April 28, 2016

Celebrating Mothers

I know a lot of blogs are creating lists of fabulous gifts you can shower your mother with, but I want to talk about a different kind of gifttime. Mind you, I have received some fabulous gifts over the years from my children: my beloved garden urns, gift certificates for spa treatments, countless hand-crafted cards, and last year's gift, my very own Webkinz pet (a story for another day). But my favorite gifts weren't gifts at all; they were the times I got to spend with my children. 

I remember, not so long ago, sitting on my porch with both of my girls seated on either side of me. After I had unwrapped my presents and read my cards, we started to talk. And we didn't stop for hours. It wasn't plannedwhich makes it even more specialit just happened. One topic rolled into another as David brought out drinks and food to sustain us. We laughed and joked and spent the afternoon truly connecting. Many more afternoons just like that one became an almost weekly ritual. It doesn't get much better than that.

Several years ago, after my son moved away and I didn't get to see him as often as I'd liked, my phone rang. I expected his call. He always called. But this time he kept me on for just a little longer than usual. As we were wrapping things up, he announced he had arrived at his destination. Then I heard a knock at my door. He stood there with a bouquet of flowers, a card, and a huge grin. I would have knocked him over if he wasn't 7" taller and 60 lbs. heavier. The tears started in earnest as I opened my card. It was the kind that talks and plays music. As I opened it up, I heard his deep tenor voice wish me a Happy Mother's Day and then "You Are My Sunshine" started to play. This was the song I sang to him every night when he was little. I carry that card with me to this day.

As the years went on, we started a new tradition. The four of us (and a couple of times, the whole family) went to our favorite drive-in restaurant where we could either eat food or ice cream, indoors or out. It's the kind of place that's always jam-packed with families so it's okay if you make a lot of noise like we do. I have so many great memories of the times we've spent there regardless of the reason.

The moral of my story is this: Time is a precious commodity. It's a continual progression that moves us forward whether we like it or not. It's vulnerable. We must invest in and nurture it in order to reap its benefits. I can almost guarantee that the mother in your life will want to spend this day, and many more like it, with you.

P.S. You may also like The Perfect Mother's Day and Mother's Day Gifts.

Photo: Lon Martin

April 26, 2016

Blogging Isn't as Easy as it Looks

As you may have noticed, I haven't been blogging 5 days a week lately. Simply put, blogging isn't as easy as it looks. And because my blog has evolved from a design blog to a lifestyle blog to a... (I'm still defining what it is), it's become even more complicated. (I'll elaborate more on this soon.)

One of my favorite design blogs has captured how a post is brought to life quite brilliantly. Emily Henderson details every step, in text and video, here. (When you're done watching, please come back!) Now mind you, I don't have a crew of helpers, writers, photographers, or staff of any kind. But I also don't produce detailed blog content based strictly on design and the many steps it takes to come up with the final product. In fact, when I started blogging about design, I tended to skip right to the "after" never really showing my readers the "how" unless it was in the text. So that's reason number one why I don't post about design topics very often. It's time consuming. (Reason number two is because I no longer take on design work. A minor hiccup.) But the reason you do still see design and style tips pop up occasionally is simpledesign will always be a big part of my life. Just because I don't practice anymore, doesn't mean I don't still dream in color and create.

Regardless of what I have written about, or what I'll write about in the future, is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you read about food, fashion, motherhood, or the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. You may read blogs because of the subject matter, but remember what it takes to produce the content. So the next time you read someone's blog, remember how much time it took to create the content you enjoy. Most bloggers don't get paid anything, which makes the whole concept even more amazing. 

Spread a little love: share posts, comment (on the site or on social media), email the blogger a quick note. You don't have to do it every time, just once in a while, or just once!

Proceed to the next blog.

Photo: Ben Timney

April 22, 2016

Totally Crushing Over

All things spring! The Swan Boats are back in the Public Garden. I'm heading into the city for a girls' weekend with my daughters, and this is definitely on the list of things to do. This 139 year-old tradition is a rite of passage for anyone who visits Boston and a relaxing way for the regulars to be reminded of just how beautiful it truly is.

I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era. I'm a sucker for all things old-fashioned, old-school, historical. I don't know how old this sign actually is, but it looks like it's had a happy past. I can imagine strong cups of coffee being served to happy patrons as they share their day just inside.

Green happens to be one of my favorite colors, and it's this time of year I'm reminded of just how many glorious shades we're able to experience as spring moves into summer. This vintage sofa featured on Emily Barry's Instagram has me dreaming of warm weather and sleep porches.

The last wedding I went to was my sister-in-law's. It was held on the beach and everyone wore shades of the seabut, of course, the bride wore white. Monique Lhuiller has just released her new line for 2017. These beautiful gowns make me want to plan a wedding. I wonder who's next?

Have a beautiful weekend!

P.S. You may also like these other TCO boards.

April 19, 2016

The Freshman Fifteen

A rite of passage? I certainly hope not. Although there are many rites of passage you may accomplish as you enter college, like turning eighteen, registering to vote..., we (girls) always hear about the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. Another thing to add to the packing list: sheets, books, pillows, clothes, laundry detergent, pens, notebooks… fifteen extra pounds doled out in ones, fives, and tens—check.
Let’s face it, dining hall food isn’t the healthiest food available. Consisting mostly of pasta, pizza, a cacophony of carbohydrates, and other foods posing as “healthy choices”, dining hall selections are slim at best. But although Amanda (my youngest daughter and first year college student) lives right next door to the newest dining hall on campus, complete with its own soft-serve ice cream machine (her weakness), she hasn’t gained any weight. But I have.
After a fairly smooth transition, I actually thought things were going to be just fine. She was going to be just fine. I was going to be just fine, more accurately. Until we were all faced with a hellish fall. My father became ill and trips back and forth to Boston increased exponentially. With Kate living just around the corner from the hospital, at least I had a place to crash. My mother’s health, always a source of worry, was to be challenged even further. Amidst all of this, my beloved husky got ill and passed away just before Christmas. A tragedy I still can’t comprehend, never mind write about.  Things weren’t so fine then.
I turned to food to get me through. Food has always been a source of comfort for me. So much so that the pounds started piling on year after year after year. I became exceedingly overweight and completely unhappy as a result. Until I finally wised up.
After my Year of Better Health commenced. I had kept the sizable amount of weight I had lost off for two years. Things started to fluctuate a bit the winter before last, but I was back on schedule the following spring. Now I know for a fact that in order to lose weight successfully, and keep it off, you have to work your ass off. Literally. Making good food choices and exercising regularly/vigorously/daily is a must. There are no shortcuts. And my body won’t have it any other way. I can eat healthy, but if I’m not exercising: it doesn’t matter. I can exercise, but if I’m not eating healthy: it doesn’t matter.
So I find myself in a place I never thought I’d be again and I’m angry at myself for allowing it; for not taking better care of me. Enter more food. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle as many of you may know. We eat our feelings to suppress anger, resentment, doubt, insecurity, shame, failure. Round them all up and let them get in line. Whatever your beef, you want it with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.
So what did I do? I wallowed for a while, which only compounded the problem. A long while. And then I made a decision: I stopped wallowing. I could accept the extra weight and be happy with myself, albeit still trying to live a healthier life, or I could get back on the horse, as the saying goes, and start again. So that’s what I did.
I’m back on my bike. I’ve hit the floor. I’ve stopped over-indulging. I’m back to square… three. Because I have to start somewhere and here is much better than where I began.
P.S. You may also like Emotional Release and Stress and Anxiety Triggers.
Photo: Fit Approach

April 13, 2016

Delicious Reads: Delicious!

Ruth Reichl is a lover of food and words (a woman after my own heart). As a former undercover restaurant critic for the New York Times, she's penned several memoirs, including Garlic and Sapphires, an often comic look into the world of food snobbery. Her other critically acclaimed memoirs, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and For You Mom, Finally, have graced the shelves of every foodie worth their salt.

But it's her first work of fiction that brings in all full circle. Delicious! is NYC's most iconic food magazine, and it is here where Billie Breslin finds an extended family as colorful as the vegetables. A story about family ties, secrets revealed, and the perseverance of a young woman finally ready to embrace her own gifts, Delicious! delivers.

If you haven't read this one, add it to your list!

April 12, 2016

Life in My 40s

I survived my 20s, plowed through my 30s, and now I’m surviving mid-life. I’m in the phase of life where it seems as though I no longer matter; no one is trying to get my attention. Advertisers are targeting 20-somethings—the Millennials—to buy their products, watch their programs, change the world and do something amazing with their lives. I’m not eligible for any particular benefits or special treatment. The AARP has to wait a little longer. I don’t get discounts if I buy a movie ticket and I’m not ready for the early bird special. I’m in limbo. Not quite young, but not old, either.

In my 20s, I was blissfully ignorant. I was young, carefree. I didn’t worry about much until I started to have children. But even still, I was much calmer when I had my son than when I had my daughters. I was moody and grumbled about inconsequential things like most people at that age, but did I mention I was young and carefree? I write that sentence and smile. Only because I know that my 20s were not nearly as carefree as I make them sound. I went through a lot during that decade of my life—leaving college and starting college again, getting married, buying and selling a house, having a baby, getting divorced, battling cervical cancer, getting re-married, buying another house, suffering a miscarriage. But I handled it. I got through it and I moved on.

During my 30s, after all of my babies were born and life seemed to settle down, the worrying began in earnest. Little by little, there was simply more to worry about. I started a business that I threw myself into like an episode of Survivor, tribal counsel and all. I worked hard at being a good mom and getting a someday successful business off the ground. One minute, I was at a business conference across the country, the next minute I was attending a school recital. I was juggling like a circus clown and thriving, albeit not always as successfully as I’d like to think. Whoever said a woman can have it all should have been stoned on the spot.

Enter life in my 40s. The worry was in full tilt by this time. I woke and went to bed watching the news. I listened to talk radio in the car pool line and raged. I had one child in college and two children in middle school. My husband’s career was demanding more of his time, while I continued to juggle motherhood and my own career. I stressed about money, grades (that weren’t even mine), my health, everyone’s health, girl drama (thankfully, not my girls), college tuition, relationships, sex, drugs, new immunizations, diseases, terrorists, the safety of my family, perimenopause, and an empty nest. By the time I had hit my mid-40s, I was a mess.

However, if 40 is the new 20, I must be reliving that decade all over again, but this time with my eyes wide open. No more ignorance and no more bliss.

But… And this is a big but, I am no longer afraid. I no longer care what people think, say, or do. I don’t give a whip about consumerism, and a good book is far better than any television program. I no longer watch the news or listen to talk radio. If it’s important enough, I’ll find out what I need to know. I don’t have to feel insecure about making it in the world. I’ve already arrived. Battered, beaten, and wiser. I took control of my body and my mind. I’ve changed careers and chose personal fulfillment over money. My children are all adults, thriving and beginning their own quests, but we’re still thick as thieves. I appreciate everything I have with such enormous gratitude; I will sometimes weep at my good fortune. I have everything I have ever wanted and more.

Am I rich? Not even close. Do I worry about money? Yes, but I have resolved that things will work out as they should, as they’ve always done. The stresses have not gone away, but the way I deal with them has changed. Life is not perfect. No one’s life is perfect. But mine is sublimely imperfect in all the right places.

Life in my 40s has been challenging, but I’ve decided I like challenges after all.

P.S. You may also like I Survived the First Year of College,  It's Been Quite a Week, and Are You a Late Bloomer?.

Photo: Moyan Brenn

April 8, 2016

Totally Crushing Over

This week, I'm totally crushing over...
Navy and white will forever be a classic color combination. Blogger Mackenzie Horan curated this look from these high-waisted shorts, this white linen blazer, and accessorized with this pretty clutch.
I found another new favorite Instagram account... Books and Beans features two loves together, forever and always. (Substitute tea if you must.) In this photo you'll find three new thrillers, Try Not to Breathe, Just Fall, and She's Not There. These will keep you up at night with or without the jitters.
For late-night reads, I'm all over this Princeton Adjustable Desk Lamp from Schoolhouse Electric.
This kitchen is gorgeous with it's traditional meets modern approach. I'm loving the area rug, but it's the smaller details that make all the difference. Change out the hardware on these cabinets and you get entirely different look.
Have a great weekend!

April 6, 2016

Blueberry Tartlets

This month is all about the berry. David happens to love blueberries, so this tartlet is sure to win him over. (And it's small enough to treat yourself without feeling guilty.)

Made with a gingersnap cookie base (yum), maple syrup (perfect this time of year since it's maple syrup time here in New England), mascarpone, and blueberries. 

Find this simple and delectable recipe here.

P.S. You may also like Lemon Cake with Raspberry Sauce.

Photo: Michael Stern

April 5, 2016

Are You a Late Bloomer?

I recently read an article about people who reached their career or personal goals much later in life than they originally planned. It was eye-opening, not to mention inspiring. Especially to a 40-something woman who is grappling with the what's next question of life (me). So if you're starting to feel a bit washed up after the age of 35(!), don't give it another thought.

First of all, 35 (the defined age of a late bloomer) is not old, neither is 45 or 55, for that matter. But according to the powers that be, 35 is the age when we're supposed to get our sh*t together. The world is filled with twenty-somethings who seem to have conquered their to-do list in record time. Some of us take a little longer. And some of you may still be trying to figure out what you're going to do when you grow up. 

I don't know any 18-year-old who knows exactly what he or she is going to do with the rest of their lives. Hint: you're not supposed to. I tell my girls all the time it doesn't matter if you graduate from college and decide to take a different path. It doesn't matter if you go down one path and then choose another. And it certainly doesn't matter if you decide to do 2 or 3 things. In fact, I encourage it. But, if you're not 18 any more, the same rules apply.

I honestly feel like we shed our skins like a snake. Every 7 years or so, it's time to try something new. Our personal identities don't remain stagnate, why should our professional identity be any different? The problem is we feel we've failed if we haven't met certain goals by a certain age. We question whether we have enough education, experience, or just plain guts to see it through. We're afraid of failure. We're afraid of success.

Let's use me as an example. Because I chose one career (design) over another (writing), I was constantly telling myself it's okay, I'll get to it later. Until later became much later, and then I started to feel too old to try. One excuse after the other kept rolling off my tongue. But the truth is, it's never too late and you're never too old to begin anything.

David told me about an article he read in the newspaper about a 55 year-old woman who published her first novel. Cynthia's book has made my list of spring/summer reads and I just purchased it over the weekend. Many people begin the career or job they've longed to try well into their 40s, and this was just another example. 

I was inspired once again.

Did you know?

These authors did not graduate from college: William Faulkner (1949 Nobel prize for literature), Maya Angelou, Truman Capote, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Nora Roberts...

John Grogan was 48 when he wrote Marley & Me. Sue Monk Kidd didn't start writing until she was 30. Danielle Steel has a degree in fashion design. J.K. Rowling studied French and became a teacher. John Grisham studied accounting, went on to become a lawyer, and wrote A Time to Kill after work. Robert Ludlum studied drama. Janet Evanovich didn't publish her first novel until she was 44.

And still, many tell you don't bother getting an MFA in writing. Just write! (And watch this interview as she has since edited her post. Also, please read her book, Big Magic.) 

So pick up that camera. Start baking. Learn a language. Pick up a brush. Find your voice. Stop making excuses. And never, ever let this three-letter word back into your vocabulary.

P.S. You may also like Mistaken IdentitySome Thoughts on Writing, Worshipping at the Alter of Elizabeth Gilbert, and My Take on Writing.

Photo: Moyan Brenn