December - Reflections & Wrappings

Reflections

As we rapidly approach the end of 2018, I paused and thought. If I had to choose one word to describe my year, what would it be? That word would be “Victorious.” 2017 was a beast of year where everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. I spent 2018 picking myself up and regrouping, rebuilding and restructuring many things in my life.

I am not one to make resolutions, but I have a tradition where every New Years' Eve, I make a list of 6-7 goals that I want to achieve for the new year. I use this as my guide and work to accomplish them.

It doesn't necessarily mean that I will accomplish them all, but I strive to every day. My most significant victory for 2018 was finally starting and continuing to take yoga lessons. That was on my list of goals for three years, and many things came into place that prevented me from doing that. I also finally finished my cookbook “Just Eat” which took two years to get done.  According to my goal list, it should've been finished since 2017 and my second book about the journey of my Entrepreneurship should've been published in 2018. I had many setbacks, but I reminded myself that determination leads to success. I grew my company to a level that made me extremely happy, and I learned to say “NO” to what made me uncomfortable or would prevent me from gaining my success. That took a lot of courage, but I learned that sometimes, letting go of what makes us uncomfortable often leads to marvelous new experiences. People come and go in our lives for different reasons, some are meant to stay, and many are intended to go.

Along with our success, most of us have some failures too. Whether it was a goal not reached or just a missed opportunity, we need to take stock of why we did not succeed. Was it for lack of trying, or something else? Sometimes it’s even something out of our control, but usually, we can pinpoint where we went wrong.

While not completing my second book this year, it is an unaccomplished goal, and therefore something I need to think about as I plan my goals for next year. Why did I not accomplish (or even start) something that was important to me? Was it the lack of time (my usual excuse) or something more like fear? Whatever it is, I need to sort it out.

So as we close off 2018, I encourage you to set meaningful goals and work towards making them come true.

Thank you for being a part of my Blog. I hope I have inspired, encouraged and empowered you through my stories and experiences.

See you in 2019!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,

Renate


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Food

It’s the time of year for festive baking and cooking. Even with my busy schedule I take “time off” to bake traditional holiday cookies for my family. Here is my easy and simple sugar cookie recipe that you can make and enjoy baking with your family.


Fashion

https://www.aloette.com/

With the winter season upon us I thought I’d share my favorite skincare product - Aloette. I choose products that are not tested on animals and are made with natural and plant-based products. My regimen is face wash, mist, serum moisturizers, SPF makeup. Click the image to review their products.

Click here for some tips on protecting your skin during the cold season. :


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Family

Tips to surviving the holidays and making happy memories.

Holidays are my favorite time of the year. This stems from growing up in a culture where we celebrated the holidays with much merriment and festivities.

Now-a-days, it feels like a hassle and stressful time which is unfortunate because that is not what the season represents.

We all know that once Thanksgiving arrives, besides a time to be thankful for what we have it means the busiest time of year is staring us straight in the eyes.


Renate MooreComment
November – Grateful & Thankful
 

Where did the time go?  Phew! What a month October has been. I’ve had so much going on, more than usual. I’ve had many challenges in my personal and business life, dealt with health issues, the continuous care for my parents and being present with my family. At one point I was so overwhelmed, it felt like the world was caving in on me. Then, one day, I had an epiphany. I suddenly felt the urge to step back, slow down, say no to many things and put my responsibilities into perspective. I realized that I did not have to do it all, I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness, and success is a journey that I will continue to pursue. I stopped pushing myself to the limit and started being in the moment.  This action reminded me to appreciate what’s present and to continue to be inspired by my challenges and experiences. It seems quite fitting that Thanksgiving is slowly approaching. I am grateful and thankful for taking the time to change old habits and start new ones that are much more gratifying and fulfilling.   It’s a great reminder to look around and be grateful for all the things you’ve overlooked. As I get ready to enjoy my family and the Thanksgiving holiday, I encourage you to pause and take note of the good things and people in your life.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Renate

 
 
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Food

Seasonal Dishes

 
 

I love food! And when the holiday season approaches, I am even more excited to pull out my menu and recipes to get ready for all the delicious dishes my family and I look forward to indulging in as we celebrate. I know many people are concerned about gaining weight during this time of the year and are afraid to enjoy the extra dishes that come with the season.  A question I often get from my friends is, “How do you manage to stay in shape and not gain weight during this time?” Here are my tips:

  • I eat as I normally do on a regular day, consuming my usual portions.

  • When there are many dishes and sides, I take a little of each. This way I get to taste everything without being stuffed.

  • Even though it’s the holiday season, I keep my normal daily exercise regimen.

  • And, most of all, when I prepare my food, I pay attention to the ingredients. If you can spare the time to cook your meals, do that! If time doesn’t allow, then select dishes that aren’t full of sodium, high sugars, and preservatives. 

Here is my delicious, quick and easy to make, fresh cranberry sauce recipe. Give it a try!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries, washed and drained

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) 1/3 cup water

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 3 whole cloves

  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 orange, zest and juice

In a medium pot, combine the cranberries, sugar, and water. Stir to blend. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and add the cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Mix well and let continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes. Some of the cranberries will burst and some will remain whole. Add the orange zest and juice and stir. Remove from heat, remove and discard the cinnamon stick and cloves. Cool before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

 
 
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Fashion

Holiday Ready

 
 

Thanksgiving is always held at my house where I am the chief-cook-and-bottle washer, so I keep my style casual with a dash of modern, classy and of course elegance.  I like to look polished and pulled together even if our Thanksgiving celebration leans a little more on the casual side.

Here are a few fashion ideas I have discovered and am fond of for the Thanksgiving weekend. Whether I am going out to visit friends or family, they are appropriate and versatile:

  1. Leggings + Sweater + Flats

    Leggings are the ultimate casual comfort pants, but there’s a fine line between looking chic in leggings and looking frumpy.  It is important to have a top that covers your bottom and longer in the back than it is in the front. A beautiful sweater will create a polished look when paired with leggings along with flats or mules.

  2. Sweater Dress + Riding Boots + Scarf

    This is one of my favorite fall and winter styles. I love the easy-going look of a classy sweater dress with a pair of riding boots.  Add a beautiful scarf and you’re good to go!

  3. Skinny Jeans + Poncho + Booties

    This style is a good example of how to do easy elegance. It is simply jeans, a t-shirt (white) and booties with a poncho thrown over the top. This look is special because of the sophisticated individual elements. Choose a poncho that has nice color and color blocking (brown, purple, grey tones) with unique details and style such as pockets and fringe. Add a nice handbag to complement your outfit. All of these individual pieces are lovely in this outfit and will work well with other items in your closet. Be on the lookout for these kinds of versatile things!

I hope you find one of these outfits helpful and show up in style for Thanksgiving dinner.

 
 
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Family

Gratitude

 
 

Thanksgiving is a special time to be thankful for great families, fortunate events, caring friends, and all the other gifts of life. As my family gathers around our dinner table to enjoy the delectable feast, we share what each of us is thankful for. One thing we all have in common is that we are grateful for being a close-knit family despite the challenges we endure.

I’ve realized that life tends to whiz by without hesitation or any sign of slowing down and, in the madness, it’s very easy to forget to be thankful for all the awesome things we are given in life. Consistently keeping track of what you are thankful for and acting on those feelings of appreciation can not only make you happier, but it can actually boost your immune system and keep you healthier. So as you get ready to gather with your family and friends, take time to recognize the positive things in your life. Expressing gratitude can be a cleansing, wholesome experience!

 
Fall Fun
 
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Food

Chilly Weather

 
 

It's cozy time: the season of warm and hearty soups, stews, and my favorite Chicken Chili, which is another delicious recipe featured in my cookbook Just Eat! This makes a great weekend meal and is perfect for an intimate gathering around a beautiful lit fire pit with family and friends. It will keep bellies full and warm. Slow down and enjoy food, family, and friendship with bowls of Chili that won’t make you chilly!

Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

  • 10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

  • 1 jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded (if desired)

  • 1 sweet white onion, peeled and halved

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4-6 pieces of skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced into very small cubes

  • ¼ cup chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon Adobo all purpose seasoning

  • ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning & dash of paprika

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 or 2 (depending on your taste for heat) canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce - seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained

 

Method:

  1. Wash and drain chicken well; season with the Creole seasoning, Adobo seasoning, poultry seasoning, paprika and Worcestershire sauce. Marinate for 30 minutes.

  2. Preheat oven broiler with rack about 3 inches from heat source. Arrange tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, and garlic, cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until starting to char, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Pulse tomatoes and jalapeno in a blender or food processor until chunky or smooth (as desired). Separately, chop onions and mince the garlic.

  3. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat; add olive oil; add the chicken and cook until brown for 5-10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring for one minute; stir in chipotles and add chicken, raise heat to high. Stir in tomato mixture and cook scraping up browned bits, 3-5 mins. Stir in broth; simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for the desired flavor. Add beans and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Tip: Enjoy with sweet cornbread, fragrant cooked jasmine or basmati white rice and mixed green salad. Healthy, nutritious and delicious.

 

 
 
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Fashion

Autumn Hues

 
 

Have you ever found yourself staring blankly at the nail polish wall of your favorite store? You're not alone. I love switching over to the serene colors of fall, but along with the excitement, I become overwhelmed with the number of shade options...and the number keeps growing when my favorite nail polish brands add new shades into the mix!

To help me with my “nail color dilemma,” I apply the same strategy as I do with clothes and shoes: I seek out what’s in for the season by reading magazines, watching runway shows, and browsing boutiques and salons. Then, I save time by narrowing it down to what’s suitable for my complexion, age, and style.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up during my research:

  • When you're in the mood for a low-key manicure color, choose warm beige.

  • Try jewel-toned polishes! Like switching back to hot coffee or cocoa when the temperature gets cool, a rich emerald nail color feels natural for the season.

  • Adding a metallic element to any jewel-toned shade gives the fall staple a whole new look.

  • A mauve-y shade is ideal for Ultra Violet purple fans looking to transition their favorite shade into the new season. 

  • Nothing screams fall quite like a deep, oxblood manicure.

  • My #1 pick for the season is a luminous sapphire or ice blue polish!

  • Burnt orange nail polish reminds me of pumpkin spice and is another fall-favorite that makes its triumphant return every year. Whether you go with a terracotta, turmeric, or rusty, the earthy shade is a great neutral. However, it’s not a shade that goes with everything

  • The autumn alternative to millennial pink is a warm rosy polish by Essie.

Whether you stick to neutrals or you're a fan of bold colors (as I am), I hope you are less overwhelmed and more enthusiastic as you set out to shop trendy, fun colors...no matter your manicure vibe!

 
 
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Family

Carving Family Fun

 
 
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You may have heard me say this quite a few times, but I absolutely love fall. What I love the most is the wonderful memories I’ve created, or shall I say carved (in honor of Halloween), with my family. We marked the calendar for going to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch to pick apples and pumpkins and even scheduled watching scary movies. Everyone looks forward to drinking hot apple cider, eating apple cider donuts, and roaming the orchard picking a variety of apples. Then comes pumpkin carving day. We get creative – no contest, just plain fun and family time spent together. Though my son and daughter are adults, we still get together for this lovely autumn family tradition.

 

Explore all the happiness and beauty autumn offers by starting your own Fall Family Traditions! Here a few tips:

  • Seek out an apple orchard and check the schedule for the picking season. It’s fun to have one that offers hayrides and pumpkin patches.

  • When picking out pumpkins for carving, choose a funny-shaped pumpkin that will look even more unusual when carved.

  • Pick a day or evening for the family to get together for pumpkin carving time. Play some Halloween music or put on a movie; it’s nice to set the ambiance for this fun time! Carve away and share conversations while you create your spooky or cute jack-o-lantern. 

  • After carving, rub a little petroleum jelly on the carving areas. This helps preserve the jack-o-lantern and prevent it from drying out as fast.

  • For added safety, try using a battery operated tea light candle instead of a regular candle.

  • Most of all, have fun with your family! Dress up in a nice or scary costume while handing out candies to the trick-or-treaters.

September is Here!
 
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Food

Autumn Soups

 
 

September is finally here! I get excited with the cooler weather, trees changing colors, and pulling out my soup recipes to warm up with. My family and I look forward to visiting apple orchards, drinking hot cider and indulging in everything pumpkin spice and maple syrup. One of our favorite autumn soups is my Butternut Squash Soup. As soon as, the first touch of cool temperature sets in, we look forward to this easy-to-make, highly nutritious, and hearty meal. Low in fat, it delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.

Follow my recipe and enjoy bowls of it with your family. It’s such a requested soup among my friends that I’ve been asked to add it to my collection of recipes in my soon-to-be-released cookbook, “Just Eat”.

Butternut Squash Soup: Makes about 12 servings

  • 1 (2 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (or 1 container of prepared butternut squash from the supermarket)

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

  • 1 large sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped

  • ½ yellow bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, plus more as needed

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, red and yellow peppers and chopped celery. Stir and cook for 3 minutes, then add garlic, lower heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, about 8 minutes; lower heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Add squash and carrot to the pot and mix well. Add stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender, until completely smooth. Pour soup back into the pot and return to the stove on medium heat. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and simmer for 5 minutes. Thin, if necessary, with additional stock until desired consistency is reached.

Serve soup into warmed bowls and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds.

 
 
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Fashion

Fall Fabulous & Fresh

 
 

Fall is one of my favorite seasons (along with winter). I recently celebrated my birthday — and, of course, with each birthday, I reflect on many things. I also make sure I pay attention to my sense of fashion because I feel that age is no longer a barrier when it comes to dressing with panache and style.

As you may know, I LOVE fashion. I like to think I got it from my Mom. She was quite the fashionista in her young days and I’m proud to see that she still upkeep her image. I realized that so many stigmas are noted for women as they get older and I wonder why? Why can’t we just enjoy dressing and being happy? Getting older shouldn’t mean we have to stop dressing nicely and enjoying the latest styles and trends, just as long as they are well suited, of course.  For example, I don’t think ripped jeans are my style at 53!

Here are a few things that I’ve done as my fall refresher, and it’s quite fitting because it ties into celebrating my birthday.

I got a hair trim and refreshed my highlights. In the past, I’ve tried wearing short hair but I feel it doesn’t suit me (although I’ve received compliments and comments that I wear it well).  But it still didn’t feel right for ME. So I wear my hair long, because that is what I enjoy.

I’ve visited my favorite boutiques and catalogs and picked out seasonal styles for work and outings. Adding a new scarf is a part of my sprucing up my closet. You don’t have to always buy many new clothing, but adding the latest accessories will brighten your outfit.

I bought new ballerina shoes in shades of brown and taupe as they are beautiful hues for fall. Navy blue and grey are nice colors, too.

 I don’t care for some styles; here are a few of my “no-no’s”

  • Don’t wear match-matchy jewelry. 

  • Don’t wear “boxy” clothing. 

  • Don’t wear workout clothes as an outfit – except to work out!

Though simple, these things are important to me and self-care is the best you can do for yourself. I hope I’ve encouraged you to take some time for self care and enjoy shopping for a new scarf or cardigan as you get ready to enjoy the cooler temperature. I know I am! Just embrace the new, fresher, younger looking you and dress the part. You ARE fabulous after all!

 
 
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Family

A New Chapter

 
 

Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer and most students are back in school or heading off to college. For some parents this can be bittersweet, which can make them feel nostalgic and overwhelmed at the same time. I remember going through that when my son went off to college and my daughter was finishing high school. It all felt surreal and I had a deep drop in my heart as I realized they are no longer little children. A lot of the things we did together had changed and I started to get sad by overthinking a lot of things.  Fortunately, I learned how to take those melancholy thoughts and turn them into happy memories. I comforted myself that they have become the people I hoped they would, which meant I could focus on watching them continue to grow. 

Here’s what I found helpful and beneficial — I started my own business. This lead to meeting new people, and I have been kept successfully busy since then. I have enjoyed watching my children’s growth; all the emptiness that I thought would have existed did not get a chance to happen. It was always great when our family did get together and we continue to do so whenever the opportunity arise and make memories.

Just because your children have grown up and are ready for another level of class or off to colleges, it doesn’t mean your life should become empty.  Get involved in something that serves your purpose and make new friends. This is another chapter of our lives to be lived well and enjoyed!

 
Collect Moments, Not Things
 
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Food

Tips and recipes for grilling in the oven

 
 

Grilling disaster or great idea? It depends how you see it.

 One of the things I’ve learned this summer was how to turn my frown upside down when my plans for a cookout went wrong.

Living in the Carolinas, the weather can be tricky. One minute it’s blazing hot and then the skies darken and thunderstorms appear. That’s what happened with our plans for my birthday celebration — along with our grill not working.

Talk about when it all has a Jenga effect! First, the grill stopped working, then the thunderstorm started. What was I to do? Knowing me, “the party MUST go on!”

So I decided to ‘grill’ in the oven. and it turned out to be the best ever idea after all. Easy clean up, too! I am big on easy clean up. Honestly, I may just start roasting in the oven. It is super easy and I think you are going to like it, too!

 Burgers

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • Line a cookie pan with aluminum foil.

  • Spray a cookie cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray, then place on the baking pan.

  • Lightly spray the burger patties with cooking spray before placing on the rack.

  • Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the patties and cook for 10 minutes, add sliced cheese of your choice, return to the oven and melt slightly. Remove from the oven and serve on warm burger rolls.

  • Add your favorite condiments and vegetables, of course.

Oven Roasted Corn

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

  • Place corn in a plate and liberally drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt (add fresh ground black pepper if desired) then rub in mixture.

  • Place corn in pan, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from oven when the corn has a nice grilled finish.

  • Rub with butter before eating, if desired.

Roasted (grilled) Vegetables

  • Oven at 400 degrees.

  • Add sliced vegetables of your choice:

    • Bell peppers – Red, Yellow, Orange, Green

    • Mushrooms

    • Zucchini

    • Red onions

    • Yellow Squash

  • In a large bowl, toss all of the vegetables with olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper. Mix well.

  • Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour the vegetables onto the baking sheet and place in the oven and roast for about 35 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the oven when nicely browned and cooked. Sprinkle with fresh, chopped parsley and serve.

 
 
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Fashion

Summer Clearance – Closet De-clutter

 
 

Closet cleaning used to feel like a big chore for me. But I’ve become very good at purging my closet at the end of one season and before the next one starts. I’ve already worked on my summer purging to make way for fall fashion. I know this can sound daunting and seems tedious, but with a plan in place it is quite easy and can be fun. Here’s how I get ready for my closet cleanse.

Set aside at least three hours of uninterrupted time. Have several bags where you can place sorted clothes. Then start going through your clothing. Do you really need 10 pairs of skinny jeans? Or 8 button down shirts of the same style? My biggest rule is, if I haven’t worn something all year, that means I won’t wear it. So that goes into the “giveaway bag”. 

I do the same with shoes and handbags. It is quite refreshing, once you clear the clutter and realize that someone else can use those items. Another rule of mine: don’t wait for things to be too worn or washed out before giving them away. 

Do the same with your drawers and accessories. Don’t ask yourself why you should get rid of something, but instead ask why should you keep it. This way, you can decide. Sometimes we tend to hold onto things because we feel an occasion might come up and we will use it.

If something is too tight, small, big, slouchy — get rid of it. Sometimes we buy on impulse, then a few seasons later find out we never wore or used the item.  Here’s another reason for purging on a regular basis: you find things you forgot you purchased.

When you have finally sorted through your piles of clothes and you know which pieces need a good dry cleaning or a trip to the tailor, the end is near. Now ask yourself which pieces you have plenty of (or more of than you would ever wear) and purge that pile again.

When you’re finished, separate into piles according to charities or people you may want to give items to. I normally donate my clothes to charities or Goodwill.

Have fun clearing out your closet and make room for some fabulous fall pieces!

 
 
 
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Family

Simplify life

 
 

How in the world is it August already? Summer is winding down and before we know it September will be here and the kids will be gearing up to go back to school — which means the chaotic mornings and busy evenings will be back.  But with some simple planning and a few strategies in place, you can find calmness and organization to help you through the hectic times.

When my children were younger and in school, playing sports, taking music lessons, and all those fabulous “things” of learning, I was a working mother. It meant getting up very early to prepare myself for work, then focusing on fixing breakfast, packing lunch boxes, and getting the children to the bus stop, then driving to the train station for my commute into the city.

Here are a few things that helped make my life easier and more efficient:

Meal prep and planning a menu for the week — this takes away the guesswork and cuts down on unhealthy eating or snacking. On Sundays, I did my cooking and food prep for the coming week. I prepared at least one or two extra dishes so that my weeknight evenings weren’t spent cooking (which would mean eating dinner late and make homework take longer, especially when we were all tired from our day).

I arranged my outfits for the week, ironed and had them ready. Then I did my manicure ( taking self care is important) These were huge time savers for me. Being organized lessens anxiety and gives you time to focus. When you’re rushing, you loose focus and become anxious.

A few more tips to make your busy days and evenings more manageable:

Sleep: Try to get to bed at a reasonable time to allow at least 7 hours of sleep. This helps you to function well, stay in good mood, concentrate at work and at home with your family. Avoid using electronic devices at least 1 hour before your bedtime. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. Besides increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, which in turn delays your bedtime, using these devices before bedtime delays sleep, reduces the total amount of sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.

Less is more : Don’t over schedule extracurricular activities. What matters is how you teach children to be good people, learn skills and be their best without adding pressure or taking joy away from them and you. Building quality relationships with your children is priceless and rewarding when they become adults. I’m happy to report I am reaping those rewards with my children.

Healthy minds: Do make a hot breakfast; it doesn’t have to be a fancy full-course meal. Scrambled eggs are quick and simple to make. Toast with butter and jam or favorite spread is good. Or a bowl of nice hot oatmeal. Choose something highly nutritious and ‘brain worthy’; we sometimes forget that our brains NEED the vitamins to function. 

I hope you find these tips helpful and useful. Enjoy the rest of these lazy, hazy summer days making happy memories with your families. Go to that beach you’ve been meaning to visit. See a movie that's almost out of theaters. Check things off your summer bucket list.

 
Summertime Savvy
 
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Farmer's Market

Get to Know Your Fruits and Vegetables

 
 

What’s better than being outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and choosing quality, fresh foods?  You and your family can benefit from purchasing locally grown foods this season while supporting your community.  This is something I look forward to as soon as the local farmers markets in my community open. Not only do I revel in the experience and fun of this Saturday morning trip to the market, but I always leave feeling accomplished because I’ve supported local farmers and look forward the menus I will experiment with using the goods I bought. As most of you know, I am very adamant about eating well and caring for our environment. Here are a few reasons why it is important for me to shop local. Besides, I enjoy talking to the vendors and building relationships with them.  They and I look forward to seeing each other during the season. Being a small business owner myself, I appreciate the support of my community.

  • It’s better for the environment: Farmers who sell their food locally eliminate the need for long-distance travel and excess packaging. Reports show that produce purchased at supermarkets travels 1,300 miles, on average, and could be sitting in storage for up to 14 days. While many fruits and vegetables need to be imported because they cannot be grown locally and are not in season, when you shop at a farmers’ market, you support the small business efforts that do not require large-scale transportation and packaging.

  • The food is fresher: At most farmers’ markets, you’re more likely to receive the freshest produce that’s been picked within the last 48 hours, since it hasn’t traveled far. However, for many urban farmers’ markets, it’s possible that the food has been shipped from a different region if that vendor is distributing wholesale produce. Always check with your vendors to make sure.

  • They use more natural farming methods: Because farmers who operate independently and sell locally aren’t producing food on a national or global scale, their methods tend to be more grassroots without the need for GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, waxing, and gassing. However, just because you are buying from a farmers’ market doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and free from pesticides. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a good resource to verify which methods are considered “organic” in production and processing.

  • It’s more personal: Concerned about where your food is coming from? Not sure what they use to grow your favorite apples? At farmers’ markets, you have the opportunity to speak directly to the people who know best – the farmers! You can carry on a conversation and learn insider knowledge to bolster your confidence in your purchases.

  • You help farmers stay in business: With large agribusiness dominating the global market, it can be hard for small farmers to keep up with the competition. Since 1935, there has been a loss of 5 million farms. Fortunately, when you shop locally, vendors have a much high profit margin than if they sold through a third-party vendor. The Economic Research Service, a publication group under the USDA, highlights important trends within the local farming business that explain how you directly impact your local economy by shopping local.

 

 

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FASHION

Tips for Clothes Shopping in July (and what I've learned)

Over the past 4 years, I have noticed how the shopping climate for upcoming seasonal fashions has changed drastically. The old rule was to wait until after Labor Day to look for summer sales and upcoming fall fashions. Nowadays, time flies by so fast (or at least it seems so for me), I can’t keep up with the holidays and fashions speeding into stores way before the season. So I have created a new method for shopping — I no longer wait for Labor Day to get summer sales.  Instead, I seek them out in July.  I’ve learned that most stores have already summer clearances in July, getting ready to stock fall fashion. I don’t like seeing sweaters in August (even though they are pretty). but I use the early display as an idea of what fall fashion will be and sometimes find some great prices. I’ve noticed if I wait for September, all the pretty colors, styles and sizes are no longer available. So there is a catch to all of this but here’s how I handle that scandal (that’s what I call it).

I now realize that the feeling of snagging a huge score while shopping doesn’t have to be completely random. In fact, you can track a store’s sale cycle so you always get the best price for whatever clothing and accessories you want. When I’m shopping, I ask the associates about their upcoming sales and new fashions. Then I’m prepared.

Stores want to keep their shelves and racks filled with clothes and accessories but they get new merchandise so frequently that eventually, items that aren’t selling must be put on clearance in order to move them out the door. This is when it’s your turn to score.

If you know exactly when an item will be on sale, you can decide whether you want to wait to buy it on the cheap, or if it’s worth the extra money to buy it beforehand. For me, if I find the size I need, I usually get it then instead of regretting it later. 

Understand Sales Cycles: Stores want you to pay top dollar for the goods on the shelves. That’s why they put higher-priced items right at the front of the store, with sale and clearance items way in the back. But just because a jacket is 30% off doesn’t make it any less fashionable, does it? Between seasonal sales and the regular sale cycle, there’s really no reason you should have to pay full price for any article of clothing or accessory – unless, of course, it sells out and you don’t get a chance to make your move. Armed with the information below, you can save money, look fashionable, and dress the way you want at an affordable price. 

Thursdays Are Best: If you want first dibs on a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, your best bet is to try shopping on a Thursday. Stores know that most people come to the mall or the shop on the weekend, so they begin preparations on Thursday to mark down old merchandise and rotate new merchandise into the store.

By shopping on Friday and Saturday, you might score a great deal, but you might also have a limited selection – that’s not good if you want something specific. By shopping on a Thursday, you can have the best selection and the best prices to snag the item that you desire.

Shop End of Season: One of the best times to get the most bang for your buck is to shop around the end of a season. Keep in mind that retail stores are a couple of months “ahead of the weather,” so you could still pick up a cheap sweater and get a month’s worth of wear before it’s time to bring out your spring wardrobe.

Know When Not to Buy: You’re going to pay a premium price if you shop too early or during the wrong month. For instance, it’s unwise to buy jewelry around Christmas, when you’ll probably pay top dollar for your baubles. And some items never go on sale – high-end designer shoes and accessories are usually pretty constant in price, especially if the item doesn’t technically have a “season.”

Final Word: As I always say, you don’t have to spend a ton to look great. Wishing you happy sales and fabulous finds during July!

Get in the conversation — When is your favorite time to shop? Do you have any other tips to get the best deals? Share your ideas in the comments!

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FAMILY

Summer is Here (and so is possible "boredom" for kids)

Experts say boredom is essential for learning creativity — and I couldn’t agree more! Growing up in British Guyana, South America, I didn’t have all the technology and resources that are vastly available to kids now. There was a big plus to this though, because it made us become very creative, artistic and skillful. Looking back, I owe the 'boredom' of those long summer days for the engineered mindset I now possess and use in growing my business and managing challenges.  I’ve researched and found what I feel to be true about why boredom can be a key to success.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, it’s likely that summertime gets tough. When kids are home all day, or at least out of the routine of school, they get bored easily. Boredom often leads to whining or other forms of mischief.

So what if you’re looking to keep your kids busy, but don’t want to spend loads of money on a trip to the local zoo twice a week? Here are some cheap options to maintain your sanity. (I mean, to keep your kids occupied for the summer.)

Let them be bored: As kids these days experience more scheduled lives, they’re left to their own devices less and less. So, of course, as soon as you let them be, they’re bored because they need to learn to play on their own and be creative. So number one on your list is also the easiest option: give your kids down time. Provide them with space and time to come up with things to do and don’t immediately fill up their schedules when boredom inevitably strikes. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

Create a chore chart: You might as well keep your kids busy and get something out of it. If you don’t already, now is the time to teach them responsibility with a chore chart. This could include unpaid daily chores like making their beds, feeding the family pet, etc. Or you could step up your game a notch with commission-based paid chores. Just make a list or chart of chores kids can get paid for, including each chore's monetary value. When kids check a chore off the list to your satisfaction, they get paid.

Sure, you’ve got to invest some money in this one, but it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it’s a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them start managing their own money. When I was young, I learned a lot when I went to the market to help my aunt with her shopping; she’d let me keep the change after she paid. I saved those coins and when school re-opened in the fall, I deposited it into my school bank account.  Yes, we learned the skill of managing money at the early stages of elementary school. By the time I was finished with primary and middle school, I had saved enough money to open a bank account with a commercial bank. 

 Visit the local library: You know how I love books! These days, most local libraries run summer reading programs. These can being incentive even for nonreaders to pick up a book this summer. Just make a habit of stopping by the library once a week or more often, and be sure to let kids pick appropriate books they find interesting (even if you don’t see the attraction). This is a two-birds-one-stone approach, since visiting the library makes for a fun outing, and reading all those books whiles away hours of the summer and keeps kids occupied in a worthwhile endeavor.

Check out your local parks & recreation department: Just need the kids out of the house for a day or several this summer? Summer camps can be prohibitively expensive if you’re on a tight budget. But, local parks and recreation departments often run day camps that are much cheaper and allow kids to get outdoors and burn off some energy. I’ve used those when my kids were little; that’s how they became great swimmers. Even if your local department doesn’t run camps where they’ll actually take your kids for the day, chances are they’re hosting some cheap or free summer events you can attend as a family.

 Plant a garden: Get kids out of the house and into a healthy pastime with gardening. Even small kids can help plant. Talk to your local gardening center about fruits, vegetables, or flowers that are particularly easy to grow in your area. Be sure to give the kids some autonomy over this project to really let them get involved. They should be able to help choose the plants and the layout. But they should also be responsible for weeding, watering, and other garden maintenance. This is a great skill-building activity that can also keep kids busy all summer long and build creativity.

 Get to know free activities in your area:The internet is filled with great blogs highlighting local activities, especially for families with kids. Run a quick Google search for your area and get familiar with what’s out there. Many blogs keep calendars of family-friendly activities, often free or cheap ones, throughout the summer.

Create an activity bucket: Frequently, there’s plenty to do around your house but the kids aren’t great at figuring out the next best idea. Write down potential activities on popsicle sticks and stick them in a jar or bucket. Let the kids choose one activity each day, and make it happen. This could include things like making homemade ice cream, building a bicycle ramp in the back yard, creating a sprinkler out of an old two liter bottle, or building a fort in the living room. Try to come up with ideas using only materials you’ve got on hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.

Create a summer memory board: Kids love to collect things, whether it’s movie ticket stubs or rocks from each park you visit. And if you’re like many parents, you like to take photos of your kids having fun. Combine all these memory-sparking items and photos onto a summer memory board. All you need is a large cork board, which you can get for a few bucks at a local craft store. Each time you try something new or create new memories, add to your board. Looking at the board may help spark new activity ideas for your kids, and it’ll be a great memento to have at the end of the summer.

Pick up some board games: Board games for kids have come a long way since CandyLand. While the old games are still great, many new games teach skills like resource management, teamwork, and basic strategy skills. 

I hope you try some of these activities with your kids this summer and help them learn some new skills. 

 
Keep It Cool This Summer
 
 
 
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FOOD

Life’s a Bowl of Chicken and Salads

Summer is all about fun and relaxation, but the rising temperatures don’t have to mean you can’t enjoy homemade food; just follow these tips for easy, breezy summer cooking. Try cooking outside — fire up the grill and make some awesome grilled vegetables, turkey burgers, grilled chicken cutlets, and grilled fresh fruits.

When you do decide to get into the kitchen and cook, make double or even triple portions so you cook once but have food all week. Store whatever you are not eating today in a storage container in the fridge. Then you will always have perfectly cooked chicken, roast beef, or vegetables ready to be reheated or tossed as is into salads. For pastas, make the most out of that big pot of boiling water by using it to quickly cook veggies in the last few minutes as the pasta cooks. Then you can make a delicious pasta dish in half the time with half the pots to clean.

Try to make lots of one-pot meals for easy cooking and easy clean-up.

Here’s one of my quick and versatile chicken recipes that can be used with pasta, rice, veggies and salads (it will be featured in my upcoming cookbook – “Just Eat”).

Parmesan Chicken Cutlets & Mixed Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 6

  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 ¼ cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Unsalted butter, for frying
  • Olive oil

Mixed green salad (serving for 6), washed and spun dry

¼ cup sliced almonds (optional)

Wash, drain and pat the chicken dry (see tips on cleaning meat) 

Place the chicken breasts in plastic wrap and pound until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin. In a large plate, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.  In a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and ½ cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through.  Continue the process, adding more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. 

Prepare the salad and Lemon Vinaigrette.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons)
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

On each serving plate, place a piece of hot chicken breast and a mound of salad on chicken. 

Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

 

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FASHION

Summer Styling with Dresses  

Nothing is as easy, glamorous and cool as a good summer dress. Ideally you will have at least four dresses for several purposes. I grew up wearing mostly dresses, so the love for dresses has led to my extensive collection. I enjoy pretty bold colors, prints and unique styles and look forward to the switch from the dark colors of the winter season. Here are four suggestions for simple elegant styling.

  • A beach dress: This can be shorter than your other dresses and is easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle too easily and is not too precious.  A good example is a light-colored cotton dress or a simple dress with spaghetti straps — perfect for the beach, but can also be used as a tunic for casual clothes.
  • A day dress: This is the perfect dress for casual get-togethers during the day. It could be a nice wrap dress in cotton jersey or a casual shift dress. My floral-patterned dress has turned out to be a very popular day dress for me.
  • A work dress: Look for a traditional shift dress that looks both professional and conservative and can be easily combined with a jacket or cardigan.
  • An evening dress: This dress is a bit more special than your day and work dress. I like silk, combined with several other fabrics as my preferred materials for a special dress in summer. I believe in wearing my nice clothes as often as possible, so quite often I wear it during the day, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAMILY

When it comes to authentic, Father knows best.

In recognition of Father’s Day, I dedicate this month’s ‘family’ topic to my dad, George. I’ve learned a lot from him, but the strongest lessons that remain are honesty, integrity, loyalty. Growing up, my brother and I teased our dad that, after Mahatma Ghandi, he came next on the list of men to be admired — because he doesn’t get angry, doesn’t use swear words, and when it comes to honesty, he is 100 percent and beyond. The examples and storytelling techniques he taught me are what I implement in my life now with my children.  Dad was hardworking and dedicated to his job. He taught me that, whatever your job is, give it all your best. I learned patience watching him making kites for us or helping to fix my bicycle. I learned to use tools observing and helping him.  He still has his wooden handmade toolbox.  

We learned the importance of education because, although my father grew up with only a middle school education, he is one of the smartest, most knowledgeable and brilliant men I know.  His brain is our dictionary.  Even at age 84, he is precise with his vocabulary, does not miss a day of playing crosswords or fondly reviewing his dictionary – a gift from my mom. He taught us to learn a new word every day to build our vocabulary. He taught us how to enjoy life and how to be cautious at the same time. These little things are what make me lighthearted in my adult life and assist me with my daily challenges. My father’s love is beyond measure.  When I was about 5 years old, on an Easter picnic at a farm, I wanted a specific lemonade from a certain snack shop, though we had lots to drink. Dad walked a mile to that shop just to get me that lemonade — and when he brought it back, all I did was take one sip and say, “I’m done.” We have laughed about this story many times.  But it's a memory that will always remind me of the love and care I was lucky to have, growing up with this amazing man I call DAD. 

 
Fresh Ideas for Summer
 
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FOOD

What should I eat?

 
 

I feel like we are living in an era of eating confusion. I hear these terms repeatedly: vegan, primal, gluten free, dessert fear. There are so many competing theories on nutrition; it’s confusing! What should I eat? It's why I'm writing my first cookbook with the goal of helping people overcome this food confusion.

I believe that food is a highly personal choice. It's cultural, emotional, social, political and health-related. You are the only one who can make the best possible decision for your body and your life.

That being said, the way I grew up eating is what I continue to practice. In British Guyana, South America, we ate a mix of all-natural whole foods focusing on fresh vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and sweets, but we ate in moderation and we stayed active. A well-balanced mix can provide a full range of vitamins and minerals while being deliciously satisfying. Experiment and discover what you like.

Here are a few tips that can guide you to eating better without feeling deprived.

  • Skip most processed foods, meaning anything in a can, box or bag. When choosing the occasional processed food, read the label and avoid anything with ingredients you don’t recognize. Choose non-GMO or organic items.
  • Skip trans fats, which are hydrogenated oils that can be found in everything from margarine to french fries to crackers. Trans fats can clog arteries, so eat them sparingly. 
  • Minimize sugars and refined carbohydrates, which are inflammatory. Following this tip is huge, even 70-80% of the time. No one is perfect, but the idea is to keep track of how much and how often you are indulging in eating unhealthy products.
  • Look for pesticide-free vegetables and fruit. This can be expensive, so swap out the most contaminated produce first: salad greens, apples, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, bell peppers and potatoes. Local farm produce usually has fewer pesticides, is fresher and more flavorful and is more environmentally-friendly. Some farms do use pesticides, so ask before you buy.
  • Focus on high-quality protein choices that are high in omega-3's, such as beans, legumes, walnuts and salmon.
  • When eating animal protein, focus on antibiotic-free, humanely-raised meat. Most factory-farmed livestock is raised in poor conditions, and is consequently fed antibiotics to keep it healthy. An antibiotic-free label usually indicates it's humanely-raised. This is very important to me. Organic doesn't necessarily mean antibiotic-free or sustainably-raised, so check labels for that.

Some people feel better when they eat meat, grains or dairy; others can’t tolerate them. Many people have unknown food sensitivities that cause symptoms not typically associated with food, such as exhaustion, brain fog, pain or headaches. To figure out whether you have any food sensitivities, you can try a five-week elimination diet, removing the major allergens: dairy, gluten, soy, eggs and corn. Eliminate them for three weeks, then add each back one-by-one for three days per food, and notice how your body responds. I've learned that I cannot tolerate whole wheat, but I'm fine eating whole grain and white bread. Bananas and almond nuts affect the way my body works to break them down, but I still eat them, just in moderation (twice a month); I just consume them sparingly. Don’t deprive yourself of food; it's needed fuel for our bodies. Just remember to eat in moderation, limiting portion size, and pay attention to how each food affects your body. Don’t be afraid to eat your sweet treats just as long as you know what they are made with. Desserts don't have to be made with only refined sugars and preservatives. There are better, healthier options to eating desserts. You can find better quality and tasting desserts at my company: www.ladyrens.com

Practice a new habit of cooking with fresh ingredients. Visit farmers markets during the summer for fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and more—then have fun creating recipes. They don't have to be gourmet, just tasty and healthy.  

Here’s one of my summer salads that's easy to prepare. It will be among the collection of simple, yet healthy and tasty recipes in my upcoming cookbook. I like the combination of chicken, melon, grapes, nuts and cheese atop mixed salad greens. Feel free to use your favorite summer fruits and nuts in place of the ones I listed. 

 
 

REFRESHING SUMMER FRUIT CHICKEN SALAD

 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple cider or other fruit-flavored vinegar (to taste)
  • 1½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 bags of mixed salad greens
  • 2 cups sliced cooked chicken breast (see tip) 
  • 2 cups chopped melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts 
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

Method: Whisk Greek yogurt, vinegar, poppy seeds, salt and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Reserve ¼ cup of the dressing in a small bowl. Add the mixed greens to the large bowl and toss to coat. Divide among plates and top with chicken, melon, grapes, nuts and cheese. Drizzle each portion with 1 tablespoon of the reserved dressing.

Serves: 4

Tip: To poach chicken breast: Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium skillet or saucepan and add low sodium chicken broth to cover; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes.

 

 
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FASHION

Jazz up your summer wardrobe 

 
 

Just because we're over 40 doesn’t mean we can't be chic and fabulous! I've loved dressing up and playing with fashion since I was a child. My mom was a seamstress, and I was lucky to have a new dress sewed by her every week. I still reflect on how she would take me to the store to pick out fabric, then design and sew me a new dress. I would play around with her makeup and jewelry, and try on her high heels. I certainly learned to be fashionable from her. 

As I've gotten older, my personal style has evolved. However, I don’t tell myself that I am too old to wear certain outfits just because society made up that rule. Rather, I changed my mindset to take on the styles and clothing options for women over 40 that make me feel comfortable and beautiful. Mini skirts are a no-no for me, but I still love to wear a sexy knee-length skirt and high heels. 

Have you ever looked back at photos where you looked older than you actually were? The reason is you were wearing clothes that conflicted with your natural beauty. Younger girls can easily pull off trendy outfits and still look pretty good, but older ladies should wear only those outfits that really make them look beautiful (the wrong style will age you fast). For example, not every woman over 40 can wear bright or totally printed outfits and look good. It's important to know your body type and then take the time to shop for beautiful outfits that make you feel comfortable and beautiful. Oh, and here’s a tip I picked up from a stylist: Don’t buy clothes that oversized or too loose; they will not shape you well. It’s a mistake most of us (myself included) make.  

Before we know it, summer will be here. Once Memorial Day arrives, it’s upon us! Many of us dread stepping into clothes that won’t cover our curves as well as winter outfits do.  Sometimes we get comfortable in that we wear and find it a bit challenging to pick outfits for the warmer months. I'll share a few ideas I find to be helpful when it comes to picking out clothes that will make us look beautiful and feel amazing. 

I like to set up my summer wardrobe so that it's visible; otherwise, if my clothes are stored in totes, I'll forget they even exist. I arrange garments according to purpose: work, casual outings and evening wear. Switching into lighter wear, bright and fun colors are a great change to uplift your spirit.  

I try to mix it up during the summer months. Here are a few favorite styles I’ve picked up during my shopping trips:

Business wear: cream belted blouse with a cream/white wrap cardigan and a pair of black trousers, light pink or cream handbag and peep-toe cream patent cuffed heels

My weekend outfits are as important as my everyday looks. A few pretty styles for lunch or hanging out with friends include:

  • A pale yellow cardigan styled with a floral spaghetti strap slip-top, grey trousers and yellow flat pumps 
  • Black bootcut trousers or dark bootcut jeans look awesome with a dark turquoise tunic-shirt, statement necklace and leopard print pointed toe flat pumps. A brown leather tote bag adds great pop to the colors. 
  • A white t-shirt, pale turquoise jeans, beige-orange tote bag, flat sandals and pale peach bracelet
  • A pair of jeans, a slouchy sleeved black floral top, silver wrap bracelets, light green flat sandals and blue handbag
  • Go for wide-striped long sleeve top, slim jeans, orange flat sandals and white classic handbag
  • Another casual day off look can be simple blue jeans, tunic top, striped white tote bag and flat sandals

Family Fun Days: A blush-colored sleeveless top looks great with dark blue denim trousers and a blush-colored leather handbag. Complete the look by adding a lightweight shawl and thong flat sandals embroidered with flowers.  

For casual celebrations, such as birthdays, try a grey-blue denim jacket, salmon pink top, gold colored clutch, slim white bootcut jeans and pale turquoise flats.

Errands and casual dressy can be comfy and dashing with straight-fit jeans, white tank top, wrap navy cardigan, cotton printed scarf, dark blue flat pumps and a white handbag. Or, try green crop[ed pants, a white t-shirt or blouse, a light blue handbag and tan ballerina flats.

For afternoon outings and casual shopping or meeting friends, try blush skinny jeans, a grey long-sleeved top, a blush scarf, fun tote bag, grey pumps and pale pink earrings and bracelet.

On Fridays dress down at work: deep blue slim jeans, a navy tank top, a white blazer, light brown flat ballerinas and a cream/white clutch bag.

A white dotted semi-sheer yellow tank blouse can be styled with straight fit jeans, a white wrap cardigan and flat white sandals.

Shorts and pretty colored tops works well for at-home outfits. White jeans, a pale yellow semi-sheer sleeveless blouse, a pale blue V-neck buttoned cardigan, white low-heeled flat ballet pumps and pastel yellow handbag is an ideal outfit for summer, and the colors are mood brighteners. A beautiful white dress with turquoise necklace, earrings and bracelet with a brown tote bag and brown or turquoise heels is also a nice statement.

Play around with accessories: belts, hats and jewelry. They’re a lot of fun. All these tips are subject to personal taste; you know what works best for you. Let your beauty shine, try a few of these fashions and be stylish this summer. 


 
 
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FAMILY

Caring for aging parents

 
 

When you've inherited your elder parents and they're moving in, it can feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. One of the most emotionally complex and difficult things a person can experience is taking care of their elderly parents, more so if they are living with you. It’s been almost eight months since I began tending to my aging parents, who now live with me and my family. It has not been easy, because they each have their own personalities (that, honestly, can drive me crazy). Some days I’m faced with stress, frustration and anger. One bright point: My husband has been extremely supportive and instrumental in helping me during this season of my life where I am running a business, running the household and now trying to run from my parents (not really). It took me a while to get used to having them live here, and I thought I’d pass along some things I'm learning, each of which I found to be significantly helpful. 

  • It’s a new seasonaccept that things have changed. When parents have to start depending on their child, the world has turned upside down; it's a reversal of life as everyone has known it. Be prepared for that new pattern to feel drastic. Keep in mind that it's not any easier for them than it is for you.
  • Take it slowly. Caring for them is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t rush it. You and they are in uncharted territory. Let the process reveal itself to you to the degree that you can, and let whatever happens unfold naturally. Be prepared for one doctor’s appointment to turn into five appointments with other doctors. Your schedule will change. Rather than becoming angry or frustrated, think about a solution and how you will manage those appointments. Call on family members or friends who can assist you. Do not try to do it all.
  • Expect their anger. When you become the caretaker of your parents, they lose the one thing they’ve always had in their relationship to you: authority. That’s not easy for them to give up. Expect them, in one way or another, to lash out about that loss.
  • Help them to have independence. As much as you can, offer your parents options instead of orders. It's very important for them to continue to feel as if they, and not you, are running their lives. Let them decide everything they can about their own care and situation. Let them know what you can and cannot do for them so they can decide how they want to depend on you.
  • Ask their advice. A great way to show your parent love and respect — and, especially, to affirm for them that they are still of true value to you — is to sincerely ask them for advice about something going on in your life.
  • Set boundaries. Parents need boundaries too. Have a discussion with them and let them know that you aren't available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. That doesn’t mean they can't let you know if something doesn’t feel right with their health; it just means that they can't pounce on you each time you show up. Set a time of day to connect and go over doctor appointments or other needs. No one in this world knows your emotional buttons like your mom or dad does. They are bound to push them on occasion, if only to establish dominance over you. Don’t let them do it. You might owe them your care, but you don’t owe them your emotional well-being. All of this boundary setting can be done in a loving and respectful way.   
  • Depend upon your spouse. You may find that your parent is more comfortable relating to your spouse than to you. (My mom feels this way with my husband.) Though that can certainly hurt your feelings, don’t let it. It’s simply because your parent doesn’t share with your spouse all the baggage they do with you; mainly, they’ve never been the dominant force in your spouse’s life. Your spouse and your parent are peers to a degree that you and your parent can never be. Let that work for you. Take advantage of it. Depend upon your spouse to be as instrumental in the care of your parent as he or she wants to be.
  • Practice self-care. It’s easy to create a routine where you get caught up in the care of your aging parents and neglect caring for yourself. But caring for yourself makes your more able to serve them. You need to take time out for walks, to stretch out, to eat right and to spend quality time away from them. Taking time to rejuvenate yourself is as critical a part of your care routine for your parent cooking their meals, taking them to appointments or making sure they take their medications. Your life still needs to be about you.
  • Talk to a friend. If you have a friend with whom you can regularly meet and talk, or even chat with on the phone or text with, then do it. The input and love of a friend is invaluable to you. Sharing what you’re going through with someone who's not immediately involved can be like a life preserver when you’re bobbing in the ocean. As soon as you get involved with tending to your parent, call your best friend, and tell them that you’re going to be depending upon them to do what friends do best: care and listen while you vent. No doubt they'll need to do the same someday.
  • Have fun! One of the things we most need in life is the one thing we most often forget once we begin caring for our elderly parents: Fun! Have lots and lots of fun. Share memories of laughter, play pranks that you know they'll enjoy. Watch a movie that makes you all laugh. Do whatever it takes. And remember: A day without fun is a day you cannot get back. A thought habit I live by is: “In 10 years will it really matter?” And that’s how I manage the stress of living with my wonderful, loving parents.  

It takes patience and a mature mindset to understand what our aging parents are facing at this phase of their lives. It's important to take a step back and look through the lens of their eyes and imagine being in their shoes. Enjoy the season, and make the best of it, because they come and they go. Remember: It’s just a season.

 
A Glimpse Inside My Day
 

I am a wife and mother, and the owner and CEO of my business. I work full time from a home-based office surrounded by the chaos of a busy family of five. As the main caregiver in our family,  I do the scheduling, activities, errands and meetings. Many of my clients, colleagues and business associates are also busy working parents running their own companies, and we all share hints that help us hold our busy lives together. 

Here’s a glimpse inside my day, along with some tips to help you balance your own work and family life — I hope you enjoy the read and find these tips useful. If you have a great tip for keeping balance in your life, please share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear it!

Have a beautiful April -- see you in May!

Renate

 

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FAMILY

Balancing work and a busy family life

I get up early so I can get a healthy mental start to my day before the chaos begins. Having coffee by myself each morning is key, because that's when I clear my mind of clutter and plan the day ahead. Once I've settled my mind, I am ready to tackle my day. 

I start by working on my company’s social media—writing and scheduling posts and using Hootsuite, Facebook and Linked In to engage with followers. I also write and respond to email, but only twice daily—in the morning and  later in the afternoon—so that email doesn't interrupt other higher priorities throughout the day.

Nextit’s time to check in with my parents (they live with us). I spend 10 minutes with them at the breakfast table to hear how they're doing and let them know my availability for that day. I also use this time to lay the groundwork for dinner, getting meat from the freezer and prepping any vegetables. I do not tidy the kitchen in the morning, because that takes time from my work schedule. I’ve learned to ignore household chores like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry until I’ve accomplished important office work.  

In my February blog post I wrote about planning meals per day/per week. This help me know what I'm making and whether I have the right ingredients. This habit is a huge time (and stress) saver for me.  

I’m normally back at my desk ready for the day by 9:15am unless I have out-of-office meetings, marketing or doctor's appointments with my parents. Work for me usually involves writing, creating ideas for business growth, researching solutions, drafting emails, making client calls, etc. As I work, I keep track of all this activity so that I'm up to date on projects, leads and meetings. It's a lot of work!
 
Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way that help me maximize my work time:

  • Keep your to-do list or work schedule open and in front of you, to keep you on track. If you’re out and about, have it on your phone; set up alerts as reminders.
  • Combine like tasks to increase productivity and minimize waste.
  • Turn Facebook off (scheduling business page posts means you don’t need to check FB during the day). Check FB once per day or less.
  • Ensure your office setup is conducive to high productivity: include a big table, notice board, proper equipment, etc.
  • Don’t get distracted by your kitchen! This took a while for me to overcome. I attend to my household after I’ve completed my morning office tasks. 
  • Take a break from your desk to get a glass of water and to mentally re-charge. Step outside for a few minutes and breathe in the fresh air. I do this when I break for lunch. 

I always have quite a few meetings and events each week: new client meetings, marketing, deliveries or networking events. I love meeting new people, advising businesses and networking, so this is an enjoyable part of my job. It does, however, add to my already-busy schedule, so I need to plan carefully and well in advance. I schedule meetings back-to-back whenever possible, especially if traveling or using a co-working space. Meetings and networking are time consuming, so use that time well—have clear objectives for your time so you come away with action points. 

I have limited time to work between 3:30 and 5pm; some days I’m out picking up bakery supplies, making orders, attending meetings or running family-related errands. This gets tricky, because afternoons are when my inbox fills with emails and phone messages. It's easy to get behind. I've learned to quickly sift through emails and voice messages, and only deal with urgent correspondence; I handle these immediately so they don’t take over my evening. Another trick: If you’re waiting for kids at activities, diarize (perhaps with an app such evernote.com), make notes or update your CRM (customer relationship management software) on your phone. When my children were small, I’d use carpool time to write my manuscripts or go over my do-lists. 

I limit work in the evenings to one hour at the most. I almost never work late because of my morning routine, and I'm disciplined about getting to bed at a time that affords me at least seven hours of sleep. Plus, evening is when I’m finishing laundry, dealing with teenager and elder parent drama, doing random household chores, keeping everyone in check and hopefully having a little family time. My teenagers (and sometimes my parents) stay up later than I do these days.

My biggest tip for managing it all: Act fast and don’t procrastinate. Get the work done; don’t just keep adding things to your to do list. If you do, your list will become overwhelming, and you’ll feel less and less motivated. This take-action mindset is a tip I’ve learned from my own business coach. 

 
 
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FOOD

A long-time family favorite 

When I discuss the practicalities of meal-planning, cooking can sound like a chore. But for me, it's a real passion. It’s no wonder I love food: My relationship with cooking started at the very young age of seven! Looking back now, I joyfully remember going through the process of making ‘roti’ (a version of pita bread) in South America. Every day after school my chore was to roll the dough for my mom to cook when she came home from work. Then, when she would cook, I was right beside her helping and learning the steps. I continued the tradition and passed down the joy of cooking to my own children, including them in the kitchen as my helpers when they were little. Now they love to cook and make tasty meals for me to try; I'm their taste tester.

I used to be afraid that when I made certain foods my children would turn up their noses because of certain ingredients (like fruits)! But I found ways to overcome their finicky tastes and make cooking fun and healthy. My son doesn’t like fruits, so for a while I tried different recipes that incorporated fruits (to get his taste buds accustomed to the flavors). For quite some time he would take one bite and spit the muffin or bread out; he'd call them "‘nasty." After multiple attempts I finally mastered a healthy and delicious apple-banana muffin. Rather than telling him it was a banana muffin, I added chopped fresh apples and called them apple muffins. (I knew he liked apple pie.) The trick was to use something that the my son liked and then find a way to turn it into a healthy treat. Today the same apple-banana muffins are a winner at coffee shops and with many of my other customers.

I hope you have fun making them!

Apple-Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup + 2 tsp coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 banana, mashed with a fork
  • ½ of an apple, finely chopped
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Line muffin pan with paper cups or spray with vegetable oil.
  • Melt butter and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix coconut palm sugar, egg, vanilla, chopped apples and banana.
  • Add melted butter and stir.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over-mix.
  • Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
  • Bake until center comes clean, approximately 20-25 minutes.

Yields 10 muffins.
 Note: blueberries, strawberries, pineapple can also be used.

 
 
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FASHION

Spring Fashion Refresh

Add a pop of spring to your wardrobe with spectacular spring trends! Giving your wardrobe a fresh upgrade for spring can seem like a daunting (and pricey) task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can update your look with a few transitional pieces that won’t break the bank. Dress yourself for the season by adding color to your style. A few of my favorite pieces include a pretty bold floral dress, white pants, yellow (daisy or polka dot) pants, white sandals and a pink handbag. A pastel-colored cardigan and a bold lightweight jacket add pep to your step. A simple dress with a blazer is a beautiful style for the office. 

Start pulling out breezier materials that can keep you cool as the weather warms up. Just be sure you’re wearing dresses for spring—not summer—this time of year. It's dress weather, but it's not yet sundress weather. Stick to dresses with a spring-like or neutral color palette, spring fabrics and even a bit of a sleeve.

Take a moment to window shop and visit your favorite boutique for what colors and styles are trending. Purchase a piece or two, and then mix and match them with what already exists in your wardrobe. I visited my favorite boutique last weekend to check out the styles, and I bought myself a pair of light-colored embroidered jeans. I plan to matching them up with a white or green long sleeve, button-down shirt and a pair of brown block-heel sandals. I can also use this outfit for summer—that's versatile fashion!

Happy hunting, and have a happy and fashionable spring!

 
Spring Brings Renewal
 

The weather is picking up and spring is almost upon us. It’s an inspiring season because life feels a bit more optimistic and cheerful after the winter blues. A few things I like to do to get ready for the season are taking out my spring recipes, packing away my winter wardrobe and bringing out my spring clothing. I also deep clean my home and prepare the vegetable garden. I hope I will inspire you to do the same. Here are some fun activities and relationship builders to promote mindfulness and give you a refreshed perspective on life.

I hope you enjoy this month’s read and find it useful as you get ready to welcome spring. Don’t forget to leave a comment, question or tip.  

Have a great month. See you in April!  

Renate

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FOOD

The Flavors of Spring

After all the soups and hearty meals of winter, I look forward to cooking and eating foods that burst with fresh spring flavors. My family loves this pasta dish, and it’s so simple to make. I generally serve it with a mixed green salad and either crab cakes or lamb chops, but it’s also delicious just by itself. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

Spring Linguini with fresh Parsley and Lemon

  • 16 ounces (1 box) linguini pasta
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, 
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½-1teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup olive oil 
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water with 1 tablespoon canola oil to a boil.  Add and cook the linguini in the boiling water until tender but firm, stirring frequently, for about 8-10 minutes, then drain in a colander.

In the same pasta pot, heat the olive oil on low then add minced garlic, stirring until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Be sure not to burn the garlic. Add the pasta to the pot, then pour in the chicken broth, salt and pepper. Toss to combine and cook for 2 minutes, then add the lemon juice and grated Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Taste for desired flavor, adding salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed. Sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley leaves, stir, serve and enjoy.  

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FASHION

Fashionable & Functional 

 

April Showers bring May Flowers, so the saying goes! Although it was a mild winter in my part of North Carolina, I'm still ready for sunshine and blue skies. As much as I long for the sun, I know that showers are essential to making spring so colorful, bright and picture perfect. As the weather slowly changes into rainy spring days, I try not to let them put a damper on my look. Even if it’s just a supermarket trip or running errands, I like to think that cute styles, fun prints and colors have the power to combat any rainy day blues. So on those rainy or cloudy days, we can brighten them up with some chic rainy day essentials:

  • A sleek rain jacket
  • Slim boots or cute galoshes that can pass with any outfit
  • A sturdy and stylish one-button umbrella
  • A waterproof hat to protect that beloved blowout or, as in my case, keeps the frizz down. Even add a designated poncho for your expensive handbag (I mean, you don't want to ruin that distressed leather!)
  • A favorite lip gloss and waterproof mascara will brighten your spirits and help you face the day, regardless of what the weatherman says.

With a beautiful rain jacket, hat, boots or galoshes and umbrella you will be ready to weather the storms in style and feel good about yourself (adding a little zip to your step). 

I’d love to know your rainy day style, so send me a comment!

 

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FAMILY

Building Relationships

Let’s face it: The words ‘fun’ and ‘cleaning’ are rarely seen together. Spring cleaning is a big project; adding the whole family to the mix may leave you wondering whether it’s easier to just take care of your cleaning checklist by yourself. 

Keep in mind, however, that involving your children and spouse in household chores is a good thing. Cleaning can help build better family relationships.

Tackling chores is an important (and unavoidable) part of maturing and gaining independence, and it’s never too early for children to learn to take care of their belongings—including the family home. Teaching these habits helps develop organizational skills which are important throughout life. When the family works together to conquer tasks like these, not only are they making a home tidy and clean, but they’re also bonding and building their relationships; this can lead to better communication, understanding and really learning about each other. If parents or grandparents live with you, include them in tasks they can manage. Don’t exclude them, because when everyone is involved the bond gets stronger and life becomes even better. My parents are now living with me and one of things I've learned is that by including them in chores and activities they feel happy and appreciate having a purpose and sense of involvement.

Here are a few things I’ve done with family over the years; though my children are grown adults and on their own, they’ve continued some of these traditions in their own homes.  

  • Start a kitchen garden (in a flower bed or in large pots). Include plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and peppers. Visit your local nursery or garden shop for ideas. It’s really easy!
  • For a fun family project, plant seedlings in small pots indoors and watch them grow. After the last frost, transplant them into your garden. 
  • Clean out closets and donate unwanted clothing to a local charity.
  • Start a library at home. Create a family reading room and designate a day and time each week for reading together.  

PARENTING & COMMUNICATION

Here are a few parenting tips to improve communications in your family. 

  • Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk—at bedtime, before dinner, in the car—and be available at those times.
  • Start the conversation; it lets your kids know you care about what's happening in their lives.
  • Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.
  • Initiate conversations by sharing what you’ve been thinking about (rather than beginning a conversation with a question).
  • Learn about your children's interests—favorite music, preferred activities—and show interest in these things.

Be available for your children, showing them that you value time together. Cultivate and tend these most important relationships (just as you would your garden)!