Mindful Gifts for the health conscious mother this Mother's Day

Because mom deserves to be pampered... because she deserves to be shown she's appreciated for all that she does. If your mother is anything like I am, she'll tell you not to bother, that she doesn't need anything or want anything. And while this might be true, it's always nice to offer a gift that tells her that she's special. Indulge her with something she might not treat herself to. My curated list has items of all price ranges - some I have, some some I long for. Each item, no matter how large or small was chosen with careful thought and consideration. 

1. Swell water bottle   - Whether running errands, at the gym or sneaking a few minutes of sun at the beach, this water bottle aims to help save the planet! No plastic allowed, this lightweight aluminum container keeps beverages hot or cold.  
2. Padded bike seat  - Whether she rides outdoors or spins, it makes for a much more enjoyable ride! 
3. Apple Watch  - Because it's apple and it's a watch. Your technology. health and fitness conscious mother will approve. 
4. FitBit cover by Tory Burch  - Because we want to look pretty when we exercise - or want to track the miles we've accrued over the course of a regular workday.
5. The Nest, NYT Best selling book - This highly acclaimed book about a dysfunctional family of 40 somethings is what Mom will want to read while you make her breakfast in bed.  
6. Breville Juicer  Freshly squeezed juice to accompany her breakfast in bed. A juicer from a wonderful Australian company that won't break the bank.
7. It's All Easy cookbook by Gwyneth Paltrow  - Inspirational healthy cuisine by Lifestyle doyenne Gwyneth Paltrow. (Maybe you can make mom a recipe for lunch.) 
8. Nest Candle in Bamboo - My all-time favorite candle and my all-time favorite scent. Slightly floral, this clean, crisp aroma instantly calms and will make your home smell wonderful. Light one while she reads The Nest.   
9. Vitabath Verbena Bath Gel - A blast from the past, perhaps? Still as luxurious as it was back then. Treat her to a luxurious bath that smells like the South of France
10. Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien -  One of my most favorite scents, refreshing and light citrus, it's suitable for both men and women.
11. Miracle Gro Aero Garden  -  Sometimes one can't make it to the farm or to the farmer's market... 
12. Cuisinart Sparkling beverage maker  - Because homemade seltzer is just so much better. And you're saving the planet by using less plastic! 

Happy Mother's Day!

When a music icon dies

 

2016 has been a tough year for the music industry. We've lost some truly great artists - artists that have moved, influenced and defined music and musical eras. This year, which isn't even half over yet, we've said goodbye to top talents which have included Glenn Frey, Maurice White, David Bowie and now Prince. Most of us have never met these musical icons in person. We may have seen them perform in concert, or on MTV (back when it truly was about music and not what it is today) and of course, over the airwaves, on records, cassettes, CDs and now digitally. 

For many of us music becomes a living scrapbook. Music is ever powerful and moving. Whether Bach, Beethoven, Guns'n'Roses, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Prince or Bowie. We've listened to them all. Songs leave an indelible benchmark on our memories. We forever remember who we were with when we heard certain songs. We remember these events as vividly as we remember tragedies.

I have a special place for the music I listened to during my formative years in high school when I was struggling to figure out who I was, and what the world around me was all about. There are songs that will forever link me to high school dances, parties, college, road trips, my wedding and even the birth of my children. There are songs I listened to (endlessly) after heart-crushing breakups, and songs I listened to that new boyfriends had introduced me to. And songs that we first heard on the radio, and on MTV. To me a great song is always a wonderful visit down memory lane. The music of the 1980s in many ways helped to mold the person that I was to become and I think that's why so many of my generation are so nostalgic about the wonderful, varied talent of that era. 

David Bowie sends me back to high school with Let's Dance, Heroes and Major Tom. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel. My mother had the greatest crush on Art Garfunkel, and then they came to Central Park in 1980 - I was just barely a teenager, and some friends and I wandered in to the smell of pot, and the hippies of all ages blanketed on the grass and camped out in trees. There wasn't one patch of grass or pavement that hadn't been covered by a person, blanket or chair. As the sun started to set the music came on and it was the most electric feeling I've ever experienced. You could hear their sweet sounds reverberating through the Upper East Side. A month or so later one of the local radio stations broadcast the concert. I sat, with my blank cassette tapes and my boom box, and recorded the whole thing. 

My high school friends and I all drooled over Sting. The Police were a hot commodity and The Synchronicity Tour was about to unfold. We listened to Sting's wise words, lyrics that seemed to be pulled from the pages of classic novels and Greek Mythology. We knew every word, every pause. Every beat. That summer I had a job as a member of the kitchen staff at the small camp in the Adirondack Mountains I had attended for years. The Police were headed to Montreal to perform at the Olympic Stadium. That summer my boyfriend Loren and our Canadian friend Eric had managed to get us tickets. We drove to Canada and stayed at Eric's house and toured the beautiful city of Quebec then headed to the concert that evening. The Police were amazing, mesmerizing, magnetic. I learned in very recent years that the boys had borrowed a car, but neither had a license! I'm not sure I would have gone with them had I known... I think that's why they kept that small piece of information from me! Imagine getting into Canada now without a license? 

 A year later I was preparing to head overseas to spend my Junior year abroad. I had packed the comforts from home as well as a bunch of music. The boom box had been replaced by the Sony Walkman. I remember finally getting one - a real walkman (as opposed to the Panasonic I had been using) from my father as a gift. I remember that it was barely the size of a cassette case and how crystal clear the music was. He gave me several tapes to listen to as well. Synchronicity and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA and Michael Jackson's Thriller were among them. I listened to Duran Duran endlessly because Loren had told me that I laughed like "Rio." I listened to those tapes nonstop as they served as constant, warm reminders of home as I was trying to settle in and acclimate to my new life overseas. I clung to this familiar music for comfort, and yet new music was beginning to make its way into my world.

We had MTV at home. We watched Blondie, The Flock of Seagulls, REO Speedwagon, The Cars, Phil Collins, David Bowie, The J Geils Band, Culture Club and all those who first broke on to the video scene... "Video killed the Radio Star." I was enamored with Belinda Carlyle of The GoGos. In the UK we had Top of the Pops, a bit less romantic and less sophisticated, it might have been the precursor to the many weekly music shows we now have. Through British radio and Top of the Pops I was to be introduced to all new sounds and lyrics. I was falling in love with Tears for Fears, Annie Lenox, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, The Thompson Twins, The Style Council and Sade, Adam Ant, Joan Armatrading and WHAM. What a wildly eclectic group of musicians. And while I haven't thought of many of them in years, there are still those I listen to on a regular basis. The soulful voices of Armatrading and Lenox... and when out of the blue a song from the 1980s fills the air waves a smile comes over me. Music has the power to evoke warm memories of fond places. 

Even those quintessential breakup songs, with enough time passed, bring smiles to our faces. Because as we look back we don't think of the sadness and the tears, but the happy moments prior. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Phil Collins, The Police, REO Speedwagon, Styx and Air Supply were often listened to in those moments of teen distress...

Then off to college and music would take on a whole new meaning shaped by entirely new experiences and a whole set of friends who would have a tremendous impact and remain with me for the rest of my life. We couldn't get enough Bruce, Prince and Whitney. Steve Winwood, U2, Madonna, Terence Trent Darby, even Milli Vanilli would all play reference into our lives. Each artist, each song, evokes an incredibly indelibly marked point and time in my life. 

When I left college to settle into a new and unsettling life in the "real world" I found new music. Hootie and the Blowfish, The Counting Crows, Melissa Ethridge, Nathalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs, Edwin McCain, Sheryl Crow, Jewell, and Nora Jones would bring out my introspective side. It was also during this time I was first introduced to country music. I met and fell in love with Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. I bonded with Faith Hill and Tricia Yearwood, The Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain.  It was during this time I went from young, naive and inexperienced college co-ed to marrying and having my first child. It was perhaps the decade of the greatest growth for me. I transitioned from being an inexperienced 20 year old to a confident and self assured 30 year old. I can recite every lyric from every song ever written by Nathalie Merchant and Garth Brooks. When I think of Hootie and the Blowfish I will forever remember a road trip (plus ferry ride) to Martha's Vineyard when I was not yet in my mid-20s and how Shaun and I sang to Hootie the whole ride up and the entire way back from Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I was so young and yet I didn't know it at the time. Oh to have those carefree days again! A year or two later I would lose a friend to a plane crash one foggy day on that same Island. The morning I learned of her passing James Taylor's Fire and Rain came on the radio. How fitting. The song took on a whole new meaning for me. I will forever think of Mandy when I hear it. 

There is music that reminds me of the births of my three children, and songs that played prominently the summer I filed for divorce - moments both happy and sad. And those tunes will forever stop me in my tracks and force me to slow down and reflect. That's what music does. It can raise the little hairs on our backs and it can bring tears. Music is all powerful. 

It's always on in my home and in my car. During the day when I am home and working I often have one of the many Music Choice stations on in the background. Or perhaps I'm listening to a special Pandora station. Yacht Radio is a fairly new introduction to me, a favorite of mine as it plays many of those iconic 80s tunes. The soft rock station on Music Choice does too. Through Alexa I have all my Amazon Prime stations streaming... I can listen to Cold Play or Imagine Dragons or Kenny Chesney or The Beatles by simply asking aloud for the station to be changed. Music has been, is and always be intertwined with my own life. I think for this reason alone we feel such a sense of loss each time a great musician passes. Because when they pass, so in a way, does a small part of us. 

Dearly Beloved,

We gather together to get through this thing called life...

...Let’s go crazy
— Prince

 

 

 

 

Family Dining :: A case for "screens" at the table

Image: Anthropologie Europe

Image: Anthropologie Europe

I have learned in my 18 years as a parent never to say never. Long before I had my own children I had all the answers. I knew exactly what I would do and what I wouldn't. Then one by one my children arrived and I tossed all that nonsense out the door. Should "screens" be allowed at the table? In short, no. But I've learned that there's an exception to this rule too. 

In my own home I do not allow iPhones, Pods or Pads at the table. Nor do I favor them in restaurants. I do allow my kids to check them on occasion, or use them to take a picture. (How can I tell them no when I am often doing so myself, especially if it is for a work-related project.) That said, these devices are not allowed to sit out on tables and must be tucked away in a purse, bag or pocket. My case for screens at the table is not for my children or older children, but specifically for younger ones. At a certain age there comes a time when a young child can sit (fairly) quietly and entertain him or herself, with or without a parent and color or play tic-tac-toe, hangman and whatnot.

When my children were really young we had a great big bag of tricks we brought whenever we went out. In the bag were soft toys, bright plastic things, containers of Cheerios, sippy cups filled with watered down apple juice, and whatever it took to keep our little ones quiet and entertained. As the kids matured so did the toys. Going always a huge production and often draining, but sometimes a change of scenery was greatly needed. We didn't often take the kids out at night, and certainly not to very nice restaurants during those early years. But would we have if technology had allowed us to do? I have to wonder.

The other night I was out with a dear friend at a local French bistro that's very much a favorite of mine. It's small and it's quaint and in true bistro fashion, the tables tend to be on top of one another. The food is fantastic. Sitting next to us, to my left hand side, was a young couple and their two very young children - I'd say the boy was under two and the girl was about 4, maybe younger. The parents sat across from one another engaged in deep conversation, clearly enjoying each other's company.

As I smiled at the littlest child who had looked up to acknowledge my presence my friend looked at me and quietly made a comment about how positively unacceptable the phones were. Each child had a small hand-held device on the table in front of him on which something age-appropriate was playing. Now, while I tend to agree in most cases, there are always exceptions to the rule. This wasn't a casual kid-friendly restaurant, but an upscale French bistro with diners enjoying a quiet night with good food, who certainly didn't want to be disturbed. These children were angelic, glued to their screens perhaps, but angelic.

So, you may ask, why not do as we did and engage with the children? Why not bring out a pad of paper, or Cheerios and such? If you've ever dined out with kids you know just how exhausting it is to entertain the very young at the table and keep them quiet and well behaved. It's practically a full time job and often prevents you from being able to eat and enjoy your own meal. Of course you could argue then why not just stay home, especially if you're going to insist that your iPhone or iPad is doing the babysitting anyhow? 

What if mom and dad want to go out and spend some quality time together?  Sometimes this is easier said than done. Babysitters are often hard to come by, and these days charge a small fortune. Where I live the going rate for a babysitter is $15 to $25 and hour. AN HOUR! A night out can seriously dent the wallet.

I know first hand how important it is to have that time to connect with your spouse - how important it is to dedicate specific time for the love that came into your life before your children, and that that relationship must also be nurtured and cared for. Sometimes you have to put yourselves, as a couple, first - before the children. Far too few couples do this. 

Some of you might argue why not just wait until the kids are in bed. And I will say, this is impossible. At the end of the day, by the time you've put in a full day at the office, or a full day at home with the kids, then fed, bathed and tucked them in, you are so completely depleted of all physical and mental energy that you just want to sink down into the couch or crawl into bed. Even if your best friend and partner is by your side it's still not the same thing as taking time to go out on a date.  

This brings me back to the restaurant with the two parents were able to enjoy some deep uninterrupted conversation and enjoy each other's company. When the food came, the screens went away; they all ate and the focus shifted back to the family. Throughout the meal the children were perfectly behaved. Had they not been next to me, and had the 2 year old not been flirting with me  from the next table I would not have known they were there. 

When I remember back to those days, which seem so distant now, I remember how stressful dining out with young children was, and how stressful it was to find a sitter, I do think that had screens been allowed back then they might have been, in certain situations, allowed at the table. I applaud those parents who make themselves a priority. Not everyone has the gift of baby sitters, nannies or even family nearby, and sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to make it work.

I'd love to hear your feedback on this!

Vintage Parenting Modern Style

I've never really thought of it as such, but is my style of parenting a vintage one, and is it really that unique? Is my own divorce the reason for it? By offering my kids less, might I actually be offering them more?

Image source

Image source

I'm not really sure how when or why it happened, but I'm starting to wonder whether I've subscribed to an antiquated form of parenting. My children, whom are rarely blogged abut these days, aren't coddled on a daily basis. They're not catered to, (though my own parents might disagree with this) privileged, entitled or spoiled. They hardly have everything they want; they do have everything they need. They are, for the most part, well behaved. In the privacy of our own home, however, their table manners are sub-par no matter how much I nag. They are respectful of their elders and polite. I think they're on their way to being very good, kind, caring people.

My kids, however, are quite different from most of today's kids. They aren't otherwise occupied by sports, languages and instruments every afternoon after school. They aren't captains of their teams. Or most valuable players. Or most improved. They don't even, at the moment, play any sport. They've not mastered three languages or several instruments. They're not in choir practice three days a week. I don't schlepp them to ballet, tap or basketball. They don't (not to be confused with can't) swim or play tennis, squash or golf. They don't ride or jump.

They're not in the top 10 percent of their enormous classes, but they are good students, usually on the Honor Roll. They sometimes forget to do and misplace their homework. They often misplace their books and when they don't study they don't do well. If they forget to bring something to school, whether it's a book, homework or gym clothes, I will not deliver unless it is of my own fault. Rescuing them is not helping them. When they get marked down, they'll remember and take care to make sure it doesn't happen again. I have one exception to this rule. I will bring a forgotten lunch. Nourishment is important. 

For mistakes made I don't blame anyone but them. Only they can be held accountable. I don't berate, get angry or even disagree with a teacher should he or she, come down hard on a child of mine. My kids aren't in school to be doted on. They're there to learn, even if learning comes at an expense.  I would rather have them mess up now, while they're at home with me, than when they're off and on their own. Will I coddle them, praise them, for a mistake made? No. But I will always offer support and encouragement. And I will always tell them that everything will be Ok. Because in the end, I absolutely believe this to be true. Sometimes we have to wait a bit longer to find out. 

I do not believe in praising my children for no reason at all. This does not mean that I don't tell them daily (hourly?) how much I love and adore them. False praise does no good. It creates egomaniacs and narcissists. The world does not evolve around my children. I do not put them up on pedestals. My children have talents but they are not talented in everything. I happily and quietly sing their praises. My Facebook page is not plastered with images and texts shouting out how perfect they are. They're not and even if they were that's not the kind of parent I am. When merited I will absolutely extol their virtues. 

I do not replace lost or broken things. If they lose something it is not replaced unless they do so themselves. My children need to understand and appreciate the value of things and the importance of taking care of them.  (I've learned over the years that you can say no until you are blue in the face and it means nothing unless they mess up first hand.)

I believe in letting them fall so they can learn to get back up. I will take care of every skinned knee and kiss and wipe away every tear. I let my little one climb into bed with me when he's not feeling well, has a bad dream or simply because he wants to be with me. I know this won't continue much longer and his youth is fleeting. I'll look back on those days more often than I will the days I spent driving them back and forth to all their activities. Time spent together. Now that's the stuff that memories are made from. 

My kids spend much too much time on their "devices" the iPads, laptops and whatnot... They should be outside and running around more. Their rooms should be tidier and their beds, I do believe, should be made daily. I have learned to be realistic and to pick my battles. That said they each have responsibilities. They must pitch in and help as they are part of this family. I do not pay them to help me out, rather I just expect them to do so. They empty the garbage on a regular basis and take the garbage and recycling bins to the curb once a week. They must help with dishes and clean up and every now and then I have each of them cook a meal. 

Sometimes I ask them to help with the laundry - tossing items into the machine and or the dryer. When it snows they help me shovel. When the leaves have fallen, they help me rake or pick up sticks. If somebody makes a mess, they clean it up. I'm no one's maid. Nor am I a short order cook. I prepare one meal. If someone does't like it, well too bad. That said, there's nothing I enjoy more than making a late breakfast for the kids be it pancakes or egg sandwiches on lazy weekend mornings. Yes we have lazy weekends once again! And I can't tell you how amazing they are. 

Before I know it they'll be off and on their own in the vast world out there. I won't be there for them, physically, and I don't want to be.  I won't be there for them to cook, clean or make their beds. (I fully expect them to bring their laundry when they visit, though. That's almost a rite of passage!) It's important for me to know that they can fend for and take care of themselves. And it's important that they understand the importance of a good work ethic.

When they were all little they were all signed up for various activities and sports. They were, one might say, busy little beavers, perhaps over-programmed. And who did that benefit? It benefited me, of course. It was part ego, a bragging right... And it was part a matter of keeping them busy so I didn't have to. Don't misunderstand me, I did plenty with my children and I was a very hands-on parent. When not in ballet, at soccer, or music class, we were home crafting, painting, cooking and baking. We took trips to museums, libraries and shows. There was plenty of time for television and tablets weren't really a thing back then. And then something changed.

Life changed. My kids got a bit older and I got a divorce. Gone were the funds that allowed the luxuries of all these extra-curricular activities. We had to pick and choose and what this meant was a lot of idle time on our hands... their hands. I felt guilty about no longer being able to over-program them as though this new world would be a huge detriment to their livelihoods. After a couple of years I see that not much has changed. So they're home from school a little earlier, that's about it. (This gives them more time to help me out around the house!) When I look back to my equally full childhood with Sunday school, ballet, music and art lessons, team sports and school musical productions I have to wonder, what did this all really get me? I'm still fairly tone deaf. Despite 6+ years of ballet I'm still the same uncoordinated klutz I was back the. I don't remember which key is which on a keyboard. They were all wonderful opportunities, but I don't think they really enriched my life. 

My life was made fuller and better by the experiences in and out of the classroom, with friends and my own family, from traveling, seeing and doing. My kids, therefore, really aren't missing out. And now that I'm working to rebuild my own career, I often have Latchkey kids who are sometimes home by themselves for a few hours after the school day. And that's OK too. On the weekends when they're with me and I'm not working on a project we spend time together. This time could be creating in the kitchen, playing old fashioned board games or taking little trips to zoos and museums, botanical gardens, etc. 

I'm far from a perfect parent and I have made many mistakes over the years, but I have to wonder if my own shortcomings and my own divorce, as challenging as it has been at times, might actually be a positive in their lives. Nothing has come easily for my children and they certainly take nothing for granted. Despite the fact that I would love to be able to offer them so much more, and hope to be able to again soon, I have to wonder if their current no-frills lifestyle might give them an edge... By offering less might I be giving them more? 

Proust's Questionaire :: 35 Questions to ask your love on Valentine's Day

Marcel Proust believed that in order to understand others, it was important to fully know oneself. He developed the questionnaire help people discover their true selves and the inner personalities of those around them.  Whether you're celebrating a new or long-lasting love, these are great questions to share with your Valentine.

The Proust Questionnaire :: 35 Questions to ask your love. Photo via Love Story

The Proust Questionnaire :: 35 Questions to ask your love. Photo via Love Story

The French novelist, essayist and critical thinker is known for his monumental novel, Remembrance of Things Past, published in 7 parts between 1913 and 1927. He is considered to be one of the greatest authors of all times. Proust's questionnaire is widely used today from HR departments seeking potential candidates, to writers developing characters or interviewing their subjects. 

I was first introduced to this questionnaire last winter when I was in Boston for the weekend with someone whom I was just starting to get to know and love. As we sat in a popular. crowded Back Bay restaurant dining on Tapas my critically thinking and introspective partner pulled out his Blackberry and together we started down the list. As simple as the questions seem at first glance, they can be quite hard to answer. I don't think we got more than halfway through them that night. These questions are great for any dinner party conversation, or simply home alone with family. 

How you answer these questions is really up to you. They can be as brief or lengthy as you wish.  The point is to be honest with yourself and your partner. Some might require a bit of thought, but many are best answered simply by blurting out the very first thought that comes to mind.

Proust's Questionnaire

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  2. What is your greatest fear?
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  5. Which living person do you most admire?
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?
  7. What is your current state of mind?
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  9. On what occasion do you lie?
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  11. Which living person do you most despise?
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  16. When and where were you happiest?
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
  21. Where would you most like to live?
  22. What is your most treasured possession?
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  24. What is your favorite occupation?
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?
  26. What do you most value in your friends?
  27. Who are your favorite writers?
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?
  31. What are your favorite names?
  32. What is it that you most dislike?
  33. What is your greatest regret?
  34. How would you like to die?
  35. What is your motto?

Serenity at the beach after the snow

I've always been drawn to the beach. It is where I go when I need to slow down, calm down or simply to gather my thoughts. But at no time is the beach more beautiful than immediately after a newly fallen snow, with a calm and tranquility like nowhere else. 

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

The Beach - Serenity after the snowfall. Image property of The Entertaining House

Winter Storm Advice for the Mid-Atlantic & Southern States from your Neighbors to the North

Winter Storm Survival Advice for the Mid Atlantic & Southern States from your Neighbors to the North - The Entertaining House. Image via Tumblr

Winter Storm Survival Advice for the Mid Atlantic & Southern States from your Neighbors to the North - The Entertaining House. Image via Tumblr

I saw the following on my Facebook stream this morning as shared by Yankee Magazine and it was just too good not to share with everyone!  The following is some solid advice from the Bangor Maine Police Department. If anyone knows about snow survival tips, it's these guys!

"Dear Mid-Atlantic of these United States of America,

I think we all knew it could happen. Every year when you pack up your well tanned family and head back home from our tiny piece of paradise, you look back and see us raking up our leaves and putting our snow shovels by the door. You always sigh, knowing that we will be dealing with winter in a far different way than you will.

With lobster traps on your roof and pine cones in your carry ons, you think of us with with warm memories of fantastic sunsets, thick accents and great clam chowder. You talk to the family about coming back next year and enjoying all that Maine has to offer.

Down deep, you feel sorry for us. You know that we will be moving snowbanks, raking our roof, smashing ice dams off the shingles and stoking the wood stove with the dollar bills that you left behind.

Listen, this storm is going to miss us. This is not typical and we want to share a little advice of how to make it through an epic "snow event" unscathed. We want you to come back next year. Here are a few tips.

1. Don't panic. It's just frozen rain. It does go away so don't try to move too much at one time.
2. Don't shovel too early and don't wait too long. Pace yourself. Go out every few hours and move a little at a time. It can hurt your back, arms and legs. You always wonder why we all walk funny. It is not because of the clam chowder.
3. Heart attacks in big snow storms are rather common. Help out your neighbor who is older, out of shape or that has known health problems. Helping them move some snow (better yet, let your offspring do it) is better than calling EMS while you are doing CPR. Seriously.
4. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT buy all the bread on the shelves. As a lifelong Mainer, I recommend cereal. No better reason has ever been invented to eat Golden Crisp, Honeycomb or Captain Crunch (don't get the peanut butter flavored. That stuff sucks). You will need milk and of course a bowl and spoon. You probably already have that in the house. I have lived for several weeks on only Rice Crispies and Snickers. 
5. Get some batteries and flashlights that work. Nothing is worse than going through the junk drawer and finding only 1 D battery when you need two. LED flashlights are awesome, cheap and last and last. You might need one to find the cereal.
6. Charge your Cellphone. If you have a generator, you need gas. You look stupid trying to start a generator with no gas in it. Don't ask me how I know. Do not run the generator inside a basement or garage. Yes, people do that. Usually only one time.
7. Toilets flush without electricity. If you fill your tub with water, you can use it for all kinds of things, including flushing the toilet. Also, to wash cereal bowls.
8. Fill your car up with gas. If you get stuck somewhere and have to run the car, make sure you clean out around the tail pipe and do not fall asleep with the car running. We need you to come back next summer to buy more lobster and lobster traps. Pine cones are free.

Most of all, take care of each other. Be nice and invite neighbors to hole up at one location. Hide expensive things, but help them. (that's the cop talking).

You will be fine. We drink lots of coffee and complain when we get hit like this storm. It works ok. It makes us grouchy but that's why you come here in the summer. To hear stories from grumpy Mainers who sell lobster traps. Now, you will have some of your own to share with us when you get back.

Be safe and well and if you have any Cap'n Crunch left after the storm. It keeps very well. Bring it up this summer.

The men and women of the Bangor Police Department are rooting for you. You got this.

We will be here!"

My only addition would be the wine. (I care not about the bread or the Cap'n Crunch - and I for one prefer the peanut butter over the regular variety.) Your grocery store may run out of bread and milk, though the Stop & Shop in Westport, CT had plenty, but I've never seen a liquor store run out of wine - red, white or bubbly!

Stay warm!

 

15 Amazing Bingeworthy Series You Must Stream This Winter

15 Bingeworthy shows you must stream via The Entertaining House

15 Bingeworthy shows you must stream via The Entertaining House

On the east coast the Springlike weather and temperatures have finally bid us adieu along with the busy and demanding holiday season. This is the perfect time of year to slow down and curl up with a good book, or settle in with some of those series you've been wanting to check out. You'll soon see just how easy it is to get lost in these shows and soon you'll be 3 or 4 episodes in without having realized it. This has become such a phenomenon that there's a term for it - "binge watching" and it's been discussed and analyzed in all sorts of publications including Psychology Today.  I know the term all too well. I was first seduced by Netflix and the ability to stream numerous episodes for hours on end when I fell ill with the flu a couple years ago. 

It started out innocently enough with Orange is the New Black. One episode in and I was hooked and thrilled that I didn't have to deal with commercials or wait a week to find out what happened next. This new way of watching was revolutionary. Disappointed by what my subscription cable channels were offering I cancelled them and signed up for Netflix which delights everyone in my household. This novel way of watching my favorite programs also allowed me to watch at home as well as on the road. I travelled with my iPad and I could bring my favorite characters with me wherever I went. Through Apple TV I could stream Netflix in my bedroom and with our WiiU console we could stream it through the family room television. A short while later at the urging of a man I had been dating at the time I became an Amazon Prime subscriber. This annual membership of about $100 has been worth every cent - not just for the free shipping I receive for every single order, but the additional selection of binge-worthy and award-winning programs. The combined subscriptions of Netlfix and Prime are less than what my premium cable bill had been and offer so much more. Once I'd finished binging on Orange is the New Black I met and fell in love with the less than ethical Frank Underwood of House of Cards

There's no better way to spend a brutally cold, rainy or snowy weekend than curled up in bed or on the couch with a hot cup of coffee. Instead of complaining about the elements, I've learned to embrace them as they've forced me to slow down. There are programs that my children and I watch together, some my daughter and I enjoy together. And there are those I enjoy watching alone, in the peace and quiet of an empty house (the upside of divorce!) 

This modern way of watching allows me to view those highly acclaimed network series, both prime time and cable, as well as those created specifically for a streaming service. Following are some of my favorites and an honorable mention section featuring selections from friends.

Favorite Netflix Series

Orange is the New Black - The series that got me binging. Preppy white girl sentenced to 15 months in an all women's prison after smugling drugs with her ex-girlfriend. Filled with some rather colorful characters. This show is entertaining, shocking, and certainly thought provoking. Based on the book of the same name, I must say I enjoyed the series more so than I did the book. Mature audiences only.

ParenthoodWhat is not to love about every single Braverman family member? Although it had a very successful and impressive 6 seasons on NBC I never tuned in. This incredible series produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard deals with often hard to handle real life issues such as Asperger's, infertility and cancer head on with aplomb and grace. I discovered Parenthood after binging on the Gilmore Girls and falling in love with those characters. I was happy to discover that Lauren Graham who played Lorelei Gilmore was cast in this show, again as a single mother but in a dramatically different role.  

The Gilmore GirlsA wonderful coming of age story of a young teenage daughter and her mother who reside in Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Rory and her mother Lorelei have a quintessential mother/daughter relationship that tackles all the issues of single motherhood and her teenage daughter determined to make her dreams of going to Harvard come true. Poignant and quirky and Melissa McCarthy fans will laugh along. Viewers will fall in love. My daughter and I enjoyed watching this together. 

How I Met Your Mother Neil Patrick Harris at his funniest and best as he portrays the non-comital womanizing Barney Stinson who despite this is completely lovable. The series which aired for over 7 years recounts the story of Ted Mosby and his friends, to his children, of how he met their mother. A modern day friends but funnier. Rip-roaringly funny. Best to start this one on a weekend when nothing is planned! My children all loved this and still watch from time to time although some of the content is a bit mature for my youngest. Depending on your household you may want to screen a few episodes first before deciding whether you want your family to watch.

Weeds - Before Jenji Cohan created Orange is the New Black she created Weeds an uproariously funny story of newly widowed California Suburbanite Nancy Botwin, so beautifully portrayed by Mary Louise Parker, who starts selling and growing marijuana in order to support her family. Zany and off the wall this is a great show to lose yourself in and escape from reality for a while.

Grace and Frankie Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin still have it. Also staring Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, Grace and Frankie tells the story of the dissolution of two marriages. This is not just about divorce but divorce and rediscovery late in life. The best way to handle some of life's most challenging moments, through laughter, of course. And you will laugh. The characters are relatable and lovable and the topics hold true no matter what stage you are in life. I cannot wait for season 2! 

House of CardsThe best and worst of Washington politics. The rise of Senator Underwood. Ruthless. Scandal. And the beautiful Robin Wright and her beautiful wardrobe. Kevin Spacey's best role yet. 

Madam SecretaryIf smart, family oriented mothers took matters into their own hands... Thought provoking, edge of your seat and yet often times tender. For those who love intelligent television Tea Leoni is magnificent as a former CIA agent turned House Secretary and the chemistry she has with Tim Daley makes their union incredibly believable. You may just want to tune in to watch him ;) Currently airing on CBS, past season can be streamed. 

Favorite Amazon Prime Series

Transparent - Another quirky, way off the wall drama comedy. Off beat. The story of a completely dysfunctional family whose father reveals that he's transgender. Loosely based on creator Jill Solloway's own life, despite the sometimes over the top, way over the top, themes, the completely self absorbed characters still manage to capture our compassion. If you like non-mainstream, creative TV and film, you'll love this. For mature (very mature) audiences only. (Nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards)

Catastrophe - Leave it to the Brits and their dry and side-splitting humour. This hilarious show centers around Rob and Sharon who, after hooking up one night, learn that Sharon has become pregnant. What ensues is hilarity not without a few poignant relatable moments. Season 1 is currently streaming on Prime. I'm eagerly awaiting Season 2!

The Good Wife - Currently in its 7th season on CBS, if you're late to the game as I was you're still in luck as the first 6 are streaming over on Prime. The star studded cast which includes Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Bebe Newirth, Allan Cumming and Christine Baranski is well scripted, thought provoking and will keep you on your toes. The plot originally centers around Noth and Margulies, Alicia and Peter Florick. Alicia returns to work as a defense attourney and must assume the role of family leader and provider after her husband's political and very public sex scandal. Those of you who like politically themed shows such as The West Wing will enjoy this. 

Girls - Season 1 of the HBO hit sensation created and starring Lena Dunham  centers around Dunham, a 20 something aspiring writer and her three friends. As most in their age bracket, they're trying to figure it all out and make their way in the Big Apple, unsure of what they want in life and career. Hannah (Dunham) desperately wants a boyfriend yet doesn't want the ties that bind. She wants a job but doesn't want to work.  Hannah and her friends will keep you entertained whether you're 20 or 40. Much is based on Dunham's own life. 

Downton Abbey - We are first introduced to the characters of the Crawley family in the years prior to WW1 and watch as they grow and evolve through to the Jazz era. This award-winning docudrama is both poignant and comedic and shows that the human condition is the same whether in the Victorian era or today, whether upstairs or downstairs. Thanks to Amazon Prime it's not too late to tune in. The series is sadly in it's final season which is currently airing on PBS.

Orphan Black - Created by BBC America. For those of you who enjoy a good psychological thriller this is for you. Macabre and at times violent, we follow Sarah a street-smart, tough orphan who witnesses a young woman's suicide. The woman looks uncannily like her and Sarah decides to take on this stranger's identity. She soon learns that she and the dead woman are clones and that there are more like her out there all of whom are targeted by an assassin. She must discover why. Those of you who enjoyed Steig Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire will enjoy this series. 

Scandal - The series centers around Crisis Management Expert, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), and the President of the United States (Tony Goldwyn). Sex, scandal, murder - many murders. Plot lines are riveting. I've developed a (huge) crush on Tony Goldwin. And here's a character, Olivia Pope, who actually drinks more red wine than I do. Political soap opera that's completely addicting!

Honorable Mentions & Oldies but Goodies to stream

The West Wing (Drama)
The Making of a Murderer (Mini series)
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Comedy)
The Man from High Castle (Drama)
Gossip Girls (Drama)
Freaks and Geeks (Comedy)
Parks & Recs (Comedy)
Jane the Virgin (Comedy)

I'd love to hear your feedback - What are your favorites? Are there some I haven't mentioned?

 

Ringing in the New Year and bidding farewell to the old - Is good riddance necessary?

Off years. We all have them. But are they really truly bad? Loss of life, love and jobs, ends of marriages are really all terrible and devastating things - but even when these happen to us or to those near and dear to us, surely there were also moments of happiness, glimmers of sunshine too. It seems to me, as I listen to people at the closing of every year that I hear more negative than positive. I wonder why that is. While the year prior may not have gone swimmingly and might have presented itself with some definite challenges and obstacles, isn't that what life is all about? Even through the most unfortunate of circumstances do we not take something with us? A memory, a valuable lesson? The same year I lost an uncle my first child was born. The same year I lost my grandmother my oldest son was born. The same year my marriage unravelled I found myself. The same year I got divorced one dream died but a new one was born. In all my years amidst all the terrible storms, the sun did shine. 

I tend to do a great deal of reflecting this time of year. As we bid farewell to one and welcome in another I tend to look at the past not to dwell but to learn from. I look at events and mistakes of yesterday and put them to good use. All of life's experiences - the good and bad - are all lessons to be learned from. As I approach the final year of my 40s I can indeed say that I've had many years and many lessons to learn from. I hope to have many more.

The past few years have been challenging and bumpy to say the least. Despite the many daily struggles that I must face head on, I can't not see the good, the hope and the promise... The good and the bad. That's what life is about. 

Some of the toughest years have been the greatest years of personal growth. From all the challenges I have become the person I am today: Stronger, kinder, more compassionate, more accepting. Those challenging years have made me a better person and, more importantly, a better parent. I've discovered how to put the needs of my children ahead of my own without sacrificing what's important to me. I've learned that the struggle makes the end result sweeter and that some things are really worth fighting for.  

As I get ready to write on the blank pages of the brand new book that sits open in front of me, I will absolutely seek out the books that I've scribbled in over years past much in the same way I pull out and pour over old photo albums, filled with the precious moments that have helped to mold this amazing gift called life. When I look back I will say those were difficult times but not bad ones.

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (and you shouldn't either)

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (and you shouldn't either)

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (and you shouldn't either)

I love the idea of resolutions. I love the idea of setting goals and wanting to better and improve oneself. But resolutions don't really work. According to several articles I've read, including one in Forbes, and in the report by IdeaWorks Studios, the success rate of these resolutions varies between 8% - 17%. So why do we make them? Because we all love the idea of a fresh start and fulfilling those dreams and desires that have been left on the wayside.

I believe that most resolutions are unachievable because they are too open ended and unstructured. Most people write some things down on a list, either on paper on in their head.

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (they don't work)

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (they don't work)

The lists may look like this:

1. Lose 10 (15, 20) pounds
2. Read more
3. Exercise more
4. Cook more
5. Spend less at Starbucks

But that short list is too open-ended. Instead, set goals that are easier to achieve: Even better, create a journal so that you can be held accountable for your actions.

We all seem to be great list makers... Hell, I have even been known to create lists for my lists! I find nothing so rewarding as crossing things off mine. So whether in a journal or even a weekly calendar write down your goals to keep track of your achievements. By breaking everything down into smaller, baby steps, these resolutions become smaller and more achievable goals. Or maybe break down resolutions month by month. So your resolutions may look something like this:

January
1. Work out X amount a week (mark down which days and what you'll be doing)
2. Start South Beach Diet (Or Atkins, Paleo, Weight Watchers)  - Keep track of progress weekly
3. Read 1 book this month (Sue Monk Kidd - The Invention of Wings)
4. Send out X proposals/resumes by_______. (Write down your professional goals)
5. No more procrastinating! (See above)
6. Take 2 road trips this month and use your camera instead of the iPhone
7. Clean out closets and donate unwanted items to Goodwill
8. Clean out children's closets and donate unwanted items
9. Finish/review 2 unfinished projects
10. Do one good deed/Pay it forward.

Do the same for all 12 months. By creating very specific tasks, the mini goals will be easier to focus on, more manageable and easier to achieve... These short lists can be written on a weekly, daily or monthly calendar and therefore become visible daily. This will also help you to reach your goals. Each month you can revisit and create new goals and adjust accordingly. Another idea is to create a vision board or book instead of writing things down to offer you creative inspiration.

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (Setting realistic personal goals is a much better idea)

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (Setting realistic personal goals is a much better idea)

But maybe, instead of the typical lose weight, get healthy, get organized, exercise, learn something new, fall in love type of resolutions we vow to do something else:

Personal Goals for 2016
1. Be more self accepting.  Is 10 pounds really worth stressing over? You're gorgeous as you are!
2. Pay compliments to others frequently
3. Be Gracious (Don't take your anger/frustrations out on the children, or your co-workers.)
4. Focus on the positive - the glass is indeed half full!
5. Be grateful (Don't worry about what you don't have, be grateful for what you do have!)
6. Become a mentor
7. Be selfless
8. Put your best foot/face forward
9. Don't listen to the naysayers
10. Smile often. Smiles are infectious! 

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (set simple goals with deadlines)

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (set simple goals with deadlines)

We are not perfect. I certainly am not and for the past few years I've been on a journey to self improvement. Like many it's two steps forward and one step backward. When I was 44 I vowed that I would be my all time healthiest at 50. I have a year and a half to realize that goal. While it's a big one, I think I can do it. I work out regularly, 3-5 times a week, time permitting, and have been for the past 5 years.  Somehow, 10 pounds have managed to sneak on over those years as well. My doctors "blame" middle age but I refuse to use that as an excuse. And while, I think I look perfectly fine with these 10 pounds, I'm really not comfortable in them.

So, personally, one goal this year is to maintain my fitness routine and to lose the damned 10 pounds. It's only 10 and I do think it's completely doable. 

Add yoga to my repertoire. I tried it for the first time late this past fall and I fell in love. I love how I felt - strength and calm and flexibility. Yoga will complement my health regime and it will also help me to keep the inner peace. I'm always battling with myself in regards to my life's decisions, success and the children as well as the daily stresses and financial struggles. I will work hard at trying to achieve inner peace. 

Be more present for my children. I'm here with them but we're all so busy, head in laptops and phones and other devices. We need to reconnect and go on more outings together on a regular basis and when home we need to bring out the board games. My oldest will be in college in a year and a half. We are running out of time.

Be less critical of myself. It holds me back. It always has. 

Be more self accepting. I am a good and kind person. I'm giving and selfless. I need to focus more on those traits than those I see as faults.

Get better at self promotion. I need to learn how to brag a little - if only to grow my career.

Accept compliments. See above. Same as self promotion. I'm not good with compliments. But thank you, really. 

Take Chances. I'm terrible with this. Many are.

Step out of the comfort zone. It's something I force myself to do regularly. I need to keep working on this and it will never come naturally for me.  Good things never came to those sitting on couches, eating out of the Haagen Dazs container while watching Scandal! 

Self acceptance. I am who I am. I really like who I am don't want to change that. 

Stop comparing myself to others. I think we all do this to a certain extent. 

Personally, the greatest and most difficult task at hand. Learn to not push others away. This may be my greatest weakness and my greatest challenge yet. I have a very small circle of friends whom I truly trust. I am sure that this is all a result of my divorce. Like many who've travelled down the long, windy and obstacle-filled path of divorce, I lost a lot of friends and learned that many I had trusted had betrayed me. Also as a result of my divorce I tend to distance myself from those I date if I feel things are getting too serious. I tend to pull away or push away. I've pushed too many good people away over the past few years. Some I have regretted. If it's not right, that's one thing... I won't ever settle or stay in a relationship out of comfort and convenience, but if there's potential I need to do my best not to push away something potentially good because it scares me

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (and you shouldn't either)

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions (and you shouldn't either)

And yes, I still do want to read (books) more, use my camera more and my phone's camera less, write more for me, and become better at promoting myself and my work! 

There's a lot more I need to do and work on, but let's take it one baby step at a time!

Happy New Year!

What are some of your goals, dreams and aspirations?