Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Going Postal! (this one's for you, KT)

The Mountain Lakes post office is beautiful. It's small, and old; the PO Boxes are antique and so detailed that they are almost artistic. The building is brick, with a white front entrance and black lettering. I love it. I visit the post office most days, either to check and see what's in our post office box or to mail out orders. Today, I went to get postcard stamps for the GNO at Savannah Hope Vintage invitations. While I was there, I noticed a very expensive (for an ornament) limited edition Christmas ornament. I collect ornaments, and I love all things USPS so, all of a sudden, the noticing became inquiring.

It says, "I hear there are some kids in the White House this year."
I asked the two girls who work there (the only two that I don't know, of the whole staff) if this was the first issued, or part of a series. They told me it was the first ever issued (they were wrong). It was pricey, but the first ornament ever issued (or so I thought) by the White House? And during a time of such upheaval in our country? I had to buy it. $25 later, and a little investigating led me to the White House Holidays page, and showed me that this wasn't the first issue at all.

I probably wouldn't have bought it, had I known the back story, but truth be told, it is a lovely ornament. This year's ornament is a celebration of Christmastime with Theodore Roosevelt. He lived an interesting life. He was once a lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment (my dad loves that bit of information), and both his first wife and mother died on the same day. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize. But what is most fitting, is that he was a man who didn't believe that trees should be cut down, simply to be used to for the sake of decorating. His children, though, chose to bring a tree into the house, unbeknownst to him, and hide it in their closet. Though they did reveal the Christmas tree to their father (which is the image on the back of the ornament), and this helped Roosevelt to learn that cutting down trees was actually beneficial for the forests, because thinning forests allowed the smaller trees to grow.

If you haven't gone for your holiday stamps (Jeeze, what are you waiting for?), then go get them soon, and while you are there, take a peek at this interesting ornament.

The Return of the Organic Spa Pedicure (but at a new location)

The organic spa pedicure has found it's way back into my life. Over two years ago, I experienced my first one. It was a 90 minute, $90 experience, and I loved it. After some time, though, it became more work than relaxation. I had to endlessly chat with the girls who worked there, instead of just relaxing, or with one of the many women who would sit next to me and recognize me from the previous week. It got tiring.

I left that salon (again, it got to a point that every time I went in, I saw someone I knew who wanted to chat - ugh!) and started going to one I'd been to previously on random occasions, Denville Nails. The space isn't as high end as my previous salon, but it's got great windows overlooking Broadway. I liked this. In winter, I could be warm and watch the snow fall outside. It's a few doors down from my favorite diner, Pete's Denville Diner, so I could easily grab something to eat either before or after I had my nails done. It's been about 18 months since I started going to Denville Nails, and I really like the whole experience. The women are sweet and caring, and most importantly, they are good at what they do.

During my last visit to get a mani/pedi (on Saturday), I saw that they'd added a new type of spa pedicure... an organic spa pedicure. It wasn't the same brand as the one I had previously, and it was $30 cheaper. I had to try it.

There were two fragrance options to choose from, regarding the sugar scrub, mud pack and cream. I got the mandarin and mango. Throughout the pedicure, I kept smelling the mandarin and mango in different variations of strength. It was the yummiest smell. 

The pedicure was, all in all, amazing. All of the products were very moisturizing, and came with callus remover, hot stone massage, and an extensive foot massage. I highly recommend it (and if you go, tell them that I sent you).

Denville Nails is located at 7 Broadway in downtown Denville. They offer regular manicures, spa manicures (that include a paraffin dip), acrylics, gels/shellac by OPI. They have a variety of pedicures, from basic, to pearl, green tea, and now the organic spa pedicures. Monday through Wednesday, a regular mani/pedi combo costs a total of $25. Can't beat it. Walk-ins are welcome.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gratitude - The Challenge (for all of my readers, with or without kids)

I recently picked up a free magazine that I always see but never read. I picked it up because on the bright red cover, in big white letters says, 30 Days of Gratitude: Teaching Kids the Art of Thankfulness. The article, by Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD is fantastic, and worth the read, but here are some of her quick points, that I've altered to make my own. Some I've stolen completely, so please give all credit to the article's author (see the end of the post for publication and author information). At the bottom of this post, you will see my gratitude challenge, and find out how to participate. The winner receives a Domestic Goddess candle and gift package full of fun stuff.

Luedtke's article reminds us to be thankful for the little things, like family dinners (something that I am always thankful for), to remember to thank people for those little things, like taking out the garbage, or going to the store. It reminds us to go on a date with our significant other, and when the date is over, remember to tell them what a good time we had. Commit random acts of kindness, leave a sticky note on a public bathroom's mirror that says, "You're special." It talks about the importance of taking the time to write thank you notes, my very favorite thing to do, stamp them, and to mail them. It suggests setting a daily alarm, and when the alarm goes off each day, to think of one thing to be thankful for. All really good ideas. 

Now, for the challenge. Tell me why or what you are thankful for. Don't write it here, or on facebook. Mail it to me. You can send it on a postcard or write it in a letter. I will review them all, post the ones that are most poignant, and announce a winner on November 21st. All entries must be received by November 17th.  Mail them to The Domestic Goddess Files, PO Box 243, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046. The winner will be announced on the Domestic Goddess facebook page, and contacted by mail. 

Thank you for reading, and participating, in my gratitude challenge.

30 Days of Gratitude by Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD was featured in the November 2011 issue of Family Magazine. Her blog is at

Pine Cone Decor

Years ago, probably nine, I bought a couple of strings of pine cone garland from Pottery Barn. When I'd bought them, I had no place to put them. They're fragile, so I needed a place to hang them that wouldn't damage them, and never could.

When I moved to my current house, I began laying them on the mantle over my fireplace each winter. I love them. I have a couple of fun decorating pieces that I place with them, including an elk made out of bark. I love pine cones because they can be displayed from November through the end of February. They are my winter decorating staple.

I used to pick up pine cones that had fallen from trees, but they were sappy, and got my fingers and clothes sticky. I always want to buy pine cones at the store, but they are so heavily fragranced that I can barely walk past them.

And then I found someone who supplies real pine cones, with no scent added, on etsy. The shopkeeper at Northern Lodge has her daughter pick up the pine cones, and gives her the money from the sale of cones. They call it Project Pine Cone. The shop is out of Colorado, so there are plenty of pine cones to go around.

My pine cones, in a rustic metal basket. Love them.

I ordered a pound of Douglas Fir pine cones and fell in love with them. Most of them are very little, which I never knew possible, and I flipped for. I am going to order another pound tomorrow. Here's one of the little ones, sitting in my kitchen next to my vintage pig. The pig can be easily held in one hand (for scale purposes), so you can see that the pine cone is little and it's adorable.

Love the tiny pine cones!

I've been to many stores and supermarkets, and seen bags of pine cones for sale. They smell so strongly of cinnamon that they are tough to walk past; I cannot imagine having them in my house.

The Northern Lodge pine cones are $8 for one pound, and don't really have a scent. They aren't sticky, and though they are a little bit fragile, they are my favorite etsy find this season.

Go to Northern Lights on etsy to check out the pine cones. They are listing different types soon, but if you like these little ones, definitely get the Douglas Fir variety.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Learning Curve (and a super easy, tasty recipe for pie)

I've always loved baking, and will do so anytime I get a chance. In my current hometown, the Home & School Association does a bake sale every year to raise money. Everything that is offered is made by volunteers (moms from schools). Someone offers their kitchen, and buys all the supplies for the recipe -- enough to make however many orders are received. Next, the moms who signed up to assist with baking, go to the assigned house and each do a part of the job, then deliver whatever was made.

It's as much of a small social event as it is a baking/cooking workshop. I enjoy going because I get to meet other moms from town that I may not know, and learn a new recipe. I went to this clinic with my dear friend Mandy, who also drove me to the event, while my car was in for an oil change and tire rotation at Mountain Lakes Motors (the best mechanics I've ever used).

The bake workshop was for Chocolate Mousse Pie. It was at my son's classmate's house, which was nice, because I got to meet her mother, a super sweet, grounded woman who happens to be from my favorite home away from home, Rhode Island.

Recipe courtesy of Kim Terhune (actual how to at the end of the blog).
At the workshop were five other women, and we each had an assigned job. I thought it would be a breeze for me, being the Domestic Goddess and all, ha ha, but boy did I make a mess. My job was easy. I had to beat the cream cheese into the melted chocolate, then fold in two tubs of Cool Whip. First, I couldn't beat the cream cheese out of it's chunky state. The remedy was to put it over a double boiler to make it a little warmer. Next, I had to fold in the cool whip. Well, I only did one tub, not two (we were making two pies at a time), and beat it. Fold, Tiffany, fold. I went back, and added the other Cool Whip, then folded it in. My first pie, which was a total debacle, was an extra, and Mandy graciously bought that pie. While I've always known that I've never been good at turning egg whites into a merengue, I now know that folding things into a batter isn't my forte either.

Thankfully, all of the women at the workshop were patient and light-hearted. After doing a few pies -- we all split it up so it went fast -- I can say that while I am not a pro at folding the cool whip into the batter, I can do it!

I must add that it was a great group of women, and the workshop made the morning fun. Two were women I knew, Mandy being one of them, and three were women I'd just met. They were all so great, and the hostest had coffee and bagels for us. I ended up eating a whole bagel, something I haven't done in months. It was so yummy. I'd wished we had more baking time because I enjoyed talking with all of them.

Anyhow, the recipe is simple, if you know how to fold...

Chocolate Mousse Pie 
From the HSA Bake Sale Workshop, printed with permission from Kim Terhune

  • 1 c chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 8 oz. carton of Cool Whip
  • 1 chocolate graham cracker pie shell

  1. Put the cream cheese in a big bowl and smush it 'til it's easily manipulated. (At first, we then added the cream cheese and beat it in until it melted but then tried this way, that was easier ).
  2. Heat chocolate chips and milk on the stovetop over medium low heat until chocolate chips are melted. (No double boiler. You can do it right in the pot.
  3. Add melted chocolate to cream cheese and beat until blended.
  4. Fold in the cool whip. As I learned, whipping it in will take the air out of it and make the pie flatter.
  5. Add mixture to pie shell.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Now, the ladies at the clinic had chocolate in a squeeze container to decorate the top. I am not sure how the chocolate sauce was made, but it was kept warm in boiling water. I will check with Mandy tonight and get back to you. I will definitely be making this for future parties.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Drum Roll Please...

I am so proud to announce that I will be launching my new product line, Domestic Goddess Ltd., in just two weeks! This blog started because I have an intense love of all things related to the domestic life. That includes baking, cooking, organizing, decorating, sending out holiday cards. In my eyes, these are all the things that make for a strong foundation for domesticity.

As a baker, I love the way my house smells when something sweet is in the oven. My son finds his way into the kitchen every time a cookie tray comes out hot, or a chocolate bundt cake is being flipped onto a plate. I make pumpkin bread in season, peanut butter balls (buckeyes) every Easter; cookies and muffins throughout the year. I love baking, but since I don't get to bake every day, my house doesn't always smell fantastic on it's own. Instead, I burn candles that smell like food. I love sweet scents, those that smell like vanilla or chocolate, or warm apple pie, depending on the season.

A domestic goddess loves entertaining, cooking, baking, and doing it all in high heels.

Instead of buying candles, some of which were very overpriced, others that had little odor, or burned dirty, I decided to just make mine. And so, Domestic Goddess candles was born. I began working with a very special perfumer to find fragrances that matched my ideas for scents, and once I did (he created them specifically for me) I began pouring them into the melted wax, and then transferring the wax into the glass candle jars that I'd wicked earlier in the day. It wasn't easy, and I had some help along the way, but in the end, I was making candles. I topped my Sugar Cookie candles with real sugar in the raw. My Caramel Mocchiato has a bottom layer of coffee beans. It's been so much fun.

At night, though, my brain kept racing. I was missing something. The Domestic Goddess brand is about more than just candles and blogging. It's about recipes, for sure, but I'm not in a position to start baking for a living. It's about shoes (high, high heels), but I'm no shoemaker. It's about life experiences, grocery shopping, and getting beautified. And, of course, letter writing.

I've always been a letter writer. I've blogged about it. My friend KT is my partner-in-crime on this one. We are both really into sending mail, and doing our Christmas cards. This year, she even beat me to the punch on holiday stamps. (I love my KT.) Letters are important. Receiving something handwritten, on beautiful paper, or a card with a beautiful image, is priceless. Thank you texts or emails just don't hold a candle to actual mail. Every day I grab my mail and sort through bills, magazines, and junk mail. When I see a letter or a postcard, my heart leaps. I read it, then proudly display it, either on the wall, the mantel, or my refrigerator. Every Christmas card I receive gets put into a book of past year's cards, once the holiday has ended. I even have my grandfather's old stationary desk, refinished by Andrea at Savannah Hope Vintage, filled with letters, cards, note packs, and cool stamps.

Ward Vogt, of Ward Vogt Designs, happens to be the man that I am sharing my life with. If you don't know, one of Ward's specialties is scenic note cards. I thought it would be great if he did a line for me, exclusively for Domestic Goddess by Ward Vogt Designs. He could shoot scenes that I liked if I gave him themes and ideas, and left the creative photography to him. Next, after choosing the photos, I would add "Thank You" and other niceties to the cards, to make them my own.

It's all happening fast, and when I am not working on one of my many projects, or doing things with the kids (which is one of our greatest treasures), I am making candles and working with Ward on our cards.

Come to my big launch! It will be at Girls' Night Out on Main Street in Boonton (but I am sure that men are welcome). It's being held on Friday, November 4th from 4 - 9 p.m. but I will be at Savannah Hope Vintage premiering my candles and cards from 6 - 9 p.m. Need to feed the kids first...

Join me at the launch of my candles at Savannah Hope Vintage for BMS's Girls' Night Out. Click here to see more about the event.

Can't make it? I will be listing shops that will be carrying the candles and cards, but will also have them all for sale online at Feel free to visit the website and shop. You won't be able to smell them firsthand, but I am sure that you will love the scents.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Centennial Cove Restoration Project: Are You On the Fence About It?

One of many hand made signs posted across the street from the Cove.

I can't write much about what I don't know, and the Centennial Cove Restoration Project is very unfamiliar to me (mostly because it seemed like a good project to me, and I trusted the committee, so I didn't attach myself to the details) so bear with me.

Image of The Cove, taken by Ward Vogt Designs, shows a time of harmony.
Prints available for sale at

After reading a letter published in the Neighbor News this week, co-written by Lakers Barry Zawacki and Charles Halpin, I started wondering about what was going on with the Cove Restoration Project. I was shocked by the after-the-fact backlash, mostly because the committee has met over 35 times in the past year, published their information on the town website, and held two public input meetings. It's not like no one knew this was happening, yet after construction is complete, people start getting vocal about making changes.

Again, I don't know much. I am in a town club with one of the people on the Cove restoration committee, and I really like her. Moreover, I know that she has great concern for the environment. She spoke briefly about what was going on, how they'd gotten bids from different landscape designers, etc. The removed invasive Japanese barberry and replaced it with native plants to slow the erosion process and deter a certain type of goose. It seemed to be a positive thing.

And then I read the letter, which states that the new plan doesn't allow for people to easily access the Cove, especially in ice skates (and the Cove is known to be an ice skating area). The writers make mention of a fence, and I assume it's the net fence that's already up, that separates the land from the lake. I cannot imagine an actual fence being put around the cove. While we, in our seven years of living in town, have never skated at the Cove, we believe firmly in upholding tradition, so I am torn on this issue. Keep with tradition, or move to protect from erosion in an ecologically sound way?

I'm hoping for both.

After having lunch with W today, I was heading home and pulled over to look at these signs, posted across the street from the Cove.

Clearly, this has struck a chord with many residents. I understand both sides, but I wonder what can be done. What does the town, overall, want? I'd love to hear what you all think. Is there a compromise in this big, local battle?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Band-Aid on Broadway, Denville Up and Running, Denville Day

I just fell asleep in the bath tub. I am that tired. After an amazing day in Denville, I am both exhausted and full (from all that Sergio's fresh mozzarella).

Our day began at the Denville Diner. We went with the kids and W's parents, they were doing the 5k.  It was nice to see them getting geared up before the race.  Outside, Zumba instructor Barb Kane was teaching a class in the middle of Broadway. The music was pumping, the crowd was jamming, and the town was electric with energy.

After breakfast, W and I took the kids to stand across from the start line, so that W could take photos of runner's as they began. They were off quickly, in a huge pack; W's parents went running by us before I could even see them. It was a great way to start the day.

During the race, we went walking to see the food and shopping stands that were out, and we were very happy that we got to meet Dave Curren, meteorologist from News 12 NJ. Funny, a lot of the people I bumped into were very excited about having met Dave Curren. My friend's beautiful twenty-something daughter was gushing over him, and a gorgeous teenage girl (who I will leave anonymous) wrote that while she was excited to meet Kevin Jonas, she was more excited to meet his wife, and to have Dave Curren autograph a News 12 key chain. We watch him report the weather every day, and round the clock during storms. It was so great to actually see him in person. We took photos with him, and got fun stuff, including News 12 antibacterial hand gel, fun and practical.

News 12's Dave Curren (cropped out M to protect her privacy)

After the race, we all walked around a bit, and finally got the kids wristbands, $15 each, to go into the bounce houses and slides. While they were in there, I visited the Sergio & Co. food booth. I was so excited. Ginny, Allyson, Sergio, and his daughter were there, along with a couple of other people. I bought some marinara sauce and handmade mozzarella. They also had handmade mozzarella out to sample, and after I tasted one bite, it all came rushing back. After I got home, my son and I ate a third of the cheese...

The line for the Sergio & Co. food booth was very long the entire day. Fabulous.
That's Sergio in the white shirt with the blue hat, and his wife, Allyson, pictured to the left in the black.

Today's Sergio's sandwich. Fresh mozz, roasted red peppers, grilled chicken on ciabatta bread.

There were many shops and food booths, and bands playing back to back, on two stages. Edge of 17 played, a Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks tribute band, and I'd been waiting all day to watch them play. As it turns out, we were finally sitting down, happily off our feet, having a beer and eating dinner at the Second Half during their performance, and as we were walking to the stage to catch the tail end, lead singer Shannon Walker, was coming off stage.

Shirts from Second Half were being sold for $10, which went back to the town.
Plus, you got a free beer if you bought one.

I had hoped to go to the Kevin & Danielle Jonas meet and greet, over at Spiess Photography, but the line was a three hour long line. Instead, I got to meet Danielle's mom and grandfather, and see both of her sisters. It was pretty cool.

I got to meet a lot of people that I've gotten to know through the Sergio facebook page, and that was really special. People were walking up to me, having recognized me from my photos on my facebook page. It was unexpected and fabulous. Best of all, I got to spend a heartwarming day with W, our kids, and the family, and we had a great day supporting this fabulous town.

Someone posted that the best way to occupy wall street is to shop locally, independent stores. I whole-heartedly agree.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Celebrating Denville!

I usually never write about where I'm going, until I'm back from where I've been. But tomorrow is no secret. Everyone is going to Band-Aid in Denville, and that includes me. W and I are going with the kids and his parents for the street fair, bands, and to generally support Denville. We have the Denville's Back, So Back Denville t-shirts, and all of us, including the kids have the I Love Denville wristbands.

The wristband and the pin, to show support. All proceeds are going back to the town.

We've been in support of the town forever (it's a great town) but since the hurricane came through we've been spending even more time in town, trying to support the businesses that opened, and to shop for most of our needs there. Today, we had breakfast at the diner, then went to Dash of Thyme to drop off a bunch of packs of Ward's Scenic Denville note cards that will be available for sale tomorrow at the shop (get yours!). While there, I got two vegan tortilla soup starters, one for us, and one for my son's stepmom (you can add your own meat, if desired, and chicken broth), some sea salt caramels covered in chocolate for W, more hot chocolate for JH, and some cute chocolate for W's parents. The items at Dash of Thyme are amazing, and the owners are so sweet, that we just want to support them as much as possible.

Adorable Moonstruck Chocolates, available at Dash of Thyme Gourmet.
I had planned on going to check out what's new, and say a long-awaited hello to my friend Andrea at Savannah Hope Vintage (I miss that place so much -- it's been a month since I've been there), but our day flew by. After visiting Dash of Thyme, we packed the kids in the car and went pumpkin picking at our local favorite, Hamilton Farms. It was too much fun. We went on a hayride that stops at the pumpkin patch so that we could get out and grab a pumpkin. Mol (or was it Em?) picked one that was so big, W had to carry it. While there, we visited the animal petting area and pet the piggies, shopped the farm stand and got eggs and applewood smoked country bacon, and went home to make breakfast for dinner. It was awesome. We had seasonal weather (cold, overcast, windy), and all the events that make for a wonderful October afternoon. We took photos of our heads in those wood cut outs, and also of each other on the hayride. It truly was a memory making afternoon.

If you are available tomorrow, come out and support Denville. Bands will be playing on alternating stages, including Shannon Walker and her band Edge of 17 (an amazing Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac tribute band). While you are there, visit The Gallery at River's Edge at the Let's Create Art Studio, 106 Broadway, and see the photography show that I curated: Saltwater and Sand. In addition, Kevin Jonas will be doing a meet and greet, and the street fair will have shopping and food booths, including our favorite Italian specialties shop, Sergio & Co. There will be a beer tent and we may visit that, but we will definitely be visiting our favorite tavern, Second Half on Main, for a little Oktoberfest action! There is also going to be a car raffle. It will be a huge event, and WDHA is covering it, so if you cannot make it, be sure to tune in.

Happy Denville Day!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where's Your Halloween Spirit?

I don't know if it's the weather or the economy, but this year, I am shocked at how few homes are ready for Halloween. My son noticed it first, and today, almost halfway to Halloween, we drove through our neighborhood (which is a huge Halloween friendly area) and saw that very few homes are decorated.

Cool Frankenstein napkins by zgallerie

Across the street, our neighbors have their big blow-up pumpkin aglow, which is great, because it's huge and really brings the spirit to us, especially since we see it from our windows. My neighbors to the right and left have gotten their decorations out, too. But very few of the other homes have done much, if anything at all.

Please, we need you all to get in the spirit. We may have faced some big tragedies following Hurricane Irene, and perhaps this up and down weather is confusing (and even depressing, I know it is for me). Maybe we don't have as much expendable income as in years past. I get it. Still, let's get in the spirit of Halloween. Despite the gross construction that is going on at my house, and the huge dumpster full of flooring, drywall, and old siding, I am still trying to maintain the Halloween spirit, both inside and out. You can, too.

Hand made chenille pumpkin set from Savannah Hope Vintage is on my mantel.

Cut out some pumpkins from orange paper. Get cheap orange and purple lights. Change your regular bulbs to black. Hang some witch die cuts on the windows and doors. Plant mums. Please please please decorate for Halloween!

I will be mailing specially hand made tickets (that look like carnival ride tickets) to Johnny's friends, and have them bring them to our house when they trick or treat, to turn in and receive a special trick or treat bag, and a super cool Halloween cupcake lolli (the very ones Beth Moran from Sweet Stuff makes -- sold at Simplify Marketplace).

Our tickets that can be redeemed for a special trick or treat bag and a Sweet Stuff cupcake lolli.

We will also have smore's kits, that I am making myself, for the older kids who wish to stop for a spell and make a smores over our fire pit. We are in the spirit, and wish that you'll join us.

We're DYING to see homes decorated for Halloween. Mwahahahah!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Burning the Candle at Both Ends...

I've been a very busy girl. After our awesome trip to Disney, I hit the ground running. I've been helping my dad fill fragrances for a very important customer; working with Ward on clients Christmas cards, our town note cards, and some upcoming shows.

At home, I've been under construction (putting an addition on), doing mad amounts of homework with the kids, including relearning the capitals of the states. I've been trying to keep things orderly, in all this, keep the clothes clean, the floors swept, and the dishes put away.

Having been raised in a fragrance family -- my father is a perfumer, or what they call "a nose" in the business -- I've always been around candles. Back in the early 80s, my brother and I used to fill candles for our dad in a Christmas carolers mold. We did different dye colors (red, green, white) and I swear, I could still tell you every detail of their faces. 

I love candles more than you can imagine. They are always burning in my house. I like simple smells that invoke a homey feeling. Sugary vanilla, sappy evergreen, apple spice. Over-the-top florals make me feel like I am at a Victorian tea party, but basics like lavender always work for me.

Talking to my dad, I realized that the family business is in my heart. Fragrance has always inspired me. I'm not a chemist, so I never imagined how the business would find its way into my life. I realized that my interest was in creating candles that smelled like the very best homes and inns. Coffee in the morning, cookies baking in the oven, pine in the winter. It's a simple idea, but I am in love with it.

My dad, my brother, and my ex-husband (who works for the company and is a pro at candle making), are teaching me how to make my very own line of candles. Melting the wax, adding the fragrance, setting the wick, and pouring. I am too excited.

Behold, the wax melter.

I will be handling everything, and will keep things as simple as possible. Minimal packaging, recyclable glass candle holders, clean labels. Most importantly, divine scents that will smell like home sweet home. 

Does the Princess Bag Her Own Groceries?

Today, I saw the most ridiculous thing that I've ever seen at the grocery store, and it had me so shocked that I knew I had to write about it. I'll tell you about it, but first, I need to preface the story with some background. (And I seriously cannot believe that I am writing about grocery shopping. God, I am a housefrau.)

Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard's longtime fiance (Crosby, to you Parenthood fans), at the grocery store.

Bagging groceries is like getting up in the morning. It's something you just do.

I've always bagged my own groceries, mostly because I like to pack the cold stuff together, and have the bag as balanced as possible. I always want to use as much bag space as I can without compromising the bag's strength -- no one wants to walk out of a grocery store and have the bag break all over the parking lot.

There is a big piece of me that sees bagging as part of the grocery shopping process and experience. Maybe it's silly to think about, but for a woman who visits the grocery store upward of five times per week,  grocery shopping etiquette matters.

Years ago, a cashier from my favorite grocery store who I won't name (to protect her identity and, perhaps, her job) had just finished checking me out. I bagged my items, as I always do, and she thanked me. I was surprised, and asked, "Doesn't everyone?"

While we were talking, she started scanning the handful of items for the next customer in line, and they were coming down the belt to the bagging section. We were talking about how often times people just don't bag their groceries, and I was saying that I understood it if someone were in poor health, or had many items and needed help to speed the process and move the line along, but it's no excuse for someone who is able to do it. All the while, a healthy seeming man in his mid-40s listened, and watched while she bagged his groceries. It was like he didn't hear her. Unbelievable.

Do you think that Princess Kate bags her own groceries? I do.

For years, I remembered our conversation and that experience, and am always awed at the way that people watch while someone else bags their groceries. Now, when there is someone stationed at the end of the checkout line, with the express purpose of bagging, I will let them bag for me (I don't like it; I like to know what's where in the bags (can you say, control?)). Otherwise, I just don't understand why a consumer wouldn't bag their things themselves. Which brings me to the purpose of my story.

Today I saw something that was blatantly rude. I was standing online, with a heavy hand cart full of items. I desperately wanted to put them down, and since it was the middle of the day, the store was empty. I found a register that was almost all clear, and noticed a woman standing in the middle of the space, reading a magazine (that she wasn't buying). She was reading while the cashier who helped her was bagging her items. She stood, nose buried in a gossip mag, ignoring the girl who was bagging for her; ignoring the fact that I had items I wanted to put down. Now, I know of this woman from town, so I wasn't all that surprised. It was just so blatantly disrespectful! Don't be like this woman.

Here's my version of Grocery Checkout Etiquette 101. Since we all have to grocery shop, we may as well do it in a nice way.

Don't talk on your cell phone when you are checking out. I've done this a lot, usually because I get a call as I am leaving with one final pick-up request. It annoys me and makes me feel bad, so I really try not to do this; talk while I should be paying attention, bagging, and paying. No one wants to hear my personal conversation...

Bring your own bags, or request paper. Often times, I forget the 37 reusable bags that I have in my house. When this happens, I request paper bags, and later use them to hold my recycled paper. Plastic makes a mess and is a total ecologic disaster. Bring your own bags, and prevent that plastic island off the coast of California from getting any bigger.

Rachel Bilson chooses paper over plastic. You should too. (And yes, always smell your parsley before buying:)

Bag your own groceries. As if I need to say it again...

Don't bag things that have handles. Bill Maher once said that he thought it was so strange that someone would put a box of laundry detergent in a bag. I agree. Don't bag bleach containers, laundry detergent, big gallons of water, anything that has it's own handle built in. Why bag it?

Holly Madison carries her Tide by its handle, and puts the rest of her groceries in a reusable bag. Go Holly.
Always greet the person ringing you up, and while I hope I don't have to remind you of this, always say Thank You when you are done paying.

These simple reminders will make all the difference in the world to you, the person checking you out, and the line of people behind you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Little Things (and Kathy Wakile)

Last night, while watching the season finale of the RHONJ, I found something that housewife Kathy Wakile said to be strikingly meaningful. I cannot find the exact quote, but it was something about the importance of being a mother. To paraphrase, she said something to the effect of, I'm not ready to give up being a full-time mom. I want to be there for everything, even watching them open a can of tuna - I'll celebrate it. God, I botched that quote, but the point that she was making was that she wants to be there for her kids, to watch them grow up.

I agree 100%.

I am working at my family business a couple of hours a week, during my son's school hours, and W and I have a business that we do from home. I feel fortunate to be able to be there for the kids as they grow up. Recently, I had a small but meaningful talk with one of them (unexpectedly) in the car. It was poignant. I sat with another while she practiced her spelling words, the night before her vocabulary test. Just this afternoon, I sat on the couch with my son while he read a chapter in a book. These things matter.

My son reading today. What a gift.

While doing the October bulletin board at school, I got to see tons of my son's schoolmates and teachers. One came to me and started commending me on the job that I was doing, both on the board and as a mother. I am not trying to do anything a certain way, I explained, I just lead with my heart. Living this way is how I've come to have the life that I have. Sometimes, I get hurt. Really hurt. But the trade-off is a series of magical, unexpected moments that shape both my life and the lives of the kids. 

Kathy Wakile, I am with you. When it comes down to it, nothing matters more than being a mother.

Going p!nk for Breast Cancer Awareness

October is breast cancer awareness month. This, I am sure, isn't news to anyone. There are many ways to get involved, from great campaigns like Feel Your Boobies to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. There is apparel sold in support of finding a cure, those "I love boobies" bracelets that are sold everywhere (mine is tied to my purse), and even packaged food in support of the cure. I got my Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt pink package, to support breast cancer research, at A&P tonight.

I was very excited to see that a local hair salon, Lounge Hair Studio, is offering pink feather extensions for $25 a piece, and donating $5 of that money to the Susan G. Komen foundation. I liked the idea so much, but as I thought about scheduling an appointment, and spending $25 on the extension (that can fall out) when only $5 will actually be going to cancer research, the idea fell flat. I chose, instead, to dye my hair myself, an idea I got from a very young, cool checkout girl at King's in Boonton, who did her hair herself (and told me the brand, and tips for doing it), then I donated $50, the money I might have spent on two feather extensions to my friend, Tray, who is walking in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (click here to donate to Tray).

The hair dye was about $10, and I only used a tiny bit of it, so I still have enough to do about 20 streaks (want some? call me!). The kit, Splat Pink Fetish hair dye bought at Walgreen's in Denville, came with a color stripping process, for people with dark hair, which I didn't need to use. The color itself stays in your hair for 10 minutes if you want it to last for three to four weeks, or 30 minutes if you'd like it to last for a few months. I left it in for 10 minutes, so that it will just last through the month of October. 

Me getting my pink on, in my pink, white and black bathroom. How fitting.

The only difficult part about this dye job was deciding what part of my hair to streak pink. I didn't want it too obvious, or too hidden. I looked at my hair while it was down, up, in a ponytail, etc. before I decided on a strand. It looked very bright going on (don't expect it to be bright when it's finished, FYI).  Ten minutes later, during a commercial break in the RHONJ season finale (love those Manzos), I hopped in the shower and washed it out. So easy.

I blew it dry and look, here's the final result.

Pleasantly pink, to show my support for breast cancer awareness and research.

If you'd like to have feather extensions put in your hair, go for it. Lounge Hair Studio is a community supportive, local hair salon that donates often to charities both in and out of town. But if you'd rather give 100% of the money to a foundation, please help my friend Tray raise her goal of $2,000 (she is walking on October 16th in Long Island for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, for the American Cancer Society) by clicking here and making a donation, then go buy yourself a $10 box of dye and DIY.

Splat in Pink Fetish, available at drugstores for about $10. Pink skull soap (princess pirate) by Basin.
Without turning this post into a PSA, I have to mention that it's so important to do monthly breast checks, and go see your gynecologist annually for a check-up. Model Amber Valletta, who I interviewed years ago on breast cancer awareness (her mother and grandmother both battled and beat breast cancer) said she suggests going to the gyno every year right around your birthday, because then it's easy to remember when you are due for another check-up. 

Not sure how to do a self-exam? Click here for the how-to.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Two Years To Live

You have two years to live. Are you content with the life you have, or would you make changes?

I've been asking myself this question a lot lately. We assume that we are going to live long lives; we try to eat healthy and take good care of our bodies and brains so that we don't need our diapers changed when we're 80. We put off doing the things that really matter to us because we think we have all the time in the world. And maybe we do. We just don't know.

Recently, someone who I didn't know well at all, but who was a very beloved woman in town passed away. She didn't have much time from her diagnosis to her death, and I cannot begin to imagine what that might be like. Fortunately, for now, I don't have to know. Still, I don't want to take my life, or my time here on earth, for granted.

There are things that I want to do, places I'd like to visit. I have goals that matter to me, that I want to accomplish, and I've been putting them off for a long time. Change is hard, but not fulfilling the dreams that you want in life, isn't the right trade off.

I had no idea who Steve Jobs was, really, until he died. I hadn't heard his Stanford commencement address until it went viral that same day. But it really hit home. Beginning now, I am going to live my life in a way that won't have me looking back with regret.

And to remind you again of what Jobs said:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Body Beautiful

I cannot begin to share the stories I have heard, from woman of all sizes, regarding how they feel about their bodies. They want to be bigger, smaller, shaplier, straighter. They want bigger boobs, smaller boobs, a bigger or smaller ass. They go on diet after diet, and beat themselves up for how they look.

I, too, have fallen prey to this sort of mentality. 

Just yesterday, I saw an incredible post on facebook through Christine Clifton, that really resonated with me. I reposted it and saw that it resonated with many of my friends, as well. The woman who originally posted it, who I don't personally know, had written that people could share it, so I am doing so here.

French plus size model, Tara Lynn

What I'd like to say is that body image and weight loss/gain, is a struggle for most women. I have studied it in depth, and find myself struggling with it daily. It is my hope that we all learn to love our bodies as they are, instead of trying to fit them into some sort of pre-defined shape.

For me, spending time with my family is hands-down more important than ripping it up at the gym, and while I try to eat as healthy as possible, I am not going to punish and starve myself to fit into smaller jeans. Yes, I want to wear my smaller sizes again, and despite Geneen Roth's order for women to throw out those old clothes that just don't fit, I hang onto them with the total belief that someday, I will be back in those old clothes again. I will not crash diet, cleanse, or stop eating bread. Instead, I will try to love myself everyday, just the way that I am, listen to my body, eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. 

Reading this post (see below) reminded me that beautiful is a way of life, not a designated size. Happiness comes from self-acceptance and living a life filled with love and enjoyment.

Be good to yourself.

Again, Tara Lynn
Reposted from Delphine Fieberg's page:

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was "This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

"Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I'd rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn't enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: "How amazing am I ?! "

(The girl on the picture is French model Tara Lynn)
Last comment: I'm not putting down thin people, being a thin woman myself (BMI of 22 maybe?) just saying that being large doesn't equate to being unattractive.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs

"...for the past 33 years, I've looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, "If today were the last day of my life, would I wanna do what I am about to do today?" and whenever the answer has been 'no' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment of failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart... No one wants to die, even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there, and yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is as it should be because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.... Sorry to be so dramatic, but it's quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." 
 from Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

I just read that Steve Jobs has died. He battled pancreatic cancer, had a liver transplant, and it seems that his death was cancer related. This is an incredible tragedy. He created the iPhone, iPod, and iTunes, amongst other things. The things that he created literally changed the way that we live today. I am writing this blog on my Mac book, while sending the stunning message of his death via text on my iPhone. Steve Jobs changed the world.

We (the people that don't actually know him) mourn the loss of Jobs because of the amazing things that he did, the gadgets and programs that he created, and his huge imaginative energy that brought his sought-after products to the market. The fact that he changed the way we live is a really big deal.

Alas, I am sure that Steve Jobs meant much more to his friends and family, his co-workers, and his wife Laurene. I am certain that those who were close to him didn't love him for what he did, rather, they loved him for who he was. Perhaps, for his laugh, or the way that he smiled. His huge heart. His life was bold and powerful, which makes his death resonate in the hearts and minds of us all the more.

As we mourn this visionary's tragic death, let's take a moment to be thankful for the life that we have. Let's be loving to ourselves and to one another. Be kind, love with your whole heart, and don't ever go to sleep angry. Knowing that life is short is not morbid, it's a reminder that every moment matters.

Please see the apple page, and the beautiful, simple way in which they pay tribute to this unforgettable human being's life, and death. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.

God bless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A New Day = Acupu, Chili Hot Chocolate, and Construction

First, thank you all for your comments, both on the blog and facebook (and, of course, comments messaged privately to me), and telephone calls of concern from last night's post. It really made me feel comforted. While my ear wasn't much better this morning, I righted what I needed to right, got some acupuncture and then some chicken tortilla soup, and now I feel much better and the ringing has subsided. The acupuncture is always fantastic, but today was better than usual. I literally fell asleep on the table, feeling immediate relief from my stress and anxiety. It's magic, I swear, or at least Susannah Pitman from Balance Acupuncture is. I have a team holding me together here, and Susannah is one of the four professionals I cannot live without (Megan, you are one of them, too).

As I mentioned, I came home to an open house last night -- no roof or exterior walls on my son's bedroom. The house was cold, and things have been kicked up, so I've been feeling congested, due most probably to the dust dispersing. I have to say, though, that my contractor and his crew -- The Goldsmith Company -- has done an amazing job of being both clean and efficient. I cannot imagine construction going any better. Still, ripping out walls and floors creates a bit of a mess. If you watch Ghost Hunters, you know that they say that old energy gets stirred up during construction. While I have yet to see a ghost or feel a presence, I have seen a bit of dust.

When I left for my trip to Florida, there was a dumpster in my driveway but not much else. Everyday, W would update me on the progress, and take photos. In the first two days, the room had been gutted and then the roof taken off. On the third day, today, the house has been closed and framed out. I am so excited. Check it out...

Gary Goldsmith does amazing work. The dumpster is for my job. The POD in the background isn't.
It's my neighbor's storage POD from their puff back that occurred last March (almost a year ago).
I bet my dumpster will be gone before their pod. Let's see...

I called Gary to thank him at the amazing progress his crew has made. It's so unbelievable. Seeing the place closed up has given me so much hope.

After bringing my son home from school, we did the usual, and had hot cocoa together. He's been drinking this amazing Chocolate Truffle hot cocoa that we got at Dash of Thyme a few weeks ago. I've been drinking it, too, but finally had a chance to try a new one that they just got in (actually, I bought three tins of it the night before I left for Florida). It's three chili hot cocoa, and I was hoping it would taste like Mexican hot chocolate.

It's really top shelf. You are supposed to make it with hot milk, but I used hot water to fill it about 70% full, mixed it really well, then added whole milk (cold). The verdict? Outrageous! It's spicy hot cocoa (spicy in a cinnamony sort of way) just like the Mexican version I drink at Raymond's in Montclair. I am so glad that I got three tins. It's my afternoon snack, and the hot cocoa itself, for 2.5 T is just 80 calories, so that plus the milk isn't such a bad snack. I will be drinking it all winter long.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Personal Moment

I usually don't get too personal on my blog. Though it may seem that I do, mostly, I keep things very much on the surface. But tonight, I feel a pit in my stomach, and want someone to just listen. There's no one in my life that can do that right now, without either wanting to help, direct, fight, or guide me, so maybe writing it to you (even if only one of you read it) will help.

I can't sleep until I get this out. I am sad, and sorry.

I just returned from a five day trip to Florida with my parents and my son. The trip was amazing. It was beautiful everywhere, and I slept very well.

View from my room

For the first time in months, I slept through the night, every night, without a hot flash. Maybe it was that I walked for hours on end and that I was so exhausted that I didn't notice the hot flashes, or maybe it was just that I was finally away from all this rain. Regardless, I am committing to work out every day that I have time, because if it helps at all, it will be a relief.

I woke up this morning, to get ready to go to the airport, and my ear (I have tinnitus) was ringing so loudly, that being in a quiet room was enough to make me cry. It's still ringing; it's just endless. The airplane ride was good though, because there is so much white noise that it drowns out the ringing. When I got off the plane, I felt sad that I had left the sunlight and warmth, returning to cold weather, bills, and a home that's under construction (I am excited for the end product, but coming home to a house without a roof is a bit off putting, though the progress is amazing). And it is quiet, so the ringing is amazingly loud. It comes and goes, and I am just praying that I wake up with less noise. It's unbearable.

With this, I was so excited to see Ward (I couldn't wait to see him all week, and give him a big hug), but the ringing in my ears was incredibly distracting. As we were driving home in the car, I talked but kept getting distracted by the sound. I try not to complain as often as I notice it, because it gets old to hear. And there were other things, too, that just threw me off. I wish I could do it all over. A big, happy hug, talking enthusiastically about my trip, without any damn ear ringing.

After he left, I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I missed Ward the minute he left. Not just missed him, but missed him like he was torn from me. It was horrible. One hour was all that I had with him, after being away for five days. I still miss him. Tomorrow, my son will be back at school, and after spending 24 hours a day with him for the past five days, I will miss spending time with him.  I know that I am more sensitive with all the hormonal changes, and that might be part of it. But it still feels so real. I am missing my loved ones, and there is nothing that I can do about it.

Everything is in transition. The seasons, the balance of family, the kids' schedules. I feel like I lost my footing today, and getting that back cannot be accomplished until I right things that need to be righted (hopefully tomorrow), and until my ear stops ringing so loudly. I crave consistency, and a schedule. I crave my nights making dinner and watching Seinfeld; movie nights with the kids; breakfast at the diner. I know that change happens, but I tend not to like it.

On top of all that, there is residual stuff that has lingered in my mind. I've put up boundaries with people because I've learned that my openness and friendly attitude can sometimes be misconstrued. Sometimes, I get these odd people who latch onto me, while other times I find that men misread my kindness as an invitation to act creepy. Mostly, they've been respected, which makes me feel stronger and safer. Last week, though, someone came to clean out my house and totally disrespected me. I wasn't tough enough, or prepared, and he found ways to pass by me and touch me, place his hand on my lower back, and later grope me and dive to kiss my neck. I was shocked and should have confronted him, but knew that confronting him would have just increased his time in my house and I wanted him out. Needless to say, he won't be working in my house anymore, but my inability to protect myself really stuck with me.

And then tonight, a neighbor who came to me a few months ago to try and tell me what to do to my house (regarding construction, who isn't even in the business (and it was none of her business)) and who, last week, barged into my house to ask me something (without knocking or ringing the bell), sent me an email congratulating me on my construction and telling me that she thinks it will look good. If she reads this, she will probably come and try to talk to me, though I hope she sees this as a request to leave me alone. I used to be very neighborly until most of my neighbors stung me in some way or another (with one exception, my neighbors right next door, whom I love). It's gotten so bad that I literally put a sign on my door that says, "On a conference call. Please do not disturb" just so that people know that my open door (which allows a lot of sunlight in) is not an actual, "Come on in, open door."

I hope you don't see this as a request to you all, to not be friendly, because that's not what I want. Meeting people and talking to them makes me really happy. (Like at Dash of Thyme when I met Stephanie & Lynn, that was so lovely.) It's when people cross boundaries, get nosy, or feel entitled to have me, that it becomes a problem.

So that's it. Hopefully, I will wake up feeling refreshed tomorrow, the ringing will lessen, and I will get and give that giant hug that I really want from my boyfriend. Thank you all for listening. And if you feel like commenting, on the blog or privately, I'd really appreciate it.