Friday, January 27, 2017

Wonderful Winter Writers Series: Guest Post By Molly Stevens

     I'm thrilled to have funny lady Molly Stevens guesting on my site again today! Her blog, Shallow Reflections, always has hilarious posts that resonate with mid lifers like me. Today she is sharing something near and dear to my gluttonous heart----her eating habits and the desire to tame her appetite. I CAN TOTALLY RELATE!! Please welcome Molly to Meno Mama's site today with lots of comment love. Enjoy!


I noticed a few months ago that five extra pounds had settled onto my pint-sized frame and I could not move the needle on the bathroom scale, even when I made the supreme sacrifice of skipping dessert for a couple of days.
I began to fuss about it, blaming my metabolism, my sedentary job, and the stress of the presidential election.
My husband, the truth teller AKA excuse slayer, interjected, “Molly, you eat a lot. (He said ‘a lot’ with ‘a lot’ of emphasis). Have you noticed you eat more than I do?”
“Whoa!” I countered, “When you leave perfectly good food on your plate that is too little to save but too much to waste, what am I supposed to do with it?”
But the truth of his words burrowed into my cellulite.
I am a volume eater.
Photo courtesy Pixabay, edits by author
I like the feeling of an overstretched stomach. Couple that with speed eating, perfected from years working as a nurse with a 7-½ minute lunch ‘hour,’ and I think you can understand the enormity of my problem.
I knew I had to employ tricks to eat in bulk, yet cut calories. I looked to the experts and tried proven strategies.
The plate method. This is a simple concept of filling half of your plate with low-calorie options like lettuce or broccoli, ¼ with lean protein and ¼ with a healthy starch. This seemed like the perfect solution until Patrick queried, “Molly, do you think a turkey platter is the best choice for this technique?”
When you want something sweet, eat fruit. After dinner, I notoriously crave something sweet, so instead of scooping Ben and Jerry’s, I sliced an apple and savored every morsel. It was difficult to transition from the tartness of the apple to the creamy sweetness of the ice cream but I did a stellar job. Patrick observed, “Molly, do you think this means eat fruit AND dessert?” I quipped, “Won’t the fruit cancel the calories in the ice cream? And what about the legion of calories I burned crunching on that Mac?”
When eating out, eat half of all servings. Patrick and I went to Geaghan’s Irish Pub recently and we split an order of house wings, though Patrick believes I ate two more than he did. Serves him right for going to the bathroom leaving me alone. I always eat more when I’m lonely.
Anyway, I decided to try their homemade bread pudding for dessert, and when it arrived I asked for a take home box. I scooped half into the box while I ate the other half mindfully, resting my spoon on the table between bites.
When I finished Patrick was still eating wings he had hidden behind the napkin holder. It was boring to watch him eat so I decided to take a bite of my sequestered pudding. Which led to another bite. Was it my imagination or did Styrofoam make it more delicious? I don’t know how it happened but I found myself staring at two empty pudding vessels.
Patrick blabbed, “The server who brought the container just saw you eat the second half.” Embarrassed I acted quickly and plunked my crumpled napkin in the container, creating the perfect illusion that it enclosed a half serving. When it was time to leave, I clutched my crock of deception and gave our server an airy wave goodbye.
Not to be defeated I have contrived a sure-fire way to kick-start my weight loss progress. I’m eating three fewer bites of each meal.
I wonder how long it will take Patrick to notice I’m using serving tongs.
Are you a volume eater like me? What are your failsafe weight loss tips?


Molly Stevens arrived late to the writing desk, but is forever grateful her second act took this direction instead of adult tricycle racing or hoarding cats. She was raised on a potato farm in northern Maine, where she wore a snowsuit over both her Halloween costume and her Easter dress.    

She blogs at where she skims over important topics, like her love affair with white potatoes and why she saves user manuals.  No one knows for sure if her ideas result from eating too many carbs, or childhood exposure to herbicides in the well water. 

She has ‘practiced’ professional nursing for *mumble,mumble* years, and someday hopes to be competent or retired, whichever comes first. Her husband, is watching for early signs of dementia, and will have her put in a home when she shows an enthusiasm for camping. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Festive Home Decorating Ideas for Moms on a Budget

**The following is a guest post by Sam Jones, digital marketing expert** 

Its been nearly ten years since I lost my job during the recession. Those were some pretty tough times for many moms. Holiday season is particularly difficult when trying to stay on a tight budget. Dazzling lights, trees, wreaths, gorgeous nativity scenes and stars… it was all right in my face, everywhere. As tempted as moms may be by all of the decorating possibilities, there are times when we need to figure out how to do more with less.

Through years of experimenting and trial and error, I’ve managed to learn a lot about affordable home decorating for the holidays:

It all starts with a tree - Any tree will do. There is no rule that says moms have to buy a real or large tree, or a real large tree. It can be a small tree in any color. I use a medium-sized white tree since it looks great with contemporary decor. There is no need to put a lot of decorations on it, either. Sometimes, less is better - especially if you’re like me and have a small living room that will look too cluttered with an overly decorated tree. I recommend investing in an artificial tree rather than a real one. Even though the initial cost is higher, the artificial tree will last for years to come. If, however, you’re certain that your financial situation will be improved a year from now, go ahead and get a real one for this year. This Old House offers helpful advice on how to pick the perfect real tree. 

Bringing out the cozy decor with inexpensive throws and pillows - Add a bit of warmth to your decor with fuzzy holiday throws in colors like red, green, silver, gold, plaid, etc. Any retail store like Walmart sells cheap, pretty throws for $10 and less. I like to mix things up a bit. In some rooms, I’ll cover a piece of furniture with a festive throw in some rooms, and keep them rolled up and plopped up with pillows in other rooms. I’ve only ever had compliments about the throws from guests; none of them have ever seemed to realize that they were just cheap Walmart items.

Being frugal with dining room decor - Since you’re probably not planning to throw a fancy Christmas dinner this year, you can get away with cheap, yet inventive dining room decorations. Last year, I used an ordinary red woolen scarf as a table runner. For the centerpiece, I just placed one large green candle surrounded by several mini white candles. This year, I plan to experiment with pine cones and whole walnuts by painting them gold or silver and placing them strategically around the kitchen. 

Displaying cards and family photos - Some of the most beautiful decorations are something that friends and family send you for free: cards. Hang them up around the fireplace, front door, or on the wall surrounding the tree. Take out a few of your favorite family photos from the past year and display them with gold and silver picture frames. I have a personal preference for the silver ones, since they match my white tree.

Saving money on outdoor decorations - No home is complete during the holiday season without a wreath hanging on the door. Like the tree, just about any wreath will do. You can get a plain one and just decorate it yourself. I just use a red ribbons, mini candy canes, and small red ball ornaments. If you’re a DIYer, Better Homes and Gardens offers tutorials on making “easy & inexpensive Christmas wreaths”. As for lights, it’s perfectly fine to go with a minimalist approach. Simply outline the windows or door with a string of lights, or place one large snowflake lighting decoration on each window. 

If there’s one thing I learned through experimentation these years it’s that making the house look festive and pretty does NOT have to cost much money.


Sam Jones is a digital marketing expert, social media and branding consultant and guest blogger for various publications, including Business2Community, and EZSiteBuilders. In her free time, Sam is an avid traveler, foodie and lover of all things technology. She's also a fitness fanatic (in the making). 

Friday, January 13, 2017

What I've Gained (And Lost) As A Writer

    For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write. Most of what I published in the early days was poetry, but those poems didn't put food on the table. I had to set aside my writing aspirations and focus on making money instead. I've worked all sorts of odd jobs----telephone operator, dental assistant, house cleaner, baker, and a sales rep for Avon. Each job helped feed my family, but none of them fed my soul.

     In 2011, I started blogging part time as a hobby. It was cathartic to write about menopause and middle age angst, and after a few short months, I was hooked. The blog led to a book, which then led to additional writing opportunities with online sites. When people ask me what I do now for a living, it feels good to tell them I'm a writer. I never felt comfortable saying this before until I was able to supplement our family income by getting paid to do something I love.

     As with any career, writing has its ups and downs. In most cases, it's a slow start in the beginning (unless you're one of those rare entities who becomes a rockstar author overnight with your first book) before the publication acceptances roll in. A writer has to have the patience of Job in order to survive in the world of publishing.

     I've noticed many changes in my life since the day I wrote my very first blog post. Although there have been plenty of bumps along the way in my career, the gains far outweigh the losses:

INCOME:  When I worked a regular job, I had regular income that I could count on for my monthly expenses. My income from writing is sporadic at best----it's feast or famine. Some months the book royalties and article sales keep me afloat comfortably, while there are other times when I'm not sure I can afford the "good" dog food brand. Those are the beans and rice days, but I still prefer this lifestyle over scrubbing someone else's toilet. It's a wonder I don't have PTSD after working in some of the houses I cleaned.

SLEEP:  Like many writers, I have unusual sleeping hours. Insomnia perches on the side of my bed like a restless magpie chattering away ideas from my muse. These words become a fever in my head that I cannot ignore until the last sentence has been saved on my laptop. The end result is that I'm often tired and look disheveled, but naps are totally acceptable for writers. And lack of sleep also justifies the amount of money I spend on coffee.

EATING HABITS:  I loved cooking for my family when they were all here at the same time. Homemade stews and roasts; fresh vegetables, hearty casseroles and creamy pastas. We ate well. But the kids grew older, moved out, and our schedules changed. Writing takes priority now over the hours I once spent in the kitchen. The microwave has become my best friend, along with Chinese delivery. The good news is that I'm still getting my daily allotment of vegetables from pizza toppings, plus staying healthy one Gummy Bear Vitamin at a time.

JOB ENVIRONMENT: Writing is often a lonely career. It's just me and the blank computer screen.  I love being my own boss, but at times I miss the camaraderie of coworkers. Instead, I have a son who pokes his head into my office every fifteen minutes to remind me that there is nothing to eat in the refrigerator, and a husband who asks fifty questions when I hand him the electric bill.
Luckily, I've met dozens of writers online in various social media groups and have formed my own special tribe of friends. In many ways, we're like a close nit group of coworkers in side by side cubicles. We share the same boss----our muse----and have each other's back when writer's block rears its ugly head, threatening our job security. We also share virtual cups of coffee while we bitch about our kids and the amount of calories there are in a single glass of wine.

WEIGHT:  Sitting at my computer for 12 hours a day has taken a toll on my body. My butt has become the shape of the chair that I sit on, and my stomach is doing double duty as a kangaroo pouch. It's also a crumb catcher when I eat at my desk. I need one of those treadmills that holds a laptop so that I can run and work at the same time. Dangle a piece of bacon on a hook in front of me and I'll run even faster. I may never be thin again, but at least I'll be able to outrun most of the joggers in my neighborhood, especially if the scent of bacon is in the air.

TIME MANAGEMENT: I've become very selfish with my time since I started writing. In the past, whenever one of my kids needed assistance with homework or a ride to their after school activities, I dropped whatever I was doing to help them. Now that they're older, I'm able to step back and let them handle things on their own. If I'm in the middle of a writing project and someone asks me for a favor, I tell them they'll have to take a number and wait. I hate being interrupted when I'm trying to write, and am known to turn off my phone so that I can detach from the real world in order to concentrate on the new one I'm creating with words. Sometimes though, my need for "me-time" isn't just for writing. I'm a sucker for social media and am easily hypnotized by the siren song of Facebook. But hey, I can always tell people I'm studying behavioral psychology for an upcoming article, and social media is rife with unusual behavior. I can pretty much use my writing career as an excuse to get out of doing anything. "You're having a birthday party for your Shih Tzu on Saturday? I'm so sorry, but I have a writing deadline to meet this weekend."

 CONFIDENCE: This has always been tricky for me, and was pretty much nonexistent before I became a writer. Years ago, I won several awards for my high sales volume with Avon, but honestly, it wasn't that much of a challenge to sell miracle creams and lipsticks. Women are always hungry for any product that will make them look younger and feel sexy. Writing is the hardest profession I've ever attempted, because I'm at the mercy of my muse, and my success is based on my readership. There are plenty of days when I don't feel like writing, but I push myself to do it. If I don't write, I feel hollow inside. My career is an emotional yo-yo---the days I'm able to sell my work to topnotch literary sites, I'm ready to bust out a bottle of champagne. But with success there are also failures, and I take every one of my rejections to heart. During those times, I want to hide in a blanket fort and eat an undisclosed amount of Hershey's Kisses to soothe my bruised ego.

     For the most part, the highs of my writing career outweigh the lows, and I'm happier than I've ever been before. Seeing an article that I've written go viral means far more to me than a first place trophy for sales in cosmetics. After all, face creams make us look great on the surface, but a good book touches us deep down in our souls.

     Choosing a career as a professional writer has been worth every penny.....kangaroo pouch and all.

Friday, January 6, 2017

How To Age (Somewhat) Gracefully In The New Year

     Every New Year's Day, we make resolutions to eat healthier, get fit, find a new job, appreciate life more, and focus on changing our priorities. But within 24 hours, most of these resolutions have already been broken after the first slice of apple pie.

     A new year is also a reminder that time is fleeting, and many mid-lifers begin searching for alternative strategies to slow down the aging process and reclaim their lost youth. Here's a few ideas to help you look your best in 2017:

COMBAT WRINKLES: People who want instant results are the first in line for Botox injections. This is fine if you want lips that look like you've been sucking on a tailpipe or if you prefer your duck face smile to be permanent. Skip the botulinum toxins and get yourself a good face cream with plenty of SPF. No more tanning by the pool, unless you want to be mistaken for a large prune.

LOSE WEIGHT: Cut out burgers, pizza and Chinese takeout from your diet. In other words, cut out  everything you love and eat only the things you hate. This way, you'll eat less. Boiled zucchini, anyone?

NO MORE ALCOHOL:  You should cut out all alcoholic beverages if possible. Uh-huh. This is usually the first resolutions that's broken. Research shows that Pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants, so drink a pomegranate martini and you'll be just fine.

EXERCISE MORE: The definition of exercise changes when you get older. In your 30's, you can easily run a 10K with your friends. But by the time you reach 60, exercise consists of walking outside to retrieve the newspaper (as long as the paper is near the front door). If you want to bump up your cardio, lug the trashcan from the end of your driveway to the side of your house. You'll burn even more calories if you move all your neighbor's trash cans, too.

GOOD GROOMING HABITS: Keep the Sherwood Forest in your nose neatly trimmed. If necessary, grab a hedge trimmer to get the excess foliage out of your nostrils. Nip those chin hairs and skin tags too, while you're at it. Also, toe nails become more brittle as you age, and are harder to cut. If they're super thick, you might need a chainsaw to trim those suckers.

IMPROVED SEX LIFE: If you want to feel 30 again, have sex three times a week with the help of Premarin or Viagra. Consider spicing things up in the bedroom with role playing and costumes. But no Disney or Star Wars characters, please. No one wants to make love to Yoda or Olaf.

DYE YOUR HAIR: Some people look like beautiful, silver foxes when they gray. But if you're anything like me, the grays are a wiry salt & pepper mix that belong on the head of a wort-nosed witch. No thanks. I've discovered that a blend of blonde and neon purple make me look like a kid who belongs in an emo band. It tricks me into thinking I'm seventeen again.

DELETE NEGATIVITY: It's time to disconnect from anyone who lies to you, judges you, gossips behind your back or does not appreciate you for who you are. These people drain the joy out of your battery life until you're depleted. Jump start the battery by dumping the people who make you feel like shit and find new friends who appreciate your individuality. Surround yourself with positive people and your world will be a happier place full of butterflies, daisies, and chocolate cupcakes (okay, I made that part up).

THINK YOUNG:  "Age is just a number." Yeah, it's a BIG number, but it's still just a number and you shouldn't let it define who you are. You want to stay up late and party with the younger crowd? It's okay to nap a few hours before you head out the door (ain't no shame in the nap game). Try seeing the world with fresh eyes instead of with your magnifying glasses. Remember who you were in the 1970's when Led Zeppelin topped the music charts, and channel your inner teenage soul.

     Make 2017 your best year yet. Pack away that Yoda costume, grab a pomegranate martini and toast to the new, younger you. Cheers!


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