It’s International Women’s Day

 

Did you know March 8th is International Women’s Day?!  Thanks, Google, for alerting us of this fact and for creating this inspiring video.   The momentum is here for women to launch to new heights and break more glass ceilings in 2016 than ever before.  We may even see our first woman president (fingers crossed for you, Hillz).  A few links:

 

Why do we teach girls that it’s cute to be scared?

The smartest newsletter on earth is a one-woman labor of love.

Helpful yoga sequences:  5-min computer work break, 20-min for pms, 20-min for stressed parents, 20-min before a big event.

Bookmark this handy election calendar.

How to Ask for a Raise and other career advice (thanks to a favorite woman of ours, Cup of Jo)

Because the gender wage gap is real.

Laughed my @#$ off reading Tina’s book;  Sheryl’s and Malala’s are also on my shelf.

As if you needed another reason to love amy poehler.

 

…so what will you do one day? #girlpower #onedayiwill

The Zara Edit: Three Cities, Three Styles

It’s nearly Summertime, can you believe it?! The daylight hours now stretch into the late evening, we’re upping the SPF on our faces and dreaming of our soon-to-come beachside getaways.   In the midst of all this glorious transition, we’ve hit a little wall in the getting-dressed department.  No more staring blankly into the void of our closets each morning – it’s time to add a few key pieces to our wardrobes! We thought it would be interesting to choose a super affordable brand that all three of us has access to, shop the current collection, and see what each of us comes up with.   We like the Spanish brand Zara for their price point, their focus on both basics and trends, and better quality relative to other “fast-fashion” retailers.  We also appreciate that Zara has resisted transferring production to low-cost countries and has recently banned harmful toxins from their clothing production.

Our three edits are completely varied and it was fun to see what each other chose!  Hallie came up with a romantic, colorful, Cali-boho ensemble that nods to the current 70’s trend in fashion that we are so on board with.  Over in NYC, Jenna went for an unexpected pattern play, but kept it refined and tailored for a look that is both work and cocktail apropos.  Brooke found the perfect denim she’d been searching all around London for and paired it with a white linen button down, a summer staple that will double as a beach coverup.  What would you have chosen?  We’d love to hear how you’re planning to update your summer wardrobe – please share your ideas in the comments below!

Hallie’s Picks

Zara Items: top // jeans // shoes
Other Items: necklace

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Zara Haul - Hallie Stephens - Spring

Jenna’s Picks
Zara Items: Top // Skirt // Shoes (Similar)
Other Items: Sunglasses // Watch

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Zara Haul - Jenna Bunnell

Zara Haul - Jenna Bunnell

Brooke’s Picks
Zara Items: top // jeans
Other Items: shoes // scarf // jacket

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The Wisest Woman We Know: Pema Chödrön

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Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and author.  I was first introduced to her work by my Aunt Robin in a time when I was seeking perspective and needed advice.  Pema’s teachings and books span topics such as developing patience, kindness, joy, fearlessness, seeing yourself for who you truly are, breaking destructive patterns, and unlocking your potential.  She is credited with having spread concepts of Buddhism and meditation to a broad Western audience, I think largely because her words and writings are so approachable and relatable.  Her wisdom is bite-sized and immediately useful.  Below are three short passages I particularly love from her book I carry with me,  The Pocket Pema Chödrön.

A More Adventurous Way to Live

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable.   You can see this even in insects and animals and birds.  All of us are the same.

A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.  To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is.

Move Toward Difficulty 

We are told from childhood that something is wrong with us, with the world, and with everything that comes along; it’s not perfect, it has rough edges, it has a bitter taste, it’s too loud, too soft, too sharp, too wishy-washy.  We cultivate a sense of trying to make things better because something is bad here, something is a mistake here, something is a problem here.  The main point of the Buddhist teachings is to dissolve the dualistic struggle, our habitual tendency to struggle against what’s happening to us or in us.  These teachings instruct us to move toward difficulties rather than backing away.  We don’t get this kind of encouragement very often.

Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but is actually the path itself.  We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up.  We can use everything that occurs – whether it’s our conflicting emotions and thoughts of our seemingly outer situation – to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely, utterly, without reservations.

Cultivate Loving-Kindness Toward Yourself

Some people find the teachings I offer helpful because I encourage them to be kind to themselves.  The kindness that I learned from my teachers, and that I wish so much to convey to other people, is kindness toward all qualities of our being.  the qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us.  Maitri, or loving-kindness, means sticking with ourselves when we don’t have anything, when we feel like a loser.  And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness with others.

More resources:

1.  Book:  The Pocket Pema Chödrön (pocket-sized)

2.  Book: Awakening Loving Kindness (pocket-sized)

3.  Video: Interview with Pema Chödrön by Bill Moyers

4.  Biography: About Pema at Gampo Abbey

Image credit: www.billmoyers.com

In Bruges

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Known as the “Venice of the north,” Bruges is an über-clean, idyllic Belgian village.  Its landscape is stitched together with a network of canals that are crossed by cobblestone bridges, where swans and families of ducks peacefully coexist.  The waterfront-facing architecture is a mix of modern renovation and richly-colored stone homes with lacy, stepped-roof facades in the traditional Flemish style.  Bruges is an easy 3hr train ride from London, so a weekend escape here is simple and requires little planning.  The only worry will be how to lose the kilo or two you’ll gain from eating all the delicious moules frites, crisp Belgian crafted beers, waffles, chocolate and cheese! Read on for our Videndae guide to Bruges.

Stay:

The townhouse Ter Dwignen is technically a boutique hotel, but felt like a B&B.   The rooms were cozy and clean, and you cannot beat the freshly-squeezed orange juice with your morning breakfast!  The owners and staff are jovial and brimming with local knowledge.

Visit/Do:

The city is extremely dense and walkable so stay on foot for meandering through the cobblestoned streets of Bruges.   If you wish to expand your reach, travel as the locals do and ride a bicycle!  There are several purveyors, but we recommend the rental shop at the southeast end of the ‘t Zand market for the best selection of Lombardi bikes. While you’re there don’t forget to roll through the north end of the ‘t Zand Food Market and sample the local cheese.

On a crisp sunny day, motivated by good spirits and a sense of adventure (or “if you are in a good mood,” as our B&B proprietor put it) it is easy to bike the 25 minute ride northwest from Bruges to the town of Damme.  The route follows a canal that is lined with linden trees and is paved with a special path that safely segregates bikes from car traffic.   Along the way you will pass a sweet red windmill, and you are able to visit the interior to see the process of grinding down different grains into powder.   Once you arrive in Damme having worked up a nice appetite, there are a plethora of options for lunch.

Although to some a Canal Boat Tour might sound ultra touristic, you’d be missing out if you didn’t take the chance to observe Bruges from the perspective of the canals.  No need to pre-book – just seek out one of the kiosks vending tickets along the waterways.

On the hunt for a Sunday evening scene we found a buzzy live-music bistro called ‘t Zwart Huis.  The blues band was top notch, the room was packed, the food & beer was excellent, and we were thrilled to discover a fireplace roaring in the back.

Despite its small size, Bruges rivals any major European city for shopping.  There are plenty of boutiques and recognizable brands up and down the main arteries heading south west from the central Market Square. Along Geldmuntstraat (which becomes Noordzandstraat), look for the shop called L’Heroine which stocks a variety of independent labels.

Eat/Drink:

Here’s the main event!  Bruges is a foodie’s haven.  If you so choose, you can research and book a table for your meal in advance, but there really is no need to.  As you stroll along it is easy to stumble across good-quality restaurants, cafés, bistros, bars, chocolate shops, waffle stands, you name it!  Here is a selection of notable watering holes and eateries that we found while wandering: Bistro Maurice‘t TerrastjeDe Garret’ Bruges Beertje.

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Trip Notes:

Stay: Ter Dwignen

Visit/Do: Rent bikes, ‘t Zand Food MarketCanal Boat Tour, Ride to Damme, shopping at L’Heroine, live music at ‘t Zwart Huis

Eat: Bistro Maurice‘t TerrastjeDe Garret’ Bruges Beertje

A Glimpse…

Sipping an end-of-lunchtime espresso at Terroirs.

Sipping an after-lunchtime espresso at Terroir in London.

 

Cherry blossoms in bloom inside Regent’s Park.

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A favorite Marylebone haunt, the Natural Kitchen, has the best seasonal produce for on-the-go snacking!

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I adore custom neon letter art and I would love to find a small piece for my own home.

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Admiring the home-like vibe inside Club Monaco on Sloane Square.

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Lovely red ranunculus caught my eye in these mini bouquets!

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My most comfortable new sneaks, Chuck Taylor all star high tops.  I realized they’re a wardrobe essential…

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Studying for my French class al fresco one sunny day at Thomas Cubitt, an excellent gastropub near Pimlico.

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Museum breaks at the Portrait Gallery. Third column from the left, second row: he’s my fave.

Outfit: Transitioning into Spring

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I find the early Spring to be one of the most wonderful and challenging seasons to dress for.  Some days are full of sun and I become giddy with warmth and the sight of flower buds, so I might risk to venture outdoors with a bare leg.  Other days, the last remnants of winter still linger in the air and we are pummeled with rain or even snow.  Transitions like this teach us to practice patience, no doubt!  This weekend was rainy and chilly, so I donned my massive oatmeal-colored wool sweater for beer at a pub followed by a walk with the dogs.  I adore this oversized knit but I always hesitate to stuff it into a coat lest I feel like a sausage.  It’s really better worn as an in-between-seasons piece.  However when the wind and rain picked up, the sweater alone didn’t cut it, and I threw a poncho over top to stave off the chill. It’s London after all, so I layer up, keep the palette neutral and always finish with a leather boot.

sweater (similar styles here, here

and at jcrew 25-50% off with code HAPPYSPRING)

denim (similar here) / boots (similar here)

poncho found in peru (similar here) / spectacles (similar here)

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Paris Encore, Like a Local

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In my book, the three greatest cities on earth are New York, Paris, and London – in that order.  So far in my lifetime I have had the privilege to call two of them home, and this past week I decided to explore what life would be like as a Parisienne.

I followed my gut instinct and packed for a solo retreat.  I rented a small apartment through AirBnB (the best accommodations for experiencing any place like a local, if you ask me) in a bohemian, village-y neighborhood called Batignolles.  A comfortable distance from the buzzing city center, this enclave allowed me to experience total peace and quiet.  I spent my mornings making coffee, moving through my yoga practice and watching the street stir to wakefulness below.  On walks through the neighborhood I’d peruse the many wine shops, tea salons, boutiques, epiceries and boulangeries.  I enjoyed leisurely lunches at corner cafés washed down with un pichet de vin and a single espresso to finish.  I spent hours on a gray Saturday wandering the Siene during a photography class, taking photos, discussing f-stops (and life), and slipping into a café for chocolate chaud when we could no longer feel our fingers from the cold air.  I spent precious time with an old friend who I hadn’t seen for 15 years, and held her baby boy as we both smiled and told stories.  One sunny afternoon in le Marais I strolled with a chic girlfriend of mine who now lives in Paris; as we walked and lunched we reminisced about our previous fast life we shared in New York and our transition to slower, more thoughtful living here in Europe.  A few nights when it rained, I stayed indoors and cooked myself a bistro-style dinner or a roast chicken while listening to music and the backdrop of rain on metal rooftops.  It was wonderfully restorative, and I’m convinced I experienced an authentic taste of Parisian life. I feel the strong pull of this city and I cannot wait to return.

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Trip Notes

Eat:
Glou
La P’tit Mercerie
Bacco
Le Drapeau de la Fidélité
Les Puces des Batignolles

Do:
Palais de Tokyo
Le Marais & Palais des Archives
Merci
Localers (multiple offerings)

Columbia Road Flower Market

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During the years Jenna, Hallie and I lived together in New York, one of our favorite pick-me-ups was an early-morning outing to the Chelsea Flower District to catch the florists dealing their gorgeous wares.  This mecca was the best spot to find our favorites like peony, ranunculus, gardenia, fiddle leaf figs, and even fir trees when their respective seasons were upon us.  Naturally when Hallie and Jenna visited London we made our way to the Columbia Road Flower Market together.  For those who aren’t familiar with London town, Columbia Road is a veritable landmark.  Open Sundays from 8am to 3pm, the market stalls stretch a long block of London’s East End which is flanked with over sixty different independent shops, art galleries, cafés, antiques dealers, and vintage clothiers.  Rain or shine, the barrow boys running the flower stalls will hawk everything from jasmine bushes to tulips, shouting, “Everything’ a fiver!”  The girls and I grabbed a coffee to fuel our hunt, then wandered up and down the road enjoying bursts of color, great people watching, and even an oyster or two for a midmorning snack.  With the first day of Spring just around the corner, I am tempted to revisit this market for some blooms to brighten up my apartment.  Here’s a handy link that shows you how to arrange fresh flowers.  Have you been? Will you go? And what’s your favorite flower to bring home? Please do share in the comments below…

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Weekend Link Love

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Bon weekend, everyone! Last night my friend Sarah and I shook off the week with a badass yoga class situated in a church hall venue up in north London.  The music was transporting, the instruction was superb, and I cannot wait to go again.  Today I’m taking it a bit easy with a trip to the market and lots of rest.  It feels a touch cold outside but I just know that spring is around the corner. In preparation of my favorite season I’ve felt inspired to do some deep cleaning and wardrobe editing lately, the completion of which will make for a sensical Sunday project.  What rad plans have you got in store?  Do tell. And finally, for your reading pleasure, some links from around the web…

1.  I’m enamored with Sezane – their winter lookbook is perfectly styled, and their Essentials collection is just that.

2.  A collection of travel guides with luscious pics.

3.  We’re all “crazy-busy” but maybe we shouldn’t be.  Plus, 1o life lessons from Celiné.

4.  A fresh recipe for Thai-style salmon chowder.

5.  This album from Alpha is heavenly (you’re welcome).

6.  Would you dare to Paint it Black?

7.  How to care for your black jeans.

8.  It appears to be springtime in Paris, and she’s got a spring in her step.

9.  Have you heard of the Minimalists? They focus on removing the excess in order to create more time, more experiences, and more contentment in life.

Paper Parasols

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Our day began well before sunrise.  We slipped into a longboat and cut a path through the dark fog of Inle Lake.  I shivered and pulled a blanket to my chin to protect against the chilled air as we passed quiet fisherman casting their conical nets into the dark water.  They seemed to nod good morning as they bobbed in our wake.  From the jetty we began our three-hour drive further north to a town called Pindaya.  We were in the Shan state of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.

That late morning we passed through the frenetic market in Nyaung-Shwe, explored caves decorated with hundreds of statues of the Buddha, and walked many rows of a local farmer’s crop of green tea (though it was far too early for harvest).  By midday the sun was high and unforgiving, flushing our cheeks and drying the earth to a fine orange dust.  On the drive back to the lake we stopped to take shade at a family-run workshop that crafted paper parasols.  Each element was created by hand – from the paper made from the fibers of the mulberry tree, to the bamboo handle, the pawl and the frame.  Artisans painted decorations on the surface of the freshly-constructed umbrellas and left them to dry.  The entire manufacturing process totaled several days.  What better souvenir than these beautiful Burmese parasols? Perhaps the images that remain vivid in my memory…

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