Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things I wish I knew when I was 17, or 7.

My duo started 2nd grade last week.  They seem so old.  No longer my little babes listening to my every words and spending all day at my side.  I both relish in and am saddened by this realization.

And quite frankly, I am challenged daily by providing them with the right advice. The right words. The wisdom they'll need to make it in the world. I fear my words fall short.

They are both adjusting well to their new classes, schedules and friends, but I worry.  Am I alone here?  I fear not. I worry they will make the right friends. I worry we are in the right activities. I worry about giving them enough freedom so they can learn to make wise decisions.  But, of course, not too much freedom.

So, I decided to sit down and try to think of some words of wisdom I thought may help them through life. Not all are appropriate for them at 7, but over time.  One of the best parenting bits I've ever received. - a big picture bit - was to think about your values and your goals for their lives and work backwards to determine how you should parent and discipline. Sometimes we are all guilty of defensive or reflexive parenting.  I prefer to be on the offensive.

So, here are some of the principles I hope to instill over the next 10+ years:
  • It's the accumulation of many small decisions over time, more so than the few big ones, that chart the paths you take in life.
  • Be grateful for every thing no matter how inconsequential it may seem. Being grateful attracts more things into your life to be grateful for.
  • There is a difference between being tenacious and swimming upstream. Learn to distinguish between the two for one leads to success and the other to frustration.
  • Work daily on your relationship with God even, if it's just a simple "good morning" and "good night", for it will provide you with a level of peace, security and contentment that no person can give you.
  • Be curious about the habits of highly evolved and successful people and apply them to your life.
  • Exercise your physical talents as often as possible because the day you realize you can no longer do that gainer off the diving board you will experience a sense of lost that's like a death.
  • Spend time with your grandparents and ask lots of questions because when you get older you will develop an insatiable curiosity about your heritage.
  • There really is such a thing as karma. You will get back exactly what you put out.
  • Your family loves you and cares more deeply about you than anyone and always has your best interest at heart.
  • Trust your instincts for they are an invaluable tool. If something doesn't feel right, it usually isn't.
  • Outward appearances mean nothing if you are not grounded and confident. It is never enough just to be a pretty girl / attractive guy.
  • No boy / girl is worth pushing your values and instincts aside for.
  • Although 'tis always nice to give people room to grow, most personalities are set by first grade. Adjust your expectations accordingly and you will save yourself a world of hurt and disappointment.
  • Your grades and study habits will shape the rest of your life and provide you the best opportunity for a life of independence and success.
  • Everything in moderation is best, time does heal all wounds and, this too will pass.
  • And my newest motto from Katherine Center - "You are writing the story of your only life every single minute of every day. And my greatest hope for you, sweet child, is that I can teach you how to write a good one."

What are some of your parenting goals? Or what wisdom do you hope to instill over the years?

Monday, August 30, 2010

That's a wrap.

I am a mom. And I love being a mom. I do. It is the greatest a challenge and blessing in my life. That said, I do not want to look like a mom. That may be the greatest challenge. One way I try to pull off the non-mom look is with fun sweaters and jackets.  A pair of jeans and white t-shirt can be instantly transformed into a semi-stylish ensemble merely by adding another layer.  The jacket section of my closet consumes an embarrassing amount of real estate.  But truly, this little trick works like a charm.

Well, suffice to say, this little number caught my eye.  Imagine the possibilities!  Twelve, count 'em, 12 ways to wear the DKNY cozy.  Which makes the $198 price tag palatable -- only $16.50 per look!

When the other moms in carpool ask how you manage to always look so put-together, it's your choice:  tell them or it can be our little secret.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Soup's on Sunday

Zucchini, Garlic & Basil Soup

A simple and healthy soup using summer's abundance of zucchini and basil. This smooth puréed soup achieves a near impossible feat -- it's velvety and creamy without any cream! 
2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add 3 cups vegetable stock and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes.

Purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season soup with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls and garnish with basil leaves. Crème fraiche, optional.


Serves 4

Friday, August 27, 2010

This blows.

Daisy Balloon couture
This elevates balloon creations to an entirely different level!
Rie Hosokai, aka Daisy Balloon, is a couture fashion designer that makes stylish outfits from balloons. Seriously!
Amazing! Of course, I assume you cannot sit down in these creations.  Or for that matter, risk going outside!? 
via Spoon & Tamago

And to think I was previously impressed by this little monkey!

Happy weekend friends!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Easy and healthy weeknight dinner.

I love Jaime Oliver.  I know I've mentioned this before.  He inspires me.  His food, well, his food makes me very, very happy.  And I am always on the lookout for easy, yummy, fresh, healthy weeknight meals.  And by "weeknight meal" I mean prep and cooking time must be around or less than 40 minutes. I like 20 minute meals, but am willing to put a little more effort into it on nights that allow such.

This recipe fits the bill perfectly.  Healthy, easy, fresh and incredibly delicious!  And don't be intimidated by the courgette listed in ingredients.  It's simply zucchini.

jamie’s italian’s asparagus fettuccine

main courses | serves 4
“This fettuccine is only on the menu the short while asparagus is in season. I think that makes eating it even more special,” says Jamie.


• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, finely diced
• 1 small stick of celery, diced
• 1 medium courgette, finely diced
• 1 small leek, white part only, diced
• 16 stalks of asparagus, tips reserved, stalks thinly sliced
• A small handful of basil leaves
• 300ml vegetable stock (my note:  10 oz)
• 1 garlic clove
• 400g fresh or dried fettuccine (my note: 14oz, though I'd go ahead and use the entire 16oz box)
• 50g finely grated parmesan cheese (my note: 1.7 or 2 oz, I'd just do what feels right!)
• Pea shoots, to serve

1 Add 4 tsp olive oil to a heavy-based pan over a low heat and sweat onion and celery until soft. Add courgette, leek and asparagus stalks and sweat for a further 2–3 minutes. Add most of the basil leaves and when they wilt, add the stock, then simmer until veg are tender. Remove from the heat and, using a hand blender or food processor, blend till creamy. In another frying pan over a low heat, add a little oil and cook garlic till soft, then add the asparagus sauce and simmer for 2 minutes.
2 Boil a pan of salted water. Cook fettuccine, and 3 minutes before it’s done, add the asparagus tips. When fettuccine is al dente, drain, reserving a little cooking water, and add to the asparagus sauce. Loosen the pasta and sauce with cooking water, as needed. Stir in remaining basil, and serve with parmesan and pea shoots.

Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vacation fantasies

Today is our 9 year wedding anniversary, which of course, has me thinking about next year -- our 10 year anniversary (always on to the next big thing, I know). I'm thinking a spectacular trip is warranted, and I think the planning should start soon.

Our wedding took place in a little chapel on a hill at Palmilla in Cabos. It was a glorious affair with our closest friends and family. Picture perfect. We spent the next week honeymooning at Las Ventanas, also in Cabos. Both resorts are truly exceptional. The obvious choice would be to venture back to Cabos and spend a week where it all began. Right?! We said we'd come back. It seemed at the time that nothing could get better than this. But now that seems much too obvious.

To remedy this clearly pressing dilemma, I've spent a nice hour or two today drooling over the Mr. and Mrs. Smith website. Their hotels are ridiculously amazing. Ridiculous! You can even create a honeymoon registry, which I think is completely brilliant (hmm, what about a 10 year anniversary registry?!)

For your drooling pleasure, here are a few of my favorites:

A private island beach home in Belize

Loving these lush gardens and sparkling pool in Provence.

How rad would it be to stroll up to this Paris hotel and its funny hats?

You could sip wine and watch the sunset at a 900-year-old castello in Tuscany...

...or make friends with elephants, take outdoor showers and drink cocktails under glowing trees at a South African resort.

Honey, where would you want to go? : )

Roll with it!

utility carts from Industrial House
Check out these uber cool industrial utility carts from Industrial House.  I think I could use them in every room of the house. They may change my life forever!

I'm just sayin' -- when things are in their place mama is happy.  Well, you know the rest of that little ditty.

They’re made of canvas and steel.  These are the real deal!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My newest friends!

To-the-TOP Tuesday


Last night I had a bit of insomnia. Some sound woke me up and I just couldn't return to sleep. Maybe it was my subconscious wanting me to be conscience enough to have these thoughts. Call it what you will.  At 4 am I call it annoying. But I digress.

Some would say I am nearing middle age. That sounds so hideous. Isn't 40 the new 30?! I refuse to get caught up in a number. I feel young. And I certainly can't look as old as my mother did when she was 40. (Nods of reassurance here, please). The talk of aging and all the grown-up problems associated with it has me thinking lately about friendships and their crucial role in our lives.  

Pictured here is me and my BFF, J. We have been friends since 6th grade when her family moved to Texas. According to my yearbook, which I recently re-read, we were not officially BFFs until 8th grade. I guess we took a couple years to get to know each other before we solidified our status by writing it in each other's yearbook. I won't go into the milestones we've encountered together here. There are too many and many are much too private to share. Suffice to say we have quite a bit of history together.

But my point is this: friendship, lasting ones especially, but even some casual ones, can have a profound impact on our lives. Few other relationships -- parents, siblings, spouse and children -- rival that of a good friend. Even mediocre friends can enter your life for a short time and leave you facing an entirely different direction. 

In recent years I have been amazed over and over again by the value added to my life by women around me. Some are wonderful friends and some are merely acquaintances who have nonetheless left their mark on me. When my mother died last year, J, immediately knew what to do. Instinctively. And before I had any idea what I needed. She was there. Many good friends rallied to offer support and, when I returned home, provided meals for my family. Many of these darling women were acquaintances, not really good friends. They nonetheless took time out of their demanding schedules and cooked when I couldn't.

I think that is part of what amazes me about women - we rally and catch each other when we fall. Maybe that isn't a profound thought, but I think what strikes me is how it is a simple reflex, like the doctor knocks your knee. Boom. Friends surround you. Lickety-split. No questions asked.

And yes, as the song goes, we are all "only one phone call from our knees." And when we fall, friends will simply materialize out of the mist to catch us. Women literally are drawn by what must be our maternal instinct to help, to comfort, to support, to motivate. I honestly had no idea what sort of safety net surrounded me until I needed it. I doubt most of us do.

As years pass and our bodies, children and parents age we will be faced by even more grown-up problems: ailing parents, the death of loved ones, illness in ourselves or family, divorces or marital discord, and raising teenagers. We will catch each other as we pass through some of these phases. You never know if will be your BFF or a friend with whom you've never even shared a meal, but inevitably you will look back and thank that woman, that friend, for being there. For catching you when you were falling. For doing what you didn't even know you needed. For telling you what you needed to hear. For holding you. For loving you. 

So I chalk up this most recent sleepless night to my love for my friends, those near and those far, and give thanks to all women. Yes, all of you.  Because, like I said, you never know who will catch you and who you may one day catch.  


Monday, August 23, 2010

By Chance.

Today, by chance, I was surfing around the internet (hours of free time with the kids back at school) and I happened upon Chance. I spent countless hours this spring looking for the perfect striped tee (yes, I tend to obsess over such staples - they really do make a huge difference in your wardrobe). I had the perfect outfit in my mind's eye, but never found the classic striped tee I desired.  

If only I'd happened upon Chance, by Julia Leach, the former creative director of Kate Spade, earlier. The entire collection was based around the classic striped tee. (Be still my heart.)

P.S. She also has wonderful essentials.

Movie Review - Eat, Pray, Love

First, a disclaimer:  I LOVED this book.  I mean I really, really loved it. It spoke to a part of me that, at the time, desperately needed to hear about such a journey -- about pleasure, spirituality and learning to love again in a deeply passionate way. Aren't those the best books: the ones that reach deep into your marrow and make you want to change?!

Just so no one gets confused: at no point have I considered leaving my husband or marriage. That part did not speak to me at all. But we've all felt broken in one way or another. I think child-rearing has done that to me at times -- I have both lost myself and found myself in it. It's that sort of journey that intrigues me. That speaks to me. And makes me want to read the book over and over again.  

So, that is how I felt about the book.     

Now, for the movie

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  I adore Julia Roberts and, quite frankly, think she can do no wrong. Add in a dash of James Franco and a measure Javier Bardem and who would complain. Certainly not me. 

And the movie was beautiful in a cinematic sense -- beautiful landscapes, beautiful cities, beautiful people and, of course, beautiful food.  
Oh, the food!  Do not go hungry.  
Liz's journey is an inspiring one. She is brave and courageous and wants to be a better person. She wants more out of life than the cliche white picket fence and 2.5 children. She is willing to admit that she craves happiness, but yet, has not found it in the traditional or readily prescribed manner. 

And so her journey begins: first to Italy, then India, and finally, Indonesia. Each segment was wonderful in its own individual way, though each left me wanting more. 

Where the movie falls short, in my view, can be simply put: depth. I wanted big dramatic moments (hello - the bathroom scene was incredibly intense in the book, but underwhelming in the movie). I wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert's witty writing. I wanted to understand the transformation. I wanted to be inspired by her newfound spirituality. I wanted to feel her passion when she learned to love again. I wanted . . . the book. That's it. I just loved the book too much to also love anything that falls short of it.

It is a darling movie and if you have not read the book, I imagine you'll love it. If you have read the book, simply prepare yourself. It is a great movie but does not provide the cathartic experience found in the book. 
And, in the end, this should be no surprise. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pencil me in.

Ghetti Pencil Carvings
How in the world is this possible??  Dalton Ghetti makes teeny tiny little sculptures out of pencil tips.  I’m absolutely amazed!

Further proof:  everyone has an amazing gift within. Sometimes we must simply think outside the proverbial box, or rather, look closer to the tip to find it.    

Friday, August 20, 2010

Prepare to laugh out loud.

This is by far the funniest string of photos and commentary I've seen in a very, very long time.  Thank you to the girls in Miss Universe contest for providing the fodder and those witty guys, Tom & Lorenzo, for providing my ab exercise for the day!

See for yourself:
Miss Universe 2010 National Costumes, Part 1

Let it snow!

Concord Grape Blueberry Snow Cone recipe
Stay one step ahead of the next food craze and try this gourmet snow cone recipe!  It’s full of antioxidant rich blueberries and concord grape concentrate and light on fat and calories!

Concord Grape Blueberry Snow Cone
6 Tablespoons of concord grape juice concentrate
1/4 cup blueberries
2 cups tap water or sparkling water
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour into ice cube trays and freeze two hours or until firm.  Process in an ice shaver and scoop with a small ice cream scooper.  Serve immediately in a Dixie cup.
Per serving (1/4 cup)  43 calories, 0 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat (0 gram saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 5 mg sodium

recipe and image via kitchendaily.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scratch map

How cool is this Scratch Map? You scratch off the places you've been with a penny!  Love the thought of hanging it in the kids' hallway and letting them scratch off our destinations over time.  Possibly a very long time.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things.

1.  Being a mother to my kids
While motherhood is arguably the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life, it is also certainly the most rewarding! When either of my duo hugs me fiercely -- you know the "I really, really love you hugs", well . . . the rest of the world and all my problems just melt away.  As long as they are healthy, and we keep learning and growing as a family . . . then I consider my job the best job in the world.

P.S. and this is exactly what I look like in the morning when I wear my kimono around the house.  *wink.

2.  Summer

For the last month I have been enjoying my summer more than ever (vacation will do that to you!). And everything that summer brings with it -- long days at the beach, being in the pool by 10am (because we slept until 9), ice cream cones and barbecues, good books & longer days.  I am already mourning the loss of these long, lazy summer days. 

My (remaining) summer to do list:  take more photos, eat more ice cream, blow more bubbles, take more naps!

3. Gathering with Friends & Family!

Enjoying a meal with family or friends always brings a smile to my heart! I am always looking for a perfect excuse to host a small dinner gathering or a big, fun pool party!  Weekend plans anyone?

4. Books
I love books!! And bookstores!! I am currently reading The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.  It is the second book and the trilogy and, in my opinion, better than the first.  Also read this summer:  Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave, Secrets to Happiness: A Novel by Sarah Dunn, and Beautiful People: My Family and Other Gamorous Varmints by Simon Doonan. 

5. Chocolate

This certainly isn't going to surprise anyone: I adore chocolate, especially ooey-gooey molten chocolate. My favorite indulgence!  

6. Flowers

Hope you all have a fabulous day!! 

Save the words!

Every year we chuckle when words like “staycation” or “unfriend” are admitted into our dictionaries. But we often forget about the other, venerable words that get bumped to make room. Feel bad? Fear not.

Save the Words, a clever new Web site from Oxford University Press, is doing something about it. The makers of the Oxford English Dictionary (which catalogs every word in English, ever) have developed the site based on the simple idea that a word won’t die if it gets used often enough. To that end, the site creatively displays a swath of at-risk lexemes, each of which you may adopt by promising to use it at least once a day. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. Try, for instance, using “frutescent”—approaching the appearance of a shrub—or “archiloquy”—the first parts of a speech—naturally.

But then again, it’s better than speaking a language whose most interesting words come from clever rhymes and Facebook.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lesley Evers SALE

I love dresses. I love the simplicity of throwing on a dress and adding only a pair of earrings.  It makes getting dressed much easier - no mixing / matching or trying to come up with a new combination. 
Easy peasy dressing. 
Just my style. 
And I love Lesley Evers dresses. 
Simple and classic. 
Absolutely perfect.  
Well, Lesley Evers is having an online sale now!
I'm thinking the Audrey dress in Brown Zebra will be a great transition piece to fall.
P.S I've seen a sneak peek of their new fall line and it's gorgeous! Get ready, because you're going to love it!

Dinner in under 5 minutes.

I know I've mentioned my obsession with Dinner: A Love Story before -- great writing, beautiful photos, and inspiring recipes with kids in mind. I feel we share the same battles with picky kids.  I too think families should sit down and share meals together -- and not just at the same table but all at the same time!  Revolutionary, I know.  I also know that my taste buds require meals with more that two ingredients (pasta and butter being the two my kids prefer).  There is a happy medium out there somewhere between the cuisine my husband and I prefer and the boxed foods my kids love.  I am bound and determined to find that middle ground.  I feel like we've made progress this summer.

All that said, my kids are still, well, kids. Additionally, life is chaotic and I often have a very small window within which to make dinner.  Easy, quick meals often catch my eye.  As did this post from Dinner:  A Love Story -- 5-Minute Dinner: Flatbread Pizza with Arugula & Prosciutto.
via Dinner: A Love Story
I have my own take on this quick, easy, but universally pleasing meal.  We do use a Naan flatbread, but I prepare a few toppings from which everyone can choose.  I personally go with arugula, artichoke hearts and herbed goat cheese.  It is yummy, quick and easy.

Do you have an easy, go-to recipe?  If so, please share.  We can all use a few extra in our arsenal!

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