Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Adventures in Ecuador

Well, we are already one month into 2016, can you believe it?  I'm feeling extra lucky this year as I've already had an amazing adventure!  My dad moved to Ecuador three years ago & my older brother & I just got back from visiting him for a week.  It was truly magical...come along for a peek at our adventures....

I don't know what's going on with me & foreign countries but for some reason my arrivals have been getting off to a bit of a rough start.  The Paris Metro took my suitcase hostage in October & let's just say I had a "high energy" experience upon my arrival in Ecuador...

My brother & I arrived at the Guayaquil airport at 3:45am, it was pitch black out & raining.  We proceeded out the exit to catch a three hour van ride to Cuenca...it seemed a little shady, like something from the movie Taken but we had been told it was ok to take the vans & hopped in...

Well the van driver turned out to be a complete maniac, we had to go over the mountains so it was three hours of switchbacks at excessive speed, trying to pass every car on the road (many close calls with oncoming traffic), no A/C & all the while he's blaring 80's disco  (I couldn't get that "High Energy" song out of my head for days.)  & to boot, every time he saw a pretty girl he would completely turn his head around to get a look at her!

I was totally nauseous the whole trip- I had to hold my shirt over my mouth to keep from smelling the fumes & told my brother we may have to pull over if I had to toss my cookies.  I was indeed a "greengo" by the time we made it to Cuenca...  

But sure enough the clouds parted, the sun came out in all its glory & I had to keep blinking at the paradise that was before my eyes....
the Tomebamba River & three others wind through Cuenca, they are so tranquil & other-worldly...
me & Dad...
Parque Calderon...
Santuario de la Virgen del Rocio just outside of Cuenca, this was one of my favorite spots (the church is built into the side of a mountain!)...
Something strange & wonderful happened to me in Ecuador.  Have you read the book Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander?  I saw him speak at a near death experience symposium in NYC a few years ago & he gave the most beautiful description of his experience in heaven- he was riding on the wing of a butterfly, looking down at a lush valley with brilliant colors & blooming flowers.  The people of the village were dressed in beautiful, colorful clothes- children were playing, dogs were jumping & birds, hummingbirds & butterflies were flying through the air.  I've had this mental image in my head ever since I heard his description & guess what?  I had never so much as googled Ecuador but right before my eyes was the paradise I was dreaming of!  Ecuador is truly heaven on earth (view from the top of the church).... 
Dad in a field of llamas & sunshine, what more could you want out of life?...
 my first llama ride! :) :)...
 I was so inspired by the embroidery & the gorgeous color palettes the women wear...
  Cathedral in Saraguro....
 Bano del Inca waterfall...
 we couldn't resist a family selfie... 
Shamu Co- amazing Ecuadorian restaurant with a French flair....
My brother & I saw the "Mousse de Coco" (thinking it was chocolate mousse) on the menu & were like, Just give me two of those & a glass of wine & we're all set!  Well to our surprise, this was the "chocolate" mousse- coconut mousse & sorbet with rum liquor inside a coconut shell!  Not what we were expecting but a very pleasant surprise :)....
 beautiful angel in Turi overlooking Cuenca...
 ferocious Ecuadorian wildlife ;)...
delicious al fresco lunch at a friend's house our last day in Cuencafornia ;)...
there is such an abundance of fresh, organic fruits & vegetables, I was in cuisine heaven as well...
I had been dreaming of the paradise that is Ecuador- the only thing is I didn't know it actually existed.   Like I said I hadn't so much as even googled Ecuador before this trip but the my dad & the universe brought me there.  My dad is so happy there, he has a circle of friends that are the most beautiful kindred spirits you could imagine & I feel so blessed to now be part of that circle as well.  Even though I'm in NY a part of me is now connected to Ecuador, my new friends there & the time we shared together.  It was a truly magical gift & I'm already planning my next trip back! :)

photos: me

Thursday, December 31, 2015

How to Achieve Your Dreams in 2016! :)

At year-end over the past few years, I've been choosing a word for the new year.  Something that is meaningful & that I want to make a priority & focus on in the year ahead.

My word for 2015 was "act" & I've refined it a bit for 2016 with "proactive."

We usually get messages from the universe that really hit us hard when we know it's time to make a change & two things recently happened...

I was watching the NYC marathon in November, in awe of the runners & their strength & the perseverance & dedication it took to get them to that day & one of the commentators said, "A goal without a plan is just a wish."  Wow, no beating around the bush there.

Then a friend recommended the book, "The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity."  It's a short read & I can't recommend it enough if you want to have more focus in your day, reach your goals & lead a healthy & balanced life.  Here's a link to the pdf http://www.the5choices.com/5choicesminibook.pdf

One of the main concepts of the book is that you must schedule time in FIRST for your important & meaningful goals & work on a plan to achieve them (be proactive).  Otherwise you will be bogged down all day in reactive mode- answering calls, emails, routine tasks, etc. & will make no progress towards the goals that are truly life changing.  I'll be the first to admit that this is challenging- reactive mode is safe & easy whereas proactive mode can be uncomfortable & confusing.

We also live in an extremely noisy & distracting world, we are constantly bombarded with demands for our attention & we even feed off of it- we get a text or social media alert & our brain says, "Someone is paying attention to MEEE!!  I must respond to that text or see who 'liked' MEEE!!"  Well you can spend your time on these fleeting thrills or you can spend it creating & achieving something truly meaningful for yourself & others.

All we have in this life is limited time so use it very wisely.  I'm not saying social media, texts, etc. aren't fun & a great way to connect but really limit yourself & keep the time spent on them in check.  I can pretty much assure you they are not getting you to your big goals.

My priorities for the new year are my health (mental, physical & spiritual) & being proactive in making my dreams come true.  I'm going to steer my ship to the promised land instead of getting knocked around aimlessly in the waves.  Sure there may be bumps along the way but it's not about perfection, it's about knowing your destination, having a good map & staying on course.

What's a dream that you have for 2016 & what's your plan to make it happen?  Let's turn those dreams into goals into realities! :)

(a crude summary of my plan ;)....
photo: 1


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Believe


Merry Christmas my dear friends!  May you carry the peace, wonder & magic of Christmas in your hearts every day of the year & never, ever forget to BELIEVE....

A few years ago when my nephews were younger they would watch The Polar Express on repeat the whole time they were at my Mom's for Christmas.  Although my brother & sister in law were as happy as clams that the boys were entertained for hours, I honestly found the movie a bit creepy.  The animation is strange & the characters aren't the cutest, in fact they look like zombies.

As my sister & I were browsing through Netflix this year she saw it & turned to me & said, "Oh no, not The Polar Express!" We were kind of traumatized by it.  But......I do have to admit, after probably the twentieth viewing & getting over the creepiness I realized that it has a wonderful message....BELIEVE.

The universal law is to ask, believe & receive. I think most of us have no problem with asking, it's the believing & receiving that we have trouble with.  I was watching Oprah one night & she said, "You don't get the life you WANT, you get the life you BELIEVE."  Shazam.  Yowzer.

That stopped me dead in my tracks.  Well, I was laying on the couch with a glass of wine but you get the idea.  I realized that children have a much easier time believing than adults.  They have open hearts and minds which unfortunately can easily close as they become adults & life takes its toll.  Perhaps it's the adults that need to watch The Polar Express on repeat....

"Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe"

Josh Groban, "Believe", The Polar Express

photo: me

Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Happynings

Whether taking in the grand merriment of a bustling city....
or the cozy festivities of a small country town...
I hope you're reveling in the beauty, warmth & magic of the holiday season :)

photos: me (NYC & Mifflinburg, PA)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." - Eckhart Tolle

This is one of my all time favorite quotes & is so fitting as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

I recently had a profound conversation with a very wise friend.  I was holding on to some negativity from the past & it was time to let it go once & for all.  She said to me, "No one has a right to be angry.  You were given the privilege of life on this planet.  Every breath in this world is a privilege & after that, nothing is a right."

Wow.  It shook me to the core & was so humbling.  I saw how my ego & pain body had hijacked a piece of my happiness for all these years.  As A Course in Miracles says, "Would you rather be right or happy?"  To conquer darkness you must bring in the light & stop the self-inflicted insanity.

Some of this may sound a little harsh- of course we want life to go smoothly & for everyone to treat us with love & respect at all times.  But the reality is each one of us is dealing with our own pain & issues & sometimes we don't treat others with loving kindness.  Don't ever take another's actions personally, they have nothing to do with you & everything to do with them.

You & you alone are responsible for your happiness & the beauty of this is that when it comes from inside it can never be taken away.  No matter what may be going on in your life, the fact that you exist is a miracle & every delicious breath is a reminder to celebrate & give thanks.

Gratitude is truly the key to attracting the life of your dreams & you can read more about its transformative power here.

I am grateful for each & every one of  you & wish you a Thanksgiving full of peace, heart-warming moments with loved ones & lots of fun & laughter!

Love & light,
photo: me (a W. Village townhouse in the Thanksgiving spirit)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Adventures Across the Pond- The City of Light :)

The Eurostar train ride was amazing- beautiful scenery of the English & French countrysides, lunch service with delicious cheese, bread & wine & in 2.5 hours it's, "Bonjour Paris!"

All we had to do was hop on the metro to get to our hotel & we'd be ready to conquer the City of Light...or so we thought...

Let me start with a little back story that will make sense in a minute...I'm petite with a petite stomach & therefore can't drink a lot at a time.  Hence, in London, I had a penchant for ordering half-pints of beer- the perfect size for me & it's not warm by the time I reach the bottom.  Well my sister & her fiance got a kick out of this & took to calling me "half-pint"...

So back to our arrival in Paris...

We put our metro tickets in the slots & proceed through the entrance doors...my sister walks through, her fiance walks through, I walk through, pulling my wheelie suitcase behind me, but then get stopped to a screeching halt as the automatic entrance doors shut on my suitcase.

I start yanking as hard as I can on my suitcase but the doors won't release it.  As I'm staring horrified at the situation my sister comes barreling up behind me yelling, "Out of the way half-pint!"  She grabs the retractable handle on my suitcase, yanks as hard as she can, the handle snaps in half on one side & then comes completely out of my suitcase & she goes flying backward with said retractable (broken) handle in her hand.

I scream & can't stop laughing & in the meantime my suitcase is still stuck in the death grip.  Finally my sister's fiance & another guy had to pry it out, breaking the doors in the process.
I don't know Paris, I know you're super chic & maybe you didn't want to let my wardrobe in but homegirl had to live out of a carry on for a week, cut me some slack!

After starting off with uncontrollable laughter, the trip continued to be some of the most fun & magic I've ever experienced...
strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens on a warm & sunny fall day...
 it was truly heaven on earth & I could have stayed there all day...
 necessary pilgrimage to the Motherland...
I'm on my way Karl!!...
Maje everywhere (which I LOVE)...
I'm old school- no nook or kindle or whatever- I love reading real books- seeing the design, font, turning the pages, underlining, dog-earing.  Only in Paris would you find a book store as precious as this... 
I'd been dreaming of sitting on a quai in the sunshine for a long time... 
 I could hardly believe it was happening!  An absolutely perfect fall day & a moment of transcendence...
mint tea in the garden at the Grand Mosque & then a glimpse of the sunset....
 followed by a champagne toast atop the Centre Pompidou...
I came back changed.  The time with loved ones & the memories & magic of London & Paris are part of my heart now, giving it an extra glow :)     

photos: me

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Adventures Across the Pond :) :)

I was so fortunate to recently head over to Europe with family & friends...the trip was a beautiful example of manifestation as it came out of the blue as a very special gift.  I got the call, said, "YES!!!!" & before I knew it I found myself in London with near & dear ones...
Here's a peak at my adventures....

strolling around Mayfair in the sunshine was blissful....
 I adore this hood', it's kind of like a slightly grander, more polished
West Village...
Grosvenor Square captured my heart.  It's so beautiful & peaceful & they even have a 9/11 memorial...
& the doorways, well, the pictures say it all...
as luck would have it Saatchi Gallery was running an exhibit on Coco Chanel!...
& one of the biggest highlights for me was visiting the motherland that is Alexander McQueen...
& the warrior queen that they do so well...
I was struck by the contrast in London- from light & heavenly....
 to dark & ominous...
 (we even caught a full moon over the Tower of London!)
 now this dark side is way more up my alley...The Fumoir bar at Claridge's...
 the walls look lacquered but they are actually leather which doesn't absorb the smell of smoke... 
this, my friends, is what you wear to The Fumoir... 
I don't smoke but would make an exception to rock this outfit from the Chanel exhibit, cigarette extended from hand in a glamorous holder...

but alas it was time to say cheerio to London & before we knew it we were on the Eurostar headed to the City of Light...Paris up next!

photos: me