Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Ways to Have the Healthiest Lazy Day Ever

The holidays, though magical, are stressful!  So when you finally take a day off, don't feel guilty giving yourself a break!  Here are some zero guilt ways to de-stress yourself before you wreck yourself...(thanks to

5 Ways to Have the Healthiest Lazy Day Ever

Comments Post a comment Monday, 12/19/2011 11:00 AM

Are you taking any time off for the holidays? If you're looking forward to a few days of not waking up to the beep of an alarm clock, or rushing madly out the door to battle traffic, or--oh, I'll just say it--not doing anything at all, fear not: a lot of things that seem lazy really aren't. Especially when it comes to your health!
I used to live for vacations because it meant one very glorious thing: sleeping in. Of course, that was pre-babies. I long for laziness, ladies (it will again be mine someday!), and here's one of the reasons why: these lazy-day activities are actually good for you.
1: Sleep in. Otherwise known as heaven. Logging lots of shuteye comes with a slew of benefits: it may help keep you at a healthy weight (or even help you lose weight), it could boost your memory, it'll give you more stamina at your next workout and it could even improve your sex life.
2: Linger over breakfast. Breakfast is important, of course--breakfast-skippers don't get the energy boost that breakfast-eaters do (or the possibility of burning more calories all day long!). But enjoying a nice, slow breakfast--i.e., not gulped while running between your car and the office--can help you, too: eating slowly means better digestion and more food satisfaction (you'll feel fuller, longer).
3: Go to the movies. Research has shown that watching a comedy--and laughing!--reduces the amount of stress hormones in your body, replacing them instead with the kinds that make you feel good. It may even lower blood pressure. And don't forget to snack! Just not on the 1500-calorie buttered popcorn. Try the smart snack pack at AMC theaters, which includes fruit chips, water, and popped corn chips.
4: Read a book. Studies point out that reading lowers stress levels and might even stimulate brain cells to help prevent memory loss.
5: Snuggle up. And do nothing else. Warm blankie, check. Slippers, check. Significant other, check. A recent study showed that every minute spent hugging and cuddling your loved one results in marked levels of reduced stress and anxiety, plus lowered blood pressure. Snuggling with Fido and Fluffy totally count, too.
What are your favorite lazy-day activities? Is there anything you're really looking forward to this winter break?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

7 books with personality

Looking for a new book to read?  Check out this review from!  

December 13, 2011
Although all works of fiction and narrative nonfiction have characters — be they animals, hobbits, dragons, humans, werewolves or whatever — I've found that there are some books in which these characters are three-dimensional and awfully interesting. (Whether or not they're likable is another question.) These characters become, as the story progresses, more and more real to me. It's as though they've become good friends.
I'm always on the lookout for this kind of book, but they're not always easy to find. Oh, I've read plenty of novels in which the characters are pleasant enough, but they're not particularly memorable. The sort of book I'm talking about here leaves you with a longing to find out what happened to the characters after the book ended. Here are some books — six novels and a work of history — that have marvelously evoked characters.
In Zanesville

In Zanesville

A Novel

Hardcover, 289 pages
I don't think I'll ever forget the unnamed, perfectly realized 14-year-old narrator ofIn Zanesville. It's a marvelous reading experience. Jo Ann Beard, whose first book was The Boys of My Youth, a dozen autobiographical essays, has captured the terror, joy, uncertainties and angst of growing up in small-town 1970s America. Best friends, big sisters, boys, baby-sitting, band uniforms, clothes-buying expeditions — Beard has captured what being 14 is like. And the writing is simply radiant. In one chapter, the narrator describes her childhood reading experiences, all of which took place sitting behind a "green velvet chair in the corner of the living room." Here's what she says:
This is where the pivotal events of my childhood unfolded, while I ate banana and root beer Popsicles, two by two, tucking the sticks neatly under the skirt of the chair. It's where Sunnybank Lad met Lady, Ken met his friend Flicka, Atlanta burned, Manderley burned, Lassie came home, Jim ran away, Alice got small, Wilbur got big, David Copperfield was born, Beth died, and, on an endless gloomy winter afternoon, Jody shot his yearling.
(And here I thought that I was the only person alive in this world who still remembered reading Albert Payson Terhune's books about Lad of Sunnybank Farm.)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have to say that I gave this book to both of my grown daughters and, independently, they each told me they found it too depressing.
A World on Fire

A World On Fire

Britain's Crucial Role In The American Civil War

Hardcover, 958 pages
Amanda Foreman's A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War offers both the Civil War scholar and devoted history buff an eye-opening tale of the relationship between Britain and the United States in the mid-19th century. The story is told through the dozens of characters Foreman introduces, from spies to newspapermen to diplomats, plenty of politicians, the rich and the poor, Northerners and Southerners, old and young, male and female. Although the book is prodigiously researched, it wears its scholarship lightly. It's not a quick read (first of all, it's over 900 pages long), but I never felt bogged down in the detail, and I ended up with a long list of people I wanted to learn more about (such as Rose Greenhow, a spy for the Confederacy). The battles are vividly described, and the political maneuvering on all sides is recounted in every bit of its troubling detail. Besides President Lincoln, who of course plays a major role in the book, we meet British liberal politician William Gladstone; William Henry Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state; Charles Francis Adams, the U.S. ambassador to Britain; and too many others to list here. This is a book to put on the shelf with other essential Civil War histories.
Blind Sight

Blind Sight

Hardcover, 289 pages
Imagine if you were 17 years old, the only male in a house full of women: your religiously inclined grandmother, Nana; your hippie-dippy mother Sara, who is frequently given to Buddhist statements such as "I'd like to hear more mindful statements from you," while admonishing one of her children for saying something snarky to a sibling; and Pearl and Aurora, your two brilliant older sisters who tease you mercilessly while loving you dearly. That's the situation Luke Prescott is in when we first meet him in Meg Howrey's splendid character-driven first novel, Blind Sight.
Luke has always known that his sisters' father is their mother's ex-husband (who went off to find himself in India years before). But his mother has never told him anything about his own father, refusing to answer any questions about who he was. Then, Luke gets a call from his father, who turns out to be a famous television star, inviting Luke to spend the summer in Los Angeles with him. It's only after that summer spent away from the women in his life, with a man he grows to love, that Luke can begin to understand whether or not belief can really equal truth; and, most important, what being a family means.
The Summer of the Bear

The Summer Of The Bear

Hardcover, 448 pages
I picked up Bella Pollen's The Summer of the Bear without any expectations. Although this is Pollen's fifth novel, I had never read anything by her before. In the time it took me to finish the first two or three sentences, I was already hooked: the characters, their feelings and their behavior seemed entirely real and true to me. When their diplomat father dies under mysterious circumstances at the British Embassy in Bonn, his three children and their mother each respond to the death differently. It's the Cold War; it's Germany. Was Nicky Fleming a Russian agent, as his British employers believe? Was he murdered? Did he kill himself?
Letty, Nicky's widow, is emotionally vaporized by grief. After she moves the family back to where she grew up on an island in the Outer Hebrides, she is so absorbed in her own sadness that she can't even acknowledge (or try to ease) the pain her children are all feeling. Teenage Georgie — who has her own secrets involving a mysterious trip to Berlin that she took with her father — tries to mother her younger sister and brother; Alba lashes out at everyone in her family with anger, but she's especially awful to her younger, learning disabled brother, Jamie. And Jamie believes that his father will return. The unexpected appearance of a grizzly bear, loose on the island, acts as a catalyst to force the family to regroup. And the Outer Hebrides are so vividly described that I am obsessed with going there for a visit.
by George

By George

A Novel

Paperback, 383 pages
In By George, author Wesley Stace weaves together the life stories of two different Georges — one human and the other a wooden ventriloquist's dummy. In 1973, 11-year-old George Fisher is sent off to boarding school because his actress mother is going on an extended tour. George is heartsick at being separated from his much-loved mother, but he can't bear the thought of leaving his beloved 93-year-old great-grandmother, Evangeline, who once performed as a successful ventriloquist and bequeathed that talent to her son, George's grandfather, Joe. School is just as bad as George fears, until he's befriended by the school's groundskeeper, who presents him with a how-to book on ventriloquism, a gift that will change George's life. Meanwhile, the wooden George relates his own experiences of working with George's grandfather, especially those years during World War II when Joe and George were sent overseas to entertain the British troops. Neither of the two Georges is aware of the existence of the other, until a series of events brings them together and forces long buried family secrets to come to light. This inventive novel rewards the reader with its intelligence, its wit, its poignancy and its splendid writing. By George, I loved it!
Vaclav & Lena

Vaclav & Lena

Hardcover, 292 pages
The long-lasting bonds of a childhood friendship are sensitively explored in Haley Tanner's debut novel, Vaclav & Lena. They meet for the first time when they're 5, in an English as a Second Language class in their elementary school in Brighton Beach, a Brooklyn neighborhood filled with Russian emigres. The outgoing Vaclav's great desire is to be a famous magician, and Lena, shy and reserved, soon becomes his trusted assistant and best friend, who's welcomed wholeheartedly into his warm and loving family. Five years later, though, Lena stops coming to school, and all of Vaclav's well-practiced magic tricks fail to conjure her up again. Tanner does a lovely job describing the children's mutual dependence and strong affection for one another, as well as making it clear that in most ways, children's lives are decided by the whim of the adults in their lives. I don't think I'll ever forget Vaclav and Lena.
Down the Mysterly River

Down The Mysterly River

Hardcover, 336 pages
From its captivating title to its evocative last sentence, Bill Willingham's Down the Mysterly River is the best fantasy novel for fifth- to eighth-graders that I've read in a couple of years. This is the first children's book that Willingham has written; he's best known for his very popular comics for adults. Mark Buckingham, Willingham's longtime collaborator on the best-selling Fablesseries, drew the book's pictures. Down the Mysterly River is scary in places (at least, I was scared; maybe a tween wouldn't be), funny in parts, and exciting every step of the way. Twelve-year-old Max, known to friends as "The Wolf," is a champion Boy Scout and author of popular books that detail his many previous adventures. But one day he finds himself in an entirely unknown place — a forest — with no memory of how he got there. He meets several talking animals, including Banderbrock, a badger, a black bear named Walden, and the cranky and cantankerous McTavish, who styles himself "the monster," but just might be a cat. Together, the quartet takes on the dastardly Blue Cutters, in order to save both themselves and those who live in this strange new place. This is like no other fantasy novel you've ever read.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Christmas Gifts???

I thought this article on was pretty interesting--Patagonia is encouraging people not to buy brand new items unless it is really necessary.  Made me wonder--are any of you practicing re-using, re-cycling, and re-gifting this christmas instead of shopping for brand new items?  



Tonight, Patagonia and eBay announced a new partnership, the Common Threads Initiative. Together, they asked owners of fleece and Gore-Tex everywhere to pledge to reduce consumption, reuse old gear, recyclerepairwhat's broken, and reimagine a world where people don't stress the earth with purchases.
Yes, you read correctly. Patagonia is asking us not to buy their stuff, or any stuff, unless we really need it. And then they're asking us to buy used stuff when we can. And they're asking us to sell those still warm puffys and barely frayed packs gathering dust in the back of our closets on eBay, to a troller who will buy an old jacket instead of buying a new one.
To show they really mean it, Patagonia and eBay have partnered on a Patagonia-specific resale site powered by eBay that you can access from Patagonia's website. But there is one catch--you have to pledge to the five "Rs" to use it.
Patagonia wants 50,000 pledgers this year. Sign today, and whether or not you start bidding, you'll be one of the first. But don't just sign so you can get first dibs on nearly new gear which for the next few days is probably mostly from the Patagonia sample racks. Think about what you're agreeing to, and like Patagonia, walk your talk. 
-Berne Broudy
Find this article at:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Passing Judgment

Great article from!
"Often times, when we occupy the space of 'I'm right and you're wrong' it keeps us from seeing our own responsibility in matters. When we judge others' foibles and personality traits, what does it really say about us? What can we do to identify and get rid of judgment in ourselves and in our lives?"
From Deepak Chopra, MD:
"The Hidden Side of Judgment
Not every person gets to the point in their life when they question the value of judging against others. After all, society depends upon a healthy regard for the difference between right and wrong. Many people, perhaps the vast majority, are content with a system where rules are meant to be obeyed, lawbreakers are punished, and so on. But the mechanism of justice is not the whole of life. When I was young, I was struck by a passing remark from the lips of a spiritual teacher: 'Where love is not, there must be laws.'
At a certain point, a new and different kind of view begins to oppose our certainty that we have a right to judge others. Insight begins to dawn. It's not the same insight for everyone, yet I'd guess that something like the following begins to make sense:
Judge not lest you be judged.
We condemn in others what we are afraid to see in ourselves.
Blame is the projection of guilt.
Us-versus-them thinking is destructive to both sides of the equation.
How would you label such thoughts? If you are a rigid adherent to "an eye for an eye," these insights are corrosive; they must be rejected to keep your black-and-white moral code intact. But there's a reason, despite the intricacies and cruelties of the system of law, why the spiritual side of our nature is attracted to non-judgment. We want to love and be loved. At a deeper level, we realize that all suffering is ultimately related to self-judgment. Seeing yourself as fallen from grace, you feel justified in treating everyone else as fallen, to one degree or another.
Yet at a certain, highly unpredictable point, the urge arises to move beyond self-judgment, and when that urge arises, the need to judge others begins to decrease. There is an evolutionary impulse in everyone, or so the world's wisdom traditions teach us. We believe in our higher or better selves. We want to reconnect with the soul. The selfish demands of the ego wear us down and begin to seem pointless. Whatever the trigger, moving beyond judgment is evolutionary. A breakthrough is possible, after which a path opens up.
Walking this path transforms the entire person, over a period of time, and leads to many stages of realization. At one stage you may want to rebel against rules and authority. That can be a satisfying stance, but eventually it is seen as untenable. At another stage you may feel humbled and therefore more judgmental against yourself than ever before. That, too, is just a stage. Ahead are various roles we attempt to play—martyr, saint, ascetic, child of God, child of Nature, etc. It would be too ironic to judge against any of these steps in personal growth; they are convincing while they last and rather empty once they are finished. Whatever the way stations that you experience on the path, the goal isn't the role you play; it's fulfillment within yourself.
Fulfillment is all-inclusive, which is why it is often labeled as unity consciousness. You exclude nothing from your being; there is a common thread running through you and everyone else. At that point, when empathy is effortless, you have succeeded in something that is at once very desirable and very rare. You have transcended the war between good and evil, light and darkness. Only in that state does the war end, and the perplexing issues around judgment are solved at last. Short of complete fulfillment within yourself, you cannot help but participate in duality, because the entire play of right and wrong, good and bad, light and darkness, depends upon self-division. Your ego will persist until the very end in labeling A as good and B as bad, for the simple reason that duality requires choices. As long as you prefer one thing over another, a mechanism will sneak in that says, 'If I like it, it must be good. If I don't like it, it must be bad.'
Fortunately, even as the game of judgment keeps society running smoothly, constantly dictating our likes and dislikes, our loves and hates, human beings are born to transcend. We can go beyond the setup of society, the ego and judgment itself. In that innate capacity for seeking the higher self, every hope and promise offered by the world's great spiritual teachers rests."
Deepak Chopra is the President of the Alliance for A New Humanity.
From Michael Berg:
"It is easy to judge others and find fault in them; it is sometimes even enjoyable. Yet in reality, if our aim is to draw greater blessings and fulfillment into our lives, it is one of the most dangerous things we can do.
When we judge others we often think that we are simply making an observation, and that this action or thought will not affect us. However this is not the case. When we judge others we are awakening and connecting ourselves to a force of judgment. It is like trying to throw mud at someone – we might or might not hit them but we are definitely tainted by the mud. And by acting in this way we don't necessarily affect the other person, but we most definitely draw the energy of judgment and lack into ourselves.
I am often asked, 'We know that there are no coincidences, but why, then, do we see faults in others if it is wrong to judge people?' The kabbalists teach that as easy as it is to see shortcomings in others, it is almost impossible for an individual to truly find and assess his or her own faults. In order to change and grow we need to be able to know what it is about ourselves that we need to transform. Yet if we are never completely capable of seeing our own faults, how will we change?
In order to assist us, the Creator created endless mirrors for each of us that allow us to clearly see what we have to change. These mirrors are all the people that are in our lives every day. Every fault we see in another person is an indication that we have an aspect of that issue within ourselves. In fact, the reality is that the only reason we are being shown these flaws in others is to realize that they also exist within ourselves. How silly is it then that we often disregard this and focus on what is wrong with other people?
The kabbalists use a simple story to illustrate this lesson. A man spends all of his day in a coal mine and his entire body and face are filthy. As he arrives home he sees a mirror his wife has bought. He looks at the mirror and sees that his reflection is dirty, so he takes a rag and starts cleaning the mirror. He tries and tries with all his might but his face still remains dirty. Of course this man is acting foolishly, as it is not a problem with the mirror but rather his own filth. This is how we usually behave—we see a reflection of our less-than-perfect traits in others, and rather than realizing that we are seeing this in order to change and perfect ourselves, we stay focused on the faulty mirror.
If we truly integrate this understanding into our lives, the next time we feel the urge to judge others we will instead look inward and find how we too possess the fault we see and forget about judging anyone. By acting in this way we protect ourselves from drawing the energy of judgment and lack into our lives. And most importantly, we gain a clear direction for own transformation and growth."
Michael Berg is a Kabbalah scholar and author. He is co-Director of The Kabbalah Centre. You can follow Michael on twitter, His latest book is What God Meant.

Rob Reynolds
BONANZA 2, 2011
oil, alkyd, acrylic gesso and india ink on canvas
80" x 108" (203 x 274 cm)

For those of you heading toArt Basel Miami next week, don't miss my favorite emerging artist, Rob Reynolds', incredible work at the Anthony Meier Fine Artsbooth. Other greats like Richard Tuttle and John Baldessari will also be represented.
From Dr. Karen Binder Byrnes, Ph.D:
"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." -Carl Gustave Jung
"As human beings, we are constantly searching for self-definition by viewing ourselves in the context of our fellow “others" on this earth. One of the ways we do this is to be continually searching for the "sameness" or "difference" with the people we encounter in life. Often, the search to realize our own uniqueness leads being judgmental. As a basic and primal evolutionary survival tool, judgement of the "other's" intentions could enable one to move toward or away from a threatening encounter. However, on an everyday basis, most of us are more likely to be judgmental as a means of elevating our own self-importance and/or assuaging our feelings of inadequacy.
There is an underlying sense of moral superiority and righteousness when we are being judgmental. In this dynamic, whether we are judging ourselves or others, we lose the sense of tolerance, compassion and objectivity that is probably most required. Recently, I was in a car with a male friend who became irate and judgmental about another driver who cut in on us in a toll line. I laughed, as I had been in the car with him many times when he had done the very same thing to other drivers. This is a simple example.
Being judgmental can drain us. Having compassion and empathy restores and increases our energy and our sense of well-being. It helps us want to move toward others and allows others to move toward us. During this holiday season, when we are surrounded by family and friends, we should all try to be more tolerant and empathic to our differences and check some of our judgments both of others and of ourselves at the door. Be mindful of the tendency to be judgmental and find humor and acceptance the kaleidoscope of human foibles that make up our world! Happy Holidays!! Peace."
Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes is a leading psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the past 19 years. See her website,, for more information.
I love Chinti & Parker's clothing and this striped cashmere sweater is a current favorite.
From Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel:
"What I hear in this question is a common concern for all of us: we want to be able to respond to our relationships with skillfulness and clarity. But when we critically examine, say, a conflict we might be having with a friend or family member, we often find ourselves judging others based on 'right' or 'wrong.' So to me the fundamental question comes down to this: 'Is there a way of working with relationships without judging or ignoring?'
For me this question opened up a query into the difference between discernment and judgment. When we look at another human being—or ourselves—we see that we are not 'one way.' Human beings are creative and destructive, cranky and kind, joyful and miserable…it's impossible to pin down a human being. We are always a 'work in progress.' So when we judge others (or ourselves) we are objectifying or seeing them in a one-dimensional way. There is a closing down around a negative idea, and simultaneously, there is a non-acceptance of the "fullness" of who they are. This is why, when we judge others, we experience first and foremost the negativity of our own mind.
One thing I like to do when I find myself in these situations is to try to remember at least two other qualities about the person whom I have just 'put in a box.' For instance, aside from what is irritating us, we may acknowledge that she is a good mother to her children. We may remember that she brought us soup when we were sick. In this way, all of us move out of our tendency to judge them—to form a solid picture of them—which in turn moves us out of our own negativity. This helps us see this person more fully, which, if we are honest with ourselves, is more accurate.
This doesn't mean that this person doesn't exhibit habits that challenge us. Nor does it mean that we shouldn't also find a way to work with or even communicate with this person, set boundaries, and so on… But when we don't shut down by making judgments, the atmosphere of our minds is open, gentle and non-reactive. This gives us a greater capacity for clear seeing and how to relate to them skillfully in order to obtain a positive outcome.
I deeply believe that seeing the fullness of others, in all their pain and glory, allows us to express the greatest love and respect we can offer. It is an unconditional kind of love. And this kind of love has a profound effect on our own minds.
Not long ago a dear friend of mine lost her father. She told me that after his passing, her family and friends began to praise and deify him. Although she adored and respected her father, this was hard for her. She said that her father was many things: he was intelligent and kind, but also sometimes rough and gritty, 'like a prickly pear cactus.' She had trouble listening to people describe her father in such a one-dimensional way. She felt that her love for her father included the fullness of his human-ness.
I found this touching because her love for her father was inclusive … she didn't have to forget or disregard him in any way. She could accept him completely for who he was. She was able to see him clearly and accept him fully, both at the same time.
We can have an inclusive stance that makes room for the full humanity of others. From this ground, we can respond to a parent, friend or co-worker without judgment. When we realize that we can be both open and discerning at the same time, we experience freedom from negativity and meaningfulness in our relationship with the world."
Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel is a Buddhist scholar and the author of the book, The Power of an Open Question (Shambhala Publications).