Finding your Inner Artist and a Renewed Sense of Self

It’s been a while since I have blogged, however, I needed to step away for a bit, and feel good for having done so.  Now I am back, feeling more energized than ever.  Why?  For the past two weeks, I have been working on The Artist’s Way, a program started by Julia Cameron a few decades ago.  Frankly, I have had the book on my shelf for about two years now, and I finally decided it was time to open it.  Now I am saying to myself, “Why did I wait so long!?”

What is this program?  I would say it is a tool to help you get in touch with your deeper self and gets rid of the “coulda, shoulda, woulda’s.”  It also sheds light on the pressures, demands, and negative feedback others – whether it be friends, relatives, teachers, or bosses – (or you yourself!) have given you that may have impacted your life in positive or negative ways you may not have realized.  For me, it has renewed my sense of self and energized me in ways I have not felt in years!

How does the program work?  While the “program” is officially twelve weeks long, it is recommended to use many of the tools for the rest of your life.  Essentially, Julia divides the book into twelve chapters, where each is associated with one week’s worth of work.  While each week is comprised of different activities, a few are the same each week.  These “repeats” are as follows:

  • Morning Pages:  Every morning, just as you get out of bed, write 3-pages worth of a journal entry.  The purpose of this is to have you write without judging that which you are writing.  And no, you cannot type on your computer.  The idea is to get your hand moving and be in touch with your brain-body connection.  If you don’t know what to write, it is better to move your hand and scribble for three pages than to do nothing.
  • Artist’s Date:  Each week, for about two hours, it is recommended that you take yourself on a date.  The key here is that this is about you and only you – not a friend, boyfriend, child, or family member.  Perhaps you can do something you would normally not do.  Look at it as an adventure to explore your inner child!  My first week, I went to a movie alone.  My second week, I went to a cafe and read a book.
What I like about the program is that Julia suggests that if you don’t get to all the activities each week, let it go and move on.  Each week is its own adventure.  I liked being given this kind of permission.  For example, the first week, I literally forgot to do my morning pages over the weekend.  I was able to let it go!
OK.  You might think, “This is a lot of work.  I don’t have time.”  My reply is, “Make the time.”  How much time do we waste each day or each week doing things that have no purpose?  How much time to do we waste surfing the Internet, staring mindlessly at the TV, or going to the grocery store 12 times because we did not make a list?  
Julia recommends getting out of bed 30 minutes early every morning to commit to the morning pages.  This is perfect because usually, the mornings are most quiet around the house.  Imagine what it would be like if you took a little extra time for yourself.  Besides the morning pages, I would say the artist’s date plus other weekly activities should take no more that 3-4 hours a week… least that’s how it seems from the first two chapters.  And it has truly been worth every minute.
You might also think, “I am not an artist.”  I originally felt this way as well because Julia herself is an artist – author, actress, etc. – and yet I come from the business world.  What I realized about her tool, though, is we are all artists, but how that looks is different for each of us.  Also, how we use our “art” or our creativity can appear in a variety of places within our lives.  I would encourage you to give this program a try to discover your own inner artist.
Once the twelve weeks are up, many continue with their morning pages and artist dates.  Some even redo the course periodically.  
How can you start doing The Artist’s Way?  There are several options:
  • Order the book.  Feel free to invite your friends to join you so you can debrief each week.  
  • Sign up for a seminar near you.  Julia and others she has worked with run seminars all over the place.  Click here for the latest schedule.
  • Take the course online.  Julia now offers the class online, which allows you to let her be your instructor.  There also seem to be forums and other things available if you sign up for the online community.
Enjoy finding your inner artist!
Posted in Artist date,, Julia Cameron, morning pages, The Artist's Way | Leave a comment

Mad about Juicing!

Have you ever juiced before?  I had been hearing so much about the benefits of juicing and how people who dislike certain fruits and vegetables love them when they are juiced.  Finally, I decided to invest in a juicer to see for myself whether the rumors were true.

It all started with the GOOP detox diet, which had several juice concoctions that frankly scared me, but Ms. Paltrow swore up and down how good they were.  I used these as my starting point, and now I am a religious juicer!

My adventure began with beets.  I hate beets.  For whatever reason, they remind me of the canned cranberry sauce used at Thanksgiving that comes out in a blob.  It also does not help that my husband once downed beet juice thinking it was something else and vomited it all up.  So yes, this is what I used to think about when I saw beets.  
Juicing, however, has changed my view of beets.  While I am still not a fan of non-juiced beets, I have found a way to get this very healthy food filled with phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium, as well as fiber, vitamins A and C, niacin, and biotin into my diet.  The GOOP detox diet changed my mind.  This juice recipe calls for 1 large beet, 1/2 lemon with zest and pith removed, 2 large carrots, 1 large apple, and a 1″ piece of ginger.  Amazing!

Then there is kale.  While I love vegetables – the crunchier and more undercooked, the better – kale is not something I look forward to eating.  However, after juicing it, I have now incorporated it in my diet.  I started with the GOOP detox diet recipe here as well, which calls for 1 cup kale, 4 stalks celery (with leaves), 1 1/2 pears, 1″ piece of ginger, 1/2 lemon, zest and pith removed.

After finding how much I enjoyed the kale and beet juices, I started to experiment.  I would take what I had in my fridge and look up juices that would incorporate that fruit or vegetable.  In some cases, I would even look into juices for specific purposes like clear skin.  I have been experimenting around and have found some great-tasting concoctions!  My favorite now is juicing an entire cantaloupe (with the rind), a sweet potato, and three pears.  This is supposed to help with fertility and it is yummy!

My hairdresser suggested I try juicing an orange and a grapefruit.  Ugh!  I am not a fan of the bitterness of grapefruit.  However, he promised that the orange cuts the strong taste of grapefruit.  He was right!  However, I would recommend 2 oranges and 1 grapefruit.

If you are interested in learning more about juicing, the Internet is filled with great information ranging from the benefits of juicing to various recipes to the type of juicer you should buy.  I highly recommend investing in a good juicer and adding juices into your diet.  It’s healthy, tasty, and so easy!

One important note:  Look up how to juice specific fruits and veggies as it can affect the taste.  For example, cantaloupe rinds can be juiced but orange rinds cannot or it will taste too bitter.  Also, juice that which has been in the fridge.  I tried warm juice once and almost vomited.

Good luck and enjoy!
Posted in GOOP, GOOP detox diet,, juicing, juicing kale, juicing recipes | Leave a comment

My Day of Meditation

For a while now, I have fantasized about doing a 10-day meditation retreat in hopes of becoming enlightened.  However, being realistic, I decided to take it slow and ease into meditation.  Over the past few months, I have been meditating for 5-10 minutes here and there, which has been helpful, but I wanted to take it to the next level.  This past weekend, I attended New York Insight Meditation’s day retreat, which they hold once a month, and it was a wonderful experience.

First, why meditation?  I have read so many self-help books and attended several seminars about being my best self.  While they have all been helpful, I would not say I feel or act different.  By different I mean more centered, calm, and balanced.  Many have suggested meditation and after further research, I have learned that meditation has many physiological and psychological benefits including reducing emotional distress, increasing creativity, and relaxing our nervous system.  Click here to learn about the one-hundred ways that meditation can help you.

I was referred to New York Insight because of it’s approach.  It is volunteer-run, donation-based, and it is not one of those places where you have to “drink the juice.”  You simply go and meditate.  Whether you want to attend one of their weekly 2-hour sittings (which exists in a few of New York’s boroughs), monthly day-long sittings, or other events, there is something for everyone.

What happened on my day-long retreat?  The day started a 10 AM with a few readings, setting our intention for the session, and then we began a silent, seated meditation.  We then spent the remainder of the time alternating between a silent, seated mediation and walking meditation, each of which ranged from 30-45 minutes.  We broke for lunch in the middle, where the suggestion was to bring your own lunch and to eat in silence.  The day ended with people sharing about their experiences, and we all left at 5 PM.

The intention I created for myself was acceptance.  Interestingly, in the second silent meditation, some life things came up for me, which brought about feelings of anger and resentment, and they almost brought me to tears.  I kept reminding myself to be accepting and that this meditation was supposed to get me there.  However, I could not let “it” go.  This was frustrating because I thought I was magically going to be calm and centered!  For whatever reason, after lunch, I seemed to have been able to let go of that which upset me earlier.  Perhaps I simply needed to accept that it was just going to take a a little time.

Lunch was interesting.  I brought my lunch but worried I might get hungry in the afternoon so I left the building to grab a snack.  While the streets were fairly quiet, I think I would have preferred to stay at the center and eat in silence, meditating when I was done.  Going outside was a little distracting.  It’s almost as if I were trying to resist being in the calm and peaceful meditation area.

Once the day ended, I realized I had no opinion of the day.  This was important because I usually have strong opinions about almost everything.  In this case, I felt present, calm, and without judgement.

Will I continue my meditation practice?  Absolutely.  I still have to work out how I will incorporate it into my life, but I know it will be a journey that will take me to good places.  It reminds me a lot of yoga.  No matter how often you do it or how many years you’ve practiced, there is no point where you can consider yourself a master as there is always something you can do to deepen your practice.

Let the journey begin!

Posted in benefits of meditation, day long meditation,, new york insight meditation, walking meditation, why meditate | Leave a comment

"I’ve Always Wanted to Start My Own Business, but…."

I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to start my own business, as evidenced by all the highlighted books on my shelf and ideas constantly floating in my brain.  My challenge, though, is finding The Big Idea, while others simply may not know how to get started.  Either way, there are some amazing resources available, some of which I have recently encountered and thought I would share.

Some time ago, I ran across Dreamers Into Doers, a website created by the Martha Stewart franchise with the goal of helping women turn their dreams into careers they love.  I signed up simply because I get a thrill out of seeing new business ideas and how people got them started.  This is also why I subscribe to Fast Company magazine.

Recently, while reading a story about a woman who turned her dream into a reality, I learned that she was influenced by Martha Stewart’s The Martha Rules:  10 Essentials for Achieving Success as you Start, Build, or Manage a Business.  (Let’s face it; given that Dreamers into Doers is a Martha Stewart-run website, I did notice many women reporting how this book helped them.  This must be one of Martha’s smart marketing tactics.)  I decided to check this book out of the library and give it a whirl.  I must say, the information she presented was quite helpful!  It’s certainly not rocket science, but Martha conveys in her ever-so-popular straightforward, concise manner some very important things to keep in mind to have a successful venture.  She provides several examples to help explain her points, and most importantly, if you are a dreamer, she gives you a good reality check on what it takes to run a business.  It is true that many examples are around how she built her own empire.  Some may take this as her being egotistical, but I say she is brilliant!  It is clear she knows how to market her brand!

Reading her book reminded me of another book I recently read:  Making Ideas Happen:  Overcoming Obstacles between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky.  The author takes a a behind-the-scenes approach to understanding the secret recipe for some of the most successful businesses out there.  At the end of the day, he says it’s all about execution.  Specifically, he says, “You just need to modify your organizational habits, engage a broader community, and develop your leadership capability.” 

What I’ve realized in running Second Tuesday and in reading these books is that taking an idea and making it into a business is not necessarily easy or glamorous.  There is a lot of hard work needed to make your idea into a success, however it is you choose to define success.  Additionally, there is no magic formula or novel method for this success.  Instead, it is about basic business principles and processes, and both of these books do a great job in helping one understand what they are.

I thought I would close with a few resources Martha suggested that one take a look at:

  • US Small Business Administration:
  • SBA’s Women’s Business Center:
Posted in Dreamers into Doers,, Making Ideas Happen, Martha Stewart, starting your own business, The Martha Rules, women businesses | Leave a comment

Sangria and Tapas – Perfect Idea for a Summer Get Together

Recently, while waiting in line at Pottery Barn, I was admiring the cute table settings next to the register and ran across a pamphlet entitled How to Throw a Sangria and Tapas Party.  Perfect timing, too.  I was struggling to figure out what August’s Second Tuesday food theme should be…..and now I have been inspired.  It’s been a very hot and muggy few days, so drinking cool, light, and tasty sangria with some tapas is just perfect!

So what did the pamphlet suggest?

Entertaining Essentials

  • Sangria glasses
  • Drink dispenser or punch bowl & ladle
  • Salad or dessert plates
  • Colorful linens
  • Spice containers
Getting Ready
  • Prepare in advance!
  • Cut and slice all fruit in advance, storing in covered containers.
  • The more guests you have, the greater variety of tapas should be served.  Suggestions include vegetarian options and savory dishes to please everyone’s palate.
  • Decorate with a casual runner of vibrant colors and a bouquet of fresh flowers in deep red wine tones.  The sangria is also its own perfect decoration!
  • Keep romantic lanterns on hand if it is an evening event. (I know this is tough in New York unless you are fortunate enough to have a porch or terrace.)
Recipes (I’m always up for trying new recipes!)
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 gallon red Burgundy
  • 1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 quart club soda
In a large pitcher, combine fruit, sugar, Burgundy, liqueur and brandy.  Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.  Add club soda and serve with or without ice.
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 peeled peach, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup peach schnapps
  • 3 1/4 cups chilled white wine
In a small pitcher, combine all ingredients.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Chill for 2 hours.  Strain into glasses and garnish with strawberries.
Voila!  There you have it.  A tapas and sangria party!  Enjoy.
Posted in entertaining friends, entertaining idea,, Second Tuesday theme | Leave a comment

If You Are Planning to Go to Italy…..

Seven years ago, I went to Italy for the very first time and fell in love with the country.  When my husband’s friend decided to get married in Italy, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to return.  (Thank goodness for air miles…otherwise, we could not have done it.)  Sadly, this trip turned out to be quite frustrating.  Given our experiences, I thought I would share so that you can avoid the same mishaps.

It all started in Rome when we went to the rental car company at the train station.  We used Auto Europa (not to be confused with Europe Car) because they offered the best deal for an automatic car, which is hard to come by in Italy.  We decided not to take the train because the last time a friend got married in Italy, there was a train strike, which happens often.  Since we had to be at the wedding, we did not want to take our chances.  Anyhow, we arrive at the train station to find it took them 30 minutes to help each person in front of us, causing us to wait over 2 hours for our car.

When we got to the front of the rental car line, they said they did not have our reservation.  We made the mistake of not printing the reservation and only had the reservation number.  They claimed this number was only a confirmation that we made the reservation but not a confirmation of the reservation.  Huh!?  Apparently, they sent us an email that the “real” confirmation comes after we paid online….but we never got such an email.  (Who ever heard of two types of confirmations!?)  The bad news was they had no automatic cars left, but they did have a manual…for a lot more money than our original reservation.  Since my husband had driven a manual over 15 years ago, we thought this was better than nothing.  Besides, the line for train tickets would have delayed us another 2 hours.

We drove our way through Tuscany and decided to make a quick stop in Lucca to eat.  While backing up in the parking lot, we hit another car.  We think the woman raced to get behind us because she did not want to wait for us to finish moving out of the way.  After all, she came out of nowhere.  Once the cops arrived, she claimed to be injured and called the ambulance.  It was so obvious she was lying, even the cops laughed as the ambulance took her away.  They said not to worry because of insurance.  (Thank you, American Express!)  By the hair of our chinny-chin-chin, we made it to the “night before dinner.”  Too bad we rushed because they started two hours late.

The wedding was lovely.  Lots of food.  Great views.  Fun Europeans.

We later make our way to Florence.  While we printed all reservation information for this trip, we seem to have missed (or lost) the printout for our hotel here.  Big mistake because it turned out this hotel said we never made a reservation.  What?!  We remember getting the confirmation email.  Since this was the middle of the summer in Tuscany, we had to hunt around for hotels and had to stay in two different ones during our time in Florence.  Minor annoyance, yes, but considering all the other ridiculousness we had to deal with, this was not ideal.

The other issue we ran across was getting lost.  We decided to save money on the GPS and instead printed out our driving directions using Google Maps, but this system is for driving the American way.  Have you ever tried to give directions to a European in the US?  They get confused by all the highway numbers.  Why?  Because even though Europe has highway numbers, all road signs only refer to the direction of the next major city rather than the actual highway number/name (which is how Google Maps provides directions).

Being the planner that I am, it was frustrating to go through this.  We thought we were so prepared!  While writing this blog, I see that none of these incidents seem like a big deal, but when on the vacation and trying to relax but facing 3-4 hours of annoyances almost every day really puts a damper on trying to relax.

Anyhow, all experiences in life teach us lessons…big or small.  What are the lessons from this experience?  If I had to do it all over again, I would have:

  • Triple checked reservations
  • Made sure we printed ALL reservations
  • Purchased an international GPS to bring for any rental car anywhere in the world
  • Had an itinerary that is less packed to account for the “Italian way” of no schedules and everything being late
As for the train – that’s a tough call.  It would be terrible to show up with hotels reserved in various cities knowing you can’t get to them because of a train strike, but it would also be frustrating to pay a lot of money for a rental car and all the adventure that comes with that.  I guess you have to decide what is most important to you.
We did see some beautiful places, and I would probably go back…..but I need a break for now.  If anything, I now have a new appreciation for staying put for a while and enjoying the many summer activities New York has to offer.
Before I put this blog to a close, I want to send a huge thank you to the Hotel Lancelot in Rome.  We stayed there our first night and last night in Italy, and they were unbelievably helpful and gracious.  When we told them what happened on our vacation, they said we should have called them.  They could have helped us deal with the rental car and even loaned us a GPS. Additionally, they sent a bottle of prosecco
Posted in Hotel Lancelot,, renting a car in Italy, traveling Italy | Leave a comment

No more excuses! Getting What you Want and Deserve

I recently started riding my bike regularly around the city, which has been much more pleasant than expected…once I get out of my neighborhood.  I’ve had my bike the entire three years I’ve lived in the city, but I rarely ride it because of various excuses.  This may seem like an oversimplified example, but how many times have we let excuses get in the way of doing something?

This idea of “excuses” and “commitments” has been on my mind since reading The Pathfinder, which is a great book, by the way, if you are trying to figure out “what to do with your life.”  In one of the chapters, the author speaks about commitment, where my takeaway is that if something is important to you, you do it – no matter what!  An interesting point.  I remember my training days in preparation for the New York City marathon, where I had a full-time job and a 90-minute round trip commute.  In the year I trained, not only did I not miss a training run, regardless of the city I was in, but I also gave up drinking.  I’d get up at the crack of dawn and just run.  Why?  Because I was committed to running the marathon and I did what I thought was necessary to prepare.  Period!

So wait.  I can run a marathon, but my excuse for not riding my bike is, “I don’t like the initial bike ride through my crowded neighborhood.  If only I had trees and quiet, clean streets to look at as I started my bike ride rather than cigarette butts and potholes.”  Seriously?

It is not just excuses that stop us.  Perhaps we feel frozen or blocked by something.  The author argues that being “blocked” is the perfect time to actually keep moving.  He gives the example of a workshop for writers who have writers block.  Interestingly enough, the way they get the writers out of their predicament is by conducting a series of exercises that actually get the writers to keep writing!  Hmm.  There might be something to this commitment thing.

One last food-for-thought….After six months of on-again, off-again reading of The Happiness Project, I finally finished the book.  If you have not read it, Gretchen Rubin spends a year of her life trying to find the secret to happiness, where each month, she created her own “happiness projects” to work on.  At the end of the book, she concludes that while some of her monthly projects worked better than others, the thing that worked most effectively to impact her overall happiness was her Resolutions Chart.  Essentially, she made a chart of her resolutions and rated how she did on them on a regular basis.  Thus, rather than doing what most of us do, which is to make a resolution on January 1 and forget what it was by February 1, she was committed to her resolutions and stuck to them by using this simple chart.

I am now inspired to keep my own Resolutions Chart, where bike riding and daily meditation are definitely on the list!  No more excuses!

Posted in Commitment, Getting What you Want out of Life, resolutions, The Happiness Project, The Pathfinder | Leave a comment