San Francisco and Sonoma, a Perfect Pairing for a Romantic WeekendWine

Chateau Montelena Winery in Napa Valley.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Chateau Montelena Winery in Napa Valley.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Northern California will always hold a special place in my heart.  When my hubby & I began dating it was the first destination we visited as a couple, and more importantly, the very first of many road-trips we’ve since taken together.  I’ll never forget that scenic drive, from the vineyards of Napa Valley, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and all the way down the picturesque coast to San Louis Obispo.  I was especially excited to go back for a visit, and I must say that our trip back to the area did not disappoint. 

Of course there were a few differences between that first journey, years ago, and this one, not least because of our accommodations.  Back then (when I was still in college & he in law school) our budget allowed for cheap motels and staying at a friend’s houseboat in Sausalito (which was indeed romantic, just not very roomy).  This time around we were pampered at the luxurious Farmhouse Inn, a resort located in the heart of Wine Country, Sonoma.  From the rustic elegance of our room, down to the homemade soaps and fresh daily s’mores by the bonfire, no detail at Farmhouse is overlooked.  I could not have asked for a more perfect (& spacious!) place to stay during our time in back in Sonoma.

Our cozy, rustic room at Farmhouse Inn

Our cozy, rustic room at Farmhouse Inn

Making s'mores by the fireplace at Farmhouse Inn.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Making s'mores by the fireplace at Farmhouse Inn.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Homemade soaps at Farmhouse Inn

Homemade soaps at Farmhouse Inn

After a few days exploring the area - visiting Muir Woods National Monument, stopping at numerous wineries, and discovering one charming town after another, we made our way down to San Francisco for the remainder of our vacation.  We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge (stopping of course for a few obligatory photos), and visited some of the city’s famous spots - Chinatown, Jack Kerouac Alley, Café Trieste, and Lombard Street to name a few.  Each neighborhood holds its own unique charm, as well as an assortment of incredible restaurants, making the most challenging part of each day deciding where to have our next meal.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Jack Keouac Alleyway in San Francisco

Jack Keouac Alleyway in San Francisco

During our time in San Francisco we stayed at the contemporary Parc 55 Hotel.  Our comfortable room had a great view of the city, and the hotel’s central location was ideal - both easily accessible to & from other neighborhoods, and a fun area to wander around on its own. 

View from our room at Parc 55 Hotel.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

View from our room at Parc 55 Hotel.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Lobby of the Parc 55 Hotel. Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Lobby of the Parc 55 Hotel. Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Our trip seemed to go as most great ones do – all too fast.  Northern California proved to be, once again, a magical place to visit.  From its natural beauty to its vibrant city scenes and everything in between, it made for a great mix of fun and relaxation, and an ideal destination for a romantic getaway.

The spa at Farmhouse Inn.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

The spa at Farmhouse Inn.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Dramatic skies over the Golden Gate Bridge... Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Dramatic skies over the Golden Gate Bridge... Photography by Nathan Rose Photography

5 Tips To Help You Stay Active all Year Round

Welcome to February - the shortest month of the year that can feel like the longest.  Daylight hours are fleeting and motivation to stay active often drops along with the temps.  New Year’s resolutions begin to fade and skipping the gym for that extra hour in bed is more appealing than ever.

I’ve had my fair share of those moments - indulging in that extra glass of wine or finishing my children’s leftovers (after thoroughly enjoying my own meal.)  And count me guilty of sleeping in instead of making it to yoga class on more than one occasion.  But I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to help power me through these lags.  So when JCPenney invited me to share some of my favorite tips for staying motivated year-round with shoppers in Kansas City, I was more than happy to open up about this relevant topic.

Here are a few of the go-to tips that I shared at the JCPenney event:

Filling my shopping cart at JCPenney

Filling my shopping cart at JCPenney

1.       Bribe Yourself:  This trick is one I learned back when shopping made up more of my workout routine than a regular yoga practice.  Treat yourself to something fun that you’ll use especially at the gym or yoga studio.   It doesn’t have to be pricey – it can be anything as small as a new reusable water bottle, to as exciting as a new outfit or gym bag.  For example, here are some fun, inexpensive items I picked up at JCPenney that make the perfect little ‘bribe’ gifts to myself: 

Kansas City love

Kansas City love

2.       Find a Workout in an Unlikely Place: Some days just don’t have enough hours in them, and getting a solid `workout in just isn’t happening.  On these days, make an effort to be active outside of the gym or studio.  For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park your car further away from the entrance of the supermarket.  Maybe take some extra time walking your dog, or do a few squats while you’re on the phone with your friend. There’s always a way to squeeze in some extra exercise no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

3.       Fake it ‘til you Make it: Studies show that we can actually convince ourselves to exhibit certain emotions – for example – having more confidence and less anxiety - by simply going through the motions repeatedly until we begin to truly have those feelings naturally.  We can do the same thing with a healthy lifestyle – go through the motions of eating more nutritious foods and less unhealthy ones, be more active, etc. – until it becomes a natural way of living. 

4.       Friends are Priceless:  Sometimes no matter how much self-convincing we do, it still isn’t enough to get us to make the healthy choice.  That’s where our friends come into play.  Having a workout buddy or a yoga partner will not only motivate you to make it to the gym or studio, but will also make your sessions more fun and enjoyable.

5.       Make your Home an Inviting place to Workout: There will be days when making it to the gym or studio is just not going to happen - bad weather, work obligations, or other factors may make it impossible to get there.  Having a dedicated space at home can be a lifesaver during these times.  Even a small corner of a room with a mat and some props (weights, blocks, straps, etc) will help you stay active on those days.  And there are countless resources with knowledgeable teachers – online classes or DVDs – to guide you through a session.

Gift Bags at the JCPenney Event

Gift Bags at the JCPenney Event

The event, held at the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas turned out to be a blast. I was touched to see that many of the participants truly appreciated the pointers I had to share.  I had such a wonderful time and I am so happy I was able to partner with JCPenney for this fun experience!

Here are a few more photos from my trip to Kansas City and the event at JCPenney. Remember you can purchase any of items you see shown above at: http://chtp.co/shopjcpenney       #SoWorthIt

Chatting with local shoppers at JCPenney

Chatting with local shoppers at JCPenney

Hanging out in the 'Glass Labyrinth' exhibit at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

Hanging out in the 'Glass Labyrinth' exhibit at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

Holiday Special: 5 Yoga Poses to Help You De-Stress

It's no secret that stress is often a major side-effect of the holiday season.  Gift shopping, seasonal expenses, travel delays, and large family gatherings are just some of the factors that contribute to the higher levels of anxiety this time of year.  I find my yoga practice to be the most helpful during these times, and even just a few minutes can make a huge difference.  

 

Here are some of my favorite poses to help reduce stress and calm the mind:

 

 

1. Extended Puppy Pose

Extended Puppy Pose (2 Variations)

Extended Puppy Pose (2 Variations)

Puppy Pose helps lengthens the spine and calms the mind.

1. Come onto all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Walk your hands forward a few inches, and then curl your toes under.

2. With an exhale, move your hips partway back toward your heels. Keeping the arms active, slowly lower your forehead to the floor.  

3. Keep the neck relaxed, as you feel a nice stretch in your spine.  Stretch through the arms while pulling your hips back toward your heels.  To deepen the stretch begin to straighten the legs. 

 4. Hold here for 10-20 breaths.  Slowly lower to release.

2. Forward Fold

This calming stretch opens the calves, hamstrings, and hips, and strengthens the thighs and knees. Keep the knees bent if it's uncomfortable to straighten them.

Forward Fold

Forward Fold

1. Begin standing with your hands on your hips. Inhale.


2. Exhale and soften the knees as you start to slowly fold forward from the hips. Move your tailbone and hips back slightly as the body leans forward. Keep your knees soft.

3. Lower your your hands down to the ground beside your feet. Hollow out your belly and gently pull the chest bone down toward the tops of your feet. Try not to round the lower back. The fold should come from your hip joint.

4. If you are comfortable here, slowly begin to straighten your knees. Rotate your thighs inward and root into your heels. Stretch the crown of your head down toward the floor. Your gaze should be through the legs.

5. Hold for 10 breaths. To release, engage your abdominal muscles, soften your knees, and with an inhale lift from the hips while keeping your back long.

3. Bridge Pose

This pose provides a great stretch to the front body, and can be as energizing or restorative as you like.

1. Begin lying on your back, with both knees bent. and feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Keep the arms alongside the body, palms facing down. 

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose

2. With an inhale lift the hips up, and slowly roll the spine up off the floor. Gently squeeze the inner thighs together to keep the legs hip-distance apart.

3. Press down into the arms and shoulders as you lift the chest up. Engage the core and legs, buttocks to raise the hips even higher.   Stay here for 5-10 breaths. 

4. Exhale and slowly roll the spine down on the floor to release.

4. Happy Baby Pose

This calming pose provides a gentle stretch to the hips, inner groins and low back.

Happy Baby Pose

Happy Baby Pose

1. Begin lying on your back with your knees drawn in towards the chest.

2. Grab hold of the outside edges of your feet with your hands.  Draw your shoulders down on to your back as you flex your feet.

3. Widen the knees as you pull them in toward your armpits. Try to stack ankles above knees.

4. Lengthen your lower back down toward the ground, with the intention of touching the tip of your tailbone to the floor.

5. Stay here for 8-16 breaths and then release release.

5. Child's Pose

This classic resting pose calms the brain while gently stretching the hips, thighs, and ankles.

1. Begin on all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.  With an exhale slowly lower the hips down to the heels and the forehead to the floor. 

2. The knees can stay together or if more comfortable, spread them slightly apart.  The arms can be overhead with the palms on the floor, or with fists stacked under the forehead, or they can be along side the body with the palms up.

Child's Pose

Child's Pose

3. Breathe slowly and deeply. Actively press the belly into the thighs on each the inhale.

4. Stay here for 10-20 breaths.  Slowly inhale up to a seated position to exit.

Magical Mexico, Where to Go For Your Next Getaway

I'm not sure what took me so long to plan a trip to Mexico, but I'm glad that when I finally did, it was to visit two of the most charming and beatufiul towns, Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita.

My home base throughout my trip was at the gorgeous Xinalani, an exclusive Yoga Retreat Center about 20 miles south of the airport in Vallarta.  Xinalani is nestled into the mountains on Quimixto Beach, and has the most breathtaking views overlooking the ocean and the jungle. My room, the Eco Chic Suite, was like a little oasis, complete with a private terrace, seating area, hammock, open-air shower, and mosquito netting surrounding the bed.  I'll admit I was a bit apprehensive about sleeping in a room that was partially exposed to the outdoors, but with the shades lowered at night, the soothing sound of the ocean was the perfect soundtrack to drift to off to sleep.

With it's twice daily yoga classes, beachfront bar lounge, assortment of spa treatments, and the delicious food, there was no real reason to leave Xinalani, but my wandering spirit urged me to venture out and explore some nearby highlights and neighboring towns.

Beachfront relaxation at Xinalani

Beachfront relaxation at Xinalani

Hammock happiness at Xinalani

Hammock happiness at Xinalani

One of our first outings included a 20-minute horseback ride to a local waterfall. Once there, you can swim in the water, or have a seat at the quaint little cafe adjacent to the waterfall.  It's the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cold drink or snack while taking in the stunning scenery.

Chasing Waterfalls in Quimixto.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography.

Chasing Waterfalls in Quimixto.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography.

Another day-trip involved a short boat ride up to PV for breakfast, and then an hour cab ride north to Sayulita. I'd heard about the charm of this small town, but words simply don't do justice to describe the magic of this enchanting neighborhood.  With it's natural beauty, vibrant streets, and the adopted village trademark of Love, Sayulita is a place like no other.  One could wander it's colorful corridors for hours, never tiring of it's sights and sounds - the abundant artwork, flag-decorated roads, delicious food, assorted shops, popular beachfront, and medley of pretty hotels to name a few.  My only regret is having only one afternoon to spend in this fairy-tale village.

In Sayulita, at the charming Petit Hotel Hafa.  Photography by Mandy Martini

In Sayulita, at the charming Petit Hotel Hafa.  Photography by Mandy Martini

Rooftop lounging at the Petit Hotel Hafa in Sayulita, with Mandy Martini, Paige Rene, and Sergio the dog.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography.

Rooftop lounging at the Petit Hotel Hafa in Sayulita, with Mandy Martini, Paige Rene, and Sergio the dog.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography.

Street art in Sayulita

Street art in Sayulita

Xinalani Retreat

Xinalani Retreat

Ocean View Room at Xinalani 

Ocean View Room at Xinalani 

Quimixto Beach

Quimixto Beach

Beach Yoga in Quimixto

Beach Yoga in Quimixto

The Bar Lounge at Xinalani Retreat... always an abundance of fresh fruit and a pretty place to relax.

The Bar Lounge at Xinalani Retreat... always an abundance of fresh fruit and a pretty place to relax.

Handstands in Sayulita

Handstands in Sayulita

Between the incredible hospitality at Xinalani - the friendly staff, delicious food, fun activities like Salsa dancing lessons - and our enjoyable excursions to explore nearby attractions, this trip could not have been a more perfect getaway.

It helps of course to have some pretty awesome travel-mates, which luckily was exactly what I had. This trip would not have been the same without these two lovely souls, Mandy Martini and Nathan Rose.

Amor Boutique Hotel in Sayulita.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography.

Amor Boutique Hotel in Sayulita.  Photography by Nathan Rose Photography.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga, a Brief Overview

The beautiful yoga poses we see are but one of the eight 'limbs' of yoga.  There are seven additional core components to the practice, each of equal importance.

The components are like limbs in the sense that:

  • they all belong to the same body,
  • each one is essential,
  • one is not regarded higher than the other.

Together they form the framework for the yoga practice that ultimately brings unity of the mind, body, and spirit.

The eight limbs of Yoga are:

1.   Yama:  Ethics. Guidelines for interaction with others.

2.  Niyama:  Self-discipline. Rules for attitude and interaction with oneself.

3.  Asanas:  Physical postures.

4.  Pranayama:  Breathing exercises.

5.  Pratyahara:  Withdrawal of the senses. Non-attachment to external objects.

6.  Dharana:  Cultivating inner awareness and learning to focus our attention.

7.   Dhyana:  Meditation.

8.  Samadhi:  State of Oneness.  Transcending the self, and realizing an interconnection to all living things.