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)