24 April 2015

Love Announcements


Hello friends!

I hope the weekend has something wonderful in store for you!

On our end, I can't even believe I get to write this...but...

Tomorrow we are headed to The Galapagos!

We will soon celebrate our 5th Anniversary and it feels like a reason to do something special. The thought of going there feels so magical and exotic. Pinch me now. We are even meeting up with a dear friend from NYC, which will be so lovely. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE TORTOISES (apparently the size of Smart Cars)! AND BLUE FOOTED BOOBIES! AND BABY SEA LIONS! (A guest from the last retreat went to the Galapagos and she said the younger sea lions will play and flip and spin with you in the water!) Gosh. Seeing the animals excites me the most. We'll be doing a catamaran trip through the islands. And also staying at some properties on land. Pictures will be coming soon! 

Also, I just got my hair cut and colored here in Ecuador. My worst fears came true. The cut actually was passable (though not that great). But the color? Oh my!! I walked out with yellowish white tiger stripes. It is so, so bad. You can see a photo here. I pretty much feel humiliated. Tonight we will go see the Russian Royal Ballet perform here in Cuenca and I'm trying to figure out how I can wear a hat. And of course I can't wait to get photographed with this new 'do all over the Galapagos. :) Oh, hair. Of course this is my own doing. I'm thinking the wisest thing going forward will be to give up highlights altogether.

Today, a few Love Announcements:

-One guest is bringing her father to one of our retreats. Another (a retreat alum) is wanting to bring her mother. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! Such a perfect gift. We can't wait to have such a meaningful life experience with everyone.

-The Great Saunter in Manhattan is taking place May 2. This is a group walk all the way around Manhattan. I totally want to do this someday. You may know how I love to walk.  :)

-This could be one of the COOLEST THINGS TO EVER HAPPEN (not really, of course, but...): Cheap, Danish design is coming to America! haha. Due to the recommendation of Brittany Watson Jepsen, we absolutely fell in love with this store, Tiger, while we were in Copenhagen. (Thanks to reader, Sally, for sharing this tip. She clearly knows my weakness for Danish design!)


-Danny made a ton of fruit leather for us to take to the Galapagos. We absolute LOVE our Excalibur dehydrator (Danny's parents brought it from the States when they visited us.) He used this recipe by GOOP and it was pretty much the easiest thing ever. He made strawberry, mango, pineapple, banana/lime, passion fruit, and papaya. And...his own invention, he added 2 Tablespoons of CHIA SEED to each batch. It adds a bit more fiber and nutrients, plus gives it a nice texture. Can't recommend it enough. It's like a dehydrated smoothie that you can take on the road.


-Reading is something I have hardly made time for - for years (sadly). So I started something new and it's totally working!!! I no longer take my phone into my bedroom - so there is no screen time before bed or after I wake. Instead, each morning, my plan is to reach for a book and read 1 or 2 chapters before I jump into the day. BEST THING EVER! It's so fun to anticipate this ritual. I'm loving it and flying through a book. Somehow reaching for my phone the moment I woke up never felt right to me. 

-Such an interesting article: Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes.

-This movie trailer for NOBLE looks so good. It comes out in May. Thanks, Lisa.



Happy Weekend everybody!

Much love,

Mara

Event registration is open NOW for our U.S. Tour and Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador! $100 off the U.S. Tour through May 1st with code: LOVE2015. Also see here for special Couples/Friends Pricing. And don't miss the F.A.Q.

23 April 2015

Honeymoon Tips


Cheers and bubbly and flowers and wedding cake! It's wedding season! So freaking fun. I love weddings so much. And, of course, honeymoons are a blast.

We have had some requests for honeymoon tips...so I put together this list. Hopefully you'll find something worthwhile here! (And I hope you all will help us out in the comments, too.)

HONEYMOON TIPS:

1. Plan a surprise for your new spouse! 
For example, think of your spouse's interests and arrange something fun. Set up a cooking lesson with the chef. Have Manhattan Fruitier deliver some gourmet fruit. Arrange for a meal at a special place. Book an event or special concert. Have a package delivered to the hotel (or even each day of your stay - even board games or books or favorite treats). Book a dinner for two on the beach. Arrange for a picnic basket to be prepared for the beach or a hike. I am sure the concierge at the hotel can provide ideas and help you arrange something.



2. Buy (or make) a memorable souvenir. 
Think of what is special in the region. Maybe a special rug or piece of pottery or a piece of artwork from a local gallery. Maybe a certain kind of jewelry. Do some research in advance to find out what artisans are in the area as otherwise you may just see tourist traps. You could also find something very small and inexpensive, too, like a coffee table book or even a shell or rock collection. You can even visit some local thrift stores (I love doing this while traveling!) Or perhaps you could find a workshop (like VT glassblowing, for example!) where you could actually make something. I just love the idea of bringing home a memento that you plan to keep.



3. Create a custom scent for the trip.
There are shops that can create custom perfumes for you use essential oils (like Le Labo or Enfleurage in Manhattan) or you could create your own. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a custom scent or massage oil for your honeymoon? Ylang Ylang, Lavender, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Rose, Jasmine, and Patchouli might be nice options.





4. See if you can learn how to make a new dish from your trip.
If there's a dish you LOVE - take photos. Ask the chef for ingredients, recipes, or tips. Try to perfect the dish when you get home and let it be a romantic meal you have on special occasions. It was on our honeymoon that Danny's desire to learn to make salsa and "street tacos" began. :) We also had ceviche on our honeymoon and now that is one of our special dishes.





5. Plan some great down time. 
One suggestion: Bring a TV series to watch! We totally started watching Lost on our honeymoon and it was so, so fun (and one more reason to cuddle!)



6. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset together.
Ask the hotel where the BEST place to view the sunrise and sunset would be. Then go there. Maybe it would involve getting up super early and going on a little hike. Or heading to the rooftop or a certain area town. But it will for sure be a fun memory!



7. Find a book that you both want to read and bring two copies. 
I love doing this with Danny. It's time spent alone, but also time spent together as you then get to discuss the book as you go along. We both read this book on our honeymoon and it remains one of our favorite books.



8. Visit the local grocery store to stock up on snacks for your room.
Our friends actually take their rental car to the nearest Costco while on vacation so they can buy a flat of water, snorkeling or outdoor gear, and snacks. On our honeymoon in Mexico, we looooved shopping at the grocery store as they had LOADS of all our favorite ingredients [avocados, chiles, fresh tortillas, fresh salsas, beans, Mexican spices, dulce de membrillo (quince)].



9. Take Some Pure Beeswax Candles.
I'm hearing these are perhaps the safest kinds of candles to use (it turns out most candles contain lead, chemicals, and carcinogens). Here's a possible beeswax shop. Or this highly rated shop on Etsy.



10. Travel by Train
Unless you are going a very far distance, consider traveling by train. Train travel can be so romantic and roomy and full of great conversation! It's a nice thing to do when you aren't in a huge rush. (We'll be traveling by train again from NYC to Vermont for our retreat there. I am soooo excited for that part.)



11. Meditate Together.
If you're into this - I think it's an amazing way to start of a marriage. Perhaps you could go do it in a beautiful spot. Perhaps you could even visualize the kind of person or couple you plan to be.

12. Constantly ask people to take pictures for you. :)
It's something we don't do often enough. On your honeymoon, just do it!



13. Do not take your wedding ring - & get ring insurance.
If you have a fancy ring, I would recommend leaving it at home when you travel. Take that from someone who had her ring stolen on her honeymoon (yep). Though if you do take it, make sure that you have jewelry insurance! It's usually very inexpensive to add to your plan and it's totally worth it.

And please do share your ideas in the comments - I'm sure there are so many good ones! And...where would your dream honeymoon (or 2nd honeymoon) be? Would you want to repeat your first honeymoon?? :)

-----------

Event registration is open NOW for our U.S. Tour and Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador! $100 off the U.S. Tour through May 1st with code: LOVE2015. Also see here for special Couples/Friends Pricing. And don't miss the F.A.Q.

P.S. Our 13 Best Travel Tips.

21 April 2015

A Dog About Love


(from Danny)

Okay, at least once a day Mara and I remark to each other how smitten we are with our adorable little Sila, and how it's hard imagining what life was like before her. All you pet lovers, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

How do these little creatures evoke so much connection out of us, from day one? It's like she knows exactly how to tug on our heart strings with her loving looks, cooing sounds, occasional whines, and constant snuggles.


Well, according to a recent study reported in the NYT (dog-lovers, go read it!), it turns out she DOES know exactly how to tug on our heart strings. It begins with a dog's gaze. Dogs that gaze at their owners for extended periods of time have elevated levels of oxytocin...the same hormone produced to create bonding between mother and child during birth and breastfeeding, and between couples during intimacy.

According to the researchers, Sila's loving gazing creates an oxytocin chain reaction as we respond by returning eye contact, reaching out in affection, cooing right back, and cuddling to her (and our) heart's content. It's an oxytocin feedback loop that results in happy dogs and owners all over the world.


I'm not sure I needed a study to tell me that having a dog in my life is a good thing and results in deeper bonding, but it sure was fun to read about. Now, if you don't mind, I have a little friend insisting I end this post and start giving belly rubs.

How does your buddy show love or get your attention? Anybody out there like Mara was? She was totally surprised by the power of the connection between dog and human.

Event registration is open NOW for our U.S. Tour and Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador! $100 off the U.S. Tour through May 1st with code: LOVE2015. Also see here for special Couples/Friends Pricing. And don't miss the F.A.Q.

20 April 2015

Things That Worry Me


Not sure if you guys read Design Sponge. I really quite enjoy Grace's essays!

Maybe you can tell I'm an essay kind of a gal around here. :)

Grace recently wrote a post called, "Things That Scare Me" - a post in response to a blogging movement that happened 3 years ago called, "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You." Bloggers in mass were writing posts and revealing the things they were afraid to say. One by one, bloggers were removing the prettiness of perfection. It was incredibly moving to read the few that I read. It was all about human connection. 

And yet, I didn't write one myself. 

The truth is, at the time, I couldn't think of anything that I would have been afraid to write about. You guys know I already share so much on this blog! ha. I guess sharing what is on my mind generally doesn't scare me so much (though it certainly used to many years ago.)

But when I recently read Grace's essay, "Things That Scare Me," I thought: that one's a little different. It's not fear of sharing. It's just fears in general, which I certainly have. And since I write here on this blog and you and I get to connect here often, I thought perhaps it might be interesting to hear my own version. I changed it a little...

The Things That Worry Me:

1. At Times, I Worry I'll Regret Being Childless.
This worry does cross my mind. Rarely. But sheesh, it does happen. The fear, however, is not strong enough to obsess over it or do more medical treatments or start the adoption process in a hurry. It's more of a thought that comes along, an after effect of our current life plan. Adoption didn't feel doable in the States as we were moving abroad and didn't have jobs - and also, starting the long process didn't feel within reach anymore due to the lack of stamina (as I have written about before). Adoption feels even further from doable now that we live abroad. We could change things drastically, but the motivation just isn't strong enough at this time. It's still sad to me that I feel this way and I didn't anticipate this! But it is what it is. I can't change it or fake it. And so, we are currently carrying forward in the best way we can. And part of carrying on does include wonders about the future. Though when any fears creep in, I just remind myself that I'm doing the best I can - and that all will be well in life as long as I stay engaged in something meaningful. 

2. I Worry People Will Feel They Don't Relate to Me. 
I know not having children is not the traditional path, for most. Based on questions or comments we receive - I often get the feeling that people don't agree with this path and obviously don't understand that we tried. One example, there was a meeting set aside with Danny and a leader of the church down here so they could discuss our lack of children and our need to do something about it - oh my. And on the extreme end, it seems some even resent us for not having children - for not taking the path that means so much to them.

3. I Worry That I'll Get A Bad Haircut.
Oh man. This one is obviously ridiculous! But I do fear a bad haircut. I guess because I've had soooo many bad haircuts before. The thing is, my hair has typically been super thick and also curly/wavy. And so it seems the stylist needs to be quite skilled at getting the cut to flow right, without shelf-like layers, etc. In NYC, the risk of a bad haircut is a great one just because it costs so much to visit a salon. I'm about to take the plunge here in Ecuador (for the first time) with supposedly one of Cuenca's best stylists. If he screws it up, at least I'll only be out $14. This will all go down tomorrow evening! :) My back-up is visiting Rubi Jones the moment I get to NYC in May.

4. I Worry About Losing Danny - Even When We're Old.
I'm the type that flat out balls on the phone when calling to get life insurance. My insurance agent said it happens all the time. haha. When I think of losing Danny, I know that I would want to live in his honor. And that all would be ok. But still - I'd prefer not to experience it.

5. I Worry That I've Burned Bridges by Not Being Able to Respond to Emails. 
Returning emails has been really, really hard for me since starting this blog as my inbox has constantly been snowed in. I know I've lost at least one friend because of it. The emails that I get from people are perhaps the most heart felt emails on earth! (I think I can name one email where someone asked about my shoes.) The emails I get are about LIFE - the very, very most meaningful parts of it! Those emails do power me here on this blog. I don't think I could do this work if no one said a peep. So I appreciate every morsel and every word. But it has been a process to learn to carry on when there are so many unanswered emails - from friends and readers alike. The good news is, we're getting some systems in place that can help us be more organized as a little operation. Already the inbox has been less daunting and responses have been flying out the door. I'm so grateful, and hope to continue improving.

6. I Worry That Some People May Be Hurt By Stories of Transformation.
Some may find happiness and peace and self worth unattainable. I was once that person who thought those things were perhaps never going to be possible for me. And yet, while I do worry that a post may trigger a feeling of overwhelm in someone, I also know that being exposed to a different perspective or a different way of life CAN be powerful and even life changing. It eventually had that effect on me. So I carry on. And just hope that my words will reach those who are not offended by hope, but who are grateful for it, as I once was. 

7. I Worry That Our Blog & Events & Other Efforts Will Not Become Fully Sustainable.
This time right now is a time for experimentation. We truly love this endeavor and as we work on ways to offer more services to this audience, we hope that we'll be able to do it for the long term. It's been really exciting around here to try. I'm going to start a little series of posts that give you some of our updates along the way. Of course, there is always the possibility that things will not work out. Though luckily we still have lots and lots to do before we can make that call.

Cheers to sharing.
Cheers to human connection.
Cheers to being in this life together.

Much love,

Mara

Event registration is open NOW for our U.S. Tour and Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador! $100 off the U.S. Tour through May 1st with code: LOVE2015. Also see here for special Couples/Friends Pricing. And don't miss the F.A.Q.

17 April 2015

When A Baby Passes


(from Danny)

I just learned of a friend's loss. A baby was born, and a short time later passed. There was hope and anticipation...now there is loss. Friends and family are coming together to support, to help, to strengthen, to love. My guess is loving and kind words are being sent far and wide from any who know or hear.

But oh how a heart breaks.

Oh how the heart breaks for those who must bear the heaviest burden, for those who must lay a child, and all the dreams and hopes and expectations, to rest.

Hearing of this loss brought an immediate wave of compassion and love (and with it a sincere prayer). It also brought to mind my own moments of loss -- moments where I too needed to lay to rest dreams and expectations -- moments of loss that to this day bring to mind a deep gratitude for the outpouring of love and beauty and support Mara and I received and experienced.

I remember all the anticipation that surrounded our first IVF. In some ways, despite knowing that life doesn't work this way, it felt like it was just bound to succeed. I almost couldn't help but think "how could it not?" Would not heaven and earth see the love between me and Mara and come together in our favor? Would not the love and support of family and friends and so many dear readers just HAVE to culminate in the joy of a successful pregnancy? After previous losses and challenges, is it not time for everything that is "good" to be fully restored?  But like I said, that's not really how life works.

So often we are tempted to define "good" in life in the vocabulary of circumstance. This was one of those times where it was reinforced that truly "good things" transcend circumstance and situation and outcome.

I still look back on the evening Mara and I learned our first IVF failed as one of the most beautiful moments of our marriage and of my life. I wrote a little bit about it here. (I'd chosen to post this two days before we got the news to remind myself of how I wanted to approach life in the event of an unfortunate outcome). It was one of those times when despite the loss, or perhaps because of it, you move deeply into the territory of LOVE, rejuvenating and invigorating Love. It was so tangible, so powerful and healing that night, that I couldn't help but document it by snapping a little picture of my smiling wife and writing it all out, in part because I knew it would be hard to believe later that so much peace and acceptance had been felt on such a difficult day.

We felt so incredibly supported by those whose hopes and dreams were caught up in our own -- family, friends, co-workers, and so many dear readers. For some reason, I still remember that night as a celebration. Receiving Love and giving Love during moments like that can change the way you experience even the most difficult moments of life.

I hope all who suffer loss will be the recipients of Love. May each of us remember to give love to those going through something difficult.

Can you recall a time when the love around you helped you get through something difficult? Is there anything specific someone did that really reached through to you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
--------

Event registration is open NOW for our U.S. Tour and Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador! $100 off the U.S. Tour through May 1st with code: LOVE2015. Also see here for special Couples/Friends Pricing. And don't miss the F.A.Q.

(image)

15 April 2015

COUPLES/FRIENDS PRICING IS BACK!


Dear lovely readers,

We are so excited to see people signing up for the events. YAY! It's just the best to see someone doing something huge for their life.

Also, several have expressed a desire for couples pricing.
We hear you.
It's hard to book an event for two.
We know what's that's like, too! 
When we went to our first retreat, we felt the same.

So once again, we have decided to offer couples/friends pricing!

For Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador:

If you inspire another person to attend with you, you will receive $500 off the regular price. Use CODE: INVITE2015. 

So if you bring a spouse, you will receive $500 off. If you bring a friend and a spouse, you will receive $1,000 off. If a Facebook friend signs up because of a post your shared and also your boyfriend and your sister attends, you will receive $1,500 off. We want this to be doable for people. (Please write us if you have more than one person attending so we can give you a custom code.)

For the Choose Happiness Retreats on our U.S. Tour:

If you inspire another person to attend any of our Choose Happiness Retreats, you will receive $200 off the regular price. Use CODE: FRIEND2015

So if your spouse attends with you, you will receive $200 off. If your mother and sister attend in Phoenix and you attend in Brooklyn, you receive $400 off. If you shared the event on Facebook and 5 friends signed up, you would be able to come to the event for FREE. (Please write us if you have more than one person attending so we can give you a custom code.)

So, SHARE AWAY. Inspire others to attend. You (and your friends) will be glad you did. Sign up for all our events here

Love you guys!

Mara

P.S. In addition, Early Bird Pricing ($100 off) is still in effect until May 1st for the U.S. Tour. The codes above will reflect that pricing as well until May 1st.

(Image by photographer, Melissa Hope)

14 April 2015

One NECESSITY for Thriving Relationships


TRANSPARENCY. Agh, this topic has hit me hard recently.

I'm realizing more and more that transparency HUGELY affects our relationships like a ton of bricks. It's impossible to have a balanced relationship without it.

Think about it. Let's say a husband has been not doing too well emotionally, mentally, physically, professionally, or in any other way. AND THEN HE SAYS NOTHING. Do you think for a minute the wife won't know something is up?

SCENARIO 1:
WIFE: Is everything ok?  HUSBAND: Yeah. 
(Wife is thinking: Um, no. He's not acting himself. I wonder what is up.) 
WIFE: Is there anything you're worried about?  HUSBAND: No. Everything is fine. 
(Wife is thinking: Why isn't he telling me? Is he upset with me? Is he ok? Are we ok?)
All of this because someone isn't willing to say...

"I'm not doing well."

"I'm struggling right now."

"I dropped the ball."

"I'm stressed."

"My job sucks."

"I am not perfect."

Months or even years could go by with someone struggling personally- and yet not saying anything - and allowing a distance and a distrust and unneeded frustrations to begin. And I am sure we all know how fun that could be - and how deeply that can unravel a good relationship. I've been there.

SCENARIO 2:
Employee does not perform their job well. 
Boss is ANNOYED and wondering what the crap is going on. 
Employee is actually going through a divorce but says nothing. 
Boss gets more and more annoyed because she is in the dark. 
And the moment the boss learns what is happening, SHE NOW GETS IT. She isn't so annoyed anymore. She only wishes the employee told her sooner as it would have prevented a lot of frustration.
Transparency. It's a massive way to not burn bridges; to stay close to loved ones instead of creating a distance; to build trust instead of take it away; to gain respect or compassion or connection or understanding from others. Though clearly, to be transparent, it takes some guts. It takes some vulnerability. It takes an ego-self-worth-check...because we are usually hiding away or avoiding difficult conversations in order to protect those dang egos - because we think our worth is on the line. In reality, our worth is inherent. It's never based on those perfect circumstances anyway.

Can you think of a scenario in your life where transparency would have prevented a lot of frustration, worry, or distance? Do share! And let's all think of something RIGHT NOW that could get a dose of transparency. Hiding/Delaying/Procrastinating/Avoiding be gone!

(Water color gradients by Gillian Schwartz, a talented designer and brand consultant in Brooklyn.)

Event registration is open NOW for our U.S. Tour and Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador! $100 off the U.S. Tour through May 1st with code: LOVE2015. And don't miss the F.A.Q.
Hostgator Promo Code