Archives for April 2015

PHPB Book Club: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Review

Seven Habits of Highly Effective PeopleThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey has always struck my interest because in my world being able to do more with the amount of time I have is high on my priority list.  The book does give some clear instruction on structuring your life to find more time for the most important things, but the biggest and best surprise of the book was how it reframes how you look at life, starting with you and moving to impact the family, relationships, and businesses around you.  It is no wonder why this book is a classic as it empowers a way to think about the solutions of life instead of the problems that are sure to come.  Within the seven habits described of the book are practical examples as well as instructions on how to get started in actually appalling the habits to your own life.  As a basis covers the root of the problem and explores how it can be addressed through developing the habits focused on in the book

Paradigms: In this section you begin to rethink problems as external forces and internalize the role you play in seeing and fixing the problem.  Through the process of moving to a principle centered paradigm in which to see the world the shift can occur to change perceptions, ourselves and eventually situations.

Habit 1: Be Proactive – This habit focuses on how to take what is going on externally and processing what can be done internally that essentially makes you a proactive person.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind – As a kid I always cheated when it came to mazes and started at the exit.  Something about the process gave some clarity and seemed to make the path to get back to the beginning crystal clear.  Likewise in life we can start off heading towards a goal but get lost in the activity trap that leads to a dead end.  This step walks through the way to visualize the goal in mind and then creating a physical path to that goal.

Habit 3: Put First things First – This is the action component to the first two steps as you take a long look at why you are missing out on your effectiveness possibility.  By becoming more of a self-manager in planning roles, goals and scheduling you can adapt to the things that are really most important in your life on a daily basis.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win – This habit moves from the inside out wins and begins to impact those you interact with.  While the position between two people can vary with those who lose and those who win, this habit sets a definitive goal of win/win where both parties have a mutual benefit.  By building character, relationships, and agreements you can use this principle to springboard into relationships of tremendous synergy.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood – Instead of believing you have to put yourself first to win, this habit focuses on reaching goals of interdependence starting from others perspectives.  By learning to listen empathically you risk vulnerability but gain the ability to identify the needs of others and move them towards the steps to satisfy them which is true motivation.

Habit 6: Synergize – The truth is two heads are better than one and when you focus on synergy you get a result of parts that are unified and power unleashed so the whole is better.  By valuing the differences in others you can begin to build trust in the relationships and communications that open up creative possibilities.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – As we see in the season, the world is made to renew itself, so why should we be any different.  The final habit builds all the other habits because it focuses on putting yourself in a constant process of renewal of your physical, mental, spiritual, and social/emotional components.  Allowing myself this “empower hour” every day to continue my development to be a better person has been one of the most rewarding gifts this book has to offer for me.

What I thought would be a book on how to fit more in a day turned out to be a book that unlocked possibilities on how to motivate myself and others to work smarter, not harder towards the goals I have for my life.  This book is a great one to shed insight on yourself and others and provides some real life instructions on the road to being the best you can be.

The benefits of walking: mind, body and soul

Rear View Of Family Taking Dog For Walk In CountrysideIn today’s fitness arena the newest is almost always thought to be the best.  I definitely like to feel the burn to know I am getting the job done and this has taken me to everything from barre classes to Pilates to interval workouts all around town.  While there will always be a place for these exercises when you are looking to lose weight or work specifically on certain strengths or body parts, sometimes you need something a little lower impact but packed with other benefits.  An injury after a cycling class forced me to resort back to my old go-to…Walking.

In my mind walking was something done by people just getting back in a workout state of mind.  While some of the low impact benefits do make walking appealing to those who want to take it easy on their knees or hips, I fell in love with some of the other benefits of walking. With high impact exercise off my menu for a while any exercise is definitely better than no exercise.  As many jobs have us sitting all day it is a great way to get on your feet and get moving.  Gymnast girlYou can always modify your work out as well by adding weights around your ankles and/or wrist or picking up the pace.  Also you can mix in some calisthenics like jumping jacks or squats to add some strength training to your walk.

I have discovered through my walks at Hermann Park that the physical benefits are actually at the bottom of the list on why I walk.  Instead it’s the mental benefits that keep me coming back.  Having a chance to get out outdoors, stretch my legs and let the stress of the day melt away under the umbrella of trees.  After a long day it is the perfect break between work and home that delivers you a little bit calmer and better able to give your best self to your family.   It is a chance to reflect on the day before you put the past behind you and to meditate on how you can get better in the days to come.  Most of all surrounded by the miracle of nature it is a great place to just feel grateful.  There is no better reality check from what you don’t have then realizing all that you do and a great way to change your perspective, even after a horrible day.  Especially while the weather is mild, take advantage of a great chance to walk in a park or on a trail in Houston.

Think you are taking care of business? Take 15 minute challenge to find out

Pins on calendarIf you are a busy professional it is easy to spend a whole day working hard and to assume that all of your hard work means that you are taking care of business.  As the days and weeks go by, however, and your to-do list has some frequent visitors the question moves from if you are doing things, to if you are doing the things that help you reach your overall goals.  In what started as a simple exercise in the “12 Habits of Highly Effective People”, I took a week to break down my day until 15 minute intervals to see exactly how I was spending my days that prevented me from knocking out some the most important items of the things I needed to get done.

The challenge seems simple enough, in a spreadsheet or in a notebook write down what you do any given day in 15 minute intervals. In doing so try to be as detailed on the tasks as possible.  It is very tempting to write down “work” if you are at the office, but the truth is that being at work does not mean you are working or shine some light on what you are actually working for.   The exercise needs to details on what is going on before you can work on improving your habits.  I spend a lot of days busy and the natural thought is when you make it home exhausted that you must have slayed a lot of dragons in the day.  The exercise shines some precise light on the possibility that although you left out to slay dragons you spent your whole day swatting flies instead.  This means it is very easy to get caught up in the little things and minor emergencies that pop up throughout the day instead of focusing on some of the larger more important projects.  If you let yourself you can get caught in a void of busy that dumps you in the black hole of true productivity.

Even if you have structured your life to avoid a steady focus on minor emergencies, there is another challenge lurking in the bushes, the great escape.  While it can often look like businesses it is just periods where your brain takes off.  Things that may have normally taken 15 minutes can easy drift to an hour.  Sometimes there are filled with minor distractions like social media or a constant recall of minor things that you feel like you should do immediately.  For me I just honestly get lost in my mind, with the old daydreaming nature of my childhood finding me in full force.  The reality is that these distractions exist but by looking them in the eye once you finish your 15 minute day detail you can see the problem and start to train yourself how to focus on what is most important first, not last.  It is a great self check and if you 2015 goal is to meet some new challenges it is a great way to actually get it job done with simple adjustments to how you see your day and your time.

Pop of Color with Yves St. Laurent new glossy stain

Yves St Laurent Pop of Color Lip Stain (1)If I had to list the things I don’t leave home without, lip gloss would be at the top of the list.  For a makeup minimalist gloss is a great fix to give my face some color plus hydrate my lips through the mystery that we call Houston weather.  My love of gloss has given me a mini obsession with different brands over the years but one of my tried and true favorites is Yves St. Laurent.

Yves St Laurent Pop of Color Lip Stain (2)My love for Yves St. Laurent glosses began with a pop.  Well a pop of color that is.  With a palette that ranges from nudes to deep reds and everything in between I can always find a fit from casual to dress to impress.  What sealed the deal on my obsession, however, was their focus on glitter and shine.  Their glosses are great alone or over a more permanent lipstick to add some shimmer that makes your lips stare worthy.  Now they have stepped up their game once again with a combination of long wear and shine that gives you the best of both worlds on lip color.

The Vernis A Levres Pop Water Glossy Stain gives long wear color along with a great shine.  What I love best is that you can choose to turn up or down the color while still getting the great shine that is good for all occasions.  Because it is a stain while the first coat goes on light, with a few seconds of drying time you can continue to apply and get more color and still all of the shine.  I wore it all day and although I did reapply a couple of times throughout the day to make sure the shine made an impact the color was always there whenever I went back for a peek.  With a color range so fun I was even able to pull my matte loving friend over to the dark side!  With more and more fun in the sun just around the corner, the Pop Water Stain is a great addition to your summer makeup arsenal!

Preparing for the summer season with by putting your best face forward with Freeman Masks

Freeman Facial MasksSpring is in bloom and summer time is right around the corner.  Many think of getting their body right for the upcoming seasons, but with the chances pretty high you will be a lot more active in activities than the summer months it is also a great time to set up a good facial routine too!  I had a chance to get a small sampling of the many masks offered from Freeman.  I have a notorious oily face so many times my focus is solely on things to help me get a handle on oil production.  I learned with my tour of 5 Freeman masks that balancing hydration with more oil absorbing products gives me a great balance great for a clean palette when applying makeup or for a ready to wear look that is fresh and fast. Here are my favs:

Avocado & Oatmeal Clay Mask: This oil absorbing mask is the kind I typically gravitate to with my oil production on 10.  I prefer it best as an overnight mask so when you wake you are ready to go.  For even more protection try spreading a thin layer under makeup so the oil absorption can go with you throughout the day.

Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask: This mask is actually closer to a scrub but works double duty with the charcoal element working to eliminate some oil. The end product is a really smooth feeling on your face that is great for those sunny summer days.

Cucumber Peel Off Mask: This mask was my daughters absolute favorite although I suspect it had more to do with the fun of peeling off the mask.  The masks comes out pretty sticky and as it dries you can definitely feel it tighten.  After the peal, however, you can definitely see and feel the glow on your face and the lasting depuffiness from the cucumber focus.  The results make this a great mask to use when preparing for a special event where you want to look your best.


This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links. I received complementary products in exchange for writing this review.  Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. @Freemanbeauty and @Influenster #FeelingBeautifulin5 #contest.

Coastal Mexican Cuisine with Caracol

Caracoal (7)Houston has more than its fair share of Mexican restaurants and I think we can claim some of the best in the country.  The finesse of Mexican cuisine can be lost, however, in the sizzle of the fajitas or the oozing cheese we have come to expect when we think Mexican.  The creator of some great restaurants including the Backstreet Café and Hugo’s have put together an awesome alternative to that perception of Mexican food with the coastal Mexican cuisine found at Caracol.  With a focus on fresh seafood the restaurant brings together fresh flavors with unique spins on more traditional dishes and the results are remarkable.

Caracoal (8) Caracoal (6)The restaurant itself is an ode to the coastal Mexican colors, decorated in bright hues of blue and white.  One a sunny day the patio presents a perfect place to be transported to a beautiful coastal village, while in the heart of the Galleria, as you drift away with every bite of the delicious food.  The menu is separated into sections so you can focus on your favorite prep for the seafood explosion.  From an innovative raw menu to a more tradition hot you can choose exactly how close you want to be to the coastal Mexican flavors.   I started with the scallops and my taste buds were instantly awakened by the interesting combination of bread crumbs and seasoning that put my scallops in a whole new light.

Caracoal (9)In moving to dinner what caught our interest more than anything else was the sides so although we ordered the spicy shrimp we could not wait to dive into some interesting accompanying dishes.  The spicy shrimp was delicious, giving me flavors reminiscent of a spicy curry, the real star of the table were the sides.  Caracoal (1)We went with the Repollitos Asados (charred Brussels sprouts), Tamal Azteca (layered tortilla casserole) and Col Rizada (sautéed kale).  Between the layered tortilla casserole, which was a dense take on an enchilada feel, and the kale with its favors of lime and cheese, I could eat those two dishes, and only those two dishes, that every week.  The flavors took something familiar and make it unique and definitely left an unforgettable impression.

CaracolTo wrap a meal we were obsessed with, the deserts on the menu knock the whole experience over the park.  I have made my passions for churros no secret and with them on the menu my vote was locked and loaded.  Yes the apple empanada was delicious, but those churros….Delicioso!!!  We enjoyed ours with the pineapple marmalade on the side to give us a chance to enjoy the hot, crispy, melt in your mouth flavor of the churros.  Despite an evening full of rain leaving such an enchanting dinner was like come back to reality, only it’s a dream I can escape back to! And one I plan to revisit frequently!!!

Caracol (2) Caracol 1 Caracol (5) Caracol (4)

Dining in Sydney: Delicious finds in the Outback

O Bar Birthday Plum SoufleeThe international food scene can be tricky.  Honestly its partially because as Americans we have been spoiled on the have it your way philosophy.  While at home it is our expectation that if we see something on the menu that we don’t like or is not perfectly suited for us then we can just request a change and voila, we have the perfect customized meal for us.  I found out on my first trip to Paris that philosophy can be lost in different countries.  On the bright side when traveling to Sydney, there are a lot of food parallels between American cuisine and that of Sydney.  While there are certainly many safe roads you can take on your cuisine tour of the country, there are also ample possibilities to try something new and things that are regional to the Australia area.

Appetito PizzaOne of the biggest surprises I found when eating around in Sydney is the large Italian influence in the country.  My tour guide informed me that Italians were the second largest ethnic group in the country.  I should have had a clue when I saw gelato shops almost on every concern in tourist areas (this is a must try while in Sydney!)  I was able to find some wonderful Italian food while visiting with my top spot going to Appetito.  Located in the Rocks area this quaint restaurant offered Italian fare that for me seemed pretty authentic.  With fresh made pastas and sausages and hot out of the oven pizzas I was in seventh heaven during my meals at the restaurant.  For sure comparatively eating in Sydney is on the pricy side, but every bite I had at Appetito was well worth it.  Appetito Table Starters Appetito SaladFrom a beginning salad to a delicious pizza to even the biscotti we could barely slow down enough for a mutual smile you give to another foodie when you have just discovered food nirvana.  For those wanting more on the traditional American take on Italian cuisine Appetito to is a great place to take small steps in expanding your horizon.   With fresh seafood prominent on the menu and the handmade pasta you take one step closer to the simple ingredients and strong flavor profiles Italian cuisine is known for!

Italian food was definitely the majority for me when it came to finding a restaurant whose menu spoke to me, grabbing some great pasta and pizza in the Rocks, Central Business District, and Darling Harbour areas, however, there are also some impeccable fine dining options around Sydney.  O Bar SteakFor me bar none the most important component when searching was the view.  In a city surrounded by water, getting a Birdseye view of what the city had to offer was important.  I also wanted to dive into some of the more authentic flavors of Sydney.  I found my perfect match at The O Bar in Sydney.  This rotating restaurant is located at the top of Sydney’s tallest office buildings.  The 360 degree view was amazing and contemporary cuisine carefully balances flavor with a contemporary vibe.  With me diving feet first into the glazed spiced pork and my daughter gleefully indulging in the grain fed short rib it made for a great birthday dinner.  With the dinner wrapping with a birthday plum soufflé the O’Bar certainly made it a night to remember.

Roasted corn at the Rocks Market Monet cupcakes at the Rocks Market Australian Breakfast at the WestinFrom kangaroo to emu the meats in Australia certainly can offer a taste of something new for the American palette.  I still found comfort in something that I made an easy connection with though, their seafood.  From lobster rolls to fresh fish fillets I found their surf and turf selections to be top notch.  If you are visiting Bondi beach Icebergs is a great place to still enjoy the beach and catch some fresh tastes of Sydney.

Window view from Icebreakers

Window view from Icebreakers

So whether you are on the more exotic with ostrich and kangaroo on the menu on just want an Australian twist on some comfort food favorites Sydney is a great place to get out there and try out what Australia has to offer.Monet cupcakes at the Rocks Market

Summer fashions for all white affairs

With summer fast approaching, the weight, coverage and colors of winter fashions are melting away making room for the brightness and vibrancy of summer colors.  As a perfect combination of all the colors white is busting back on the scene with the clean lines and fresh approach that can be worked into almost any wardrobe selection.  Although everyone dabbles with white, the idea of all white is equally loved and feared and can easily take a wrong turn with its attraction to stains and sheer challenges it presents.  With the Hamptons in Houston All White Party on deck for the weekend as the ultimate party for a purpose I decided to take a look at what fashion has in store for the color white this season. Ethereal: ABS Pleated Cami White naturally provides a play on common pictures of the heavens and with the flowy fabrics popular this season it is a great chance to play a heavenly creature.  Not only is the airiness great to beat the heat, it goes a long way to showcase your shape without clinging to your imperfections.  I adore the ABS Pleated Cami as it provides some fun movement and flair with hints of black to that define lines and give some structure to the ethereal look. Short and Sassy: Elizabeth and James Arizona Dress With your legs hiding all winter, it’s time for them to once again step into the spotlight.  I like short best when it’s paired with a more traditional profile to really give the legs center stage.  The Elizabeth and James Arizona Dress uses folds and an embroidered trim to add some visual intrigue.  With a focus on your cinching waist and glams galore the dress is a great way to welcome in the summer! Play on fabrics: Alexander McQueen Broderie Dress 1   Dressing in all white does not have to be monotone.  An easy way to change the look of an all-white outfit is through plays on fabrics and patterns.   As always Alexander McQueen does not fail on his edginess with this Paneled Broderie Anglaise Dress.  The solid pieces and wide belt provide structure and accentuate important lines along the waist and neck area to give an elongated look.  The fun plays of patterned panels provide the edge and make the look memorable. Peek a boo: Giamba Lace Smock Dress The heat and skin walk hand in hand, but there are ways you can have the best of both worlds with some additional coverage combined with a playful peep show of what lies beneath.  To meet such a need a love options to reveal as much or as little as you like.  The Giamba Lace Smock Dress is a great play as it screams summer with its floral lace with an empire waist, A-line cut that offers a range of appeal to flatter peoples shape.  It is topped with beaded appliqué to highlight the neck line and gives you the power to make it more conservative with a full slip or more daring without. Photos courtesy of

Travel Review: The Intercontinental Sydney

Intercontinental Sydney (5)As with many historical cities, there are many parts of Sydney that are a throwback to a historical era long pasted.  Although located in the Circular Quay and surrounded by historical foundations of the city such as the Botanical Gardens and the Rocks area, the Intercontinental Sydney is not one of those throwbacks.  Instead the hotel is a modern perspective of the future of the city focused on the innovation and comfort that comes from a blend of old and new.

Intercontinental Sydney (3)With the hotel being just a block away from the Circular Quay you can easily take advantage of being in one of the most transportation parts of the city.  A short walk to the Central Business District puts you within a short strech to the train system and for the more scenic route a block away from the entrance of the several water ports of the city’s ferry system.  Although I love mobility my favorite feature of the location is actually its closeness to the Botanical Gardens.  The Gardens is a huge park wonderland with features from ponds and lakes, to rose gardens and even some historical homes that are open to the public.  It is a great place to take a picnic, enjoy a view of the Opera House or just read and relax under a tree.  In perfect understanding of one its best features by association the hotel even offers meal options that let you customize a picnic (be it romantic or casual) and head over to the Gardens for a day of relaxation. Intercontinental Sydney (1)Intercontinental Sydney (2)Intercontinental Sydney (4)

In its modern ease the hotel provides a renovation that equally places pieces of the past with the smooth lines and minimal approach of more modern design.  From the sleek lobby to the beautiful seating in the lounge you saw pieces of both the new and old that appeal to those who prefer the sleeker side of things, but still love the heritage, culture and history you can find in Sydney.  Likewise the rooms offer modern design features and modern appeal like a digital greeting and TV guide, combined with some flashback components such as the more antique feel of the bathroom décor.   Other amenities are completely modern such as their indoor pool and work out facilities, offering all of (or even more) of the conveniences of home to ensure you have a fantastic stay. Intercontinental Sydney (10) Intercontinental Sydney (6) Intercontinental Sydney (9)




Starting at the end: Writing your own obituary to figure out the maze of life

woman in mourning at cemetery in fallI recently read a story of a mom who wrote her own obituary after a long struggle with cancer and was able to share it with her family before reaching her end.  Within the obituary she told her story and as she shared it with her family she was able to feel the summation of her life better than any words could ever describe it.  She loved and loved hard and loved sincerely.  The tears and laughter that came with the reading filled in all the blanks and provided all the emotions that without the words would just fall flat without.  In thinking about the story it dawned on me how motivating it is to live, and live well, when you accept that it all can come to an end that dawns most likely without your notice or approval.

Thinking of your obituary is considered to be a pretty morbid thought.  Why think about the announcement of your death when you are still in the midst of your life??  Well the period at the end of life comes for all of us and often if we can see it approaching the feeling is how did time fly so fast? Followed quickly after by the wish to have just a little more time, like a kid wanting to squeeze the last bit of fun out at dusk of a long summer day.   With some courage you accept this truth that as morbid as thinking about your obituary can be, it can also help shape on a daily basis the things you do that impact what will happen the gap in between your birth and your death.

Like a summary of any book, an obituary gives the long and the short of your life in a quick review.  But in these words, as with your life, you can pack quite a punch.  Writing your obituary looks back and ask the question who were you and what did you do to make an impact?  Instead of focusing on the future which we can usually see in the best light, it looks back and only looks back.  Considering what will be written of you can cut out the procrastination and drifting we all can be guilty of and get you back on track to the person you want to be realizing that the time to do it is a gift, not a given.  This perspective can re-energize you to be up for the challenge of living while it is still your challenge.  As with the kid heading in from a day of fun, you can often dream bigger, jump higher, and see the world in more vivid colors when time is almost up.

What would your obituary read if you died today?????