Hello there!

If this is your first visit here, please go to my blog's new home, here. You will find more updated posts and if you are lucky, I might just be running a giveaway :-)

If you have been here before, welcome back! I have moved to self-hosted Wordpress, so now you can find me by just typing www.theunlikelyhousewife.com in your browser. I hope to see you there!

XO, Elisa

P.S. This blog's comment are now closed. One more reason to visit me on WP ;-)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Here Comes the Sun!

Today was the Here Comes the Sun yoga festival in NYC. And of course the weather was miserable! Rain, dark clouds, kind of depressing. But since I had already bought my ticket I was determined to go, if only to get out of the house and get some (well-deserved, if I say so myself) Me Time. Not to mention that I figured that the rain would scare a lot of people off and I'd have a better chance to win one of the giveaway prizes ;-)

I am really glad I decided to go, because I had a really fun day!

The event was still in Central Park of course, but this time it was in a different spot: Wollman Rink, which turned out to be a perfect spot considering the weather, since there was also an indoor space with tables and benches.

When I got there, there was absolutely no line (promising? or scary?) and I checked in really quickly. The space was almost empty, but it filled out a bit more in the following couple of hours.

It was barely drizzling, but the sky and (the weather forecast) didn't promise well. So everything was under tents, including the yoga spaces - which is great, but it reduced the available space quite a bit.

HCTSyoga2008 013

I learned last year that at Here Comes the Sun you can't do everything, because there are a lot of things going on at once, all day long, in different spots:

- Main Stage: yoga classes non-stop, some lead by Sara Ivanhoe.

- Peace of Mind Mecca: complementary astrology and tarot card readings, henna tattoos, YogaWorks giveaways, special offers and gift cards.

- Workout with Wii: a tent to try out the new balance board, whether you want to do yoga or play one of the fun games. Also a Wii giveaway (crossing my fingers).

- Pilates Corner: mat Pilates, intro to Pilates, Pilates/Yoga Hybrid classes.

- Beginners Yoga corner: intro to yoga, intro to vinyasa, intro to gentle yoga.

- Goddess of Beauty and Light: L'Oreal booth, with complementary skincare consultations, mini facials and makeovers; also giveaways and more freebies.

- Point of Enlightenment: health and wellness talks and mini-seminars, book readings.

- Josie's Restaurant: delicious food.

- Taste of the Sun: free food samples (and when I say "samples" I mean "full size portions") of almonds, frozen yogurt, cookies, crackers, cereal bars and SkinnyGirl cupcakes and cookies.

What I did:

- I started out by visiting the L'Oreal booth for a bit of pampering, and got a skincare consultation and a dose of crazy. The girl doing my skincare consultation was several kinds of obnoxious, which could have spoiled what was meant to be a relaxing moment but instead changed it into a sort of stand-up comedy.

- I then moved on to the makeup section, where makeup artist Tasha did a fantastic job. I'm not into L'Oreal but I have to admit that their Bare Naturale line has some really amazing products. I got a list of what she used on me - turns out I no longer need to go crazy looking for foundation because I should just use a little concealer and all-over glow. She also gave me a full-size Bare Naturale Mascara.

- I got a henna tattoo. Sandhya and I got off to a good start: I sat down and she said "You are wearing Satya Jewellery!" which kind of startled me because I thought Satya was a relatively well-kept secret (just me and a few thousand people in New York) but she apparently works with them and designed their new logo and stuff. I professed my love for Satya and she gave me a unique tattoo (that's right, noone else got it!): a lotus flower, which represents renewal, transformation and new beginnings. And it's really pretty.

- Had some lunch from Josie's booth. My pick: Chicken veggie mini-wraps with wasabi dip and Rejuvenating Iced Tea (cranberry, hibiscus, ginger & rose hip tea). Yum.

- I made the rounds to get all the freebies (except a yoga mat, which I didn't get because I already had one).

- I got a hug from Sarah Ivanhoe. She actually hugged me! I am totally celebrity-struck. Where's a friend with a camera when you need one?? For those who don't know her, Sara Ivanhoe is a fantastic yoga teacher - my absolute favorite, in fact (sorry, Rainbeau Mars and Bryan Kest - girl's gotta pick).

- I went to hear speak. She has a new book out, The first 30 days. I heard her speak at last year's festival and once again I was amazed at how inspiring she is. Strong, good-looking, self-assured... I got a copy of the book for myself and a copy for my friend V.

- Bethenny, the SkinnyGirl, makes amazing baked goods, looks fantastic and is incredibly funny. She did a demonstration on making smoothies and talked the whole time and people didn't want to leave - except Delta Goodrem started singing and we couldn't hear anything anymore (girl's got quite a pair of lungs on her!). Bethenny is really fun - and as it turns out, she is one of The Real Housewives of New York City - found that out on the way home, reading my complementary copy of Page Six.

- Entered all the giveaways: 6-months subscriptions to YogaWorks, Wii Fit, Luxury Yoga mats, L'Oreal Luxury skin care gift baskets, spa gift certificates for Oasis Spa.

I left shortly after 3pm, but not before shooting a 30-second movie of Delta Goodrem amazing voice:

If you want to see more photos of the festival, so to my Flickr photostream.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cool finds of the month: September 2008

Sometimes I wonder: how I am ever going to be able to stay up to date on all my favorite blogs, the latest fashion, health & fitness news, the latest book and movie releases, the best deals, the most interesting websites, and when will I finally be able to stay on top of my e-mail inbox??

Because even when I say "to heck with everything else" and spend most of the day on the pc, I somehow still don't manage to get it all done. Are you in the same position? I figured. So I decided to help out by putting together the best things I run across throughout the month, all here in one spot. It may not be all the best on the net, but it's a lot of cool stuff. And why would I do that, when I already don't have enough time for my stuff? Good karma, babe.

- First things first: the Sex and The City movie is finally out on DVD!! As one of the few who didn't actually make it to the theater to see the movie, I am particularly excited about this - so my copy is already on pre-order :-) Candace Bushnell, meanwhile, has moved on to One Fifth Avenue. Patricia Field moved on to HSN.

- Keeping in theme, here's your road to fabulous: GiftGirl 2.0 has finally launched! Need style advice, recommendations for a gift for your fabulous friend or even someone to help people get YOU presents for your birthday or other special occasion? Look no further, Gift Girl has got it all. You won't be disappointed. Jean is fabulous - just check out her style recommendations at The Style Observer!

- PoshMama: For a few months now, I have been a member of PoshMama, a lovely web community that is an online magazine and a social network rolled into one.
Posh Mama is a positive and upbeat community made up of women from around the world. You will feel immediately welcomed as it is the sweetest spot on the 'net. Come hang out, network and make some great friends! Click on the PoshMama banner on my sidebar of go to at www.poshmama.com. And when you get there, look me up and feel free to add me as your friend - because only a friend would give you such a great tip!

- Want to get a fun little gift for a forgetful friend? Look no further than this To-Do tattoo kit! You'll both have a laugh, and she might remember to buy the bread, send that e-mail... and maybe even the name of that really lovely OPI nailpolish *wink*

- Every year Sephora asks its customers to cote for the best beauty products products in 30 different categories. Find out what the 2008 winners are, as well as the top 10 beauty tricks, recommended from the same beauty addicts who elected the créme de la créme for this year!

- As part of the weird/awesome things they are releasing for their 30th Anniversary celebration, Lego unveiled some interesting celebrity Lego characters: ShinyShiny shows us Amy Winehouse, and you can see some of the others here.

- If you love original, artsy jewellery, I have one word for you: Fragments. They have a fantastic selection of fashionable, unusual, classy-but-not-boring jewelery.` And through October 6, shipping is free on all orders. Now the question is: what to order now, and what to add to our Christmas wishlist ;-)

- I already told you about Butter London, the fabulous line of nail polish free of Formaldehyde, Toluene and DBP. The great minds behind Butter London have created a special package of shades designed specifically around the season’s latest fashion collections: the Fashionista’s Favourites Fall/Winter ‘08 Collection, which includes the following shades: Cream Tea, HRH, Chancer, Swinger, and Chimney Sweep.
The collection, a $60-value, is already available for purchase at the Butter London website; and through September 30 you can purchase it for $40 with the coupon code fashionista08.

- Ever heard of private sales? Here's your way in: Gilt Groupe just opened! A free membership grants you access to all private sales running on the website. Sales last 36 hours, include a variety of clothing and accessories for men, women and children as well as home decòr, and feature items from luxury brands, for a fraction of the price (up to 70% off!). If this isn't exciting, I don't know what is!

- Remember Alima? My favorite brand of mineral makeup? They are about to launch their line in Europe, during Paris fashion week. To celebrate, they are offering 15% off your entire order through October 1st. Use promotional code PARIS2008 at check out.

- This is a biggie. LifeBooker is an awesome site that allows you to find the best deals in NYC for any beauty- and wellness-related service you might need, from massage to microdermalabrasion, from acupuncture to extensions and anything in between. LifeBooker also regularly sends you offers and deals for said treatments and services, and one such offer landed in my mailbox a few days ago with the current fabulous deals:

$50 gift at Midtown's Spa & Salon Chinois (for any service priced at $100 or more);

50% off at Boom Boom Beauty Bar (West Village)

50% off at Confidence Beauty (Union Square Area)

50% off at Stuart Hirsch Salon (Soho/Village)

50% off at Salon Santa Cruz (Gramercy/Flatiron)

50% off at The Skin Spa (Midtown East)

- I love nothing more than a nice handbag. And if it's free... don't even ask, just sign me up! Handbag Planet is launching on October 15 and to celebrate, they will be giving away one handbag per hour the first 24 hours on the day of the launch. Pick yours here.

- Victoria's Secret started stocking some cool beauty products in the past year - and right now (through October 15) you can get a free purple tote with 9 beauty samples (trial-sized) when you order $50 worth of beauty products. Just use code FREEBTY.

- Endless.com is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to shoe shopping. With every purchase you get free overnight shipping and free return shipping as well. I love it! And if that still isn't enough to entice you, they are now running an amazing special: with your $25 purchase you get a free subscription to Vogue, Teen Vogue or Men's Vogue. If you hurry, you might just be able to take advantage of the limited Sephora special, too: a free sample of Sephora Lip Attitude–Chic in Talented Berry, as well as an exclusive Endless.com offer for a Bare Escentuals foundation and brush sample with any Sephora.com order.

- I saved the best for last: there are some lovely things on sale (up to 70%!) on the BCBG website, including some items from the new fall line! Don't believe me? Look here.

So there you have it. Think that counts as my good deed for the day?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I think I created a monster... or someone incredibly fabulous

After Stella finished her breakfast this morning, I told her we had to go get ready because this morning we have an appointment with a new pediatrician. Then of course I promptly went back to the computer.

She, ever so efficient, went right into my bedroom and started pulling out shoe boxes, no doubt looking for the right pair to wear to our appointment. She settled on these 4 1/2 inch, black patent peep-toe platform pumps:

Stella's favorite shoes

Hey, first impressions are important.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Never too late for resolutions (and for chocolate, but that's for another post)

Tomorrow officially marks the last 100 days of 2008. Do you know what that means? That , and and generally with didn't-get-a-single-thing-done syndrome like myself will have a second chance to get some of those New Year's Resolutions done. Afterall, "the last 100 days of the year" does sound like one of those things that call for a new beginning of sorts, doesn't it? Like a brand new journal, or a wake-up call from the bathroom scale. Bittersweet, I know.

So this calls for goals. And a list. A list of goals. Is there anything more exciting? ("yes, plenty" is probably your response - however please consider that I am a SAHM with too little social interaction and an annoying penchant for lists).

So, let's proceed. This is what I want to accomplish in the next 100 days, before the year is over:
1. I want to my house and rejoyce in it's clutter-free beauty (oh, I am about to break into song), and then possibly keep it reasonably clean and tidy. Will that get me kicked out of ? Will I have to change my blog title? Hah! Come on. Even in the improbable scenario where I actually manage to become more proficient at housework, I doubt that I could ever come close to feeling comfortable sharing my home accomplishments with Martha Stewart.

2. I want to make exercise a daily habit again. Does that qualify as a SMART goal you think? Or should I say whether I'll be doing the TransFirmation series or yoga any given day?

3. I want to potty train Stella. No additional details required, I believe. Just wish me good luck.

4. I want to get my NY driver's license. (I can hear gasps and giggles.) Finally, right?

And how am I going to do the above, you ask? Well, getting off the pc would probably be a good start. Ha! fat chance. In fact, perhaps I should add "getting over my " to the list. Who am I kidding? That's going to take WAY longer than 100 days.

What would you like to accomplish before the year is over? Feel free to share in the comment section - and if you want to keep inspired (and maybe get someone else inspired!) feel free to grab this button.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Men in tights and turkey legs

We finally made it to the ! It was so much fun! If you are ever in the area, I would really recommend going. Heck, I'd recommend going even if you have to drive a couple of hours, because it's really worth it. I couldn't capture all of it, there was so much fantastic stuff! But here are a few things I did capture:

Check my Renaissance Faire photos on Flickr
The opening parade
(those you see behind the pretty girl are Robin Hood's "merry men")

Queen Elizabeth
God save the Queen!

Maypole dance
The Maypole Dance

Hot Pirate
Hot pirate

Robin Hood won the jousting tournament - and the hearts of many of the ladies in the audience

A segment of the Maypole dance (sorry about the poor image quality):

We had turkey legs for lunch! Tried to convince my husband to share some mead, but he refused because he was still recovering from the sugar-shock he got from the cheesecake on a stick and we still had to drive home :-)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Event Alert: Eco-Stiletto for Kids Launch Party

Do you live in LA or nearby? I am so jealous! Because this Sunday, EcoStiletto™ is launching EcoStiletto Kids* with another fabulous party!

The EcoStiletto™ Kids Launch Party will take place on:

Sunday, September 21st
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, near the Merry-Go-Round

Here's what you can expect to see, do and get at the EcoStiletto Kids Launch Party tent:

- walk the Green Carpet and pose as an eco-celebrity
- get formaldehyde-free mommy-and-me manicures courtesy of Recess
- make an organic flower bouquet with the experts at Wisteria Lane Flowers
- take home a sample pack from California Baby
- enjoy O.N.E. Coconut Water and organic cookies by Whole Foods
- plus bubbles by Green Works Natural Cleaners!

All EcoStiletto Kids Launch Party activities are free and first-come, first-served.

Here's what else will be going on at the event:

11 a.m. Performances by the Leather Souls, among others
12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Celebrity guests walk the green carpet
1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Hot Moms Club Eco-Fashion Show
2 p.m. Parade of Peace Doves**

No need to RSVP, just stop by! And if you are lucky enough to be able to attend, please let us know how you liked it and what fabulous eco-swag you got to take home!

* For more info on EcoStiletto Kids, email rachel@ecostiletto.com
** For more information on Peace Day, email rootsnshoots@janegoodall.org

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MIA: Blogroll

In an attempt to declutter this blog's sidebars (gotta start somewhere, and the blog seemed as good a place as any), I decided to start using the new Follow feature on Blogger and transfer all my favorite blogs to my "Blogs I follow" list. They are still there, only they will be visible on my profile instead of my sidebar.

I had to transfer them one by one and it was quite something, since I follow a lot of blogs. It was kind of a pain, to tell the truth. So in order to avoid other people having to do the same, I decided to add the "Followers" gadget to my sidebar, so you can just click on it and add me if you like - one less link to import manually. I had originally snobbed this gadget because I considered it showy, but now I realize it's actually practical. So there.

Thank you for your attention. We will now return to your regularly scheduled progr... ehm, I mean... blogging.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dangerous squeals

Stella has a really high-pitch little voice. You can tell because she has recently begun to utilize the ultrasound feature quite often. She now squeals when she is happy or having fun, and instead chooses to go for high-pitch screams when she is mad. And while I am becoming immune to this not-so-charming habit (possibly because by now I've gone half deaf), other people still find it... well, annoying is kind of a euphemism.

An example: yesterday we were at Starbucks. We go to this Starbucks quite often, because it's in the Stamford Town Center, inside Barnes & Noble, and just a short escalator away from H&M. I basically go there every time I am in Stamford, which is a lot. That Starbucks is practically a second home - ok, a third, Whole Foods would definitely come first (I know, weird combination). Anyway, where was I?

Ah, yes. We were there, all together. Stella of course started running around, which is quite normal for a , and generally accepted I think. But two Russian students sitting at one of the tables would beg to differ. They were trying to study or working on a project or something, and they were annoyed that Stella was running past them. The Starbucks was far from quiet, so I didn't give it much thought. However when Sarah, who had been playing with her sister, decided to come sit down, Stella wouldn't take it. I was sitting peacefully drinking my latte and my husband was eating cheesecake and reading a magazine, when all of a sudden we heard a scream of a pitch so high that I am surprised the windows didn't shatter. Every.Single.Person. jumped on their seats. My husband and I went "shhhh!" but we had already been spotted as the parents of the screaming child.

It was over quickly, though, as I got up to play with her (which mostly consisted of me watching her while she ran back and forth between two isles of games) and she didn't scream anymore. But she squealed. Oh, the squeals. Those are pretty loud and high-pitch too. Occasionally Stella and I would go sit back down, but after just a couple of minutes she'd run away again, squealing and giggling because she knew I'd follow her. And every time I got up I could practically feel the daggers the two students were mentally throwing at me, their stares burning into back. I tell you, I felt like they were picking which scarlet letter to brand me with.

Then I'd walk by and they'd stare at me, most likely willing me to go away and stay away. It was making me uncomfortable. So when at one point I started choking on my latte I was sure they had given me the evil eye, so I told my husband I wanted to leave. He said "Oh, it's time for Sarah's hairdresser appointment" so I didn't encounter much resistance. Just as well - I am pretty sure by then every single person in Starbucks wanted to shoot us. I said as much, and my husband laughed.

Yeah, you laugh. I'm the one who got the evil eye. Now if I grow a beard or a third arm I'll have only my daughter's squeals to blame.

The Un-domestic Goddess

I have been unashamedly baring some of my worst qualities on this blog for a few months now. So far, we have established the following:
1. I don't like housework
2. I am a
3. I'm NOT a supermom
4. There have been attempts on my part to change the above, to no avail so far.

Here I am, still messy. Lovable, but poor homemaking skills. Reads like the first lines of a personal ad - and a very bad one, at that. Who would be interested? And yet, judging from the comments on this blog, I am obviously not alone. But where are my messy soul mates? My un-domestic sisters?

I had to take action. So ladies (and gentlemen, if so inclined - yes Shawn, that's you ;-)):

If you don't fit with the "sparkly counters" crowd...
If you don't have the time (or inclination) to clean in a rare moment of peace...
If your house is very "lived in"?
Come join me.

This is where you belong :-)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blogger, interrupted.

Had I slept better the last two nights, I would have sounded smarter here. Had I not caught a bad cold (or the flu?) from Stella (the source of my sleepless nights along with the cold) I might have followed my usual "I'll take blogging over a reasonable bedtime" and actually produced a decent post.

But since this germy foe is making me foggy and sleepy, I suppose I'd better make it short, to avoid falling asleep while typing and ending up publishing something that reads ajskhyho'213Y 0[4J{oq38w r180= 1u4-jYF 1UU13-R97 hfH077E TPWATUG-2]QT8 or something along those lines.

I didn't want to just skip it, because I gathered some tips and sale alerts I wanted to share with you - of course at the time I thought I would have been able to include them in a charming, funny post instead of just dumping them unceremoniously right there, but as Aaliyah said "Yo, I don't know what to tell ya". So without further ado or embellishment, here they are, my shopping notes:

- first things first: if you are getting ready for the Yoga Festival I told you about, make sure you check the Gaiam Outlet sale. They have yoga clothing, shoes and yoga bags, and also yoga props and videos at very affordable prices.

- Amazon has a great offer for parents of young babies: they call it the Amazon Baby Registry Promotionand it works like this: if you, your friends or your family complete $750 of purchases from your Amazon.com Baby Registry by September 30, 2008, you'll get six months of free diapers from Seventh Generation. How cool is that? You get the stuff you need AND free diapers. Read more about Seventh Generation diapers here.

- The iPhone 3G was big news and people are still talking about it - everybody has one. Personally, I was much more excited about the arrival of the new iPod Nano:
new design, new games, new features (shake to shuffle! flip it to view in landscape!), better picture resolution, lower price ($149 for the 8GB)and... 24 hours of battery life, ladies and gentlemen! (Take that, iPhone.) And to top that off, just check out these colors! If that doesn't make you giggle of excitement you have a black, black heart ;-)

- And now onto the girly stuff: spend $100 on beauty products at Neiman Marcus and you'll get a lovely crocodile-embossed tote filled with goodies for free. The offer is good online until Sept. 15 and in stores until Sept. 14.

- A mention of this is enough to temporarily revive me from my flu-induced semi-coma: TopShop finally launched their US site! And right on time for Kate Moss's autumn/winter collection!
To celebrate the launch of the US site, TopShop.com is offering free shipping on your next order using this code: USFREEPOSTAGETS01 when you checkout. The offer expires Sept. 18 - no time to waste!

- Need some new shoes for fall? Until Thursday, September 25th, save 20% on your order from SteveMadden.com with this code: EXTRA20. So what will it be? These below are my favorites:

And now, I have to say goodnight - I promise to resurface as soon as I get a break from this nasty cold!

Monday, September 8, 2008

help! I'm Paris Hilton!

Prelude: my best friend, whom I love to bits and haven't seen in 3 years, called me yesterday out of the blue to tell me she was in Manhattan for 48 hours and she couldn't leave without seeing me. Which spurred a few reflections on our friendship, inspired by the high of seeing her "live" again. And then, a few reflections on why the high and why the post-high crash.

I had such a great afternoon yesterday. I know moms have "me time", and I have always interpreted that as getting a massage, a mani-pedi, or other spa treatment, something to remind you you are a human being in your own right, not just "mommy".

I didn't do any of that; and yet, I had the best Me Time ever yesterday, thanks to a surprise visit by my best friend. I had totally forgotten that it can be great to just walk, sipping an iced latte, and talk. How liberating it is to get a hug by somebody who doesn't care how little or how much makeup you are wearing, what brand of clothes and accessories you have on, or if you gained weight. How relaxing it can be to walk, even in the middle of Manhattan, when you feel completely comfortable and content, glad to share that time with the person you are walking with. And how that can make you feel more serene, better adjusted, more self-assured, less self-conscious.

Why don't I feel like that normally? Is it being a mom? Is it being a stay-at-home mom? Not working? Being a housewife? Or it it living in the suburbs? Not having an exciting social life?

I have to figure that out and change it, pronto. Because yesterday I remembered how much fun I can have, how much fun I can be, without even doing anything special.

Was it that I was enjoying some rare "me time" when I didn't have to worry about anything but sipping my latte and not stepping on dog poo (honestly, don't people clean up after their dogs??)? Was it that I could relax without worrying about crossing the street with the stroller? (you try crossing in 15 seconds!!)

What if it's just that I am lonely and the only way to remedy is to meet another M.? That's not a very comforting thought. Nor do I think she can be replaced - no one you love can be, really. But there must be another kindred soul somewhere. Maybe I should do what Paris Hilton does and publicly look for a new BFF. God, I hate Paris Hilton. But hey. Maybe her system works. Any volunteers?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Decòr me gorgeous, said the room

I am pretty sure we can all agree on one thing: by now we have fully established that I don't like household chores.

But boy, do I love trying my hand (and hubby's patience) at interior decòr. Nothing is more fun than picking the right pillows, paintings and accessories to create an entirely new look in your living room. Or picking all new bedding, shams, curtains and prints to give a fresh look to your master bedroom. It's just so fun!

I play it cool, but I secretly harbor a wish to decorate my house like the rooms you see on the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog. Sure, sometimes they look a little too perfect, and I prefer a more "lived in" style - something that won't make your guests stand around because they are afraid of smushing the sofa pillows. And sometimes it's a little too Town and Country, which is so not me.

But other times there will be this room, or just a shot of a corner of a room, and it conveys such casual comfort with a few beautiful pieces, I wish I could just jump into the page and sit on that armchair, and look out that window.

Of course I could always run out and buy a whole bunch of new furniture and duplicate the room in the picture, kind of like what Rachel did in that episode of Friends. But I would obviously regret it and be ashamed of it - plus I was lying, I can't really just go out and buy a whole bunch of furniture, my husband would have a cow.

Which leaves two options as far as I'm concerned: creating virtual rooms and creating real rooms with mix-and-match pieces.

Creating virtual rooms is great because you feel like you are actually shopping for your favorite pieces but you don't accumulate stuff, don't spend a dime and you reserve the right to change your mind as many times as you like; and all while getting some great ideas for the time when you can actually redecorate. My favorite places to do this is Shopstyle Living, where you can save pieces you like and then compose virtual rooms to save in your stylebook - and even join groups and share your creations with others.

But when you are ready to actually redecorate, don't just buy a bunch of stuff you like - I mean you can do that, but what you had in mind might not actually translate well into your space.

If you already specific piece of furniture in mind, make sure you get the right shapes and sizes by using the HGTV Room Planner.

Once you have your furniture, accessorize with things from a bunch of different places, and don't be afraid to explore stores that you normally don't look into. An unexpected detail can give them room more personality. For instance, West Elm furniture feels a little cold and too minimal for me, but I think they have some really cute pillows and vases.

Also, don't think you will need a huge budget to redecorate a room: you can give a new look to a room by just getting new accessories. I just fell in love with this Target commercial for that reason (and for the cool music and dancing, of course):

Don't forget to scour the web for interesting details to add to your room, to change it from run-of-the mill to one of a kind! Here are some:
- Kanibal Home features redesigned and reupholstered salvaged furniture, limited edition pillows, wall art and restored found objects, among others. Their selection is really random, so if you don't find anything you like the first time you visit, keep checking every now and then because they post new items often, and they feature a wide variety of styles.
- Mothology features some great vintage-inspired decorative objects and furnishings.
- UncommonGoods also features some interesting items in their Home Decor section (and on the rest of their site!)

and then there's Etsy, of course. Just look up whatever it is you need and you'll find a large selection in different styles, colors, materials and prices. Here are a few cool stores I found by searching for "pillows":
- Greenroom
- Eliza Leigh (I love her Dressmaker and Runway pillows!)
- Paris Buildings on Helena Carrington's shop
- Flowers and Dots on Couch Design (I love how this pattern looks mode and art deco at once)
- the Bella Pillow on JKHill Designs

These of course are things I like, but there's really something for everybody and every taste on Etsy.

Ah, yes - I love interior decorating.

So imagine my joy when I went to vote for some friends' blogs on Divine Caroline's Blog Awards and found some amazing decorating blogs in the Home & Food category! There are some real pearls there.

Do you like decorating? Do you have a favorite site, store or inspiration? Feel free to share your decorating secrets.

P.S. If you are trying to figure out what your decorating style is, take the "What's your design style?" quiz at MyDeco.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Forget the candles, just give me the cake

Today is my birthday. And I'm not afraid to say: I turn 32.

Every year, as my birthday approaches, I change into a total freak show. I put my life under the microscope and get annoyed at everything that I am not doing perfect. And I get these underaccomplishment attacks, like I'm never doing well enough. Such a drama queen. I am truly my own worst critic.

This year somehow I'm not doing that. I'm actually pretty happy. Not in a "yay! I'm going to get lots of presents!" way (though that's nice too) but in a "hey, things are pretty good" way. Sure, there is always room for improvement. I could be better looking, slimmer, richer, a home goddess, have a bigger house, blah, blah. But none of those things would guarantee me happiness, now, would they?

Yet, for years I kept thinking that in order for someone to be worth of a celebration they'd have to have done something special, valuable, important in the past year. But it's not really about that, is it? Because really, it's about what you are. And if you are loved, and if those who love you think of you as someone special, valuable and important then yes my friend, you absolutely deserve to be celebrated.

My family is all excited about celebrating my birthday. (I like to think that it's more about me and less about that killer chocolate cake we have ordered for tonight.) Before Sarah left this morning, she hugged me and said "Happy birthday mommy. I love you." and right then I felt pretty special. So bring on the cake. But leave the candles. Because as sappy as that sounds, it's true: everything I could wish for, I already have.

P.S. But if you have an in to Michael Kors and you can convince him to send me a Lattington satchel in purple I'll gracefully accept it.
P.P.S. Tell him I'll make him cupcakes. My special chocolate-coconut ones :-)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Motherhood mafia

I just finished reading the book Momzillas. And let me tell you that if any of the people who reviewed the book on Amazon had ever experienced something similar to what the main character experienced, their ratings would have been much higher.

I have been there - heck, I still am.

Traveling and moving around can be a lot of fun. Or a real pain.

People get either very excited or kind of freaked out when I tell them we moved here from Switzerland. They always ask why, where else have we lived, and so on - and invariably they end with "You are so lucky". Probably true. I am happy to have the opportunity to travel and live in different places, and while I didn't just trip on it (but rather went seeking for it) I am thankful to be able to do it, because I love it. Most of the time.

The first year after we moved here, I didn't feel so lucky. I had been back in Europe for 8 years - and even when I was in the US, I lived on the West Coast, in LA. I also didn't have any children then. Of course I didn't expect it to be the same: as any expat will tell you, it's never the same. Besides, I was a mom now and it was the opposite coast anyway. I "knew" the East Coast was different, but I thought I knew what to expect, and I was willing to find out and experience the rest. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Because of the short duration of our assignment it was important to us that the girls keep their mother language fresh - so it was decided early on that Sarah would have to attend an International School of some sort, one equipped to deal with children who spoke little English and who were planning to eventually move back to their country of origin. That of course spells "private school". We located a school in the general vicinity (of where dh was going to be working) and it was approved by the company. Everything else was arranged based on the fact that Sarah was going to attend this school, including the area where we were going to live (which narrowed it down quite a bit).

Skip ahead to Sarah actually starting school. We had an initial honeymoon period, when everything seemed to be going smooth and working out just fine, but it quickly came to an abrupt halt. The teacher who had seemed so friendly, so used to easing in the children who moved mid-year turned out to be actually very strict and set in her ways.
The girls who were at first so excited to have a "new girl" joining the class started showing that not only they had a snobbish side but they were also not above bullying.
My suggestion to temporarily use one of the 2 mandatory (???) hours of religion with practice time for Sarah to catch up with the rest of the class because of the difference in curriculum was met with a solid NO (and no other option offered). And... I started meeting the other moms in the class (cue scary music).

Meet Hannah, the main character in Momzillas: she moved from San Francisco to Manhattan - the Upper East Side, to be precise - because of her husband's work. I found the portrayal of the weird unwritten rules and expectations and cliques that Hannah finds in her new home remarkably accurate. Of course, I don't live on the UES, but I found much of the same things up here in Westchester.

When I first arrived, I started attending some "class breakfasts" as they called them, where all the moms met at someone's house and brought food (sort of a gourmet potluck) and then complained about stuff, gossiped, discussed "important issues" (such as the teacher's Christmas gift). Luckily I wasn't the only new mom, but the QueenBee managed to grill me anyway: by the time I left I had been questioned on our designated town of residence, my husband's job, my family, my schooling, what car we drove and other "social markers". Nice talking to you!

Having a baby and no car made it difficult to participate to all the brunches and coffees and mom's nights out. I didn't worry too much, until I noticed that Sarah was still not doing well socially at school, after several months in the class. She never had this problem before, she was non-confrontational and friendly, so she made friends quite easily. Like moms tend to do, I blamed myself, convinced it was my fault for pushing the move, for not hosting enough playdates (I was barely keeping up with MY children!), for not hanging out with the other moms more.

At one point in the book, Hannah opens up to another mom: "It's just hard. I feel so clueless so much of the time. I feel like a Martian." Boy, I hear you Hannah.

Despite the fact that I've never been one to feel the pressure to "fit in" I tried very hard, mostly because I thought it would help with Sarah's socializing at school and making new friends.

Then we hosted Sarah's birthday party with some girls from her class. Among other things, the following things happened:
- a couple of the guests openly criticized the Hello Kitty theme (picked by the birthday girl) saying that it was "stupid" and "tacky".
- we overheard a conversation where everybody was sharing the exact title of their father's executive position in the company he worked for - while eating. Sarah didn't know her dad's exact title, she had never asked.
- a kind of spooky exchange between two girls discussing the merits of having a man vs. a woman guitar teacher and how "not all men are nice" (they were 8 years old! 8!!).
- the categorical refusal to participate in most of the games and activities my husband had carefully picked and organized for the party (I finally pulled out an "in case of emergency" kit with beads, ribbons and the like for everyone to make bracelets).
By the time everyone left, my husband was actually the one saying "I'm not sure I want Sarah hanging out with those girls. They are snobbish little divas." without an ounce of irony. My sweet, patient, tolerant husband, who never pronounces an ill word about anyone, never gossips, never openly criticizes (I know, he's such a goody two shoes).

But it was the beginning of a new school year I vowed I'd try harder. So I organized a playdate with the QueenBee's daughter and another girl from the class. Sarah was so excited! She was trying sooo hard to please them. All afternoon she let them pick what they wanted to play with, didn't object to their critics and their mean jokes. And I watched them criticize and look down on everything that Sarah loved: "No way we are playing Barbies! Barbies are stupid! The only dolls we play with are from American Girl" "THIS is your room???? It's so small!!" "This is the most boring playdate!" and after looking at Sarah's extensive board game collection: "You have nothing good to play with" after which I pulled out the dance mat and the game console and put on the DDR Mario Mix (this was our pre-Wii period). And that kept them busy. They didn't exactly play nicely, but at least it keep them distracted enough to tone down the "better than you" attitude.

That's when I decided that it wasn't a game I wanted to play. Because my daughter, like me, picks her friends based on how well she gets along with them, not how expensive their clothes are of how big their house is. Because I am ok with her being a bit goofy at her age and not a snobbish, critical little diva. Because she has NEVER, ever had problems socializing until she started at that school - other parents and teachers alike had always loved her because she was so friendly and uncomplicated - and if that is viewed as "simple", so be it.

I'm not saying my daughter is perfect - she makes mistakes and has her obnoxious moments. I also understand we can't all be friends because we are all different people. But I am not ok with someone making her feel like she isn't good enough because of things that have nothing to do with her character, especially if they are superficial.

There were also issues with her adjusting to the difference in curriculum so we decided to move her to another class. And that turned out to be a blessing.
She found a lovely teacher who encouraged children to help each other and fostered camaraderie, not competition.
Sarah received a warm welcome, and she wasn't abandoned once she became "old news", like in the previous class.
Most of the children turned out to be less of the diva variety and more of the goofy, funny variety like her.
And I found that not all moms in the school were snobbish, cliquey primadonnas. Most of the moms in the new class welcomed me in and didn't raise an eyebrow because I wasn't fluent in German, they didn't ask if Sarah takes piano lessons or plays soccer, they didn't object to me bringing my toddler to brunches - in fact a few of them brought theirs over too. Thank goodness there are normal people here. And I have let go of the idea that I have to fit in with anybody or anything. If I dress less conservatively, if I don't wear pearls and I sit on the floor to play with my toddler sometimes - it's all good, because that's how I want to do it. And that is why I am no longer a Martian. And neither is Sarah.

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