pamper yo self.

Pamper yourself.  That’s the only guaranteed way to make sure it gets done. 

A couple weeks ago I celebrated my 39th (?!?!) birthday, and I was on the verge of a panic attack.  It had nothing to do with the bday, just work and life piling up.  The Juniper Lemons sale wrapped, the dog got sick, the day job was beyond busy, the toddler was fussy, the hubs was MIA, and I was 28 weeks pregs and already hella huge.

I was managing to balance work and life, but life was just as much work!  That’s when I learned that it’s not a work/life balance that should be the goal, but a work/LEISURE balance.  I blocked out that Saturday as a self care day and committed Pavi to watch the little.

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Like I always do when I’m intent on getting something done, I made a list.  That Saturday I tackled each and evert one of those pampering action items and it was GLORIOUS!

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I got my nails done…  upgraded my lashes…

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went shopping (which was kinda a fail)…

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… and dove face first into a whole pizza while watching Trainwreck.  I’ll spare you those pics.

By the time my birthday rolled around that Monday, I felt much more sane and ready to kick off the start of a great new year!

It is so important to take time for you.  Balance work (and life!) with leisure, and pamper yourself on the regular.

What do you do to take care of you?

xoxo
ash

Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.

Ok, I’m going to go a little deep on ya compared to our typical fashion, food, or fitness filled blog post. I promised you at the New Year that I was going to elaborate on finding joy and happiness in posts to come- so this is my first one. I would love to know your thoughts and feelings…..

I would like to ask you a question, Are you happy?  I would assume that if you were able to answer my question, you would probably say, “Sure I’m happy”… although you would probably use some kind of qualifier such as…

But when this project is done at work, I will be happier…  or

When my kids get a little older and more independent, I will be even happier… or

When I own a home, get a better job, have better health, or have more money or when my spouse does this or that, I will definitely be happier than I am now.

The purpose of our existence is to have joy. Why can’t we have joy now and not qualify it when some future situation may or may not happen?

I have struggled with what I call “cheap happiness” – happiness that is based on whether or not something is going my way, or whether or not other people have or have not let me down, or things of that nature. So, that is why a year or so ago I decided to truly figure out what is happiness and make a choice in my life to live in a beautiful state instead of a suffering one- which is one that is any feeling or emotion that removes you from your happy state.

I once read, “The trick is to enjoy life.  Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.”  I think there is so much wisdom in that statement.  Things might now be perfect in our lives at this very moment but we can be joyful despite our trials.

So how do we do this?  Well, we can understand where happiness comes from.  Feeling happiness is a conscious choice we make for ourselves.  We must choose to be happy.

From one of my favorite guys, Tony Robbins, I will paraphrase : There are two states you can live in- a beautiful state or a suffering state. You are either progressing forward in that beautiful place or life, or you are moving backwards. There is no stationary. If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. There’s a survival mechanism in our brains that is always looking for what is wrong. That is what it does. You can fight it or flight it. Our primitive brain was looking for survival- avoiding tigers and making fire- we don’t have that anymore so now it worries about what people think, or do I have enough money. The mind is always looking for what’s wrong; however, there is always right there too.

Happiness has almost nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with our attitude.There is an exception here and that is with those living in extreme poverty that do not have shelter or food or a way to fulfill their basic needs.  This group of people tends to benefit and actually become happier when those basic needs are met. How do we choose to be happy when we’re experiencing a trial or we suffer from depression?

I’ve noticed in my own life, when I’m depressed, I seem to turn inward.  I think that my suffering is someone else’s fault and they are the reason why I’m not happy.  I start to think that happiness can be found anywhere but the stage I’m in and I begin to feel sorry for myself.  I begin to be selfish and only think of my own needs and my own sorrow.  This is not a nice way to live.  I have seen members of my family wallow in this thinking their whole lives and shut everyone else out.  This thinking destroys their life and pushes their loved ones away. I’ve learned by watching them, this is not the way I want my life be.

Life is happening for us NOT TO us- it is our job to find out what the benefit is – if we do life can be magnificent.

My dress- sold out- but similar here : ivory coming soon

to be continued….

tips for the busy

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Working a full time desk job, running an online business, and taking care of a 10 month old has got me bizzzeeeee…  During the week I leave for the office around 7a and don’t get back home until after I pick up the baby from daycare at 6p.  From there it’s a mad dash to get Denton fed and ready for bed, dinner made, the house picked up, and ready for work the next day.  Yes, the hubs is there to help, but he’s also got a day job, side biz, and extracurriculars too.  HOW DO PEOPLE DO IT?!?!

Here are some tips and tricks that have really helped me stay sane…

1. Keep lists.

I keep a list in “Notes” on my phone of:  (i) Things to do, and (ii) Things to get.  It sounds basic I know, but it’s a MUST.

In the “to do” section I add things like “pick up laundry after Thursday”, “schedule Bisou’s vet appt in March”, “measure and order blinds”, “Nordstrom returns”, etc.  These are the things I need to remember to do, but don’t want my brain cluttered thinking about them.

And even more helpful I think is the “things to get” list, which I have subdivided into:  (i) groceries, and (ii) other stuffs.  If I’m rummaging through the kitchen and realize we’re out of salt, or eggs, soy milk, or heaven forbid coffee — it goes on the list.  Toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning solutions, diapers, wipes, printer ink — whatever we’re running low on, it goes on the list as soon as I notice it.  Which brings me to my next tip…

2. Amazon Prime.

If you don’t already have it, spend the $100 and get Amazon Prime. It’s worth it for the free and fast shipping alone, and it comes with music and video streaming perks too!

Once a week or so, take that “things to get” list and use it to place an order via Amazon Prime.  Voila!  It shows up at your door a day or two later — sometimes even faster!

3. Instacart.

To tackle the groceries part of my list, I turn to Instacart.  Instacart is an app that you can download and use to place grocery orders at your local market.  Simply shop the grocery store online, and then they package it all up for you and deliver it to your door on the date and time you request— OMG SO AWESOME, RIGHT?!!  Yes, there’s a small charge, and yes I always tip the driver, but for me it is SO WORTH IT.  Grocery shopping is among my least favorite chores.  ughhh.  yuck.

4.  Slow Cooker Freezer Meals.

Yup.  That’s how I cook these days.  I also like the dinner kit services (see my review of Blue Apron, Gobble, and Hello Fresh here), but those still take some effort and on week nights that’s hard for me.

If you don’t know, a “slow cooker freezer meal” is a bag of ingredients that you can pull from the freezer in the morning before heading out to work, dump the contents into a slow cooker or crockpot, and cook on low for ~8 hours.  Then when you walk into the door that evening, after a long full day, you’re welcomed by the smell of a home cooked meal that can be served up with minimal effort.  It’s genius.

A few weeks ago, out of hunger desperation, I was googling freezer meal recipes and stumbled across this gem from a fellow blogger.  It’s 8 pages of super easy slow cooker freezer meal recipes and a master grocery list in printable format.  IT’S LIKE I HIT THE JACKPOT! Click here and print it now!!  I shed a tear of joy on the spot.  I immediately filled my virtual Instacart cart and had the groceries delivered first thing Saturday morning.

Here’s the menu: chicken teriyaki (x2), chicken chili (x2), honey dijon pork and green beans, hot pepper pork and butternut squash, beef fajitas, and pepperoncini shredded beef.

If you follow the grocery list and recipes, you’ll end up with 8 freezer bag meals, each with about 3-6 servings, depending on appetites.  I spent about $120 on the ingredients (including some extras), so it breaks down to roughly $15 per meal, or $3 per serving.  Not bad IMO!

5. Lay out your clothes.

And finally, I lay out my outfits for the next couple of days the night before.  I like to have  at least 2 outfits on the ready so I have options to fit the weather and/or my mood.  This saves me a signifiant amount of time in the mornings and I cannot recommend it enough!!  No longer am I trying things on and throwing them on the floor.  My outfit options are hanging there, ready to go, I just have to pick.Targetdress1

What are your tips and tricks??  Please share, I’d love to hear them!!

xoxo
-ash

book giveaway!

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Check out our Instagram feed to enter to win a brand new copy of Power Your Happy by Lisa Sugar!  Contest starts Monday, March, 13, 2017, and continues through Wednesday, March 15, 2017.  The winner will be announced on Thursday, March 16, 2017, via the original contest post on the Juniper Lemons instagram page.

As mentioned here, I recently read Power Your Happy by Lisa Sugar and found it to be super motivating and inspiring. Lisa managed to self-create her very own dream job by founding POPSUGAR.  And perhaps you’ve also heard of ShopStyle and POPSUGAR Must Have?  Well those are all part of POPSUGAR Inc.  Pretty cool, huh?

In her book, Lisa describes how she went about figuring out what her dream job was, and then took the risks to create it. Her personal and business story is a light read that is sure to get you inspired and motivated! This book is the perfect read for lazy Sunday mornings, a local cafe, or airport layovers.

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Good luck!
xoxo
-ash

2017!!

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It’s here, it’s finally here!  A new year, a fresh start, an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments of the prior year, make adjustments as needed, and set plans big and small.  Think beyond the new gym membership and commitments to eat better, work out, lose weight, etc., and give yourself some stuff to really look forward to and get excited about!

When I was a teen, somewhere I read or heard that happiness results from having someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.  So for this year’s resolutions I resolved to bring more happiness into my life, and I created a simple three part outline to get me started on a follow through plan of action.

Resolved:  Bring more happiness into my life
(because who couldn’t use some more of that?!)

1. Spread the love.

Having someone to love can be a significant other, family, friends, or a pet.  It can also include love for your community and helping others.  Make an ongoing effort to show those you love just how much they mean to you.

2. Plan a project.

Having something to do can give you a sense of purpose, accomplishment, pleasure – or all of the above – depending on what it is.  If your day job satisfies you, then you’re set here.  If not, plan a project!  Projects can be hobbies, side jobs, working towards a goal, almost anything!

I personally like to have several projects going at once.  My corporate day job is certainly something to do and it pays the bills, but for me (and I suspect many people) that’s not enough.  So for 2017 my projects include growing Juniper Lemons (yay!), and a massive remodel/expansion of our house starting in January!  Both are projects that are engaging in challenging and fun ways, and are completely different from my day job.

3. Bucket list(s).

As for the some things to look forward to, don’t overlook the little things.  By all means do count that annual vacation to Maui if you’re lucky enough to have one, but there are so many smaller things that can be done throughout the year too.  I touched on this earlier in 2016 when I shared my April Bucket List.  Set aside time on a monthly, or even weekly, basis and fill it with plans that you will look forward to.  The plans can be super simple like grabbing a mid-week drink with friends after work, getting coffee with your dog and heading to the park, or a night at the theatre.  So make some plans and get excited.

Cheers to a happy 2017!

xoxo
-ash

a prague wedding

This month I am celebrating my first wedding anniversary!  As with nearly all weddings, not everything went as planned.  Even with the hiccups though, most things fell into place.

Tips for planning a destination wedding: 

  • Choose a place you have been and love, and host a welcome event before the big day for guests to meet and mingle.

My husband is from the Czech Republic, his entire family lives there, and our stateside friends are a traveling bunch, so we decided to have our wedding in Prague.  We hosted a private welcome dinner boat cruise a couple days before the ceremony.  It was a great way for us to spend time with everyone, for our guests to meet each other, and to take in the sites of the city from the Vltava river.

  • Keep your wedding party small and color coordinate for photo ops. 

We stayed in the beautiful MaMaison Riverside Hotel in downtown Prague and on the morning of the wedding my mom, sister, and close friend helped me get ready.  We wore coordinating robes by Plum Pretty Sugar and sipped on Veuve Clicquot, of course!

  • Choose a dress that travels well, and preferably fits in a carry-on.  

Some day I may share my nightmare marathon dress shopping experience, but ultimately I chose a beautiful Monique Lhuillier ‘Harper’ gown.  The gown was a slim sheath style made of lace and tulle that easily rolled up into my carry-on luggage.  I luckily found the dress at Glamour Closet in San Francisco just one month shy of the wedding.  Glamour Closet also has stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, and it is a great place to find showroom and runway samples to buy off the rack for much less than retail!  As an aside, for alterations I highly recommend Lynne Ghallager at Wee Scotty.  She had my dress fitting perfectly in record time, and she has the coolest resumé I’ve ever seen.

  • Leverage the musical talents of family and/or friends.   

As I walked down the aisle with my mom, my dad played guitar and my sister sang Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love (also sung by Adele).  It was way better than a recording, and much more affordable than hiring a band.

  • Rely on beautiful scenery to keep decorating and set-up needs to a minimum. 

The ceremonly took place in a covered area of the garden decorated with magnificent murals and statues.  Ten chairs were provided for family or those who needed to sit, but for the others it was standing room only.

  • Keep the ceremony short and the champagne flowing. 

The ceremony was relatively short and ended with the witnesses (my sister and the best man) signing the marriage certificate, followed by champagne!  There was some comic relief when the best man realized he had left the ring in his bag and had to run and get it mid-ceremony.

  • Choose centrally located venues, in close proximity to each other, and provide guests with maps. 

The wedding ceremony was at Vrtbovska Zahrada, one of the Prague Castle gardens.  After the ceremony guests walked or took a private bus down to La Terrassa, a spanish restaurant on the Vltava.  All of the event locations were walking distance from downtown, or a short cab ride for those in heels.  A map and schedule of events, along with a list of nearby hotels, was provided to guests well in advance of the wedding for trip planning purposes.
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  • Meet with venue staff well before the big day, and incorporate local traditions. 

The reception staff was beyond wonderful and accomodating.  They even surprised us by breaking a dish when we arrived, which in Czech tradition must be cleaned up by the bride and groom.  The broken plate pieces are said to bring happiness, and cleaning up the mess shows the will of the couple to cooperate.

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The staff also swapped out their usual spanish fare for a traditional Czech menu.  And in line with tradition, they served us Czech wedding soup that the newlyweds eat jointly as a sign of unity.

La Terrassa has since closed and in its place is a restaurant called MANU Risto.  I have not yet been to Manu Risto, but if you are ever in Prague the location alone would make the restaurant worth checking out, even if just for a cocktail.

  • Have cake, even if you don’t think you want one. 

We had planned to forego cake and instead serve kolace and local cookie varieties.  However, when we visited the bakery to order the sweets the owners talked us into a cake.  We chose a medovnik, a honey cake found throughout the Czech Republic.  I have never attempted to make it, but a google returned a few recipes including this one from Pauline’s Cookbook and this one from Czech in the Kitchen.

The cake was incredible, the best I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad we made the last minute decision to have one.  The cake topper was made from wire that we twisted to into “Pavash”, a mashup of our names (Pavel and Ashley), a nickname we’ve grown to love.  The flowers from my sister’s wrist corsage completed the simple cake decoration.

  • [Rock and] Roll with any surprises. 

The “DJ” that we hired sight unseen (or heard) actually ended up being a one-man-band with a microphone and synthesizer.  In a thick Czech accent he belted out an Elvis song for our first dance.  His style was unexpected but perfect and he and the slivovitz kept the party going.

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xoxo
ash