Food

Bake by the Ocean….(with Champagne)

I used to say I’d never do an audio book, but a 40 minute commute and some rockstar performances have changed my attitude and transformed my daily drive to work. I now listen to 90% of the books I read. Either I’m listening to an inspirational podcast, (i.e my better half’s One Percent Better https://www.onepercentbetterproject.com/), or I’m transporting to another place and time, thanks to my favorite genre, fiction.

Recently, I allowed myself to drift to the island of Nantucket, where I met Elin Hilderbrand’s character, Chef Deacon Thorpe. Hilderbrand is a self-proclaimed lover of all things Nantucket and food, and she marries the two in her 2017 novel, Here’s to Us. To my delight, she partnered with real life cookbook author and recipe developer, Jessica Merchant, and the two weave recipes into the novel. I practically salivated on my steering wheel while listening to Merchant’s clams casino dip with baguettes and fluffy white champagne cake with champagne candied strawberries. A beach setting, love stories, champagne, cake, strawberries, and fresh seafood.  Can you get anymore on my level??

Now, if you know me, you know I can safely say I’m a damn good cook. Baking, on the other hand, not so much. Too precise for me. You can’t liberally throw extra baking powder in a bowl like you can chopped garlic. But the way Hilderbrand wrote about this cake – I was swooning right along with the lucky characters who got to eat it. And when I researched Jessica Merchant, I kind of wanted her to be my friend.  Given that it was Christmas Eve, and I was hosting, I decided to take a risk, even if it was out of my comfort zone.  Let’s bake, people!

Now, let me warn you: this cake is old school, so unless you’re not willing to give into the experience, the ingredients are nothing to fear – butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, white sugar – all pantry staples. (I’m not substituting nut flour or coconut sugar; this baby deserves the real thing.)

Pre heat the oven to 350. Grease an 8×8 cake pan with softened butter, then sprinkle flour in the pan and shake it around the bottom. Pour the excess flour out and set aside.

I made a rookie baker mistake and only made this once; it was only enough for one round cake pan. I wanted a high and fluffy cake, and it only took another ten minutes or so to mix up another one. It was more work to get my Kitchenaid out than to mix this cake up:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 whole large egg plus 2 large egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole milk

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In the electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add in the sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Then add the whole egg and egg white, one at a time, beating for about a minute each. Add the vanilla, and scrape the sides of the bowl if needed. Pour in half of the dry ingredients, mixing on low, then add the milk. Top with the rest of the dry ingredients, beating until it’s smooth. (I had to mix this longer than I thought; it took a while to get smooth.) 

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for no more than 30 minutes. My oven only took 25, but apparently every oven varies. Just check with a toothpick at 25.

The icing was daunting because I learned that 4 1/2 cups of confectionary sugar is two whole boxes. That is super sweet, but I made a commitment to purity, and it was worth it in the end.

Champagne Frosting

1/2 unsalted butter

4 ounces cream cheese, softened (that’s half a package)

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 – 5 tablespoons champagne – and some for the baker!

1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the butter and cream cheese in the electric mixer on medium speed. Then change to low speed and add the powdered sugar gradually. It will look strange and crumbly at first, but just keep going. Pour in the champagne one tablespoon at a time – after all the powdered sugar. The vanilla goes last; keep beating on medium to high. It took me a full 5-6 minutes to get it right; I was afraid of putting the mixer too high. If it gets too thin, add more powdered sugar. Too thick – add more champagne. I didn’t need to do this. (Good thing, since I drank the champagne!) Frost the cake when cooled.

Finally, the strawberry topping; this was also easier than I thought it would be. My syrup was a little thin, but still tasty.

Champagne Candied Strawberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup water

2/3 cup champagne 

1 pint strawberries, hulled. Leave some whole and slice some for variety.

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the sugar, water, and champagne. Keep whisking until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to simmer. Add in the strawberries, and let simmer for a few more minutes. Remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon, and put in a bowl. I kept this mixture in the fridge until the cake was ready to be served.

3VOILA!IMG_7414My cousin, Joseph, is a truth teller. He loved it.

I’m not going to lie – the cake was a hit.  It was very cool to read a book and bring a part of it to life to share with my family. Even my MIL, who is hands down the best baker I’ve ever known, raved about it.

For the purest experience, purchase a paperback copy of Hilderbrand’s book.  It allows you to visit inside the novel every time you bake it, and it’s kind of old school to flip through a book and mark the right page. Then grab a copy of Merchant’s book – just because it’s prettier than the title implies, and her bringing the recipes to life makes you feel as fabulous as they taste.
  Match made in heaven – and proof you can have cake by the ocean – literally. (Initially, I had no idea that was a sexual reference, and it was almost the title of this piece. What the F.)

Hilderbrand’s story explores a family, its memories and evolving untraditional traditions. I’m already thinking about finding flour dust on page 192 next Christmas, when I bake it again.

Forties fun

Wait Till You’re…..

If everything everyone ever said after that phrase came true, we’d all be overweight, sick, miserable, or dead. I think about this all the time, and it came to light the other day at another work gathering, when a coworker announced she was expecting her first baby. She embodied the familiar emotions of joy and fear; however, by the time she left our so-called party, the latter mentioned f-word had her headed for the hills. Some sound bytes:

“Wow, great news! You look great – just wait till you’re near the end.”

“Congratulations! A girl?! Oooh, wait till she’s able to talk.” This one was followed by an exchange of knowing looks and eye rolls. (Don’t even get me started on people’s reactions when you tell them you’re having a girl. It’s an outrage.)

“How are you feeling? Just wait till she makes you sick to your stomach.”

“Are you tired now? Just WAIT till she’s born.”

“Oh, yes, just you wait. Life will never be the same.”

No shit, I thought, staring down the sustainable straw of my cocktail. Isn’t that a good thing??

The poor pregnant woman finally threw up her hands. “You guys are scaring me!”

No shit, I thought again. That’s almost all I could manage that afternoon.

I thought about all the times in my life people had uttered some form of the phrase, “wait till you’re blank.”  Any of these sound familiar?

Wait till you go out into the real world.

Wait till you get a real job.

Wait till you get married.

Wait till you turn 30.

Wait till you have kids.

Wait till you turn 40.

Well, guess what, people? I’ve hit all of the above, and I’m still standing. I’d love to banish this sentence starter, or at least change the tone of how we say it. Imagine if someone jumped for joy and told my coworker, “WAIT till you have your baby – it’s LIFE CHANGING!”  Or when you announce your engagement, people said, “OH, just you WAIT. Life is going to be even more wonderful now that you found someone to share it with!”

Call me Pollyanna – whatever – I’m okay with it.

There’s no doubt we’ve all been through hard days, weeks – years even – but why does that have to be the focus, especially when we talk to someone who hasn’t even lived through one of these events? A job is a job, and it’s real to anyone who has to wake up and do it. My students are only 12 and 13 years old, but their world is real to them. Vera Wang designed her first dress when she was 40, and Julia Child was 51 when she got her own cooking show. So there.

As for me – my thirties were better than my twenties, my husband makes my life sweeter, and there are no words for the love and gratitude I have for my children. Getting older and the 40s f-word still scare me, but every day I discover another really cool thing about this decade.

Just you wait.

Fashion

Get Your Glitter On

HO, HO, HO, it’s time for presents, pie, peace on earth, punch, and my favorite – party outfits! Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good party, and dressing up is one of my favorite pastimes. The way I see it, a woman is never too old for some silver and gold, especially during the holiday season.

Today, we’re rounding up some ensembles you can feel fabulous in, even if you’re in the f word of the forties. Some of the pieces are currently trending, while others can be paired with staples a forty something may, (read should), already have in her closet. Shopping info provided! 

Does anyone else dream of living in Anthropologie? You know you want to. Seqionskirt2 This outfit is head to toe Anthro. I’ve had this skirt for a couple of years, and I’ve dressed it up or down. Wore it to a winter wedding with an off the shoulder black top. Put my hair up, dangled some earrings and slipped on a couple of bangles. Done.

This red top from Anthro is everything. Everyone should own a statement top; this one is timeless. I’m not wearing it in a picture only because my friend borrowed it for a party! You can pair it with jeans, or if you really want to turn heads, get some faux leather leggings, which are everywhere now. (I love Spanx leggings. I thought they would feel tight on my skin, but you barely know you’re wearing them.)

The beauty of being forty is we’ve lived through trends and probably have some kind of leopard top or shoe in our closet. The one featured is also current from Anthro, and currently being borrowed by a friend! Like all things Anthro, it’s classy and somewhat trendy. The back has a small opening – just enough to add some mystery. I love it.

A friend of mine once said to me, “You love sequins.” My response was, “Who doesn’t?!” And sequins are everywhere right now, as they are EVERY holiday season. If you don’t own a sequined skirt or pair of pants, get on it. The pants here are from Ann Taylor, but I’ve seen similar ones this year at BCBG, and Polo Ralph Lauren has a beautiful pair in black.  Banana also has a beautiful rose gold sequin skirt, (not on sale), and Free People has a sequined trumpet mini I’m stalking.  My cami is Topshop, and my faux fur jacket is actually Forever 21. Purchased that two years ago, refusing to spend a lot on a trend. Guess what? They are also everywhere now; my small investment paid off. Sequinpants 

Jumpsuits have been the new dress for a couple of years now, and you don’t want to know how many I own. They make dressing up so easy. Snagged this one at Nordstrom a few weeks ago; the color is a beautiful bronze. I’m wearing a small, but if you’re short like me, (5’2″), you will need a hem. 70s2USE (Gettin’ my 70’s vibe on.)

This red one I’ve had for a few years now too. It’s from Polo, but do a search on Nordstrom and a bunch of beauties will pop up. I’ve worn this one a least once a year!Redjumpsuit2USE So what are the takeaways here? Let’s review:

Every woman needs sequins during the holidays. (If you’re me, all days.) A sequined skirt or pants paired with a current trendy top can be worn year after year.

Jumpsuits aren’t going anywhere yet. (Thank goodness)

Invest in a statement top – or two, three…

Anthropologie is life.

Mix and match – find something from your closet and pair it with something trendy.

What’s old is new, and that’s the beauty of being old enough to have lived through trends. Enjoy the ride.

Food

Holiday Habits – Stay Healthy & Still Feel Joy

Everyone wants to tell us how to stay healthy during the holidays, but who really wants to listen? All the food, cocktails, and festivities – not to mention the sparkly attire. It’s too fun! (See next week’s post for a roundup of party outfits.)

And even though I love being active, the way I can eat has caused a zipper or two to break on its way up my indulgent behind. This weekend, I was particularly liberal with my food and beverage consumption. Joe was away for three days, speaking at a coaching conference in St. Louis, (big props to my better half), and the kids and I were alone to decorate, bake cookies, and eat all kinds of kid friendly food. I openly admit, I threw all mandatory vegetables to the wind and ate like my five year old. Well, come Monday, and I do not even feel like donning sweatpants, let alone sequins. However, I’ve learned how to accept and enjoy this time, while maintaining my health. Here are some words of encouragement and tips I use to stay on track, while not missing out on all the fun.

 

  • ACCEPT THAT YOU WILL NOT BE PERFECT THIS TIME OF YEAR. For those of you who can keep up carb/dairy/sugar/gluten/everything free this month, I applaud you. I just know I cannot be you. I’d like to think I won’t have a cookie, but I’d also like to think I’m Gisele. I will have sweets; I will just choose which are worth it. Cookies I made with my kids = worth it. My mother in law’s desserts = worth it. Stale cupcakes from the teacher’s room = not worth it. Once you differentiate, it makes the indulgence so much more enjoyable.
  • DON’T BERATE YOURSELF WHEN YOU GO A LITTLE NUTS. JUST GET BACK ON THE HORSE, AND LIVE FOR TODAY. As my intelligent husband, and plenty other smart people have said, there is no past, there is only now.  I refuse to feel guilty for the times I indulge. You won’t see a piggy face on my Instastory or a  #weekendeating, #dietstartstomorrow. If you read my post on foodshame, you know this is a sensitive topic for me. I grew up listening to my mom and grandmother constantly talk about how fattening holiday foods were and how they shouldn’t be eating something. It zapped the joy out of every holiday meal and made me feel ashamed for eating them. Not the way I want to live. So today, after my super fun weekend with the kids, I’m back to my daily breakfast of plain oatmeal, sprinkled with cinnamon, and three egg whites. Lunch is plain tuna, butter lettuce, and baby carrots. (A lot of baby carrots.) My workout is at 4:00. Back in the saddle – no matter how heavy my body feels after the weekend.  
  • 3.WATER, WATER, WATER. This is my water bottle: waterbottleIt’s 2.2 liters. My coworkers constantly comment about it – tease is probably more accurate. They may also get annoyed because I run to the bathroom in between almost every period. But water works. No pun intended. I drink this all day, and today I filled it twice. Sometimes I drink it when I feel like eating something sweet. Not nearly a substitute, but it makes me feel full. If I know I’m going somewhere I will face a lot of unhealthy choices, I drink a ton of water beforehand. I know I’m also supposed to chase every cocktail with a glass of water, but I tend to forget that one while in the throes of a party…
  1. SPEAKING OF COCKTAILS…..Dare I say replace some of them with club soda? I know.  And if you know me, you’re laughing out loud. But the older I get, the harder it is to function after drinking, so Joe and I both try to do this. (Read – try) We stock up on flavored seltzer, and we use it as a habit replacer during the week. It works – a lot of the time. (She wrote, while simultaneously sending rsvps to three holiday gatherings on random days of the week.) A cocktail can also consist of a splash of alcohol with a ton of club soda, rather than the other way around. Gift yourself a real cocktail jigger, and check out the height of a professional pour. I hope you’re not as shocked as I was!
  2. MAKE FOOD PREP YOUR MOTTO, AND USE SEASONAL VEGGIES.  Preparing lunch for the week is annoying, but fall and winter are the perfect seasons to line baking sheets with butternut or acorn squash, brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. (I tend to ignore that squash is a “starchy veggie.” It’s yummy.) I got my husband to love vegetables ten years ago when he tasted the way I roasted them. And it doesn’t take a lot of time. You can roast at 400 degrees for thirty minutes, or longer at 375. Timing may depend on your oven. Drizzle with a good olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and go.
  3. STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOUR LIFESTYLE. Ever have someone say to you, “Oh,come on, you don’t have to be good all the time.” (Well, I’m not.) Or, “Don’t tell me you can’t eat that.” (Well, I can, I’m just choosing not to right now.) What you eat, don’t eat, drink, don’t drink, is no one else’s business to comment about. If you choose to go to a fitness class after work on a Friday rather than meet people for cocktails, that’s your prerogative. They don’t need to know you’re waiting to enjoy a glass of wine with your husband, or that you have a party the next day and intend to splurge a little then. This philosophy may cause some people to be miffed at you, but honestly, if they don’t support you, they may not be people you want to surround yourself with. I know this because I live it.

I’m no expert when it comes to restraint, and the holidays are no exception. I love it all – the family time, the food, the way it’s okay to wear sequined skirts. These tips are helping me today, and they remind me that perfect is the enemy of good. I’m not perfect, I’m still full from the weekend, but I sure as heck had fun, and I will continue to do so. Thanks for reading!

Fitness

Fitspiration

womenfitness

Women either cheer for each other or hate on each other.  Weird, right?

Maybe not so weird if you’re a woman reading this. You get it. There are many of us who  are genuinely happy when things go well for another member of our gender. I know a decent amount of these women who enjoy making their friends and other females feel good. I also know plenty who don’t – who let comparison override joy – but that’s not what this post is about.

Today I’m writing about the aforementioned bunch – the inspiring and encouraging ones, those who aren’t just there for you when things are bad, but root for you when things are great. I encounter some of these women in my OrangeTheory Fitness classes. No, they are not my friends. I barely know them. But I am one hundred percent sure that if all females conducted themselves the way these women do, we could take over the world with goodness.

Of course I have a story. And be warned: if you do not want to be inspired in a corny, Rocky Balboa movie sort of way, you don’t have to read on. But if you still get giddy when Rocky throws his hands in the air on top of the steps, this is for you.

“Lori” was taking her first OrangeTheory class the weekend after Thanksgiving. She was visibly nervous and rightfully so. The class was completely full, and if you’ve ever taken one, you know they are legit. You also know that your identity as a newbie is made known:

“Leeeett’s welcome LORI, everybody! She’s ready to do some huffin’ from all that stuffin!” (I swear this is not fiction.)   

Lori’s spot happened to be in between me and a woman named Mary, who wasted no time. She did a “WOOT WOOT,” clapped her hands, and shouted, “Oh yeah, Lori, you GOT this, let’s GO!”

The class took Mary’s lead, clapped, and added some WOOTS of their own.  Lori glanced around and gave an unceremonious wave.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” she whispered to no one in particular. I smiled at her and said, “You’ll love it.”

Twenty minutes later, there is huffing – to the point of wanting to throw up that Thanksgiving stuffing. Lori may have wanted to end my life. Mary, however, did not let Lori, or the rest of the class down. Every time one of our names got called out, she cheered the loudest. Every time someone reached what OrangeTheory calls a splat point goal, she sounded like we all won the lottery. I found myself shouting things like, “We got this! C’mon OT!” Things that would make a non gym lover literally throw up.

At the end of class, we were on the floor, ready to collapse, and it was time to plank. For three minutes. Lori may have been near tears.

“No way can I do this!” She shouted this time, again to no one in particular.

“YES. YOU. CAN!” Mary, of course. Thanks to her, for a solid three minutes we cheered Lori – and ourselves – on. It was the stuff you see in Rudy. Call me cheesy, corny, whatever you want, but I had never seen a group of women devote this much time and effort to supporting someone else, and I loved it.

When our coach announced it was the last ten seconds, we did the countdown in unison like we were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square. When it was over, we actually did collapse in laughter and in tears – and the tears were not from pain.

“Thank you,” Lori now spoke to everyone. “Seriously, you guys. Thank you.”

I will never forget the power and positivity these women showed during that class. Imagine how things could be if women, and all people, were like this all the time. It reminded me to be thankful for the females in my life, (actual friends and family members), who behave the same way – who aren’t negative when someone else’s life is positive, who actually want others to succeed, no matter the goal. To you, I say, thank you guys. Seriously, thank you.

Family

Mirror Images

4:45 pm in the Northeast, mid November. Darkness is looming, and the temperature is beyond brisk when I arrive for pick up at aftercare. My son waltzes in from the playground, waving and smiling at me with an ungloved hand. He’s also sans jacket.

“Hi Mommy, how was your day?” (How can you get mad at a kid who starts every afternoon with that sentence?)

“My day was pretty fun, thanks for asking. I’d love to know about yours, but first, I need to know wh–”

“I know what you’re going to say.” He points a gloveless finger at me. “I am NOT cold. My gloves are in my backpack.”

“Great,” I reply, “but where’s your jacket?”

Pause.

“Ummmmmmmmmm. I’m prrreeeety sure it’s in Mrs. Nelson’s room.”

Mrs. Nelson is not his teacher.

“Who is Mrs. Nelson? And why would your jacket be in her room?”

“She’s the lady whose room I wait in for the bus to take me here. It’s gotta be there.”

Let’s not go into the litany of reminders I begin rattling off to him, including that he already lost one jacket last week, the one his grandmother bought him, and no way could we lose this one too, it’s expensive, and it’s 34 degrees outside!  

“Here’s Mommy, Charlee,” a voice interrupts my grade a lecture. “I told you she was coming.”

I spin around to see my daughter, holding hands with one of her aftercare counselors. She’s doing the sniff and shoulder shrug thing she does when she’s upset.

“Chachi!” I default to her nickname, kneel, and stretch out my arms. “What’s the matter?”

She buries her head on my shoulder.

“I don’t feel good.” Sniff. “I want you.” Shrug. “I didn’t eat lunch or snack.” Sob. “Please don’t take me to the doctor – I don’t want a shot!! What if I starve to death?!”” She’s full on wailing now. I feel a hand on my back. Joey.

“Don’t worry, Mommy. It’ll be okay. She’s pretty dramatic.”

I pull away from Charlee and look at them with a wry smile.  One thought floats through my brain: They are me. Mirror Images

It’s humorous and sobering when you realize your children have inherited your least desirable character traits. Joe and I don’t even pretend to blame one another when Joey or Charlee exhibit our objectionable temperaments. We own it. Joey has inherited my forgetfulness, a problematic f word. I was the kid who left any/all belongings on the bus, in my locker, on my desk, you name it. Something was, and still is, always somewhere; I just don’t remember where. In middle school, I even threw out my glasses with my brown paper lunch bag. (This may have subconsciously been on purpose; in 1987, my glasses transformed me into Uncle Junior from The Sopranos.) Fortunately, Joey also inherited my desire to make people feel good, hence the backrub. He also thinks like my husband – with reason, logic, and common sense. Thank goodness.

Chachi is all emotion. She dances, sings, hugs, jumps for joy, expresses her love, and her discontent. From the day she was born, Joe said she was smart. I said she was fun. She also cries – a lot. She worries, dramatizes events we see as small setbacks, and when in the throes of emotion, is unable to see beyond what’s happening in her five year old world. She speaks before she truly understands what she’s about to say. Yes, that is all me. This one is tougher to write about because I’m aware of how my emotions and quick reactions have affected my ability to make decisions. (Just ask my twenties.) I’m tons of fun, but I also create tons of worry that is unnecessary. I often say things before thinking about how it will affect those around me. (Just ask my husband.) Figuring out how to coach Charlee through this will require patience and self reflection.

Someone once told me, “No one likes to look at themselves.” Having children forces you to do that – literally and figuratively. Because we share their character traits, Joe and I may or may not react well to the flaws of Joey and Charlee. Our children having some of me, some of Joe, and a whole lot of themselves sprinkled into their human nature makes parenting a wild and reflective ride. They are us, and they are also each their own unique little person; we have to honor and accept that.

This day, I lift Chachi in my arms and tousle Joey’s hair. “Chachi,” I begin, “I guarantee you won’t starve to death. And I don’t know yet if you need to go to the doctor. Joey, we may have to tie a string or something around your finger so you remember your jacket tomorrow. Now let’s go home.”

 

Fashion

It’s My Forties, I’ll Shop Where I Want to..

The other day I had to spend some time with a woman whom I had never met before. One of those mom events that force us to awkwardly make conversation, the whole time silently hoping, “maybe she could be my new Mom Friend?!?” Meanwhile, I had to remain cool – can’t let desperation show its weird, high pitched voice as I calmly discuss random topics. Fortunately for me, she opened the floor with something I can relate to – clothing.

“Your outfit is super cute.” Her voice was level, matter of fact. 

Me: “THANKS!” I moved to the edge of my seat, believing my high pitched squeal was purely due to excitement over a discussion about fashion – a favorite f word. “It’s all from Old Navy,” I began to prattle, “Super cheap, and it’s so comfy, I…”

“Old Navy?” She cut in. The corner of her mouth turned up. “Ugh. I only shop there for my kids, never for myself.”

Me: (in my head) “Why the F not?!?”

Out loud, I unfortunately said nothing. I may have made some kind of mature noise and shifted back to the rear of my seat, away from her judgy, upturned mouth. A surge of  emotions washed over me, most of which included being miffed at myself. For not responding, not letting her comment roll off my shoulder, and for letting my enthusiasm evaporate. (How much fun is it to tell someone how inexpensive your outfit is, especially when they like it?) After a moment, however, these feelings subsided. My forty something self actually let out a giggle.

Wait a minute, I thought. Did this stranger just fashion shame me?

OldNavy “Super cute” outfit.

This was new. After my slow processing skills took effect, I found it comical. She was the one who said my outfit was super cute! I thought about the day I had bought it. I had two hours alone with my daughter, Charlee.  Luckily for me, she shares my passion for fashion, and luckily for Joe, I chose Old Navy – an inexpensive place for us to try on clothes and just be girls. We had a blast. She even wanted to get matching shirts. (I realize that Charlee is five, and this may further prove The Stranger’s point, but who cares?!) I’ll never forget how much fun she had and her reaction when she saw my outfit: “Mommy,” she breathed, “that is sooo soft. Get it! Get it! GET IT!” She clapped her hands. Best $44 I ever spent.

I, and a lot of women I know, often struggle with how to dress in our forties. Lack of time, money, online purchase mishaps, (that’s a whole other post), and not quite knowing where we fit in make it easy to don some leggings and call it a day. But I’ve never been that girl. I’ve been planning my outfits every day since I was ten. Sometimes I get confused about where to shop or about what’s appropriate for my age; I try to laugh at the struggle. Forever 21 is pushing it at 45, and I’m sure Chicos is a lovely store, but I’m still not ready.

It may sound frivolous to some, but fashion was always one of the few arenas in which I had courage and confidence to express myself. The only part of me that couldn’t care less about other people’s opinions. Why would I let a stranger’s comment affect me now? I also could have totally misinterpreted what she said. Everybody loves a bargain; maybe she doesn’t like to score her’s at Old Navy. I don’t judge.

I’m well aware that one day someone may snub Charlee’s, choice of attire, but Lord help me if I’m going to get her hung up on labels or judgements at the age of five. She does have her own mind, and our future shopping trips may not run as smoothly as our time at Old Navy. But for now, she can rock rainbows and tutus for as long as she wants. And as long as she’ll have me, I may even join her.