my go-to playlist

In a little over 2 months, I have the biggest race of my life. It’s called the Toughman triathlon, and for me, it will be like climbing Mount Everest. I get a little sick to my stomach when I think about it, actually. So for the next couple months, I’ve got to train and train hard. One thing I rely heavily on at the gym (and even more so on a run) is my music. It’s such a great motivator. When I’m not feelin it, or when I’ve hit a wall and I feel like I can’t go on, the right song gets me moving. I have certain go-to songs that I love during a workout; none of them are really anything new and probably songs you’ve heard a million times before, but I thought it would be fun to share it. I always love hearing the music that other people work out to and love adding new songs to my list. I like songs with varying tempos, as I find that while doing things like running or spinning, I like to change the speeds up. I’m on my spin bike at the gym a lot. I don’t take classes anymore as they’re all in the evening and by then I just want a cocktail and my bed, but the bikes are always available. I love when I have the room to myself-just me and my bike. And my music. I like songs with a slower tempo for climbs, and faster ones for sprints. And the same thing for runs-I’ll speed up my pace every few miles, and when I’m tracking my run I like to see the different pace I had for each mile. And it’s all due to what song was on. Pretty fun, actually. Blah, blah, blah, here are the songs that I love to work out to:

Tell me, what are your go-to workout songs?

gallery walls

I hope you all had a great weekend. We did, for sure. It started with my daughter’s first ever dance recital on Saturday. It was easliy one of the longest days I can remember, as my daughter and I were backstage for at least 4 hours before her 2 minute routine went on, which was followed by about another hour of routines/award ceremonies. But as much as I complained about how long the day was, it was so worth it. Watching my daughter get up on stage (she refused to during her dress rehearsal the day before), made me so happy. I found myself getting emotional. Emotional because I was so proud of her, because she was having so much fun and it was so cute to see, and because I realized just how fast she’s growing up. It feels like just yesterday she was learning how to walk. Sigh. Then on Sunday, we spent the whole day pool side, and as a result I look like I’m covered in a nasty red rash. I am horrible at applying sunscreen evenly (same goes for self-tanner), so my sunburn is in bits and pieces. I look awesome and feel even better.

The other thing we did this weekend was to create a gallery wall of sorts in our living room. I have long been an admirer of cool, funky art. And an even bigger admirer of grouping cool, funky art together. I’ve been collecting pieces here and there, but didn’t have enough to put together the look I wanted. Until this weekend. I had ordered three pieces from Made by Girl (http://www.madebygirl.com), a site that has great art and accessories. With those last few pieces, I had enough to make a cool grouping. After getting frames, I was ready to hang everything up. I already had some art on the wall I wanted to use, so I took everything down to start on a clean slate. I laid out all the art on the floor to get an idea of how they should hang. I played around with it a bit, and then put the hubby to work. Here’s how we roll on a Friday night:

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And here is the finished product:

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I’m so happy with the way it turned out. The photographs on the end (with the gray frames) were an afterthought-I wanted the art to take up a bigger space, so I took the photographs off of another wall and included them in the grouping. I actually rather like the variation that the gray wood frames add. I had been wanting to do something like this for awhile and have been collecting Pinterest images of different art groupings. It’s interesting to see how other people achieve a similar look. Some people use frames that are all the same color to give the art a very cohesive look. Some use art all in the same color palette. And some groupings have no rhyme or reason to be together other than they all just look great together. Whichever method you use, it has to appeal to you. If you like the way it looks, then you’re doing it right.

Here’s just a few of the looks that I have been using as inspiration:

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Aren’t these great? That last image is actually kids’ art. What an amazing way to make the (tons of) stuff your kids bring home look cute and sophisticated! I may have to steal that idea at some point. My refrigerator is running out of available art space.

Try grouping your art together in a fun way. It doesn’t have to “match” or be art from the same period or style. It just has to make you happy.

Above images from my Pinterest.

a letter to my (child-less) friend

Having a baby is life-changing. Truly. Absolutely everything in your life changes. Everything. Including your friendships. Some of your friendships will be strengthened, some will just change a bit, some will be challenged, and some might end. They say a true test of a friendship is how it withstands major life events. And not many life events are as major as having a baby. This is especially true when you have friends who don’t have children. Some of your friends will embrace the new you and love your child and become an aunt (or uncle) of sorts. Some may stay in your life but be a bit more distant. And some may flat out bail. I had all three happen to me. I have to say, I never thought that having a baby would result in the end of a friendship, but for me, it did. I think it’s hard for women without children to relate to what one goes through with a baby, and some just don’t want to. It got me thinking-if I could say something to a friend like that,  what would I say? So I wrote a letter and it went like this:

Hello, friend. I know it’s been a long time since we’ve talked. Or gone shopping. Or gone out for cocktails. Or coffee. Or anything. I really do miss doing all those things. Really. But the truth is, having a baby is like nothing I ever dreamed of. It’s wonderful, my baby is precious and  I know how lucky I am.  But holy shit, is this hard. No one can prepare you for just how hard it is. I can’t remember the last time I slept for more than an hour. Showering? Can’t remember the last time I did that either. I’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for 3 days and it’s completely covered in spit-up and I’m pretty sure there’s some poop on there too. I think I had dinner yesterday, but yesterday is pretty much a blur since the baby’s colic is at an all time high and she pretty much screamed all day long.  My husband and I are both so strung out and tired that we seem to be bickering nonstop. I don’t think we’ve had a civilized conversation for weeks. We sure do have a lot of conversations (if you want to call it that)  in the middle of the night as I frantically surf the internet typing things like “how to get your newborn to stop screaming.” I’m also pretty sure that my house is fit for an episode of Hoarders. There’s at least 3 empty pizza boxes on my kitchen table right now and the same dirty dishes have been in the sink for about a week. But I really do miss you and I’m hoping this gets better soon.

I saw that you called last week. (or 2 weeks ago? I’m not sure). I went to call you back-I was dialing your number, and then the baby had explosive diarrhea that was so amazingly disgusting (how such a little thing can produce such foul excrement, I’ll never know) and I had to run to clean it up. I was going to call you after I gave her her bath, but then I had to feed her, and that took forever because she kept screaming during her feed, and I was crying because my one boob has contracted mastitis and I’m in so much pain I want to cry every time she latches. (Honestly, I’ve been crying a lot these days.) After that was done, it was 2AM and I didn’t want to wake you.

But thinking about it, it was Saturday night, and you were probably still out having a great time. I hope you were wearing those amazing shoes and that hot dress you bought last time we went shopping-that outfit looked amazing on you. I’m afraid the dress I bought that day won’t fit me for a long, long time. It’s ok, I bought few dresses (in a MUCH bigger size) from Target that should get me through the summer. They’re not very cute, but right now I’d be happy with anything without vomit. We’ll be rocking our outfits together again soon.

I know that you can’t relate to any of this. And that you don’t want to talk about breastfeeding, poop, spit-up, or diapers. I get that. A year ago, I didn’t either. I will try my best to not go on and on about all things baby, but please understand that it’s hard. My baby is my whole life right now, and right now I don’t know anything else. I live and breathe baby 24/7. Please forgive me if I go on about how cute my baby looked in the new outfit I bought her (at least someone around here looks cute), or how she smiled at me for the first time the other day, or how hard I’m working at breastfeeding. Please bear with me. It is where I am in my life right now. I know it changes our friendship, but I value you so much as a friend and I truly hope you will hang in there with me. I wish I could say that I’m the same person you’ve always known, but the truth is, I’m not. I’m a mother now, and that does change things. It changes everything, actually. I now have this little person that my world revolves around. I would do anything in the world for her. I would die for her. And her needs come before everything else. So even though I might not be able to spend hours at the mall or at Sunday (champagne) brunch, I hope you still will want to be in my life. If I forget to return your call, please know it’s not that I want to talk to you. If I can’t make it out for cocktails at the latest trendy bar, it’s not that I don’t want to. I just can’t right now. To be honest, I won’t be able to do those things a lot in the future, but when the baby is a little older and I can leave her with my parents, I would love to go out. And when I do make it, I will really, really do my best to not talk baby all night. I probably will a little, but I’ll keep it at bay. Because I really do want to hear about the new guy you’re dating. I’m sure he’s great. If you like him, then he must be great because you’re pretty amazing. And when I can, I would love to meet for coffee. I hope you don’t mind driving up to my neck of the woods so I can be closer to home in case I need to get home quickly; I know it’s a little further, but I really would appreciate it.

I know things will never be exactly the same. Having a baby changes everything. I’m struggling right now and it must feel like I’ve totally forgotten you, and also like I’m completely unrecognizable. Just know that I love you, my friend. And I’m still here.

I had some major baby blues after both of my children were born. Although I was never officially diagnosed with post-partum depression, I am positive that I was suffering from it. It made every day difficult. I cried a lot. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling. It was like I was in a fog. Or like I was in the bottom of a really, really big hole-and I just couldn’t climb my way out of it. I’m sure that as my friend, this was challenging to deal with. I must have been hard to relate to, or understand, or even be around. But a true friend hangs in there with you. A true friend will see that you’re in a hole-and throw you a rope.

Friendship is give and take. Sometimes you need to give a lot. And sometimes you need to take a lot. True friends will do both. And those are the ones you’ll want to keep forever.

A lady will always feel dressed a la mode, in frillies she finds in Portobello Road

Hi! So today, my beautiful cousin Mia is a guest blogger. She is honestly one of the most creative people I have ever met and my go-to person for cool music/art/pretty much anything. Mia recently got married and moved to London with her amazingly sweet husband and we all miss her dearly. But I jumped at the thought of having her do some blogging on here so I get to take a look at what her life is like over there. I have no doubt that you will love her, just as I do…..

Hello! Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mia and I am the cousin (in-law) of the beautiful author of this blog. I currently live in North London with my Brit husband. While this is a beautiful city and I’m enjoying settling into married life, I miss my family and friends immensely. It’s been a lot harder dealing with the gap of sea that separates myself and everything that is familiar to me. But, Alison has been kind enough to let me post bits and pieces of my life to share with you as it makes me feel so much closer to home. Nice to meet you…and enjoy!

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Now, let’s get into what this post is really about. Portobello Road.  I am a huge fan of flea markets, second hand shops, thrift stores, etc.  Basically, I love rummaging through junk.  Portobello Road is a two mile long street market that cuts through the neighborhood of Notting Hill in West London. For a first timer, this market can seem very overwhelming as it is major sensory overload. The moment you enter the market, you are suddenly surrounded by a mix of locals and tourists. The scent of crepes waft around as you’ll find crepe stands every two feet. The feeling of extreme excitement occurs (at least for me it does) when presented with an endless sight of street stalls selling everything and anything under the sun. Not only are there stalls set up, there are numerous antique shops, clothing and shoe stores, cafes, and pubs to enjoy whilst making your way down the market. On this particular day, my brother and sister in-law were in town from Wales. As the sun was out in full force (a very, very rare occurence in this part of the world) and we all fancied something low key and outdoors, we decided Portobello Road was the place to go.  Here are some tidbits from our lovely day…

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I always pass by this shop on my way to Portobello Road and I always have to stop and admire the beautiful jewels on display.

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Look for future posts from my amazing cousin from across the pond.

Father’s day at the shore

The Jersey shore holds a very special place in my heart. My fondest childhood memories involve spending summers there with my family. I have vivid memories of my grandfather teaching me how to jump over waves. Of my brother and I being so excited to go to the waterslide park (in Long Beach Island) that we could barely stand it. Of warm cinnamon donuts from our favorite bakery for breakfast. Of spending a full day at the beach, going back to the house for a barbecue, and then going back to the beach to fly kites. Of nightly walks to go get ice cream. Of walks on the boardwalk. To me, the Jersey Shore is not all about booze and fist-pumping. To me, the Jersey Shore is all about family. So when it came time to plan out what we should do for Father’s Day, spending some time down the shore (that’s Jersey speak for the beach) just seemed right. It’s still early in the season, so the water isn’t exactly warm enough for swimming (at least not for my little ones), but it’s perfect for a day on the Boardwalk. The day called for going on rides, getting ice cream/funnel cakes/any other crappy yet delicious food, followed by a dinner on the bay at sunset.

So after making dad and the kids breakfast and giving dad his gifts and cards, we packed up and headed south. Lucky for us, we are only about an hour from the beach. My parents came along with us too, which made the kids so giddy I thought they would pop. We got off to a rocky start with both kids crying and having to be taken off a ride right before it started, but after much-needed ice cream cones, they both perked up and we had a great day. Here’s how it went:

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We truly had a wonderful day-one that was really special. The true sign of a great day? No one wanted to go home.

I have to say, I am a very, very blessed woman. I was blessed with a wonderful father. One who I thought of as a Superman of sorts. Growing up, there was nothing he didn’t know. Nothing he couldn’t fix or figure out. Nothing he couldn’t do. He had everything but a red cape. And now, I am blessed enough to have married a man who is a wonderful father to our children. I have no doubt that they will look at their dad the way that I looked at mine. Like a superhero. Because after all, isn’t that what fathers really are?

signs of summer

There’s just something in the air when summer is near. The days are longer, the weather is warm, and people are just…..happy. It’s a pretty glorious time. And there some things that happen every year that let you know that days at the beach, outdoor barbecues and endless warm nights are right around the corner. Things like graduation (my daughter just had hers from preschool), pool openings, hopscotch with sidewalk chalk, that beautiful light just before sunset, flowers and having drinks outside on a balmy night are just a few telltale signs of better days to come. Here’s just a little of what has made me happy about the thought of summer:

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Preschool diploma. She’s kind of a big deal.

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Long days at the pool.

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There’s nothing like the last light of the day.

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This is the summer my daughter will become obsessed with hopscotch.

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Each year, mid-June, these beautiful flowers bloom. I have no idea what I planted (I kind of threw a bunch of crap in some soil and crossed my fingers), but I look forward to it every year.

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Ahhhhhhhh……. This needs no description.

Have a wonderful weekend and I hope you take advantage of as many early summer moments as you can.

how to save a life

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Imagine this. Your child is lying in a hospital bed and a doctor tells you that without an organ transplant, your child will die. Your child-who you brought into this world. Who you would lay your own life down for. What would you say? Well, of course, you would say yes. Yes to to the transplant that would save his or her life. It’s a no-brainer. Insert into this story your husband. Your wife. Your mother, father, brother, sister. In all of those instances, you would say yes. But in order for your loved one to get that life-saving organ, someone else has to say yes. Someone else has to say yes on the most horrible day of their lives. Somewhere else, in another hospital, another conversation is going on. But this one is quite different. Those doctors are telling family members that their loved one is dead. That nothing will save him or her. Their child/husband/wife/mother/father/brother/sister is gone. And then they are asked to say yes-to donating their loved one’s organs. They are asked to say yes to giving the gift of life. An immeasurable and incomparable gift. Maybe it’s the family member of the deceased that decides, or maybe it’s the donor himself that made his or her wishes known. Either way, there is a yes. And because of that yes, that child lying in that hospital bed will get a miracle. That child will live to see her high school graduation. That husband will live to see his son play varsity football. That mother will live to see her daughter get married. All because of a little three letter word.

Today, my family and I participated in the New Jersey Sharing Netowrk’s 5k. The NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit organization that is responsible for finding life-saving organs and tissue for the over 5,000 NJ residents awaiting transplant. Think about that-over 5,000 people waiting for a yes-and that’s just in New Jersey. Their event today was nothing short of amazing. It’s not your typical 5K. Many of the participants are either family members of someone who lost their life and donated their organs, or recipients of those organs and their families. It’s touching, beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, and inspirational. After my husband and I completed the run (with strollers in tow), we walked around for a a bit. I spent a good deal of time among the donor families. They formed teams in honor of their loved ones and set up tents with banners, signs and pictures. It was impossible to walk amongst all of that and not feel touched. As I walked by one in particular, I asked if I could take a picture. The man I spoke to said yes, and this it what struck me:

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That face. I just couldn’t stop looking at it. There was just something about her.  I took the picture, and then went off to find my husband, as we had to be at my daughter’s dance school for her recital pictures. We started to walk out, and then I told him I had to go back-I knew then I really wanted to write about today. And I wanted to go back to talk to the family of that beautiful little girl. The little girl who won’t ever have any more dance recitals. I met her parents, and they were lovely. We talked a little bit about “Tori”, and I got a picture of the family and team-“Team Tori”. Tori’s parents made the decision to give the gift of life. On the worst day of their lives, someone asked them to give. And they said yes. And because of that, another child (or children) gets to live. My heart broke for these people. And yet I found them so amazingly inspiring. They walked today to remember their hero. Their Tori.

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They’re not alone. There were so many teams today walking or running in remembrance. And to honor. And to give thanks. And to support.

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I was in complete awe of these amazing human beings. In awe of the loved ones they lost and of the families they left behind. Their strength was nothing short of amazing.

The Sharing Network puts together “Donor Remembrance Quilts” to honor the donors. Family members are asked to make a quilt square honoring their loved ones and to decorate it however they would like. The results are so, so beautiful. Each one tells a story.

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Ironically, Tori’s quilt was the first one I went to.

I was a part of this organization for a few years before baby #2 unexpectedly came along, and I can tell you that they perform miracles every single day.  But they can’t do it without you. They can’t do their job if no one says yes. Right before the race started, a speaker said “If you are willing to receive, you should be willing to give.” Truer words have not been spoken. Be willing to give the gift of life. You never know if you just may need to accept it some day.

To register as an organ donor in New Jersey, you can go here: http://www.njsharingnetwork.org/page.aspx?pid=560. Other states can do it here: http://donatelife.net/register-now/.

Say yes.

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