July 1, 2014

10 Things to do in July

It's July! What's not to love about July? It's summer! The only month during the year that doesn't involve school books, when everyone seems to be on vacation, the month of red, white, and blue. Just relax and enjoy.

1. It's time for a parade. If your town doesn't have a 4th of July parade, you should find one. I still remember the parade the town I grew up in had each year. My family would set up lawn chairs along the parade route and kids would throw candy out into the street. Well...they still do that. We spend the 4th enjoying the Orleans parade. It's filled with marching bands, a collection of classic cars, bagpipers, veterans, more music, our favorite local baseball team, and kids throwing candy into the street.

2. Of course there can't be a parade without fireworks. When we delayed our vacation, we watched Atlas put on quite the show here in town, then we'd find at least a couple of towns down the Cape that hosted their own displays. We've even watched them from the beach where it seems everyone is exempt from the no fireworks permitted law, and again in August during the Festival of Fireworks. I even love to hear them go off all summer long as I'm drifting off to sleep.

3. Have a watermelon spitting contest. A potato sack race. Play kickball. Volleyball. Just some good old-fashioned fun that doesn't require anything electronic. Can you unplug for an entire day? How about a week? Try it.

4. Swim until you can't swim any more. If I'm lucky, I get to spend most of this month under water. In the ocean, in the lake...it doesn't matter to me as long as I'm thoroughly submerged.

5. Wear red, white, and blue. You don't have to look like an American flag, but you can combine all three if you're careful. And if it's just too much, then the combinations of red and white, blue and white, or blue and red work well too. Or decorate your rooms with touches of red, white, and blue. Get crafty with these ideas and don't forget to decorate the kid's bikes with lots of streamers!

6. Shuck some corn. Nothing tastes better than local produce, so if corn isn't your thing, take the time to find a farmers' market and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Don't bother cooking them. Snap some beans and eat them raw or slice up a big, juicy tomato and add a little salt or olive oil. Then dig in.

7. Go barefoot. Feel the grass and sand between your toes. Even if you're not keen on walking around barefoot, slip off your shoes when you picnic in the park or your backyard. Then pamper those feet with this wonderful homemade foot scrub.

8. Eat lots of ice cream. Did you know National Ice Cream Day is July 20th? Visit one or several of your favorite places this month or try out some of mine.

9. Enjoy all kinds of outdoor entertainment. From baseball games to concerts or movies in the part, to arts and crafts fairs, library book sales (that's entertainment to me), to yoga on the beach. These are simply things we can't do during the winter months and must be enjoyed if you have the opportunity to do so.

10. Camp under the stars. Pitch a tent in the backyard, find a national park or private campground and just marvel at nature. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the bullfrogs, the birds, and a the delightful smell of a campfire. Just because you're camping doesn't mean you can't enjoy the comforts of home. Pillows, blankets, books, food...bring all your favorite along. If you want to rough it, do so in style and with these tips.

Image: personal

June 27, 2014

Have a Great Summer (and Weekend)!

It's that time again... I am off to enjoy my extended vacation on the beach. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know the drill. But for those of you who have just found me, I will be back...so please stick around. While I'm away, the blog will go through some cosmetic changes, so I'm excited to return to a brand new blog in August! I hope you will be too. While I'm away, I'll be writing new posts, thinking up new series, and getting a few sponsors on board. I'm hoping you like the new look and new navigation bar to make reading a bit easier. I will post one more time at the beginning of next week to continue my "10 Things to do in" series, but then I must say goodbye for now. Here are some of my favorite posts (and yours) to keep you company until I return.

Design & Decorating:
Outdoor Living
Playhouse for Adults
Meaningful Color
Color: Staging Your Home for Sale
Let's Work it Out

Health & Well-Being:
For the Love of the Game
Rain or Shine
Beautiful Long Hair
Sugar Body Scrubs

Orange Chicken Stir Fry
Belgian Waffles
Lemon Cake with Raspberry Sauce
Homemade Maple Ice Cream
Comfort Food

Be Inspired:
Photo Contest: The Guidebook Cape Cod
If You Could do Anything
DIY Weekend: Industrial Pipe Shelving
DIY Weekend: Barn Doors
Spotted: Coffee on Wheels

Books & Writing:
The Art of Journaling
(Children's) Books
Do You Read About Food?
Good Things Come in Pretty Packages
You Are What You Read

Home & Family:
I'm Just a Mom
(Wo)Man's Best Friend
Getting Ready
Scenes From Around New England: Boston
It's the Week Before School

Happy Summer!

Photo: personal

June 25, 2014

Indoor S'mores

I confess, I have at least one s'more while on vacation. Although I'm not a huge fan, it seems like a rite of passagesummer has arrived, you're sitting around a campfire, toasted marshmallow must be consumed. So why not add a bit of chocolate and a graham cracker? However, if the weather is not cooperating, why not treat yourself to the indoor version. Using a non-stick skillet or a trusty cast-iron pan, simply layer chocolate chips (they melt easier than candy bars), cover with graham crackers and marshmallows, and broil them in the oven. Sort of a s'mores dip. Enjoy!

Photo: fitterfood.com

June 24, 2014

Female Role Models

Trying to raise two strong, independent-minded women today is getting harder. Although raising a son had its challenges as well, males dominate this arena. Female role models are a little harder to come by. That's not to say that all men are created equalthey're certainly not. The media is filled with one disappointing story after another regardless of gender. But the women our girls have grown up watching and listening to have fallen from grace one too many times.

I've always been a little strict when it came to television viewing no matter who had the remote, but actresses and musicians like Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and Miley Cyrus have (thankfully) drifted out of favor. We were especially saddened by Miley...we had hoped she was going to beat the odds. Then along came Taylor Swift.

Fingers crossed, I bought three tickets to her Fearless Tour at Gillette Stadium. It had been a long time since I had gone to a concert of that size and I had no idea what to expect. My girls were 12 and 15 and I was still a bit protective when it came to large public spaces. I wanted them to enjoy the experience without mom hanging on their every move, but they were too excited to even notice and they were happy I was along for the ride.

We've since been to two more concerts of hers. No bad language, no inappropriate clothing and even her audiences seem as clean cut as the star herself. Through it all she has grown and matured without the slightest hint that at any moment she's going to disappoint her fans and turn into a spoiled star or worse. And thankfully, even at 16 and 19, they still love her.

Of course, there are women out there who don't have to be famous to be counted as role models. One of those women happened to be a Boston Marathon runner by the name of Shalane Flanagan. Shalane is a hometown girl who had been training so hard and was so determined to win after last year's bomb attempt that she actually apologized when she didn't win. We watched her lead with pride for most of the race, and in sadness when she fell behind. We were rooting for her too. All of her hard work may not have won her the race, but it certainly paid off.

Role models can have a powerful effect on you, which is why it was so important that I surrounded my girls with other girls and women who would inspire them. I remember getting asked who my role models were during my Junior Miss interview in high school. I paused for long enough to ramble off two women who came to mindBarbara Walters and Chris Evert. Now, you can argue that I didn't do too badly. But I didn't answer honestly either. A role model is simply a person whom you look up to, a person you admire and want to be like, and not necessarily someone who is well-known. (I'm still ashamed today that I didn't tell them I considered my mother to be my role model.) As adults, we tend to forget their importance.

It's important for all of us to recognize the power in strong, hard-working, good-hearted women. I know that (in addition to my mother) I look up to writers, artists of all kind, and people in my inner circle that help me be a better me. Because of them, I want to work harder towards my goals. I want to revel in their success without jealousy. I see this in my girls too and it makes me so proud of them. To know that they have listened to their hearts as well as their heads, and to cheer on those who may look up to them as well. I certainly do.

We're still rooting for you Taylor. (Please don't disappoint us.) Thank you and we'll see you at your next concert.

Photo: personal, taken during Taylor's Red Tour

June 23, 2014

Small Space Decorating

Have you been checking out the new way to live in your home? Do with less, live with less. More and more people are downsizing into affordable, manageable homes (some as little as 600 square feet!) while others are just re-using the space they have more wisely. We all have our wish list of items or rooms we'd love to have in our own homes, but it's not always possible. I could surely use a decent mudroom, but that's not going to happen, so I make do with what I've got and use an area of my home to store shoes and boots, hats and scarves. Take a look at this mini office. What do you really need? A desk. Check. A chair. Check. And storage. Check. The shelf helps to keep the desk clear while allowing you to reach up and grab whatever you need. If you have a closet nearby, buy a filing cabinet on wheels that would allow to store it away and out of sight, yet still be very usable. Domino has some great small space decorating ideas.

If you have a small kitchen, make it as efficient as possible. As with any tight squeeze, you'll want to think up when it comes to storage. The shelving over the cabinetry allows you to store things you may not need on a daily basis and adds to the overall decoration of the room. When it comes to small kitchens, you'll also want to keep it simple. White is a great choice, but it doesn't have to be boring. The wood-paneled bar adds a bit more texture as do the granite counters. Warm up the room with additional natural textures—the cutting boards, lampshades, and basket all work to keep this space from looking too sterile. Head on over to One Kings Lane for the full makeover story.

Here are some more ideas for small space decorating...

1. Don't be afraid of color. Go ahead and paint a small room in a rich shade and you'll fall in love. The smallest rooms in my home are the darkest. (I used BM Maple Syrup and Creekside Green.)

2. Again, think up. You can place a piece of shelving over any door to store extra toiletries in the bath, books in a living room, laundry detergent and towels in a laundry room.

3. Keep sight lines clear. This means try to have a continuous view from one side of your room to the other. This will give you the illusion of space.

4. Use furnishings with low or no backs. Ottomans, benches, and/or a chaise will still allow for ample seating without taking up visual space.

5. Glass is king. Use mirrors to help expand space and bounce the light around the room. Opt for a glass coffee table instead of wood and continue the theme with accessories. The lighter, brighter, or shinier the surface, the more light you'll bring in. (Just remember the other rule: balance is key. Too much of a good thing is always too much.)

6. Don't forget the power of storage gadgets. Drawer pull-outs, hooks, baskets...basically anything that can hang or slide into an existing space to allow you to make the most of existing storage. (See this photo for inspiration.) You can find similar at The Container Store and Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

You may also enjoy Small Spaces and Clear Out the Clutter.

Photos: Domino and One Kings Lane

June 20, 2014

Summer (officially) Begins Tomorrow!

What will you do? That pond looks pretty good. The outside temperatures are finally starting to heat up and soon I'll be enjoying salt and pond water to help cool me off. However, this weekend is all about organizing and packing...so I can get to the salt and pond water.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and here are some links you may enjoy.

Entertain in style with these summer essentials.

We're heading to a wedding next month, so this fun gift guide came in handy.

I swore I was going to get my eyelashes tinted for the summer, but waterproof mascara will have to do. I rarely wear make-up in the summer, but when I do, it has to work. Find the best one for you.

Long summer days and the hot sun can leave you feeling drained. Power up with these tips for all-day energy. (I swear by the protein for breakfast tipfor all meals, actuallyso it's all-natural peanut butter and yogurt for me. And drink lots of water.)

Enjoy this tasty treat.

Where NOT to go on your summer vacation. (Made me laugh.)

Here is some more summer reading to add to your list.

Happy weekend!

Image: personal

June 19, 2014

Ann Taylor

Last Saturday I went to the mall. I actually said, "I'm at the mall on a Saturday" out loud to everyone in the car. I don't like to shop on Saturdays. I don't like malls. However, I do realize that in order to shop for things like clothing, you have to occasionally throw in the towel and just do it. I had no intention on shopping for me; we all went on the long car ride to go see a movie, and since there is a fabulous book store (and mall) nearby, why not make a day of it. Once inside, I let my girls loose while I hang back. Between the loud music and the (perfume) smells, I just let them know I'm there for support and to come and get me if they need to. That's when my youngest daughter, who knows I like Ann Taylor clothing, broke off and wandered into their store. Followed closely behind by my older daughter. In fact, they probably like about a 1/4 of the clothing styles themselves. (And it doesn't hurt that Kate Hudson is their spokesperson.)

Of course they were having a sale... I walked out with two skirts and two tops that I rationalized I could not only wear to the Cape, but also to work. I am still a classic girl at heart, so I usually buy classic cuts and throw in a few small trendy items every now and then. I have a black maxi skirt that no longer fits me, so I replaced it with this one. (Kate wears it with The Summer Sweater.) The black and white striped tee can be dressed up or down. (I got one in navy as wellperfect with a pair of jeans or shorts.) I also snagged a beige paneled tulip skirt (sorry, no link). Did you know that if you shop in the petite section, you can usually find skirts that are shorter than the dowdy misses style? Just buy a size up and you should be good to go. My girls and I declared that the skirt looked very Chatham.

Image: Ann Taylor

June 18, 2014

Belgian Waffles

My oldest daughter loves breakfast food, so the other night I made her a batch of Belgian waffles that just melt in your mouth. This isn't a quick recipe, but it is easy, and most importantly, delicious. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, and dinner. Try them yourself.
Belgian Waffles
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups milk (I use 1%)
Non-stick cooking spray
  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. In 1 medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a second bowl use a wooden spoon to mix the egg yolks and sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved and the eggs have turned a pale yellow. Add the vanilla extract, melted butter, and milk to the eggs and whisk to combine.
  4. Combine the egg-milk mixture with the flour mixture and whisk just until blended. Do this a little at a time. Do not over mix.
  5. In third bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  6. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. Don't over mix!
  7. Coat the waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and pour enough batter into the iron to just cover waffle grid. Close and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately.
Makes 8-10 waffles depending on the size of your waffle iron.

Photo credit: Joshua Resnick

June 17, 2014

Photo Contest: The Guidebook Cape Cod

One of the first things I do when I get to the Cape is grab my copy of The Guidebook Cape Cod. In it, I can find tide charts, advertisements for new restaurants, a list of area events, and lots more. No matter how many times I've visited, I can always find something new. I follow them on Instagram (an account I basically set up to follow my girls) and just a few days ago they announced they're having a photo contest. You can post your photos on Facebook or Instagram (or both) all summer long. Just be sure to tag your photos #guidebookcapecod in order to be eligible.

By now you should know that the Cape is my second home and I take a lot of photos. If you'd like to see some of them, simply type in "scenes from the Cape" or "Cape Cod" into the search box. The photo above was taken at Rock Harbor in Orleans.

I can't wait to see your photos as I post my own. Good luck!

Image: personal

June 13, 2014

Everything's Coming Up Peonies

Today is my last day of class. I've spent a lovely week with some terrific women. I'm exhausted, but in a good way. So tomorrow, I'm probably not going to do much except for enjoy being outdoors and soaking up some sunshine while I breathe in the heavenly scent of my newly blossomed peonies. Of course, we're going to celebrate Father's Day the usual way...with ice cream! (He's planning an ice cream road trip sometime soon.) I hope you have a wonderful weekend and here are some links you might enjoy.

Speaking of ice cream...here are the top ten ice cream stands in New England according to some very good sources, and me. (Sorry VT. You'd think with all those cows...)
And a shout out to our local ice cream shop, Ava Marie's. (Good chocolates, too!)

Spend a nostalgic weekend at the drive-in. We're lucky to have two we frequent, the Milford Drive-In and the Wellfleet Drive-In. (I can never make it through the second movie.) Find one near you.

12 great summer reads according to Katherine Schwarzenegger. Add yours here.

Oh, and one last thing...for the superstitious among you.

Happy weekend!

Image: personal

June 12, 2014

Vegetables are King

I haven't been eating enough vegetables. I'm teaching a class this week and my whole health routine is all messed up. Every day we go out for lunch and I choose the healthiest thing I can find, but oh how I miss vegetables. And I never thought I'd say that.

Apparently, the world of food has decided that the vegetable is now king. Move over hefty chops, meaty burgers, and terrine of whatever, the vegetable is here to stay. Due in part to the (slowly) moving food movement of eating clean foods (certifiable organic), restaurants are now serving vegetable dishes as the main course. I'm fortunate to live in a community where farmers' markets are the norm and fresh organic produce is brought into the market I shop at all year long.

Read this article featured in the Boston Globe Magazine to be inspired to add more vegetable dishes to your menu.

Carrots at Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square. Photo credit: Kristin Teig

June 11, 2014

Book Reviews

Over the weekend, I read The Fault in Our Stars and The Paris Journal: Book One. I'm not one who necessarily likes to read what's popular. I've been disappointed in the past reading a book from someone's must-read list, so I'm a bit skeptical when it seems everyone likes a book. I didn't read The Help or Eat, Pray, Love until they were both in paperback (and still a bit reluctantly) and they are now two of my favorite books.

When my youngest daughter bought The Fault in Our Stars at our local bookstore, I was told by the great and knowledgeable staff that everyone should read it. I still decided that it probably wasn't for me. Even though I admittedly read children's books, I've stayed away from Young Adult novels. (Read what writer Ruth Graham thinks about reading YA.) Well, I was wrong, again. I found Augustus Waters absolutely charming and declared that all boys (and men) could do with a good dose of how to treat a lady under the tutelage of Mr. Waters. My oldest daughter also read it as well. (We were under strict orders that we needed to read it now because the movie was out and we had to see it soon!) In fact, at some points we were within pages of one another and whoever was behind got to recite lines from favorite passages. As she put it, "I seriously did not expect to like this book because of all of the hype, but I love it in a completely unexpected and amazing way." I couldn't agree more.

When The Paris Journal: Book One finally arrived in my mailbox, I was not surprised to find how beautifully packaged and presented the book was. Nichole and Evan really know how to do it right. Not only was there a little thank you card tucked in the box, but a Paris note card, and several bookmarks just for me. Of course, I knew the photographs would be beautiful, I'd seen many of them on their website, but the stories intertwined within the pages were equally engaging. I felt like I had just picked up someone's beautifully crafted diary and was given the secrets in how to savor the sights, sounds, and tastes of the streets of Paris.

Add these two books to your summer reading list.

Monday night we were at the movies. The movie was good, but not as good as the book. (Is the movie ever as good as the book?) Bring tissues.

Image personal

June 10, 2014

Father's Day Gift Ideas

Dad's are hard to buy for. Most of them don't get excited about new clothes (forget the tie) or beauty products, which leaves out a fair amount of stuff, wouldn't you agree. Here are some gift ideas that are sure to melt any dad's heart.
  • Tickets to a sporting event. Two if you plan to go with him or would like him to have some company.
  • Athletic gearanything from a new pair of running shorts to an odometer for his bike. Not sure? A gift card will do. Somehow they don't mind shopping for this stuff.
  • Food and drink. His favorite snack or beverage will make his day. (Check out Joanna's post.) Around here it's ice cream. We've already scoped out one of his favorite places and you can buy 8 gallons just for dad! Yikes.
  • Any techno gadget is usually a hit. I've always wanted to buy a Swiss Army knife. Not very techno, but still.
  • No disposable razors...our guy uses an old-fashioned brush set and shaving soap.
  • Homemade cards. My dad would prefer this and so do I.
Image via project Caitlin's life

June 6, 2014

Happy Days

Yesterday, I got to spend the afternoon sharing a very special day with family. Summer is definitely in full swing...concerts, last lacrosse game of the season, end-of-school-year activities too numerous to count, more parties...and on it goes. This weekend I will spend some time organizing and re-organizing after having a house full of guests. What about you?

Here are some links to get you into a party mood this summer...

Use water balloons to help keep drinks nice and cold. (A plastic kiddie pool makes a great cooler for juice boxes and other assorted drinks.)

Try these 12 lemonade recipes to test on guests.

Let celebrity party planner Mindy Weiss show you how it's done with her 10 Summertime Entertaining Tips.

Host a potluck picnic in your yard, in theirs, or at your local park.

Host a clambake. (Or the easy version.)

Party for one...swing from your own rope swing.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Image personal