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.

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?

When the Weather Outside is Frightful

So the holidays are over. When the decorations were first put away, it felt bare. But by now it feels clean and decluttered. And so does your social calendar, compared to December!

This is a great time to take a breath and enjoy the slow-down before spring is in the air. Tackle home projects that have been on your to-do list, whether cooking those doggy-eared recipes in your cookbook, or patching up a paint job. Crossing those things off the list feels glorious.

Though I’m not a fan of winter, I try everything in my power not to consider January through March a slog. In fact, I’ve posted a few things at Ladles and Linens that will motivate you to make the most of this season.

For instance, do you practice hygge? Scandinavians practice this art of warm and fuzzy and have it on lock. Tips to hygge up your home can be found here.

Who says your slow cooker is for meals only? It’s the perfect catalyst to help you serve these warm boozy drinks!

And staying in during blustery weather with friends calls for comfort food. Start a pierogi-making session. Working with your hands is as therapeutic as the laughter your friends will have around the kitchen table. Make pierogies in bulk – they freeze beautifully. Details here.

It’s also perfect weather for sharing a meal around a steaming hot pot. No cooking required before guests arrive, and they’ll still consider you a gourmand. That alone should be a selling point. Check it out here!

How You Can Bring Paris to RVA

Last year, I was swept up in the magic that was Diner en Blanc. I wrote about it, but one must experience this Parisian tradition in person. While this elaborate picnic began in Paris, it’s now celebrated around the world. Considering the size of Richmond, you’d think it wouldn’t have caught on. But the event became a must-do summer tradition, and with around 1,200 attendees every year, Richmond’s become a major player on the world stage.

And 1,200 revelers are a lot to coordinate, so Diner en Blanc Richmond is looking for volunteers. By volunteering, you not only gain free entry, but you get to participate in one of the most memorable cultural experiences in Richmond. An elaborate night of creativity in all its forms; visual, musical, palatable. The big night is August 17th, and per tradition, the location is top secret until the day-of.

If interested in volunteering, email richmond@dinerenblanc.com – until then, au revoir!

Ladles & Linens & blogs, oh my!

As you know, I love to share party and entertaining tips. Exhibit A, Exhibit B ….you get the idea. I’m happy to announce that Ladles and Linens brought me on as their Lifestyle Blogger! The Story of Cooking has allowed me to share even more tidbits and things that inspire me, like managing your work/life balance and themed parties. The latter being LIFE.

The company’s owner, Sarah Nicholas is a legit FBI agent-turned-TV Chef-turned business owner. And since her story’s more interesting than mine, I’ll go ahead and leave a link about her right HERE. And since her family is so adorable, I’ll go ahead and drop a photo right…

…there we go.  I’d always been a Ladles and Linens customer. If Lilly Pulitzer were a gourmand, this would be her shop. It’s playful, but tasteful. Cheerful, but serious about quality; they test all their products. They have three locations in Virginia, but distance is no issue because you can shop their store online. Their prices are competitive with Amazon, which makes me feel even better about shopping local.

And as they say, “It’s always a kitchen party, and everyone’s invited!”

The Life Aquatic

IMG_8847Remember that hilarious rap parody from Saturday Night Live, I’m on a Boat? It’s a classic, and a tongue-in-cheek reminder of how boats makes us want to brag. We can’t contain our camera phones. So much so, that #imonaboat is the standard hashtag when on the water.

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Salty!

I’m not above the humble brag, but when recently boating on a Virginia lake, I didn’t think about how lucky I was, or how my Sunday was so much better than everyone else’s (which it was, obviously). It was bigger than that. I had relaxed. The stress of my job melted away and the wind in my hair made me close my eyes and get philosophical about life. I need a boat.

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Waterfront property – and a lovely one at that!

I’m not alone – our friend John considers time with his boat almost a religion. You can clear your head, get some perspective. People who have boats swear by them, and those who don’t look for ways to get invited onto them.

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My husband and I have taken to renting pontoons and inviting friends out for an afternoon on the water. Swimming and tanning and an ongoing picnic with reggae, the Grateful Dead and the Avett Brothers playing in the background.

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My husband’s cost benefit analysis suggests that with our lifestyle (not living on the water, travel and a busy schedule) we’re best suited to keep renting boats, as opposed to owning. But that can be translated to, the solution is purchasing beach front property. No?

RVA Doubles Down on the Ultimate Self-Care: Equine Therapy

Self care is more than a trending hashtag. In fact, it may not be a trend at all. Recently Barnes and Noble said that for the first time, January’s self-help books for mental health outpaced books about diet and exercise. And interest has been quietly building for years. As younger generations slowly erode the stigmatization around mental heath, we’re more comfortable addressing it, and tackling it head on.

Why is equine therapy the ultimate in self-care? While a mani-pedi gives us confidence, equine therapy forces us to go deeper. It helps to understand the therapeutic value of horses. They are herd and prey animals, and a major part of their survival is their intuition. They watch one another and communicate quietly on an emotional level. If one horse is frightened, they all become frightened.

Horses serve as our mirror. If we’re angry, even if it’s not on the surface, horses can sense this and pull back as you approach. If you’re sullen, they will pick up on this and have the ability to comfort you. Horses are majestic animals, and can pull the feelings right out of us. Caring for them is a lesson in our own self care.

Life coach Florencia Fuensalida and Kristin Fitzgerald, an Experiential Equine Practitioner, are holding a much-needed equine therapy session on April 6th. People from Central Virginia and beyond are invited get outside and kick off the spring season with this event. Whether you’re suffering from anxiety, recovering from trauma or simply want to shake off the winter blues, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried this sooner. No experience with horses is necessary, since you won’t be riding with them but bonding with them. To register, please see details below. Happy trails!

Seasonal Mood Reboot

When Christmas ends, it’s like emerging from a haze. We’re snapped into the harsh reality of winter; something that had been slowly closing in while we were distracted by eggnog and tinsel.

“Only three months,” I repeat to myself every January. It’s a countdown to April’s big thaw. Winter is not something I missed when living in Los Angeles. But rather than survival mode, I’m attempting to embrace the “I love all four seasons” mantra of obvious psychopaths. Below are 10 things you can do to better enjoy life on such a winter’s day.

1: Little Miss Sunshine
The days are shorter, and we’re missing out on hours of nature’s mood enhancer: the sun. It also provides Vitamin D, reduces blood pressure, and aligns your circadian rhythm. If it’s too blustery to be outside, park your car in full sun, dip out of the office during your lunch break and bake in the car. It warms you to the bone. Close your eyes and play classic 60s surf music, like The Ventures. You’re set after just a few minutes.

2. Fortify
If you can’t soak up the rays, be sure to take Vitamin D supplements. I do super-concentrated sublingual drops – much easier and stronger than pills.

3. Body Hair Don’t Care
Revel in the fact that you needn’t shave on the regular, or deal with a pedicure – not that you’re ever obligated to do these things. In fact, current trends are having us reevaluate why women feel the need to shave so much in the first place. Get cozy in chunky sweaters. Ditch the razor and wear tights. Black tights are a basic but invest in more interesting neutrals, such as heather grey and burgundy. You’ll wear them more than you think.

4. KTHXBAI
Even if you weren’t being lashed with subzero temperatures, many need to detox from family and holiday stress alone. But don’t jump on a plane first thing January. Give yourself time to unpack suitcases, bond with your pets and get some laundry done. Plus, waiting a bit gives you something to look forward to, and time to find vacation steals. Go somewhere warm, but prepare to lose a few friends. Your Instagram stories and post-vacation tan will be the envy of all, even if that wasn’t your intention. And side note: Never let that be your intention.

The annual Women’s March? Great exercise!

5. “Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture” – Outkast
There’s always that late-winter panic about spring being around the corner, instilling fear that once we shed our coats, hideous winter secrets will come jiggling out. Why not hide another secret? That beneath our layers lurks a mean, lean machine. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone that hits depression head-on. Make the decision to get moving, and soon your body will crave these endorphins. I switch it up with yoga, Just Dance on the Wii, ballet, and a treadmill. When you step into a sundress at the end of April, you will slay.

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6. Face Your Bully
They say the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to it. Don’t hide from the snow. Go on a ski trip for the weekend. Build a snowman with your children. Snowball fights and shoveling are great exercise.

7. The Big Purge
Imagine how much better spring cleaning will be, if you have less junk around the house. Take Christmas gifts you don’t want, and place them in a re-gift box, especially if you know someone who would love them. Rid your closets of clothes you don’t wear, or that don’t fit, and donate them to charity. Avoid the Salvation Army, as their ideology doesn’t support equal rights. Donate to a thrift store that stands for a good cause, such as animal shelters or children’s hospitals. Removing the dead weight will make your home feel airy and organized. Get inspired to reorganize your life by watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

I practiced henna on myself in the winter, to prep for warm weather.

8. Self Care: It’s not a trend
Winter is a time of slowing down. Before wedding season, and before those BBQ invites star rolling in, make good use of your downtime. Do deep-conditioning treatments for your hair, indulge in face masks and a paraffin wax treatment for your dry winter hands. Crack open a cookbook and find more delicious or interesting ways to eat your veggies. I’ll never steam cauliflower again, after I discovered how caramelized roasted cauliflower tastes. Mend your clothes, polish your leather shoes. During commercial breaks, do sets of push-ups and sit-ups to build strength. Stretch to build flexibility. Most importantly, moisturize!

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9. Blink and it’s gone
Take advantage of the things that you can only do in the winter. Sled down the scariest hill in town. Ice skate in an outdoor rink under the stars, and hold hands with your date. Load up on my favorite winter fruit, the pomegranate! They’re tart, full of antioxidants and will disappear as soon as warm weather returns. For the best way to open a pomegranate, check out this video.

my angels, Olivia and the butler

10. Give In
Enjoy the slowdown after the holidays. The nights are longer, so light a scented candle, sink under a weighted blanket and sip some hot chai. Marathon a great show, and read anything by David Sedaris or Joan Didion. And I cannot say it enough – moisturize!