A few days ago, my husband asked me a question - if I could have one wish come true, what would it be? True to form, I replied that I would really need two wishes...
My off-the-cuff, flip, sarcastic first wish was infinite wealth - not because I want to be filthy rich (although it would be nice!), but because of all the worries that would be solved by never needing to worry about money. I like to think that with that kind of money I would be more like Bill and Melinda Gates than Paris Hilton, but I'm pretty sure some shopping would be going on at some point.
My real answer, though - the one thing that would bring me the most joy and peace of mind if it were to come true - was about my kids. If I could have a crystal ball and look years into the future and know that my kids were well, and secure, and loved, and happy - well, I can't imagine anything being better than that. My oldest daughter is on the autism spectrum; what I want more than anything for her is to know that she finds her place in this world where she is accepted and cherished for who she is, quirks and all. My biggest fear as a parent is that the things I do to try and help her learn and grow will be the very things that dampen the things that make her so unique - it's a fine line, and it's one I struggle with every day. My younger daughter doesn't have the same challenges, but she has her own share of drama (she is, after all a girl!), and I worry that they way we parent her is colored too much by how we parent her sister, if that makes any sense.
So, my wish would be to know that my kids will be okay. In the meantime, I'll just keep muddling through, hoping I'm helping that wish come true.
I'm always on the lookout for unique gifts for friends, and I like to shop "local" whenever I can. This week, I happened upon a fantastic, locally-owned gift boutique that offers an eclectic mix of crafts, art, jewelry, fun yet sophisticated housewares, bath and body products, and lots more - and they offer crafts classes and parties to boot! It's called made authentic goods, and it's my new go-to shop for gifts!
All of made's goods are crafted here in the USA, and many are created by local artists. Check out some of their current inventory in the photos below, and take a look at more on Facebook, too. Of course, it's best to stop in and see made in person - it's located in Stone Creek Village in Cary (NW corner of High House and Davis), around the corner from Cafe Caturra. I think this will be a great place for my next girls' night out...
** Make sure you try out the hand lotion (pictured above) while you're there - it's been two hours, and my hands still feel - and smell - great!
Are you looking for a grown-up bar? The kind of place where the lighting is so dim you can barely read the drink menu? Where there are no bartenders, but instead mixologists wearing lab coats who concoct drinks from scratch? The kind of a place you have to know about to find - and where the fact that you are "in the know" makes you feel cool and hip and more than a little decadent?
I've been there.
It's a tiny little place on the border of Chapel Hill and Carrboro called Peccadillo; if you didn't know it existed, well, you wouldn't know it existed. There is no sign out front - just the numbered door in the photo at left. Their website is almost comical in its brevity - just a type-written address, phone number, and the hours of operation (every day from 5-2). It's been in business for a little more than a year, and it's definitely worth a visit. At our mixologist's recommendation, I had a delicious gimlet made with Żubrówka, a bison grass vodka (in keeping with the illicit feel of the place, this vodka only became legal in the US in 2011).
A "peccadillo" is defined as a small mistake or fault that is not regarded as very bad or serious - a small sin. Missing out on this Peccadillo? Well, that would be a far greater sin!
I know it's hard to imagine as we're gearing up for another winter storm, but the time to sign up for summer camps is almost upon us - in fact, I know of more than one that has already begun registration. As a working mom, I need to enroll my kids for much of the summer so I'm able to get anything accomplished, but most importantly, my kids get to learn and experience things they'd be unlikely to encounter anywhere else. We're very fortunate here in the Triangle to have a plethora of choices - from day camps to sleep away camps, arts-themed to zoo-themed, there is bound to be something that sparks your child's interest.
If you don't know where to begin in the camp selection process, you are in luck - Carolina Parent Magazine is hosting a Camp and Education Fair on Feb. 9th from 12-4 at St. Mary's School in Raleigh. They also have an online directory of camps in the area with links to the various programs' websites.
Over the years, our family has ben to quite a variety of local day camps. Personal favorites have been the Morehead Planetarium, the Town of Cary (in particular nature camps at Hemlock Bluffs as well as Clown Camp), Carolina Friends School's camps (Riverwalking, Extreme Legos, and various fairy-themed programs have been favorites at our house), and the camp at Triangle Day School. This year we plan to try some based at Jordan Lake. Not all of these have complete details available yet, but most should in the next couple of weeks.
What are some of your favorites? I'm always looking for new suggestions!
Oh - and just for giggles, enjoy this little bit of camp nostalgia....
I'm a firm believer in getting away from it all and enjoying some luxuries in life when you have the opportunity - if you can do it with a great friend, even better. For a Christmas gift this year, my husband and that of a friend of mine arranged for us gals to go to the spa for an ultimate Girls' Night Out, complete with a sleepover. Hooray for awesome husbands (and corporate discounts!) - I am a truly lucky lady!
If you've never been to The Umstead Spa and Hotel in Cary, find an excuse and run - don't walk. The Buttermilk and Honey Wrap is amazing (even though it made me hungry - it smelled like the inside of a bakery), especially when paired with a follow-up massage. For dinner, we decided not to leave our robes, so we opted for room service (yes, I know Heron's is fabulous, but the thought of getting all dolled up after being so relaxed was too much for us to deal with). We curled up with a bottle of red (purchased at the grocery store on the way to the hotel, along with some chocolate and Pringles - we like to mix in a little low-brow, too!) and a movie (Austenland - diverting, but mostly blah). Thanks to the wonderful blackout curtains, I didn't wake until almost 9am - truly the biggest luxury of the whole experience!
This was truly my favorite Christmas present ever. For any of you husbands out there, try something like this for your wife - she'll thank you for it!
It's a new year, and before we know it the spring real estate market will be in full swing. If you have been on the fence about selling your current home, now is a great time to put it on the market. In a few months, there will be a lot more inventory - and a lot more competition - so it makes good sense to take advantage of what is typically seen as a slower time of year for home sales.
If you've been thinking of buying a home, it's also a great time to get that process started. I love looking at homes in the winter - it's the time of year when the trees have no leaves and the yard is at its worst and you can see everything around a home. Once spring hits, the trees green up and fill out - the beautiful, lush, private yard you fell in love with in April will look very different come winter, and you may not be quite so fond of what you see then. By buying in winter, you can avoid those unpleasant surprises! And even if you don't think you're quite ready to buy, it's a great time of year to begin narrowing down your neighborhood choices.
Another reason to buy now instead of later? Rising interest rates and home prices. Between November of 2012 and November of 2013, the average home sales price rose by over $16,000 - in that same period, interest rates rose almost a full point (from 3.32 to 4.29 on average). By waiting a year to buy, the average home payment increased by $207 per month! Analysts tell us things are only going up from here, so again, now is a great time to buy.
Interested in seeing what's out there right now? Ready to find out what your home is worth in today's market? Give me a call - I'd love to help you get the ball rolling!
I've never been one to make New Year's Resolutions - I'm pretty sure that if I have to wait for a specific date to try and implement some drastic change in my life, it's doomed to failure. In the last few months, though, I've been doing a lot of stepping outside my comfort zone at work and trying new ways of doing things. It doesn't always come easily, but it's an approach that I'm going to try to add to my everyday life as well.
In that spirit, I thought it might be fun (crazy?) to literally dive into 2014. Some friends and our families spent New Year's at the beach this year, and for the first time in my life I decided I was going to take a dip in the ocean to start of the new year. I was the first one in the water (I'm the splash in the photo - I was underwater at the time it was taken) - I couldn't feel my toes and had to walk back to shore because I was afraid my legs wouldn't be able to keep up with my brain if I tried to run, and thank goodness there was a hot tub waiting back at the house, but it was awesome. Crazy and fun, too.
Crazy, fun, and awesome - I think I'm going to shoot for more of that in 2014.
Every family has its holiday traditions, and one of my favorites is making Christmas cookies. When I was a little girl, I loved to help my mom mix the dough, roll it into balls, and then press them and sprinkle them with red and green sugar, but the best part has - and I suspect always will be - licking the beater. I remember a fellow Girl Scout cross-stitching a design that read, "The joy of cooking is licking the spoon;" truer words have never been written, in my opinion. One of the joys of having daughters is getting to share this tradition with them. it seems they have the same taste that I do for cookie dough!
Here's our family recipe for Cookie Press Sugar Cookies:
1 c. butter, softened
1 2/3 c. sugar (plus a little extra for pressing the cookies)
3 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking POWDER (not soda - made this mistake once and the cookies were dreadful!)
3/4 tsp. salt
red and green colored sugar (sanding sugar is best - the smaller granules work better than larger ones)
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder; sift; add to butter mixture.
Roll small balls of dough and place 2" apart on non-stick cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper - easy clean up).
Butter a cookie press (or spray with Pam) and then dip into extra granulated sugar; press balls down until about 1/8" thick, dipping press into sugar after each use. Sprinkle with colored sugar.
Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.
Cool; store in airtight container; enjoy!
Perhaps The Sound of Music is on my mind from the live telecast last week, but I've had a song running through my head all morning - ironically, it's one of the songs from the film that wasn't even in this latest TV version. It's one Maria sings to herself when she's trying to work up the courage to face a new challenge, even though she's scared and feels out of her depth.
Undoubtedly this song is on my mind because of a discussion with some of my new colleagues from work yesterday. We had reached the last day of our intensive five (six!) week long training program called Go90X that is designed to get us out of our comfort zones , and we were all sharing our thoughts on what we've discovered about ourselves during the whole process. Again and again, the subject of self-doubt and a lack of confidence kept coming up - and how while this is something many of us struggle with, we have been surprised by how unwarranted those doubts have proven to be once we barreled through them.
Even when I was a professional actress, promoting myself in the business sense didn't come naturally to me. I always felt that if I could just get in the room in front of the right people, I would more than have the goods - it was the getting in the room part that was daunting. I still struggle with putting myself out there at times - I've never enjoyed pushy salespeople and find that to be a huge turn-off, and I don't ever want to be perceived as such. But I've learned that there is a difference between being pushy and simply letting people know that I have something to offer of value.
In the words of Oscar Hammerstein, " Let them bring on all their problems - I'll do better than my best. I have confidence they'll put me to the test, but I'll make them see I have confidence in me." Making people aware of what I am and what I do for a living is something I can control; whether or not they choose to use my services is something I can't. And I'm okay with that.
And now, "I Have Confidence" - have a listen!
You can't have a blog called, "A Few of My Favorite Things," and NOT talk about tonight's TV presentation of The Sound of Music Live! , right? This is just too perfect to pass up!
If you are unaware, tonight on NBC a version of the stage production (different from the movie!) starring Carrie Underwood will be performed - LIVE! I adore live theatre, and I am fascinated to see how this event plays out. Most of the supporting cast is made up of Broadway veterans and/or Tony Award winners, and the risky aspect is too good for a live theatre fan to miss. Who's with me?
For those who like a little snark with their viewing experience (and most theatre people love a little snark now and then), there's even a drinking game floating around online - send me an email and I'll send you the link!