October 21, 2016

Morning Rituals

I was never a morning person, until I was. If you think you may be turning into a morning person, too, here are some ways to make the best of it. 

As I've gotten older, my internal clock has been reset. I find myself waking long before the alarm clock, even when I wish I could get in a few extra winks. Now that I know what I know, I actually prefer it. The house is quiet and I'm able to get a lot done before everyone else is the house is awake. In fact, the start to a great day is to wake earlier than you need to. The peace and quiet you experience just before the sun has risen gives you the opportunity to just be. 

There is no caffeine involved in my morning routine. I drink water, and if I'm lucky, a glass of lemon water to help detox my system and rehydrate my body. I really feel the key to healthy living is drinking lots of water. Give it a week and see how much better you feel. 

Then it's time for a stretch. Stretching your body wakes up your muscles. You don't have to do anything overstimulating, just a few easy yoga poses or simply raise your arms over your head, arch your back, and gracefully swoop down to the floor for a few minutes each day. If you're so inclined, you can start a morning exercise routine as well. Not only will this wake you up, you can check it off your list. I start to wind down sometime around 4:00, so it's imperative that I get exercise in before noon on most days and before the excuses begin. 

Listen to music or read. This is your time to do whatever makes your soul sing. Choose carefully. Some days you might want something light and relaxing, while other days you'll want to find something more upbeat and inspiring to jumpstart the day.

I need to eat breakfast. You need to eat breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. I suggest something with protein and lots of vitamins. Low-fat yogurt and a banana always works for me, but I also need a few carbs. Remember, you're fueling your body after a long fast.

Before you begin the rest of your day, take a few moments and close your eyes. Sit, relax, even meditate if you so choose. 

Now I plan. Out comes the list. Decide what you want to accomplish that day and do it. If your to-do list is anything like mine, you'll want to break it down into manageable chunks. Choose three things that can get done, and do them. Cross off three more things the next day and so on. We can all manage three.

Whether you're headed for work, or it's a Saturday and you have nothing better to do, this new morning routine will make you feel better. Introducing healthy habits, even in the smallest of ways, leads to a happier (healthier) you. 

P. S. You may also like Hormones!, Emotional Release, and Stress and Anxiety Triggers.

October 12, 2016

Totally Crushing Over

Gilmore Girls. Oh, and the beautiful set design.

As much as I appreciate modern amenities and the fabulous design elements of today, I am hopelessly lost in the past. I’ve had a love affair with late 90s and 2000s interiors since, well… the late 90s. Once the overdone interiors of the 80s was finally toned down, we were left with an eclectic mix of both high and low end materials. It’s a design aesthetic that I’ve held onto all these years later.

Even though Gilmore Girls premiered in October of 2000, the interiors are an distinct mix of the two decades. Whether you’re enamored with Lorelai’s comfortable kitsch, or the wonderfully vintage, yet classic feel of the Dragonfly Inn (my personal favorite), you can decorate with just about anything and make it work.

Although I gladly leave behind the cold minimalism of the early 90s, I embrace the return of bold wallpaper patterns, skirted tables, and brass hardware (antiqued for me), and I equally embrace the richer, deeper, and warmer colors of the 2000s. This particular decade was all about putting an individual stamp on your interiors, and that’s what good design has always been about.

The gorgeous mix of patterns you’ll see throughout this decade combined toile with florals, stripes, damask, and plaids layered from piece to piece and room to room. This look paired well with collectibles that seemed equally thrown together and carefully planned out. Upcycling became popular, cast-offs were now considered objects d’art, and crafts became cool with the launch of Etsy in 2005. The deliberately distressed, mismatched imperfectionism became our new vintage.

Lorelai’s kitchen embodied the retro look so popular during that time. Remember the episode when Rory played “house” and dressed up like Donna Reed? Well, Cath Kidson made the 1950s housewife style new again. Lorelai even traded in her modest wooden kitchen table for a diner-style yellow Formica version in later episodes. And don’t even get me started on Sookie’s kitchen at the Dragonfly. It was love at first sight. Throw in the library and I could live in those two rooms alone.

Books also play an important role in the interior. From the aforementioned Dragonfly, to Rory’s room, and the many libraries and bookstores you’ll encounter on your tour through Stars Hollow, you’ll amass quite the collection. Books are meant to be read, but they’re also wonderful decorating tools. They add color, texture, and life to any space.

So grab your quilts and start collecting Magolica plates. Plan your next decorating project to include wainscoting and open and closed shelving. Go ahead and combine painted and natural wood together. Surround your dining room table with bamboo chairs and start your own gourmet inspiration board like Sookie. Then settle in and watch reruns on Netflix while you wait for the return of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on November 25th.

Need a little more inspiration? The best place to find set photos (besides checking out the series on Netflix) is on Hooked on Houses. Then look no further than Pinterest. Here you’ll find a mix of set stills along with GG inspired merchandise like this Luke’s Diner poster. These two sites have already chosen a few goodies for you to get the ball rolling here and here. And BH&Gs insight on what today's GG house might look like here.

Just like the current trends of interiors start in the world of fashion, television and film has always been an incredible source of inspiration. Just take a look at all Nancy Meyers has done for the fashion and home d├ęcor market with her impressive lineup of films

October 4, 2016

I Love a Good Read

I can get lost in a bookstore. When I enter, I feel equal parts excitement and anxiety. I am giddy with the possibility of what I’ll find, and overwhelmed by those same possibilities. There are so many books to choose from. And if you like a wide variety of genres, the choices grow exponentially.

If you love to read, supporting your habit is a costly endeavor as well, especially if you buy a new release. And if you’re like me, you’ll have a compulsion to buy both the hard and soft cover versions you deem exceptional and worthy enough to hold a place on your bookshelf while simultaneously stashing the other in the car to read any time you’d like.

Enter the second-hand bookstore. I've been meaning to read several classics, but not willing to make the investment buying new copies. Every time I go to visit Amanda in RI, I am smitten by the over-crowded shelves and floors at Allison B.Goodsell Rare Books. I was able to gift a friend one of my favorite books and chose two titles by Elizabeth Strout for myself. Last weekend, David and I browsed in town at the Kyes-Sage Bookstore, and The Toadstool, saving a small fortune while finding a few titles we were looking for in excellent condition. You see, I’ve become book-buying shy. At one time, I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing a brand new book I truly wanted. Books are my luxury item, and I would rather buy them than anything else. But lately, I’ve been disappointed with several “best-sellers”. A list I usually avoid to a fault. I’ve actually returned a few books over the last couple of months, knowing my money would be better spent elsewhere.

Now I’m back to reading authors who have proven to me that no matter what they write, I know I’m sure to like it much better. (And giving those second-hand bookstores more of my attention.) Because of this, I’ve added a new feature to the blog. Each month or so, I will post a book I’m either reading or recommend that you read. But don’t take my word for it. Research it. Read the description—about the book and the author—and make up your own mind.

Scroll down to see this month’s pick on the right of your screen. If you haven’t already read Alice Hoffman’s book, Practical Magic, please do. If you’re a fan of the movie, fair warning, it’s very different. But Hoffman’s lyrically written prose should win you over as she is an incredible storyteller. And since it’s October, continue this bewitching theme by reading The Lace Reader and The Witch's Daughter. Both, very good books well worth your time.

P.S. You may also like What Are You Reading? and There Are a Lot of Books!

To find a used bookseller in your area, click here.

And if you find your way over to a Barnes and Noble, you can receive % off your purchase through October 10th using the code BNFRIEND at checkout online, or use this coupon at stores. 

September 27, 2016

Vanity Isn't Just Another Piece of Furniture

I went to high school in the 80s. Permed hair, lots of make-up, and going to school in a well-chosen (i.e., trendy) outfit was a given. I got up at 5:00 am to shower, blow/kink/style my hair, put on my face, and eat breakfast before I caught the school bus at 6:30. I brought my precious bottle of Indian Earth with me to school and religiously reapplied it throughout the day. Now that’s what I call commitment.

Twenty-odd years later—not so much.

Of course, if I sleep until 5:00 am, I’m eternally grateful these days. So, there’s that. And I usually shower at night, so there is no unnecessary hair styling in the morning. I stopped perming and gave in to my stick-straight locks long ago. Since I work mostly from home, as long as I’m clean, dressed, and partially groomed—using 80s excess as my yardstick—I’m good to go.

However, a funny thing happens when you get older. You care more, and less, about how you look.

I used to dye my hair—for fun. Now I dye it to hide the gray. I never over-plucked my eyebrows, never “shaped” them, or thinned them to excess (thank God), but now I’m reaching for eyebrow gel. My eyebrows have thinned and lightened over the years, and I prefer the way they used to look, so I’ve added it to my leaving-the-house look. And lipstick. In all these years, I’ve never left the house without lipstick.  

I became enamored with lipstick when I used to watch my grandmother put it on. Every day, she would reach for a gold cylinder and carefully apply a peachy, pink hue—the tip of it perfectly shaped to her mouth. My mother never wore lipstick. But like wine and a good stiff cocktail, lipstick was just another one of life’s little luxuries I would someday covet thanks to my grandmother.  

In my 20s, I was still rocking the trends to some extent—I found “my look”, my signature scent, and had an unusual affinity for anything red. And what can you really say about a 20-something face. You’d kill for it today.

By the time I was in my late 30s, I felt free enough to leave behind the fully made-up face. My skin was still youthful enough, but it could now breathe. And the hair. Again, in its now deflated state, a quick blow-out was all I needed.

Enter my early 40s. Grooming rituals had become a thing of the past. Stretchy pants and comfortable shoes were all I wanted. Well, that and comfy PJs, too. It just wasn’t a good time for me, so it reflected in my face, literally. I didn’t care. And it showed.

When I reached my mid-40s, things started to shift. I got healthy. I bought clothes again. At good stores. I found a talented stylist and got my hair done. I started dressing more youthfully, but tastefully. I even broke out a few classics from my 20s that fit once again. I was back.

Today, I care less about how I look and more about how I feel. Because, let’s face it, if you feel good, you look good. I don’t give a fig about fashion trends, and I feel more comfortable in my body, even when I complain about it. I’ve earned every wrinkle and gray hair. Only now, I put in more effort to look like the best version of me I can pull together.

P.S. A partial selfie—I went with blonde streaks this past summer. You may also like HormonesLife in My 40s, and Are You a Late Bloomer.

September 20, 2016

Week Three of the Empty Nest

We dropped the girls off on Labor Day. Two weeks yesterday. This is week three.

It was my idea not to pick up or see the girls until three weeks in. I felt they needed to get settled, get used to their familiar, yet unfamiliar surroundings, once again. David and I needed to take a deep breath and reclaim the house—and our sanity.

As anyone who has packed up children for college can tell you, it’s a never-ending ordeal. And the lists! No matter how organized you are, you’re bound to miss something on the list.

This year, Amanda moved into a single room in a suite of ten rooms. It has plenty of space, good light, and the building is near all of her academic buildings. But the extra-long twin sheets we had to buy for her Freshman dorm wasn’t going to work on her new double bed. We split up—Amanda and I kept unpacking, while David and Kate went off in search of decent sheets 30 minutes away.

And then there’s the emotional unpacking. What will this school year be like? Will I like where I live? Never mind the ordeal of leaving behind all of the things that bring you comfort, grounding, support. The first day of school (or anything) is the first day of school, regardless of how old you are. There’s a mixture of fear and excitement that sends your stomach into somersaults and addles the brain. For the parents, too.

The group texts began the moment one was dropped off and the other was on her way. Last minute things we weren’t able to get were added to a list or became the responsibility of the one left behind.

Thankfully, the girls have found their footing.

Kate is understandably exhausted—teaching full-time with a full load of classes each week—but she loves the school she’s been placed at, the children, and the teachers. She gets to walk through parts of the city that were once only explored for fun. We envy those walks every time she Snapchats a picture of another mouth-watering pastry, imagining the delicious smells that waft through the neighborhood.

To say Amanda loves her room is a vast understatement. The deep blue accent wall matches her bedding perfectly. And her room is always clean, clean, clean. Something she couldn’t quite pull off last year with her messy roommate underfoot. She hit a snag when she had to add/drop a class, but it’s all good. Her suite has a kitchen, so she’s cooking for herself for the first time.

For us…well, the house is very clean. We purged and organized our basement, I’ve been deep-cleaning closets and cabinets, and we’ve managed to tackle a few outdoor projects. The list of things to do will always remain a list, but you get the idea.

We’re managing.

It’s hard to let go each year. No matter how much practice I have under my belt, each year is different. Each year brings new challenges. And each year, as they both get older, brings reality closer to the surface.

But, no matter how much grumbling I do (and I do a lot) before, during, and after, I have to remember to take a deep breath, stop my whining, count my lucky stars, and cherish this time.

September 13, 2016

The Anatomy of a Writer

The writing process is different for everyone. Those articles you read, those words of advice from authors you cleave to, need to be filed away as research. It’s only opinion. Strategies that worked for them, and sometimes only them. And just like them, mine is only another opinion.

When I write non-fiction, I prepare an outline. I decide what information should be included and in what order. I make a list of things I need to research, then factor in my own knowledge, and begin. I organize everything into chapters and chapter titles. For me, it’s a very distinct process.

When I write creative non-fiction, I simply pick a subject and write. I write what I know and make notes of anything I don’t. If research is required, I usually start this process towards the middle or the end of the piece. It’s important to me to write down my thoughts and feelings on the subject first, then back it up (if necessary) with any “facts”. It really depends on how deeply I’m going to cover the subject, or how intimately I’m attached to the project to decide if research is even necessary.

Now the biggie: fiction.

I do not plot. I do not outline. My stories are character-driven, so a character sketch is the only thing I draft before I begin the writing process. I make notes about where and when the story will begin, where it will go, and possibly where it will end up. But that’s it.

My characters write the story. I may be the vessel they use, but they decide what’s going to happen, what they’re going to say, and how they will get in and out of a situation.

I don’t know how the story ends (even if I guess) because I don’t know what they’re going to do until they do it.

All I can tell you is that it’s like having a movie projector in my head. I can see, hear, smell, and taste everything that’s happening. I am in the room. I am in that body. I feel and empathize. I am a man and then I am a woman. I am young. I am old. I am learning and doing everything my character is learning and doing at any given time.

That’s my process. It’s a strange and wondrous thing writing fiction. I didn’t think I could do it. Until I did.

Is that all there is? Well, I have a note app on my phone where I keep thoughts, snippets of dialogue, and ideas. I have a slew of notebooks where I write more of the same, along with paragraphs and phrases. I use these tools to get started, keep me on track, and edit.

But regardless of what I’m writing about, the point is, I’m always writing. Always.

There are no days off.

Does that mean that I clock in an 8-hour work day? No. Some days I only write down those thoughts and ideas. Other days, my butt is firmly planted in front of my computer where I sit and write for as long as it takes to work out an idea, or hit a particular work count, or when my brain freezes and my characters or the story just needs to rest.

When I’m not writing. I’m thinking about writing.

I had planned on a full day of editing yesterday, but the words just wouldn’t come. I got up and decided to work around the house. Physical activity helps my brain focus on other things and ultimately allows the words to come back to me organically.

And there it was. The words and ideas I needed for the Epilogue I wasn’t sure I was going to write.

I tell you all of this because I wish I had someone tell me these things during the years I spent spinning my wheels and “learning” how to write instead of just writing. Knowledge is power, but you can only learn so much before you actually have to go to work and just do it. Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and write.

Just write. 

P.S. You may also like My Take on Writing and 1000 Words.

September 6, 2016


This not being old, sort of being old thing is so much fun. I’m too old to have a baby (socially, mentally), but I’m too young to be free from worrying about pregnancy. My body (and my mind) is in flux. I’m traveling through a wonderfully, glorious time in my life dubbed, perimenopause.

When we reach our early or pre-teens, we’re plagued with a monthly siege of pain and discomfort that ushers us into womanhood. We experience raging hormones and PMS—Pissed at Men Syndrome for some, Premenstrual Syndrome to others. Then, for the next 35-odd years (and roughly 455 periods), we spend that time either trying to, or trying not to get pregnant.

When you’re done making that decision, and life rolls merrily along, your body kind of reverses itself. And Bam! Hormones! Again! Only this time, they’re not the oh-that-boy-is-so-cute-I-can’t-stand-it kind, but something entirely different.

Visits to my doctor now include talks about my cycle. Am I tired, moody, anxious, sleeping well? Am I experiencing night sweats, vaginal dryness, or a low libido? Now let’s hop on that scale. Shall we?

Perimenopause can last between 5 and 10 years as the estrogen in your body makes its slow exit. Going to bed at 9:00 and waking at 4:00 becomes normal. Your monthly “friend” isn’t as friendly as she once was because you never know if she’s coming, how long she’ll stay, or what kind of mood she’ll be in. You’re hot, then cold, then hot again. And… well, I’ll spare you any further details. When I first read the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, I think they glossed over this part.

But the best part, the ultimate kick in the pants, is that your brain becomes foggier than any coastal town. We’re all doing too much, and it’s normal to be forgetful, but this is different. Where did I put my glasses? Did I just say something? Why did I come in here? These are normal, everyday occurrences that frustrate me to no end.

This is the reward we get for YEARS of wearing a sweatshirt around your middle because of an accident, of running off to the nurse’s office during school because you think you’re dying, of buying several sets of clothes throughout your life to fit over a bulging middle (pregnant or not), and of keeping companies who manufacture the products we desperately need each and every month in champagne and caviar. Forget gold. Invest in feminine products!

I’m told that once I reach my mid-fifties, things will be good again. Those nasty little hormones apparently fade into the background, sated and giggling the whole time.

P.S. You may also like Life in My 40s and Stress and Anxiety Triggers.

August 30, 2016

Past, Present, and Future

I have become extremely nostalgic lately. With the passing of another generational icon yesterday (the incomparable Gene Wilder - actor/comedian/writer), I can recall a conversation David and I started having just last week. “We are in for some sad times ahead.” I remembered saying, and he concurred.

As each year passes, we are reminded of just how short life is. Family gatherings were a time of celebration and happiness, and now—some of them are not. We are brought together to bear the burden of loss, of heartache. We look to the faces still present, thankful for each and every one. Blessed by each and every memory we can summon.

The fabric of our family is embroidered with treasured memories that sustain me to this day.

Although I grew up with just one sister, my many cousins lived in the same town, or close by, and we spent holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations together.

I remember cramming in next to my cousins on my grandmother’s couch on Christmas Eve, each of us donning our Sunday best and nibbling on treats as the adults carried on in various parts of the house. Near Halloween, my sister and I would shuffle through the woods as we watched our cousins try to scare the life out of us during their annual ghost walk. 4th of Julys, BBQs, Barbie doll birthday cakes, making whirlpools in the pool, wearing winter coats at the ice rink in July, pizza parties and scary movies, older cousins in charge of the younger ones, bible camp, drive-in theaters. There is an endless supply and each one can be played back in my mind with such vivid detail.

Photo albums are crammed with even more memories. Some black and white. Some yellow and faded. I compare chins, noses, hair color, and our crazy clothes. We share blood, a wise-ass sense of humor, the will to keep going, doing, being, inventing, creating. Forging through life no matter what it throws our way. We’re a sturdy stock, regardless of how each of us may feel about that particular moniker. 

My father just recently gave me a very large box. Our lineage has been researched and documented and I am its new keeper and guardian. My heart lurches every time I see our name emblazoned on another record or piece of paper.

I have great plans to hang these framed artifacts alongside family photos. I will do this to honor the past and be mindful of the present. To share our family history with whomever wishes to stop and take the time to read bold script written on aged parchment, or gaze upon the many faces of loved ones who are no longer with us, and of those who still are.

This collection will grow and be nurtured by my own children in the future, and I will gladly share these with other family members who wish to take this particular journey back in history with their own families.

The past has a way of pulling us into the future. To allow us to chart our own course. To embrace where we came from and decide where we can go. To be at peace. We need to hold onto those memories with as much clarity and tenderness and love we can possible piece together, if only for the briefest of moments. We need to share these memories to keep them alive, and nurture them to keep these memories from leaving us.

P.S. I'm the tall dorky looking one in the matching dress.

August 23, 2016

I'm Not Ready

The girls are both at work right nowTheir last work week of the summer. Next week, they’re all mine, albeit for just one more. We plan to get our hair done, troll bookstores, watch silly movies, discuss books, and the inevitable fact that school is, literally, just around the corner.

We’re not ready.

I’ll be spending Labor Day hauling boxes and bags; hanging pictures and wiring lamps; picking up boxes of books and stocking refrigerators; driving mile after mile after mile to drop my girls off at their respective schools, and walking out of their buildings, missing them before I’ve left the parking lot.

Kate is a senior this year. We already know the day she will graduate. Two days after she moves in, she’ll receive her tassel at convocation. I had just gotten used to her being a college student, yet here we are, at another precipice, another milestone. The question of when she’ll be attending graduate school is on all of our minds. She’ll be teaching full-time while simultaneously juggling a full-load of classes fall semester.

Amanda is moving in to a single room amongst both male and female roommates. David is not amused. She will continue her research on the variations in parasite abundance between urban and natural populations of anoles. I don’t pretend to understand; I just know she’s doing some pretty cool stuff under the tutelage of one of the university's leading researchers. She’ll have her car on campus this year. She’s decided to pursue a pre-med track and double her workload.

We’re not ready.

As I marvel at all they have accomplished so far, I am very aware of what lies ahead. I have already lived my version of their lives. It’s not easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort. I know this. They know this. But it doesn’t make it any less challenging all the way around.

I dreaded them leaving high school, and now, I’m dreading what comes next. Not because I don’t want them to succeed and move forward with their livesI want all of that for them and moreit’s just that I have finally found my way. I’ve learned how to live this new existence somewhat fractured by changes that are unavoidably inevitable.

We’ve already given Kate her graduation present. We took a trip last January knowing it might have been one of the last opportunities we’d be able to, as a family. We’re grasping at fragments of time, too precious to be ignored.

I know the reality is not nearly as frightening as the anticipation, of not knowing. I’ve been down this road before. I will ring my hands, make endless lists, repeat myself again and again to make sure the two of them have everything they could ever need. And then they’ll be off on their own once again.

But I’m not ready.

P.S. You may also like It's Been Quite a Week and A Surprising Twist.