Archive | December, 2010

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Buddha Bag

26 Dec

Looking for a way to spend that holiday gift cash?

An adorable purse from Big Buddha is a perfect way to treat yourself for making it through the holiday season with your sanity intact.

After traveling in Thailand between high school and college, Big Buddha founder Jeremy Bassan was inspired to create a line of vegan handbags. He started out selling the purses and bags from his college dorm room, and Bassan’s handbags are now featured in the likes of O Magazine, Style and Lucky.

Big Buddha was acquired by Steve Madden in February 2010–the companies are teaming up to expand the brand into new stores and create a unique vegan shoe line.

Here are some of our favorites:

‘Tis the Season for Chocolate

21 Dec

Okay, every season is the season for chocolate. But this is the season for lots and lots of chocolate (no guilt allowed!).

If you’re going to feast on chocolate, and you ought to, I suggest you opt for Marcie Blaine Artisinal Chocolates. Handcrafted and exquisite, these chocolates are a decadent treat perfect for any cocoa-lover.

Marcie Blaine chocolates feature worldy flavors (inspired by Mexican, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine), though the chocolates call Philadelphia home. Chef and entrepreneur Marcie Blaine Turney uses local, organic ingredients from nearby Lancaster County in her chocolate creations. And Turney’s talent doesn’t stop at chocolate. She and Valerie Sofran own six shops and restaurants on 13th Street in Philadelphia, including Verde boutique, home to the Marcie Blane chocolate kitchen.

Year-round flavors include the spicy Hot Lolita (with canela and ancho chile), Mango Lassi, Smoked Bacon, and Mexian Mole. The team has also crafted four enticing holiday flavors for 2010: Cranberry Bliss, Spiked Eggnog, Ginger… Snap!, and Peppermint Crunch. If those Christmasy concoctions don’t put you in the holiday spirit, you might just be destined to be a Grinch for eternity!

While all these sassy flavors and designs offer a wow-factor, the Marcie Blaine chocolates closest to my heart are the four Philadelphia Series delights. Gorgeous designs for Love Park, Liberty Bell, Soft Pretzel, and Philly Skyline chocolates make me homesick for the City of Brotherly Love. The Soft Pretzel chocolate features peanut butter and pretzel ganache. It takes a genius chocolatier to draw such inspiration from a blue-collar street food! And while there’s nothing quite like a dense Philly soft pretzel topped with mustard, Marcie Blaine’s Soft Pretzel is a delicious up-scale version.

If you’re looking for unique textures and flavors, try one of Marcie Blaine’s chocolate barks, such as the chock-full Pub Crawl or the simple Fleur de Sel. Happily, Marcie Blaine delivers all over the world!

Meg’s Mindful Meditation

18 Dec

This week, Meg Zirm provides tips and a mindful meditation practice ideal for easing yourself through the Winter Solstice and upcoming lunar eclipse.

With the annual Winter Solstice falling on the same day as the full moon and lunar eclipse this year, I want to take a look at the traditional rituals of the Winter Solstice and create a practice of mindful meditation for you.

This Tuesday the Winter Solstice will coincide with the total lunar eclipse of the full moon. This is a rare event. The last two total lunar eclipses seen from Alaska were in 2004 and 2007. The next one will occur in 2014. Depending on how clear the skies are this lunar eclipse may be visible and should last more than one hour.

The Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere and notes when the sun is farthest south. It is a time when many feel the darkness of the days in their moods and energy levels, as well as the strain of holiday stressors.

To bring light and warmth back into your being, spend time with those you love, enjoy warm foods, and stay physically active. The lesson is one of self-preservation, preparing for the coming spring and persevering through challenging and stressful times. With the coming New Year, the Winter Solstice is also a time to look within, build inner strength, and renew. 

Eclipses are believed to be a time for great transformation through meditation. The lunar energies are magnified and more focused. Mindful meditation is a type of meditation that involves focusing on your mind in the present moment. To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts and actions in the present, without judging yourself. Allowing a pause in reaction to your thoughts gives you a moment to observe yourself without judgement, and eventually to change your habitual patterns of emotional reaction and behaviors. 

Sample Mindful Meditation Practice:

1. Sit in a chair or on the floor in a quiet and comfortable place. Keep your head, neck and back straight but not stiff.

2. Focus on being in the present moment. Put aside all thoughts of the past and the future.

3. Become aware of your breathing. Focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly expand and contract. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.

4. Watch each thought come and go–be it a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts arise, don’t ignore or suppress them. Simply note them. Remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.

5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to. Do not judge yourself. Simply return to your breathing and remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.

6. As the meditation time comes to a close, make yourself aware of where you are. Sit for a minute or two and then get up gradually.

“Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.”

Meg Zirm teaches Pilates, yoga and ballet fusion classes in New Jersey. A student of yoga and Pilates for nearly 15 years, Meg’s teaching style has grown from her sense of body awareness, love of movement and union of body and mind. Fusing her classical training, knowledge and experience, Meg strives to empower her clients through the freedom and strength of mind-body movement. Contact Meg at mbzirm@gmail.com.

Oh Là Là!

13 Dec

Ever decorate a cookie, take a step back, and think this is a work of art? Well, I bet it was lovely. I also bet it wasn’t nearly the masterpieces Maggie Austin cooks up in her kitchen. And it’s no wonder–Maggie is a graduate of L’art de la Pâtisserie program at the French Pastry School.

Maggie Austin CAKE‘s four new cookie design categories are inspired by art movements: Impressionist, Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, and Botanical. My personal favorites are the Impressionist delights, owing largely to my affinity for impressionist art.

Each and every cookie is hand painted by Maggie herself. Continuing the art trope, these sweet indulgences are also signed and numbered. What an amazing gift for any art enthusiast. She even does custom designs. 

Okay, so at $75 for a set of four, her cookies are über expensive. But just look at them. Wow. I don’t know if I could bring myself to actually eat one of these objets d’art!

Oh, and Maggie isn’t so bad with cakes either…

Are You Breathing Just a Little and Calling it a Life?

12 Dec

It’s a cold, snowy evening where I live. Perfect for poetry. (Even if it’s not cold and snowy where you are, I declare it a perfect night for poetry nonetheless!)

This poem is longer than previous ones I’ve posted, but it’s worth sitting with for a while. Read it and re-read it. Soak it in. Though poetry should speak to us universally, I cannot help but feel that some poems speak to me as a woman. This is undoubtedly one of those poems. And Mary Oliver is undoubtedly one of those poets.

As a woman in her late twenties, this line screams to me from my computer screen: And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away/from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

I wouldn’t be going out on a limb to suggest that the person who would likely chide you for wandering away is yourself. How many of us stay seated at that metaphorical (or perhaps real) desk because of fear? What does fear keep you from doing? For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,/caution and prudence?/Fall in! Fall in!

If you enjoy this piece, check out The Journey–it’s another beauty.

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one’s foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird’s pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night.

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,

and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
     but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what’s coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn’t ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

-Mary Oliver

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