Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Break For Lent


I am taking a blogging break over Lent. If you're stopping by between February 18 and April 5, you will find no new posts. I plan to return with new material on April 6th. I hope you'll join me then!

In the meantime, please scroll back through my past posts, check out my most popular posts (in sidebar), and my "About Me" tab to learn more. 

And if you're looking for a speaker for your women's event, check out my "Need A Speaker?" tab at the top of the site. I'd love to come to your neck of the woods and share the "More To Your Story" message. 

I hope you enjoy this time of preparation for Easter. If you're giving up something, what is it?

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Friday, February 13, 2015

In Praise of Productivity (A Book Roundup)

With the new year, my thoughts turned to becoming more productive. I am almost certain this happens to everyone around this time, but the difference was, for me, the thought stuck around past January 1. I've continued to read up on and seek out ways to become more productive, motivated, and effective in the areas of parenting, time management, organization, clutter, writing, exercise, etc. It wasn't that I wasn't doing these things before, I am just trying to do them better. As with all things in life, I turned to books to discover new ways I could do that. Here's a list (with descriptions) of the ones I've read or aim to read very soon:

What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

Mornings are a madcap time for many of us. We wake up in a haze—often after hitting snooze a few times. Then we rush around to get ready and out the door so we can officially start the day. Before we know it, hours have slipped by without us accomplishing anything beyond downing a cup of coffee, dashing off a few emails, and dishing with our coworkers around the water cooler. By the time the workday wraps up, we’re so exhausted and defeated that any motivation to accomplish something in the evening has vanished.

But according to time management expert Laura Vanderkam, mornings hold the key to taking control of our schedules. If we use them wisely, we can build habits that will allow us to lead happier, more productive lives.

Drawing on real-life anecdotes and scientific research that shows why the early hours of the day are so important, Vanderkam reveals how successful people use mornings to help them accomplish things that are often impossible to take care of later in the day. While many of us are still in bed, these folks are scoring daily victories to improve their health, careers, and personal lives without sacrificing their sanity. For instance, former PepsiCo chairman and CEO Steve Reinemund would rise at 5:00 a.m., run four miles, pray, and eat breakfast with his family before heading to work to run a Fortune 500 company.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast is a fun, practical guide that will inspire you to rethink your morning routine and jump-start your life before the day has even begun. 

What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekends by Laura Vanderkam

Many of us breathe a grateful TGIF when Friday rolls around, envisioning a weekend full of both productivity and refreshment. Yet too often our precious weekends seem to disappear, eaten up by unproductive work or leisure that fails to energize us. Monday morning comes too fast, finding us still unrested, with too much still undone.

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam, continuing her series on What the Most Successful People Do, shows how we can take control of our weekends to get necessary R&R, while also using our downtime as a springboard to a productive week. 

Drawing on real-life anecdotes and scientific research, Vanderkam explains why doing nothing can be more exhausting than doing something and why happy people make weekend plans in advance. She shares weekend tips gleaned from busy people such as politician and talk show host Mike Huckabee, former CEO Frank Baxter, and TV producer Aliza Rosen. She reveals the kind of weekend activities that make people happiest, explains why it’s important to unplug at least for a little while, and shares the secret of why Sunday night may be the most important part of any weekend.  

What the Most Successful People Do On the Weekend is a fun, practical guide that will inspire you to rethink your weekends and start your workweek refreshed, renewed, and on track.  

How She Does It: An Everywoman's Guide to Breaking Old Rules, Getting Creative, and Making Time For Work in Your Actual Everyday Life by Anne Bogel

Today’s working woman looks a lot like you. 

She’s a: 
• stay-at-home mom, working on her passion at naptime 
• a part-time professional sharing childcare with her husband 
• a full-time creative planning a future on her own schedule 

She’s a woman – like you – with the opportunity to find fulfilling and profitable work without the mother guilt of previous generations. The possibilities are endless for today’s woman in this shifting work place – but the roadmap for getting there hasn’t quite been written. 

Until now. 

In How She Does It, author Anne Bogel unpacks these trends in family & work culture, and gets to the core of HOW you can make your work goals fit into your unique family situation. 

Inside, you’ll find the personal success stories of 30 women who found – by playing to their unique strengths– solutions that really work for their families. 

Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, tackles the critical question: How do we change? 
Gretchen Rubin's answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.
So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?
Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation. 
Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore: 

• Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do? 
• Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why? 
• How quickly can I change a habit? 
• What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit? 
• How can I help someone else change a habit?  
• Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me? 

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits—even before they’ve finished the book.

Listful Thinking: Using Lists To Be More Productive, Highly Successful, and Less Stressed by Paula  Rizzo

What do Madonna, Martha Stewart, John Lennon, Ellen DeGeneres, Ben Franklin, Ronald Reagan, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Johnny Cash have in common? Each is (or was) a list maker. These successful people, along with CEOs and successful entrepreneurs, all use lists to keep track of their ideas, thoughts, and tasks. Finding enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished and allow for some downtime can be a struggle. It's no wonder so many of us are stressed, overextended, andexhausted. More than half of all American employees feel overwhelmed, according to a study by the nonprofit Family and Work Institute. For the 54 percent of us who feel like we're chasing our own tails, Listful Thinking is here to prove that it doesn't have to be that way. You can still find time to relax, read a good book, and do the things you love. Listful Thinking is the book that will give readers their lives back with indispensible tips on saving time, getting organized, improving productivity, saving money, and reducing stress

Manage Your Day To Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn Glei

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

According to productivity expert Scott Belsky, no one is born with the ability to drive creative projects to completion. Execution is a skill that must be developed by building your organizational habits and harnessing the support of your colleagues.

As the founder and CEO of Behance, a company on a mission to empower and organize the creative world, Belsky has studied the habits of especially productive individuals and teams across industries. Now he has compiled the principles and techniques they share, and presents a systematic approach to creative organization and productivity.

While many of us focus on generating and searching for great ideas, Belsky shows why it's better to develop the capacity to make ideas happen-a capacity that endures over time.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”
Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations”. . . Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day . . . Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.”

Here are: Anthony Trollope, who demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books . . . Karl Marx . . . Woody Allen . . . Agatha Christie . . . George Balanchine, who did most of his work while ironing . . . Leo Tolstoy . . . Charles Dickens . . . Pablo Picasso . . . George Gershwin, who, said his brother Ira, worked for twelve hours a day from late morning to midnight, composing at the piano in pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers . . .

Here also are the daily rituals of Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, John Updike, Twyla Tharp, Benjamin Franklin, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Anne Rice, and Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to “clear the brain”).

Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals is irresistible, addictive, magically inspiring.

(I am linking this post to Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly book roundup.)
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's Working This Week (The Valentine's Day Edition)

A long time ago, I stopped trying to make Valentine's Day uber romantic and decided to make it a fun family evening instead, eliminating the desperate search for a sitter, the crowded, expensive restaurants and the pressure on couples to up the ante. (Really, who needs that?) Instead I make spaghetti (it's red) and something chocolate for dessert, then we try to find a "love" movie that we can all watch together.

But you've probably guessed that's not so easy.

So here are 5 movies we've deemed appropriate and not cringe worthy. As always, do your due diligence and look the movie up on IMDB to see why it garnered the rating it did, and if there are things in it that you would not think appropriate for your kids, or yourself for that matter. Movies are so subjective and everyone's threshold of what's appropriate is so vastly different.

But as romantic movies go, these are about as innocuous (without being vapid) as you can get. However you celebrate Valentine's Day, I hope it's wonderful!

Sleepless in Seattle: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in Nora Ephron's wonderfully romantic comedy about two people drawn together by destiny. Hanks stars as Sam Baldwin, a widowed father who, thanks to the wiles of his worried son, becomes a reluctant guest on a radio call-in show. He's an instant hit with thousands of female listeners who deluge his Seattle home with letters of comfort. Meanwhile, inspired in equal parts by Sam's story and by classic Hollywood romance, writer Annie Reed (Ryan) becomes convinced that it's her destiny to meet Sam. There are just two problems: Annie's engaged to someone else and Sam doesn't know yet that they're made for each other. Co-starring Rosie O'Donnell, Rita Wilson and Rob Riener.

Return To Me: Who knew that when he ordered the special, he d get the dish of his life? David Duchovny ('the X-Files ) and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) ignite sparks in this warm-hearted winner (JeffCraig, 'sixty Second Preview ) about a widower and a waitress who meet and fall in love. Featuring an incredible all-star cast, this hilarious romantic comedy delivers a lot of laughs, tears and joysthat will make your spirits soar. It took a lot of cajoling to get Bob (Duchovny), a recently widowed architect, to go on a blind date at a quirky Irish-Italian eatery. Once there, he's smitten instantly not with his date but with the sharp-witted waitress, Grace (Driver). With unsolicitedhelp from Grace's matchmaking grandfather (Carroll O Connor), Bob asks her out. And as their relationship blossoms, everything seems to be going great, until an unbelievable truth is revealed one that could easily break both of their hearts for good.

You've Got Mail: The stars (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan) and director (Nora Ephron) of Sleepless in Seattle reteamed for this charming audience favorite. Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton and more great co-stars add note-perfect support to this cinematic love letter in which superstore book chain magnate Hanks and cozy children’s bookshop owner Ryan are anonymous e-mail cyberpals who fall head-over-laptops in love, unaware they are combative business rivals. You’ve got rare Hollywood magic when You’ve Got Mail. 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Toula is 30. And unmarried. Which means as a nice Greek girl -- she's a failure. All her cousins did the right thing -- married Greek boys and made Greek babies. So everyone worries: what will become of Toula? Then one day she sees the ultimate unattainable guy and realizes the only way her life will get better is if he gets away from her big, fat Greek family. Toula escapes from the family restaurant. She exchanges her seating hostess jacket for a college diploma, convinces her aunt to give her a new job, and trades in her coke-bottle glasses for contact lenses, just in time for "him" to walk back into her life. Ian Miller is tall, handsome but defnitely not Greek. Their courtship is an Olympian culture clash. Can Ian handle Toula, her parents, her aunts, uncles, cousins and several centuries of Greek heritage? Will Toula discover the love she's been missing right in the heart of her big, fat family? One thing is for sure, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, with Ian's proposal Toula is headed for her big, fat Greek wedding.

While You Were Sleeping: You'll fall in love with WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, the hit romantic comedy that woke everyone up to adorable Sandra Bullock (SPEED, A TIME TO KILL). As Lucy, a lonely subway worker, she becomes smitten with a handsome stranger (Peter Gallagher -- MALICE). But when she saves his life after he's been mugged and fallen into a coma, his hilariously offbeat family mistakes her for his fiancee! Soon, the mix-ups escalate as Lucy fabricates a life between herself and a man she's never met! And when Lucy falls for his charming brother (Bill Pullman -- INDEPENDENCE DAY) the situation really gets uproarious as she's forced to make a choice between the two!

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Friday, February 06, 2015

On Social Media As A Time Suck: The One Question To Ask Yourself

Ever found yourself falling down the rabbit hole of social media? You know, the one where you start out on one thing, then find yourself 30 minutes later viewing photos of your college roommate's sister's child's wedding and think... what am I doing???

Here's a question I've started asking myself whenever I look up and realize that I am in danger of this being the case. Before I click any further I ask myself one question-- 

Will this change your life? 

Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. A resounding no. 

Does this mean that all social media is unnecessary? No. There is useful stuff out there. A post about a marriage issue you're struggling with. A link to a workout video that might be just the ticket to get you exercising again. A recipe on Pinterest that inspires you to make dinner for your family for the first time in a week. These things could potentially change your life, or at the very least your perspective.

But will another cat video do that? No. Where will your time be best spent? On the things that will change your life. At least for me, this has been a help... and a way to stop the madness.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

What's Working For Me This Week

It's time to share what's been working for me this week. I spent far too much time yesterday going through Modern Mrs. Darcy's linkup, reading about what has been saving other women's lives during these long, dark days of winter. Reading about what saved their lives saved mine, at least in a small way. So along those lines, here's what's worked for me this week. It might not be saving my life, but it made life nicer, which is no small thing...

Love the light on the water, and the lone seagull keeping vigil

A beach trip with a friend. We got away to her mother's condo to write, talk about writing, take nice long walks on the beach, and just retreat. It was just what the doctor ordered.

You might not can tell but those are frosted pinecones in the hurricane. The runner is kinda burlap /kinda golden with pretty beaded snowflakes on each end. Very understated and the table looks so nice with all the candles lit. 

New tablescapes for everyday. After our fall and Christmas centerpieces, I decided to go with something that can be for everyday use and I am enjoying them so much. They are a nice change of pace and I find the less colorful schemes soothing after so much color at Christmas and fall.

I love this black and white runner I picked up at a local favorite store.
And my black iron centerpiece filled with white candles makes it perfect. 

A handpainted wine glass from a friend, featuring all the words I've chosen as my one word for the past five years. You can't tell in this picture but the blocks look exactly like scrabble tiles. I will treasure it for sure!

Grapes: an easy snack to grab on the go, and for some reason they're super sweet right now. Since I'm trying not to eat sweets, I get my fix through fruit. I'm no expert but I'm guessing either grapes are in season or my grocery store just got a really good batch.

This picture makes me smile. I love the purple grapes and the pattern from the colander.  Chances are you will be seeing this photo again. 

A coat for the dog: After having her groomed I realized that she was going to be a bit more prone to the bitter cold we've been having off and on, so I bought her this spiffy little coat in fun colors. I love seeing her in it and she seems to like having it on. I group texted my older kids this photo after I got it and said, "We are now a family that dresses our dog." Their responses were hilarious.

What's saving your life/working for you lately? Share here, or at Modern Mrs Darcy's linkup! I'll be sharing this post.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Fun February Holidays

It's a new month and, after you guys seemed to get a kick out of the quirky holidays I published in December, I thought I'd share some this month as well.

 I'm thinking some nice loud music blasting in the kitchen is in order tomorrow. Which ones will you celebrate??

 1 National Freedom Day

 2 Ground Hog Day

 3 The Day the Music Died (Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash in 1959)

 4 Thank a Mailman Day (I bet some chocolate with a nice note would do the trick!)

 5 National Weatherman's Day

 7 Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (my kids could totally get behind this)

 7 Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day (mine might think I'm crazy)

 9 Clean out Your Computer Day (or at least your inbox???)

 9 Toothache Day (let's hope not)

 10 Umbrella Day

 11 Don't Cry over Spilled Milk Day

 11 White T-Shirt Day

 13 Blame Someone Else Day (My kids celebrate this every day.)

 14 National Organ Donor Day

 14 Valentine's Day

 15 Singles Awareness Day (and all the single ladies say amen)

 16 Do a Grouch a Favor Day (if someone comes to mind, it's probably best not to say)

 17 Random Acts of Kindness Day

 18 National Battery Day

 22 Be Humble Day (I'm thinking that should be everyday.)

 22 Walking the Dog Day

 24 National Tortilla Chip Day (Chips and Queso anyone?)

 26 Tell a Fairy Tale Day (A good day to watch Ever After on Netflix-- a personal fave of mine)

 27 No Brainer Day (I'm thinking a no brainer dinner is in order.)

 28 Public Sleeping Day (just go to the airport to witness this)

( Thanks to Sandra Beckwith at for this list. Go here to see the original source.)
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Friday, January 30, 2015

What Ive Been Into (January)

I found out I was a top blogger over at All Free Casserole Recipes in 2014 so that was fun! To see the full list of bloggers, go to this link.

I read this book, and it made me laugh and cry-- sometimes one page apart. I had myself a good cry at the end and felt both heartened and heartbroken when I was finished. That is so rare in a book. I don't think I will read a better book this year. I listened to it on audio and I think that only added to the experience. Now I can't wait for his next book!

I wish I could say that The Rosie Effect lived up to my hopes but sadly it just didn't draw me in. I took it back to the library without finishing it. I still stand by my rave reviews of The Rosie Project, however.

Curt and I binge-watched The Fall on Netflix. I do not recommend it to, well, anyone but if you can't stop yourself, then you too will know the horrifying yet compelling phenomena that is this show. Once you start watching you cannot look away. Unless you're squeamish, then you will have to.

This month on my blog I also shared

Five Dates To Go On In 2015

Netflix Movies You Might've Missed 

Five Ways to Start the Year Off Right

And finally I shared how gratitude journals overwhelm me, but jotting down one amazing thing that happens each day has been a wonderful way to remember that life truly is amazing. Sometimes you just have to think small in order to find the amazing parts. This habit I started last year has helped me remember to look.

If you'd like to see a list of blog posts I found inspiring this month, head over to She Reads, where I shared those. It's a good list with a lot of food for thought.

** I'm linking to Leigh Kramer's "What I'm Into" roundup today.
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