Monday, August 30, 2010

Let Go and Breathe

I went to yoga tonight.  I knew it had been too long since I had last gone, but my body really let me know how long it had been.  I felt weak and tight and heavy, not strong and stretched and light.  There was no "flow" in my vinyasa.  I couldn't even handle sitting still and tall; I felt antsy and wanted to curve into my familiar bent posture.  (The cooling system was also broken, so the room was 84 degrees - hot and sweaty!  Not sure how people survive bikram yoga...)  Needless to say, I was frustrated.

With yoga, it's all you and your breath and your body.  I remember when I first discovered yoga several years ago in college.  It amazed me how yoga required such focus that the rest of the world melted away for an hour or so.  (I mean, I would almost fall asleep when we ended class in Savasana, a pose of total relaxation.)  My thoughts of to-do lists that needed to be done and my uncertainties about grades or badly-behaving boys couldn't be in my head while I was trying to hold a pose and remember to breathe.  I had to let it go and breathe.

I try to remember to do that - let go and breathe - when I find myself getting frustrated during yoga or during "real life" too.  Too often, I beat myself up for not being perfect.  To me, failure is not complete and total failure.  Failure is not as extreme as getting an F, being fired, or facing the end of a relationship.  It's simply not getting an A, not being promoted, or not having a perfect relationship.  It's just a tiny "failing", but it can become a disappointment I feel deeply.

The thing is, in yoga, not being perfect still yields benefits.  Tonight, I strengthened my muscles and increased my flexibility.  I massaged my insides and cleared a little space in my cluttered mind.  Even if I wasn't feeling fantastic, I was doing something for my body and mind.  I reminded myself that I'm not perfect and that's okay... as long as I let go and breathe.

J.Crew flip-flops - a lovely bridesmaid gift (thanks, K!)
and a pretty, happy way to travel to yoga or elsewhere

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Engagement Bling

Scott and I have a great group of friends here in Chicago and recently, two couples have gotten engaged.  Between the two of us, we know several couples who are currently in that fun stage called wedding planning.  Now that our own wedding has passed, I often find myself bestowing advice to engaged ladies (and hoping I don't come off as a know-it-all). 

The number one thing I end up saying is, "Don't worry, it will all work out" (which we all know is easier said than done).  But in the end, you realize it really does all work out.  All the planning sets the big day in motion, and then the bride and groom's only job should be to live it out and enjoy every moment.

As for some of my top tips:

1) Stay organized.  Keep all your vendor invoices, magazine pictures and other inspiration in a big binder.  Since you can't tote the binder everywhere, tuck a little notebook in your purse for random thoughts, vendor contact info, and note-taking while making calls on-the-go.  Track down a timeline/checklist that you like and reference it every few weeks to make sure you haven't forgotten an important task.  It also helps to look ahead and know what is coming so you can manage your time.  And nothing feels better than checking something off that list!

2) Solicit venue and vendor recommendations from anyone you know who has gotten married in the same city you are.  I contacted friends and classmates from high school who got married in my hometown and everyone was very willing to help.  (Who doesn't like talking about their wedding?!)

3) Don't overwhelm yourself with choices.  There are a million options every step of the way.  Pick a couple good options and go with one.  Make an informed decision and try not to second-guess yourself.  For example, if you are deciding on a florist, pick two or three florists you have heard great things about, meet with them, and then choose one.  If all two or three are great, you can't go wrong!

4) Plan certain weekends to be "wedding planning weekends" so you can feel productive and get a lot of the time-consuming tasks done.  My planning weekends were the times I flew home to Kansas.  I set up a bunch of meetings ahead of time and made a schedule with plenty of errands and lots of downtime too.  An added benefit to this system - you won't feel guilty if you relax on your time "off".

5) Ask for help when you need it.  Your friends and family are capable people who would love to help you.  Respect their time, but don't be afraid to ask for a favor when you are crunched for time or really stressed out.  (For example - big thanks to my aunt and mom who baked hundreds of cookies for the welcome bags!)

I think those are the big pieces of advice I have...  Now I am off to a bachelorette party!  As a bridesmaid, I can't wait to shower the bride with lingerie, partake in some delicious cocktails and dance the night away!

(Check out these gorgeous and unique rings!  They belong to our two friends who recently got engaged.  The cell phone pictures don't do them justice...  Congrats!  And to the guys who picked them out - nice job!)

Sparkly diamond in a tension setting - congrats to E and B!
Beautiful sapphire surrounded by diamonds - so happy for C and M!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What is Most Important in Life

I have had a bunch of ideas bouncing around in my head lately, things I have wanted to share on my blog.  But today, there is one thing I cannot get out off my mind.  My sister's friend who is around 20 years old was just diagnosed with leukemia.  I don't want to disclose a lot of details since it doesn't need to be a public matter, and honestly I don't know many of the details.  What I do know is that I don't always focus on what is most important in life. 

Sometimes God gives you a little surprise, good or bad, to remind you that he is there, that we need him and we need the people in our lives.  Whether I do laundry tonight or not, whether I stay late at work or not, whether I do "what I'm supposed to do" or not - it doesn't really matter.  What matters the most is the relationships we have with other people and with God.  Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in a good book or my email inbox or a TV show, and I get in bed, realizing I was next to my husband all evening but I haven't given him a real, true kiss aside from a quick hello when we got home from work (I make sure to correct that immediately!). 

Think about the best days of your life - I would guess most, if not all, of them were spent with people you love.  Today has reminded me to never take my life and the wonderful people in it for granted.  Tonight I pray for my sister's friend and all my friends and family who are there for me, support me and make life truly meaningful.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Sangria

My mom will be visiting this weekend.  I am really excited to have her around since my parents don't get to Chicago too often.  Last time my whole family was in town (Mom, Dad, and four younger sisters) was for my bachelorette weekend, so I am pretty sure this coming weekend with Mom will be more low-key.  In anticipation, Scott and I cleaned the condo, I attempted to unpack the last boxes/piles of my clothes (yes, I moved in two months ago), and... I made sangria. 

My mom always bakes and cooks up a storm for any visitors, so to show her some hospitality, I wanted to make something special.  I recently found this recipe for Rosé Sangria in the July/August issue of Women's Health.  Since I had a bottle of rosé wine on hand, the time seemed right.  It was so easy - I even caught up with a good friend from high school over the phone while I made it (we joked how we are so "old" now).  Here is the recipe and a picture of the finished product.  (By the way, I had to have a taste to preview - delicious but very sweet!)

1 lemon
1 lime
1 cup agave syrup
1 bottle rosé wine
1 bunch mint (I trimmed off the stems and chopped the bunch a couple times)
15 strawberries (I cut them into fourths)
20 raspberries
20 blueberries (I used a little more since they are smaller)
20 blackberries

Syrup: Cut up lemon and lime, then combine in a jar with agave and 1 cup boiling water.  Let cool; strain.  (I sliced the lemon and lime into a few slices and tossed the agave syrup and the fruit slices into the boiling water, just stirring everything in the pot.)

Sangria: Mix syrup, wine, mint, and berries in a pitcher.  Serve over ice and garnish each glass with a few berries.

Makes 6 servings; calories per serving: 180

Monday, August 16, 2010

Walking by Water

Today's weather was beautiful, nothing like the humid and unbearably hot days we have had lately.  The sun was out but the temperature was refreshing, that exact point where you don't feel too hot or too cold.  I decided to take advantage of the nice day and walk outside.  I didn't have music, just my sneakers and the crunch of the path underneath them (and some really cute Lululemon pants).  It was inspiring to see so many runners and walkers of all shapes and sizes, moving through the park and along the lake.  In a couple magazines I have read lately, I learned of a study that found that people felt happier after only five minutes of being active outside - and doing so alongside a body of water boosted the happiness effect.  During my walk today, I experienced this rush and walked further than I had first planned.  The sunshine and nature surrounding me lifted my spirits and gave me energy.  It's tough to get going sometimes, but I am planning to enjoy every last day of this Chicago summer.

Lake Michigan and Chicago skyline - photo by my hubby Scott, 2008


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