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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WIWW: Styling Colored Skinnies for Winter



Y'all, I have a confession to make.

Hello my name is Megan and I'm addicted to colored skinnies. I bought one pair of papaya-colored skinnies from J. Crew back in the spring and that one first taste of colorful brilliance created a bit of a monster.

I now have a closet full of rainbow-legs.

I wasn't ready to give up my colorful bottoms just because temperatures have dipped below 60° of late, so I've been busily figuring out ways to style them for fall and winter. I thought I'd show you a few of the outfits I wore this past week that I thought worked well. And there's a bonus outfit at the end that includes jeans, but not skinnies, and not in a bright color.

Consider it my gift to your eyeballs.


Here's a little Pin-spiration photo I found of orange skinnies with an Aran sweater.  I happen to have (and LOVE) both orange skinnies and an Aran sweater, so you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble across this combination.  I wore this outfit on Saturday, which was a day of non-stop activity, so all I got was this crummy old Instagram photo that makes the jeans look red. But trust me, they are very, very orange.

And I even had the leopard shoes from the Pinterest photo, too!



Orange skinnies - J. Crew
Sweater - Handmade by my Grandmama Clover
Leopard flats - DSW
Necklace - Old Navy

I'm so into navy right now. I liked the way the neutral worked with bright jeans in the outfit above, so the next day, I paired a navy shirt with green pants.


Green cord skinnies - Old Navy
Navy silk top - Victoria's Secret
Navy suede wedges - Payless
Bag - Audrey Brooke via DSW

     


Yesterday the remnants of Hurricane Sandy blew hard cross our plains, so I threw my hair into a quick side braid before hopping out to very quickly capture these pictures, lest I have nothing to show you but a bunch of pictures of a great big hair-ball with red legs.



Red cord skinnies - Old Navy
Sweater - Woolrich
Striped shirt - Brooks Brothers




Today I'm taking a break from colored skinnies to wear a dark-wash matchstick jean from J. Crew.



Jeans - J. Crew
Striped shirt - Old Navy
Sweater - Target (many years ago - it's actually a maternity sweater)
Neutral suede pumps - BCBGeneration 





Tomorrow I'll be back to colored skinnies again, trying out a look inspired by this Pinterest find.


Can't wait to show you my Pin-spired look next week.

I'm linking this post at What I Wore Wednesday and Dress for the Day (You Want, Not the One That's Trying to Have You).




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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Parent 'Hood Week Eight

Howdy ho, neighbors!

Time for another stroll around the 'Hood... the Parent 'Hood, that is! (Are you getting as tired of my catchy plays on the neighborhood metaphor as I am of trying to come up with new ones?) (Because, WOW, I'm running out of ideas!)

Hey, are you also sick of me asking you if you've been checking out Parent 'Hood posts by other bloggers? Well, I'm not sick of asking! Hee hee.

If you're into Halloween, I do want to wish you and your kiddos all a very safe and fun one. I hope (hint-hint) to see pictures of some cute costumes here next week! I certainly plan to show you mine! Bean and Peabody can't wait to morph into a peacock and a doctor and hit the sidewalks Wednesday afternoon. I can't blame them, because I love trick-or-treating too, but not because of the candy. (Well, except the Hot Tamales. Oh and the Junior Mints. And the Twix. Okay, maybe a little bit because of the candy.) Mostly, though, I just love hanging out with the neighbors, all of us traipsing along after our kids (who are growing up before our eyes, sigh), hot beverages in hands, stopping to take pictures and double over laughing from time to time because kids lose their minds on Halloween, don't they? And you can pretty much count on some hilarity to ensue. Halloween's just a really sweet, fun, nostalgic, cozy time in my 'hood. I hope it is in yours, again, if you're into this sort of thing.

Anyway, link up, friends, and seriously, DO go visit some other blogs. You'll thank me for making you do it.

Grab ze code!



Please read these guidelines before linking your post:

1. Today’s link-up will run from this morning through the Sunday night. A new link-up will start next Monday morning.
2. Link the unique URL of your parenting post, not the homepage of your blog or your parenting post will get buried under new content on your homepage and be hard to find when readers click through on your link later in the week.
3. We ask that you please include a text link to The Parent ‘Hood (on any of the hosting blogs) in your linked post.
4. Share your own posts and read and comment on other blogs. Any good 'hood is all about community, right? Read, comment, share and enjoy as you have time. We are promoting many of your posts weekly on our Facebook pages, as well as on Twitter using hashtag #theparenthood.







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Find me on Twitter and Instagram.  There, as anywhere, I'm simply 'FriedOkra.'

Apparently I Have a Newborn Again


We finally moved Peabody into a big boy bed (a full-sized bed) back in August. He slept in a crib until he was four, shhhhhhh, because honestly, I needed one place on earth that I could put him and know he'd stay. And stay he did. But now, we tuck him into his new bed every single night, and a little piece of us wants to finish off the tuck-job with couple of duct-tape twirls around our boy and his bed.

Now, he goes to bed like an angel. Prayers, snuggles, tuckage, lights out, and he's right off to sleep, no major problems. We re-tuck him, after staring and marveling at his sleeping cuteness for a few goopy moments, right before we go to bed for the night. Then we drift off into blissful sleep. For about two hours.

The trouble starts around 2 AM each morning. (But it's not always the same time, sometimes it's as early as 11:45 PM.) We're dreaming away blissfully when our subconscious minds become aware of the padding of footie-pajama clad feet approaching our bed. One of us then gets up, walks Peabody back to his bed, tucks him in, kisses him ever so gently on the cheek, and leaves him to go back to sleep. Which he does. For another two hours. And then we hear feeties again, and we lather, rinse, repeat the re-tuckage routine.

"I'm scared," he says when we ask him what's going on. He was never scared in his crib and rarely woke up (that we knew about) when he slept there. We do believe he's scared, but it's not as if he's not having night terrors; he's just a wee bit scared and wants reassurance from us that he's safe. We thought he just wasn't accustomed to all the open space of the bed and the room vs. the crib and wasn't feeling secure, so for a while, when we tucked him in at our own bed time, we would put pillows around him to make him feel all cozy and safe. But that didn't work.

The only thing that keeps him in his bed all night? Bean. If we allow a sleepover (or beg for one, which we're no longer ashamed to do), he stays put, because he has his big sister to keep him safe. But she really prefers her own bed, and we only allow sleepovers on the weekend nights because we feel like during the week, Bean's sleep is way more important than ours. And sometimes. Sometimes. When we're really desperate for sleep, one of us just crawls into his bed with him for the rest of the night. Those times, also, he'll stay asleep until morning. (We have a queen bed, so he can't really comfortably crawl into bed with us and stay there.)

And I know. I know this will eventually come to an end. There's always been light at the end of every one of Peabody's sleep-issue tunnels, so I'm not worried this will last forever and eventually kill us, even though it occasionally feels that way. But if possible I would truly love to speed the getting-over-this process along. So we can sleep. Finish up good dreams. Think complete thoughts during the day. Remove our coffee IVs. Stuff like that. Sooner rather than later. PLEASE. Because we've done newborn-hood twice, and that was enough for us.

Have you parented a preschool-aged child who woke during the night because he was scared? Have any advice for a pooped-out Mom and Dad who love their boy but want to see a little less of him between 2 AM and dawn?



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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cozy, Collegiate Weekend Style



The temperature fell like a stone yesterday afternoon. I looked as Peabody and I walked out the door at four to go meet Bean at the bus stop and the thermometer read 73°. An hour and half later, I looked again as I headed into the kitchen to put dinner in the oven and whabam! Twenty degree drop.

I believe we're in for some cozy this weekend, and not a moment too soon, because I have now completely exhausted all of my ideas for dressing Octoberish in Aprilish weather. Our high tomorrow will be 50°.   I'll want to stay home in my jammies by the fire, but inevitably the family will demand a junket of some sort, so I'm dreaming up outfits that will make me feel like I'm fireside even though I'll actually be out in the howling wind traipsing around (under protest) after my adventure-seeking husband and children.

Now I do not currently own this gorgeous blazer from L.L. Bean, but I believe that after Santa drops his bounty down my chimney in December, I shall.  I love a tweed blazer. Put one on with black pants like I've shown here, or a corduroy pant, or a pencil skirt, or heck, put one on over a pair of your granddad's old overalls, and no matter what, you suddenly become all collegiate and brilliant. I'm pretty sure putting on a tweed blazer like this one would immediately raise my IQ by like 300 points.

Yep, so if you see me wearing herringbone, avoid starting a debate.  Actually, if you see me at all, don't start a debate.  I hate debates.


cozy weekend style




Happy Weekend, y'all.
 
 
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting Back to Your Happy Place

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Earlier this month I wrote about my fear and sadness in the face of turning 45. As you can imagine, dealing with those realities and their corresponding emotions had me in bit of a funk for a while, but then October (one of my favorite months every year) came along to remind me of life’s amazing beauty and joy and still-freshness, and I realized it was time to pack up my blues (after having given myself time to deal with them the right way, of course) and get back to my happy place again.

One of the benefits of getting older is that I’ve learned what it takes to get me back to my happy place after a stint in the doldrums. For humans, and I’d argue even more especially for us women, who tend to live a bit more in the realm of the heart, life flows in cycles of hard times and good times and hard times again - up, down, up, down, up. Hormones flood in and leak out every month, creating a steady, breath-like pattern of harmony and empowerment vs. conflict and struggle.

In the face of this constant ebb and flow we can adapt and figure out secrets to gutting out and climbing up from the inevitable downs. Observing our own patterns and being cognizant of our own successful mechanisms for returning to joy makes so much sense, because understanding these things about ourselves gives us the security of knowing, even in the most difficult times, that we won’t be down forever. It also lays out a clear path back to our happy place when we’re finally feeling strong enough to take that first step.

Here are five of the strategies that I use to bring myself out of a period of sadness or anxiety:

1. I learn something new.

The hardest part of the journey out of a pit is climbing that first ladder rung, which in my case is getting my mind off of whatever has me down. Focusing on something new and interesting usually helps me regain perspective on life and my own issues. This time I went and checked out a few books and DVDs from the library about France and French culture. I didn’t pay much attention in geography or history classes in school, so it’s pretty much all new to me, and I’m loving it. Hey, if I have to be an old lady, at least I can be smart old lady with a little French elegance and style, right?

2. I listen to music.

Nothing livens me up like good music. Sometimes I need music with uplifting lyrics, and other times I need music that lifts me just with its beauty or rhythms. Right now I am absolutely loving the classical guitar and piano jazz stations on Pandora. I think lyrics would only further clutter my frantically busy mind at this point. In the past, I’ve sworn by my old standby “we feel all of your pain and angst and write amazing music that feels as if it came out of your own brain” band, the Indigo Girls, and of course nothing beats a mix of my favorite dance tunes, both oldies and current hits. Whatever I’m in the mood for, unless it’s brooding or sad, I just go for it. The point is to turn on something that lifts me up and out of my blues.

3. I get some exercise.

Good old happy-juice brain chemistry combined with the feeling of achievement never hurt anyone. Just going for a long walk outside or even on the treadmill in my basement definitely gets the endorphins flowing and gives me more energy and a feeling of well-being. Plus, it’s good for my body. I don’t know why I ever let myself go without exercise, but I do, and it never bodes well for my mental state. So when my mental state has tanked, I get back into my work-out routines.

4. I do things I’m good at.

I’m revitalized by the feeling of success. Who isn’t? It boosts my confidence and gives me momentum to keep moving forward. Cooking almost always rewards me with success (and delectable morsels to eat), so it’s my top go-to activity when I need to cheer myself up. The point is just to put a big old tick in the WIN column, have a positive experience, validate activity and effort by seeing it through to a final reward. For you, it might be sewing or building or crafting or playing tennis (just be sure choose your opponent wisely.) The key is that it’s guaranteed success that gets me back in the game again.

5. I take time to just be still.

I tend to get overwhelmed with life and all its crazy business. The toll trying to keep up with everyone and everything all the time takes on my mental and emotional state can throw me into a downward spiral. Sometimes, I just need to carve out time for simple peace and quiet.

A dear friend recently sent me an amazing little book by Lynne Hybels called nice girls don’t change the world. In it, Hybels tells the story of her own life and in particular her struggle with aging. At 50, she realizes that she’s spent her whole life trying to please others and earn God’s love by constantly serving them and Him, finally working herself into a state of total exhaustion. Tired and disillusioned, she questions who God really is, that He would work her nearly to death. Ultimately this leads her to just STOP. Everything. She spends two seasons just sitting quietly in her house, drinking tea, reading and looking out the window at nature, communing with herself and letting peace wash over her. And from that point, rested and rejuvenated, she rebuilds her understanding of God, and His love for her, and her true purpose in His kingdom.

I’m not at a point in my life that I need a long period of rest and solitude to get my head back on straight. But I find that just sitting still in quiet communion with myself for an hour makes a huge difference in my mental and emotional state. In that time, I pray or meditate or do absolutely nothing at all. The point is to create a quiet, peaceful space in my otherwise noisy and busy life to let my brain uncoil for a while and break out of its ruts, so that I can start to look at things in new ways.

These are just a few examples of my strategies for pulling myself out of the doldrums.  They may or may not work for you, and that's okay.  I just hope that if you tend to cycle into lows at times, you have or will begin to create your own version of this list.   My main point here is that each of us should be aware of our own effective personal strategies for breathing new life into ourselves when we’re sunk in the mire, so we’ve always got a game plan for getting back out.

Do you know what works or has it always just been hit or miss for you?  How do you pull yourself out of the pit when you’re worried or down? 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Art of Accessorizing



I'm over at Simple Design today showing you how to add fabulous accessories to the basic French-inspired wardrobe I prescribed last week. Put them both together, and you can add a little French style to any wardrobe. Bonjour!

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Parent 'Hood Week Seven




Wheeeee! Happy Monday, neighbors. Time for another set of great posts from Moms and Dads and grandparents and caregivers extraordinaire. I can't wait to dig into your wise and funny and thoughtful words again.

This week I'm sharing a fun recipe for some creepy little treats I make for my kids this time of year. If you have a favorite recipe for a fall or Halloween goodie your family loves, or family-friendly costume idea, fall party hints, a cooler weather tip or leaf craft, share it. Or you can link up any post about kids or parenting at all.

We love hearing all about whatever you've got going on in your corner of The Parent 'Hood.

Thanks as always for linking up, and please feel free to share the word about The Parent 'Hood with friends and fellow bloggers by grabbing the code for the graphic and link below and popping it into your Parent 'Hood post this week.  You don't always get to pick your neighbors, but you can here -- help us spread the word.

Ready? Get your link on, friends!



Please read these guidelines before linking your post:

1. Today’s link-up will run from this morning through the Sunday night. A new link-up will start next Monday morning.
2. Link the unique URL of your parenting post, not the homepage of your blog or your parenting post will get buried under new content on your homepage and be hard to find when readers click through on your link later in the week.
3. We ask that you please include a text link to The Parent ‘Hood (on any of the hosting blogs) in your linked post.
4. Share your own posts and read and comment on other blogs. Any good 'hood is all about community, right? Read, comment, share and enjoy as you have time. We are promoting many of your posts weekly on our Facebook pages, as well as on Twitter using hashtag #theparenthood.





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Oreo Eyeball Treats




I've made these Orea (Truffle) Eyeballs for the kids several years running and they're always a tasty and delightfully creepy treat. It's kinda fun to leave them in sinister places around the house to see who they can spook! Not that I'd ever do anything like that, of course. Bwahahahaha!


Ingredients:

1 18 oz. pkg. Oreo cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
24 oz. vanilla almond bark
M&Ms
Red sugar
black frosting (I bought the kind in a tube.)

Directions:

Process cookies into crumbs in food processor. Add softened cream cheese and process until well-blended. Roll into balls a little bigger than a nickel.  Chill for at least an hour, in several small batches.

Melt almond bark in microwave according to package instructions. Remove one small batch of Oreo balls from the fridge and begin carefully dipping them into the almond bark. Allow excess bark to drip back into pot. Carefully plop eyeball onto wax paper and sprinkle liberally with red sugar. Press a colored M&M into the center of the eyeball. Repeat about 9,000 times until you think if you see another Oreo ball or M&M you'll BARF. (Trust me.)

Finally, add black frosting pupils to eyeballs and find fiendishly fun ways to display your grisly goodies.



I'm linking this post up at The Parent 'Hood, a weekly synchroblog featuring tips, recipes, reflections and funnies from the lives of moms and dads all over. Feel free to join in every Monday with your own kid- or parenting-related posts.






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Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Style Men's Chuck Taylors

Last weekend Al looked down at my Chucks and declared, "I think I need some of those!"

We ended up in a conversation about college basketball and how black men really can jump higher, and shortly thereafter we were in DSW buying Al a pair of black high tops.

I asked him later how he was going to style his new kicks and he looked at me with a blank expression and said, "Style them?"

"Yes.  What are you going to wear them with?"

"I was thinking about pants.  And, you know, a shirt?"

Oh dear.  Sigh.

I quickly Googled "how to style men's Chuck Taylors."

And got exactly nothing.

People? When I see a dire need like this, I'ma fill it.

Behold:




I styled Al's high-tops with a warm, preppy vibe, as if he's headed off to a college football game this weekend (Side lament: Oh, how I wish we were. Sigh.) Converse can certainly also be styled a bit more funky (or is "funkily" the adverbial form of funky?), maybe with a skinny jean and a leather bomber. But this, to me, is the perfect look for my particular sexy, brainy, funny man. In the spring or summer, I'd probably put him in jeans, a medium-checked purple gingham button-up, untucked, and a natural canvas belt with these shoes. He would totally rock that look, too.

One key, I think, to actually styling a men's casual trainer like Chuck Taylors is to make the shoe a fun and unexpected part of the outfit by keeping the rest of the look slightly more dressed and neat.


Happy weekend!


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Thursday, October 18, 2012

October Fanfare

Wrapped in rich, thick amber-colored flannel sheets, I curled against Al this morning as we untangled from sleep. A grey, misty day dawned faint and humble. Through a tiny sliver-opening in our bedroom window, I heard Canadian geese honking, calling one another into crisper formation overhead.  This sweet October fanfare always brings me home to my once-royal self no matter where else I am.

I am a girl of twenty-one and October’s rhythms have slowed now to beat out steady and calm after the fast-pattering adjustment phase of the first month of my junior year at Furman. An early class, probably Shakespeare or grammar, drags me from my secret apartment above the dining hall and it feels like privilege that I awake daily to the warm, holiday smell of bacon frying. I’ll carry that scent into class in my hair and like it, because each time I move I’ll get a whiff of the aroma of being someone very special.

I live in warmest laughter and closeness with my seven best heart-friends. In our hidden apartment, the only three-bedroom palace of its kind, set high above a tiny nation of dorm-dwellers, we have our own washer and dryer and kitchen and living room. And I have a boyfriend - a boy who tells me he loves me so round-eyed earnestly that I have no choice but to believe him. My life overflows with the best kinds of love; regal air floats around me, thick with honors reserved for the luckiest few.

After class I thump down cool cement steps out into fresh, wet air, the first fallen leaves slick and pungent underfoot, and make my way across campus, my purple backpack slung over one shoulder, to find coffee and breakfast. I descend the red-carpeted ramp down into the loud rumble of cafeteria, looking out at faces upturned to watch me down. I slow my pace to enjoy the flattery of gazes. Through the doors open to catch the fresh breeze off the lake, I hear trumpeting geese, a fanfare for my arrival.

I was once October’s princess.

At home in my room, warm against my husband who loves me earnestly and bravely and presently, I hear the trumpeting fanfare of geese blow in once more on the cool morning breeze. This life too, I realize, overflows with the best kinds of love and all the honors reserved for the lucky few. Suddenly, I’m royalty again.

Today, I'm October’s queen.
 
 
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday - Le French FriedOkra

I took some of my own style advice while dressing for my day today.

Over at Simple Design, I'm telling you how you can add French style to any wardrobe. I'm practicing a bit of what I preach in the outfit I wore today to take the kids out on our annual treck to the muddy, windy pumpkin patch.

OOTD Wednesday -- Chilly, windy morning at the pumpkin patch with the kids.


Here I've taken basic jeans and a white tee and added a simple grey ruffled 100% wool sweater from Talbot's (last year) and the eye-catching pop of a red pashmina. My unexpected (and in this case very practical) element is the fun, funky addition of grey Chuck Taylors. I'm not sure the French would approve of the tatters on my jeans, but hopefully they'd be so busy nodding approval at my natural make-up and vibrant red lip they wouldn't notice.

As we slowly thumped and bumped and jostled out to the far pumpkin field on Tom the farmer's farm in a wooden wagon pulled by faded old tractor, the wind gusted up strong to tug at the ends of my vivid red scarf. Just at the right moment the sun found a space between the clouds and hastily shown its proud rays down on my upturned face. In that moment I could feel myself light up to glow back in response, suddenly so beautiful and alive, my red scarf blown out beside me, my bright, elegant crimson lips parted in a surprised, delighted laugh.

And I think that perfect instant captures the essence of the French attitude for me. Effortless, natural and drenched in the moment, reveling in life's simple, classic treasures like sun and wind and the pure, sometimes spontaneous joy of personhood.



I'm linking up today at Dear AbbyLeigh's Dress for the Day and What I Wore Wednesday.


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Monday, October 15, 2012

The Parent 'Hood Week Six

Welcome to The Parent 'Hood's sixth week, y'all. I hope you're enjoying this link-up as much as I am. It's been so great to get to know some new (to me) writers and hear your thoughts and feelings and tips and ideas about this whole parenting gig we're working on together.

Please do grab a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of wine and sit down for a while sometime this week to take advantage of not only the opportunity to share your own posts, but also to click around on the links and read the posts by other Moms and Dads.

Have an amazing Monday, everyone.





Please read these guidelines before linking your post:

1. Today’s link-up will run from this morning through the Sunday night. A new link-up will start next Monday morning.
2. Link the unique URL of your parenting post, not the homepage of your blog or your parenting post will get buried under new content on your homepage and be hard to find when readers click through on your link later in the week.
3. We ask that you please include a text link to The Parent ‘Hood (on any of the hosting blogs) in your linked post.
4. Share your own posts and read and comment on other blogs. Any good 'hood is all about community, right? Read, comment, share and enjoy as you have time. We are promoting many of your posts weekly on our Facebook pages, as well as on Twitter using hashtag #theparenthood.





Like the FriedOkra Facebook page. 
Subscribe. 
Get my updates in your in-box by subscribing via email using the link on my right sidebar.
Find me on Twitter and Instagram.  There, as anywhere, I'm simply 'FriedOkra.'

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Answer to the Red Lip Trend: L'Oreal's Colour Riche Colour Caresse in Cherry Tulle

If you're noticing the trend toward a nice bright red, red, RED lip this fall and loving it in theory, but like me, dubious about whether or not you'd be able pull it off without looking garish, here's one to try.

This is L'Oreal's Colour Caresse by Colour Riche in Cherry Tulle. I find it goes on moist, smooth and light,  like my favorite sheer stick gloss or lip balm. The color pops nice and rich and deep without looking painted on or overdone. It's great by itself, or to give it staying power, I apply it over a thin layer of a nude lipstick topped with a light dusting of face powder.

I think red lips shine out sexy, fresh and bold.  Plus, they do immediate dental wonders, giving my teeth a little spontaneous, free whitening to highlight my smile.



This weekend just got a little more exciting, yes?  
If you decide to try it, let me know what you think.




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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Forty-Five and Scared

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A year ago, I started posting about fashion and beauty and health, because at forty-four I felt myself embracing this decade of my life fearlessly and with confidence, joy and hope. Who better than a forty-something writer to sing of her surprising entrance into freedom and grace, and to cut a swath of positivity through our culture's dense thicket of messaging intimating that for women, this fourth decade signifies the beginning of decline and her first physical endings? I sat here at the computer on a fall day just like today and heard God's encouragement in my heart to change my focus, gentle my voice and tell the simple truth about getting older and feeling good about it. I adored the idea.

I'm in the autumn of my life. It's a glorious season. Arguably the most glorious season of all.

But I have to confess to you that it's not all glory. I have to let you know that amidst all the beauty of autumn, there's also the fear of the coming winter. And that, quite simply, I'm scared.

Days after I officially turned forty-five, I got my first dose of harsh reality. My body, as if it had glanced over my shoulder, spied the date on the calendar and dug through the jammed folders in my desk to find my birth certificate, placed them side by side and did the math, immediately began conducting its normal womanly business in a freakishly random pattern. I'll spare you the details, suffice it to say that this randomness heralds the beginning of an ending all of us women know is coming but for which I haven't spent much (any) time preparing myself. And it's not that I'm sad about the end of having babies. I had no plans to have any more babies. But the hormonal changes that accompany this closing of the tiny-human factory scare me. I just don't feel ready to face this life without plenty of progesterone.

I'm scared of vain things like gray hair and hair loss and getting more wrinkles, age spots and dry skin - dry everything - and of becoming saggy and baggy. I'm scared of more practical-life things like running out of energy before my children do (well, even that much sooner than my kids do, because they can already keep going hours after I'm pooped as it is), losing my mental acuity, becoming (even more) forgetful, or getting sick.

I find myself wondering if Al, who turns fifty next year, or my parents, who have stealthily crept into their seventies, will stay healthy or even stay alive for many more years. My last two grandparents died two years ago. My childhood best friend lost her precious father last year. Losses like these have a way of waking you from your blissfully ignorant slumber. It's horrifically morbid, but suddenly, in my forties, death has become this certainty I have to face. In the coming years, not in some far away land that I'll somehow be better-prepared for than I am now, lies inevitable loss of life and livelihood. And I'm terrified by that.

If I had more faith, if I truly believed, I wouldn't stumble at all in my knowledge that this temporary life compares nothing to the full and eternal life God has promised me. I should rejoice that I'm closer to the day I'll drop the shackles of this aging body and walk in communion with Jesus, in sheer perfection and holy beauty that makes my human face look like a dull mask. I should be dancing for joy to be a day closer to Heaven. Shouldn't I?

But at forty-five, I honestly feel as if I have only begun to live. Only found my precious husband, only started to love and enjoy my two children, and yet the meter just keeps running and running, winding down my hours so quickly. Oh, I rail against that meter. I rail against it and picture myself wildly stuffing found couch-cushion and seat-crack coins into it, buying more time, more youth, more energy to dream more dreams and make them real, to get better and better at being a wife and mother and writer and friend and person.

So the other side of the forty-something joy and freedom coin is that yes, I've begun to truly come into myself and live my own life. But now? The clock is ticking so fast, and have I made the first forty-five years count, or have I squandered them on what hasn't mattered? And if I've done that, how will I go forward, sure not to squander what's left?

How do I set aside the fear of aging and fully embrace the rest of this glorious life, live with equal courage in the wonder and struggle of it, the joy and pain, and make the rest of my life sing, make it soar, bring it honor and dignity?

How do I embrace the joy of autumn and reject paralyzing fear as I gently begin to prepare myself for the coming winter?

This is where I really am, at forty-five.



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Monday, October 8, 2012

The Parent 'Hood Week Five

Sorry I'm late folks! My kids had a teacher in-service Friday and today off for Columbus Day, the direct result of which is that I currently have absolutely no idea what day it is.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend and are already enjoying the pleasures of this beautiful Monday. Looking forward to reading your words this week, so link up when ready. And remember, this link-up stays live through Saturday, so it's almost never too late to join in.



Please read these guidelines before linking your post:
1. Today’s link-up will run from this morning through the Sunday night. A new link-up will start
next Monday morning.
2. Link the unique URL of your parenting post, not the homepage of your blog or your parenting
post will get buried under new content on your homepage and be hard to find when readers click
through on your link later in the week.
3. We ask that you please include a text link to The Parent ‘Hood (on any of the hosting blogs)
in your linked post.
4. Share your own posts and read and comment on other blogs. Any good 'hood is all about community, right? Read, comment, share and enjoy as you have time. We are promoting many of your posts weekly on our Facebook pages, as well as on Twitter using hashtag #theparenthood.






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Monday, October 1, 2012

I Got My Family Organized Using Cozi.com


I asked last week for your recommendations for an on-line family organization system for the FriedOkra gang, and you delivered! I spent time last week exploring and comparing options and have finally settled on cozi.com (recommended by Glennen) because it has all of the features we need, plus a few more, which I now need, because what would I do without them?!

What do I love about cozi.com? Hang on, I'm about to tell you.

It's free.

So far, I'm using only the free on-line product and the free app for my iPhone. cozi.com offers an upgrade that gives families access to an advertisement-free version with few additional features for about $50 a year or $5 a month. I may upgrade in the months ahead, once I know I'm in this for the long haul, but since the ads don't bug me and I'm happy with the free features so far, I'm not immediately inclined to upgrade.

It's intuitive and easy.

I needed my new system to click and make sense to me without a ton of reading and referencing and ramping up time, and that's what I got with cozi. Everything works together in a way that feels intuitive to me and I was up and running in just a few minutes. All of the actions are quick and easy to complete. For example, I can click on a day on my calendar and enter an appointment for the entire family (using the presets you're walked through creating when you set up your account), one of us, or any combination of us in about 15 seconds.

And like iCal on my Mac, I can set recurrences of said event or appointment at the same time I'm creating the first occurrence, complete with reminders to be emailed or texted to Al or me. Unlike iCal, I find scheduling times and dates is easy on cozi's pop-up appointment screen. There's no scrolling or dialing around for dates and times because they're presented an easy-to- click (even on my phone with my crazy fingers) grid formation that I've never seen before - but already love to the moon and back - so I can punch in dates and times like lightening, down to the fifteen minute interval.


See how easy that looks? Bing, bam, boom, DONE.

It's integrated like WHOA.

This is Outlook on speed. Well, actually I'll be honest, I haven't used Outlook since I left career-life behind 8 years ago, but this is THAT Outlook on speed. Al and I can enter updates on our cozi.com family planner via any computer using our family username and password. Anywhere we have access to a computer, we have access to our family's life at a glance. Including our phones.  Dad and Mom are always able to on the same page, no matter where we else we might be.

All updates sync constantly and instantaneously.  For example, yesterday I was at my computer in the office while Al was sitting out on the front porch watching the kids play. I was planning the week ahead and remembered that Al has a business trip coming up, so I called out the window to him and asked him to put it on our calendar using his phone. Within about 30 seconds, his trip appeared on the calendar on my desktop computer, complete with dates, times and locations.   Technology kismet, y'all.  Al may or may not have gotten lucky because of this.  Did I mention Al likes cozi.com?  He likes it a lot.

As we set up events in the calendar, we can also set up reminders and alerts that go to our phones or our email. (And to our kids' phones, when they graduate from high school and get jobs so they can pay for them. Hee.) So for example, I add a event for Bean's dance class on Monday night.  I need Al to pick her up on his way home from work, so set that as a reminder to be sent to his phone a couple of hours in advance and presto!   Dad remembers to pick up his daughter and doesn't leave her standing alone on the sidewalk in front of the dance academy, ballet bag over one shoulder and tear-dampened tissue in another.

It's crazy-much more than a calendar.

Cozi also makes it easy to create and manage on-going schedules, to-do lists, meal plans and shopping lists.

Yep. Right there in the same spot, cozi gives me a place to create schedules for carpooling, extra-curricular activities and for me, an editorial calendar for the blog. These items appear on the family calendar as well as a handy event-by-event list filed under the schedule's name - so you can go in and edit one schedule and update the whole calendar with the changes. Oh hallelujah, y'all.

I can also create, assign and update to-do lists for anyone in the family (evil grin). Once I've made the lists, I can email, text or print them out for the right person to refer to and complete under penalty of death. Ahem. And I get to cross things off the list as they're completed, too, which is so satisfying to me I sometimes list things I've already done just to get that Aaaaaaah! feeling as I watch the "done" line go SCRITCH! across it.

And perhaps most excitingly, because I love food so much, I'm able plan daily meals and create easily updateable shopping lists that I can then text to myself or Al, or that either of us can just pull up via my iPhone's cozi app. The shopping list on the cozi app has little boxes beside each item that I can check off as I shop.  This? I love so, so much.


(I would never, EVER actually forget peanut butter.)

Cozi's shopping lists are also printable, in case you've got older kids (without jobs and thus without phones) you can co-opt into shopping for you the old fashioned way.  Oh, and the meal planning tool also features a virtual recipe card box, in which you can store recipes and links to recipes you find online all in once place.   Better still, you can hyperlink your recipes right into cozi's meal planning area.  Apparently this is one area where the upgrade really provides some extra functionality, but I haven't played with it that much to see what the free app doesn't offer that I might really love to have.  I'm loving it so far just as it is.

And just like that, I'm in control. 

You can see, I think, that I'm pretty excited about this. This is organization so easy that it almost feels accidental.  I already feel like I'm so much more in control ('cause it's all about control, and I've got lots of it, as Janet Jackson says) of our lives, and that gives me the freedom to relax and focus on home and family vs. constantly worrying about What's next and what I'm probably forgetting right this very minute and O. M. G! I'm late again!  

How about you?

If you and your family have been a bit on the scattered side, I think you should click on over to cozi.com and take a look at all of their neat, organized, functional, integrated and FREE shininess. I think you'll find some good stuff and take a lot of the chaotic, stressy, panicky, oh-no-I-forgot-something moments right out of your days.

I was not contacted or compensated by cozi.com for writing this review, I just love it and wanted to share it with you in case you'd be interested in trying it out for your family.


Have you used cozi.com? What do you love about it?  Or will you try it out now that you've read my glowing report? Tell me about your family organization strategy in the comments!


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The Parent 'Hood Week Four


Happy Monday! (It somehow feels wrong to put an exclamation point after that, but I'm willing myself and the rest of you to FEEL! EXCITED! ABOUT ALL THE MONDAYNESS!) After my post last week asking for your suggestions of on-line organization systems for my family, I spent some time checking out your recommendations and have found the site that I think may just bring life in the FriedOkra household back under control. I've been a busy girl for the past few days getting everything set up and scheduled for us, so I'm a little behind on getting my actual Parent 'Hood post ready. In it, I'll be telling you all about which system we've chosen and why, and exhorting you to try it if your like me and feel like your life could use a bit more order and a bit less AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!

Ironic, isn't it, that I haven't had time to write about how organized I'm becoming because I'm too becoming organized? I may haz a prollem. But it's a better prollem to have than, say, not knowing what day of the week it is, which will now probably almost never happen to me again! And I firmly believe that by this time next week I'll have my entire sticky, messy, perpetually-late, out-of-toilet-paper-again life figured out and scheduled down to five minute intervals. And yours too. You're welcome.

In the meantime, so glad you're here for another week of The Parent 'Hood. Did you make time in your schedule to read some of the posts other writers linked last week? I did, and let me tell you, we have some very talented writers sharing their thoughts, hearts and words here, so make sure you take time to pop in and visit at some new blogs and get to know your neighbors in The 'Hood.


Please read these guidelines before linking your post:

1. Today’s link-up will run from this morning through the Sunday night. A new link-up will start next Monday morning.
2. Link the unique URL of your parenting post, not the homepage of your blog or your parenting post will get buried under new content on your homepage and be hard to find when readers click through on your link later in the week.
3. We ask that you please include a text link to The Parent ‘Hood (on any of the hosting blogs) in your linked post.
4. Share your own posts and read and comment on other blogs. Any good 'hood is all about community, right? Read, comment, share and enjoy as you have time. We are promoting many of your posts weekly on our Facebook pages, as well as on Twitter using hashtag #theparenthood.





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Find me on Twitter and Instagram.  There, as anywhere, I'm simply 'FriedOkra.'