hello from florida's east coast

the orange tree in my in-laws yard

After Disney's Princess 1/2 Marathon weekend I drove over to my in-law's house on the east coast. A relative needed me so here I am getting dappled in sunshine while I help the people I love. 

My writing will be a little lighter than usual as I do what I am here to do. I hope you understand. 

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

the sweaty princess experiment

I have never in my life crossed a finish line. Ever. I never had Phys Ed in grammar school or high school. My family was more concerned about academics than sports. I've in fact never played any sports. Ever. So what happened on Saturday was out of character for me. It was a challenge. It was hard. It was an experiment.

On Saturday morning, at Epcot in Walt Disney World I crossed the finish line of The Royal Family 5K as part of Disney's Princess Marathon Weekend. I know it's just a 5K and people do these races all the time but for me this may have well been a 100 mile race. It was something I never thought I could do and that's the greatest part of this experiment. When you actually do something that you trained for, that you worked so hard for, that you wondered if you could actually do it, the reward is so sweet. 

Months ago I registered for Disney's Princess 1/2 Marathon--13.1 miles. I started eating healthy (lost 62 pounds) and trained HARD but  injured myself over and over-- my IT Band, my ankle. . .but I pushed through. I believed in working through the pain. It was infuriating when I injured myself not long ago because I knew that no matter what my mindset was, that I just couldn't do the 1/2 marathon. I couldn't do it. I cancelled the trip to Walt Disney World. I was sad and I wanted to quit this whole healthy lifestyle. I thought of how good Doritos would taste again.

I felt defeated.

But I knew that if I quit now that I would just go backwards and I worked too hard to get where I was. When you're at a crossroad and you know that life can go one of two ways, it's empowering to make the right decision. I decided that I still needed a goal. If I couldn't run the 1/2 marathon, I could still do a 5K. I registered for the Royal Family 5K at Walt Disney World and trained every day.

On Thursday I flew into Walt Disney World and on Friday I attended the Expo, where I had my ankle and IT Band area taped. I listened to running expert Jeff Galloway talk about his method of training, I picked up my registration packet, I drank a glass of champagne with a group of running moms who encouraged me to join their group (someday, I hope!), I met a runner named Bre who walked me through what to expect. I told her that the elite, perfect runners intimidated me. She said "Taylor, they all started somewhere. This is your start."  I started to get excited. I was going to do this.

I didn't sleep at all Friday night. I was staying at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. At 2:30am I went for a walk down to Bay Lake.  It's that strange exciting/nervous feeling, you know?  I took a shower, dressed and headed out to the bus at 4am. By 5am I was heading to my corral (D).  The DJ was rocking out and we all stretched, danced and prepared for the race.  By 6:30am the first corral (A) was ready to go.  It was quiet as we listened to the National Anthem. There were fireworks, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and they were off. Then B, then C and then it was D.

I was the very first in line and as they opened our corral with a thousand+ runners behind me, we walked to the starting line holding the RunDisney banner. That is when it became real for me. I was going to be running. Me. In a race. We were at the starting line. I took a breath and tried to remember this moment.

3. . .2. . .1. . .we're off!

Then I forgot how to run. 

I forgot how to walk. I stood there for a moment as runners BLEW PAST ME. Then it was innate. Run. Fast. Go. Run. I started to run. I was slow and runners were literally blowing past me as if I was standing still. I started to feel my face get hot and I thought "I have no business being here. I can't do this." I became panicked as I looked at the fast, tiny, fit, zero fat, gorgeous women running by me.  They belonged here in this 5K. I didn't. What if I was the last one? I had heard that runners had to maintain a 16 minute mile or you would get swept off the course.  I had this image in my mind of a shepherd's hook coming out from behind a bush and snagging me, pulling me off the course humiliated.

In the midst of my panic, something magical happened. I didn't see any other runners. My vision became myopic. While Disney recommended not wearing a headset, I wore mine. I listened to my RunDisney playlist and as "Be Our Guest" played. I ran through Epcot past Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom and Canada.

There were water stops and opportunities to take pictures with Disney characters but I ran past them. I thought if I stopped I wouldn't start again. This 5K was actually harder than I thought it would be. I tried to be in the moment and enjoy the smells, the sights, the sounds of every single thing I passed. I ran past Spaceship Earth as Disney cast members cheered for us, as they did throughout the course. One cast member waved at me and said "GREAT job! The finish line is just around the corner. You can DO IT!"

I took off my headset. I wanted to immerse myself in the moment. I could hear the families and friends and supporters cheering as I rounded the corner. I felt my face get hot. As I saw the finish line banner against the blue sky my lips started to tremble.

As I approached the finish line I saw a woman holding a sign. It said "Stranger, I am cheering for YOU!"

That was all it took for me to start the ugly cry. I crossed the finish line and I sobbed. (I'm actually tearing up as I write this). One of the volunteers slipped the medal over my head as I cried. She looked in the bleachers and asked where my family was. I said they weren't able to come. She said she would take a picture for me and she did. The picture at the top of this post was taken just moments after I crossed the finish line. As I walked to the retreat center for breakfast I was overcome with emotion. I wished L. had been with me. He's all I could think of. I wanted him to know how much his encouragement meant to me. That every time I trained out in the rain in Seattle I thought of him. And in the retreat I sat enjoying possibly the best eggs I've ever had I thought about how happy I would be when I finally got to hug him as a runner, as an athlete.

the front of my t-shirt

the back of my t-shirt

I know that this wasn't a marathon or a half marathon but to do something that you didn't think you could do is such an amazing experience. It proves that you can do something--anything--if you set your mind to it.

Afterwards,  I headed over to the Magic Kingdom still wearing my runner's bib and medal. I heard over and over again "Congratulations!"

Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely, as long as it is a Disney race. They just know how to do this to make you feel special.  The expo was educational, fun and inspiring. Every Disney cast member and RunDisney volunteer made the experience exciting whether you were doing the 5K or the 1/2 marathon.

How does this experiment rate: One of the best I have ever tried as The Happygirl. This experiment increased my self-confidence and is pushing me to keep going with being New Taylor. I wish I had done this sooner but I realized that I wasn't ready earlier. This was the moment. This was the moment I became the girl I always wanted to be.

As I waited in line to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction a little girl reached up to look at my medal. She asked me what it was. Before I could respond, her father said "This girl is an athlete. She just ran a race." I couldn't have been happier to be called anything else.

To register for a marathon/5K weekend at Walt Disney World or Disneyland check out RunDisney's site. It just might change your life too.

inspiration #61: getting out of hibernation {insights}

It's been a blah winter here in Seattle. Just rain, mist, fog and gray days on end. It's hard to get motivated when your primal urge is to hunker down with some heavy carbs and hibernate until spring.

Normally I would do this. Every other year since we moved to Seattle I have hibernated in the winter. I seem to follow the sun's rhythms and be still until the daffodils bloom again. And every year I have felt a little depressed, affected by the lack of sun and the unending days of wet + gray.

This year I did something different. Instead of looking outside at the rain while I was cozy inside eating mac & cheese, I laced up my running shoes, threw on an anorak and I went out there. I wasn't fast or particularly happy about working out in the rain and every step I took I was annoyed but when I came home soaking I realized I was happy and proud of myself for doing something when I didn't want to. I've gone out there pretty much every day this winter. I worked out until I was sweating. In my mind I envisioned all the negative thoughts, insecurities and toxins evaporating through my skin. It felt good. Each workout was an opportunity to start fresh.

I saw this quote above earlier this week and I posted it on a vision board in my workspace. With every workout, with every crying session, with every time I am barefoot at the sea, I feel refreshed, I feel new. I feel happy. I thought back in my life and I realized that pretty much any issue that caused me angst was eased by either working out HARD, crying it out or sitting on the beach looking out at the ocean and gaining perspective on my life.

Come to think of it salt water taffy is a pretty good cure for the 'unhappies' as well.

How do you change your perspective when you feel stuck or unhappy?

Happy Wednesday!

happy video: sleepy, happy baby animals {video}

I couldn't sleep last night so I started reading email and discovered this email from my husband "I knew this would make you happy. Love you."

It did. I hope it makes you happy too.

(ed. note: btw, I heard from a number of guys who called foul on this video for making them feel all gooey inside. Don't worry. Us girls thinks that's kind of sweet when a guy gets in touch with his happy vulnerable side.) 

happy food: tj's roasted coconut chips {snack}

I am a coconut girl.

Coconut is one of the happiest smells to me. It's Hawaiian Tropic Sunscreen and days spent by the pool with my high school best friend, Mimi. It's Coconut French Toast with my husband at that little place on the beach in Maui. It's such a happy smell connected to good memories.

Last night when I was shopping in Trader Joe's I happily discovered their new snack food TJ's Roasted Coconut Chips. Sure,  I expected these little white slivers to be sweet sure, but the combination of SALT and sugar roasted onto wispy slices of crunchy coconut was heavenly.

This isn't a low calorie or low fat food. It isn't. However, just a couple tablespoons of these crunchy bits are all you need to feel satisfied and since the generous bag is 2 servings, a couple tablespoons will only set you back 80 calories and 5 grams of fat. If you're in the mood for coconut and it's this versus a King Size coconut candy bar, do this.

I have a busy day of meetings today and I know that I'll be tempted to grab a blueberry muffin full of sugar and fat when I pick up a quick espresso, so this morning I mixed together 2 tablespoons of TJ's Roasted Coconut Chips + 2 tablespoons freeze-dried unsweetened strawberries + 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa nibs to make my own delicious to-go snack mix that tops out at 150 calories. Not only is this snack unbelievably good, but each generous serving costs less than $.60 to make.

I wish you could taste this combination of crunchy + sweet + salty strawberry/coconut/chocolate combination. It's like eating Captain Crunch on the beach with a shot of chocolate.

What's your happy snack?

the guide to chocolate pots de creme with orange cream {recipe}

There is something so comforting about chocolate pudding. Maybe it's the combination of chocolate and cream or maybe it's the fact that when you have pudding you're someplace where you can slowly enjoy every chocolatey spoonful.

Last night L., and I had a friend over. When I first planned the menu I was going with apple crumble for dessert but when I found out our guest was gluten-free I found a recipe for Chocolate Pots de Creme from Bon Appetit. It's a bit of work but from the happy looks on their faces last night, this recipe was worth every moment.

From all of us here at The Happygirl, we wish you unbounded moments of happy on this Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Pots de Creme with Orange Cream
adapted from Bon Appetit


2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Baking Bar)
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 325. 

Prepare six standard custard cups in a jelly pan with at least 2 inch high sides. Set aside. 

In a saucepan over medium heat bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Add the chocolate and stir just until incorporated. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk 6 egg yolks with sugar. Whisk until the sugar is incorporated into the eggs. 

Slowly add the chocolate cream to the egg/sugar mixture, stirring as you pour. Once incorporated, strain the batter into another bowl.  Let mixture cool ten minutes.

Pour custard evenly into the six ramekins, leaving at least one inch at the top. Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil. The ramekins should be in the baking pan. Pour water into baking pan about 1/3 of the way up the custard cups. 

Carefully place pan in oven to bake for 60 minutes. When done, remove ramekins from water and place in refrigerator to cool at least 3 hours until set. 

In the meantime, prepare orange cream by whipping one pint of heavy whipping cream with 1 teaspoon of orange oil and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Whip until light and fluffy.

Serve by adding a dollop of orange cream to each ramekin. 


romantic valentine's dinner courtesy of costco

I was in Costco last week buying our weekly supply of limes and avocados when I saw these heart shaped ravioli and a Perrier-Jouet Champagne set. I knew that this combination would make for the loveliest, simple Valentine's day dinner.  On Monday, I tested it out and it was indeed delicious. I served the ravioli with just a simple lemon butter sauce (the juice of 1 lemon + 3 tablespoons of butter melted in a saucepan) topped with freshly shaved parmesan. The combination of a simple pasta dish and the bubbly summery taste of the Perrier Jouet was sublime.

It's not too late! Here's all you need to pick up at your trip to Costco today:

I wish for you love and the joy of simple pleasures during this very special week!

the guide to proposing at walt disney world

The ceiling of the Be our Guest restaurant. 
If you look out the windows it's actually snowing in the forest!

So you're in love. It's her. Then, gentlemen, this article is for you. And it's for your happy girl.

I was standing on a bridge in a fairytale land. It was twilight just outside a forest. The sky was a swirly pink and turquoise. In the background was a castle. I closed my eyes and I could hear a waterfall and lilting music. It was one of the most romantic places I've ever been. On that bridge I thought "Oh yes, this is where a boy should propose." I wasn't in Europe or even in a dream. I was standing on the bridge leading to Beast's Castle in New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. (See more on New Fantasyland in this recent blog post.)

There is something about Walt Disney World-- something lush, happy, romantic and absolutely memorable. Sure, Walt Disney World is about families but it's also about friends and adventures and love. True, passionate, bubbling over love. Imagine, if you will, what happens when you combine a love for your partner with the love you both share for all things Disney. It's magical. It's absolutely magic.

A girl dreams about her proposal her entire life. When we're little, this usually involves a pony. There's a prince and he leads his pony (with braids in her mane) towards you and there's a shiny ring that's pink and enormous. When we get a little older we wonder "Will it be him? Is he the one I want to spend Sunday mornings with? Will he be the one I see with our daughter perched on his shoulders waiting for the fireworks to start?" And if it is him, we wonder how will he do it? How will he propose? Will he get down on one knee? Will it be something I can't wait to tell my friends and our grandchildren someday?

If you have found the one and you both love all things Disney, then there really is no better place to propose then in the Happiest Place in the World. Here's how:

Propose on a safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Call 407 938 3000 for details.

1. The ring. 

Do you know what she likes? Ask her. If you'd like to keep it a surprise, ask her mom, her sisters or her friends. Look at her jewelry. Does she have simple taste or is she more adventurous? If you want to do this all on your own, you can't go wrong with a simple solitaire in white gold, like this one from Tiffany.
If you are already at the Walt Disney World resort reading this and didn't bring a ring, pop into Uptown Jewelers on Main Street USA (Magic Kingdom) and pick up a ring. Pink, perhaps? 

The bridge to Be Our Guest. 
At sunset it's one of the most romantic spots in the entire Kingdom.

2. The Proposal. 

No matter how you ask her, she will always remember that moment when you ask her to be your wife. Before you propose, think about what she likes. Would she want it to be just the two of you or would she blush and throw her arms around you with joy while guests clap for the two of you?

Here are some ideas that take the magic up a few notches.

Try these proposals you can do on your own: 
  • When you're in the Magic Kingdom, go to the Wishing Well adjacent to Cinderella Castle (If you're approaching the castle from Tomorrowland, the Wishing Well is on the right.).  Have a coin ready to give her to toss in the wishing well. Ask her to close her eyes and make a wish. When she opens her eyes, you're on one knee with the ring inside a glass slipper. Follow up with a dinner for two at Cinderella's Royal Table. Call 407 824 4477 for reservation and 407 WDW GIFT for information on glass slippers. 
  • At twilight, pause on the bridge to Beast's Castle in New Fantasyland.  Ask her to look up at the castle. What does she see in the window? As she focuses on this, get down on one knee with the ring. Ask her if she'll do you the great honor of becoming your princess. After the round of applause from other guests, enter the Be Our Guest restaurant where you already have a reservation. Toast your engagement with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. I recommend the Pan-seared Salmon on Leek Fondue or the Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops in a Lobster Sauce.) Click here for more information on Be Our Guest or to make a reservation.
  • Did you first fall in love on your trip to Paris a few years ago?  Have the two of you always wanted to go to Italy?  Propose in one of the countries in World Showcase (Epcot) with the Eiffel Tower in the background or in the romantic piazza. Celebrate your engagement with a romantic dinner in Chefs de France or Tutto Italia Ristorante followed by Illuminations.
  • Sunset Point on the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney's Polynesian Resort is the perfect place if you love tropical locations. Sunset, water and Cinderella Castle in the background make this choice super romantic. Follow with dinner at Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. Continue the theme with a honeymoon at Aulani in Oahu, Hawaii. 
Propose just before the fireworks begin in the Magic Kingdom! Every time the two of you see 
fireworks, she'll be reminded of just how romantic you are!

These proposals take it over the top:
  • If your girl never got over her pony fascination or she is a real girly girl princess, go big. Go for the horse drawn carriage followed by dinner at Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. For help with this one, call 407 939 7529.
  • Are you an experienced diver? Explore DiveQuest and go for a dive in the 5.7 million gallon aquarium at Epcot.  If you tell the dive guides your plan, they will give you a white board for you to write your proposal on. As you descend in the tank, guests (including your girlfriend) can watch you dive through one of the 56 giant windows. Imagine her face when you flip the white board towards her that asks "Marry me, darling?" Because your dive guide will know in advance what you're planning, he can also capture this moment (both you and her) on video.
  • While you are at dinner, schedule a Dream Maker to transform your resort room into one that is fit for a Princess. Roses? Chocolates? A tiara waiting for her? If you are more of a private person who wants to make this celebration between just the two of you but still be unforgettable,  this is your option. Call a Disney Dream Maker at 407 WDW GIFT for help in making this dream come true. 
  • Do you both love the water? Rent the 48-foot Sea Ray "Grand 1" yacht and with the wind in her hair, ask her to be your first mate.  Cal 407 824 2682 to reserve this very special boat.
  • Whisk her away for a surprise trip. Reserve the airline tickets, hotel and park tickets without telling her where you are going on your trip. Every moment of this special getaway is a surprise from the destination to the hotel to the couples massage at Senses and finally the moment you ask her to be your princess.  This is one she will always remember. This is the one every other guy will have to top. I know. Because this one, this one happened to me. 

If you have fallen head over heels, madly, absolutely, wildly in love and would like to propose in a way  that represents you as a couple but you don't know how to begin, call Disney Weddings at 321 939 4610 to speak to someone who would love to help you make your dreams come true.

Happy Valentine's Day!

things to do when you're stuck home in a blizzard

1. Make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course.

2. Assuming you still have power, peruse Petfinder.com or your local shelter's website to choose a funny, quirky, loving pet to join your family. Everyone deserves a family to cuddle with during a storm. How about this girl? This is Isabella.

Isabella is available for adoption in Enfield, Connecticut

3. Go online to find your next sunny vacation. How about here:

The Wanyama Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

 or here

4. Gather your sleeping bags, family members and pets and have a sleepover in the family room watching the snow fall together.

5. Curl with with a cup of cocoa and read a classic like "The Secret Garden," "Walden," "Anne of Green Gables," "The Great Gatsby" or my favorite book of all time "Seventeenth Summer."

6. If you have chocolate chips, melt them down (1-2 minutes in a microwave) and experiment with dipping different things in chocolate. Things like potato chips or walnuts are especially good but what about a dill pickle spear or a hot pepper?

7. Look at pictures of your past vacations. This is one my favorite photos. I met this little red kangaroo face to face when I was in Australia. Isn't she awesome?

8. Make blueberry pancakes. Of course. Try this recipe from Trisha Yearwood. This girl can cook.

9. Bundle up and stand outside. Look straight up at the snow fall. It's transcendent.

10. Arrange your books on your bookshelf by author or cover color.

11. Get all the blankets in the house and have each family member compete to make a blanket fort.  Take each one for a spin.

12. Learn how to say phrases in Italian like "Dove e la migliore spiaggia?" (Where is the best swimming pool?), or Japanese like "Kanpai!" (Cheers!) or "Ich liebe dich" (I love you!) in German courtesy of the BBC Languages site. And it's free.

13. Stay in your jammies all day and watch cartoons via Netflix. Don't have Netflix? Sign up now for a free one month trial.

14. You are going to get cabin fever. Use up that excess energy by working out with Xbox Kinect (My choice: Zumba) or run up and down the stairs of your apartment building.

15. Make boxed mac & cheese but substitute sour cream for the milk. It takes this simple lunch staple to a new level. Heaven.

16. Sit crossed-legged across from your partner/kid/friend/dog, knees touching. Stare intently at each other. See who cracks up laughing or licking with joy first. Try it. It's fun.

17. Run outside quickly in your swimsuit and boots then hop in a warm shower. It's invigorating and your neighbors will wonder what other fun things you're up to.

18. Challenge your family members to see who can do the most sit-ups. Alone? Skype your best friend and try it. On your mark, get set, go!

19. Try on every single thing in your closet. If it doesn't fit or if you haven't worn it in the past four seasons, donate the items to a shelter in your area. Dress for Success is a great non-profit that helps women restart their careers.

20. If you've exhausted every one of these fun things, then well, prepare your taxes or at least gather everything you need for your tax preparer. At least when it's nice out again, this chore will be done!

Have fun. Stay warm. Cuddle. Good luck!

the adventure: surprise yoga!

three generations of our family doing yoga led by yogi,  deanna

The email was simple. It said:  "Be at our beach at 4pm."

That's it. 

It was Christmas and our family was renting a house in Key Largo. Being spread out around the country, it's rare that we were all together but this week, these seven days were all ours to spend together.  

We are planners in this family. We each had different Keys guidebooks and we had planned a week full of scuba diving, Key West adventures, snorkeling and lazy days sitting out on our beach. The house we rented in Key Largo had its own dock, beach, pool, jetted spa and elevator (which came in handy as we transported the drinks cart up and down from the main house to the tiki hut.)

the tiki hut in our backyard, the site of christmas morning presents and many cocktails

One night in November I was reading the Keys guide book and I stumbled on an activity that seemed perfect--yoga at your home.  I called Kathy at Key Largo Yoga and immediately felt a connection with this chill, vibrant yogi. I asked if she could come out to our place in Key Largo. We talked for awhile and I mentioned there were three generations all coming together to celebrate not only Christmas but my mother-in-law's birthday. Could she somehow work that into the session? She loved the idea and we booked the session for Sunday at 4pm, just as the sun was setting. I told my husband L., about the session and we decided it would be fun if we surprised our family with this adventure. 

And so we sent the email and the guesses began. 

Were we parasailing?
Were we sailing?
Was there a magician coming? (this one from our niece)

No. No and no.

Then Sunday morning I got a call from Kathy. She was sick. Her whole family was sick and she couldn't come. She suggested a friend who was also a yoga master. I was disappointed because Kathy and I had talked a few times and I knew that she "got" the vibe we were going for but I also knew that everything really does happen exactly the way it is supposed to so I called the new yogi and spoke with Deanna. She had the same fantastic chill air about her and I knew that she too, would be perfect for what we wanted to achieve that afternoon.

4pm Sunday.

The boys lit the tiki torches around the pool and beach area. L. found some perfect beachy jazz and the outdoor area was flooded with music. The sun was just beginning to set and the palm trees were rustling in the soft breeze. I had let our 13 year-old niece in on the plan and she, her sister and their cousin brought down 11 beach towels and 12 bottles of water. 

Just as the family was starting to gather around the pool, this happy, lovely yogi arrived. I loved Deanna the minute I met her.  She had the personality of someone who is living EXACTLY the life she wants to live. I knew this was the person we were meant to spend the afternoon with. It's funny how the universe works, isn't it?

So here was this beautiful, fit, blonde woman standing with me as our family congregated by the pool. It was funny watching them assess why she was there. I let go and let her lead. She greeted us and told everyone who she was. There was laughter as our family told her what they thought the surprise would be. 

She led us out onto the soft sand with our beach towels and water and we began. 

I wasn't sure of everyone's experience with yoga so I had explained to Deanna that we would have three generations of varying fitness levels from grandparents to young girls. As Deanna started she showed how to modify the poses that could even be done by the least limber members. 

There were a few times during the session that I started to tear up. I looked at each member of my family as we stretched. I loved each person on that beach with me. The smell of the balmy sea breeze, the way the sky was turning pink and the warmth of the sand--each sensation felt magnified as we focused on holding each pose. 

As we held the final poses, I knew that this healthy surprise was a perfect way to say "We love you" to our family. Sometimes vacations can be an excuse to be unhealthy but this was a good way to focus on our bodies and health in a fun way. 

As a heartfelt final touch, Deanna presented a Namaste seashell to each couple and to each of the little ones. Throughout the week we would find these shells spread around the house and the outdoor area and it was a good reminder of a bonding moment in our family. 

This was such a fantastic adventure. We plan to incorporate a healthy activity like this in every vacation, whether it's a family hike or yoga or even a 5k run, this is great way to kick off a trip and put yourself in a happy mindset.


happy food: hotel style lemon pancakes {recipe}

If I close my eyes I am there.

There are palm trees and orange trees blossoming around me.  It's 72 degrees and the morning sun is dappled as I laugh with friends out on the Culina patio of The Four Seasons Los Angeles. On the table-- rich coffee, a big bowl of ripe strawberries and Lemon Cheese Pancakes. This is one of my favorite breakfast spots in the world. The food is impeccable, the sunny patio is lovely and the service is outstanding.

Recently, I was thinking of how many happy mornings I have spent at the Four Seasons with friends or colleagues enjoying breakfast in the sunshine. With all the rain here in Seattle (especially lately) I wanted to recreate this sunshiny feeling at home. So, I contacted the Four Seasons and they were kind enough to share the recipe. I made this yesterday morning for L. and it was like eating happy golden sunshine.   If you need a little hit of sun, try this recipe. It's happy food!

Hotel style Lemon Cheese Pancakes

(I have adapted this recipe a little, The Four Seasons uses cottage cheese. I prefer the flavor and texture of  of ricotta so I used this cheese instead.)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar 
4 whole lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil (I used lemon juice)
Beat the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and oil.
Add the milk and mix well.
Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix.
Fold in the cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese.)
On medium-high, in a greased pan, pour 1/4 cup of batter. Cook approximately 3 minutes on each side until golden. 
Sprinkle with powdered sugar. I also added lemon curd and Lingonberry preserves. 
Enjoy the sunny moment!

things to love about february

1. January is over. OVER.

2. Super Bowl XLVII is on the 3rd which means you have two more days to get that big screen TV.

3. There is a great excuse to eat chocolate coming on the 14th. 

4. Spring begins in 46 days. 

5. This winter month is short by 2 days. Yey.

6. President's Day (18th) throws in a nice three day weekend. Schedule that sunny getaway now.

7. The Westminster Dog Show is the 11th-12th which is what will inspire you to remember how much you love dogs after which you will go to your local shelter and adopt a new friend who can probably snuggle and catch a Frisbee better than the pups in the show.

8. The Academy Awards take place on the 24th (ABC 7pm ET/4pm PT). If you're not nominated, schedule your own watching party now.  Download the Oscars app or if you roll old school here's a printable list of the nominees.

9. National Margarita Day is the 22nd. Plan accordingly. Here's all you need.

10. Mardi Gras, Paczki and Shrove Tuesday are on the 12th. If you observe, Lent begins on the 13th so if you're giving up chocolate or sweets, now's the day to eat those Valentine's Day truffles.

This red envelope (available on Amazon) features
 the Chinese symbol for happiness

11. Chinese New Year is on February 10th. Give someone you love $8 in a red envelope. (The number 8 is considered good luck, a red envelope is a symbolic offering to wish someone good fortune in the new year.) Wear a new red shirt to ward off bad fortune and evil spirits.

12. Make your guy's day. Take him to see "A Good Day to Die Hard" opening on February 14th.  Remember how much you love him every time he says "Yippee-ki-yay, mother***er!" with glee.

13. New albums releasing in February include:

 Bjork's "Bastards" (2/5)
 Josh Groban's "All That Echoes" (2/5)
 Tim McGraw's "Two Lanes of Freedom" (2/5)
 Buckcherry's "Confessions"(2/19)

More to come. . .