Are You a Mindful Mother?

When you're having one of those days, try parenting the Buddhist way.

Buddhism for mothers

There are days when being a mom makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. I feel blessed to have two beautiful children who are thriving under my care, and the rewards seem endless. Other days…well, I don’t have to tell you about other days. Whether they involve temper tantrums, sleep deprivation or just the general chaos that often comes with parenthood, those are the days that try a woman’s soul.

Being a mother is a life-transforming event that can rock even the most even-keeled, self-assured female to the core. Suddenly you aren’t who you thought you were, and the rules that once governed your world are turned upside down by the demands of a tiny yet emotionally powerful little person. //READ MORE

10 Dirt-Cheap Ways to Celebrate Summer

Family time doesn't have to cost a fortune.

free summer stuff to do with kids

It’s summertime, and there are a million fun things you’d like to do with your kids while the days are warm and long. However, cash is not exactly falling from the sky, so a vacation or a trip to a pricey theme park aren’t good options. So how do you keep the fun going for two months without going broke?

The good news is children don’t care if an activity costs a lot of money or if it’s free, because all they really want is your undivided attention. So, here are 10 cheap ways to keep them busy—and you all bonding—during the next few weeks. //READ MORE

How Singing Lessons Can Change Your Life

One coach says it's never to late to reap the benefits of belting it out.

singing can change your life

When singer-songwriter Whitney Nichole isn’t composing music or performing in front of live audiences, you’ll find her in the San Francisco music studio she founded with her husband, photographer Niall David, doing one of her favorite things in the world: teaching students how to find their voice. Since launching her business, Songbird Studios, back in 2009, Nichole has not only released her first full-length album, 100 Strong, and performed her pop songs around the country. She’s also been getting singers both young and old excited in music and enjoying the exhilarating rewards of expressing themselves creatively.

Here, Nichole talks to Red Typewriter about the mood-boosting, brain-nurturing, confidence-building benefits of singing your heart out. //READ MORE

New Superfoods That Will Supercharge Your Life

Move over, almonds and acai, and make room in the cupboard for these nutritional rock stars.

new superfoods

The word “superfood” has become one of the most overused words in our culinary vocabulary. We’ve all read about the enormous health benefits that nutrient-packed goodies such as avocados, fish oil, flaxseed, acai berries and coconut oil can provide. But the truth is, there are many more powerhouse foods out there waiting to boost your health while adding flavor and variety to meals. Here are 10 superfoods you may not yet have heard of, but should definitely get to know.

the new superfoods

1. Spirulina. A member of the algae family and one of the hottest superfoods, spirulina is harvested from both the ocean and fresh water and is available in flake, tablet or powder form. Not only does spirulina contain the most concentrated source of protein known to man, but it also supplies a wide range of photonutrients, vitamins and trace minerals. It may help fight cell-damaging free radicals, curb hunger and increase stamina, as well as aid digestion by suppressing the overgrowth of bad bacteria. How to consume this deep green stuff? Just blend it into your favorite smoothie or salad dressing and reap the benefits.

 

 

the new superfoods

2. Dulse. An edible seaweed whose name rhymes with “pulse,” this superfood provides a wealth of protein and fiber and is rich in vitamins, trace minerals, healthy fatty acids and antioxidants. Resembling a leafy red lettuce, dulse grows wild on the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts and is most readily available in dried leaves or flakes. With a slightly spicy, salty flavor, pulse leaves can be crumbled into soups, stews and casseroles, while the flakes may be sprinkled onto a variety of foods as a nutritious condiment.

 

 

the new superfoods

3. Nutritional Yeast. Affectionately called “notch” by vegans and others in the know, this gluten-free superfood is now being discovered by the rest of us. This inactive yeast is grown on a food source—some brands use sugar cane or beet molasses—then harvested, heated, dried and crumbled into flakes or powder. Found in the bulk or supplement section of most health food stores, nutritional yeast is chock full of B-vitamins and folic acid, and has a mild, nutty-cheesy flavor that makes it a great substitute for cheese in recipes. It can also be sprinkled over popcorn or salads, added to juice, cereal, smoothies, gravies, soups or casseroles, or used to make sandwich spreads.

 

 

new superfoods

4. Bee Pollen. One of the richest sources of complete protein in nature, bee pollen has been consumed by the Chinese for centuries. Packed with all the B vitamins (except B12), vitamins C and E, potent antioxidants and essential amino acids, it’s said to provide stress relief, improve digestion and stamina, and balance hormones while cleansing toxins from the body. Some claim bee pollen also fights acne and depression, and enhances fertility and libido. Always buy organic pollen from an environmentally healthy region and an ethical beekeeper. Start with a quarter-teaspoon a day, and avoid if you have a pollen or bee allergy.

 

 

superfoods_chlorella

5. Chlorella. One of the few edible species of water-grown algae, chlorella is a great source of protein and contains all the B vitamins, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, amino acids, magnesium, iron, trace minerals and a unique set of phytonutrients. One of this superfood’s greatest health benefits is its ability to cleanse and alkalize the body, reducing inflammation and making it more difficult for diseases to thrive. Chlorella has also been used to relieve pain, reduce hypertension and enhance the immune system. Available in pill, powder or liquid form, chlorella may be added to smoothies and other recipes, or eaten (in pill form) as an on-the-go, high-protein snack.

 

 

superfoods_groats

6. Oat Groats. The most natural, unprocessed form of oats, oat groats are another high-nutrient plant food that packs a full spectrum of nutrition, including vitamin E, the B vitamins and minerals. Oat groats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, making them quite filling, and don’t spike your blood sugar the way refined carbohydrates and sugars do. They’ve also been found to benefit heart health, lower blood pressure and possibly help prevent diabetes as part of a high whole-grain diet. If you can’t find them in your local store, a good substitute is steel-cut oats, also called Irish oatmeal, which are the groats cut into pieces with a steel cutter.

 

 

 

the new superfoods

7. Hemp Seeds. This super seed possesses one of nature’s most concentrated plant sources of essential fatty acids (even greater than the mighty flaxseed) and supplies a rich source of easily assimilated amino. It’s loaded with phytonutrients to nourish healthy blood, tissues, cells and organs and provides a rich array of protein and minerals, including zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron. Hemp seeds may help you support a healthy metabolism and fat-burning functions and reduce inflammation. Because they don’t contain phytic acid, they won’t cause bloating when ground into smoothies, sprinkled on salads, or incorporated into other recipes.

 

 

the new superfoods

8. Raw Organic Honey. More opaque and dense—and significantly healthier—than the processed variety that often comes in a cute teddy bear jar, raw honey boasts antibacterial properties that make it an effective topical remedy for sore throats, burns and other wounds. Containing both hydrogen peroxide and phenolic acids, this unpasteurized version is a natural infection-fighter and antioxidant that, when taken orally, may also increase immunity and fight the buildup of “bad” cholesterol. Because it still contains pollen, raw honey also been used to prevent allergy flare-ups. Note that honey should never be given to children under age 2, and that you should consult your doctor before using it to treat allergies or infection. And always purchase an organic variety from a local, ethical beekeeper.

 

 

 

the new superfoods

9. Turmeric. Best known as one of the ingredients in curry, turmeric has a warm, peppery flavor and a deep yellow-orange color. Traditionally called “Indian saffron,” this spice comes from the root of the curcuma longa plant and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye. Touted for its anti-inflammatory and possible cancer-preventing properties, turmeric tastes delicious added to many different recipes, including sautéed apples, steamed cauliflower or green beans and onions. Or, add some turmeric and dried onion to creamy yogurt for a flavor-rich, low-calorie dip.

 

 

 

the new superfoods

10. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Long used as a natural health remedy, raw apple cider vinegar is a strong digestive aid that has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and helps promote the growth of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria in your system. This unique vinegar contains potassium and other trace minerals and elements, and has been used for centuries as a natural health tonic and weight-loss aid. Select a version that’s labeled “raw” and “unfiltered” and include in salad dressings, use instead of cooking wine to brighten dishes, or dilute 1 tablespoon in a glass of water to drink before meals.

 

 

 

Mama Wants a New Pair of Shoes!

The top footwear trends to step into right now.

footwear trends fall 2015
These boots were made for strutting. Over-the-knee white leather boots by Vionnet.

Yes, you can find somewhat practical footwear this fall. For instance, lady loafers and block heels are offering a more comfy way to go retro, and platforms—everything from office-friendly maryjane versions to club-worthy concoctions—give you a more stable boost under the season’s flared pants. But if you’re looking to draw real attention, here are eight trends to watch. This is the footwear to pull on when you want to make a statement—and maybe just a little trouble.

Fashion collages by INGA LIM.

1. Naughty By Nature. Maybe it was the influence of Fifty Shades of Grey that inspired all the bondage-inspired details that appeared in many ready-to-wear collections last year and are now punching up footwear. Look for chains, ropes, skin-revealing cut-outs and boots that lace to way up there. How to wear it in real life: Tame a sultry ankle or knee-high boot by pairing it with a more restrained outfit such as a wool skirt or tailored A-line dress.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Giambattista Valli, Monique Lhuillier, Gucci, Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli.

 

2. A Hairy Situation. We didn’t know whether to smile or run when furry, Muppet-like coats came down the runways last year. Either way, we shouldn’t be surprised that our shoes are now growing beards. Furry shoes aren’t particularly wearable, but they are conversation starters. How to wear it in real life: It doesn’t matter what you wear these puppies with, because they will steal the show. But we recommend limiting the fur to your tootsies, and avoiding the rain—because who wants feet that resemble drowned rats?

footwear trends fall 2015

Dusty lavender fur mules by Maison Martin Margiela.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Salvatore Ferragamo, Vionnet, Dolce & Gabbana and Tibi.

 

3. Head Over Heels. From lipstick tubes suspended in Lucite to metal angles worthy of Frank Lloyd Wright, the details are in the heels this season. So whether you’re sporting one of fall’s minimalist pantsuits or a rocking a flashy ’80s-inspired dress, quirky heels add serious interest at ground level. How to wear it in real life: Pair the shoe with a likeminded outfit—a mod maryjane with a ’70s-inspired mini dress, for instance—to avoid mixing metaphors, and keep themes and architectural elements to a minimum.

footwear trends fall 2015

Center: Versace yellow slingbacks. Left, top to bottom: Maison Margiela, BCBG, Roberto Cavalli, Monique Lhuillier. Right, top to bottom: Dolce & Gabbana, Jason Wu, Simone Rocha, Salvatore Ferragamo.

 

4. New Kids On the Block. Color blocking reaches a pinnacle this season, with suede patchwork, ’70s-ispired color combos and geometric patterns all competing for your attention. You’ll find this vibrant look on everything from ankle booties and block-heeled loafers to thigh-high boots and pumps. How to wear it in real life: While designers showed these blockheads with rainbow-patterned coats and other kaleidoscope-worthy ensembles, we suggest restricting your outfit to one or two hues and limiting the multicolored look to your tootsies. The effects will be mesmerizing but not maniacal.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Fendi, Miu Miu, Prabal Gurung, Just Cavalli.

 

5. String Theory. This look has been stringing us along for the past few seasons, but now fringe has moved from ready-to-wear to footwear. You don’t have to be a cowgirl to love western-inspired ankle boots, mules that seem to have been adorned with party streamers, and other attention-grabbing looks. How to wear it in real life: Again, keep it simple and limit this detail to below your ankle. Head-to-toe fringe screams rodeo, not Rodeo Drive.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Proenza Schouler, Rebecca Minkoff, Burberry Prorsum, Matthew Williamson.

6. Fancy Flourishes. If you’re one who likes to embellish, this is the season for you. Ornamental details like flowers, rhinestones, glitter and even plastic flowers can be found on everything from maryjanes to mules. Perfect for holiday dressing or date night, these adorable adornments can add some oomph to your wardrobe after a summer of flip-flops and espadrilles. How to wear it in real life: No limits here. It’s party time.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Studded slingback from Tory Burch. Green velvet maryjanes from Dolce & Gabbana. Rhinestone embellished block-heels from Céline. Floral rhinestone maryjanes from Dolce & Gabbana.

 

7. The Skinny. Knee-high, over-the-knee and thigh-high boots were all the rage last fall, and they’re back this year, slinkier and more form-fitting than before. Gals with skinny calves rejoice, because this babies will finally stay put, and those with curvier silhouettes may also find the added stretch flattering. How to wear it in real life: Pair a sky-high boot with a midi skirt or skinny jeans, or punctuate a mini skirt with a more classic knee-high version.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Calvin Klein black thigh-highs, Emilio Pucci black-and-white boots, Alberta Ferretti cinnamon suede thigh-highs, nude over-the-knee boots by Alexander McQueen, mod blue stretch boots by Bottega Veneta.

 

8. Cut It Out. Designers have been shaking their booties at us for the past couple years, but fall’s versions are hipper than ever. Taking a cue from the fun cut-outs we’ve been seeing on dresses and separates, these slip-on or zip-up looks run the gamut from casual to dress-up, but what they’ve got in common are carefully placed slashes and punch-outs that flash a little skin in just the right places. How to wear it in real life: Keep the look long and lean by rocking these booties with skinny jeans or allowing textured tights to peek through.

footwear trends fall 2015

Clockwise from left: Nicole Miller, Julien Macdonald, Gianvito Rossi, Sebastian.

Want a More Meaningful Life? Shut Up and Listen

Sometimes, connection and enlightenment happen in the silences.

become a better listener

I’ve always been a little bit of a chatterbox. In the seventh grade, my music teacher threatened to ban me from the middle school concert because I couldn’t stop talking to my BFF during choral practice. Once, during my teenage years, a homeless man in New York’s Penn Station looked up from his spot on the terminal floor to tell me and my sister (another chatterbox) to shut up because our animated conversation was interrupting his nap. And early on in my career, as I played back a recording of me interviewing someone for a magazine, I realized that I was doing almost as much talking as my subject.

Damn, girl.

Through the years, I’ve learned to cut back on the chatter and make a conscious effort not to interrupt when someone else is talking. But sometimes, especially when I’m excited about the subject at hand, I still find it challenging to shut up for an extended period of time.

Sure, the gift of gab can work to your advantage in social situations like parties and job interviews. But besides getting you kicked out of choral concerts, it does have its drawbacks. The most important of which is that while you are talking, there’s one extremely important thing you cannot do very well.

You can’t listen.

The older I get, the more I realize how crucial it is to be able to listen. And I’m not talking about that half-assed “yeah, yeah, I hear you” look you give people when you’re pretending to listen but are actually preoccupied with your thoughts. I’m talking about really, truly listening to someone. I’m talking (there goes the talking again) about being in the moment, fully engaged in what another human being has to say. Without thinking about your to-do list, or about where you have to be in a half-hour. And without worrying about the next thing you need to say.

“The practice of listening is one of the most mysterious, luminous and challenging art forms on earth,” writes Mark Nepo in his beautiful book Seven Thousand Ways To Listen: Staying Close To What Is Sacred. “The task is to slow down enough and be present enough to enter each moment that calls…Are you letting fresh experience enter and combine, or are you obsessed with sorting and analyzing what comes your way? Are you able to listen and receive, or are you observing and manipulating? We all do both.”

As a journalist, I’ve found that shutting up and listening is the only way to get a good story. Yes, starting an interview with some friendly banter can help put my subject at ease. But I can’t ask those “in the moment” follow-up questions—the ones that often yield the juiciest quotes—if I’m focused on checking items off a prepared list. And I certainly won’t pick up on the person’s mood if I’m not quietly observing those gestures and tones that reveal a lot about someone’s personality.

But what about those deadly silences that might erupt if I lose track of my agenda or don’t formulate a response quickly enough? It’s a normal impulse to fill those awkward moments with chatter, but then nothing unexpected has time to develop within them. The person doing the talking has no room to reflect or reveal something deeper. Some of the best quotes have come from my sources after a long, borderline-awkward pause. So I remind myself it’s OK to let them happen.

This concept also rings true with my interactions with my kids. My daughter started conversing at 6 months, probably because I talked to her nonstop. But whenever I took a break from telling her to “look at the doggy” or “see those pretty flowers on the tree,” that’s when I got to enjoy her babbling and cooing and smiling at me. I’d given her time to absorb what I’d said, then look around and formulate her own reactions. Again, a lot of great stuff can happen during those pauses.

The older I get, the more I understand the virtue of restraint. We go through life striving to be more outgoing, more revealing—especially in this age of social media. But sometimes it makes more sense, and allows us to let more in, to go slowly.

We all want our lives, our relationships, our communication with people to be meaningful. Sometimes we want it all to be extraordinary. We want the most important people in our lives to understand that we understand them. That we hear them.

A few years back I took voice lessons with a great teacher who taught me that yes, sometimes you need to hold a note for effect, but other times you should just release it. Now, as you can imagine, I am inclined to sing the hell out of something. To belt it out. But there’s a time and place for lingering, and sometimes holding back is the way to go.

For many of us, restraint is difficult. (But there’s so much to express! So much to let out!) But Nepo explains that listening itself is the ultimate form of connection. “We speak deeply by listening with heart to the Source, no matter who or what conveys it,” and by translating that presence not just into any old speech, but into meaningful speech. So that when something finally comes out of your mouth, it’s more than fluff.

I just love that. Because we all want our lives, our relationships, our communication with people to be meaningful. Sometimes we want it all to be extraordinary, in no way superficial or ho-hum. We want the most important people in our lives to understand that we understand them. That we hear them.

Nepo wrote this book after he learned that he was losing his hearing. They say we don’t realize what we have until it’s slipping away, so maybe he was only able to comprehend the gift of listening as his ears began to fail him. Luckily, he grasped the beauty and complexity of this ability—including the fact that listening involves much more than hearing. It requires you to open your heart and mind as much as your ears.

Why bother? “Because listening stitches the world together,” Nepo writes. “Listening is the doorway to everything that matters…And none of what matters reveals itself unless we stop to listen…This is the work of being human, from which no one is exempt.”