Monthly Archives: May 2011

The art of a nap

Among the best things in life is a relaxing, refreshing nap.

Remember when our babies would wake from a nap? Both of mine would wake from a nap all happy and sweet, their cheeks rosy and the hair on the back of their necks damp and curly. We used to make our babies take naps because we knew that sleep is good for them. If they got cranky, the best remedy was to put them down for a nap.

As adults, we don’t take enough naps. I think the business world should embrace naps and allow employees a 30-minute nap time each day. It certainly would make the world a better place.

When you do have the opportunity to take a nap, you should make sure that you make the effort to take a quality nap. What’s the difference between a nap and a quality nap? Well in my opinion a whole lot.

If you just take a regular nap, on the sofa, in a recliner or even on your bed, you are apt to experience a ho-hum nap. Sure you might have caught a few Zs, but a quality nap requires just a bit more preparation. A quality nap will leave you feeling rested, rejuvenated and offers a needed sense of well being.

Quality naps involve three things: time, comfort and calm.

First off time. You have to have the time for a nap and plan for the time you will need to take a nap. A good nap should last 20 to 60 minutes. Any more than 60 minutes and you may go into a deep sleep and could wake up feeling groggy and disoriented. Save deep sleeping for night-time. The perfect time for a nap may vary from day to day. It could be that you can plan to nap for 30 minutes of your lunch hour. It may be that the only time you can nap is on weekends, so be sure to plan the time for your nap. On Saturdays, I generally plan for a nap about 4 to 5 p.m. On Sundays, I like to nap after lunch.

Second of all, a quality nap requires comfort. I have a settee in my office that I used to use for napping. However it was awfully uncomfortable. I’d have to squish up and I’d often wake up with a crick in my neck. Plus it’s in my office, where I’m apt to think jump up to take a call or answer an e-mail. 

As well, I don’t recommend that you nap in your bedroom. That’s where I sleep at night, and if I nap there, I’m apt to sleep too long. My perfect nap room is our guest room, which I have purposely made nap ready. When I go into the guest room to take a nap, I lie on the bed but I don’t pull down the covers. I have a nap blanket that is just the right weight for napping. I push the pillow shams aside and use a firm pillow covered in an ultra soft pillow case. I switch on the ceiling fan so the temperature is just right. I shut the blinds and sometimes, if it’s really bright outside, I will close the curtains as well.

Calm is the third element of a good nap. The environment in which you have to nap is important to the quality of the nap. Now some people can nap with the television on or the radio playing soft music. I cannot take a quality nap with either of these on, especially the television. While I might doze while watching the television, a quality nap cannot be had with the television on, or even muted. I find when I take a nap with the television on, I wake up a lot and tend to hear what’s being said on the television. So it’s important to have a nap space that is calm. I prefer the whir of the ceiling fan. Before I nap, I like to do a couple of simple stretching exercises — reaching my arms to the ceiling and getting up on my tip toes as well as bending down to touch my fingers to my toes. It’s also nice to do a neck and shoulder roll before climbing into the bed for a nap. The goal is to assure a calm, comfortable place for a nap. I use the guest room because the living room couch is too busy a place. There’s nothing worse than having the time for a quality nap and to have it interrupted. Find a place that’s calm, cool and comfortable.

There’s one more thing about preparing for a quality nap and that’s what you should wear during a nap. I generally nap in the clothes I’m wearing for the day, most likely work-out clothes or sweats. Any type of binding clothing or too much clothing can hamper your nap. I know some people who keep a t-shirt and soft pair of shorts or pajama pants under the pillow of their nap room. Again, it’s all about comfort.

I generally don’ t have to set an alarm clock when it comes to napping. I usually fall asleep quickly and wake up 30 to 40 minutes later feeling refreshed and relaxed. To take a quality nap, you may have to work on relaxing your mind and calming your thoughts. I can generally do this through relaxed breathing and visualizing a place that is secure, safe and peaceful. Prayer is also a good prelude to a nap. Whatever it takes, you have to figure a way to let go, banish your worries and  rest your mind so that that soft sleepy feeling can take over.

I will write more about naps in future posts. I never knew there was so much to say about a nap.

The Gift Closet

There are so many fragrances and these never burn black. I like them because they are made in Tyler too, where I was born.

One of my favorite things to do is give gifts. I just love the feeling of giving someone something that they want, that they wouldn’t buy for themselves, that they don’t expect. When I go to a friends’ home for dinner, I try to take a little something — perhaps a wine cork, a small pot of flowers, a candle, a pretty kitchen hand towel, even a pack of seeds.

Every time I’m out shopping, I find little things that are suitable hostess gifts, birthday gifts, hospitality gifts, etc. Most of the time I purchase these little things and stick them in my “gift closet.”

Well actually it’s not a closet just for gifts. It’s a closet in my office where there’s a little shelf on which I put these little treasures until I need one of them to give to a neighbor who has put our paper on our porch when we’ve been gone or to give to a co-worker who helped me with a tough project. It’s amazing how people are so happy when you give them a small gift to thank them for being a part of your life.

To me, giving a gift is a gift in itself. (Wow that’s a strange-sounding sentence.) I just love to gift people. It just feels good.

For my daughters, while they were in college, I always kept an open box in my gift closet and filled it with stuff they might need or want. Back then, we called it a care package. They seemed to really love receiving my (sometimes weekly) care packages. The week before finals I’d send them a box filled with highlight markers, snacks, post-it notes, a cute pair of pajama shorts, hoop ear-rings and the like.

I remember one year Oldest Daughter was in college and it was raining all the time. She told me she was ruining her shoes in the mud and was wishing for some rubber boots. (We called them galoshes when I was young — isn’t that a great word, galoshes?) That afternoon Younger Daughter and I found the perfect pair at Marshall’s and rushed home to box them up and send them to her. I didn’t have one box large enough to fit them in so I sent them in two separate boxes — a boot in each box. She told me about opening the first box and seeing the one boot. Her roommate asked, “Why would your Mom send you one boot?” Of course my daughter knew the second package contained a second boot.

You can often find a cocktail recipe book or bartender guide for $3 or $4 at Marshalls, Ross or T J Maxx.

I’ve pretty much had a gift closet ever since getting married. We received a few duplicate wedding gifts, and rather than go to the trouble to take them back, I just put them in a closet and gave them as wedding gifts when that occasion would arise. When the girls were in pre-school and grade school, it seemed like we went to a birthday party a week. So rather than go buy a gift for each party, I’d just go buy six Candy Land games, six Barbie dolls, etc. and put them in the closet so there would always be a gift ready for the next party. You can save a lot of money this way if you catch toys on sale. You will spend more if you are rushing in to buy a gift before a party than if you have one in the closet ready to give. (Also, the girls would often get duplicate gifts for their birthdays and so often I’d re-gift the duplicates, making sure not to give it to the child who gave it.)

I’m also an advocate of what I call “signature gifts.” This is the gift you always give for certain occasions. For instance, when the girls were in high school, for all their guy friends at graduation, we gave them a monogramed laundry bag and a little basket filled with detergent, dryer sheets and quarters. For the girls, I found really nice down throws on which I had their names monogrammed (in their college colors). For 21st birthdays, I always gave the kids a book titled “2001 Cocktails” and a box of martini glasses or cute highball glasses. The books were often sold at Marshalls or TJs and I’d stock up on them. Sometimes they were as little as $3 each. Just about all the kids in the neighborhood have turned 21 so I’ve quit stocking that signature gift. Now it seems I’m giving baby gifts. As of late, my signature gift is silverware sets for babies/children. I just bought three sets on Amazon for $14.95 each. I pair them with a pink or blue bib.

Look on the sale table at Anthropologie for interesting hand towels.

At Christmas, Youngest Daughter told me that the magazine she works for had an article about assembling a gift closet for Christmas hospitality gifts. That’s such a good idea. In November of each year I start buying decorative pumpkins to give to my friends and neighbors as gifts. Then in late November I start stocking my gift closet with holiday-themed gifts — hand towels, pot holders, candles, beautiful ornaments, serving dishes, etc. Following are some of my “go to” gifts.

Hospitality/Hostess gifts

1. Tyler’s candles

2. Wine cork

3. Scented soap

4. Coasters

5. Small plates or bowls for serving appetizers, olives, nuts, etc. (Pier One is a great place for these sorts of gifts. Last fall I found these great little plates shaped like vegetables — a tomato, green pepper and yellow pepper. You can find fall-leaf shaped bowls/plates in the fall months.)

6. Small bag of seeds. (This spring, Target offered a little burlap bag of seeds. One was a butterfly garden and one was a wildflower garden.)

7. Hand towel, cups, dishes from Anthropologie (you can find all sorts of neat gifts in their sale rooms)

8. A cute pot in which you plant basil, mint or rosemary

9. A set of fun wine glasses/martini glasses

10. A couple of cute votive candle holders with votive/ tea lights.

For sweet little toddler hands.

For sweet little toddler hands. These are made by Oneida.

11. Silverware

12. Bibs (seven — one for every day of the week)

13. Goodnight Moon book with a pair of mittens

14. Bath toys and hand puppet scrubbers

15. The Polar Express with a silver bell (at Christmas)

What is a Frenemy?

Apparently, we need to add the word “frenemy” to our ever-increasing modern dictionary. It describes a number of situations — someone who is a friend but also a rival. Someone who you hang out with but you don’t really like. Someone who you like to be around in some situations, but not in others (i.e. I like her when it’s just us girls but not when we’re around guys.)

When I was a kid, I remember my Mom saying “With friends like these, who needs enemies.” It’s an old English proverb that essentially applies when friends act like enemies. I guess today those friends would be frenemies.

I really don’t need any frenemy in my life. If I have a friend who treats me badly, well, I don’t have any friends who treat me badly because I don’t hang out with people who treat me badly.

On occasion I will realize that I have not been a good friend to a friend. When it hits me, my heart hurts. Maybe it’s not returning a phone call or not doing something I said I would do. I always try to make amends because good friends should be treasured.

I guess, technically, I’ve had some frenemies in my life, when I was younger, but not any more. I like to keep my energies focused on good things. And if I had a frenemy, I’d want to know what the problem was and try to fix it.

I just saw the movie “Something Borrowed.” It’s being described as a movie about frenemies. I’d say it’s more like “With friends like these, who needs enemies.”

Mother’s Day reflections

Mother’s Day made me think about my Mom. But missing her is something I do everyday. Most of the time, it’s not that bad, just wishing I could talk to her or share something funny with her, or ask her how to do something simple like get a stain out of a shirt or sewing advice or just to chat about the Royal Wedding. 

Sometimes, though, in a random moment, I will miss my mom so badly that my eyes burn and fill with tears, my stomach churns and I feel a momentary wave of physical pain. There’s usually a trigger that causes this emotion — a song, a flower blooming, a memory that pushes itself to the front of my brain. In these moments, I have to take a deep breath and squelch it, hold my breath, look away.  Most of the time I can wave it off. Sometimes I can’t, and there I am trying to maintain composure as tears streak down my cheeks. Thank God for sunglasses. Sometimes I can quickly fumble for them and get them on my face before anyone notices.

It’s been almost two years since she died and I still find myself with the nano-second thought, “I need to call Mom.” And then it hits me that she really did die.

But each day that passes I am better. I realize the wonderful things she taught me and how valuable those lessons are to me. While I will never have the talent she had for painting, sculpting, sewing and luring plants to grow, I do have at least a thimble full of her wisdom, and I can emulate her love and pass it on. Through her love and incredible energies, I am able to love my husband and our daughters with every ounce of my soul.

A few weeks ago, a neighbor who is a young mom of three children, showed me the new addition on their house. “Don’t mind the furniture and how everything is arranged,” she said. “My Mom is coming in a few weeks, and once she’s here she will show me how to arrange everything and get everything in the right place.”

Thankfully I had my sunglasses on my head, so I could quickly pull them over my eyes to squelch the tears. I remember when I relied on my mom for the same thing — to come into my house and perform the “Mom’s touch” thing she was so good at doing. Sometimes she’d just change how the pillows on the couch were arranged or re-do the mantle or re-pot my plants. She made drapes for my bedroom, helped me redo the kids’ rooms and showed me how “free-styling” worked. She would always say, “Now if you don’t like this, you can change it back when I leave.” Rarely did I change a thing. Her ability to make something out of nothing, to change the look and feel of a room, were amazing to me.

Late on the Sunday afternoon of Mother’s Day, after Oldest Daughter had left for Dallas, Sweet Husband and I took a long walk. As we were crossing the bridge over the dry creek and about to take on the hill up to our house, we ran into the young mom and her mom. The young mom was pushing her daughther in a stroller. The Mom was walking beside her grandson. 

We had met her before, and so as we chatted, I asked, “So did you help your daughter get the new family room all arranged?” She smiled. “It’s such a beautiful room.”

I then recounted how her daughter had told me how anxious she was for her Mom to come and work her magic on the room. I could see how much she enjoyed hearing this and knowing how much her daughter valued her traveling several hours to help her with her house.

When my mom would come work her magic inside my house, I would watch and learn. I studied her as she sewed and I learned so much about this now lost art. She taught me how some things are just trial and error. You do it wrong, you rip out the seam, then you sew it again right. She bought me my first hot glue gun, back when no one had a hot glue gun. I still have it. Is there such a thing as an antique hot glue gun?

There were many things Mom tried to teach me that just didn’t stick. Like folding fitted sheets. Mom could fold them like they had just come out of the package.

But Mom did teach me about hot to make a home more homey. I learned to sew and made my daughters award-winning Halloween costumes. And Mom would be so proud of me, even though I knew that my sewing abilities didn’t hold a candle to hers. She was proud that I had learned from her and that we had these things in common.

I guess what I miss most about Mom is how she made me feel, how she made a room feel, how she made our family feel. She had so much love and she gave it so well. I will spend the rest of my days aspiring to do that.

There’s an old saying: A mother holds her children’s hands for a while, their hearts forever. That about sums it up for me.

Oh Baby!

The Gerber baby…

Well it’s that time of the year when the Social Security Administration releases the top baby names for the year. Before I looked at the list, I said to myself: I bet Emily is on the list of girls. Yep. I was right.  Here are the names and my totally random comments.

Boys
1. Jacob (while I haven’t read the Twilight books, I’m supposing this name is even more popular due to this character.)
2. Ethan (I like Ethan Hawke.)
3. Michael (yawn)
4. Jayden (Will Smith’s son’s name. Cute.)
5. William (As in Prince William — please don’t call him Billy)
6. Alexander (If you are going to call him Alex, name him Alex?)
7. Noah (There are many Biblical names this year. Aside from the guy who built the Ark, the name Noah makes me think of the movie The Notebook, which makes me think of the cute actor who plays him, Ryan Gosling.)
8. Daniel (Do not call him Danny. Please.)
9. Aiden (I like this name. I liked the character named Aiden in Sex in the City. Carrie should have married him.)
10. Anthony (yawn)
Girls
1. Isabella (I think this is due to those vampire books again. It’s cute though.)
2. Sophia (Not one of my favorite names. It could be shortened to Sophie, which would just be wrong.)
3. Emma (Goodness this has been up there for a long time, ever since Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel, on Friends, named her baby Emma. I guess now there is a young star — maybe in the Harry Potter or those Vampire movies — named Emma. And maybe another popular, young actress.)
4. Olivia (My niece is named Olivia. A neighbor kid is named Olivia. It’s an elegant, vintage name that is now popular again. Just don’t call the child Libby. Please.)
5. Ava (I like this name a lot. It’s elegant.)
6. Emily (There may just be one too many girls named Emily these days.)
7. Abigail (This is a strong name but it would bother me if it was shortened to Abby.)
8. Madison (I like this name a lotbut I also see a lot of dogs named Madison.)
9. Chloe (Not there for me. One of my girls had a Cabbage Patch doll named Chloe.)
10. Mia (This is a newcomer to the list apparently. I like Mia brand shoes. The only other Mia I can think of is Mia Farrow.)

Something to celebrate!

In Texas, it’s a huge day for bars and restaurants. College kids are generally taking or finishing final exams on this day, so that age group celebrates the day with gusto. Also, I noticed in Time Magazine, a list of the Top 10 Drunkest Holidays in the US. While I’ve never seen such a list, it reminds me of the annual Top Party Schools list compiled each list. ED went to a school that often makes that list. YD went to a college that probably has never made the list, but it might in the coming years as it’s sports victories increase!

All that aside, here is Time’s list of the Top 10 Drunkest Holidays. Some of them are surprising.

1.      New Year’s Eve

2.      St. Patrick’s Day

3.      Thanksgiving Eve (this was surprising to me)

4.      Cinco De Mayo

5.      Purim (Jewish Mardi Gras, apparently)

6.      Derby Day (really?)

7.      Fourth of July

8.      Halloween

9.      Mardi Gras

10.   Super Bowl Sunday

Okay that’s my trivia for today.

For our Cinco De Mayo celebration, Sweet Husband and I are going to Austin to Whole Foods Market to buy goodies for the weekend. While there, I think I’ll  have some fish tacos to celebrate the event. But I always have fish tacos when I go to Whole Foods. They are a celebration in themselves.

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

 

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo!