When Kids Get it And We Don’t

Over Easter weekend, I heard some real horror stories about adults at Easter Egg hunts. Two people I know actually witnessed an adult take an Easter Egg from a small child! A parent told me disgustedly about a woman at a big local event who hoarded eggs on behalf of her toddler, and was then visibly angry when her child, having “collected” the most eggs, was only awarded the same “participation prize” that all the other (obviously less savvy) toddlers received. People were walking away from these events completely disheartened, surprised that fights hadn’t broken out! Needless to say, I went into the weekend a little leery and nervous. You see, this year was the first year that my own daughter, age 4, had expressed any interest in Easter Egg hunting. And let me tell you, she’s been all about it! So, even though we didn’t plan to go to any of the big public events, I was still concerned about how egg hunting might go just between her and her friends. I didn’t want the experience to be negative, for the kids or for the adults.

For our first hunt, we went to a friend’s house who has a 3 year old boy. We did the old fashioned egg dye, and then she and I hid the 2 dozen freshly colored eggs in their back yard for the kids to find. Simple fun. The laid back hunt threatened intensity, however, when the early on, the two kids went for the same egg at the same time! We both cringed when her son’s face showed the classic signs of being crushed, as my daughter got to the egg a moment before he did! But what happened next changed the course of the entire weekend for me. Her son bounced back from his temporary setback pretty quickly and went for another egg. But rather than grab and keep running, he stopped. And called out my daughter’s name. He pointed the egg out to her and wanted her to have it! All the damn feelsThis kid single-handedly turned the egg hunt from a Hunger Games style competition into a share fest. The kids hunted the eggs together, then when they found them all, they insisted on hiding them together for my friend and I to find. How did it change my weekend, you ask? Because the same thing happened the next day. We went to another friend’s house and hid probably 100 eggs in their yard for our 3 girls to find. Only this time there were plastic eggs filled with toys, candy and coins. The stakes were higher! After one potential confrontation over an egg, though, the girls started hunting together, calling each other for the eggs they had found. When all was said and done, the girls ended up with about the same number of eggs. And better yet? They opened them all together and shared what they found inside.

I walked away from Easter weekend feeling completely renewed in my hope for the future, if these kids have anything to do with it. I was so proud of our kids, and convinced for once that we might be doing something right. These kids get it! Even when we sometimes don’t. I took the following away from these little darlings, which I share with you now:

  1. Disappointment is not the end of the world. Sometimes it’s just the beginning of an even better story. Think of all the things you never thought you’d make it through. Yet here you are, making it through. If we never experienced disappointment, then our sense of appreciation would be so diminished, and we would have so much less opportunity to experience empathy and growth.
  2. Caring for others is sometimes the best way to care for ourselves. Sure, we all have crappy things happen to us all the time. But so does everyone else. We can make it all about us, or we can see an opportunity to do something nice for someone else. Even when we don’t necessarily have everything we want. Sometimes that ends up being the thing that makes it better for all of us, ourselves included.
  3. Pay it Forward. What if we only got what we deserved? I’m not sure I would have much! But I have been the recipient of the grace of God and others on more occasions than I can count. So, anytime we can gift that grace to someone else, we’re only increasing the presence of goodness in our world. So, when you see, receive, or love something awesome, share it. Make it bigger, because good should grow.

Have you learned any important life lessons from a child? Share you story in the comments!

This post also appears on HuffPost Blogs

Treat Them Like You Did When You Were Dating

My ex-husband and I had two wedding anniversaries. The long story short is that we got engaged, planned and paid for a gorgeous destination wedding, then he found out he had Crohn’s disease, but didn’t have health insurance. So, on a rainy weekday, on very little notice to anyone, we got married in the Courthouse so he could be on my health insurance before his next doctor visit. We went ahead with the destination wedding, too. So, we celebrated both. In our years together, we created the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen, our daughter. We had some amazing times. But we also struggled. Hard. So hard in fact that just as suddenly as we married, I stopped fighting for our marriage and we got divorced. On another weekday, seven years later than the first one, I abruptly said that I wasn’t coming home that night, and I never came back. A week later, I filed for divorce. I think back to when I was willing to marry this man on a moment’s notice in the rain, and I think about where we are today, virtual strangers who can barely get along well enough to co-parent our gorgeous daughter, and I wonder how we got to such a different place.

I can say this: At times, we were the ones to hurt each other the most deeply, and the ones to crush each other’s spirits in ways that no one else quite could. Those moments are the ones that change the dynamic forever and destroy the bond. I spend a lot of time now thinking about how people can prevent these moments and keep their bond intact. I’m no expert, obviously, but I’ve learned some things over the course of marrying and divorcing that I’d like to share. You may be surprised to know that I actually wrote most of this piece right before I left my marriage and filed for divorce. The fight we had over me writing this story was the one that made me realize I didn’t want to fight anymore. So, this advice was gathered by me too late to save my own marriage, and maybe even contributed to me knowing that what I had could not be salvaged. But I still write it in the hope that I can learn from it moving forward, and that others, who aren’t past the point of no return can also.

Last year I shared a story on my personal Facebook page about an encounter I had at the grocery. I saw a little old man pushing a small cart with a gorgeous bouquet of roses on top. I told him they were beautiful and asked him if he was planning on making someone’s day? “Yeah, my wife!” he says, “She’s been my princess for 43 years now!” I thought about how, after all those years of marriage, this man was treating his wife: like his princess, like the girl he fell in love with, like the girl he was working to keep. That’s the way we all treat our spouse when we’re first dating them. But, life and jobs and mortgages and comfort levels start creeping into the relationship and wearing away at that magic. Before we know it, if we aren’t careful, we can end up in a place that we aren’t sure how we got to. I started thinking that if we all made the effort, like this wise fellow, to treat our spouse like we did when we were dating, that maybe things wouldn’t be so hard.

So that might look something like this:

Be willing to listen and talk. You know the feeling when you first meet someone special. You talk for hours and hours on end. You’re dying to know everything about the other person and tell them everything about you. You are delighted by the similarities and the differences. You are inspired and enamored by each other’s hopes and dreams, so much so that you want to be a part of them. But as the years roll on, we stop listening. We talk over each other. We stop really talking at all. It’s not a good time, there’s too many other things to do right now. I don’t want to hear all the negativity I know will come if I speak my mind. We don’t open our ears, hearts, or words to each other in that free flowing way that once felt so natural. We lose sight of each other’s hopes and dreams, and we stop getting to know each other. But it doesn’t have to be so. People often say they married their best friend, so keep being that best friend. Talk, long and often. Yes, you have laundry to do, so talk while you’re folding. Listen when your partner wants to daydream about whatever topic it is he loves that you stopped caring about 3 years ago. Get back to making your spouse the first person you really talk things through with, and really listen when they talk it through with you.

Fight fair. Was there ever a time in our relationship when my ex-husband and I didn’t fight? Hell no! We are both extremely opinionated and head strong people, and one of us is a lawyer, for Pete’s sake. We argued. We always argued. But when we were dating it was different. We had better boundaries. When one of us said something completely irrational and ridiculous, the other just refused to engage, without hurting the other person. There was no spiraling downhill in a race to outdo each other with the most meaningful insults and the deepest wounds. No drudging up of sins of the past and old hurts. There wasn’t this compulsive need to over engage every word. We would just let the other person know that whatever was happening was not ok and we found a way to make it stop. It didn’t have to be more complicated than that, and it really doesn’t now. We’re parents now. We’re 40. We take ourselves more seriously, but that doesn’t mean we have more of a right to be right all the time. We have more of a duty to preserve the peace, if anything, and that simply means that we return to knowing how to live within appropriate boundaries, knowing when to engage and when to let go.

Make the Effort. If there’s one thing I picked up from my friend at the grocery, it’s the effect of continuing to make the effort. I was blown away by those beautiful flowers. I can only imagine how his wife felt when she saw them. When we’re dating, there is nothing we won’t do to try to impress the person we love. We connect with them physically as often and as thoughtfully as we can, buy them gifts, take them out to their favorite places, introduce them to all the things we love, do lots of big and small things that we think will mean something to them and make their life easier. There isn’t so much of a focus on hitting or missing the other person’s love language, because we are speaking every love language. Doing everything in our power to show that other person how we feel and gauge how they feel. And they receive every kind gesture from us with beaming admiration and gratitude. Fast forward a few years and we are skating by doing maybe the minimum we know is required at special occasions. Our efforts are expected rather than appreciated, or are looked upon with criticism and cynicism. If we don’t read our partner’s mind exactly, they harshly assume that we’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. When you’re at the point now that you’ve built your lives around each other, you have so much more invested than when you were in the honeymoon phase. So, why not see that for what it is, the greatest gift you’ve ever been given. And treat it accordingly. If you’re willing to hang the moon for your boyfriend or girlfriend, be willing to make the moon from scratch for your husband or wife.

This is one divorced gal’s take on how love can be improved upon and sustained. What would you add to the conversation? What have your relationships taught you?

The Magic of Support

I’ve been a bit intentionally quiet on social media and the blog for a few weeks. So, I’ll just bite the bullet and say it: *deep breath* I filed for divorce a few weeks ago. I haven’t said anything, because frankly I don’t know what to say. There are very few ways to handle divorce diplomatically, so I don’t want to make a bad situation worse by inviting in the world. But, I finally decided to write because there is one aspect of this situation that deserves to be discussed right now, and that I couldn’t afford to fail to mention. That’s the unbelievable support of my friends and family. As we age and our relationships change, evolve, die and grow stronger, I think each of us struggles with how to be a great support to the people we love the most. I struggle with it often, and have found that at times I’ve been extremely helpful to people in their hour of need, and at other times I’ve really dropped the ball. So, in my attempt to both thank the folks whose support has kept me afloat these past few weeks, and to offer some thoughts for those struggling with how to be of real help to others, I offer my thoughts on how the support of my family and friends has been the most magical and helpful thing in my life lately.

Go with your strength

I always admire the one friend who is super organized about bringing exactly the right, perfectly timed, easy to heat dinner dish to their friends who have just had a baby, or suffered a loss, or whatever they’re going through that renders them unlikely to prepare meals in the way that they should during this stressful time. I try to be that friend sometimes, except that I can’t cook that well, don’t have too much free time on my hands, and am generally awkward with my timing. So, I usually just end up feeling guilty that my effort is a few days too late, doesn’t look like a Pinterest win, or is not quite as organized or helpful as I intended it to be. I made this great plan to try to come up with easy casserole recipes so I could just be ready to go when the next birth or funeral rolled around, and then I finally realized I’m not that girl! I can’t cook that well. I don’t have much free time on my hands. I’m generally awkward with my timing.

So, where does that leave me? Well, let me tell you what I can do: Paperwork. I’m a lawyer for crying out loud. If you have forms that need to be filled out, companies that need to be contacted, big blurbs of legal words that need to be interpreted, stuff that needs to be arranged, I’m your girl! I can research like nobody’s business. So, I’ve finally realized that the best things I have to offer my friends and family are the things I’m good at. And people need those things, too! (Yes, I would love to research setting up a trust for your baby while you eat Susie’s delicious casserole…)

The same is true for you. Whatever kind of friend you are – be that friend! I am blessed 1000 times over to have a diverse enough group of friends and family that somebody in the group has everything covered. I have friends who call and text religiously to just make sure I’m doing ok. They are literally willing to talk and listen until every freaking word about this situation has been said. Twice. I have a few who aren’t as hands on, but are so ride or die that when I call and say I need something, they’re on it. Like when Marcellus sends out “The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction. I have financially savvy friends who have helped me rework my finances so I can hang on to my house as a single mom. My mom isn’t one to have long, emotional conversations, but she sure is letting me, my daughter, and my dog(!) live in her house for a few weeks. If every friend was the same, the benefits of friendship would be limited. So, embrace your strengths as a friend and do the stuff you’re good at. Don’t beat yourself up for not being what someone else is. It’s all needed, and it is ALL appreciated.

Just Say It

I’ve had a lot of trouble opening up about this divorce because I’ve honestly been afraid of the feedback I would get from people. I expect to be judged, even if only through underhanded suggestions or questions about why we didn’t try harder. Honestly, I often feel that way when I hear about other people getting divorced, so why wouldn’t people feel that way toward me?  So, imagine my surprise when I’ve heard several people say to me that they are proud of me for making this decision for myself and for my daughter. It stops me in my tracks every time. It takes my breath away. I wouldn’t do something this drastic if I didn’t think it was the right thing for all of us, but I don’t expect other people to see it that way, and I certainly don’t expect them to say it.

The point of this rambling? To let you know how important it is to say whatever little supportive things you’re thinking to the people you care about. It makes a huge difference. And if you don’t know what to say, but you know something needs to be said, that’s ok, too. Just say something. People aren’t stupid, we’re trained social media specialists, and we can sense when something is off. Many of those people have taken a moment to drop me a message or call just to see if everything is ok. They don’t know what is going on, but they know something is. When I tell them I’m getting divorced, they don’t always know what to say, but they say something. Sometimes it is meaningful and brilliant, other times it’s just letting me know I’m on their mind. When you’re feeling like a fish out of water, those little drops of rain feel like everything.  So, if someone you know is going through something and you’re thinking a thought that you’re debating whether to say, say it. If you’re debating whether to say something at all, say it. You never know when your words give someone the little bit of confidence, love, courage or strength they need to face the day.

What would you add to this conversation? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

12 Tips for Awesome Travel with your Kids

Disclaimer: my posts contain affiliate links, which means I might receive a commission if you click on a link or purchase a product. I only endorse products which I have used and enjoy!

In my last post, I gave you all my best arguments for why I think you should travel with kids. To further convince that you it’s doable, I’ve put together 12 tips for how to make traveling with kids easy and stress free.

Be Prepared. Traveling with kids is not necessarily different than traveling with anyone else. Preparing is the key to ensuring a smooth trip. Here are some essentials for prepared travel with kids:

    1. Children of any age need a passport for international travel. Read up on the State Department’s rules so you don’t waste your time making more than one trip to the passport office.
    2. Look for travel gadgets that make traveling with kids easier. If there is something you’re having a hard time planning around, I guarantee someone else has had this problem and invented a solution. My new favorite is one I learned about from another mom friend. I dread lugging a car sear around a long vacation where I’ll only need it sparingly. This vest offers safety in 1000 times more convenient fashion. I can’t wait to use for my family’s upcoming cruise!
    3. The only time you’ll probably be pressed to entertain your kids is during the “travel” leg of the trip. So, bring stuff to do for the car or plane ride. New toys will entertain them the most.
    4. Research your vacation for kid-friendly amenities. Know what food options are available. Know what kids’ activities are offered. Know the minimum ages for kids to participate in activities so they won’t be left out of things they are looking forward to. Tripadvisor reviews typically offer a ton of behind the scenes advice from other travelers, as well as parent forums. Also consider using a travel agent if this research seems daunting. (Travel agents typically receive their commissions from the companies you book through them,  so you don’t pay them directly for their services.)

Set the Vibe. Your kids will react to your energy. If you’re nervous and stressed, or really worried about how your kids are going to behave, you can guarantee they will act like donkeys. Here are some ways to keep yourself calm, which will in turn add to your kids’ calm:

  1. Tell them and yourself what to expect as you’re moving through the trip. The uncertainty can be unnerving to you all. Letting everyone know what is happening and what is coming next can go a long way in soothing anxiety.
  2. Enjoy the process. Relax and take in what’s going on around you, even if you don’t consider it the “fun” part of the trip. My daughter’s excited “oooooooh!” as the plane lifts off the ground is pure joy for me, and relaxes me into enjoying the anxious parts of take off.
  3. Take your time if you need to. If you think you’re holding other people up, invite them to go around you. We all know that kids move way slower than we do, so giving yourselves the extra time will help you keep your head on straight without getting frustrated with yourself or your kids and losing your cool.
  4. Prepare for the people around you. If you think your baby may cry during a flight, and it may stress you out, consider what you can use as a peace offering to your fellow travelers. Maybe a set of ear plugs with a note and some candy for those seated near you. Chances are, the other travelers won’t be as bothered as you think they will, but you will be calmer feeling like you’ve connected with them a little, and they will undoubtedly appreciate the gesture.

It doesn’t have to break the bank. Adding one or more kids to your travel mix definitely adds up, but you can save money in several places if you’re deal saavy.

  1. Sign your kids up for travel rewards. If you’re paying for them to travel, they are eligible to receive the same travel rewards you are. My 3 year old has her own Delta Skymiles account, so she’s racking up miles just like we are.
  2. Shop for credit card rewards. Many “travel” credit cards will offer a one time or recurring benefit for opening the card. You might get a free companion airline ticket every year with your paid ticket, you might get enough bonus miles or points for a hotel night or plane ticket, etc. Then with every purchase on the card, you earn additional points or miles. I use these often and strategically to plan all my travel. When I’m gearing up for a trip, I will use one of the travel cards to start banking points on a particular hotel or airline.
  3. Familiarize yourself with your airline and hotel offerings for traveling with kids. Some examples? Kids under 1 can usually fly free if you hold them. Most airlines don’t charge you to check a car seat or stroller. You can also check your stroller free at the gate if you want to use it in the airport. Many hotels will provide a roll away crib or pack n play of some sort for free.
  4. Find out if there is a free or reduced price amenity for children under a certain age. This can save you hundreds of dollars when you’re traveling with young kids, from plane fare to park or excursion costs to meals. Many places allow kids under 1, 2, 3 or 4 to participate for free, so always make sure to check a website or ask.

I’ve put together what I consider to be the most important thoughts for traveling with kids, but I know you have more! What tips or questions would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

How to Turn 40 on Your Own Terms

Today is my 40th birthday. If you ask people their thoughts on turning 40, you’re sure to get a lot of strong and varied reactions. Of them all, I think I was the most surprised to hear how much fear and disappointment my own friends expressed when they talked about 40. I heard it in deep conversations about our lives, and I read it in seriousness and in jest when I asked my Facebook friends their thoughts about turning 40. I collected those feelings here, both to honor the struggles of my friends in turning 40, and to find some commonality among us all. I hope that by realizing we’re all in this together, my friends and I can conquer 40, on our own terms, regardless of where we are in our journey.

One of the most common fears people expressed to me about turning 40 was the physical reality of getting older, their bodies falling apart. Some are battling cancer, while others worry more seriously that it’s coming. We are increasingly losing our parents, friends, and the icons of our youth. We still feel young on the inside, but our skin, hair, and bodies look and feel a little older on the outside. We don’t have the time or energy we once had, and it scares us.

With the fear, many expressed disappointment at the realization that they weren’t where they thought they’d be, or that things hadn’t turned out the way they thought they would. Some friends are working at a job that isn’t making the most of their skills or dreams. Others thought they’d be married or have kids by now. Changes have happened that they don’t know how to bounce back from. They don’t know who they are or where they’re going, when they thought they would by now.

The things I loved hearing, though, were people fighting through the fear and disappointment to start living at 40! Some of the most inspiring stories involved people really putting themselves out there when they realized their story wasn’t playing out the way they thought it would.  One friend started practicing law at 40, while another became a nurse. A single, professional gay friend, expecting that he’d have already settled down, found the courage to publicly enter the gay dating scene and met the love of his life. One friend found herself feeling lost as her daughter grew up and neared leaving home. She reinvented herself, starting with her hair, and went back to school. I have friends running their first marathon, or finally losing the weight they’ve been trying to shed for years. People are finding the courage to get pregnant, adopt, or bring “fur babies” into their home, when they thought 40 would look very different than this. Perhaps because they thought 40 would look very different than this.

So, why such different reactions to 40? Having talked to many people, it’s definitely not the absence of fear or disappointment. I think we all have the same fears and disappointments, just about different things. We’ve all loved and lost, gotten some of the things we wanted and sorely missed on others. So from what I’ve seen, the people who are crushing it at 40 are just choosing to do something different about their fears and disappointments.


What does this look like for me? Well, when I was in elementary school, I decided I was going to write a book. I’ve always loved to write. I thought by 40 I’d have that book written. But somewhere along the way, I lost the habit of writing for fun. In college, writing poems turned into writing papers. As a new lawyer, I only wrote legal briefs. In my 30’s, I still wanted to write something else, but I was out of practice, struggling to find the right place or voice to express myself meaningfully about things other than the law. Approaching 40, I feared that I wasn’t devoting enough of myself to following my passions and making an impact. I was disappointed that I hadn’t done more with my personal potential. Writing came to back to my mind. I realized that in blogging, I could do something I loved, that would also help me grow personally. I could share what I was learning along the way with others who might benefit or just enjoy reading. As a result, my blog was my birthday gift to myself! Best. Gift. Ever.

What can this look like for you? It depends. Assess your current base. What fears, troubles, items on your bucket list, or goals are gnawing at the back of your mind? And more importantly, what is holding you back?!  Once you know what direction you want to go, here are ways to get there:

Take Care of Yourself

One of the funny, sad realities of 40 is that we’re generally at home in bed by 10:00, even on the weekend nights. We can view that as yet another indicator that we’re getting old, or we can recognize that that we’re taking care of ourselves! 40 is a great time to get serious about our bodies. We have enough life experience and wisdom to know how to tackle it. We have enough fear of our mortality to have the real motivation to do it. Hopefully, we have more resources and ability.

Love Others

One great lesson people are learning at 40 is gratitude and appreciation for their loved ones. We love our family more fiercely because we’ve learned how important family is. We’ve loved and lost, so we hold on and enjoy the moment. We cry with each other because we know how it feels. Our friendships have weathered the tests of time and the changes of circumstance, so our friends are like family. Really like family. If you worry about losing people or not being around for them, do yourself the favor of giving them your best now.

Be Yourself

So many people expressed to me how old 40 sounds to them, and how they just can’t believe they are turning 40. The people who are making the best of it are wearing that number 40 like a badge of pride. We can take what we’ve learned in these years and allow ourselves to just. be. ourselves. We can let our awareness of time cause us to smell the roses and let go of the bad. To know when to say no and when to say yes. The beauty of finding yourself truly manifests when you find the courage to be yourself and do the things you’ve always wanted to do.

Let your Path Change

The one thing I hope more than all the others, is that we’ll be kind enough to grant ourselves the grace to change our path.  To simply rewrite our story when we realize things aren’t the way we thought they would be. And to write it with love and forgiveness for ourselves and others. We can incorporate the wisdom, humility, gratitude and self-trust we have collected over these years into our new goals. We can abandon the needling opinions of others, or the judgey voices in our heads, for something more compatible with our 40 year old reality. As a result, our new direction will be meaningful, realistic, and kind.

I’m excited about turning 40. For me, each decade has been better than the last. Since 30, my career has grown to include personal and professional freedom. I’ve started a family, so the loneliness I often felt as a young professional has been replaced with busy love. I’ve taken a more active role in my health, and am feeling better than I have in a long time. I’m in a generally good place, but I’m also really ready to grow! Share your thoughts – what did 40 bring for you, or what are you most anticipating about it?

This post also appears on Huffington Post.

Beginner’s Guide to the KY Derby

Disclosure: My posts contain affiliate links, which means I could receive a commission if you click a link or purchase a product. I only endorse products which I have used and enjoyed!

I’ve lived in Kentucky my entire life. I’ve been to the Derby several times, and have celebrated it many more times at parties in people’s homes. I’ve put together some Derby essentials for anyone attending the Derby for the first time or wanting to add some authenticity to their own Derby party. Seasoned Derby goers will also find some great shopping tips, drink recipes, and a brush up on betting.

Fashion for the Gals

When I think of Derby fashion, the first thing that comes to mind is outrageous hats. The point of a Derby hat is to be noticed! Whether you choose something in the smaller fascinator variety or something full scale, be bold in your choice. Wear something that stands out and sets your outfit off. If you haven’t thought about a hat at this point and are actually attending the Derby, there has never been a better time to use your Amazon Prime membership and have Derby hat arrive at your house in 2 days. You simply have to wear one. End of story. If want to add the option of trying them on beforehand, Macys and T.J. Maxx always have a nice, affordable hat variety, too.

Beyond “wear a hat” there is no other real rule for Derby fashion. I would dress for a nice daytime spring or summer wedding, with a mind toward dressing to impress. A great thought for the opportunity to wear something designer without paying the designer price is a service called Rent the Runway. They overnight you a designer dress to rent for an event, costing a small fraction of what you would pay to buy the dress. For a small additional price, you can even add on a backup dress to make sure you get something you like. I used Rent the Runway to attend a formal function last year, and had a great experience. My most fashion-forward friend Kasey introduced me to it, and swears by it! Check out their selection of Derby appropriate dresses, and if you see something you like, you can use this link to get a free backup size or this one to get 20% off your first order.

Me and Kasey Renting the Runway
Me and Kasey Renting the Runway

Drinks

As I’m sure you know, the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. It’s basically a combination of bourbon, sugar water and mint. So, let me be clear, if you don’t like bourbon, you won’t like Mint Juleps! Mint Juleps are sold at the Derby, in a very cool commemorative glass that is updated every year. I don’t like bourbon myself, so the glass is the highlight of the experience, for me. If you’re having a party at your house, you can serve them in their traditional serve wear, a silver Julep Cup.

My bourbon drinking friends tell me that the best Mint Juleps are the ones sold at the Derby, which makes it lucky for you, if you’re trying to replicate it. The Kentucky Derby website  details that the Mint Julep served at the event is Old Forester Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail (which is sold in liquor stores) served with fresh mint and crushed ice. The site also offers the following recipe, if you’d like to make them yourself:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • sprigs of fresh mint
  • crushed ice
  • Old Forester Straight Bourbon Whisky
  • Silver Julep Cups

Make a simply syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Old Forester Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

For those of us who aren’t bourbon drinkers, there is another, newer traditional drink that still fits the occasion. The Kentucky Oaks, which runs at Churchill Downs the day before the Derby, is a similar race for fillies (female horses). The Oaks has become a “celebration of the ladies” with pink décor and a much more palatable pink drink, the Grey Goose Oaks Lily. This drink made its official debut in 2006, though the race itself has been around since 1875. The Lily also comes with a cool souvenir stemless wine glass, and can be easily duplicated using the recipe, also published on the Kentucky Derby website:

  • 1 1/4 oz. Grey Goose vodka
  • 1 oz. sweet and sour mix
  • 1/4 oz. triple sec
  • 3 oz. cranberry juice

Once the ingredients are mixed, place the pinkish cocktail in an Official Oaks Lily glass (stemless wine glass) with crushed ice, add a straw and garnish with a blackberry and a lemon wedge.

Betting

Betting the Kentucky Derby is like any other gambling event. Sometimes people win out of sheer luck, and other times people win because they’ve skillfully studied the field and calculated the odds. You don’t have time to learn those skills and shop for your hat, but you can learn the basic betting lingo so you can sound like you know what you’re doing! Making a bet is made up of a few pieces of key information with specific terms for each :

  • How much you’re betting per horse, per finish
  • What horse(s) you betting on
  • How you want those horses to perform in the race
  • What order you want them to finish in relation to each other

I’ll take these out of order to make more sense of the idea. First, a horse can finish the race in first, second or third place in most betting schemes. These are known in betting speak as win, place, and show. So you can bet on a single horse to either win, to place, or to show. If you think the horse could do any of those, you can bet it to do all three, which is called betting on a horse across the board. You can also place a win/place or a place/show bet.

The minimum bet for these basic bets is $2, but note that your betting amount is multiplied by the number of positions you bet the horse to finish. So, if you bet $2 on a horse across the board, you’re betting $2 for it to win, $2 for it place, and $2 for it show, so your bet would cost $6.

The amount you win back is determined by the odds of the horse winning at the time the race starts (this changes as bets are placed, so watch the screen at the track rather than relying on your paper betting program), how much you bet, and how difficult your bet was. For instance, if you bet a horse to show and it wins, you still get paid back, but because you had 3 chances for the horse to finish, you get less than a person who bet the same horse only to win. To figure out how much you’ll get back on a $2 win bet, multiply your odds by 2, then add $2. You can refer to this cheat sheet, too.

Choosing a single horse to finish a race can pay well if the odds are low that your horse will win. Low odds are reflected in a high number, like 50-1, and people call the low odds horses the long shots. The better opportunity to make a little bit more off your horses comes from what are known as exotic bets. In these scenarios, you group together the horses that you like, in order to choose the horses that will finish in the win, place, and show. If you want to choose just the win and place horses, that is called an exacta. If you want to choose the win, place, and show horses, that is called a trifecta. You can even choose the first four horses to finish in a superfecta.

If you name the horses in your exacta, trifecta or superfecta, they will be taken down in the specific order that you name them, and they have to finish in that order for you to win. If you would like to add the option of the horses finishing in any order, you can box your exacta, trifecta, or superfecta.  The minimum bet for an exacta is $2, for a trifecta is 50 cents, and for a superfecta is often 10 cents. However, keep in mind again that you’re multiplying horses and positions, so these bets can get expensive. My favorite exotic bet is a 10 cent superfecta box. It will cost you $2.40 because you’re betting so many horses in so many options, but it will often pay at least $75 if you win!

So, putting all this together, when you go to make your bet, it should sound something like this: “I’d like to bet (give the race number and the racetrack if you’re not betting on the upcoming race at the racetrack you’re in), $2 on horse 5 across the board.” or “I’d like to bet a $2 exacta box on horses 6 and 8.” You’ll pay and a paper ticket with your bets listed will be handed to you. Check the ticket before you walk away to make sure it is correct, because once you walk away, it’s too late to make changes. If you win, you come back to the betting windows to cash in your tickets.

Hopefully I’ve given you enough information here to participate in some Kentucky Derby fun like you know what’s going on! If you can’t make it to Kentucky, consider having your own Derby party!

 

4 Awesome DIY Updates Under $50

Disclosure: My posts contain affiliate links, which means I could receive a commission if you click a link or purchase a product. I only endorse products which I have used and enjoyed!

I’ve been in my house for a little over 10 years now. I’m at the point where there are lots of things I’d like to replace. The furniture I bought in 2005 is not in style anymore, my daughter is getting bigger and needs better dedicated space to “kid,” and I would like for the adult spaces in my house to feel more current. Unfortunately, I don’t have a million dollars to spend buying all new furniture and redecorating. So, this year my husband and I have been focusing on affordable updates we can make to our home to give it a modern feel without breaking the bank! These are some of the easy, fun projects I’ve been working on this year, with detail about how I did it, what supplies I used, and helpful things I learned that can save you time or money. As you know, I’m a lawyer and mom (and now a blogger), so I don’t have a ton of free time. I’m also not particularly crafty. So, I share these projects with the underlying message that if I can do them, you can certainly do them, too! HUGE BONUS, I didn’t spend more than $50 on any of them!

Crystal Chandelier

DIY crystal chandelier update

 

I want to start with the easiest, and perhaps most visually appealing finish of all, the chandelier in my dining room. The chandelier pictured on top came with my house, as the builder installation. I’ve never thought much about it, until I started tinkering around Pinterest, and seeing the lighting in some of my trendy friends’ houses. I realized I could add some bling and dark lamp shades for a much more updated look pretty easily. I bought this long strand of crystals (which was enough to do this project and the next one and still have a fair amount left over) and these crystal tear drops.

The only other thing I used for this project was a can of black spray paint. I found it much easier and cheaper to paint the lamp shades black than to buy new ones. The painting was probably the longest part of this process, because I had to spray paint, let a coat dry, and then paint again until I got the coverage complete and dark enough. The how-to on the rest of this one was simple. I didn’t even take the chandelier down to decorate it with the crystals. The crystal garland is strung together with removable loops, like what you find on a key ring, so you can make strands any length you need them to be. My chandelier has a large circular loop at the top, so I clipped one end of the garland strand to that loop, ran it down and across base of the electric candle stick, and just back up to the circle. I went around and did this for every candle, so that crystal was going up and down both sides of the candle, hanging at the length I thought looked best. I made sure each garland strand was the same length, so the chandelier would be even. The crystal drops also come with the same loops, so I just hung them off the natural loops of the chandelier. If you’re considering a project like this – my advice is to just work with the design of your chandelier the best that you’re able, in order to minimize your work and keep it simple. You can also change the color of the chandelier itself from gold to silver, or to an any other color easily with spray paint. For maybe an hour’s time and roughly $25, I could not have been happier with how this one turned out.

Crystal Entry Way Light

entry boob light

My entry way hall lighting is another piece that I hadn’t thought much about until doing the same perusing of Pinterest and my more fashionable friends’ home décor that I discussed above. I saw this blog post on Pinterest and followed the instructions exactly for this project. The light on the left above is the original builder grade light in my entry hall. I bought the “boob light” on the top right at the Habitat Restore for $5, since the project required a light with a center piece to link the crystals to, and spray painted it from gold to silver. I used the same strand of crystal garland I bought from the previous project, and still may have enough left over to do one more light. My lesson learned on this project arises from how tedious it was to put small holes all the way around the light and the center piece. Especially the center piece. I used a hammer and nail to put the holes in the light and my husband used a drill to do the ones around the center piece. If I were to do this project over, I think I would skip changing to the “boob light” and just string crystals from one side to the other of the original light (top left). I plan to try this with my remaining crystals, so I will post an update once it’s completed.

Breakfast Table

Collage 2016-05-04 22_01_18

This project was probably the most involved, and the one that I’m still having the hardest time getting right. BUT, the table itself is a hand me down, so I also have nothing to lose in experimenting with this until I get it right. I’m hoping that by learning on some pieces I have nothing invested in and don’t care to potentially ruin, I can learn enough to move on to updating all of my bedroom furniture. This table started off as a black table with matching chairs. My daughter stuck stickers all over it, the surface was worn and chipping from too many wipe downs, and it was just generally an eye sore.

old table

So, I started with the idea of just painting it. I removed all the stickers, and spray painted the table and the chairs gray. No biggie, they turned out pretty well. Although I do have to say, it’s hard to spray paint and not get drips. So, if you take this route, be patient! Spray in light coats over and over, allowing each coat to dry before adding another, and giving yourself sufficient space from the furniture. Patience is not my strong suit, so my furniture has drips. I would be upset if this were a nicer piece. After the spray painting, again drawn in by the lure of Pinterest, I decided to mask some of the drama on the surface by stenciling an intricate design onto it. The design is lovely, but I have lots to say about stenciling that can help you bypass some of my mistakes.

I tried a couple of different paint methods with the stencil. Using regular latex wall paint left the design too thick and peeling.

stencil paint is too thick

Using spray paint left a much more even design, but please observe the following tips meticulously! The stencil HAS to lay totally flat to the surface, or you will end up with this!

stencil not laid flat

I used this stencil adhesive to get a much better result. Also make sure you have every surface around the stencil completely covered before you spray. Spray paint travels horribly. Next, the bigger the stencil, the less you’ll have to repeat the design. This can REALLY speed the pace of a project like this in which you’re having to wait for every design to dry before moving on. Hobby Lobby has some really nice large stencils. Finally, have more than one stencil, especially if you have an intricate design. This allowed me to do different parts of the table while waiting for another area to dry. My stencils also ripped after a few uses, so I had to replace them anyway. Having extras allowed me to keep going without another trip to the store. All in all, this project has a great look, but you should really practice on a throw away surface with the stencils and spray paint if you want to try it out. It is a slow moving project, so give yourself lots of time. Once you get the surface done, you’ll need to coat it with some kind of clear coat (spray paint lacquer does not cover a flat surface like this well, so think brush on here) to give it the protection it will need for every day use.

Playhouse

DIY Playhouse update

Last, but not least, we decided to update a playhouse that we were able to score from our neighbors when they sold their house. The playhouse itself is sturdy, but all the stain and paint were worn and really in need of refreshing. My daughter, like many 3 year old girls, loves all things princess. So, I decided that if I was going to be redoing this thing, I may as well do it in a style that she would love rather than the standard log look with green accents. I consulted with the paint professional at Lowe’s, who advised me that any outdoor paint would work well for this project. I decided on the Valspar Storm Coat and chose a light gray, though it looks more white in the outdoor light. Keep that mind if you use color, and go for something darker than you want so it won’t appear too light in the natural sunlight.

I contemplated sanding or power washing the entire thing, but the cost and effort seemed a little prohibitive. Plus, I sanded a few truly rough spots, and did not see a substantial difference between the sanded spots and the non-sanded spots when I started painting over it.  So I just decided to paint over the whole thing without giving it a full once over. I realize this might not yield the best result in the long haul, but I’m not necessarily going for a professional look here. The paint is much thicker and covers better than a stain would, so sanding to perfection won’t show as much with paint anyway. Once I got started, this was pretty much like any standard painting project. I used a brush for corners and edges, and a short 4″ roller for the planks with no problems. Easy as pie.

I used pink and purple Valspar spray paint for the previously green accents: climbing rocks, handles, and steering wheel. (I’m still considering whether to paint the slide purple or leave it green.) My only real take away is that flat spray paint did much better than glossy for the pink and purple accents. (I used pink glossy and purple flat because that’s all I could find). The flat paint dried quicker and more evenly. So if you can take the time to find the colors you want in flat, you’ll get a better look. If you decide to go with non-traditional colors for you playhouse, also know that Amazon carries a whole host of accessories in every color! These would push the cost of this project over the $50 mark, but would really set off your playhouse if you wanted to take it up a notch or had a gift card to spend.

I hope these projects have your wheels turning about how you can upgrade some of your own outdated pieces on budget. Pinterest is full of great ideas for projects like these. I have tons pinned to my Pinterest boards so feel free to check out ideas I’ve come across and look for others that you like (follow me while you’re there and invite me to follow you!). Get creative and find pieces you can practice on! I’d love to see projects you’ve done or hear what you’ve decided to try…

A Blog is Born!

Family and friends,

I’ve decided to start a blog to collect and share some of the interesting, beautiful, funny, and useful information the world has to offer us. We are all on our journey toward our best selves, so why not share what we find along the way? At the top of the page, you can see the topics that I’m most interested in learning about and sharing with you. With those in mind, what particular  insights would you like to read about on this blog? Thanks for your support!