Thursday, April 21, 2011

Announcing the Winner

The randomly selected winner of the Slim-Fast sweepstakes is Kelly Massman! Congratulations, Kelly! I have emailed you privately with the information on how to claim your prize! Thanks to you all for participating! I LOVED all of your comments and kind words. You have inspired me!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wedding Preparations

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and Slim·Fast.

Being a bride is a full-time job, especially when you’re getting married on a tight budget. Getting married on a tight budget means being your own wedding planner and florist. It means that everything else in your life,including your husband-to-be, is going to fall by the wayside as you get ready to be a wife. It means making a zillion phone calls, sending a zillion emails and wishing you had a private secretary to help you keep up with it all. It means hardly having time to eat, and being glad for an occasional can of Slim-Fast to keep you going.

I thought I was being very clever and saving a great deal of money by doing all the flowers myself. I ordered flowers wholesale through a local florist. I picked them up in several buckets the day before the wedding and carried them down the street to the chapel. When we should have been getting ready for the rehearsal dinner my mother and I were instead feverishly arranging enormous bouquets of flowers for the altar. I came to have the highest regard for the skills of florists. The altar looked beautiful when it was finally decorated, but I was exhausted.

As for the bouquets and floral headpieces for myself and the bridesmaids, as well as the corsages for the mothers and centerpieces for the tables at the wedding breakfast, I saved oodles of dollars by making them myself as well. I knew that there was no way I could make them all the day before the wedding, so I got started weeks before, using dried flowers, mostly roses and herbs, entwining them with ribbons and wire. My apartment had by that time become a workshop, where wedding presents and were stored as well as everything I needed for the wedding projects. It would have been nice to have a separate apartment just for wedding stuff.  

My sister Andrea was the matron-of-honor; I did not have her wearing a floral wreath on her head like the bridesmaids but a tartan Tam O’Shanter. Have I said that we were planning a Scottish wedding? My father was to wear his kilt in the MacLachlan tartan, and my sisters and I were to wear our tartan sashes. The sashes and the Tam had to be ordered directly from Scotland, as well as the brooches with the family crests, and so there was a great deal of running back and forth to the Scottish shop. In the meantime, four days before the wedding Andrea rebelled against wearing the Tam, saying that a Scottish friend told her that no woman in Scotland would wear such a thing to a wedding. I said I did not care what they did in Scotland, my wedding was a “Scottish Fantasy,” like Mendelssohn’s symphony. There was a heated argument. Luckily, we were speaking again by the wedding rehearsal. And she agreed to wear the Tam.

As for Michael the bridegroom (yes, it was his wedding, too) he refused to wear a kilt, which made the Scottish wedding fantasy even more of a fantasy. However, he looked handsome in his mourning suit. Because of our budget and the size of the chapel, only ninety people could be invited. Michael, however, wanted to fill the place to the rafters with his friends. He took matters into his own hand and began inviting people over the internet. So when the day of the wedding dawned, we had no idea how many would actually be there.

We had a caterer, a local woman who could whip up a hearty country breakfast for the ninety plus souls who were expected to show up.  We decided to serve a buffet because then it would not matter as much what the exact head count was. The caterer could also provide china and flatware. Budget constraints ruled out having crystal or even glassware and so we had to fall back on sipping champagne out of plastic flutes. Mercifully, my friend’s mother entertained a great deal and had enough large linen table cloths for the dozen or so tables. She also lent us her silver samovar for tea. I hoped that nothing would get lost or stolen.

Getting everything set up for the reception the night before the wedding gave new meaning to the word hectic. What made it worse is that a local lady, whose name ironically was "Joy," decided to “help” and ended up arguing with me about how to arrange the wedding breakfast. I wanted to scream. Looking back, I should have put my foot down more. However, the hall was lovely when we finished. We decorated the windows with white tulle and fresh ivy trailing down. The centerpieces were in place on the linen tablecloths. All I had to do when I went home that night was pray that the cake would be delivered on time. (It was.)

Have I mentioned my gown? It was made by an Italian dressmaker in the village of Mt. Airy who excelled at patternless sewing. She created a gown for me based upon a picture from a magazine of a Victorian bride. She knew exactly how much tulle and Thai silk to use. It was everything I wanted: simple, elegant and traditional. Later I had the train made into a christening  gown for our baby daughter.

 Yes, preparing for a wedding, even under the best circumstances, can be stressful. It is important to remember that it is only one day and that what really counts is the married life that lies ahead. What held me together amid the flurry of activity was seizing a few moments of quiet time whenever I could. Also, taking vitamins kept me healthy, not to mention those liquid meals by Slim-Fast. At least when I walked down the aisle, I looked the part of the radiant bride and had the energy I needed to enjoy my day of days.

BlogHer is hosting a sweepstakes from 3/28-4/20 with the giveaway of a Slim-Fast gift pack (worth $100.) Visit the Promotions & Prizes section.

Here are the rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post.
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post.
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post.
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.  
Visit the Official Rules.
Visit the Official site.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A BlogHer Fan

In this age of spam and scams, it is necessary to be a little distrustful about social media groups and possible money-making schemes on the internet. It is easy to become cynical, which leads to snark and even to paranoia about the doings of cyberspace. In early 2009, after having a blog for about three years, I felt that I had witnessed the entire gamut of colorful online human behavior, and henceforth steered clear of all discussions forums, feeling that between Facebook and my blog, I had more than enough lively personalities to balance. However, since my family was experiencing financial hardship, I had not given up hope of doing more with my blog in order to help make ends meet.

My friend Karen the "Graphics Fairy" recommended the BlogHer Publishing Network. I signed up for the ads and not only did they bear the desired fruit but I found the Network itself to be a positive addition to my internet life. The BlogHer Network provides women who stay home with all kinds of outlets for creativity as well as for opportunities to use their talents in a profitable manner. BlogHer has recently gotten together with HauteLook to help women find bargains in designer clothes and accessories. I thought the "Own Your Beauty" series to be helpful in breaking down the lies that society tells women about their bodies and their looks, lies which often lead to illness and depression. Most of all, I never cease to be impressed by all the practical parenting resources. I found the "LG Text Ed" tips for parents in dealing with teen texting to be an eye-opening program.

Do I agree with everything on the Network? No. Nevertheless, I am impressed by the overall civil tone of the discourse, in which women from different backgrounds are able to discuss issues without breaking into divisive histrionics. I am always surprised by how many women do think and believe the way I do.The fact that BlogHer often links to my blog articles shows that they are not afraid to discuss controversial topics dealing with faith and history. BlogHer has become an oasis on the internet for me, a place for support, a place to find other mothers with the same worries, and thoughts on how to deal with aging, weight gain, and dozens of other issues. Most important is the feeling of sisterhood with those who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their families.

Visit this week's Sweepstakes post on Click around and see what else is new!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making It through the Recession

I often look at pictures of my grandmothers from during the Great Depression and am amazed at how neat and put together they always looked in spite of the economic hardships. With what the economy was going through, anyone would have thought they would have felt free to look sloppy and bedraggled. Instead they were well-groomed, pretty and smiling, ready to take the troubles head-on, which they did. They were cheerful and resourceful and rose to the occasion instead of being beaten down by it. In the times in which we live, in which jobs are lost and opportunities seem scarce, I think of my grandmothers and try to be like them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making Possible the Impossible

This is a sponsored post from Disney and BlogHer.
“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

I nourish an inclination for impossible situations. Stories of those who overcame insurmountable obstacles in order to achieve a worthy goal ignite my courage and fuel my drive. The Disney production of Secretariat will be released on October 8. I am looking forward to the dramatization of Penny Chenery’s story of determination and grit as she fought the odds and won. It is such a determined spirit that made America great, the stuff of which legends are made, and yet it happened within living memory.  According to the official website:
 Based on the remarkable true story, “Secretariat” chronicles the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner.  Housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) agrees to take over her ailing father’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge.  Against all odds, Chenery—with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich)—manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time.
I remember hearing about Secretariat as a child. Frederick County was the heart of Maryland horse country. We kept horses ourselves and followed the news about Secretariat with interest. I little guessed at the time that I would someday have my own impossible situation to overcome. 

In 1995 I wrote a novel about Marie-Antoinette and called it Trianon. I had been fascinated by Marie-Antoinette since the age of nine. By the time I was a grad student I had visited Versailles twice, but it was not until I saw a picture of Petit Trianon in Smithsonian Magazine that I felt inspired to write something about the Queen. It was just a photo of a staircase, but in my mind’s eye I could see Marie-Antoinette walking down it. I wanted to capture a moment in time, one of those happy moments that were like islands in a sea of tragedy in the life of Marie-Antoinette. I was already deep into research about the French Revolution as part of my graduate studies. I wrote the Prologue and then put the whole thing aside for ten years.

After a trip to Vienna in late 1994, I found the manuscript and the notebooks with my research in my father’s basement. I felt compelled by my trip to Vienna to take it up again, for I had visited the tomb of Marie-Antoinette’s mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, in the Capuchin crypt.

It was a turbulent time in my life, as I was undergoing a major career change. I had no computer, no internet, and little money. Nevertheless, I was imbued with the desire to tell the story of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as it had never before been told, shedding a new light upon the gravely misunderstood King and Queen. I wrote ten hours a day, stopping only to eat, sleep and pray. Before I even completed the final manuscript, I began sending out query letters and sample chapters to every publisher I could think of. Rejection after rejection came. I knew in my heart that somehow Trianon would be published although at the time it seemed futile.