More than just horsing around

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While we’re still self-distancing, some businesses are taking baby steps towards normalcy. It’s opening us up to cultural experiences we may have never had. Get creative in a conscious way, and restless people from quarantine will jump at the opportunity!

Richmonders who had never been to the symphony are hiring Ellen Cockerham Riccio to play violin in their backyards from a safe distance. She’s the Second Principal Violinist in the Richmond Symphony, and during this quarantine, has transformed into The Backyard Violinist. The Driveway Drag Show has been doing house calls for people who have never made it into the city for a proper performance. The main entertainer, Michelle Livigne has even found herself playing for a Christian family at a remote cabin sitting on 600 acres of land.

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When I found out that Checkpoint One was open for private tours, our family was in. I’ve always found horses to be majestic. They have a quiet dignity that’s untouchable. Checkpoint One is a special refuge, offering non-riding equine therapy with trained specialists.

It’s one thing to stand at the fence and hope a horse ambles up to you. It’s quite another thing to be led inside for an intimate session. “Horses radiate their heartbeats, and humans adapt to the slower and more consistent heartbeat of the horse. It lowers our stress levels and blood pressure,” explains Kristin Fitzgerald. As co-founder of Checkpoint One and certified life coach, she and her team help people with PTS (post traumatic stress), and ERES (Emergency Responders Exhaust Syndrome). In fact, anyone feeling overtaxed and stressed can unwind at this rustic hideaway, where even yoga classes are offered to help heal the community.

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Our favorite horse was George, (pictured top). He’s a nuzzling, cuddling beast that likes to lay his regal head upon your shoulder. There were two wild mustangs brought in from Nevada. They were “gentled in” as opposed to being broken in, so they learned not to fear humans, but without the use of force or pain.  Shadow (pictured above), is a horse who recently had an eye removed. She’s adapting well, but it won’t stop your nurturing instinct from coming out in full force. There’s a sweet donkey that loves to get close and smell everything on you (including your face). We brushed them to help shed their winter coats. The animals felt itchy and you could tell they were grateful for the attention.

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We were grateful too. We’ve been in quarantine since March. To be able to drive to this lush hilltop in Doswell and soak up the sun, and to be so intimate with animals that innately calm us – it was a memorable afternoon. Its close enough to the city so that it’s not a hassle, and far enough so that it feels like an escape. It’s special enough to make you feel like all that isolating was worth the wait.

Beaches closed? Time for a Redneck Riviera

I love the water. So much so, that I am willing to do an activity that involves the word redneck. Kids around the world have been pulled out of school, kept in their homes and are enduring a strange new reality. But we don’t have to feel sorry for them. Not if we’re being creative. Not if we’re allowing them outside, letting them explore and getting them covered in scrapes and bruises, just like a kid should be. I refuse to let the wonder of childhood sink into a pit of video game addiction.


Well, whatever winter we had (it gets weirder every year) has passed. Spring fever is in full boom and Memorial Day is right around the corner. With beaches and pools closed, it’s time to make a Redneck Riviera in the yard. Fill up a big kiddie pool, fire up these new-fangled Slip and Slides with squirting fountains, and plug in the sprinkler. Et voila!


Prepare to have the sound of your yard filled with giggles and screeches. Prepare to have neighbors slow down to smile at the sight. Prepare sandwiches, because running around in the sun all day will bring on a preternatural hunger. Keep a basket of sunscreen and insect stray nearby. Lay out a giant blanket for them to rest on, and in full sun so they don’t get the shivers. And of course, play some great music.

As for you, feel free to soak up the sun, shake up a summer cocktail, catch up on required reading (Vogue!) and ignore them in general. You deserve the break as much as they do.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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This year, mama needs a gesture. Whether she’s home-schooling while working remotely, or struggling to find work due to the mass unemployment, her plate spilleth over.

Moms are practical, but deserve luxury. Give them something they’ll actually use, but may not buy for themselves. Most importantly, give them time and space to relax. I’m writing this in bed while my family sleeps. Nothing is more delicious to a writer than having a home all to themselves. But this joy is not limited to writers. Back massages, bubble baths, sleeping in – these things make us beautiful from the inside out. They deserve it.

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While I’m here, I’d love to share some tips on how to carpe the hell out of this diem during the COVID-19 quarantine. Or as I call it, the YPE (Yoga Pants Era, TM).

Mother’s Day gift ideas, right here!

If you’re guilty of panic shopping, and realized you bought too many groceries, I have zero-waste tips,  so you can make the most of your bounty. Toilet paper recipes not included.

Did you know that all those lackluster grocery store salad dressings also pack a lot of hidden sugar? Homemade salad dressings aren’t only better for you, but pack a lot more punch in the flavor department.

Homeschooling the kiddos? Put them to work in the kitchen! It’s where science meets art, and can help you build a lifelong narrative around food and health.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Inspiration in Quarantine

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I hope this post finds people in good spirits, though it’s a rainy Monday. In a quarantine. I think it’s a perfect excuse to catch up on my reading and face-mask game, but I want to be sensitive to how other people are feeling during this time.

Some people have lost loved ones to Covid-19, while others are struggling with being so bobisolated. Many are still working full-time from home while trying to homeschool. Personally, my family and I are thriving during this time. Attitude has a lot to do with it. Being positive doesn’t mean that you’re happy all the time, but we are doing two important things: Making the best out of a difficult situation, and remembering that better times are ahead of us. 

We’ve taken advantage of the time we’ve been given. Our son learned to ride a bike, I’m immersed in crafting projects and my husband just made a wheel of Jarlsberg cheese – to be ready by summer. Regardless of how you feel, you owe it to yourself to find light in these dark times. Life is too short. And mark my words: When people start getting busy again, they will lament not having this extra time that we have been given right now.

Here are some tips to make the most of this temporary situation, taken from my blog at Ladles & Linens:

If grocery stores make you fraught, now is the perfect time to start your own garden! The yield will be much tastier, and it will save you plenty of coin: Inspo right HERE.

March Gardening To-Do List

Keeping your immune system in tip-top condition is a great way to stave off Covid-19. Or, if you’ve been infected, an immunity boost still gives a good head start in combating the symptoms and severity.  Fight the good fight HERE.

Now is the time to hunker down and make those time-consuming recipes you love. Even better? Freeze some for later, busier times. You’ll be grateful that you did. Deliciousness awaits right HERE.

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Everyone is baking right now, but it doesn’t all have to be bakery fare. Whip up some protein bars, with whatever you have in the house. Kitchen Sink Protein Bites are tasty and guilt-free. Find some options right HERE.

Have a great week!

Party, Interrupted

This Saturday my son turns six. Like many people achieving milestones during this time, things are unusual. While some adults are too cool for themed parties, one of the perks of having children are shameless, over-the-top themes. And I am here for it.

Hamilton had his heart set on a Batman-themed party, so that’s what he’s going to get. Only during the summer. To make up for the wait, we are going all out behind the scenes. During our home-schooling, our art lessons are focused on party planning and decor.

We made Gotham City out of large cardboard boxes. We created a Joker pinata that he gets to swing at first, on the big day. We stamped Bat Bags for the goodies and are creating a cavernous bat cave with old blankets. We’ll be using the (pictured) projector to shine the bat signal onto the inner walls, along with some playful disco lights. We’re building fort tents in the living room just to practice for the big cave.

Keeping him involved helps him appreciate the work that goes into entertaining. Getting him excited stops him from feeling sorry for himself. Because at the end of the day, this is not a tragedy. Our hearts are with those most affected by Covid-19; there are a lot of people grieving right now. I also feel pretty bad for high school seniors, who won’t get to experience how disappointing prom is. Many may have experienced shake-ups in the college admissions process too. And while I’m sure they won’t be broken up over having to skip a graduation ceremony, their parents sure will.

Stay healthy, be positive and remember that one of the key components of happiness is the ability to adapt. Regardless of the shake-ups affecting our own lives, we can either use this time as a gift, or as a curse. So make the best of it. Better days are ahead of us, so no harm in planning the party now.

 

 

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

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There are a lot of memes circulating about a potential wave of babies being born nine months from now. They will be called “Coronials.” When they hit their teenage years, they will be called “quaran-teens.” And quarantined we are – as I type this, it’s been announced that no one should gather in groups of more than ten. With schools, restaurants and movie theatres closing, people will be even more isolated. I might wonder… rather than babies being born, what if the divorce rate spikes?

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One of my latest projects

Isolation is a treat for high-functioning introverts like myself. I have a list of crafting projects to tackle. I want to write and do yoga and make huge batches of delectable food to store in our deep freezer – a treat for a busier time. But interrupting this delicious isolation is real life. The kids get restless, and with restaurants closed, dishes pile up even faster.

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Here’s the thing: love. This is actually a special time. Though we are experiencing a global pandemic, families are coming together and staying put. Though there’s the inconvenience of daily life being disrupted, there will be some great stories from this. For me, it’s material. For most everyone else, these stories will be passed down at least two generations. Though restaurants are closing, people are creating home-cooked meals. Though gyms are closing, many are reintroducing themselves to the great outdoors.

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Snapshot from one of my favorite hikes

Make the most of it. If your family is getting out on your nerves, get outside. If you download the app AllTrails, you’ll uncover beautiful hikes in a radius around your home. If you are home-schooling your child, teach them something more meaningful than standardized testing fodder. Whether it’s piano lessons or showing them photos of your international travels, teach them things you might not ordinarily have time for on a school night. Put them to work a home improvement project. Make them proud of the outcome and give them credit for it when you start hosting again.

We’ve since taken off the training wheels and have been practicing.

And keep your immune system in check. You want the odds to stay in your favor. I posted about some health hacks on Ladles and Linens’ blog, and you should check it out. Most of all, regardless of the fear and restlessness you may feel, we owe it to ourselves to make the most of it. In the end, this too shall pass. And when it passes we’ll have to ask ourselves this: Was it a special time?

Studio City 54

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Our most epic party was Studio City 54. I’m talking the cops showing up type of epic. It all started when we were watching the Richard Pryor movie Carwash, when Metro PR founder Tess Finkle and I became enamored with the idea of throwing an all-out disco.

Shamelessly glam, and romantically 70s!

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We cleared the furniture out of the house to make a giant dance floor, plus a rollerskates-only “Roller Room.” He hired a DJ who can really read and manipulate the crowd, and he brought in a mirror ball and lighting. The works. The dance floor was packed all night.

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Lava lamps were flicked on around the house, we had a pet rock decorating station (pet rocks were huge in the 70s) and hung Three’s Company-themed decorations. Keeping with the 70s theme, we served trashy food, like Twinkies and Sunny D with vodka. And of course, Jell-o shots!

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Even the bathroom featured a 70’s makeover guide, with guests encouraged to help themselves to all the blue eyeshadow they can pile on!