Summer Flower Bouquets

I love summer flowers, especially the free-flowing wildness of perennials. Coneflowers, hydrangeas, phlox and black-eyed susans are all blooming in my yard right now.

I like to bring that same look into my house with loose floral arrangements full of perennials this time of year.  I dream of having a flower cutting garden in my backyard with rows and rows of flowers where I can go cut them to bring them inside.  My grandma had this type of garden and there is something so wonderful about having a garden grown purely for beauty, rather than for practicality.

I have not yet started that garden in my yard (probably due to my comment above about being a lazy gardener) so I like to treat myself occasionally to fresh flowers at the grocery store.  It is such a simple treat and really not that expensive.  This past week I was thrilled when I saw my grocery store had bouquets of  what they called “Farmers Market” flowers.  They had some arrangements already made up in Mason jars, but were also just selling unarranged bouquets.  Because I have a million Mason jars at home (my mom moved a few years ago and she had accumulated Mason jars from canning) I bought the unarranged bouquet and decided to make my own arrangements.

You can buy Mason jars anywhere now.  I have seen them at Target, the grocery store and JoAnn’s.  The wide mouth ones work best for flower arranging.  Also, you should buy the metal rings to go over the top to give the jar more of a finished look.

I am not an expert flower arranger so I simply trimmed the ends and pulled off some of the extraneous leaves.  You definitely do not want the leaves in the water because it makes the water slimey and after a few days incredibly smelly.

Out of the bouquet I bought at the store I got two arrangements, a big one and a smaller one.  On the arrangements at the store they had put raffia ribbon around the metal ring to give it a little extra polish.  I did not have any raffia ribbon but I did have some other miscellaneous ribbons and string (I have a lot of craft supplies just because).

For the big jar, I had a piece of yarn with pom poms on the ends that I had saved, that had held together a packet of dishtowels I bought at Anthropologie.  I wrapped it around the top of the jar a couple of times and then loosely tied it.

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For the smaller jar I used some baker’s twine.  I cut six strands to a length of roughly 24 inches (if I don’t know how much length I am going to need I try and cut it too long because I can always trim).  I wrapped the strands around the top of the jar and then knotted it.  I trimmed the ends to roughly the same length and then let them hang.

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And out of that one bouquet at the grocery store I made two arrangements that I can enjoy in my house.  When I plant my cutting garden I hope to have arrangements all summer for me to enjoy and to share with my friends.

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I hope you are finding ways to bring summer into your house.  -June

 

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

For the last twenty plus years, I have had the pleasure of viewing a silver maple tree out my kitchen window.  I live in the midwest and have seen the splendor of this tree in every season. I’ve watched it grow from an adolescent, to the tall strong beauty that stands in my yard today. I love seeing its graceful branches gently moving and bending in the breeze, its roots planted firm in the earth.  I am always reminded of this beautiful tree when teaching or practicing tree pose (Vrksasana) in yoga

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My silver oak

I have been a yoga instructor for 16 years, and a student of yoga for 20.  Tree pose is one of the first balance postures we learn in yoga, and one of the most powerful and sometimes challenging postures.  I personally love the strength I feel while standing tall in this posture. Physically, tree pose stretches the inner thighs, groin, and shoulders.  It strengthens the calves, thighs, core, and feet. Mental focus is essential in tree pose, and while it relaxes the central nervous system, it brings balance to the body, opening oneself to mind/body awareness.  Tree pose encourages oneness and I feel the true nature of this posture is a subtle balance in the mind, body, and spirit.  When you practice visualize the strength of your roots traveling from your body, down through your feet, and into the ground.  You may sway as trees do in the wind, but if you remain focused and connected to your breath, you will find yourself anchored to the ground through your strong system of roots. I love that tree pose allows you the freedom to shift and move to find your stability with the knowledge that your strong foundation is supporting you and keeping you secure.  As you breathe and stand tall in tree, you find and are content with your own progress in this posture, finding acceptance in your true self.

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Nicole demonstrating tree pose

For more information on Tree Pose, check out this link.  http://www.yogabasics.com/asana/tree/

~May

A Little Luxury on a Budget

Let’s face it, we all love nice things.  Maybe it’s that great designer handbag you’ve had your eye on, or the beautiful pair of shoes, or that perfect little black dress for a special occasion.  Unfortunately, we don’t always love the designer prices.  May and June heard about a resale shop called Clothes Mentor, and decided to check it out.

 

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Clothes Mentor currently has 131 stores nationwide with several in the Chicago suburbs (and for our Buffalo, NY readers they have two stores, one in Amherst and one in West Seneca), with more opening soon.  They are individually franchised so your local store may differ but they all buy and sell “gently used” high quality designer clothing, jewelry, shoes, belts, and other accessories.  Women’s sizes run from 0-26 and include petites and maternity fashions.  There is also a rewards program that earns you points when you shop, resulting in a 20% off certificate.  We visited the store in Arlington Heights, Illinois which is celebrating one year in business this week. It was bustling with shoppers and women dropping off items to be sold.  Here is a peek at some of the items in the store.

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A Coach tote for $130.00

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A statement necklace for $8.00

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Tory Burch flats and Hunter Boots for well below retail price

Unfortunately these great shoes weren’t our size, but of course we did find a few other treats for ourselves.

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A few fun cocktail rings for $4.00 a piece

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A small Kate Spade purse for $16.25, a Coach wristlet for $25.00 and a cute leopard sequined clutch for $8.00

So ladies, if you want to get paid for cleaning out your closet, or you just want to treat yourself for fun, you may want to check out Clothes Mentor or another resale store near you.

~May and June

Weekend Away

It seems like everyone is on vacation right now.  My Facebook feed is full of pictures of people at lakes, in the mountains and man made attractions.  Because of work obligations and several out-of-town family weddings this fall, we are unable to take a week long vacation this year.  However, a few weeks ago we were able to get away for a weekend and it was amazing how refreshing just a short trip could be.

We went to Wisconsin Dells which is about a three hour trip from our home.  Wisconsin Dells is known as the “Water Capital of the World” as every other television commercial tells you.  Wisconsin Dells is also known for tons of tourist traps, go-karts, and the infamous “Ducks.”  Because we were traveling without children we managed to avoid all of these attractions, and had a nice adult weekend.

This area holds a special place in my heart because for several years my family had a vacation home on Lake Redstone which is about 20 minutes northwest of the Dells.  It was my dad’s favorite place in the world (and it’s always nice to be somewhere that brings back such happy memories, although it makes me miss him terribly) and we still have family that lives on the lake.

We traveled with my mom, her husband and my brother and stayed outside of the main Wisconsin Dells drag at Christmas Mountain.  We  had a lovely three bedroom townhouse which let us visit, but gave us all our own space.  So fortunately there was no couch sleeping for us which is important for a relaxing weekend.

We started our Friday night with pizza at Sarento’s.  We have been there several times and find one of the best places to sit is in the bar area to enjoy the live music.  The man that typically performs I think is “famous” for the area as he seemed to have quite a few groupies.  It is a fun change of pace to enjoy some live music with your dinner.

The next day the boys went golfing and my mom and I went to Baraboo for lunch and some vintage shopping.  I love Baraboo.  It is a small artistic town about 45 minutes from Madison.  It was home to the Ringling Brothers Circus in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Currently it is home to the Circus World Museum.  I love the vibe in the town.  It is built on a courtyard square.  I can’t imagine practicing law in that courthouse rather than the skyscraper one I frequently visit.

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My mom and I had a delicious lunch at Vintage Port Catering.  This place used to be called the Java Cafe but it is the same owner and the same yummy sandwiches and it has a fun San Francisco vibe.

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My yummy sandwich

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And my mom graciously posing with her sandwich.  Thanks Mom!

We then did a little shopping in some stores on the square.  Cornerstone Gallery carries art and jewelry from different artists some of which are local.  Also, if you are looking for a great art fair, Baraboo hosts Art on the Square in August.  Also, they are the sponsors of the Fall Art Tour in October which is a self-guided tour of various local artists’ studios.  I have not done this yet but it is on my list to do one fall.  We picked up some funky earrings here (although I forgot to take a picture).

We also did a little antique and vintage shopping.

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These did not come home with me.  I thought they were rather creepy.

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This did come home with me.  It is new but looks vintage.  I found this at Raven House. Raven House has artisan, antiques and vintage home goods.  This is a huge palm reading sign that I thought was very unique.

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And my fairies got a new family member and a gnome.

And after all that walking we needed some iced coffee at the Coffee Bean Connection.  We then met up with the boys at my aunt and uncle’s home on Lake Redstone.

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The view of the lake.

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Relaxing while waiting for a boat ride.

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Dega enjoying the boat.

We followed up our boat ride with a delicious steak dinner and grilled vegetables prepared by my wonderful aunt and uncle.

We went home on Sunday feeling refreshed and renewed.  Of course I would’ve loved to run off for a whole week (preferably the Four Seasons) but a little trip close was the temporary solution.  A good thing to remember that it only takes a little break from the every day to renew the soul.  I hope you all find a little time to take a trip this summer and enjoy the summer.  -June

Fruit Infused Water

We always hear about the importance of drinking enough water, particularly during the hot summer months.  Water flushes toxins from our bodies, boosts our metabolism, keeps the body moving while we sweat, helps prevent kidney stones and constipation, supports healthy skin tone, etc…..Basically water is essential for our health and well being.

For me, drinking plain old water is well, boring.  I know I don’t drink as much as I should and I’m not a big fan of the flavored waters you can purchase, so I started infusing my own water with seasonal fruits and some fresh herbs from my garden.  It’s so easy and for the most part, you can use any combination of fruits that you love.  The water is full of natural flavor and has no chemicals or calories. You can make the water by the glass or you can purchase a fruit infusion pitcher and keep it in the fridge.  Simply add your choice of fruits and/or herbs to your favorite glass, ice and water.  That’s it.  The longer you let the fruit water sit, the more it infuses.

Here are some of my favorites:

-Lemon with fresh mint

-Blueberry and strawberry

-Lemon and cucumber

-Strawberry, basil and cucumber

-Lemon and raspberry

-Lemon and lime

-Orange, mint, and rosemary

-Watermelon

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I love trying different combinations of fruits and herbs.  I also like infusing fruit in coconut water.  It adds a little extra flavor,  plus coconut water contains potassium and a little sodium which the body needs if you are sweating.

So if you’re tired of plain old water, give this a try.

Enjoy your Monday.

May

Summer Quinoa Salad

The dog days of summer have arrived, and the last place we want to be is in the kitchen.  May and June have come up with a great quinoa salad recipe that’s perfect on a hot day, it’s super easy and can be made ahead of time.

1 cup quinoa

1 cup cherry tomatoes (quartered)

1 cup chopped green beans (fresh)

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup sliced green onions

4 large leaves fresh basil, sliced thin

1 1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Fresh mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese to top (optional)

Combine quinoa and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and continue cooking until all the water is absorbed.  In a medium bowl, combine cooked quinoa, tomatoes, green beans, green onion and walnuts until well mixed.  In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic until well blended. Pour over quinoa mixture, add chopped basil and toss until well blended.  Season with salt and pepper.  It’s best if refrigerated at least 30 minutes before serving.

* If you want a non-vegetarian meal, simply grill some chicken breasts, then cube or shred into salad

 

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The beauty about this salad is it’s versatility.  You can make it with just about anything you have in your fridge.  During the colder months, we like to use dried cranberries, walnuts, and roasted and cubed butternut squash.  Let us know if you come up with an extra yummy variation.

Enjoy the last day of July and have a great weekend.

May and June

 

Easy Artwork

This is such an easy project to create simple artwork that I am almost embarrassed to post it.  However, I am sure that I saw this idea somewhere else so I thought I would share.

I needed some artwork for my guest room and frankly did not want to spend any money on it.  The room does not get used that often.  Also, I tend to buy art and other decorative items for the home organically.  I cannot go out with the mission of finding artwork for a specific space.  If I see something I may buy it and then figure out where to put it.  So knowing those factors, I decided to make my own artwork for the guest room.  I was at Paper Source  (this is a Chicago-based company with retail locations many places now and online as well) and I found this lovely single sheet wrapping paper.

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I love hydrangeas.  They were on my wedding invitations, in my bouquet and centerpieces and we have several of them in our backyard so this was an easy choice.  I bought two sheets of the paper for $3.50 a piece.  I then picked up some inexpensive frames (these are the Ribba from IKEA and the opening is 11×14).

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Then I got out my scissors and cut the paper to fit in the frame.  The paper should be cut a little wider than the mat opening so that you don’t have any gaps.  And voila some inexpensive artwork created in around 15 minutes or less.

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I often get compliments on my artwork and when I tell people it is simply wrapping paper they do not believe me.  I think the trick is to use a heavier paper with a beautiful design.  Have fun picking out some new artwork for your home.  -June

 

The Many Wonders of Coconut Oil

Once demonized as an unhealthy saturated fat, coconut oil is now becoming one of our country’s newest superfood.  It’s unique blend of fatty acids is showing promise with such health benefits as lowering cholesterol, promoting weight loss, and possibly aiding in the prevention of Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia.  (Alzheimers.net)  In addition to its health benefits, coconut oil also has many wonderful uses.

I personally have used coconut oil for several years.  For me, it was easy.  I LOVE coconut.  I love it flaked, in cookies, and in candy bars (hello Mounds).  I regularly drink coconut water, and in the summer I love coconut sorbet when I can find it.  (I know June is making a face while reading this as she’s not a fan)  In addition to the wonderful health benefits to my heart and brain, I’ve discovered many other uses for coconut oil that I’d love to share with you.

1. One tablespoon of coconut oil emulsified in coffee.  Make sure you have an immersion blender to mix it well, otherwise the oil will just sit on top of the coffee and it’s not very good.

2. I’ve started to move away from applying chemicals to my skin, and now solely use coconut oil after my shower.  You don’t need much and it absorbs quickly, especially if your skin is a little dry.

3. I’ve discovered if your hair has some flyaways, particularly in the winter, just a dab of coconut oil rubbed between your palms then on your ends does a great job of keeping them tame.

4. In the winter my feet get really dry.  Before bed I rub a little coconut oil on my feet and put on socks.

5. After I’ve been out in the sun, I spread a little coconut oil on my arms and legs.  I don’t sunburn often, but it does give relief to a sunburn.

6. The natural properties of coconut oil also make it a good facial moisturizer.  I only do this in the winter, when my skin is particularly dry.

7.  Coconut oil makes a great makeup remover.

8. Massage oil for tired muscles.

9. My family makes popcorn the old fashion way, on the stove.  We switched to coconut oil and our popcorn turns out perfect every time.  Just put 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and allow it to melt.  Sprinkle in 1/3 -1/2 cup of popcorn and cover.  Periodically shake the pot so the kernels don’t burn. When it’s done popping, add whatever toppings you like and you’re ready to start your movie.  The coconut oil adds a nice light flavor, similar to movie popcorn.

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10.  Coconut oil is a great replacement for vegetable oils if you are doing a sauté, and we use it in the pan for eggs.

11.  A little coconut oil is yummy on toast.

12.  A teaspoon of coconut oil thickens smoothies.

13.  Coconut oil whitens teeth and is great for gums. (oil pulling)

14.  Great lip moisturizer.

15. A tablespoon in a cup of tea can help soothe a sore throat.

16. A teaspoon mixed in your dog’s food promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat.IMG_2609 (2)

The list goes on and on.  I’ve generally used Trader Joe’s coconut oil because it’s available and a good price.  Now you can buy it just about anywhere.  You want to look for a brand that’s organic, unrefined, and virgin.  For more great uses and information on the benefits of coconut oil, check out this link. draxe.com

What are some of the ways you use coconut oil?

~May

Girls Road Trip 2015…..It’s in the Journey

Recently, May and June took a weekend road trip to the University of Iowa, in Iowa City.  Our reason for the getaway was to attend the annual Iowa Summer Writing Festival, which offers a large menu of enriching classes to all writers, no experience necessary.  We were there to learn about the art of blogging.  This was June’s third trip to the festival and May’s first.

We hear that so much about life is in the journey and travel is no exception, especially road trips. Many travelers are so focused on reaching their destination they miss out on some of the interesting scenery and towns along the way.  May and June decided to make the most of this trip by scoping out some possibilities ahead of time.  For us, it was the quaint towns and quirky little vintage shops.  We found a cute town along the way called Le Claire, Iowa, a historic town nestled right along the Mississippi River.

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As we pulled into the parking lot, we immediately discovered it was home to Buffalo Bill.  Who knew?

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It was a beautiful day and we had lunch outside overlooking the river, and explored many of the lovely shops including a famous one that some of you vintage buffs may recognize.  Antique Archeology, home to the American Pickers television show.  As you can see from the following photos, we had a lot of fun exploring this little gem of a town and ended up staying much longer than we had originally planned.

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We wish we could’ve taken this home and made it our official May Meets June vehicle

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A cute gift shop in a historic home, Grasshopper’s.

We also had a great time in Iowa City.  In addition to the informative workshop, we enjoyed everything the city had to offer including some great food and fun shopping.  The sudden downpour one evening was not about to stop us from enjoying ourselves.

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Yummy Sushi at Takanami

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Dinner at a charming retro diner called the Bluebird Diner.  May had the best ratatouille ever!

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Spotting Herky the Hawk

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And while vintage shopping at a store called Decorum, we spotted May’s dog, Sawyer’s doppelganger made out of paper.

Everything in life is a journey.  Taking a walk, commuting to work, meeting friends, etc… Being mindful and enjoying what each path has to offer, no matter where it takes us is part of the fun of getting to wherever it is we’re going.  When we were planning this blog we knew we wanted to explore being more fully present in the everyday.  This “business trip” gave us the opportunity to achieve our goal of completing our class but also allowed us to set the tone for what we want this journey to be.

Have a great weekend!!  Hopefully have some adventures, both planned and unplanned.  -May and June

Virtual Retail Therapy

I think we all have things that we like to do just because they make us feel good.  I like to go shopping.  It is not the acquisition of “stuff” that makes me happy (although sometimes it is that) but it is the actual act of shopping.  Usually shopping for me is a social activity.  I shop a lot with my mom and we usually make it a fun thing.  We treat ourselves to lunch or coffee (or if we go for a long time both), we talk and catch up and sometimes try on interesting clothes just to be silly.

I also love to go shopping because I get a lot of joy at looking at pretty things.  It ends up being a whole sensory experience.  I love stores that not only sell items that appeal to me but also do beautiful displays and merchandising.  Anthropologie is just a few blocks from my office, and sometimes if I need a break I will walk over there at lunch just to walk through and enjoy some eye candy that is a lot prettier than the piles of papers on my desk (plus it smells wonderful in there too).

I tend to gravitate towards stores like Nordstrom and Anthropologie primarily for this reason.  Because while I love to score a bargain like anyone, I have trouble shopping at discount stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Those stores to me tend to be a jumble of clothing and other items that make no sense to me.  Homegoods is the one exception here but that may be because I feel like they try to do some merchandising of their items (and their items are bigger and sometimes a little weird).  Apparently, I am every marketing person’s dream.

Sometimes, though, I do not have the time or energy to actually go browse at one of my favorite stores.  You know I have to get dressed, drive there and then find parking so it seems like too much trouble.  But I am craving that little thrill I get from looking at things that fill my senses.  So I do what I call online window shopping.

I have found that virtual shopping is even more satisfying though if you actually click and put items in your cart.  When you go to the store you can touch the items (and smell them if its Anthropologie) but when you are just looking at a website you do not get that same tactile experience.  So what I do is if I find something that I like I put it in my cart.  Later, I can easily go back and look at things if its in my cart.  And if I am looking for something specific and trying out my options it makes it simpler to compare them if they are sitting in my various carts.  Also if I check my cart often (and depending on how long the website will keep things in your cart) I can see if the item goes on sale.  It also prevents impulse purchases because things can sit there and I can think about if I really want them.  By being in my cart it feels like I sort of already have it even if it never is delivered to my doorstep.

Apparently, I am not the only one that does this because I get frequent emails from the websites reminding me “Your Shopping Bag: Get These Items Before They’re Gone!” to remind me that the store really thinks I should give them my credit card number to purchase. I think a lot of people do this probably for reason similar to mine.

So today I did a little virtual retail therapy.  It always makes me laugh a little when I’m finished “shopping” because there will be a ridiculous number of items in my shopping cart at a price that is astronomical.  But today I needed to do a bit because I am thinking about a DIY project (which if I do it will probably appear in a future post) and I can’t figure out what exactly I want it to look like.  I am in love with this bedding but I don’t need new bedding.  And I was feeling a bit blue because I have a broken toe and I’m hobbling around. So my cart ended up looking a little bit like this.

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Am I the only crazy person who does  this? -June