously. So much better than drip coffee. I prefer stainless steel french presses to glass ones, as they are less likely to break. I also like the sleek look of them. J drinks caffeinated coffee, so we have two small single serving french presses and two large double serving ones, as well. I found the majority of ours for discounted prices at Marshall’s; however, the one linked above looks great, and is a good price because it comes with a stirring spoon and small frother as well. I scoop 3 heaping scoops of coffee (I tend to buy decaf french roast or decaf espresso roast) into my single serving french press while the water is heating on the stove. Once the water comes to a boil, I pour it in the french press, and then stir for a few seconds.

Some kind of cream or milk in my coffee is a must. I usually add whole whipping cream, half-n-half, Ripple Pea Milk, or sometimes even butter (otherwise known as bullet proof coffee). If I add butter, I blend my hot coffee, butter and collagen powder https://rb.gy/reqbuy in my Vitamix. Most days, however, I go for the cream and/or Ripple pea milk instead. Having hot, frothed milk to pour in my cup of coffee is a game changer. Prior to owning a frother, I used to heat my milk in the microwave because I didn’t want cold milk to make my coffee cooler. Getting a milk frother was one of my best purchases. I have the Breville one listed above. It’s an investment, and I’ve had to replace it a few times over the years, but I use it once, sometimes twice each day, so the cost per use is actually fairly low (and it’s way cheaper over the years than going to a coffee shop regularly!) It also froths cold milk, which is perfect for a cup of cold brew.

When I wake up in the morning, I always want hot coffee; however, when the weather starts to get warmer, I often find I want a cup of cold brew in the afternoon. Cold brew is better than iced coffee, because once again, it is so rich and so smooth, and if you don’t want to add ice to it, you don’t have to, so it doesn’t end up tasting as watered down. For my cold brew coffee, I also purchase decaf french roast. I put 10-12 scoops in the cold brew container shown and linked above, fill it with water, and leave it in my refrigerator over night. The next day, it’s ready to go. (And it actually usually lasts a few days, as it makes 3-4 cups). I pour myself a glass (at home I actually like to use stemless wine glasses for my cup of cold brew), and I use my frother to cold froth milk which I then pour over the top. This makes the perfect cup of cold brew coffee. It is delish! Seriously, who needs Starbucks?

Are you a coffee drinker? If so, how do you like yours? Let me know in the comments below.

***I am not affiliated or sponsored by any of the brands mentioned above, but I wish I was.***

A Message of Hope

Years ago, I listened to a podcast with author and researcher, Brene’ Brown, and she described the importance of experiencing disappointments in life in order to learn and know hope.  She was specifically talking about parents who swoop in to guard their children from every disappointment in life, and how those same kids are missing out on the important life skill of learning about hope. She describes hope as a cognitive process more than a feeling. This idea and the relationship between disappointment and hope has stuck with me.

Most of us would probably agree that the year 2020 was filled with disappointment. For some, much more disappointment than others. And, with that, 2020 became a year for kids and adults alike to learn more about hope.

I was recently able to get the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, and this most definitely has me very hopeful: Hopeful for a life moving forward that allows for eating with friends at restaurants, large family gatherings, concerts, hugs, handshakes, smiles eventually not covered by masks, large and crowded yoga classes with our mats only a few inches apart…I could go on and on and on.

I also hope we never forget. I hope we are a little closer to truly understanding how precious and fragile this life is. I hope we remember human connection is a necessity like the air we breathe, and we should treat all humans kindly, justly, and respectfully. I hope we never forget how truly allowing ourselves to experience the highs and the lows is an important part of being human and healing. I hope we learned how to be more compassionate with ourselves and how to extend that compassion to others. I hope we learned the importance of relaxation and true rest. Along with that, I hope we do not go back to busy but instead place high value on experiencing the simple pleasures of life rather than rushing through it to try and fill it up.

As a recovering Type A personality who can lean towards being a bit controlling (thank goodness for Yoga!), this quote always makes me smile. It could easily be the 2020 motto. Relax. Nothing is under control.  And yet, as we continue to journey through this life, we can remember that we can always choose to invite hope to stay. 

What are you hopeful for? 

Self-Care Sunday

I have been preaching and teaching about the importance of self-care since around 2010.  And while today self-care is a word that has become frequently used—almost to the point of feeling cliché’—I absolutely still believe it is imperative, now more than ever, for all people to practice.

First, it is worth the reminder that self-care is not simply pampering (although pampering can be a tool for self-care).  Self-care is not overindulgence.  Self-care is not being selfish.  Self-care is consciously choosing behaviors that help cultivate a sense of wellbeing in your life and release stress from your mind, body, and soul.

I fully believe when we feel better everything we do and every interaction we have is better. Self-care in some ways is the far opposite of selfishness. Practicing self-care allows our best and highest self to show up for others regularly in the world.

The importance of knowing yourself and knowing how to manage your energy are integral pieces of the self-care puzzle.  Where do you get your energy?  What (and who) fill you up?  What (and who) leave you feeling run down and depleted? What boundaries do you need to create or maintain? What do you need to let go of in your life?  What might you need to add? What is your relationship with play? What is your relationship with rest?  I believe these are all important questions to answer to in order to figure out how to best practice self-care. Self-care can look very different for each person.

I have always known I need a large amount of time alone to refuel my energy level, and the pandemic has solidified that knowing for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I greatly miss people and in person human connection. I yearn for the days I will be able to safely go out to dinner with friends, interact with students more in person, eat lunch with my co-workers, and have large family gatherings again. However, I have enjoyed my time at home alone much of the time during the pandemic. I discovered through the pandemic that in the future I need to make a conscious effort to spend more time at home to replenish my energy. 

What have you learned about yourself and your needs during this time? 

I believe everyone should have some self-care tools in their health & wellness toolbox.  Today, I will be sharing three of my most recent favorite self-care practices with you.

Acupressure mat: https://rb.gy/9zzgdh essential oil: https://rb.gy/a0oees
bolster: https://rb.gy/uymcyy

Cultivating true rest & relaxation.  Over the years, I have realized sitting down does not necessarily equate to rest.  If the mind is racing or the finger is scrolling, perhaps this is not actually restorative rest. Prior to the pandemic, one of my biggest sources or rest was getting a monthly massage.  I have not gotten one now for a very long time. One of the new ways I’ve started integrating deeper rest and relaxation during this time is by spending time on my acupressure mat.  This somehow leaves me feeling similarly to how I felt after a massage: deeply relaxed and at ease. In preparation, I ritualistically set the ambiance (which I feel is a very important and necessary step in creating a sense of ease, rest, & relaxation) in my little yoga room by turning on the electric fire place, turning off the lights, lighting a few candles, diffusing lavender essential oil, turning on meditative music, grabbing a bolster for under my knees, a blanket to cover up with, an eye pillow, and I lie down and rest on my acupressure mat anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes.  While the initial jolt of lying down on the prickly mat is intense, that feeling subsides quickly, and it really does leave me feeling heavenly.

Working with food and my body. I realize this might not be a popular one, but in the past year, I started experimenting with my sugar, gluten, and wine intake, and I noticed that these three things consistently seemed to be the culprits behind waking up feeling tired, bloated and puffy (to the point I often couldn’t put my rings on my fingers in the mornings), and with achy joints.  While I have experimented with many ways of eating over the years (thank you very much, Diet Culture), I now believe fully there is no one right way for everyone to eat. Each person needs to figure out how to eat in order to feel healthy, energized, and well~while still enjoying food. For me, at this point in my life, I need to leave white sugar and gluten behind and limit my alcohol intake in order to feel my best. Since I’ve made these changes, I definitely feel better!

Walking outside in nature. Now that the weather is warming up, I am making myself get outside to walk regularly.  I’ve also begun focusing on walking to relax rather than to “get a workout.”  It has started to feel like meditation in motion. The fresh air and movement is healing.  It is amazing how a short walk can clear my head and energize my body.

Once again, Self-care is consciously choosing behaviors that help cultivate a sense of wellbeing in your life and release stress from your mind, body, and soul.

Do you need to revamp or amp up your self-care practices? If so, commit. You can do it! And, if you need to hear this: You are worth it.

***I am not currently affiliated with any of the brands linked or mentioned, but I wish I were.***

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!

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.

Books That Changed My Life

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!

Life Lessons with Leslie

I’m beginning a series of short videos I’m calling “Life Lessons with Leslie.” These videos will be inspiration I share from authors and books I love. Words have energy. When words are spoken aloud they are even more powerful. Today I will read to you from Marianne Williamson’s book titled A Year In Miracles: Daily Devotions and Reflections. I hope this sparks thoughtful reflection and is in some way meaningful for you.

Womanity

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.

I am a woman.