Snow Days

In the depth of winter I found that there was in me an invincible summer!

I had visited Utah many times when I was younger, visiting family and eventually when I came over to go to school here.  Whenever I returned to England I always missed the mountains and their beauty.  It was a strange feeling to miss a place and feel so at home in a place that I had never lived.

It’s been over 20 years since I moved here now and even though I miss England I still consider Utah my home…I love summers especially and I do love the beauty of the snow.  I am not a huge fan of cold weather, there is no denying the beauty of the sunshine against the beautiful white mountains and blue skies.  

This weekend I am spending time with my youngest 2 boys up in Midway (a small town about 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City), and as you can see the snow is bringing real beauty here. I took a moment to snap a few pictures of me playing with the snow and acting silly and I have to admit, it felt really good.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day lives, and I know that I have a tendency to be a little too serious sometimes.  So I have to admit, when I allow myself to let it go and I am not the “fun sponge” like my kids have been known to call me, I actually have been known to have a little fun (even when I’m cold).

Don’t be surprised if you actually find some posts and pictures of me over the next few months in full winter gear, sledding and skiing.  I promised Brandon and the boys that I would do a little of each.  In fact, between Christmas and New Year we will be going to our family cabin in Star Valley Wyoming and pretty much all we will be doing is hibernating and a few winter activities.

When it’s a beautiful, sunny winter day, it’s the perfect time to add a little fur to your wardrobe and have fun with it.  I am wearing a cute black fur vest, I added a plum colored beanie and my great Sorel winter/rain booties.  Throw on a pair of faux leather leggings, and cozy winter sweater, your favorite sunnies and voila…the perfect winter look!
You can shop my look and some similar looks by clicking the links below…


The Act of Giving

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm!”

 

Yesterday was a snow day in Salt Lake, it snowed pretty much the entire day, which made Christmas tree shopping last night chilly, but also beautiful.  The boys raced around the lot, hiding, throwing snowballs and having fun.  It was exactly what I needed to fill my cup!

As we have been spending time with our boys this week we have been asking for them to tell us what they each want for Christmas. With only one boy that still believes in Santa we are almost to the point where we don’t need to hide anything anymore, which is kind of sad as well as relief. It seems like I have been doing this for a long time – well, I guess I have because Dalton is 24! It’s so funny that they don’t seem to have a hard time telling us what THEY want, but when it comes to giving gifts themselves it’s a little harder.

It’s a hard thing to teach kids to know that giving is so much more important than receiving gifts – in fact I believe that the only way they truly learn is by watching what we do. I remember there was one Christmas when I was really naughty and I went searching for what my parents had bought me. I was old enough to know better…but still I found the closet that my mum had hidden the gifts. I saw what they had bought and I felt so guilty that it pretty much ruined my Christmas. Since then, I have always loved more giving than receiving. Not to the point where I don’t love getting gifts, I just absolutely LOVE finding unique, meaningful and personal gifts for people and watching their faces when they open the gift.

Christmas can be such a hard time to spend time on things like this, because it becomes a mad frenzy of finding the “right” thing – I swear that toy companies and some other stores only produce a limited amount of things to feed this frenzy and make the season so overwhelming. If you have every been that parent that couldn’t find that ONE THING on your child’s Christmas list because the stores were all sold out, then you know the level of disappointment that comes with it. I remember one year one of the boys wanted a remote controlled car which we bought but what we didn’t realize was that it needed a special battery that it didn’t come with. We were out at Walgreens at 11pm on Christmas eve trying to find one, but of course we couldn’t/. Even though we had bought the gift, the fact that he wasn’t going to be able to play with it until we went to Toys R Us the day after Christmas was enough to cause mass disappointment 🙁

One thing I have really been guilty of is neglecting myself and running around like a crazy person, so when Christmas morning comes and the kids are so excited to get up and open gifts, I am totally exhausted and partly checked out. Seems kind of crazy to do this to myself, especially when Christmas morning is the reward for all the hard work…but it has definitely been done by this girl!

This year I have resolved to get this more organized, but most importantly to take care of myself while I am taking care of others. Any of you guilty of this? You know when the flight attendants tell you to put on YOUR oxygen mask BEFORE helping anyone else…well that applies. In fact, Brandon was talking to a pilot who told him that if you don’t put on the mask first, there is a really good chance that you will pass out and unless someone puts a mask on you, then you’ll probably die. Crazy – I know this is a metaphor, but this goes way beyond self care. It can be so detrimental to our wellbeing to not take care of ourselves because we are too busy taking care of others.

 

 

Over recent years I have become much better at this, and I am able to set boundaries for certain things so that I am not neglecting myself. I started small, just picking one thing that was a “non-negotiable” thing that I was going to do. What I mean by that is, I found one thing that was so important to me, that no matter what, I was going to make sure that I did it. The one thing that I do almost every day is take a relaxing soak in my bath. It probably only takes around 20 minutes, but after those 20 minutes, I feel different. I feel important, I feel loved (by myself) and I am able to tackle so much more. Meditation could be your thing, it could be having lunch with a friend…whatever it is, I promise if you find something and start small, you will enjoy the holidays so much more!

 

You can shop my look (and more) by clicking the links below

 

 


Stress Less for the Holidays

“Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another!”

 

Have you ever noticed that the Holidays are not always a time of relaxation?  That sometimes we over-commit ourselves, that we create unrealistic expectations about how things are going to look or just push ourselves too hard?

I used to end up exhausted and almost depressed after a holiday.  All that went into creating the “perfect” meal, planning, cooking & setting up, seemed to drain me to the point of not wanting to do anything the days following other than sit & read or watch TV.  I know what happened to me, and it’s been a process of overcoming and dealing with it over the years, and now I am at the point where I can actually enjoy my time.

Here’s what I did – I created an image in my mind about how I thought the meal was going to look.  Sometimes even going far enough to contemplate the conversations we would have, the games we would play, the movies we would watch and so on.  As you can imagine, especially when you have a large group of people to have something so orchestrated is impossible – which would leave me frustrated and feeling down.  It’s not something that I did consciously but I had some thoughts and memories from my childhood and beyond that I wanted to recreate.  The problem with that is that my brain was making those memories look far more amazing than they probably were, and certainly more amazing than it was going to be possible for me to force people to recreate.

Do you ever find yourself trying to control things to the point of creating such unrealistic expectations that no matter what happens because it doesn’t look exactly right, you feel defeated because it’s not perfect?  Saying this out loud and writing it today makes me even more aware how ridiculous it is to do this, but that doesn’t mean that while it was happening it didn’t feel 100% real.

I have used various techniques to put me in touch with my body and what I am feeling, and some work better than others.  I wanted to share one with you today that I have found works pretty well for me:

Name your feelings

Close your eyes.  Let your mind wander into the different parts of your body and check in to see how it feels right now.  What thoughts are going on in your head?  Observe, don’t analyze.  When you are connected to how your body feels, ask yourself:  what is this feeling called?
Observe the feeling in peace and name it.  You can also ask yourself if there is something causing that feeling.
By recognizing and naming your feelings you will start to feel ease from the lump of stress you might have had in your body.  

According to the Mayo clinic, stress is the Number one cause of cancer in the US today – and if we subject ourselves to levels of stress during times when things are meant to be spent appreciating what we’re grateful for, then it kind of defeats the purpose.

I am planning on making a lovely meal for my family, spending time and doing “whatever we feel like” rather than trying to control the entire weekend.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  What do you have planned?

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Enjoy Christmas

“In order to love who you are, you can’t hate the experiences that shaped you!”

 

One of the biggest problems with Christmas or the Holidays is that it causes major stress, and we end up just rushing blindly trying to accomplish way too many things, that by the time Christmas day comes, we are frazzled and not enjoying ourselves.

 

I remember when I moved over to the U.S. from England and celebrated my first Christmas here, I loved all the lovely lights, decorations, trees and how much everyone seemed to get into the spirit.  We hardly ever had homes decorated with lights outside and not everyone even put up a tree.  What I realized is that Christmas has become very commercial and we don’t pause to enjoy the opportunity our families and the true meaning of Christmas.  Even if you are not a religious person, having a holiday that is centered around “giving” rather than “receiving” is something I love to teach my children about.  We celebrate Boxing Day which is the day after Christmas and it is a National Holiday in England.  It originated when the Noble class would box up their unwanted things and deliver them to the poor.  Now it is just another reason to have a day off and spend time with friends and family, and I am sure there are a lot of people that are not even sure of the origin.

 

So, when Christmas Day was over on my first year here, and the next day everyone went back to work and I even saw some Christmas trees discarded or put away.  It seemed like such an anti-climax and I was very disappointed.  It was at that moment that I decided I was going to continue some traditions with my family and focus on “giving” and spending time together.

 

Even if you don’t have traditions that give you an extra day off, or you are running around crazily trying to finish up some last minute shopping, planning meals, or travel…I have always found that if I just pause and take a small amount of time to contemplate what I have in my life that I am grateful for, it always makes Christmas that much more satisfying for me.  It allows me to focus on feeling good feelings and let in love, and gratitude.

 

If you take the time to relax a little more and enjoy some Christmas spirit, I am sure you will enjoy the Holiday season so much more and not feel like it went by too quickly or that it was very under-whelming.

Most importantly, as you head into 2018 don’t look back and dwell on things you can’t change, only look forward to the great things you want to accomplish!

 

Happy Christmas or however you welcome in the season…

Michelle
XOXO

 

Top 5 Ways to Avoid Over Indulgence during the Holidays

 

“What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while!”

 

The holidays are filled with cheer but they are also filled with rich foods, chocolate, candy, treats, and very often some cocktails or alcohol.  So how do you make sure that all the hard work you put into keeping your body trim and healthy this year isn’t lost in just a few weeks.

 

Long walks and runs outside are kind of hard in the winter here in Utah, the cold is bitter and the inversion makes it unhealthy to breath too much of that air.  Exercise requires a lot of commitment and with the “to do” lists that seem to get longer every day, it is so hard that sometimes it gets put off or just missed. 

 

Good chocolate is one of my weaknesses, and it seems like “just one” always leads to another!  Salads don’t seem as appealing and seem to be replaced with more warm dishes like soups, chilli, and baked potatoes, all of which are much more substantial and have a higher caloric value.

 

 

So how do you make sure that by the time the holidays are over, you are not going to roll into the New Year?  Here are some tactics that I use, and they have always worked for me…

  1. Don’t tell yourself you can’t have a treat, but rather ration how many you have.  If you tell yourself you can’t or that you can only have carrots, or some alternative that isn’t anywhere near as good, you will rebel against yourself and end up eating more than if you let yourself have one or two!
  2. Want a dessert?  Go for it, but again ration how much you have.  Portion control has always been something that I have exercised.  I like to try lots of different things, and always make sure that I balance my meals with the right amount of vegetables, protein, fats and carbs (I don’t ever avoid carbs because I need them for energy).
  3. Allow yourself one or two “cheat days” each week, that way you don’t have to feel guilty or bad about anything you are eating.
  4. Dedicate 20 minutes every other day even if it is just at home to do a few exercises like lunges, squats, crunches, and curls.  I even do a few each night while I am waiting for my bath or while I am watching my latest DVR TV show.
  5. Drink a fresh squeezed veggie drink at least once a week, to balance out the not so good stuff you may have eaten or drunk all week.

 

The holidays should be a fun time and beating yourself up or telling yourself NO is not going to make it enjoyable!  If you are not creating long term bad habits it’s really not going to hurt you just for a few weeks, but it is definitely still better to be in control.  Enjoy your holidays and remember, moderation is key!

 

Happy Holidays…

 

Holiday Stress Relief Tips

 

“Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another!”

As you can imagine with all that is going on during the holidays our stress level can multiply sometimes to the point that it can cause depression and stress…

There is always going to be an overwhelming list of things to accomplish, and if you have kids that list seems to grow even more.  Things we can’t control are sometimes going to take over our thoughts and cause us to feel like we are like a hamster running on a wheel.  I have always prided myself in being organized, but during the holiday season sometimes all the best intentions can make no difference. Finding the “perfect” gift, planning meals, parties and get-together’s can start to build on each other to the point of us suddenly having a mountain to climb!

 

 

Finding ways to handle stress and take some things in your stride are some of the ways to achieve a more peaceful and calm holiday season…here are some others to help you focus on the good things about the season rather than all the overwhelming things we need to do:

  1. Be realistic.  It’s OK if the holidays aren’t “perfect” or the same as they were last year.  I don’t know about you but my family is in an entirely different place and a lot of things have happened that will make our Christmas different (not worse) than last year.  I have a son that has his own apartment now, and our home is different, but that’s OK!  The key here is to not compare or create expectations about how you think something should look.  Circumstances change, your family is not the same as anyone else’s, and creating a vision in your head about how something should be is only going to cause you to feel disappointment because things NEVER go exactly as we would like them to – in fact, sometimes different than you imagined can be better!
  2. Stick to a budget.  This is one we implemented this year, mainly because after looking back we had created too much entitlement, and wanted to refocus our family’s thoughts onto what is really important – and that is people not stuff!  Christmas has become far too commercial, and it’s almost a competition with yourself to outdo what you did the previous year.  We realized that it wasn’t necessary to get carried away when we saw some gifts that our kids had been given that were still unopened in the basement and their lives were still going just as smoothly without those things! Giving gifts can be a way to show love and appreciation, but it’s not the only way we can show it.
    Spending time together is also an amazing way to show and be shown love and appreciation.
  3. Learn to say no.  This is a big one for me, I always like to do as many things as I can with friends and family.  Sometimes it just isn’t feasible because schedules conflict and the whole point is to not overwhelm yourself but to enjoy people’s company and time.  It can also be said for doing things for people as well…I had a phone call from my son yesterday wanting me to help him make some food items so he could sell them to raise money for his upcoming Humanitarian trip.  Of course I agreed, and ended up making these last night right before bed, which left me feeling a little flustered and tired.  I made sure he was helping, but it was something I really didn’t have the energy to do last night. What I should have done instead was either give him instructions on how to make them, or tell him to wait until I had more energy.  I felt sucked in to the situation and wanted to help him, so didn’t feel like I could say no.  I am sure you have all experienced similar situations, and the hard part is to know when and how to say no.  In order for us to serve anyone, we have to be able to serve ourselves, and that is by knowing not to overwhelm ourselves with too many things to do!
  4. Plan ahead.  We are definitely nearing the home stretch of this holiday season so this one is actually going to become harder.  The stores are going to become busier and we are going to have less and less time to plan things.  However, if you can set aside a certain time and day to do things, you will not feel like you are scrambling to find last minute gifts or make last minute treats.  I don’t do so well if I am not organized, so this is one of the most important ones for me.  I like to have gifts bought and wrapped, neighbor gifts delivered, and food purchased so that I can make sure I am not wasting my time worrying about things I have not done yet.  Write lists, put things on your calendar and stick as closely as you can to them to minimize any overwhelm.
  5. Take some time.  No matter who you are, everyone needs a little time to recuperate, time is of the essence, so taking a few minutes to relax and decompress is very important.  Some of my favorite ways to relax are:  taking a bath, reading, taking the dog for a walk, and getting a pedicure or massage.  Just one of these small things could be the difference between waking up on Christmas morning frazzled or raring to go.  I always tell my boys (including Brandon) that their hugs give me energy, so I make them hug me for 20 seconds…as they do this, my muscles relax, my shoulders are no longer hunched and my frown fades.  I can physically feel that transfer of energy to me, and sometimes that is all it takes.

 

The Mayo Clinic has put out research about stress and the holidays and it is their recommendation that we take care of ourselves, because if we don’t, then we are no use to anyone else.

 

Take that time for YOU…

 

What if you just went into the holidays with no expectations and had an open mind…what could that do?

 

I don’t know about you, but this year, I am focused on my family, our love and feeling gratitude for all that I have!

 

 


Holiday Styling with Satin

“They can imitate your style but they can’t imitate your creativity!”

 

Following on from my previous post “Mixing Fabrics“…there are some that are must haves for Holiday parties or events.  You know, those fabrics that just call to you and as soon as you put them on you know you look good.

 

One of those fabrics is satin…it is such a feminine fabric, it is versatile and finally it is just stunning.  You may notice the booties in this post as being Pink, but the fact that they are satin makes them even more amazing.  The disco pants are also satin and because they are so stretchy they are very flattering – which is perfect for a Holiday party or event.  I see a lot of really cute dresses around this time of year, and that seems to be what everyone likes to wear for parties, but I like to change things up and put my own stamp on my outfit.  You can just as stunning in a great satin pant outfit as you can wearing a dress.

 

If you are not sure about disco pants like these because they seem a little too form fitting or edgy, then you can add a feminine top or sweater, like the ruffle one I am wearing, or if you want something a little longer add a kimono (see link below) with a simple top underneath.  Just because all the stores are pushing “Holiday dresses” doesn’t mean that is your only choice.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you shouldn’t wear one, just try some other options as well. 🙂

 

One of the biggest challenges when shopping for a specific fabric or color is knowing where to look, or if you buy online, which stores have great quality clothing.  With that being said, I have put some of my top satin styles and colors below and the great news is that you still have plenty of time to order before Christmas!

 

 


What does Halloween mean to you?

“You’re a parent, it’s your circus, those are your monkeys!”

I have never been a big Halloween costume wearer, in fact I have always kind of thought of Halloween as something I do for my kids.  Yes, I know that may make me the equivalent of Ebeneezer Scrooge at Christmas, but it’s not my favorite holiday.

We have never been big adult party goers, and maybe if we had been I might get into it a little more.  This morning I did wake up and threw on a pair of “Halloweenesque” tights and a black dress, which I consider a win!

As Brandon and I sat at the Halloween parade this morning we realized that we really only have 1 more year of elementary school parades and it makes me kind of sad.  Yes, I know I’m getting older but a small part of me wants to immortalize my kids at their best ages so I can keep enjoying this stuff.  They can sometimes be tedious but I know in 2 years I’m not going to know what to do with myself…

Halloween will always be my kids day to me, thank goodness I have lots of memories and pictures to remember them as they were small enough to need me to take them Trick or Treating!  It is easy as you’re a young parent, especially when you have multiple kids, to wish away time and say “I can’t wait until they’re old enough for…” – I don’t do that anymore.  Maybe it’s because I am almost to the point of my kids not needing me at all, and while I welcome their independence, I am also a little sad that a kiss from mum or a hug doesn’t have the effect it used to (that is if I can even get a kiss).

This halloween I commit to not wish away the time but rather feel blessed that I can go Trick or Treating and spend time with my youngest.  What will your Halloween look like?

 

12 Years is a Long Time!

80 Turncroft Lane – where my Grandad lived 🙂

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet!!”

You may or may not know that I grew up in England, I still have an English accent and that I love just about everything about that time…except the rain!  But, what you may not know is that I haven’t actually been back there for 12 years.  I guess raising children, working and my life in the States has adjusted my priorities…and since all my family is over here with me now, I guess I haven’t felt the urgency to travel back. At least until last year when I flew to New York to go and meet two amazing friends for a long weekend. Since then I have been feeling an “itch” to go back there and spend a little time…

Last week I took a trip down memory lane and traveled to Manchester Airport, and back to Preston (my home town).

Preston Town Center – Market Street  

 

For me, the trip was a chance to recharge my batteries (I was flying solo, and while I missed all my family, I know for sure that I needed this time for ME)…to visit friends, to relax, to shop, to eat some of the things I have really been missing, including some things that are really not good for me but I have to see if they are what I remember,  and finally, I had the amazing privilege to go and spread some of my Grandad’s ashes near his house in Stockport…

Across from 80 Turncroft Lane – where my Grandad used to watch the squirrels is where I spread his ashes

 

Have you ever got busy living your life that before you knew it had been 10+ years and you have no idea where the time went?  For my family it has always been important for us to travel, but I guess I had not realized that I had missed England as much as I have!  One of the most important lessons I have learned by this realization is that sometimes we need to sit or just be calm in order to recognize that we NEED to do certain things for ourselves.

Sharoe Green Hospital – where Dalton was born

 

My oldest son, Dalton, was born there, so I went to take a picture for him of the hospital where he was born (even though it’s closed down now).  One thing I definitely miss about England is the amazing architecture and history that we just don’t have here.  The buildings are amazing and definitely photograph worthy.

Manchester City Center – my view from outside Zara

 

As you probably all already know, one of my favorite things to do is shopping…I love finding unique things that I know will stand out, and of course I love a deal.  We shopped all around Preston, at Cheshire Oaks (an outlet Mall) and in Manchester.  I have always loved Manchester which is the closest large city to Preston because they have all the large retail stores, as well as designer stores and fabulous food.  We ate at a West Indian place in the Arndale Shopping center and the food was amazing.  I did find that a lot of what I was craving was as good as I remember, so perhaps it’s a good thing I am far away from the fish and chips that I had from the Happy Haddock, and also the 99 ice cream cone I had to get from the ice cream truck (for those of you that don’t know a 99 is an ice cream cone with a flake and raspberry sauce).

I had the most amazing time spending it with friends and enjoying the nostalgia that came from visiting some of my old haunts – I hope you enjoy some of the pictures in this post…

If you’re planning a trip over to England yourself, you are more than welcome to hit me up with some questions you might have or suggestions.  It is an amazing place and there are many, many things to do, especially if you travel to the large cities!

Winter Cranberry

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams – live the life you have imagined!”

Today’s outfit is one that I feel is a perfect color for my skin tone.  We all have colors that work really well for us – I absolutely love all colors that are derived from Red…which include Orange, Cranberry, Orange or Warm Red and Cool Red.  While I love wearing Blacks, Greys and White it is also fabulous when you add a little color to spice it up!

I always love to coordinate my makeup and specifically lipstick with my outfit – unless I am wearing more muted colors, and then I add a little more color on the lips (just to keep it interesting).

Take advantage of all the colors available during this holiday season and add a little spice to your closet – whether that is by using jewelry, purses, scarves or even shoes – whatever direction you choose, just have fun with it!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

XOXOXO