50 Things I Finally Know Now That I’m Almost 50.

The first 50 years of childhood are always the hardest.  – Unknown

I don’t feel old. I think aging has taken on a whole new meaning and you are only as old as you feel. It’s very liberating to turn 50 and look back at all the things that happened that have shaped me into who I am today. All of those lessons, good and bad, have led me to choices I have made. These choices are helping me make my dreams a reality to create a new chapter in my story. I have learned a lot about who I am and what I like. The best part….I don’t care what anyone else thinks. That’s the gift you get when you turn 50!

Here’s my list of 50 things I know for sure as I turn 50:

1.I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. Thank you Stuart Smalley. I know you said it back in 1992 and I should have listened but I was dumb then. I miss the muscle tone I had in my legs when I was 22, but not the low self-esteem, over-thinking, and anxiety I had trying to figure out the realities in life.

2. The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Oh Erma. Read one of Erma Bombeck’s books! She is so very funny and her words make me think about what I take for granted. I don’t want to be in competition with anyone and I just want to be happy for the Jones family. You know, those people we all try to keep up with. I am content. It’s taken me 50 years to say that.

3. I will never interview well at Hooters and that’s ok. I don’t have what it takes if you know what I mean. I’m over it. I’m going to love my body as it is. We know we are getting older but it’s like our bodies want to make sure we are aware. My body: Oh hey! Down here! I know I used to be perky up there but I’ve moved! Yep. These are your new knees now. We have folds! I’ve decided that if my knee skin and other areas can shift around then my perceptions can, too. I’m going to be kinder and more accepting to myself.

4. Growing older is a privilege.

5. It’s not scary to put yourself out there. Would I have started a blog when I was 25? No! My instructions for my written thoughts were adamantly told to my sister, “Crawl under my bed and burn everything you find under there.” Try new things, take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail.

6. I can’t rock a Dorothy Hamill haircut. Or a Anna Wintour bob. I have tried both and I looked like Little Boy Blue. I know this now. Stick to what works. Long straight hair it is.

7. Who my people are. Carefully choose who gets your time and heart. Choose those who are beautiful on the inside who let their light shine out. Bask in their glow and give it back!

8. I’m not a runner. That’s all I have to say about that.

9. I don’t like beer. I’m not going to pretend I think it’s good anymore. It’s the beer. It’s definitely not me.

10. There is no shame in asking for help. Never suffer alone. Too many people are willing to listen and help.

11. It really is better to give then receive.

12. I’ll never like quinoa and I won’t die if I don’t eat it. Blech.

13. I’ll never like kale and I won’t die if I don’t eat it. Blech.

14. Sunscreen really is important. Not sure? Come over and I’ll show you my neck. My dermatologist:  “Ummmmm, not much I can do there. Should’ve worn sunscreen.”

15. I like being over-dressed. You wear your cut-off jorts and be happy. I’ll wear my dress and be equally happy. And style has no age.   

16. You can’t say I love you enough.

17. My mom was right. That’s all I have to say about that.

18. Use the good china every day. My grandmother gave me at least three sets of china. They were all to be used every day she said. What good are things if they are hidden away and kept for a special occasion she said. Every day is a special occasion. Wear your good jewelry. Use your china. Eat in the dining room even if it’s not Easter, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving. What are you saving it for?

19. Fear of missing out is a waste of time. Want to stay in? Didn’t get an invite somewhere? So what! Stop sulking, put the phone down and resist false comparisons. Be where you are and enjoy every minute of it. JOMO. Joy of missing out. It’s a thing now.

20. My humor is off-color, inappropriate at times, and some people don’t like it. I’m not sorry. It’s who I am. A fart in church is funny I don’t care who you are.

21. Life really is too short to drink bad coffee.

22. Life is not too short to drink bad wine. Bad wine is better than no wine. And if all that is available is just so-so wine I’ll drink it and be thankful for it. This does not apply to coffee. This is my list. If it doesn’t make sense to you then you make your own list.

23. You can make dreams come true. By doing. Not dreaming.

24. Anxiety and stress is normal. Figuring out how to handle it and manage it for a healthy, happy life is hard but can be done.

25. I know so little. There is still so much to learn and know. I used to think I knew most everything. Because when you’re between the ages of 5 and 29 you just do and you make sure everyone knows it. Now I keep my mouth shut (well, more than I used to anyway) and listen.

26. It’s ok to say no.

27. Pay yourself first. Allocate money to savings, time to yourself, and schedule things that bring you joy FIRST, instead of trying to fit these things in if there’s time or anything left at the end.

28. My kids are going to be all right. Even if they fail at something, get their feelings hurt, don’t get into their dream college, are rejected by who they thought were their friends, get a bad grade, are sad when things don’t work out, etc…….my kids are going to be all right.

29. It’s ok to have 15-20 bottles of perfume and you don’t have to use one up before you buy another. Because I said so.

30. It’s ok to have 15-20 lipsticks / glosses and you don’t have to use one up before you buy another. Because I said so.

31. I don’t have to wear jeans to work on Friday just because it’s casual Friday. I’m wearing the cutest dress I own on a Friday. Unless it’s January. And then I’m wearing jeans. Unless it’s over 55 degrees. Then I might wear a dress and boots. Wear what you want!

32. Friends might not stay your friends. It’s always hurtful when someone decides they don’t want to hang out with you anymore. It happens to all of us throughout our lives and not just in third grade. Sometimes they come back and you pick up just where you left off. Sometimes it just ends. Always be thankful for that friendship and remember it fondly.

33. It’s not too late…..for anything. Ambition, creativity and growth are lifelong journeys.

34. I have the power to shape my future. I am not a victim of any circumstance. Regardless of what happens, the power to change is up to me.

35. Marie Kondo, a capsule wardrobe and minimal anything is not for me. Stay true to who you are. Don’t throw anything out that you will want back. That’s what storage boxes, shelves and bins are for. Don’t be a hoarder either. That’s bad.

36. Quality beats quantity.

37. Learn from the past. Don’t live in the past. Be present here and now.

38. What grace really means. Show grace, be gracious and forgive with grace.

39. My problems are not the worst. Neither are yours. I know now that if I saw everyone else’s problems laid out on the floor along with mine, I’d likely grab mine and run.

40. Everything can be figured out and there is a solution for everything. You may not like what it is but no one is stuck.

41. Yield. Pause. Breathe. Passing time allows for so much to take care of itself and lends clarity for how to easily approach anything.

42. I haven’t had my best days yet. I just think I have! I’ll have this on repeat on my 50th birthday. Say it over and over.

43. Money is crucial but health is the real wealth. I can always make more money, but once health is gone…..it’s gone. Exercise, water, sleep and good nutrition.

44. You can wear white after Labor Day. Open toed shoes, too. Do it! I dare you. Break all the rules.

45. There are no rules in dating. Single women – you can call first, text first, message first and even *gasp* suggest a date first. Make your own rules that fit your personality.

46. Good things may be gone for those who wait. If you want something – go get it! Make it happen! Now go!

47. The senior discount is cool. I will ask for it loud and proud. Movie theater tickets are a gazillion dollars! I’m as old as dirt! Give me the discount!

48. Give more compliments. Now when I see someone in the store or out and about and think to myself “what a cute skirt, pretty hair, skin, blah blah blah” I don’t keep it to myself. I love hearing compliments – I’m so vain! Everybody does and it makes their day a little better.

49. Radiate positivity and let your light shine. Smile more. You will feel happier and it’s such a great feeling knowing those around you feel more at ease and happier because if it.

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50. Have a zest for life! We only get one so make it count!

Hello Fall! Goodbye Heart. And Happy New Year!

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.  – Taken from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Balloon Glow Festival before the start of school.

It really isn’t fall but my kids went back to school and back to school means it is fall in my book. However, it is 96 degrees in the middle of August, which is very much summer. What I mean to say is, Happy New Year! Yes, the heat has gotten to me but I can explain. Back to school feels more like New Year’s Day more than New Year’s Day sometimes. It’s a new beginning! A new school year means new notebooks, sharpened pencils, new clothes, a blank slate and a fresh start. We make goals and look ahead towards all things promising. I make new resolutions as summer turns to fall to make sure I finish the year strong. I ask my kids to make goals appropriate for the grade ahead of them. My son will be a junior and my daughter a sophomore in high school. Each school year I know my kids will change so much between the first day of school and the last. It’s so exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time. Let’s clarify – heartbreaking for me! I have a hard time letting go and loosening the apron strings.

My kids resolutions are typically the same – get good grades, not read any more than required (ughhh), try to not procrastinate, know where socks, shoes, keys, etc…are the night before vs. five minutes before walking out the door already five minutes late. Mine are very different every year because my kids are so different every year. On my list is to start the plan for college admissions for my son. It’s killing me. Because we are talking about college my other resolution involves being true to who we are and making decisions that are right for us – not comparing what others are doing and getting confused and caught up with what we THIINK we should be doing vs. what we KNOW we should be doing because it fits our circumstances. Our circumstances – not our friends, not what we think social media is telling us we should do, and not the rumor mill based on the perception of what is required to make it to college and be successful through adulthood.

My third resolution is to promise not to try to do everything. Balance is going to be my word and theme for the next 12 months.  While my high school kids may sometimes need a micromanager at times, it’s not the right tactic for their growth and my sanity. At 15 and almost 17, they need to figure out how to do things themselves and learn the hard way. I resolve to guide, support, continue to teach them life skills and maintain balance in our home. Did I mention college? College bound kids = stress = pressure. We are going to dial it down in our house so we can succeed. We have started some school years like race horses right out of the gate, overscheduled and with the message of “do your best” but unintentionally phrasing it more like get perfect scores, stay organized, take out the trash, have a great attitude, be social, and stay focused on the sports field. I have found we can’t do it all. Balance. More balance.

I used to compare my kids to others when they were toddlers and elementary aged based on whose kids were taller, shorter, lost their teeth first, their reading level and other things because I was worried about development. I constantly worried if I felt they were “behind” other children. Now I know better. Teachers and pediatricians told me not to compare – they all grow and develop differently and at their own pace. Did I listen? No. But, I remember what they said and now I know they were right. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher told me this after one teary discussion, “My boys were average students at best. They came home and played outside. We knew they would find their way. One is now a pilot and the other a doctor.” The message is this – we give our kids our love, support, and the tools they need to be great adults. They will take that and do exactly what fits best for them.

Now that mine are about to leave the nest in a few years I finally get it. Despite my worries, comparing, fretting, and over analyzing my kids have done exactly as they should. They have grown into who they were destined to be based on their own interests and mindset. Now my attention is turned inwards. I also take solace in talking to parents whose children have graduated from high school or college and are on their own. They don’t talk about AP courses or GPA’s. They tell me the college they are going to or graduated from and how everything worked out exactly how it should. Bumps in the road, delays, failures, successes, lessons – some of it expected and some surprises.  Not much advice just well wishes for the best of luck to all of us and most always this parting message, “It will work out just fine. You’ll see.”

So while my heart aches a lot, I also feel joy knowing that my kids are starting a new year with endless opportunity. I can’t wait to see where that leads them. I also feel like I am learning and building personally and professionally. I’m excited to start this new year along with my kids growing and moving towards the future.  

Cheers to a fresh start and infinite possibilities! I’d love to hear if you feel the same way and if the arrival of autumn has you making resolutions.

Sea, Sand, Books, and Beach Shrimp

Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly. – Van Morrison

I just returned home from another great beach vacation. We celebrated my mom’s 70th birthday at her favorite place – the beach on 30-A in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. If you haven’t been let me tell you it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I have been to and I’ve been to many coast to coast. Pristine natural beauty and the color of the water is truly gorgeous. The Watercolor community in Santa Rosa on 30-A is so aptly named for the aqua and turquoise crystal clear sea water. The gorgeous water color combined with sugar white sand is breathtaking. We stayed a few miles from Watercolor in the charming Blue Mountain Beach area and loved it.

Typically, we pack in activities such as snorkeling, boating, shopping and enjoying as many restaurants as possible. This time, my kids let me know they wanted to relax vs. being dragged everywhere. Dragged everywhere? Poor children. That was music to my ears. I read two books and lounged on the beach everyday all day. Heaven on earth. I read Educated by Tara Westover and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Read them! Even if you don’t like to read. Read them! They will change you for good.

When I did pull myself out of my chair it was to figure out dinner. There was a fantastic fresh seafood market next door and I bought tons of fresh shrimp. Old Bay, lemons, boiling water and in minutes I announced that dinner was served. Fresh watermelon, a salad, and crusty French bread accompanied. Lunch the next day was shrimp tossed in a little mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, avocado, salt and pepper. So fresh and healthy! I call it Beach Shrimp. Yes, it’s on a paper plate. I barely washed my hair much less styled dinner.

I’m back home and it’s hot. I’m craving this perfect meal as it is cold, light and healthy. The best part – it just takes a little time to prepare!

Here’s the recipe if you can call it that:

Shrimp – only fresh. Please. I bought a little over 2 lbs.

Old Bay – ¼ of a cup or 2 heaping tablespoons per pound I’d say

Lemon – a big one – cut into quarters

Add water to a large pot – a little over half way to the top. Squeeze juice from a lemon into the water and toss it in – I quarter it and add it to the water. Add Old Bay and stir. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and boil 3 minutes for medium and 4 minutes for large shrimp.

Beach Shrimp:

1 lb of cooked, chilled shrimp – peeled and deveined

Tablespoon of mayonnaise

Tablespoon of sour cream

Juice of half of a lemon

One avocado, coarsely chopped

Coarsely ground salt and pepper.  I like Himelayan pink salt.

Toss it all together. I like it alone or over a spring mix salad. It’s also good in French bread served po-boy style.

This will definitely be a recipe made at the beach each summer and enjoyed at home when the mood strikes.  I hope you like it! Comment if you feel like it if you have any beach recipes you enjoy.

Birthday Girl!
My Sea Urchins!

Happy National Lipstick Day! Because There Is No Such Thing As Too Many Lipsticks.

Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together. – Elizabeth Taylor

I guess there really is a national holiday for everything! I just happen to love lipstick and lipgloss, though, so I’m all for it. I also just happen to be wearing my favorite lipstick / gloss combination. I was at the beach all last week and am just returning back to work so I needed a little Monday morning pick me up. A cute summer dress (that is also comfortable) and bright glossy lips helped send me on my way. As I get older my skin keeps getting drier making it important to find moisturizing lipsticks and glosses. MAC seems to have the perfect formula for my lips that I count on and I love their colors.

MAC’s Lady Danger lipstick with Lipglass in PRRR (yes that ‘s the color…..PRRR) swiped over it works well with my red floral dress I chose for an otherwise mundane Monday. Lady Danger is a very bright orange red. I love to wear it on its own when I’m out at night but I typically blend it with a nude gloss to lighten it up for day.

Mondays can be tough but the right attitude and a cute dress to lift your spirits makes it better. As my mom always says, put on a little lipstick and everything will be alright.

Here are the two I wore today with the link included…

MAC Lady Danger

MAC PRRR

And a few other favorites I keep in my bag always…

NARS Orgasm Oil-Infused Lip Tint – peachy pink shimmer

tarte Rainforest of the Sea Quench Lip Rescue in Rose – When you want a lip balm AND pretty color this is the one!

MAC Date Night – It’s purple and it’s fantastic. But it doesn’t look purple on your lips – just the most perfect plummy glossy color for day or night.

Gloss it on, get out there and smile! And every little thing is going to be alright.

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.