Friday, December 30, 2011

Whatever. Bizarroland.

I had been wanting the book Whateverland for a couple of months now. I had no idea what it was about, but knew that Alexis Stewart (daughter of Martha) co-wrote it with Jennifer Hutt and, apparently, told readers about a different side to Martha Stewart. I thought, perhaps, it was a memoir, but after receiving it for Christmas, learned it was a life lessons sort of book. But funny. And with some great messages. I'm only about 50 pages in, but these are blurbs worth reading and (quirky) lessons worth learning. Ironically, I don't personally like Alexis Stewart, but in the book her dry humor is somewhat endearing. She and Hutt are no longer friends, making the whole thing feel like you are looking at a wedding album while the same couple in the photos are getting divorced. Anyhow...

Don't pop in. Hutt says that when someone does, she chooses not to answer the door.
I do the very same thing, and later tell the person (who popped in and said,
"But your car was in the driveway!") that I was in the shower. And as Hutt mentions,
calling from the driveway doesn't make it okay.

"Either you're generous or you're not. There's no halfway. I don't want strings attached."

Bake obsessively, but don't eat any of it, even the batter off your hands. Priceless.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Resolutions (to break), Once Again

Every year I either make New Year's resolutions that I can't keep, or I resolve not to make them. Regardless, after 42 years of fresh starts, I find it to be a challenge either way. Do I make a resolution? Do I ignore it? Why? Oh, the questions. I was avoiding even thinking about it until I saw this magazine at the supermarket. What are you resolving to do this year?

Reduce your debt, lose weight faster (or just lose weight),
clear the clutter, learn to say no.  Okay, you've got my attention.
I know how to do all these things, without reading the magazine. It's implementing them that's the problem. Years ago, I went to a fabulous financial coach named Neisa Maute. She taught me great things about saving money. One easy one is to make actual envelopes (use ones that you receive your bills in -- that will be a good reminder) and label them. My labels are: savings, groceries (supermarket trips, buying pantry and gourmet items from Dash of Thyme), gas, and spending (birthday gifts, dinners out, Betsey Johnson shoes, and home goods from Savannah Hope Vintage (going for the reusable paper towels this week)). This way, you budget your money before you spend it. I stopped doing this for a while, but have returned to doing so this week, in an effort to feel more in control of my life.

Neisa also taught me to owe as little money as possible, and own everything that you can (house, car, etc). All very good tips. Dave Ramsey is great at teaching these tools via books, videos, and his radio show. If you're really in the hole financially, though, seeing Neisa will help because she will go through all of your bills, expenditures, etc. and help you sort through it. I've lost her work number, but you could probably message her through facebook. She is worth her weight in gold (pardon the pun).

Regarding weight loss, well, this one is easy. I am still a certified personal trainer (though not currently practicing), and have gained weight while going through menopause. What I know is that, regardless of anything, if you eat really clean, work out, and stop drinking (whoa), you should be able to lose weight. My hormones are all over the place and I tend to blame part of my weight loss on that, but I haven't applied myself yet. I still eat cheeseburgers and fries with my Stellas. As a former skinny kid, I tend to forget that you are what you eat. I will let you know how I do, when I return back to the gym with all the others who've resolved to get in shape. Errr.

Clearing the clutter is a no-brainer in theory, but again, doing so takes some effort. I've started, though. Anything that doesn't fit me, but that I hope to wear again, is being put in a pile "For Later" and I am going to box it up and store it for that day that I am praying will come. Everything else has been bagged up to donate to charity, unless it's designer. All my designer stuff is being sold on ebay. Finally, I am trying to follow my friend Sue's rule, for every one thing that comes in, one thing must go out. I try not to buy things unless I need them, and know where they will be stored.

Saying "no" is a challenge. I'm trying to really look inside myself and see if what I am being asked/invited to do feels right, or if it pushes me outside the confines of my comfort level. I've been saying no, and actually, it feels empowering. I am only doing things that support my life, and allow me to spend the time I need to spend at work, and want to spend with my family and friends. I am using the planner that Santa gave me to manage my time accordingly.

My new Henri Bendel Scooter Girl Desk Diary for 2012. This makes any girl
want to write everything down. I am going to carry this everywhere, at all times.

Looking back at this post, I sound like a know-it-all, but I am really trying to say something else. It means, regardless of what you know, implementing certain actions are always a challenge, and we need support through the process. Thus, the magazine purchase. I will read and re-read the articles until hopefully, the messages sink in. Please share your tips and tricks for saving, getting in shape, clearing the clutter, and learning to say no with me.

Please share your resolutions below.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And So That Was Christmas

As I get older, I find the pomp of Christmas to be a little overrated. Before you scream "Bah Humbug", let me at least tell you why I feel this way.

I love the buzz of the holiday season. I love seeing the lights everywhere, listening to Christmas carols, and both going to get the tree, and coming home and lighting it. I love spending time with family, watching the children open their presents, creating tradition. And while I keep my house fairly understated, I love looking at the decorated homes (though I would never want to live/manage/maintain/pay the energy bill at any of them).

However, I don't live in a Norman Rockwell painting, and things just aren't like the movies. Don't get me wrong, I had an awesome Christmas, but having to spend half of it away from my son is never easy. This is just part of divorce, but still, it's tough. Add to that, W had a fever on Christmas Eve, and by Christmas night, JH was congested enough to look, well, sick. (Years ago, my son had pneumonia on Christmas. A different year, W's mom had a fever, and one year, I had strep. I cannot remember a Christmas that everyone was healthy.) Due to the fact that both W and I are divorced, we have to pick up or drop off our children at certain times, not to mention seeing both his family and mine. So Christmas is a harried schedule of where we are driving, and when, with whom, and packing and unpacking the car with gifts. The in between, being with family -- eating and opening gifts, watching the kids play together, and sitting talking -- is amazing. That's the part that I love.

My house, a small Cape, feels jammed and claustrophobic with the tree and all of the decorations inside, despite the fact that they're pretty. This week, the needles started to fall off, the tree stopped taking water, and frankly, I wanted my house back. So today, I packed away the stockings, the ornaments, and then dragged the tree out to my Christmas tree graveyard so that the animals could enjoy it (click here to read more).

It felt good having my house back.

I was not alone on Christmas Eve nor Christmas Day, but I had some time to reflect. I was thinking about the pressure of the holiday and how people who are alone have few places to escape the loneliness that comes with Christmas. Unmet expectations can make us feel sad; having lost loved ones make our hearts long for them that much more. The holidays aren't always easy.

I do love Christmas, I do. But I am also quite happy to have my house back.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Exhausted in glittery 6" heels

Sitting at our handmade-with-reclaimed-wood table tonight was a total treat. Having been, for the most part, a stay at home (or at times, a work from home P/T) mom, didn't prepare me for the exhaustion that comes with putting my heart into my work.

I am so deeply committed to my new line of candles that I can't sleep. I am excited thinking of new ideas for candles, promotions, and the possibility of fabulous new stores carrying my line. I just got my Chocolate Deluxe candle ready to pour, and the new scent made me feel really happy. I can't wait to share it with everyone.

Today, I put wax in the melter and, as it melted, I packed orders, labeled candles, sent and read emails. It's been like this every week, and most weekends, for the past month.

I love it.

But I equally love the feeling I get when my work is done, and I can sit in the kitchen, putting my glittery heeled shoes up on the table, to kick back with a beer. Feeling accomplished, exhausted, and free to relax is just a really great way to start the weekend. Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The True Gift of Giving (please please please read, and HELP)

In lieu of going nuts shopping for everybody under the sun, this Christmas the only people getting gifts from Ward and me are our kids, our Secret Santa, and a family that we don't know. 

I found this family through Morris County Human Services, by way of my friend Diane. There are two children under the age of 4, and a single mother. My ex-husband and his wife also sponsored a family, and my son went shopping with them. When he asked me the wish list for the family that we got today, I read it to him. He asked, "What about the dad?" I responded, "There is no dad." He said that there was no dad in the list of the other family either," then looked down, sadly. He followed it with, "I will never leave my kids, Mom."

This family wants the basics: boots, socks, an infant walker, and a coat. An infant walker. Did you read that? Imagine needing and not having the means to provide that for your child. It saddens me that we have such wealth and such poverty existing at once. If we all helped just one family, imagine how much better this world would be.

Diane has sent this email to a bunch of people, and it was one of the most good-hearted things anyone has done in a long time. Thank you, Diane, for bringing this to our attention. I know people who have read it and decided to sponsor a family. It's like traditional St. Nick work; giving to those in need, giving anonymously and not for credit or thank yous.

In her email, Diane wrote:

The past few years have put a financial strain on many of us, but there are some among us that are having a particularly difficult time.  I wanted to try to help someone during the holiday and contacted Morris County Human Services.   I learned that there position of volunteer coordinator had been cut by the County and that there was no program through which to help those in need.

I could, she said, adopt a family and they would get the gifts to them.  She sent me a family with 2 parents and 3 children, ages 2, 4 and 7.  I'm expecting to spend about $25-$30 per person on this family.  So, for $150, we will give one family a Christmas.

I attaching the organization and contact information here.  I'm asking that you contact them directly if you would like to adopt a family.  If you can, please help.  They need it.

Lauren Burd, Morris County OTA, Social Work Supervisor (P) 973-326-7243,
Please, please, please call Lauren Burd and help a family, if you have the means.

While in the generous spirit (aren't we always?), I went to Starbuck's (not a fan of their coffee, but I had to use the bathroom, and grab a water). While paying, I saw these by the register...

For $5, you get a cool red, white and blue stretchy bracelet, to show your American pride.
100% of your donation goes to the Opportunity Finance Network to create jobs in America.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars at the malls on designer clothes that your kids don't need, take the kids out to independently owned shops to buy items for people who not only need them, but will really appreciate them. It won't only be a blessing for the family you provide for, but it will give your kids pride and teach them that giving feels much, much better than receiving.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meyer Spruce Grows (in honor of new life)

I've been wanting to blog about the favors I bought for my sister-in-laws baby shower, but I had to wait until it was over to do so (didn't want to spoil any surprises). She knew about them, but the guests didn't, and you just never know who's reading the blog. The shower was this afternoon and it was beautiful. I didn't get to stay too long, because my son came down (swiftly) with a fever and stomach bug so we had to leave.

She and her husband wanted to keep their shower as ecofriendly and U.S.A. produced as possible, so instead of giving some trinket or a very expensive box of organic chocolate that's gone in 2.2 seconds, I ran the idea of getting saplings or plants for guests, and she liked it. I like something living, that grows, so it acts as a  constant reminder of the baby.

Baby shower favors

My sister-in-law actually did something like this for me when my grandmother died. My grandmother's name was Rose, so my sister-in-law got us all rose bushes to plant in remembrance. Every day when I see that rose bush, I think of both my grandmother and my sister-in-law. I thought that having a tree that grows for 100+ years was a good way to mark the coming of the baby.

I was able to locate a place in Minnesota, The Green World Project, that provides all types of saplings. I called to see what would be the most ecofriendly yet attractive favor option. The Meyer Spruce is best overall, because it does well in both shade and sun, and is drought tolerant. There were trees that would look better on the table, like the Blue Spruce, because the Meyer Spruce get rust and purple needles on them in the winter (when they are dormant). However, longevity was key, and the sun/shade option, so that's what I got. Anyhow, once the trees go home with the guests, and sit in a warm house, they think they are back in season, and start growing new needles.

Green World Project ships the saplings the week of the event, which keeps them fresh and care-free. I ordered both 4" saplings and coir pots to plant them in. They stay in the pots until they can be planted in the springtime. They get planted in the coir and the coir biodegrades so there is 0% waste.

The saplings came bundled in groups of 25, wrapped with a little bit of plastic wrap.
The coir pots were stacked in sleeves of 25, loose in the box. Very ecofriendly.
I bought potting soil to put in each pot with the sapling, making it easy for people to bring the trees home and care for them. This makes it more likely that the tree will be taken care of and planted. I have a couple extra, so the baby will have lots of trees planted in my yard.

After I potted them, I made little tags with care instructions. It's so simple. Keep the saplings watered, store them in a sunny window, and once it warms up for spring, plant the saplings in their own pot or directly in the ground. Apartment dwellers can put them in large pots and allow them to grow for many years, then plant them somewhere special when they outgrow the pot.

Simply perfect.
For more information on The Green World Project, visit

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Christmas Letter (Oh, how I just hate to brag.)

I am really dating myself here.

Do you remember back in the day, oh, maybe 20 years ago, when people wrote their annual Christmas letter and inserted it into their Christmas cards? It was basically a year of bragging placed onto a sheet of 8 1/2" x 11" paper. For those not in the know, it would go something like:

Hello from the Braverman family. Gosh, the year has flown by. Margaret got a 4.0 for the past three semesters, and in AP classes to boot! David was MVP of his football team, and scored the touchdown that one states. I got a promotion at work, and my lovely wife Helga learned how to knit and quilt.

Okay, I'm being unfair. The letters were much longer than that. Seriously, though, they were as braggy as ever. I am sorry to say that I wrote a similar letter a year or two in a row, before I became a mother and realized how self-centered those letters were.

Imagine if we all wrote our year in review Christmas letter, but wrote it honestly -- no b.s. Without divulging anyone else's personal information (meaning this will be all about me), here's my version of the honest (or to be fair, sarcastic and negative) Christmas letter...

Greetings from the Domestic Goddess!

I hope that this letter finds you well, and that you are enjoying the holiday season. Things are copacetic here, I guess, though sleep's been hard to come by. It seems that the minute I get my house in order, WHAM, it gets shitted up again. There are dust bunnies in every corner, unmatched socks in clean-clothes hampers, and specks of sugar in the raw in random spots in the house (I know because my bare feet feel the sugar every night).

Anyway, it's been a wild ride for us here. I spent the first half of the year with a horrible ringing ear (tinnitus) that was wrongly diagnosed as Meniere's Disease, and it went so haywire by Father's Day that I questioned my ability to live with it, only to later find out that it was due to hormonal fluctuations and that I was (wait for it) in menopause. At 41. Er.

I gained a few pounds, lost a few friends, and found myself in a shit storm or two. While I don't miss the lost friends or the shit storms, I do wish I could lose the pounds. 

I haven't worked out at all this year, and I can say with assurance that I've let it all go to pot. Will I resolve to go back to the gym for 2012, like all the other morons (read it "Moe-rons" like CamDiaz says in the movie, Bad Teacher), only to fall off the wagon within a week or two? Probably. But saying that would be self-defeating.

I had to call the cops for help twice, both times because wacky moms (different ones) don't understand that money doesn't buy one the right to act without restraint, and that you can't pull over, get out of your car and yell at someone, or call and harass them on the phone, without having to suffer corrective consequences. 

Oh, I almost forgot. I got a ticket for talking on the cellphone while driving from work to pick up lunch this summer. That was a fun $100+ ticket. I am such an a-hole because I know better. Lord, what was I thinking? I also got a parking ticket for being 2 minutes over the meter in Montclair. Again, my fault for not feeding the meter.

There was the horrible Hurricane Irene that blew through and flooded out my friends' homes and businesses, and then a snowstorm hit a month later, in October. Let me see, do we still think global warming is either a myth, or a good thing? Carbon footprints are everywhere, and those trips to the mall (STOP GOING ALREADY) doesn't help anybody or anything. Shop local, and buy American! Our economy needs you to show some loyalty to the craftsmen and independent store owners of our country. I'm a liberal and I'm writing that. You know it must be bad, if I'm writing that.

I'd love to list some major accomplishments, but I just can't. The well is tapped...

The good news is that I've stopped reading those self-help books that make people (temporarily) restructure their lives, like The Secret, because the fact of the matter is that I know what I need to do to get things done, successfully, and I don't need another New Age guru making millions off of his repackaged, repetitive message to understand that. Same holds for diet and exercise trends. If I don't do what I need to do, it's my own damn fault.

We had a fun summer, me, W and the kids. We visited LBI, and the Grand Cascades Lodge, and Rhode Island. I didn't get tan, try as I might, so I ended up trying a self-tanner. I was a blotchy mess. 

This fall, I got to go with my mom, dad, and son, to Disney, and it was truly magical. We stayed in a gorgeous room on the beach, the weather was perfect if not a bit on the hot side, and attended the Not So Scary Halloween party. Raise the roof, baby.

And now, here we are again. It's almost Christmas. I don't have a Christmas tree yet, but the grill of my car has a wreath with a red bow on it. Festive-ish? 

2011 has been nothing to write home about, try as I might. Hopefully next year's letter will read more like a good bio. And to put the kibosh on what ALF says will be the end of the world, I will send it out the day after the world ends, on 12/21/12.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Peace, Love, and Pizza

It's rare that I have a perfect moment. A moment where all is right in my world, where I am not worried about a thing, running to an appointment, or talking to someone/wondering what they are thinking/how they are doing. Usually, when I eat alone, it's not a perfect moment. I often feel content but am thinking about what's next on my to do list. My mind remains occupied.

I was leaving Domestic Goddess Land's away location, having just filled a bunch of Evergreen Swag for some pressing orders. I was wearing ripped jeans, a sweatshirt, wore no makeup, and had my hair up in a ponytail. I knew I wasn't seeing anyone, so I didn't have to impress with my appearance (whew, huge exhale). I was  s t a r v i n g, having not had breakfast and it being 1:45 p.m. I usually stop for an egg sandwich at the Fine Grind cafe, but today I really wanted pizza. I didn't feel like making the 20 minute ride home before eating, so I went to the pizzeria/restaurant next door to Fine Grind to grab a slice, figuring I would eat it as was driving to pick up my son from school.

I'm a very picky pizza eater. I am loyal (locally) to two pizzerias, and never expect much from pizzerias out of the area. I also love a good sauce, and finding that isn't easy. But I was starving...

I walked into La Piazza and immediately relaxed. It's got a very warm but open atmosphere, one that invites you in to sit down. It was definitely more of a restaurant than a pizzeria. Everything looked amazing. I mean, worth-a-30-minute-ride amazing. Still, looks can be deceiving. I wanted the Nonna slice, it's mostly sauce on a thin crust of Sicilian, with cheese. This is the newest slice around, and for the past few years, every time I try this type (sometimes called the Nana, or Grandma's Slice, depending on where I go), I regret it. I ordered the Nonna, and then a regular slice as back-up, just in case I didn't like it.

Well, I cannot say enough about this slice.

Regular slice (top) and Nonna slice (bottom). Both incredible!
I bit into this slice and fell in love. Oh, the sauce was perfect, not sweet, and the garlic was just right (not too heavy, but noticeable). The crust tasted like it had been rubbed with garlic infused oil, and was both crispy and thin. The cheese was perfect as well. I ate the whole Nonna slice and, though I wasn't hungry, also tried the regular slice. Unbelievable. It was so good that I ended up talking to both the pizza girl and the chef about the food. I'd never rave about a pizzeria unless it was incredible, mostly because I am so loyal to my local favorites. But this pizza is one that must be written about and tasted.

While I sat eating my pizza alone, in total silence, I felt completely at peace. I wish I could feel that relaxed all the time. Everything was perfect. Regardless of where you live, I suggest you take a ride to La Piazza. It's located on the offshoot of Route 23, just past Willowbrook Mall in Little Falls at 101 Newark Pompton Turnpike. Seriously, you need to take a trip here, just for the pizza. I haven't had anything else, but I can only imagine how amazing everything must be. Good for families, couples, friends, or alone like me. For more information call 973-256-0005. Click here to see the menu, or check them out on facebook!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Oy! I am waiting for my candles to set up so that I can go deliver them, but since a watched pot never boils...

I just redid my Valentine's Day cards -- I know, it's not even Christmas, but you have to get the little things done while you have the time, right? I'd done a set a week ago, even ordered them, but when I showed them to the person I bounce stuff off of, they got two thumbs down.

The new ones are so fun, and I'm really excited for them. If you want to see them, email me ( your address and I will add you to my mailing list.

And in the meantime, don't stress over those Christmas cards (did I just write that?). Remember the words of the amazing Julia Child, who said, "Valentine cards had become a tradition of ours [hers and Paul's], born of the fact that we could never ger ourselves organized in time to send out Christmas cards."

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kindness Is Easy (and important). Rock the RAOK!

I have been cut off, tailgated, and whooshed past by more cars in the past two weeks than I have all year long. Everyone is rushing to get somewhere. I read a story about people who were stepping over a man having a heart attack in Target (he died), just to get to a sale. Christmas is supposed to be about kindness, as should everyday be, all year long. Yet somehow, in the process of the holiday rush, people are impatient, and seem to have lost sight of their better side.

It's true that I live a fairly isolated life. I don't socialize in town at all, and even outside of town, my socializing is to a bare minimum. I walk away from drama that other's attempt to create, from gossip, and anything that feels like it might be toxic. My circle is small but valuable. Having little to focus on, outside of my tight circle, makes it so much easier to keep things in perspective, so perhaps my hermit like quality gives me an edge.

While I definitely have my moments (hours, days), I try to remember that I am lucky, that I have a healthy family who loves me and who I love. I keep in mind that my friends are amazing, and that having those few good friends makes a world of difference. Their support is unbreakable, and when I spend time with them, I feel understood and safe.

I like to do good things for others, whenever I am able. Tonight, I got to do something small and fun, and it was appreciated by the bearer of my RAOK (random act of kindness). It was both cheap and easy, so I am hoping that you all will follow my lead and do something nice for someone random, just because.

Every year, I see someone ringing a bell to get money donated to the little red Salvation Army drop box. Each time I see them, I donate a dollar or two, but more importantly (in my mind, at least), I go get them a hot drink and some food. Mostly, people ignore the bell ringers, trying not to make eye contact with them so that they won't have to separate from that dollar that's been crunched up inside their coat pocket for weeks. It's not enough that they are standing outside ringing a bell to raise money for someone else, but then they're ignored to boot. Tonight, I saw a man ringing his bell outside of King's Supermarket. While I picked up food to make tonight's dinner, I got him a cup of coffee (with a little milk and both sugar and Splenda packets on the side), a cup of Chicken Tortilla soup, and a bottle of water. I didn't know if he drank coffee, was a vegetarian, or if he even wanted it, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

When I left the store, I walked over to the man with a five dollar bill and a bag of groceries in one hand, and in the other, the coffee and sugar packets. I asked him to please hold the coffee so that I could use that hand to put the money in the bucket, and then said, "It's coffee for you." He looked up at me, curiously. Next, I handed him the bag with the cup of soup and plastic spoon inside. "Do you eat meat?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, so I said, "Oh good, because I got you some Chicken Tortilla soup." And then I handed him the water, "And some water, too."

He was shocked so to make it less of a big deal I simply said, "I do this every year. Last year, by the time I got out to give the person the food, her shift had ended." I said this as I walked away. I didn't want him to think too much about what I'd done, think that I wanted thanks, or even have him wonder if I wanted something from him. I just wanted him to have something to warm him up, and something to hydrate him. He'd been standing outside ringing a bell for six hours to raise money for the Salvation Army. I was simply paying it forward and offering a gesture of thanks. If we all did that, all year long, I'd bet that we wouldn't (as a country) be in the position we're in today.

Please, if you see someone ringing to raise money, or someone homeless begging on the street, buy them some hot food and something to drink. Just give it to them, smile, say Happy Holidays or whatever, and then walk away.

"There but for the grace of God, go I." - modified from the original by John Bradford (circa 1510 - 1515)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mother's Little Helper

I've got a lot going on. I have various appointments, candle making, selling, sending out mailings and... oh yeah, Christmas shopping. There is much to do and just not enough hours in the day.

Fortunately for me, my son jumped in and offered to help with tonight's candle making. He saw me making batch after batch of candles today, both after school and before bed. So when he said, "Mom, I can help you," I thought it was a great chance to get him involved, give him a good feeling of importance, and get a little help.

First, he cut the wicks. They are very long and need to be trimmed down to about 1/4".
After he was done (boy, was he quick), he asked what else he could do to help. I was about to start melting and topping off the candles with sugar in the raw. I told him he could follow my heat gun (read = (hair) blow dryer) with a bunch of sugar and sprinkle it onto each candle. I was a bit nervous at first but guess what? He did better than I ever have. Best sugar tops yet!

Sweetening the deal with sugar in the raw.
I was so impressed with both his desire and ability to pitch in. The past few weeks he's been helping me by bringing me wick clips and things, but having him help on the creative end is a real treat. Plus, he cut my finishing time down by about 40 minutes.

My son has me in complete awe. He's maturing more quickly than I could ever imagine.

Johnny, along with the girls, will be helping me do something very special for my local vendors. I cannot say what because, on the off chance that one of them is reading my blog, I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Johnny, thanks for being such an amazing son.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pink or Blue? It's Up to You.

I hope you've enjoyed your weekend thus far, and that your Thanksgiving was a peaceful one spent with loved ones (thanks to Ward and his family for a super thankful day). Before I start decorating the interior of my home for Christmas (I did hang some lights inside, and the house has been modestly decked), I was looking around my house and enjoying these little spaces that I've created on a whim, by color. 

First, the exterior of my house...
I love basic red and green. Nothing fancy. Ever.

Next is my pink collection...
At right, hand drawn and painted deer silhouette in a frame from the 50s (by Johnny Vintage's Jonnie Anderson); at center, T+W hand carved on old white rustic wood by The Lonely Heart on etsy; at right, handmade ornament (complete with fork and cool flower detail) by Andrea DeMorest from Savannah Hope Vintage.
And the blue...
At top, "Be Nice or Leave" hand painted sign, found at Maison Decor in Madison; "High Maintenance" was a print accented with blue nail polish dots, given to me 6 years ago by the artist himself, Daniel Belardinelli; bottom is a painting that I saw and wanted a year ago at my local hardware store, Major Hardware. It wasn't for sale, but just recently, the kindly gave it to me, for no reason at all (signed Rosa Vill or Rosa Viel). How lovely!

Post some of your little vignettes on my page. I'd love to see them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shop Local & Small Business Saturday

While I am not a fan of Christmas trumping Thanksgiving, I must admit that hearing Christmas music while eating breakfast at the diner this morning was kind of nice. But with just less than a week 'til the holiday shopping season officially begins, I want to urge you to avoid the mall and online shopping, and instead shop locally.

Saturday is Small Business Saturday. Take this day (and all the days before and after) to vote with your dollars. It's easier, you get more unique items, and you support local shops and small business owners. Buy American made products whenever possible. Keep your town in business, instead of fighting for parking in a giant sell-out mall. Great towns for Small Business Saturday in New Jersey are not limited to but include, Madison, Boonton, Denville, Chester, Caldwell/Verona, Montclair, and Morristown.

I will be hosting a pop-up holiday shop in a space that I rented, the Gallery at River's Edge in Denville (across from Stewart's). We will have independent sellers there, crafters, and artisans. Ward Vogt Designs will be selling town cards (Denville, Boonton, Mountain Lakes) and I will be selling my candles.

My hope is that you come to our pop-up shop, visit the local shops in and around Broadway in Denville, grab breakfast at the diner, and lunch or dinner and drinks at our favorite pub, The Second Half on Main. You can get yourself a manicure at the nail salon, or a massage at the Urban Muse. Take the day to shop local, small businesses.

And please, stop by our pop-up shop, get a free cup of coffee, some cookies, and shop for the holidays!

For more information, click here to check out our facebook event listing! 106 Broadway in Denville, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Getting Waxed

Less than a month ago, I hand poured my first batch of candles, on a whim. I've done it most of my life, on and off, but never for myself. I decided to start a line that followed the blog, thus the name Domestic Goddess candles. My friend Andrea De Morest, owner of Savannah Hope Vintage, offered to launch my candles at a Girls' Night Out event on November 4th, and I excitedly agreed. Now, less than three weeks later, I am in nine stores! (see below for details)

I make candles both at my home and at a place that I call Domestic Goddess Land. First, I wash each glass by hand, then set the wicks with wick wax. After the wax melts in the melter, I add the fragrance and hand mix it (when at home, I use a metal spoon). Next, I open the spout and pour the fragranced wax into a hand pitcher, and hand pour the candle. The candles are of the highest quality and at 8% (a strong percentage), the scents are custom made for me, and each candle is hand poured.

Here, my man Ward packs my wax into a box. He cut 60 lbs. of wax
with a saw today, so that I can fit it into my melter. What a man!

My at-home melter.

I don't know if I am repeating myself. I am so tired from all the work, but so excited, too. And really, I  want to thank each store for carrying my line, and all of you for buying my candles. I am excited and proud.

After Tuesday, I will be getting ready for Thanksgiving and (spoiler alert) will be baking cookies for all of the shop owners who carry DG Ltd. Tomorrow night, read about Small Business Saturday, and then Tuesday night, I will be posting my winter stock up list (wood included).

If you haven't checked out my candles yet, please go to any of the below listed stores to shop for them! They are currently being sold in New Jersey, New York (the Hamptons), Rhode Island, and Hong Kong.

Local shops include Savannah Hope Vintage in Boonton, Surprises In Store and Dash of Thyme Gourmet in Denville; Saplings in Caldwell, Maison Decor in Madison, and Montville Florist in Montville. In New York, try Annyx in Sag Harbor and Steph's Stuff in East Hampton. Cool Beans Cafe in Narragansett, RI will have my candles on Wednesday, and they are shipping out Tuesday to Polkadot Boutique in Hong Kong. Shops that want to sell DG candles can contact me at If I think that your shop is a good match for my candles, I will set up a meeting with you. Thank you!

Polkadot Boutique in Hong Kong

Annyx in Sag Harbor

Saplings in Caldwell

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm Moonstruck for Hot Cocoa

My son is a huge hot cocoa fan. He usually has one cup every day, beginning in late fall and ending sometime in mid-Spring. For years, I bought him Swiss Miss, but once Dash of Thyme Gourmet opened in Denville, I saw the opportunity for better hot cocoa.

We started, quite successfully, with Fireside Cocoa. My son loved the Chocolate Truffle. Loved. He had it for a while, since I was smart an bought a couple cans of it. As soon as we ran out, though, I hurried back to Dash of Thyme for more.

Alas, they were sold out.

I saw a couple of other options, and chose based on packaging. (I'm a fool for packaging.) The container is so romantic, and it's called Moonstruck Classic Hot Cocoa. I picked one up and took it home.

(L to R) My ceramic coffee mug, that looks like a typical diner to go cup, was a gift from Ward a couple of Christmasses ago. I love drinking from it. Next is the Fireside Caramel Chocolate that I drink (my son didn't dig the caramel). The Better Milk for Better Health vintage milk bottle, found at Savannah Hope Vintage, holds my mini marshmallows. And then there's the Moonstruck Classic Hot Cocoa.

I wanted to see if my son would like this cocoa, but didn't tell him it was a different brand. I just called from the kitchen, "Want hot cocoa?" to which he responded, "Sure." Though you are supposed to make it with hot milk, I used hot water in the bottom half the cup, and stirred 'til it was melted. Then I added organic whole milk to make it more creamy and cool it off. I topped it with the usual, mini marshmallows. I didn't ask how it was, but instead watched and waited.

He took a cautious first sip, to make sure it wasn't hot. And then another, and another. "Good?" I asked. He nodded yes. He drank the whole thing, and even asked for a second cup. It was that good.

Moonstruck Hot Cocoa is available locally at Dash of Thyme Gourmet, 49 Broadway in Denville. If you're out of the area, you can order online at Moonstruck Chocolate.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Little Champagne (then back to vacuuming)

Everything worthwhile takes time. Yes, it takes grunt work and lots of energy. It takes believing that it will all work out the way we expect. But in the end, getting to relax with a nice glass of champagne to celebrate, it's all worth it.

Marilyn Monroe drinking champagne.
I'm mortified to say that my house is a total mess. It's almost unbearable. The addition is complete and now the house needs a good vacuuming, the hardwood floors need to be waxed, the bath needs to be scrubbed, and there are about 20 loads of laundry that need to be washed. The washed laundry needs to be put away. My laundry situation is so bad that I seriously, I swear, thought of just washing everything, throwing it all into some big bags, and donating it. I hate folding my own laundry, because I just have nowhere to put it. Oh, and nothing fits, but that's something else entirely (something I'd rather not discuss, thank you very much).

It's all because of the candle line I've just launched. I'm in eight stores (see listing below) in just three weeks, and since I do mostly everything including wash the glasses, set the wicks, blend fragrance into the melted wax, hand pour each candle, set the wicks with wick clips, design and print the labels then stick them, make the sales contacts and calls (only to stores that fit the product), drop off (and ship) samples, handle accounts payable and receivable, do promotions, and decide on fragrances, well, I'm a bit busy. I refuse to let it take me away from my family, but outside of that, I've pretty much let everything slide. Lunches with friends (though I did get my quick coffee catch up with MK and KP, and got to meet Kevin Jonas as a bonus), mani/pedis, working out, and cleaning has all taken a backseat. So if I've been MIA, please don't take it personally.

Big breath. I've launched my final fragrance for the year; actually just poured it today. While I am still looking for independently owned, well-presented shops, the ones that are currently selling are almost entirely stocked; some are getting big shipments, and the rest are just waiting for me to supply them with my most recent fragrance, the one that ties the bow atop the box of Domestic Goddess Winter 2011 releases.

The fragrance? Champagne Sparkle.

Champagne Sparkle, by Domestic Goddess Ltd. (that's me!)
I was choosing between three scents, and my friend Lisa W. was with me when I was testing. She and I both agreed on this particular fragrance (all of my fragrances are custom blends), and it's amazing. When it was in it's wax batch, it had a strong, sweet scent. In the hardened wax, it smells just like a popped bottle of bubbly. It's sweet, crisp, and almost has a citrusy twist to it. We burned it after school and all night tonight, and the smell was really very refreshing and blended well with everything, even our taco dinner.

Scarlet Johanson surrounded by champagne.
If you are local and looking for this scent, I can tell you that I am supplying it to Dash of Thyme on Broadway in Denville, and Savannah Hope Vintage on Main Street in Boonton, on Friday. Other shops that sell Domestic Goddess candles and may be carrying this particular fragrance are Surprises in Store on Broadway in Denville, Maison Decor on Main Street in Madison, Montville Florist in Montville, and Saplings in Caldwell. If you live in the Hamptons, Annyx in Sag Harbor is getting their order shipped out tomorrow, and Steph's Stuff on Newtown in East Hampton will have the Champagne Sparkle by early next week. Lastly, I am hosting a pop-up holiday shop at a space we rented (106 Broadway in Denville, it's the Gallery at River's Edge, across from Stewart's) on Small Business Saturday 11/26, where I will be selling all of my fragrances, and many other great sellers will be there as well. I don't normally do these kinds of sales, but it's going to be a fun day. I always prefer, though, that you buy from a store that sells Domestic Goddess candles. Look for the sticky in the window:

Look for this sticky in the window, then go shop for your very own DG candle.
And now, as a tribute to champagne, here are some fabulous photos that remind us that champagne shouldn't just be for special occasions. It should be an everyday drink. (Heck, I'll even take Prosecco.)

My toast to you: A good happy life, healthy, and filled with sparkly moments.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forty 2 (thank you)

Birthday banner hung across my living room wall, courtesy of Ward.

The day before I turned 42, I found myself overwhelmed. I received way more candle orders than I expected (it's a good, but busy, thing), and was hand delivering, hand pouring, and shipping all week. My nails hadn't seen a manicure in God only knows how long, and two of those days that week, I got a maximum three hours sleep.

Just hours before I was to begin celebrating with W, a table I was building, for my son's bedroom, collapsed on top of me. It looked fully together until I tried to move it. I didn't know that one has to twist cam screws to lock them into place, but boy do I know now. The whole thing just fell to pieces on my crossed legs. I sat on the floor, covered in pieces of the table, crying. My mom and son experienced the meltdown, then sent me to get a mani/pedi before the earth's plates began to shift. I had just gotten a dozen long stem roses from W, delivered to the house along with a birthday balloon and a loving note, which was probably the only thing that kept me from going totally over the edge.

Roses from my man xoxTW

Later for dinner, W told me that we could go anywhere my heart desired, so I chose my favorite happy place, the Second Half in Denville. We are regulars there, and I knew we would have fun sitting and having dinner at the bar. One of the bartenders who'd just gotten off duty, Laura, gave me a gourmet chocolate bar, and a cool bobble head pen. It was so sweet. Later, after we'd eaten our dinner, the pub's owner, my friend Diane, came walking out the kitchen doors with a giant cowbell, waving it in the air, with a crew of waitstaff behind her. She took the long route and walked through the restaurant, so I didn't think that she was coming for me. (She was.) They raised the lights in the bar, and then Di made an announcement that it was my birthday and everyone sang, even people who were walking in the door. I got a pink candle in a decadent chocolate spoon cake (worth every calorie) and my night was made.

I wish I had a photo, or a video, from that night. 

The next morning, my actual birthday, W and I did our favorite morning routine which includes breakfast at Pete's Denville Diner on Broadway. Last year, we went on my birthday and Mina, the owner, brought me a Greek dessert with a candle in it (I blogged about it - see archives). This time, we sat quietly but amongst a packed diner, drank our coffee and ate our breakfast. Afterward, Mina, her mom, and the waitresses came to our table with a giant, perfectly made Belgian waffle, topped with tons of fresh fruit, nuts, sprinkles, and whipped cream. A pink candle (once again, my color) was atop the whole thing, and I watched and laughed while they sang "Happy Birthday" to me. I was full from breakfast, but this was so good that W and I finished off the whole thing.

Omigod. Mina sure knows how to make a birthday special. Check out all that yummy fruit!

Beautiful Mina and me. She's my favorite Greek Goddess!

Later that day, after making a candle delivery, I arrived home to a bag on my front step, from a spa called the Urban Muse. My darling friend and partner-in-pedicure, KT, had left me a very special gift. A gift certificate for a facial. I've never gotten one, so I was very excited to receive this gift. And how thoughtful of her to bring it to my house! I love that girl more and more each day.

W and the kids came home and told me to go sit in my office with the door closed. While I did, they blew up tons of balloons and decorated them, hung a Happy Birthday sign (see top of blog), set the table with birthday plates and napkins, and brought in their homemade cards. They hid the cake, a Denville Dairy ice cream cake, in the freezer. JH had given me his card and gift earlier in the day, drawing his dogs on it, and a bunch of flags (Russian, Japanese, and American) with a soldier. Very cute, very him! He loves his war games, that's for sure. He also got me a gift card for movies for two, which I love because I am so into going to the theater! 

All three cards were amazing, and Mol's and Em's were HUGE. Em's was waist high! They are too personal to share, but I will say that I was balling my eyes out the minute Em started reading me hers, and it only got worse when I read Mol's. They were the most touching cards I've gotten, probably ever in my life, and I will keep them forever.

While we were celebrating, our little buddies from next door, Gavin (3) and Colten (1), came with their parents to bring me some presents, flowers, and a cake. We got their parents beers and invited them to stay and have pizza with us. Along with our usual brews, we tried one that my ex-husband and his wife got me (they know their beer). I have to get you the name because it was really delicious. It was a super Belgian ale (my favorite style of beer) that's got 8.5% alcohol. It had an orangey sort of flavor to it. I loved it. This birthday turned out to be the most heartwarming one ever. 

Before bed, we had the Denville Dairy cake.  The kids and I all sat around the lit candles, made our wishes together, and then blew them out. Since W was taking photos, I made a wish for him as well as one for me.

One big, collective blow to bring in forty two.
The next morning, after my two cups of coffee, I made a big breakfast: pancakes (made the batter the night before) with mini chocolate chips in the kids', bacon, taylor ham and orange juice. We all ate together, then split the cake that our neighbors had brought over from the night before. It was incredible!

Later that night, my parents took me to dinner so that I could celebrate with them. They brought me a basket of flowers that was so big, it didn't fit on the table! We had a lovely dinner, and while I tried to get out of another "Happy Birthday" songfest, they did sing to me... in Spanish, which was really pretty cool. And I got one last candle, in my perfect Calandra's cannoli.

What beats a cannoli? A cannoli with a birthday candle!
Thank you all, so much, for making this such a special birthday, including those who called me, sent me texts and messages, and who gave me free stuff while visiting their store (Lisa). I feel very blessed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Your Online Vote Can Change A Life (got 60 seconds?)

This Sunday, use your computer to do something amazing. Get a little girl off the street and into school. Do it while you're watching football, or making tonight's marinara, or posting photos on facebook. Just vote, and then post the link for your friend's and family to vote. Here's the details...

My dad's friend, Katie Borghese, is on the board of More than Me, a charity that works to get girls off the street and into school in Liberia, West Africa.  Here's the information that she shared with my dad, and I am passing it along: More than Me is in an online contest sponsored by Chase, and can win with your vote!  The charity is in 12th place out of thousands of charities.  Your vote will make a difference!  Elizabeth (seen in the photo above) is off the street, in school, and is the only person in her family who can read, all because of More than Me.  Help us get 100 more girls into school for 7 years. Click here and vote for More than Me– its easy. And make sure to tweet, post, blog and email all of your friends.  Everyone only gets one vote so we need to spread the word to get lots of people voting. More than Me matters.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Tiffany (aka: the Domestic Goddess)