Friday, July 28, 2017

Eighth Tiara Check-In!

French Friday!!

We've still got about six weeks left on our "Summer Tiara Challenge" - how's your sparkle this week?

I had a week that served as a reminder that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I wasn't happy that I turned into the Voracious Craw for a couple of days and threw off my painfully-slowly-developing good eating habits, but it had some learning moments. For instance, you hear much about "don't keep junk food in the house," which is good advice. But you know what? The day will come when you grab your keys, get in the car, and go get it! Don't beat yourself up - it'll happen. In my case, the mass quantities of cheap candy I mindlessly snarfed didn't even taste good and afterward - blech! So file it away as a lesson. To go with that lesson - don't let yourself get hungry-starved! I had some busy days this week and I fell into old habits, which includes thinking, "Oh, I just need to finish this before I eat. And this. Oh, look - there's another task over here."

Stop that! It's pert-close to madness and no one benefits from that.

When this happens (and it will), do not despair. Wash your face, say your prayers, go to bed. Then start over the next morning. Square your shoulders, Daughter of Shine! Treat yourself gently and do the same for others.

That's really the other point I want to address in this post. This week, I changed my mermaid hair to a much darker base - it's really back to "galaxy hair" for the rest of summer. The colors are rich, and deep, and thoroughly artificial. You do not "go galaxy" if you don't want people to notice the look.  Why, as a respectable, tax-paying, middle-aged woman, would I do this?

The answer is quite simple, but was a long time in coming.

Joy.

To begin with, I think in contemporary American society, there's an idea that women my age ought to quietly go out to pasture. We're considered "past our prime," which seems to be measured almost solely in sexual attractiveness (I could use a far more vulgar term, but I was gently reared, so I won't) and a large swath of society seems to put an expiration date on that.

Nope. I am more comfortable in my skin than I ever was in my twenties and thirties and that is a fact with which others simply will need to learn to deal. Their discomfort is not my problem.

Secondly, as a child, I was nearly painfully shy. Really - I think I was attracted to working backstage on theatrical productions because the crew is so often invisible. I nearly never felt comfortable interacting with people, which is one reason I'm sure I developed my love of language and my (occasionally) sharp-edged tongue.

It's taken me years, as in decades, to learn how to stand up and be seen - and to holler if necessary.

I'm not giving that up to make other people comfortable.

There's a philosophy that claims we'll all have to answer, not only for the wrongs we did in this life, but for the joys we refused to partake in. I want both lists to be as short as possible. That doesn't mean I don't know how to wear a demure strand of pearls and a twinset, but to quote a costume designer I once knew, "All clothes are costumes." Why do we insist on only one version of ourselves?

Go shine. The world needs your light.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Seventh Tiara Check-In!

Rock Crystal Points - wow!
Welcome back to another "French Friday," where we check in on our summer tiara goals!

I spent last week on vacation out in the wilds of Utah, so I deliberately missed a posting, rather than try to cram one in and thus upset my strict schedule of relaxation and rejuvenation. I'm sure you understand.

Visiting Utah is a different world - two of my bestest friends (who have known me since I was in my late teens) met in college in Virginia, married, and eventually settled out in the high desert of the Beehive State. We've seen each other through some beautiful, whirlwind, joyous times, and we've also been there as rock-solid supports for each other through some of life's lesser-than-great moments. I love them ferociously and they me. (Plus, when FryDaddy and I visit, the children are put on "fetch mode" with strict orders to make us comfortable, which is decadent beyond belief, since the kids actually go into "staff function.") Lesson learned - tiaras need to be placed in your carry-on luggage, but expect to be stopped and have your luggage hand-searched by the TSA personnel, as it is unusual to see tiaras on the X-ray machine. It may be best to practice looking imperious before approaching the security line.

FryDaddy got to do his thing, which mostly involves bookstores and quiet nooks in which to read, preferably with a cat curled up on his lap. Thanks to Iris-Kitty, he had the time of his life! My vacation was a bit more active - note: that was not an "easy" hike, regardless of whatever delusions the guidebook writer was suffering from! - and also punctuated with Versailles-level luxuries, such as fresh pastries, morning cappuccino with cream, and serious "girl time" involving self-care and high tea at the Grand America Hotel. (Yes, that outing involved two tiaras, one frilly hat, and an exquisite fascinator between the four of us. I also bought a music box.) There were fireworks on the lake that made us all scream with excitement, fresh-picked asparagus and currants, and more love than we could absorb.

Truly, a magnificent, tiara-worthy break!

Coming back was hard - not only did the Carolina humidity hit us like a wet woolen blanket as soon as we left the sanctuary of the airport, there was also the necessary return to food tracking. Not bad - I did re-gain three pounds during my break, but I regret nothing. Do you hear me? NOTHING! In this, the book of Ecclesiastes is wise - there really is a time for everything and last week was a time of indulgence, soothing, and deep comfort.

Not to mention, it was great fun to see the kids tear into Cheerwine, which they couldn't remember ever seeing! I guess it's my own "private Utah," which is vaguely like My Own Private Idaho, without all the hustler activity and Henry IV references, which really means it's nothing at all like My Own Private Idaho. 

We'll be back there soon - and I urge you to find your own magic spot. We all need one (maybe more than one) and you can't expect anyone else's to truly suit you.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Sixth Tiara Check-In!

Hey, sunshine - how's that tiara sparkling? That's right - we're now about halfway through summer and it's time for another tiara check-in!

This week - wow! Some GREAT stuff happened (including a "girls' day" with my beloved teen goddaughter) along with some not-so-great stuff to even it all out. You don't wear a tiara only on the good days, you know. If you've earned one, you wear it and stand even taller and straighter on the days that are punctuated by bouts of ick. (FryDaddy spent a large chunk of this week down with the Creeping Crud, which is always bad, but in the summer seems even worse. He's on the mend, though.)

It was blazing hot so I didn't exercise as I had intended and I didn't get around to trying to make my own crepes either, but my garden provided a few cucumbers this week and the tomatoes are (finally!) starting to ripen. I also was gifted with cucumbers at my weekly WW meeting. (I'm down another .8 of a pound and closing in on my second goal, which was to lose 5% of my starting weight.)

Now, we'll have to see what happens on that front this next week - vacation is coming up and we're heading to the wild West where goats and elk roam the Wasatch Mountains and meals delectable enough to make Julia Child slap her momma are routinely prepared - much of it from the back garden and beehives! Alas - we arrive in between rodeo weeks, so I still don't get to see "mutton busting" but lazy days on the reservoir, a fancy high tea, some high altitude hiking and possibly a pedicure involving a belt sander are on the tentative schedule.

The video is from Texas, because - Texas.


I have learned a new French phrase for this "French Friday" - "il faut oser!" or "You have to dare!"

Excellent advice, I say! Therefore, my goals for this next week are simple - enjoy, recharge, and luxuriate in the company of those who love me!

May your week bring you joy!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fifth Tiara Check-In!

By now, you should be expecting a regular "French Friday" (see what I did there?) tiara post as I check in with you and report on my own progress on this summer tiara-deserving journey.

As is usual, some things are great, while others are challenges. Let's look at the challenges first. I had a hard time working in exercise the way I had planned this week. Late June in North Carolina tends to be hot and humid (not kidding, we're talking about "fog-up-your-glasses-by-stepping-outside" humid) and it was the end of my summer school teaching responsibilities, so I didn't use the inside walking track the way I could have. So that's something to keep working toward.

On the other hand, I lost weight again this week and I'm now officially down seven pounds. Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but think of it like this: that's the weight of a bag of sugar and a pineapple. Or a baby wolf. For fans of the nearly-forgotten movie 1941, that's a joke. But seriously - a six-week-old wolf cub weighs about seven pounds. So do about 12-and-a-half stoats, but the idea of losing 12-and-a-half stoats is just - weird.

I tried my hand at making mousse au chocolat since our last check-in. It's actually really easy, although I didn't quite master the trick of beating the egg whites enough to be super light and fluffy. So the end product was a little more like regular ol' 'Merican pudding, but was still super-tasty. Fresh orange zest, cherie. That's the secret! (Shhh. Just try it, don't tell anybody. Then it wouldn't be a secret, would it?)

This next week, I hope to try three things:

  1. Try to move a little each and every day - walk the dog, try a local trail, or maybe even walk around before the July Fourth fireworks. 
  2. Try my hand at at least one new recipe. I've been doing more of that, and my slow-cooker tikka masala wasn't half bad. I'm thinking of trying crêpes this week.
  3. Look back on one nice thing I did every day to treat myself like company.
Shoulders back, We Who Sparkle! Keep that tiara straight until next week!

And here's an extremely odd video of a stoat hunting a much larger rabbit. The stoat is utilizing the often-dismissed "freak out" tactic that uses dance moves as hunting strategy. Just think about that.







Friday, June 23, 2017

Fourth Tiara Check-In!

How's the tilt of that tiara this week? Hard to believe, but, yes - it's time for another weekly check-in on our summer journey to increased fabulousness.

This week had a couple of grimy spots (the end of shepherding students through two whirlwind five-week summer courses can do that) and, combined with a few days of steady overcast-and-rainy days, made me feel a bit droopy and less than fabulous, I must admit. I put up with that for one day, but on the second, I was reminded that timid women do not have unicorn hair, so I needed to buck up and Get With It!

My solution (yours may be different, of course - you're your own Queen) was a "pantry spa" treatment. I know that not all problems can be solved by a hot bath, but it often helps me. So - take two tablespoons of plain yogurt, a little lemon juice, a Vitamin E capsule and mix well. Now run a hot bath. Add about a cup of plain (read: cheap) white rice in a clean knee-high stocking to the running water - just tie it to the faucet - and a tablespoon or so or oil (sesame is great if you have it; otherwise, olive will do nicely). A bar of seaweed soap completes the "sushi bath" experience.  (I've been gathering this stuff for months. If you don't have these specific items, improvise. Then add a few things to your next grocery list.) Light candles if that's your thing. Likewise, play music to soothe your jangled nerves, if that's how you roll. Use a bath pillow or a rolled-up hand towel as a pillow for your tired head. Gently smooth your homemade face mask on and lean back in the steaming water. Stay as long as you want to. Once out, drink a large glass of water, apply lotion liberally, and curl up with a bad book. Clean up the bathroom later.

Yes, you do have time to do this. Whatever is bugging you will still be there later - and if it's not, well, so much the better! Remember - we'd have no trouble being kind to a stressed-out friend and it's high time to treat ourselves as well as we'd treat a friend.

The week also had some good spots, of course. I tried dry-brushing for the first time - definitely stimulating! I haven't made crepes yet, nor chocolate mousse, but I'm hoping to try one or the other over the weekend. I broke the five-pound loss barrier (yay!) this week, which was worth celebrating, and I'm set up to get back into my daily French lessons, which had fallen by the wayside in the last few weeks.

So this next week for me is about adding in mild exercise. I really want to work my way up to that 10K by the end of the year so even though it's hot and humid here in the Carolinas, I need to move more than I've been doing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Third Tiara Check-In!

How’s that tiara looking this week?  Yes, it’s time for our weekly check in on our fabulousness progress!

Personally, I had a week that threatened to topple my tiara and in the past, it probably would have. But now I have all of you to remind me that I deserve my sparkly crown and that there’s no need to wait for someone else to give me the approval to wear it and glisten.

And grimy days happen to all of us.*

So – what have you done this week to be magnificent to yourself? I’m trying to work on my pledge to “treat myself like company” by actively making plans to do something out of the ordinary every single day. One day it was something as simple as using the “fancy” high-end samples of skin care products that I’ve accumulated. (I have a sad tendency to hoard those like Smaug instead of using them with joy.) Another day it was picking basil leaves from my small herb garden to make a delicious insalata caprese of basil, fresh tomato (not from the garden yet, alas!), and mozzarella with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. And another day it was making popcorn on the stove instead of just having the chemical stuff in the microwave.

Maybe for you it was wearing your diamond stud earrings or that bracelet of your grandmother’s that you usually “save” for special occasions, forgetting that Tuesday can be a “special occasion” if you declare it so to be. Maybe you treated yourself to a bubble bath, or a facial, or having your nails done. Maybe you took yourself off for a hike, or carved out a half-hour to try a guided meditation, or went to the local library to flip through magazines you don’t usually read.

My point is this – it doesn’t matter what you do for yourself as much as you realize that you’re worth treating gently and respectfully.

It certainly isn’t about being “perfect.” (I swear, perfectionism ought to have an entry in the DSM-V as a disease of the mind!) I’m working hard to eat more food that’s less processed, but I don’t always get it “right.” So what? I lost another pound this week and wasn’t hungry to the point of eating the tablecloth.

In fact, food is going to be my focus for this next week. I picked up an inexpensive crepe pan and, although I’ve never made a crepe in my life, I’m going to try it this week. I want to try several new recipes this week – some sweet, some savory. I’ve been reading French Kids Eat Everything and it has a number of recipes that the author swears aren’t difficult, although they certainly sound fancy! I guess it’s time to find out if mousse au chocolat is that complicated or if I’ve just bought into the hype.

Onward, We Who Sparkle!


I like thinking this is me!
*Then again, just after I posted this, I went to the grocery to pick up a few things. (We're eating a LOT more produce these days, so I'm becoming a bit more French about shopping for perishables often.) Just as I walked in, a little girl whispered something to her mother, pointed at me, then looked down shyly. I smiled and said hello and the three of us proceeded to have quite a nice conversation. She was fascinated by my hair, which she said looked like a "galaxy unicorn." I really liked that. The mother was a fan of Meet Me at the Movies and I convinced her to take the girl to Wonder Woman this weekend, so it was an excellent exchange of ideas all around, I think.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Second Tiara Check In!

Yep, time for another tiara check in! Keeping your shoulders straight? Your head high? If so, good! If not, take a moment to adjust. We're all worthy of our tiaras and if you don't have one, make a pledge RIGHT NOW to get one in the next week and wear it at least once. Heaven knows, if you wait for the wider world to recognize your awesomeness and crown you, you're likely to be waiting quite a long time. So do it yourself! Make sure to give yourself a title, too - something suitable to celebrate your brains, cleverness, moxie, grit, whimsy, and/or style. Empress, Queen, Princess, Duchess, Marchioness, Countess, Viscountess, Baroness, Lady - pick whichever title best suits you on any given day. Today, for example, I am styling myself as the "Lady Glad" after the sparkling white, 5-foot-tall gladiolus blooming in my front yard.

See, back in the day, the Victorians assigned meanings to many flowers, so getting a bouquet was sort of like getting a coded letter. (And some of them could be quite nasty, once your deciphered them!) While most flowers have more than one meaning - there wasn't a Bureau of Blooms, after all - one meaning of gladioli was "integrity and recovery." Since today marks 15 years of me being in full-time recovery, seeing a blooming glad in my front yard just made my heart sing.

It was a tumultuous week here at the Nest. I needed to do a hard thing and I wound up having to do it alone, which is when the doubt-demons can come out in droves. But, with careful consideration of what is right and true, along with the encouragement of some people whose good opinion of me is quite important, I did it. And it turned out just fine - possibly better than fine; we'll have to see about that part. My decision and actions did not come without a cost, but it'll be all right. Lady Glad is made of strong stuff and she comes from a long line of righteous gadflies.

Add to that the fact that I also lost another two pounds, completed the "final final" review of the book manuscript AND went back to "rainbow-unicorn-galaxy" hair for the summer, and it's a tiara day, baby! (The explanation of the turquoise nature of the hair can be found here, by the way.)

Rock on!