Playing Many Parts

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the hobbies category.

Book Review – The Girl on the Train

the_girl_on_the_train_us_cover_2015I always read the book first.  Since I am a prolific reader I have promised myself that I will always, if at all possible, read the book first.  Before it is made into a movie, and someone else gets to put their interpretation of a book forward as the definitive point of view for millions of people, I want to let my imagination create the world the author has written.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and might do that to contrast and compare, but I liked the book quite a bit and found it compelling enough to continue reading even though I was quite sure I had figured out the plot a couple of chapters in.  I was right.  It went in the direction I expected, but I think the author intended it that way. . if I ever get the chance to ask her, I will.  There was some important foreshadowing early on that sort of gave things away and that seems like a smart intentional guide. . a kind of Easter Egg for good readers.

I liked this book because I love murder mysteries.  I also love women’s issues and a strong female lead with romance and complications. . .so this book was very interesting to me.  I don’t want to admit it, but I saw parts of myself in the heroine of the story.  I liked very much how Rachel grew and developed and it all seemed somewhat real. . if not romanticized. . but its a novel (it says so on the cover), so I expect that.  Emily Blunt is my Rachel, but that is fine, I look forward to the movie.


10 Ways to Earn a Little In Your Empty Nest

clocks-nickWhen you are an Empty Nester, one of the things that is so overwhelming, at least for me, is the amount of free hours I now have on nights and weekends.  I can bathe, feed and exercise myself quickly and then often have several hours of free time to fill.  I have passions, dreams, things I want to do and places I want to go, so how to create the extra money so I can do those things?  I have developed a small list of services mostly that I can provide quickly to my friends, neighbors and community.  Here are my go-to quick money makers that also make me happy and give me a sense of purpose.

1.  Dog walking and sitting.  Since I have to walk my dog daily, I can advertise on Craigslist or in the paper that I will do this for others for a small fee.

2.  Child sitting.  If you really like and miss having kids around, why not offer your time helping a mom with small children?  And ad in the paper advertising your free time and experience may get you more jobs than you can handle.

3.  Writing.  You can write an article about parenting, cooking, cleaning or whatever.  You could offer guest blog posts, contact you community paper, or submit articles to one of your favorite magazines.

4.  Cleaning Service.  Are you a great home cleaner or organizer?  Why not put out the feelers to see if there are people interested in your help in this area?  Again, Craigslist and your local newspaper are great resources.

5.  Musical Instrument Lessons.  My kids could always find people who wanted to learn to play whatever instrument they were mastering at any given time.  My son taught drum lessons to kids one summer and my daughter was always giving private flute lessons, do you play an instrument?  Piano lessons are harder and harder to find.

6.  Math/Tech/Science/English Lessons.  Put all those hours your spent helping your kids with their homework to good use now.  You probably have several good years of experience helping kids and teens learn everything from basic math to Algebra and even Reading.  Offer you skills to a school or youth center near your home.

7.  Sports tutoring.  Are you a former tennis champ?  Play basketball for 4 years on your high school team?  Did you play soccer or star on the volleyball team?  Lots of kids can’t afford expensive sports camp in the summer, but they may be able to pay for a few private lessons from someone who loves their sport.

8.  Baking or Cooking Classes.  Do you love to cook certain foods or bake cakes or pies?  You could offer classes online, at your library, or at a local craft store.  You of course could try Craigslist and your newspaper again, but try to think of audiences and places where people gather who may need your help.

9.  Housewife Training.  I know when I was a young mother and wife I had no idea how to organize my life in a way that made it easy to get all the house work, kid work, and spouse work done.  Could you offer articles, services or advice somewhere to young women who are just starting out?

10.  Financial Advice.  Are you a genius at finding, keeping and making money?  Could you write or talk about that?    Is there a local business or group who would love to have you come in and show others how to do that through chats or classes?

These are really simple ideas that you can work on and develop further.  The internet is full of sites that can help you gain a larger audience once you have chosen your niche and are ready to share.  Enjoy, have fun, and send out all that knowledge you developed over many years of hard work raising great kids!

10 Ways to Beat Empty-Nest Blues

Chicks are Cute

Chicks are Cute

My chicks are gone. . .and I have an empty nest.  I don’t mind too much most of the time, but there are days when I get sad and then confused by what my new role in life is.  On those days when nostalgia threatens to darken my mood, I have found a few ways to punch it in the nose and do an about face to get my mood back on the happy track.  Here are some of my tips for remembering how awesome life is no matter where my children are.

1.  Explore old hobbies.  I used to play tennis in high school and love it.  It also helped me keep fit, so I am picking up my racket once again and re-teaching myself to play.

2.  Learn new hobbies.  I always wanted to learn to play the piano.  I am going to do that now, a bit at a time.  I haven’t decided yet how I will do this, so if you have suggestions please let me know.

3.  Read.  I love to read, but often felt guilty when my kids were younger taking time away from them to read fiction.  I now find I have plenty of hours in the day for TV, so I am turning that trap off and reading all those books I meant to years ago.

4.  Take online classes.  I absolutely love online courses.  I can learn about everything from Math to French Cooking through online courses.  I have signed up for free classes and have paid for some too and have enjoyed both.  I took a class on Science Fiction from the University of Michigan and a class on web design from Udemy.

5.  Start an exercise routine.  Now is definitely the part of my life where I can carve out time to get fit before it is too late.  All those TV hours can at least be put to use even if I can’t totally give up my guiltiest pleasure.  I can do plenty of situps, pushups, planks and jumping jacks while catching up on the last season of The Good Wife.

6.  Work on eating healthier.  Since I am only cooking for two now, I am finding it much easier to try new recipes with strange ingredients like kale, brussels sprouts and edamame.

7.  Adopt a pet.  I never thought adopting a dog from the shelter could be so amazing.  There are so many reasons why this is a great idea, but the top two are I now have someone I can still mother, and I have a walking buddy who can’t wait to go outside and get some exercise with me!

8.  Make new friends of all ages.  I have found that spending time with friends from some of my community groups of different ages has kept me feeling younger.  It is awesome to hear the opinions of younger women and I love hearing how older women are redefining themselves as they age.

9.  Watch stand-up comedy.  Laughter is just good medicine.  If you don’t believe me, Google it.  I have also found that in addition to making me laugh and smile, comedy routines are a fun way to keep up with all that crazy stuff that is happening in the world.  Even if the spin is a bit odd sometimes.

10.  Write a book.  Every woman has enough material for a book by the time she has an empty nest.  Childhood and teen years are awkward, funny, crazy times for kids and their parents.  I bet you have plenty of stories to tell that will be very entertaining to others who have similar experiences. . .maybe you can even be that stand-up comic from #9!

That’s it for now, my kinda “tongue-in-cheek” list of things to try if you are having a hard time adjusting to life at home without your kids.  I would love to hear back from you with fun ways to remind yourself that you used to be an entirely different person before your life was turned upside down by kids!

Exercise – A constant struggle

I guess if I loved exercise most of my posts wouldn’t be about all the weight I am always trying to loose.  But honestly, I think I am allergic to cardio.  It makes me feel sick, and don’t get me started on long distance running or jogging, it just isn’t for me.  Reading all over the web about people who love certain sports and find their way to a smaller waist through them is great too, but again, that isn’t for me.  So what is a woman to do?

I do like to dance, so maybe that could be something?  I am not a good dancer by any stretch, but most songs with a strong beat have me bopping along with them.  So, I am trying to turn this into exercise, and I am finding that I really enjoy it!  Lucky for me, there seems to be a ton of super talented folks on YouTube who are willing to share their videos.  I am not a big Zumba fan, but it seems that several instructors have choreographed some easy to do workouts to some of the top pop hits.

The best location for finding good video workout recommendations is Shawn Johnson over at The Body Department.  That is where I found The Fitness Marshall and his sort of awesome videos:

New Daily Habit – Letting Go of the Negative



I have been trying to create healthy new habits, including eating better foods, exercising more and drinking more water in hopes that the extra 20 pounds or so I have put on over the past 10 years would magically fall off.  I know, I know, what a setup, but what can I say, I want to be skinny for and upcoming event.

I have been focusing on trying to be more active (walking the dog more and longer) and doing weight training at least 3 days a week.  However, I was listening to a podcast this weekend that suggested my HIIT weight training was too short on length of high intensity.  This woman suggested that it needed to be at least 60 seconds of high intensity followed 60 seconds of low intensity, no more of the whimpy 30 seconds high and 90 seconds low.  So in my typical fashion, I decided that is exactly what I needed to to.  I needed to switch to her method immediately. . .which almost sent me right back to the beginning and wanting to never work out again.

I knew it would be hard, I am out of shape.  What I failed to really think through before I began was that there was no way I could succeed.  I can barely do the 30 second sprint followed by the 90 second walk as it is 7 times through.  I did exactly one round of 60 second sprinting followed by 60 seconds of rest and couldn’t do another.  Failure. . .as usual.  Lucky for me, I may have actually turned a corner in my life.  Instead of crying in defeat and walking the rest of the way home, I did the next interval, but I went back to one that was still challenging for me but doable. . .the 30/60 second interval.  After that one, I did 45/60 and went back and forth like that for all 7 rounds.

Just because someone gives crappy advice doesn’t mean I am a failure.  When I went back to check the advice again, what I found out is that this woman is probably at least 40 pounds lighter than me and has been training hard for years.  I started a month ago.  If you get off the couch today or out of bed or walk/run, you win!  This stuff needs to be challenging yes, but it also needs to be doable and enjoyable or you will give it up.

I am letting go of the negative and choosing the positive.  I finished my intervals Saturday, I did pilates and yoga on Sunday and yesterday I rested.  Today, I am back at the HIIT workout.  .but at my pace because that is what I can do.

Homemade Herbal Salve

Calendula Salve

Calendula Salve

I used to be a Bath & Body Works lotion junkie.  That is, until I realized that the lotion they make is full of harmful chemicals and preservatives and may be doing my body more harm than good.  That is about the time that I started to look into all natural and homemade alternatives to all the chemical laden crap on the market.

About that same time I also started following several herbal blogs and actually bought my first herbal medicine making kit as a kind of fun weekend activity that I had no intention of taking too serious.  But after making and trying my first herbal salve, I was pretty hooked.  I not only got to choose exactly what ingredients went into my salve, but I was part of the process and that gave me a very deep sense of rightness that keeps me making more and more of my own products.  I have tried salves, lotions, body butters, teas, hair tonics, hair gel and even an all natural hairspray alternative.  So far, the salve is the only product that has been so amazing that others have actually asked me to make more.  My son swears this stuff is the best tattoo cream he has ever tried.  For me, it is a great remedy to the terribly dry skin I always get about this time of year.  I use mostly Calendula Oil, and added some lavender and tumeric this time.  I don’t love the orange color of the tumeric and probably won’t use that again.   It is adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide.

Loosing Weight After 30

uphillI’ve tried everything.  I tried the 8 Hour Diet,  I tried the mostly fruit and veggie diet and I did interval training all summer and do you know how much weight I lost. . .0 pounds.

I was pretty sure I couldn’t loose any weight anymore, so  resorted to the only diet on which I have ever lost any weight, the Atkins Diet.  I was two weeks in and hadn’t lost a single pound and was in tears.  At that point, my wonderful husband stepped in and pretty much demanded I cut the crap and start running.  He pointed out how a sister-in-law had lost much weight just by running daily and how many others had recently pointed out that long cardio was the only way they could get the weight off also.

So, at the heaviest I have ever been, I began running with my husband.  I was scared to death.  I am very out of shape and was pretty sure I couldn’t make it two blocks, but he agreed to run with me for 2 weeks to make sure I ran far and fast enough.  It was hard, I won’t lie.  That first day he made me jog almost an entire mile before stopping to catch my breath.  And do you know what I realized?  It is ok to be out of breath and uncomfortable.  I didn’t die, I didn’t even hurt myself, and I learned to run through the shortness of breath and uncomfortableness.

The next week, we were on vacation and had to run over some decent sized hills.  I worried, I cried, I carried on, but do you know what?  I made it!  I ran through the hills and I even learned that after a hill I can keep running and still catch my breath!

And my scale finally rewarded me this morning.  After about 20 miles in 10 days, I have lost 6 pounds.  Nothing to get excited about, except that I am excited!  I can make that scale move!  I can run!  I am an athlete and I can get myself in shape after 30!!

I will keep you posted, but my run tonight is going to be a very smiley one for me. . .it’s working y’all. . .and you can do it too!!

Homemade Salt Scrub

Winter in Chicago is very harsh on a girls skin!  I have been slathering on the lotion for the past few weeks and still find my skin very dry and itchy most of the time.  So as I was scouring the internet last week for remedies, I happened to think that maybe what I needed was a good scrubbing away of the old dead skin and so maybe what I really needed was a good sugar or salt scrub.

I had much fun looking around for some good recipes and have been making lists of ingredients that I want, but I was desperate this morning.  I woke up more itchy than normal and needed relief TODAY.  So,  I knew I had some lavender flavored Epsom Salts in my bathroom closet, and I still had my hair oil from a couple of weeks ago.  I put them together and then used them on my very itchy legs and arms.  I am VERY happy to report that my skin is now way less itchy.  Pictures to follow soon.

Lavender Epsom Scrub

1 cup Epsom Salt (scented or plain)

1/4 cup carrier oil (I used Calendula infused Olive Oil)

10 drops Lavender Essential Oil

Mix all together in a sealed container and use a handful for washing.

Homemade Soap and A Diet Update

This is a picture of the soap I made pretty quickly last night before going out to

Eco Green Soap

dinner. I had ordered this melt and pour organic soap kit a couple of years ago and for some reason only made one bar, so I pulled the kit out of the closet and gave it a go.

I took about 1 1/2 lbs of melt and pour ogranic soap chunks and melted them in a saucepan over low heat. Once they were liquified, I added about a tablespoon of Spirulina for a pretty green color and stirred until combined. I then removed the concoction from the heat and added a few drops of Orange Valencia Essential Oil and Clove Essential Oil. I then poured it all into a large paper cup I had cleaned and kept from DH’s last trip to the burger place. I waited a couple of hours and cut my almost hardened soap. So easy, and so much cheaper than the fancy organic soap at the stores. I got my kit from Bramble Berry, and I definitely recommend them to anyone! Very customer friendly and the prices are really quite good. I got the instructions for making the soap at the Soap Queen blog which is just too much fun!

Now about that diet and dinner last night. . .whew . . . let’s just say I am quite happy to be here and feeling well today, cause I sure didn’t last night. Let me back up. I started a new diet this week based loosely on the Hallelujah Diet. I am basically eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables with some beans and organic whole wheat mixed in. No meat and no refined sugar at all is allowed and I am drinking mostly organic tea and distilled water. Pretty healthy overall and I have been feeling pretty good too. Until last night. My Brother came to town, so DH and I decided to go out to eat at one of those sit down chain restaurants that are everywhere. I ordered a salad with a tiny bit of chicken and I paid for it all night. I had cramping and pain that kept me awake way into the morning hours.

I won’t go into more detail, but after getting up this morning and having my typical smoothie, I am back to normal and have sworn off all processed food for a good long time at least. I get it. . .organic and raw foods = happy me and happy tummy. Processed food from who knows where = upset tummy and upset me!

My First Homemade Flop – Hairspray

While I have switched most of my beauty products to organic, or at least mostly natural ones, I still have a few holdouts that are hard to replace. My hairspray may be one I just never let go of.

I have dry, fine hair. If I want it to do anything but kink funny but flatly, I need a bunch of hairspray. If I curl my hair and use a firm hairspray, I get a decent looking do that gets compliments. So it was with much hesitation that I began looking for an organic, homemade alternative to my favorite hairspray.

I chose the flax seed one from E-How as my first choice. What a mistake. I should have known that I needed to go to a site I am sure is maintained by a woman, and maybe even one that regularly posts organic beauty recipes. DO NOT TRY THIS. It doesn’t work at all, and is pretty much a gooey mess.

I have since done some more reading and have decided that tonight I will try one more homemade recipe. I have to make some soap tonight anyway, so it won’t take much more effort to try this interesting recipe. I will post tomorrow how this one turns out (but will be stocking up on my normal hairspray as well).