Monthly Archives: December 2010

Oh Happy Place!

I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing holiday season that hopefully includes some time off work. And if you are at your office this week, I hope you are wearing jeans and keeping your Internet browser busy. I won’t judge you if you didn’t even shower.

I’m back in Dallas, but have spent most of my break so far in Ohio visiting JB’s family. Ohio happens to be home to the latest infraction in college football, so there was much discussion (some calm, some not) during our trip about what exactly goes through the minds of these players (and coaches and parents and boosters and…) that gets them in so much trouble when they otherwise have so much to gain. I found myself getting downright angry about all of it and my feelings were snowballing — I couldn’t even get through a simple episode of “Two and a Half Men” with the family without espousing on the injustice of Charlie Sheen making millions despite his off-camera alleged criminal activity.

My plan was to channel these feelings into my next blog post because after all, I can’t think of an entity that needs balance restoration more than the college athletics system, but as I listened to myself rant and rave, I wondered why anyone would want to hear, much less read, this negativity.

So I as I sat here thinking about a happier topic, I looked around and realized I was in it — my Happy Place! I think everyone should have a happy place that you can go to physically and, if nothing else, mentally. We need surroundings that restore our sense of calm and equilibrium. We all have different needs in this area, but I want to share a little about my own, Cafe Brazil.

It’s just a local chain of restaurants in Dallas, nothing fancy — a coffee house, but so much more. Let me share a little bit of what my senses are experiencing right now to get me to this feeling of peace and happiness:

Sight: I’m at a location that mixes North Dallas hipsters (um yes, there are some!) with families with professionals. People eating alone, people at a table of 10. A woman is working on her laptop, a man is reading some papers, and others are just chatting. You can make this place whatever you need it to be. I like coming with friends or alone, like today, to read and write.

Taste: Oh, the taste! Like I said, it’s definitely more than a coffee house. The food here ranges from breakfast to dinner, from pancakes to crepes to salads. Since I basically ate cookies and pasta for five days straight in Ohio, I opted for one of their healthy options today, the Wine Country Salad — a delicious mix of greens, apples, strawberries, grilled chicken, and walnuts. My picture below doesn’t do it justice.

Smell: It’s more than a coffee house, but my favorite thing about Cafe Brazil remains the coffee and it’s aroma fills the air. They have a self-serve, bottomless coffee bar with different flavors of java, including my flavor of choice below. I love being able to just get up and refill my mug; it’s that comforting feeling of being at home (with no clean-up required).

Sound: Today the music has been mostly 80’s rock, including some “Sweet Child of Mine.” Enough said.

Touch: Well, if my hand touches something in the restroom here, I don’t freak out. That’s pretty much a bare minimum for a happy place.

The Intangibles: The biggest reason that Cafe Brazil is my happy place is just the vibe I feel when I’m here. I feel like I’m in Austin. I feel independent and empowered as I sit and eat and write by myself — yet being surrounded by others doing the same. I feel balanced.

I’m not anti-corporate by any means. I can, and do, all of these things at Starbucks too (well, except the bottomless coffee — yeah right!). But for me, Cafe Brazil is all I need. In 2011, I am committing myself to spending more time in my happy place. I mean, as long as they don’t start airing college sports, why wouldn’t I?

So… what is your happy place? What makes it so happy for you?

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Why I Love: Love Actually

I’m a pop culture buff. I have a friend who produces music and he has always said that if I like a song, then it’s probably not very good, but it would sell. And conversely, if I don’t care for it, then it’s likely that it is musically a good song, but the masses won’t appreciate it.  I’m pretty sure this is an insult, but hey, it’s true.

When life is hectic and out of control, my favorite music, movies and TV shows help me zone out and restore some balance. So to honor my love of all things pop, I will periodically write about what I learn from this mainstream media. For my initial post on this topic, and in the spirit of the holiday season, I’ve chosen the movie Love Actually.

I could have chosen a more profound and traditional holiday movie such as It’s a Wonderful Life with its reflective message of family and gratitude and such, but I prefer Hugh Grant as Prime Minister dancing to The Pointer Sisters.  And from the many Facebook status updates from friends referencing the movie, I don’t think I’m alone! What is it about this movie that we all relate to so much that keeps us coming back for more winter after winter? Here are my thoughts:

1.  The beautiful musical score and the delicious British (and Irish — Liam Neeson, purrrrr!) accents. Ok, just wanted to get that one out of the way.

2.  This movie isn’t really all about love, but about the choices we make when it comes to relationships and life. In our search for balance, we all choose where we want to put our weight. The most heartbreaking scene for me is when Laura Linney’s Sarah character finally gets to make out with her longtime crush, her sexy colleague Karl. But she ends it to go see her mentally ill brother in the hospital. I always hope this scene will end differently — please Sarah, he’ll be okay for one night!! YOU ARE MAKING OUT WITH KARL! But she never listens  to me and she makes her choice. We all do the same thing every day and ultimately, we have a lot more control over the things that happen to us than we give ourselves credit (or responsibility) for.

3.  My favorite scene is when the Mark character confesses his love for Keira Knightley’s Juliet at her doorstep with his poster board messages.

It’s not his confession that I find so endearing because I am actually always a little conflicted about it — dude, that’s your best friend’s WIFE! But rather, I love when he’s done and she gives him a little kiss, and he says to himself, “Enough. Enough now.” Awww… closure! I’m not sure closure really exists, but whenever that moment happens where you feel like you are ready to move on (from whatever it was that was holding you back), it sure is nice!

4.  Above all, Love Actually always reminds me that Christmas IS all around us. Just kidding — if you know the movie, that song is now forever in your head. You’re welcome! But seriously, as Colin Firth’s Uncle Jamie character and the Aurelia character remind us, change actually is all around us and can happen very unexpectedly — whether it be love, jobs, loss, etc. This constant inconsistency, for me, is what motivates me and stresses me out all at the same time. All the more reason why I need mindless entertainment to keep me going!

If you’re on the Love Actually bandwagon, what is your favorite scene or lesson from the movie? If not, what is your favorite pop culture escape? Happy Holidays — come on and let it SNOW!

The Balance Conundrum in South Florida

I barely know how to “point and shoot” (I think that expression is supposed to convey simplicity and quite frankly that offends me), but I thought this blog post would come across better in pictures.

I recently came back from a brief vacation to the South Florida area, specifically two days in Key Largo and two days in Miami Beach. My blog is about finding balance without simplifying, and these two cities — only 70 miles apart — definitely exemplify the polar extremes of leisurely beach town living and hurried city life. True to my nature, I found I longed to be in one when I was in the other! Let’s begin the journey, shall we?

When JB and I travel (or do anything), we like to start with food. This trip was no different. Here, we indulge in the freshly made sticky buns and strawberry shakes at Knaus Berry Farm in Homestead, FL.

We left full of sticky-cinnamony goodness and arrived in Key Largo. Hello simplicity. This is our friends’ back porch on Little Buttonwood Sound. To quote JB, “it doesn’t suck.”

I would continue to enjoy that box of sticky buns and coffee in the coming mornings right at this table below. So far, relishing this life – mornings for me are the time when I welcome simplicity the most.

On our first night in Key Largo, we drove to another key, Islamorada, to enjoy sunset drinks at Lorelai Cabana Bar. I include this because I think it’s pretty telling of the pace of a town when you can show up at a bar at happy hour, easily find a parking space, and get a table (overlooking the water, no less) immediately.  All that was left to do was sit back and enjoy the music. Not too shabby.

The Keys were wonderful and relaxing, but it only took a couple of days for me to start missing the fast-paced city life. I craved seeing more people out and about and the little things like a Starbucks on every corner. So, in the words of Will Smith, welcome to Miami (Beach).

I could feel the difference immediately — goodbye undemanding life, but hello to energy! And diversity! And….. traffic. Oh well. We ate a great cafe on Ocean Drive.

The crowds on a beautiful Sunday afternoon around the Lincoln Road shops – yay for commerce (and dreidels made out of shells)!

And even when you are bringing the heat in South Beach (which we did none of, by the way), you can still find some peace, such as sitting on the rocks watching the cruise ships leave at dusk. Bon Voyage!

And so we said bon voyage to our time in Florida as well. After two days in Miami Beach and then back home to reality, I was nostalgic for my days eating sticky buns overlooking the water with nothing to do, but I know my life will always need the energy and diversity (and even the traffic), so the quest continues for perfect balance.

What do you prefer on vacation — doing nothing or sightseeing? How do we balance the two? And, most importantly, do you call them cinnamon rolls or sticky buns?

Don’t Call It A Comeback (Yet)

In my first post, I wrote about the four goals I had set for myself, one of them being to get serious about eating healthy and exercise. Over the last couple of months, I have been doing alright when it comes to making or trying to make better diet decisions (two bowls of chips at the Mexican restaurant last night notwithstanding), but that whole “physical exertion to burn calories, tone the muscles, strengthen the heart, and clear the mind” thing has been pretty much nonexistent.

Until this week.

I found myself on a treadmill at a real gym (35 minutes). And also back at my favorite gym — my living room. I don’t mind saying it, I love Exercise TV. Perhaps that automatically ages me 20 years, but last year, it rejuvenated — maybe even sparked for the first time — actual enjoyment in exercise.

On Demand exercise is like having a personal trainer in your living room. When left to my own devices to figure out a workout, I do things like, you know, stop. And my physical gym is at work. Which is a university. Which means I share it with university students in the best shape of their lives. Sometimes it’s all just a little much.

I flipped through the Exercise TV programs and here are some ones that I am excited to try, and others that I’m ready to get back to. I like to mix and match:

  • Cardio Strength Interval (21 minutes) – Denise Austin (she’s eerily positive, but it’s eerily effective)
  • Boot Camp Calorie Burn (33 minutes) – Kendall Hogan
  • Cardioke (25 minutes) – Billy Blanks, Jr. (definitely would file this in the “never in front of other people” category, but it’s fun!)
  • Disco Abs (30 minutes) – Cheryl Burke (from Dancing with the Stars)
  • Kendra Wilkinson’s Be a Knockout series (7-10 minutes each) – This one is more about Kendra’s trainer than Kendra, but honestly this former bunny-turned-mother comes off as fairly relatable and a fun training partner.

The biggest self-imposed obstacle for me as it pertains to exercising regularly is making time for it. I won’t ever use the excuse “I don’t have time” because that’s lame, but feeling motivated to make time is my challenge. Hopefully this is the beginning of my full-on exercise comeback. Based on my upcoming holiday events and travels, I’m going to need it.

How do you stay motivated to maintain a regular exercise routine? What are some ways to adjust for busy holiday plans?

Source for photo