Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I lifted this from my other blog, My Fabulous 40th Birthday, but thought I'd share it here too. Mrs. Sunnymead will definitely approve...

One thing I forgot to tell you about is something I announced at my birthday dinner back in October: my theme for my forties. That's right, this next decade of mine is going to have a theme. And it is...CONNECTION.

I started thinking about it last spring, when the word "connection" seemed to be in front of me wherever I went. At my job at a media company, we questioned who was king these days - was it content? Consumers? Or maybe it was all about connection. On Facebook, I was making new connections daily. My youngest listened to "Barbie's Diamond Castle" song "Connected" over and over. Two friends who tried online dating services seemed to be making connections that were going to go the distance (two weddings to go to this summer!) And one day, when I wandered into an old church down in the financial district, I found a piece of paper in the back of the pew - it was called a "connection card."

As human beings we seem to long to connect -- with friends, with job contacts, with pets, with a soulmate, with God. You hear about the importance of touch in human development - that babies who live in orphanages with bottles propped in the crib rails and no one to cradle them experience a host of psychological consequences. We need to connect physically - a hug, a pat on the head, a kiss -- but we long for emotional connection too.

As I enter my fifth decade, I'm craving connection. I don't know about you, but over the past decade, I've been so busy - ya'know, creating life and all, changing diapers, getting kids into school, traveling for work, buying Ikea furniture, cursing broken Ikea furniture, helping with homework, selling a home, buying a home, moving, going to dentist appointments that beget more dentist appointments (admitting that I don't floss my kids' teeth - I can barely get to my own), going to meeting after meeting, rushing to school, etc. -- that there really hasn't been a lot of time leftover for nurturing relationships.

What I really miss is the presence of female friends.

Gone are the days of the best friend that I met on my bike at the corner, and played with all day, and stayed for dinner, and begged our moms for a sleepover.

There's no girl next-door to string a tin can across the driveway and see if it really works as a telephone...eventually just talking loud enough to span the twelve feet of gravel in between.

There are no college roommates - five girls and five closets full of clothes in one house -- ready with a shoulder to cry on and a pint of ice cream or a bottle of Jim Beam, whichever the occasion warrants.

I know my friends are out there - I've recently emailed or talked on the phone with all three camps above: the play-all-day friend, the girl-next-door, the college roommates. And I've been fortunate to make new friends along the way. But still...

I feel lonely sometimes.

Everybody's still there. And more have popped up. At school. At work. In the neighborhood. And it's nice knowing they're there - but it's kind of like it's nice knowing New York City is there when you live in the suburbs and rarely make the trek in.

I want to do more than have friends, I want to be a friend. I want to enjoy wine together, bond over chaperoning kids' activities, laugh at the absurdities of life, help each other out, hang out in a house not fit for company, and generally be there in good times and bad.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One Glove, Two Glove - No Gloves Left

Despite Mrs. Sunnymead's best efforts to hang on to my gloves, yet another winter is not quite over and my glove drawer once again resembles a singles bar. Red Leather meet Black Wool. Tan Wool meet Long Light Blue. No love connections yet.

Every time I get out of a cab, I now say out loud, "one glove, two glove," accounting for each of them, instead of leaving one on the seat. It has helped, but the kids clearly aren't employing this strategy.

Next year, I've decided that everyone in the household is going to receive three pairs of the SAME gloves...and if we're lucky we'll have a left and a right glove remaining by the end of the season.

To get a jump start, I just bought three pairs of these, on sale for $9.99 at Land's End.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pretty in Pink

I'm ready for pretty. I'm ready for that sweet scent in the air. I'm ready for pink.

I apologize that I don't have photo credits; these images have been in my files for years. You'll see a little more of this in future posts, but I promise to be better moving forward as I collect new favorite images.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mrs. Over Yonder's Chili

We capped off snowy Monday with the perfect dinner - chili. We'd last had this delicious chili at our neighbors'- the Over Yonders - during the Christmas holidays.

Mrs. Over Yonder was kind enough to email me the recipe and I dare say it is the tastiest thing I have ever made, not to mention one of the easiest. Just one pot! Here's what Mrs. Over Yonder told me to do:

Cumin (we have no idea how much)
Chili pepper (same)
Salt (same)
Oregano (1 teaspoon)

1 lb. ground beef (Mrs. OY suggests 85% lean)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
a couple of cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil (a couple of tablespoons)
A little scoop of tomato paste (her measuring term, not mine)

1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans

Beef broth

Mrs. OY didn't mention what to cook this in, but I used a LeCresuet wanna-be cast-iron pot and it worked out great. It's truly a one pot meal.

1.) In the pot, saute the peppers, onion, garlic with the olive oil until soft.
2.) Add about one tablespoon each of the cumin, chili pepper, oregano, salt. Cook for one minute.
3.) Add a little scoop of tomato paste. (I used about a tablespoon and a half and then added another half a tablespoon a little later.)
4.) Add ground beef and keep stirring around until cooked through.
5.) Drain the cans of corn, black beans, kidney beans and add. You're supposed to rinse the beans too, but I forgot and it was fine.
6.) Add the can of diced tomatoes
7.) Add a little beef broth or a lot of beef broth depending on how watery you like your chili(Mrs. OY said chicken broth is fine too) and let it simmer for an hour. (Mrs. OY did not indicate whether the top should be on or off, but I put the lid on and it worked out well - the liquid didn't reduce)
8.) Taste it. Add whatever it needs - cumin, chili powder, salt.

Serve with beer and cornbread!

It was a huge hit - in the top ten tastiest things I've ever eaten. One of the kids even liked it. A proud Mrs. Sunnymead moment indeed. Thanks, Mrs. Over Yonder.

Family Game Night (Morning)

On President's Day, not only did we have the day off - we spent it out of the city at the house and it snowed!

The night before, our oldest suggested a Family Game Night. I agreed it was a great idea, but there was little chance I could keep my eyes open (or at least stay in a good mood) past 8 p.m. How about Family Game Morning?

So we had a wonderful morning. I woke up early and took a solo walk to the beach. Imagine utter quiet - the only sounds were my snow boots crunching the icy snow and my black puffy coat swishing against itself. Down at the beach, the sand was covered in snow and the water was still enough to skip rocks.

I was back before 8 a.m., with cappuccino and bagels in hand (I discovered sixteen dollars in the pocket of the puffy coat I hadn't worn in at least five years and decided to stop at the new coffee shop by the beach). The Family Game committee was ready!

We just got Wii over the weekend, so it was a Wii event with our games centered around Golf (I was okay), Basketball (I was terrible), and Bowling (I was fantastic!). I did not think we were going to be a Wii family, but I have to admit, I like it (even more since my stunning Bowling performance). It wasn't like being hunched over a video game. We were all up on our feet, working together, laughing, as the snow came down outside the windows.

My eight-year-old had made prizes for everyone.

The day before she had asked me, "if you could win a prize, what would you want to win?" I said "lots of money," but she kept at me until I brought it down to earth a bit more to "a nice handbag."

It certainly is a handbag. And it certainly is nice. I don't think I've ever had a handbag that said nice things about me before. I love the back of it -- I thought it said "and I could have thought of 407 (more nice things)!" I was corrected, that it was only intended to read "40 >, as in more than 40. 407 is pushing it."

Valentine's Week

There were more signs of love at the breakfast table last week...

and at the dinner table...

We also enjoyed a great date night, during which we saw The King's Speech with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Very good.

But my favorite occasion of the week was the annual Valentine's skating party at Wollman Rink.

This year, I volunteered to make something for the illustrious baked goods table. With the help of Betty and Duncan, I whipped up two dozen cupcakes. Some were frosted white, with crystalline white sugar on top for a snowy effect. These were to be my "Winter Wonderland" cupcakes, with tiny deer and silver trees perched on top. The pink frosted ones were intended to anchor "Happy Valentine's Day" picks.

Unfortunately, my new clever cupcake carrier from the Container Store wasn't clever enough to allow for some headroom - meaning they didn't fit with the decorative picks on them, so I had to carry my picks separately and plan to decorate on site. But as we approached the entrance of Wollman Rink, two eager-beaver young helpers in white aprons descended upon my cupcakes.

"Are those for the baked goods table?" they chirped. I could hardly say no, but I did try to explain that they still needed to be decorated (just so). "No problem, we can do it!" they practically cheered. Mrs. Sunnymead gripped that cupcake carrier a little tighter. I didn't want to fork these over - especially without anyone (other moms, in particular) witnessing me arriving with (semi) homemade baked goods. I had envisioned a few oohs and aahs, honestly. But this is where I had to intervene by repeating my mantra to myself: "make life nice without making yourself (or others) crazy." "Let it go, Mrs. S.,let them finish decorating your perfect cupcakes." And off the eager-beavers went with my cupcakes.

I have to admit I spent the first 15 minutes of the party stalking my cupcakes - or trying to. Where were they? Did they even put them out? Did they remember to add the decorations? I finally spied them...they weren't exactly what I would have done, but honestly, who (other than me) cares?

With the cupcakes quickly demolished - and most of my carefully sought-after decorative picks on the floor, crushed and sliced by hundreds of skate blades on the way to get pizza and soda, I got down to the business at hand -- enjoying the party. The skates may be hard blue plastic and the pizza might have a slight cardboard texture, but nothing beats looking up and realizing you're skating in the middle of New York City. It truly was a Winter Wonderland and a Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mrs. Sunnymead's Ride

In real life, I drive a rather worn-in, but reliable wagon. This is what Mrs. Sunnymead would drive if she had her druthers...and if she could drive a stick shift (that is a story for another day).

I think it was The Waltons that got me hooked on the idea of owning a pickup truck. I'm not sure I would really drive it, but I could have picnics in the back of it.

And sell flowers out of it. Hmmm...should I get a white one?

Does a country road come with it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Love Affair Continues

This is what my cappuccino had to say to me today: Baby, you're a star. At least that's how I interpreted it.

Seriously, I've gotten cappuccino here most mornings for years, but I always get it to go with the cover on top. This is the first time I've ever noticed that they stencil a star on top of the foam. Mrs. Sunnymead loved it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Breakfast Loves Me

Yesterday morning I set out to treat myself right with one of my favorite breakfasts - a soft-boiled egg in my favorite egg cup from Italy, strips of white toast with butter (well, I Can't Believe it's Not Butter, actually), and English Breakfast tea.

Well - as much as I'd like it to be, cooking is not really my forte, apparently not even when it comes to making a soft-boiled egg, in which the only skill required is boiling water. My egg came out hard-boiled. So much for dipping my toast strips into the slightly gooey egg. But had it not been hard-boiled, I never would have taken a spoonful and revealed this secret message: My breakfast asked me to be its Valentine.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day!

At 5:15, I awoke to the distinct sound of the BlackBerry vibrating on the bedside table...Mr. Sunnymead picked it up and I could hear the faint sounds of the recording on the other end of the phone...SNOW DAY!

For the kids that is. Us grown-ups still had to work today, but before I got started that alter ego of mine gave me a nudge. Seize the moment, said Mrs. Sunnymead. Head outside! Breathe in the cold air! Navigate the snow mountains on every corner! Take in the beauty of Central Park before thousands of NYC school children trample it!

So, out I headed at 8:15, with my youngest in tow. We caught the hardware store manager just as he was opening the shop, and luckily walked out with two of the last Flexible Flyers in the store. Mrs. Sunnymead was clucking with pride, thinking folksy thoughts like "the early bird gets the worm!"

I can't say there wasn't a little un-Sunnymead-ness in me on the walk to the park, "If I knew you were going to whine so much, I wouldn't have invited you," but once we got to the park, it was all worth it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Celebrating Two Lives

"Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole...See George? You've really had a wonderful life."- Clarence, It's a Wonderful Life

It has been a week filled with celebration - tinged with sadness, but celebratory nonetheless.

The week was bookended with funerals, each for a close family friend whose life had been interwoven with my own family's for decades. Monday's funeral was for Big Tom, whose family lived across the street from my grandmother since the 1950s. Tom and his wife Rita were very good friends with my grandparents (both now gone)- there were lots of laughs around their kitchen tables, annual New Year's Eve celebrations, and frequent trips to visit my grandparents at their beach house. In fact, Tom and his family liked the beach so much, that they rented a house on the same block - so they were neighbors with my grandparents no matter where they were! Eventually, long after my grandfather died, and my grandmother was selling the beach house, Tom and his family bought it...and his own grandchildren grew up with wonderful memories of the place, just as I did.

When my grandfather had Alzheimer's in his early 60s, some friends grew distant, preferring to remember him the way he "was." Tom and Rita got closer. They watched him while my grandmother ran to the store; their sons picked up chores my grandfather used to do; they sang to him (Tom loved to sing); they laughed; they were there. They accepted that this is what life and friendship were really all about. Tom was a truly good friend and neighbor to my grandparents, as was his whole family.

The other person who passed away this week was my mom's friend, Sue. Sue had a harder life than anyone I know, yet she found great joy and beauty throughout it. As a single, working mom she raised three girls, the youngest with extreme special needs, who eventually passed away at age 14. She found love again with a kind, older gentleman she met at church, and they spent some wonderful years together before he died a number of years ago. She had breast cancer, Parkinson's, a brain tumor, a bad car accident, you name it.

But she never seemed to let it all get to her. Whenever my mom was too nervous to drive in the snow, Sue didn't hesitate to pick her up. She enjoyed her daughters and the five grandchildren they gave her. She loved the beach, and painted beautiful watercolors of peaceful vistas. She was another wonderful friend and I hope she's surrounded by her favorite view now.

It was important to me this week to celebrate these two people - who they were and how their lives touched so many others.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Invent Your Own Holiday

This week my little family celebrated Kitty Breen Day. What? You never heard of this important January holiday? That's because Mrs. Sunnymead made it up.

Kitty Breen was my wonderful, funny, enthusiastic, doting grandmother who died almost thirteen years ago. I wanted to find a way to honor her spirit, her sense of fun, and most importantly to make sure that my daughters knew about this special person in my life, even if they couldn't actually know her.

So here's what you're supposed to do on Kitty Breen Day --

1. Sleep late. Kitty never surfaced until at least 10, usually later.
2. Don't work. With the exception of a war-time stint and annual Election Day volunteering, Kitty never worked and she praised all who could also get away with it. (The fact that her birthday often coincides with MLK Day makes this requirement possible to accomplish.)
3. Reach out to family & friends. Kitty never missed a birthday or an anniversary of anyone in her tribe - there was always a card. She was a terrible cook, but a great entertainer, and loved having a houseful of people.
4. Celebrate. We always have a cake. Kitty loved celebrations - she even threw annual birthday parties for my doll, inviting all her friends and making them bring presents.

As usual, Kitty Breen Day was a special one this year. We made a cake - certainly not from scratch, as that would be very un-Kitty. We sang. We wore party hats. We blew out candles and made a wish. We celebrated!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Few of Mrs. Sunnymead's Favorite Things

Christmas was again a bountiful - bordering on obscene - affair. We were blessed with the presence of family and friends and I morphed into Mrs. Sunnymead, decking the halls, wrapping the presents, trimming the tree, whipping up hot chocolate (Swiss Miss - don't tell!), and even donning an apron!

Mrs. Sunnymead was delighted to get a number of presents this year that made her feel understood - "these people get me." Here are a few of her favorite things ( a few are birthday presents):

1. Round quilted placemats from Ballard Designs. Beautiful placemats in my favorite blue! They look great and clean up well in the wash (skip the dryer - it's not the end of the world if they go in, but they hold up better if you dry flat).

2. Beaded necklace from Anthropologie. My mom and I spied this one together a few weeks before Christmas, and lo and behold, there it was under the tree. I love these colors together - turquoise and beige-yellow - paired with crystal-like balls.

3. One Line a Day, Five Year Journal. Here's what's cool about this - first of all, it's my favorite color again. You write in just one line each day, but when you're all done with this year, you start right in on next year. In five years, you'll have a fun look back at what changed and what stayed the same.

4. Mismatched Silver Place Setting. I've long lusted for beautiful antique silver for my table, but there is none to be handed down in my family. Now, you can get someone else's family heirlooms from Napa Style. They come in mismatched sets - but that's part of the charm!

5. Gold Bracelet. This special cuff was a 40th Birthday gift from my parents - it's engraved with my special nickname that only my parents call me.

6. Box of Good Fortune. This clever idea was a 40th Birthday present from my cousin, Kelly. Inside this beautiful glass box are 39 gold dollar coins, plus 2 silver half dollars from my birth year, 1970 (apparently no dollar coins were made in 1970). She gave it to me with a note wishing me good fortune for many years to come! Love it! (she said she got the gold coins at the Bank and went to a coin shop for the 1970 coins)

7. John Derian Paperweight. I collect these beauties from decoupage artist, John Derian. This one is a simple egg.