What are the holidays all about? For me, it is being surrounded by family, eating lots of good food, the cheerful atmosphere and hopefully, some really good vino. And gifts (duh, there is no escaping it). Here is something to ponder when you are dashing through the snow in a one horse open panic, when you give without expecting anything in return, you are actually actively improving your psychological health. Yup, true.

Gift exchange is a major part of celebrating the holidays, but did you know the act of gift-giving can offer psychological benefits? Giving a gift is a universal way to show interest, appreciation, and gratitude, as well as strengthen bonds with others. The whole process of searching for the “perfect gift,” gives you an emotional lift. First, determining what needs to be gifted to whom, and second, checking that list twice to be sure your gift fits for the person you have in mind. Gift giving is an act of altruism, a way of expressing unselfish concern for the well-being of others. When you are waiting in that epic checkout line just think… (cue dream music)….

Just think of the expression on the face of the person you will present with with a gift… think of this beautiful way to express feelings. By giving a gift you are reinforcing mutual appreciation and acknowledgement of one another. What matters most is that you try to make the shift from your own mindset (dear lord free me from Macy’s) to someone else’s (OMG I LOVE THIS!). And even if you haven’t thought is out exactly perfectly, you have at the very least taken the time to think, and as the old adage goes…it truly is the thought that counts.

I leave you with O’Henry’s short story, The Gift of the Maji ; a poor couple  give up their most treasured possessions to buy each other Christmas gifts. Della sells her long beautiful hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, and Jim sells his gold watch to buy tortoise combs for Della’s hair. The gifts are complete deadweight economic losses with no material value to the recipients however the sentimental gains are priceless. Jim’s joy at seeing Della’s happiness at her present was likely greater than his enjoyment of his own gift, and the same can be said for Della.

I truly believe in keeping my focus this season on what the holidays are really about and not on the commercial aspects. And so…

“May no gift be too small to give, nor to simple to receive,

which is wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied with love”

-L.O. Baird

Post authored by Angela DeFillipps.

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I love this season. Top to bottom. Bring on the lights, the crowds, the Gift Wrap Wonderland, the Eggnog Latte, the constant Christmas tunes, the spirited folks and the grinchy. The cold weather always energizes me, and the early dark helps me settle in. I am a winter girl, and I just simply adore this time of year. That said, the most wonderful time of year comes with it’s share of challenges  What to get?! What to give?! How to finish everything in time?! Sugar cookies or the treadmill?!

Here at BSLM we specialize in making things easier. So this month, we are going to help you do just that. Beth and Angela are working up some great posts for you about giving this season. Stay tuned for handy holiday help in the gift wrapping, personalizing and giving department and to learn more about the psychology of giving. Speaking of psychology….

This holiday season, I am trying to think outside the (gift)box. First, if you have never read The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell, get thee to a bookstore, Kindle or Nook nowish. It’s a picture book with a lesson for all ages. It was recently introduced to me, and made me think about gifts I have received and gifts I have given that are untouchable. For example, I have received gifts of loyalty, good friendship, trust, and joy from those around me all year long. Some gifts I think I have to offer are honesty, integrity and a sense of humor. This holiday season, take a minute to stop and think, and even write down, the gifts you have been given and the gifts you have to give that cost only the time it takes you to note them in your mind. Realize perhaps, that you are the recipient and the giver of much more than can be contained in a shiny box tied with a bow.

But still go to the Gift Wrap Wonderland, it’s awesome.

Post authored by Brooke Stone. 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. If you are like me, you stuffed yourself, napped, and went back for more – all while counting your blessings of course. But did you really get in all your thank-you-very-much-es? Did you pause, smile, reflect, and then spread that joy around? Sometimes the holidays move so quickly that we do not really take in fully all that we are able.

Every year we are reminded to be grateful, to give thanks. But gratitude isn’t about a once or twice a year nod to the good things or people in our life. Gratitude is a practice. By incorporating being thankful, we allow ourselves to step back from our hectic lives and really appreciate where we are. That can be where we are on the path of life, in the big picture, or more appropriately, it is where we are in this moment right now.

Try this: pause, take a deep breath, and just notice. Take in your body, healthy or otherwise. Take in your state of mind, happy or otherwise. Just notice that where you are in the moment is pretty good – or maybe it is even pretty great. You are right where you are meant to be.  Notice any little things around you or in you that make you smile or that you are thankful for. It can be as tiny as a warm beverage on a chilly day or as large as being totally in love with your significant other. Gratitude helps us to be present and positive; and a positive outlook can help you take on the world.

So, how do we get grateful more than just once or twice a year? Get creative! There are so many ways to show gratitude. Smile more, say thank you more, and share your abundance to those who may need it more. Take a yoga class. Teachers can help you hit the mat with intention and encourage you to look inward and be grateful for YOU, just as you are. Try to also keep everything you are thankful for close even on those no-good-very-bad days.

Here is one more way. I am a list lover. Since you are reading this fabulous blog I will wager you are too. Lists help you to organize your thoughts and get that gratitude to a more detailed place. There are lots of ways to go about your lists and you do not have to do them all at once. Maybe add one new thing each day and then next year on Thanksgiving you will have a whole 365 days of detailed thoughts to reflect on.

Lots of ways to get inspiration…

  • List your little things. These are those tiny things that bring you joy. Get silly!   Get sentimental! Just put it on the page.
  • List your friends and family. Now put one thing you are grateful for about each  one next to their name. Try and be so specific you do not have any repeat reasons.
  • List challenges you have faced this year. Now list why you are grateful for the experience even if it was a difficult one. Where has it brought you? What did you learn?

When we are grateful we look at the world in a new way. Gratitude brings a little more peace and happiness to our day to day, and helps us to approach every struggle with a positive outlook. Positive people are bold people. Start practicing gratitude because you are ready to take on the world. Call BSLM if you need back up.

Post authored by Rebecca Merritt

Rebecca Merritt completed her 200 Hour RYT Certification at the lovely New York Yoga. After taking classes for many years, Rebecca became truly devoted to her practice after moving to NYC in 2007. Finding that while pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the New School, and working three jobs at the time, yoga was a way to slow the city down and find balance.

Her vigorous Vinyasa flow classes build towards a peak pose, with options for all levels along the way. Classes are sequenced to focus on alignment and riding the wave of the breath. Rebecca will get you to breathe a little deeper, encourage you to laugh, and help you find space for play in your practice.

Rebecca believes in finding joy on your mat. She has seen yoga change lives.

Here we are in November, which snuck up just about as fast as every other month – didn’t it?! This month has a very organic theme of giving thanks, and we will embrace it here on Praxis. Day to day life can be so busy, we sometimes forget to give thanks for all we have, so to be presented with a month where thanksgiving is in the air seems like a pretty lucky, built in reminder.

Gratitude is more than a word to me, it is a guiding principle and core value of my life. Unfortunately, I don’t express it as much as I should, or even in the ways that might be best. Life gets in the way of following all of our precepts to a T each and every day. But this month, I will renew my commitment to embracing gratitude as an integral part of my life, and I encourage you to examine where and how you have room for gratitude in yours. I always find when I do live my life with gratitude in the forefront, I go through my days with a very strong sense of contentedness and feel much lighter – bonus.

Before I go on, I want to take a moment and thank the world at large for the incredible outpouring of support New York City has received in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management employees and clients are recovering, and we wish each person affected by the storm great strength in the rebuilding days to come.

Here are a few things you can do every day to work with your definition of gratitude: 

1. Say thank you. To everyone. Including bus drivers, Starbucks employees (even when they mess up your drink, they didn’t do it on purpose to spite you – I promise), to your parents, grandparents and siblings if you are lucky enough to have them around, to your spouse or partner, to your spiritual force, whatever that may be. Just say thank you. Honestly, you don’t even need to mean it the first few times, but merely saying the words to anyone who helps you in even the tiniest way will soon feel meaningful not only to that person, but to you.

2. Do the Facebook thing people are doing. Write one status update each day this month describing something you are thankful for.

3. Give positive feedback. Telling someone they did a good job, and describing the great parts of their work is a way of expressing not only gratitude for a job well done, but appreciation. Try this, “Co-worker, you did a great job on that project. I thought the way you communicated everyone’s particular responsibilities and outcomes was very clear and I appreciate how available you made yourself for questions. Thanks!”

4. Once a day, at the same time (before bed, when you wake up, lunch time, whatever) say thank you out loud to no one and nothing in particular. This thank you will mean different things on different days you will find, but it will always mean something.

5. Bring a thoughtful hostess gift to the wonderful person who is cooking you Thanksgiving dinner, or inviting you into their home on any occasion. And then hand write a thank you note the next day. These gestures are small, but deeply impactful. My new favorite hostess gift is this Harry & David Moose Munch popcorn which costs under $10 and is beyond delicious. My favorite thank you notes I make myself by cutting a sheet of card stock into quadrants and stamping a “b” on the front with a good old stamp and ink kit.

Now, a few public thank you’s to people in my life who may not hear it enough, in no particular order: 

  • My husband, who has the patience of a god, gives great advice, and loads the dishwasher like a pro. Also he loves me very much, even though I know I can be a handful…or an armful at times.
  • My parents and grandmother, for hosting me this weekend, and for hosting me throughout my entire life. For teaching me pretty much everything and reminding me I still know relatively little in the grand scheme of the world and have a long way to go. And for being there every step of the way.
  • Our clients at Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management, who trust us with some of the most important things going on in their lives and are kind and generous to us at every turn.
  • My friends, who speak to me truthfully, even when I don’t want to hear it, and don’t make fun of me for my eggnog latte obsession.

Cheers to this month of giving thanks, and stay tuned for posts on this theme from our LMPs and a special guest blogger!

Post authored by Brooke Stone. 

As the weather gets a little chilly baking becomes more and more attractive. Not only will it warm your home (literally), but you’ll also make delicious treats, and delight whomever you share them with! Thankfully there are a good deal of Greenmarkets located throughout NYC filled with fresh ingredients to satisfy your baking desires.

Josh and I visited the Union Square Greenmarket (open throughout the week/end) to embrace one of falls favorite fruits; the apple. Below you will find a recipe courtesy of The Food Network’s Ina Garten.
Total Time: 1 hr 20 min              Prep: 20 min                  Cook: 1 hr 0 min                      Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients:                                      
5 pounds McIntosh or Macoun apples
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 For the topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 14 by 2-inch oval baking dish.

 Core, and cut the apples into large wedges.

Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.

Josh and I elected to serve our warm apple crisp with delicious ice cream flavors courtesy of Je and Jo. Enjoy!

Sending out lots of thanks to our wonderful photographer Daryl Getman of DAGphotography!

As a Brooklyn based actress and photographer, Daryl loves working with actors, dancers, and performers on camera as well as capturing the details and beauty in everyday life!  Photo work includes shoots for “House of Harlow” by Nicole Richie, food photography, head shots and more.  Find Daryl on Facebook  and check out her website

 

 

October is here. When the #&!@ did that happen? Summer flew by like a pigeon with a death wish. Like an out of service A train that I had every intention of boarding. Imagine, there I was standing on the platform with my floaties and daydreams of beachy fun. The train approached the station and as the subway cars whizzed by in a mean silver blur, I realized that it wasn’t going to stop. Summer is over. A pang of something unfamiliar shot up from toes and as I wiped the SPF 30 out of my watering eyes I realized what it was – time really does fly the older you get… damn it!

Well, with that melodrama aside I’ll return to my initial statement – October is here! And it is my favorite time of the year! No, really it is! These next 3-ish weeks we get the fleeting spoils of early Fall. The weather is perfection, the autumnal wardrobe selection is the year’s best (ie. chunky knits, sweatshirts, layers, and worn-in jeans), the seasonal treats (apple cider donuts straight from the orchard and butternut squash anything) are delicious, and the best part about October is – it is time for nesting.

In October we instinctively begin preparations for the coming winter. We begin to nest in our own little parts of the city, prepping for our urban hibernation. Hunting, gathering, and cozying up the home become priorities. We take advantage of the season’s sales and stockpile the last of the season’s produce from the farmer’s markets. We buy in bulk and justify our purchases with thoughts like, “Snowmageddon 2012… its gonna happen!” and “The holidays won’t sneak-up on me this year, get one in every color.” Yes, October is the season for nesting but it very can quickly turn into an episode of Hoarders. Do not fall victim to the urge to hoard this month. You don’t want your nest to look all crazy like the ones in central park. You know the ones with yarn and bottle caps and a piece of fluorescent weave all intertwined with sticks and plastic. Don’t do it! No really, they look crazy and you don’t want that!

Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when you’re out hunting and gathering to keep your nesting from turning into hoarding.

  1. DO I NEED THIS?
  2. WHY DO I NEED THIS?
  3. WHAT PURPOSE WILL IT SERVE?
  4. WILL IT IMPROVE MY QUALITY OF LIFE?

Now I realize we’re discussing the purchase of throw pillows or COSTCO paper towels, but I do want to point out that your environment is directly related to you and impacts you both physically and emotionally. So don’t be frivolous with the way you answer them. Really think on it. By asking yourself these simple questions, you stop and take stock of your needs vs. your wants and by holding yourself responsible for what you chose to nest with you’ve empowered yourself and brought that into your home. So with that I wish you a happy October and a happy nesting – but don’t get crazy!

Post authored by Josh Schulteis

Oh October, the one month curly haired gals are almost guaranteed a straight run of perfect hair days, how I love thee. Crisper than September, but without the impending mania of the holidays, October is for nesting. It always feels like a preparation month. Well, I guess for people like me it kind of always feels like preparation month, but that’s beside the point.

This month on Praxis we will share with you our take on nesting. There is a fine line between storing up for winter and hoarding for the apocalypse, we will help you find it. You will hear from your very favorite Josh and from a new LMP Shavanna, and they will bring you into the season with all of the warm fuzzies – and none of the surplus baggage.

How will I nest this month you ask? Well, I just found out I will be the happy host of a dear friend’s baby shower the first weekend in November, so I think it’s time to tackle the stack of unpacked boxes in the corner(s). It’s true. There are still boxes. July wasn’t THAT long ago in the grand scheme of moving. Don’t judge.

Happy nesting!

Brooke

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