Tag Archives: for fun

Losing Control vs. Letting Go

I confess, I like to control my environment. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing is that I can dictate every single aspect of my characters and their lives. If only my children and husband would give me that same power!

Since my 50th birthday this past fall, however, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t actually dominate anything but my own thoughts and actions, and that attempting to extend that reach is exhausting. I finally see the difference between losing control and letting go. I can’t exactly “lose control” over things I never truly governed in the first place, right? Meanwhile, “letting go” means having faith that, even without my interference, things will eventually work out for those I love.

It’s not easy. I’m not always gracious about it, either. It’s hard to bite my tongue. Sometimes things like “Try it this way” slip out. Why? you ask. Well, in my mind, I’m deeply invested in the people I love, and trying to help is one way of showing my love and commitment. But I understand that my habit can be annoying—or worse, insulting—to others. In other words, it has the opposite effect of my intentions. Thus the newfound attempt to “roll with it.”

A potential bonus of my new attitude is that a more flexible approach should also help me remain happy in my career. The publishing industry is in constant flux, which is difficult for someone with my preference for structure. And unlike my former legal career, where you could rely on hard work to achieve certain results, in publishing, you can work extremely hard and still not get to where you are trying to go. Opportunity, luck, and subjectivity play important roles in this profession, none of which are in my control. So, like the beloved Dory advises, I “just keep swimming.”

I assume some of you are like me (controlling) and others are more relaxed. I invite those who fall into the latter category to offer me some advice on how to chill out!

xo-Jamie

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Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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12 Months of Beauty Products–August Edition

Everyone welcome Katherine back with her ongoing year of testing the so-called “Beauty Product Top Picks.”

Hard to believe that summer is almost over. While I am sad to see it end, I do look forward to the school year routines. I’m also a sucker for fall clothes, cooler weather, and heavier food. Bring on the sweaters and stews!

If you remember from my prior post, I was looking forward to trying out the Best Lip Balm, ChapStick Total Hydration, and the Best Face Wipes, Simple Micellar Makeup Remover Wipes.

Here are my thoughts on both:

ChapStick Total Hydration.  If you’re looking for total lip care with no color, look no further. Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 1.22.29 PM

The ChapStick Total Hydration is a collection of three flavors (I picked Soothing Oasis) and has one of my favorite ingredients, Shea Butter! To mix things up a little, I shipped this little goodie off to my daughter who was spending a month in Texas at summer camp.

As in 100+ degrees, sunny all day, and no air-conditioning summer camp.

Being outside all day long made her desperate for a good lip balm. I’m pleased to report that, shortly after delivery, a nice little note arrived from my daughter telling me how much she loved the ChapStick. She said it was highly moisturizing and, better yet, long lasting. She reported that it worked great under a lip gloss or lipstick and that her lips felt great all day. ChapStick is a tried-and-true brand and was easy to cart around while doing all of her camp activities. Yay! This will be a staple for the upcoming winter months.

Simple Skincare Micellar Makeup Remover Wipes

Let me first remind you that I was traveling all summer to various lacrosse fields, where I sat for hours in the heat. Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 1.23.47 PMBy the end of each day, my makeup had pretty much melted into my face. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and wipe off my face with these wipes. Not only are they the perfect size to handle my face and neck, but also they are the softest cloths that I have ever used when compared with other drugstore facial towelettes. Second, I loved that they removed all—yes all—of my makeup with very little effort. They even removed all of the sunscreen. My face felt very clean. Bonus: they are fragrance-free, so there is no eye irritation like I have experienced with other towelettes. I will definitely continue to keep these cloths in my travel kit!

Coming up in September.

I’m going to hang on to summer a little longer and give the “Best Body Wash” winner, Nivea Coconut Moisturizing Body Wash, a test. Along with the body wash, I am going to use the “Best Cleanser,” Olay Regenerist Luminous Brightening Foaming Cleanser.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.01.21 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.03.56 PM

Look for my review at the end of September!

Here comes Fall, ya’ll!

XO-Katherine

5 Ways to Usher in Summer Fun

WOO HOO, it’s June! Time to enjoy the good weather. Kids love summer because school is out and every day becomes a “play” day. Adults…not so much. We still have work to do, housework to deal with, and all those other responsibilities that kids don’t realize go hand-in-hand with the alleged “freedom” of being a grown-up.

But being a grown-up doesn’t mean we can’t also make the most out of the summer. We work hard, we deserve a little playtime. Here’s my shortlist of things that should be on everyone’s summer calendar:

  1. Theme Song. Yeah, this is kind of critical. Your summer theme song should be upbeat, catchy, and make you smile. This is the song you’ll crank in the car, or while at the pool or the beach. Your toes should tap of their own volition. It should make you smile. In fact, it should make you want to get up and dance. Mine? DNCE’s Cake by the Ocean. It may have come out last fall, but it is a summer song if I ever heard one.
  2. Farmer’s Market. Local grown fruits and veggies are everywhere, so it is easy to eat healthy. I love strolling through our local farmer’s market and picking out fresh tomatoes and flowers. Mine also has one group that makes the BEST pesto (which, if I pick up fresh mozzarella, basil, and Italian bread, makes one great sandwich). So look around your ‘hood and grab some stuff you can use for item #3.

  3. BBQ. Yep, time to kick off summer by inviting friends over for a casual BBQ. Few things say summer like a grill and eating al fresco. Whether that means burgers, dogs, and corn on the cob, or fancy steaks, is up to you. The key to a successful BBQ is actually the company. So ice down some beer (or white wine) and call your besties!
  4. Summer-Only Recreation. Take advantage of opportunities that can only come around at this time of year (well, at least for those of us who live in the Northeast). I’m talking about drive-in movies (yes, they still exist, although they are few and far between), outdoor summer concert series (we have great ones in Connecticut and New York), and swimming (whether you prefer a pool or a beach).

  5. Beach Books. This is the best time to pick up a few summer romances. Read those smarty-pants book club books some other time. It’s time for “summer lovin’!” Of course, I’d love for Secretly Hers to be on your summer romance reading list, but I’ll also recommend a bunch of other authors you can try:

Heartwarming: Kristan Higgins, Marina Adair, Gail Chianese, Liz Talley, Jeannie Moon, Tamra Baumann, Shelly Alexander, Miranda Liaisson *both Tamra and Jeannie are up for Booksellers Best Awards this year

Spicy: Regina Kyle, Jamie K. Schmidt, Erika Kelly, Megan Ryder *both Regina and Erika are up for Bookseller’s Best Awards this year.

Historical: Julie Anne Long, Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt *(I LOVED EH’s latest, Duke of Sin, and its amoral yet fascinating hero! Such fun). *Julie Anne Long is up for a RITA this year, with It Started with a Scandal…one of my all-time favorite books!

Hopefully this has given you a place to start your summer. I hope you have a great one! If you’ve got a tip or reading recommendation to share, please do!

XO-Jamie

Historical Romance Brought to Life

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to London. In three and a half days, I squeezed in sight-seeing all around the city, plus trips to the Cotswolds, Bath, and Stonehenge. Suffice to say, my Fitbit got quite the workout!

Those of you who have been following this blog (or, more particularly, my Goodreads reviews) know of my love for historical romance. Well, this trip made me feel as if I’d stepped into the pages of some of my favorite books. Best of all, the settings exceeded my imagination (no easy feat).

For example, take Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and also the family estate of the 12th Duke of Marlborough (and his ancestors).

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

I imagine this might be something like the Duke of Bewcastle’s grand estate (from Mary Balogh’s Slightly Dangerous). By the way, that’s still one of my favorite books. And yes, this was actually one family’s home. The current Duke still keeps apartments there, although obviously it is open to touring as well. This is where he and his family still celebrate Christmas dinner!IMG_7610

Then we have Windsor Castle, which is where the Queen sometimes lives, and is also home to St. George’s Chapel (where Henry. How many historicals mention the King’s court and St. George’s? Many! It was beyond exciting to be there.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

I also toured the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are kept.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Sadly, we weren’t permitted to take photos of those, but those crowns had jewels as big as lumps of coal. This is also the place where many executions occurred, including Anne Boleyn. It was haunting to read the dozens of etched texts left by past prisoners.

Prisoner's inscription

Prisoner’s inscription

This one was my favorite. In case you can’t read it, it reads: Wise men ought circumspectly to see what they do, to examine before they speake, to prove before they take in hand, to beware whose company they use and, above all things, to whom they trust.

The history is phenomenal.

I strolled down “Rotten Row” in Hyde Park. Saw the former mansions in Mayfair. Visited Covent Garden and saw a show in a theater built in the 1800s. Luckily, however, I was not forced to do all of this while wearing a corset, long dress, and slippers!

Finally, we went to Bath, a beautiful little town. It’s been described in so many of my beloved historical romance novels, I nearly floated across its streets from the excitement of being there.

Bath

Bath

I wish I could return and spend time there writing (possibly in the very place where Jane Austen used to meet up with her contemporaries).

Assembly Room where Jane Austen used to hang out!

Assembly Room where Jane Austen used to hang out!

 

 

 

 

I feel so blessed to have been able to take the trip. Now every time I read another historical romance, I will be transported again and again.

Is there a setting you’ve read about in a story and would love to visit? Do share!

XO-Jamie