Think You Can’t Go Back To Work Because You Are Older? Stop That And Think Again!

A lot of people think it’s made up of a million perfect decisions and luck. But in reality, 90% of success is a combination of failures, picking yourself back up, persistence and HARD WORK. 

– Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx

At work with my lucky lemon charm bracelet! Wearing things I love keeps me motivated.

I was a stay at home mom for 13 years and loved every minute. I am very thankful that I was able to have this time with my children and never felt that it interrupted my career. This time in my life gave me so much in return.  I went back to work when my son started middle school and my daughter was in the fifth grade. It seemed like the perfect time knowing they would not be home the majority of the day. My then husband had been laid off around that time and even though he was back to work, the idea that it could happen again weighed heavily. Did I return with the same job title and salary as I had 13 years prior? No. Not even close. Did I have the perfect career wardrobe ready to hit the streets? No. Not even close. Resume? No. LinkedIn profile? What? 

I was in my mid-40’s and had a “who is going to hire a middle aged woman in her 40’s” attitude. My mindset was focused on every obstacle in my way. So I did the only thing that made sense to me. I bought a lottery ticket. When that didn’t pan out I decided on plan B. Find my old resume and bring it back to life. Just finding my old resume felt like a huge step and I realized I needed to add and change very little. Taking that one baby step forward felt so productive and empowering. The lesson – just dive in. Start somewhere. Baby steps still move us forward.

If you are a woman 40+ needing or wanting to go back to work but feeling like I did – not so confident with no idea how to start – the best thing you can do is simply change your mindset. College tuition costs were in my near future. I ended up getting divorced making a substantial income crucial. Plus, people live longer, healthier lives that demand increased retirement and savings. The most important reason – the self-fulfillment and identity after spending many years taking care of others. I changed my attitude thinking about all of the benefits in store for ME.

The good news for us “older” women is that according to the Department of Labor, the population of working women over 55 has increased 4.2 percent to 17 million over the last year. This is compared to a 1.8 percent increase in employment for all women and a 3.3 percent gain for men over 55.

While I am sure you agree this is great news, maybe you are thinking what about that career gap? What about it? I proudly exclaimed that I made the decision to stay home with my kids. It was a plan that worked. In an interview, share how much you accomplished and how ready, excited and motivated you are to return to work. I added church volunteering, National Charity League, Girl Scout Leader, PTA roles and school volunteering on my resume. All of it was received well in interviews. It helped prove my point that older women returning to work are more mature, react well to challenges, make excellent mentors and know how to professionally communicate with people at all age levels.

I started back working for a local magazine selling advertising. I found the job online and applied. It was not my dream job but it was a reentry into the workforce. I was able to be home to meet the bus and it allowed for flexibility with the kids. It ended after the magazine was sold. I bounced around a bit, survived a lay-off and another very unhappy situation. Closed doors lead to new opportunities and now I have a job that I love. I’m career focused and enjoy being in the office around smart people who are inspiring. I started this blog thanks to the confidence I’ve achieved and what I have learned.

I have heard people tell me that I make it look so easy – being older, divorced, raising teens, and working a full-time job. I’m so lucky everything fell into place they say! I smile and say thank you! The truth? I made many mistakes, interviewed and was turned down countless times, and have had many hard days. Changing my attitude, persistence, and HARD WORK paid off. If I can do it, you can, too!

Here are a few suggestions that worked for me:

Resume and LinkedIn Profile: Write a strong one and focus on your skills, attributes and accomplishments. Include your strengths and what makes you successful. As I mentioned, I added church volunteering, Girl Scout Leader, National Charity League, PTA roles and school volunteering on my resume. I had people mention they loved that as it shows I have a strong moral character and work ethic.

Network:  Tell your friends! Talk to people. Let everyone know your plans and you’ll find that you learn something from almost everyone you talk to. LinkedIn is a must and an excellent way to find people in an area of interest. Once you connect you will eventually want to send them a direct message. Send a brief to the point message. The worst thing that will happen is that you won’t hear back. If you do hear back, ask for a few minutes on the phone or face to face to learn more about their career path, their take on the industry, and if they can help connect you to others.

Interviews: Don’t talk yourself out of going on one because it’s not the job you want. It’s interview experience! And who knows…maybe it’s different than what you thought and maybe you’ll change your mind. Regardless, go on as many interviews as you can. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and how you like to work. Do you like to collaborate with a team or work better alone? What was a challenge you overcame in a past job? What was one of your biggest success stories? Are you a strategic thinker? Knowing who you are and how you work will clarify a lot and help with interview questions.

Wardrobe and makeup: Feel good about yourself on an interview. If you know you look put together and are excited about your outfit, your confidence will soar. You don’t have to break the bank. I bought a few dresses that were professional and comfortable. I didn’t want to mess with skirts, pants, waistbands or matching blouses, belts, etc…when getting ready for an interview. One great dress and a pair of stylish, professional shoes was all I needed. Once I started working, I shopped sales at J. Crew, Banana Republic, Anthropologie and Nordstroms for clothes that I could wear to work and dress down for any occasion. I found dresses and other clothing on sale for less than $50 that were made well – don’t buy cheap clothing! Buy clothes that will last and save money. I still enjoy a bargain but I love to budget for a really great piece from Tory Burch, Ted Baker and I so love Stuart Weitzman and L.K. Bennett shoes. Get a job, save some money and reward your hard work from time to time!

My best advice? Don’t doubt yourself! Be fearless – and if you are scared, do it anyway. You will feel on top of the world after getting that first job offer! Good luck! I’d love to hear comments with suggestions and stories to inspire.

The reward at the end of the day? Being greeted by my biggest fan!

My Friend Mary’s Basil Lemon Yogurt Cake

Bakers gonna bake, bake, bake, bake, bake! – A baker I don’t know said or sang this

Have lots of basil and lemons lying around? If you do, you should make this for breakfast this weekend. And if you don’t just run to the store and get some. My friend Mary made this for her daughter, Ava, for breakfast on a Sunday morning. She found Meyer lemons at the store and decided to make it and serve with fresh lemonade and fruit. I can’t wait for my daughter, Sarah Kate, to make it for me. Ha! I am a terrible baker. I don’t even like baking. I have ruined brownies out of the box. Yes, it is possible.

I love the story behind the recipe. Mary and her daughter volunteer at an assisted living facility – which sometimes my daughter and I will volunteer also playing bingo with the ladies. It is such a gratifying experience! I always think I am going there to help brighten their day but I think I leave a little better than when I walked in. I love their stories, advice and company.

Mary likes to go on Wednesdays because that’s when they bake. She said they might not remember what day it is but put a recipe in their hand, let them boss you around, and they are off to the races! So that’s where she scored this delicious recipe. From one of the sweet residents in assisted living. She hand wrote the recipe for her. I love that. This led to a discussion about our grandmothers and their handwritten recipes we still have. My grandmother Ann didn’t have recipes. I learned to cook from her and so I don’t have a lot of recipes either. I just learned. My other grandmother, Maxine, typed all of her recipes on a typewriter of course and then made notes on the cards. One handwritten comment says, “Extra good!”. I have them! Here is her beautiful recipe box she gave to me with her typed recipes – along with the name of the person who gave it to her.

Mary found this gorgous box recently and it holds her recipes. It’s so pretty!

Here’s the sweet handwritten recipe for the cake. So sweet. I love that Mary’s hand and phone casts a shadow over the page. Lol!

Sarah Kate! Are you reading this? I have all the ingredients you need to whip this up! Can’t wait. Love, mom.

Basil Lemon Yogurt Cake

3 cups of flour

5 tsp baking powder

1.5 cups sugar

Zest of 4 lemons

1.5 cups of plain yogurt

2 tbspn lemon juice

1 cup oil

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup chopped basil

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour cake pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and lemon zest. Add yogurt and lemon juice and mix well. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Add basil and mix well. Fold in flour mix just until it crumbles. Pour in bundt pan or cake pans and bake 45 minutes.

Glaze: 1 cup of powdered sugar, 4 tsp lemon juice, and 1 tsp milk. Pour over cooled cake.

An Inspiring Book About Loving Yourself Perfect For My Teens to Read

Happiness never comes from outside of us. He was happy because of the love coming out of him; she was happy because of the love coming out of her.  – Don Miguel Ruiz

“You are what you believe you are.” Oh, so true Don Miguel Ruiz. I just finished The Mastery of Love which has the most simple premise – love yourself first to feel true happiness. It really is so simple but actually putting that into practice is so complex. As women, we seem to naturally put everyone’s needs above our own. Our children, spouse, parents, etc.  If they are happy then certainly we will be happy. Marriages fall apart because we can’t seem to make our spouse happy. Or they can’t make us happy. That is the lesson right there. You cannot make anyone happy nor can you expect someone else to make you happy. We are responsible for doing that for ourselves. Once you start loving yourself as you are – not what you think you should be – you can work on loving those around you.

If you have experienced heartbreak from divorce, any break-up or challenges in your marriage, I strongly recommend that you read this book. It is like a manual for relationships to inspire and encourage you to heal your heart, mind and soul. We can’t nurture our relationships without nurturing ourselves first. That means loving ourselves for who we really are so that we can accept others and love them for who they are. Not what we want or need them to be.

My sweet boyfriend Kevin gave me this book after we had just started dating. He said it really helped him understand relationships after his divorce and the right perspective for successful relationships. He said it was important to understand that he couldn’t make me happy and he didn’t expect me to provide happiness. He already had that. Kevin has given this book to people newly engaged and his own teenaged son.

My teens are learning the art of relationships and how quickly others opinions can dim their light. Our kids will align their preferences or beliefs with someone else if they think that will make them loved or accepted. We have all done this especially in our youth to gain acceptance. I want my kids to live their life for themselves and let their true light shine. Love themselves for who they are so they can love others for who they truly are.

I will hand them this book and the conversation will go like this:

Me:  Please read this beautiful book about loving yourself for who you are.

My kids:   Ew. Mom.

Me: I’ll read it out loud to you at dinner.

My kids: Put it on my bed.

This book is truly perfect for anyone regardless of your religious faith to provoke thought, inspire, and empower. It opened my heart and mind towards receiving what God has for me. I hope it does the same for you! I’d love to hear about any books you have read that left you feeling empowered and changed for good! Please share in comments.

So order a copy for yourself and a few to share! Click on the image below:

Cocktails That Taste Like Summer

When life gives you lemons, mint, basil, and thyme add some vodka and hurry to the porch.

-Shannon Hunter (that’s me)

Summertime brings about the most delicious herbs. Whether you grow them yourself, go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, now is a great time to enjoy fresh basil, thyme and mint. My neighbor, Elizabeth, brought over an entire bouquet of basil and a craving for a lemon, basil and vodka cocktail. So I made her one. I always have lemons and vodka just in case.

I like to grow basil and mint in containers on the porch near the kitchen door. That way I can run out with my kitchen shears and cut some to add to whatever is on the stove or muddle in a drink. Basil and mint together is so good in sweet iced tea with lime. Love it!

So far this summer I have three delicious cocktails that are my favorites! I will say a gin and tonic is my absolute favorite in the summer, but I decided to make use of overflowing pots of basil and mint. I am not growing thyme so I have to get that from the farmer’s market or the grocery store when they have it.

They are so easy to make but you must have two things on hand…simple syrup and good quality tonic and soda. I highly recommend Fever-Tree. It truly is the best brand of tonic and soda I have ever had. Indian, Mediterranean and Elderflower are my favorite flavors. Here is a picture in case you aren’t familiar:

The best bargain for Fever Tree is to order it by the case on Amazon – otherwise it is between $5 – $6 for four bottles. Here are the links to my favorites:

Indian Tonic Water:

Elderflower Tonic Water:

Meditarranean Tonic Water:

To get started on porch sitting and sipping, you must have chilled simple syrup.

Simple Syrup:

1 cup of sugar – I also squeeze in a little honey. Especially if I add a sprig of thyme to the water.

1 cup of water

Bring water to a boil and stir in the sugar and honey. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk. Pour into a Pyrex cup or heat resistant container and let it cool. I keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Thyme infused simple syrup – add a sprig or two to the simmering water.

Basil, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Muddle 2-3 leaves of fresh basil in a glass – leave them in the glass

Fill glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add a shot of vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup or more to taste

Top with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic

Garnish with a lemon slice and basil leaf

Stir and Serve!

Thyme, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Fill a glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add one shot of Vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1-2 tablespoons of thyme infused simple syrup or more to taste

Add Fever-Tree tonic or soda to top – I prefer tonic but others prefer soda – make two and decide!

Stir and garnish with lemons and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Mint Juleps aren’t just for The Kentucky Derby ya’ll. It’s a great drink that is so refreshing during the summer. And helps with what to do with all that overflowing mint.

Mint Julep:

5 fresh mint leaves, muddled

2 ounces of simple syrup

2 ounces of bourbon – Woodford Reserve is my favorite mixing bourbon

Muddle 5 mint leaves in a glass. Fill the glass to the top with ice. Add simple syrup and bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? You know I’d love to hear!

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

With freedom, books, flowers and the moon who could not be happy? – Oscar Wilde

Happy Fourth of July! I love this holiday to celebrate our independence and feel so fortunate to live in this country. Holidays always bring about some sort of reflection for me and on July 4th I find myself focused on dreams. I think it’s because we, as Americans, have so much opportunity to make our dreams a reality. I have seen people from all walks of life take an idea and do amazing things with it. No matter where you come from. We all have the freedom to choose what we do with what we have.  Resources may come easier for some than others, but hard work and dedication will pay off. As Robert Frost said, “Freedom lies in being bold.” There are so many ways to interpret what he meant by this. For me, it means freedom from anything holding you back or wearing you down, if you are willing do what it takes to make a change. The courage to make decisions to be a healthier, happier, better version of yourself.

Fireworks lighting up the sky surrounded by people I love is just magical for me. I feel more connected to those around me and truly appreciate our country’s unique history. The freedoms declared by the Declaration of Independence were blood-bought and came at a deadly cost. Many, many lives were lost so we can live today in a free society. I truly cherish that dream that so many gave their lives to achieve.

I suppose that is why on the fourth day of July I focus on my own dreams, goals and challenges. A night sky filled with beautiful lights fills me with promise and hope. I hope it does for you, too. And I also hope that whatever those feelings spark inside of you will light a fire towards your pursuit of happiness and building a life you love.

I’d love to hear what July 4th means to you and how you celebrate Independence Day so please tell me about it in comments below!

The Impulse Decision That Makes Me Happy Every Day

I am much more concerned about things that will feel delightful rather than impressive.

Celerie Kemble – One of my very favorite interior designers.

My kitchen backsplash makes me smile! It was not my first choice. I really wanted Carrara marble in a herringbone pattern. I was dead set on it. I walked into a beautiful tile store and stated very clearly and definitively what I wanted. The idea was to quickly get it ordered so that I could get back to the office as I was on my lunch break. Then we started talking numbers. The cost was twice what I had budgeted. The labor was going to be even more than the materials. I didn’t like any of the suggestions for a similar look such as ceramic subway tiles or ceramic tiles in a herringbone pattern. That was not the look I was going for and wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted what I wanted!

I walked through the showroom just to see if there was anything else I might like. There was this gorgeous display of porcelain patterned tile that I immediately fell in love with. My comment to the designer was something along the lines of “I love it so I probably can’t afford it.” Her response? “That tile and the labor will be more than half the cost of the Carrara herringbone.” My response? “That one! Let’s do it!” A few minutes later I was back in the car and couldn’t believe I chose something for my kitchen so quickly and on a whim. I went with my gut and the way it made me feel when I first laid eyes on it. In the past I would have needed to send it to my mom, my sister, five friends and post on Facebook for feedback and approval. I used to be so nervous and not so confident in my own choices. Not anymore! I am sticking with staying true to myself and making choices based on who I am. My home is such a representation of my personality.

Patterned tile is definitely a hot trend right now. Trends come and go, but style does not. This classic pattern in neutral colors will enhance any paint color or kitchen updates I make in the future. The distressed patina on the tile gives it a beautiful weathered appearance that adds character and charm. Kind of like the patina I have developed over the years. Ha!

These 8×8 tiles are by Nola and the pattern is Lafayette.

Shine On!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.  -Edith Wharton

POPULAR: Lemons are one of the most common fruits grown in Tasmania, but they are also a target for pests of all sorts.

I love lemons. They smell good and I can’t resist the vibrancy of the color yellow. It is the happiest color ever! Not only do lemons make me happy just looking at them, but I put them in everything from water to my delicious meatballs. Yes, meatballs.  I’ll share the recipe with you. It’s so good. If the color didn’t make me happy enough the smell makes me believe every little thing really is ok. That’s what this blog is about and why I called it Lemon Luster. Lemons are restorative and associated with cleansing. Not just to my sink that sparkles after I run a wedge around it to disinfect or an old piece of furniture that needs a lemon polish to restore it’s luster. Lemons restore our souls and well-being, too.  In fact, essential lemon oil is known to provide antioxidants to combat things determined to make us sick and grouchy. The mere fact that lemons can bring back shine and re-energize the spirit is why I have a bowl full in my kitchen all the time. I love that feeling I get when I see that happy yellow and smell that beautiful refreshing scent. I want what lemons give. I haven’t lost my shine, I just need to polish the tarnish to regain the luster once again. I’m on a mission to reinvent myself for the next half of my life. And it’s going to be good!

I’m in my middle years with many, many left ahead of me. I’ve raised two amazing kids who still need to be raised. They are 15 and 16 and I’m in a different mindset from the toddler and elementary years. They are enjoying looking ahead to their lives and what makes them happy. I’m trying to figure out where my life is now and what truly makes me happy. I want to shine from the inside out and make the most of every day. Curate my evolving style, enjoy my passion for cooking, and learn to take the lemons that life gives me and add vodka. Or make lemonade. Either one.

This blog is how, as an almost 50 year old woman, I go about doing just that. I’ll share life lessons that shaped where I’m at now. How I found my job that I love and never thought I’d have. Why I started a blog. Aren’t there enough already? How I shop, dress, and products I’ve discovered that has people stop me to ask where did you get that and why does your skin glow? Because I’ve stopped others to ask the same questions and I have read many blogs and pieced together what works for me at my age. I wear what I want and I don’t care if everyone else is wearing jeans or shorts. If I want to wear a skirt I’ll wear the skirt! And just smile when someone says “well, you’re all dressed up”.

Are you a mom with older kids or a women 40+ trying figure out what in the heck you do now? Has life thrown you lemons? Me, too. I have learned to squeeze all the juice out of each one to become stronger, resilient and shine! I’ll Take what comes my way and decide for myself what to do with it. Good things, bad things, surprises, heartache, blessings, you get the picture.

Join me and I promise you these things…..you will laugh (I’m funny and ridiculous things happen to me), you’ll learn all kinds of delicious ways to throw lemons in recipes and cocktails, and I’ll share all the products and clothing that has truly changed my life. There are a few lip glosses that if discontinued will cause me to throw a running, barking fit. Never heard of a running, barking fit? Stay with me. I’ll tell you all about it.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have some. Sure hope you have what I’m missing and will share your experiences and lessons learned that helped you pave your way.

Join me on a journey to find our best, most lustrous selves. Let’s shine on!