Lemon Orzo Summer Salad

No longer ask “what can I bring?” Just let them know you and your orzo will be there.

Summer is the time to be social and it’s always good to have a go-to dish to bring that everyone will love. This is a great and refreshing salad to keep in the refrigerator all summer long to enjoy at home or bring to any summer gathering. It is also an easy one to make at the lake or beach! So go ahead and buy way too many veggies at the local produce stand (like I do) and worry no more about how to use them all. This salad is an excellent way to ensure that nothing goes to waste!

Use my recipe as a guide and add any vegetables you love to make it your own. This will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a week. As the week goes on, I add to it – in fact, I cooked a few extra ears of corn a few days after making it and sliced it straight into the salad. Delicious!

I used: zucchini, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, fresh basil, Castelvetrano olives, kalamata olives, and orzo. I seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Dressing is simple too – lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil.

Other additions: fresh corn off the cob grilled or cooked, feta, garbanzo beans, red onion, Vidalia onion, green/red/orange peppers.

Serve it with grilled chicken for a perfect summer meal. I invited my friend Vicki over for dinner and she brought chicken in a very tasty lemony garlicky marinade. We threw it on the grill and it paired perfectly with this salad!

Here is the recipe for the salad and marinade:

Lemon Orzo Salad:

4 cups cooked orzo

½ cup lemon juice – about 3 large fresh lemons juiced

¼ cup olive oil

Zest of 2 lemons

½ teaspoon of salt                                           

¼ teaspoon of pepper

1 sliced zucchini

1 sliced cucumber

1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes

2 chopped bell peppers – I like red, yellow and orange

¼ cup fresh basil – I chop about 8-10 leaves into the salad

Cook the orzo. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Chop and slice the veggies and basil. Once orzo is done transfer to a bowl and pour the lemon dressing over it and stir. Add in all the veggies. If the orzo seems dry add about ¼ cup of water – or squeeze more lemon juice into it. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm or cold. If serving a day or two after making it, squeeze a little more lemon juice in there. Orzo soaks it up!

Vicki’s Grilled Chicken Marinade:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice – 2-3 large lemons

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon of oregano – just throw in a palm full

4 cloves crushed garlic – or a bunch more – whatever you want

Whisk all together. This marinade is great for chicken breasts or kabobs. Vicki will season for an hour or overnight for that good deep flavor.

Happy Summer! Or Fall! You know what? This would be fantastic for a football tailgate. Make sure to save this recipe. Let me know if you love it.

What No One Told You About Menopause

Too old for Snapchat, too young for Life Alert.

-I’d give credit to whoever said this, but I can’t remember.

Together we can keep our cool. Do what you can to stay cool with lots of ice and toss in a lemon since life seems to be throwing a few your way!

I had lunch recently with friends around my age. We talked about the usual – our kids, vacation plans, and what’s next in our lives with kids off to college. Menopause came up and we ended up laughing about the crazy things happening to our bodies. It felt really good to talk about it – and laugh about it. It’s so important to have good and supportive friends!

So whether you are approaching THE CHANGE, smack in it or post-menopausal, hopefully you will find my list of what I wish I had known helpful – and maybe a little funny too. Or maybe you’ll cry. If you cry you are definitely in one of the aforementioned phases.

  1. You will gain and lose the same ten pounds until you die. At least that is how it feels.
  2. Brain fog is real. Put ticker marks on a piece of paper every time you walk into a room and forget why you went in there. You won’t believe it. I’ll walk in to do the dishes and eat chocolate instead. Label what those marks are because you will forget. Don’t lie to yourself saying you don’t need to write things down.
  3. Anxiety and emotional swings are symptoms of menopause. As if we didn’t have enough of both prior to THE CHANGE. Not only am I as hot as the hinges on the gates of hell in the middle of the night, but I’m crying because the cat that roams the neighborhood looked sad yesterday. I don’t even like cats.
  4. For every pair of reading glasses you buy, buy a pair of tweezers. I swear to you that when I sneeze, yawn or sometimes just breathe normally a hair pops out of my chin. I’ll get in the car and bam! The longest hair I have ever seen is hanging off my chin. And it’s super dark. I have reddish blondish hair. My chin hair is black. Keep tweezers and readers in the console. Place them in drawers throughout the house. Then write on a sticky note that they are in there or you will forget.
  5. You will get side boob. Like overnight. They will pop out like chin hairs. You’ll put on your bra and boob fat will spill out over the bra under your armpit. I’m sorry.
  6. Menopausal belly fat. Cruel. Cruel. Cruel. A pair of tweezers in the console can’t fix this. Supposedly, exercise, increased fiber, healthy eating and understanding the right amount of calories your body needs helps. Burn more then you consume. Blah blah blah. I’m working on it and I’ll report back.
  7. Skin as dry as dirt. Get a Sam’s or Costco membership. Load the cart with Lubriderm, Neutrogena, Oil of Olay and whatever else they have. That’s all I can lend here.
  8. You will quote The Golden Girls. Sometimes Blanche. Sometimes Rose. Maybe that’s just me and not menopause. I think I did this before menopause. I forget.
  9. You can blame stuff on menopause. This is really a bonus of THE CHANGE. If you say something that doesn’t make sense, or sound irritable, or forgot something AGAIN, just say “menopause”. No one knows how to respond – no one dares argue with you. You’ll end up getting a sympathetic look or a hug. Honestly, you won’t care what anyone else thinks. You’re too mad about your new crop of chin hair to care.

While menopause isn’t always funny, it does help to laugh. Try to make the best out of it. See your doctor and talk to your friends for support. If you have useful suggestions, please comment here as I know anyone reading this could use it.

Makeup And Menopause. I Found The Products To Get The Glow Back!

I believe that all women are pretty without makeup – and can be pretty powerful with the right makeup. – Bobbi Brown

I have had the pleasure of spending the past year buying all new makeup thanks to menopause. My combination skin turned to completely over-dry skin. It felt like overnight I was dragging powder blush and eyeshadows (except for Urban Decay) across my skin and it looked like a dry streaky mess. Instead of blending it just sat there. Even some lipsticks looked horrible and would not blend.  My skin looked dull and flaky. Oh, and I started to get acne again. Lovely. Ashen skin with a zit here and there. I’ve never felt better about myself (ha.). Not to mention the weight gain thanks to my new position in life – Post- Menopausal. Trying new makeup has been easier and more fun than the weight issue. More on that later once I figure that out! Anywayyyyy, so I had to completely rethink my diet, skin care regimen and makeup. Thankfully, I love makeup and had a great time reading reviews and trying new products. As well, I was given excellent suggestions from friends going through the same thing. I tried less expensive drugstore products and other than Maybelline mascara and L’Oreal lipsticks, I can’t find anything remotely close to the quality of higher end lines – at least for my skin.  I will say these products last a long time making every penny worth it. They also contain simple skincare ingredients to nourish skin and combat dryness. Now I have that lustrous glow back! And I am getting compliments on my fresh complexion – who doesn’t love compliments?

Here are the products that have made a huge difference in my skin’s appearance:

NARS Light Reflecting Makeup – An awesome much younger woman at Sephora recommended this lightweight foundation that offers light to medium coverage. I used to hate foundation because it was too heavy and crept into lines in my skin. I have only used Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer for years. Now I need a little more coverage. This one is perfect and gives me a natural dewy glow. My skin looks like skin – not makeup. The best part – it is a hybrid skincare and makeup in one – 70% skincare ingredients and great for sensitive skin. The appearance of my skin has improved!

Trinny London – My absolute favorite makeup right now. It comes in cute little pots, and everything is cream based – no powders. The lip colors can go on cheeks and eyes. The eye shadow is very blendable, and I use it to highlight my cheekbones or anywhere I need an extra glow. Amazing. It all goes on with fingers and takes me a few minutes to do my makeup. Sometimes with only two products. My makeup routine is cut in half because the product is so easy to apply and blend.

I love that they always send samples with orders which is great because I now have two new favorite shades I would have never ordered.  One is a bright coral called Cha-Cha and the other a russet rose called Emily. All the shades are named for women who work at Trinny London or who are important to Trinny Woodall, the founder. This makeup gives me such a healthy and fresh-faced look. Even my boyfriend Kevin complimented me on my fresh face! This makeup line truly is fantastic for mature skin.

Eye2Eye Cream Shadows I LOVE:

Vision: A cool mauvy rose. Looks great with Fortune, Wisdom and Empress.

Sun: Warm sunny gold – I use it on my brow bone, inner eyelid and cheeks as a highlighter.

Fortune: Rose gold – my absolute favorite color and I wear it across my eyelid into the crease. Often it’s the only color I put on my eyes. Looks beautiful in the crease of my eye with Vision on the lid.

Empress: Deep bronze with flecks of gold. Love this shade – it looks super dark but goes on a light bronze gold. You can build it to dark – I put it in the crease of my eye with Fortune and Vision on the lid. I dab Sun in the corner and just under my eyebrows. Makes a very strong but pretty bronzy rose gold look

Wisdom: I received a sample of this and it looked like putty. I doubted it. Now it’s a go-to neutral that makes the creamiest base for other eyeshadow. Wisdom on the eyelid and Empress in the crease is a great neutral that makes your eyes pop.

Lip2Cheek colors I LOVE:

Cha-Cha: Bright pretty coral. Don’t be scared. I was. But it goes on cheeks as the softest peachy coral. I love it! Great on the lips with a gold gloss over it.

Pia: Bright peony pink. It is the happiest pink punchy color. I love it on cheeks and lips. I top it with a very light pink lip gloss.

Veebee:  Warm sunset coral. It’s almost a very very light peach gold color. I love it on my cheeks – very subtle peachy glow. I dab excess on my lips and top with Emily Sheer Shimmer.

Sheer Shimmer Lip + Cheek Favorites:

Emily: Russet rose shimmer. I love this color – especially in the fall. So pretty over Veebee Lip2Cheek.

Neesha: Fuschia burgundy shimmer. Don’t be scared. It’s very bright in the cute little pot. It’s beautiful on lips and cheeks. It’s a purply pinky shimmery wonder. Gorgeous with navy.

Mama: Opalescent red shimmer. Don’t be scared! You know how red lipsticks can look dried out and bleed into the lips. Not this one. It’s just a beautiful red shimmer. Not like your gramma wore.

Lip Love:

I’ve only tried one shade. It’s more pigmented than the Sheer Shimmers. I will be buying more!

Sacha:  Metallic gold peachy pink. Love it! I put it over Veebee, Mama, Cha-Cha or wear alone. It’s just really pretty. Great on cheeks too!

I love Trinny herself!!  Follow Trinny on Instagram. Her videos are the best! She is hilarious, down to earth, and talks about real issues that real women face. Menopause, saving money, shopping, you name it. I love her! My favorite video series is Friday Twinning that she does with a lovely girl named Chloe. Check her out!! You’ll want to hang out with her. I do.

Oh! And the pots stack. So you can pack them all together efficiently. I love that!

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Eyeshadow Stick – I have not tried these yet. I met my friend Vicki for dinner recently and she looked gorgeous – as always! Her eyeshadow was so pretty making her eyes stand out even more. Of course I asked her what makeup she used – these three sticks by Bobbi Brown. I will be buying them soon!

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Eyeshadow Sticks in Dusty Mauve, Vanilla and Golden Pink. My makeup in this picture is all Trinny London – Eye2Eye in Fortune and Sun, Sheer Shimmer in Neesha on my lips and cheeks, and Jones Road Shimmer Face Oil in Cool Rose on my cheek bones, chin, and forehead.

Jones Road Shimmer Face Oil – A dream for dry lusterless skin. Bobbi Brown is the magic behind her new line. She sold Bobbi Brown and is no longer affiliated with the company. Now she owns Jones Road Beauty and it is phenomenal. Clean, simple ingredients and beautiful colors. I bought the Shimmer Face Oil in Cool Rose as it was recommended for dry skin. It’s a highlighting bottle of glow filled with antioxidants with lots of vitamins and minerals such as jojoba seed oil. Gorgeous alone over moisturizer or over makeup. I have put it all over my face and I’ve dotted it along cheekbones, nose, and forehead. It was perfect over sunscreen at the beach. Love! Love! Love!

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer – A must before any eyeshadow – cream or powder. Makes eyeshadow last and is ideal for mature eyelids. I’ve tried different brands. This one works best for my mature eyelids.

Menopause can be frustrating because it changes our bodies and our skin in many ways. The good news is that there are solutions and products just for mature skin. I found makeup just right for me that enhances my skin and features. I love a natural, fresh-faced look and thanks to these products I have it back! Everything I bought lasts a long time, making the investment well worth it – especially the renewed confidence and how I feel about my skin. Women our age going through menopause need all the support we can get. If something you’ve tried works for you please mention in comments!

NARS Light Reflecting Foundation and Jones Road Shimmer Face Oil gave my skin just the glow I love!

The Best Mixers For Cocktails. Voila! you’re Now A Mixologist.

Life’s just a cocktail party – On the street. – Mick Jagger

When creating delicious cocktails, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Fresh citrus, herbs, your favorite spirits and quality mixers are all you need. I like to keep mixers on hand that have fewer ingredients and those that use real fruit. I have tried many and now my selections are not only refreshing, but healthier and offer versatility to create almost any cocktail. And they are also fantastic straight-up. Fever-Tree’s sparkling pink grapefruit and lime & yuzu are my favorites to enjoy right out of the bottle. Belvoir Fruit Farms is another one that is so good over ice or from the bottle. The elderflower and rose lemonade is like summer in a bottle.

Buy a bunch of mixers, ring up your friends and meet on the porch to exchange words of wisdom, vent and solve most of the world’s problems. Or maybe just your own. If anyone comes up with a solution to get your kids to heed your every word, please share. Please.

Here are my favorite mixers I use to make easy cocktails that look serious:

Belvoir Fruit Farms

Elderflower Rose Lemonade – just mix with sparkling wine, champagne, vodka or gin. Add a slice of cucumber if you want. No pressure. I make the effort and it’s really good, just saying….

Cucumber & Mint Lemonade – so very good with gin or vodka. Hendrick’s Gin is my favorite. Add muddled basil and lime juice to 2 oz gin or vodka over ice. Mix in Belvoir Cucumber & Mint. It’s a health drink.

Also makes a delicious martini. Pour 2 oz gin or vodka into a shaker filled with ice, add 1 oz Cucumber & Mint Lemonade and a squeeze of lime. Shake it like you mean it. Strain into a martini glass. Add a cucumber slice. Hendricks or The Botanist makes a great gin martini.

Fever-Tree

I keep these stocked in my fridge at all times. How cute is my egg basket? My cousin Cara gave this to me.

Lime & Yuzu – Made from limes from Tahiti and Japanese yuzu. I don’t know anything else about either except they are magic. Add 2 oz of tequila and fresh lime juice in a margarita glass. Top with Lime & Yuzu. Tastes like a delicious margarita. Salt the rim if you are into that kind of thing.

Sparkling Pink Grapefruit – add 2 oz tequila and fresh lime juice for the best Paloma. You can make one using fresh grapefruit juice if you want. Also amazing. But Fever-Tree makes it easier with their delicious mixer. Some like a salted rim with this one too. I do not. Suit yourself.

Elderflower Tonic Water – pairs perfectly with Hendricks Gin or The Botanist for the best gin and tonic. Add fresh lime juice.  Excellent with vodka too!

Mediterranean Tonic Water – Herbaceous and Mediterranean-y. I’ve used this in countless ways. Vodka and gin mostly. Add St. Germaine elderflower liqueur with fresh lemon or lime juice – or both. Go crazy!

My favorite over ice in a chilled red wine glass:  1.5 oz of gin or vodka, 1 oz St. Germaine, squeeze of lemon slice or lemon quarter and drop in the glass, top with Mediterranean Tonic Water. Rub fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs between your fingers to release the aroma and add to the glass. Don’t have fresh rosemary or thyme? It’s still good without it. But put it on your grocery list. Or plant some. Enjoy all summer!

Ginger Beer – I only use Fever-Tree for my Kentucky or Austin Mules. Kentucky Mule – I pair with Elijah Craig or Woodford Reserve. Add a bourbon cherry. Austin Mule – I use Tito’s Vodka (made in Austin, TX) and fresh lime juice. Serve over ice in a rocks glass.

Withco

My absolute favorite batch cocktail mixers. These are not for drinking straight. They are concentrated fresh and natural ingredients to add to spirits or sparkling water. Before using, shake each one with vigour. Vigour I said.

Ellis Old Fashioned – flavored with bitters, cinnamon, orange oil and vanilla. Makes a classic old fashioned.

I add 2 oz to 2.0 oz of bourbon over ice. I add a bourbon cherry too of course.

SweaterWeather – Apple, honey and spices such as cardamom, rosemary, all spice and others. Enjoy cold or warm in a sauce pan or crock-pot.

Add 2 oz to 1.5 oz bourbon. I don’t add anything else. Not even my beloved bourbon cherry. It’s so good just like this. It’s perfect for fall and winter – but I’m going to try it this spring and summer with vodka. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. (look it up)

Bouquet – I’m in love with this. It smells so good. Which is why it’s called Bouquet I think.

Here’s how they describe it: “Dreamy notes of lavender weave through fresh-squeezed lemon and rosewater.” Like a drink at the spa.

I pour 2 oz in a glass filled with ice. I add 1.5 oz of gin or vodka. Then I top with Fever-Tree Sparkling Soda. You can add a twist of lemon if you want. I do not because it is perfect without it. But you do you.

Champagne cocktail – 2 oz of Bouquet and top with champagne or another sparkling wine. Fancy.

Cheers Friends!

What Does Lemon Luster MEan ANyway? I Get This Question A Lot.

To truly have a zest for life, you must squeeze all the juice out of it….especially the lemons. Believe it or not, they make life even more delicious. The lessons you get out of them make you strong, resilient, and amazing. – Jenny G. Perry

On a trip to Nashville recently with a group of some of my very best friends. A young bride to be on her bachelorette party placed her veil in my hair. I jumped around in it for fun. But really I just felt so much joy being with beautiful and remarkable friends in a fun city on a gorgeous day. I always want to feel that joy and kick up my heels! It’s the epitome of what Lemon Luster is about.

I get this question all the time. What is a Lemon Luster, Why Lemon Luster….so many variations of questioning. Here is the short answer: all of the other names I wanted were taken. Of course, there is more to the story and here it is.

I hit menopause, went through a divorce, and my kids were in high school on their way to starting their own lives. My identity seemed unknown all of sudden. I felt old, nothing I used on my skin or hair was working anymore, I needed to start over in a career, and I wasn’t sure how to approach any of it. If all that doesn’t read like a mess imagine what was in my head.

I was talking to my mom one day about a piece of old furniture I have that is scratched and absolutely lusterless. It’s an antique from my grandmother. It just needed a good polishing to renew its shine and splendor. Cute Judy, my mom, went on and on about this lemon oil polish that she would bring over and we would give it new life and luster. Lightbulb!  I needed to bathe in the lemon luster oil polish. And that my friends became the name of my blog.

If you too are in a similar situation, here is the equation:

Cute Judy + lemon polish + aging + new shine + menopause + dry hair + new purpose = Lemon Luster

So really Lemon Luster is about being our best and thinking the best about ourselves. As well, being a source of light and love for others. With kids about to fly the coop I’m still wondering “now what”. I don’t have the answers but when I come up with something good, I’ll write about it. And if you think of something please let me know! We will figure this out together. This blog is like a virtual porch. Pour a glass of something good and come sit a spell.

Lemons really are one of my favorite things. Here’s a short list why:

  1. I love yellow. It is the happiest color on earth. Lemon yellow just evokes happy.
  2. I love lemons in everything – I can flavor my drink, add the zest to whatever I’m cooking, and then run that sucker around the sink to clean it with the same lemon. MULTI TASKING!!
  3. Lemons are healthy.
  4. Lemons symbolize shine, a refresh, zest for life.
  5. They smell good.

And that is the story behind Lemon Luster. I have more stories – about how I have started over and grown a career, turned dry as desert hair to lustrous once again – it took a while, and how I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ll share. To me, middle-aged with an almost empty nest just means I’m walking through a new door to see what’s on the other side. It’s going to be good!

No Matter The Question In Winter, A Hot toddy Is The Answer

Dorothy: Ma, another hot toddy? I think I’ve had enough.

Sophia: Shut up and drink.

Dorothy: This is the fourth one Ma! That’s a lot of whiskey!

Sophia: I only put whiskey in the first one. The second and third were vodka. Amaretto and sambucca in the fourth one. That should kill everything. – Golden Girls

I really love the idea of winter. A fire in the fireplace, cozy blankets, that cold winter smell outside. But as soon as it turns really, really cold that daunting feeling sets in that I have to go outside and face winter’s torture. And put on a coat. Coats make me hot, then cold, then hot, then cold sweaty hot cold. I’m freezing to death and profusely sweating all at the same time. I hate wearing a coat! And I complain relentlessly about the cold and what a harsh, harsh world it is out there. And it is the season of DISEASES. People are coughing, sneezing, throwing up just minutes after being in close confines with them. Winter is very dangerous.

Of course, I became ill the second week in January. I don’t know if it was COVID because all the tests were gone and it was too cold to go out and try to figure out if I had the C word. I just stayed home until I got better (without even knowing if I had the C word….what?!?!). And I drank so much tea that I could have brewed tea straight from my pores in a hot bath. I really wanted a cocktail one evening as I started feeling better, but a cold one would’ve caused my teeth to chatter out of my mouth. And that is when I remembered the hot toddy. It is the most comforting and delicious drink. And it soothes a sore throat. Things were looking up.

Here’s the recipe: hot water, two ounces of bourbon, fresh squeezed lemon juice. That’s it.

Or toss in a candied orange peel or squeeze in a little fresh orange juice.

I made my toddy with tea – Earl Gray and Yogi’s herbal teas are my favorites. You use whatever kind of tea you like. Pour hot water over a tea bag, add honey, lemon and a splash of bourbon. So delicious.

Don’t like bourbon? Tequila, gin and vodka make delicious hot drinks too.

I mentioned candied orange peels. That’s because my cousin Cara posted hers on Instagram. I took one look and knew they would be perfect in a Manhattan or an old fashioned cocktail. Cara uses them as garnish for cream cheese iced chocolate cake. I run to the bar cart and she runs to the oven. I’m the bourbon to her candied oranges!

Ready for the very simple recipes? Here you go:

Cara’s Candied Orange Peels:

Wash and peel a bunch of oranges. Or just a couple. Cut into strips and boil for 20 minutes in water with a cup or two of sugar. Drain and cool, toss with sugar to coat and lay out to dry on a baking sheet. Toss in a cocktail, hot toddy or garnish a cake.

Classic Hot Toddy:

Pour one or two ounces of bourbon or whiskey in a mug, add hot water. Stir in honey and fresh lemon juice to taste.

Variations: Add vodka or gin instead of bourbon or whiskey. Add a cinnamon stick. Go crazy.

I prefer bourbon – either Elijah Craig, Woodford or Basil Hayden’s.

Hot Tea Toddy:  Pour hot water into a mug, add your favorite tea bag, stir in honey, lemon juice and a splash or two of bourbon. Add a candied orange peel for a little extra sweet citrusy flavor.

Hot Apple Cider Margarita

1 – 2 ounces of Tequila
4 ounces hot apple cider – heat in a saucepan
Squeeze of fresh orange juice
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Tsp of light agave nectar

Add all to a mug and stir to mix flavors. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg – or add a cinnamon stick. Or a candied orange peel.

Hot Vodka Apple Cider

Boil 6-8 ounces of apple cider and ½ tsp of cinnamon in a saucepan. Reduce heat and add 1 ounce of vodka. Simmer for about five minutes. You can add more to make a larger batch for friends.

Party idea! Have friends over and treat them to a hot toddy bar. Have various spices like nutmeg or ground cloves, oranges, lemons, teas, cinnamon sticks, apple cider, candied orange peels, bourbon cherries and plenty of hot water in the kettle. Tell everybody to get creative!

And just like that winter is ok.

2022 – Grace carried me here and by grace I will carry on

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.

– Max Lucado

It’s a new year and like everyone else I’m thinking about my resolutions or intentions again. I’m also thinking about what didn’t go right last year. I gained weight. I exercised all of three times. Ok maybe 10 times. Maybe. Unless vacuuming counts and then I exercised when the dog went through shedding spurts. I let politics and COVID make me angry and stressed. I didn’t write like I said I would. I also held grudges that should have been long, long gone and forgiven. And now I’m dragging it all into 2022 telling myself not to mess up like I did last year. That is not very encouraging. Don’t Mess Up Like You Did Last Year. When did I get so negative? How about – let go of the past and look forward to a new year. My favorite word is grace and I seem to have forgotten what it means and the importance of giving it to myself and others.

The beauty and signature of God’s grace is that he does not give up on us – even when we give up on ourselves. So my priority this year is living a life full of grace. Aging gracefully and not just through fitness and serums. Aging gracefully also means being a kinder person knowing more about how life polishes us. Kind of like old rocks in a river that have been washed over and over to perfect smoothness. A better understanding of how people feel, who they are and exuding more compassion.

It’s easy to get caught up in competition with others or slip back into bad habits that aren’t healthy. It’s worse to beat ourselves up over it. Put it in the past and forgive yourself. Start over. Grace allows us a fresh new life which is not condemned by God. Through God’s grace we are forgiven which should change our way of thinking, renewing our mind and heart.

According to western Christian theology, God gives grace to us because He wants us to have it – and not because we have earned it. It’s like power for us to do what we can’t do for ourselves. In Corinthians, God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul asked God three separate times to remove his thorn in the flesh. I don’t know what the thorn was, but it was troubling, and Paul didn’t believe he could rid himself of it on his own. But God said he could. I know what my thorns are and I’m sure anyone reading this has their thorns. Regardless of what they are or how bad or different, God’s grace is sufficient for us too and His power is made perfect in weakness.

Grace is my intention. Diet, exercise and other goals won’t help if my mental state is not clear of my burdens. No more dwelling. More faith, more grace to ourselves and others. I love this quote by Brené Brown, “Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.”

Happy New Year! Now go drink your two liters of water, hit the gym, write your book, eat more veggies, start your own business or whatever else you think your intentions or goals should be. But resolve to show yourself grace.

Here’s to a year more successful and better than ever simply by receiving and giving GRACE!

“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” – Saint Augustine of Hippo

What I have Learned From COVID-19

Life has handed us lemons this year. So I’ve squeezed them into cocktails, made divine lemon roasted chicken, and made my sink disposal smell like a lemon grove. Ha! Take that 2020!

– Me showing life who the boss is around here.

I’ve enjoyed reading about what others have learned from the pandemic. We’ve all gained something from it and much is with a silver lining. Certainly it goes without saying that COVID-19 is serious and the virus has caused much grief for so many. Humor and family always get me through tough times though! I have stayed sane laughing at ridiculous memes, the funny lessons learned from being stuck at home, and getting back to a simpler life where what matters the most is under your roof.

So here is what I’ve learned during COVID-19:

  1. I can eat an entire bag of Veggie Straws and not feel sick.
  2. My hair must be washed after four days. That’s the limit.
  3. My pajamas that I lived in for a while must be washed after four days. That’s the limit.
  4. Wearing a mask means it’s ok to talk to myself out loud in the grocery store.
  5. The 19 part represents the potential number of pounds you might gain.
  6. How much value people place on toilet paper. Should be distributed by the U.S Mint and priced like silver and gold.
  7. What six feet actually looks like thanks to the blue tape in stores. I have no spatial awareness and my guess would have been inaccurate and more like 10 feet.  We’d be lined up wall to wall in the store.
  8. I don’t like the word “unprecedented” anymore.
  9. People have VERY strong opinions.
  10. The importance of remembering manners and grace after reading opinions that differ from your own.
  11. If I wake up and can smell and taste my coffee I’m doing pretty good!
  12. Family and friends are everything.
  13. I’m a hugger.
  14. I make really good cocktails and elderflower and rose are delicious with gin.
  15. If I have lemons, flour, milk, eggs and cheese I can pretty much make anything into a meal.
  16. I don’t have to always go somewhere.
  17. How exhausting my life was. 
  18. How many people are medical experts with a side hustle as a politician! I am so impressed.
  19. What some people call prepping for a pandemic is also called hoarding.
  20. It is now necessary to announce to a group of people that you have allergies and try to convince them that if you sneeze no one will get COVID.
  21. It is now necessary that if you have allergies and might sneeze among a group of people that you might just want to stay home.
  22. The importance of supporting local small business owners. Shop small local businesses! 
  23. How popular puzzles are. I felt like I needed to run to Target to get one, slap half of it together, call the kids down to smile around it for a pic and post it on Facebook. “Look at us…..doing a puzzle! Together!”
  24. Nature and being outside is essential. Our country is beautiful!
  25. Not to take anything for granted. Be grateful for health, love, home, work, and each other!
Beaver Lake in Eureka Springs, Arkansas – A reminder of how beautiful our country is and that if you have love from those you love….you have everything.

Hunted! Products and Finds Worth Telling Ya’ll About.

Chased. Foraged. Pursued. Shopped. Ferreted. Rooted. Scouted. – Synonyms for hunted or all the ways to describe my hard-earned acquisitions

I feel like I’m always on the hunt for something. The perfect tote, just right nude lip gloss, just right summer, spring, fall, winter lip gloss, boots, sandals, sundress, pillows…..and on and on. Not to mention a product for my face that provides enough hydration and fights aging…..since I’m aging and all. Sigh.

So, I decided to share what I’ve hunted down. Maybe it will work for you too! I’ll also share products and things that my friends have found that they love. These are not sponsored. Just tried and approved by real women with busy lives and budgets.

Here are my latest favorites! These were sought out based on the heat and my quest to not look like a melting mess. The shoes had nothing to do with the heat. I’m always on the hunt for great shoes.

  1. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Water Gel Face Moisturizer

My face is so very dry. And at the very same time sweats in the summer heat. I can’t stand a heavy face cream in the summer but I can’t go without a moisturizer. My dermatologist always recommends Neutrogena for my sensitive skin and gave me a sample. I love it in the summer. It’s not enough in the winter but perfect for now! Absorbs like a gel but moisturizes like a cream. Makes my makeup look dewy and fresh. My boyfriend loves it too. So get some and pass it around the family. Or don’t.

  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Lipshine

I’m always looking for the perfect lip color that isn’t heavy in the summer – but it has to be moisturizing. Hunted one down! This one doesn’t feel heavy in the heat and doesn’t bleed. Isn’t sticky or tacky feeling. It’s the perfect lip gloss for the summer. Radiant Rose is my favorite shade that looks natural for casual summer days.  On top of that it moisturizes like a lip balm and is inexpensive. Winning!

  • Trish McEvoy Liquid Face Color

I bought a Trish McEvoy makeup planner in February and this cream blush came with it. I wasn’t in love with it. I thought it was streaky and hard to blend. I hoped that because it was creamy it would work on my dry skin during the winter but it did not. My powder blush worked better. Fast forward to summer….it is perfect for hot weather! Dry blush streaks when my face gets hot. This cream does not move and it blends so well giving my complexion a little burst of dewy color. It’s more sheer which I like in the summer. It’s great as a lip stain too with a gloss on top. Love it!! It’s in a twist-up click pen with a brush head. Get it at Nordstrom.  It lasts a long time so spending $38 on it is well worth it!

  • Trish McEvoy FAST-TRACK Bronzer Stick

I bought this in February along with the liquid face color. I love it!! I usually find bronzers hard to blend and too orange or weird for my skin. I’m pale. This one is perfect. It’s a cream to powder stick that blends easily with your fingers or a sponge. It comes in one shade and you can just keep building until you get the right amount of warmth for your skin. Keeps you looking sunny! I wear it over my moisturizer with the liquid face color, mascara, lip gloss and I’m out the door.

  • Vince Camuto Felima Two-Strap Sandal

I needed a sandal that could be casual but fun to wear out with a dress or with denim shorts and a t-shirt. It had to have a square toe, a blocky heel, be stylish and comfortable. I looked for a while. Finally scored the perfect pair! I bought it in black but I’m going to buy the black/white snakeskin patterned pair as well I think. Yeah….I think I will. Cute isn’t it? And it’s on sale.

Anyone find anything this summer that they love? Anyone? I’d like to hear about it!

I Think Where There Is Fried Rice There Is Love

So you mean to tell me that a chicken fried this rice? -Someone hilarious

My fried rice recipe is one of my favorites. And my kids love it!  I have perfected the recipe and it’s healthy which means that I am, once again, WINNING! I adapted my recipe from one published in The Joy Of Cooking. My most beloved cookbook….worn out, tattered and stained from Lord knows what I splattered on it. I am a messy cook but I think the bigger the mess the better the dish. Right?

If you read different recipes they will tell you to make the rice the day before and start with cold rice. Do I do that? No. Am I telling you not to make it the day before? No. Feel free to plan ahead and use cold cooked rice. I am just not good at planning that far ahead. I just cook the rice and set it aside. I have found the key is to get the oil in the skillet very hot. And when you add the eggs, make a little well in the middle of the rice and scramble it right there in that little spot before stirring it throughout the rice. OK?

We like our fried rice simple. If I make ham fried rice then I don’t add anything else. Sometimes mushrooms but my kids don’t like that. So truly just ham and rice. Anytime I bake a ham I make fried rice with the leftovers. Ham seasoned with cloves is amazing in fried rice. Coriander is the star in this dish so add that to your grocery list! Coriander makes many recipes delicious. You can use cardamom in place of it if you have that instead. Other uses for coriander include roasted potatoes, vegetable soup, roasted eggplant, and any Indian or Asian rice dish.

If I make chicken fried rice, I like to toss in some broccoli. That’s it. We do not like cabbage or onion but you knock yourselves out adding the veggies you like. And I use brown rice sometimes, but we really prefer white rice.

Here’s the recipe:

¼ cup olive oil – heat in a skillet

3 cups cooked rice – toss it in the hot oil

Once hot throughout and golden add:

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked chicken (I like sautéed chicken), ham or shrimp

Mix well and and hollow out a center in the rice and add:

2 eggs – scramble the eggs and then stir into the rice

Add:

1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce – or more if you like

1 teaspoon coriander

Toast sesame seeds in a small skillet – about 1 tablespoon and sprinkle on top of the fried rice

Variations:  Add mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, onion, peas or whatever you like!

It’s not pretty…..but how it tastes is what matters and it’s really good! Let me know how you like it and how you prepare your fried rice.

Ham fried rice with coriander and toasted sesame seeds