40/10 Day 7: Brain Food



via Pinterest

Books!!!   I love getting lost in stories and images, and I can easily do so to the exclusion of nearly everything else.  Sleeping, eating, acknowledging the presence of others – all are weak competition for the page.  They are my favorite form of entertainment, because there’s so much more to it than watching someone else’s interpretation, like in a movie or on television – my brain actually has to turn on and engage and be part of the narration and the soundtrack.  There is an element of creative cooperation when reading the words of others that not only entertains me, it feeds my mind, and inspires me to work at improving my own writing.

This time of year I usually find myself a bit philosophically buried in heavy subject matter, reading-wise, but I very deliberately chose these books for this season because I all contribute mightily to developing creativity, and appreciating beauty and well-being.  Not insignificantly I happen to own all of them, though about half of them have yet to be opened.  Those that have are favorites and I’m looking forward to revisiting them not only because I enjoy them, but because I usually find something new in them with each re-read.


40 days of 10 books

  1. The More of Less, Joshua Becker
  2. My Life in France, Julia Child
  3. French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano
  4. Wheat Belly, William Davis MD
  5. Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster
  6. 48 Days to the Work You Love, Dan Miller
  7. Be Your Own Decorator, Susanna Salk
  8. Interiors, Nina Campbell
  9. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  10. A Room with a View, E.M. Forster

I want to get through these before the end of March so I won’t stop to review them all in depth right now.  If you’ve read any of them I’d love to know if you like them and why, and I always appreciate a suggestion for my “to read” list!

With love and optimism –



I used Amazon links for convenience, but I am not an affiliate.


40/10 DAY 6: Take Care


via Pinterest

I have not done a good job of keeping myself up (hence the exercise and weight loss goals discussed here).  There are fitness maintenance realities at 50 that simply weren’t issues at 30, and that simply cannot be ignored.  Additionally, working from home is both a blessing and a curse, for the exact same reason: No one ever sees me.  I don’t really have to go anywhere, and when our kids are home it’s rare that they ever actually look at me.  While I own a closet full of very nice clothes, I dress in tennis clothes about half the time, and the other half is worse –  yoga pants, painting clothes, etc…at least the tennis clothes are coordinated and kind of spiffy.

I recently stepped up my game and ordered these cute t-shirt dresses (5 of them) after admiring the fashionable Janet wearing hers.  They are simple but I think it’s a step in the right direction, and they’re certainly going to be a great backdrop for accessories.  They have the added benefit of being 100% cotton and a very wearable weight – not so heavy that they’re hot, but not so light that they won’t hold their shape.  I’m looking forward to experimenting with them and will let you know what I come up with.

While a new t-shirt dress is a start, I decided that I really need to do a little adulting and be more purposeful with regard to my health and my appearance, so naturally I made a list!


  1. SCHEDULE ANNUAL WELLNESS APPOINTMENTS – well woman, mammogram, dermatologist, physical – no excuses, stop being a baby
  2. EXERCISE DAILY, CONTINUE LOW CARB EATING – add a journal to chart weight and blood pressure
  3. TAKE SUPPLEMENTS DAILY – B, C, and D, magnesium, zinc, calcium, turmeric, milk thistle, lions mane, and l-lysine.  That’s a LOT, but I genuinely feel better, and sleep better, when I take all of them regularly.
  4. BEDTIME ROUTINE, PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE – put myself to bed on time and eliminate night time screen watching (read a book!)
  5. MORNING ROUTINE – starting off centered and organized
  6. MAKE APPOINTMENTS FOR HAIR AND NAIL CARE – a put-together appearance  requires time, money, and occasionally pain, but it is so worth it
  7. SCHEDULE REGULAR SOCIAL APPOINTMENTS WITH FRIENDS – once a month – I already have a March girls weekend on the calendar
  8. SCHEDULE REGULAR DATE NIGHT WITH HUSBAND – once a month will work, and it doesn’t have to be an over the top production.  Just some couple time.
  9. SCHEDULE NON-WORK CREATIVE TIME – sketch book, photo albums, cooking class, etc
  10. WRITE A PERSONAL NOTE, ONCE A WEEK, TO A FRIEND OR ACQUAINTANCE – Beautiful stationery is something I enjoy collecting, because it’s meant to be used – I love writing letters as an exercise in gratitude.  It’s a good practice for staying in touch and to let people know that I appreciate them.  Very handy when the self-care I need is to take the focus OFF of me.

I have to remind myself that self-care isn’t selfish, nor should it be negotiable.  It’s okay to not be a fashion plate, but it’s not okay to be constantly disheveled and definitely not okay to neglect oneself to the point of ill health.  Much like making the bed, and doing the dishes, these little patterns are what contribute so mightily to the big picture of contentment.  It’s easier to be happy and healthy when I purpose to be so.

With love and optimism –



Cindy at Rough Luxe offers helpful ideas on mature skin care and makeup choices that are not astronomically expensive

Better Vitamin C – I ordered this one that I learned of from Paloma at   La Dolce Vita.  Her site is fantastic and I regularly find style inspiration there.








40/10 DAY 5: What I learned from Julia Child


I have always loved Julia Child.  We didn’t have great television reception way back in the dark ages before the digital alchemy took over, and our local public television station was on one of two channels that would come in clearly at our house.  We watched a lot of cooking shows, but my favorite was, and is, Julia.  Certainly for the food, but that’s just the beginning – her exuberance, her sincerity, and her determination all spoke of a life well explored and well lived.

I finally got around to reading her memoir about her love of cooking and her husband, and life in general,  My Life in France , and I found it both terrific reading and extraordinarily educational.  My natural list making tendency quickly sorted my take-aways into a little outline (what a surprise).  If I were to compose a mission statement for myself, for the remainder of the time I hope to spend here on Earth, this is pretty much what it would look like.


  1. “I’m too old” is a bullshit cop out excuse for just about everything
  2. be intensely curious about others, be interested
  3. go places, see things, and embrace the culture not just the sights
  4. invest in quality ingredients and equipment
  5. there is no way around hard work when developing technique
  6. write things down
  7. produce something useful and share it
  8. practice being approachable
  9. be careful with your stomach
  10. be grateful for your husband and for love

In my effort to reduce the sheer number of unnecessary things taking up space in our house, I worked through the shelves and culled a small box of books to donate.                     My Life in France ended up on the top of the stack.  I’ve already read it, and it’s not likely anyone else here will choose to.  It stared at me for a couple of days awaiting its trip to the thrift store and I’m glad, just this once, that I pulled something out to keep.  I am going to read it again (hint at a future post), and even though it is available as a free pdf or on Audible, I’m sure – it’s just not the same as holding the book in my hands, trying to stay awake for just one more chapter.

I love a good memoir – if there are any you found particularly compelling, please share (except that I’m deliberately avoiding all politicians and their writing, so I won’t be reading those).

With love and optimism – Oh, and toujours bon appétit!



I am also a huge fan of Ina Garten – her relaxed manner is so encouraging and engaging,  I imagine she inspires lots of people to cook and entertain.


I linked to Amazon for the book description, etc, but I’m not an affiliate, and they have no idea who I am.







(NOT my creation, from What’s Gaby Cooking?)

Short and sweet – a list of things we keep around for a quick cheese board – we have this for dinner every couple of weeks, sometimes accompanied by a salad or a simple soup.  It makes a great light lunch or picnic, contribution to a friend’s get-together, etc., and is made up of things we have on hand for other dishes.

  1.  Olives, usually Greek and giant green
  2. cheese and cheese spread assortment, usually 4 or 5
  3. artichoke hearts
  4. olive oil, herbed butter
  5. assorted cured meats
  6. good mustard
  7. fig preserve or jam and/or good honey
  8. celery and carrot sticks, apple slices, cucumber rounds
  9. a soft bread and a cracker, maybe a breadstick
  10. nuts/seeds/dried fruit/dark chocolate

You could use half of these and still have a nice assortment, or add personal or seasonal favorites at your pleasure.  Deviled or pickled eggs, smoked fish, cherry tomatoes – those find their way onto our tray on the regular.

Simple to prepare, pretty to look at, healthful and enjoyable to eat.  Suitable.

With love and optimism,



Mary Ann at classic.casual.home did a great post/mini-tutorial on party platters, and really I find all of her entertaining ideas inspirational.

This Kid Friendly Charcuterie board is a terrific way to keep the youngsters at parties and holiday celebrations well fed in fine style.  Goldfish!


40/10 Day 3: THE MIDDLE




(usually me)

Specifically the middle of my body that is much larger than it should be.

Without going into the details of all the medical why’s – we could, but I’m fairly certain information isn’t the problem, and for all the reading and research I’ve done I haven’t shed an ounce – I decided to devise an action plan.   Shedding 10 of my unwanted passenger pounds over this same span of 40 days that I’ve committed to shedding lots of things I’d be happier without is one aspect, but also to be able to use some of the clothes I’ve invested in over many years that I truly enjoy wearing, but in my current state of pudginess I don’t get the pleasure.


While I am horrified by what passes as nutrition or even a decent meal in our modern world, I’m not here to endorse any one way of eating other than what works for me personally.  I have had the most reliable success using an approach that looks a lot like old school Atkins, with the highest quality ingredients I can afford.  The full-on ketogenic diet doesn’t really agree with me – as much as I love fat, eating as much fat as keto calls for leaves me feeling greasy and sluggish, which suggests to me I don’t have the thyroid or gall bladder at this point to keep it up (I might try it again, sort of ease into this time).   I can’t do Paleo, because I don’t like coconut oil or sweet potatoes (I know, I know), and the points systems – yikes – I’m way too much of a rebel.  I would lose my sense of humor in a hurry.  Atkins is suitable for my family –  proteins, lots of greens and vegetables, moderate fat – with just a few carb tweaks for the appetites and calorie demands of active growing teenagers.  It keeps us eating healthfully a strong 90% of the time.


Something, everyday, for 40 days.  I love to play tennis, so that usually covers a couple of days a week, sometimes as many as four, and I have two dogs who could use a lot more walks before the weather gets too hot for it to be comfortable for them.  Weights and yoga on rainy days or when being in the A/C is in order.   These are simple and straightforward, and I don’t have to buy or sign up for anything new.  I just have to show up.

There is a rumor that I have ridden a horse or two during my life, and I can’t express how much I miss doing that – I’m not sure I’ll be in a position schedule wise to incorporate regular rides within this time frame, but it’s part of the plan for 2018, NO EXCUSES!

It’s important that I keep my “plan” very simple, because as I’ve probably mentioned a time or ten before I’m prone to over-planning and over-scheduling, and set myself up to fail in the doing.  Simple doesn’t mean easy, but it renders the excuses a lot less convincing.  I have a lot more than ten pounds to lose, but it’s a nice round number and a decent place to start, and wedges nicely into my

I would love to know how fitness fits into your life, and what you’ve done to make it a top priority.

With love and optimism –



The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin offers insights into four personality types, and who doesn’t love a good quiz? Her Happier podcast is fun, too.

Mark’s Daily Apple – there are so many good fitness and nutrition spaces these days, but this is the one I keep returning to.  Friendly, encouraging suggestions and a nice community.  I especially like the approaches to exercise and “play”.






40/10 DAY 2: HELL YEAH or no




The Master of Disciplined Editing – Darryl Carter

On Day One of this little series,  I was all lecture-y about giving some order to household chaos by maybe throwing away a newspaper or two, and shredding the utility bills from 1998, that sort of thing , because it really does help give a fresh perspective on a space and abates the mental clutter if decisions need to be made about a fresh coat of paint or a to-the-studs full gut renovation.  You just never know about these things.  But having a clear field of vision is the best place to start.

For day two, let’s consider the idea of letting things go.  Clutter is created by more than just stuff that belongs in the trash. Sometimes really nice things cause more problems than junk because – well – nice things are nice!  There are issues of sentimentality, dollar value, MODS (maybe one day syndrome), unrealistic expectations –  suitability (there’s that pesky word again).  You can go from “carefully curated eclectic decor” to “that person needs to have a garage sale” in a single visit to an antiques market.  As a decorator/stylist/creative-ish person, editing is the skill I most admire, and the one I work the hardest to perfect.  Anyone can learn the traditional principles and elements of design – it’s not rocket surgery, and the very nature of interior decorating is sharing your work, so excellent examples of all sorts of styles from myriad gifted and generous designers are just a click away.

What you can’t necessarily learn from a photo – what isn’t so easy – is the delicate art of restraint, of saying when, and stop, and no.

This is not a call to minimalism – unless you want to be a minimalist in which case go right ahead on – only a gentle suggestion that if you feel like you have a bunch of stuff that you can’t seem to make visual or practical sense of, it could very well be that you simply have too much stuff.  It’s worth considering, right?  Most of us have too much stuff and it can be a barrier to creating the calm and inspiring space we need to be our most productive, or to be able to relax for one flipping minute.

I won’t go into the various methods that are all the hype just now – I’m telling you if I sat there and hugged everything I owned trying to decide whether or not I should let it go, I would either keep all of it, because I wouldn’t own it if I didn’t like it, and/or fall asleep by the third item because it would take hours as I daydreamed of all the brilliant ways I will never, ever actually use it.

My favorite method is the “HELL YEAH or no!” decision making process*.  If you can’t say HELL YEAH, I want that __________ , full stop – then it’s a definite no – out it goes.  Sold, donated, gifted, trashed, whatever, but it is out of your house and your life and you don’t look back.  Start with what’s easy – old craft supplies, the because-it-was-on-sale store bought accessories, broken things – and then move on to the things that can be a bit harder, like the maybe someday category, the duplicates, your kids artwork, etc.  Throwing things out and donating them aren’t the only options – if you need new shoes or eye glasses or whatever, selling a few of your nice (at someone else’s house) pieces is a great way to offset the expense of things that will better serve you, and might make it easier to let go.

Edit ruthlessly.  Do it now.  Even if it’s a five square foot area, commit to winnowing it to the bare bones (the pantry, the fridge, the broom closet are all legit places to start, by the way, and have the advantage of being self contained) –

and repeat to yourself:

HELL YEAH!!!! or no. 

At the end, you’ll be many steps closer to the lovely, suitable space you’re shopping for.

*The “HELL YEAH or no” practice is applicable to nearly every scheduling matter or material thing – it is life changing

and as for the 10:



  1. two mini Springform pans – donated
  2. a cookie tin and platter leftover from Christmas baking – donated
  3. thin/stained dish towels and napkins – repurposed for general cleaning
  4. canned sardines – donated (I just can’t eat them, I tried)
  5. vintage Henkel maple knife block – posted for sale
  6. set of 12 silverplate knives from a mismatched set – posted for sale
  7. set of 12 vintage Hilton Hotel silver spoons – posted for sale
  8. bag of plastic grocery bags – recycled
  9. out of date spices (like by years)  – thrown out
  10. several dozen egg cartons – bagged and ready to take to my friend who keeps hens



  1. pair of lanterns – posted for sale
  2. small Chinoiserie cabinet – posted for sale – SOLD
  3. small tabletop cabinet – posted for sale – SOLD
  4. outdoor fire kettle used for plants – posted for sale
  5. wall mount corner cabinet – posted for sale
  6. pair of landscape paintings – posted for sale
  7. glass lamp – posted for sale
  8. accent table – posted for sale
  9. builder grade chandelier – posted for sale
  10. vintage wooden porch columns – posted for sale


Happy weekend, sweet friends!

With love and optimism –




40 DAYS OF 10 Day 1: Shine it Up


(From the kitchen at Gray Gardens)

I love this season – the tension between the fading winter and the coming of spring.  It’s a natural time to consider our surroundings and make plans for improving a garden or painting a room.  It reminds us that warmer weather is around the corner, and feeling good and enjoying the outdoors require we pay more attention to our physical health.  It’s also a great time for list making and brain storming and lurching madly towards home improvement and self improvement overwhelm.  The swirl of ideas and motivation has spurred me to start a little series…10 ideas a day, for 40 days, focusing on encouraging creativity and curiosity and well being in our own corners of the world…

DAY 1: SHINE IT UP! – or – don’t hire a decorator when what you need is a dust cloth

I’ve worked with clients who find themselves feeling dull and uninspired by their homes, and they think that spending lots of money on new things is the only way to make any improvement.  While it could well be that new furniture is in order or a that carpet should be replaced, my first request is always – ALWAYS –

Give the place a good cleaning so you can really see what you’ve got!

I know – this seems so basic, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to let these things slip in the course of the day to day.  The dining room turned homework station, the mudroom that is still housing the Christmas wreath, the dust on the window sill in the guest room you can write your name in, the projects spilling out of your office and onto every flat surface in the place (me, right now) – none of these things are criminal, but they can leave you feeling less than fantastic about where you live.  Fortunately, it’s easy enough to fix – like most simple things, though, getting off the mark is HARD when you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions.  But let me be the one who tells you – and myself – you’re worthy of a happy livable space.  It’s a righteous endeavor to improve it.  It’s an act of gratitude to care for your things.  And it doesn’t have to cost a cent.


  1. make your bed, open up window coverings and let in some light
  2. thoroughly clean all bathrooms/lavatories, and the kitchen sink
  3. vacuum carpets and mop the kitchen floor
  4. clean windows inside and out
  5. organize clothes closets
  6. declutter flat surfaces and return out of place items to their proper spots
  7. file or shred paper clutter, remove or store away newspapers and magazines
  8. polish woodwork and mirrors
  9. dust blinds, fans, and light fixtures
  10. fill nail holes, touch up paint

Even if you outsource the broom and rag parts of homekeeping, there are things that only you, the owner of all the stuff, can do in order to evaluate the honest state of your living space.  Closets, paper clutter, unedited collections, etc – deal with these things first, and it becomes clear what needs improvement and what was merely hidden or being used improperly, and proceed from there.

I do this myself, in my own house, anytime I get the shopping itch, thinking that adding something new will magically transform my stale and cluttered post-holiday house into something inspired and inspiring. The real magic is that almost without fail what really needs to happen is things need to go, rather than anything new needing to be purchased.  Funny how that works.

So, I’m off to sort a closet – I would love to hear your spring cleaning, wellness, and decorating plans!

With love and optimism –



The 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge started this week at White House Black Shutters.  I only made it to 14 bags last year – but they were huge contractor bags – 14!  That was all stuff I either didn’t need, didn’t want, or couldn’t use.  Bonkers.  I’m taking a slightly different approach this year, but I highly recommend the 40/40 challenge.  It’s an eye-opener, for sure.

I’m doing 40 days of 10, because I love a theme.  10 items a day, either discarded, donated, gifted, returned, or sold, for 40 days.  That’s 400 things.  400.  I wish about 50 of them could be pounds, but that’s for another post….