An Inspiring Book About Loving Yourself Perfect For My Teens to Read

Happiness never comes from outside of us. He was happy because of the love coming out of him; she was happy because of the love coming out of her.  – Don Miguel Ruiz

“You are what you believe you are.” Oh, so true Don Miguel Ruiz. I just finished The Mastery of Love which has the most simple premise – love yourself first to feel true happiness. It really is so simple but actually putting that into practice is so complex. As women, we seem to naturally put everyone’s needs above our own. Our children, spouse, parents, etc.  If they are happy then certainly we will be happy. Marriages fall apart because we can’t seem to make our spouse happy. Or they can’t make us happy. That is the lesson right there. You cannot make anyone happy nor can you expect someone else to make you happy. We are responsible for doing that for ourselves. Once you start loving yourself as you are – not what you think you should be – you can work on loving those around you.

If you have experienced heartbreak from divorce, any break-up or challenges in your marriage, I strongly recommend that you read this book. It is like a manual for relationships to inspire and encourage you to heal your heart, mind and soul. We can’t nurture our relationships without nurturing ourselves first. That means loving ourselves for who we really are so that we can accept others and love them for who they are. Not what we want or need them to be.

My sweet boyfriend Kevin gave me this book after we had just started dating. He said it really helped him understand relationships after his divorce and the right perspective for successful relationships. He said it was important to understand that he couldn’t make me happy and he didn’t expect me to provide happiness. He already had that. Kevin has given this book to people newly engaged and his own teenaged son.

My teens are learning the art of relationships and how quickly others opinions can dim their light. Our kids will align their preferences or beliefs with someone else if they think that will make them loved or accepted. We have all done this especially in our youth to gain acceptance. I want my kids to live their life for themselves and let their true light shine. Love themselves for who they are so they can love others for who they truly are.

I will hand them this book and the conversation will go like this:

Me:  Please read this beautiful book about loving yourself for who you are.

My kids:   Ew. Mom.

Me: I’ll read it out loud to you at dinner.

My kids: Put it on my bed.

This book is truly perfect for anyone regardless of your religious faith to provoke thought, inspire, and empower. It opened my heart and mind towards receiving what God has for me. I hope it does the same for you! I’d love to hear about any books you have read that left you feeling empowered and changed for good! Please share in comments.

So order a copy for yourself and a few to share! Click on the image below:

Cocktails That Taste Like Summer

When life gives you lemons, mint, basil, and thyme add some vodka and hurry to the porch.

-Shannon Hunter (that’s me)

Summertime brings about the most delicious herbs. Whether you grow them yourself, go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, now is a great time to enjoy fresh basil, thyme and mint. My neighbor, Elizabeth, brought over an entire bouquet of basil and a craving for a lemon, basil and vodka cocktail. So I made her one. I always have lemons and vodka just in case.

I like to grow basil and mint in containers on the porch near the kitchen door. That way I can run out with my kitchen shears and cut some to add to whatever is on the stove or muddle in a drink. Basil and mint together is so good in sweet iced tea with lime. Love it!

So far this summer I have three delicious cocktails that are my favorites! I will say a gin and tonic is my absolute favorite in the summer, but I decided to make use of overflowing pots of basil and mint. I am not growing thyme so I have to get that from the farmer’s market or the grocery store when they have it.

They are so easy to make but you must have two things on hand…simple syrup and good quality tonic and soda. I highly recommend Fever-Tree. It truly is the best brand of tonic and soda I have ever had. Indian, Mediterranean and Elderflower are my favorite flavors. Here is a picture in case you aren’t familiar:

The best bargain for Fever Tree is to order it by the case on Amazon – otherwise it is between $5 – $6 for four bottles. Here are the links to my favorites:

Indian Tonic Water:

Elderflower Tonic Water:

Meditarranean Tonic Water:

To get started on porch sitting and sipping, you must have chilled simple syrup.

Simple Syrup:

1 cup of sugar – I also squeeze in a little honey. Especially if I add a sprig of thyme to the water.

1 cup of water

Bring water to a boil and stir in the sugar and honey. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk. Pour into a Pyrex cup or heat resistant container and let it cool. I keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Thyme infused simple syrup – add a sprig or two to the simmering water.

Basil, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Muddle 2-3 leaves of fresh basil in a glass – leave them in the glass

Fill glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add a shot of vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup or more to taste

Top with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic

Garnish with a lemon slice and basil leaf

Stir and Serve!

Thyme, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Fill a glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add one shot of Vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1-2 tablespoons of thyme infused simple syrup or more to taste

Add Fever-Tree tonic or soda to top – I prefer tonic but others prefer soda – make two and decide!

Stir and garnish with lemons and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Mint Juleps aren’t just for The Kentucky Derby ya’ll. It’s a great drink that is so refreshing during the summer. And helps with what to do with all that overflowing mint.

Mint Julep:

5 fresh mint leaves, muddled

2 ounces of simple syrup

2 ounces of bourbon – Woodford Reserve is my favorite mixing bourbon

Muddle 5 mint leaves in a glass. Fill the glass to the top with ice. Add simple syrup and bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? You know I’d love to hear!

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

With freedom, books, flowers and the moon who could not be happy? – Oscar Wilde

Happy Fourth of July! I love this holiday to celebrate our independence and feel so fortunate to live in this country. Holidays always bring about some sort of reflection for me and on July 4th I find myself focused on dreams. I think it’s because we, as Americans, have so much opportunity to make our dreams a reality. I have seen people from all walks of life take an idea and do amazing things with it. No matter where you come from. We all have the freedom to choose what we do with what we have.  Resources may come easier for some than others, but hard work and dedication will pay off. As Robert Frost said, “Freedom lies in being bold.” There are so many ways to interpret what he meant by this. For me, it means freedom from anything holding you back or wearing you down, if you are willing do what it takes to make a change. The courage to make decisions to be a healthier, happier, better version of yourself.

Fireworks lighting up the sky surrounded by people I love is just magical for me. I feel more connected to those around me and truly appreciate our country’s unique history. The freedoms declared by the Declaration of Independence were blood-bought and came at a deadly cost. Many, many lives were lost so we can live today in a free society. I truly cherish that dream that so many gave their lives to achieve.

I suppose that is why on the fourth day of July I focus on my own dreams, goals and challenges. A night sky filled with beautiful lights fills me with promise and hope. I hope it does for you, too. And I also hope that whatever those feelings spark inside of you will light a fire towards your pursuit of happiness and building a life you love.

I’d love to hear what July 4th means to you and how you celebrate Independence Day so please tell me about it in comments below!

The Impulse Decision That Makes Me Happy Every Day

I am much more concerned about things that will feel delightful rather than impressive.

Celerie Kemble – One of my very favorite interior designers.

My kitchen backsplash makes me smile! It was not my first choice. I really wanted Carrara marble in a herringbone pattern. I was dead set on it. I walked into a beautiful tile store and stated very clearly and definitively what I wanted. The idea was to quickly get it ordered so that I could get back to the office as I was on my lunch break. Then we started talking numbers. The cost was twice what I had budgeted. The labor was going to be even more than the materials. I didn’t like any of the suggestions for a similar look such as ceramic subway tiles or ceramic tiles in a herringbone pattern. That was not the look I was going for and wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted what I wanted!

I walked through the showroom just to see if there was anything else I might like. There was this gorgeous display of porcelain patterned tile that I immediately fell in love with. My comment to the designer was something along the lines of “I love it so I probably can’t afford it.” Her response? “That tile and the labor will be more than half the cost of the Carrara herringbone.” My response? “That one! Let’s do it!” A few minutes later I was back in the car and couldn’t believe I chose something for my kitchen so quickly and on a whim. I went with my gut and the way it made me feel when I first laid eyes on it. In the past I would have needed to send it to my mom, my sister, five friends and post on Facebook for feedback and approval. I used to be so nervous and not so confident in my own choices. Not anymore! I am sticking with staying true to myself and making choices based on who I am. My home is such a representation of my personality.

Patterned tile is definitely a hot trend right now. Trends come and go, but style does not. This classic pattern in neutral colors will enhance any paint color or kitchen updates I make in the future. The distressed patina on the tile gives it a beautiful weathered appearance that adds character and charm. Kind of like the patina I have developed over the years. Ha!

These 8×8 tiles are by Nola and the pattern is Lafayette.

What You Put IN Your Body is More Important Than What You Put ON Your Body!

The first wealth is health. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am an absolute product junkie! I love pretty packaging and anything that smells good. If I could afford La Mer I would buy it and I’m sure I would be thrilled with the results. The truth is, though, you can spend as little or as much as you want and will obtain similar results. I haven’t splurged on La Mer but I have tried everything from Chanel to Lancome skin products and thought they made my skin feel and look fantastic. Glowy, soft and dewy. I’ve ran through the drugstore in a hurry and bought Cetaphil or Oil of Olay and was so pleased to see the same glow and dewy complexion. Many dermatologists I’ve visited have all recommended the same thing – Dove, Neutrogena, Oil of Olay, La Roche Posay. If I asked them if expensive skincare was ok they would say sure! But the truth is the simplest of products or brands found in any drugstore work just fine. It’s up to you what you want and can afford.

Not negotiable? What you put in your body and how much sleep you get. The right foods and water feed and nourish our skin and hair. Unhealthy eating and sleeping habits take a toll on our skin and hair and there isn’t a product out there that can fix poor nutrition. Beautiful skin and hair can be yours simply by eating fruits, vegetables, drinking water, and getting plenty of sleep. Not to mention more energized and focused.

There is a long list of brain foods that boost concentration, memory and our moods. They have even been linked to helping combat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. At my age I know it’s not an option but a necessity. I also know to keep it clean and avoid unnecessary supplements and additives. Natural seasonings and fresh ingredients. Smoothies with very few ingredients. Fruit and ice. Maybe a little honey or yogurt.

I have researched online, asked nutritionists and my doctor how to feel better and lessen my anxiety. This is what they said – Good nutrition, exercise, water, sleep. Not one of them said expensive creams, supplements, juice cleansing, or fad diets. Feed your body and your mind. The results are beautiful from the inside out!

Here are my favorite brain foods that taste delicious and keep me looking good:

Blueberries – super brain food! I like it in my yogurt for breakfast.

Avocadoes – squeeze lime on it and call it guacamole. I love it on a salad or toast.

Spinach – in place of lettuce on burgers and sandwiches. Spinach salad with avocado is my favorite!

Cucumbers – in water, salads, alone. I love them!

Salmon – grilled, blackened, sauteed, baked. I love it so much alone or on top of a salad.

Dark chocolate – helps to de-stress and it’s so delicious. A small piece or two each day improves focus.

Nuts and seeds – almonds, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and sunflower seeds are my favorites to add to yogurt or sprinkle on a salad.

Green tea – add honey to make it extra good. I like a cup in the afternoon. My mornings are reserved for coffee!

PIneapple – 85% water and excellent for skin. I love them in smoothies with coconut and ice.

WATER – all caps. Alone or with lemon. Just drink it.

It’s not an effort. All can be purchased from any grocery store. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s expensive to eat healthy. It isn’t. Healthcare and doctor visits are expensive. Eat right, stay healthy to avoid falling ill from poor nutrition habits.

You glow girl!