mom who works

the joys and challenges of being a working mom trying to find "balance"

God bless the amazing sales associate… August 2, 2012

Filed under: general — Deborah @ 5:45 pm
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Chanel No 18

Image courtesy of

.. and curse the ridiculous Chanel corporate policy!

A bit of background. I have been lusting after some of the Les Exclusifs de Chanel fragrances for about a month now, ever since I first heard about them on the web site.

Normally, I would get myself over to my local Chanel counter and get some samples first, because I like to wear a fragrance for awhile before I decide if I like it or not. Problem with Les Exclusifs is that they are “les exclusif” and only available at SELECT Chanel boutiques. My nearest Chanel boutique that carries them is about 150 miles away.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just do what I always do in these situations. Place a quick phone call, get the samples shipped up to me, then decide and order the fragrance I want. I was foiled, however, by a ridiculous Chanel corporate policy.

Apparently, the Chanel boutique cannot mail ANYTHING (not even samples of products) if you have not first purchased physically at a Chanel boutique. “But, but …” I replied, “I have purchased on, and I am planning on purchasing one of these fragrances, and the nearest boutique is 150 miles away from me.” No matter, the SEVERAL different Chanel boutiques I called said (including Chicago and 2 in New York), corporate policy is we can’t mail you anything if you aren’t in our “system.” But you can’t get into the system until you actually TRAVEL across country to a Chanel boutique, walk in, and buy something.

Never in my life has a company made it so hard for me to give them my hard-earned cash.

It’s ludicrous, really, and leaves out, oh, I don’t know, 90% of the US population, or at least the population of the upper Midwest.  It’s 2012 people! I would love to have been a fly on the wall for those meetings at Chanel headquarters. What were they thinking? “We don’t actually have to sell anything. Oh no, that’s far too bourgeoisie. No, let’s make it so exclusive, that no one can actually buy the products we are purporting to sell.”

To be fair, Chanel offers the various Les Exclusifs eau de toilette on their web site for sale. But who is going to order a fragrance they’ve never even smelled? I don’t know about you, but about 90% of all fragrances I smell I think are very unappealing for one reason or another. The odds were not in my favor.

Undaunted, however, I gave one more Chanel boutique a try, the one in Las Vegas. Believe it or not, my thought process was that the economy is down, especially in Vegas, and they may actually appreciate a real live customer who actually wants to spend money with them, so they may find a way to help me out here. And boy was I lucky I got Michelle on the other line. At first she told me the same information I heard from all the other sales associates at all the other boutiques. But she took my number anyway, and said she would talk to her management to see if there isn’t anything she could do. I really didn’t ever expect to hear from her again. But much to my GREAT surprise, she called me about 15 minutes later and found out she had a solution – a way for me to provide them the information they needed to get me into the system and still send me the samples I needed.

And you can believe that each and every Chanel product I purchase in the future I will be ordering directly from Michelle at the Chanel boutique in Las Vegas. And that my friends, is customer service!


Organizing Checklists Everyone Should Have — 5 Best Lists June 23, 2011

The summer travel season is upon us, and I found this collection of checklists really helpful from Lorrie Marrero, guru of The Clutter Diet . I am always looking for ways to get more organized. Thanks Lorrie!


5 Tips for Healthful Meal Planning March 14, 2011

In continuing the theme from my previous post on Eating Healthfully, I’m posting 5 more TIPS for HEALTHFUL MEAL PLANNING, especially for other busy Moms Who Work.


For me, planning time is in the quiet of Saturday morning before everyone else is up. I usually will do my grocery shopping for the week on Saturday or Sunday morning.

The actual planning process will take some time as you start getting used to the idea of meal planning, so make sure you don’t quit just because it seems to take an hour or so at first. It WILL get easier and faster as you start building up a cache of standby recipes you can recycle over the month. Just find a *mostly* regular time that works for you – plan on an hour as you begin – and try to stick with it as best as your schedule allows.

As an example, when I first started this, I would sit with all my “Eating Clean” cookbooks and flip through pages looking for ideas. Then, as we started trying our new clean meals, I quickly learned what ones were well liked, what ones were okay, and what ones we didn’t want to eat again. I now have about 15 core meals that I rotate every other week, with a few new ones each week thrown in. In addition, I find my grocery list is a bit shorter because I now keep on hand most of the new “clean” staples needed for most of these recipes.

Fridge Meal Planner

Image courtesy of


I discovered, quite by accident while passing by the clearance rack at Target, a great “meal planning” magnetic whiteboard/grocery list combo that sadly is no longer available. I am searching out suitable replacements and will post here, but so far no luck. This works for me because it’s fits comfortably on my fridge and leaves plenty of room for lunch/dinner and “notes” for all 7 days.

For some, it may make more sense to track on your computer, or a notepad, or paper wall calendar. You could design a form on your computer and print out a new one every week. It doesn’t matter WHAT you use, it just matters that you find a tool that you’re most comfortable with so you’ll USE it.


This has helped me tremendously. Some advocate doing all your cooking for the week on Sunday. While I do a fair amount of prep and cooking on Sunday (usually in the morning, after I’ve done the shopping), I like to spend some time relaxing too. So to make this work, I will often split up prep across the week.

For example, later this week I’ve planned for a hearty veggie and meat chili. My recipe requires a head of roasted garlic, which I roasted last night at the same time I roasted some sweet potatoes (to be mashed for dinner tonight – more pre-prep). Now tonight, as I am preparing dinner (a simple dinner of pan seared center-cut pork chops with the mashed sweet potatoes and some roasted brussels sprouts), I will also prep the vegetables needed for the chili, and if I have time, even make the chili tonight. In either case, I will either have the chili ready to go for tomorrow night or all the vegetable prep done so it will come together very quickly tomorrow.

None of this would work, however, if I hadn’t planned our meals out for the week (or at least, the work week). See how this all comes together? It’s the only way I’ve found, short of hiring a personal live-in chef, to ensure that you can have healthy, home-cooked meals with a minimum of stress and frustration.


Whenever you can, purchase as many small, single-serving size food storage containers as your cabinets will hold. I like containers that hold 10-13 ounces, which are small enough for a single serving of lots of things, but still provide room for expansion in the freezer.

Using the chili mentioned above as an example, I will be making a batch that serves 8-10. There are three of us, which means that there will be at least 4 -5 extra servings of chili leftover. Once dinner is finished I will immediately portion out the leftovers into the individual serving sizes, label the contents and date with an Avery Removable label and stick in the freezer. Instant, no-hassle lunch.

This also works with component ingredients, too. For example, I have a recipe for a stuffed pork tenderloin that requires cooked broccoli. If I plan right, I can save some leftover cooked broccoli from a earlier dinner for my pork stuffing later in the week.


All the planning in the world can sometimes be for naught if life throws you a curveball or two, although hopefully you’ve built in some backup and flexibility to handle those inevitabilities.  Just in case, however, I always like to keep one of the drawers in my office desk stocked with some emergency snacks, including a small container of natural almond or peanut butter, a box of Ry-Vita crackers, a selection of teas, and a small zipper bag or two of raw unsalted almonds or cashews. Dried fruit is also great to keep on hand and lasts well. I also always keep emergency almonds in my purse, and they have come in handy more than once. The Almond Board has cute almond tins for next to nothing that keep your emergency snack fresh.

If you are committed to eating clean, healthful meals, you need to commit to the time to make it work. It’s too easy to slip back into takeout convenience. Plan for your eating clean success and your body will be grateful.


Eating healthy, one day at a time February 23, 2011

After we started Eating Clean in our household, I began to realize just how much work needs to go into eating healthy. It’s not like there is a convenient drive through option! The core tenets of clean eating include eating 5-6 small meals per day (that means packing 2 snacks and a small lunch for work every day), and avoiding white flours, sugar and any processed foods. This means a lot of planning and a lot of cooking!

So how does a busy Mom Who Works keep herself and her family eating healthfully? Planning, planning and then planning some more.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my “busy mom” tips and tricks for meal planning, because I want you, too, to eat healthy!


Commit to eating healthy

  • This sounds simple, and it sounds lame, but it’s true. Just like anything in life, if you don’t really believe in it, and commit to it, you’ll find the tide is just too strong to pull you back into the convenience of fast, or *faster* food. Eating healthy on a consistent basis requires effort on your part. Make no mistake about it. Especially if you have more than just your own mouth to feed. So make a commitment. Make it to yourself, make it to your significant other, make it to your kids, just say it out loud.

Gather your resources

  • For me, since I’ve got a family to feed, including a somewhat picky 8-year old and hubby, it meant buying every one of Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean books/cookbooks. If we were really going to do this, from now until the end of time, I needed more than just a few recipes here or there. I needed a LOT of recipes. So gather up the magazines (Clean Eating, Cooking Light), cookbooks, and recipes from web sites that you’ll need on your new journey.
  • As you get started on your healthy eating plan, you’re going to spend a bit more money on groceries for the first few weeks. You need to restock your kitchen with healthful ingredients, many of which you probably do NOT have in your cabinet right now. Over time, this will level out, and as you reduce your need to eat out because you’ve got great, healthful meals prepared at home, you will likely find you are SAVING money. I’ll include some money saving tips in a future post.

Get rid of the junk in your kitchen

  • Don’t allow yourself or your family to slip back into the old, “easy” way of eating – chips out of a bag, pre-packaged cookies and snacks, sugary cereals. Get rid of all the food that doesn’t support your new commitment (see TIP 1) to healthy eating. This means going through the pantry, cabinets, freezer, fridge – everything.
  • This can be one of the most difficult things to do as you get started, because it seems like such a waste, but it really is critical. Don’t make it easy for you to slip into old habits. Just take a deep breath, grab the garbage can, and do it!

Good luck as you start your voyage, and let me know how it’s going. Check back soon for more tips.


What did we do before Amazon? July 8, 2010

I am a “Prime” member on Amazon, which means for some annual fee (I think it’s $79 or something like that) I never have to pay for 2-day shipping for any item that has the little “Prime” logo on it (which is a lot of items).**

What that means is no more worries about minimum purchases, or “qualifying” purchases before you get free shipping. YOU JUST GET FREE SHIPPING. ALL THE TIME. And it’s TWO DAY SHIPPING to boot.

Okay, technically, it’s not free, because you spent $79 – so it’s sort of like you’re pre-paying your shipping up front – but at a huge discount. Because I tell you, this will change how you shop and you will buy a lot more online than you ever would before.

I now buy EVERYTHING on Amazon. Everything and anything. I buy cereal, body lotion, espresso from Italy. You name it, if Amazon has it and I need it, I buy it and have it shipped free to my house. Usually at a great discount (love the “Subscribe and Save” which gives you a 15% discount on things you buy regularly, like cereal, which shows up at my house every 2 months). No shipping, no taxes, no in-store hassles. Five minutes online versus leaving work 30 minutes early to run to Target before I have to get home. Just voila, it shows up at your door.

It’s a little bit like the early days. Way, way back in the late 1990s, when the web was new, Amazon was new, and it all seemed way too cool to be true. That quickly wore off as sites charged ridiculous shipping fees, and you would wait … and wait … and wait for your item to arrive. With Amazon Prime, bing bang boom … it’s on my door within a few days. Amazing.

I often think about my crazy schedule and life, and juggling trying to do amazing work at my job and also be a competent wife and mother. At least Amazon helps out a bit with the “wife and mother” part. The job, that one’s on me.

** By the way, I am not sponsored or supported in any way by Amazon. This is just my unsolicited opinion from personal use of this service.


A garden of one’s own, the (sort-of) “square foot” way July 7, 2010

Filed under: home & garden — Deborah @ 10:29 am
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I live in the city, and I have a teeny, tiny yard. Great for having fun on the weekends because I don’t have to mow my lawn (it takes about 10 minutes to mow the front, there is absolutely no grass in the back), but not great if you want to grow your own vegetables.

When we first moved in we put a garden in the back, near the garage. We had great veggies those first two years. Then shrubs and trees and the reality of having to put the tomatoes in the same place every year (encourages blight) and the harvest dwindled and dwindled to the point where last year the “garden” was a big patch of weeds. I actually convinced myself it was a “native prairie garden.” Yeah right. A big patch of weeds does not look so great in a teeny tiny yard.

Square Foot Gardening

"All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew

Years ago I had heard of “square foot gardening” and I thought it was a bunch of hooey. Probably because it’s proponents were kind of nutty about it – competing to see who would get the most harvest from the smallest space. Weird zealots.

Fast forward to March and my eight year old bringing home seeds from school, asking, “Mom, can we grow some zucchini and carrots this year?”  And then me looking out at the “native prairie garden” in the backyard, and then looking at my insane schedule, and then my looking at my cute, sweet daughter and saying “of course we can sweetie.” Hmm.

First thought was BOX GARDENS. That’s the new, hip and cool way to build gardens, right? So, I need a box. Lots of instructions on the web to “build” your box, all of which require lumber, and drills and tools and a concept of geometry that escapes me. Next option, BUY the box. Again, lots of choices, most costing slightly less than the mortgage on my house. Enter Sam’s Club. Worth joining for $35 to get the deal of a lifetime on two box gardens. No tools needed. Perfect.

Then on to to calculate how much dirt I would need to fill said boxes. It was a lot (1.5 cubic yards). Way more than would fit in the back of my VW Beetle. So I did the next best thing and call our handy local landscape service (a nice father/son business, reasonably priced) and found they would deliver the dirt and put it in the boxes for about $40 more than me just getting the dirt myself. Way worth the price.

So one bright sunny Saturday I cleared the weeds. Well, not really. I cleared some of the “big” weeds and the rest I just rolled some weed barrier fabric over. I installed the boxes (literally took about 30 minutes for two 4×7 foot boxes). Then lay down mulch in over the weed barrier fabric in the aisles. Next day the landscaper came and delivered the dirt and we were in business.

I planted my daughter’s zucchini and carrots. Now granted, we are in Milwaukee, and it was mid-June by the time this all got done, so it’s not very likely that we’ll have any zucchini before the snow flies. But we may have zucchini flowers (and the Italians do this great dish with zucchini flowers and ricotta cheese …). I planted some tomatoes, which may or may not grow because I don’t think we get enough sun there any more (the shrubs and trees). Some herbs, some beans, some lettuce. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my gardening mojo back.


Why do I not want to garden? April 17, 2010

Filed under: general,uncategorized — Deborah @ 9:12 am
Tags: , , , ,


Image from Your LifeEvents

I used to be an avid gardener. “Used to be” before kid and dog and all the other responsibilities that come along with it. Once my daughter was born, gardening dropped down to about number 72 on my list of things to do, and my yard languished. Now it shows.

The thing is, I love and can appreciate beautiful gardens. Heck, I even love just CLEAN gardens at this time of year. Me, I still have dead peony stalks draped over askew peony cages as the new buds are trying to peek through all that mess. In fact, I should be out there now rather than writing this.

I’m learning that I have to try to let go of doing everything well. Sure, I look on in envy at a friend who is a stay-at-home mom (granted, with an 11-year old) whose house and yard are beautiful and immaculate. Every day she’s working on some project or another, maintaining and beautifying her house.

Look too far under the surface in my house and you’ll see the dust, the gathering of years of subtle neglect. At the same time, however, I try to remind myself I lead a very busy, full life, with a demanding job, and realize that I CHOOSE to prioritize my free time for my family, not my house.

Is that so bad? My peonies seem to think so.