Today: Lighting a candle (and an Old Factory Candles giveaway)

While I imagine candles were invented out of necessity (you know, like, before an old person invented the Clapper to clap on all the lights in the house), these days, they do more than help us read once the sun’s gone down.  For me, lighting a candle is the perfect daily ritual.

lighting a candle

We light candles atop cakes to celebrate birthdays.  We light a candle in the window for those far away.  We light pine scented candles in our first apartments when there’s no room for a real Christmas tree (just me?).  We light candles to offer prayers.  We light candles to set the mood (for the record, I was thinking of dinnertime and the “it’s time to eat” mood, not the other kind of mood… though I supposed that counts, too). We light candles at weddings, at baptisms and at funerals.

Lighting a candle is such an easy way to bring some of that celebration or ritual into a regular Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  (You catch my drift.)  That small, simple act marks the start of something.  It could be the beginning of a great meal, or five minutes of prayer or meditation, or time to get lost in your thoughts.

Lighting a candle is how I come back to Earth, so to speak, on wild days.  Once the match is carefully discarded (safety first, mindfulness second, people!) and I see that brightly burning wick, the rest of my day seems to come into focus.  Few small rituals enable me to turn my thoughts off, while at the same time, turning my attention on, so effectively.  Bonus points for the added benefits of aromatherapy (and let’s be real: what smells better than a Christmas tree?).

Old Factory Candles giveaway

I recently received a complimentary gift set of Old Factory Candles and am thrilled to be hosting a giveaway today.  Each set includes three 2 oz. scented, natural soy candles in a range of themes.  I chose Spa Day (you know how people have those “I’d rather be golfing” bumper stickers? I want one that says “I’d rather be getting a manicure”), and have been enjoying scents of cucumber, green tea and (my favorite) lemongrass.  I like that these candles are small and come in unobtrusive packaging (the labels peeled easily off each jar); the scents are subtle and not at all overpowering.

One randomly chosen reader will receive a gift set of their choice (you can find all 11 themed sets online) courtesy of Old Factory Candles.  Here are a few of my recommendations for the lucky winner:

  • Winter Wonderland (hot cocoa, roasted chestnut, first snow)
  • Fresh and Clean (lemongrass, olive blossom, fresh linen)
  • Newborn Baby (baby powder, first blanket, baby shampoo)
  • Man Cave (straight razor, leather, mahogany… very Ron Burgandy)
  • Coffee Shop (coffee bean, hazelnut, chai tea)

To enter, please leave a comment below.  A winner will be chosen and notified on Friday, December 19th.

Also On Tap for Today:

What daily (or occasional) ritual helps you wind down?

Today: Baby’s first 5k.

Yesterday morning, I ran around our condo trying to remember what one wears for a December 5k in New England.  I haven’t run much at all since starting physical therapy in September, and haven’t run in the cold since last November.  Totally off my game.  I couldn’t find a hat nor gloves, but did locate pants and shoes– and those seem like the critical elements.  Fortunately, Grace was better prepared and better trained (she’s been sitting for, like, months).

We got to my brother and sister-in-law’s house five minutes before we needed to head to the starting line, and we reached the starting line two minutes before the race started.  Just typing that sentence made me anxious.  Yesterday, though, there was nothing to be anxious about.  My expectations for any sort of quality athletic performance were nil.  I hoped to run as much as I could (and pain-free, at that) but ultimately, girls just wanna have fun I just wanted to enjoy my first 5k with Grace and our family.

Smiling is my favorite.

My parents took that photo of me about half-way through the race and as you can see, I’m all smiles.  I took a short walking break after Mile 1 and again at each hill, but was able to run most of the course.  Being able to skip the water stop because I had a bottle in my handy stroller console thing sort of offset the challenge of actually, you know, pushing the stroller.  Sort of.  Being able to see Grace and how much she was enjoying herself made up for the rest.

Grace waved and blew kisses to all the girls in purple sweatshirts and tutus, running their first 5k with Girls on the Run.  I loved listening to the girls chat with their coaches and be cheered on by volunteers on the course. I encourage you to learn more about the great work GOTR is doing in Greater Boston (and likely, in your community, too) and how you can get involved.

By the time the finish line was in sight, Grace was sound asleep (strollin’ ain’t easy), but I was still smiling from ear to ear.  As I ran from the finish line back to meet my family I couldn’t help but think, I’m baaaaaaaaack.

This has been an incredible and wonderful year, but it hasn’t been an easy year.  From sheer exhaustion and an overflowing of emotion, to broken toes and back pain, to managing work life and home life… there have been stretches during this first year of motherhood where I’ve felt like I’m doing the best I can, but simultaneously waiting for the next mini-crisis to crop up.  It’s easy to get a little lost in all of that.

And so something like finishing a race– something that used to seem so easy and insignificant– feels like a huge win.  One that I really needed.  One that I really appreciate.

We haven’t seen the end of sleepless nights or foggy brains.  There will likely be more broken toes (if there is a toy on the floor, I will trip over it — I think there is a reason my parents did not name me Grace), lost keys, forgotten appointments and wonky back pain.  There is no such thing as work/life balance (sorry, but there’s just not), but it’s still worth trying.  And I may never be as thin or fast or fit as I used to be.  And that’s okay.

It took me nearly 40 minutes to reach the finish line, but I felt like I had won the whole thing (for the record, I am fairly certain Grace did come in first in her age group). Having our beautiful girl with me made this victory all the more worth celebrating.

We’re in this together, baby.  You’re stuck with me.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • 5 tips for running with a stroller via Active
  • Making my list (but, um… there’s no time left for checking it twice)
  • Getting my act together with two more giveaways this week (promise)

What little victory are you celebrating?

 

Today: A slow and quiet Christmas (and a David’s Tea giveaway!)

If I had it my way, we would have a (childproof) Christmas tree up all year long and we’d live next door to the kind of people who leave a plastic Santa on the roof well into the Spring.  There would be an Advent calendar for every month (which, I know, doesn’t vibe with the story of Christmas… but, um, God wants us to be happy).  We’d listen to O, Holy Night every night.  We would say “Happy Holidays” to strangers (and mean it).  We’d always be on the hunt for the perfect gift and everything would smell like peppermint.  On cinnamon.  Oh, and we’d can our nasty ‘tudes (something that seems to magically happen this time of year, albeit temporarily).

More simply put: If I had it my way, it would always be December.  Because, you know, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

A slow and quiet Christmas

With all the energy that goes into baking and shopping, wrapping presents and decking the halls, finding that one broken bulb and hanging up the mistletoe… this can also be an overwhelming time of year.  I leave Thanksgiving dinner with grand Pinterest-fueled plans for the month of December, but by mid-month, what I really need is a nap.

Follow Elizabeth’s board Christmas On Tap on Pinterest.

This year, all I want is a slow and quiet Christmas.

I’m dialing back the decorations (generally speaking, neither lit candles nor glitter are baby-friendly), laying low, and soaking up as much of that Christmas spirit as possible.  Oh, and I’m drinking lots of tea.

a slow and quiet Christmas and a David's Tea giveaway

Growing up, we always had an advent calendar hanging in our kitchen.  It’s a tradition Nick and I have adopted — one I look forward to sharing with Grace.  In the meantime, she’s happy to be crawling here, there, and everywhere with one of the Wise Men from her Little People Nativity. This year, in addition to our traditional advent calendar, I picked up one of the coveted David’s Tea 24 Days of Tea sets.

I can’t wait to open the day’s tea and share a cup with Nick and take stock of the day.  I can see why this set sells out year after year (I lucked out in the Chestnut Hill store) and has become a tradition for so many families.  It’s exactly the quiet and slow I’ve been craving.

While on the hunt for the set, I went on a bit of a shopping tea spree (can we make that a thing, or at the very least, a hashtag?).  I picked up a few gifts for family and friends, some loose tea for yours truly aaaaand I also bought something for one of you, too.

David’s Tea giveaway (closed)

One lovely On Tap for Today reader will receive the Healthy Collection from David’s Tea.  Why?  Because I like you all a lot, and want you to stay healthy and enjoy your own slow and quiet holiday season.  This set includes three teas/infusions and ten filters for steeping your loose tea.  To enter, simply leave a comment below and share your favorite holiday tradition.  A random winner will be chosen and notified on Saturday, December 13th.  Thanks for entering!  Megan B. was chosen and has been notified.

Disclaimer: Don’t get it twisted.  This is not a sponsored post.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • New to the calm and serene world of tea drinking?  Here’s a little Tea 101
  • 21 homemade gift ideas from The Kitchn
  • Stay tuned for two more giveaways this week #tistheseason #partyonwayne

What is your favorite holiday tradition?  Are you having a wild or mild December?

Today: Really thankful.

If you are really thankful, what do you do?  You share.

Wishing you and yours a very happy (American) Thanksgiving.  I am grateful to and for each of you.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you most thankful for this year?

Today: With a little time and a little space.

I used to be a morning exerciser.  I’d wake up before my alarm rang, head to bootcamp or the gym at our old condo.  It would still be dark and quiet when I returned from my workout, and I’d be ready to take on the day.

Fitting in fitness when you have a little time, and a little space

And then I traded morning workouts to become an evening exerciser.  I’d rush home and get changed, and Nick and I would head to CrossFit Southie together.  Like my morning workouts, evening workouts became part of our routine.  

And then I became a parent, and the only thing routine about our routine… is that everything changes from one day to the next.  There have been countless days when I’ve thought, “I’ll get up early and workout before work,” only to find myself up most of the night, nursing Grace and singing made up words to made up songs until she fell back to sleep.  There have been just as many days when I’ve thought, “I’ll workout when I get home.”  But when six o’clock rolls around, what I really need is a nap. 

These days, plans to workout don’t always pan out.  In fact, it seems they rarely do.  What does work, though, is fitting in a little fitness when I can, where I can.  I may not be able to count on an hour at the gym each night, but I can count on a 15 minute walk during lunch, some yoga in Grace’s room while she plays with her Little Tikes piano (not exactly ambient music, but I love it), a little balance work in line at the grocery store, and five minutes of weights while dinner cooks.  

Fitting in fitness when you have a little time, and a little space

Things I love: a little understated flair on my running tights and some pink laces.

I’ve been seeing a physical therapist for a few months for back and hip pain, and she has given me a series of exercises that, as she says, you can do pretty much anywhere and not look like a weirdo.  I like not looking like a weirdo.  And like a quick yoga flow in the nursery or some squats in the kitchen, they require only a little time and a little space.  

Fitting in fitness when you have a little time, and a little space

I’m no longer a solid morning or evening exerciser.  A workout is only going to happen if it’s easy and accessible.  (And if I don’t find or make excuses, but hey.)  In the interest of ease and accessibility, I’ve started laying out my workout gear again and even put together a little home gym in a bin.

CS by City Sports for women

City Sports recently sent me a few items from their CS by City Sports fall line, including the See Me Go 1/2 zip top (on sale for $38), Sporty long sleeve (on sale for $18), and Dual Fashion tight (on sale for $38).   I’ve always loved City Sports and used to walk down to the Chestnut Hill store (which got even better when it reopened last March) when I was in college for new running gear.  Their CS line is an affordable, well-made and well-designed alternative to, welp… the alternatives.  

The See Me Go top is great for layering (and it has thumb holes, yaaaaaasss!), as is the long sleeve tee.  I’ve worn the tights for both workouts and for running errands (paired with a black tunic and ballet flats).  CS by City Sports comes extended sizes (something I think all fitness companies should get on board with), and their apparel is flattering, functional and unfussy.  In other words: exactly what I’m looking for.  

CS by City Sports for women

Speaking of functional and unfussy, here’s my home gym in a bin.  I pulled together the things I use most often, or that could motivate me to fit in a quick workout without much (or any) planning.  

Home gym in a bin

In the bin (which, for bonus points, is paisley and adorable):

Other home gym essentials that didn’t fit in the bin, but that hang out nearby:

  • Foam roller
  • Yoga mat
  • Exercise ball (which doubles as the most amazing way to soothe or rock bounce our baby to sleep — seriously, all parents should have one)

While this little home gym in a bin is cute enough to leave out, it fits perfectly in our front hall closet (safely tucked away from curious babies and Frenchies) and can be pulled out whenever I have a few minutes to fit in a quick workout.  Easy and accessible, functional and unfussy.  

Obvious disclaimer: I received complimentary apparel from City Sports.  As always, thoughts and opinions shared on these items are my own.  Oh, and here’s something timely: City Sports’ Black Friday deals include 30% off CS apparel.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your workout style? 

Today: Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing.

In my world, every Monday is Meatless Monday.  Same goes for, like… Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too.  In my home, however, the vegetarians no longer outnumber the carnivores.  Grace had her first few bites of steak last week, so… this cheese vegetarian stands alone.  

Delicious vegetarian  and gluten free recipe: Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing.

But that’s neither here nor there.  After a few days of being on vacation (we had a lovely time, but please don’t be too jealous… it’s presently warmer and less rainy in Boston than it was in Fort Lauderdale last week), we’re settling back into our routines but I am continuing to eat like I’m on vacation.  I had the best salad at a little beachside restaurant last week and couldn’t wait to make my own version when we got home.  Salad first, unpack later.

You can use just about any base for this salad.  I used red lentils, but you might consider pearled couscous, quinoa or farro (which was part of the original dish, and although its not gluten free, it contains less gluten than wheat and is easier to digest, at least for this body).  As for the dressing, it’s probably worth noting that most green goddess recipes include anchovies or anchovy paste.  This one does not.  #savethefishes.  Just kidding.  Kind of.

Also.  Let’s be serious.  It’s just a salad.  A delicious one, yes.  But you probably don’t need to measure your ingredients.

Delicious vegetarian and gluten free recipe: heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing

Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing

Serves two

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of red lentils, cooked (Quick and easy: Rinse and dry lentils, bring to boil in 2.5 cups of water, turn down for what heat and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes)
  • 4 cups of baby arugula
  • 2 cups of heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup of feta cheese

Directions:

  1. Allow lentils to cool slightly, and top with arugula and tomatoes.
  2. Add a bit of feta cheese and drizzle with green goddess dressing.
  3. Yes.  This is the most obvious recipe of all time.

Delicious vegetarian and gluten free recipe: heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing.

Vegetarian green goddess dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 TSP fresh dill
  • 1 TSP chives, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Juice from half a lemon (more, if needed)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add garlic and herbs to your blender or food processor and blend until finely processed.
  2. Add yogurt, sour cream and lemon juice (a little at a time) and blend.
  3. Taste and season, as needed.
  4. Pretend you’re at a beachside restaurant.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your favorite vacation meal?  Do you go meatless on Mondays (or every other day that end in a ‘y’)?

Today: My favorite vacation photos.

We’ve snuck out of town for some warmer weather.  And yes, I know you’re not supposed to tell people you’re away, but let’s be serious:

  1. What happens on vacation ends up on Instagram and I can’t resist sharing a good sunset shot.
  2. All the important and valuable things are coming with me (Because, hello… the important and valuable things aren’t things.  They’re people).  So, I guess I’m not really worried.

If you’re spending this Monday getting sucked into a Polar Vortex (Do we capitalize that? It nearly froze my eyelashes off last year, so I am guessing something that powerful and terrifying deserves capitalization.), the least I can do is give you a little mental vacation.

A few of my favorite vacation photos

My favorite vacation photos - from the Berkshires to the British Virgin Islands

Here are a few of my favorite vacation photos (and memories) I’ve collected over the years.

North Adams, MA

A couple years ago, we spent a long weekend at Porches, visited Mass MoCA (and an old burial ground, because I am a creep) and climbed little mountains with our little dog.

My favorite vacation photos - Clark climbs a mountain in North Adams, MA

My favorite vacation photos - burial ground in North Adams, Massachusetts

My favorite vacation photos - Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts

My favorite vacation photos - North Adams, Massachusetts

U.S. and British Virgin Islands

And now I want to go on our Honeymoon again.  Like, real bad.  We stayed on St. John, but took a few sailing and day trips to places like Virgin Gorda.  We snorkeled in caves, spied on sea turtles and drank Old English ciders (because gluten allergies do not take vacations no matter how badly one craves a cold beer).  I took 9,000 photos.  And did lots of floating.

My favorite vacation photos - snorkeling in caves British Virgin Islands

My favorite vacation photos - Virgin Gorda

My favorite vacation photos - Virgin Gorda British Virigin Islands

My favorite vacation photos - St. John, Sugar Mill at Caneel Bay

My favorite vacation photos - Honeymoon at Caneel Bay, St. John USVI

Boothbay Harbor, Maine

This is why Maine is called Vacationland.

My favorite vacation photos - Boothbay Harbor, Maine

My favorite vacation photos - Boothbay Harbor, Maine

My favorite vacation photos - Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Aaaaand… a bonus photo of Clark.

My favorite vacation photos - Clark the French Bulldog knows how to do vacations

The dude knows how to do vacations.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Working on some festive posts and giveaways (which I shall draft on the back of a cocktail napkin — attempting to unplug whilst on vacation!)
  • Doesn’t this look lovely (albeit not Polar Vortex friendly)? An outdoor Thanksgiving via The Kitchn
  • So helpful for space cadets like myself: Real Simple’s vacation packing checklist

Where is your favorite (or top-of-the-bucket-list) vacation destination?

Today: Staying hydrated on the go with 16 Water.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 16 Water. All opinions are 100% mine.

I know you’ve heard it before, but… you should probably be drinking more water.  And by you, I mean we.  And by we, I mean Americans (but I’m guessing we’re not the only ones).  According to WebMD (AKA the site that hypochondriacs like myself should be banned from visiting), Americans still consume more soft drinks than water.

Stay hydrated on the go with 16 Water and On Tap for Today

When I was pregnant with Grace, our doctor repeatedly stressed the importance of doubling or tripling up on my water consumption.  “If you call the office and say you’re not feeling well,” she said, “a nurse is going to tell you to drink a tall glass of water and then call us back.”  Pregnant ladies are not the only ones who mistake dehydration for other things (hunger, some sort of mysterious universal mood altering force, etc.).   A well-hydrated body performs better.  A well-hydrated body feels better.

Stay hydrated on the go with 16 Water and On Tap for Today

I’m usually pretty good at drinking up while I’m at home or at my desk, but I often fall short when I’m on the go.  In my ongoing quest to get out of my own way when it comes to making healthy decisions, I’ve started stashing a bottle of water in my handbag, in my glove compartment, in Grace’s diaper bag, and frankly, anywhere else with pockets or secret hiding places.  Having a bottle of water waiting in the car for my commute home means I’m less likely to sneak an afternoon coffee, less likely to become an out of control snack monster before dinner, and less likely (…usually) to arrive home cranky and out of sorts.  Good commuting jams help, too.

While I tend to drink from a reusable water bottle during the day, sealed and disposable (by which I mean recyclable, obvi) bottles lend themselves to being stashed for later.  I recently received several bottles of 16 Water to review, straight from Jeju, a volcanic island off the coast of the Korean peninsula.  I was this close to Googling, like, all the words in that last sentence when the package from 16 Water arrived, but I was too busy scrolling through my Twitter feed.  And then this appeared.

And that, folks, is the Law of Social Media Attraction.  Ask and the Twitterverse shall answer.  That pretty place makes for some excellent tasting water (and for those who think all water tastes like water… welp… agree to disagree).

16 Water is naturally purified and filtered through 16 layers of volcanic rock (hence the name) and is newly available in the US… and in my glove compartment.  Interested in stocking up on your own stash? Get your 16 Water on Amazon now.

Visit 16 Water online or like16 Water on Facebook to learn more.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you stay hydrated on the go?

Visit Sponsor's Site

Today: Take 5 minutes and turn your day around.

You know when you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, overtired and overextended… but you’ve just got to slog through it, because you see a moment of reprieve on the horizon?  That was me last week.  I spent the first part of the week in Detroit and the second part of the week consumed by a work event.

Our home looked like a special kind of mess (two parts yet-to-be-unpacked luggage, one part baby bottles, six parts laundry, one part unopened mail, and an aging French bulldog hidden somewhere inside the sofa).  My hair looked like a special kind of mess.  My brain felt like a special kind of mess.

And while it would have likely been easiest to wait for my calendar to clear, I found myself on the morning of one of our biggest work events of the year needing to do something, anything, to calm the frenzy.  All it took was five minutes to turn my day around.

Take 5 minutes and turn your day around: quick tips for heading off the frenzy and infusing more calm and serenity into your day.

Minute one: Spend just 60 seconds moving from room to room, picking up anything that is out of place and has a defined place to land.  We’re not talking about clutter (that’s another topic for another day).  We’re talking about the things that are easy to put away.  For me, this includes Grace’s toys and books, Clark’s toys, a stack of clean laundry, mail that can be recycled and a few pairs of shoes.  Put those items where they belong.

Minutes two and three: Make your bed.  Not only does a made bed instantly make your home look and feel more tidy and serene, it sets you on a better path for the day.  Don’t believe me?  Maybe you’ll believe a Navy SEAL Commander?

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

You can read more of Navy SEAL Commander William McRaven’s 2014 UT Commencement speech here: Business Insider.

Minute four: Write a note (or two, or three) of gratitude on a Post-It.  Leave it where a loved one will find it, or hide it for yourself to find in the future.  Did you know that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness by 25%?  These dudes did the research.  A few words about what your most grateful for, or what you appreciate about your loved ones– especially when you’re experiencing stress– helps bring the good into focus.  Knowing that Nick would be coming home to find these notes of appreciation and acknowledgement made me smile throughout the day.

Minute five: Spend an entire minute just breathing.  Fight the urge to run out the door and onto your next commitment.

It’s incredible what you can fit into five minutes, and how good intentioned acts can turn your entire day around.  You can fit these quick practices in throughout the day, before you head out the door, or whenever you feel stress, anxiety or crankiness rising (around these parts, we call that the Elizabeast).

What else can you do to turn your day around? Here are a few more ideas:(Some are quick, some take a bit more time, some are free, some cost whatever the guy behind you in line felt like spending…)

  • Pay a stranger a compliment (I mean, this works well with people you know, too)
  • Buy coffee for the person in line behind (This is one of my favorite things of all time… although I will admit, part of me does panic a tiny bit when I think, What if the police officer behind me is picking up lattes and donut holes for the entire precinct?  And then I think, Won’t it be fun when I suddenly become impossibly rich and things like this won’t matter?)
  • Make an iPhone photo album of your favorite photos.  Scroll through them over and over until you feel less beastly.
  • Speaking of iPhones: Make an actual phone call.  No texting.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • November 13 is World Kindness Day!  Boston friends: Stop by South Station between 7-9 AM to celebrate with KIND, grab a flower from their flower wall and pass it on to someone else – a friend, loved one, teacher, coworker or even stranger. Throughout the day, KIND will also surprise people in the community who embody kindness, including firefighters and other local heroes.
  • Love this: Awesome idioms from around the world via A Cup of Jo
  • Unpacking… so we can pack for something and somewhere fun!

How do you turn a frenzied day around?

Today: Our 2nd Anniversary.

What a wild, wonderful two years it has been!

Photo (c) Henry Photographers, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Nick. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you celebrating this week?