Friday, December 20, 2013

The New Year

I know everyone sets resolutions and lots of goals they can never attain and I don't want to pretend like that is what I am going to do. Instead I am going to be realistic. My goal really is to be a better person .... in a lot of different ways. I want to be smarter, I want to be more healthy, more active, I want to be more productive, more organized, I want to feed my need for creativity, I want to find inner peace, I want to be more financially aware ... a lot of things that would make me a better person than I am today.

Each month, I am going to focus on one of the 10 Principles of Personal Development:

I will be loving towards all whom I meet.
I will forgive all who attempt to harm me.
I become what I think; therefore, I will think only thoughts of greatness.
I will look for ways to strengthen those who have less than I.
I will always seek knowledge and truth.
I will always be honest.
I will never waste what I am given.
I will be grateful for all that I have.
I will develop a spirit of optimism.
I will have faith in something greater than myself.
I will make efforts to be more healthy.

As you can see, there are 11 above (I didn't number them for that reason) ... I added the last one. Instead of setting goals I can't keep, I will work toward being better in these areas and work harder to improve myself from who I am today.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

What a lovely day! We held Thanksgiving at our house this year with a much smaller guest list. This year, besides my immediate family, we just hosted my parents and my aunt. My sister and brother were both in Florida for the holiday with their families and my inlaws opted to stay at the lake house this year. My little one was with his mom so she didn't have to celebrate the holiday alone. It wasn't the same without everyone here; however, the plus side is that everyone fit at one table. That's always a plus. Because we had a smaller guest list I went a little bit crazy with the details. I really love entertaining so I tend to go a little overboard (as my dear husband would say), however, it makes me happy so I ignore it.

My husband outdid himself again .... his turkey was fabulous. I don't really know, I just know what others tell me. As some of you may know, I have an aversion to eating things on bones, poultry being one of them. We are avid Trader Joe's shoppers and my family has recently fallen in love with Trader Joe's Many Clove Garlic Cooking and Simmer Sauce. I poured it over a whole roasted chicken one night and complemented it with Trader Joe's Garlic Sliced Potatoes (in the freezer section) and my husband talked about it for days. He loves to sop up the sauce with pieces of's that good. Again, I take their word for it. He had the brilliant idea that he would use this on the turkey this year. He put fresh herbs under the skin, as he always does and then grilled it with the sauce. The outcome got rave reviews. He, of course, said he thought he'd done better in years past but everyone raved about his bird. Doesn't it look beautiful?

I contributed all of my "goodies" from Pinterest. The signature drink was Apple Cider Sangria. It was absolutely devine! We drank two pitchers!

I also made lots of decorations. I thought my table turned out really beautiful, I have this frenzy for burlap right now. I don't know what it is but I like how elegant something so rustic can look. I had a ball at Hobby Lobby and created all sorts of things with it. I tried my hand at glass etching and it turned out fabulous! I etched give thanks on some small appetizer plates!

I'm so pleased how they turned out. Pinterest adds so much to my life! Wait until you see what I have planned for Christmas decorations!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Uh, Yeah, I'm Pinterest Saavy!

This is the time of year when my creativity goes into overdrive and I put all this pressure on myself to accomplish all these projects that my life can't really handle. Case in point ... tonight, dear beloved (sometimes a jackass) husband wants me to join he and his sister at dinner since his sister's life long best friend is coming into town and we're Facebook friends. I'm super excited to meet her, I feel like we have bonded over some similar experiences BUT I have made some weirdo decision to make "stuffin muffins" for our office potluck tomorrow. #1, I'm not the greatest cook but #2 I am going to attempt to make something for the first time that many strangers will eat and remember for the entire next year. This involves shopping for the ingredients tonight, getting home and cooking while also keeping with my goal to have my TOTAL house clean for my Thanksgiving guests. Yes, no shoving everything in the bedroom and closing the door, I want everything to be clean so that any guest can wander in any room without fear on my part. Believe it or not, I did have a guest once that opened a closed door because she wanted to see "all" of my house .... I was mortified because everything was literally shoved into that room which was not clean. Besides, in my world, an organized house is an organized mind and I SOOOOOOOO need to get there. The dear beloved (sometimes a jackass) husband offered to do the ingredient shopping for me AND help me cook it when we got home if I'd join dinner plans, so I agreed. In the meantime, the snow is falling here in Lake Forest, Illinois and I am enjoying my lunch on a very busy work day.

Anyway, back to the original point before I rambled.... I am Pinterest saavy! I know you had no doubt. I laid my eyes on a picture that I just fell in love with and I knew it was born to be on my coffee table as part of my holiday decorating. My goal on these projects is always to put it together with re-purposed items or do it really inexpensively and boy did I excel for a beautiful end result on this one. I did it for UNDER $25!

Isn't it beautiful? I got the tray from Meijer for $7 ... wasn't quite what I had in mind, but I really love it after putting it together. I got the miscellaneous wood things on the tray in a value bag at Hobby Lobby for $5. I got the candlesticks at Big Lots ON CLEARANCE for $2.50 each. I got the pitcher at Ross Dress for Less for $4.99 (it really was too ugly for anyone to buy but fit so nicely into my scheme). I had the candles at home and got the sticks at the dollar store and threw in a $.99 glittery pick for some color.

I am so thrilled by the end result and so sad that it will go into storage on Sunday when I put up the Xmas decorations. I am giving some thought to creating something along the same lines though for Xmas. Super excited! More on that to follow!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I am a terrible blogger as I've gone dark for many many months. I so apologize and appreciate all of the emails I received to keep writing. The truth of the matter is that I took a big leap of faith in a new job. I didn't take the job because I knew I could do it or for any real reason other than it felt like a big risk, a big opportunity and I wanted to take the less safe route. After 8 years in a job I loved that I was forced to leave because it was sold, I took a position with a well known brand in the hopes that it would turn into something wonderful. Unfortunately, someone's mislaid plan was filled with holes and areas of weakness and the concept didn't survive. I got out before it folded because I could see the writing on the wall but I learned so much about myself in the process. I got to see a case of "mean girls" in action, I got to see what picking favorites does to a team and I got to witness that patience really is a virtue and good things only come to those who wait. I was fortunate enough to have been a bit hunted by someone who could see my passion and my talents. I have since taken a job with another well known brand and have been given the opportunity to create it all from scratch, the one thing I really love doing. I mentioned that I spent 8 years in a job that I truly loved and I think that the job has been reincarnated into this new one. I am overjoyed. So, that brings me to why I've been absent, I have just been so busy and will continue to be busy over the next several months until it all comes together.

Unfortunately, we're coming to that time of year that adds so much on to my plate and the time when my creativity really goes into overdrive. I can't skip it, I would not only be doing a disservice to myself but I'd be cheating my family out of the tradition I try so hard to carry on for them and for future generations.

I had the misfortune of a failed marriage and many years of unintended single parenting. I made a conscious choice for 10 years to not re-marry and eventually found the man meant for me who also brought 2 wonderful children into my life. Over the years of being single and opting for other places to spend the holidays, my son missed out on a lot of tradition made in our own home. Instead, he has grown to know tradition in someone else's home and I never realized what a mistake that would be until late.

My now husband and I decided a few years back that juggling his children's holiday schedules with their mother, the obligatory holiday meals in our own parents home and trying so hard to keep everyone's tradition intact was making for very stressful holidays for us. Worse, there would be times when one family didn't feel the need to do much for a holiday or chose to take a trip leaving us missing the tradition we had come to known. For this reason we announced that we'd no longer be celebrating the holidays at anyone's home but our own. We created an open invitation for anyone to join if they wanted but made it clear we wouldn't be upset if they chose to forego. We made one exception and that was Christmas. Christmas with each set of grandparents was something that our kids had grown up knowing and really loved. There was a strong sense of tradition with "Christmas at Grandma's" and for this reason that holiday would stay intact. We still put up a Christmas tree and we still opened gifts as a family under the tree on Christmas morning in our own home, but Christmas Eve was spent with one family and Christmas Day with the other. We've had the best of both worlds for many years.

Last year, my family suggested celebrating Christmas a week later to acommodate an out of town family member that, for whatever reason, is not able to be in town for the actual holiday. I immediately refused. I was not opposed to celebrating again a week later but I would under no circumstances interrupt the tradition of Christmas Day for my family when I had gone out of my way to preserve it for so many years. True, my kids are not babies, they are 21, 16 and 13 but with so little tradition upheld in their lives, I vowed to always stay true to Christmas. This year, a little bird has told me that Christmas is going to be celebrated a week later. Although my feelings on this matter are known, the decision has been made that Christmas won't be held on Christmas Day. So, for the first time in my 44 years (except for maybe a year or two that I lived in San Diego) my Christmas morning won't be spent in my parents living room with my family. This will actually be the first Christmas that I don't spend WITH my family on Christmas Day. My heart hurts not only for me but for my kids. For this reason I have realized that I am charged with keeping the true spirit of Christmas alive for my children the best I can. Trying my best to create new traditions for them and the generations to come. This year, Christmas will be in my own living room and celebrated at my own kitchen table and while that breaks my heart, I have to be strong and make it something special for my own family.

I know life changes but this year, my best friend will celebrate her first Christmas without her mom who passed this last June. She is forced with the reality of creating something meaningful that she and her family can carry forward. She doesn't have a choice. I can accept that there will come a time when I won't have a choice and celebrating in my parent's living room won't be an option available anymore but I don't want that option to come when they are still alive. Life is so short and time is so precious. Yes, my children aren't babies and I am 44 years old but the love of the tradition, the need to celebrate what is lost throughout the rest of the year in the daily grind of what is life doesn't change. If just for one day, I like to pretend that nothing has changed since I was a child, waking up on Christmas day to the bewildering sight of presents under the tree, the joy of giving gifts to the people that I love most and celebrating the one day that we preserve as a family day .... I live for that.

I remember when my mother's family stopped gathering at my grandma's house each year. I so looked forward to seeing all of my cousins and relatives, celebrating the holiday together, seeing the awesome, overdone sight of my aunt's gaudy Christmas tree, the strobe lights that engulfed it, drinking cranberry cocktail juice and eating around a big table with people I sometimes only saw once a year. I still long for that one day .... I miss the tradition .... it was one of the best memories I have as a child. I still grieve the loss of that tradition but times change, I guess. I worry that this year is going to be that year for my kids, mostly my son, who has known this his whole life and in some way, shape or form, looks forward to it. My heart breaks for that.

I hope that all of you that still have the choice make a concerted effort to preserve your tradition, no matter how hard or how much effort it takes. If your away from your family by distance, I hope that you make the effort to make the trip and to be there so that you can help to preserve the tradition to have come to be a part of. I hope that if you no longer have the choice because loved ones have passed on that you find a way to create traditions that can be carried forward to your own grandchildren, that you will work hard to give your kids a place that they not only want to come back to each year but feel the gravitational pull to go back to each year. It's important.

I will try to be better at blogging and perhaps I'll share some of what we'll be doing over this holiday season to celebrate our family and create new tradition.

<3 <3 <3

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

End of School!

Holy Cow .... I died in the blog world! Where have I been since March? I don't even know! Busy ... I'm a train commuter now and I'm not sure why but that makes me too busy to do much else. Isn't that ridiculous? I spend less time commuting and have less time. What's up with that? The mind boggles! Actually, the train commuting is pretty awesome, I love it. No traffic road rage .... I know when I'm leaving and I know exactly when I am going to arrive at my destination. I really like it.

It's almost the end of the school year and I have to tell you, I understand now why our school district has won so many state and national awards! The teachers in this school actually get it .... they actually get that as parents, we are BURNT THE HELL OUT by June 1. Hell, some of us are burnt out by April 1, but that's a completely different story. I don't even have it hard .... my little one who is near a genius NEVER has homework. Never. I mean NEVER EVER. Now granted, I do see some assignments on the grade sheet that appear as though he hasn't done them but for the most part, this kid gets straight As with no homework ---- ever. When he does have homework it's a holy nightmare because he's lazy. We check it and inevitably, because he's lazy, he has to re-do it to which he pitches a complete fit and well, things go downhill from there. My daughter, bless her heart, doesn't need any help, ever. She silently and compliantly does her homework every single night, sometimes for hours and manages to get all As and Bs which is a tremendous and absolutely unexpected result. I couldn't be prouder of her. My older one, I'm not really sure .... he's 21 now and trying to finish up college (I keep telling myself) but I think he's inherited a gene from me ... the one gene I hoped he wouldn't inherit. He puts off EVERY single thing until the very last minute, to the point that there is no way you could possibly get it done and then does. Yep, I know it well. I've gotten through most of my life that way.

Well, the point of all this is to tell you that I am the worst end of year mom ---- ever. Not only am I completely burnt out by life (and also dreading the summer of kids who constantly complain their are bored or hate what you've planned for them to do). My youngest came home to tell me basically that I sucked because he was the only kid in 7th grade who didn't get a yearbook. I can't imagine how we missed that one, but we did and he didn't get a year book and like every worst-end-of-the-year mom, I sent him to school with a blank check and instructions to beg for one. (Note to self: ask child if he ever got a yearbook). Here is one mom who can identify with me...

So I was saying that the teachers in our school get it. Case in point: yesterday, the kids went on a 17 mile bike trip from their school to the Botanic Gardens. Stopped for FIVE minutes and high tailed it back for a pizza lunch. These teachers are geniuses! 17 miles?!?!?!?! Little time to hear their voices and too tired when they get back to make a fuss of any kind .... and then stuff them with pizza. GENIUS. No, in all seriousness, I love the physical activity and the good use of the last days of school that are otherwise so meaningless. My favorite is the last day of school where the kids have to get up, get ready and go to school for an hour. HA! It's hysterical. The last torture before the summer. Cracks me up.

I will try to be a little more vocal in the blog world. Thanks for hanging with me!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Puppy Love

Before I get started on today's post, I want to apologize for my month long absence. I started my new job on 2/18 and spent the first week in Vancouver. The last month has flown by and a dear sweet friend reminded me that my blog is a little outdated. I am so sorry for that, I'm learning how to balance life again. I'll get it eventually!

So I am writing today with a heavy heart. No, no one died but I've come to the realization that my bulldog can no longer sleep on my feet at night and it's causing me a little sadness, a lot of separation anxiety and a whole lotta guilt.

Look at that face! My goodness, I love her so much. She looks at me from the floor as she sits on top of the dog bed covered with like four layers of comfy blankets I have piled on top of it as if to say "don't you love me anymore, why can't I come up and lay with you like I used to?" I've tried to explain why but she just looks at me with the same "I don't understand" look and so my guilt pangs get worse and worse.

Almost a week ago, I woke up per our normal routine and called for her to go outside before they ate. It took her an unusually long time to come when I called her. She normally bolts from a sound sleep and comes running. That morning was different. Finally she came wandering down the hallway groggy and slow moving. She went outside and did her business, ate breakfast and came back in. We returned to the bedroom just like always where she usually returns to the bed and lays there, watching me admirably while I get ready for work. She hesitated at the side of the bed. She does this sometimes because I think for a 76 lb. Old English Bulldog with fairly short legs, it's a chore sometimes to make the leap to the pretty high bed. I waited. Finally, she jumped up and put her paws on the bed, like she sometimes does when she wants me to give her a little help and so I proceeded to lift her bottom like I always do to help her up and she let out a terrible cry that hurt me more than it probably did her. My other dog came running (they don't love each other but he's always there to protect or rescue her, ironically). He sees me with her back end in my arms, bent over and her crying in pain and he starts to bark at me. She gets nervous at the mixture of pain she's feeling and the commotion of his barking (which usually results in a bite to his face of which he concedes that he deserves) and my trying to calm him and put her down. I finally set her down and the crying stops and then I feel total and utter sadness at the fact that something is wrong with her. I frantically begin touching her legs, her hips, her back .... but she doesn't wince at any of my touches. When she goes back out, I notice she has a little difficulty going up and down the one step and I deduce that it must be her hip or her leg joint, I'm not sure but I'm sad and I don't want her to feel pain.

That night, I decide it's probably better she doesn't jump on the bed and she's almost 80 lbs, I can't lift her like my husband can. Meanwhile I might mention that my husband is celebrating in his own rite because he HATES that she sleeps in the bed with us. He feels she belongs on her dog bed on the floor (which by the way he criticizes because of the 4 layers of fluffy blankets I have ON TOP of her already plush dog bed). It was so hard to make her stay on the floor. She kept coming to the side of the bed and just waiting there for someone to hoist her up. I kept redirecting her back to the plush blanketed dog bed and reassuring her that she was a good girl. Those brown eyes looking up at me just kill me though! We've been doing it now for a couple of nights and it's weird, I have anxiety every night when I go to sleep and I wait to hear her little bulldog snore before I can rest easy and go to sleep.

I've realized that the jumping on and off our unusually high bed is probably not good for her and that the bed on the floor should probably be permanent but I can't help but think that she might interpret that as I am punishing her. It's so sad. I don't want her to get old ..... I don't ever want her to have pain. It hurts me more than it hurts her. I don't know if I'm cut out for this dog ownership things, I love my dogs too much. Cmon, I know I'm not the only dog lover ..... do you love your dog so much it's painful? If you do, please share. I'm gonna need a therapist soon if I don't get some reinforcement here.

Aren't you glad I'm back? Ha!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

I am a lucky girl ... my husband is a great, very thoughtful gift giver. I woke up this morning after going to sleep at 10:30 and being woke up by my dog 4 times between 10:30 and 5:30. Needless to say, I was groggy. I then realized my dog had a huge abcess on his lower jaw and his face was all swollen. He wouldn't eat breakfast and looked sad and pathetic. As all of you know, I love my dogs, sometimes more than my human kids, and seeing them sick is a great stressor for me. Of course this would happen to me on the day before I leave my job of almost 8 years. I need to be there today. My bosses are never going to believe when I call in because my dog is sick. Ugh.

Realizing I can't leave him like this, I text my boss to let her know what is going on and get my dog to the vet. The diagnosis? Some weird infection that he gets about once a year and an appointment to come back later for further examination. Yuck. My whole day is blown. Then I see it there on the kitchen counter....

I find myself taking a deep breath and thanking God for giving me such an amazing man who never forgets these kind of days, even the small silly Hallmark ones. I open the card that has a handwritten note apologizing for the fact that it's written in a Sharpie but telling me how proud he is of me and how much luck he wishes me in my new job and of course, how much he loves me. Inside the gift bag is a beautiful Ipad mini cover (that I desperately needed) and a Pandora charm for my bracelet that has a little martini glass to commemorate my new job, which happens to be in the adult beverage industry.

We don't normally really celebrate Valentine's Day because we got engaged on February 16th, so we celebrate that day instead. This reminds me why, as a couple, it's important not to let silly holidays like this go by. I know we should show one another love every day and not wait for a holiday to celebrate our love, but let's be real, life is busy and life can be tough. It's often easy to take one another for granted or get caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day life. Thank you, honey, for remembering today and reminding me why I love you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bloggers Beware

I'm sure that anyone who blogs at some point has been on the receiving end of someone who isn't thrilled with what you wrote about them and I'm sure that one of the cardinal rules of blogging is that you never go back and take down a post because someone doesn't like it.

Apparently, my blog post on Fat Tuesday offended my friend. Further, she shared with me that everyone she showed didn't think it was funny either. For that reason, I will make a public apology here. I never meant to offend her, I still don't know how you offend someone when you are really just saying positive things about them in a fun but poking kind of way. Is being 80 pounds, an avid runner and someone who is fitness conscious something to be offended about? I dunno ... I guess so. I wish someone could offend me that way. She said I wrote about her like she didn't eat the paczki because she was being health conscious. If I led anyone to believe that, it wasn't the case. Apparently (and I didn't know this), she doesn't like any kind of filled donuts and that's why she didn't eat them. Nevermind that she missed the whole point that I redirected my morning to go get some paczki and make something fun out of our Fat Tuesday workday and that I was disappointed that she acted like I was an idiot for thinking anyone would want them. But let the record show that "she" only didn't eat them and partake in my excitement because she doesn't like jelly filled or cream filled donuts. I also apologize if anyone thought I was trying to make her the brunt of the joke .... I was just recounting an experience in a joking sort of way and she felt that was at her expense, I guess.

I sure hope the wine I will consume after work makes the mood (and this day) a little lighter! Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday

I wasn't going to post this. I really wasn't. I resisted all day even though it was killing me. I tried really hard to resist, but here it is 9:38 pm and I am still thinking about it. Today is not only Fat Tuesday, it is also designated Paczki Day. Seeing as though I am part Polish and married into a very proud Polish family, I did my wifely duty and ran to the European bakery last night to get my husband some Paczki to share at work today with all of his Mexican co-workers. They love this shit. They do it all the time. My husband has become a bonafide Mexican dude ... he can eat more spicy hot food than the most fiery hispanic person you know. It's become this habit of sorts ... to bring in their ethnic left overs and share them all at lunch. They dig it. What kind of "ethnic leftovers" can my husband ever bring? I'm a Irish American chick, I don't cook much that is interesting or ethnic, for that matter. Once in awhile, I will attempt something that turns out pretty awesome and he'll bring it but when I get home after working all day, I am just trying to feed my family, not win any awards. So I got him some paczki so he could share his heritage with his hombres.

When I skidded into the parking lot of the bakery at like 6:39 pm, 21 minutes before they closed, they had very few paczki left. They had bakery boxes EVERYWHERE with PACZKI printed in red on the side so I knew they were gearing up for a night of some serious baking. They didn't have any of the chocolate covered custard left so I opted for all of the raspberry and strawberry they had left. I decided to forego the "rose" because what the hell flavor is rose anyway? Who wants to eat a pastry that tastes like rose? Doesn't sound like something my manly husband or his Mexican co-workers would want to eat. I needed to bring some for my office too but I was going to have to commit to an 8 AM bakery run. Anyone who knows me knows that hurrying in the morning is completely out of character for me. I get up at 6 AM to be at work by 9 AM and I can barely do that. I waste time like it's my job. Getting out of the house to make it to the bakery and to work by 9 was going to be tough but I could do it. After all, this IS my last week in the office and my girls deserve some paczki. Besides, who doesn't love paczki? Well, I'll tell you co workers. These girls didn't even know what paczki was and there was no way in hell they were eating it.

REALLY? They are like 80 lbs combined. They RUN for fun. I totally love their dedication to fitness but what the hell do you run for if you can't go a little nuts and have a paczki? I threw off my whole damn morning routine to bring them in some paczki and when I get there they look at it like I brought fish guts in a box. One of them looked into the box and said "what is it?" It's a damn Polish donut for heaven sakes. You know, just like the Dunkin Donuts cream or jelly filled donut? She looked at me in disgust. She said "yeah, I'm not much for those filled donuts ...... maybe I could eat the filling out of them with a spoon." I could barely control myself. REALLY? REALLY? Back away from the paczki skinny girl .... do not deface the paczki by eating the filling out with a spoon. It's f'n FAT TUESDAY and you couldn't be fat if you tried so just eat the damn donut already. Nope ... she scurried off while I devoured mine.

A few minutes later she returned to my office with her iPhone in tow. I asked what she was doing and she said taking a picture so she could make a collage. WHAT? OMG!!! She scurries off again. I knew what she was doing .... she was going to take pictures and act like she was all into Fat Tuesday and paczki and post them on her Facebook like she actually ate one. Poser.

Sure enough, she posted this pretty little collage exclaiming that I brought in paczki (didn't mention that I had to explain what they were or the fact that she didn't eat one) and acted all into it, even included her little hashtags. I do give her credit though, at least I could count on her for a little Fat Tuesday festiveness. My other coworker never even looked in the box, never even acted like she wanted one. Seriously. Lacking. Fun. I'm disappointed girls!

Anyway, to all you other skinny bitches who ate paczki .... here's to you! Have a hurricane! Happy Fat Tuesday!

Am a Wino?

Some of you may start to think I have a problem ... I really don't, I swear. Yes, I have seen those questionnaires in the back of magazines that ask "Do you drink alone?" Well, yes I do, sometimes, when no one will drink with me. I just love wine and starting next Tuesday I will be taking a new position with a wine and spirits company. Seems fitting, right? I thought so too!

So, this wine isn't a new find, I've been loving and enjoying it for quite some time. It actually is the PERFECT summer wine but for those of you who prefer whites over reds, you really do need to try it.

Vhino Verde is delish! It is a youthful and fresh wine, very green from the northern region of portugal. I've never found it anywhere but Trader Joe's, of course, but it will not disappoint. It's around $4.00 a bottle, cheap too! It's medium dry but if you like white wine with a little bit of bubble, this is a winner!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wild Girl Wine

Hey fellow winos (as my friend Michelle calls us)!

On Saturday, I stopped by the Lincolnwood wine shop on Lincoln Avenue and asked the assistance of the clerk who, as it turns out, was very knowledgeable about wine (and it didn't hurt that she actually pulled a wine glass out of the back room and GAVE it to me since I was heading with my bottle to a friend's who does not drink wine nor does she have wine glasses). I confessed to her that I was currently smitten with red blends and wanted to try something different. She pointed me toward a Zinfandel and told me that she fell in love with wines because of Zinfandels. She felt they just had that big, juicy, fruitful zing that she just loves. She imagined from my description of what I like that I would love them too. She was pretty right. I picked up a bottle on her recommendation at a price point I don't normally spend for myself. It was yummy. Anyway.....

Now you know that I'm a bit of a blend whore these days. It all started with Apothic Red and then I had some Dearly Beloved from Trader Joes and liked that even more and then Cocobon happened to me.

I am currently in a torrid love affair with Cocobon and I don't know that I could find something to beat it. The Wine buyer at TJs in Park Ridge recommended it to me and she was not wrong, it definitely doesn't suck. So the other night, I really wanted to run over to Trader Joes for a bottle of Cocobon but I just didn't have the time. On a quick jaunt through Meijer's, I came across an appealing label on a "clearance" shelf in the wine department. I'm all about an appealing bottle or even better, a crazy label and I love wines called Promiscuous, Bitch, Flirt or things like that. I know that it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the wine, but I am absolutely comfortable admitting to all the wine snobs that I buy my wine based on the bottle or the name (if someone doesn't recommend it to me).

How cute is this bottle? I was a bit distracted by the word "sweet" because I'm looking for a smooth red blend, not something to give me cavities.
I went back and forth as to whether I was going to take the plunge. I'm normally not this indecisive but the bottle went in and out of my cart a few times. I finally read the back of the bottle for the description and it said something like "a racy melange of dark fruits and zing." How sexy does THAT sound? Besides, I am a bit of a wild girl at times (wink wink). I grabbed it and headed to the check out. I could HARDLY wait to open it once I got home. After the day I had, I really needed this to be good. Whatta ya know? It was! I'd describe it as a blend of Ruby Cabernet and Shiraz. It was so smooth. VERY juicy blackberry influences. It was delish. So delish that I finished all but a glass that I would then consume the next night.

I highly recommend you check this one out if you like really juicy reds. I wouldn't call it sweet but it definitely isn't dry. It's just a really smooth delicious treat. Get it! You know you want to!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Being a Step Mom

I'm the mother of a young man teetering on the age of 21 .... yep! I conceived him when I was 21 and was a single mom most of his life. I had the beautiful occasion when my son was only 14 to marry my now husband who has been the best of a father figure that my son could have ever hoped for. Raising children isn't easy and Lord knows I had the ups and downs of parenthood while I was raising my son. Boys are generally easy but we did manage to avert some near disasters as he grew. He's currently in his junior year of college and I worry every day about him although I have also grown to know that he's quite capable of growing into a wonderful full-fledged adult with a very successful future. I'm very proud of him.

So what's the point? Well, along with marrying my now husband, I inherited two very beautiful step children that came with a lot of baggage. It's been six years now but we've worked through a lot of it. Anyone who knows me knows that I truly love them as my own. Loving a child is easy right? Those of you who answered yes are probably talking from the experience of loving your own children, I totally get that. For those of you who speak from the experience of adoption, I totally get that too and totally understand the miraculous love you likely feel for your child. But what about step children ... children that come into your life not because they or you wanted them to but because they came along with the person that you loved? For me, the love for my two step children did come naturally .... I've done everything that I can to help shape them into loving, thriving people. I show them love every single day. I shower them with things I wish for them. I'm not perfect, I certainly make mistakes. Made a ton of them with my own child and as I navigate step parenthood, I have made some there too. I always hope that none of my mistakes will leave a permanent mark but what human being escapes childhood without a permanent mark on their psyche of some kind because of the love of a parent? I don't know anyone.

Now my rant .... being a step parent is one of the most cruel and thankless jobs on the planet. Going into this with the misguided conception that all I had to do was love them and everything would be okay was my first mistake. For the past six years, my husband and I have worked tirelessly to give our children everything they need. We live in a beautiful house in a respectable neighborhood and our children go to good schools. Some may say we spoil them and perhaps we do, but we really do it out of love and wanting them to have the best. We get as involved as possible. We sit in the rain at football games in the freezing cold, we make every softball game, we celebrate the victories and share in the heartache of the losses, we give them family as much as we can and we try to support them in being the people they want to become. I'm the one who takes on the role of caring for them as best I can while my husband is at work.
I'm also the one who remembers their preferred cereal (which changes regularly), ensures the fridge is full of what they like most, prepares meals after a day at work (even though it's the thing I loathe the most) and when they are ill, I'm also the one who takes them to the doctor and ensures they takes their medication. We let them know each and every day how much we love them and although discipline is the ugly part of our job, we do it and we do it as effectively as we both know how. Of course, neither one of us went into this expecting to be thanked. We do it for each other because we love one another and we both sincerely love our children collectively.

Having said all of that, none of this shields you from the pain when one of your children (step or biological) breaks your heart. In fact, when my biological son breaks my heart, it hurts but I know in my heart and brain that I am always going to be his mother, there is nothing he can do about that and for the rest of our lives we'll be connected in that way. No one else can be his mother. On the other hand, when one of my step children rejects me, it hurts so badly but in this case, I don't have the privilege that a biological mother has. I'm connected to this child through love that is conditional upon both of us wanting it. If one of my step children decide they don't want that, it's their prerogative and there is nothing in the world I can do to change that.

I consider myself blessed to have known these children. Just like my own son, even though they can make me angry and crazy at times, I love them beyond words. There are moments far and few between when I can boast, hey, that's my kid. It's the graduations, the first communions, when they win awards and the photo opportunities that feed the constantly depleting tank that keeps a mother going. In many of these instances, as the step mom, I take the back seat in the lives of two people who I have done everything for (except birth them, of course) and that realization is incredibly painful but it's part of the deal for which I signed on. On the other hand, when your step child lashes out at you it's very difficult to remain calm, temper your anger and try to understand that they are just children. This child that you willingly gave everything for and whom you really and truly love, doesn't recognize that and that is a pain I cannot describe. Being a mom is tough, I give you that but please trust me when I tell you that, it's a piece of cake compared to being a stepmom.

Friday, January 18, 2013


For Christmas, I received a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (yellow label) as a gift from my boss (bless her sweet heart) and my team received a bottle of Dom from one of our vendors (thank you Austin!) I probably haven't talked about it before but Melissa (my co-worker) and I LOVE champagne (it must be the Libra in us). Melissa admittedly LOVES Andre and while I can and will drink it, who doesn't love a little bit of really expensive champagne?

Melissa lives 30+ miles to the north of work and Kalen lives in Lincoln Park to the south and I'm somewhere in the middle but still 15 miles south of our office. How would we ever crack this bottle of Dom open with that much distance between us? Melissa and Kalen were all about drinking it in the parking lot after work but I dunno .... Veuve and Dom in the Chrysler, Dodge or Toyota? Too trailer park. But the Andre.....ah, well ..... we didn't only have Andre to drink!

I decided I would cook my boursin cheese stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and have the girls over for a girls evening. Aren't they pretty? Kalen snapped this pic, with a little cropping work, she might have a future in food photography, huh? Kalen suggested we watch Season 1, Episode 1 of Girls although I countered that with Season 1, Episode 1 of Shameless. We agreed to duke that out later. In true Melissa form, she suggested she pick up a bottle of Andre Brut and bring it along for a blind taste test to make it a little fun.

So here they are ... the contestants! I grabbed my sleep mask (yes, I sometimes wear one) and we used that to blind the taster and we went one at a time. If you try this at home, we recommend that all tasters be blinded at once and that you grab a random individual (but we advise against letting strangers into your house, especially ones that might make off with your champagne or want to drink it with you) to pour the champagne in an orderly fashion. Here are the tasters (left to right: Melissa, Denyse and Kalen):

Kalen poured this round and Melissa went first. She tasted the first and commented several times how much she liked it. She tasted the second and at first didn't like that at all and then she tasted the third and made a horrible face and insisted that was probably the Andre. I don't know why she thought the worst tasting one was Andre, she likes it. Anyway, she identified all three incorrectly .... she said that the first one was her very favorite and thought for sure it was Veuve when in fact it was Andre! She predicted the second was Dom but it was in fact Veuve and she thought the last and worst tasting one was Andre but it was actually Dom. We love our little ghetto fabulous Melissa. She countered our teasing by saying that she had cheap taste so she didn't have to spend a lot of money drinking what she loves. God love my little Kenosha girl.

I was up next. Kalen took this very unflattering picture of me tasting. Her people picture taking abilities are not as good as her ability to take food pictures but I'll be a good sport and go with this. Now, I hate to brag, but I know my champagne and I knew right away that the first one I tasted was Andre ---- more wine not enough bubbles. The second was Dom, had it many times and I like it, but it isn't my favorite. And ahhhhhh, last, the Veuve. Always a winner. Yum. I learned years ago not to fight the fact that I am only attracted to the most expensive things. It's a curse. I fall in love with a purse from afar, it's the $450 purse and all the purses surrounding it on the rack are $39.95. I see shoes I love and they are the $110 shoes when all those surrounding them are $50. I see a blazer I love and have to have and it's $220 when everyone to the left and right is $30. Yep, can't win so why fight it?

Turns out Kalen can identify Dom in a crowd ... yep, she guessed her third taste on the head....good ol' Dom. Her first taste was her favorite, she doubted herself and assumed it was Andre when in fact it was Veuve. See, her taste is actually better than she thought!

After dinner, we flipped on the fireplace and settled into the living room to watch Season 1, Episode 1 of Girls on HBO. Surprisingly funny and now I will have yet another series to follow (thanks, Kalen) and then in fair turn we also watched Season 1, Episode 1 of Shameless. Kalen liked it because it had raunchy sex scenes (she lives for that). We then got sucked into watching the second episode of Girls which was funnier than the first, I'll definitely be following that when Private Practice ends next week!

Fun times! Love my girls!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chivalry Is NOT Dead!

On a trip downtown yesterday on my new adventures of commuting via the Metra, I was pleasantly surprised and I immediately knew it was something I was going to blog about.

If you don't regularly ride public transportation, you don't know about all the things you can experience! The things you will see might impress you, it will likely amuse you, it will often times surprise you and on occasion, it might shock you. There is a lot of writing material during a public commuting experience. I suggested to my co-worker that to capture it all, I would have to be blogging as I was commuting.

So anyway, back to yesterday. I was on my way downtown in the early morning rush hour commute and of course, I got on a train car with all seats filled with the exception of a few openings where you'd have to crawl over the inconsiderate person who affixed themselves to the aisle as a way of saying "don't sit with me." On some other morning I may have messed with this person but today, standing was really fine with me. I opted to stand across from the "priority seats" which are for the elderly and disabled. In the morning they are always filled with regular people and I've not yet had the occasion to test that to see if one of those "regular people" would give up their seat to the elderly or disabled. I noticed the sign said you must do this "if requested." I'm not sure many people are going to request that someone get up to give them the priority seat. Again, getting off track..... back to the "experience."

As I set down my briefcase between my legs and perched myself against the wall facing the "priority seating" commuters, a professional man between the age of 30-35 noticed me and quickly stood up and asked me to take his seat. I was stunned for a moment. Now, he could have thought I was elderly or disabled, I realize that, but I think he was actually being a chivalrous young man and giving up his seat to a woman who was standing. I immediately wondered if this was something my son would do...... I would expect him to but I'm not sure if I remembered to teach him that when he was growing up. Note to self: check with son as soon as possible on this scenario to gauge what he would do and immediately correct him if he doesn't answer correctly in the hopes that he will do it in the future. I politely declined the gentleman's offer for his seat but I was taken aback by his gesture. It was so old-fashioned and it restored my faith in the fact that men still open doors and offer up their seats for women! This young man's mother would be so proud!

So as we approached downtown and I gathered my things (I am not near capable of multi-tasking during my commute like some others I observed, i.e., the woman sitting with her cell phone on her knee using it as an e-reader and knitting at the same time) so I go into panic mode to put my book away and button up my coat, etc. a whole stop before we arrive at the station. I drop a quarter out of my pocket on to the floor and in a packed train, in heels (I'm a novice commuter) I am inclined to just push the quarter aside and forget about it but another young man lurches from his seat and picks up the quarter and hands it to me. TWO IN ONE DAY!!! I thanked him and just sort of smiled the rest of the way to the station.

One of the many things that prompted me to accept my husband's marriage proposal was the fact that he opened doors (car doors included) and was chivalrous. I don't know why these gentlemen's actions surprised me but it was such a pleasant surprise to encounter young men that have the social grace to know that it's very classy to make these sort of gestures.

When we arrive at Union Station, I feel like Carrie from Sex in the City as I walk with a purpose in my business suit, my Louis Vuitton scarf adorning my very practical but professionally stylish winter coat and toting along my briefcase with a big smile on my face. Ladies, I am here to tell you that good men still exist and chivalry is NOT dead!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Got a Comment!

Hooray! Someone other than Melissa and Kalen is reading my blog! Thank you Tiffany for telling me your out there, it's very motivating to know that my words are reaching someone outside of my little trio! It might be only you Tiffany but the fact that you are reading means I've reached my goal! It's an exciting day! Doesn't it make you feel great to know you've made someone's day? Ha!

In all honesty, I hope you'll keep reading and I hope you'll tell others! :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Social Aggravating

I'm always thinking about what I can share on my blog. There are things that I immediately want to write about and have to curtail my excitement because well, somethings are just inappropriate for public consumption. There are other things I want to write about that just simply no one would care about. But does anyone really read this? I never get any comments or replies ... my guess is that my two co-workers (who also blog and commit to be my followers) are the only real human beings who read this faithfully. If you're out there and you aren't Melissa or Kalen, I'd love to know.

So how many of you know someone who posts socially unacceptable, aggravating, negative or just plain old bullshit posts on a social networking site? You don't say anything because they are either a good friend, a friend of the family or someone you don't want to offend yet every time you see a post from them you just want to poke yourself in the eye with a fork. I confronted the person I know this weekend and it didn't turn out really well.

One of my closest friends lives with sort of a conspiracy theory. She's convinced the government is out to get us all ..... she quotes passages from the "Secret Government" and she believes that vaccines are made to kill us or cause cancer in all of us, she believes that our President is out to take away all of our American rights, she believes that the government will come knocking at your door someday and take away all of your guns, and that soon, you will be stripped of all of your rights. Every single post, every single day revolves around something like this.

Who knows if she is right, perhaps she knows something not everyone else does but really, if all of that is true, do we really want to live and breathe it every single minute of every single day? If eventually, we will all die because we were vaccinated with the very poison that will someday destroy our bodies, this world and all the life on it, do we really want to know that now?

This is my same friend who also has a survival kit in her closet for the day the world ends and she claims that I can make fun of her when I am searching high and low for her because she has a mobile water purification system in that kit. REALLY? Do I really want to live through the end of the world? Not really. I want to die as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

This weekend when she posted that the H1N1 vaccine has poisons in it that will cause cancer and all sorts of other stuff, I just lost it. I called her crazy and paranoid and told her I was worried for her. She got mad and lashed out and in some ways I don't blame her, after all, it is her Facebook page and she has the right to post whatever she wants on her own page but the negativity just sparked something in me and I had to voice my thoughts.

Turning on the news everyday is depressing enough ..... I am trying to live 2013 with as much positivity as I can. Thinking positive brings good things. I'm not going to worry about things I can't change and I'll work extra hard for the things that I can. Is it wrong that I just don't want to see negativity every time I sign on to my Facebook account? Perhaps I should unfriend her, I mean, it's her right and it's my right not to have to see that if I don't want to. If I unfriend her, I will either offend her (even though I have already) or I will lose a connection with her that is important to me.

I'm reading a lot lately that says to flush out the negative people in your life .... but I love her and I don't want to lose her in my life. Am I wrong for telling her that all she is projecting is negativity and that just once in awhile it would be nice to see something positive from her?

I'm curious to other's thoughts on this topic. Is anyone listening?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stuff I Make

2012, enter Pinterest into my life. It made me crazy addicted. I am pinning everywhere .... in traffic, at work, while working out .... if I could figure out how, I'd do it in my sleep. I love it madly. When I'm cooking, I'm cooking something off Pinterest. My holiday cookies were from Pinterest. My holiday gifts were from Pinterest. Pinterest turned me into a jewelry designer .... a card maker ... a party planner .... in short, I don't have enough time for Pinterest now because I'm too busy pinning and creating.

I thought this would be a good time to share some of the things I've done on Pinterest (to validate to myself that this Pinterest stuff isn't a huge time suck) and that it might be adding a little bit of wonderfulness to my life.

I made baked french toast. was delish. My family loved it, including my husband who doesn't normally go for this stuff. The kids said it was a definite do over.

Made this fried cabbage and bacon. It was also delicious. The kids ate it right up .... even those that don't normally eat bacon. This is not something you can make a leftover out of though .... but it's good fresh from the pan.

Oh, this was a good one ... garlic chicken. Throw it all into a casserole dish, throw in brown sugar, garlic and ginger with the chicken and bake. Serve over rich. The kids went crazy for it.

Brought these to a party. Low carb! Greek salad bites. Awesome but not as pretty as they look!

I made this. Eggnog Poundcake ... supposed to be the best poundcake ever. It was good but it wasn't the best poundcake EVER.

I called this Christmas Crack ... it was to DIE for. Saltines smothered with butter, sugar and chocolate chips and baked in the oven. You would think you died.

This is just so easy it was crazy. Shrimps on a cookie sheet, cover with olive oil or butter and sprinkle on dry italian dressing mix and bake in the oven. Crazy good!

Button bracelet. Mine was wayyyyyyy prettier and I sold many in my Etsy store.

This is one of my favorite things I did ... a frame for pictures hanging from a curtain rod. I get more compliments than you could believe!

I made this for my fireplace mantel but instead of FALL I spelled out FAMILY. It was one of my very favorite projects.

For Halloween, I transformed my summer pots into an outdoor topiary with plastic pumpkins. Very cute!

I made these for Christmas gifts. OPI nail polish with a pair of cute fuzzy socks in a little bag. Who doesn't love a pedicure?

Do you Pinterest? What do you love about it?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Holy Detox Bath

I became intrigued by something I found on a fellow blogger's site intended to remove toxins from your body. I'm all about this witch doctor, alternative medicine kind of things. I just love it. After discovering Shea Terra Organics ( and using the Black Soap and realizing there is no greater facial cleanser on this earth that could make your skin feel so exfoliated, young and tight without all the chemicals and other shit you find in some of the most famous brands, I have been seeking this kind of stuff out ever since.

Anyway, I tried to do the bath on Monday night and got all excited and I dumped my stuff into the bath and then realized that my kids had used every single last bit of hot water in the house so I couldn't do the bath. Didn't work completely the way it was intended. So last night, I did it again and I do admit, pretty awesome. Don't expect this to be some crazy magical relaxing bath in which you'll enjoy a glass of wine. You gotta drink a glass of water before you do it, while you do it and chug a nice cool one after you do it. The bath itself is COMPLETELY exhausting. You will be tired and you will continue to sweat not just during the bath but after too. You will have one of the most delicious slumbers you have ever imagined. That part IS magical. The next day you really do feel revived. It will be interesting to see if I feel better after I do this for awhile.

Interestingly, I've been fighting a sinus cold for weeks now, waking up stuffy and have headaches and ear congestion and it appears today that those symptoms are now completely gone. Not sure if the bath helped, might just be a coincidence.

So I recommend you try it if you can go into it with a positive mind .... I find things always go better when you are open to the possibilities.


Thursday, January 3, 2013


Live in such a way that if anyone were to speak badly of you, no one would believe it.

There was a time several years ago when I let someone into my life that was malicious, self involved and mean spirited. She took a very tragic situation in my life and turned it into something that wasn't at all true. As a result of her lies, I lost several people in my life that meant a great deal to me. It was a very difficult time but I learned a lot about myself and other people from that experience. I also gained one of the greatest friendships I have ever known. I think the hardest part of this whole situation was that I couldn't believe that my so-called friends would believe the things this person was saying. If they really knew me, how could they think I would do something like this and why would they choose to believe her over me? I'll never know that answer and perhaps these were toxic friends that had served their purpose in my life and were meant to be discarded. Whatever the case, it caused me to really re-examine myself to ensure that I was the person I believed myself to be.

So, what's my point? We should all be living our lives with great integrity. If we treat others the way we would want to be treated and live our lives being true to the things we believe, even when we don't think anyone is watching, karma will pay back people like this woman who do things only to gain something themselves.

Recently, this person has lost her husband and all of the friends that stood by her at that time and her life has a great emptiness she will never be able to fill. As hard as it is, I try not to sit in judgement and I certainly don't relish in her pain. Instead, I'm trying to understand that karma really does exist. We'll eventually get what we bestow on to others.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013, Dammit!

Happy New Year! The holidays overwhelm me but it's really self imposed. I am eternally guilty of making everything a project. I make everything more difficult than it has to be and then wind up disappointed when I can't get everything done to my expectations. I'm a little nuts, I admit it. I ran across this little blurb on Pinterest and it really resonated with me....
In a "life talk" with my co-worker and friend, Melissa, we talked about being okay with who we are and loving ourselves before expecting others to love us. I am going to start celebrating my idiosyncrasies instead of apologizing for them. They are what makes me...ME! I overdo just about everything I do so yes, I'm guilty of this but so what? It makes life interesting and colorful.


The hardest thing in life is to know which bridges to cross and which to burn.

How many of us have been there? Have you ever remained friends with someone simply because you were lonely or wanted someone to hang with? I, myself, am terrible at cutting ties. My husband is incredibly good at it and I often criticize him for it but I wonder if my heart would be less heavy if I could just let it go sometimes instead of trying to hold on to it. I can't count the times I have put more into a relationship then I was getting in return, not just with men but with friends as well. While there are a handful of friendships I have been able to let go of, I have a very hard time letting them go. I grieve a really big loss when I do.I feel somehow responsible even if in all honesty it had nothing really to do with me.

In 2013, I plan to ditch those in my life that zap my energy, encourage bad habits and judge me for who I may or may not be. I am more interested in putting the time and effort into friendships that are supportive and mutual with people that care enough to want to be my friend. I want to be surrounded by like-minded and positive people.

By nature I am competitive but the one place that I don't want to compete is in relationships with people I love, especially my friends. I want loving, supportive friendships not friendships where we are trying to constantly one up each other. I find that I flee the scene quickly if that occurs.

After an interaction with a friend in 2013 I will pay better attention to how I feel after hanging out with that person. More importantly, I will ask myself why I remain friends with this person. If the answer is something other than mutual support, love, motivation, inspiration, encouragement, laughter, or any other positive emotions or outcome, I will re-examine the relationship.

Are you holding on to relationships in your life that keep you from being happy? What will you do differently in 2013 to attain happiness?