Category Archives: Relax

Woman, You Inspire Me

As a woman, having trailblazing female heroes that I can look to for inspiration and encouragement has taught me that I am part of a movement.

Our female role models allows us to dream bigger than we thought possible. They show us that the world is malleable and evolving, and they ignite a fire inside of us to fight for equality and change. When we are tired, or scared, or face an exhausting challenge, they shine the light that helps us find our strength. And we push forward – not only for ourselves, but to honor them.

Then one day, if we are lucky, we rise up to become the new generation of heroes that our sisters and our daughters are searching for. The work continues from one era to the next.

Today, I want to name just some of the amazing women who have inspired me:

To Ms. Byczek, my forensics coach in junior high school: Thank you for believing in me more than any other teacher I ever had. In seventh grade you handed me a famous speech given by Shirley Chisholm in protest of the Vietnam War and said, this is your moment – make her proud. That decision not only helped me win countless forensics awards, building my preteen confidence, but also fueled my interest in feminism and politics. Thank you for seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

To Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the United States Congress and 1972 presidential candidate: You opened my eyes to the power of a woman’s voice. At twelve years old, being trusted with your words was an exceptional honor – and learning about your journey, your passion, your bravery, and your ideas changed me for ever. You unleashed a young woman into the world who would always speak her mind. I carry you with me always.

To Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate of a major American party: As a young girl in elementary school, I was captivated by you. Your voice and presence would move through the television set to fill up my living room. At that time I didn’t know much about politics, but I knew that I wanted you to win because you made me feel safe. In an election filled with standard bearers, you brought a perspective that was both exciting and comforting. I could see myself reflected in you.

To Sally Ride, who became the first woman in space when I was an eight-year-old child: Thank you for nurturing my interest in science and engineering. Watching you board the Challenger made me so proud to be a girl. In Ms. Clark’s third grade classroom, I could not wait to get my Weekly Reader to learn more about your work for NASA. Your adventures were my adventures.

To Ying Wang, my master’s thesis professor and research collaborator: You encouraged me to share my opinions and find my scholarly voice. With your help, I became a published writer – a dream come true. You believed in me, and walked beside me every step of the way. You were my teacher, mentor, confidant, and friend.

To My Mom: Woman, you are strong, soft, nurturing, and formidable. In the 1980s, you were as comfortable welding metal and “building stuff” as you were cooking dinner, and that was important for me to see. You challenged gender roles in our home. My daughter and I inherit our badassery from you (and yes, Merriam-Webster agrees that this is a word).

To Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major American party: Where do I even begin? Standing ovation. Thank you for never giving up. You are not only an inspiration to me, but you have become my daughter’s hero, and for that I can’t thank you enough. She is in second grade and because of your candidacy, she knows that women can compete for any role imaginable.

And to the countless women who get up and show up every day: You inspire me to do the same.

 

To My Brother, With Love

This past weekend in New Orleans, my brother married a woman who is by all measures his perfect match – artistic, glamorous, well-traveled, loving, and generous. Their ceremony was stunning and I will share all of the details in an upcoming post, but first I wanted to take the opportunity to write about my brother, Seth.

For as long as I can remember, my brother has been the most influential and inspirational person in my life. Though he is two years younger than I am, his emotional maturity far surpasses my own – and it has always been that way.  As youngsters, I was the loud one – the child who defied authority, was careless when sharing my opinions, and lived to have fun. Seth was introspective, thoughtful, and always sensitive to the needs of others. As we grew, we each found greater balance – his seriousness rubbed off on me, and conversely, I’d like to believe that my irreverence helped him laugh a bit more freely.

In college, I would return home on weekends to find my brother reading the collected works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Krishnamurti. He would tell me how inspired he was by philosophies that encouraged aligning ones life to the needs of the world. That is why I was not surprised when, after completing his degree in architecture, my brother fit his belongings into a backpack and moved to Africa to spend a year living, learning and volunteering abroad. An artist, Seth would share his experiences traveling across West Africa through exquisite pen and ink drawings. He also captured the sounds of his journeys, recording the noises of traffic, birds, drums, and voices.

That same year, I married the love of my life and began my own adventure. Our childhood was over, and my brother and I were venturing out on different roads.

As adults, we have spent more time apart than together – but wherever he happens to be, a piece of my heart is there too. And though we travel unique paths, I am grateful that our roads converge at the most important times. This weekend, as I watched Seth marry an extraordinary woman who shares his joie de vivre, my heart was full. You want the best for the ones you love most in the world, and I know that in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined anything better for him.

Congratulations, my dearest friend. What a beautiful life you have created.

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To My Daughter On Her 7th Birthday


My Strong Willed, Spirited Girl:

Thirteen years ago, if someone had asked me about the best day of my life, I would have told them about the moment I met your father. From across a crowded room, we fell in love at first sight and I knew my life would never be the same.

Twelve years ago, I would have told them about the day I married your dad on a pink sand beach. Looking into his eyes as the ocean waves rolled upon the shore, I saw a future of endless possibilities. I still do.

Seven years ago, of course, I would have told them about the magical day that you were born. Now that I know you, I’d say it was a perfect entrance. Quick and timely, right on your due date. I know how you hate to be late to a party! That was the day I realized how far my heart could stretch and how deeply and fiercely I could love.

Today, if someone asked me about the best day of my life, my answer would be different. Today I would say that the best day is the one that I am blessed to be living right now. Each and every minute that I get to love you and your dad, and feel your love in return is a celebration. My life is no longer defined by single, once-in-a-lifetime events, but instead measured by the beauty of ordinary moments that bring us together.

Your laughter, your smile, your dad’s bad jokes, our hikes in the woods, our dinner table conversations…those little things have become the most extraordinary pieces of my life. And every morning when I wake up and I see your faces, I know that THIS is going to be the best day I have ever known.

I am a lucky woman. You have transformed my world and taught me so much. I am constantly in awe of your capacity to love, your ability to learn, and your desire to work hard. You are thoughtful, hilarious, and creative beyond belief. You inspire me to live my best life and to reach further than I ever thought possible.

Happy birthday, my love. Thank you for making every day the best day of my life.

-Mom

Happy

Our Favorite Things – Pimm’s Summer Cup

The first time I visited the UK was early June of 1995. The weather was lovely and sunny but not especially warm. The friends I was visiting warned me that “summer” can be a relative term in the British Isles and to be prepared for anything. I packed accordingly (layers!) and spent a couple of beautiful summer weeks exploring the south of England and Wales.

One memorable day was spent in Bath. After touring the Roman sites and then listening to an extraordinary impromptu concert in the courtyard of Bath Abbey, we stopped for lunch at a small cafe. Our server, upon hearing me chatting, declared that an American her first trip abroad should drink something quintessentially British. Before I knew it there was a summer cup in my hand (and shortly thereafter a Bass ale, etc!).

Pimm’s is a gin based liqueur that tastes of citrus and spice with botanical notes. If you’re wondering about the exact ingredients don’t bother Googling the recipe. The formula is a well kept secret. I think it tastes a little like bitters but sweeter and smoother, though definitely not cloying. It has an alcohol content of about 25% so it retains a lot of flavor without an overpowering alcohol taste.

Much like the Mint Julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, Pimm’s is regularly served at events like Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve never seen one on a menu in my town – which is a shame because it’s a refreshing and unique drink that would make a great addition to a summer cocktail list. A quick internet search will yield dozens of recipes with a variety of ingredients to make the “perfect” cup. Try mine, or another that catches your eye and enjoy!

Pimm’s Summer Cup

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Fill a tumbler half-full with ice

Add 2 oz. Pimm’s

Finish with sparkling lemonade

Garnish with mint leaves and slices of strawberry and seedless cucumber

Variations

Substitute club soda, ginger ale, Sprite or Prosecco

For the garnish, try lemons, limes or oranges. Raspberries or blackberries make tasty additions as well.

Beginning Each Day In The Garden

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Entertaining Family in the Garden

Wisconsin is my home, and one of my favorite things about this beautiful place is the vibrancy of each season. I love them all, but today summer has my heart. As the weather warms, my living space expands into our gardens and it becomes easier to connect with nature on a daily basis.

I like to begin each day by enjoying a cup of coffee on our back patio. As I take my first sips of the morning, I am serenaded by a couple of cardinals that have nested in a nearby tree. Drops of dew have gathered making leaves glisten and flowers sparkle. As the sun rises, the world has an ethereal hush and my mind is quiet.

Humming birds, monarchs, and honey bees are already hard at work. I watch them tend to the garden and try not to disturb their habitat.

I am lucky to watch over this place. Our little piece of the world.

Entertaining Family in the Garden 2

 

The Simple Pleasure Of Cozying Up At Home

Hello dear friends! I can’t believe that we’re already heading into the final days of January. In keeping with this months theme of “comfort”, today’s post is all about relaxing at home.

As some of you know, in addition to blogging at Entertaining Family, I am the executive director of a nonprofit organization which means that my work days are fast-paced and challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. My husband also has a demanding career as a creative director with clients spread across the country. We’ve designed our home to be a retreat from the world. It is the place where we escape the daily grind and slip into a routine of slow, easy living.

Our old Victorian house, built at the turn of the 20th century, is a grande dame from another era – filled with high ceilings, hardwood, and natural light. Over the past ten years, we have taken care to restore our home’s regal beauty while also making it a cozy urban oasis. To do this, all of the alterations we’ve made pay homage to the age of our home (trying to incorporate fixtures and finishes that fit a Victorian), while creating function for modern living. In the end, we’ve created spaces that allow us to connect as a family, entertain friends, and enjoy a simple and casual lifestyle. It’s the kind of home where you can kick off your shoes and get really comfy.

Throughout the years our home has certainly evolved with us. If you had visited us a decade ago, you would have found the space of a young couple that was on the go. There was no television in sight, travel magazines were strewn across the coffee table in anticipation of our next trip, martini’s were neatly placed on top of coasters, and the two people inside were totally tuned into each other. Today, while we’re still tuned into each other, we’re now a family of three….okay, four (two parents, one first grader, and a fluffy cat). Our house is definitely “lived in”. We have cozy couches and floor cushions galore. An entire corner of our living room is occupied by a delightful assortment of toys and games. And our coffee table is no longer home to travel magazines…instead it serves as a coloring surface for our little one.

Living Space

Coffee Table Creativity

Dining Room

Our dining room table is the heart of our home. My husband, daughter, and I delight in preparing meals together and then taking time to savor our creations. During the week, the table also doubles as “the family office”. It is where we spread out homework, check emails, play board games, or write posts for Entertaining Family. It can get a little messy at times and you know, that’s great. I’ll take it as a sign of creativity and a life well lived!

This is also the space where we host dinner parties, one of our favorite pastimes. We love to have guests relax around our table sharing food and stories. At this time of year, as the cold weather lingers and the days are short, we find it even more important to connect with loved ones who bring warmth and sunshine into our home.

Room for Friends

On weekends, there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down with a good book. My husband and I are both avid readers and collectors of literature – and now our daughter is taking up this passion, too. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you can find us cuddled up in a quiet corner reading an engaging story.

Reading Time

Coffee and Books

This year we turned our fireplace mantel into a small library featuring of some of our favorite works, which means a great read is always within arms distance. My husband and I can pick up a novel or page through a design book, and there are plenty of titles for our daughter to enjoy. Books are stacked vertically and piled horizontally, and the bindings add new visual interest to this living room focal point.

Fireplace

Book Collection

Peter Pan

Art Books

Of course, one of the best parts of having a home is filling it with love. In our house, love comes in the form of many beautiful faces. From sleep overs, to dance parties, to coffee chats and dinners…over the years friends and family have dropped-in or stayed for extended periods of time, all filling our space with laughter and joy. If anything makes me want to cozy up at home, it is spending quality time with my people.

Playing (photo by Seth)

Laughing (photo by Masha)

Dance Party

Family

As I reflect on our home, there are two words that come to mind: comforting and restful. It isn’t a formal space. It isn’t perfection. However, it is a place that reflects our love of family and leisure. It is a place to retreat from the world and celebrate the simple pleasures in life.

For more posts on our home, check out our rain garden or this piece on creating a home.

 

 

Photos of the Snow – A Walk Under the Blue Skies of Winter

As many of you know, everyday, no matter the season, I love to get out for a walk in nature – even if it is ten degrees below zero. And that isn’t an exaggeration.

Recently we’ve been experiencing a stretch of frigid temperatures in the Midwest. It has led some to wonder how I can brave Wisconsin winters. Heck…sometimes I wonder how I do it! But the truth is that while it’s certainly cold, it is also stunning. The stark white ground, the bare branches of the trees, and the vastness of the sky create a beautiful backdrop for living.

For me, winter has always been a season of rest and quiet contemplation. A time to slow down, but never a time to stop. Today I am sharing photos from a recent trek along the shores of Lake Michigan and the thoughts I carried on my journey.

There is beauty to be found every day.

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The world is much bigger than I am.

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I can walk a trail a thousand times and still have a new experience.

Nature allows me to view the world with fresh eyes.

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The Earth is always changing, as am I.

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Friends walk with me, no matter the conditions.

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It is important to be quiet and present. Be the lion.

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In time, I will always get where I need to be.

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As a kid, my family cultivated my love of nature. We were always going for hikes, sleeping under the stars, or spending a day at the beach. When I was old enough, I would happily go to summer camp each year – an experience that developed my independent spirit and desire to explore the world around me. One of the first songs I learned at camp was called “On the Loose”, I’m sure some of you know it. My favorite verse is this: There’s a trail that I’ll be hiking just to see where it might go, many places yet to visit and many people yet to know. And in following my dreams, I will live and I will grow, on a trail that’s waiting out there on the loose.

That sense of wonder and curiosity is with me always.

Everyone of us is balancing multiple roles and responsibilities. Sometimes it is important to step away from the noise and connect with the planet.

Take time to savor the simple pleasures in life.