Life balance wheel

Work/Life balance. It’s seems like the holy grail of modern life. How can we ration our time and energy to both succeed in our professional work and nurture our personal lives? We’re certain that there must be a precise formula out there that will enable us to find that absolutely perfect balance, like a quarter standing up on edge.

The truth, of course, is that we’ll never be in a state of perfect balance, at least not for more than a moment or two. Life isn’t about stasis, it’s about change. Like the ocean tides, life has an ebb and a flow. There will be times when we channel most of our energy into one particular area of our life. And that’s okay. We don’t need to keep ourselves in a perpetual state of balance. Rather we can allow the pendulum of life to swing and do our best to return to a balanced state as often as we can, without punishing ourselves when things become unbalanced again.

This is where a tool like the Life Balance Wheel comes in handy. This wheel is a visual tool to help you measure which areas of your life are bringing you the most or least satisfaction.

Each wedge of the wheel represents a different area of your life. This one from Apartment Therapy includes: wellness, style, relationships, homekeeping, career, money, me time, and outlook. There are a variety of versions of this tool available online with different labels for each section, so take the time to find or create a wheel that reflects what matters to you. You may want to devote one section to “community” to assess your relationship with friends, family, and the wider community, while reserving a separate section for “romance” to examine where you are in your love life. Parents may choose to include a section for the kids to help remind them to nurture themselves as much as they do their children. Devoting a section to your physical health and wellness is always a good idea. You might also choose to include sections for spiritual development, physical environment, or creative expression depending on your needs and lifestyle.

Once you’ve chosen a version of the wheel that resonates with you, give yourself a score of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the greatest satisfaction, in each area. These scores then allow you to visually compare the different areas of your life. If the sections are all relatively even and the wheel looks like it would turn pretty smoothly, then you’re likely in a fairly balanced state. In which case, take a moment to breathe and appreciate it! Is there a big gap in the wheel, or large difference between sections that would make for a bumpy ride? If so, maybe those lower-satisfaction sections of your life need some more time and attention.

The most important thing to remember about the Life Balance Wheel is that it’s a tool you can use again and again. Whenever life starts to feel overwhelming or out of control, you can come back to the wheel to re-examine things. It may allow you to see where you can make adjustments in order to bring things into a more balanced state, or simply provide you with some reassuring perspective.

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Work/Life Balance

Cleaning is to spring what getting fat is to December. Seemingly out of nowhere, or simply due to peer pressure, spring brings with it the sudden urge to purge. I frantically roam the house with that crazed look in my eye – the one that dares my husband to challenge me. I fill trash bags to the brim while bursting out into what can only be explained as maniacal laughter. I feel powerful. I feel brave!

If you’re an OCD, type A, organizational enthusiast like me you normally categorize your clutter into one of three categories: throw away, donate, or keep. I think labeling your “crap” is a crucial part of the justification process. It makes the tossing part just a tad easier.

I’m going to safely assume there are other areas of your life that would benefit from the same approach (a little less maniacal laughter, of course). If you’re willing to invest a weekend to
de-clutter your house, you owe it to yourself to spend the same amount of time, or more,
de-cluttering your mind and your heart space. If you’re ready to lighten your load check out page 88 of the spring issue of A Magazine for our “Life Audit” checklist.

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The Energy Audit
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In the spring issue of A Magazine, we took spring cleaning to the next level with an energy audit. We purged the negative energies, habits, and people which were troubling our lives, and it felt great to shed all of that baggage!

Now that we’ve made some space in our lives it’s time to fill it with positive things! One of those positive things should be something you feel passionate about. For many of us, it’s been a long time since we gave any thought to our passions. So just like the spring audit we’ll walk you through a few steps to get you started.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
It may not quite be possible to cultivate a hobby as a ninja-astronaut or princess-mermaid. But if you used to spend hours drawing and painting when you were little, why not take it up again? You’d don’t have to be the next great American artist or set the goal of having a gallery show by next summer. Pick up a notebook and some colored pencils, set aside an hour to two a week, and draw like you did when you were a child: just for the fun of it! Whatever the activity is, get in touch with what you enjoyed early in your life and try to approach it as if you were a child again. Don’t worry about doing the thing well or having a specific goal, just play!

Try something new
Have you always secretly wanted to learn French? Or maybe you think ballroom dancing sounds sort of fun. Take the time to try something completely new, and you might discover a whole new passion! Just like with the last exercise, the point is not to be brilliant at something right off the bat. Instead, you’re looking for something that sparks your creativity, and that you enjoy doing for it’s own sake. It’s easier now than ever to dip your toes in a new hobby without a big investment. Youtube how-to videos and Groupon deals can help you try on a few different hats until you find something that piques your interest.

Put that Vision Board/Pinterest Page/Journal to Work
If you’re the introspective or creative type, you might have already started this process. Do you keep a journal, vision board, or use Pinterest? Take a look at what you’ve been writing/pinning/saving and really examine what’s there. What are you attracted to? What interests you enough that you’ve made a board for it, or dedicated pages to writing about? If you’ve been spending hours scouring Pinterest for gardening tips or sewing patterns, maybe now is the moment to bring that fantasy hobby into reality. That vision that you’ve been too busy, too timid, to tired to try is already waiting for you. It’s time to give it a try!

Not quite ready to dive in yet? That’s okay! Start slow. Try filling out this questionnaire from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Choosing a College Major by Dr. Hanson. While it was originally designed for incoming college students, the principle of getting in touch with your passions is the same at any stage of life. With questions about what skills come easy to you, what your values are, and what type of volunteering you’ve done in the past, this is a great way to bring your inner voice to the surface.

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Finding Your Passion

This summer, we wanted entertaining to be easy. So to capture that carefree summer feeling, we put together a simple snack menu to feed your friends at a low-key poolside hangout. For the complete guide, peep the You Got Served feature in the summer 2017 issue of A Magazine.
Here are the full recipes for the snacks on our menu. Recipes for the boozy ice pops also featured can be found here.

Guac (In a Pinapple) w/ Blue Corn Chips
Courtesy of All Recipes
Serves 4

2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
Salt & ground black pepper to taste
1 whole pineapple

Mash avocados in a bowl until creamy
Incorporate tomato, onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and jalapeno until well combined; season with salt and pepper.
Halve your pineapple lengthwise, leaving the greenery intact on one side. Hollow out the side with the greenery still attached just enough to make room for your guacamole.
Serve with a side of blue corn chips for a quirky and delicious centerpiece.

Rainbow Fruit Skewers
Courtesy of BBC Good Food

Cantaloupe melon chunks
Pineapple chunks
Kiwi chunks
Purple grapes
Wooden skewers

Thread each skewer with fruit in the following order: 1 strawberry, 1 cantaloupe chunk, 1 pineapple chunk, 1 kiwi chunk, 2 blueberries, 1 purple grape.

Crudite cups

Carrots, julienned
Celery, julienned
Red pepper, julienned
Jicima, julienned
Mini Persian cucumbers, julienned
Sugar snap peas
Hummus, ranch dressing, or other dip
Small plastic cups

Place about a tablespoon of the dip of your choice at the bottom of each cup.
Arrange veggies upright in cup.
Serve on a dish of ice or from the cooler while outside for a refreshing, crunchy snack!
Watermelon Agua Fresca
Courtesy of Whole Foods

6 lbs seedless watermelon, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp honey
Ice cubes, for serving

In a blender, combine half of the watermelon and 1 cup cold water and blend until smooth.
Pour through a strainer into a pitch, discard solids.
Repeat with remaining watermelon and another cup of cold water.
Stir in lime juice and honey.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and serve over ice.


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Poolside Snacks

Remember the thrill of catching the ice cream truck when you were a kid? Was there anything more satisfying and slurping your favorite ice pop with your toes in the grass and the sun on your face? That special bit of summer fun isn’t just for kids. Enjoy that same nostalgic feeling while you kick back by the pool this summer, but with some slightly more grown-up treats.

Here are five deliciously boozy ice pops to add to your summer fun.

Raspberry-Peach Bellini Popsicles
Courtesy of Fake Ginger
Yield depends on your mold

Raspberry Layer
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/3 cup Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
2 tablespoons sugar
Peach Layer
2 cups frozen peaches
1 cup Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
1/4 cup sugar

Puree raspberries, wine, and sugar in a blender until very smooth.
Fill each popsicle mold about 1/3 full with raspberry mixture, and freeze while you prepare the next layer.
Puree peaches, wine, and sugar in a blender until very smooth.
Fill each popsicle mold the rest of the way with peach mixture, cover, and insert sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Watermelon Margarita Popsicles
Courtesy of I’m Bored – Let’s Go
Yield depends on your mold

4 to 5 cups chopped watermelon, seedless (about 1/2 of a small watermelon)
1/4 cup tequila
2 tbsp Cointreau or Triple Sec
3 tbsp mint syrup
1 tbsp lime juice

Puree watermelon in a blender.
Add tequila, Cointreau, lime, and syrup.
Taste and add more syrup or lime as desired.
Pour mixture into popsicle molds, cover, and insert sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Mojito Boozy Ice Pops
Courtesy of Sweet Paul
Makes 8 pops
*A higher alcohol content means these pops may not freeze completely solid, so they’re made otter-pop-style in bags (which you can find on Amazon)

1 cup lime juice
1 1/2 cups light rum
1 cup soda water
3 tbsp mint, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
Fill the bags, tie, and freeze at least 8 hours.

Mango-Pomegranate Boozy Vodka Pops
Courtesy of Sweet Paul
Makes 8 pops
*A higher alcohol content means these pops may not freeze completely solid, so they’re made otter-pop-style in bags (which you can find on Amazon)

4 cups mango juice
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup vodka
Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Mix mango juice, syrup, lemon juice, and vodka in a bowl.
Fill the bags half full, add the seeds, and fill up the rest of the way.
Freeze for at least 8 hours.

Grapefruit & Tequila Paloma Ice Pops
Courtesy of Sweet Paul
Makes 8 pops
*A higher alcohol content means these pops may not freeze completely solid, so they’re made otter-pop-style in bags (which you can find on Amazon)

2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup simple syrup
1 1/2 cups tequila
1 cup club soda
1 cup orange juice
Flakey salt
Lime zest

In a large bowl, combine grapefruit, lime, syrup, tequila, and club soda.
Fill bags 1/3 full with mixture and let stand in a bowl to freeze.
Add orange juice and freeze again, standing up.
Add remaining grapefruit mixture, tie, and freeze one last time, at least 8 hours.
Serve with mixture of salt and lime zest. Remember the thrill of catching the ice cream truck when you were a kid? Was there anything more satisfying and slurping your favorite ice pop with your toes in the grass and the sun on your face? That special bit of summer fun isn’t just for kids. Enjoy that same nostalgic feeling while you kick back by the pool this summer, but with some slightly more grown-up treats.

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A Popsicle Party for Grown-Ups
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Were you inspired by the backyard rehab featured in the spring issue of A Magazine? Maybe we’ve got you longing to give your own yard a total make-over, but repaving the patio and overhauling the landscaping just aren’t in the cards this year. Never fear, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you get your backyard in shape for summer entertaining without calling a contractor.

Pull Up a Chair
An essential element to making guests comfortable is ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table, so to speak. Make sure that each of your guests has a place to get comfy, and everyone will feel welcome. We’ve rounded up plenty of options:
Is there anything more inviting than a hammock? Place one in a shady spot for a regular afternoon-nap spot for yourself and a fabulously relaxing seating area where your favorite guests can make themselves feel right at home.

rattan chair If you like the gentle sway of a hammock but lack a large enough space, try a hanging rattan chair instead. Natural texture and sleek design fit in with every outdoor aethestic, and adds a bit more novelty than a standard chair.

pink chairsYour outdoor space is the perfect place to go wild with color. Whereas indoors you might opt for neutral furniture with a few pops of color, your yard can handle bright pink chairs.

folding chairWhen space is limited, folding chairs make all the difference when company shows up. Opt for these elegant black and white striped cotton chairs over dull metal or plastic varieties.

Soften the Edges
Bare stone, wood, and metal can be attractive but not very inviting. Bring the indoors out in the form of textiles to soften things up a bit.

outdoor rugA rug is an excellent way to define a space within a large open room indoors, and the same is true outside. Use a bright rug to soften the appearance of a concrete or stone patio and to define a cozy seating area.

outdoor pillowEncourage your guests to settle in with a few plush pillows. This one in particular sets the tone for an afternoon of summer fun.

succulentsNo, plants aren’t exactly a textile. But plants have the same softening effect as fabrics do. A few succulents are an easy and low-maintenance was to add a bit of extra green to your yard.

Have Fun With It!
Comfort is key, but you don’t want guests to show up and take a nap! So add in some playful elements of fun to keep everyone entertained.

unicorn floatGuests could set their drinks on the edge of the pool, but where’s the fun in that? Let these magical rainbow unicorns keep your cocktails afloat.

beach ballWhether your guests like to lazily toss a ball around or divide into teams for a serious game of volleyball, you can’t go wrong with a classic pool toy.

ping pongSpeaking of classic toys, toss a ping pong set in the grass and encourage your guests to loosen up for a casual game.

For tips on how to put together a low-key poolside hang in your newly made-over yard, check out the summer issue of A Magazine, out now!

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Outdoor Entertaining Space
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Summer is the perfect season for self-indulgence. Maybe it’s because we so often associate this season with time off. Or perhaps it’s the intense heat that slows down life in the desert and makes it seem we have all the time in the world. Whatever the reason, summer is a time to spoil ourselves a little.

But what if you’re the type of person who has trouble spoiling themselves? Maybe it’s hard for you to say “no” to others so your time is always taken. Maybe you’re a parent and you feel guilty taking time away from your kids. Or maybe you’re still learning to cope with gender expectations that tell you it’s selfish to take time for yourself. Here are a few tips to help you give yourself permission to take a little more “me” time this summer.

You Don’t Need to “Earn” It
You don’t have to put in a certain amount of work to deserve a rest. You don’t have to achieve every goal to be proud of yourself. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to celebrate life. Having fun, eating good food, surrounding yourself with beauty, spending time with the people you love – these are all the things that make life enjoyable! Everyone deserves to enjoy their life. Carving out time for that enjoyment doesn’t make you lazy, or selfish, or any other negative thing. It makes you a person who enjoys their life.

Constant Self-Sacrifice Isn’t Healthy
There’s a reason that the term “self-care” has made it into the mainstream in recent years. This term originated in the medical profession, as doctors, nurses, and other care workers realized that they couldn’t effectively help their patients if they themselves were too tired, hungry, or emotionally weary to do their jobs well. Society so often encourages us to take care of everyone around us but never turn our attention inward. Not only does this harm you, it sets a bad example for those you care for, especially young people. They absorb the message that the only way to help others is to neglect themselves. Allowing yourself to “selfishly” put you own well-being first isn’t only good for you, it sets a good example.

“No” is a Complete Sentence
You don’t need to apologize for saying no. You don’t need to justify saying no. You don’t need to feel guilty for saying no. You are allowed to simply say no something. That doesn’t make you bad, or mean, or selfish, or difficult. It makes you a person who sets boundaries to keep themself healthy and safe.

Yes, you are allowed to be “selfish” and put yourself first. You are allowed to do this because your health and wellness matters, because you are allowed to set boundaries, because you are allowed to enjoy life. And that last one is most important today. You have permission to be selfish even when it isn’t a matter of protecting your boundaries or caring for yourself. Sometimes, you are allowed to be selfish just to do something you enjoy. And that time, is this summer.

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Giving Yourself Permission to Be Selfish