Archives for February 2014

Why I Love Tea

Tea setSometimes your day just hits a point where life finally wears you down and to keep on with the day you need a pick me up.  IMMEDIATELY!!!!!  There are solutions all around to give you that dose of caffeine for the stamina to finish out the day, from coffee to energy drinks.  Although options abound, few offer both the pick me up potential and the health benefits associated with tea.  Tea is not the weak alternative for coffee drinks but it harnesses its own capacity to deliver caffeine and an assortment of other health benefits and flavors to suit almost any preference.  There are a million reasons to love tea but here are the reasons I try to keep in stock of this liquid gold:

Take a break to just reflect.   One of the main reasons I drink tea is the process.  Taking the steps of steeping and drinking the tea provides a much need reflection moment in my day.  Now true enough my tea is steeped with the hot water from my Sparkletts cooler but even a short amount of time to slow down and regroup helps me calm my brain in the midst of the storm going on around me.  To have something warm and comforting waiting for me in the middle of the day reminds me that there is more to life than the hustle and bustle.  Remembering that can be the key to sanity in an insane situation.

Pick me Up.  Surprisingly tea leaves have more caffeine in them than coffee beans.  It is the process of steeping that dilutes the caffeine.  To increase the strength for more of a pick me up steep more tea leaves for a shorter amount of time.

Potential Health Benefits: Different teas all pack a different punch when it comes to health benefits, here are just a few

Green tea: Full of antioxidants that can prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract stress, and improve cholesterol levels.  It also may provide some protection against UV rays

White tea: Studied for its potent anticancer properties.  The high polyphenol count has been found to inhibit wrinkle production by strengthening elastin and collagen (i.e. prevent fine lines and wrinkles).

Black tea: High caffeine content but also provides protection from lung damage from cigarette smoke and can reduce the risk of a stroke.

Different variety of flavors.  Honestly there are just too many to count.  I think for a lot of people not knowing what direction is right for them is a main reason they pass on tea when the tea box of flavors come around.   For advanced tea drinkers there are stores like Teavana that specialize in the many different varieties of tea.  The Teas By Flavor page by Teavana is a great way to explore new things you may like.  If you are just breaking into drinking tea here are some tried and true options:

Earl Grey: Combo of black tea and bergamot for a smoky but fragrant flavor.

Jasmine Tea: Super fragrant and flavorful it is made with jasmine petals for a slightly sweet result.

Chamomile Tea: More of a concoction of leaves, herbs and spices this tea still is very soothing and aromatic.

Chai Tea: A fun blend of spicy ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom and finished with almond.  A good break from more traditional tea flavors.

Photo Courtesy of Dimi, Turikish Tea on Flickr

I’ll have it two ways!

So what could possibly beat a show stopping piece of jewelry??  One that has the versatility to wear in two different styles of course!   Even in the most conservative working situations jewlry can provide a real chance to express your own sense of style in a sea of monotonous work suits.  But some statement jewlry can be so bold it really limits when and where you want to incorporate it into an outfit.  Statement jewlry rarely provides a good balance of boldness with the potential to be blend into your attire as well.  When your jewlry provides you the variety to rock it in different settings you get twice the return on your investment.  Agate Ranch + Marfa’s collection of jewlry are perfect for the busy transitions of most professional’s lives and the variety in options on how to wear it will leave you wanting more.

Creating pieces of jewlry that work for all occasions is a fairly bold claim for statement pieces but actually it is pretty modest one once you see the emotion that comes with the unique pieces of Agate Ranch + Marfa’s  collection.  First and foremost a statement piece of jewelry needs to be a knockout.  As the name suggests Agate Ranch + Marfa’s utilizes the original source of wonder in the world…Mother Earth!  The stones in the piece really set the stage for something amazing.  Each piece is masterfully crafted to allow the stones to really be centerpiece.  When beautiful stones are fashioned into amazing designs then it’s hard to not grab the eye.  In speaking with the designer and owner, Kathy Bracewell you really get sense of the beauty of the stone, Marfa agate, and the passion that goes into making each piece simple and beautiful.  Just knowing Kathy is busy at work as a gemologist, hand selecting the stones that embody fun, strength, passion, and beauty you realize why you can let a good statement piece of jewelry do the talking for you.

The jewelry makes sure eyes can’t look away not just because of the beautiful stones, but also in the pairing with the chain options that range from simple leather to sparkly chains.  The selections in the chains, starting long with the option or wrapped, highlight the possibility to double down on the fun.  When hung low you can really highlight a pretty casual outfit with a special addition.  Then pull it up to make a presentation that is a little more alluring and pull the stones (and sparkle) up higher to your face.  With a transition as easy as wrapping the necklace around your neck a jump from business professional to a fun aficionado happens seamlessly.  You may not always make an investment in fashion pieces of jewelry but when you do, make sure they pack the knockout punch you find in Agate Ranch + Marfa’s collection.

Business and Pleasure with printed blouses

70s blouseThe bold pattern and color palette of 70’s blouses fit right in to the outspoken nature and free love feel of the times.  Well times may have changed but the desire to make a bold and fun impression when you walk in the door remain.  The sweep back to the seventies style of bold and fun prints with flowly fabrics provide both the visual impact when you walk in the door and the comfort you need to take an outfit from day to night.  One of my favorite reasons to choose the combination for me is the color.  Something about slipping on vibrant colors makes me feel good and can really add some color to your face even when you are feeling a little dull.  The prints used in the blouses provide relief from some of the intense color choices and a little more complexity to your eye.  This combination makes the blouse a perfect choice in both fun situations and to add a little spice in more serious business settings.  By adding all the fun to a blouse you update like a dark suit that is considered a little more conservative and set you apart from the sea of power colors.  If you are lucky to grab one with a mock tie you add more potential variations and if you add slits then can add additional shape to the flow of the blouse.  All in all a great way to speak volumes without saying a word.

Chic Seperates by Chloe Dao

Chloe Dao seperatesEver feel like your style is a strange mix of business in the front and party in the back?  As a young professional I struggle between a style that is fun and flirty and one that screams boss lady and the truth is I want both.  Finding this balance can be hard though and it is one of my top reasons to love Chloe Dao.  Local designer and Project Runway winner Chloe Dao offers you the unique experience of stepping in the store and both sides of your style personality instantly finding something you love.  From every direction you see something that would work perfectly for the hard work and harder play you have on your schedule.  This season’s new releases literally made me drop my jaw as it fit both fun and work all in one genius stroke.

For this season Chloe Dao made a limited release of a high waisted skirt and crop top in a bold and fun geographic print.  Separates set the perfect tone for a fun blend of business and pleasure.  Both pieces pack some major heat in accentuating your silhouette.  Of course high waisted skirts can be all about highlighting and hugging a woman’s curves.  By adding a belt or contrasting color skirt you can do even more in focusing on the ebbs and flow of your shape.  The silhouette possibilities are enhanced by the choice to make it separates.  Having two separate pieces give the opportunity to repurpose the pieces depending on the setting and your mood.  The original pairing is fun and the peekaboo midriff pumps up the sexy factor.  From the original pairing the possibilities are endless.  You can make it more conservative by adding a camisole underneath or pump up the fun by substituting the skirt for jeans.  With such a fun geographic print, no matter the setting, business or fun, you can still make sure the look is unique.  The strength of prints is that they offer a strong visual impact that can provide a small optical illusion that assist in forgiving minor shape issues.  At the end of the day it does what any wardrobe does at its best, expresses your style while making you look great while doing it.  This look is in limited supply so make sure to check it out at Chloe Dao.

Irish and Scotch Whisk(e)y 101

WhiskeySometimes we get stuck so much on what we know we like, we forget to explore the new things we may like as much or even more.  Whiskey is one of those liquors that some people drink exclusively and others stray away from.  The truth is, however, that whiskey provides a wide range of taste profiles that can complement an equally wide range of pallets once you learn some basic rules to whiskey drinking.  I was able to attend the Whiskey Boot camp at Spec’s that featured some of the best in Whiskey and have my mind blown in not only the taste but history of making whiskey.

The basics. 

Think of whiskey as a much stronger virgin cousin of beer.  Like beer whiskey is main from grain and barley, however the distillation process produces a much higher alcohol content and oak aging adds complexity of flavors.

Types of grain

  • Pot stilled: made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley completely distilled in a pot still
  • Grain: continuously distilled from unmalted grains so resulting favor is much lighter and neutral.
  • Malt: Occurs when barley is soaked in water and tricked to grown.   Once germination begins hot air infused through peat smoke is added.

Blend or no blend

  • Single malt: Produced at single distillery and aged in oak casts (often used bourbon barrels) at least three years
  • Blends: these products come from whiskies from two or more distilleries.  The result can produce a wide range of flavors and alcohol content depending on the manufacturer, aging process and time.

Finishing

  • Recycled oak casts is the incubator for whisk(e)y
  • The resulting products takes on a lot of flavor from the type of cask it is aged in.  The types can range from port to madeira, rum or wine.
  • The longer the whiskey matures in the cask, the darker the color becomes

 

And the winners are…

For my flavor profile there were three strong winners for the night:

Glenfiddich Single Malt, 15 year old: This is in line with my expectations of whiskey.  The aging gives it some great depth but the favor additions of honey and vanilla ensure it is not overwhelming.

Tullamore Dew Special Reserve, 12 years old: Great for someone easing their way into whiskey.  It starts a little spicy but quickly some real floral notes flood in and make the overall drink very smooth.

The Balvenie, Caribbean Cask: Aged in rum cask it takes the best of both worlds with the heat from the whiskey and the smooth favor from the rum casks.  Adds some variation appreciated from anyone from a novice to a pro.

You don’t have to take my word for it though.  There is a great big world of whiskeys out there so why not hop in and discover which one is for you.  To assist with a celebration here is a great toast to celebrate your exploration with:

I’ll drink to your health with you,
I’ll drink to your health alone,

I’ll drink to your health so often, I’ll damn near ruin my own.  CHEERS!

Squashing out the green eyed monster

Green Eyed Monster

If you have been busy with your head down and working your butt off it can be a shock to look up and see a peer making great strides to achieving their dream.  Perhaps they just completed a degree you considered or got a promotion or stepped out and started their own business and are reaping the benefits.  Even in being truly happy for someone else, the thought can creep into your mind that you have yet to reach those same peaks of success in your career or personal life.  Hide as you may from these thoughts, if left unattended they can turn into full-fledged jealously of those who are winning around you.  So when the green eye monster of jealously creeps in here a couple of tips to check it at the door.

1. Refocus on your on progress. Jealousy on someone else’s progress can take the momentum out of your own growth in the time spent focusing on how you think someone else is winning.  If you have been working diligently yourself then the chances are there is some measureable progression you can reflect back on.  Most of life is about the path and taking time to review your journey can remind you have come a long way and learned invaluable lessons in the meantime.

2.  Take a closer look.  Jealousy is often something done when you only see the winning and not the pain heartbreak and even failures along the way.  In taking a closer look you are not just nitpicking someone else’s story or assuming the grass is greener but seeing all the components that went into someone else’s success.  Doing so presents a great opportunity to congratulate those around you that you see succeeding and pick their brains on how they were able to reach that level of success.  Even something simple like a lunch date can shed some light that adds clarity to your own action plan.

3.  Remember each journey is personal.  Even with everything else being the same, chances are if you were given the same things to build with as the next person you would not the exact same result.  That’s because we all unique and our successes and failures reflect that.  Think back to when you were a child, turning in a paper first or getting the highest grade on a test does not guarantee that would be a prize pupil.  Success in business is very similar in that it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and each time you take another step towards your goal you win.

4. Redefine jealousy as inspiration.  Jealousy is the evil cousin to inspiration or admiration.  In all three you can see the qualities that see something great in someone else’s story, but with jealousy those things are mixed with a little hater.  Maybe you think you work harder or are smarter or that you just deserve it more.  Wash those feelings down the drain as soon as the pour in.  If you see someone else reaching something you desire use that push to move you forward, not leave you in the dust.

5.  Look at the whole picture.  There are many successes in life and it is very difficult to win in the same level at all of them.  Some have stellar careers but never see their kids, others make tons of money yet have no time to enjoy it.  There are positives and negatives to all situations.  By taking a step back and seeing everything involved in a win you also can see all the drawbacks.  Your ultimate goal should be one that balances your personal, family and professional goals so you don’t have to look back and realize it was your own life you should have been jealous of.

Art Inspiration

Degas

This past weekend I was able to check out the Museum of Art History, Houston Impressionism exhibit and found that not only was art imitating life, but it did inspire me to take an artist’s eye to my own life.  The cool thing about the Impressionist movement is that, whether it is a peak into people lives or a scene of nature, it is a reflection of something real through the artist eyes.  Many, many years later you are still able to see the beauty in even the simplest scene captured by the great artist such as Monet and Degas.  One of the most striking feelings I got from the exhibit is just the beauty in life.  The hustle and bustle can often be distracting from the simple beauty that is all around us.  In the Impressionist work you can take a peak in the beauty an artist saw in someone crossing the street or practicing ballet  or even a bowl of fruit.  In our own life it is important to just take a big step away and see that the beauty capture in the art is the same beauty that exists in our own lives.  Seeing through fresh eyes the gentle variations in light and color and emotion that pour down and down and really make every scene a sight to behold can put the meaning of even the smallest task in perspective.

The Impressionist movement is the true story of visionaries who, without lacking the ability to succeed in the path most taken, decided to take the status quo and stand it on its head.  In their unwillingness to accept the standard and expected way to progress as an artist, they eventually demanded the evolution of art.  Instead of mystical, exaggerated standards, they looked around for the inspiration to do extraordinary things.    Even today there can be what is considered to be a right and wrong way to do things.  The beauty that exists in the Impressionist movement is the attention to the instances in life that are taken for granted due to their commonality.  Not being afraid to walk your own path and follow personal passions can be difficult, but the payoffs can be astronomical.  Being does not to be bigger than life to be art worthy.  The beauty of life itself is worthy of all the admiration and the exhibit challenged me to not only want even my most simple tasks to be inspirational, but as encouragement to write your own ticket in achieving your goals.  The life of the artists in the Impressionist movement’s own lives inspired their art by their view and convictions, how does your life inspire art?

What I learned in my cleanng fast

Detox

Going through your first fast will probably introduce you to some things you may have never thought you would do.  Although I consider myself having pretty healthy eating preferences, I don’t eat a lot of fried foods or beef or pork, the idea of juicing kale or only drinking several liters of water a day never particularly appealed to me.  While in the middle of the fast it is really hard to understand the benefits because you are hungry and probably a little irritable.  Once your fast is all said and done there are some important lessons that you can begin to incorporate into your everyday living that help to progress the health or weight loss goals that initially inspired the cleansing fast.

1.  Drink more water.  I think everyone knows they are supposed to drink water, but it is more of a good idea instead of something most people usually practice.  The fast forced me to drink tons and tons of water so I had a chance to challenge the excuse I always made to drinking water of not liking the taste (or lack thereof).  On the fast I really challenged myself to drink tons of water and along the way I found some great recipes of cleansing water that included simple additives to both improve the taste and stimulate your body to do the work to cleanse itself.  Here is a little cheat sheet of additives that you can add to your water that adds both favor and health benefits

  • Tangerine: increases sensitivity to insulin, stabilizes blood sugar, and stimulate genes to burn fat
  • Grapefruit: adds vitamin C to help transform fat into fuel
  • Cucumber: natural diuretic to decrease bloating and water retention
  • Peppermint: decreases bloating

2.  Meal Prep. The main reason to cheat on healthy living in a busy life is convenience.  When you are running around doing the things you need to do it is hard to take a break and find the things that you are supposed to eat.  While you are fasting, your eating options are super limited and in order to be successful with a cleanse you have to prepare your drinks to bring them with you throughout your day.   In being forced to prepare things from juice to water to snacks in the day I learned that a small amount of focus in my off time had a big play off when I got busy.  Even when off a fast, preparing healthy snacks or meals once a week help you resist temptation when things are on.

3.  Benefits of juicing. If you do your homework you can quickly find that nature has its own solutions to assisting your body cleanse itself.  The biggest impact of my fast for me was the energy I got from the juicing regimen.  I expected to be very tired, and although the first couple of days were rough, by the end of the week I was up and about in the wee hours of the morning.  There are tons of different juicing recipes, all with different benefits.  Fruits and veggies are chalked full of the things need to energize your body and with the fuel you need you are locked and loaded to managing a busy lifestyle.

Photo Courtesy of Livin’ Spoonful at flickr.com

Updating your ponytail with a braid or twist

Braid-and-Twist-for-ponytailsHouston is not the best place for your hair style.  If it’s not humid then it’s raining and if it’s not raining its hot enough to break a neck sweat on the walk to your car.  Most of us learn to adapt and in some form or fashion and ponytails are usually a forerunner in the catalog of what to do with my hair in this weather.  I am a big fan of the advantages of ponytails: your hair is out of your face, neat, and have a higher barrier of protection for whatever the weather brings your way.  On the other hand, I like to keep things new and wearing a ponytail every day gets boring.  I have the perfect combination of variation and control with my hair by adding some twists or braids to a regular ponytail.

Adding a braid is a good way to add some fun variation to your hair style and take it from boring to interesting in a matter of minutes.  My go to, especially when I am in a rush, is a quick twist of a small section by my hair line.  If you are not used to it, it can take some time to pull it together.  Starting small with a twist is easy enough to do and correct if you find there are sections that you do not like.  If you can pull together small sections of your hair then you can do a twist.  You will have some extra protection from the elements and when the day is done you have some nice waves in your hair as a reward.  Practice does make perfect but the better you become, the more intricate the braids or twists can be.  My love for twists is only deepened in that it can be done on almost any hair type and produce some striking results.   The next time you are faced with the same old boring ponytail of protection, try adding something new with a twist or braid and a new look is guaranteed.

Photo Courtesy of Hairromance.com and hairstylesforwomen.com

Dreaming of your wedding dress?

I have never been the little girl who always dreamed about my wedding.   I am the type of person, however, who enjoys the idea of a day focused around love, commitment, fun, celebration, oh and yes of course me!  No matter how long you have spent day dreaming about the big day, one thing is for sure, the dress best symbolizes whatever you desire is your wedding day.  Whether that feeling is traditional or romantic or elegant, the dress is likely to embody of all the dreams and expectations that the day carries.  As your dream is unique to you, so should your day and your dress. So on a day where the dress is the star, how can you find one that makes you shine the brightest???  I think the answer lies in making the dress a reflection of the best of you and your love.  As every love is different, so should every dress, making customizing your dress to fit your dream is critical.  A new and innovative voice in wedding fashion, Isabelle Armstrong, has stepped on the scene to address the unique needs of choosing a perfect wedding dress.  I had the great pleasure of being able to speak to the owner Tara Nattini and lead designer Johanna Kraft of Isabelle Armstrong, a wedding dress company, that really work to personify you on your special day.

So what makes Isabelle Armstrong so special??  Well the designs are beautiful and the fabrics are exquisite but that is not what makes them different.  As a busy professional time and stress are always an issue and weddings can throw a normal life into chaos.  For an already busy life this could spell disaster.  Usually wedding planning is sandwiched between work and personal demands that do not go away. You may not have the time to transform into a dress designer and guiding you into the right dress and adding or subtracting your preferences makes the difficult road a little easier. Isabelle Armstrong works to help you build a dress that embodies your special day.  You can start with a dream and leave the details to the designers at Isabelle Armstrong.

Isabelle Armstrong’s dress collection covers a broad spectrum of styles from classic to eclectic with a refreshing blend that keeps their collection modern.  The owner and designer are passionate about not mass producing dress in foreign factories, but providing a creative line here in the US with a broad range of options that women want.  In speaking with the owners I got a real sense of the passion they put into breathing the spirit of each individual wedding into their brides.  It means you have a partner to take one of the most stressful items off of your plate when planning a wedding and to do the leg work to make the dress custom to you.  This personal commitment is visible in the care given in assisting brides to make the dress something out of their dreams instead of nightmares.  With a process of selection that can include everything from consultations to sketching alterations Isabelle Armstrongis gearing up to become the go to designer for brides who want their own style to showcase on their special day.

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