Holiday Gift Baskets

December, 1, 2016

I’ll be the first to admit that finding the perfect gift for someone can be really tough. You want it to come from the heart. You want it to be personal. You want it to be creative. But not so much that when the recipient sees it, he thinks, “It’s the thought that counts. Right?”

Most people LOVE chocolate, so you can’t go wrong with that choice. My friend, Sandra, just happens to be a designer for one of the top chocolatiers in the country, Seattle Chocolates. And not only that! She’s so talented that major corporations clamor for her to create their gift boxes for special events.

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Sandra designed these one-of-a-kind baskets brimming with a variety of chocolate candies and truffles. You can buy them for about $40 each and have them shipped anywhere. It’s a great way to confidently check off your holiday gift list.

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She’d also love to create custom baskets that perfectly fit your criteria, and make your gifts personal.

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If you’re interested, email her at SandraLopez.pc@gmail.com.

Guide to Salsa & Bachata Festivals Around the World

November, 29, 2016

For those of you who love to dance – whether you’re an expert or a novice ̶ I have just the event for you! I was a ballet dancer growing up, so the current social dance craze has opened up a whole new world to me. As some of you know, for about a year, I’ve done a little social Salsa from time-to-time. My first official lesson was last July and, I confess, it was also my last…that is, until now.

Last weekend, I attended my first-ever Salsa and Bachata festival. Apparently, these events are staged all around the world. They are called “congresses,” so that is the term you use if you want to search for one near you. Just type a city into a Google search, followed by “Salsa Congress.”

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Congresses feature hours of workshops and boot camps at reasonable prices. Some of them are specifically tailored to beginners. I was offered about 50 hours of instruction, social dancing, and performances over the course of three days for $170. That’s an incredible deal, especially considering that dance champions flew in from around the world to teach and perform…Spain, Portugal, France, Columbia, Cuba…more than I can remember. Attendees also flew in from an array of foreign lands for a chance to learn from them.

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Inside Information.

The entire weekend was an experience that I will never forget! If you’re thinking about attending a congress, here is some inside information that I was fortunate to learn:

Bring three pairs of shoes.

I didn’t survive all of the 50 hours, but I would definitely say that in three days, I danced for over 20 of them! That called for bringing three pairs of shoes. In this picture, I’m only holding up two, but a third was in my bag. Bringing extra pairs of comfortable heels is a must, otherwise your feet will be screaming for mercy! I’d also advise bringing a pair of flats that dance well.

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Tips for Beginners: My congress included a Beginner Boot Camp. I highly recommend it if you are just learning.

I also recommend carefully planning your time. The workshops run all day, beginning around 11am. The professionals perform at night, and everyone enjoys social dancing from 11pm-6am.

True beginners will want to attend the socials between 11pm and 1am. That’s a terrific time to practice because it draws in a combination of beginners and good dancers who aren’t necessarily professionals. After 1 am, the hardcore dancers arrive. Some beginners who stayed felt overwhelmed trying to keep up with them. So if you are in this category, you might take the opportunity then to watch and learn.

Tips for More Advanced Dancers: This was my first time ever Bachata-dancing, but I did not sign up for the Beginner Boot Camp. I went straight for the intermediate/advanced classes. If you have any kind of a dance background, even if you haven’t danced in years, you’ll be fine in those as long as you can pick up choreography.

Pace Yourself.

Most people are like me…they cannot handle three days of nonstop action with only five hours to eat, shower, sleep and get be ready to go again. To really utilize your congress experience, I suggest taking the workshops during the day, enjoying the performances at night and then taking a nap so that you can dance when the professionals are there from about 1-6 am. Confession: I never made it to 6, but I did push through until 5 am! And what an incredible experience!!

After one of my workshops, I got to film choreography with former Bachata and Salsa World Champion from Venezuela, Grizzly Hidriago.

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I’ll do a longer post on him and his company next week, but in the meantime, here’s a clip of the choreography that I learned from his workshop.

If you ever get a chance to attend a congress, I highly recommend it. You’ll make friends from around the world. At my first workshop, I met Sherise, who became an instant best friend. We spent hours dancing, chatting and having a terrific time. She’s from Canada and was staying with friends at the hotel where the event was being hosted. I felt like I was adopted into their room. They were all dance-congress veterans and showed me the ropes. At the end, as we left with sore bodies and happy spirits, Sherise confided, “You don’t do the congress correctly, if you walk away without a blister!”

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Ten Things to Be Thankful For

November, 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! Today, Americans observe our nation’s oldest tradition. We gather with family and friends, and focus on our blessings. Regardless of what country you are from, I invite you to join us. Giving thanks for the benefits you have can boost your spirits, help you realize what is important in life, and increase your resolve to attain it.

Some people think they need perfect conditions or a monumental success to count their blessings. But when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this national holiday, the United States was engaged in the Civil War. The bloody Battle of Gettysburg had been fought just three months before, and each side had lost about a third of their fighting men. Lincoln was the commander in chief of the Union forces, yet on that first Thanksgiving, he spoke as the President of the entire nation. He asked all Americans to count their blessings, “with one heart and one voice.”

There are so many things, little and big, that each of us can be grateful for. Here is my list of ten things that I may have sometimes taken for granted, but are truly amazing. I’m starting with the turning leaves. That is why I’m incorporating all these beautiful pictures that I took of Seattle’s Japanese Garden.

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1. Nature. When the autumn chill sets in, instead of regretting the loss of summer warmth, I take joy in the stunning colors splashed on the leaves.

2. Lasting Friendships. One of my best friends from Vanderbilt, Regina, once said, “A good friend is someone who touches base even when years have gone by.” She left me a message the other day and I realized again how truly special good friends are.

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3. Home. I am thankful that I have never been forced to sleep without a roof over my head, a place to sleep and food to eat.

4. All of you. During some of my most difficult challenges, some of you sent me the nicest messages. I am truly touched to have you in my life.

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5. Breath. This might sound like something we should take for granted, but about a year ago, I went into anaphylactic shock from a newly-acquired shellfish allergy and stopped breathing. It was incredibly scary, and took quite a bit for me to fully overcome. Since then, I wake up every day very grateful to be breathing.

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6. Love. Accepting love and feeling love for another person causes vulnerability, but I’m so grateful for that verb. This was especially true after I went into anaphylactic shock. Every time I ate at a restaurant, I was terrified that shellfish sauce would have been snuck into the recipe. After the incident, I was pretty sick and had to have a total of twelve IV drips. But there was someone who showed me a lot of love during that tough time. It made all the difference.

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7. Being in the Moment. A recent trip that I took for work made me realize how precious an experience can be. The adventures I had will never come again. Sure, I can return to the locations, but I will never be in the same place with the same people at the same time in our lives.

8. Energy. The other day I took two dance classes back-to-back. I left feeling filled with joy for my health and strength.

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9. Family. The people I am spending this day with have been with me since day one.

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10. Thanksgiving Day. I’m grateful that Sarah Josepha Hale, a destitute young widow in the 19th Century, became a prestigious magazine editor, and persuaded President Lincoln to establish a day of national thanksgiving. I’m going to strive harder to acknowledge what I have to be thankful each and every day.

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Travel Talk: Salish Lodge’s Country Breakfast

November, 22, 2016

During this enchanting holiday season, when family and friends take top priority, I know just the place for a landmark country breakfast. The Salish Lodge in the Seattle area is an unsurpassed memory-maker!

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Come with those you love, and a large appetite. I mean it! As my mom said, “I was full before the first course was finished!” But don’t despair. That means you’ll get to enjoy lots of scrumptious leftovers. Believe me, they taste just as good the next day.

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And the view from the breakfast nook is amazing. You’ll be sipping hot drinks while watching a cool mist rising from the gushing waterfall as it hits the river below.

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These are the Snoqualmie Falls. They are considered sacred grounds by the Indian tribe whose name they bear. I’m sure you can see why.

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I highly recommend making this breakfast a new holiday tradition!

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Create a Subtle Cat Eye in Under Three Minutes!

November, 17, 2016

This fast, easy tutorial even incorporates drugstore products! Your bank account will thank me. So, let’s enter Makeup Land and get to it…

To get the products that I used:

NARS Concealer:

Velvet Luxe Shadow Brush (Similar):

Maybelline THE ROCK NUDES:

Maybelline COLOR TATTOO:

NYX Super Fat Eye Marker:

NARS Foundation:

NARS Browning Powder:

Kate Somerville Hydrating Mist:

SEPHORA Bronzer Brush (Similar):
YSL Mascara: