May 13, 2016

Mean Girls

I read a book years ago titled, Queen Bees and Wannabes. In it, the author talks about the roles girls play, whether they like it or not, and includes tips for parents on how to help their daughters through the trials of Girl World. (If you want a quick fix instead, watch the movie Mean Girls.)

Because I am a girl, and I have given birth to two girls, I can say this without bias: girls are a pain in the ass. The drama that follows girls around is like a loyal puppy—it never goes away! And it starts younger and younger these days. We’ve all had to deal with versions of the Mean Girl throughout our lives. Some of us got through it fairly unscathed, while others were imprisoned. I can’t imagine dealing with the latter; the stories I’ve heard from other mothers and their daughters is downright terrifying.

But even with the subtler dealings girls endure: whispers, snide looks, insults, gossip…these transgressions can instantly rip away the solid foundation of anyone having to deal with ordinary day to day life, which as we all know is hard enough. Girls will always have to work harder than boys for equal pay and recognition. I hope that before I die, this will finally be a non-issue. This is just one reason we should all be in this together, not battling it out on the playground. (The war of the “working mom” versus the “stay at home mom” should have been settled long ago. Personally, I’ve always thought the term “working mom” was redundant. Every mom works, regardless if it’s at an office or at home. Period. Please, let’s MOVE ON from this.)

But there’s another sad reality involved: Some things never change no matter how old you get. Girls grow up to be women. But that doesn’t mean they grow out of being a Mean Girl. Like Bobbsey Twins, mother/daughter mean girls are leaders of their pack. There are thousands of mini-me’s following in the footsteps of their first teachers. They’ve learned how to lie, cheat, and beam their false smiles at the world with absolute pride and prejudice because they learned how at the foot of the masters.

These women have had decades of experience, and from my personal experience, cleave onto their daughters because they’re truly the only friends they have left. Adults usually don’t put up with this nonsense, but that doesn’t keep it from occurring. Worse still, they usually focus their attention on the very girls their daughters have already targeted. They’ve transgressed to their former selves and relish in the same childish antics they should have left behind long ago. The targets have doubled.

Words, one of my favorite things in the whole world, can do more damage psychologically than almost anything. The old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” rings more true today than it ever has. 

Girls are their own worst enemies. But they don't have to be.

May 5, 2016

Wherever the Wind May Blow

I have been blogging regularly for the past three years. I enjoy sharing ideas and stories, and as I wrote in my bio, this is my place to remember and reflect. But I haven’t been happy with my blog platform for a long time now. As with all money decisions, I had to weigh the pros and cons of investing in a new one. Every time I did some research I was quoted outrageous prices, some as much as $10,000. Instead, I used my money to update its look, just a little, then a little more. I ran into a few mishaps along the way, namely a very unprofessional “web designer” who never fulfilled her promise. I had to change companies mid-stream and thankfully found a firm that could work with me and my budget. The money I wasted could have been used to make the switch. I moved on. I could at least update my writing.

Since I began blogging, I have switched things up a bit. What was once a design blog morphed into a lifestyle blog, and then, in my opinion, something a bit more than the usual lifestyle blog. As I started to focus on one aspect of my career (while the others started to fade into the background) I wanted the blog to follow along. I got excited about writing more in-depth and personal posts about motherhood, family, and various series about writing and the stages of the empty nest to name just two. I have always been inspired by Anna Quindlen so I just recently starting writing a new series titled Life in My 40s. I prefer the direction the blog is headed, but I also wanted to keep a bit of creative eye candy available for those of you who started following this blog for that very reason.

I’ve played around with topics, scheduling, and formatting until I found something I felt would be a good fit for all of my readers, and for me as well. But the blog also did something else. It filled a void. It allowed me to escape into the world of words I had missed so dearly.

But I am at a crossroads.

I’ve decided to take a small step back from my blog to work on a project I have wanted to finish for years. I have always been the kind of person who takes care of everyone else’s needs before my own: my children, family, work, and you, my readers. But I need to do this one thing just for me.

For now, I’m going to blog weekly when my schedule allows. I’m not going to worry about adhering to a strict schedule; it will simply happen organically, like when I first began. I will continue writing series and niche posts I hope will satisfy us both. I may want to bring in new writers to help fill the gaps, or I may decide not to. I’m not quite sure just yet. My goal is to still switch platforms, but this won’t happen until late spring (at the earliest) and soon after that, I’ll be heading off to my home away from home in June. Changes are occurring and I’m going wherever the wind may blow.

By next fall, I should be back in the swing of things. Or maybe I’ll try the slide instead. Either way, this blog isn’t disappearing, it’s just evolving as each and every one of us is doing each and every day.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Thank you for your continued support and thank you for reading.

Photo: Three Rivers Deep

May 4, 2016

Healthy and Delicious Hummus Recipes

There is one staple in my refrigerator that I would be lost without: hummus. I can remember when I first tasted this concoction of garbanzo beans, tahini, and garlic. I hated it. I grew up eating meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Sandwiches consisted of peanut butter and jelly or bologna. Not exactly healthy cuisine. 

Over time, I grew to like it. Now I can't get enough. It's the perfect party dip, snack, and meal. I like to top plain hummus with really good extra virgin olive oil or lemon or spices or a combination, and there isn't a vegetable that doesn't love hummus.

It's super easy to make, but if you're in a jam, I suggest purchasing Classic Hummus from Sabra and doctor at will.  

Roasted Garlic Parmesan

Basil Pesto

Avocado Lime

Lemon Garlic

Spicy Creamy Sriracha

Enjoy!

P.S. You may also enjoy Move Over Fries, It's all About the Ketchup and Slow Cooker Meals

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 eat food or ice cream, either 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 consider what it takes to produce and create the content you enjoy. Most bloggers don't get paid a thing, 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