We loved your birthday party, sorry you’re not coming to ours

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life

Confession: attending kids’ birthday parties isn’t my favorite.

I’m not alone in this. They’re loud and noisy and chaotic and sometimes I get bored. I’d rather be home gardening.

But I know this isn’t about me, and the kids have a blast. They get out of the house, often doing something active like bouncing on trampolines or running inflatable obstacle courses or swimming. Also, big, fun parties like that almost always include the entire class, and give the kids more time to make memories with friends and celebrate their buddies’ special occasions. I’m willing to endure a little boredom and even a headache for that.

But we’re not reciprocating.

I have four children. Most of them were born within two weeks of each other, all in the fall when we’re trying to get settled back into school and starting up sports and music and ten million other things. The last kid birthday of the year is right before Christmas. If I tried to do big birthday bashes where I invited the entire class and rented a bouncy house place, I would be 1) completely broke and 2) completely insane.

Even if we’d had fewer kids, or spaced them farther apart during the year, I think we’d be low-key birthday people. I’d rather my kids have a smaller party with some close friends, and actually open and appreciate all their presents (and play with them!) than a large party where they get overwhelmed and exhausted and get more toys than they’ll ever need.

So our kids’ birthday parties consist of a little group of friends. We started inviting the same number of friends as you are years old in preschool, we’ve never gone past five, and we do something simple at home. A tea party, or an outdoor obstacle course using things in our own backyard. A homemade cake and some juice. The whole thing lasts maybe an hour and a half and then everyone goes home.

I think you have to hit one of two extremes with parties. You can either invite just one or two friends from school, as long as it’s done away from the classroom and no one makes a big deal of it, or you can invite the entire class. You can’t go in between. But I do still feel guilty sometimes that a lot of the parties we attend are for kids who won’t be coming to ours.

I’ve heard of some families who pick one year — say, the year your child turns 10 — and they have one giant, all-out bash that year and keep it simple the rest of the time. That seems doable to me. In our family, we celebrate twelfth birthdays with either my husband or me taking a trip on an airplane with the birthday kid. For a long time, I didn’t think we’d ever fly together as a family because of the cost, and I wanted each kid to travel in a plane before they were an adult.

I hope my kids grow up realizing that there are many different ways to celebrate. Different families have different traditions for birthdays and everything else and we can enjoy them all. We don’t have to do everything the same way, and I hope they can find as much joy in small parties as big ones.

What do you think? Is it okay to attend birthday parties and not reciprocate?

Images by Laura Falin 

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Gabby Barrett Sang ‘Don’t Stop Believin” in Front of Journey’s Steve Perry — and He Loved It

Gabby Barrett sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in front of millions — but there was one unexpected (and legendary!) guest in the crowd that took her breath away.

During Sunday’s episode of American Idol, the Pittsburgh native took on the fan-favorite tune for her last performance of the night. Little did she know, she was singing in front of the iconic rock band’s former lead singer, Steve Perry.

RELATED: American Idol‘s Ada Vox Opens Up About Embracing Who You Are: ‘I’m Not Afraid to Hear the Hate’

“That was insane,” Barrett, 18, told PEOPLE after the show. “I’m actually surprised I knew who it was at first because he’s older now, but I looked over and I knew his face. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I had no idea he was coming. That was such an honor.”

She added, “He said that my version was the best version that he ever heard. That’s so crazy. My dad would always play Journey in the car and I remember watching him perform on the television. I remember him wearing a yellow t-shirt and some tight skinny jeans and just seeing him here and being able to sing his song in front of him was such an honor. Holy monkeys!”

After Barrett completed her song for the evening, she noticed Perry standing near her parents and quickly said, “Oh my gosh, I know who that is!”

Instead of the judges critiquing her performance, Katy Perry suggested that Journey star do the honors.

“She was amazing, that’s my critique,” he said.

RELATED: Luke Bryan Defends Katy Perry’s American Idol Kiss: ‘Our Hearts Are in the Right Place’

Ryan Seacrest escorted a star-struck Barrett to Perry and the two embraced in a sweet hug.

“It was the most amazing version I’ve ever heard,” Perry — who reunited with Journey for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2017 — told the crowd. “Swear, it was just beautiful!”

RELATED: American Idol Contestant Caleb Lee Hutchinson Details Amazing 70-Lb. Weight Loss

Barrett joined fellow finalists Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe for the first night of the two-part finale. The second part airs live on Monday at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST on ABC.


PEOPLE.com

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Khloé Kardashian Feels ‘So Loved’ on Mother’s Day After Source Says Family Hasn’t Visited in ‘Weeks’

New mom Khloé Kardashian is being showered with love this Mother’s Day despite being thousands of miles away from her family.

The Keeping Up with the Kardashians star — who welcomed her first child, a daughter named True, on April 12 — shared photos and videos featuring holiday-appropriate flower arrangements via her Instagram Story Sunday.

“I feel so loved,” she captioned a shot of flowers that spelled out “Mommy.”

She also shared images of gold balloons that spelled out her nickname, “Koko,” and a second “Mommy” flower arrangement.

The social media posts come four days after a source told PEOPLE that Kardashian’s decision to remain living in Cleveland, Ohio — where her boyfriend and True’s father, Tristan Thompson, 27, plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers — in the wake of Thompson’s cheating scandal has “definitely caused friction.”

The family is still not happy with Tristan and they have no desire to spend Mothers’ Day with him,” the insider said.

 

As her first Mother’s Day as a parent approached, Khloé was expected to either stay home with baby daughter True or possibly hit the road with Thompson, who is traveling to Boston for the NBA playoffs, PEOPLE reported Thursday.

“Khloé’s decision to stay with Tristan has definitely caused friction,” the source said. “Her family hasn’t visited her for weeks. It’s been hard for Khloé, but she is doing what she believes is best for her family.”

One day before Mother’s Day, Kardashian shared the first video of True to celebrate one month following her birth.

“Happy one month old, mama,” she said in the video, which shows True looking up at the camera with a flower superimposed over her right cheek. “I love you, pretty girl.”

Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.

Kardashian also made sure to give a shout-out to her own mama, Kris Jenner.

“Happy Mother’s Day to the best mommy we could ask for!! Just remember mama ‘you’re doing amazing sweetie!’ You really are!!” she captioned a fabulous photo of the 62-year-old momager. “We couldn’t imagine life without you!! You are the reason for it all!! Thank you for showing us what unconditional love and loyalty is!”

On Twitter over the weekend, the reality star told fans that the baby closely resembled dad Tristan Thompson.

Tristan and True are twins lol it’s crazy,” she responded to a tweet asking which of her parents True looked like more.

But Kardashian hopes that True will have a few features that mirror her mom.

“Everyone tells me they are identical lol it’s wild,” she said of True and Thompson. “Maybe her eyes will stay light and I can get something lol.”

Watch the full special Born Kardashian streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

In April, allegations surfaced that Thompson cheated on Khloé throughout her pregnancy. The news broke just days before Khloé gave birth to True on April 12.

“Poor Khloé,” her sister Kim Kardashian West said weeks later during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “Like, I don’t even know how to describe it besides it’s just so f—ed up.”

“We really were rooting for Khloé. And we still are. She’s so strong and she’s doing the best that she can. It’s a really sad situation, all over,” she added.


PEOPLE.com

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How Nice! Young M.A. Hosts a Mother’s Day Celebration for Families Who Lost Loved Ones to Street Violence

Young M.A. organized a pre-Mother’s Day brunch for residents who lost loved ones to street violence in the East New York neighborhood where she grew up.

The event is the first for her KWEENZ foundation.

via NYDN

The hip-hop star lost her 20-year-old brother Kenneth in 2009, when he was fatally stabbed in the back by a friend. Her mom, Latasha Blackmon, recalled the dark times that followed his slaying.

“My whole world changed,” she told the audience of about 50 people. “I had PTSD, I had depression, anxiety. It hasn’t been easy, every day is a struggle for us. But we have had many blessings along the way.” 

Young M.A., whose real name is Katorah Kasanova Marrero, said events like this allow people to share their pain with others who faced the same crushing anguish.

“This is our way of keeping him alive,” the 26-year-old rapper said of her brother. “Reaching back to families who are going through the same situation … and letting them know that they’re not alone.

“When you’re going through it, it feels like you’re the only one.”

Helium-filled balloons marked “Happy Mother’s Day” floated above the tables where the families assembled inside the 3 Black Cats Cafe in Brooklyn.

In addition to mimosas, the guests sipped sangria while enjoying a spread of sugar-dusted waffles, shrimp and chicken.

Hip-hop music played in the background as the guests bonded by sharing their stories.

Young M.A. was joined by her mom and her grandmom to hear attendees like Dominique Harrell, 17, share the story of a friend killed by gang violence in the summer of 2016.

Harell made a lifelong pal in Nashaun Plummer when the pair met in a middle school bereavement class. Dominique lost her mom and Nashaun lost his older brother in a shooting.

Several years later, at the age of 15, Nashuan was gunned down about three blocks from the site of his brother’s gang murder.

“He was funny, outgoing,” recalled Harrell, a student at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville. “Whenever he smiled, you smiled.”

Halchervene Bobbit, 42, recalled the shooting death of her cousin on a Brooklyn rooftop back in April 2004.

“I don’t know if I’m entirely over it,” said Bobbit, who spent the last 14 years avoiding the building where the gun violence occurred.

“I haven’t been back (there) since,” she said.

The foundation’s name combines the royal titles of king and queen. The rapper hopes her group can not only help heal the bereaved, but offer assistance to low-income families and single mothers.

“Having my platform, I just really wanted to reach out to my community and do something right,” she said.

On a personal note, she hoped the event would introduce her mother to other moms dealing with the same issues.

“This is something for her to get into and give her a little relief, and meet other mothers who have been in this situation so they’re not alone,” said Young M.A.

Click here to check out more photos from the event.

The post How Nice! Young M.A. Hosts a Mother’s Day Celebration for Families Who Lost Loved Ones to Street Violence appeared first on lovebscott – celebrity gossip and entertainment news.

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If You Loved the Witcher Games, You Have to Read the Books

Not many in the English-speaking world had heard of Andrzej’s Sapkowski’s Witcher series until the first game came to PC. The Witcher books were not published in English until 2007 and only then slowly. As of this writing, one novel is still not officially translated (it will release in May). Meanwhile, as the Witcher books trickled out of Poland, CD Projekt Red’s games became mega hits. Since 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has sold 25 million copies worldwide. This is one of the reasons that, outside of Poland, Geralt of Rivia is mainly a video game character. The games overshadowed the books. But having read these books myself now, I think we need to fix this.

CD Projekt Red didn’t merely borrow the Witcher characters, they wanted to write their own Witcher novels in game form. They are massive fans who set out to make playable what they had read in Sapkowski’s stories. The games directly imitate his tone, plots, and themes. You’re missing a key part of the games’ intent if you haven’t read the source material. You’re also missing out on Geralt’s exploits in these incredible fantasy novels.


English covers for ‘The Last Wish,’ ‘Blood of Elves,’ and ‘The Time of Contempt,’ all using Geralt’s design from the video games.

Short Stories to Epic Saga

Andrzej Sapkowski created Geralt of Rivia in a series of short stories beginning in 1986. Those short stories would be collected into two volumes, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which cover the early part of Geralt’s witcher career. In the ’90s, Sapkowski took his characters and created the Witcher Saga, a series of five novels. The series brought Geralt and his adopted daughter Ciri into a massive struggle between empires, evil wizards, and inter-dimensional elves. It begins with stand-alone episodes which then evolve into a five-part war epic as complicated as Game of Thrones.

But what about The Witcher is so impressive that they stoked the creative fires of CD Projekt Red?


A witcher in his element.

Power Fantasies Subverted

 


The Velen battlefield from ‘Witcher 3’, a playable interpretation of the bloody wars in the novels.

Geralt of Rivia is, on the surface, a power fantasy. That’s why he fits so well into the role of a video game hero. Witchers are mutant monster hunters who travel the world having adventures. Geralt is the perfect combination of badass warrior and dark loner that makes for a sexy protagonist. He even has a habit of falling into bed with beautiful sorceresses. Yet Geralt is bitter. His world is subverted so that classical heroes can never simply fight evil. There’s always some tough moral choice.

Sapkowski’s style plays on your expectations. The early Witcher stories are satires of folktales and legends but with realistic complications based on gritty medieval history. In one story, Geralt stumbles upon some local knights out to bravely slay a dragon that attacked a village. However, we soon learn that the knights are corrupt, the villagers are evil (and murdered the dragon’s mother), and the dragons are actually quite friendly. Geralt is a cynic, but this is a world where the cynic is usually right. Yet, no matter how gray things get, he keeps acting like a black and white hero. He knows no other way to be.

Grim Darkness or Black Comedy?

 


Geralt taking in Ciri. This is from a ‘Witcher 3’ flashback to a book scene.

There are dozens of characters in these books, from great kings to small thieves, who all contribute something to the snarl of betrayals that drive the plot. Beyond the mess of would-be Littlefingers, Sapkowski writes in themes of racism, colonialism, and climate change. (The Witcher, for ’90s fantasy, was ahead of its time.) Humans are invaders on this continent, dwarves are forced into ghettos, and the planet is doomed to freeze over in centuries. Geralt’s life is action-packed. But everything he does only adds up to “pissing into a hurricane,” as one villain puts it.

This sounds bleak, but these books are actually very funny. The power struggles are more absurd than dark. Nobody really knows what’s going on. All the schemes of emperors or witches add up to blind luck in the end. The big battle in the last book is won by a tiny mistake. One individual scout gets too scared to check over a hill, which leads his army into an ambush. The black comedy, however, stops being very funny once Sapkowski takes you on the ground. The bloodbath is a very realistic nightmare.

Human Center


Geralt and Ciri in the Witcher 3
Ciri keeps Geralt grounded.

However, when it comes to the human relationships, Sapkowski plays it straight. Geralt’s life is anchored by his relationship with two women, his girlfriend Yennefer and his daughter Ciri. The Ciri connection is more important and is the centerpiece of the Witcher Saga. The two are tied together by destiny thanks to a fairy tale rule called “the Law of Surprise.” At first, Geralt stays his sour loner self and avoids this destiny. But at the end of Sword of Destiny, when Ciri’s kingdom, Cintra has been destroyed, Geralt takes off his cynical armor and takes her in.

Ciri is a princess by birth, the heir to powerful elven magic, and eventually a deadly witcher in her own right. That would make her a Mary Sue in most stories, but not here. Instead, she is the target of half a dozen conspiracies. Ciri’s life is a series of horrors and scars. As the Saga continues, Ciri is separated from Geralt, leaving her to fend for herself in a brutal world. She becomes an active protagonist and a hero equal to her father. The Witcher Saga is not Geralt’s story alone, but Ciri’s too.

Something Familiar


Geralt from The Witcher 3

When CD Projekt Red took on the Witcher series, they imitated what made Andrzej Sapkowski’s work great. They adapted the books’ fighting scenes into a Dark Souls-esque combat system. They kept the complicated storylines and multitudes of characters. There’s even that same winking satire of fairy tales. The Witcher 3’s main plot is a replay of the Saga novels. The war repeats, Geralt travels the world again, and Ciri is a secondary playable character. Many of the sidequests feel like the short stories — only, the player is making the moral choices now.

I read these books after playing the games and found that I was already familiar with the words on the page. The Witcher games are not just great on their own terms, they’re excellent adaptations of an already great fantasy world. Netflix recently announced they, too, would take on Sapkowski’s series. Hopefully, their upcoming TV series will also replicate the comedy, drama, and humanity that made the Witcher books such a joy to read.

The post If You Loved the Witcher Games, You Have to Read the Books appeared first on FANDOM.

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Meet the little-known designer who Marilyn Monroe loved

Paris may be considered the crème de la crème of la mode, but it turns out that many of fashion’s longest-lasting, revolutionary trends started right here in the Big Apple. And they were nearly all done by one man: Norman Norell. A new exhibition at the Museum at FIT, “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” showcases…
Fashion | New York Post

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Better Ergonomics at the Office: What Products Have You Tried and Loved?

better ergonomics at the officeWe’ve talked before about ergonomics at work — as well as ergonomics for petites — but it’s been a while, so let’s discuss today, ladies! Have you tried to have better ergonomics at the office? What have you bought; what products did you like/not get annoyed by, and what actually made you feel better/good? (Plus, do tell: what did you get reimbursed?) What resources were the most helpful for you in your hunt? 

For my $ .02: I feel like I am forever buying, trying, and discarding various things to try to make my office better ergonomically. I’m typing this very post on a new split keyboard (recommended by Wirecutter as one of their top choices), and trying to relearn how to type because the numbers along the top are split (1-5 are on one keyboard, 6-0 on another), and other keyboard features that I use frequently are in a different place than my old keyboard. Over the years, I’ve bought a huge number of those lower back pillows designed to improve your posture — and about every ten years I seem to need to try a kneeling desk chair one more time. (I bought one last year and think I’m set for this decade… nope, still don’t like them.) Ergonomic products I have bought and liked:


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  • monitor risers (I have double monitors so I have one for each; I like them!)
  • this is the split keyboard I bought a few weeks ago — I like the mechanical keys (very clicky clacky) and the squishy wrist rest, but we’ll see if I can get past the weird Ctrl button and lack of a number pad. If you’re out and about frequently, I still like my Bluetooth keyboard also so I can avoid trying to type long things on my phone (a friend was just telling me she was diagnosed with “texting thumb,” which might also explain hand pain I’ve had for a while now…)
  • I got this $ 30 lumbar pillow during my second pregnancy and must say I like it much more than all the other desk chair pillows/posture adjusters that I’ve had over the years (check out our recentish post on how to improve your posture, as well – lots of great suggestions from readers in the comments)
  • I feel guilty saying it’s an “ergonomic” pick but it was recommended by Wirecutter as their “budget” pick — I have the Ikea Markus chair for my main desk chair. It’s ugly as sin but for $ 200 I’ll take it.
  • Over the years I’ve also had apps installed on my computer to reduce eye strain, including one years ago that reminded me to blink regularly (I can’t find it now, but here’s a more recent article from Lifehack with free apps to help you with eye strain)
  • I don’t regularly have problems with carpal tunnel syndrome, but during my first pregnancy I did for some reason — I remember loving the arm brace from my local drugstore and thinking it really helped the pain (I slept in it, I think, instead of using it during the day)…
  • I need to get a nice big crate or banker’s box to put under my desk — I’ve tried and discarded a few nicer “stands” and stools over the years and just like the basic banker’s box!

How about you, readers? What products have you tried seeking better ergonomics at the office? What are your biggest complaints (wrist? neck? back? eyes? other?)

Further Reading:

Stock photo via Shutterstock / Martin Novak.better ergonomics at the office with keyboards, mouses, monitor risers, lumbar pillows and more

Hunting for ways to get better ergonomics at the office or your personal work station? We discussed favorite ergonomic-friendly keyboards, mouses, monitor risers, lumbar pillows and more.

The post Better Ergonomics at the Office: What Products Have You Tried and Loved? appeared first on Corporette.com.

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Oprah Winfrey Is ‘Loved’ On The March Cover Of InStyle Magazine

It looks like 2018 is off to a fiery start! TV Mogul Oprah Winfrey is gracing the cover of InStyle magazine’s March issue and we can’t stop looking at it.

With her Golden Globes speech still lighting up social media, Oprah seems to be breaking the mold with her latest magazine cover, showing a push for diversity. She’s sporting a black Gucci jacket with red and blue flower design and the word “LOVED” stitched across her back.

Instagram Photo

Chatting with the magazine about her mind-blowing speech and thoughts about a Presidential run, she confirms her stance to the disappointment of many, who thought they would see her in the 2020 campaign. “I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so it’s not something that interests me [running for President]. I don’t have the DNA for it,”

At least she’s being honest! In the meantime, we’ll continue to appreciate her for her classy appeal and definitive style.

Check out this behind the scenes peek at the stylish jacket and more below!

Instagram Photo

 

 

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Bombay Bustle open their book of family recipes to create the cities most loved dishes

Who doesn’t love anything home cooked? Bombay Bustle’s art deco dining room is the perfect setting to enjoy Mumbai’s culinary favourites

Bombay Bustle

For some inexplicable reason I haven’t been to an Indian restaurant for about 18 months, there really isn’t a good reason, only sheer stupidity.  This was a very welcome invitation from Bombay Bustle, I’ve missed fragrantly spiced dishes and equally tempered cocktails, how great the Indian twist on drinks, taken in a more decadent direction – Italicus (Italian liqueur made with bergamot), mango, Darljeeling and Prosecco (£9.95)

On approach to the glass fronted restaurant, you can see diners sitting in the recreated luxury colonial train carriage, designed by Fabled Studio, all beautifully art deco with a pretty pallet of mint green at the front and a rich brick red in the second half of the room. We were shown to our booth at the side of the restaurant near the bar, perfect vantage point for people, plate and cocktail watching.

Bombay Bustle

Co-Founder Samyukta says ‘Mumbai is a city built on traditions, filled by an endless influx of dreamers, working professionals, and those seeking their fame and fortune; A true melting pot. In one moment you can be in old world Bombay and the turn of a street corner will thrust you into an urban amalgamation. In this complex, bustling metropolis, the Dabbawalas are a constant, bridging the distance between work and home, between different cultures and diverse regional cuisines, with their near-clockwork precision, and we hope to bring the same ethos to London’. Executive Chef Rohit Ghai adds ‘Bombay Bustle will capture the essence of Mumbai, our love of home comforts alongside our rapid pace of life, both existing side by side. The restaurant will be a place just as well suited to a leisurely dinner with friends as a quick lunch for one, always inspired by Mumbai’s diverse flavours, and home style cooking,’

Bombay Bustle

After talking to Samyukya, feeling her passion we took to the small plates menu which is packed full of temptation, you could happily dine tapas style with just these dishes. We went for the Masala Akuri, Truffle Naan – Indian spiced scrambed eggs (£7), it’s all about getting the eggs right, here they were creamy and light, perfect with the naughty truffle bread, we also choose Samosa Papdi Chaat – Punjabi vegetable Samosa, wheat crisp, sev and mint chutney (£6) again airy not greasy, dipped into the chutney it gave a light crunch, flavours bursting into the yoghurt, last of our starters was the Amritsari Fish – beer battered fish, masala green peas and Gurkha chutney (£10), the batter so crispy I half longed for the salt and Sarons but in reality the spiced peas and chutney turned this simple British dish into a potential Mumbai street food classic.

Bombay Bustle

A short pause to choose a bottle of wine, Arpeggio Settesoli, Italy (£19.50 for a bottle) and time to chat about the food, drinks and ladies bathrooms (lovely) we got into the main course.  We choose one from the Tandoor menu – Murgh Malai Kali Mirch, black pepper, cheese, mace green cardamom (£12) and the other from the Biryanis & Pulao menu – Chicken Tikka Tawa Pulao, Suffolk chargrilled chicken, basmati rice and fresh coriander (£16). Portion sizes great for us maybe larger appetites might want a couple of side orders, the flavours full, seasoned well, not too much heat in the chilli but you could go for the Madras Chicken Curry if feeling a little spicy.  To sum up Bombay Bustle is a gorgeous room, friendly knowledgeable service and a good mix of traditional and new dishes to try. It suits well heeled Mayfair, a wonderful lunchtime or dinner escape from the craziness of the West End.

Bombay Bustle
29 Maddox Street
Mayfair W1S 2PA
020 7290 4470
hello@bombaybustle.com

The post Bombay Bustle open their book of family recipes to create the cities most loved dishes appeared first on Marie Claire.

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Style Your Home’s Outdoors with All the Perfect Additions from MacKenzie-Childs! Save on Tables, House Letters & Chairs. Shop Now!

I Tried a Sensory Deprivation Tank … And Loved It

If only I had a glowing pod and 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt lying around every day.

Health – Good Housekeeping

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Celebrating the Holidays with a Loved One with Dementia: A Guide for Family Caregivers

When you are a caregiver for a family member with dementia, the holidays are a mixture of many things: practical organizing and preparations, as well as a jumble of feelings and emotions. It is not uncommon for family caregivers to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, as they look forward to the days ahead. Old traditions may not feel the same. Holiday planning may feel like another chore to get done. We may be faced with the decisions regarding how to include our loved one with dementia in our holiday plans. While we attend to our day-to-day duties it is important to attend to ourselves. This can be annoying advice to hear – maybe you’ve been told this several times already by friends or family. But I think we need continual reminders to do so. Especially since the times we need self-care the most are also the times we find ourselves least able to step away, relax, and take a deep breath. Because the holidays evoke strong feelings and emotions we need reminders and encouragement that it is okay to embrace the days ahead in a manner that is in alignment with our true feelings, experiences, and needs. The following is a guide to the holidays for caregivers that focuses on self-care, as well as finding meaning in new routines adapted to meet the needs of a family member with dementia.

Be kind to yourself.

Don’t judge yourself or set expectations too high. It’s okay to amend holiday rituals or shift how celebrations take place with your family member with dementia. Be compassionate with yourself as you encounter anxiety or painful thoughts and feelings associated with disappointments, grief, or family disagreement. Self-compassion in caregiving is essential year-round and especially during emotionally-fraught holidays. Often caregivers experience feelings of loss with the holidays as it marks the changes in their family member with dementia and ways rituals are carried out. Let your holiday grief be what it is. Only do what you can manage and give yourself permission to be okay with that. In short, again, be kind to yourself. I believe it’s the single most important thing we can do for ourselves as caregivers.

Savor the moment.

If you keep yourself too busy during the holidays, you may leave no time to work on the critical need to allow yourself to be present with new rituals and family gatherings in whatever form that now takes. Don’t over schedule and don’t try to “keep busy” simply to avoid anxiety, pain, or preoccupation with making everything perfect for everyone else but yourself.

Also, one of the biggest lessons one can learn while being with our family member with dementia is to truly be present. Because the present is all we have with a person with memory loss – and actually, everyone in our lives – centering ourselves and truly being with our family members endows meaning and spirit to the role of caregiving. It can foster opportunities to learn a tremendous amount about ourselves, our preoccupations, expectations, and the changing relationships we have with the people we love. Concentrate on what is going on around you right now. Sit with your mother, father or partner, hold hands, and listen to an old holiday hymn or watch a holiday film together. Sing together. Read from a religious text or poem that highlights the holiday spirit or themes from the winter season. Ask your loved one with dementia what their holiday rituals were like when they were children. What food did they eat? Who did the cooking? What presents were received? Be mindful to be with the person in the moment while asking these questions. And avoid asking too many questions in rapid succession. The goal is to intend a connection, not merely retrieve information or test memory. Often, it’s not what we talk about; it’s the manner and spirit of how we interact with the person with dementia that makes all the difference. Be curious and engaged.

You can also look at familiar objects, together, such as an old ornament, menorah, or stockings. You can take time together to savor a favorite holiday treat. These moments offer opportunities for connection and demonstrate that important holiday rituals can still take place. It may be different but no less loving and meaningful.

Receive ongoing support from others.

When friends and family reach out to you during the holidays, accept their support. Let them spend time with you and take some of the responsibilities of preparing for the holidays or caregiving. Don’t feel ashamed by your dependence on others. Instead, revel in the knowledge that others care about you and want to help. If you do not have close friends or family members, write out a list of people or support communities that you can count on; neighbors, people at your place of worship, a caregiver support group or counselor. Seek out people who you can count on for practical assistance with holiday tasks or emotional support.

Let go of the need to stay strong during the holidays.

You do not have to plan a perfect holiday gathering or contain your sadness if you are mourning the loss of tradition or relationship as it had been before your loved one’s diagnosis or further decline. During the holidays it can be very important to express your feelings, happy and sad. Our society teaches us that emotional pain is to be avoided, not embraced. Yet it is only in moving toward our pain, discomfort, or grief and feeling our genuine emotions, that we can truly heal and be present in our lives.

Instead of cooking the entire holiday meal as maybe you’ve done in the past, have a potluck, have the meal catered, or order in. You don’t need to do all the holiday cooking or keep up with your 20 + guest list. Perhaps it makes sense to spread out holiday guests to just a few visiting at a time to reduce the impact of too much stimulation on the person with dementia.

Communicate your wishes.

Gather the strength and courage to tell the people in your life what your wishes are for the holidays.  If you’d like their company but prefer to gather somewhere differently, say so. If you’d like to skip some celebrations, that’s okay. If you’re feeling ambivalent or unsure how to celebrate the holidays, tell them this too. If your family member with dementia has experienced considerable declines or an increase in distressed behavior feel free to communicate this. The more family and friends are able to understand your current situation and feelings, the more likely they may be able to offer support. Your friends and family want to help but may not be sure how they can. You can guide them by being direct. Call or send an email expressing how you would like to see the holiday plans unfold.

Celebrating the Holidays with a Loved One with Dementia

Plan for some alone time.

Even if it’s for only 15 minutes. Take a long walk, meditate, pray – do what ever helps to nurture your spirit. Especially if you are grieving the loss of old traditions, roles and relationships, take some time to mourn. Express feelings in a diary or light a candle to mark and honor the changes, gains, and losses in your life. They become the small rituals that nurture and heal.

Be still. Take time out of the holiday hustle and bustle and caregiving role for stillness. Again, even if that’s only for 10 minutes. Meditate.  Allow your body and mind to be still. Concentrate on your breathing- in and out. When your mind begins to wander, return to here and now. If you need help, find a meditation audio recording and use it as a guide.

Focus on Relationships.

It might be helpful to instead of concentrating on everything that you have to do during the holidays, concentrate on for whom you are doing it for. Do you need to make 15 dozen cookies? Perhaps pare down to one special recipe or purchase a favorite pie at a local café. Similarly, do you need to buy piles of gifts for multiple family members? Ask yourself “Who do you care about and what would truly be meaningful to them?” Instead of going overboard with gift buying and decorating your home, top to bottom, make a meaningful toast. Prepare a few words before a holiday meal begins. Express your feelings and recollections about the last year. As a caregiver, you invest in and value the importance of relationships and family. Talk about this. Write thoughts down if it helps you feel more comfortable. These are the moments people remember.

Bottom line, focus on the people, not the production of it all. Focus on the relationship with your family member with dementia as it is now while mourning past relationships and roles. There is room for both.

Schedule something that gives you pleasure each day.

It’s hard to look forward to each day when you anticipate anxiety, stress, or feelings of loss with upcoming holidays. Counterbalance the demands of the holiday and caregiving by planning something you enjoy each day. It can be simple. Read, go for a walk, have lunch with a friend – whatever relaxes and brings you comfort and joy.

Don’t take hurtful advice or criticism to heart.

The holidays are a time of family gathering. This can also be a time when well-meaning but unhelpful friends or family members attempt to counsel us about our decisions and roles as caregivers. The effect can sometimes leave us feeling hurt, criticized, and unsupported. This can be additionally upsetting if you are dedicating your time, energy, and love to a family member in the best way you know how. Often people are uncomfortable with aging and dementia and offer advice or suggestions without recognizing the complexity inherent in our roles as caregivers making decisions. Guilt is already a common feeling caregivers struggle with. It can be additionally painful when a family member asks why, for instance, mom couldn’t attend the Christmas Eve present opening. Or alternatively, why you haven’t “just put mom in a nursing home.” Often the most sensitive and thoughtful caregivers are also those most impacted by hurtful suggestions and lack of understanding. Remember that you are doing your best and success cannot be measured based on perfection or lack of issues or problems. Find people who you can count on, who support you, and understand the challenges that arise.

Don’t cancel holiday traditions all together.

Traditions are important because they endure for generations, through good times and bad times. Adapt and alter holiday traditions as life changes instead of cutting them out entirely. Without these meaningful rituals the losses experienced due to dementia will feel even more severe. If your family member cannot attend a holiday event, have a small gathering at their long-term care facility. Rent a family room or simply sit next to them and hold their hand and sing a favorite holiday song. Find out the holiday event schedule at the care facility. You can recreate the essence of the holidays anywhere, at any capacity, when you engage whole-heartedly with the people you love.

Find your hope.

Caregivers can feel overwhelmed, anxious, and whipsawed by the uncertainties that chronic illness brings. This can lead to depression and, in some cases, despair and loss of hope. The holidays may magnify these feelings and if you find yourself in despair, fight to find your hope. Hope is an expectation of a good that is yet to be – that healing can occur, that generative purpose and meaning can be felt and carried out. Spend time in the company of people who truly listen and validate your feelings, happy and sad, and at the same time offer space for you to explore future possibilities and goals even if they can’t be pursued right at this moment.

If you are feeling despair, make a list of things you still look forward to in your life. Make a list of people who are present and who you care about. Make a list of everything that gives you joy. For some people spirituality is a source of meaning and hope, for others art, music, and literature can engage the complexities of life, including, joy, loss, and tragedy, as well as, resilience.

You may find that you are growing emotionally and/or spirituality as a result of your experience as a caregiver. What have you learned in your caregiving role and how has this provided strength or promoted wisdom or resilience? Has your vulnerability or the vulnerability of your family member made you more compassionate? Has it encouraged you to be more comfortable with uncertainty? These questions can function to help recognize how your role now impacts your life and offers growth – even if under the surface and not always recognized. This revelation from French writer Albert Camus offers insight, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invisible summer.” Recognize your growth and ways painful times have impacted you in profound ways, times when on the surface there appeared no hope – just loss or sacrifice. I think we often perceive that dementia “robs a person” and leaves them “empty shells.” A caregiver once told me, “Alzheimer’s disease impacts the brain, not the heart.” Remember that. A person on the surface may appear to have lost so much but their essential humanness and need and ability to connect is still there in even the most advanced stages. There is hope in this understanding. Keep centering yourself, remain present, let go of expectations and see what happens. And again, the holidays remind us of the joy that can be found in the depths of a barren winter, a time of apparent deprivation. It teaches us to look under the surface and find the beauty that may be hidden but is profoundly still there. When we experience the holidays as an opportunity to take time out to nurture ourselves and engage the values we carry out everyday, it can do wonders to affirm our purpose and the skills, time and attention we give to others.

What you do truly is exceptional.

Celebrate this.

 

First published: Nov 28, 2016

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The post Celebrating the Holidays with a Loved One with Dementia: A Guide for Family Caregivers appeared first on Women's Health.

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How This Mom Is Reminding Women They Are Loved

A Kentucky mom and blogger wants to remind mothers that they are deeply loved and valued. 

Ashley Glass is the creator of “Beloved,” a project focused on empowering moms through photography, interviews and inspirational products.

“I want to take women from every walk of life and show how loved they are by those around them,” Glass told The Huffington Post. “My dream is for these posts to inspire women to see their own worth, their own beauty, and truly know how beloved they are!”

Glass reaches out to women she’s come across in her local community or even on social media platforms like Instagram. She asks if they’d like to appear on her website and then conducts an interview and photo shoot at their homes. 

“I love for them to be in their element, doing the things that they love. The shoots are casual, laid back, and as care-free as possible,” Glass said, adding, “All of them so far have been excited to be a part of this movement.”

The mom said she hopes to interview and photograph one or two women each month and has even traveled to Nashville to meet with a few subjects. So far, she’s featured four different women on her site. 

Glass lives in Louisville with her husband, 4-year-old son Pierson, and 3-year-old daughter Reese. She came up with the the idea for “Beloved” after writing a viral blog post about body shaming as a “skinny” mom. Glass said many women emailed her after that blog post to share their experiences. 

“There was a common thread among them all and it was that they appreciated the post and were very much so trying to love the woman that they are, regardless of their body,” she recalled. “I am a photographer and have shot quite a few boudoir sessions over the last year. It dawned on me that what I saw was beautiful in them, they did NOT, and all day, we could go back and forth comparing one another, wishing we were more curvy or skinnier, or had longer hair or less wrinkles ― but what resonates with me is this: When are we going to love ourselves?”

Thus, she decided to focus on celebrating women and making them understand how many people truly love them ― from their partners and children to their co-workers and friends.  

“I want women ― especially moms! ― to feel and know that they are beloved,” Glass said. “It is no small feat to be a woman. Our bodies go through SO many trials, so many unique challenges; some of us work hard to get pregnant, others don’t necessarily have to try so hard. But something we all have in common no matter HOW many babies we’ve had: We are a different woman. Our hair is different, our skin, our emotions, the way that we look at ourselves.”

Reflecting on her own sense of self-worth, she added, “It’s been three years since I’ve birthed a baby, and I’m still learning to love the ‘new me.’”

In addition to photographing and interviewing women, Glass also developed a line of motivational quote prints, shirts and other products with her friend Chelcey Tate.

The line includes a 12-month calendar filled with Glass’ photography. They also selected quotes for each month, which appear in Tate’s lettering on the images.

“One of my very favorite quotes is, ‘You are esteemed, chosen, valued, pursued, loved,’” Glass said. It’s one I really hold near and dear to my heart. It really does hurt my heart the many insecurities we all have … and I pray this is something we as a generation can somehow improve and overcome.”

Since sharing her interviews, photo shoots and products, the mom says she’s received a lot of emails from mothers thanking her for starting the “Beloved” project. She hopes her series will impact more women in the year to come.

Ultimately, Glass wants viewers and participants to know that wanting to feel celebrated does not indicate self-absorption.

“You were born, you are talented, you are unique, and you deserve to be celebrated and empowered, no matter who you are.”

The HuffPost Parents newsletter offers a daily dose of personal stories, helpful advice and comedic takes on what it’s like to raise kids today. Sign up here.

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It’s the 17th year of the Ultra Music Festival which has attracted the high profile talents of Tiesto, Avicii, Alesso, Nicky Romero, Paul Van Dyk, Bassnectar, David Guetta, and Skrillex. Up-and-comers like Goldfish, Kygo, and Klingade are set to take over the scene and hypnotize the crowd with their melodic beats and cascading sounds of pianos, saxophones and xylophones.

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Fashion standards for the weekend include crazy wigs and edible jewelry, and attracts more neon than a 711 sign does to a fly. Some of our favorites include the iconic Nintendo characters of Mario & Luigi, a cat on a moped, and lots of national pride.

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Cars We Loved in the 1970s

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The holidays can come loaded with affect for those who’ve had someone close to them die. More upsetting can be a recent loss, one which occurred around the holidays, or the first anniversary with a glaring non-attendance.

To begin with, it’s glaringly obvious that their space at the table is vacated, a recipe is lost, or traditions have changed. The goal is for the void to become a less painful footnote to your history over time. However many years pass, though, people are not replaceable, and the empty space can be tangible.

Seemingly innocent comments such as “She’s in a better place now,” or “I know how you feel,” can be counter-productive. Whatever the circumstances were, the company of someone once cherished is still desired. If there were conflicted emotions and fragmented relationships in life, the holidays can be further complicated by death.

Consider options to reduce or eliminate stressful shopping outings or have someone else host instead of entertaining. Set good limits by practicing saying no to whatever is unhelpful or uncomfortable. Keep true-blue support systems close.

The deceased can be a beloved presence in their absence in your heart and memories. It’s okay to mention and acknowledge vulnerability around not having them physically present. A donation can be provided to honor their life, or plant a tree or small garden in their name, or volunteer at their favorite charity.

Putting together and going through a memory box with cards and pictures commemorates the departed and keeps them ever-present. Lisa will wear the Icelandic booties her late mother-in-law knit to keep her close. Tara is wearing her grandmother’s gloves this winter.

To illustrate the ideas we’ve been talking about, let’s turn to film, television, and books with topics of grief and loss at their core.

Terms of Endearment, 1983

Debra Winger plays a young dying mother and Shirley MacLaine, her mother. This gut-wrenching and heart-warming movie portrays a free-falling fractured family crumble. They ultimately rise above old hurts and wounds by pulling together for each other, and the children left behind.

Steel Magnolias, 1989

A stoic Sally Fields plays a mother grieving the death of her adult daughter, played by Julia Roberts. Being rescued from grief means to work through pain rather than suppressing it by shutting down or going numb. Fields’ character finally allows herself, through the scaffolding of her friendships, to feel every crazy-making emotion that grief can bring as a way to heal.

The Lion King, 1994

Simba, a lion cub voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, experiences the death of his father. Instead of facing his father’s death, he runs away as if it were a geographical problem. Maturing into adolescence, he realizes the importance of facing his pain, to move forward and recreate normalcy.

The Descendents, 2011

George Clooney is a grieving husband, father and go-to patriarch who navigates choppy emotional waters to hold his nuclear and extended family unit together. A remarkable depiction of the variable emotions during grieving, it’s a skillful representation of how families mourn and support one another collectively.

Glee, 2013

Initially, the show does a nice job exhibiting individual self-expression along with groups suffering loss together and shoring up one another. Jane Lynch’s character slips by suggesting the best tribute would be to not make “a self-serving spectacle of our own sadness.”

Unfortunately orders like this can cause grieving individuals to believe their sadness is wrong. To pretend that everything is okay, or to suppress feelings and “move on” prematurely, isn’t realistic or recommended. When appropriate grieving is short-circuited the risk increases that what manifests later on is worse — angry outbursts, often with depressive features, such as panic attacks, and/or physical symptoms such as pain that can’t be explained by other medical reasons.

In conclusion, managing the finality of death is a personal journey. Surrendering to the process to make meaning of the experience is not a cookie-cutter affair. One size does not fit all.

Author Joan Didion writes about this territory in two fine memoirs: the first, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), about her husband’s passing and Blue Nights (2011), her daughter’s. She spoke eloquently with interviewer Michael Silverblatt about these twin occurrences, which struck Didion in less than two years’ time.

The same month Didion turned 69, her only child, an adult daughter, was in a coma, and her husband of 40 years, writer, John Gregory Dunne (whom she collaborated with at times) died of a sudden heart attack at their dinner table. Her daughter died two years later, while Didion was on a book tour about surviving Dunne’s death. Didion described her grief as coming in “waves,” meaningless — a sense of incomprehension or incoherence — took over, and how hard healing can come.

Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1903 classic, Letters to a Young Poet, offers comfort that applies well to mourning:

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

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